After an incredible year of fights, on December 21st, the UFC will set up the octagon for the final time in 2019 for a fight night event that will take place at the Sajik Arena in Busan, South Korea. This event will mark the promotion’s first time in Busan, however, it’ll be the second time in South Korea, after UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Masvidal in November 2015.
The UFC has been spreading into the Asian market with phenomenal talent stacked cards so far this year and this one is no different. From the early prelims right up to the main event I can guarantee this card will deliver massively.
Here we will take a look at the action-packed preliminary card which includes incredible prospects who will continue their missions to rise to the top, promotional newcomers looking to impress and make a name for themselves and compelling stylistic match ups from top to bottom.
HEILI ALATENG VS RYAN BENOIT:
Opening up the early prelims and this thrilling event as a whole is a guaranteed technical firefight in the bantamweight division between the ever-exciting Ryan Benoit, who is returning from a two-year lay-off since his sensational head kick knockout over Ashkan Mokhtarian, and Heili Alateng who made his UFC debut back in China on August 31st earlier this year where he picked up a unanimous decision victory. Both men will be looking to add the their respective last wins while putting on a show and impressing the MMA world in the first bout of the event.
Despite Ryan Benoit coming in as the #13 ranked flyweight in the UFC, he will be moving up to bantamweight for this fight to take on a natural bantamweight in Heili Alateng. In my opinion Benoit will probably stay there for the rest of his career no matter what the result is on December 21st. He has had weight cutting issues in the past, struggling to make the flyweight 125lb limit, and even missing weight by 4lbs back in his last fight, which took place in November 2017.
Training out of the UFC performance institute in Shanghai, Heili Alateng shown phenomenal heart, durability and conditioning in his UFC debut aswell as a solid well rounded fundamental skill set.
In my opinion, the key to winning this fight is the same for both men, they have to dictate the pace of the fight and not let their opponent get a rhythm going. Ryan Benoit will do this with his wild striking arsenal by coming forward and looking for the finish. Heili Alateng will be looking to land counter-strikes of his own from the back foot and then use his wrestling and grappling skills when Benoit gets reckless to slow the fight down and get Benoit tired. It’s guaranteed to be a dog fight, both men can give and take a tremendous shot. However, I feel in the end the size, strength and conditioning mixed with the grappling skill advantage of Heili Alateng will be too much for Benoit.
MIRANDA GRANGER VS AMANDA LEMOS:
As the second fight of the night in Busan, we have a women’s strawweight bout involving the 27-year-old undefeated American prospect Miranda “Danger” Granger, who steps in on short notice replacing Veronica Macedo, to face the Brazilian Amanda Lemos who is returning after serving a two-year suspension from USADA due to testing positive for stanozolol.
Miranda Granger comes into this bout with a perfect 7-0 pro MMA record and is 1-0 in the UFC. She made her UFC debut back in August and picked up the impressive victory by unanimous decision against Hannah Goldy who was undefeated prior to that fight. Granger took that fight on short notice as well, and had only 2 weeks to prepare which shows what a talent this fighter is. That fight took place in the flyweight division, but for this upcoming contest, Granger will be moving down to strawweight to take on former bantamweight Amanda Lemos.
Amanda Lemos lost her undefeated status in her UFC debut when she lost to Leslie Smith via TKO. That took place in July 2017 and was her last fight to date. Lemos is one of four fighters to test positive for stanozolol since USADA began leading the UFC’s anti-doping program in 2015. Carlos Felipe, Viscardi Andrade and Guido Cannetti were the others. All of them hail from South America. The positive test will definitely leave a stain on her career, however, she has served her punishment and now deserves the chance to try and make a statement by winning and continue on her journey in the UFC.
In my opinion, this fight heavily favours Miranda Granger. Despite her previous competition being at flyweight, she is much more of a natural strawweight than Lemos, who not only might struggle with the weight cut because of the extra 20 pounds she has to get rid of since her last time out but because she has been so inactive over the last 2 years which most definitely adds to weight cut issues. Furthermore, since Lemos has last fought, Granger has fought 7 times which in fact means that her whole professional career has come in the time Lemos has been away.
Amanda is fighting an uphill battle, to say the least, when it comes to the timing of the fight and stylistically I feel it’s the same uphill battle. Granger is the much younger, stronger, and better-conditioned athlete as well as having very slick and solid striking skills to go with these physical attributes. The way for Granger to take away the victory is to push forward with a high output and overwhelm Lemos with her wide striking arsenal which I suspect she will be able to do. In my opinion what Lemos needs to do is close the distance, work towards the back and make it an ugly fight where Granger can’t put her hands or kicks together on her.
