On January 25th, the UFC returns once again to North Carolina with UFC Fight Night 166, however this time it will take place in Raleigh, the capital of the state. This event will mark the first Fight Night event of the decade and us fight fans are in for a treat.
When this card was announced, the UFC started stacking it from the get-go. They announced that the main event would be Curtis Blaydes vs Junior Dos Santos and scheduled Frankie Edgar’s bantamweight debut to come against Cory Sandhagen as the co-main event, followed up by two great fights in Dos Anjos vs Michael Chiesa and Arnold Allen vs Josh Emmet. Sadly Edgar vs Sandhagen was scrapped due to Edgar taking a short notice fight against The Korean Zombie on December 21st, 2019 where he lost by TKO brutally and was therefore pulled from this card. As if that wasn’t a big enough blow to the card, Josh Emmet pulled out of his fight with Arnold Allen nearly two weeks out.
Luckily the UFC was able to salvage the situation for Arnold Allen and he will take on the brave veteran Nik Lentz now on the Prelims. This card might not hold the biggest names in the sport and might not grab the attention of the casual fanbase on paper but it certainly has high-level fights all through and is flying under the radar I feel.
Herbert Burns vs Nate Landwehr
We kick off the card with a fantastic bout in the featherweight division between two UFC debutants who have made a name for themselves within the hardcore MMA community across different promotions and now have the chance to shine on the big stage.
Herbert Burns is the brother of UFC veteran and BJJ ace Gilbert Burns. He has been putting in great work among other promotions such as ONE Championship and Titan FC for years. Only back in August was he given the chance to impress the UFC brass, when he fought on Dana White’s Contender Series and won by triangle choke in the first round. This earned him a contract with the UFC.
Nate Landwehr has also been putting on great fights across different promotions for years, however, mainly under the M-1 Challenge banner, where he went 5-0 and became their featherweight champion.
This is a classic BJJ fighter vs striker match-up, with Herbert, like his brother, being elite and superior on the ground but Landwehr having a big advantage in the striking. He will definitely be looking for the knockout. The big question is how Herbert Burn’s wrestling compares to Landwehr’s takedown defence. This question is going to be answered in violent fashion on Saturday 25th.
Brett Johns vs Tony Gravely
In the 2nd bout of the evening, we have an exciting bout between the ever-exciting Brett Johns, coming off a 17-month lay-off and Contender Series winner Tony Gravely. Johns has been very under-appreciated throughout his career, going 15-2 (3 -2 in the UFC) with his only losses being to top contenders Aljamain Sterling and Pedro Munhoz. Tony Gravely, on the other hand, is making his UFC debut and has a record of 19-5, with losses coming to unranked current UFC fighters under different banners, such as Manny Bermudez and Merab Dvalishvilli.
Stylistically this is a fun fight, Brett Johns had a sensational Fight of the Night against Pedro Munhoz at UFC 227 and we have to consider the toll that fight took on him and if it affects future performances. As for Tony Gravely, he has all the momentum heading into this one. It’s a case of whether the infamous ‘UFC jitters’ will take on a toll on him but I think not. I think the key to winning this fight for Johns is to put a high pace on Gravely and secure takedowns to open up submission attempts once Tony fades from trying to keep up. The key for Gravely winning is to evade a slugfest and pick his shots carefully. Most importantly, he needs to go to the body, as we saw Johns have big trouble with body shots in the Munhoz fight. This will help nullify John’s pace.
Sara McMann vs Lina Lansberg
In the third fight of the night closing out the UFC Fight Pass early prelims, Olympic Silver Medalist in wrestling and UFC veteran Sara McMann returns to the octagon for the first time since February 2018 to face Swedish Muay Thai champion and 11th ranked contender Lina Lansberg. Once again we have a grappler vs striker matchup on our hands and I find this one particularly compelling.
I do think that McMann is automatically at a disadvantage coming into this fight purely due to the fact Lansberg has fought four times (going 3-1) since McMann last did. Not to mention Sara’s last two fights being losses. Lansberg came into her last fight against Macy Chiasson as a big underdog but proved all her doubters wrong by nullifying Chiasson with clinch work and superior striking.
It’s hard to see Lina Lansberg not being able to impose herself in the same way or even to a higher extent than what she did with Chiasson on Saturday night. However, McMann, as the crafty veteran that she is, could always find a way to get Lansberg down and keep her there.
Montel Jackson vs Felipe Colares
In the fourth bout of the night, we have an exciting contest in the bantamweight division between two young talented prospects. Montel Jackson (8-1) is coming in as a huge favourite against the 9-1 Felipe Colares and personally, I am shocked that Colares is as much as a 5/1 underdog. I expected Jackson to be the slight favourite but this is a much closer matchup than the odds suggest.
