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The undercard, which will air between FOX Sports 2, as well as Facebook and YouTube, also features some very compelling matchups, including the return of heavy-hitting Ultimate Fighter veteran Dylan Andrews, as well as local fighter Darren Elkins, who looks to make his home state proud when he faces Hatsu Hioki.
Today’s UFC fantasy preview will focus on the prelims, where a number of fighters are looking to get back on track after a loss, as well as a couple of prospects that could be featured on a main card very soon.
1) Dylan Andrews hits really, really hard. If there's one thing we all learned about this New Zealander during his season of the Ultimate Fighter, it's that when he throws punches he's never looking to score points - he's looking to score knockouts. Andrews is a vicious striker with knockout power in both hands, and he's not afraid of the ground game either. In this fight he'll take on Swedish judo fighter Papy Abedi, who is still trying to find his footing in the UFC. Abedi didn't start out with easy fights, taking on Thiago Alves and James Head in back-to-back battles before getting his first UFC win over Besam Yousef in April. Abedi has the judo background to use throws and takedowns to keep Andrews off balance, but his 55 percent accuracy getting the fight to the mat might not be enough this time around. Andrews will be coming out hard and fast, looking to take Abedi's head off. This could be a candidate for Knockout of the Night if Andrews has his wish.
2) One highly touted prospect to keep an eye on during the prelims is Colorado-based fighter Brandon Thatch. Working out of the same gym that produced names like Shane Carwin and Nate Marquardt, Thatch is a talented young welterweight with a well-rounded skill set. Thatch has been itching to get to the UFC, and now that he's here, look for him to be impressive early. He's got a tough test on his hands in Ohio native Justin Edwards, but he struggles at times putting together consistent performances, so Thatch should be able to take advantage. Thatch has the ability to win by knockout or submission, but Edwards isn't a fighter that will go away easily. This is one pick to go with based on the additional 40 points you'll get since it's Thatch's debut, and he should get by with a decision victory here.
3) Two wrestlers will look to bounce back from recent losses when James Head takes on Jason High in an interesting bout on the undercard. Since dropping to welterweight from middleweight, Head was looking like a good prospect on the rise until he got knocked out by Mike Pyle in his last fight, but that in no way is a bad loss. The same can be said for High, who ran into a buzzsaw named Erick Silva in his last bout. High is a solid wrestler who has some big wins on his record, including a victory over Jordan Mein, but he has struggled against other high level grapplers. James Head is exactly that, plus he's a huge fighter in the welterweight division. Head hasn't missed a takedown yet that he's attempted in the UFC, and with a five-inch reach advantage on High, he should be able to slip in and secure the takedown when he wants it. Tough to believe either fighter will get the finish here, so Head will be the pick by decision, grinding out High over 15 minutes.
4) Another early candidate for either Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night will happen when Abel Trujillo takes on Roger Bowling in the opening bout on the card. Both fighters love to swing for the knockout, so don't expect this one to make it very far, maybe not even out of the first round. Trujillo takes the edge, however, because he's a bit more controlled in his attacks, landing nearly 65 percent of his strikes to Bowling's 50 percent. Bowling has all the natural, athletic gifts a fighter could want, but he's so raw in his attacks that it costs him many times in the fight. His tendency to swing for the fences with punches leaves Bowling open to a more technical attack. This could be another occasion where Bowling starts strong, but Trujillo ends his night in a bad way.