This weekend, we’ll be treated to one of the better UFC cards when the company’s 94th Fight Night airs live from Hidalgo, TX. There are plenty of recognizable names—contenders included—as well as some fresh-faced prospects to look forward to.
I’m looking forward to several of the bouts on this card, most especially the main event. Dustin Poirier vs Michael Johnson is a brilliant bit of matchmaking, and Sean Shelby should receive the sports equivalent of a service medal for it. I’m also a fan of the Brunson/Hall bout, too. The lower end of the card features some obscure names if you’re not an avid fan of the international TUF shows, but even these look like barn-burners waiting for a place to happen.
With any card, there’s room for underdog action, and this one is no different. I’ve selected my Top 4 bouts that I feel are ripe for an upset and broken them down for you. Let’s get started.
Alejandro Perez $11,000 / Albert Morales $8,400
Perez, who happens to be the TUF: Latin America winner, faces a fantastic rising prospect in Morales, a late replacement for Manny Gamburyan. Perez is light on his feet, carries flashy technical striking and has a serious leg kick game. He’s as quick as a Texas roadrunner, but he’s also roughly about the same size as one, too. His most notable win is over a declining Scott Jorgensen.
Morales is a veritable hulk for the division, clocking in at 5’9” and looking like an action figure come to life. He’s got excellent power and a serviceable ground game. His best attribute might be his cardio, as he can keep cracking all the way to the end. His most notable win is to Mario Israel for the RFA promotion.
Power and speed are certainly key in this match-up, but the X-Factor will be size, and Morales has all three of those in spades. He’s good at controlling space, and should be able to weather a gritty battle, taking the victory, as well.
Albert Morales via DEC
Jose Quinonez $10,500 / Joey Gomez $8,900
The battle of Joes with surnames ending in Z! Feel free to use that one, Dave Sholler!
Quinonez was the runner-up for TUF: Latin America, but has been a bit of a mixed bag, holding a divided UFC record of 1-1. His last bout was a winning effort against Leonardo Morales that saw him grab the victory via rear-naked choke.
Gomez is another hulk-beast in the division, standing 5’10” and carrying plenty of muscle on his frame. He’s the owner of a 6-1 record, but is coming off a loss to Rob Font (no shame in that).
This fight could go either way, in my personal opinion, especially since both men are primarily strikers. The size and power advantage go to Gomez (all 6 of his wins are first round TKOs), and for me, that’s what cinches the deal.
Joey Gomez via TKO
Sam Sicilia $11,200 / Gabriel Benitez $8,200
In this fight, we have a pair of TUF veterans. Sicilia was a contestant on TUF 15, and Benitez is another member of the TUF: Latin America season. This bout promises fireworks, mark my words. Both guys carry serious power, just in different extremities. If you know anything about Sicilia, you know his right is lethal.
Benitez has a super strong kicking game and is a great grappler, notching 9 submissions on his 18-5 record. He’s also got 6 TKO/KO wins, giving him an 83% finish rate. He dropped his last fight to Andre Fili in the first round after he was clipped with a kick and subsequently finished with punches; however, Sicilia was also finished in the first round of his last fight, losing by knockout to Doo Ho Choi.
Benitez has the stronger skillset, in my opinion, and should be able to catch Sicilia with either a high kick for a knockout, or a slick guillotine on the ground. One thing is certain, this is going to be a “don’t blink” affair.
Gabriel Benitez via TKO
Chas Skelly $10,300 / Maximo Blanco $9,100
Chas Skelly is a grinder that happens to have pretty good, unorthodox striking. He combines those strikes from all angles with deadly knees in his very effective clinch, and will work opponents over mercilessly against the cage. If the fight hits the ground, he’s also got a fantastic grappling game, as shown by a plethora of submissions on his impressive 15-2 record. His fatal flaw is his cardio, and that can be a real problem against Blanco, who’s demonstrated he can hang tough in the later rounds.
Blanco is an aggressive wrestler, but he rarely showcases it, choosing, instead, to beat his opponents to a pulp in the standup. He’s quick and powerful, and has an exceptionally durable chin. He throws a variety of flashy, video-game-style kicks, and the kind of power that will turn the lights out on an opponent and anyone within a 20 ft radius of him. I’m fairly certain the refs are equipped with a special shirt to block the shockwave that emanates from one of his knockout strikes.
Maximo Blanco via TKO
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