The UFC will embark on a return to Singapore this weekend with a welterweight showdown in the main event pitting the always-exciting Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone against fast rising British star Leon Edwards.
Edwards has been calling for a marquee fight for some time now and he got his wish against another top 15 opponent in Cerrone.
Cerrone is fresh off an impressive TKO victory in his most recent fight against Yancy Medeiros and he'll look to build on that win as he returns to action on Saturday.
In today's fantasy preview, we'll break down these matchups and several more to see who has the edge and who might be primed for an upset at UFC Fight Night: Cowboy vs. Edwards.
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone vs. Leon Edwards
With a potential top 10 ranking on the line, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and Leon Edwards will both look to make a statement in this main event matchup at 170 pounds.
While Cerrone cut his teeth in the UFC as a lightweight, he's made plenty of waves since moving to welterweight while proving to be one of the toughest outs in the division. The book on Cerrone is well known — he's a relentless striker with devastating power and a pace that is virtually unmatched in the division. Cerrone isn't the fastest fighter in the division, but he makes up with that by putting a grueling pace on his opponents by coming forward with combinations. Cerrone lands with much higher volume and accuracy than his opponent, and those are both weapons he'll look to employ in this main event showdown.
As for Edwards, he's been a promising prospect for some time and he's looked better than ever while building a five-fight win streak. Edwards doesn't do anything flashy, but he's very sound fundamentally on both the feet and on the ground. Edwards is a good striker with solid hands and he's also shown the ability to take the fight to the ground, where he's submitted knockout artists like Albert Tumenov. It's that ability to mix things up that will be a huge key if Edwards wants to win this fight because he has to keep Cerrone guessing rather than just engaging in a standup battle for five rounds.
While Edwards certainly has the power to hurt Cerrone on the feet, he also knows that's a dangerous game to play with the former title challenger. Cerrone will undoubtedly come out looking for the knockout but he won't just go head hunting.
Instead, Cerrone is masterful at striking to the entire body, including vicious leg strikes as well as body shots that will absolutely drain the energy from any opponent, especially in a five-round fight like this one. Edwards has to avoid that punishing pace or he'll get worn out by the third round trying to keep up with Cerrone.
If Edwards is able to mix in some takedowns and keep Cerrone guessing on the feet, he has a much better chance of finding an opening to get the finish. On the flipside, Cerrone just has to do what he always does by pushing Edwards into engaging with him on the feet, and over the course of 25 minutes, he'll do a lot of damage.
While the main event is absolutely a toss-up, the edge goes to Cerrone thanks to his experience and savvy in these kinds of high profile fights, while this is a first for Edwards, who will be stepping into a very bright spotlight for the first time in his career. That spotlight makes some fighters shine but the safe bet remains with Cerrone, who has been here plenty of times before and understands what it takes to get the job done.
Prediction: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone by TKO, Round 4
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Tyson Pedro
Light heavyweights Ovince Saint Preux and Tyson Pedro will both look to make a statement in this co-main event matchup on Saturday.
Saint Preux has gone 3-1 in his past four fights, including two submissions and a knockout and a pair of Performance of the Night awards. Saint Preux has shown incredible knockout power on the feet and obviously has a well-versed submission game, including his nasty Von Flue choke. At his best, Saint Preux can push anybody in the light heavyweight division to the brink and back again, and he's been a real measuring stick to anybody trying to prove they are ready for the top five at 205 pounds.
Meanwhile, Pedro has looked outstanding in almost every performance he's had inside the Octagon, save for his lone loss to Ilir Latifi last year. Pedro has gone 3-1 in the UFC with all three of his victories coming by way of knockout or submission. Pedro is especially dangerous in the opening round, where he's finished all seven of his professional wins. That means don't blink during those first five minutes when he's exchanging shots with Saint Preux. Pedro won't hesitate to go hard during that first round, which means Saint Preux has to have his guard up or he might be making that long flight back to the United States with a loss on his record.
Pedro is solid on the feet, but he’s probably more dangerous on the ground, and he's lightning quick with his submissions, so don't blink if he takes Saint Preux to the mat.
If Saint Preux can weather that early storm, then he can begin formulating a plan to dismantle Pedro over the next two rounds. Saint Preux has shown solid conditioning in the past and that's only gotten better in recent fights. Saint Preux's ability to force the action in the second and third rounds could be a massive weapon for him against a fighter in Pedro who has only gone past the first five minutes once in his career.
That being said, Pedro will definitely keep a high offensive pace in that opening round and his ability to hurt and finish Saint Preux will be a huge factor in getting the win. Pedro looks like he might develop into a future contender in the light heavyweight division and that's probably why he's actually favored to win this fight despite being lower in the rankings than his opponent.
Saint Preux will certainly be a tough test, but his inconsistency at times might just be what leaves an opening for Pedro to earn the biggest win of his UFC career.
Prediction: Tyson Pedro by submission, Round 1
Felipe Arantes vs. Song Yadong
Felipe Arantes has always proven to be one the toughest matchups for any fighter, but following back-to-back losses, he knows he's in desperate need of a win as he returns to action this weekend against Song Yadong.
At his best, Arantes has shown the ability to be a very versatile fighter with a background in both Muay Thai kickboxing and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Arantes has certainly faced a laundry list of top fighters during his UFC career, with wins at both featherweight and bantamweight. Perhaps Arantes' best skill is his ability to stick in a fight no matter the odds because he's never been finished during his UFC career.
