UFC FIGHT NIGHT 98 PREVIEW: Ecochard’s fight-by-fight preview of Saturday’s show headlined by Dos Anjos vs. Ferguson, Lamas vs. Oliveira

By Matthew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

It’s been a few weeks since the last UFC event but now we have at least one event almost every week before the end of the year. Let’s get it started with previews and predictions for the Ultimate Fighter Latin America 3: dos Anjos vs. Ferguson.

Fight Pass Early Prelims

Enrique Barzola (11-3-1) vs. Chris Avila (5-3) – Featherweight Bout:

The night kicks off with a featherweight bout between the Cesar Gracie fighter Chris Avila and a solid Peruvian fighter in Enrique Barzola. Chris Avila has very crisp boxing skills from training with some of the better boxers in MMA, but he hasn’t shown much in the way of a ground game or in being able to control the fight. Enrique Barzola is the much better all around fighter going 1-1 in his UFC career thus far, with the loss being a close split decision loss. Unless Avila can dominate the fight standing up and keep the pressure on Barzola, he will most likely be taken down and grinded into a loss.

Prediction: Enrique Barzola via Unanimous Decision

Marco Polo Reyes (7-3) vs. Jason Novelli (11-2, 1 NC) – Lightweight Bout

Marco Polo Reyes was just 3-3 before debuting in the UFC, but is on 3 fight win streak currently looking increasingly better each time out. He hits hard and can take some to throw some. Jason Novelli has the better ground game and will look to finish Reyes with a guillotine or rear naked, but most likely Reyes will find his range, land some heavy shots and get a 4th straight finish in his UFC career.

Prediction: Marco Polo Reyes via TKO Round 2

Sam Alvey (28-8) vs. Alex Nicholson (7-2) – Middleweight Bout

Sam Alvey will look to earn another knockout for his already impressive resume. Alex Nicholson is relatively green in the MMA world but has some solid knockout power of his own. I fully expect this fight to stay standing for the duration of it. Nicholson hits hard, but Alvey has some of the heaviest hands in the middleweight division. I see this as a way to just keep Alvey busy until a top 15 opponent comes around again.

Prediction: Sam Alvey via KO Round 1

Fox Sports 1 Prelims

Henry Briones (19-5-1) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (23-1, 1 NC) – Bantamweight Bout

Henry Briones and Douglas Silva de Andrade are both 1-1 in their UFC careers so far and have an almost equal amount of fighting experience. Briones has the better submission game, but can also stand and trade, his loss in the UFC was to Cody Garbrandt, but he didn’t get knocked out so that speaks to the durability of his chin. Silva de Andrade has some strong hands, winning 18 of his 23 victories by way of KO/TKO. His ground game isn’t as strong as his stand-up but he can normally hold his own well enough to not need to worry about the ground game of his opponents. This fight is with two durable fighters so look for a close decision here.

Prediction: Douglas Silva de Andrade via Split Decision

Erick Montano (7-4) vs. Max Griffin (12-3) – Welterweight Bout

Erick Montano will most likely be in for a rough night against Max Griffin on Saturday. Montano’s striking isn’t at a UFC caliber level yet and his submission defense is almost non-existent, with all of his 4 losses stemming from submissions by fighters who are not the best submission artists. Max Griffin is a solid striker, but couldn’t stay on his feet for the vast majority of his fight against Colby Covington. Anywhere this fight goes, Max Griffin is most likely to be the one pushing the pace and will likely finish the fight.

Prediction: Max Griffin via TKO Round 2

Marco Beltran (8-3) vs. Joe Soto (16-5) – Bantamweight Bout:

In a short notice fight, Joe Soto is stepping in to face the dangerous Marco Beltran. Beltran is on a 3 fight winning streak in the UFC and has entertained in every fight so far. His background is in boxing and it shows that his boxing skills are sharp. Joe Soto has faced the stiffer challenges throughout his career but can never really hang in those positions. The most success Soto has had in the UFC was a victory over Chris Beal, but on short notice, he can be a dangerous fighter, hurting Dillashaw a few times when he took him on. Soto has a nice overall game, but isn’t particularly threatening in most situations. This could be a sleeper for a fight of the night and is a very excellent matchup for a short notice fight. Beltran is slightly larger and has the momentum so look for him to finish this fight late.

Prediction: Marco Beltran via TKO Round 3

Erik Perez (16-6) vs. Felipe Arantes (18-7-1, 2 NC) – Bantamweight Bout:

Two fighters just on the outside of the top 15 at bantamweight are trying to break in when Erik Perez takes on Felipe Arantes. Erik Perez has only lost to top 10 fighters in Takeya Mizugaki and Bryan Caraway, but against any other competition he has been victorious. Felipe Arantes has lost against lesser competition but has been perfect at 135 lbs since dropping from featherweight. Arantes will have the longer reach by about 5 inches so he should look to keep at range and pick apart Perez. Looking for the takedown will be Perez’s best option. Both men have never been knocked out, but both fighters certainly can strike. Perez looks to be the better overall fighter, holding his own against Francisco Rivera last fight, he should be able to deal with anything that Arantes throws at him.

