WATCH: The Pat Mayo Experience previews UFC Fight Night 118
Gdansk, Poland, will host UFC Fight Night 118 — a very low-key card that has flown under the radar since its announcement — and while light on star power, Saturday’s fight card features some intriguing matchups that warrant more than just a passing glance. The contest between Artem Lobov and Andre Fili is of particular interest, as well as the main event offering Donald Cerrone against Darren Till. It isn’t the best bout sheet, but it’s certainly not the worst, either.
UFC Fight Night 118 presents an excellent opportunity to make a real fantasy impact via mighty underdogd. I’ve highlighted four athletes who have the ability to upset the favorites, so let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of their respective fights.
Felipe Arantes ($7,100) vs. Josh Emmett ($9,100)
Emmett is a high-output fighter who will make his featherweight debut — a move that might prove to be quite taxing on his cardio, as he never was a small lightweight. Emmett is a member of Sacramento’s wrestling-centric Team Alpha Male, and while he’s somewhat capable on the canvas, he’s had issues keeping his opponents down.
Arantes also is changing weight classes for this bout. However, he’ll make the move back up to featherweight after issues making the 135-pound limit for the bantamweight division. He has an excellent kickboxing game and an evolving striking skill set, although he still struggles defensively. While he doesn’t have the best takedown defense, Arantes presents a real danger once the fight is on the ground, and he’s a savvy technician who pulled off slick armbars on Yves Jabouin and Jerrod Sanders.
Arantes’ well-rounded skill set, combined with superior cardio (especially in the later rounds) and an easier weight cut, will be the deciding factors in this fight.
Arantes via decision
Artem Lobov ($7,500) vs. Andre Fili ($8,700)
Fili is a somewhat tall, lanky athlete at 5-foot-10, and he’ll enjoy a 9-inch reach advantage in this fight. He’s a Team Alpha Male product who has been a mixed bag since he signed with the UFC in 2013, and although he has a very good kickboxing base, he has less-than-stellar fight IQ and struggles mightily with distance control.
Lobov is a gritty, hard-nosed counter-striker who has made steady strides of improvement under the guidance of his coach, John Kavanagh. Lobov typically fights as a southpaw, but he’s quite adept at switching stances and still being effective. Lobov also is one of the most durable fighters, and he looked sensational in his fight with Cub Swanson, even if he did end up on the wrong side of the decision.
The key factor in this fight will be Lobov’s aggressive style. When Fili’s opponents get the jump on closing the distance, as Lobov is apt to do, Touchy Fili’s fight IQ makes a mad dash for the basement. It’s a real coin-toss fight, but I believe Lobov has the better upside.
Lobov via (T)KO
Sam Alvey ($8,000) vs. Ramazan Emeev ($8,200)
Emeev will make his UFC debut on this card, and while he’s a hard-hitting slugger, he has the annoying tendency of throwing singles and clinching up with little regard for advancing toward a finish. He’s on the smallish side for 185, but make no mistake — he’s still a dangerous prospect with an excellent record and wins over Maiquel Falcao, Luigi Fioravanti and Vyacheslav Vasilevsky.
Alvey is one of the most active athletes on the UFC roster, with this bout being his fifth inside a year. He’s a hard-hitting counter-striker who calls Team Quest his training home under the excellent tutelage of Dan Henderson. Alvey’s hallmark is excellent takedown defense and the ability to score knockouts in the latter rounds of fights.
This should be a closer contest than many realize, especially since Alvey took the fight on less than two week’s notice and probably will struggle with his weight cut (he stated he had to cut down from 220-plus pounds). Still, I believe “Smile ‘N Sam” has the better skill set for a victory here.
Alvey via (T)KO
Darren Till ($7,700) vs. Donald Cerrone ($8,500)
Cerrone is everyone’s favorite bad ass — and for good reason. He’s an excellent kickboxer and grappler with tons of experience fighting the best competition. Accompanying that experience is a cost — shopwear — and Cerrone has been showing more and more of it over the last two years. His midsection is his Achilles’ heel, and a smart striker will target it for softening up ahead of a stoppage, as Rafael dos Anjos and Jorge Masvidal viciously demonstrated. Cerrone still is a very dangerous man (especially with those devastating headkicks), and he’ll have the clear advantage on the ground. Despite Cerrone’s advantages and experience, I believe his best days are behind him.
Till is a fresh-faced, 22-year-old southpaw with great footwork and a sledgehammer left cross that’s proven effective from just about any angle from which he chooses to throw it. He’s deceptively calm for his age and works through adversity well. Both Cerrone and Till favor the clinch, but Till seems to have the better grasp on using it more effectively, and because he’ll be the bigger man in this fight, he might find purchase on some of those heavy knees he likes to throw. While he doesn’t have the grappling chops that Cowboy possesses, Till is underrated on the ground and has shown steady improvement in that regard. That said, I doubt he’ll elect to take the fight to the ground, nor will he try to keep it there, should Cerrone get him down.
This will be a great battle, and for this night owl, it definitely will be worth the price of getting up early to watch. It’s a real pick ’em, but I have to go with my gut, and it’s telling me Till in the upset.
Till via (T)KO
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