The UFC has a fun Sunday night fight card lined up with two fighters inching towards a title shot at lightweight facing off when Michael Chiesa takes on “The Motown Phenom” Kevin Lee. Johny Hendricks continues his change of pace at middleweight facing Tim Boetsch. Opening the main card BJ Penn tries once again to get a win for the first time in years and gets an opponent much closer to his level in Dennis Siver. The card starts on Fight Pass, goes to Fox Sports 2 for prelims and ends on Fox Sports 1. The following are previews and predictions for the entirety of the card.
UFC Fight Pass Prelims (5:30 PM ET / 2:30 PM PT)
Joshua Stansbury (8-3) vs. Jeremy Kimball (14-6) – Light Heavyweight Bout
A disappointing debut for Jeremy Kimball where he suffered the first TKO loss of his career set him back a bit. A lack of ground game was normally Kimball’s worst asset as he is known for some strong hands and has won ten of his fourteen via KO. Joshua Stansbury should have a good chance here to finish off Kimball though as his strongest trait is his grappling. Stansbury has never been finished by knockout so it makes sense that he will get the fight to the ground and finish off Kimball.
Prediction: Joshua Stansbury via Submission Round 2
Tony Martin (11-3) vs. Johnny Case (22-5) – Lightweight Bout
Tony Martin has some high level BJJ skills being a black belt under Brock Larson, but his stand-up leaves something to be desired. Johnny Case was 4-0 in the UFC, but lost against Jake Matthews in his last fight over a year ago via submission. Case is strong on the ground, but not as good as Martin. When you look at the fight on the feet Case is the much better fighter. As long as Case doesn’t get complacent on the mat he should be able to do more throughout the three rounds.
Prediction: Johnny Case via Unanimous Decision
Jared Gordon (12-1) vs. Michel Quinones (8-1) – Featherweight Bout
This fight was supposed to happen at UFC 211 but was delayed here is what I wrote then. Two new debuting featherweights should have a nice striking match when Michel Quinones takes on Jared Gordon. Both men only have lost once in their careers and both have traveled a hard road to get to the big show. Gordon’s story is one of overdosing and broken bones, but after multiple relapses he is finally clean and feels like his time to shine is now. Both men love the striking portion of the game, but Gordon seems to be a bit more well versed on the ground and in going the distance. Jared Gordon has come so far in his life and sometimes all of that drive and never giving up will show up in the cage. Gordon’s younger and has faced the tougher competition inside and outside of the cage. It won’t be easy but Gordon will get the decision.
Prediction: Jared Gordon via Unanimous Decision
Fox Sports 2 Prelims (7 PM ET / 4 PM PT)
Devin Powell (8-1) vs. Darrell Horcher (12-2) – Lightweight Bout
Darrell Horcher took on Khabib Nurmagomedov on short notice which is one of the craziest things someone could ever do inside the octagon. He looked decent early in the fight, but quickly was outclassed as the fight went on. I’m excited to see what he can do against someone that isn’t at the highest level of the game. His strengths are on his feet, but his opponent’s are more so on the ground. Devin Powell is a strong fighter all around but definitely prefers the ground game and is trying to also get rid of a poor UFC debut from the minds of fans. This should be an exciting fight and I think Darrell Horcher may have more to offer, but enjoy it while it lasts.
Prediction:Darrell Horcher via Unanimous Decision
(#8) Carla Esparza (12-4) vs. (#10) Maryna Moroz (8-1) – Women’s Strawweight Bout
After trying to take an easier fight against Randa Markos, Carla Esparza ate a loss for doing so. Now Esparza needs to take on Maryna Moroz who has been a tough out, going 3-1 with her only loss coming against Valerie Letourneau, but has been out of action since August of last year. Esparza is a wrestler and Moroz is a grappler and this fight should be a closely contested one. I’d say Esparza looks for the takedown early, but ends up not liking what Moroz has to offer on the ground. On the feet the contest will be even, but Moroz gets the edge here in a close fight.
Prediction: Maryna Moroz via Split Decision
Vitor Miranda (13-5) vs. Marvin Vettori (11-3) – Middleweight Bout
Looking to rebound from a loss his last time out, Vitor Miranda is a well versed fighter in almost all aspects of his game. The issue for Miranda is that he is 38 and time is working against him. The striking of Miranda is good and he is a finisher on the feet, but he needs to be able to stay on them or get back up if taken down. Marvin Vettori is the type of fighter that could grind out the win over Miranda because his game is primarily focused on submissions. He lost a decision in December to Antonio Carlos Jr, but is only 23 years old and is improving at a rapid pace. Vettori gets this fight down, but a finish eludes him.
Prediction: Marcin Vettori via Unanimous Decision
Clay Guida (32-14) vs. Erik Koch (15-4) – Lightweight Bout
Veteran Clay Guida needs a win here or he may get cut. The fight against Brian Ortega was going well for Guida until he ate a hard knee in the third round that sent him crashing to the canvas. Guida is one of the better wrestlers in the UFC and has cardio like almost no other and he is moving back into the lightweight division to take on Erik Koch. Koch is 2-1 since moving back to lightweight, but hasn’t been active, fighting twice in 2014, not at all in 2015, and in May of 2016 wasting some of his prime years. The ground game is the go-to for Koch with eight submission wins, but can also hang on the feet. If Koch has been training and staying sharp this will be a hard stylistic match for Guida.