RAONI BARCELOS VS SAID NURMAGOMEDOV:
In this high-level bantamweight bout, we have two great prospects squaring off and not to say that the loser will not be able to thrive in the long run as well but the winner of this fight will surely be the next rising star in the division and have every fighter in the rankings on notice.
Raoni Barcelos is coming into this fight as the clear favourite. He holds a pro record of 14-1 (3-0 in the UFC) and has shown a great skill set so far in his UFC tenure. His last fight took place at UFC 237 in his native country of Brazil where he got a 2nd round TKO finish. Throughout his three fight win streak in the UFC he has shown great striking, good wrestling and a heavy top game.
As for Said Nurmagomedov, who is a family friend of UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, he holds a record of 13-1 (2-0 in the UFC) and I was very impressed by his last performance against highly respected prospect Ricardo Ramos when he got a first-round TKO over him. Said has shown elusive and fast striking with good footwork and crisp technique as well as a solid wrestling and grappling game.
The reason why most fans seem to be leaning towards Barcelos is likely due to be because of the fact he started his career as a featherweight and was not particularly undersized in there, as opposed to Nurmagomedov, who started as a flyweight. However, I disagree with the argument that this will play a big part in the fight, as in his most recent performance, Nurmagomedov took out a fighter in Ramos that has also put in some serious work and thrives at featherweight. Nurmagomedov was also the underdog going into that bout.
For Nurmagomedov to get the win in my opinion he has to control the distance and utilize his top-level kicking game, this matches up well with Barcelos’ objective in the fight which will be to get into boxing range, close the distance and look for takedowns. It’s a classic matchup of a long outside fighter facing a pressure fighter. As for the grappling not only do I think Nurmagomedov can hang with Barcelos but I think he can potentially do great work especially from the top positions. It’s a fascinating match-up that all fight fans should be watching closely.
ALEXANDRE PANTOJA VS MATT SCHNELL:
In arguably the most high stakes fight on the prelims, #4 ranked flyweight contender Alexandre Pantoja looks to bounce back from a defeat to Deiveson Figueiredo when he takes on #9 ranked contender Matt Schnell, who’s riding a 4 fight win streak in the UFC, with one of them wins coming at bantamweight.
Pantoja is a major talent in the flyweight and finds himself in a very important fight for his career on December 21st. He has showcased a well rounded skillset, going 21-4 as a pro (5-2 in the UFC). He came into the UFC through the combat/reality show The Ultimate Fighter where he picked up exhibition fight wins over surging flyweight contenders Kai Kara France and Brandon Moreno.
Matt Schnell has also shown a tremendous arsenal and is always a fun fighter to watch. He too came through from The Ultimate Fighter and was on the same season as Pantoja. He is 3-1 as a flyweight in the UFC and picked up a lot of momentum from his last win which came in August against Jordan Espinosa by 1st round triangle choke.
These two match up fantastically and both have very diverse skill sets. I feel when it comes to pure ability, Alexandre Pantoja is of a higher level in every aspect of the fight game which I believe is what makes him the big betting favourite in this fight. The clearest route to victory for Pantoja would be to put pressure on Schnell and set a high pace using his clean striking abilities to pick him apart. From there he can keep a high output and wear him out to the point where Schnell may shoot in desperation and give up his neck. For Schnell to win he needs to make this fight as ugly and dirty as he can, get right in Pantoja’s face and make it a contest of who can take more and still come forward rather than who is the more technical fighter.
OMAR MORALES VS DONG HYUN MA:
In this lightweight scrap, undefeated prospect Omar Morales makes his official UFC debut coming off a fantastic win on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August. His opponent, Dong Hyun Ma, is absolutely no walk in the park and brings a lot of experience to the table in this fight. However, I feel the match making here favours Morales especially considering form and momentum, as Dong Hyun Ma is coming off two stoppage losses.
In his contender series fight, Omar Morales showed good striking skills with nasty low kicks, good footwork and good boxing. He has a submission win on his 8-0 record, however that was on the regional level 3 years ago and we have yet to see what he can offer on the mat. He also shown good takedown defence and strength in his contender series bout.
As for Dong Hyun Ma, he is an experienced fighter with a record of 16-9-3. His skill set is not diverse and I believe the UFC here are using him as a stepping stone to test the waters for Morales and see if he can hang at the top level similarly to earlier this year at UFC 234 when they put Dong Hyun Ma up against Devonte Smith. Like Morales, based off of what we had seen, we knew that it looked as if Smith was the more able fighter and it was clear the UFC were seeing how he handles a fighter who offers a very basic skill set but with experience. In that case Smith passed with flying colours, finishing Hyun Ma in round 1.