As for Song, he comes into the fight off four wins in a row, including a submission victory in his UFC debut. At just 20 years of age, Song is one of the youngest competitors on the UFC roster, but don't let his age fool you, as he has a wealth of experience under his belt, including seven wins by knockout or submission. Yadong will definitely show no fear in the face of adversity and he's definitely not afraid to exchange with Arantes on the feet or on the ground.
Still, Arantes has that experience edge on his younger opponent and he's the kind of fighter that just has an innate ability to stick around from the first exchange until the last. Arantes may not be the flashiest finisher in UFC history, but he makes everything tough on his opponents and Song will be no exception.
Look for Arantes to push the pace in this fight while landing a higher volume of strikes and possibly even mixing in a takedown or two to keep his foe guessing. Arantes won't hesitate to go for the finish, but his ability to drag this fight into deep waters will make him the toughest test Song has faced in his young career.
Prediction: Felipe Arantes by unanimous decision
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These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can - and usually does - happen.
Li has proven to be one of the most powerful welterweights on the UFC roster, and he’s shown big-time knockout power which has earned him four of his wins inside the Octagon. Li is a massive fighter for 170 pounds and he'll definitely look to use that size and power in this matchup as well. He is also very deceptive with his movement because he doesn't just come out throwing haymakers but rather waits for the right opening to unleash his most powerful punches.
Abe will certainly be a game opponent and he'll be one of the rare fighters in the division who won't be giving up that much size to Li. Abe hits hard and nearly matches his opponent in output on the feet. Unfortunately, Abe has also shown some poor tendencies on the feet where he's absorbing nearly four significant strikes per minute. Now defensively, Li isn't exactly a superstar, but considering the kind of heat he's throwing behind his punches, it makes that statistic a little more worrying for Abe in this fight.
Look for Li to put the pressure on early and start punishing Abe to the head and body. Abe will not hesitate to fire back but that also might leave him open for the perfect counter shot and Li only needs one of those brick-like hands of his to land for him to get the finish.
Prediction: Li Jingliang by knockout, Round 2
The story on Yan is that he's the definition of a mixed martial artist, with a background rich in both Muay Thai and wrestling that makes him a weapon no matter where this fight takes place. Yan is a tremendous boxer with good power in his hands while also showcasing quick reflexes both offensively and defensively. Yan has solid grappling as well, which he'll gladly showcase if that's what it takes to get the job done.
Now Ishihara isn't going to just roll over and play dead for the Russian prospect and he'll definitely have a decided advantage when it comes to Octagon experience. Ishihara has shown the ability to surprise an opponent who is looking past him and there's no doubt that Yan has a lot of eyeballs on him for his UFC debut.
Ishihara is an unorthodox fighter who comes at his opponents with all sorts of strange stances and tricks that could throw off just about anybody. That being said, Yan's ability to turn this into a technical war with his pinpoint accuracy and powerful wrestling should be enough to counter whatever Ishihara throws at him.
Prediction: Petr Yan by unanimous decision
Anzai is also coming off two wins of his own after suffering a loss in his UFC debut. Anzai is a strong wrestler who will pursue the takedown with relentless aggression but also shows no fear throwing his hands. Anzai actually averages more strikes landed with better accuracy than his Australian opponent while also mixing in around two takedowns per fight.
Statistically, Matthews might not have the same level of output as Anzai, but numbers don't tell the whole story when it comes to the former Ultimate Fighter prospect. Matthews is a powerful young fighter with explosive takedowns, strong submissions and a pace that is tough to match over three rounds. Matthews really knows how to turn up the pressure, especially if he gets an opponent into trouble and an opening presents itself so he can get the finish.
Matthews will enjoy a three-inch reach advantage, so don't be surprised if he showcases his hands a little bit more in this fight while staving off any takedown attempts from Anzai. Matthews won't hesitate to take advantage of an opening to drag this one to the mat either, but considering his reach and power, he might just look to pick apart Anzai on the feet for three rounds to get the win.
Prediction: Jake Matthews by unanimous decision
Jessica Eye vs. Jessica-Rose Clark
Jessica-Rose Clark will look to get her third win at 125 pounds when she meets veteran UFC contender Jessica Eye this weekend.
Clark has shown she's a tough matchup for anybody in the flyweight division in wins over Paige VanZant and Bec Rawlings. Clark isn't the most technically sound fighter on the roster, but she has the ability to drag her opponents into the muck and make a grimy fight turn to her advantage. Clark is strong in the clinch, tough on the ground and packs a serious punch on the feet. Clark seems to prefer an all-out brawl as opposed to a technical showcase, which is why she has no problem turning any fight into a slugfest because in those cases, she almost always wins.
That's where Eye has to show patience in the face of that constant pressure to turn this into a back-and-forth battle on the feet or on the ground. Eye has shown great technical boxing with incredibly fast hands in the past and she has to get back to that to stay away from Clark's brawling style. Eye has also been working at adding more and more wrestling into her arsenal in recent fights and that might also be a way to keep Clark guessing if she starts getting too comfortable on the feet.
Assuming Eye can avoid being drawn into a slugfest, she should be able to showcase her technical boxing on the feet and then look for takedowns to begin applying her grappling game. Eye just has to stay patient in the face of constant fire coming from Clark, who will absolutely pour on the offense from the moment the referee releases them from their respective corners.
If Eye can play counter fighter on the feet and then make Clark pay for her aggressiveness with those takedowns, she should be able to edge out a decision victory in what could be the Fight of the Night.
Prediction: Jessica Eye by unanimous decision