UFC on FOX 24 PRIMER: Ecochard’s preview of Saturday’s event including Demetrious vs. Reis, Namajunas vs. Waterson

By Matthew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

UFC on Fox 24: Johnson vs. Reis Primer – Matthew Ecochard

UFC returns to Fox this Saturday with a really exciting card featuring the flyweight championship match between Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis. New prospects debut and veterans fight to stay relevant throughout the card. The first five bouts air on UFC’s Fight Pass, then the remainder of the eight fights will be on Fox. The following are previews and predictions for the entirety of the card.

UFC Fight Pass Prelims (4 PM EST / 1 PM PST)

(#13) Ashlee Evans-Smith (5-1) vs. Ketlen Vieira (7-0) – Women’s Bantamweight Bout

Ketlen Vieira gets a chance to make a statement and continue her undefeated career if she can take out the durable Ashlee Evans-Smith. Losing her UFC debut, Evans-Smith was choked out by Raquel Pennington in a short notice fight in December of 2014. A little over a year later and Evans-Smith won a controversial split decision against Marion Reneau, but rebounded with a decisive win over Veronica Macedo via TKO in round 3 of their bout in September of last year. Her striking is strong, but she has shown a tendency to be controlled on the mat before. Vieira earned a split decision win in her UFC debut, but has shown herself to be a finisher in the past. Look for Vieira to try to get the fight to the ground and attempt to dominate Evans-Smith there.

Prediction: Ketlen Vieira via Submission Round 3

Zak Cummings (20-5) vs. Nathan Coy (15-6) – Welterweight Bout

A battle of two journeymen takes place with Zak Cummings and Nathan Coy both looking to get a win streak going here. Cummings’ only losses in the UFC have been to Gunnar Nelson and Santiago Ponzinibbio. The height and reach of Cummings, mixed with a good work rate make him a hard out for anyone to face. Coy is 1-1 in the UFC so far and hasn’t really been impressive. His loss was a quick submission and his win was a fairly tedious decision over relative unknown Jonavin Webb. Cummings has more of a finishing instinct and is the more technically sound out of the two so look for him to get through this test on Saturday.

Prediction: Zak Cummings via Submission Round 1

(#8) Aljamain Sterling (12-2) vs. Augusto Mendes (6-1) – Bantamweight Bout

Stumbling two fights in a row has set Aljamain Sterling back slightly in the rankings. He lost against Bryan Caraway and then to Raphael Assuncao and both fights were because he seemed to get too complacent. If Sterling is on his game and pushes the pace he can look like a world beater. The grappling of Sterling is his bread and butter, but his striking is improving and he is in peak physical shape. Augusto Mendes’ debut was against the now champion Cody Garbrandt in which he lost via KO in the first round, but he rebounded with a very close win over Frankie Saenz the last time out. Mendes is really strong on the mat, so Sterling may want to keep the bout standing, but if he does so he needs to keep busy. Sterling should end his rough streak here and come back with a solid win.

Prediction: Aljamain Sterling via Unanimous Decision

Anthony Smith (26-12) vs. Andrew Sanchez (10-2) – Middleweight Bout

Anthony Smith begun his MMA career as a 6-6 fighter and struggled slightly until he was 17-11, from which point he rattled off seven straight wins and was welcomed into the UFC. He has gone 2-1, with his loss to Cezar Ferreira. Smith is a finisher only seeing a decision 3 times in his 38 fight career. Andrew Sanchez has some strong wrestling and used it to win a TUF tournament at light heavyweight, but has since dropped down to his natural weight class at middleweight. Sanchez will look to take Smith to the mat fairly early and I don’t see much of a reason why that he won’t be able to do so. Smith has looked good in the UFC, but the loss to Cezar Ferreira exposed some holes in his game that Sanchez should also be able to use to his advantage.

Prediction: Andrew Sanchez via Unanimous Decision

Devin Clark (7-1) vs. Jake Collier (10-3) – Light Heavyweight Bout

Two middle of the pack light heavyweights will try to step up and stand out by making a name off of each other in the featured Fight Pass prelim on Saturday night. Devin Clark lost his UFC debut by KO but rebounded with a sound win over Josh Stansbury. He is primarily a striker and might show some struggles against a high level wrestler, but that has yet to be seen in the octagon for him. Jake Collier is 2-2 so far, but looked the best he has to date against Alberto Uda his last time out with an amazing TKO finish. Both men enjoy standing and trading and both have been knocked out so this should be an entertaining battle leaving someone on the mat, battered and bruised. Collier has been finished twice in the UFC via TKO, so I would trust Clark over him to come out victorious.