For Morales to get the job done like the majority are predicting him to, he must put pressure on Dong Hyun Ma, pepper him with his vicious calf kicks and keep him on the back foot until he makes a mistake like shoot in recklessly or throw wildly and leave himself exposed. From there, Morales will be able to capitalise. For Dong Hyun Ma to win he must not let Morales get into the rhythm because if he backs up and lets Omar work on him the experience difference can not be utilised. Ma needs to do exactly what the UFC match makers want him to do and test the patience, mentality and conditioning of Morales. Maybe it will turn out that Morales can handle everything that Ma throws at him and will be able to dominate or maybe he will crumble under the bright lights.
SUMAN MOKHTARIAN VS SEUNG WOO CHOI:
In the second to last bout of the preliminary card, UFC rookies Seung Woo Choi and Suman Mokhtarian are set to square off for an exciting match up. Due to the fact both of these men are coming off losses with no wins in the UFC, they may fear that their place in the promotion is at stake in this fight, that precedent can make or break a fighter and it will be interesting to see the performance they both put on given the circumstances.
Suman Mokhtarian comes into this fight with a record of 8-1, technically 8-2 as he made an appearance on The Ultimate Fighter and lost an exhibition bout by unanimous decision. He made his official UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 142 just over a year ago, where he lost via TKO in the first round.
Seung Woo Choi made his first UFC appearance back in April of this year, he came in with a 7-1 record but was defeated by unanimous decision dominantly by Russian prospect Movsar Evloev. He was then given a fight three months later at UFC 240, where he was submitted by Gavin Tucker.
Although Mokhtarian does have some striking skills, I believe that he will want to get this one to the mat as quickly as possible, not only because he is a solid grappler in his own right with two submission wins on his record (one of them being an extraordinary twister) but also because Choi has lost both his UFC fights by being out grappled fairly comfortably. For Choi he has obviously gone back to the drawing board after his last fight and worked on his takedown defence and ground game a lot, his striking is very fluent and he’s very sharp especially when he moves forward. I believe Choi is clearly the better striker and Mokhtarian is clearly the better grappler based on their past fights and this contest will be a question of who can apply their skill set and nullify the others.
CIRYL GANE VS TANNER BOSER:
In the featured bout of the prelims we have a potential thriller in store for us as two heavyweight giants are set to clash. Although I would have liked to have seen this on a main card, I still feel like putting this as the featured bout of the prelims will bring a spotlight to the winner of this contest that neither man has had yet in their short careers.
Ciryl Gane has made waves this year within the hardcore MMA community, not only because of the physical specimen that he is but because of the unique, diverse and high level skill set he brings to the octagon. He is 29 years old but only 5-0 in his MMA career (2-0 in the UFC) and so far he’s looked amazing. His background is kickboxing which you can clearly see in the way he strikes, he’s ridiculously fast and fluent for his size and very educated on the feet however so far he’s decided to show off his grappling skills aswell by finishing both his UFC fights by submission (arm triangle and heel hook). People immediately compared him to his former training partner and friend Francis Ngannou presumably because of his freakish athleticism. I believe they are much much different fighters. Ngannou’s game is based directly on his power and strength and he does a tremendous job of using it, however, Ciryl Gane has shown that he can technically outclass opponents on the mat and on the feet, all while having the power to put them out cold with one shot. Of course, Gane has not faced near the level of competition Ngannou has but he is working his way up.
Coming in as over a 5/1 underdog, Tanner Boser is going to South Korea with the intentions of causing a massive upset and making a statement within the MMA world. He is 17-5-1 overall in his pro MMA career but only 1-0 in the UFC with a unanimous decision win over Daniel Spitz back in October of this year. He has shown throughout his fights he is a durable and skilled striker who like Gane moves well for his size. In terms of grappling he has shown at a lower level he is defensively sound but that will likely be put to the test by Ciryl Gane.
The betting odds reflect the stylistic match up with Cirly Gane coming in as a huge favourite. A tough experienced fighter is exactly what Gane needs to do two things, one being to prove he can consistently keep going at a high pace for 3 rounds and two being so that he can put on a showcase to the world. I get the feeling everyone in the MMA community wants Ciryl Gane to be a star and so do the UFC matchmakers, therefore, they are putting him in there with a solid opponent to give him the experience he needs but not pushing him right into the deep end this quickly. I feel like Boser will be wanting to pressure and test the chin of Gane immediately while Gane will be looking to simply just counter him and use both his high level well-rounded skill set and his physical advantage to bully Tanner Boser and make a statement to the world.
Follow me on Twitter at @jw6544 and follow us @OTHeroics1 for more great content.
Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!
Head over to our shop if you are interested in purchasing some Overtime Heroics gear!
Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan Busan