#7 The Prelims: ESPN+ card
As with last week’s Fight Night 147, all of the prelims on this show will be broadcast on ESPN+. Headlining the prelim card is a fight between Bryce Mitchell and Bobby Moffett at Featherweight, a curious choice given both men lack UFC experience – and Mitchell only rose to fame following an accident last year that saw him drill through his scrotum (!). Both men appear to favor submissions over anything else – and although Mitchell is 10-0, I’m favoring Moffett here. His win over Chas Skelly was massively impressive, particularly for a UFC debut, and if Mitchell looks to grapple with him I think he’ll get choked out.
At Bantamweight, Marlon Vera takes on Frankie Saenz in a fight that was initially scheduled for UFC 235, but got postponed due to an illness suffered by Vera. An offensive expert, Vera is one of the best fighters to watch at 135lbs, but he still has holes in his game and can be stifled, particularly by fighters who can force him onto his back foot. I’m not sure Saenz is that fighter – he’s more of a wrestler than anything else and that style leaves him open to be finished by Vera, who can both submit and finish by strikes with equal aplomb. I’ll take Vera to find a submission after hurting Saenz and giving up a subsequent takedown.
Former Bantamweight title challenger Alexis Davis returns at Flyweight to face off with Jennifer Maia in a fight that could easily have been put on the main card, given Davis’ current ranking of #5. A well-rounded fighter, Davis has skills in all areas but has traditionally struggled with superior athletes – she was outpointed by Katlyn Chookagian in her last fight for instance. Maia came into the UFC with a huge reputation last year, but a debut loss to Liz Carmouche was massively disappointing for her. A dangerous striker, she should be more comfortable this time around, and so I think she has enough to outwork Davis for a decision.
Two of the UFC’s most inconsistent talents face off at Strawweight as Randa Markos faces Angela Hill. Markos has shown flashes of being a legitimate title contender at times – she has excellent grappling skills, solid striking and has wins over Tecia Torres, Carla Esparza and Felice Herrig, but she also has a tendency to make mistakes that cost her fights – such as the brainfart that saw her get submitted by Cortney Casey in 2016. Hill is equally frustrating; a dangerous striker, she’s capable of taking out anyone in the division, but tends to let rounds run away from her, an issue that’s cost her 5 UFC fights. I worry for her on the ground with Markos though – she’s still hugely unproven there and hasn’t fought a top grappler in a long time. I’m leaning towards Markos winning with a submission.
At Bantamweight, Chris Gutierrez takes on Ryan MacDonald in a tricky fight to pick. On one hand, Gutierrez showed very little in his UFC debut against Raoni Barcelos last year, but to be fair, Barcelos is a very good fighter. And on the other hand, while MacDonald is 10-0, he’s literally been snacking on super-weak opposition throughout his career. I’m going with Gutierrez here, he’s more experienced against tougher opposition than MacDonald and should make that tell by winning a clear decision.
Finally the show opens with a Flyweight match between Eric Shelton and Jordan Espinosa. It’s surprising that a new Flyweight would be debuting at this stage, but that situation is just too confusing right now. At any rate, Espinosa looked excellent in his Contender Series fight, taking out his opponent with punches in the third round. Shelton meanwhile is 2-3 in the UFC, but his losses were all to very tough opponents. I’m going with Shelton here; his UFC experience and overall skills should allow him to win a decision I think.