Prediction: Devin Clark via TKO Round 2

Fox Prelims (6 PM EST / 3 PM PST)

(#12) Louis Smolka (11-3) vs. (#9) Tim Elliott (14-7-1) – Flyweight Bout

Putting Demetrious Johnson in a couple of scary spots, Tim Elliott proved he deserved to be back in the UFC after winning the TUF: Tournament of Champions season. The ground game of Elliott is really top notch, with really good BJJ and solid striking to back it up. Elliott only tends to struggle against wrestlers who are better than him such as Demetrious Johnson. Louis Smolka had a four fight winning streak snapped against Brandon Moreno in a short notice bout. After this loss he also lost a battle against Ray Borg and now he needs a win to gain back some of his momentum he was building. Exciting on the ground, Smolka can finish fighters with strikes or submissions when he gets them to the mat and is very durable himself. Elliott and Smolka should put on a fun clinic on the mat, but Elliott should have the wrestling chops to keep Smolka from gaining the edge.

Prediction: Tim Elliott via Unanimous Decision

Bobby Green (23-7) vs. Rashid Magomedov (19-2) – Lightweight Bout

Bobby Green needed to take some time off after his last bout, where he was just starched by Dustin Poirier in the first round of their bout in June 2016. Green looked really good before that, with an 8 fight win streak and a loss to Edson Barboza. Green has really strong striking and wrestling and is a true mixed-martial artist. Green seemed uninterested in his last bout and needs to make sure he comes out sharper this time, otherwise a similar result may happen. Rashid Magomedov is an absolute animal and can control most fighters with his wrestling, Sambo, boxing and hand-to-hand combat. Losing to Beneil Dariush should only push Magomedov further in his quest for UFC gold and glory. My educated guess is that Green doesn’t have what it takes anymore and will be controlled by Magomedov here and either finished or just dominated for three rounds.

Prediction: Rashid Magomedov via TKO Round 3

Patrick Williams (8-4) vs. Tom Duquesnoy (14-1) – Bantamweight Bout

One of the better prospects of recent years in Tom Duquesnoy looks to live up to his hype against Patrick Williams. Williams is only 1-1, fighting once in 2014, 2015 and not fighting at all last year. Being a finisher makes Williams’ bouts exciting at least when they do happen, but he just doesn’t scream contender and is quickly aging while only fighting once in a blue moon. Williams is a good first test for the young Duquesnoy. Training out of the Jackson-Wink camp Duquesnoy is looking like a real threat to a title in a couple of years. His last loss was really early in his career and he has rattled off a really nice win streak with 11 of his 14 wins coming from finishes. At age 23 look for Duquesnoy to come out and make a statement and get a finish on the feet.

Prediction: Tom Duquesnoy via KO Round 1

(#11) Alexander Volkov (27-6) vs. Roy Nelson (22–13) – Heavyweight Bout

After just one win in the UFC, Alexander Volkov finds himself in the top 15 in the heavyweight rankings, but he will need to earn his place when he takes on veteran fighter Roy Nelson. Volkov had a semi-disappointing performance against Timothy Johnson and just squeaked out a victory with his striking and clinch game, but he will need to keep the pressure up if he wants to beat Nelson. Nelson hasn’t had a two fight win streak since 2013. In his last bout he dispatched of Antonio Silva in the second round, but didn’t really do much in the first and looked pretty poor. Nelson has the power to catch Volkov and put him away at any point. Movement and clinching will be the key for Volkov and he should be able to get the decision nod here.

Prediction: Alexander Volkov via Unanimous Decision

Fox Main Card (8 PM EST / 5 PM PST)

(#5) Jeremy Stephens (25-13) vs. Renato Moicano (10-0-1) – Featherweight Bout

The highly ranked Jeremy Stephens is putting a lot on the line by taking on an unranked fighter in Renato Moicano. Stephens has good defensive wrestling which he uses to stand and trade with his opponents. If Stephen’s can’t finish a fight off he loses a decision more than often than not. The undefeated Moicano is getting a really nice opportunity here and a win would catapult him into contender status. Only two fights into his UFC career, Moicano fought once in 2014 and once almost a full year ago. If Moicano can stay healthy and fight a couple of times a year he could definitely be a contender with his wrestling and BJJ skills. If Moicano takes Stephens down he could certainly grind out the win, but to tire out Stephens and stifle his offense for three full rounds after being out a whole year keeps that outcome as a real stretch.

