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By the time this Saturday’s UFC on FOX 9 card is over, it may go down as not only one of the strongest cards of the year, but also one of the most loaded from top to bottom.
The main card is tipping over with top ten talent, headlined by the title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, but the preliminary card is jam packed with more than a few notable names, Ultimate Fighter winners, and a few newcomers to keep an eye on as well.
Court McGee will lead the preliminary card in his bout against undefeated welterweight Ryan LaFlare, while one of the nastiest knockout artists in the UFC, Edson Barboza, tries to spoil Danny Castillo's Sacramento homecoming.
Today's fantasy preview will look specifically at the preliminary card - who has the biggest advantages and what picks are worth the most points by the end of the night.
COURT MCGEE VS. RYAN LAFLARE
Ultimate Fighter season 11 winner Court McGee has found new life since dropping to welterweight and he's picked up two wins in a row since moving to the weight class. He'll have his hands full this time around with undefeated prospect Ryan LaFlare, but McGee is still the favorite to pick up the win in this one for a few reasons.
First up, LaFlare is a strong wrestler who has averaged over five takedowns per fight in his two bouts thus far in the UFC, but McGee's own grappling background coupled with an 83percent takedown defense negates a big part of that offensive attack right away. On the feet, McGee is a machine - he lands nearly six strikes per minute, which is almost double that of his opponent, and his conditioning is always a factor. McGee's accuracy isn't great, just a shade under 37 percent, but it's activity that can give fighters nightmares.
McGee is constantly moving and never slows down from minute one until the final horn sounds. Also factor in that both McGee and LaFlare have gone to decision in each of their last two bouts, and chances are that this is going to be a battle for all 15 minutes. When the dust settles, however, expect McGee's striking attack to best LaFlare and allow him to take home the decision.
DANNY CASTILLO VS. EDSON BARBOZA
Lightweights Danny Castillo and Edson Barboza will face off in a classic 'striker vs. grappler' matchup at UFC on FOX 9 and this fight really does come down to where it takes place. While mixed martial artists are all proficient in the multitude of areas needed to get to the UFC, Castillo's biggest strength coming into this fight is his wrestling, while Barboza counters with some of the quickest and deadliest striking in the UFC.
So who imposes their will?
The safe money in this fight falls in the corner of Barboza. With his crushing leg kicks and devastating Muay Thai attack, he's got all the talent to make it far in the lightweight division and this is his chance to show it. Barboza lands at over four strikes per minute, and he's got the kind of creative striking that statistics just can't capture on paper. His wheel kick knockout of Terry Etim was a thing of violent beauty, and he's also managed to finish two separate fighters in the UFC with leg kicks. Also factor in that Barboza spends his training camps in New Jersey working with top level grapplers and wrestlers like Frankie Edgar, and he's ready for the takedown. It's shown in his fights so far because he's got 80 percent takedown defense in his UFC bouts.
Barboza is like a cobra - he strikes fast and hard, and when he does the fight is generally over pretty fast. If he can uncoil a perfectly timed kick or knee early, Barboza could wrap up a finish and a Knockout of the Night bonus as well.
SCOTT JORGENSEN VS. ZACH MAKOVSKY
Following a long, successful career at bantamweight, Scott Jorgensen will make his flyweight debut at UFC on FOX 9 as he looks for a fresh start in a new weight class when he takes on veteran competitor Zack Makovsky, who takes the bout in just over one week's notice.
For the biggest part of his time spent competing at 135 pounds, Jorgensen was almost always a top ten fighter and at one time did get a shot at the bantamweight title. A wrestler by trade, Jorgensen has worked tirelessly in the last few years on his striking to become a well-rounded fighter. Makovsky can be equally well-rounded, but his bread and butter is a wrestling attack, and when you combine that with this being his UFC debut on short notice, it could be a tough night for the newcomer.
Jorgensen is a tough matchup for the most seasoned veterans with his combination of wrestling, ground and pound and boxing. As long as the weight cut goes well for Jorgensen, he should be able to stifle Makovsky's wrestling attack and keep the fight on the feet, where he is the superior fighter. Add in Jorgensen's grit and determination and he's got all the tools to win this fight by unanimous decision. Makovsky is a prospect to watch in the future, but he's just taking on a very tough challenge for day one in the UFC.
ABEL TRUJILLO VS. ROGER BOWLING
Bad blood can oftentimes lead to an emotional response in a fight that ends up backfiring in a big way. That's not likely the case, however, as Abel Trujillo and Roger Bowling get in the Octagon together again after a controversial ending marred their last fight earlier this year. The fight was stopped after Trujillo uncorked two knee strikes that were deemed illegal and Bowling was unable to continue.
Now the two fighters are matched up again and this one could get wild.
There is little doubt both fighters will come into this one pretty fired up, but the advantage on the rage scale probably falls more on the side of Trujillo. He's a vicious striker when he's not filled with angst, and standing across the cage from Bowling for a second time will only make him see red. Trujillo's stats don't pop off the page, but what does stand out is his ability to end the fight with one punch, one knee or one kick. Trujillo is short tempered and explosive with his striking and while it's actually easy to say the same about Bowling's style of fighting, only one can walk away the winner in this one.
Bowling still stands as one of the most naturally gifted athletes in the UFC, but he tends to allow himself to get into brawls too often and it costs him. If he brawls with Trujillo again in their rematch, he might be staring at a loss this time, which would mark his second inside the Octagon in three fights. Trujillo's got the kind of stopping power to give Bowling nightmares and a brawl is exactly what he's banking on to get the win.