UFC FIGHT NIGHT PRIMER – Ecochard’s Preview & Predictions: Mousasi vs. Hall, Pearson vs. Ray, Johnson vs. Volkov

By Matthew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

The first of two UFC events that will take place on Saturday will feature Gegard Mousasi’s revenge match against Uriah Hall. The card hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland and takes place entirely on UFC’s Fight Pass subscription service. The following are previews and predictions of each fight.

UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims

Charlie Ward (2-1) vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan (6-0) – Welterweight Bout:

Two UFC newcomers kick off the card in Northern Ireland when the native Charlie Ward will be taking on  undefeated finisher Abdul Razak Alhassan. Ward has some good wrestling and is a tough fighter who will endure some punishment to get the fight to the ground. His top game can be a lot for his opponents to handle when he starts to pour on some strikes and keep his opponents guessing. Abdul Razak Alhassan is a national Judo champion from Ghana, but the real impressive thing about him is his power and explosiveness. He isn’t the most technical in the standup department, but he will lay out anyone he hits, shown in his 6 wins in a combined 5 and a half minutes. This fight is a grappler vs. striker, but with Alhassan’s background in Judo, it should go the striker’s way.

Prediction: Abdul Razak Alhassan via KO Round 1

Brett Johns (12-0) vs. Kwan Ho Kwak (9-0) – Bantamweight Bout

Undefeated prospects Brett Johns and Kwan Ho Kwak will look to make an impressive UFC debut at the others’ expense. Johns is being touted as one of the best prospects at bantamweight and was the Titan FC champion. His overall game is already fairly polished, but he is still getting better and should put on a good performance. Ho Kwak is a very talented fighter in his own right with a very strong all around game. Both of these fighters are fairly complete in all aspects of the game, but John’s toughness and speed should be the edge here. Two undefeated champions from different organizations will look to stay undefeated in what should be a very impressive fight from both.

Prediction: Brett Johns via Unanimous Decision

(#15) Marion Reneau (6-3) vs. Milana Dudieva (11-4) – Women’s Bantamweight Bout

The 39 year old Marion Reneau is a black belt in BJJ and has some strong Muay Thai skills under Rafael Cordeiro. Losing to Holly Holm wasn’t a huge loss to her credentials, as she went the distance, but losing to Ashlee Evans-Smith wasn’t the best for her career. Milana Dudieva had a very close bout against Elizabeth Phillips, but lost fairly quickly against Julianna Pena. Dudieva is primarily a submission artist, but has decent stand up and wrestling. Reneau will look to keep the bout standing where she has the largest advantage. She should be able to keep it up and earn her first TKO since 2013.

Prediction: Marion Reneau via TKO Round 2

Zak Cummings (19-5) vs. Alexander Yakovlev (23-7-1) – Welterweight Bout

The grinding Zak Cummings hopes to rebound against the equally matched Alexander Yakovlev in a middle of the pack welterweight matchup. Cummings has an aggressive style where he goes head first into his opponent and attempts to just bully them. His style normally works for him, but against fighters that can outmuscle or out technique him, he can’t get too much offense off. Yakovlev is strong in Sambo and wrestling, which allows him to stand and trade as he pleases. If an opponent offers their back up to Yakovlev he takes it without hesitation, but other than that likes to keep the fight standing or on top. The strengths of Cummings don’t play heavily here and I see Yakovlev sticking and moving enough to get it done.

Prediction: Alexander Yakovlev via Unanimous Decision

Justin Ledet (7-0) vs. Mark Godbeer (11-2) – Heavyweight Bout:

Justin Ledet looks to pick up his second win in the UFC when he takes on UFC newcomer and BAMMA vet Mark Godbeer. Most of Ledet’s victories have come via submission, but his UFC debut saw him stand and trade for 15 minutes and won clearly with sharp striking and a strong chin. Mark Godbeer is also primarily a striker, but has been knocked out twice as well. If this comes down to strong strikes and durability, there is no reason to doubt Ledet stays undefeated.

