By Eric Jacinto, Matt Koontz and Mike Whitestone
Tonight the UFC makes its debut on ESPN Plus/ESPN and this card is loaded from top to the bottom. The Early (6pm ET) Prelims are on ESPN Plus and then at 8pm ET UFC makes their debut on ESPN and then at 10pm ET it's the main card back on ESPN Plus. The card takes place from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York and should be a great show for the New York fans and UFC fans around the world. If you want to watch Subscribe to ESPN+ and enjoy because this fight is going to be well worth it.
[C] Champion (UFC Division Ranking)
ESPN Plus 1
ESPN+ Early Prelims (6 PM/ET):
Welterweight Bout: Kyle Stewart (11-1) vs. Chance Recountree (12-3):
This fight is going to be a great way to kick off the UFC with ESPN in the welterweight division. We have a Native American vs a long time Marine. This fight is going to have some fireworks as these two guys can throw down. I believe Recountree moving camps will help him a lot and help his growth. His opponent we have only seen thus far on contender series as far as his UFC career and he was impressive then and is a true dangerous fighter. He hits hard and Chance needs to his defense up and be aware of the right hand. Kyle has the slight edge standing while Chance will be better off testing his complete MMA skill set and get this fight to the mat. I can’t figure out who has the edge in this one. I have Recountree winning this one by way of decision. – Matt Koontz
I got Kyle Stewart winning this via Split decision. - Eric Jacinto
Welterweight Bout: Belal Muhammad (14-2) vs. Geoff Neal (10-2):
This fight is going to take place in the welterweight division. It will be a lot of fun for the fans though as Geoff Neal and Belal are savages. The issue I have with Belal is that he tends to rely on scoring and the judges score card to get him his wins instead of pure victories by stoppage. Geoff is a monster, 2-0 in the UFC with a submission and KO. He is a contender series winner that brought him to the UFC and did so with incredible skills. I am taking Geoff Neal by way of 1st round TKO as his overwhelming power and pressure will be too much for Belal.
– Matt Koontz
I agree with my bud, Matt here and going with Belal Muhammad via 2nd Round TKO. - Eric
Lightweight Bout: Dennis Bermudez (16-9) vs. Te Edwards (6-2):
This is the main event of the ESPN+ early prelims and takes place in the lightweight division. Edwards had a rough UFC debut where he was knocked out in the 2nd round and is trying to turn it around here against a great UFC veteran. Te will have a 6-inch reach advantage. I believe Bermudez should have been in this division the whole time as he looks incredible in this division. Bermudez is an amazing fighter who has been screwed over time and time again by the judges especially lately. I love him in this division though we haven’t seen him here in his UFC career and think he could really be dangerous here. I have Bermudez winning this fight by way of 2nd round KO. – Matt K
I'll also go with Dennis Bermudez in this one too via Unanimous Decision. - Eric J
ESPN Prelims (8 PM/ET):
Bantamweight Bout: [#6] Cory Sandhagen (9-1) vs. Mario Bautista (6-0):
Kicking off the night is a fight that wasn't even expected to happen until about a week ago. Originally this was supposed to be Dominick Cruz vs Jon Lineker, but Cruz had to pull out due to injury being replaced by Sandhagen. Then Lineker got hurt as well and Mario Bautista is making his debut in the UFC as a replacement. Speaking of Bautista, as I mentioned he is making his UFC debut with a perfect record of 6 wins in 6 organizations. He has 3 wins by submission and 2 by knockout with 2 first round finishes and the other 3 in the second. Including his amateur matches, he has only gone to the third round once and he won by decision. His opponent is Cory Sandhagen who only has 1 loss in his 10 fights. Sandhagen has 4 wins by knockout and 2 by submission with four stopped in the first round. These following stats only get recorded for UFC fights and since that only accounts for two of his ten they may be a little skewed, but so far he has been dominant landing almost 10 significant strikes per minute while only taking a little under 3 per minute. He has a solid striking defense at 64% and so far hasn't been taken down once. Bautista may have been dominant in his career so far, but I see that coming to an end tonight. I see Sandhagen keeping Bautista on his feet and applying pressure until he gets a KO/TKO victory towards the end of the first. – Mike Whitestone
I agree with Mike here as I believe Sandhagen is incredibly talented and will overwhelm Bautista in this one and end it in the 1st. – Matt K
I agree with both Matt and Mike here and I got Cory Sandhagen winning his tenth fight, winning via 3rd Round KO.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Alonzo Menifield (7-0) vs. Vinicius Moreira (9-1):
Up next we have two different light heavyweights making their debut after earning contracts on Contender Series. Again, between the 17 combined fights there's only 1 loss total. Vinicius Mereira is on a 5-fight win streak since his only loss and is a capable submission artist. 8 of his wins are by submission with the other being by knockout with 6 first round finishes. His opponent also has won all his fights by stoppage. Alonzo Menifield has 6 wins by knockout and the other by submission with 5 stopped in the first. He made two appearances on Contender Series and even though he won his first fight, it was the 8 second knockout that scored him his contract. Menifield has unbelievable stopping power and I think he is going to get another knockout victory here tonight. – Mike W
This fight to me is going to be fairly one sided. I believe Menifield is way more powerful and will just simply overpower Moreira. Menifield gets his nights work done quick and picks up a 1st round KO of Moreira within 3 minutes of the fight. – Matt K
I'm going go with Alonzo Menifeld via 1st Round KO.
