Marlon Moraes continued to fall at UFC 266

In the featured prelim at UFC 266, we saw a bantamweight matchup between “Magic” Marlon Moraes (23-9-1) and Merab Dvalishvili (14-4). Both of these men entered the contest going in completely opposite directions.

Dvalishvili was souring heading into UFC 266 and looked like he was ready to take the next step into serious title contention. Meanwhile, Marlon Moraes has been tail spinning ever since he lost to Henry Cejudo in a battle for the UFC bantamweight championship.

The fight on Saturday couldn’t have started better for Moraes. Moraes was lighting Dvalishvili up with powerful kicks and then he landed vicious shots that had Dvalishvili out on his feet. For a moment, it looked like a Moraes finish was in the bag.

However, Dvalishvili somehow survived and the fight continued at UFC 266. Once Moraes didn’t get the finish, you could actually see the desire and fight inside of him completely leave his body.

After nearly finishing Dvalishvili, Moraes almost got finished by Dvalishvili late in the first round. The rest of the fight was completely dominated by The Machine and Dvalishvili went on to score a second round TKO.

What’s next for Moraes after UFC 266?

Marlon Moraes lost his UFC debut to Raphael Assuncao (27-8). After that loss, he won four straight which included avenging that loss against Assuncao. He also knocked out Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera during that stretch.

Those four wins gave him a UFC title shot against Henry Cejudo. In that fight, Moraes dominated the opening round. However, when it became clear that Cejudo wasn’t going away, Moraes started to break.

Cejudo would go on to stop Moraes in the third round. After that, Moraes got a win over Jose Aldo, however, the majority people thought he lost. Then, he was knocked out in back-to-back fights by Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font.

Those losses led him to UFC 266. Again, Moraes started great, but broke when he couldn’t get the finish. There are spots in Moraes’ fights where he looks like one of the best in the world. However, if his first gameplan doesn’t work, he completely falls apart.

There’s so much talent there, but he’s becoming so predictable. If you can survive the onslaught early, you’re going to finish him more than likely. He has some real soul searching to do ahead of his next UFC fight.

In terms of what’s next, I’m honestly not sure. He’s dropped to tenth in the rankings and the only fight that I can think of that makes sense is Raphael Assuncao again. The two are 1-1 in their series and the trilogy makes a ton of sense.

Now, Assuncao is fighting Ricky Simon in December. Regardless of that result, I think Assuncao should be the fight for Moraes.

UFC booking Raphael Assuncao – Kyler Phillips

The UFC has finalized a fun bantamweight matchup. Kyler Phillips (9-1) took to his Instagram to announce that the promotion had finalized a matchup between himself and top contender Raphael Assuncao (27-8).

The matchup will take place at a UFC Fight Night on July 24th. For Kyler Phillips, he will be looking to pick up his fifth consecutive win overall and his fourth inside the octagon.

Phillips made his debut with the UFC back in February of last year when he took on Gabriel Silva. After winning that matchup, Phillips went on to stop Cameron Else before taking on the tough Song Yadong at UFC 259.

Phillips was able to defeat Yadong by unanimous decision. The victory put Phillips at fourteenth in the UFC‘s bantamweight rankings. The 25 year old fighting out of the MMA Lab in Phoenix has an incredible amount of potential.

This is going to be a big step up for Phillips and we will get to see where he is in his development. If he’s able to defeat a top UFC contender like Assuncao, he might only be a couple of wins away after that from challenging for the title.

UFC last chance for Assuncao?

If you want to find underrated and under the radar fighters in the UFC, look no further than Raphael Assuncao. Assuncao started with the WEC back in 2009 and transitioned to the UFC when the promotion added the smaller weight classes.

Since then, Assuncao has been one of the best in the world. He’s been a fixture inside the top five and ten, but he’s never quite gotten to a title shot. He’s come extremely close, but every time he got to a title eliminator he’s come up short.

Assuncao will enter this fight on a three-fight losing streak. Combine that with the fact that he’s getting ready to turn 39 and this could be Assuncao’s last chance in the UFC. A loss could send him to the chopping block.

During his run, Assuncao has some incredible wins. He’s defeated TJ Dillashaw, Aljamain Sterling, Rob Font, and Pedro Munhoz during his run in the UFC. As mentioned, this is a big fight for both men. A win launches the career of Phillips while a win for Assuncao probably saves his.

UFC books Raphael Assuncao – Raoni Barcelos

This weekend, the UFC finalized a big time bantamweight matchup for February 27th. Sherdog was first to report that the ninth ranked bantamweight contender, Raphael Assuncao (27-8), and rising contender, Raoni Barcelos (16-1).

