The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s return to the UFC Apex with UFC Fight Night 215 on Saturday in Las Vegas and does so with a compelling seven-bout undercard. Charles Johnson and Zhalgas Zhumagulov take the featured spot in an intriguing clash at 125 pounds, but the clear highlight falls between ranked women’s flyweights Jennifer Maia and Maryna Moroz. Beyond that, there are some flawed bantamweight veterans trying to work out the kinks and a few raw but promising talents. That all should coalesce into some entertaining violence and a decent-enough appetizer for the main draw.
Now to the preview for the UFC Fight Night “Lewis vs. Spivak” prelims:
FlyweightsCharles Johnson (11-3, 0-1 UFC) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-7, 1-4 UFC)
ODDS: Johnson (-155), Zhumagulov (+135)
It is hard to know what to make of this fight between two unorthodox flyweights. It has taken a while, but Zhumagulov may have turned a corner at the UFC level, even if he has yet to achieve much success. The Kazakhstan native was quite successful at a high level regionally, but he had the type of style built for five-round fights. With his athleticism and well-rounded skills, Zhumagulov could lay back and gather information until he found an opening to take advantage of his opponent. Against more athletic competition in three-round fights, that approach mostly led to his giving up the initiative and losing a tough decision, though he has obviously made adjustments in his last few assignments. Unfortunately, Manel Kape was probably the wrong fighter to take a more aggressive tact against—Zhumagulov quickly fell victim to Kape’s knockout power—but he did a much more effective job of pressing the issue against Jeff Molina in June, only to lose a controversial split decision. Zhumagulov looks to get back in the win column against Johnson, who got a long-overdue UFC callup in July. Johnson does not really fit into the typical flyweight archetypes, either, as “InnerG” has a unique grab bag of skills. A former track and field athlete who is quite tall for the division, Johnson prefers to stalk his opponents with a low-volume and high-powered striking game. That got him nowhere in that UFC debut, as Johnson was matched against uber-prospect Muhammad Mokaev and repeatedly got outwrestled. He should find some more success here, even if it is unclear how much. Zhumagulov could just eat another knockout, but the bet is that he can win this on volume, particularly with his willingness to press his wrestling, which, if nothing else, has proven an effective way to control Johnson and neutralize his best offense. The pick is Zhumagulov via decision.
Continue Reading » Moroz vs. Maia
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