This is our preview for the UFC 248 prelims, taking place on March 7th, 2020 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is an absolutely stacked prelim card, featuring the return of Sean O’Malley.
Sean O’Malley VS Jose Quiñónez
Sean O’Malley (10-0 and 2-0 in the UFC) has been inactive for two years, but not by choice. After getting into the UFC in 2017, O’Malley quickly gained a following with his unique look and an even more unique striking style. O’Malley impressed many, with back to back wins over Terrion Ware and Andre Soukhamthath.
Unfortunately for O’Malley, he ran into a string of USADA violations due to contaminated supplements. However, he has not let this stifle him, as he has used this extended time off to recover and improve his training. The ceiling is incredibly high for Sean O’Malley and the hype may be very real. O’Malley shows promise with his flashy striking and ever-improving grappling game, as well as his incredible work ethic. The MMA Lab product has a huge test in front of him, both in the form of a challenging opponent and the struggles of a long layoff. It’s going to be fun to see how he rebounds from this speed bump in his young career.
Jose Alberto Quiñónez is 4-1 in his last five fights. He’s coming off a unanimous decision win over Carlos Huachin back in December. The Ultimate Fighter Latin America runner-up was set to face O’Malley almost two years ago. However, that fight never came to fruition, due to a USDA violation on behalf of Sean O’Malley.
Quiñónez has improved greatly since his days on TUF and matches up with O’Malley better than a lot would like to admit. With his quick hands and flawless counters, he may just be a hair behind O’Malley in the striking department. When it comes to grappling, Quiñónez seems to match his opponent on the ground with aggressive takedowns and an amazing ability to transition to the back. Quiñónez blends these two styles together, which makes him very dangerous. If he can’t land his huge overhand, he will be hunting for the neck on the ground. This is a huge opportunity for Quiñónez if he can secure the win here; he could crack into the top fifteen with a win over a big name like O’Malley.
There is a reason that this fight is headlining the prelims. These two guys are rising stars with incredibly marketable styles. With O’Malley’s flashy striking and Quiñónez’s counter striking, this match is a recipe for a fun scrap with lots of back and forth action. If the action ends up on the ground, expect frantic scrambles and beautiful transitions. This is O’Malley’s fight to lose. He still has a lot of hype on his name going into this fight, and Quiñónez has all the potential to play spoiler and derail his momentum.
Mark Madsen VS Austin Hubbard
Mark Madsen is 1-0 in his UFC career, and let this be said if you didn’t already know, Madsen is an animal. The Olympic Silver Medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling last fought Danilo Belluardo in his debut, where he ran through his opposition in little over a minute. He utilizes amazing takedowns from the clinch and incredibly heavy hands, all that on top of his relentless ground and pound. Madsen has the potential to be a future star, with his aggressive style and willingness to hunt for the finish. Only three of his nine fights have seen the judges’ scorecards, and all his finishes have occurred in the first round. Madsen is facing another kickboxer in Austin Hubbard. We should see him employ his world-class wrestling ability to take this fight to the ground and look to finish early!
Austin Hubbard is 1-1 in the UFC and 11-3 overall. Hubbard is seven years younger than his opponent, but don’t let that fool you, he actually has more experience in MMA. Hubbard is a tough ‘in your face’ kickboxer, who is willing to take one to give one. It will be interesting to see how he will handle the wrestling of Madsen. In Hubbard’s last fight against Kyle Prepolec, he had a hard time implementing his striking offense in the first round, but in the second and third, he switched to a wrestling-centric gameplan and won the fight by decision. This is a hard fight for Hubbard, where he is the moderate underdog at +170. If he can find a way to keep it on the feet, we will see sparks fly!
It’s always fun when an Olympic athlete makes their way into the UFC, especially a guy like Mark Madsen who is not going to just use his wrestling to grind out a decision. The narrative in this fight for Hubbard is to play spoiler and stop a hype train before it starts. That’s no easy task, but anything is possible in this wild sport of MMA. When these two guys meet, it could be an all-out firefight, as Madsen does not have the most refined striking. If it goes to the ground, Hubbard has a good ground game, but nowhere near as good as Madsen’s. Expect this to be a fun fight no matter where this ends up!
