Predictions! UFC 231 FOX Sports 1 ‘Prelims’ Preview - Pt. 2
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Dec. 8, 2018) when UFC 231: “Holloway vs. Ortega” storms Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC 231 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.
Two weight classes produce their best match ups this Saturday (Dec. 8, 2018) when Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega and Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valentina Shevchenko hit the pay-per-view (PPV) airwaves inside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada. Other UFC 231 main card attractions include Thiago Santos vs. Jimi Manuwa and the return of Gunnar Nelson against the surging Alex Oliveira.
Four FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard matches will set the PPV stage (check out the Fight Pass portion here). Let’s see how:
115 lbs.: Claudia Gadelha vs. Nina Ansaroff
Following wins over Cortney Casey and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, the latter of which saw Claudia Gadelha (16-3) score her first finish since 2013, “Claudinha” fell short in a wild “Fight of the Night” against Jessica Andrade. She returned to action nine months later against former champion Carla Esparza, narrowly edging “The Cookie Monster” at UFC 225.
She is one inch shorter than “The Strina” and will give up reach in both the arms and legs.
Nina Ansaroff (9-5) stumbled out of the gate with decision losses to Juliana Lima and Justine Kish, but has since won three straight. She choked out Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger for her first UFC victory, then defeated Angela Hill and Randa Markos in a pair of entertaining decisions.
Four of her six stoppage wins have come via (technical) knockout.
Ansaroff is legitimately one of the best strikers at 115 pounds, especially now that Joanna Jedrzejczyk is plying her craft at Flyweight. Heck, I think she’d be a decent match up for Rose Namajunas and most of the fighters in the rankings, save perhaps a handful of tough outs.
Gadelha is among that handful.
The key to wearing down Gadelha is making her burn herself out trying to establish and maintain top control, and while Ansaroff can control the striking even with the threat of Gadelha’s jab, I’m not sure she can consistently scramble out from underneath the hulking Brazilian. Gadelha will fade late as she always does, but I say she banks the first two rounds via top control and survives Ansaroff’s comeback attempt.
Prediction: Gadelha via split decision
125 lbs.: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye
Katlyn Chookagian (11-1) went 2-1 as a Bantamweight in UFC before dropping to 125 pounds in January. After debuting with a decision over Mara Romero Borella in Charlotte, “Blonde Fighter” returned to the UFC on FOX airwaves with a successful back-and-forth battle with veteran Alexis Davis.
She will have three inches of height and two inches of reach on Eye.
Jessica Eye (13-6) won just one of her first seven UFC bouts, prompting her own move to Flyweight. She’s found considerably more success there, winning decisions over Kalindra Faria and Jessica-Rose Clark.
“Evil” has four wins via stoppage, three of them (technical) knockouts.
So, spoiler warning, this one’s going the distance. Chookagian has one finish in her last eight fights, Eye one in her last 10. It’ll be a measured striking battle at range, one that seems to favor Chookagian. Eye will struggle to outwork her foe, and though she’s crafty enough with her jab to find the mark against a lengthier opponent, she doesn’t have enough power to make up the difference.
Eye’s key to victory may be her wrestling, which she’s leaned on since dropping to 125 pounds. It’ll be close, and Eye could very well have an argument for victory, but considering their respective luck in close fights and Chookagian’s output, I say “Blonde Fighter” ekes out another decision.
Prediction: Chookagian via split decision
185 lbs.: Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders
Elias Theodorou (15-2) — winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” — has quietly put together a 7-2 record in UFC’s Middleweight division. He currently rides a two-fight win streak, defeating Daniel Kelly and Trevor Smith by unanimous decision.
“The Spartan” has stopped six opponents with strikes, though none since 2015.
Eryk Anders (11-2) rebounded from a narrow loss to Lyoto Machida in his first UFC main event to knockout Tim Williams with one of 2018’s nastiest head kicks. Less than one month later, “Ya Boy” stepped up in weight on short notice to challenge Thiago Santos, ultimately succumbing to “Marreta’s” brutal striking.
Six of his eight stoppage victories have come in the first round.
This is one of those weird fights that will vacillate between exciting and unwatchable depending on who’s winning. It’ll be great if Anders is hurling his left hand with abandon, garbage if Theodorou is chilling in the clinch or throwing ineffectual kicks at range.
Unfortunately for “The Spartan,” Anders is strong enough to avoid being muscled around against the fence clinch and has far, far superior boxing. Theodorou is too durable to put away, but expect Anders to touch him up for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Anders via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns
Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-3) put a surprising loss to Carlos Diego Ferreira behind him to win four straight, upping his Octagon record to 7-2. “The Quebec Kid” went on to face fast-rising Alexander Hernandez, and despite showing some slick Judo, faded down the stretch on his way to a decision defeat.
His eight submission wins include seven via rear-naked choke
Though Gilbert Burns’ (13-3) Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree carried him to UFC, his knockout power has taken center stage recently, earning him savage one-punch finishes of Jason Saggo and Dan Moret. He tried to do the same to Dan Hooker in July, but the durable Kiwi came out on top in a firefight and put away Burns midway through the first round.
He has submitted seven professional opponents and knocked out another five.
This looks like one of those rare grappler-versus-grappler fights where the inevitable striking battle will wind up being actually watchable. Aubin-Mercier has developed a nasty body attack and Burns has dynamite in his hands. Even if we don’t get to see elite judo against elite jiu-jitsu, this could be fun.
Aubin-Mercier’s struggles against Ferreira and Hernandez have me questioning the effectiveness of his judo against big, explosive grapplers, a bill Burns fits nicely. “Durinho” gets back on track, keeping the fight standing and ultimately lamping the fading Canuck sometime in the second.
Prediction: Burns via second-round knockout
Holloway vs. Ortega is legitimately one of the best possible match ups in the entire sport — you better not miss it. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 231 card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.