MMA / Editorial

UFC Fight Night: Mir vs. Duffee Preview & Predictions

Ariel Shnerer / July 13, 2015 - 11:57pm

Just three days removed from an action-packed doubleheader weekend, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to San Diego, Calif. for a special Wednesday edition of UFC Fight Night: Mir vs. Duffee.

In the main event, former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir collides with surging knockout machine Todd Duffee, plus Josh Thomson battles Tony Ferguson in a clash of top 15 lightweights.

Note: Prelims will air live on Fight Network in Canada at 8 p.m. ET

Here’s a closer look:

Main Card (TSN/FOX Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET)

-Frank Mir (17-9) vs. Todd Duffee (9-2)

The 36-year-old Las Vegas native Mir and 29-year-old Indiana native Duffee throw down in the main event.

A former UFC heavyweight champion, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Mir is widely regarded as one of the sport’s premier heavyweight submission threats. His future Hall of Fame career includes marquee wins over Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (twice), Cheick Kongo, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Roy Nelson.

Mir recently rebounded from a career-worst four-fight skid at the hands of Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem when he knocked out Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in February.

Behavioural issues led to Duffee’s initial UFC release in 2010, a period that saw the freakishly athletic American Top Team product suffer successive knockout losses against Mike Russow and Alistair Overeem. But he’s currently riding a three-fight winning streak, including back-to-back UFC knockouts of Philip De Fries and Anthony Hamilton.

Mir has power in his punches, but striking exchanges will favor Duffee, who has knocked out all nine of his career victims. On the ground, however, it will be night and day, so Mir needs to do everything within his power to get the fight there, which may even require pulling guard.

The biggest X-factor is Mir’s potential regression. He’s no spring chicken, while Duffee is constantly improving. With that being said, this is a gigantic step up in competition for Duffee, who has never encountered a well-rounded opponent with Mir’s submission prowess.

No pick surrounding a Mir fight is a sure thing these days, but I favor the veteran to get the job done here, hurting Duffee with a counter, then sealing the deal with a first-round submission.

Verdict: Mir via Submission, Round 1

-Josh Thomson (20-7, 1 NC) vs. Tony Ferguson (18-3)

In a scintillating lightweight clash of California natives, the 36-year-old Thomson takes on the 31-year-old Ferguson.

The former Strikeforce lightweight champion has competed all over the world dating back to his January 2001 pro debut, amassing wins over the likes of Hermes Franca, Gilbert Melendez, Pat Healy, Gesias Cavalcante and K.J. Noons.

Thomson made a splash in his April 2013 UFC debut, becoming the first man to stop Nate Diaz inside the octagon. The American Kickboxing Academy product is coming off a pair of split verdicts that didn’t go his way against Benson Henderson and Bobby Green.

Ferguson is on a five-fight tear, including finishes of Katsunori Kikuno, Abel Trujillo and Gleison Tibau. In his lone hiccup since conquering the 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Ferguson dropped a decision against Michael Johnson in May 2012.

This is a fantastic pairing of tremendously well-rounded lightweights. Both are former collegiate wrestlers with evolved striking arsenals and slick submission games. However, the younger Ferguson has more upside. He’s a heavier hitter, but he tends to take chances in his pursuit of chokes, which could land him in some precarious positions. Thomson’s wrestling and clinch work could be his keys here, as Ferguson is likely to be the more active fighter everywhere else. Thomson’s chin hasn’t failed him yet and I expect it to be competitive, but Ferguson will be pushing the pace and landing cleaner shots to procure the biggest win of his career on judges’ scorecards.

Verdict: Ferguson via Decision

-Holly Holm (8-0) vs. Marion Reneau (6-1)

In a pivotal women’s bantamweight showdown that could produce the next title challenger, the 33-year-old New Mexico native Holm looks to keep her unblemished record in tact opposite the 38-year-old “Belizean Bruiser” Reneau.

Transitioning to MMA as one of the most decorated female boxers of all time, Holm was immediately expected to accomplish big things. Anchored at Jackson’s MMA in her hometown, the southpaw is still unbeaten, but she failed to live up to expectations in her promotional debut this past February, winning a tougher-than-anticipated split decision over Raquel Pennington.

On the other hand, Reneau has surpassed her forecasted potential, battering Alexis Dufresne in her UFC debut this past January, then submitting Jessica Andrade in February. The BJJ brown belt was initially rejected from the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter due to her age.

Holm’s boxing is indeed her specialty, but she also attacks with an assortment of kicks and isn’t afraid to mix it up in grappling exchanges. Reneau is highly aggressive and a potential dark horse in this fight. In fact, it’s surprising to see Holm matched up with Reneau after encountering so much adversity against Pennington in her debut.