Rodolfo Vieira VS Saparbek Safarov
Rodolfo Vieira is the heaviest favorite on the card at -850 and for good reason. Vieira is a four-time World Jiu-Jitsu champion who is 1-0 in the UFC and 6-0 overall. He made the transition to MMA in 2016 after he retired from competitive Jiu-Jitsu and has been on a tear ever since. In his debut in the UFC against Oskar Piechota, he only took two rounds to submit his opponent with an arm-triangle choke. In the lead up to the choke, he looked great using powerful strikes to set up his takedowns. Then on the ground, using brutal ground and pound to set up his transitions and submissions. It appears that Vieira takes his training seriously and doesn’t just rely on his world-class Jiu-Jitsu to get the job done. His pressure-heavy style is a ton of fun to watch and is a nice addition to the middleweight division.
Saparbek Safarov is 1-2 in the UFC and 9-2 overall, Safarov had a rough go in his first two fights in the UFC; suffering losses at the hands of Gian Villante and Tyson Pedro. In his last fight, he was able to right the ship and defeat Nicolae Negumereanu by unanimous decision. Safarov has not fought in a year since, and after his layoff, he has decided to make the cut from 205 to 185. Safarov wasn’t the biggest light heavyweight, so the change makes sense. The sambo practitioner is well versed in getting takedowns and grinding his opponent down with ground and pound but is known to be drawn into slugfests. One thing Safarov brings to the table every time he fights is his willingness to throw down!
This is a classic match of jiu-jitsu versus sambo. These two fighters are both very accomplished when it comes to grappling. Vieira is very aggressive on the ground, using powerful strikes to transition from position to position and to set up submissions. In contrast, Safarov can become complacent on the ground, happy to stay in guard and grind away with less effective strikes. On the feet, both men have heavy hands, but Vieira throws precise accurate strikes while Safarov throws looping hooks with little set-up. This fight is a battle of similar but contrasting styles, which may result in an all-out brawl, or a quick finish.
Gerald Meerschaert VS Deron Winn
Gerald Meerschaert is 2-3 in his last five fights and is coming off a close split-decision loss to Eryk Anders. Meerschaert is a veteran in the cage with forty-one fights under his belt, nine of them being in the UFC. The title of gatekeeper is handed out frequently in MMA, this title may apply to Meerschaert. He’s fun to watch, but may never break into the upper echelon of the UFC. Even if that is the case, he is a crafty veteran that provides a unique challenge to up and coming prospects. Meerschaert brings a fan-friendly style to the Octagon; always willing to strike and very creative on the ground. Meerschaert is an experienced grappler, with 22 submissions on the ground. In forty-one fights, Meerschaert has only gone to decision five times. That means his finish rate is incredibly high, along with his entertainment value!
Deron Winn is 1-1 in the UFC and 6-1 overall. The Daniel Cormier protege showed a lot of promise when he debuted against Eric Spicely. Surprisingly, he used a boxing heavy approach to fluster the fifteen-fight veteran and get a unanimous decision win. However, in his second UFC fight against Darren Stewart, Winn stumbled a bit by missing weight and then gassing out after the first round, losing by split decision. All eyes are on Deron Winn in this fight, as he has to prove that his last loss was just a small misstep in his very young career, one that he seems very hard-pressed to correct.
This match has the potential for fight of the night, on a card with a lot of great fights on it. Gerald Meerschaert brings his crafty abilities as a battle-tested veteran, while Deron Winn brings the raw talent and explosive wrestling of a prospect. Winn has shown in his debut that he is not scared to strike, and with his wrestling background, he’s hard to take down. Meerschaert, on the other hand, has played spoiler before by taking out young prospects. The threat of Meerscharet’s submissions provides a unique challenge for Winn if he comes with a wrestling heavy offense. Can Winn secure the victory or will Meerschaert come out on top?
This is an utterly stacked prelim card, leading into a stacked main card. Full of fan-friendly scraps, we should even see some finishes. This is the cream of the crop of prelims, full of veterans, and soon to be stars. All of this is capped off with the long-awaited return of Sean O’Malley!
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