Another weekend, another exciting night of fights. The UFC will head to Austin, TX this weekend for Fight Night 126. Keep in mind, this event takes place on Sunday night rather than the usual Saturday night slot.
We’ll take a look at each matchup and use the “attribute polygon” to compare fighters. If you’re not familiar with the attribute polygon, it’s a radial graph with 8 metrics that can be used to illustrate a fighter’s strengths and weaknesses. The metrics are all pretty self-explanatory; strength, cardio, chin, quickness, boxing, kicking, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling. The farther out that a fighter’s graph extends, the better they are in that specific area. The 4 octagon-shaped rings illustrate different skill levels in each metric. The inner-most ring represents a rating of ‘1’ and means that the fighter is below-average in that specific attribute. The outer-most ring represents ‘4’ and signals that the fighter is elite.
Oskar Piechota (10-0-1, 1-0 UFC) vs. Tim Williams (15-3, UFC debut) – 185 lbs.
Piechota isn’t the strongest or fastest guy, but he more than makes up for it with his outstanding technical ability. After racking up 10 wins (all finishes) on the European circuit, the 28-year-old Polish fighter made his UFC debut this past September. Although the fight went the distance, each round ended with Piechota on the brink of finishing his opponent. He takes a calculated approach to striking, and is very precise with his punches and kicks. In his home country of Poland, Piechota is considered somewhat of a jiu-jitsu prodigy, however, he’s quickly bridged the gap between his grappling and striking. For a newcomer to the UFC, he is already at a very high-level.
Williams is a gritty, hard-nosed veteran who has done more than enough to earn his shot in the UFC. 2 of Williams’ 3 professional losses were dealt by current middleweight competitor Anthony “Lionheart” Smith. The 31-year-old leans heavily on his wrestling and it will be interesting to see how this fight plays out on the mat. Williams is known as the “South Jersey Strangler” due to his penchant for ending fights with choke holds, but I expect Piechota to be the superior grappler in this matchup. Both fighters have won the majority of their fights via submission.
Prediction: Piechota via decision
Josh Burkman (28-16, 6-11 UFC) vs. Alex Morono (13-4, 2-1 UFC) – 170 lbs.
Following an unsuccessful run as a lightweight. — which was prompted by an unsuccessful run as a welterweight — Burkman will return to the 170-lb. division for this fight. Regardless of which weight class he competes in, Burkman has lost 5 of his last 6 and desperately needs a win. Over the duration of 2 separate stints in the UFC, it’s become increasingly clear that he just doesn’t possess the tools to succeed against elite competition. Factor in his age (37), and it’s unlikely that Burkman will remain on the roster for much longer.
Burkman fights with a pretty conservative style, so i’m expecting Morono to dictate the tempo in this fight. Morono holds a black belt in jiu-jitsu, however, his wrestling ability is a bit lacking — I believe that he’ll try to keep this one standing. The 27-year-old has proven himself to be a confident striker and I don’t think he’ll have any problems dealing with hi highly-experienced opponent. It should be noted that although Morono’s official UFC record is 2-1, he was on the receiving end of a brutal KO from Niko Price, in a fight that was changed to a ‘No Contest’ due to a failed drug test (marijuana) by Price.
Prediction: Morono via KO/TKO, rd. 2
Sarah Moras (5-2, 2-1 UFC) vs. Lucie Pudilova (7-2, 1-1 UFC) – 135 lbs.
Here we have a matchup between two promising up and comers in the women’s bantamweight division. Moras has been in the UFC since 2014, however, she’s only made 3 appearances since joining the promotion. On the other hand, this will be Pudilova’s 3rd fight in less than a year. Only 23-years-old, Pudilova has a lot of room for improvement and has shown that she’s already good enough for the UFC.
You’re definitely going to witness a clash of styles in this fight. Pudilova is primarily a striker, with a background in muay thai. Moras’ jiu-jitsu skills are certainly her biggest weapon and I expect her to look for the early takedown. It will be in Pudilova’s best interest to keep things standing, as Moras has the skill to pull off some really tricky submission attempts.
Prediction: Pudilova via decision
Roberto Sanchez (7-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. Joby Sanchez (11-2, 1-2 UFC) – 125 lbs.
After winning 2 fights on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Joby Sanchez has rightfully earned another chance in the UFC. Judging from his recent appearances on DWTNCS, Joby appears to have really improved his ground game since his short-lived UFC stint in 2014/15. Joby’s already proven that he belongs in the UFC, now it’s up to him to prove that he can hang around for a while and break into the flyweight division’s top-15. Personally, I think he’s good enough.
