Don’t Sleep On This – UFC Philadelphia Edition

The UFC is finally back in my hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – for the first time since 2011. A marquee lightweight bout between heavy leg strikers Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethje headlines the card and we also have the debut of former LFA women’s flyweight champion Sabina Mazo. I’m taking a look at my favorite matchups going into this weekend, as these will be the first fights I’ll be seeing live since January of 2016.

Kicking off the early prelims, Sabina ‘The Colombian Queen’ Mazo is set to make her debut against Maryna Moroz. This fight was announced in January, you can check out my analysis hereMy pick: Moroz’s ground game could spell trouble for Mazo, but ultimately I think Mazo is victorious in her octagon debut

Ray Borg was set to make his return this weekend against Kyler Phillips, but as of yesterday Phillips is out and newly crowned LFA double champ and DWTNCS vet Casey Kenney steps in. LFA flyweight champion Casey Kenney, who captured that title in November, just added the bantamweight title to his mantle this past weekend – now he’s headed to the UFC. Kenney beat Brandon Royval at LFA 53 to claim the flyweight strap then knocked out Vincent Cachero in the first round this past weekend to become the bantamweight champ. Kenney went 1-1 on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, the only loss on his 11-1 record and is now looking to stick around with the top promotion. Borg hasn’t fought since his 2017 title loss to then-champion Demetrious Johnson. Injuries and complications with his newborn son has kept him away from the sport, but now Borg is ready to make some waves as he moves to the bantamweight division. My pick: Kenney takes it on short notice after his successful move up to bantamweight, the time off will hurt Borg

One of the top fights on the preliminary card is between the streaking Enrique Barzola and former LFA featherweight champion Kevin ‘Angel Of Death’ Aguilar. Barzola has been on a 4-fight win streak since late 2016, picking up victories over Chris Avila, Gabriel Benítez, Matt Bessette and most recently Brandon Davis at UFC Fight Night 129 last May. Barzola will be tasked with stopping the 8-fight win streak of Aguilar. Kevin Aguilar has been with LFA since 2013, going 8-1 during that stretch and claiming the featherweight title before being featured on DWTNCS. Aguilar didn’t get a contract that night but did get the call for the Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale where he beat out Rick Glenn in a three round war. Aguilar hasn’t quite found that stride that made him a name in LFA, but I think a knockout victory here will gain him some attention. My pick: Aguilar by TKO

On to the main card, where top strawweight contenders Karolina Kowalkiewicz and ‘The Karate Hottie’ Michelle Waterson will face off. Kowalkiewicz came into the UFC on a 7-fight win streak and picked up three wins before getting a shot at the title. Since her loss to then-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Kowalkiewicz has gone 2-2, her most recent fight a brutal knockout loss to the next strawweight challenger, Jéssica Andrade. Waterson was a hot prospect coming into the UFC, going 2-2 before putting together a couple of wins against Cortney Casey and most recently Felice Herrig. A win here for Waterson could mean a title shot, while Kowalkiewicz is looking to get back in the win column. My pick: This is a tough fight to call, but I’m going with Kowalkiewicz via unanimous decision

The last time Josh Emmett fought was at UFC on FOX 28 over a year ago, a controversial loss to Jeremy Stephens where it looked like Stephens landed a knee to a downed opponent; nonetheless, it was the first knockout loss for Emmett. Prior to that, Emmett was 13-1, holding wins over Jon Tuck, Scott Holtzman and former title challenger Ricardo Lamas – his only loss being a split decision to Desmond Green. Emmett is ready to prove himself again after having ‘one of the worst years’ of his life in 2018. Standing in his way is Michael ‘The Menace’ Johnson; Johnson is on a 2-fight win streak after beating Artem Lobov at UFC Fight Night 138. Johnson’s career has been streaky, he went 8-4 from 2010 to 2015 and holds wins over Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza in that span; but then went 1-5 after that before putting together that small win streak – his lone win over Dustin Poirier. Johnson has fought the who’s who in the featherweight division, and this matchup has FOTN written all over it. My pick: Emmett gets back on track, but this could go either way

The co-main event is a middleweight matchup between David Branch and Jack Hermansson. David Branch is 2-2 in his return to the UFC after winning 10 straight including both the middleweight and light heavyweight championships in the WSOF. Branch took out Krzysztof Jotko and current LHW title challenger Thiago Santos while his most recent fight was a TKO loss to Jared Cannonier. Jack Hermansson is riding his second win streak with the UFC after going 3-2 to start off with the promotion. Hermansson finished Thales Leites and Gerald Meerschaert and is looking to keep that momentum going as he tries to crack into the top 15. This is another fight that could go either way, Branch’s inconsistency is a concern as Hermansson has looked near-flawless in his wins. My pick: David Branch

