Paving the way for Superbowl LI, the UFC throws us a Houston fight card with the potential for more hits and highlights than Sunday’s big game.
The main card is headlined by a featherweight tilt with one fighter looking to recapture the spark he once possessed and the other yelling, “Hey, remember me?”
With a couple of strawweight bouts that could make lasting waves in the division and a handful of bouts featuring fighters eager to recapture or continue to build their once-lost momentum, this one could be subtitled, “UFC Fight Night: Back on the Horse.”
Dennis Bermudez vs Chan Sung Jung (Featherweight)
After more than three years away from the cage, due to mandatory military duty for his native South Korea, Jung gets no pleasant welcome-back party.
Jung (13-4; 3-1) opened his UFC career with 3 straight wins. However, Jung was last seen in a losing effort, challenging then-champ Jose Aldo for the featherweight title and receiving a TKO loss for his efforts. Upon his return, his opponent offers no less challenge.
After losing his UFC debut, and the TUF title, to Diego Brandao, Bermudez (16-5; 9-3) rattled off 7 consecutive victories, quickly forcing his way into title talks. A submission loss to Ricardo Lamas, followed by a TKO loss to Jeremy Stephens halted his momentum temporarily, but the “Menace” has since rebounded, putting together back-to-back decision wins.
Both fighters are very well-rounded and, all things being equal, very evenly matched. If the debate about ring-rust being a thing is still up, this could be the fight to prove one side of the argument right. Either way, I’m guessing everyone watching wants to see if the zombie can rise from the proverbial dead.
Alexa Grasso vs Felice Herrig (Strawweight)
Felice Herrig (11-6; 2-1) has become something of a gatekeeper to the prospects in the strawweight division, tasked with attempting to halt hype-trains all by her 115lb self.
Herrig armbarred her way past Lisa Ellis and into the UFC following her run on TUF 20. She was quickly matched up with hype-machine Paige Van Zant. She failed that first derailment, dropping a unanimous decision to PVZ, but rebounded nicely, downing another pretty, young prospect in Kailin Curran.
“Lil’ Bulldog” will look to put a couple together against yet another promising up-and-comer. Undefeated in her first nine outings, Alexa Grasso (9-0; 1-0) is undoubtedly one to watch at 115lbs. Coming into the UFC unbeaten, Grasso looked impressive in her debut, taking a unanimous decision over Heather Jo Clark and will attempt to continue her run over another well-known name in Herrig.
Herrig is an accomplished, dangerous striker with the certain ability to end fights. We’ll find out Saturday if the young Grasso’s well-rounded style can weather the storm.
Abel Trujillo vs James Vick (Lightweight)
On paper, Abel Trujillo (15-6-6-2-1NC) is currently riding a 3-fight win streak. In a more realistic sense, “Killa” has won his last 2, following submission losses to Tony Ferguson and Gleison Tibau, the latter of which was later ruled a DQ win when Tibau tested positive for EPO. Regardless of the hiccups, Trujillo lives up to his nickname more often than not, with his only other UFC loss coming at the hands of top contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. Trujillo has quality wins over decent competition and is hoping to run that streak to 3 actual wins on Saturday.
Standing in his way is the very game James Vick((9-1; 5-1). While Vick is coming off a knockout loss to Beneil Darius, that is, in fact, his only career loss. The “Texicutioner” stormed into the UFC with 5 straight wins, including submissions of solid opponents Ramsey Nijem and Jake Matthews.
This fight may not do much in terms of the upper tier of the lightweight standings, but it serves as an opportunity for both men to either build, or recapture, a fair bit of momentum.
Ovince St Preux vs Volkan Oezdemir (Light Heavyweight)
Ovince St Preux (19-9; 7-4) is another fighter who entered the UFC with a fire trail kicking up behind him, rattling off wins in his first 4 UFC fights against solid competition. OSP is just 3-3 in his last 6 fights, however, including a decision loss to former champ Jon Jones, followed by a crushing KO loss to Jimi Manuwa in his last walk to the cage.