Women's Flyweight Bout: [#10] Joanne Calderwood (12-3) vs. Ariane Lipski (11-3):
This may sound crazy to some, but I think there will be a lot of contenders for fight of the night and on paper this will be one of them. This fight is going to showcase the top-ranked female fighter from KSW which is a Poland-based MMA promotion. One of the many fighters making their debut tonight, Ariane Lipski is on a 9-fight win streak and is a finisher. She has 6 wins by knockout and 2 by submission with 6 first round finishes. Now before I say this, I'm not claiming she is as good as her, but her fight style reminds me a lot of Joanna Jedrzeczyk. Lipski is constantly up in her opponent's face and just lands shot-after-shot in rapid-fire succession until they crumble. Her opponent, Joanne Calderwood will be making her second fight back at flyweight after dropping to 115 and going 0-2. The weight cut was a big factor in both fights and she is 12-1 at flyweight where she belongs. She does not have as many finishes as Lipski, but still has a good amount with 5 knockouts and 1 submission. Before MMA she was a professional kickboxer and went 19-2 with 6 knockouts. This fight could be a war and I think it will be a hard fight for both of them. The issue I have here is that Lipski has the tendency to drop her hands when she thinks she has someone to throw as fast as she does and I know Calderwood is a smart striker and I think that if she knew it was coming she could take advantage. I wouldn't mind if Jojo proves me wrong, but I believe Lipski will just overwhelm her and get a TKO victory in the first. – Mike W
I agree with Mike this fight could go the opposite direction as Lipski leaves her hands down while striking but I believe Lipski shuts this down in the 1st round by way of KO. – Matt K
I'll be different here and go with Joanne Claderwood via 2nd rRound TKO. - Eric J
Lightweight Bout: [#11] Alexander Hernandez (10-1) vs. [#13] Donald Cerrone (34-11):
On to the main event for the first ever ESPN prelims and we have another FOTN contender right here. Before we even get into any of the details of this fight I am going to say right now that this fight is greatly affected by which Donald Cerrone shows up tonight. For those that don't know what I'm talking about, Cerrone has a serious tendency to underestimate people and he has admitted that with people like Darren Till he didn't know them so he didn't bother to train and look what happened. Then there are fights he comes out and looks near unstoppable. He is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and gaidojutsu with 17 wins by submission and 9 knockouts with 16 of the 26 in the first and he needs to make sure he doesn't take Alexander Hernandez lightly. Hernandez is on an 8-fight win streak. Cerrone has a higher striking defense percentage, but on average Cerrone takes almost double the amount significant strikes than Hernandez. As much as I don't want to say it, I believe Cerrone won't be as invested in this fight as he should be, and Hernandez is going to drop him in the first and get the TKO. – Mike W
A legend vs a new young star. I don’t think the issue with this fight is how invested Cerrone is going to be. I think Hernandez is the overall better striker by a significant bit in this weight class. I believe the issue Cerrone has is the weight class as he has gone back down and looked exhausted from the weight cut. I have Cerrone dominating this one ONLY if he can get it to the ground because I believe he will submit Hernandez. I sadly like Mike don’t see that happening and Cerrone will get out classed striking and caught by a big shot. Hernandez wins this one by KO in the 1st round hopefully convincing Cerrone to go up a weight class. – Matt K
I''m going to go with Danald "Cowboy" Cerrone in this one via Unanimous Decision.