Prediction: Justin Ledet via TKO Round 3

Anna Elmose (3-1) vs. Amanda Cooper (1-2) – Women’s Strawweight Bout:

Anna Elmose is dropping down to strawweight for the first time to battle Amanda Cooper. Elmose likes to get in close and get to her boxing, she also uses clinch work to land some gritty shots. Undersized at bantamweight Elmose looks to drop twenty pounds and she may look better than ever in her new weight class. Amanda Cooper looked outclasses in every position against Tatiana Suarez. When Cooper is doing her best, it’s when she can control the striking range and get into top position. Elmose will like to keep the fight standing as well and her takedown defense should be enough to keep it up. Look for Elmose to outclass Amanda Cooper and find a new home in this weight division.

Prediction: Anna Elmose via KO Round 2

Kevin Lee (13-2) vs. Magomed Mustafaev (13-1) – Lightweight Bout:

The ever improving Kevin Lee will be taking on the near perfect Magomed Mustafaev. Lee was a NCAA Division II wrestler and uses that well to control fights. Improving his striking and submissions over the years, Lee is starting to round out his game and fulfill his potential and he is still only 24 years old. Mustafaev is a strong and quick striker with flashy shots that can surprise his foes. He has KO’d most of his opponents and Kevin Lee was taken out by Leonardo Santos who isn’t much of a striker. Kevin Lee overall might have more athleticism and can attack with more submissions, but Mustafaev has looked very impressive thus far in his career. This will likely be an upset, but Mustafaev could outstrike his opponent.

Prediction: Magomed Mustafaev via KO Round 1

(#4) Kyoji Horiguchi (17-2) vs. (#8) Ali Bagautinov (14-4) – Flyweight Bout:

Two of the top flyweights will try to earn their way back to a title shot after both of these men have lost to Demetrious Johnson. Kyoji Horiguchi had taken Johnson until only one second remained in their bout but fell to a submission. Ali Bagautinov lost via decision, but also got popped for the EPO hormone. Horiguchi has since beat Chico Camus and Neil Seery by doing what he does best, controlling the tempo, with fast, strong striking that can finish anyone at anytime. If someone survives a strong strike from Horiguchi he can control on top with a heavy game and ground and pound. Bagaunitov takes down his opponents and punishes them, but on the feet he will be just a bit slower than Horiguchi. Both fighters are durable but Kyoji Horiguchi has more weapons in his arsenal and should be able to win the bout.

Prediction: Kyoji Horiguchi via Unanimous Decision

Magnus Cedenblad (14-4) vs. Jack Marshman (20-5) – Middleweight Bout:

Magnus Cedenblad and Jack Marshman are similar stylistically; these two fighters who love to stand and fight, but have solid skills in the grappling department. Cedenblad loves to use the clinch and land some knees as he is quite tall at 6’3”, but has a great top game and can implement a strong pressure from there. Marshman is coming into the UFC after winning the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship belt and has a tall task in front of him in his octagon debut. It’s hard to gauge who’s wrestling and striking is better, but Cedenblad looks to be more technical in his stamina usage. Marshman will likely come out swinging and this bout will turn into a barnburner. I’d say there is a good chance that an upset occurs here with Marshman getting the win with a heavy shot.

Prediction: Jack Marshman via TKO Round 1

(#5) Ian McCall (13-5-1) vs. Neil Seery (16-12) – Flyweight Bout:

Two scrappy flyweights will duke it out on Saturday night. Ian McCall’s losses have been to the very best at flyweight with losses to Demetrious Johnson, Joseph Benavidez and John Lineker. His style of solid wrestling, crisp striking and some submission knowledge all leave him as a perpetual contender. Neil Seery has a similar style to Ian McCall, but is just a step behind in all of those areas. If he faces someone who is better than him in anyone of those areas of MMA, he can hang with them but normally cannot get the victory. Unless Seery pulls off a major submission upset, it is much more likely McCall rides out the decision.