We haven’t seen Assuncao since UFC 250 when he welcomed Cody Garbrandt back. That night, Assuncao was having some success, but he ended up being the victim of a highlight reel knockout at the end of the second round.

That was the third straight loss in the UFC for Assuncao. Assuncao is in a very weird spot in his career. He’s always been that contender in the UFC’s bantamweight division that’s gotten one fight away from a title shot.

He’s done it multiple times. However, when he’s arrived at the title eliminator, he’s come up short. In 2016, he fell to TJ Dillashaw after having won seven fights in a row. In 2019 he lost to Marlon Moraes after winning four in a row including wins over Aljamain Sterling, Rob Font, and Moraes.

The 38 year old veteran might be on the UFC chopping block in this next one. If he drops his fourth straight, there is no guarantees with his roster spot. He definitely hasn’t looked like the same Raphael Assuncao as of late.

UFC Bantamweight’s Rising Contender

Standing across from Assuncao on February 27th will be Raoni Barcelos. Barcelos is one of the more hyped prospects in the UFC’s bantamweight division. I’m calling him a prospect despite the fact that he’s 33 years old.

Barcelos made his UFC debut back in 2018 and he’s gone 5-0 since joining the promotion. He finished his first three opponents and he’s looked sensational in his last two fights. While winning decisions over Said Nurmagomedov and Khalid Taha, Barcelos put on a show.

He possesses a very well-rounded game and he’s showing that he can be a force in the division. If he’s able to pickup the win on February 27th, he will likely vault straight into the UFC’s top ten at bantamweight.

UFC 250 Preview: Amanda Nunes looks to continue her reign against Felicia Spencer

This Saturday night, the UFC makes its return to PPV with UFC 250 which will be headlined by the greatest female fighter of all time, Amanda Nunes, defending her featherweight title against Canadian challenger, Felicia Spencer. UFC 250 also is an extremely important event for the UFC’s bantamweight division with a number of key matchups that will play a big role in deciding who will take on the winner of the Petr Yan/Jose Aldo title fight this summer. This is a stacked fight card that has intriguing matchups up and down the card. With that in mind, let’s dive into the card and take a look at some of those intriguing matchups.

Amanda Nunes vs Felicia Spencer

The main event of UFC 250 marks the return of champion, Amanda Nunes (19-4), following her victory over Germaine de Randamie at UFC 245. In that fight, Nunes looked a little more vulnerable than she normally does. The challenger was able to land some solid shots on Nunes for the first time in a while, Nunes appeared to be human. Still in a down performance, Nunes was able to unanimously defeat the former featherweight champion in de Randamie. Nunes hasn’t lost in six years and has looked unbeatable outside of her fights with flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. Nunes is the total package with elite striking ability, incredible power, and a slick ground game. There are no holes in her game. At this stage in her career, it’s hard even finding fights that would be competitive for her. She’s just that much better than all the competition. Felicia Spencer (8-1), is hoping to show the world that she is beatable by pulling off the enormous upset.

You would be hard-pressed to find any girl tougher in the world than Felicia Spencer. Spencer is a bulldog when she fights who doesn’t stop pressing forward even if she is taking some heavy shots. She took everything that former champion, Cris Cyborg, had and just kept coming forward back at UFC 240. That night, Spencer suffered her only career loss. After losing to Cyborg, Spencer bounced back in impressive fashion stopping Zarah Fairn dos Santos in the first round. In that fight, she took some shots on the feet but dominated once the fight got to the campus. Spencer is the type of fighter who doesn’t want to win a pretty fight. She’s not going to dazzle you with her skills, but she looks to run you over with pure toughness and determination. In her training leading up to this fight, it looks like she’s really trying to make strides in her striking game to make her more fluid on the feet. This will be a key factor if she hopes to pull off the upset.

When it comes to this fight, I’m having a hard time seeing how Felicia Spencer can win. This is not a knock on her, but more of a testament to just how good Amanda Nunes is. The Lioness is truly something special to behold, and I don’t believe Spencer has the tools to win this fight. Spencer does not have the fluidity to dodge the shots that Nunes will be throwing on Saturday night. While she was able to evade some of Cyborg’s looping punches, she’s going to really struggle to evade the speed and accuracy that Amanda Nunes will be throwing at her. Spencer’s only chance in this fight is to make it a clinch war early where she can hope to tire the champion. If she can make Amanda tired, she could maybe take it to the ground where she can do what Cat Zingano did to Nunes almost six years ago. However, I think the fans are going to be in for a showcase performance by Amanda Nunes. Spencer is as tough as they come, but she is going to get lit up early and often in this fight. I just think the power and the speed is going to be way too much for Felicia Spencer on Saturday. Spencer is one of the best in the world at 145, but there is a massive gap between the contenders and Amanda Nunes.

