07 Nov - 
Diggin’ Deep on UFC Denver - Fight Pass prelims preview

Get the scoop on the early action from UFC Denver, featuring up-and-coming flyweights Eric Shelton and Joseph Morales squaring off.

Though there is no notable name value to the early contests of UFC Denver, there is a strong chance of fulfilling action. There are two flyweight contests and it’s rare that a contest between 125ers becomes a slog. Well... there would be two flyweight contests if one of them wasn’t thrown together at the last minute. Regardless of how many flyweight contests there are, here’s hoping and praying the rumors of the UFC discontinuing the division are just that… rumors. Plus, Davi Ramos looks like he could become a major player at lightweight. He isn’t young at 32, but he’s a fantastic physical specimen who only began his career in earnest five years ago. Keep an eye out for him….

The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.

Davi Ramos (8-2) vs. John Gunther (7-0), Lightweight

I can’t help but think the UFC brass is punishing Gunther for his less than inspiring win in his UFC debut by pitting him against Ramos. Ramos looks like he’s going to be a major player in due time, securing two finishes over a pair of durable fighters in his last two performances. A BJJ world champion, Ramos has displayed some impressive raw striking skills, flooring Chris Gruetzemacher with his heavy leather. That isn’t even mentioning his improving wrestling either, allowing him to display his world class grappling. However, he’s still easy to counter, provided he’s facing a competent striker.

It doesn’t look like Gunther is the type of guy to expose Ramos. A subpar athlete without a competent boxing game or the oomph to get his opponent to the mat enough to take a ground control victory. Gunther’s only realistic path to victory is to neutralize Ramos by pushing him against the fence and grinding out a boring victory… just like he did in his UFC debut. However, Ramos is a huge step up from Allan Zuniga.

I’m not the only one who struggles to see Gunther winning this outside of a Hail Mary style haymaker. Ramos is the more dangerous striker and any conversation about how competitive Gunther will be with him on the ground is laughable. Hell, Ramos would probably let Gunther take him down. It’ll be shocking if this doesn’t end in a Ramos submission. Ramos via submission of RD1

Joseph Morales (9-1) vs. Eric Shelton (11-5), Flyweight

A protégé of Urijah Faber at Team Alpha Male, Morales seems to have fallen off the radar of many following his first career loss to Deivison Figueiredo. Given Figueiredo continues his ascension up the flyweight ladder, that may be an unfair assessment of Morales. An aggressive figure in all phases, the ground is where he is most comfortable, specializing in the RNC… not the guillotine as you’d expect coming from the camp he does. He does have power in his fists – see his knockdown of Roberto Sanchez in their UFC debuts – but he’s still very unrefined on the feet.

Shelton has a bit more polish in that area, though no one would dream of calling him a finished product. He may not have quite as much raw power as Morales, but Shelton appears to translate it into effective striking on a more regular basis, in large part to his ability to lay on greater amounts of volume with his combination punching. While Shelton’s original base is his wrestling, that aspect of his game has been inconsistent thus far in the UFC as he can secure his own takedowns only to struggle remaining standing when that’s his goal.

While Morales and Shelton both offer plenty of reason for fans to get their hopes high, they offer just as many reasons to have reservations about their ability to become mainstays. Shelton has moments when he’s not sure what he’s doing in there and Morales can be too aggressive for his own good. His athleticism isn’t going to overwhelm opponents in the UFC the way it did on the regionals. Shelton has already learned that lesson and has been adjusting accordingly. Being ahead in the learning curve should give Shelton the edge he needs. Shelton via decision

Mark De la Rosa (10-1) vs. Joby Sanchez (11-3), Bantamweight

A few years ago, Sanchez was thought by many to be an up-and-coming star in the flyweight division. Then his lack of supreme physical skills was exposed when he got to the big show and most were quick to right him off. Sanchez did improve himself during his expulsion from the UFC, developing a rangy boxing game centered around a jab, piling up the volume in a hurry. Though he’s an apt scrambler, Sanchez lacks the explosion in his wrestling to prevent that aspect of his game from being more than just a complimentary piece.

De la Rosa, husband to Montana De la Rosa, is similar to Sanchez in that he isn’t an athlete who jumps out on tape. Despite that, he has a good knowledge of his limitations and knows how to work around them. A sound combination puncher who can do a little bit of everything, where De la Rosa specializes is getting his opponent’s back and eliciting an RNC… just like his wife.

On an even playing field, there isn’t a lot that separates these two natural flyweights. If Sanchez wasn’t taking the fight at such a late hour – roughly a single week’s notice – I might lean more towards him given his experience against a higher level of competition. De la Rosa ain’t no dummy. He’ll use the extra time he had to prepare wisely and should walk out with a decision. De la Rosa via decision