As Frankie Edgar (23-8-1) takes on Pedro Munhoz (18-4) in a high-level Bantamweight match-up to find out who will take that one step close to a title shot, we take a look at the prelims. These guys are set to open the UFC Apex with a bang. You can expect multiple finishes and many great fights as these contenders roll out the red carpet for the main card.
Timur Valiev vs Mark Striegl
Two high-Level Bantamweights will be opening up the floor at the UFC Apex this weekend. The card will start with highly ranked bantamweight Timur Valiev (16-2) taking on explosive striker Mark Striegl (18-2).
For me, this fight is between two guys that will have a very clear and obvious game plan from the start. It is seeming like it is going to be a typical striker vs grappler match-up. And they normally tend to create fireworks. Timur Valiev was scheduled to face Jamall Emmers just 22 days ago at UFC fight night Till vs Whittaker, however, the bout fell through.
Sometimes when a fighter has to plan for one fighter and then another within a short space of time this can lead to them not performing at their best. However, we feel that Emmers and Striegl have near enough the same style and that this won’t cause too much confusion down at Jackson Wink MMA.
Valiev will be bringing a 6 fight win streak to the octagon that dates back to 2016. Even in 2016 hiss loss only came via split decision. Valiev is a very experienced wrestler with an amazing ability to close the distance. He has a very high volume work rate and constantly looks to set up takedowns.
Mark Striegl is also making his UFC debut and he is someone that we feel everybody should keep an eye on. Striegl has bounced around many different organizations in his time in MMA. Most famously holding a 1-1 record in ONE FC.
The reason we feel all fans should be keeping a close eye on Mark is the fact that almost every single one of his fights ends via submission. 14 of Striegl’s 18 wins have come via submission and that is one of the craziest stats in MMA. Everything from a rear-naked choke to a scarf hold armlock, Striegl has you covered.
One thing to note in this fight is that Striegl is a natural Featherweight meaning that he may have a bigger build than Valiev due to him being naturally heavier. This could lead to Valiev struggling to impose his takedowns. And if Valiev can manage to score a takedown, he will need to be very careful of the high-level Jiu-jitsu that Striegl possesses.
Matthew Semelsberger vs Carlton Minus
Next, we move to the Welterweight division where we have two huge power punchers that love to throw down. Both guys are also very established on the regional scene and it will be good to see them tested in the big leagues.
Many people will look at the record of Matt Semelsberger (6-2) and almost count him out however this should not be the case. Semelsberger is a great technical striker that always comes to throw down. Matt is currently a +225 underdog and we feel could be a great investment. Semelsberger only began his MMA career in 2017 however has some really good striking when you take into account his experience.
Something to note about Matt is that he has fought all the way up at 205lbs. Matt will be fighting this week at 170 and it is fair to say that none of his power is lost. In his last fight back in February Matt was able to land a flying knee and then a 3 punch combo. He finished off the vicious KO with a short elbow down the middle to solidify his opportunity in the UFC.
This was once again a complete striking performance from Matt and he was even able to defend a few takedowns. It is fair to say that Matt showed his elite versatility in addition to great power, leaving fans confused by how much of an underdog he is. Do you think that Matt should be a +225 underdog? Let us know down below.
Carlton Minus (10-1) will be hoping to not only get past Matt but also make a statement in doing so. Minus has looked very impressive in his MMA career so far. He has 7 finishes in his 10 MMA wins and his only loss coming via submission on short notice. In almost every fight of Minus’s career, he has looked more and more impressive. Minus has been able to showcase his dominant wrestling in addition to his heavy hands in all areas of the regional scene.
We believe that Minus has a style to really threaten Semelsberger. It is known that Semelsberger can often have problems finding his feet in fights. He is constantly looking to re-adjust and find space in the octagon. However, there are two issues that will make this harder for Matt.
Firstly the UFC Apex is a smaller cage so he could find himself suffocated by the lack of space. Secondly, we have noticed a very regular pattern in Minus’s fights. He always looks to be very active and move in and out. He will close the distance, land a strike, and then pop out of range before striking again. Minus is a very high volume striker and we believe this could cause some serious problems.
Ike Villanueva vs Jorge Gonzalez
Next, we move to the light heavyweight division where the big boys will be ready to throw down. Ike Villanueva (16-10) will be looking to bounce back after his last loss in his fight with Jorge Gonzalez (16-4). This is sure to be a great fight and not one that the fans will want to miss.