Make no mistake, however, as OSP may have lost some groundswell, but he hasn’t lost anything in the danger department. A creative, versatile fighter, OSP has many ways to beat you and seems to be among those rare fighters who seem to discover additional ways while in the midst of battle.
As though gifting OSP a rebound squash match, if in name-value only, the UFC saw fit to pair him up with promotional newcomer Volkan Oezdemir (12-1; 0-0). If you think this will be an easy lay up for St Preux due to the fact you’ve never heard of Oezdemir, however, that’s rookie thinking. “Cousin” will be entering the contest with just one defeat on his record and, while the level of competition he has faced prior to Saturday has theoretically not been at the height of the UFC, he does own 10 stoppages in just 12 career wins, 8 of which came by way of knockout.
If St Preux was looking for a training-wheels fight to get back on the horse, this could very well prove to be a bad fit for career rehab.
Anthony Hamilton vs Marcel Fortuna (Heavyweight)
Anthony Hamilton (15-6; 3-4) has had a shaky career since entering the 8 walls of the UFC. Alternating wins and losses is nothing new to the sport. In fact, sometimes its the nature of the beast. In Anthony Hamilton’s case, he seems to have followed the blueprint. With his wins coming over largely middling competition and his losses coming to people who, you would imagine, he was supposed to lose to, it would appear we may have seen the “Freight Train’s” talent ceiling.
His opponent this Saturday won’t offer him much redemption in the way of a potential high-profile win, however, as he is set to lock horns with UFC newcomer Marcel Fortuna (8-1; 0-0). Fortuna enters the promotion on a 5-fight win streak, his last fight ending in a Unanimous decision over David Mitchell. A submission artist, as his record illustrates, he lays claim to 5 subs in just 8 career victories and his only loss came at the hands of TUF vet, Jesse Taylor.
Hamilton won’t have the opportunity to break the win/loss juggling act this time out, but it could be a chance to get some ground back beneath his feet, if he can keep out of submission danger.
Jessica Andrade vs Angela Hill (Strawweight)
In the opening fight of Saturday’s main card, matchmakers put us back in the strawweight division with a clash with perhaps more realistic possibilities to make waves in the title picture.
Jessica Andrade (15-5; 6-3) arrives on the heels of a guillotine submission win over Joanne Calderwood, which followed her TKO of Jessica Penne. After losing her UFC debut at bantamweight to eventual title contender Liz Carmouche, “Bate Estaca” would rattle off 3 straight wins before a submission loss in her rematch with Raquel Pennington, leading into her current run.
Standing across from her on Saturday night will be current Invicta strawweight champion Angela Hill (6-2;1-2). Hill, former TUF competitor, debuted in the UFC with a decision over Emily Kagan. It looked like there was some promise there, until she was knocked off the rails by back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres. With that 2-fight skid leading to her release, it looks like it may have been a blessing in disguise for “Overkill,” as she has since won 4 straight, including capturing and defending the 115lb Invicta title.
With two of the most entertaining 115’ers set to lock up, not only does this have the potential to be a highly entertaining fight, it may very well determine who’s up next for strawweight champ and darling Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
UFC Fight Night 104 Preliminary Bouts
Adam Milstead (8-1: 0-0) vs Curtis Blaydes (6-1; 1-1)
Ricardo Lucas Ramos (9-1; 0-0) vs Michihiro Tanaka (11-2; 2-2)
Chas Skelly (16-2; 5-2) vs Chris Gruetzemacher (13-1; 1-0)
Bec Rawlings (7-5; 2-2) vs Tecia Torres (7-1; 3-1)
Alex Morono (13-3; 2-0) vs Niko Price (9-0; 1-0)
Khalil Roudtree (4-2; 0-2) vs Daniel Jolly (5-1; 0-1)