Prediction: Erik Koch via Submission Round 2
Fox Sports 1 Main Card (9 PM ET / 6 PM ET)
B.J. Penn (16-11-2) vs. Dennis Siver (22-11, 1NC) – Featherweight Bout
Once a prodigy, B.J. Penn has become a shell of his former self as he is win-less since 2010. A couple of extended hiatuses from 2012-2014 and 2014-2017 haven’t helped his case as he is now 38 years old, pretty much sitting out five of his last good years. Penn used to be known for some solid striking and a smart ground game, but against his last two opponents in Frankie Edgar and Yair Rodriguez he had almost no success before he was finished both times.
Dennis Siver hasn’t fought since 2015 where he suffered back to back losses against Conor McGregor and Tatsuya Kawajiri. It’s tough to say where Siver is at here, but before that he wont two in a row with some strong striking on display. Siver may want to keep this fight on the feet because Penn is certainly the better ground fighter. Penn just seems so shot and although this fight is definitely a better match for him over the likes of Edgar or Rodriguez he just won’t get it done here either.
Prediction: Dennis Siver via TKO Round 2
Tim Means (26-8-1, 1NC) vs. Alex Garcia (14-3) – Welterweight Bout
An exciting fighter with some holes in his wrestling, Tim Means is a nasty striker that has finished 18 of his 26 via some form of knockout. He fought to a no contest against Alex Oliveira and then lost in the rematch in March. Means’ opponent Alex Garcia has also been with the UFC awhile, going 4-2 in the organization showing a good striking game. Garcia has been knocked out twice while Means’ only KO loss was an injury. Garcia should look to go to the floor with this one, because if they stay standing he has been knocked out twice and that seems like a result that will happen again here.
Prediction: Tim Means via KO Round 2
Joachim Christensen (14-5) vs. Dominick Reyes (6-0) – Light Heavyweight Bout
Going 1-2 in the UFC, Christensen will need a win here even in the shallow light heavyweight division if he wants to stay with the organization. Christensen is well versed with five knockouts and five submissions. Dominick Reyes is a newcomer that has five first round finishes, four via KO and one via submission. Christensen has never been knocked out, but facing a striker as dangerous as Reyes could lead him to his first time here. Reyes two finishes this year in a row are both by brutal head kick finishes and while I don’t see him doing that a third time, he will mix it up well enough to get the finish.
Prediction: Dominick Reyes via TKO Round 1
(#13) Felice Herrig (12-6) vs. Justine Kish (6-0) – Women’s Strawweight Bout
Despite being a high level karate fighter and participating in kick-boxing bouts, Justine Kish has never gotten a finish via strikes. Already 2-0 in the UFC Kish has also beaten Randa Markos prior to arriving and has some skills behind her as she continues to improve in MMA. Felice Herrig is 3-1 in the UFC with her only loss coming against Paige VanZant two years ago. Herrig can strike well enough, but she certainly should take this to the floor and try to get the finish there. If Herrig comes out looking good like in her fights against Kailin Curran and Alexa Grasso and takes Kish to the mat she could grind this out to a fairly easy decision.
Prediction: Felice Herrig via Unanimous Decision
Tim Boetsch (20-11) vs. Johny Hendricks (18-6) – Middleweight Bout
Tim Boetsch has been in the UFC a long time, for the last 7 years he has gone 9-9 with the majority of wins and losses coming via finishes so he is almost always in an exciting fight. Boetsch has an NCAA wrestling background that allows him to keep the fight on the feet like he wants to where his last three wins have happened. Johny Hendricks looked okay when he was forced to move up to middleweight against the smaller, stockier Hector Lombard winning via unanimous decision. It’ll be interesting to see how Hendricks fares against the taller Tim Boetsch who has solid wrestling. Striking for Hendricks has gotten better as his career went on and he has some scary power in his hands. Hendricks has more tools but the physical attributes might hurt him. Hard call, but Hendricks has the better skill-set and should win the bout.
Prediction: Johny Hendricks via Unanimous Decision
(#7) Michael Chiesa (14-2) vs. (#12) Kevin Lee (15-2) – Lightweight Main Event (5 Rounds)
The main event, when announced was an interesting bout between two fighters looking to breakthrough at lightweight. After a press conference where Kevin Lee spoke about Michael Chiesa’s mother occurred, this is now somewhat of a grudge match. Michael Chiesa’s father passed away while he was on the set of “The Ultimate Fighter” so it would make sense that he is extra protective over his mother and Kevin Lee should’ve known that. These two will settle the score in the octagon on Sunday and the winner pushes that much closer to a chance at gold.
Evolving at a rapid pace, Michael Chiesa has looked better each and every time he fights. A year has passed since his fight against Beneil Dariush where he submitted him in the second round, and that was after a submission against Jim Miller. Chiesa is a monster on the ground winning 10 of his 14 via submission, but his striking is unorthodox and can be very effective in its own right. If Lee goes to take-down Chiesa he should let him as Chiesa is much better on the mat and way more creative.
Kevin Lee is 24 years old and is currently on a four fight win streak with his notable finish of Francisco Trinaldo in his last bout. Lee’s striking is becoming his strongest asset quickly. Lee has 7 submissions out of his 15 wins but a lot of those come from his hands setting it up. If Lee wants to win this, he needs to get inside the range of Chiesa and trade in some dirty boxing and hurt him. Chiesa has the passion, the height, and the BJJ skills to get the job done.
Prediction: Michael Chiesa via Submission Round 3