Ultimate Fight Night 15 really is an ugly duckling of an event; the bulk of the card is fighters that have stumbled in their initial steps into the Octagon fighting against unheralded prospects that may make a big splash or may never be heard from again after sacrificing themselves to rehabilitate their opponent’s careers.
While few of the matches are of immediate divisional importance, the presence of so many newcomers on the card mean that the night could be found to be massively important a year from now, as someone that breaks out here makes their mark on the division.
Strangely from a betting perspective, almost no lines have been released for the card yet, which is unusual. I will update this post with analysis of the lines when they are released. I expect that some fighters may be undervalued (Houston Alexander) due to recent losses to top competition, and some may be undervalued because they have no name value, despite presenting dangerous style matchups for their opponents.
Nate Diaz (-205) vs. Josh Neer (+165)
Josh Neer came to the UFC at 170 pounds on a massive win streak, and promptly lost several times, most recently back-to-back losses to Journeyman Josh Burkman and marijuana aficionado Nick Diaz. However, Neer took the opportunity to re-work himself, recover his impressive form (aside from the blip of a sub-one-minute KO loss from eating a massive haymaker) and find a new home at 155, where he is one of the bigger and more physically dominant fighters. Neer also improved his standup quite a bit, looking very sharp on the feet against Din Thomas, a talented and elusive boxer himself. Neer especially showed strong leg kicks in that fight, which, if used against Diaz, might take some of the agility and strength of out his rubber band legs.
Nate Diaz is physically weak, but impossible to control, and can always threaten with submissions from any position. Diaz does tend to bleed, so Neer’s aggressive ground and pound and slicing elbows could cut him up. However, that same aggression on the ground could open him up to a sudden Diaz sub attempt. Diaz has competent striking, and unlike his brother doesn’t seem to be moving in slow motion, but, like his brother, he doesn’t have a lot of KO power. His tendency to try to dirty box or grab his opponent’s head and hockey-fight will hurt him, since Neer has excellent uppercuts on the inside in the clinch. Neer also has good sub defense (although Diaz can submit anyone) and uses GnP to punish sub attempts, which could quickly wear down Diaz
I’m expecting a tense, competitive fight, with Neer physically dominating the fight, but Diaz remaining a threat because of his technical ability. Neer will beat Nate up on the feet and on the ground, until the damage accumulates and the fight is stopped either for a cut or a TKO with Diaz a bloody mess either way. While I feel that’s the most likely outcome, it would of course be no shock for Diaz to find a submission. Josh Neer by TKO (cut)
While I like Neer at +165, I am holding off in expectation of the line moving further against him, as many will only remember his poor UFC performances, especially given that there were technical issues with the distribution of his unaired preliminary fight against Thomas meaning fewer people than normal will have seen it.
Edit: Neer is now up to +180 at my book, and I have placed a unit on him and think everyone else who believes in Neer should do the same.
Mac Danzig vs. Clay Guida
Mac is one of the most well rounded fighters you can ask for. Guida is limited, but has evolved his game around his strengths to the point where he is a tough challenge for most fighters in the division. Danzig should have an advantage standing, where Guida mostly relies on his speed, workrate, and the threat of the takedown. Danzig doesn’t have a lot of power in his hands, and Guida has a good chin, but Danzig throws heavy kicks and knees, so he could beat Guida up there.
For someone that relies entirely on his wrestling, Guida doesn’t have that dominant a takedown/control game. He usually gets his takedowns through speed and persistence. Danzig has the skills to stop his shots and outpoint him on the feet. Furthermore, Guida has been vulnerable to submissions in the past, tapping out for most of his losses, and Danzig has a strong submission game. Guida’s weakest area is when his opponents have been able to reverse a takedown attempt or sweep him, and put him on his back. Danzig has the wrestling, the strength, and the jiu-jitsu to find ways to put Guida there and rough him up, although Guida will work out of it.
In short, Danzig is well rounded enough to deal with the extreme hustle game that Guida brings to the table. Mac will outpoint him in most areas and escape from the inevitable bad positions, winning a close 3 round decision. Mac Danzig by decision.
Houston Alexander vs. Eric Schafer
This is an interesting style vs. style fight. Alexander can bang and is very strong, but due to the very short duration of all his fights (combined time across his 2-2 record in the UFC is under 6 minutes) there are a lot of questions about him, especially his ground game. While Houston is athletic and very very strong, in the few instances where he’s attempted a takedown or tried to stop one, he’s simply tried to power through his opponent. If Houston gets dragged down and ends up on his back, I have no reason to believe his jiu-jitsu has improved enough to get out from under Schafer or avoid the submission. Houston wins this fight if he can force a standup fight or land a bomb from Schafer’s guard.
Schafer has recently been Zuffa’s go-to guy when they need a struggling ‘name’ fighter to get a win (Bisping, Bonnar). He’s a solid jiu-jitsu guy with poor standup and mediocre to poor wrestling. When he wants a takedown Schafer basically just bends over at then waist and runs at his opponent’s legs, and he has a bad habit of leaning over when he’s trying to slip or duck punches, leaving himself exposed to having his ears boxed. Houston’s skill set means he could catch Schafer leaning with a knee or uppercut, which could quickly end Eric’s night. Schafer reacts badly to GnP and has gassed in his previous UFC fights. He loses if he can’t drag the fight to the ground and control Alexander once they’re on the ground, as Houston will simply try to explode back to his feet (although he won’t have the technique needed to regain guard from being mounted, etc). Schafer’s most dangerous submission is his arm triangle, but he’ll take a standing guillotine if Houston clinches with him.
