After successfully staging its first event since the coronavirus pandemic last weekend via UFC 249, the UFC makes a quick turnaround as it stages UFC on ESPN: Smith vs Teixeira at the same Florida venue.
In the main event, light heavyweights Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira square off in a five-rounder at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. In the co-main event, Ben Rothwell will welcome Ovince Saint Preux to the heavyweight division.
But before the main card begins, an exciting line-up of prelims undercard bouts is on hand this coming Wednesday. Let’s take a look at those bouts and predict our winners:
Andrei Arlovski is the former UFC heavyweight champion from Belarus. The Pitbull is a decorated veteran who has also fought for Strikeforce, Affliction, WSOF, Elite XC, ONE FC, and M-1 Challenge. He holds the UFC record for most fights in heavyweight history (30) and most wins in the division (17).
Arlovski stands 6-3 with a reach of 77 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 28-19 with 17 knockouts and 3 wins by way of submission. The Pitbull has one win in his last six fights and he is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruuik at UFC 244 last November.
Philipe Lins was the winner of the 2018 Professional Fighters League heavyweight tournament. The 34-year old Brazilian also fought for Bellator before he won the PFL heavyweight tournament in 2018. Lins will be making his UFC debut on Wednesday night.
Lins stands 6-2 tall with a reach of 78 inches and is an orthodox fighter. He has a record of 14-3 with 8 knockouts and 4 wins via submission. After losing three out of his last four Bellator bouts, he won four consecutive fights, all by stoppage, to win the 2018 PFL heavyweight tournament.
Arlovski is 3-9 since 2016. He no longer has the killer instinct and swagger he had when he was champion. At 41, he is just a shell of the Belarussian Pitbull. I expect Arlovski to put up a good fight, as usual. Lins doesn’t have the one-punch knockout power that we often see in heavyweights but he puts together very nice combinations that will eventually hurt his opponent. It won’t be a blowout but Lins should stop Arlovski in the second half of the fight.
PREDICTION: PHILIPE LINS (-155)
The Menace was the runner-up of The Ultimate Fighter season 12 and he has notable wins over Gleison Tibau, Artem Lobov, Edson Barboza, and Tony Ferguson. This former XCF and MFL lightweight champion slugged it out with current interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje in the 2017 Fight of the Year.
Johnson stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 73 inches and is a southpaw fighter. He has a record of 19-15 with 8 knockouts and 2 wins by submission. Menace has lost five out of his last seven bouts including back to back losses to Josh Emmett and Stevie Ray.
Thiago Moises is the final RFA lightweight champion and a former IBJJF gold medalist. Moises is from Brazil and trains out of the American Top Team. He found his way to the UFC via Dana White’s Contender Series Brazil 3 in 2018.
Moises is an orthodox fighter who 5-9 tall with a reach of 70 inches. He holds a record of 12-4 with 3 knockout wins and 4 victories via submission. Moises is 1-2 in three UFC bouts and is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Damir Ismagulov at UFC Fight Night 157.
Michael Johnson only has three wins in his last 10 fights but most of his losses have been to top-level competition. He doesn’t look over the hill yet but is slowing down and no longer has the same quickness that used to make him special. Moises has the skills to take advantage of Johnson’s weaknesses. He also has the submission game that Johnson is allergic to. If Moises can take advantage of Johnson fading in fights, he wins this. If not, Johnson lives on.
PREDICTION: MICHAEL JOHNSON (-114)
Sijara Eubanks is the 15th ranked female bantamweight in the UFC. She won 1st place in the Women’s No-Gi Advanced Absolute division in the 2011 Grapplers Quest World Championship Finals. She fought for Invicta FC and Cage Fury Fighting Championships before coming over to the UFC.
Eubanks is an orthodox fighter who is 5-4 tall and has a reach of 67 inches. She has a record of 4-4 with two knockouts. She is coming off back to back losses to Aspen Ladd and Bethe Correia.
Sarah Moras is unranked in the UFC women’s bantamweight division who fought for Invicta FC and was a competitor in the TUF: Team Rousey vs Team Tate TV series where she lost to eventual winner Julianna Pena in the second round.
Moras is 5-7 tall with a reach of 67 inches and is an orthodox fighter. She has a record of 6-5 with three knockouts and two losses. She recently snapped a three-fight losing streak by knocking out Liana Jojoua at UFC 242 in Dubai.
