The UFC opens the year with a three-event series at Fight Island. This marks the promotion’s third return to Yas Island since the start of the pandemic. The first of the three events is UFC Fight Island 7 which will be headlined by a showdown between former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and no. 6 featherweight contender Calvin Kattar.
But before Blessed takes on The Boston Finisher, an equally exciting prelims undercard will precede the main show. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s prelims undercard lineup and make our fight predictions:
Phil Hawes failed to land a UFC contract in his first try at the Contender Series in 2017. He returned last year and scored a 78-second KO of Khadzhimurat Bestaev to earn a UFC gig. Megatron stopped Jakoc Malkoun in 18 seconds during his Octagon debut. Hawes has a record of 9-2 with seven knockouts and two wins via submission. He is an orthodox fighter who stands six feet tall with a reach of 77 inches.
Nassourdine Imavov fought for TFL and Ares FC before heading to the UFC last year. Imavov defeated Jordan Williams in his UFC debut for his sixth consecutive victory. The 25-year old Frenchman has a record of 9-2 with 3 knockouts and four wins via submission. He is 6-3 tall with a reach of 75 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Imamov has a relentless and attacking style and is a very resilient fighter. He is the taller man here as he has a two-inch height advantage over Hawes. However, he will have trouble putting Hawes down, if he can do it at all because the latter is the much better wrestler between these two. If he can’t take Hawes down, Imamov will be forced to fight on his feet where his defensive lapses will be taken advantage of by an excellent counter-puncher. I like Hawes to catch Imamov with a counter right that ends this fight early.
Prediction: Phil Hawes
Wu Yanan fought for the Chinese Kun Fu Championships before joining the UFC in 2017. The 24-year old from Liaoning, China has fought just thrice since entering the UFC and has not seen action since August 2019. Wu has a record of 11-3 with seven knockouts and two wins via submission. She stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 66 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Josylene Edwards fought in the Panama Fight League, KOTC, and LFA before joining the UFC. This 25-year old from Panama won seven straight bouts before losing to Sarah Alpar in her only LFA appearance. She has a record of 9-2 with five knockouts and three wins via submission. Edwards is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-8 tall and has a reach of 70 inches.
Edwards is stepping in for Bethe Correia but despite taking this fight on short notice, this could end up as one of the more competitive fights of the night. Edwards might try to take this fight to the ground but she has poor positional skills and is unlikely to take advantage, even if she takes top position. Wu will prefer to fight on the feet and her ability to get back up should keep it there. Both women like to slug it out but Wu is the better striker and has crisper punches. I think Wu outstrikes Edwards and wins on points.
Prediction: Wu Yanan
Carlos Felipe won his first seven fights and was scheduled to make his UFC debut in 2017. But a USADA suspension delayed his UFC debut and he lost to Sergey Spivak in his Octagon debut. The 26-year old from Baha, Brazil defeated Yorgan de Castro in his last bout. He has a record of 9-1 with six knockouts. Felipe is 6-0 tall with a reach of 75 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Justin Tafa is 1-1 inside the UFC Octagon. He was knocked out by Yorgan de Castro in his UFC debut but bounced back to stop Juan Adams inside one round in his last UFC appearance. The 27-year old from New South Wales is 4-1 with all his wins coming by way of knockout. He is a southpaw who stands six feet tall with a reach of 74 inches.
These are two promising fighters in a division that needs more of them. Both men impressed in their last fights after losing their respective Octagon debuts. Felipe showed a lot of potential with an impressive gas tank and body attack. Meanwhile, Taha’s raw firepower was equally eye-catching. However, I like Felipe more here as I think he is durable enough to drag Taha to deep waters and drown him there. Taha’s takedowns will make this interesting but Felipe’s chin and gas tank will carry him to victory.
Prediction: Carlos Felipe
After losing his first two Octagon appearances, David Zawada finally picked up his first UFC win by choking out Abubakar Nurmagomedov in November 2019. The 30-year old from Dusseldorf, Germany will be fighting for the first time in 14 months after the pandemic forced two 2020 fights to be scrapped. Zawada is 17-5 with 11 knockouts and four wins via submission. He is an orthodox fighter who stands six feet tall and has a reach of 75 inches.
Ramazan Emeev saw his three-fight win streak end against Antonio Rocco Martin. But he bounced back with a win over Niklas Stolze last July 2020. The 33-year old from Dagestan is 19-4 with three knockouts and seven wins via submission. He is a southpaw fighter who stands 5-10 tall and has a reach of 76 inches.
Zawada’s best chance here is if his takedown defense is successful here. If it is, then he will have the advantage in a striking battle. Zawada has the better striking output and if he keeps this standing, he will outpoint Emeev. However, history suggests that it’s unlikely to happen. Emeev’s wrestling is too good for Zawada. Emeev uses control to grind out his fifth UFC decision.
Prediction: Ramazan Emeev
Sarah Moras earned a semifinal finish at The Ultimate Fighter 23 and won two out of her first three UFC bouts. However, she’s won just once in her last five bouts and is coming off a loss to fellow TUF alum Sijara Eubanks in May 2020. The 32-year old Canadian is 5-7 tall with a reach of 67 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. She has a record of 6-6 with three knockouts and two wins via submission.
Vanessa Melo started her career with a 5-5 record then won her next five bouts to earn a UFC contract. However, she’s lost her first three UFC bouts including a decision against Karol Rosa in her most recent outing last July 2020. The 32-year old Brazilian is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-5 tall and has a reach of 65 inches. She has a record of 10-8 with two wins via submission.
Melo gives up two inches in height to Moras but is the better striker. However, her lack of power and striking output will allow Moras to even out her disadvantage with activity. On the ground, Moras has excellent submission skills but doesn’t have good wrestling to compliment it. Despite that, she has a stronger ground game than Melo and overall, she should have more than enough to outwork the shorter fighter over 15 minutes.
Prediction: Sarah Moras
Kilburn failed to earn a contract via the Contender series but after picking up two more wins in Island Fights, he got the call to fight Billy Quarantillo in December 2019. Kilburn has not fought since then and will get his second UFC assignment after a year of inaction. The 25-year old from Tennessee is 5-9 tall with a reach of 72 inches and is an orthodox fighter. He has a record of 8-3 with four knockouts and two submission wins.
Austin Lingo was favored in his UFC debut against Youssef Zalal after winning his last three bouts in a combined 63 seconds. That defeat stands as the only loss of his career so far. The 26-year old from Texas has knocked out three and submitted two opponents. He is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 70 inches.
Kilburn’s awful takedown defense might not be an issue here as he is going up against a trigger-happy Lingo. When it comes to striking, Kilburn looks to be the better man on the feet with cleaner combinations and an unpredictable attack. However, Lingo’s power and Kilbun’s willingness to trade could lead to an early finish. I think that Kilburn outpoints Lingo in a striking match but the latter hits too hard that I don’t think Kilburn is going to make it to the end of the fight. I smell a stoppage.
Prediction: Austin Lingo
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