The main event Saturday night is a gift to MMA fight fans. Edson Barboza is one of the most dynamic strikers in the UFC and that includes having the hardest leg kicks in the sport (just ask Mike Lullo and Rafaello Oliveira). Barboza has only had one small losing streak: a two-fight stretch from December 2017 to April 2018; he has fought the best in the division, including wins over Paul Felder, Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez and most recently taking out the streaking Dan Hooker at UFC on FOX 31 – a fight that was one for the books. Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje is an enigma, he is a NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from his fights. Gaethje went 17-0 with 14 KO’s while competing for the WSOF, capturing the lightweight title and defending it five times before signing with the UFC. In his first fight, he put on a classic FOTN against Michael Johnson and finished him in the second round. Since then he is 1-2, suffering his first loss to Eddie Alvarez and then Dustin Poirier before picking up a win against James Vick in August. Between the two, Barboza and Gaethje have 13 fight night bonuses and have both ended fights via leg kicks. Gaethje’s brawler style is a lot of fun to watch, and Barboza is no stranger to battles, but as the less dynamic striker it might be wise for Gaethje to finally use his wrestling this time. I don’t see that happening. My pick: Barboza wins the battle of the leg kicks


Don’t Sleep On This – UFC Fortaleza Edition: Charles Oliveira Vs. David Teymur

The UFC is back in Brazil for the first time under the ESPN banner. UFC Fight Night: Assunção Vs. Moraes 2 will air exclusively on ESPN+, so if you haven’t already subscribed, now is the time. Apart from the rematch that will be more important than their first matchup, there’s an undercard full of outstanding matchups. One of which is the always dangerous vet Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira against TUF vet David Teymur.

Charles Oliveira is a 22-fight veteran with the UFC, which includes 12 submission victories; the most in the history of the organization. Since returning to lightweight in 2017, Oliveira has gone 4-1, including a three-fight submission win streak (which all came last year) against Clay Guida, Christos Giagos and Jim Miller – Oliveira broke the record for most submissions against Giagos and extended it against Miller. All four of his most recent lightweight wins have come with a performance bonus as well.

David Teymur lost his first professional fight in 2013. Since then, he has reeled off eight straight, including five with the UFC. After losing in the quarter-finals of the Ultimate Fighter’s 22nd season, Teymur had a successful debut against Martin Svensson and followed that up with wins over Jason Novelli, Lando Vannata, Drakkar Klose and most recently Nik Lentz this past June.

After claiming that he wants to go back down to featherweight soon, Oliveira has been very impressive back at lightweight. Teymur has yet to be figured out at lightweight and wants to make it nine in a row. In a stacked lightweight division that is currently at a standstill with the suspension of champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, strides have to be made, and both of these fighters have been on hot streaks. Coming from a kickboxing background, Teymur hasn’t really been tested on the ground yet, and there’s no question Oliveira will look for that takedown quick and try to extend his submission record. Either way, a win for either fighter should propel them into the top 15.

UFC Fight Night: Assunção Vs. Moraes 2 streams live on ESPN+ with the main card starting at 8:00PM ET/5:00PM PT.


Report: UFC close to finalizing Raphael Assuncao Vs. Marlon Moraes 2 for UFC Fortaleza main event

UFC officials are close to finalizing a rematch between top-ranked title challengers Raphael Assuncao and Marlon Moraes according to ESPN. This bout will take place on the promotion’s second ESPN+ event in Fortaleza, Brazil in February.

Raphael Assuncao has been calling for a title shot since his victory over Rob Font at UFC 226 in July. Assuncao is riding a four-fight win steak, with one of those wins coming over Marlon Moraes which took place last summer at UFC 212. Assuncao is an eight-year vet of the UFC and is not one to call out fighters, he just wants the respect he’s earned, and addressed that after his last victory.

Marlon Moraes is the former World Series Of Fighting bantamweight champion before making the jump to the UFC. Moraes has gone 3-1 in his time with the UFC, his only loss coming against Assuncao. Moraes has also been calling for a title shot after devastating finishes to Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera.

This rematch will have high stakes. It’s hard to argue that the winner of this fight doesn’t get a title shot. Assuncao could finally get his first crack at UFC gold and Moraes can get revenge on top of a chance to add another title to his résumé. Current champion T.J. Dillashaw has the division on hold for the moment as he is challenging flyweight champion Henry Cejudo at UFC 233 in January.