Former Ultimate Fighter winner Kelvin Gastelum will try to keep his undefeated record intact when he faces the ultra tough Rick Story in the featured fight of the UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler preliminary card on Saturday.
Gastelum has been looking for a serious challenge in the welterweight division, and he will certainly get that facing a 14-fight UFC veteran like Story. Also on the undercard, former Ultimate Fighter hopeful Raquel Pennington takes on dangerous Brazilian striker Jessica Andrade, and the always exciting Dennis Bermudez squares off against submission specialist Jimy Hettes.
Today's fantasy preview will examine the preliminary card for UFC 171, looking at four key fights on the undercard. Every point counts in the UFC Fantasy game, and this could help you earn a few more.
KELVIN GASTELUM VS. RICK STORY
There have been flashes over the last few years that lead some to believe that Rick Story could one day be a true contender in the welterweight division. He is one of only two fighters to hold a win over top-ranked 170-pound competitor Johny Hendricks, and he also holds wins over notable names like Thiago Alves. But then there's the other side of Story, where he's fought flat and has been unable to execute in fights against Mike Pyle, Martin Kampmann and Charlie Brenneman.
It's that inconsistency that could provide the crack in the door that Kelvin Gastelum needs to get a win on Saturday night.
Gastelum should be on everyone's list of fighters to watch in 2014, given his tremendous potential. The former Ultimate Fighter winner showcases a solid standup base with nearly 47 percent accuracy while striking, and when combined with his wrestling, where he launches just under three and a half takedowns per fight, Gastelum is the picture of a true mixed martial artist.
It's his ability to throw a variation of attacks to keep Story guessing that should get Gastelum the win at UFC 171. Watch for his subtle boxing game to throw Story for a loop early before Gastelum swoops in for a takedown and starts fishing for submissions. Gastelum just has too many weapons at his disposal, while Story is an enigma too often and allows fights to slip away at just the wrong moment. If it happens here like it's happened on so many occasions in the past, Gastelum should keep his win streak alive with another unanimous decision victory.
RAQUEL PENNINGTON VS. JESSICA ANDRADE
Two very promising fighters in the women's bantamweight division face each other at UFC 171, and this could end up being the show stealer everyone is talking about when the prelims are over.
Pennington is an aggressive fighter who loves to get into the clinch and beat up an opponent while never avoiding a good slugfest in the middle of the cage. Andrade, on the other hand, is a more precise striker, with technical Muay Thai at her disposal and a jiu-jitsu game in her back pocket.
When you break down the statistics, these two fighters are eerily similar. They both land strikes at just over 60 percent accuracy and throw at high volume round after round. Neither Pennington or Andrade is known for the takedown, both shooting for just one per fight, but the two bantamweights do share a great ability to avoid the ground and keep the fight standing. Andrade will be the faster fighter, but Pennington will have a slight reach and size advantage.
Where Andrade excels is combining her accurate striking and high volume over the course of three rounds, just like she did against Rosi Sexton in her last fight. Andrade is punishing from the outside and she's great at moving quickly, hitting, and then moving out again. Pennington is more of a brawler, who will want to get in close and beat up Andrade with combinations. This is where Andrade's speed becomes the factor that should get her the win in the fight.
Look for her to be fast and elusive on the feet, moving in, out, and side-to-side, landing quick jabs and then following with a cross or hook to back Pennington off time and time again. By the end of the third round, both fighters are going to be feeling the rigors of a tough fight, but Andrade should get the win by decision.
DENNIS BERMUDEZ VS. JIMY HETTES
Another candidate for Fight of the Night could be this matchup between Dennis Bermudez and Jimy Hettes in the UFC featherweight division.
Bermudez is a powerful wrestler with strong hands on the feet, where he lands just over four and a half significant strikes per minute while also tossing almost the exact same average for his takedowns. Hettes is equally dangerous, and although his striking isn't as powerful as his opponent’s, his ground work is spectacular. Hettes is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt, but he attacks with submissions on the ground like few do in the UFC these days. He's finished 10 out of 11 wins with submissions, so Bermudez has to be wary of those attacks, and considering he's been tapped in his only three career losses, those odds are not on his side.
What Bermudez has is a wrestling game that should be superior to Hettes' own ability to drag this fight to the mat. The problem is that Bermudez fights close in almost all of his fights; rarely is he blowing anyone away or shutting out an opponent on the scorecards, and giving Hettes even the slightest opening on the ground could end this fight in a hurry. If Bermudez can stay standing and avoid the takedown, he gets a decision victory. The flipside, however, is Hettes just getting one or two good attacks on the legs, bringing Bermudez to the mat and then sinking in a fight-ending submission. This one all depends on where the fight takes place and that will truly determine the victor.
JUSTIN SCOGGINS VS. WILL CAMPUZANO
There's always at least one young up and comer worth watching on the undercard, and this time around it's Justin Scoggins.
If you missed his debut, this young flyweight is an exciting fighter to watch, with an awkward style on the feet that will remind a lot of people of competitors like Lyoto Machida or Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. He's quick and strikes like a cobra, deadly from anywhere he's standing at the time. In his first UFC fight, Scoggins landed at almost 73 percent accuracy, so if he's throwing something, chances are he's going to hit his target. Campuzano won't be an easy foe, as he displayed in his last fight against Sergio Pettis, using his size and wrestling to give him problems. While Pettis ultimately got the win, Campuzano proved he does have the ability to frustrate any fighter with his trips and takedowns.
Scoggins can't allow Campuzano get inside on him and negate his striking game, or it could be a costly night for the young flyweight prospect. Chances are that Scoggins never lets Campuzano near him and lights him up like the Fourth of July with a barrage of heavy kicks, fast punches and creative striking attacks. Scoggins is the real deal at 125 pounds and this is just another chance for him to showcase it, while maybe even earning a Performance of the Night bonus with his second straight knockout inside the UFC Octagon.