The upcoming UFC Fight Night card in Cincinnati has an undercard showcasing some seriously talented fighters, including a pair of flyweights hoping to get into the top 10 with a win, while a former Ultimate Fighter Brazil competitor looks for his second victory inside the Octagon following a very impressive debut.
Not to mention, former WEC champion Eddie Wineland is fighting, as well as top 10-ranked featherweight Nik Lentz, who takes on former Ultimate Fighter winner Manny Gamburyan.
In today's fantasy preview, we're going to dissect some of the key matchups on the preliminary card and see who has the advantage to come out on top in this Saturday’s show.
KYOJI HORIGUCHI VS. DARRELL MONTAGUE
As the No. 15 ranked flyweight, Darrell Montague comes into this fight with something to prove after getting scorched in his UFC debut by top-rated contender John Dodson. Now there's no shame in losing to a fighter like Dodson, but Montague scratched and clawed to finally make it to the UFC and now it's time to prove he belongs here. On the other side of the Octagon stands Kyoji Horiguchi - a top prospect at 125 pounds who made an impressive UFC debut and actually has a solid record against name opponents outside the Octagon as well.
The book isn't really written on either of these fighters statistically because they only have two fights combined in the UFC, but Horiguchi could be a standout performer in the long run. The Japanese flyweight came up under former Olympic wrestling hopeful Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and he showed great power at bantamweight before making this move down to 125 pounds. If Horiguchi keeps the same size and power in his new weight class, he could be a real threat to anyone in the division.
Montague is very solid on the ground, but the real question in this fight is can he keep up with Horiguchi's pressure and power on the ground. Horiguchi does get a little wild at times and it could cost him if Montague is able to counter with strikes while in the midst of a scramble. Still, the odds are on Horiguchi to make an impressive debut at 125 pounds and get into the top 15 with a unanimous decision victory over Montague.
YAN CABRAL VS. ZAK CUMMINGS
Zak Cummings had better work on his submission defense if he plans on surviving to the final horn with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Yan Cabral in their welterweight matchup. Cummings is known primarily as a wrestler, averaging about two and a half takedowns per fight, but anti-wrestling might be his best friend against a grappler the caliber of Cabral.
Cabral is a real prospect at 170 pounds - think of him as a less experienced version of Demian Maia. He's slick on the mat, relentless with his pressure and, considering he hits nearly five takedowns per fight with 78 percent accuracy, he's talented at putting an opponent down and not stopping until the fight is over.
Unless Cummings can keep this fight standing, he's going to struggle with the takedowns and submission attempts being thrown at him from Cabral. The Brazilian has one of the best arm triangle chokes in the business, and if he can get on top of Cummings, look for him to work to pass the guard, move to side control and then lock on the fight-finishing maneuver. Cabral is a name to watch for as a potential top 15 welterweight in the next year.
EDDIE WINELAND VS. JOHNNY EDUARDO
Brazilian Johnny Eduardo can get you a ton of extra fantasy game points considering how much of an underdog he is in the fight against former WEC champion Eddie Wineland, but it's definitely not worth the risk. Eduardo will have been out of action almost two years when he returns to the Octagon, and he's facing one of the best bantamweights on the planet when he arrives.
Wineland is a powerhouse at 135 pounds, mixing a combination of jaw-shattering punches with a ground and pound attack that's underrated but very effective. Wineland lands nearly three and a half strikes per minute, while defending just over 80 percent of the takedowns attempted against him. The Indiana fighter hits hard, hits fast, and he shuts off the lights with one punch most of the time.
Eduardo trains out of the Nova Uniao camp, so he's worked with fighters like Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, but he's not either of those guys. Eduardo is a solid all-around mixed martial artist, but chances are while he's knocking off two years worth of ring rust, Wineland will be knocking his head around with pinpoint accurate strikes.
Look for Wineland to come out strong early and really go after Eduardo to see if he's really ready for this matchup. Eduardo has plenty of experience, so he won't just fade away, but he might not have much of a choice if Wineland can land that one solid shot he needs on the feet to end the fight and pick up a Performance of the Night check to boot.
NIK LENTZ VS. MANNY GAMBURYAN
Two strong grapplers face off in this preliminary bout, as Nik Lentz takes on former Ultimate Fighter winner Manny Gamburyan in a featherweight showdown.
Lentz might be one of the most powerful competitors fighting at 145 pounds, as he mixes brute strength with a wrestling-based attack that typically stifles and suffocates an opponent's offense over the course of three rounds. Gamburyan is no stranger to the ground game, coming from a judo background where he averages just about three and a half takedowns per fight, but lately he's gone away from that style of attack and favored a more striking-based style.
It's here that Lentz should take over the fight and power Gamburyan around the cage for 15 minutes. Lentz lands about four takedowns per fight, but it's not even his wrestling on the mat where he really takes advantage of an opponent. It's his clinch work against the cage, where he can grind a fighter over and over again until he either lands the takedown or they make a mistake out of frustration, giving him the opening to go for the finish. Lentz is the only featherweight in the last couple of years to take top contender Chad Mendes to a decision, and he's destined to a be a tough matchup for any fighter in this division for years to come.
Unfortunately, it's Gamburyan's time to face him, and by the end of the third round, he may be begging for air and ready to get out from underneath Lentz's powerful wrestling and ground work. It might not be the most exciting style on the planet, but Lentz knows how to win, and he should get a unanimous decision victory in this one.