Daniel Pineda vs. Robert Whiteford (Featherweight)
Opening off this fully-stocked card is a 145lb battle between two real sluggers. Pineda, who has been preferring action-packed losses as opposed to grinding victories, hasn’t been reeling in as many wins as he may be wanting, but he never fails to bring the heat. Whiteford, a Scotland-native, is known for his fast-paced brawls as well. Seeing as how both these guys like to stand in the pocket and exchange, we could very well be in for a treat. With that said, there comes a time when a fighter needs to prioritize getting the victory above simply being exciting in loss (unless you’re Wanderlei Silva, of course). This is why I think Pineda will be mixing in some takedowns, ground and pound, and possibly some submission attempts in addition to his wild exchanging on the feet. Whiteford could crack him a few times and may get the better of the exchanges, but Pineda’s relentless pace and more-developed ground game will take the decision.
Daniel Pineda via Unanimous Decision
Robert McDaniel vs. Sean Strickland (Middleweight)
These two middleweights are entering the cage in desperate need of recognition. King of the Cage middleweight champion, Sean Strickland, brings his explosive power to the display case against TUF vet Robert “Bubba” McDaniel, who is need of a victory. McDaniel showed some promise on his season of the Ultimate Fighter despite giving up the spotlight to Uriah Hall. With that said, McDaniel still received Jon Jones’s grace. McDaniel has a crafty submission game, but after seeing Strickland’s power, strength, and ability to finish the fight anywhere, this fights become very interesting. Strickland is coming in on short notice, so the odds are in favor of McDaniel; however, power isn’t something you need a full training camp to prepare for a Saturday night fight. I’m picking Strickland with the upset here as McDaniel is unable to get off on another big on the ground, and Strickland capitalizes on an opening mid-scramble where he shuts McDaniel’s lights out.
Sean Strickland via 2nd Rd KO
Will Campuzano vs. Justin Scoggins (Flyweight)
Seeking his first UFC victory, MMA veteran Will Campuzano has yet to really make a splash in the MMA world. His outer-UFC career has been great, but after an unsuccessful return to the UFC against standout Sergio Pettis, Campuzano finds himself needing a victory if he has hopes of making anything of his long and tested career. Campuzano faces 1-0 UFC competitor Justin Scoggins, who would surely appreciate a knockout victory over a battle-tested foe like Will Campuzano. In my opinion, this is a very winnable fight for Scoggins. He has the power and striking ability to overwhelm his opponents and put them away. With that said, Campuzano is a real veteran of the game and can take punishment will out going down. I think Campuzano will stay strong and sturdy throughout the test of 3 rounds, but Scoggins relentless pace and bullying striking style will keep him ahead of scorecards as long as he can avoid the takedowns.
Justin Scoggins via Unanimous Decision
Renee Forte vs. Francisco Trevino (Lightweight)
Undefeated Brazilian, Francisco Trevino, matches up against fellow Brazilian, Renee Forte, for a lightweight bout between two imposing figures. Forte and Trevino are powerful lightweights who both have shown their grappling skills in the past. Trevino, a former welterweight, will probably have the benefit when it comes to size, but Forte’s tremendous experience advantage should declare him the winner when it comes to technique. I expect the nerves to get to Trevino in his debut, and his conditioning may be a factor, especially considering the grueling style of Forte. I expect Trevino to hold his own, but Forte’s takedowns and superior top positioning will grant him a decision victory.
Renee Forte via Unanimous Decision
Sean Spencer vs. Alex Garcia (Welterweight)
Canadian prospect, Alex Garcia, faces his second test at 170lbs as he takes on 2-1 UFC competitor Sean Spencer. Spencer fell victim to a late arm-triangle in his UFC debut against Rafael Natal, but since then has established himself as an athletic striker with solid takedown defense. Spencer is, stylistically, a prospect in the welterweight division, but Alex Garcia is on a whole other level. Garcia is not only explosive (explosive enough to catch the elusive and technical striking of Spencer), but also has a dangerous ground game to threaten Spencer wherever the fight takes place. Look for Spencer’s long jab to give Garcia some temporary problems as he paces himself in the first round and feels Spencer out, but towards end of the first, expect an explosion from Garcia that results in a stoppage.