Roberto Sanchez punched his ticket to the UFC after racking up 6 straight victories by submission. The 31-year-old got a taste of his own medicine in his UFC debut, last August, tapping out in the 1st round due to a rear-naked choke. His striking is pretty limited and he normally looks to tie up his opponent from the get go. I believe that Joby is the much more complete, well-rounded fighter and it will be evident from the first bell.
Prediction: Joby Sanchez via decision
Geoff Neal (8-2, UFC debut) vs. Brian Camozzi (7-4, 0-2 UFC) – 170 lbs.
Following an extremely impressive performance on DWTNCS, Geoff Neal will finally step into the octagon this weekend. Neal has flown under the radar so far, but he’s a great addition to the UFC’s welterweight division. He is a well-rounded fighter — explosive hands, good wrestling, and great athleticism. He’s a very smart fighter and rarely puts himself in a bad position.
Brian Camozzi is best known for being the younger brother of UFC veteran Chris Camozzi. Brian found success on the regional circuit but hasn’t had much luck with his transition to high-level competion. In 2 UFC appearances, Camozzi has suffered 2 TKO losses. He’s shown glimpses of a sneaky submission game, but his striking just isn’t up to par. Neal is simply the better fighter and a loss could send Camozzi packing, to work on his game at a lower level.
Prediction: Neal via KO/TKO, rd. 1
Jared Gordon (14-1, 2-0 UFC) vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira (12-2, 3-2 UFC) – 155 lbs.
In his 2 UFC appearances, Jared Gordon has displayed great boxing and solid wrestling, along with some tenacious ground and pound skills. His work rate may be his biggest asset — he has a relentless motor and is constantly putting pressure on his opponent. In my opinion, Gordon will prove to be a tough matchup for Ferreira. He will need to be extremely careful on the mat, but Gordon should have the striking advantage.
Ferreira’s biggest strength is absolutely his jiu-jitsu, however, he’s proven that he’s a capable striker as well. There is a big question surrounding Ferreira; what kind of form will he be in, after serving a 17-month USADA suspension? Now 33-years-old, it’s a possibility that Ferreira’s best fighting years are behind him. On the contrary, he hasn’t taken much damage throughout his career. If he’s been training hard, the long layoff could prove to have been a blessing in disguise.
Prediction: Gordon via decision
Sage Northcutt (9-2, 4-2 UFC) vs. Thibault Gouti (12-3, 1-3 UFC) – 155 lbs.
21-year-old Karate phenom, Sage Northcutt, has spent much of his MMA career fluctuating between the 155 and 170 lb. weight classes. Northcutt appears to be settling in at 155 and should benefit greatly from the consistency. Interestingly, Northcutt is 4-0 as a lightweight in the UFC, and 0-2 as a welterweight. Both of his losses have come by way of submission. There have been some apparent holes in Northcutt’s ground game, but they can be chalked up to ‘growing pains’. He’s made remarkable improvements over the past year and continues to improve as a striker and grappler. His striking skills are impressive but he’s struggled to find consistency.
After being finished in each of his first 3 UFC bouts, Gouti finally picked up a win in his most recent fight. In that fight, the former professional squash player showcased noticeable improvements to his boxing, along with a pretty impressive head kick, en route to a 1st round TKO of Andrew Holbrook. Gouti is a tough guy, but he’s 1-3 in the UFC and I don’t think he’ll stick around for much longer.
Prediction: Northcutt via submission, rd. 3
Brandon Davis (8-4, 0-1 UFC) vs. Steven Peterson (16-6, UFC debut) – 145 lbs.
Both of these guys like to really push the pace so i’m expecting a great scrap, between two Contender Series graduates. Definitely a front-runner for ‘Fight of the Night’. Both fighters like to stalk their opponent and i’m expecting some intense striking exchanges. Peterson has a granite-chin and pretty good submission skills. Against a superior striker, Peterson’s occasionally sloppy striking may be exposed.
It will be a quick turnaround for Davis — he dropped a decision to Kyle Bochniak at UFC 220. He had trouble closing the distance on Bochniak, who was clearly not looking to engage in a brawl. This should look a whole lot different than Davis’ debut, as Peterson will have no qualms about standing in the pocket and trading shots. I believe that the more technical fighter, Davis, will have his hand raised.
Prediction: Davis via decision
Thiago Alves (22-11, 14-8 UFC) vs. Curtis Millender (14-3, UFC debut) – 170 lbs.
