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As the UFC descends upon the Philippines for the first time ever this weekend, fans will be treated to a SuperFight between two of the best champions the lighter weight divisions have ever known when Frankie Edgar meets Urijah Faber in a matchup at 145 pounds.
Faber was a dominant champion for much of his run as the featherweight king in the WEC before eventually dropping down to bantamweight, where he's competed for the title there on three separate occasions. Edgar is a former lightweight champion who may be only one fight away from another crack at the featherweight title, so this is an ultra important matchup for him as well.
Further down the card, middleweight contender Gegard Mousasi looks to build on his last victory over Dan Henderson when he takes on fellow striker Costas Philippou in an exciting co-main event bout.
This weekend's card will also feature a homecoming for “The Filipino Wrecking Machine,” Mark Munoz, in what will be his final fight before retirement as he takes on former Ultimate Fighter competitor Luke Barnatt.
In today's fantasy preview, we're going to break down some of these key matchups to get ready for this weekend's card, which will be a special morning show in the United States with a start time of 7am for the first prelims of the day.
These are the fights that are going to be tougher to pick, but making the correct selection could mean the difference between winning or losing in the overall fantasy competition.
Frankie Edgar (-400 favorite) vs. Urijah Faber (+325 underdog)
The odds say the main event bout this weekend between Edgar and Faber is fairly lopsided, but the reality is that this is going to be a tough fight to pick, especially when considering the credentials of the two men involved.
Faber is one of the best fighters to ever compete in the featherweight division, and while he hasn't fought there regularly in several years, his body can quickly adjust to the extra weight required to compete at 145 pounds. He has the most finishes in UFC and WEC history combined with 14 (tied with Anderson Silva) and Faber's most dangerous attribute is his ability to take advantage of an opponent in the scramble.
Faber lives for the moments when a fight hits the ground and he gets a chance to take advantage of even the slightest of openings. Usually before his opponents know what happened, Faber is locking up a choke or a submission of some kind to get the tap. It only take a momentary lapse of focus for Faber to pounce and he rarely lets go until the referee is yanking him free. Let's also not forget that Faber has never in his career lost a non-title fight. And for those keeping score at home - this is a non-title fight against Edgar.
He'll still have a tall order with Edgar, especially considering that the former lightweight champion has never been finished during his entire career between the lightweight and featherweight divisions. Edgar is an impossibly tough fighter to not only put away, but to hit in general. Edgar has the sixth highest striking defense (71.4-percent) in UFC history. He also has the third greatest number of significant strikes landed in UFC history, which means he can land with volume while avoiding damage from counters.
When Edgar is on his game, he's nearly unbeatable and lately he's looked better than ever. He steamrolled Cub Swanson in his last fight and that's after he retired BJ Penn in one of the most lopsided fights in the legendary Hawaiian's career. Edgar looks like he's on a mission to face the winner of the UFC 189 main event between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor and the only thing that might stop him would be his own lack of focus if he somehow underestimates a very tough opponent in Faber.
Edgar has never shown the tendency to do that in the past, so he should get the job done, but don't count Faber out if he can find the slightest opening because he can absolutely wrap up a choke and finish this fight in the blink of an eye.
Prediction: Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision
Luke Barnatt (-160 favorite) vs. Mark Munoz (+140 underdog)
Mark Munoz will call it a career this Saturday in the Philippines, but whether he goes out on a win or a loss is still to be determined.
It wasn't long ago that Munoz was considered one of the top 10 middleweights in the world and he closed in on the title on several occasions, although he never quite got to the championship. Lately, however, Munoz has been struggling mightily against all sorts of opponents, including in his last fight against Roan Carneiro, who choked him out early in their matchup in February.
When he's on his game, Munoz is a top-notch wrestler with some of the most vicious ground-and-pound in the sport. When he's not, Munoz is a shell of himself and it's tough to pick him in virtually any matchup.
Barnatt is equally confusing because what started out as a very interesting career after leaving The Ultimate Fighter has now been met with turmoil after dropping his last two bouts, albeit both via close decisions. Barnatt will be stepping into the lion's den with this fight, but if he doesn't allow the crowd and the moment to get to him, he still has a great chance to win.
Barnatt is freakishly tall for a middleweight, standing 6-foot-6, and if he can avoid Munoz taking this fight to the ground he can give the former NCAA champion wrestler all kinds of problems on the feet. Barnatt has great range and uses his reach effectively. Munoz has to know that striking probably won't get him very far in this fight, so he'll need to drag Barnatt to the mat if he wants to win.
If Munoz can't find a way to put Barnatt on his back early, that could be the surest sign of the direction this fight will go over three rounds.
Prediction: Luke Barnatt by split decision
Jon Tuck (-155 favorite) vs. Tae Hyun Bang (+135 underdog)
An intriguing lightweight matchup is too close to call on the prelims as Jon Tuck takes on Korean fighter Tae Hyun Bang.
Tuck has bounced back and forth between wins and losses in his last four fights while trying to find some consistency in a very deep and very tough 155-pound division. Meanwhile, Bang is fresh off a stunning third-round knockout over Ultimate Fighter Nations veteran Kajan Johnson.
This is an impossibly tough fight to call because both fighters have been largely inconsistent as of late. Bang wasn't ahead in his fight with Johnson before landing the knockout and Tuck has struggled in two out of his last three fights against the stiffer competition he's faced.