Prediction: Erik Perez via Unanimous Decision

Fox Sports 1 Main Card

Alexa Grasso (8-0) vs. Heather Jo Clark (7-5) – Women’s Strawweight Bout:

The undefeated prospect Alexa Grasso is making her UFC debut to open up the main card against veteran Heather Jo Clark. Grasso has very crisp striking and some power to back it up, with half of her victories coming from KO. She has faced some decent competition in Invicta, Heather Jo Clark will certainly be one of her stiffest opponents yet. She has a very solid all around game, but has struggled against any sort of higher competition. Her best aspect is her jiu-jitsu and her toughness. Alexa Grasso will pick her apart on the feet however and either get a late finish or get the judge’s victory.

Prediction: Alexa Grasso via TKO Round 3

(#9) Beneil Dariush (13-2) vs. (#15) Rashid Magomedov (19-1) – Lightweight Bout:

Some good matchmaking was done for a fight between two ranked fighters in Beneil Dariush and Rashid Magomedov. Dariush is trying to build himself back up after a loss to Michael Chiesa hurt his stock, but before that he was on a 5 fight win streak, and since has rebounded with a KO over James Vick. The striking of Dariush has improved throughout his career and he uses his size to clinch, takedown and control the fight wherever it goes. Rashid Magomedov is facing a top contender for the first time in his UFC career. Magomedov is a master of sports in multiple disciplines coming from Russia. His clinch and striking is some of the division’s best and he will most likely break into or near the top 10 with a victory. Magomedov should be able to control the fight to a decision here.

Prediction: Rashid Magomedov via Unanimous Decision

(#4) Ricardo Lamas (16-5) vs. (#8) Charles Oliveira (21-6, 1 NC) – Featherweight Bout:

Ricardo Lamas and Charles Oliveira are two of the division’s most elite fighters, only losing to those who are amongst their ranks. Lamas needs to get an impressive victory to stay relevant, with his most recent victory a decision against the unimpressive Diego Sanchez. Oiliveira is still only 27 years old and entering his prime. The best option in any fight for Oliveira is to get it to the ground where he is an absolute wizard with submissions. Ricardo Lamas has never been submitted which makes this fight interesting. The grappling of Lamas will make it extremely difficult for Oliveira to get the fight where he wants to go. If Oliveira can’t secure a takedown in the first round it will be a tough fight, but he has delt with strong grapplers in the likes of Nik Lentz and Hatsu Hioki before. Look for a first here tonight with another submission for Oliveira.

Prediction: Charles Oliveira via Submission Round 2

Martin Bravo (10-0) vs. Claudio Puelles (7-1) – Ultimate Fighter Finale Lightweight Bout:

The Ultimate Fighter final matchup is between two fighters who are young prospects in Martin Bravo and Claudio Puelles. Both fighters are similar in styles and have submissions, KOs and decisions. The fighters both haven’t faced the stiffest competition in their careers with a few losing record fighters. I haven’t watched any of the TUF Latin America 3 so I can’t say much for either of these fighters. I’ve heard really good things about Claudio and that he might have the higher ceiling as a fighter as well. These final fights normally come with a finish, look for a fun fight here with Claudio getting the win.

Prediction: Claudio Puelles via Submission Round 3

Diego Sanchez (28-9) vs. Marcin Held (22-4) – Lightweight Bout:

Diego Sanchez has really lost his place in the MMA world, he remains a “just bleed” fighter and just throws punches hoping to land more than he takes. While Sanchez’s style is exciting it is definitely not going to help him win most fights in 2016. Marcin Held is quite the expert when it comes to submissions regarding the leg. Held will roll for a kneebar or toe hold most likely, but can also submit with chokes or armbars. Held is only 24 years old and is on his way up in the MMA world as he works on his other areas of fighting. There is really not much of a chance for Diego Sanchez in this fight and I would be completely shocked if he pulls off a victory here. He feel the first submission defeat of his career here.

Prediction: Marcin Held via Submission Round 1

(#2) Rafael dos Anjos (25-8) vs. (#3) Tony Ferguson (22-3) – Lightweight Main Event (5 Rounds):

The main event features two fighters who are just a step away from a title shot with Rafael dos Anjos looking to come back from his title loss to takeout the streaking Tony Ferguson. Dos Anjos was on a solid streak against top level fighters before his loss to Alvarez. Ferguson is on a really great streak with 8 wins in a row. Ferguson should lock up a title shot if he wins while dos Anjos should only need one more fight.

Rafael dos Anjos’ style and fight game has increased exponentially over the last few years. He used to be just a grappler and submission artist, but his striking has evolved while being at Kings MMA. If Dos Anjos shows up how he fought while on his streak, then he could certainly handle Ferguson, but the question is what his mental state is coming into this bout. This is the first fight back for dos Anjos since the brutal loss to Alvarez so who knows how he will fight. The other recent change for dos Anjos is he just left Kings MMA, so his training camp could be compromised as well.

Tony Ferguson has one of the best streaks alive for the lightweight division. Ferguson’s striking is slick and tricky and he uses it to set up rolls and quick takedowns to get very high level submissions locked in, 3 D’Arce chokes in the UFC are nothing to scoff at. His chin is fairly strong, he has been rocked before but he can hold in and fight smart to take it back. There are just too many variables for dos Anjos to confidently suggest he will get the victory. Ferguson’s time looks to be now and he will get a hard earned victory in this fight.

Prediction: Tony Ferguson via Submission Round 3

NOW CHECK OUT ANOTHER PREVIEW OF THIS EVENT: UFC FIGHT NIGHT 98 PREVIEW: Peterson’s fight-by-fight preview of Saturday’s show headlined by Dos Anjos vs. Ferguson, Lamas vs. Oliveira

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