Top 5 welterweight Leon Edwards has moved on from Khamzat Chimaev. The two were scheduled to fight at the main event of UFC Vegas 21 on March 13, 2021, but with Chimaev still dealing with the lingering effects of COVID-19, the UFC asked Belal Muhamad to take Chimaev’s slot and test Edwards who has not fought since July 20, 2019.
But before we get to see Rocky try to return to the winning column, an interesting prelims undercard precedes the main show. The prelims feature some exiting veterans matched up with newcomers.
Let’s take a look at this weekend’s prelims undercard lineup and make our predictions:
Anders is a former college linebacker from the University of Alabama. The 33-year old from San Antonio, Texas is a former LFA middleweight champion who joined the UFC in 2017. He won three out of his first four UFC bouts but has dropped four out of his last six assignments. He has a record of 13-5 with 8 knockouts and one submission win. Anders is a southpaw who stands 6-1 tall with a reach of 75 inches.
Darren Stewart is a former Killacam Promotions light heavyweight champion. The 30-year old from East London, England joined the UFC 2016 but did not taste victory until his fifth Octagon appearance. Stewart has won five out of his last eight bouts but is coming off a loss to Kevin Holland. He has a record of 12-6 with seven knockouts and one win via submission. Stewart is an orthodox fighter who stands six feet tall and a reach of 74 inches.
This looks to be a crossroads fight between these two. Anders has the skill set to beat Stewart but the latter looks to be the one who can unleash his entire arsenal in this fight. Anders doesn’t have the takedown offense to slow down Stewart’s striking. Whether this becomes a brawl or a slow-paced striking battle, Stewart has the edge. He lands with more volume and power and the judges will see that easily.
Prediction: Darren Stewart
Charles Jourdain is a former TKO featherweight champion and interim TKO lightweight champion. The 24-year old from Montreal, Quebec in Canada signed with the UFC in 2019 and is just 1-2-1 in four Octagon appearances. Jourdain is 10-3 with seven knockouts and three wins via submission. He is a switch hitter who stands 5-9 tall with a reach of 69 inches.
Marcelo Rojo fought for ACB and Combate Americas, posting a 6-2 record with the latter. Rojo has won his last 13 matches via knockout or submission and is coming off a win over Victor Hugo Madrigal on September 2019. The 32-year old El Pittbull from Argentina has a record of 16-6 with eight knockouts and six wins via submission. He is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-8 tall with an undisclosed reach.
Rojo is stepping in on short notice to replace Steve Garcia for this fight. He is also moving up in weight to face Jourdain who is a big hitter. Both of these fighters love to slug it out and don’t like to take fights to the ground so this one should be a slugfest from start to finish. Unfortunately for Rojo, the difference in size and power may be too much. Rojo engagés Jourdain in a firefight but ultimately comes up short.
Prediction: Charles Jourdain
Rani Yahya is a former ADCC Submission Wrestling World champion who once challenged for the WEC bantamweight championship. The 36-year old from Brasilia, Brazil joined the UFC in 2011 and posted and 11-3-1 Octagon record until 2018. He’s winless in his last two bouts, losing by decision to Ricky Simon and figuring in a draw with Enrique Barzola. Yahya is 5-6 tall with a reach of 67 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Ray Rodriguez fought for LFC and LFA before losing to Tony Gravely in the Contender Series in 2019. Rodriguez returned to Combate Americas and picked up a submission win over Andrew Perez and earned a UFC contract. Rodriguez lost to Briah Kelleher in his UFC debut and will be making his second Octagon appearance here. Rodriguez is 5-7 tall with a reach of 71 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance. He owns a record of 16-7 with three knockouts and eight submission victories.
Yahya has only one thing in mind and that’s to pursue takedowns and look for the early submission. If he doesn’t get the submission, he’ll be looking to hang around looking to do damage on top, whatever that may be. Rodriguez has poor takedown defense and his submission defense is also questionable. That leaves him an easy prey for Yahya before the latter’s gas tank runs out. With a big skill difference in grappling, I think Yahya gets the submission.
Prediction: Rani Yahya
Jonathan Martinez fought for XFL and Legacy FC before joining the UFC in 2018. He is 4-2 inside the Octagon and has won his last two bouts. In his last bout, Martinez defeated Thomas Almeida via unanimous decision. The 26-year old from Plainview, Texas has a record of 13-3 with seven knockouts and two wins via submission. Martinez is a southpaw who stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 70 inches.
Davey Grant appeared at TUF 18 where he lost to Chirs Goldsworth in the final. Grant is a former SNA bantamweight champion who dropped three out of his first four Octagon appearances. However, Grant heads to this bout with back to back wins over Grigori Popov and Martin Day. He has a record of 12-4 with two knockouts and eight wins via submission. Grant is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 69 inches.
Grant is still a tough nut to crack even at the age of 35. He has good grappling and is a terrific brawler. However, Martinez can sprawl and brawl his way to victory with his improved takedown defense, firepower, and better striking technique. The main issue with Martinez is weight. He’s not managed his weight cuts well lately. But if that is not an issue here, I have no doubt that Martinez pummels the durable Grant to a decision win or late stoppage.
Prediction: Jonathan Martinez
Cortney Casey is a veteran of XFC and Pacific XC. She joined the UFC in 2015 but has a 6-7 Octagon record. The 33-year old from Mesa, Arizona heads to this bout after losing via submission to Gillian Robertson last June 2020. She is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-7 tall with a reach of 67 inches. Casey has a record of 9-8 with three knockouts and four wins via submission.
JJ Aldrich fought for Invicta FC before joining the UFC. After losing Juliana Lima in her promotional debut, she has picked up four wins in her last six bouts. She last fought on January 2020 where she dropped a close split decision to Sabina Mazo. Aldrich is a southpaw who stands 5-5 tall with a reach of 67 inches.
This is an interesting matchup between two striking specialists who do not have a knockout on their resume. Aldrich is the shorter fighter here but has a slight reach advantage. She also has the edge is speed and crispness of strikes. Casey meanwhile is known for her relentless, physical style and she loves to come forward, always willing to trade punches. However, she lacks upper body movement and should be easy target for Aldrich’s quick strikes. I think Aldrich lands the cleaner blows and wins on points.
Prediction: JJ Aldrich
Jinh Yu Frey is a former Invicta FC atomweight champion and Rizin FC super atomweight title challenger. The 35-year old from Arkansas is winless in two UFC bouts, losing via submission to Kay Hansen and dropping a decision to Loma Lookboonme. She is a southpaw who stands 5-3 tall with a reach of 65 inches.
Gloria de Paula is fought in Brazil before making an appearance in the Contender Series where she picked up a win over Pauline Macias. The 25-year old from Sao Paulo, Brazil has a record of 5-2 with three knockouts. She is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-5 tall with a reach of 67 inches.
De Paula is taller, rangier, and more active than Frey. She also is the more powerful fighter between the two. If this fight stays on the feet, de Paula will strike from a distance or punish Frey with knees in the clinch. Overall, Frey isn’t just active enough and doesn’t have the offensive output to topple the Brazilian. Unless Frey takes this to the ground and dominates the grappling exchanges, which isn’t likely, this should be a striking clinic for dde Paula.
Prediction: Gloria de Paula
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