Ike Villanueva will be making the move down to Light Heavyweight after his TKO loss to Chase Sherman (15-6) at UFC Fight night Smith vs Texiera. In this fight, Ike ate some huge shots and we feel this may have influenced the move down to 205. This seems like a really tactical move for Ike as the reason he lost that fight with Chase was due to his lack of speed. However, the only reason that the fight went on for so long was due to his incredible chin.
The fans will be hoping that the 25lbs weight cut will not affect his durability. This move may work well for Ike if he is in fact after a speed advantage however he may have chosen the wrong opponent. Jorge Gonzalez made his last appearance at Middleweight meaning that the two fighters are relatively new to 205lbs.
This puts us in a Heavyweight vs Middleweight scenario and almost takes us back to the days of PRIDE FC. Honestly, with these two 36-year-old powerhouses, it is almost impossible to call. However, one thing is for sure. No matter how this fight goes down, we’re almost certain a body will be hitting the canvas.
I would say that this fight presents a pretty clear path to victory for Gonzalez as he will have a clear speed and athleticism advantage. He will need to stick and move, constantly in and out of Ike’s range. This will allow him to land good shots on Villanueva and avoid that power punch. This will be easier said than done but we believe that if “street” can keep his discipline he should be okay in this fight.
If you look at this fight either guy can easily find their way to a knockout. This is why it will be important for Gonzalez to get off to a fast start and really impose his skills on Villanueva with an early press. We know that Gonzalez will have the cardio and speed advantage so if he can just keep Villanueva moving around the octagon and also stay active he may begin to annoy Ike. This is one you DO NOT want to miss.
Dwight Grant vs Calen Born
Next, we move to one of the more interesting fights of the night as Kung FU red belt Dwight Grant (10-2) looks to take on short notice replacement Calen Born (7-1). Be sure to tune in folks as Kung Fu has always produced fireworks in the UFC.
Of all of the background in MMA what could be the strangest? Krav Maga? Ninjitsu? maybe even Kung Fu? Well, Dwight Grant is exactly that, a red belt in Kung Fu. This may come as a surprise to many fans as Kung Fu is most commonly used in movies. This does not mean that Grant will be Flying through the air and landing gravity-defying kicks. However, this style has proven to be very effective for Grant in MMA so far.
Dwight Grant has had a rather mixed run in the UFC so far and it’s fair to say that he has had a few ups and downs. He began his time in the UFC on Dana White’s contender series back in 2018 against Tyler Hill (10-4). Grant was able to land some great crisp shots and eventually put Hill away in Round 2. Grant looked like a certain star in the making and his obscure style made him very marketable.
Then unfortunately things went sideways for Grant as he lost a split decision against Zak Ottow (17-7). However, Ottow is a very game opponent and the loss was not too bad. It was in fact the manor of the loss that put Grant’s career on pause. Many fans will say that this fight was the most boring fight of 2018 and those that don’t have probably forgotten it. The fight was that bad that during the UFC 252 broadcast, Joe Rogan forgot that this fight even existed. And he called the fight.
He then had a dominant fight over rising contender Carlo Pedersoli (11-3) with a flash KO with only one second left of the round. Thus earning his $50,000 performance of the night bonus. He then fought Alan Jouban (16-7) in 2019 with a win via split decision and if you think that his Ottow fight was boring, I would not recommend this. Grant may have just secured the worst fight in 2018 and 2019.
It is becoming a common theme that Grant will sit on the outside of the octagon and use his timing to finish opponents when they rush in. Calen Born is fairly new to the sport of MMA and this could lead to inexperience and cause him to rush in. He has also taken this fight on less than 3 days notice s some would say that he almost has nothing to lose.
If Calen does sit on the outside it is very unlikely that Grant will fight going forward. He will need to close this distance and cut off the cage to force Grant to fight out of his comfort zone. We have never really seen Grant fight in close boxing range and at 36 years old this could really cause him some problems.
Calen does only have 1 win that has not come via finish and he does like to push forward. Hopefully, he does not become too reckless because the returning power from Grant can easily make this a long night for Born.
Austin Hubbard vs Joe Solecki
Next up we have a great fight a lightweight as two young contenders take to the stage. Austin Hubbard (12-4) will take on Joe Solecki (9-2) as they both try to climb the Lightweight rankings.
