The UFC will be leaving Fight Island this weekend and will return back to the Apex with a BANG! Undefeated middleweight contender Edmen Shahbazyan (11-0) takes on the #9 ranked Derek Brunson (20-7). We will have some great fights in the prelims to open up the main card. This has all the making for a night of fights that you do not want to miss! Without further ado, here is a breakdown of the prelims! Who are you rooting for?
Chris Gutierrez vs Cody Durden
Hoping to open up the prelims with a win is knockout artist Chris Gutierrez (15-3-1). Gutierrez will be riding a three-fight win streak in the UFC coming into this fight.
In his 15 wins, Gutierrez has eight finishes, with seven of them coming by knockout. In 2018, “El Guapo” made a real statement to the MMA world in his second appearance with LFA. Gutierrez was matched with the 135-pound champion Ray Rodriguez (16-6) after just one win with the organization. Rodriguez was not able to defend the jiu-jitsu of Gutierrez and was submitted towards the end of the first round.
Gutierrez parted ways with the LFA in 2018 and was picked up by the UFC. He made his debut on The Ultimate Fighter season 28 finale. Unfortunately, “El Guapo” fell short and was submitted by Raoni Barcelos (15-1) towards the end of the second round. Dana White stated that he was impressed by the performance of Gutierrez and decided that he had earned a spot in the UFC.
Since then, Chris has gone 3-0 in the UFC with a brutal leg kick finish last time out. The kicks that found his target in his last bout were commonly used to set up bigger strikes. However, leg kicks like those also limit the opponent’s movement. Look for these kicks to be a huge factor in his fight this weekend. It is highly likely that a win this weekend will be huge for the future of Gutierrez in the UFC.
On the other side of the octagon, making his UFC debut, we have Cody Durden (11-2). Durden will be representing American Top Team and is the main training partner of Bellator champion Douglas Lima. Lima has stated that Durden is a future UFC champion. Cody will be riding a seven-fight win streak, with his most recent win coming just last month. Two fights of Cody’s seven-fight win steak were in boxing and kickboxing bouts that took place on the same day.
Durden is more than proven during his MMA career with his elite striking and high-level wrestling. His abilities seemed to be too much for the majority of his opponents. Most of Durden’s early career was spent in the NFC, where he went 4-1 in the organization, mirroring his amateur record with them. In 2017, Cody earned an NFC title shot against flyweight champion Jared Scoggins (9-1).
Scoggins was able to retain his title with a unanimous decision victory. As a result of this loss, Cody made the transition to 135 pounds. This transition was beneficial for Durden, as he has since gone seven wins without a loss. Durden normally uses a high-pressure style, mixing up his strikes to deplete his opponent. Will he be able to implement this style against Gutierrez this weekend?
Jamall Emmers vs Timur Valiev
Jamall Emmers began his UFC journey in March of this year when he lost a razor-close split decision fight against featherweight contender Giga Chikadze (10-2). Despite losing, Emmers arguably did enough to secure the victory. Chikadze excels with his slick kickboxing and, before the fight, this would be seen as a problem for Emmers. However, during the fight, Emmers was able to adapt and begin to find the mark with his takedowns.
Emmers showed a different side to his wrestling ability that we may not have seen before. With 10 of Jamall’s 17 wins coming via stoppage, we know that he likes to keep the fight on the feet. However, with the striking skills of his Russian opponent, we may need to see that wrestling pedigree called into action again.
Timur Valiev is hoping to avoid the takedowns of Emmers and be able to keep this fight standing. Valiev should be looking to get inside of Emmers and really get to work in the clinch and closing the space on the American.
The Russian native is making his first appearance in the UFC this weekend. Before this, he was in and around different promotions making his presence known on the main stage. Chris Gutierrez, who fights in the first prelim of the night, has fought out two razor-close fights with Valiev. Gutierrez has named Valiev as his toughest opponent to date. Both bouts went to a decision, with neither fighter able to convincingly defeat the other. They split the series, so we may even see a trilogy down the line!
One key thing to note during this fight is that Emmers is bringing to the table a 15 cm reach advantage. This could spell trouble for the Russian. Emmers used his jab effectively in his last fight, so that may well play a factor in this bout. Keep an eye out!
Eric Spicely vs Markus Perez
Next up in the prelims, we have two hard-hitting middleweights looking to climb the division. These two guys are bound to be dropping bombs but they both also possess high-level wrestling abilities. This fight has all the ingredients to be one for the ages.
The last time we saw Eric Spicely (12-5) in the octagon was back in 2019. He opened up the prelims for Moicano vs Korean Zombie in a loss to middleweight contender Deron Winn (6-2). Since then, Spicely has had rotten luck in finding appropriate opponents and venues with three fight cancellations since October 2019.
Spicely made his name in the CES MMA promotion. During his time in CES, Spicely showcased his brutal wrestling pedigree, in addition to fast hands and a good kicking game. CES has had a huge benefit on the career of Spicely due to the fact that they conduct all main card fights as five-round bouts. This has made Spicely incredibly durable compared to the rest of the UFC contenders.
