Alexis Davis will enter the cage on a four-fight winning streak. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The UFC 170 main card may be topped by a pair of Olympic medalists in Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann, but Saturday’s undercard should also have you excited.
I write these prelims previews roughly once a week at this point, and this undercard is one of the more stacked that I can readily recall. For instance, fans will be treated to a marquee women’s matchup just prior to the pay-per-view broadcast, as Alexis Davis battles Jessica Eye from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
For my money, Davis is the world’s best 135-pound woman not nicknamed “Rowdy.” Granted, the Strikeforce veteran’s punching power is not exactly frightening, but that takes away nothing from her ability to accurately string together combinations. Factor in Davis’ capable ground work, and I have to believe she is the next challenger to the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight crown currently held by Rousey. Davis has lost just one fight in her last eight, and she made sure to grab a big chunk of Sarah Kaufman for the road in spite of the judges’ majority decision going the way of the British Columbian.
Bottom line: If you can go toe-to-toe with Liz Carmouche and Amanda Nunes while submitting Shayna Baszler and Hitomi Akano, you are one bad individual and certainly worthy of my time as a fight fan.
Davis’ well-rounded game is but one reason tune in to Fox Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass to catch the UFC 170 undercard. Here are four more:
EYE FOR THE GOLD
I know I just got done singing Davis’ praises, but she could easily have her hands full with a competitor as game as Eye.
Like her foe, Eye might stand just a victory away from a title shot, despite her recent issues with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. There is no denying that Eye has much to deal with mentally after testing positive for marijuana and seeing her UFC 166 victory over Kaufman changed to a no-contest.
We should also remember that Eye’s father was diagnosed with brain cancer in November. I cannot fathom what Eye has gone through under those difficult circumstances, and I do not know if it will affect her in the cage. Frankly, the latter part is unimportant when contrasted against the life-and-death nature of that first sentence.
Still, as fans and media, we naturally wonder whether a fighter can overcome those hard moments and perform, and I will certainly be watching Eye intently on fight night.
‘THE YOUNG PUNISHER’
I love seeing a young fighter who knows what he wants and is not afraid to ask for it. Pedro Munhoz is one of those guys.
Following his 41-second submission of Billy Daniels last month at RFA 12, the Resurrection Fighting Alliance bantamweight champ seized the opportunity to ask UFC matchmaker Joe Silva for a shot in the big show. Silva clearly heard the unbeaten 27-year-old’s plea, and after Francisco Rivera went down with an injury, the Brazilian received the call to step in against Rafael Assuncao, a 25-fight pro who has won his last five bouts and appears to be on the verge of a title shot.
On paper, Assuncao is undoubtedly Munhoz’s toughest test to date, but I cannot gloss over how impressed I was by “The Young Punisher” in his RFA career. Munhoz has proven that he is both a finisher and possesses what it takes to gut out a 25-minute decision if need be.
Can Munhoz pull off an upset in his Octagon debut or has he bitten off more than he can chew in an opponent like Assuncao?
‘FUN SIZE’ VS. ‘THE GREMLIN’
If you have ever read my work before -- and for the sake of my fragile ego, let us pretend you have -- then you know my feelings about flyweights: I love them as much as I loved Dunkaroos when I was 8.
This upcoming clash between Zach Makovsky and Josh Sampo is no exception, as both of these guys are bona fide scrambling machines.
Makovsky really impressed me in his UFC debut against Scott Jorgensen. No disrespect intended to “Fun Size,” but I honestly thought Jorgensen was going to cut right through him with his punching power. Instead, Makovsky stepped up on just two weeks’ notice to replace an injured John Dodson and took a unanimous decision from Jorgensen in a competitive, three-round outing at UFC on Fox 9.
Sampo, meanwhile, eventually out-grappled fellow UFC debutant Ryan Benoit at “The Ultimate Fighter 18” Finale in November, taking Benoit’s back and choking him out to conclude the back-and-forth affair.
I do not know which of these grappling experts will have the edge once the fight hits the floor, but I feel confident in predicting that neither man will be content to lie on his back. Look for plenty of action and a fast pace from these 125-pounders.
‘NEW BREED,’ OLD WEIGHT
Remember when Erik Koch was regarded as the top contender for the UFC featherweight title? Do not feel bad if you have no idea what I am talking about. That was more than two years ago after all.
Koch was one of many exciting prospects to come out of the defunct World Extreme Cagefighting promotion. After walking through the likes of Bendy Casimir, Francisco Rivera and the aforementioned Assuncao, Koch was offered a crack at UFC kingpin Jose Aldo in July 2012. However, the matchup was postponed after Aldo suffered an injury and was canceled altogether after Koch withdrew from their rescheduled meeting at UFC 153.
Losses to Ricardo Lamas and Dustin Poirier would follow in 2013 for “New Breed,” who now steps into the cage at 155 pounds for the first time since coming under the Zuffa umbrella in 2009. Standing in Koch’s way will be Rafaello Oliveira, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt looking to right his ship after suffering three losses in his last four fights.
It is currently unknown if this appearance will be a one-and-done stint for the Roufusport product or the first in a series of lightweight outings, provided he earns a victory. Either way, I am curious to see if the 25-year-old can pick up his first win since September 2011.