This is a close fight. Either fighter could win if the other slips up and ends up exposed and in the other’s world. However, given Schafer’s inability to take punishment and Houston’s extreme ability to mete it out, I expect Houston to be able to catch him and win via TKO. Houston Alexander KO round 1.
For betting I like Schafer at +170 or better and Houston at -150 or better.
Alan Belcher vs. Ed Herman
Belcher is too crisp on the feet for Herman to be happy there, especially given how slow his punches are. Belcher has some problems on the ground, having been utterly lost in rubber guard, but I expect he’ll be able to avoid the submission game of Herman, and use distance to assist in staying on his feet.
If Belcher truly cannot fight on the ground, then Herman will take the decision easily, but if Belcher can fight intelligently, use his striking to keep his distance and force Herman to shoot from far outside, enabling Belcher to stuff the attempts, then Alan should be able to exploit the openings in Herman’s standup for the victory, although I advise staying away from betting on this fight because I feel it’s very difficult to handicap. In short, I simply don’t know the answer on this fight, but I must make an official prediction, so I predict Belcher will win. Alan Belcher by decision.
Kyle Bradley vs. Joe Lauzon
Bradley is a good size for 155, and Lauzon is pretty small. While primarily a boxer, Bradley does have a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Rich Clementi, so may not be totally lost on the ground. If Lauzon can’t muscle a takedown, he’ll be in trouble. Lauzon is another fighter that is much worse off his back than any other position on the ground, so if he gets clipped and has to hang on from his guard, he’ll be in trouble. Lauzon still has the skills to take him down, control him, and beat him, but if Bradley can weather the initial storm, he has a good chance of winning the fight—Lauzon usually relies on simply overwhelming his opponent, and struggles when they don’t fold under the pressure, so this fight will be closer than many think. Despite the uncertainty, my official pick has got to be Lauzon by TKO ground and pound early, simply because I haven’t seen enough of Bradley and he is coming from a boxing background. Lauzon TKO round 1.
Wilson Gouveia vs. Ryan Jensen
On paper, Gouveia should be able to walk away with this one with a dominant KO performance. However, I’m not sure about Wilson’s mental game, as he’s lost several fights he should have won, and he’s historically fought in ways that minimized his advantages over his opponents, notably avoiding the ground game with Goran Reljic, where Gouveia was easily controlling the fight. Stay far away from betting on this fight at anything close to reasonable odds. While it’s a strong possibility Gouveia forgets how talented he is and gives this fight away (getting caught in a stupid submission or the like) my official prediciton is that he KO’s his opponent in the second round. Gouveia KO round 2.
Drew McFedries vs. Mike Massenzio
McFedries is an absolute terror on the feet. His punching power is terrifying and he is as vicious and relaxed as a shark. However, Massenzio is a good wrestler, so McFedries will most likely have to fight off his back, where Martin Kampmann quickly submitted him. Massenzio has a basic wrestler’s compliment of submissions, but likely won’t have the ability to finish McFedries unless he gasses or gets roughed up badly by GnP. McFedries can be knocked out, but Massenzio doesn’t have the striking to do it. McFedries path to victory is a simple one: knock out Mike. Massenzio has a rockier road ahead of him; he must find a way to get past McFedries’ hands and to his legs, take him down, and rough him up or control him. While Drew isn’t a standout wrestler, it’s hard to think he hasn’t picked up any wrestling training at MFS. He might be able to fend off Massenzio long enough to put him down in the first few minutes. Failing that, Massenzio may be able to catch Drew gassing. My official prediction is Drew McFedries, but for betting purposes remember that Massenzio is a live dog because of the style matchup. Drew McFedries KO round 1.
Jason Brilz vs. Brad Morris
Two fighters I know very little about. This is a step up in competition for both men. Morris was helpless against Cain Velasquez, but Cain is a future star. Brilz has a much more impressive record, so I have to go with him. Brilz via decision.
Rob Kimmons vs. Dan Miller
Two more fighters I’m very unsure on. Miller is likely better on the feet and a slightly better wrestler, but Kimmons has such an aggressive and fluid ground game that I think he will find a way to submit him. Kimmons submission round 2.
Alessio Sakara vs. Joe Vedepo
Vedepo is an unknown, but he has real KO power and Sakara has a bad chin. Sakara has great handspeed and boxing, but he doesn’t have a lot of one-shot stopping power, and tends to get hit by more shots than he can take. Sometimes it seems like he’s using a pure boxing style looking to accumulate punches when he should be trying to land hard and do damage. While Sakara has the skills to land in exchanges and win the fight, I expect he will eat a big shot and quit, yet again. Vedepo by KO round 1.
1u on Josh Neer at +180
1u on Mac Danzig at +145
1u on Eric Shafer at +185
.3u on Kyle Bradley at +500