The UFC won’t be nearly as far south as last weekend, but will be live south of our border from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico for Saturday’s Ultimate Fight Night 78, which saw a last-minute shakeup with Matt Brown pulling out of his scheduled headliner with Kelvin Gastelum.
The main-event should be an entertaining one nonetheless, with late replacement (as always) Neil Magny stepping in to fill the spot.
Diego Sanchez makes his debut in his fourth different weightclass against perennial contender Ricardo Lamas, Flyweights Henry Cejudo and Jussier Formiga scrap for the next rung on the ladder and a possibly resurgent Efrain Escudero faces a stiff test in Leander Silva.
All this, oh, and a couple of TUF: Latin America 2 finales.
Kelvin Gastelum vs Neil Magny
Former TUF champ and (ahem) welterweight contender Kelvin Gastelum (11-1) gets another shot at 170lbs. After a horrific weight miss in what would be a loss to Tyron Woodley, Gastelum was told by Dana White that it would be his last fight at welterweight. However, after a second-round stoppage of Nate Marquardt at 185, and I’m sure a fair bit of convincing, Gastelum is given second life at 170.
With fellow contender and original opponent, Matt Brown out with injury, “The Hardest-Working Man in Fight Biz” once again steps in on short notice. Neil Magny (16-4) is ever Mr. Reliable when the UFC comes a-calling, again filling the need for his employer against the formidable Gastelum.
Magny looked fantastic in his unanimous decision over Erick Silva, a fight he took just three weeks off of a loss to Demian Maia. Magny’s willingness, and more so ability, to step in and perform at a moment’s notice has been impressive. The fight against Gastelum will mark his fifth in 2015, following five fights in 2014. Clearly this man is a workhorse.
Gastelum has had little trouble wracking up wins in his UFC career. Returning to welterweight, and against a replacement opponent, he will look for a dominant win in this one. Gastelum has shown steadily improving standup recently, but look for him to dance with the one who brung him and get back to his top-heavy wrestling attack against Magny, who has only been really dominated by elite grappler Demian Maia.
Magny will look to push the action in this one. He has shown tremendous cardio in the past and will look to capitalize on Gastelum’s return to the lighter weightclass and drag this one into deeper waters.
Ricardo Lamas vs Diego Sanchez
The first-ever Ultimate Fighter, Diego Sanchez (24-6), won that dubious honor at middleweight, ironically against Kenny Florian, a fighter whose path he’s directly following down the weightclasses. Now, after ups and downs in three other divisions, The Dream, er, Nightmare, er, Daydream…whatever his nickname these days, he will try his hand at featherweight. He won’t get an easy warmup, however, and considering Sanchez is fighting for the first time since June, 2014, and that fight should certainly have been a decision loss to Ross Pearson, it could be a long night.
Perennial contender Ricardo Lamas (15-4) is coming off a TKO loss to recent title-challenger Chad Mendes, but it is unsure whether that makes him more, or less, dangerous. With a submission of Dennis Bermudez prior to the Mendes loss, as well as a unanimous decision over Hacran Dias, Lamas has proven the ability to bounce back after a loss.
Lamas is dangerous everywhere, with crisp boxing and slick submissions. The Bully is not one to take things slow, and with Diego’s most recent drop in weight, it will be interesting to see what kid of pace he can keep up with.
Henry Cejudo vs Jussier Formiga
Former Olympic gold-medalist and current flyweight contender Henry Cejudo (9-0) has talked a big game in recent months, exuding supreme confidence in his abilities and impending future in the division. His success is clearly undeniable. His dominance, however, is questionable, having won his last five fights by decision. The Messenger’s last finish came way back in May of 2013.
Against Jussier Formiga (18-3), however, he will get an opponent who, while nearly as successful, is also very decision-prone. Formiga is currently riding a three-fight win streak, all by decision. The Brazilian’s only recent defeat came by TKO to Joseph Benavides.
Cejudo is an elite wrestler and has proven time and time again that he is capable of controlling a fight, sometimes to the dismay of the crowd. And while Cejudo’s hands are slowly coming along, Formiga surely owns the edge in standup and submissions. We’ll see who can implement their gameplan on Saturday. Either way, this is an intriguing matchup of two rare contenders whom have yet to face Flyweight kingpin Demetrius Johnson. Lord knows those are in rare supply these days.
Enrique Martin (5-2) vs Erick Montano (4-2)
TUF: Latin America 2 Welterweight Final
Enrique Barzola (6-0) vs Horacio Gutierrez (0-0)
TUF: Latin America 2 Lightweight Final
Efrain Escudero vs Leandro Silva
On again, off again UFC fighter Efrain Escudero (24-9) has hit a bit of a resurgence as of late. After being ousted from the promotion after two straight losses, Escudero had a shaky showing on the regional scene, going just 2-2 in four fights. The UFC, whatever their reasoning, deigned to bring him back into the fold and he hasn’t made them regret it. The TUF: Latin America 2 coach has won his last two over Rodrigo de Lima and Drew Dober, the laterms of whice he needed just 54 seconds to submit. He’ll be looking to make it three-in-a-row with a victory Saturday.
Brazil’s Leandro Silva (18-3-1-1) is coming off a unanimous decision over Lewis Gonzalez in June, but if not for a referee error in his bout with Dober, Silva could have possibly been taking a three-fight winning streak into this one. His submission win over Dober was overturned to a no-contest after the ref admittedly made a mistake and halted the fight prematurely.
This fight has the potential for fun and fireworks. Both men are scrappy kickboxers, but with 23 submissions in a combined 41 professional victories for the two lightweights, there’s no mistaking where their bread is buttered. This could be an entertaining grappling war for those of us who enjoy that kind of thing. The interesting part will come, though, if the ground skills nullify, leaving this one on the feet.
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)
Taylor Lapilus (5-1) vs Erik Perez (14-5)
Bartosz Fabinski (7-1) vs Hector Urbina (17-8-1)
Scott Jorgensen (15-9) vs Alejandro Perez (15-6)
Gabriel Benitez (18-4) vs Andre Fili (13-1)
Preliminary Card (UFC Fightpass)
Alvaro Herrera (8-3) vs Vernon Ramos (0-0)
Cesar Arzamendia (3-1) vs Polo Reyes (1-0)
Valmir Lazaro (13-3) vs Michel Prazeres (17-1)