UFC 174: Preliminary Card Predictions
The UFC is back this weekend, heading back to its roots of the pay-per-view model. UFC 174, which is headlined by a flyweight title bout between Demetrious Johnson and Ali Bagautinov, comes live from Vancouver, Canada on Saturday night.
The card is stacked on the pay-per-view portion. However, the prelims are also full of great prospects and established vets who should entertain.
UFC Fight Night 42 was good for 2014's record, as we continue to push further beyond the .500 mark. UFC 174 should be tougher to pick, but hopefully we can continue this upward trend.
Without further ado, let's make some prelim predictions for UFC 174.
2014 Riley's Record: 77-50
Last Event: UFC Fight Night 42 (4-1)
Jason Saggo vs. Josh Shockley
Kicking things off on the Fight Pass prelim are two lightweights who are making their debuts, as Canadian Jason Saggo looks to defend his home country against American Josh Shockley.
Shockley, who trains out of Duneland Vale Tudo with Darren Elkins, Eddie Wineland and Keith Wisniewski, is a Bellator veteran with an impressive 11-2 record. Despite owning almost half of his wins via submission, both of his career losses have come via tapout. That said, he has wins over UFC vets Shamar Bailey and Micah Miller in recent bouts.
Saggo is also a submission fighter, though he has been more proficient in it through his professional career. His striking is raw, as seen in his loss to Jesse Ronson, but he has the ability to get guys to the mat and control things there.
Shockley has shown some holes in his submission defense, and going up against a strong submission fighter like Saggo will be tough. If the Canadian can secure a takedown here, he will have a successful night.
Prediction: Saggo def. Shockley via submission
Roland Delorme vs. Michinori Tanaka
Capping things off on Fight Pass is a bantamweight scrap, as Japanese newcomer Michinori Tanaka takes on The Ultimate Fighter 14 vet and Canadian judoka Roland Delorme.
Delorme has had a pretty successful run in the UFC thus far, pushing a 3-1 (1 NC) record with wins over Edwin Figueroa, Nick Denis and Josh Ferguson. However, in his last outing he dropped a tight decision to Alex Caceres, though he looked solid throughout the bout.
The judoka takes on an ace grappler in Tanaka, who has run off a 9-0 record in the Japanese and Pacific MMA scene. In that time, he has demonstrated a solid takedown-transition-submission game that has overwhelmed the likes of Russell Doane, Caleb Vallotton and Crisanto Pitpitunge.
On the feet, this could be anybody's game. On the ground, top position will be key. Tanaka is so gifted and has so much potential, and I think he shows that here with a win over the gritty Canadian.
Prediction: Tanaka def. Delorme via decision
Kajan Johnson vs. Tae Hyun Bang
Kicking things off next on the televised portion on the card are the lightweights, as Korean Tae Hyun Bang meets TUF Nations vet Kajan Johnson.
Bang was last seen in Singapore, where he dropped his debut match to Mairbek Taisumov via decision. Bang is a big lightweight with an iron chin who would love to stand and bang with the smaller, less physically imposing Johnson.
Johnson is entering the UFC proper after making the semifinals of TUF Nations. There, he choked out Brendan O'Reilly before getting brutally knocked out by friend Chad Laprise in the semifinals and breaking his jaw. Johnson will likely want to grapple here, though he can handle himself on the feet.
Bang is more of a brute on the feet, while Johnson is flashier. He should use his hands and feet to set up takedowns and catch the giant Korean off balance. From there, he should be able to outgrapple Bang to a decision.
Prediction: Johnson def. Bang via decision
Yves Jabouin vs. Mike Easton
Next up are the bantamweights, as Canadian thriller Yves Jabouin takes on the scrappy Mike Easton.
Easton has hit a valley in his UFC career. After starting his tenure off with three straight wins, he has dropped three straight, including bouts to current champ TJ Dillashaw and top contender Raphael Assuncao.
Easton is in desperate need of a win here, as four straight losses would likely spell expulsion. While he is a striker, using his wrestling against a fellow striker here would be wise.
Jabouin is a flashy striker with incredible quickness, good explosiveness and solid accuracy. When he's not being dragged to the mat, like in his last fight with Eddie Wineland, the Canadian has as good a chance as anyone, as striking is his forte.
Easton should use his wrestling, but he's been known to get suckered into striking battles. That would not be smart against "Tiger," as he would be playing right into the Canadian's bread and butter.
Prediction: Jabouin def. Easton via decision
Valerie Letourneau vs. Elizabeth Phillips
Next up are the ladies, as fellow late replacements Valerie Letourneau of Canada and Elizabeth Phillips of Washington square off. They fill in for Germaine de Randamie and Milana Dudieva, both of whom were forced to drop out of this bout.
Letourneau is a Tristar Gym rep who is best known for her brief stint on TUF 18, where she lost in the elimination round to women's MMA pioneer Roxanne Modafferi via submission. Letourneau is a striker through and through, holding a solid 5-3 record. Her only losses came to UFC employees Alexis Davis, Sarah Kaufman and Claudia Gadelha.
Phillips takes this bout on about a week's notice or so, and the Julianna Pena teammate should be in decent shape after fighting Katie Howard on May 30. She has a style that is similar to Pena's, as she likes to use strikes to close the distance and then secure the takedown in order to rain down blows.
This has a chance to be a very good, competitive fight. Both women had fights last month and looked sharp. That said, Letourneau's resume and history of higher competition levels lead me to believe she can pull this one out in a thriller.
Prediction: Letourneau def. Phillips via decision
Daniel Sarafian vs. Kiichi Kunimoto
Headlining the prelims is a pair of non-Canadian fighters, as Brazilian welterweight Daniel Sarafian takes on Japanese counterpart Kiichi Kunimoto.
Kunimoto is a grappler and grinder who enjoys the clinch and ground game. His debut was a bit of a disappointment, as he took a disqualification win against Luiz Dutra, who repeatedly nailed Kunimoto in the back of the head with elbows. The Japanese fighter looks to really debut his skill set on this card.
Sarafian was one of the top prospects coming off the first season of TUF Brazil but has gone just 1-2 since the show ended. Those fights were all contested at middleweight, though, as the powerful striker and underrated grappler now makes a trip to 170.
Kunimoto showed he was tough against Dutra, but Sarafian is a different type of monster. He throws heavy leather and has great takedown offense. He should mix everything in well and earn a decision over a game Kunimoto.
Prediction: Sarafian def. Kunimoto via decision