UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night: Magny vs. Gastelum, taking place Saturday, November 21
That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another Mexican edition of the Downes Side! I can’t promise a lot, but I can promise that it will be authentic - just like a quesadilla burger from Applebee’s.
It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you’re in, it’s a great night for fights. Live from the Monterrey Arena in Monterrey, Mexico, Neil Magny and Kelvin Gastelum compete in a battle between ranked welterweights. In the co-main event of the night, featherweights Ricardo Lamas and Diego Sanchez promise something that’s sure to be entertaining (and probably odd). Grab the Dos Equis guy and relax, it’s fight time!
EFRAIN ESCUDERO VS. LEANDRO SILVA
We open in the lightweight division with Efrain Escudero and Leandro Silva. Winner of season eight of The Ultimate Fighter, Escudero has back to back wins over Rodrigo de Lima and Drew Dober. Silva is a huge, powerful lightweight, and has ten career wins via submission. Nicknamed “Buscape,” I assume that refers to his love for both Boston University and Southern California Aquatic Plant Enthusiasts.
Silva may be stronger, but Escudero does have better footwork. Silva seems content to slow things down and then muscle his way to a takedown. Their submission talents balance each other out, but Escudero is the superior technical wrestler. As long as he avoids being pressed against the cage, he should win enough of the scrambles and control the stand-up to take the unanimous decision.
HORACIO GUTIERREZ VS. ENRIQUE BARZOLA
We stay at lightweight for Horacio Gutierrez and Enrique Barzola. Finalists on season two of TUF: Latin America, both were teammates on Team Escudero. Gutierrez is a dangerous striker who can get a bit wild at times. Barzola is a hard-nosed fighter who constantly looks to finish the fight.
Barzola’s striking could use some improvement. In fact, he relied on Gutierrez to help him in preparation for his semifinal bout. He’s small for the weight class and will have trouble getting inside Gutierrez’s reach. He does well from top position, but I don’t see how he brings the fight to the ground. Gutierrez wins this fight by first-round TKO.
ERICK MONTANO VS. ENRIQUE MARIN
We move to welterweight for the second TUF final between Erick Montano and Enrique Marin. Montano is a well-rounded fighter, but appears to excel on the mat. He has four submission wins (all by rear naked choke), and controls opponents from top position. Spain’s Marin has five submission wins of his own. Based on the show, his biggest problem seems to be mental toughness.
Predicting any TUF finale is difficult. The fighters aren’t in their natural training atmosphere and they never get the proper rest. That being said, you usually go with the guy with more talent. Enrique Marin is that fighter. He’s more polished and has a better overall arsenal. Montano’s toughness will make him a hard out, but the Spaniard kickboxes his way to the decision win.
JUSSIER FORMIGA VS. HENRY CEJUDO
We drop to flyweight for Jussier Formiga and Henry Cejudo. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Formiga has won his last three fights. An Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, Cejudo has long been heralded as the man to dethrone Demetrious Johnson. He’s 3-0 inside the Octagon, but he has not been the dominant force many thought. He’s coming off a tight decision win over Chico Camus at UFC 188.
Much like Yoel Romero, Cejudo hasn’t been able to translate his amateur wrestling success into MMA. His takedown accuracy is a paltry 29.17%. Thankfully, he’s made up for that relative lack of success with crisp boxing and aggressive combinations. Those are exactly the weapons that give Formiga a tough time. He allows himself to spend too much time on his heels and get dominated. There’s always the chance that Cejudo overextends himself and gives up the submission, but expect “The Messenger” to deliver a decision victory.
RICARDO LAMAS VS. DIEGO SANCHEZ
Next we shift to featherweight for Ricardo Lamas and Diego Sanchez. The “Bully” rebounded nicely from his failed title shot against Jose Aldo with wins over Hacran Dias and
Dennis Bermudez. That momentum came to a complete stop at the hands of Chad Mendes and a first-round TKO. Once the weirdo doing yoga in the rain in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego Sanchez has been a UFC mainstay since 2005. He’s lost three of his last five, but he is coming off a decision win over Ross Pearson in June.
We all know how Diego Sanchez wins - brawling. It doesn’t have to look pretty, he just needs to take two out of three rounds. It’s a simple enough plan, I just don’t see how he does it. Lamas can be inaccurate with his strikes, so there are plenty of chances for counter attacks. Lamas does have much better wrestling, though, so he’ll probably just take it to the ground if he starts to get tagged. Sanchez has only been finished once in his career and it will happen for the second time. Ricardo Lamas ground and pounds his way to the third-round TKO.
NEIL MAGNY VS. KELVIN GASTELUM
Time for the main event! Magny steps in for an injured Matt Brown, hoping to get to work on another seven-fight win streak. A rangy striker with sharp hands and a command of distance, he can finish fights after battering opponents with volume. The unlikely winner of TUF 17, Gastelum holds a 6-1 record inside the Octagon. He returns to 170 lbs after a disastrous weight cut not only hurt him against Tyron Woodley, but caused the organization to question whether or not they’d ever let him compete at welterweight again.
It’s hard to change people’s beliefs. That’s why you’ll never convince me that Short Circuit 2 wasn’t better than Blade Runner and why most fans can’t think of Neil Magny beyond his appearances on TUF 16. His skill set has grown tremendously. He’s not the flashiest striker, but he lands nearly four significant strikes per minute and has incredible conditioning. Having said that, he still comes up short here. Gastelum struggled with Woodley’s speed and could never catch up. Magny doesn’t pose the same danger. He defeats opponents with quantity. Gastelum works through the punches, gets the takedown and controls his way to the decision win.
That wraps up another muy caliente edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also don’t forget to leave your own thoughts, declarations, cumplidos y predicciones on the page here, too.