On Saturday, February 15th, The UFC will set up the octagon for the 2nd event in this 8 consecutive weekend stretch of fights that we are in the midst of at UFC Fight Night 167. The event will be the first that the promotion has hosted in Rio Rancho.
The main event will see two streaking top tier light-heavyweights in Jan Blachowicz and Corey Anderson compete in a possible title elimination bout. You can find Overtime Heroics’ preview for that here. However, that is only one of several significant match-ups on this card.
Here, I will be covering the preliminary card. The prelims are, in my opinion, a lot deeper and have more value overall than the main card. There are bouts on the prelims stretching nearly all the way across the Male divisions. Each one of them are of high quality and have great entertainment value.
Mark De La Rosa vs Raulian Paiva
Kicking off the card on the UFC Fight Pass early prelims, we have an exciting and fan-friendly match-up in the flyweight division. Both are coming off back to back losses, with a loss to Kai Kara France each and losses to Alex Perez and Rogério Bontorin respectively. These aren’t bad losses by any means, especially when you consider that Paiva’s losses were a decision that could have went to him and a cut stoppage in a competitive brawl.
I anticipate that Mark De La Rosa has full intentions on getting this fight to the ground and stopping Paiva there. He definitely has the grappling edge. However, Paiva’s brilliant scrambling abilities are what I believe can nullify it and keep it on the feet, where I believe he is more skillful than De La Rosa. I can see why De La Rosa is an underdog in this one. I will not be surprised if Paiva utilizes a simple but effective ‘sprawl and brawl’ gameplan and executes it to full effect and picks up his first UFC win.
Casey Kenney vs Merab Dvalishvili
In the second fight of the night, we have a great stylistic clash between two dark horses in the bantamweight division. Casey Kenney performed twice on the Contender Series but couldn’t gain a UFC contract either time. However, eventually, he was brought in on short notice and handled Ray Borg (beating him by decision). He then went on to defy the odds and beat Manny Bermudez in his 2nd fight, where he gave up a lot of size.
I find that both of these men are fairly small for the division, especially Kenney. However, here he will have a reach and height advantage over Dvalishvili. That’s not something I’d read into much. I believe Dvalishvili is extremely strong for the division, which he showed last time out when he dominated Brad Katona. I would go as far as to say his short stocky build helps him to implement this strength. He is very agile and rock-solid in the clinch. He has shown good striking skills as of his last fights.
Personally, I believe Merab Dvalishvili will be able to dictate the pace and range at where this fight takes place. I do not see Kenney being able to handle his takedowns and clinch work, and I don’t believe he will achieve much off his back. I would like to see Casey Kenney face Ricky Simon if he pulls off the upset, who Dvalishvili has a last-second submission loss to in a fight that he was winning. If Dvalishvili wins, I’d like him to face Song Ya Dong.
Devin Clark vs Dequan Townsend
This light heavyweight clash is not the most technical and not the highest level fight on the card. In fact, it’s one of the least skilled bouts set to take place on this whole card in my opinion. However, all the credit in the world to Dequan Townsend. Townsend is stepping up on short notice to replace Gadzhimurad Antigulov, despite being a natural middleweight. This is especially impressive when you realize that this is the second time he’s come in on short notice just this year.
Devin Clark is 4-4 within the UFC and is coming off a loss to Ryan Spann by submission in October of last year. Dequan Townsend is 0-2 in the UFC and dropped a decision to Bevon Lewis just 21 days before this fight. I strongly feel the loser will be cut from the UFC here. However, we know the UFC likes finishes and short notice step-ups. If Dequan Townsend can put Clark away, the UFC will keep him along. If Clark is to win, I’d like to see him face young upcoming contenders until he can get a win streak going.
As for the fight itself, I believe Townsend will be looking to keep it at kicking range and pick Clark apart from the outside. Devin Clark will try to be the aggressor. Although it is not his style, he may even look to work the clinch heavily against the cage. We’ve seen Townsend have big problems with that against a lighter Bevon Lewis. Despite coming in on short notice and being the underdog, I think Townsend is capable of taking this one.
Jim Miller vs Scott Holtzman
Here, we have a fantastic fight in the lightweight division between two veterans. Jim Miller will once again step in there and break the record for most UFC appearances, in his 34th fight in the promotion. As well as this, he is looking to break the record for most wins in UFC history. He is on 19 at the moment, tied with George St-Pierre and Michael Bisping. He already holds the record for most wins in the UFC lightweight division.
