UFC ON FOX PRIMER: Ecochard’s Preview & Predictions including VanZant vs. Waterson, Gall vs. Northcutt, Faber vs. Pickett

By Matthew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

This Saturday’s fights are a return to Fox with a main card that tells multiples stories. Paige VanZant against Michelle Watersron is a good piece of matchmaking that will provide a clearer picture of the strawweight division. Mickey Gall vs. Sage Northcutt will show which young prospect is the better one at this point of their careers. Urijah Faber is having his retirment fight against a ready to throw down opponent in Brad Pickett. The card is rounded out with a violent opening match between Mike Perry and Alan Jouban. That’s just the main card though and there is plenty of action prior. The follwing are predictions for the entire fight card:

UFC Fight Pass Prelims

Bojan Velickovic (14-3-1) vs. Sultan Aliev (13-2) – Welterweight Bout

The UFC debut of Sultan Aliev did not go as well as he would have hoped, dropping a first round knockout loss to Kenny Robertson, Aliev didn’t live up to the hype behind him and this long time in between fights probably isn’t going to do him any favors. After taking an almost two year hiatus Aliev looks to get into the win column against Bojan Velickovic. Velickovic is 1-0-1 in the UFC with strong enough grappling that he can hold his own but he has shown his willingness to trade a bit in his two UFC appearances thus far. Aliev didn’t show enough in his first fight to think he is of UFC caliber, while Velickovic at least belongs in the middle of the pack.

Prediction: Bojan Velickovic via Unanimous Decision

Hector Sandoval (12-3) vs. Fredy Serrano (3-1) – Flyweight Bout

Hector Sandoval gets a second chance in the UFC after taking on an extremely tough first fight against Wilson Reis at UFC 201. Sandoval didn’t get much of a chance to get his game going after being taken down quickly twice. On the feet Sandoval has some power, but was swinging fairly wildly. If Sandoval struggled with the grappling of Reis he may very well have a harder time stopping them from Olympic wrestler Fredy Serrano. Serrano is 2-1 in the UFC, but is still very green in other aspects of his game. He lost a close fight against Ryan Benoit in July and may have had some more time to improve his game since then. While Serrano isn’t going to offer a whole lot more than his wrestling and subtle BJJ attempts, I can’t confidently say Sandoval will have more to offer than Serrano does.

Prediction: Fredy Serrano via Submission Round 1

(#13) Eddie Wineland (22-11-1) vs. (#14) Takeya Mizugaki (21-10-2) – Bantamweight Bout

The featured Fight Pass preliminary bout is an evenly matched veteran bout between two heavy strikers in Eddie Wineland and Takeya Mizugaki, Both of these fighters need this win to stay relevant in the UFC here. They have been losing many of their fights, but they are to higher ranked opponents. Eddie Wineland has a more stylistic approach to his striking and mixes in kicks with his movement. Wineland should have the better submissions as well and might be better suited to use them here to really solidify a victory. Takeya Mizugaki has a more traditional boxing game and can outwork most of his opponents. Recently Mizugaki has shown his issue with high level grapplers and his chin hasn’t held up which has led to some particularly brutal finishes. Wineland should be the better man here in just about every area as long as he keeps the pressure on.

Prediction: Eddie Wineland via TKO Round 2

Fox Sports 1 Prelims

Leslie Smith (8-7-1) vs. Irene Aldana (7-2) – Women’s Bantamweight Bout

The veteran, gritty and tough as nails Leslie Smith looks to rebound from her devastating loss to Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino with a bout against Invicta FC veteran Irene Aldana. Smith’s biggest attribute is certainly her toughness, but the rest of her skills haven’t really caught up at the highest level of the game. Smith might be better suited to grapple Irene Aldana because Aldana is just as dangerous of a striker, if not more so than she is. Aldana has finished every bout she has won, but Smith is incredibly durable so if she gets it done on the feet, I imagine it would be the second or third round. The likely outcome is Aldana’s first ever decision victory though.

