The year is rapidly winding its way to an end, and the UFC is planning on taking it out with a bang. The first of two scheduled fight cards for Saturday, UFC Belfast is one of those “modest on paper” type events that will likely deliver action in spades.
There are a couple of match-ups that should set the tone for the rankings shuffle, and some generally fun, intriguing bouts that could weed out the next big thing. As is my routine, I’ve selected four bouts to examine that have upset potential.
Let’s get started:
Ross Pearson $8,500 / Stevie Ray $7,700
Ross Pearson is a great fighter with a ton of fight mileage. He’s a bit of a journeyman with a 19-12 record. He’s got an excellent, technical striking game, but he’s slowed down significantly over the last couple years. He is also very inconsistent, dropping wins every other outing, and is now on 2-fight skid.
Stevie Ray has a grinding, smothering style that revolves around his excellent grappling. His striking game needs work, but if he implements a jab to set up sneaky takedowns, he could have this in the bag. Pearson has solid takedown defense, but once on the ground, he suffers in scrambles and can be dominated enough to lose a decision.
Stevie Ray via DEC
Amanda Cooper $8,600 / Anna Elmose $7,600
Amanda Cooper has a great ground game and at just 25-years-old, is excellent at dictating the pace and controlling the Octagon. She’s just got one win on her record (1-2), but seems to find improvement with each outing. She’s good on the feet, but suffers quite a bit on the ground. If Elmose decides to implement level changes frequently, we may see Cooper floundering a good bit.
Anna Elmose is a big strawweight who’s come down from featherweight. Her lone loss on a 3-1 record comes at the hands of the much bigger Germain de Randamie. At 5’3, she’s very, very undersized for 145lbs, so the jump down is ideal for her. She’s a very aggressive fighter, but it’s more of a controlled aggression, with very little wasted movement. She’s excellent in the clinch and has a technical striking game.
This is really a tough fight to pick, but I have to go with Elmose here.
Anna Elmose via DEC
Kyoji Horiguchi $8,400 / Ali Bagautinov $7,800
Kyoji Horiguchi is an excellent athlete with an arsenal of flamboyant kicks and fancy footwork. He sticks and moves like a dream and has dispatched every fighter the UFC has paired him up with except Demetrious Johnson.
Bagautinov is a powerful grinder with good striking and excellent grappling. His only losses in the UFC are to the champ and Joe Benavidez. He does, however, hold a win over the heavy-handed John Lineker, so his ability to nullify his opponent’s weapons should help when Horiguchi darts in to land a flurry. He’s also an incredibly durable athlete who’s never been finished.
This is another very close fight, but I think the upside lies with Bagautinov.
Ali Bagautinov via DEC
Kevin Lee $8,300 / Magomed Mustafaev $7,900
Kevin Lee is a fantastic prospect who is one of those naturally gifted athletes that seems to have been born to compete. He’s got speed and power, but is strongest on the ground. He’s dynamic on the ground with fluid transitions and excellent chain wrestling. His drawback, though, is his defense. He has had moments of carelessness in his fights, and has been starched because of it (see Leonardo Santos fight).
Mustafaev hits like a truck—like… he’ll leave tire treads on your face. He is 13-1, and not a single fight has made it out of the second round. He mixes up hard kicks with punches seamlessly, and he’s very confident on the ground, with the ability to submit his opponents from anywhere, including his back. He’s got capable wrestling, and good instincts everywhere.
While Lee is a fantastic prospect with all the necessary tools, his willingness to charge right into a firestorm gives me pause, especially against a guy who should register himself as a deadly weapon.
Magomed Mustafaev via TKO
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