ESPN+ Fight Night 10 PM/ET:
Light Heavyweight Bout: [#12] Glover Teixeira (27-7) vs. Karl Roberson (7-1):
Starting off the first ESPN+ event will be a relatively new fighter to the UFC versus a battle-tested veteran. Half of Karl Roberson's fights have been under the UFC/ Contender Series. He has 3 wins by submission and 2 by knockout with all 5 being first round stoppages. Roberson is very successful at defending strikes with 73% although not as much for takedowns with an even 50%. He is also very successful getting takedowns which is 75% making him the guy that prefers to get on top and let his ground work do the talking. He has one hell of a mountain to climb against his opponent Glover Teixeira. Even though he has hit a rough patch recently, only winning 2 of his last 5, in my opinion this guy is a future Hall-of-Famer. Teixeira is a 5th degree black belt in kajukenbo which is a Hawaiian originated hybrid of karate, judo, jiu-jitsu, kenpo and kick boxing and he is a 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In MMA, he has 17 wins by submission and 6 wins by knockout with 18 stoppages in the first. He was also on a 20-fight win streak before losing to Jon Jones. Even though I don't think Teixeira has many more fights left in him I believe his skillset is just too good for Roberson. I see Glover just being able to counter anything Roberson has and eventually get that knockout in the second round.
– Mike W
I completely disagree with Mike on this fight. Karl Roberson will be a monster in his new weight class. Glover needs this win to prove he has anything left to offer in his career. I believe Roberson is going to have no gas tank issues and be able to push the pace freely in this fight. He looks massive and is a beast already in his own middleweight division, but now that he is fighting in the LHW division. I have Roberson dominating Glover and picking up a 2nd round KO of Glover after a dominant 10-8 first round. – Matt K
I'm going to agree with Matt on this one and go with Karl Roberson here via 1st Round TKO.
Women's Flyweight Bout: Paige VanZant (7-4) vs. Rachel Ostovich (4-4):
Up next is the second women's fight of the night. Rachael Ostovich hasn't been able to get any sort of streak going. She is winning fights, but it's win loss win loss. She has 2 wins by submission and a good ground game behind her with a perfect takedown offense and defense. As mentioned in a previous pick, it's only counting her only UFC fights which is 2, but perfect offense and defense is something I've never seen before. She has a decent striking defense at 63%, but takes more shots than she lands. VanZant is a wild striker that uses it to either get knockouts or beat her enemies into slipping up and exposing a weakness for her to submit. While it's not a horrible thing when you get to a certain level that doesn't work anymore. I hope for her sake that she has spent a lot of time honing those skills since she has only fought twice in two years. VanZant has a poor defense with 43% striking and 40% takedown. Unless VanZant has changed substantially in her time off I see Ostovich winning this. I think she will take this to the mat, work some strikes in and get a submission in the second.
– Mike W
I love the potential both of these women have. I hope for Paige leaving Alpha Fail has given her career a boost and her happiness in life lately as well. Rachel is a monster who just has had some bad luck lately in her career but is a true contender. I have Ostavich picking up a narrow-split decision. – Matt
I love Paige but I'm going with Rahcael Ostavich here via 3rd Round Submission.
Flyweight Bout: [#2] Joseph Benavidez (26-5) vs. [#8] Dustin Ortiz (19-7):
Moving on, here comes what I believe should be the co-main. This fight has actually happened once before back in 2014 and Benavidez won by decision. Ortiz is a finisher with 8 wins by knockout and 4 by submission with 6 in the first round. He doesn't have a great defense with 56% striking and 54% takedowns, but he lands a lot of shots and tends to set the pace. He is fighting a monster of a flyweight in Joseph Benavidez. Benavidez has only lost 5 fights and only to 3 people losing to both Dominick Cruz and Mighty Mouse twice. He has 9 wins by submission, but isn't afraid to stand and bang with 7 knockout finishes as well. I like Ortiz a lot, but I always have a tough time picking against Benavidez. I think this fight is going to go the same way as last time and Benavidez will have to grind this out for a decision win. – Mike Whitestone
I 100% agree with Mike on this one Benavidez by decision. – Matt Koontz
I agree with both guys here and see Joseph Benavidez with the 3rd Round Submission.