Prediction: Amanda Nunes by TKO – Round 1

Cody Garbrandt vs Raphael Assuncao

The co-main event of the evening features the return of former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt (11-3), as he looks to rebound against perennial bantamweight contender, Raphael Assuncao (27-7). Entering 2017, Garbrandt was looked at as the next big star of the UFC. He had just dominated Dominick Cruz to win the bantamweight title back at UFC 207, and he was extremely entertaining to watch. Garbrandt had seven first-round finishes in his first eleven fights which is almost unheard of for guys in the lower weight classes. Garbrandt had a speed/power combination that made him a handful. His stardom was starting to take off when he coached the Ultimate Fighter alongside ex-teammate, TJ Dillashaw. The two’s feud made the show a hit, and a lot of people were tuned into UFC 217 specifically to watch those two go at it. Garbrandt looked incredibly sharp early and almost finished the fight in the first round. Since that round, Garbrandt has not been the same fighter. Garbrandt got knocked out in the second round by Dillashaw. Following the loss, Garbrandt had trouble staying healthy but was able to get a rematch the next year. This time, Dillashaw knocked out Garbrandt in the first round. Then Garbrandt would go on to get knocked out in the first round by contender, Pedro Munhoz at UFC 235 last year. This is a make it or break it fight for “No Love”. He needs a big win here to get himself back on the right path and stop this horrendous skid that he’s currently on.

Standing across from Garbrandt will be contender, Raphael Assuncao. Since joining the UFC, Assuncao has quietly put together one of the better careers for someone who has never fought for the title. He’s 11-3 in the UFC and holds wins over TJ Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling, and Pedro Munhoz. You would think with all of those wins over the top guys in the world the guy would have fought for the title. The problem for Assuncao has been the title eliminator fights. At UFC 200, he lost to TJ Dillashaw in a fight that would have likely given him a title shot had he won. After that, Assuncao rattled off four consecutive wins and he found himself again on the cusp of a title shot only to lose to Marlon Moraes who he had just defeated 18 months prior. For the first time in his career, Assuncao has lost two fights in a row coming into UFC 250. This fight is massive for both guys who are at the top of the division, but both are coming into Saturday on multiple fight losing streaks.

I’ve gone back and forth with this fight on what I think is going to happen. Who wins will honestly come down to one man and that man is Cody Garbrandt. If we can see 2016 Cody Garbrandt, I think he is going to win impressively. His back is against the wall, and I believe that he still has plenty in the tank. Garbrandt is splitting this camp between Team Alpha Male and Mark Henry’s gym in New Jersey. I think you are going to see a new and improved Garbrandt in this fight. However, he cannot get reckless like he did against Pedro Munhoz. Garbrandt threw caution to the wind after he rocked Munhoz and got himself knocked out. Garbrandt needs to stay patient and pick his shots. If he rushes in recklessly, Assuncao possesses the power to knock him out. I think you are going to see a more mature Cody Garbrandt in this fight, and I think he stops his losing streak by stopping Raphael Assuncao.

Prediction: Cody Garbrandt by TKO – Round 2

Aljamain Sterling vs Cory Sandhagen

In all honesty, this is the fight that I’m most looking forward to on Saturday night. This bantamweight matchup between Aljamain Sterling (18-3) and Cory Sandhagen (12-1) will likely determine who will be facing the winner of the Petr Yan/Jose Aldo fight for the bantamweight title. I was blown away the last time that we saw Sterling in the octagon. Sterling’s striking looked better than ever which just makes him even more dynamic and dangerous. “Funk Master” is such a fitting name when you watch the way he picked apart Pedro Munhoz at UFC 238. Sterling throws from awkward angles yet he seems to find a home for most of his shots. He’s tremendous on the ground and doesn’t mind the fight going there which opens up his kicking game. Coming into this fight, Sterling has won four fights in a row. I believed that he should have been the one fighting for the title against Petr Yan, but the UFC is going for more name recognition in that one. Sterling is riding high and he’s hoping that he can continue that high against Sandhagen.

Cory Sandhagen has looked sensational since he debuted in the UFC back in 2018. Sandhagan made his UFC debut on just eight days’ notice when he stopped Iuri Alcantara in the second round. Since then he’s rattled off three more wins including notable victories over John Lineker and Raphael Assuncao. There are not a lot of weaknesses in Sandhagen’s game. He’s good on the ground and he’s really good on the feet. Sandhagen does a really good job of using his height and reach to control the distance when he strikes. In a fight that is likely going to go the distance, point fighting is going to be very important. Despite being taller by four inches, Sandhagen actually will have a reach disadvantage in this fight, but don’t let that fool you. Sandhagen fights taller than his reach with his frequent use of kicks to all targets from the legs to up top. This is truly a fight where I don’t know what’s going to happen.