Prediction: Irene Aldana via Unanimous Decision

Josh Emmett (10-0) vs. Scott Holtzman (9-1) – Lightweight Bout

A very well put together match up between two prospects in the lightweight division will happen when undefeated Josh Emmett takes on the 2-1 (inside the octagon) fighter Scott Holtzman. Emmett and Holtzman are almost mirror images in terms of style and abilities. Submissions, striking and grappling are all fairly even across the board and should make this fight a closely contested one. Emmett won a close match against the tough Jon Tuck, while Holtzman beat Cody Pfister the last time out. Holtzman should be able to control the bout with a little more UFC experience giving him the edge here. Emmett could receive his first loss here, but in the long run it’ll help him out.

Prediction: Scott Holtzman via Split Decision

James Moontasri (9-4) vs. Alex Morono (12-3) – Welterweight Bout

On the feet, James Moontasri is extremely fun to watch with his mixture of taekwondo and Muay Thai he can really put some beautiful combinations together. Moontasri can struggle against better grapplers and opponents who are just more powerful than he is. Alex Morono won a very close fight Kyle Noke in his UFC debut. Morono was quite comfortable in that bout against Noke and proved he can stand and trade with some good boxing skills and movement. In a stand up bout with Moontasri though, Morono may be asking for trouble. I expect to see Morono looking for more of a ground approach against Moontasri, but either way Moontasri may have a nice bout here to show off his striking skillset.

Prediction: James Moontasri via TKO Round 2

Bryan Barberena (12-3) vs. Colby Covington (10-1) – Welterweight Bout

Bryan Barberena should have a nickname that resembles something along the lines of prospect beater, because that is what he has done in his last couple bouts, beating Sage Northcutt and Warlley Alves. Barberena loves to stand and trade and is by far his strongest area of mixed martial arts. The UFC may be upset with Barberena because they are giving him a very high level wrestler this time out in Colby Covington. If Covington wants to win this bout, he needs to take down Barberena fast and keep him there. While Covington isn’t the worst striker in the UFC, he would be playing right into Barberena’s strengths if he lets it stay on the feet. If Barberena wins this bout, I will no longer consider him a large underdog going forward.

Prediction: Colby Covington via Unanimous Decision

Cole Miller (21-10, 1NC) vs. Mizuto Hirota (18-7-2) – Featherweight Bout

Cole Miller has been with the UFC since 2007, but he could very well be cut here with a loss to Mizuto Hirota. Miller has gone 0-2 and one no contest since 2015 and the fights really haven’t been that close. Always great on the ground, Miller has come to love the striking aspect of MMA over the years as well, but has never gotten to the next level in that department. Over the course of his two UFC runs Mizuto Hirota is 0-3-1 and needs a victory here if he ever wants to fight in the UFC again. Hirota really likes to strike and looked improved on his TUF Japan stint.. This battle will be a closely contested one for sure, but Miller just has more wrinkles to his game and I expect him to keep his UFC job here.

Prediction: Cole Miller via Unanimous Decision

Henrique da Silva (12-0) vs. Paul Craig (8-0) – Light Heavyweight Bout

Two undefeated light heavyweight prospects collide in the featured Fox Sports 1 preliminary fight. Henrique da Silva has already begun to prove himself in the UFC with two victories since June and looking for a third here. He certainly loves to stand and trade but has shown he can grab a submission if need be. Da Silva has finished all of the fights he has had throughout his career which makes him one of the most dangerous fighters in the division. Paul Craig is debuting and is a submission specialist. Triangle chokes are his go to for submissions but he can attack in a variety of ways and has finished seven of his eight wins by submission. Craig wants to get the fight on the ground and da Silva will look to finish on the feet. As long as he is careful when finishing the ground and pound, Henrique da Silva should win.

Prediction: Henrique da Silva via KO Round 2

Fox Main Card

Alan Jouban (14-4) vs. Mike Perry (9-0) – Welterweight Bout

The opening fight of the Fox main card should be absolute fireworks. Alan Jouban has proven himself to be one of the most fun welterweight fighters to watch with his variety of striking techniques and vicious killer instinct. The Muay Thai artist likes to use his range and really create sharp angles for hard shots. Mike Perry will be taking a solid step up in competition here for his third UFC bout. Perry is shorter and stockier than most of his fellow welterweights, but his power is just through the roof and he has finished all nine of his wins to remain undefeated. Jouban is tough, but he has been finished twice in his career so his ability to be finished could really have him end up losing here. Mike Perry is only 25 and will continuously be improving, and that will be shown in this fight.