After losing his UFC debut and his undefeated record at the hands of Ricky Simon, Jackson has gone on a two-fight win-streak with wins over Brian Kelleher and Andre Soukhamthath looking impressive in both fights. As for Felipe Colares, he also lost his UFC debut, but at the hands of Geraldo de Freitas. Colares bounced back in July with a win over Domingo Pilarte.
Both fighters are very well-rounded with Jackson having the athletic and wrestling edge but Colares having the BJJ and kickboxing edge. I think both men will be looking for the finish to put on a statement and Colares already has his eyes set on future opponents. Hopefully, for Felipe, he is not looking past Jackson, as he poses some very real and dangerous threats.
Justine Kish vs Lucie Pudilova
Here we have a women’s flyweight bout between two talented fighters who are familiar with the octagon and all that comes with it by now. As harsh as it may seem, I expect the loser of this fight to be cut from the roster. Kish is on a two-fight losing streak and has been very inactive, not competing for nearly two years to the day. I feel like her back is to the wall here. Pudilova is on a three-fight losing-streak albeit to solid fighters such as Liz Carmouche and Antonina Shevchenko. However, I feel the UFC will get rid of her if she does not get a win here which in all fairness wouldn’t be the end of the world. She’s 25 and has plenty of time to improve.
Kish is a very experienced fighter in kickboxing and MMA and I feel like stylistically she has the advantage. However, her two-year layoff sways the odds against her. Pudilova is a solid striker in her own right and has some nice grappling skills to go along with that. Despite her back being against the wall here, she has shown potential in her fights and has good wins against Ji Yeon Kim and Sarah Moras. Both women know the position that they are in and therefore will be hungry and motivated to win and make a statement, which means we are in for a great fight.
Arnold Allen vs Nik Lentz
In the 2nd to last bout of the prelims, 25-year-old British prospect Arnold Allen will look to make it 7-0 within the UFC as he faces off with crafty veteran Nik Lentz. The bout was originally scheduled to be Allen vs Josh Emmet on the main card. However, just less than three weeks out Emmet pulled out of the contest for an undisclosed reason. On Wednesday, January 15th it was agreed that Nik Lentz would be stepping in to take the fight.
Allen has looked fantastic so far throughout his career, going 6-0 in the UFC. He is coming off a big win at UFC 239 against a legend of the sport in Gilbert Melendez. This will mark Lentz’s return to the featherweight after losing by TKO to Charles Oliveira at lightweight back in May.
Allen said in our interview (which you can find here) that he was happy with the matchup, as it is a seasoned veteran rather than someone unrecognizable. That leads me to believe he is very motivated to put on a show. I see the fight playing out like Allen’s fight with Melendez. I feel that he is too slick and technical for Lentz and will be able to put on a show by picking him off from the outside and maybe getting the finish.
Bevon Lewis vs Dequan Townsend
In the final bout of the prelims, we have a great middleweight match up between two athletic, powerful, and long fighters. I have to question the UFC’s choice to have this as the featured fight of the prelims. It’s a fun stylistic matchup, however, both men are coming off losses and furthermore are both yet to get a win in the UFC. They both have potential but to put them as the featured bout over someone 6-0 in the UFC in Arnold Allen seems senseless to me.
Bevon Lewis has fought twice in the UFC after coming off a win on the Contender Series. His first fight was against Uriah Hall, in which he had a lot of success in and was winning, but ended up fading and getting finished in the 3rd round. He then fought UK prospect Darren Stewart, where he lost by unanimous decision in a dull fight. Dequan Towsend is returning from a six-month USADA suspension where he tested positive for cocaine. His fight in the UFC was underwhelming and he was also finished in the 3rd round.
Stylistically I expect Bevon Lewis who is a big favourite to pressure Townsend and look for a knockout blow, on paper I feel Lewis is the better striker but Townsend is still dangerous and will look to utilize kicks and maybe even try to wrestle to tire Lewis out as we have seen him slow down in fights before.
All in all, this preliminary card is home to many fun stylistic matchups across a range of divisions. This will be the chance for prospects like Montel Jackson and Arnold Allen to once again prove their worth in the UFC. Also, to the UFC’s credit, I feel that despite the order of these bouts appearing to be senseless regarding progress and movement within the divisions, if the fans are looking for consecutive finishes this is a fantastic way to line them up. I expect big things from this preliminary card and it will need to deliver to rival and out-do Bellator’s card, which is taking place on the same night.
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