I expect Reneau to stay in Holm’s face, never letting her get comfortable striking at range. She’ll occasionally find Holm’s chin to keep her honest, and on the ground, she should advance positions and threaten with submissions. When it’s all said and done, Holm’s largely defensive performance will cost her a decision, and Reneau could be challenging for the title before the year is over.

Verdict: Reneau via Decision

-Scott Jorgensen (15-10) vs. Manny Gamburyan (14-8, 1 NC)

The 32-year-old Utah native Jorgensen returns to 135 pounds against the 34-year-old Armenian “Anvil” Gamburyan.

A former NCAA Division I wrestler, Jorgensen remained a contender for years, beating the likes of Takeya Mizugaki, Brad Pickett and Jeff Curran, but losses in three of his last four bantamweight bouts prompted him to drop down a weight class. He went on a disappointing 1-3 stretch at flyweight, beating Danny Martinez, while coming up short against Zach Makovsky, Jussier Formiga and, most recently, Wilson Reis.

A third dan black belt judoka, Gamburyan first appeared in the UFC on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter. His career voyage includes notable wins over Jorge Santiago, Leonard Garcia, Mike Brown, Michihiro Omigawa and Cole Miller. The Ronda Rousey teammate was last seen snatching a come-from-behind submission against Cody Gibson in September.

Both fighters have some power, but Gamburyan has the edge there. Jorgensen, meanwhile, has achieved his greatest success with his wrestling. Gamburyan’s solid wrestling base and judo pedigree is a nightmarish stylistic undertaking for the former WEC title challenger. Judging from recent performances, Jorgensen has clearly regressed. Five years ago, he may have been the pick, but Gamburyan is fighting with more drive and I expect him to control the fight everywhere.

Verdict: Gamburyan via Decision

-Kevin Lee (10-1) vs. James Moontasri (8-2)

In lightweight action, the 22-year-old Detroit native Lee faces the 27-year-old German export Moontasri.

Since suffering his lone career setback by decision against Al Iaquinta in his February 2014 promotional debut, the former NCAA Division II wrestler Lee has won three straight decisions over Jesse Ronson, Jon Tuck and Michel Prazeres.

A 4th dan taekwondo black belt, the Resurrection Fighting Alliance veteran Moontasri has split a pair since joining the UFC last June, losing a split decision against Joe Ellenberger, then bouncing back this past February with a second-round submission of Cody Pfister.

Lee will look to tally takedowns to keep Moontasri bottled up for the better part of three rounds. He’ll need to steer clear of Moontasri’s evolving submission game, but well-disguised striking spurts and superior wrestling will carry him to a triumphant decision.

Verdict: Lee via Decision

-Alan Jouban (11-3) vs. Matt Dwyer (8-2)

The 32-year-old Louisiana native Jouban meets the 25-year-old Canadian Dwyer in a welterweight matchup.

The former RFA title challenger Jouban made a statement in his UFC debut last August, knocking out Seth Baczynski in the first round. The BJJ brown belt dropped a decision against Warlley Alves in his sophomore outing, then rebounded with a first-round destruction of Richard Walsh in February.

The Toshido Martial Arts-based Dwyer earned his UFC opportunity after successive stoppages of Shonie Carter and DaMarques Johnson under the British Columbia-based Battlefield Fight League banner. He suffered a first-round knockout loss against Albert Tumenov in his debut last October, but he rebounded with a “Performance of the Night” worthy superman punch knockout of William Macario in February.

Dwyer is a talented striker, but Jouban should have him numbered, both standing and on the ground. Jouban’s aggressive nature will pay off early, as he pelts his foe with first-round strikes.

Verdict: Jouban via KO, Round 1

Preliminary Card (Fight Network/FOX Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET)

-Sam Sicilia (14-5) vs. Yaotzin Meza (21-9, 1 NC)

The 29-year-old Washington native Sicilia battles the 34-year-old Californian Meza in the featured prelim live on Fight Network.

Sicilia is 4-4 under the UFC banner since his stint on the 15th season of The Ultimate Fighter, including knockouts of Cristiano Marcello, Godofredo Pepey and, most recently, Akira Corassani.

The MMA Lab disciple Meza has struggled against tougher competition in the UFC, including Chad Mendes and Sergio Pettis, but he’s coming off a unanimous decision win over Damian Stasiak this past April.

Meza emerged victorious in his featherweight return and he should be successful if he employs a wrestling and submission-heavy offense. However, Sicilia’s clubbing blows could instantly alter the landscape of the bout. If Sicilia gets trapped on the ground, he’s in a heap of trouble, but I think he gets it done early with a flurry of jackhammer shots.

Verdict: Sicilia via KO, Round 1

-Jessica Andrade (12-4) vs. Sarah Moras (4-2)

In a women’s bantamweight contest, the 23-year-old Brazilian Andrade meets the 27-year-old Canadian Moras.