Alex Garcia via 1st Rd TKO
Dennis Bermudez vs. Jimy Hettes (Featherweight)
Talented submission specialist, Jim Hettes, hasn’t quite had the chance he needed to make a big statement. His poor stand-up and cardio was exploited in his loss to Marcus Brimage, but rebounded by taking out Scotland’s, Robert Whiteford. Against Dennis Bermudez, he’s not only taking on an explosive wrestler that can defend his takedowns and offensive grappling, but also the powerful striking arsenal to take him out on the feet. The way I see this is: if Hettes can’t force clinches and takedowns, it’ll be a three-round beatdown with Bermudez coming away without a scratch. Bermudez is the stronger of the two with more power in his hands, a better gas tank, and isn’t dependent on any particular thing. As much as a fan I am of Hettes and want to see him succeed as being a submission specialist, Dennis Bermudez isn’t the guy he’s going to be able to be a one-trick pony against.
Dennis Bermudez via Unanimous Decision
Raquel Pennington vs. Jessica Andrade (Women’s Bantamweight)
The lone women’s fight of the card lies in a bantamweight bout between Brazilian, Jessica Andrade, and 1-0 UFC competitor, Raquel Pennington. Raquel has a sharp stand-up approach that she utilized to pick apart Roxanne Modafferi in her UFC debut. Andrade on the other hand is a bit more aggressive, has a bit more power, and is better on the ground. Pennington will have to look for circular footwork, a steady jab, and a fluid output of kicks to keep Andrade from swarming her. For Jessica, she’ll need unpredictable head movement to avoid counters, and good set ups to get her close and comfortable with Penngington. If the girls lock up, I favor Andrade as she has a nasty arsenal of submissions. I expect this to be a wild, ugly fight as the sharp striker, Pennington, attempts to keep a rabid animal in Andrade at bay. Eventually, these two women will have to brawl it out, which should heavily favor Andrade. If Jessica doesn’t swarm Pennington with strikes late in the fight, I’m expecting her dominate her on the ground en-route to a third round submission victory.
Jessica Andrade via 3rd Rd Submission
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Rick Story (Middleweight)
Season 16 TUF winner, Kelvin Gastelum, has quite the hype train behind him with his 2-0 UFC record. He has displayed heavy hands, a relentless wrestling game, and a solid-enough submission game to take his opponents’ back and secure a simple RNC. Rick Story is very much the same as he possesses a powerful wrestling game and solid boxing skills combined with power. The way I see it, this fight is going to come down to who is more efficient on the feet. I see these two guys going at it with their hands and seeing who is forced into shooting for a takedown. Story has technical punches and good stopping power, but Gastelum has a larger source of power and is more aggressive. If Story can’t keep his feet under him and work to out-move Gastelum, he’s going to let Kelvin corner him and unleash his deadly barrages of punches, or possibly get taken down. This will be interesting seeing as how Story played the role of the bull in his last fight against Brian Ebersole; this fight, he’ll have to be the matador as Gastelum’s power is unreal at 170lbs. I see a tough, hard fought, fight in front of both men. Story is a veteran who knows how to stay composed and stick to a gameplan. That being said, Gastelum is a powerful force that I don’t think Story will be able to stop. Look for Story to give Gastelum problems on the feet with his more technical and faster striking, and also give him problems later in the fight when Kelvin could potentially fade. The middle portion of the fight will be all Gastelum as he takes the fight to Story. I’m predicting Gastelum to get a little nudge on the scorecards thanks to his likeliness to push forward and bring the heat.
Kelvin Gastelum via Split Decision