Just one week removed from the most shocking upset in UFC history and the promotion already expects us to focus on a whole new batch of fights.
UFC Fight Night 78 takes place at the Monterrey Arena in Monterrey, Mexico, in what is just the third trip south of the border for the 22-year-old fight brand. Originally scheduled to be headlined by a potential barn burner between Matt “The Immortal” Brown and Kelvin Gastelum, an ankle injury forced Brown out of competition. In steps Neil Magny, in what is the welterweight’s fifth fight in 2015, and 10th fight in two years.
Co-headlining the card is a matchup between fan-favorite Diego Sanchez and former featherweight title contender Ricardo Lamas, as the longtime featherweight welcomes Sanchez to the 145-pound division. A victory for Sanchez makes him the first fighter to earn a victory in four UFC weight classes.
But can he do it? We analyze; we predict:
- Michel Prazeres def. Valmir Lazaro via decision
- Alvaro Herrera def. Vernon Ramos via decision
- Andre Fili def. Gabriel Benitez via decision
- Scott Jorgensen def. Alejandro Perez via TKO
- Bartosz Fabinski def. Hector Urbina via TKO
- Erik Perez def. Taylor Lapilus via decision
- Leandro Silva def. Efrain Escudero via decision
- Enrique Marin def. Erick Montano via submission
Jussier Formiga vs. Henry Cejudo
Quite possibly the only match on the card with title implications, the winner of Jussier Formiga vs. Henry Cejudo could very well find himself standing across the cage from Demetrious “Mighty” Mouse Johnson in the first quarter of the new year.
A former Olympic gold medalist at the 2008 games in Beijing, Cejudo first stepped into the Octagon with about as much hype as any fighter’s had in a while. Undeniably one of the better wrestlers in the 125-pound class, Cejudo’s yet to provide fans with a signature victory to catapult him into the UFC title picture. A victory over Formiga, who also finds his victories by way of the lesser appreciated martial art, could be that signature victory.
For his own part, Formiga’s yet to prove himself in a major way, too. The biggest difference between he and Cejudo, however, is that Formiga’s actually had several opportunities to take his name to the next level. The 30-year-old Brazilian has only lost three times in his professional career, failing to defeat flyweight royalty in Ian McCall, John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez. A solid BJJ specialist with an affinity to grind out his victories, Formiga’s typical gameplan likely won’t work wonders come Saturday.
Prediction: Cejudo def. Formiga via decision
Ricardo Lamas vs. Diego Sanchez
Quite possibly the front-runner for Fight of the Night honors this Saturday, Ricardo Lamas welcomes longtime UFC veteran Diego Sanchez to the featherweight division.
At this point in his career, Sanchez is nothing more than a novelty fighter — a popular name with enough cultural drawing power as the UFC heads to Mexico for just the third time in company history. In many ways, this matchup feels all too similar to the one Sanchez had several fights back when he faced Gilbert Melendez. Sanchez, who couldn’t be further from a title shot at this point in his career, is facing a top contender who, in all likelihood, will cater to “The Dream’s” style of fighting.
Only, like his matchup against Melendez, Sanchez’s fight in Monterrey pits him against a more technical fighter with all the tools to make it a difficult night for the former TUF 1 winner. Lamas controls distance better, he’s got better technique on the feet, and he’s smart enough to avoid a stand-up war when it’s no longer benefiting him. You can’t say the same for Sanchez, not at this point in his career.
Prediction: Lamas def. Sanchez via decision
Neil Magny vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Originally scheduled to face Matt Brown in the main event in Monterrey, Kelvin Gastelum was tasked with facing a new opponent once “The Immortal” suffered an ankle injury in the weeks before the fight. While Brown was a difficult matchup for the former TUF winner, Magny doesn’t make his first UFC main event any easier.
Magny got back to his winning ways against Erick Silva at UFC Fight Night 74, serving a similar role to the one he’ll play in Monterrey as a late replacement. One of the busier fighters in the promotion, Saturday marks Magny’s 10th Octagon appearance in the last two years. A former TUF contestant himself, Magny brings some of the more well-rounded skills you’ll see in the welterweight division. Most importantly, he brings in a nine-inch reach advantage against Gastelum, which should help him keep a distance for portions of the 25-minute affair.
But Gastelum almost always seems to find a way to nullify what advantages his opponents hold. It’s hard to explain, really; but Gastelum’s forward pressure seems to make him a compelling contender at 170 pounds. Unassuming as they come, his punches, takedowns and submissions just seem to find a way.
That said, unless Gastelum can finish this fight within the first 10 minutes or so, you’d be wise to expect him to fade. This is, after all, the first time he’ll try to make the cut to 170 since failing to do so in January against Tyron Woodley. It’ll be a tough outing for Gastelum, but I expect him to win at least three rounds here.
Prediction: Gastelum def. Magny via decision