This is a great and intriguing matchup. One of the UFC’s most battle-tested veterans will face off against a dangerous prospect. Thiago Alves has struggled to fight consistently over the past few years, and you have to wonder what kind of shape he’s in. 21 UFC fights are sure to take a toll on any fighter’s body. Although Alves, 34, is only 4 years older than his opponent, there is a huge gap in terms of experience and overall “wear and tear”.
Millender’s biggest weapon is definitely his right leg, which he has utilized to end his last 2 fights. Millender’s kicking style is a bit funky, but it’s proven to be very effective. It will be interesting to see how the striking plays out in this matchup of talented kickboxers. Utilizing his 78” reach will be key for Millender, who is currently riding a 6-fight win streak. In terms of grappling, Alves holds the advantage, and his best chance of winning this fight may be on the mat. Keep in mind that this is a huge jump in competition for Millender. I can see this fight going 2 ways; either Alves grinds out a decision-victory, or Millender catches the veteran with a head kick to end the fight.
Prediction: Millender via KO/TKO, rd. 3
James Vick (12-1, 8-1 UFC) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (22-5, 12-4 UFC) – 155 lbs.
On paper, this is a great matchup, as both Vick and Trinaldo are 8-1 in their last 9 fights. Despite beating many well-known fighters, both of these fighters haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. Vick has defeated Jake Matthews, Abel Trujillo, Polo Reyes, and Joe Duffy — even more impressive is the fact that he secured a finish in each of those fights. Meanwhile, Trinaldo holds wins over Ross Pearson, Yancy Medeiros, Paul Felder, and Jim Miller. For the winner of this fight, a top-10 opponent likely awaits.
Standing in at 6’3”, Vick is somewhat of a unicorn in the lightweight division; many have fallen victim to his crisp boxing and 76” reach. Although Vick isn’t a spectacular wrestler, he has a knack for using his long arms to lock in a tight guillotine choke on unprepared opponents. For someone who is 12-4 in the UFC, Trinaldo has really flown under the radar. The former kickboxing champion is an absolute bull and has proven to be a nightmare matchup for many fighters. The fact that Trinaldo competed as a middleweight, on season 5 of TUF, should tell you all you need to know about his physical strength. He fights smart and has never been knocked out. Vick doesn’t have the best chin, and a hard strike from Trinaldo could put him down. Realistically, this one has a good chance of being decided by the judges’ scorecards.
Prediction: Trinaldo via decision
Derrick Lewis (18-5, 9-2 UFC) vs. Marcin Tybura (16-3, 3-2 UFC) – 265 lbs.
Derrick Lewis compiled 6 straight wins (5 by KO/TKO) before finally being stopped by Mark Hunt last June. Hampered by back issues, Lewis went into a short-lived retirement. Half a year later, and seemingly healthy, Lewis will look to get the hype-train rolling again. Lewis may not be on the “Francis Ngannou level” of knockout-artist, but he isn’t far behind.
Tybura is the technically superior fighter, but he can’t match the punching power and strength of Lewis. It would be wise of Tybura to approach this one cautiously and try to extend the fight into the 3rd round. Lewis has shown some questionable cardio and the longer the fight goes, the more likely Tybura is to find an opening to secure a finish. Lewis is pretty tough to take down, but Tybura has some slick jiu-jitsu tricks up his sleeve and may want to test them out. At the end of the day, Lewis is an absolute tank and I favor him to win this fight.
Prediction: Lewis via KO/TKO, rd. 1
Donald Cerrone (32-10, 19-7 UFC) vs. Yancy Medeiros (15-4, 6-4 UFC) – 170 lbs.
Here we have a classic matchup between a “fading” star and a rising star. Both guys can easily get sucked into wild-swinging brawls, and that’s what I expect to happen. This should be a high-energy fight, as neither guy cuts a significant amount of weight to make the 170 lb. limit.
Medeiros will look to defeat a 2nd-straight “cowboy”, after defeating Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira in one of 2017’s best fights. Following a bittersweet start to his UFC career — compiling a 3-4 record as a lightweight — Medeiros has put together a 3-fight win streak since moving up to compete in the welterweight division. The 30-year-old appears to be really hitting his stride and his future looks bright.
Cerrone has fallen on hard times lately. Similarly to Medeiros, Cowboy moved up to the welterweight division and found success, finishing 4 opponents in a row. Unfortunately, Cerrone has had a bit of a fall from grace over the past year, as he’s lost 3 fights in a row. Granted, those losses came against truly elite opponents — Masvidal, Lawler, and Till. Medeiros is good, but he’s not quite on the same level as the aforementioned trio of fighters. This should be a good test to gauge the current ability of each main-event fighter.
Prediction: Cerrone via submission, rd. 4