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Preview: UFC Fight Night ‘Manuwa vs. Anderson’

The Prelims


Lightweights

Joseph Duffy (16-2) vs. Reza Madadi (14-4): Duffy is a fighter the UFC should be promoting more. He is well-spoken and unafraid to make enemies. He is 3-1 in the UFC, young enough to keep improving and absolutely exciting. Duffy has an unusual background in taekwondo and Japanese ju-jitsu. While the techniques associated with these martial arts do not stand out, Duffy’s open-minded approach to MMA does. He is an able submission grappler, but a brief stint as a pro boxer in 2013 gave him confidence in his hands and he is now apt to slip and counter blows in the pocket before even thinking about the ground game. Dustin Poirier was able to expose a few of the holes in Duffy’s wrestling game, however, and Madadi is the perfect man to test how well he has repaired his takedown defense. Like Duffy, Madadi is not afraid to throw power punches, but for his part, he does not welcome exchanges. Madadi tends to throw in short bursts, usually before grabbing a snatch single and tripping and twisting his way to top position on the ground. Duffy should be able to piece up Madadi at range, but he will have a problem on his hands if the Swede starts dragging him to the ground. Duffy likely does enough damage with his hands, however, to negate whatever takedowns Madadi does score. The pick is Duffy by second-round TKO.

Light Heavyweights

Darren Stewart (7-0) vs. Francimar Barroso (18-5): The last time this fight was made, I picked Barroso to outlast Stewart, a powerful grinder who has not yet learned to marshal his energy and as such throws everything he has into the first round. While that scenario could very well play out, the minute Barroso spent in the cage with Stewart at UFC Fight Night 100 was not particularly inspiring. True, the bout was rendered no-contest after Barroso was head butted during a Stewart rush, but even that does not bode well for the Brazilian. Considered alongside his face crank submission to Nikita Krylov, the Stewart no-contest gives the impression that Barroso, for all of his durability, does not cope with pain very well. Stewart will be reckless, but he will be relentless. Barroso’s steady pace and veteran savvy will still be lifelines should the fight go past the first round, but this time around, I do not expect it to. Stewart by first-round TKO is the pick.

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Heavyweights

Daniel Omielanczuk (19-6-1) vs. Timothy Johnson (10-3): Omielanczuk put together a nice run for himself from 2015 to 2016, even scoring some nice points in a competitive loss to Stefan Struve. Unfortunately, this mid-tier gatekeeper is about to meet another of his rank in battle, and Johnson just might have his number. Despite lacking the height or reach of a typical heavyweight, Omielanczuk will almost certainly have the striking advantage in this matchup. He throws powerful, single shots from long range, unafraid to make high kicks a staple of his attack, and occasionally bulls his way forward with a flurry of punches. This passes for superb kickboxing as far as most heavyweights are concerned, and while Johnson does have a good grasp of distance and some nice timing on his straight punches, Omielanczuk will have little difficulty in bloodying his nose. Wrestling, however, is Johnson’s strength, and it has been Omielanczuk’s greatest weakness in the UFC. The Polish kickboxer has been taken down by just about every opponent who tries, and only once in the promotion has he won a fight after being taken down for the first time. Johnson is a massive, strong heavyweight with a varied takedown game and a penchant for beating up opponents from top position. The pick is Johnson by unanimous decision.

Lightweights

Marc Diakiese (11-0) vs. Teemu Packalen (8-1): I suspect this bout is designed as a fluff piece for one of England’s own in Diakiese. At just 23 years old, he is one of the most promising prospects in the UFC’s lightweight division. Diakiese is often billed as a striker, but he is most successful when he bulls into the clinch and drags his adversary to the ground. Packalen has finished six fights via submission, so he may be comfortable trying to counter Diakiese from his guard. Diakiese has never been submitted, however, despite tangling with the dangerous guard of Frankie Perez in his last fight, so Packalen will more than likely be too comfortable on the ground for his own good. In the spaces between scrambles, Packalen may actually find an advantage on the feet. His striking technique is invariably stiff and telegraphed, but he has power in both hands. Diakiese can be a little gunshy, so Packalen may be able to charge him early and score with a few uppercuts. In the end, however, it will be Diakiese muscling his way into takedown after takedown, never shutting down Packalen completely but constantly dragging him into deeper and deeper water. Diakiese by unanimous decision is the pick.