Prediction: Ian McCall via Unanimous Decision

UFC Fight Pass Main Card

Artem Lobov (13-12-1, 1NC) vs. Teruto Ishihara (10-2-2) – Featherweight Bout:

Ireland’s Artem Lobov has been largely unimpressive inside the UFC but will look to fix that when he takes on the dangerous Japanese striker Teruto Ishihara. Lobov is primarily a striker, he has strong hands but just doesn’t have the technique to put it all together. He trains with Conor McGregor, but the training hasn’t given him enough to be anywhere near the level McGregor is. If Lobov explodes a little more or puts together better combinations he could have a better run in the UFC. Teruto Ishihara’s striking is what Lobov’s needs to become. The power, fluidity and precision of Ishihara has lead him to two straight brutal knockouts in the UFC and eight of his nine victories. If the bout goes to the floor Lobov might have the advantage, but I imagine this fight is one where both fighters will wish to stand and trade, look for Lobov to get another loss and be 1-3 in the octagon.

Prediction: Teruto Ishihara via KO Round 2

(#15) Timothy Johnson (10-2) vs. Alexander Volkov (26-6) – Heavyweight Bout:

Timothy Johnson has stumbled into the rankings of the UFC after going 2-1, he will be taking on UFC newcomer and former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov. Johnson has a collegiate wrestling background based out of Minnesota, but he does tend to turn bouts into a slugfest as well with some solid power in both hands. Volkov is the taller and longer fighter here and is primarily a striker as well. His frame and Kyokushin (Karate) style have allowed him to finish the majority of his fights. Assuming this fight stays on the feet for the majority of the bout, Volkov should make a very strong first impression in the UFC.

Prediction: Alexander Volkov via Unanimous Decision

Ross Pearson (21-11, 1NC) vs. Stevie Ray (19-7) – Lightweight Bout:

Veteran striker Ross Pearson takes on Scotland BJJ Champion Stevie Ray in what should be an entertaining bout.  Ross Pearson’s striking has always been his best weapon in the cage, but he appears to be slowing down with all the mileage from scrappy bouts. His recent losses have come against some top 15 competition so there is solace to find in that. Stevie Ray is a BJJ stylist, but in the UFC he has shown off more of his striking abilities. The most recent loss to Alan Patrick came due to the size and strength differences, so that shouldn’t be much of a factor against Pearson. This bout should be mostly a standup affair and a fun one at that. Stevie Ray has the more durable chin and has less damage, but Pearson’s standup should hold up here.

Prediction: Ross Pearson via Unanimous Decision

(#5) Gegard Mousasi (40-6-2) vs. (#10) Uriah Hall (13-7) – Middleweight Main Event (5 Rounds):

The first time Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall fought a result that was absolutely insane occurred, with Hall landing a devastating kick and flurried to a finish. Mousasi now looks for revenge for what he has claimed to be a fluke loss. A win for Mousasi allows him to revenge the recent loss and move forward toward a title shot, while a second win for Hall keeps him very relevant in the top ten of the division at middleweight.

A savvy veteran, Gegard Mousasi has really done it all throughout his career. The wrestling and grappling of Mousasi has kept him at the top of the division of whatever organization he has fought for. His striking has developed overtime and his style is awkward enough and patient that it allows for him to out strike a lot of his opponents. Mousasi should look to get the fight to the ground fast and not give Hall any breathing room for the fight-ending shot he suffered last time.

Uriah Hall needs to work on his skills and mindset to become a world champion. His strikes are some of the scariest ever seen in the octagon, but he doesn’t stay aggressive enough and gives up takedowns fairly easily. If Hall keeps this bout standing somehow, he can very simply get the same result as last time, but Mousasi shouldn’t fall to the same mistake twice this time out. Look for Mousasi to do what he does best, make it a long night for his opponents before finishing him off.

Prediction: Gegard Mousasi via Submission Round 2

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