Eubanks is an excellent grappler who also has knockout power. However, she’s had trouble since moving up to bantamweight as she’s lost the size advantage that she used to enjoy while fighting flyweights. Moras has the size advantage but Eubanks is better-skilled, has more power, and better technique. I think she survives Moras attempts to take this fight to the ground.
PREDICTION: SIJARA EUBANKS (-370)
Gabriel Benitez was a contestant at The Ultimate Fighter 1: Latin America. The former Ultimate Warrior Challenge and Xplode Fight Series featherweight champion made his UFC debut in 2014 with a guillotine choke win over Humberto Brown at UFC 180.
Benitez is a southpaw who stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 71 inches. He has a record of 21-7 with seven knockouts and 10 wins via submission. Benitez is 3-3 in his last six fights. He had a two-fight losing streak snapped by Sodiq Yusuf who knocked him out at UFC 241.
Omar Antonio Morales earned a UFC contract after appearing in Dana White’s Contender Series last year. The 34-year old Venezuelan Fighter had a successful UFC debut last December when he defeated Dong Hyun Ma via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 165.
Morales is 5-11 tall with a reach of 73 inches and is an orthodox fighter. He has a record of 9-0 with 2 knockouts and five wins via submission. Six of his stoppage wins have come inside round one.
Morales is already 34-years old but I’m not sure where to rank him because he’s faced subpar opposition throughout his career. He will face his most accomplished opponent in Benitez who is moving up in weight class here. Benitez is a terrific counterpuncher who uses low kicks to set up his punches. I don’t see anything special in either fighter but Benitez has fought better opposition and that should be the key.
PREDICTION: GABRIEL BENITEZ (+145)
Hunter Azure was a former collegiate wrestler at Montana State University-Northern whose wrestling career ended due to injury. He turned pro in 2017, fighting for organizations such as Golden Fights and LFA before making an appearance at Dana White’s Contender Series last year.
Azure is 5-8 tall with a reach of 69 inches and is an orthodox fighter. He has a record fo 8-0 with three knockouts and one win via submission. In his UFC debut, Azure scored a unanimous decision win over Brad Katona.
Brian Kelleher has been around since 2011 and he’s competed for Bellator and CES MMA. The 33-year old is a former Ring of Combat bantamweight champion who made one successful title defense before moving to the UFC in 2017.
Kelleher is 5-6 tall with a reach of 66 inches and is a switch hitter. He has a record of 20-10 with 7 knockouts and 9 wins by submission. He recently snapped a two-fight losing streak when he submitted Ode Osbourne at UFC 246.
Only one of Kelleher’s seven UFC bouts has gone the distance and he’s a fighter who is feast or famine. This kid can pull off surprises just when you count him out. Azure is another alumnus of Dana White’s Contender Series. He has a wrestling background that has given Kelleher problems in the past. If he is wary of Kelleher’s submissions and sticks to his lane, he has a shot here. If he decides to strike with Kelleher, that could be a problem. This one’s going to be competitive but I like Kelleher’s submission skills here.
PREDICTION: BRIAN KELLEHER (+150)
Chase Sherman is a former bare-knuckle fighter and a competitor for Titan FC. He is currently on his second stint with the UFC after he was released in 2018 after three straight losses. He is the former Bare Knuckle FC heavyweight champion.
Sherman stands 6-4 tall and has a reach of 78 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He owns a record of 14-6 with 13 knockouts. 12 out of his 13 knockouts happened inside round one.
Isaac Villanueva is the Fury FC light heavyweight champion who will be making his UFC debut on Wednesday night. The Houston native has spent the last 12 years trying to get a shot at fighting in the UFC and will be fighting at heavyweight in his maiden UFC bout.
Villanueva stands 6-1 tall and has a reach of 73 inches while fighting as an orthodox fighter. He has a record of 16-9 with 13 wins coming by way of knockout. Since losing to Antonio Jones in 2017, he’s picked up four straight knockout wins, all coming in the first round.
Sherman has found his way back to the UFC and at the age of 30, he’s still young for the heavyweight division. He puts up exciting fights and has some tools to become relevant in the division. Villanueva is the smaller man here as he is a natural light heavyweight. But he has legit knockout power with 75% of his wins coming by knockout. I think Villanueva will get past Sherman’s questionable defense and land his big punches here.
PREDICTION: ISAAC VILLANUEVA (+128)
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