By Nick Catlin
The UFC will take center stage tomorrow night, being broadcast live on ESPN. It’s a big move for a mixed martial arts promotion aiming to appeal to a worldwide audience. KCOU Sports’ Nick Catlin previews and picks the action ahead of Saturday’s event, starting at 8 pm CT at Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix:
Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez
Winner: Francis Ngannou
Velasquez makes his octagon return after his UFC 200 first-round knockout over Travis Browne, in July 2016. In that time, Stipe Miocic defended the Heavyweight for a UFC record three times before losing to now champion, Daniel Cormier via first-round KO. The sport has changed drastically since Velasquez won the UFC title in 2010 over Brock Lesnar. It’s almost been a decade since his prime and he has one of his toughest tests ahead of him in Ngannou.
Ngannou has the world’s strongest recorded punch, and he has fought the best heavyweights in the world while Velasquez battled back injuries. He has faced names like Arlovski, Overeem, Miocic, Lewis, and a first-round KO over Curtis Blaydes. Velasquez is recovering from back injuries and the sports of MMA has evolved too much since his prime and Ngannou will finish him early.
James Vick vs. Paul Felder
Winner: Paul Felder
Vick is coming off one of the most devastating KO’s of the year after Lightweight contender Justin Gaethje in Aug. 2018. I don’t believe that Vick fully recovered from the overhand right and that is dangerous when going against a fighter like Felder. He has 10 finishes via KO in his career and has proven to compete against ranked competition. Felder’s knockout power with Vick’s recent loss will result in a KO record for him.
Cortney Casey vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Winner: Cynthia Calvillo
Calvillo has shown an ability to win since her debut in 2016, accumulating a record of 7-1. Five of her victories have been finishes, with three submissions. Casey is 2-3 in her last five fights and has a mediocre record of 8-6. Casey and Calvillo are both 31, and with no experience advantage age-wise, I have to pick Calvillo in this matchup.
Alex Caceres vs. Kron Gracie
Winner: Kron Gracie
Gracie is the newest addition of the Gracie family into the UFC, headlined by true UFC pioneer, Royce Gracie. Gracie has a 4-0 record and finished all fights via submission. Caceres has a record of 14-11, but has 6 losses via submission, the Gracie’s primary skill set. Gracie’s has always thrived against non-grapplers and Caceres fight history shows an inability to stop grapplers.
Vicente Luque vs. Bryan Barberena
Winner: Vicente Luque
Luque was one of the shining stars from TUF season 21. He competed for the Blackzilians and despite getting picked by most coaches to be the representer, despite that team owner Glenn Robinson picked Welterweight top-contender Kamaru Usman to fight for their gym. Luque is one a three fight winning streak with all three being finishes. Barberena is 2-2 in his last four and hasn’t been able to defeat solid UFC talent.
Andre Fili vs. Myles Jury
Winner: Myles Jury
Jury is coming off a loss to Chad Mendes but Jury has fought against some of the top-tier talent in the UFC, and has a record of 17-3. Along with Donald Cerrone, Michael Johnson and Diego Sanchez. Fili is 4-4 in his last 8 fights, fighting very mediocre competition in guys like Artem Lobov, losing to better fighters like Johnson, who Jury defeated in 2012. Jury has been able to beat the talent that Fili hasn’t and that will show Saturday night.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org