Middleweights

Tom Breese (10-1) vs. Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2): This one is a head-scratcher. Bamgbose is a super-powerful striker with an awkward style, and so far, he has shown little else. He could catch Breese in the early going, of course. Bamgbose does not hide strikes well, but he covers distance quickly, usually behind an absolute hailstorm of punches and kicks, so an early knockout for “The Holy War Angel” would not be the most surprising result. Still, Breese is the one with the options here. Bamgbose was taken down, controlled and beaten up on the ground in both of his UFC losses. Though Breese has yet to finish any takedowns in the UFC, he has gotten in on some nice attempts; and Bamgbose, with his telegraphed leaps, is perhaps more vulnerable to reactive takedowns than any other fighter in the division. It would be a surprise if takedowns did not factor into the Tristar Gym fighter’s game plan. Once on the ground, Breese should have a considerable edge in grappling ability. Judging by the recent direction of John Danaher and Firsas Zahabi’s students, expect a leg lock if the ground-and-pound does not work. The pick is Breese by second-round submission.

Welterweights

Leon Edwards (12-3) vs. Vicente Luque (11-5-1): Edwards earned a serious notch in his belt when he submitted contender Albert Tumenov in October. A kickboxer by trade, the ever-improving Edwards used his wrestling and grappling skills to neutralize the more powerful striker and proved that he has the adaptability to hang with a variety of styles in the cage. Luque, meanwhile, has been showing some new wrinkles of his own. Once known as an overaggressive submission wrestler with no real connection between his various phases, Luque has been absolutely destroying people on the feet lately. With powerful kicks, he corrals his opponents before unloading tight combinations of counterpunches in the pocket. Luque can be taken down, so the former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion might take that tack. However, Edwards would be better suited to pick him apart from the outside, especially considering that Luque, with his submission skills, will not fear the takedown as much as Tumenov did. Unfortunately, that aspect of Edwards’ game seemed somewhat regressed in his last fight. Unless Edwards can bring back the rangy southpaw kickboxing, Luque’s aggressive style should reap dividends. Luque by unanimous decision is the pick.

Bantamweights

Ian Entwistle (9-3) vs. Brett Johns (13-0): Entwistle does one thing well: He grabs opponents by the leg and works feverishly to twist and bend it out of position. This single-minded approach is dangerous for both Entwistle and his opponents; he who lives by the heel hook, dies by the heel hook -- or at least, he gets knocked out while clinging to his enemy’s ankle. Johns should have little difficulty in predicting these attacks and thus little difficulty in beating Entwistle. Johns is a powerhouse wrestle-boxer but with judo, and he keeps a blistering pace despite putting an immense amount of effort into every attack. Entwistle has surprised before, but Johns really just has to survive the first few minutes before the submission specialist falters and falls prey to his ground-and-pound. Johns by first-round TKO is the pick.

Middleweights

Bradley Scott (10-4) vs. Scott Askham (14-3): This one should be good. Scott and Askham both suffer from a certain amount of slowness. Neither man is particularly mobile, but Askham, with his tall frame and long limbs, is more inclined to utilize a long-range, footwork-heavy style. While his sneaky kicks make him effective at this range, he is most dangerous in close, where his height allows him to muscle opponents in the clinch and land vicious knees and uppercuts. Askham is not usually comfortable in the pocket, however, and that is where Scott comes in. A stout submission wrestler, Scott approaches every opponent the same way. He stalks forward, keeps his chin tucked and stabs away with jabs and right hands, trying to create an opening for a takedown. Scott is extremely durable and rarely falters from his steady pace. Askham can take a shot, too, but he does not react well to damage, which means Scott should be able to create the telling impacts for which judges are inclined to look. Unless Askham has really worked on his movement, Scott should be able to track him down and go to work. Either way, expect a close fight. The pick is Scott by unanimous decision.

Women’s Bantamweights

Lina Lansberg (6-2) vs. Lucie Pudilova (6-1)

Veronica Macedo was supposed to take on Lansberg at this event, but a training injury means fans get to see this rematch between European kickboxers instead. On paper, Pudilova has a lot of advantages over Lansberg. She is a long-limbed fighter who regularly employs a long jab and a piercing front kick. With a four-inch height advantage, one might be inclined to take Pudilova over Lansberg. What happened in their first fight, however, was that Pudilova simply could not stay out of the clinch. Where Pudilova spent those clinch exchanges holding tightly onto weak grips, Lansberg stayed low, kept her head in perfect position and beat up her opponent, bit by bit. It did not help that Pudilova was a little too slow to effectively maintain distance. Unless she has made some serious changes since or unless Lansberg is seriously diminished by her loss to Cristiane Justino, Pudilova will suffer the same fate as last time. The pick is Lansberg by unanimous decision.

Connor Ruebusch is an analyst of striking and boxing technique for Sherdog.com, as well as BloodyElbow.com and BadLeftHook.com. He has written hundreds of articles examining fighting form and strategy, and he is not done yet. Every Wednesday he talks about the finer points of face-punching on his podcast Heavy Hands. Though he dabbles in fantasy MMA, he is not a regular gambler, nor is he an expert in the field. If you use these predictions as a betting guide, please do so in combination with your own best judgment and a healthy pinch of salt. It is your money.
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