UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas is stacked with fighters who love to get after it and push the pace of the fight. Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, Al Iaquinta, Jorge Masvidal, Liz Carmouche and Clay Guida are all fast starters, and this should be a card filled with action. Let’s break down the event.
Chad Mendes ($11300) vs Ricardo Lamas ($8300)
Chad “Money” Mendes is the highest-priced fighter on the card, while Ricardo Lamas is the lowest. I’ll just come out and say it: I’m picking Lamas in an upset. It’s an upset only in terms of Vegas odds and Draft Kings salaries, because Lamas is just as accomplished as Mendes. Both fought Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title. Both made it to the final bell. Mendes is more explosive than Lamas, but Lamas has some intangibles that can’t necessarily be judged by stats. No one thought Lamas had a chance against Dennis Bermudez, but he finished him in the first round. Mendes is similar in style and build to Bermudez, and Lamas will have a five-inch reach advantage. Lamas is a savvy fighter that has been underrated for too long. It certainly won’t be a surprise if Mendes takes it, but I like Lamas for the win.
Pick: Lamas by decision
Jorge Masvidal ($9900) vs Al Iaquinta ($9500)
Jorge Masvidal hasn’t been out-struck in a fight since he battled Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight championship in 2011. Al Iaquinta has not been out-struck in a fight since he fought Michael Chiesa back at the TUF Finale in 2012. Something’s got to give. The difference will likely be power. Iaquinta has more of it than Masvidal, and he’s knocked out his last three opponents. Masvidal has never been knocked out in his long career, and he is a fine counter-puncher, but I think Iaquinta’s speed and power make him the first to put “Gamebred” down.
Pick: Iaquinta by KO/TKO
Michael Chiesa ($11000) vs Mitch Clarke ($8400)
Clarke has won two in a row, including his submission win over Al Iaquinta at UFC 173. Chiesa got into an absolute war with Joe Lauzon last September, a fight he lost after it was stopped by the doctor. But this is as close to a lock as you’ll find on this card. Chiesa is the more active fighter and he’ll push the pace. He’s become extremely efficient at taking his opponent’s backs and sinking in fight-ending chokes. He’ll do that to Clarke early in the fight.
Pick: Chiesa by submission
Julianna Pena ($10500) vs Milana Dudieva ($8800)
Pena is finally back after a brutal injury suffered during training in 2014. If you need a reminder on how dominant she was pre-injury, here it is: She tapped veteran Shayna Baszler on The Ultimate Fighter, then followed that up by tapping Sarah Moras. In the TUF Finale, she was too much for Jessica Rakoczy, beating up the former boxing champ and getting the TKO finish near the end of the first round. She possesses top-level speed and power. The only question in this fight is possible cage rust. If she shakes that off, she will finish Dudieva with strikes early.
Pick: Pena by KO/TKO
Clay Guida ($10700) vs Robert Peralta ($8700)
It’s been a tough stretch for Clay Guida since he beat Anthony Pettis in 2011. He’s dropped four of his last six fights, and he’s 2-2 since moving down to featherweight. His two losses were against bigger, stronger wrestlers: Chad Mendes and Dennis Bermudez. Peralta is a much better matchup for Guida, and he Peralta has yet to beat a ranked fighter in the UFC. Guida will get back to what made him successful: using his wrestling to get takedowns and using movement to land strikes.
Pick: Guida by decision
Dustin Poirier ($10100) vs Diego Ferreira ($9300)
Welcome to the lightweight division, Dustin Poirier. “The Diamond” jumps out of the featherweight frying pan and into the fire, getting matched up with the dangerous Diego Ferreira in his debut at 155. Ferreira began his UFC career with two straight wins, both finishes. He choked out Colton Smith in less than a minute in his debut, then knocked out Ramsey Nijem at UFC 177. He suffered a setback in a decision loss to Beneil Dariush. Poirier always lands a high volume of strikes, and he’s just too much for Ferreira right now.
Pick: Poirier by decision
Lauren Murphy ($9800) vs Liz Carmouche ($9600)
The good news: Lauren Murphy threw close to 200 strikes in her fight against Sara McMann. The bad news: many of them were off her back, after McMann had taken her to the ground. More bad news: that’s exactly what Liz Carmouche will do to her. Carmouche is the only one coming remotely close to finishing Ronda Rousey, and she has been in the cage with the best fighters in the world. I don’t see Murphy stopping her takedowns, and that will cost her the fight.
Pick: Carmouche by decision
Gray Maynard ($10000) vs Alexander Yakovlev ($9300)
Maynard was once the cream of the lightweight class, so it seems odd that he has not had his hand raised since 2012. He’s not only lost three in a row and four of his last five, he’s been knocked out in all of those losses. While Yakovlev is somewhat of an unknown to UFC fans, he does hold a win over Paul Daley, and he went the distance with both Demian Maia and Nicolas Musoke. Maia took him down and passed his guard almost at will, so if Maynard gets back to his roots and wrestles Yakovlev, he will find success. If he stands and bangs, he could go down yet again. I may be in the minority that thinks Maynard isn’t done yet. I think he gets back to his basics with takedowns and passes and finally gets another UFC win.
Pick: Maynard by decision
Shamil Abdurahimov ($10600) vs Timothy Johnson ($8700)
This has buyer beware written all over it. Abdurahimov and Johnson are two heavyweights both making their UFC debuts. Once upon a time, Abdurahimov was considered a decent prospect, especially after back-to-back wins over Jeff Monson and Sokoudjou. Johnson garnered some attention after recently knocking out veteran Travis Wiuff. Abdurahimov is coming off wins over solid vets Kenny Garner and Neil Grove, and is deemed to be the better-skilled fighter, as well as the more experienced. Based on that the pick is Abdurahimov, most likely by decision.
Pick: Abdurahimov by decision
Justin Jones ($10200) vs Ron Stallings ($9200)
Ron Stallings is a great story. He made it to the UFC after over a decade as a pro fighter, stepping in as a replacement to fight Uriah Hall. He lost that bout, and now is back with a full training camp to battle Justin Jones. Jones lost his UFC debut to TUF winner Corey Anderson, but started his pro career with three straight wins, all finishes. Jones is likely too fast for Stallings, and he has enough power to end this fight. This fight will open the card, and it will be a quick one. Look for Jones to score a KO win in the first round.
Pick: Jones by KO/TKO