Making the Grade – UFC 249 Undercard

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Making the Grade is back after a brief hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The UFC has been scheduling and then scrapping cards during these trying times and it seems as if this time, the event is going to take place. Whether or not it should is another story but for now, we’re going to break down the undercard which is available on ESPN.

In the feature bout of the undercard, Donald Cerrone will take on Anthony Pettis. That’s a great fight on paper and one that you should be pretty excited about. This card is stacked from top to bottom, which is why it’s being broken up in two articles- the undercard, and the main card.  The co-feature of the undercard features a pair of heavyweight veterans when Aleksei Oleinik faces the returning Fabricio Werdum.

Ryan Spann (17-5) vs. Sam Alvey (33-13)

Sam Alvey enters this fight on a three-fight losing skid. He’s always got a puncher’s chance and will be looking to land a haymaker in this fight as well. Clearly, being on a multiple fight slide, he’s not ranked in the top fifteen but is still usually pretty fun to see compete.

On the flip side to Alvey, Ryan Spann has won a very impressive seven consecutive fights. Three of those wins have taken place in the Octagon after earning a contract through the Dana White Contender Series. In his last outing, he defeated Devin Clark via guillotine choke in the second round. He’s also currently not ranked in the top fifteen, but a win here will likely see him crack into the rankings. So for that reason, it’s a very important fight for him.

I think this is a case of Spann being the more talented fighter and having more paths to victory than Alvey. If he can avoid the big KO shot, he should control the action and win the fight via submission in the latter two rounds. It’s not the most compelling fight from a rankings standpoint, but it’s a fun scrap to kick off the night. I can dig that.

Grade: B-

Charles Rosa (12-3) vs. Bryce Mitchell (12-0)

Bryce Mitchell is one of the most exciting fighters on the roster right now. He’s coming off of a win over Matt Sayles via a rare twister in his last fight. It was a submission of the year type move and “Thug Nasty” will be looking to impress against a step up in competition this time out. 

Charles Rosa is a talented fighter who is 2-2 in his last four outings. His losses came against respected fighters Shane Burgos and Yair Rodriguez. The American Top Team product beat Manny Bermudez via armbar in his last outing.

This fight should be a good time. There could well be some tremendous grappling exchanges between these two. Neither fighter is ranked, but as the first fight, this one should be fun.  Bryce Mitchell might have the advantage heading into the fight and if forced to pick, he is the winner via submission.

Grade: C+

Vincent Luque (17-7) vs. Niko Price (14-3)

Vincent Luque was riding high on a six-fight winning streak before it all came crashing down in his last outing against Stephen Thompson. He dropped a unanimous decision and will be looking to rebound against Price. These two met once before, back in 2017. In that fight, Luque won via submission.

Niko Price has been alternating wins and losses for his last seven contests. He hasn’t been able to generate any consistency despite some great performances. He either stops his opponent of is stopped by his opponent. While that’s good for fans, it’s not great for career longevity.

This is the rematch that seemingly nobody was asking for, but here we are. On paper, Price probably has some advantages but Luque is always game and very dangerous. This fight is more or less meaningless in terms of rankings and the overall division standing. Luque has more to gain with a win, and he gets the win here, via TKO.

Grade: C

Ronaldo Souza (26-8) vs. Uriah Hall (15-9)

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has been atop of the middleweight division for years but has fallen on hard times. After losing three of his last four, he’s been dropped from the rankings and needs a win a big way in this bout. Souza has somewhat basic striking but his grappling and submissions are next-level good. He can submit anyone in the division.

Uriah Hall has tremendous striking but his grappling is light years behind Jacare’s. Hall has won three of his last four and is currently ranked tenth in the division. For that reason, the fight has some meaning in terms of divisional rankings.

This is a classic striker versus grappler match and despite the rankings, Jacare seemingly should be able to take the fight to the canvas and utilize his massive advantage in grappling. Going with “Jacare” via submission in the second round.

Grade: C+

Carla Esparza (15-6) vs. Michelle Waterson (17-7)

Carla Esparza is currently ranked seventh in the strawweight division. She’s won back to back fights coming into this clash, defeating Alexa Grasso in her last outing. Once upon a time, she was a champion in the UFC but those days are long gone. She is still a very game fighter with the tools to compete with anyone in the division.

Michelle Waterson has won three of her last four fights and enters this clash coming off a loss to Joanna Jędrzejczyk in her last outing. She’s currently ranked eighth in the division and this is a very big matchup for both competitors in terms of climbing into the top five.

This fight is compelling for several reasons and should be pretty entertaining as well. Both fighters are skilled in all areas of MMA and the winner will move up the ladder in a crowded division full of killers. The loser will potentially be on the outside looking in for a long time. Waterson might be the better overall fighter and comes from a better camp, so in the end, she will likely earn the victory, via unanimous decision.

Grade: B+

Fabricio Werdum (23-8) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (58-13)

If you’re thinking you haven’t seen Fabricio Werdum compete in the Octagon for a while, you’re right. He’s been serving a two-year suspension after a failed test with USADA. He was scheduled to face Oleinik back in 2017 when he failed the test and it makes sense that he’s getting him again for his return bout. Naturally, Werdum is no longer ranked, but a win here puts him back in the mix.

Alexsei Oleinik is tougher than a two-dollar steak to borrow a line from Good Ol’ Jr. He has the squeeze of a boa constrictor and if he gets ahold of your neck, that’s a wrap. He’ll squeeze your neck shut and have you dreaming of unicorns and gumdrops. He’s been stopped in two of his last three so with him sometimes it’s either feast or famine. He’s currently ranked twelfth in the division and win will boost him up into a potential big fight.

This is an interesting fight, but Werdum has more ways to win. It’ll be interesting to see how he looks coming off of a two-year layoff at age 42, but if he’s reminiscent of his old self, expect him to roll and get the win here.

Grade: B+

Donald Cerrone (36-14) vs. Anthony Pettis (22-10)

Donald Cerrone bounces around between lightweight and welterweight. Truth be told, he’ll fight anyone at any weight and that’s why he’s so popular. He shows up and slugs it out every time and doesn’t seem to care if he wins or loses. He’s ranked sixth in the lightweight division but this fight is taking place at welterweight.

Anthony Pettis is ranked 15th in the welterweight division and needs a win here after dropping three of his last four. Pettis is known for having solid striking and is among the most dangerous fighters on his feet. He’ll find a willing partner to engage him across the cage which makes this must-see.

This is a can’t miss fight and almost has to deliver results. These two guys don’t know how to have a dull fight. This will be a great fight and the winner and loser don’t matter as much as just knowing this will be a great, fun fight. Make sure you’re tuned in and you will not be disappointed. Donald Cerrone will need to avoid some specialty strikes and if he can get out of the first couple of rounds, he’ll pour it on and pound Pettis in the latter rounds.

Grade: A

Undercard Overall Grade: B

Potential Fight of the Undercard: Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis

KO of the Undercard Prediction: Vincent Luque

Submission of the Undercard Prediction: Jacare Souza

Featured image:
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Dan has been covering and writing about MMA since 2001 when he started at Sherdog. He is a fan of all Bay Area sports teams and loves the San Francisco 49ers.

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