Prediction: Mike Perry via KO Round 1

(#7) Urijah Faber (33-10) vs. Brad Pickett (26-12) – Bantamweight Bout

Urijah Faber will be fighting his very last MMA fight on Saturday night in his home town of Sacramento, California. Faber was a pioneer in the sport for the smaller guys and has always had success throughout every level of his career. Faber has only lost two non-title fights and they were against high end competition. Slowing down as of late has helped Faber understand that he can’t achieve his goal of getting the UFC championship. Brad Pickett is 2-5 in his last seven UFC bouts, but he is also always in exciting fights. Pickett is a solid striker, but can’t hang with quicker and stronger opponents too well. If the fight goes to the ground Faber has the clear advantage. This is really Faber’s fight to lose here as he is better on paper in most aspects of the MMA than Pickett. This should be a nice farewell for Faber in his hometown for his mixed martial arts career.

Prediction: Urijah Faber via Unanimous Decision

Sage Northcutt (8-1) vs. Mickey Gall (3-0) – Welterweight Bout

Two young and hungry fighters will collide when the young karate phenom Sage Northcutt takes on  submission artist Mickey Gall. Sage Northcutt is stepping back up to welterweight for this bout, and he absolutely should look to keep this fight standing. On the feet Northcutt can be an absolute animal with his almost unbelievable karate skills, mixed with his power and speed. On the ground, Northcutt has much improving to do, but training with gyms like Tristar will certainly help him grow quickly as he is seriously somehow only 20 years of age.

Mickey Gall is also young at the age of 24, but has much more experience on the ground than he does on the feet. His grappling is extremely high level and really goes for the rear-naked choke as he has finished all three of his pro victories by that way in the first round. Gall has yet to be tested on the feet, and if he does who knows how he will react. If the bout stays standing long enough, Northcutt will certainly come out victorious. If Gall can get it to the ground and Northcutt hasn’t improved quickly, he will be in some big trouble. This is a tale of two different fight styles and the safer bet may be Northcutt here if everything is right coming into the bout.

Prediction: Sage Northcutt via TKO Round 1

(#8) Paige VanZant (7-2) vs. (#12) Michelle Waterson (13-4) – Women’s Strawweight Main Event (5 Rounds)

The 115 lb. Division has an important fight here to propel someone closer to the title scene with popular fan favorite Paige VanZant taking on a complete martial artist in Michelle Waterson. This fight will really test both fighters in different ways and should be an interesting and competitive main event for Sacramento. VanZant might be in for the tougher fight, but Waterson still has yet to be tested in her new weight class and has taken over a year off.

Paige VanZant has very fluid striking and has been working on her grappling game as she progresses as a more complete martial artist. At only 22 years of age, VanZant has already been exposed to a wide audience on “Dancing with the Stars” and is one of the UFC’s favorite fighters as they have placed the spotlight on her multiple times. The last fight out against Bec Rawlings should an improved striking game which was very fluid and looked to be slightly inspired by her time on the dancing show. She has a tall order here with a very good karate fighter and maybe even better grappler.

Michelle Waterson is quite the mixed martial artist. Known as the “karate hottie”, Waterson is much more than just a karate based fighter, with the majority of her victories coming off submissions. She is known as one of the best 105 lb. fighters in the world, but she is now fighting at 115 lbs. so it has yet to be seen if that is true. Over a year off since her UFC debut, Waterson hasn’t been active enough to determine where she stands on the big stage. Waterson should have the edge on the ground, but won’t be a slouch on the feet either. VanZant has been the more active fighter, and her heart was shown in the Rose Namajunas loss. Paige VanZant will hit new heights with a win here in front of her newfound home crowd.

Prediction: Paige VanZant via TKO Round 4

CHECK OUT ECOCHARD’S PREVIOUS PRIMER ARTICLE: UFC 206 PPV PRIMER: Ecochard’s Preview & Predictions including Pettis vs. Holloway for Interim Featherweight Title, Cerrone vs. Brown

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