Andrade was dominated by Liz Carmouche in her July 2013 UFC debut, but she managed to string together three straight wins over Rosi Sexton, Raquel Pennington and Larissa Pacheco. That momentum was halted in February, as she conceded a first-round choke against Marion Reneau.

A cast member on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Moras has been inactive since winning a decision over Alexis Dufresne in her official UFC debut last July.

Moras’ wrestling should be a primary offensive anchor, but Andrade’s chokes are a potential concern if they spill to the floor. The Brazilian’s technical striking will set the tone, as she’ll chip away at Moras with blistering kicks and timely counters, winning a commanding decision in the process.

Verdict: Andrade via Decision

-Rani Yahya (20-8) vs. Masanori Kanehara (24-11-5)

In an exciting showcase of international bantamweight veterans, the 30-year-old Brazilian submission ace Yahya tangles with the 32-year-old Japanese grinder Kanehara.

A BJJ black belt who debuted in 2002, Yahya’s career includes conquests over Mark Hominick, Eddie Wineland, Mike Brown, Josh Grispi and Mizuto Hirota. After mixed results at 145 pounds, Yahya returned to bantamweight in April 2014. He’s coming off a second-round submission of Johnny Bedford last September.

The former Sengoku champion Kanehara won seven of eight bouts to finally earn a shot in the UFC. He made the most of his opportunity in September, earning a hard-fought decision over Alex Caceres. Some of his notable victims in Japan include Chan Sung Jung, Michihiro Omigawa and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto.

Kanehara should enjoy a substantial edge over Yahya in the striking realm, but a grappling-heavy affair favors the Brazilian, though Kanehara’s wrestling is underrated. If he can put all his tools together, Kanehara will consolidate his combinations with strong offensive and defensive wrestling, turning in a complete performance to garner a decision.

Verdict: Kanehara via Decision

-Igor Araujo (25-7) vs. Sean Strickland (15-1)

The first televised tilt in the welterweight division pits the 34-year-old Brazilian Araujo against the 24-year-old California native Strickland.

The well-travelled BJJ black belt Araujo rattled off back-to-back decisions over Ildemar Alcantara and Danny Mitchell after joining the main UFC roster in 2013, but he most recently succumbed to a second-round knockout at the hands of George Sullivan.

The Millenia MMA-based BJJ brown belt Strickland is looking to rebound from his first career setback in February, as he dropped a decision against Santiago Ponzinibbio. The former King of the Cage champion previously dispatched Bubba McDaniel and Luke Barnatt.

If Strickland’s takedown defense is on point, this is his fight to lose. Araujo’s vaunted grappling is a looming threat, but the American should light him up standing to claim a one-sided decision.

Verdict: Strickland via Decision

Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 7 p.m. ET)

-Kevin Casey (8-3) vs. Ildemar Alcantara (21-7)

The 34-year-old Californian Casey clashes with the 32-year-old Brazilian Alcantara in a welterweight pairing.

The Rickson Gracie-trained BJJ black belt Casey was cut following his stint on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter. He went on to win three straight bouts under the RFA banner, capturing the organization’s middleweight title, earning another shot on the sport’s biggest stage. He bludgeoned Bubba Bush in his return last July, but he tested positive for drostanolone in the aftermath of the bout, leading to a one-year suspension.

Also a BJJ black belt, Alcantara is coming off a split decision win over Richardson Moreira in January. He previously defeated Wagner Prado, Leandro Silva and Albert Tumenov, while dropping decisions against Igor Aruajo and Kenny Robertson.

Casey is a powerhouse on the feet and a shark on the ground, but he loses steam quickly. If Alcantara survives the early onslaught, he’ll assume control of the fray with clinches and top control, sapping Casey’s punching power and outworking him down the stretch.

Verdict: Alcantara via Decision

-Andrew Craig (9-3) vs. Lyman Good (18-3, 1NC)

The 29-year-old Texan Craig officially welcomes the 30-year-old New Yorker Good to the octagon for a welterweight bout.

Craig is in a must-win situation following back-to-back losses against Luke Barnatt and Cezar Ferreira, which killed any momentum he accumulated from earlier wins over Kyle Noke, Rafael Natal and Chris Leben.

A heavy favorite heading in, the former Bellator titlist Good lost a decision against Ian Stephens on the 19th season of The Ultimate Fighter. Since then, he’s dominated his opposition under the Cage Fury Fighting Championships banner, earning this call-up on short notice as a replacement for Edgar Garcia.

Craig will reap the benefits of a full training camp. He’s a scrappy brawler who can finish everywhere, while Good is a physical specimen armed with greater knockout power. The historically durable Craig will eat big punches and give up takedowns. He’ll occasionally rally back, but Good will control the fight with a gritty display of technique and strength.

Verdict: Good via Decision

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