Miller is currently on a two-fight win streak. That is very impressive considering he was on a four-fight losing streak not too long ago while battling Lyme disease. It was looking like his career was on a downslope. However, he is 3-1 in his last 4, most recently submitting Clay Guida back last August. After going 2-2 within the UFC, Scott Holtzman found his footing and has gone 4-1 since. He also competed on the same card as Miller back in August and got a doctor stoppage win over Dong Hyun Ma in a fantastic brawl.
I am a big fan of this match-up. Despite the oddsmakers having Miller as an underdog, I feel that this fight favours him. I feel if it stays on the feet, Holtzman will show he is more durable and athletic than Miller is at his current age. I feel that if Miller stands with him the whole time he is in big trouble. However, if there is anyone that can create a solid path to victory, it’s Jim Miller. I see him closing the distance safely and completely outclassing Holtzman in the clinch and on the mat.
John Dodson vs Nathaniel Wood
In the second to last bout of the prelims, protégée of UK MMA legend Brad Pickett, Nathaniel Wood, looks to improve his UFC record to 4-0 with his first shot at a ranked opponent in John Dodson. This is a classic prospect vs veteran match-up taking place in the bantamweight division. Dodson has been in there with them all and even has a TKO win over TJ Dillashaw, one of the best bantamweights ever.
Wood has been very inactive as of late. Due to suffering a broken arm, his last appearance was in March 2019 at UFC London, where he truly did shine in his hometown, beating Jose Alberto Quinonez by submission. John Dodson is on a two-fight skid, suffering defeats to Jimmie Rivera and Petr Yan. However, interestingly, with 11 losses in total against elite and dangerous fighters for the most part, John Dodson has never lost by anything but decisions, with several of those being close split decisions.
I feel the oddsmakers have this one to a tee. Wood comes in as an 8/13 favourite with Dodson as a 5/4 underdog. That represents this match-up for what it is, a younger, hungrier and more skilful contender taking on a tough yet still dangerous and experienced veteran. I feel Wood will take the centre and pressure Dodson, which is something Dodson evidently struggles with, and then Wood will start unleashing combinations on him. I would like to see Wood shoot for some takedowns if Dodson is constantly backing up and circling. Dodson is very safe on the feet and knows how to survive and cruise to a decision. Wood has to be aware of the hands of Dodson. the dangerous kicks will be nullified by the pressure I believe. However, we saw in the Petr Yan fight, Dodson has serious pop still when he dropped Yan with a left hand. Ultimately, I honestly see Wood making a statement and becoming the first man to finish John Dodson, likely in the 3rd round.
Tim Means vs Daniel Rodriguez
In the featured bout of the prelims, we will get to see Tim Means, a welterweight veteran with an underrated and dangerous skill set, take on UFC newcomer Daniel Rodriguez, who has bravely stepped up on three weeks notice to replace Ramazan Emeev.
Before his last outing, it was looking like Tim Means’s career was on a downward slope. He went 1-3 from November 2017 and suffered a devastating KO loss to Niko Price. However, in December of last year, he got back on track when his back was essentially to the wall with the UFC, as he stopped Thiago Alves by submission. Daniel Rodriguez put together a four-fight win streak to earn a Contender Series fight, which took place in July 2019. Despite facing height and reach disadvantages, he utilized aggression and well-timed takedowns to claim a decision. Unfortunately for him, he was not handed a contract. He has fought once since then under the ‘Smash Global’ banner. He got a 2nd round TKO to make him 10-1 as a pro.
Despite Nathaniel Wood vs John Dodson having more value than this bout, I can understand why this has been made the featured fight of the prelims. Tim Means can and will exchange and hold his own with the best of them on the feet. Daniel Rodriguez, so far in his career, has shown knockout ability and a slick top game. Rodriguez comes in as a 2/1 underdog, which, to me isn’t bad value at all. Means is definitely the better technical fighter but was eating some big shots from Thiago Alves back in December. I would like to see Rodriguez test the takedown defence of Means, as well as the scrambling abilities. Along with looking for the left hand, as Means circles and steps into boxing range. As a short-notice replacement, I feel that’s all Rodriguez can and will do. He’ll test his skill set against the experienced veteran and try and prove he belongs in the UFC.
We are set for another great night of fights on Saturday night at the hands of the UFC. I hope you all enjoy.
Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!
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