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The Downes Side: UFN Saskatoon Predictions

UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Oliveira, taking place Sunday, August 23

That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for a Sunday Funday edition of the Downes Side! As thought provoking as any Bloody Mary bar, it’s a lot better for your sodium levels.

There’s very little to be salty about as the UFC rolls into Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada for UFC Fight Night. In the main event of the evening, top ten featherweights Max Holloway and Charles Oliveira try to work their way to that McGregor money. In the co-main event of the night, welterweights Neil Magny and Erick Silva square off.


We begin in the women’s strawweight division with Maryna Moroz and Valerie Letourneau. Moroz burst onto the scene with an upset win over Joanne Calderwood back in  Valerie Latourneau punches Elizabeth Phillips during UFC 174 on 6/14/14 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)April. The “Iron Lady” has finished every single one of her opponents, including five career wins via armbar. An American Top Team product, Letourneau is primarily a striker who likes to stand in the pocket.

Moroz had a fantastic debut, but people are overestimating her. That may be due to Calderwood’s popularity, but Moroz still has a lot of holes. Her striking is stiff, and while she does commit to punches and throw combinations, she leaves plenty of counter opportunities. Obviously it’s a lot easier to say “just avoid the armbar” than actually doing it (ask anyone who’s fought Ronda Rousey), but Moroz doesn’t have the wrestling to bring the fight to the ground. Letourneau may overextend her exchanges, but she strikes her way to the unanimous decision.


We move to lightweight for Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Tony Sims. After losing to Chad Laprise in the finals of TUF Nations,Olivier Aubin-Mercier submits Jake Lindsey on 10/4/14 in Halifax, NS, Canada. (Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC) Aubin-Mercier responded with two straight submission victories. The “Quebec Kid” has a black belt in judo and a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. It’s also the worst cowboy nickname since “Butch Dysentery.” Tony Sims steps in on short notice after his first-round knockout win over Steve Montgomery less than two months ago. Primarily a boxer, he switches stances often and attacks from different angles.

Despite taking the fight on short notice, a lot of people have Sims pulling the upset. It’s certainly possible. Sims has a lot of power (he knocked out a welterweight his last time out) and Aubin-Mercier still has not paired up his striking to his grappling. Despite that, Aubin-Mercier should win here. He has a good sense of distance, defends well and knows how to enter the clinch without taking damage. Sims could change the course of the fight with a single strike, but the Quebec Kid wins by submission in the second.


We remain at lightweight for Chad Laprise and Francisco Trinaldo. Since winning TUF Nations, Laprise kept his undefeated record intact with wins over Yosdenis Cedeno and Chad Laprise punches Bryan Barberena in their bout during UFC 186 on 4/25/15 in Montreal, Quebec, CA. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)Bryan Barnerena. A technical kickboxer, the one big knock against him has been his lack of punching power. If you’re looking for a man with plenty of power reserves, you can’t do much better than Francisco Trinaldo. The burly Brazilian has won three straight fights and likes to keep the fight in close.

Laprise is by far the more talented fighter. If fighting were about talent, though, Mel Brooks would have been an NHB champion (the man has an EGOT!). If Trinaldo can land power punches on the inside, he could take the fight. Laprise might not have the power to keep Trinaldo at a distance, but his technique, movement and overall well-rounded game leads him to the decision victory.


We move up a division to welterweight for Patrick Cote and Josh Burkman. The most beloved French-Canadian fighterJosh Burkman taunts Hector Lombard in their bout during UFC 182 on 1/3/15 in Las Vegas, NV (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC) not named Georges St. Pierre, Patrick Cote is 4-1 in his last five fights. The “Predator” may not be knocking people out like he used to, but his improved wrestling has certainly extended his career. Burkman’s return to the UFC has been a bit rocky. He’s lost to Hector Lombard (later changed to a no contest) and Dong Hyun Kim. He focuses on using his defensive wrestling to open up his striking.

This should be a fun fight between two grizzled veterans. Cote will probably try to control the clinch and keep Burkman pinned against the fence. Burkman struggled to do that in his last fight, but Cote does not have the judo or strength of Kim. Burkman beats Cote to the punch and stays active enough to take the unanimous decision.


We stay at welterweight for Neil Magny and Erick Silva. Even though Demian Maia snapped his seven-fight win streak about three weeks ago, Neil Magny steps back into the Octagon for an injured Rick Story. A rangy kickboxer, he keeps a Neil Magny punches Rodrigo de Lima in their fight during UFC Fight Night on 6/28/14 in Auckland, NZ. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)steady pace throughout the entire fight. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of Erick Silva. Explosive and talented, Silva’s been known to gas out. Every single one of his UFC wins have come in the first round, and he’s only gone to a decision once in his Octagon career.

Even after seven straight wins, Neil Magny doesn’t get a lot of respect. Yes, he did not have a strong showing against Demian Maia, but Maia is one of the best welterweights in the world. Silva may have more physical tools and finishing power, but his cardio and fight IQ are big question marks. Magny may not have the sexiest style, but I don’t think he can get finished in the first round. In an Erick Silva fight, that’s all you have to do. Magny pulls the upset and wins by decision.


Time for the main event! At only 23 years of age, Max “Blessed” Holloway already has twelve fights inside the Octagon.Max Holloway kicks Cub Swanson in their bout during UFC Fight Night on April 18, 2015 in Newark, NJ (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC) Since losing to Conor McGregor, he’s won six in a row, including a submission victory over Cub Swanson his last time out. Known for his volume striking, his submissions and wrestling have really come along. A dangerous Muay Thai striker with some of the most dynamic submission attacks in MMA, Charles Oliveira looks to extend his four-fight win streak.

Whether it’s on the feet or on the ground, “Do Bronx” has more offense than a George Carlin set. His defense, on the other hand, could use some work. Much like Erick Silva, his aggression is a double-edged sword that often puts him in precarious positions. Holloway is sharper and more tactical on the feet. He’ll beat Oliveira up and then look for an opportune submission later in the fight. Holloway by submission in the third.

That wraps up another savory edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, reflections, renunciations, ratiocinations, restitutions and favorite brunch spots on the page here.