Spicely was then invited to the UFC to compete on The Ultimate Fighter 23. With a record of 2-1 on the show before he was eliminated, Spicely was offered a contract to join the roster in 2016. Since then, Spicely has had a rotten run in the organization with a record of 4-5, with four of those losses coming via finish. Despite this poor run, Spicely still has a legit wrestling pedigree that he hopes to implement this weekend. Can Spicely make a statement against Markus Perez?
On the other side of the octagon is the former LFA world champion, Markus Perez (12-3). Perez trains out of the prestigious MMA gym American Top Team. Perez was riding a nine-fight win streak when he made his transition to the UFC. He had just disposed of top contender Ian Heinisch (14-3) before running into Eryk Anders (13-5) for his first career loss.
In 2017, Perez left LFA as the middleweight world champion to sign for the UFC. “Maluko” has a UFC record of two wins and three losses, however, he has not been finished inside the organization. Half of Perez’s wins have come from his high-level jiu-jitsu, with six submission victories. Will this play a role in his fight against Spicely? This is a fight you do not want to miss!
Ray Borg vs Nathan Maness
UFC veteran Ray Borg (13-5) has been in and around the lighter divisions of the UFC since signing for the organization in 2014. Since then, Borg has been facing high-level opponents and climbing the rankings. Borg has even fought against UFC legend Demetrious Johnson (30-3-1) for the UFC Flyweight Championship in October 2017. Unfortunately, Borg was submitted by Johnson via a flying armbar, which is as crazy as it sounds.
Borg is best known for his high tempo style and very active crisp jab. In his last outing, Borg lost a razor-close split decision with former flyweight Ricky Simón (16-3). Borg was able to use his jab and wrestling to keep Simon at bay for the majority of the fight. Simon did manage to land on Borg at one point, in which the two became engaged in a firefight. Will he be able to absorb shots like those this weekend?
While Borg was making a name for himself in the UFC, Nathan Maness (11-1) was making his presence known in and around other organizations. Since 2013, Maness has fought for Hard Rock MMA, Warrior FC, and even HR MMA. Maness has six finishes and has displayed elite striking in all of his bouts. Maness’ only loss came in 2019 when a side-kick found the mark and put him down.
It is fair to say that Borg will be the faster and more powerful boxer in this fight, which may neutralize the boxing of Maness. Maness will need to use his high-level kicking game and mix up his strikes to find openings on Borg. However, despite the finish rate of Maness, he is fighting out of a wrestling background. Can Maness use his wrestling and 182.88 cm reach to create openings against Borg?
Ed Herman vs Gerald Meerschaert
UFC veteran Ed Herman (24-14) is the definition of a seasoned fighter. Herman has been in and around the UFC since 2006 and was one of the fighters that made the transition over from Strike Force. During Herman’s time in the UFC, he has been fighting the who’s who of the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions.
Herman has fought Demian Maia (28-10), Jake Shields (33-11-1), Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza (26-8), as well as one half of the main event matchup, Derek Brunson. Despite getting zero wins in those bouts, valuable experience was gained. These high profile fights will make Herman much more comfortable this weekend.
Stepping up on short notice in the other corner, we have natural middleweight Gerald Meerschaert (31-13) making the jump to light heavyweight. Meerschaert has already had a hard-fought victory against fan-favorite Deron Winn this year. In that bout, Meerschaert was able to use his long reach to find the chin of Winn. However, in June, he was the victim of an Ian Heinisch overhand that led to some brutal ground and pound, which put Meerschaert out.
Meerschaert will be bringing a 6 cm reach advantage to this fight despite the jump in weight. “GM3” likes to use his long arms to keep his opponent at bay and use his high tempo leg kicks to limit movement. Will Meerschaert be able to keep the 39-year old at bay? Or will the short notice fight lead to him falling short?
Frankie Saenz vs Jonathan Martinez
UFC bantamweight Frankie Saenz (12-6) will be hoping to use his experience to get himself back into the win column this weekend against Jonathan Martinez (11-3). Some would say that Saenz is the gatekeeper of the bantamweight division but this by no means makes him an easy opponent. Saenz is known for testing the waters of hot prospects before they enter the upper levels of the division.
Unfortunately for Saenz, his last fight was a loss to Marlon Vera (17-6-1) over a year ago. Saenz seemed to be finding his feet in the fight before Vera was able to find the target on Saenz’s chin. Saenz was finished in the first round and says that it was a hard loss to take due to how well his camp and weight cut went. Compared to most other fighters, Saenz was a late starter in his career, as he only has 18 fights at the age of 39.
On the other hand, we have almost the complete opposite in Jonathan Martinez. Martinez is just 26 years old. He holds a 2-2 record in the UFC that he will be hoping to improve on this weekend. Despite not yet having a finish to his name in the organization, “Dragon” has a very elite level of striking that utilizes a nasty jab that is used fast and often.
The most common thing that Martinez does in fights is using his set-ups to full effect. He is constantly setting traps around the octagon and setting up big strikes to look for a finish. Will Martinez be able to secure the victory? Or will Saenz be able to use his experience and secure the victory?
Who do you have winning these prelim matches?! Let us know in the comments below!
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