UFC FIGHT NIGHT 103 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview & Predictions for B.J. Penn vs. Rodriguez, Lauzon vs. Held, Saunders vs. McGee, more

By Matthew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

UFC Fight Night 103 is live on Sunday night from the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. After being out for more than two years, BJ Penn makes his return against Yair Rodriguez in the night’s main event.

The four-fight main card rounds out with Ben Saunders taking on Court McGee in the welterweight division and John Moraga taking on Sergio Pettis in a battle of flyweights. Both fights should be exciting and challenge for fight of the night.

The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:15 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. Keep it on FS1 for the main card starting at 9 PM CT.

Main Card

Yair Rodriguez (9-1) vs. B.J. Penn (16-10-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.

Current Odds: Rodriguez -420; Penn +320

It was at the Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale in July of 2014 the last time BJ Penn fought inside the octagon. Penn lost to Frankie Edgar by TKO in the main event. He’s lost his last three fights, with his last win coming against the now retired Matt Hughes at UFC 123 in November of 2010.

The fact that Penn is back with his former coach Jason Parillo and is training at Jackson-Wink MMA tells me he is putting everything he has into this comeback fight. But is it enough?

Yair Rodriguez  is 9-1 coming into Sunday night’s fight and looking to break into the Top 10 in the featherweight division with a win. I’m not as high on Yair as most. While his offensive attack is quite flashy, he tends to leave himself open for counter-strikes. He likes to close distance and his aggressive style might play right into Penn’s hands. Although Rodriguez is the quicker, superior athlete he doesn’t possess the knockout power of BJ Penn.

BJ Penn has never had great cardio so if he doesn’t get the finish within the first two rounds, then I think it’ll be a rough night for him. I see Yair Rodriguez using his speed and quickness to land punches in the pocket while also being able to avoid the counter-striking of Penn. I give BJ Penn a better chance of winning than most, but I’m not willing to put my hard earned money on it.

Pick: Rodriguez by decision

Joe Lauzon (26-13) vs. Marcin Held (22-5) – Lightweight 155 lbs.

Current Odds: Lauzon -120; Held -110

After establishing a 7-2 record over a five year span fighting in Bellator, Marcin Held dropped a decision to Diego Sanchez in his UFC debut at UFC Fight 98. Held turned in a lackluster effort that made Sanchez look like he was back in his prime. Held’s strength lies in his grappling and will use it to get the fight to the ground where he can work his excellent submission skills. He’s going to avoid getting into a slugfest with Lauzon at all costs and try to take the fight to the ground.

Unfortunately for Held, Joe Lauzon’s strength is grappling as well. Lauzon also brings the ability to mix it up on the feet if needed as evidenced by his last three wins, which were all by TKO. Joe Lauzon’s most recent fight came at UFC on FOX 21 where he lost a decision to Jim Miller. You can bet he’ll be looking to get back in the win column and I think he will.

Both fighters have suspect cardio, but Lauzon seems to be able to push through better than Held. Held gassed out badly by the end of the first round against Sanchez, and it cost him the fight. If the fight goes deep into the second or the third round Lauzon’s higher offensive output might earn him the stoppage. Joe Lauzon is the better grappler and striker and can beat Held regardless of where the fight goes. At only 24 years old, Marcin Held will learn from this fight and come back a better fighter the next time he’s in the octagon.

Pick: Lauzon by TKO

Court McGee (19-5) vs. Ben Saunders (19-7-2) – Welterweight 170 lbs.

Current Odds: Saunders -120; McGee -110

Court McGee has alternated wins and losses over his last four fights. His most recent fight was at UFC Fight Night 92 where he took a decision against Dominique Steele. Although McGee doesn’t have a ton of power, he makes up for it in accuracy and volume. He’s an average wrestler and not big with submissions so I see him trying to keep the fight standing.

Ben Saunders is 3-1 under the UFC banner. After losing by TKO to Patrick Cote at UFC Fight Night 81, he returned to the octagon at Fight Night at the Island where he subbed UFC veteran Jacob Volkmann in 17 seconds. Saunders is good at keeping distance using kicks and jabs. While he prefers to fight at range, striking isn’t his strongest skill. That would be his grappling. He has an excellent ground game and transitions well into submissions.

This is a tough fight to predict. I’ll go with Ben Saunders and his ground game.

Pick: Saunders decision

John Moraga (16-5) vs. Sergio Pettis (14-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Current Odds: Pettis -140; Moraga +110

John Moraga comes into the fight on a two-fight losing streak. He dropped decisions to Joseph Benavidez at UFC 187 and then Matheus Nicolau Pereira at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale. Moraga is a skilled wrestler and uses it to get his opponent to the ground where he can work his excellent submission game. His striking is average so I don’t expect him to get into a slugfest with Pettis. I see him shooting for takedowns in an effort to get the fight to the ground.

Unlike Moraga, Sergio Pettis enters the fight on a two-fight winning streak. He took decisions over Chris Cariaso at UFC 192 and Chris Kelades at UFC 197. Pettis is by far the more skilled striker and will want to keep the fight standing. Although he doesn’t possess the power of Moraga, he is quicker and is the more active fighter. Pettis has to successful in defending the takedown, if he isn’t I can see Moraga getting the sub. But, as long as he stays within himself and sticks to his game plan he’ll leave with the decision.

Pick: Pettis by decision

FS1 Prelims Quick Look

Ansaroff over Jones-Lybarger

Martin over White

Oleinik over Pesta

Saenz over Mendes

Fight Pass Early Prelims Quick Look

Asker over Smoliakov

Christensen over Mihajlovic

Harris over Sherman

Klose over Powell

Enjoy the fights!

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