The next Lightweight title contender could be decided at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (June 27, 2020) when Dustin Poirier looks to rebound from defeat against surging Kiwi finisher Dan Hooker in the promotion’s final pre-”Fight Island” event. Also in store are a Welterweight donnybrook pitting Mike Perry against Mickey Gall and Gian Villante’s Heavyweight debut opposite The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Maurice Greene.
Three Four UFC on ESPN 12 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), all prepared for your perusal below:
155 lbs.: Luis Pena vs. Khama Worthy
Undeterred by the injury that ended his The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) run, Luis Pena (8-2) went on to win four of six in the Octagon, both losses coming by split decision. His most recent bout saw him bounce back from a narrow defeat to Matt Frevola with a decision over late replacement Steve Garcia in January.
He’ll have four inches of height and reach on Khama Worthy (15-6).
Less than one month after extending his win streak to five with a third-round knockout, Worthy stepped up on short notice to face prospect Devonte Smith in Anaheim. Despite facing massive odds, he authored one of the year’s biggest numerical upsets with a bonus-winning first-round finish.
Thirteen of his last 15 fights have ended inside the distance and he’s scored nine professional knockouts overall.
Way back in my “New Blood” piece about him, I described Worthy as a “boom or bust” fighter; the Smith win was a boom, this will be a bust. Dangerous as his power makes him, he remains fragile and bereft of defense, and though Pena is by no means a knockout artist, he’s skilled enough to hurt Worthy on the feet or exploit his aggression to set up submission opportunities.
Despite his lanky frame, durability hasn’t been an issue for Pena thus far, making it unlikely that Worthy can land a game-changing blow before the former’s technical superiority takes over. Either a club-and-sub or early takedown nets Peña a quick tapout.
Prediction: Pena via first-round submission
265 lbs.: Tanner Boser vs. Philipe Lins
Tanner Boser (17-6-1) — riding a 4-1-1 streak — was all set to make his UFC debut against Giacomo Lemos in July, but wound up beating Daniel Spitz three months later after Lemos failed a drug test. This set up a clash with top prospect Ciryl Gane, who comfortably outstruck “The Bulldozer” to a unanimous decision win in December.
He’ll enjoy a four-inch reach advantage over “Monstro.”
Moving up to Heavyweight after a pair of losses at 205 pounds, Philipe Lins (14-4) went a perfect 4-0 during his time in PFL, winning their 2018 tournament with four finishes. The run wasn’t to last, as he dropped a decision to Andrei Arlovski in his UFC debut last month.
He has knocked out eight professional opponents and submitted another four.
Yeah, odds are that this one’s not making it onto any highlight reels. Boser is among the least aggressive and least entertaining Heavyweights on the planet, and while Lins is an exponentially superior finisher, he’s also on the patient side as big men go. We’re likely to see more circling and feints than protracted exchanges.
This will likely come down to Boser’s variety against Lins’ power, and “Monstro” could very easily let this fight get away from him if he lets Boser dictate the pace. Still, the Brazilian hits so much harder that the differential in telling blows will be staggering. Lins leans on his heavier hands to win their sporadic trades and take the decision.
Prediction: Lins via unanimous decision
150 lbs.: Sean Woodson vs. Kyle Nelson
The towering Sean Woodson (7-0) punched his ticket to the Octagon with a brutal flying knee finish of the favored Terrance McKinney on the Contender Series, setting up a debut against Kyle Bochniak three months later. Despite “Crash’s” best efforts, Woodson controlled the striking and shut down Bochniak’s wrestling to claim a unanimous decision win.
He stands three inches taller than Kyle Nelson (13-3) and will have an eight-inch reach advantage.
“The Monster” stepped up in weight for his UFC debut, which saw him badly hurt top contender Diego Ferreira before succumbing to the Brazilian’s grappling attack in the second round. A submission loss to Matt Sayles his next time out dropped him to 0-2 in the Octagon, but he came back to knock out Polo Reyes in 96 seconds and keep his career afloat.
The finish was his fifth by knockout and ninth overall.
Woodson’s ability to stay on his feet against strong wrestlers remains in question, but Nelson doesn’t quite fit that bill. Though he managed to get Sayles down through sheer persistence, Bochniak tried that strategy against “The Sniper” to no effect. That leaves “The Monster” to wins a standup battle against someone with more than half a foot of reach on him, which Nelson’s edge in stopping power can’t compensate for.
That said, Nelson could theoretically win this by keeping Woodson pressed against the cage for as long as humanly possible. Without the takedown skills of McKinney, though, it’s hard to see his efforts towards that goal outweighing Woodson’s volume striking in the eyes of the judges. Woodson outlands him at range to secure the decision.
Prediction: Woodson via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Jinh Yu Frey vs. Kay Hansen
Frey (9-4) claimed Invicta Atomweight gold in her second attempt, defeating Minna Grusander for the vacant title and successfully defending it in a rematch. After losing a competitive bout to Rizin champ Ayaka Hamasaki on the Japanese veteran’s home turf, she returned to Invicta with a win over Ashley Cummins, only to lose her title on the scales.
She’ll have a two-inch reach advantage over her far younger foe.
The 20-year-old Hansen (6-3) enters the Octagon with wins in three of her last four official bouts, the lone loss a narrow split decision. Her most recent effort saw her take a dominant decision over Liara Pirosin in March, which would make for her third straight win if you count her one-round victory in Invicta’s Phoenix Series.
She’s submitted three opponents among her five stoppage wins.
Frey is at her best when opponents are hesitant to press the issue, allowing her effective lateral movement and powerful left hand to dictate slow-paced chess matches. Hansen isn’t going to give her that respect; the 10th Planet product is always keen on getting it to the mat at the earliest opportunity, meaning Frey’s issues with being physically bullied will be at the forefront.
Though Hansen is at a serious disadvantage in the striking, her size, strength, and wrestling skills look more than sufficient to control the fight wherever it goes. After seeing Frey’s struggles with Hamasaki’s top control, I expect Hansen to have plenty of success here, dominating on the mat for a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Hansen via unanimous decision
There’s no conceivable way Poirier vs. Hooker isn’t utter madness and Perry-Gall has the potential for some absolute lunacy — don’t miss ‘em! See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 12 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 12: “Poirier vs. Hooker” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2020: 42-43-1
This article was originally published on www.mmamania.com