Hubbard made headlines earlier this year after his bout with Max Rohskopf. After a tough first round that Hubbard arguably lost he was able to come out for the second and land really heavy shots on Max. He found the mark on almost every jab, leg kick, and famous left hook.
This hurt Rohskoph so badly that when he went back to the stool he told his corner that he did not want to fight anymore. This just goes to show the power behind Hubbard’s hands. After becoming the LFA lightweight champion Austin Hubbard has been in and out of the win column. However, he has faced some really high-level opponents. At just 28 years old this experience is valuable for “Thud”.
In his fight with Mark O. Madsen (9-0), Hubbard showed what he was really about. The fight did start poorly for him as for the first two rounds Madsen was able to have his way with Hubbard. He constantly took him down and was able to ragdoll him multiple times in the first two rounds. However, Hubbard showed an amazing trait in round 3 as he was able to progress as the fight went on. As Madsen became tired Hubbard became more active and began to land brutal knees up the middle. This was great to see in Austin and could play a huge factor this weekend.
On the other side of the octagon, we have Joe Solecki who will be risking his 4 fight winning streak. Solecki is a find from the very own Dana White. He took part in Dana White’s contender series and has looked very impressive so far.
Joe was on the contender series in 2019 where he secured a huge victory before making his UFC debut against Matt Wiman. It is worth mentioning that Wiman was coming off a long lay off from the sport. However, Joe was still able to get it done and secure the unanimous decision victory. It is clear that Austin Hubbard has huge disadvantages in the grappling department.
Joe Solecki is a very lucky fighter as he trains at Gym-O. If you did not know Gym-O is one of the highest regarded wrestling gyms in the world. It would hugely benefit Solecki if he implements a very grappling heavy gameplan against Hubbard.
Amanda Lemos vs Mizuki Inoue
Closing the prelims we have a women’s strawweight battle that is sure to set the stage for the main card. Mizuki Inoue (14-5) will take on Amanda Lemos (7-1-1) in a fight you do not want to miss.
Amanda Lemos made her UFC debut in 2017 against a very tough opponent in Leslie Smith (11-8-1). Unfortunately, Lemos lost that fight via standing elbows however due to the high caliber opponent, Smith, she was given a second chance with the organization. A worrying factor for Lemos is that the fight was over 3 years ago and she has only fought once since then. This could mean she is not at her best this weekend.
It is worth noting that Lemos is normally a Bantamweight and will be making the cut down to Strawweight this weekend. this is a really surprising move as it was not really a speed disadvantage that led to her loss against Smith. However, if you can see her walking around at 115lbs she looks comfortable and maybe this was an easy cut for her.
The time off after the Smith fight has seemed to work in Lemos’s favor as in December 2019 she came back at 115lbs to defeat Miranda Granger via rear-naked choke. We did not really see too much change in the way that Lemos approached the fight against Granger but the weight cut looked to help her. She was still fighting on the inside and landing active kicks before looking to set things up. It is normally a takedown that Lemos set’s up due to her high-level Jiu-Jitsu.
Lemos will need to have fixed the holes that Leslie Smith was able to expose in her striking game this weekend. Leslie found Lemos too hesitant to throw strikes and ended up landing at will. If Mizuki Inoue can find a rhythm and begin to land fast and regular shots. Lemos could be in for a long ride.
Mizuki Inoue has been around the sport of MMA for a long time. She has fought the best of the best and earned some credible wins along the way. Not to mention only being 26 years old. Inoue has a very bright future in the UFC if she can secure some good wins over the next few years.
Inoue is highly trained in karate and many Japanese martial arts that would give you the impression that she is an elite striker. Yes, Inoue does have some great striking however 9 of her 14 wins have come via submission. She is a very high threat on the ground and one of the most well-rounded fighters on the UFC roster. This is very likely to cause problems for Lemos as Inoue will be comfortable in all stages of the fight.
If Lemos keeps the fight on the feet she is likely to eat big shots from Inoue very regularly. This would normally prompt her corner to call for a takedown but with the high-level Jiu-Jitsu of Inoue that may cause problems too. This really makes it hard to think that Lemos can come away with the victory. However, if she is able to do so, this makes that victory ever so sweeter. Do you think Lemos has what it takes to defeat the Asian Sensation? or will Inoue continue her rise to Strawweight stardom? let us know what you think down below.
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