On paper, Tuck gets a slight edge in this fight because he stays more active on the feet (lands 3.1 strikes per minute with 42-percent accuracy) and he will have a slight reach advantage over Bang. Tuck just needs to keep the Korean on the end of his punches and stay a step ahead to make sure he doesn't eat a big counter shot.
Bang will definitely want this fight to stay standing, so Tuck could even mix in a takedown or two to keep him guessing. Tuck isn't a prolific wrestler, but he averages just under one takedown per 15 minutes in the cage so he does have the ability. Just that slight variation in his strategy could throw Bang off track and allow him the perfect opening to seize the opportunity on the feet.
Prediction: Jon Tuck by unanimous decision
These are the fights that appear to be more one-sided, with an easier pick to make, but remember, this is MMA and anything can happen at any time.
Gegard Mousasi (-550 favorite over Costas Philippou)
The odds are definitely in favor of Mousasi in this co-main event matchup and with good reason.
Gegard Mousasi has rarely been out struck during his career and it probably won't happen in his fight against Costas Philippou either. Make no mistake, Philippou is a dangerous boxer with power in both hands who has real one-shot knockout power. That said, he doesn’t have as many weapons in the arsenal as his opponent and Mousasi typically does very well against those fighters who stand and trade with him who aren't quite as fast.
Philippou does a lot of damage with his punches, but he lands only 2.43 per minute, which should give Mousasi plenty of time to counter. Mousasi will also have a slight reach advantage and defensively, he's far and away the better fighter (blocks over 70-percent of his opponent's offense while Philippou is only at 57-percent).
Mousasi will bide his time until he finds the perfect opening and then he will unleash with something that will hurt Philippou and then watch for the submissions. Mousasi has a vastly underrated ground game and if he can lock Philippou up on the mat, he could be walking away with a nice bonus when the night is over.
Prediction: Gegard Mousasi by submission, Round 3
Levan Makashvili vs. Mark Eddiva
Levan Makashvili will finally make his UFC debut this weekend after a stutter step in his last fight where his opponent, Nik Lentz, came down sick before the weigh-ins and was unable to compete. This time around, Makashvili will face a much different opponent, albeit one he'll have a greater shot to defeat than a grinder and top 10 fighter like Lentz.
Makashvili is a strong wrestler with solid skills everywhere the fight lands. Makashvili can get a little lazy on the feet, which allows for his opponents to tag him a few times before he rushes forward with punches or a takedown. Eddiva is primarily a striker, so he'll try to take advantage of that, but if Makashvili has prepared for this fight at all, he has to know that's exactly what his opponent will do.
On the other side, Makashvili has a huge advantage with his power and ground game. If he puts Eddiva down on the mat, it's going to be awfully hard for the Filipino fighter to get up again. Makashvili is a solid name to watch in the next couple of years as he gets his feet wet in the UFC featherweight division and this should be a real showcase for him in his UFC debut.
Prediction: Levan Makashvili by TKO, Round 3
Yui Chul Nam (-185 favorite over Phillipe Nover)
As nice as it will be to have former Ultimate Fighter finalist Phillipe Nover back in the UFC, it's hard to predict what he'll be able to do in his return.
Nover missed over a year of action between 2013 and 2015 and while he picked up a win in his most recent fight it's not going to be easy coming back to the UFC and facing a tough competitor like Yui Chul Nam, who picked up a Fight of the Night bonus in his first bout inside the Octagon.
Nam - nicknamed “The Korean Bulldozer” - is touted as one of the top prospects coming out of Korea and it's no mistake. He's a knockout puncher who puts a ton of pressure on his opponents. He landed over five significant strikes per minute with more than 50-percent accuracy in his debut fight and it's not likely he'll slow down in this one.
Actually, Nam might pick up the pace as he looks for a knockout over Nover, who is stepping into mighty deep waters after not fighting in the UFC for more than five years.
Prediction: Yui Chul Nam by knockout, Round 2
Hyun Gyu Lim (+100 underdog vs. Neil Magny)
Neil Magny will ride a six-fight win streak into the event this weekend, but he's about to run into a brick wall named Hyun Gyu Lim who might just add another loss to his record.
Lim is a massive fighter for 170 pounds, as he stands 6-foot-2, looking more like a middleweight than a welterweight. Lim packs a serious punch and he has some of the deadliest knees in the entire division. He knocked out two opponents in a row using knee strikes combined with punches, and outside of his loss to former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine, in a fight he took on short notice, Lim has looked virtually unstoppable.
Now Magny will have a lot of confidence going into this fight after his recent string of wins. Magny has not only been victorious lately, but he's been getting stronger with each win. Magny's striking has been on point and his ground game is top-notch. He'll even stand an inch taller than Lim, although chances are that when looking at their respective body masses it will be clear who the bigger fighter is.
Lim's ability to dole out punishment over the course of three rounds will be a major factor in this one. He didn't slow down too much in his fight with Saffiedine, despite the fact that he probably wasn't truly prepared for a five-round bout at the time. Lim came very close to finishing that fight late so he's still dangerous even if he's slightly winded, but with this being a three-rounder, look for the Korean to put it on Magny early and often until he either gets the finish or simply overwhelms the American.
Don't forget one added bonus - Lim is fighting close to home so he's not going through the rigors of travel or huge time changes before stepping into the Octagon this weekend. It should all add up to a Lim victory on Saturday.
Prediction: Hyun Gyu Lim by TKO, Round 2