It does not get more even than these two. Both guys bring a similar skillset to the octagon, and both guys are riding impressive winning streaks. This is a fight that I would be scared to bet any sort of money on. I’ve gone back and forth the last couple of days, and as I’m writing this, I’m going to lean towards Sterling. Sterling is so close to the title and I think he will fight with urgency. I think this fight is going to go back and forth, but I believe in the end, Sterling will do enough to secure a decision. I do not see either guy getting a finish, and I see the decision being razor close.

Prediction: Aljamain Sterling – Split Decision

Neil Magny vs Anthony Ricco Martin

The second fight on the main card features a welterweight contest between Neil Magny (22-7) and Anthony Rocco Martin (17-5). This is an interesting matchup that I see going one of two ways. Martin is the better fighter on the ground so if he’s able to get the fight to the ground, I can see him either winning by submission or by points. However, Martin does not do a very good job of getting fights to the ground which likely means we will see a standup fight. Magny has fought some of the best guys in the world and possesses a decent standup game. Magny also has a really good gas tank that will allow him to fight at a faster pace which does not favor Martin. Since I see this fight staying up on the feet, I think Magny is going to control this one throughout. Magny is coming off a win back in March after a 16-month layoff. I think Magny is going to get his second consecutive win by staying on the outside and controlling the range, picking apart Martin throughout. I don’t see either man getting a finish unless Martin gets it to the ground, so I’m going to go with Magny here to get his second win of 2020.

Prediction: Neil Magny – Unanimous Decision

Sean O’Malley vs Eddie Wineland

Kicking off the PPV card we will get to watch the Suga Show. “Sugar” Sean O’Malley (11-0) will be taking on veteran and former title challenger, Eddie Wineland (24-13-1). O’Malley has been through the wringer over the last couple of years. The 25-year-old burst onto the scene back in 2017 with an incredible performance on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. O’Malley would then go on to win his first two fights in the UFC. However, failed drug tests kept O’Malley out for two years before his return back in March. O’Malley’s situation was incredibly frustrating because the tests were finding trace amounts of a substance that was likely there due to a tainted supplement. O’Malley was frustrated, but stayed patient and finally got to return at UFC 248. There, O’Malley looked better than ever stopping Jose Alberto Quinonez in the first round. This is a perfect follow-up fight for O’Malley because he is now getting a chance to fight someone with a little name recognition.

Eddie Wineland has been around for a long time and was the first WEC bantamweight champion. Wineland has fought guys like Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, and Renan Barao. Wineland challenged for the UFC’s bantamweight title against Barao back in 2013. Wineland is about as tough as they come and he’s the kind of guy who is going to come right at O’Malley. The last time we saw Wineland, he stopped Grigory Popov in the second round back at UFC 238. Wineland is no joke, but he also makes for the perfect opponent for the rising UFC star.

This to me is a complete showcase fight for Sugar Sean O’Malley. He’s going to have a big advantage on the feet, and he’s taking on a guy who is going to come right at him. This fight on this stage will give O’Malley another big bump in his popularity if he’s able to impressively win. If you’re trying to build up a star, this is perfect matchmaking. Of course, Wineland is extremely tough and has a punchers chance, but I can’t see him beating O’Malley. I think O’Malley is going to pick him apart from the outside before catching Wineland with something big as he comes in. This fight is a stepping stone fight for O’Malley and I don’t believe he’s going to disappoint.

Prediction: Sean O’Malley by TKO – Round 1

Prelim’s to Watch

The entire card is really good for Saturday night. The prelims are filled with several intriguing matchups and fighters to pay attention to. I’m anxious to watch the featured prelim between Chase Hooper (9-0-1) and Alex Caceres (15-12). Hooper is another guy who could develop into a star for the UFC. The 20-year-old possesses some of the best ground skills in the UFC, and it will be interesting seeing him go up against a veteran like “Bruce Leeroy”. In addition to that, you have guys like Ian Heinisch, Cody Stamann, and Alex Perez all fighting on the prelims. I’m also very interested in seeing the undefeated Alonzo Menifield who is coming into UFC 250 with four consecutive first round finishes. The very first fight of the evening features Herbert Burns (10-2) and veteran, Evan Dunham (18-8-1). This is a fun fight and I’m interested to see more of Burns who is coming off of a sensational victory in his first UFC fight back in January. Burns is the brother of UFC welterweight contender, Gilbert Burns. Overall, the card is incredibly stacked with fun fights from start to finish. I’ll be excited to tune in on Saturday night for another night of incredible fights.