Prediction: Jeremy Stephens via Unanimous Decision

(#3) Ronaldo Souza (24-4, 1NC) vs. (#6) Robert Whittaker (18-4) – Middleweight Bout

Besides a really questionable split decision loss to Yoel Romero, Ronaldo Souza should by all means be riding a eight fight UFC winning streak and an eleven fight win streak overall. That is almost unheard of to not get a title shot with a streak like that. Souza is an absolute monster and finishes almost every opponent with relative ease. His toughest test in recent bouts comes in the form of Robert Whittaker. A six fight win streak puts Whittaker on the verge of the top 5 middleweights in the world. Beating the likes of Uriah Hall, Rafael Natal and Derek Brunson in his last three bouts really cemented his status as a serious contender. If Whittaker can keep the fight standing he has a really decent chance at out-striking Souza, but keeping Souza from taking someone down is one of the hardest things to do in the sport. Souza’s striking has improved tremendously over the last few years too so even if he keeps it standing there is no guarantee he will win. The man with more weapons wins this bout.

Prediction: Ronaldo Souza via Submission Round 2

(#4) Rose Namajunas (5-3) vs. (#6) Michelle Waterson (14-4) – Women’s Strawweight Bout

Michelle Waterson could be the next big thing in the women’s 115 lb division, but she needs to get past the dangerous Rose Namajunas to do so. Both of these ladies have a shared opponent in Paige VanZant and both beat her by rear-naked choke.. Namajunas needed five rounds to put away VanZant while Waterson only needed one. Strong striking is backed up by a killer BJJ finishing ability for Namajunas and only three of her eight bouts have seen a decision. Waterson has a similar style, strong striking but really good BJJ, she might just be the better wrestler though. Overall Waterson has the skill set to upset Namajunas and it really wouldn’t be surprising to see her get finished, but a decision in a hard fought bout is more likely.

Prediction: Michelle Waterson via Unanimous Decision

(C) Demetrious Johnson (25-2-1) vs. (#3) Wilson Reis (22-6) – Flyweight Championship Main Event (5 Rounds)

One of, if not the greatest fighter in the world looks to defend his title for a tenth time to tie Anderson Silva’s defenses when Demetrious Johnson takes on Wilson Reis. This fight has historical significance in that regard, but also in that if Reis can defeat the man who hasn’t been beaten since joining the UFC’s flyweight division then he shall go down in the record books for doing something that not many thought was possible. Johnson has rattled off nine straight wins and Reis has lost only one of his six bouts since his 125 lb debut.

Demetrious Johnson is the most technically sound fighter on the planet. Wrestling, BJJ, boxing and Muay Thai are all strengths to Johnson. There really are no holes in his game and he is continuously improving in each and every area with each fight. He has been put in a couple of poor positions in his recent memory, a close submission attempt by Tim Elliott and a nice shot landed by John Dodson, but other than that he has looked fairly bullet proof. Johnson doesn’t have a whole lot to be worried about with Reis, but he does need to not take him lightly.

Challenging for the flyweight title is a double edged sword, on one hand you get an opportunity of a lifetime in getting the chance to gain a UFC title, on the other hand you are likely going to get beaten and pushed back in line for at least a few more fights until you can get a second attempt. Reis’ best option is his ground game and trying to take down Johnson and submitting him as his BJJ is really high level. Taking down Johnson and controlling him is not an option, not for five whole rounds at least as Johnson’s cardio is some of the best in the world as he looks like he can often go ten rounds without breaking much of a sweat. The most likely outcome is Johnson wearing down Reis and getting his sixth victory by TKO before the final bell.

Prediction: Demetrious Johnson via TKO Round 4

NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS UFC PREVIEW: UFC 210 PRIMER: Ecochard’s preview of Saturday’s event including Johnson vs. Cormier, Mousasi vs. Weidman, plus all prelims

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