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The Downes Side: UFN Atlantic City Predictions

UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller, taking place Wednesday, July 16.

That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another edition of the Downes Side! I know last week may have been difficult without me, but fear not, the Nostradamus of MMA is back in your life ready to give guidance.

Home of the Miss America Pageant, this week Atlantic City hosts the far less confrontational UFC Fight Night. Live from the Revel Casino Hotel, the main event of the  evening features Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jim Miler in a battle between top 10 lightweights. In the co-main event of the night, Edzon Barboza can gain some momentum back in the 155-pound division with a win over Evan Dunham.


The main card begins in the 145-pound division with Lucas Martins and Alex White. After competing at both lightweight and bantamweight, Lucas Martins now returns to featherweight. Word has it that if he tries out two other weight classes, UFC matchmakers will award him a gold-plated scale to celebrate his accomplishment. Alex “The Spartan” White hasn’t moved around weight classes, but when you’re undefeated, you don’t tend to mess with success. White only needed one minute and 28 seconds to knock out Estevan Payan in his UFC debut.

Both of these fighters are primarily strikers. White has the power advantage, but has never been tested in his career. Martins has already competed in the UFC three other times, and his experience will be key. As long as Martins avoids the early rush, he’ll control White with straight punches. Then, in the third round, he’ll land a hook as White rushes in and finish him off to take the third round TKO.


We drop to flyweight for John Lineker and Alptekin Ozkilic. Living up to his nickname “Hands of Stone,” Lineker’s 11 KOs have secured his place as the hardest hitter in the division. He’s looking to get back into the mix of the division after Ali Bagautinov ended his four-fight win streak in February. A former Division I wrestler, Alptekin Ozkilic had his four-fight win streak ended in his last UFC appearance as well. He defends strikes at a 60% rate, but it only takes one punch from Lineker to change the course of a fight.

Both fighters are well-rounded, but this will be one of those striker vs. grappler type of matches. Lineker defends takedowns at a 60% rate, but his last fight against Bagautinov showed that he can have a hard time getting off his back. Ozkilic doesn’t have the most the most fluid striking game, but he doesn’t normally allow himself to get flat-footed. He’ll avoid the big punch enough to get in the inside and finish the takedown. He might not get the finish, but he’ll avoid the power punching of Lineker to take the unanimous decision win.


We move to lightweight for Justin Salas and Joe Proctor. A former collegiate wrestler at Wyoming, Justin “J-Bomb” Salas used his hands to pick up a first round TKO over Ben Wall in May. A TUF 15 veteran and accomplished grappler, Joe Proctor returned from an over two-year long layoff with a decision win over Cristiano Marcello in February.

Salas is an extremely aggressive fighter. It’s worked to his advantage in some fights, but his two UFC losses have been by first-round stoppage. He’ll have the wrestling advantage, but Proctor has the edge everywhere else. Salas will come out hard and try to put Proctor on the mat, but he won’t be able to keep him there. Proctor will wear Salas down on the feet and then jump for his guillotine choke as J-Bomb tires out. Proctor takes the second-round submission win.


We jump up to welterweight for Rick Story and Leonardo Mafra. Once on the cusp of being the next welterweight contender, Rick “The Horror” Story has had a hard time stringing together wins as of late. In the last two years of competition inside the Octagon, he has a 3-3 record. A contestant on the first season of TUF Brazil, Mafra was cut after his one and only appearance (a TKO loss to Thiago Perpetuo). Since that time, he’s finished five straight opponents and earned a chance to step back inside the Octagon.

Rick Story may not have strung together a long win streak since 2010, but he’s been fighting some of the best in the division. Mafra has a lot of talent and ability, but he’s not at Story’s level. His Muay Thai will give others trouble, but Story’s wrestling and boxing will be able to counteract it. Combine that with the fact that Mafra still has cardio issues, and you expect Story to drag Mafra down and take the unanimous decision win.


That brings us to the co-main event between Edson Barboza and Evan Dunham. Barboza was starting to make some noise in the lightweight division with wins over Danny Castillo, Rafaello Oliveira and Lucas Martins. That momentum was halted after Donald Cerrone submitted him in the first round in April. Evan Dunham fell victim to a first round submission loss to Cerrone of his own at UFC 167.

Barboza is an incredible athlete with a dynamic striking attack. The big knock against him, though, has been his chin. Having a chin is not something that’s ever been a problem for Evan Dunham. At times, though, he relies on that too much and allows himself to take unnecessary shots in order to give one back. Barboza may not have
the durability of others in the division, but sometimes the best defense is a good offense. He’ll overwhelm Dunham with his attack and not allow his opponent to counter. Barboza will beat up Dunham’s legs early and then finish him off with a head kick in the second round. Barboza by TKO.


Time for the main event! Fan favorite Donald Cerrone tries to continue his climb back up the lightweight ladder after three straight wins. Known for his desire to stand and go toe-to-toe with opponents, the majority of Cerrone’s wins (15 to be exact) have been by submission. Jim Miller also wants to position himself atop the crowded lightweight division with a win here. Tied with Gleison Tibau for the most wins in lightweight history, Miller’s diverse submission game has given him the majority of those victories.

Miller’s boxing has improved over the years, but he’s not going to want to get in a firefight with Donald Cerrone. Given Cowboy’s takedown defense and range, the alternative isn’t much easier either. Cerrone never likes to play things safe, and there will be back and forth exchanges on the feet, but Cowboy will ultimately end up on the winning side. He’ll stun Miller on the feet, and even mix up a couple takedowns of his own to take a third-round submission win.

That wraps up another enlightening edition of The Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, comments, persiflage and current favorite iPad game on the page here. Anyone try this one yet?