Lightweight Bout: [#15] Gregor Gillespie (12-0) vs. Yancy Medeiros (15-5):
This fight right here is why Matt and I say the lightweight division is stacked because both of these men deserved to be ranked. Medeiros has 8 wins by knockout and 4 by submission with 6 finishes in the first. Medeiros has a great offense, and can take a beating because his defense is scary. He has a good takedown defense at 83%, but only defends about 40% of strikes and takes a little over 6 significant strikes per minute. The undefeated Gregor Gillespie was a 4-time All-American in collegiate wrestling and it shows in his fights. Even though he only has success with 50% of his takedowns he still averages around 7 per fight. He likes to take things to the ground and dominate through either knockout or submission (has 5 wins of both). Between Medeiros usually taking a beating and Gillespie's crazy aggressiveness I think Gillespie will get him down and try to get the TKO. When he realizes that isn't working which I suspect to be in the second, he will look for a submission and get the win. – Mike W
This fight is going to be a great one between two great fighters, but just like Cerrone I don’t like Medeiros at lightweight at all and the weight cut will cost him his aggressiveness. Gillepsie out lasts Yancy and with the better gas tank in this weight class picks up the victory in round 3 with a submission. Gregor will remain undefeated and continue his climb to the lightweight top. – Matt K
I got Gregor Gillespie to remain undefeated and get the win here via Split Decision.
Heavyweight Bout: Greg Hardy (3-0) vs. Allen Crowder (9-3):
Now to the co-main event. Allen Crowder is coming into this fight with 5 wins by knockout and 3 by submission with 4 first round finishes. He definitely prefers striking and has been weighing in around 2325 making him a bit light for heavyweights. He has a good striking defense at 60%, but got trashed in his first UFC getting TKO'ed in the first. Greg Hardy is making his debut in the UFC. In amateur MMA he was 3-0 and now as a pro he is currently 3-0. All 6 of his wins are by knockout in the first and only one took longer than a minute. I can't help but wonder what that means about his endurance. I think Crowder will be able to get him down and wear him out then once he is in the second round Crowder will get a submission because Hardy doesn't have any fight experience on the ground. – Mike W
I again 100% agree with Mike here. Also want to add I think Hardy will fail in the UFC like CM Punk did as he is one dimensional and needs to learn another skill set to be a good MMA fighter even with a win here he would be dominated by any mention worthy HW. – Matt K
I got Allen Crowder winning this fight easy winning in under a minute (1st Rd) via TKO.
World Flyweight Title Bout: (Bantamweight Champion/Challenger) TJ Dillashaw (16-3) vs. Flyweight Champion) Henry Cejudo (13-2):
Main event time and we get to see a champ vs. champ war. Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw is fighting Henry Cejudo for the Flyweight Championship. Dillashaw has 8 wins by knockout and 3 by submission with 5 first round finishes. He is a black belt in Bang Muay Thai and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He is also a decorated collegiate wrestler and incorporates a wrestling stance in his fighting stance and is extremely mobile and hard to read. His opponent is also a wrestler and won Gold in the Beijing Olympics. Cejudo uses a very wrestling aggressive style and uses his grappling to smash people with 5 wins by knockout and 4 of them in the first. I don't know how much Cejudo has to cut, but he looked massive for his size at the beginning of the week and even though Dillashaw normally walks around pretty close to his usual weigh-in weight he had to cut an extra 10 pounds this time and looked a little small in the beginning of the week. I don't know if that really plays a part here, but it seemed worth noting if you want to form your own opinion. I think Cejudo is a great fighter, but I haven't seen a more complete looking fighter than TJ and I think in the next year or two he will be one of the best pound-for-pound. Dillashaw doesn't normally finish early so I'm calling for him to get a TKO in one of the championship rounds. - Mike W
Cejudo will have weight on the champ of the division above because he puts on a ton of weight and has a heavy advantage over his opponents in this division. I hate that fighters can add as much weight as Cejudo does for his fights. Also, everyone mentioning weight concerns for TJ was crazy to me since he has always been professional and never missed weight. Cejudo is the worry as he is the heavier fighter and has missed weight before in his career so can we stop acting shocked by TJ. Okay now to the fight stuff. Cejudo in my eyes didn’t really win over DJ and has failed to ever truly impress me a single time in his UFC career. He doesn’t go out and finish fights his standup isn’t phenomenal which is going to be a major issue. TJ is the best MMA fighter in the WORLD. Not in the UFC TJ is the best all-around skilled MMA fighter in the world of MMA. He will dominate Cejudo and flat out embarrass Cejudo and pick up a 2nd round TKO. – Matt K
I got TJ Dillashaw winning this via Unanimous Decision to become the UFC World Flyweight champion becoming a two-division champion. Will this be the end of the Flyweight division who knows.
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