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UFC Fight Night Norfolk: Preview and Main Card Predictions

A mere four days ago laid witness to perhaps the most historic night in UFC history. UFC 217 saw three title fights and three title challengers emerge victorious.  None larger than one of the all-time greats, Georges St-Pierre returning after a four-year absence from the sport to claim the UFC Middleweight Championship with a submission victory over former champion Michael Bisping. The UFC is back this weekend with a loaded card for UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Pettis.  Norfolk’s Ted Constant Convocation Center will play host for the evening’s fight card.  Let’s take a closer look at the action.

Headlining the card will be former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis looking to build traction in the crowded lightweight division.  He’ll battle #8-ranked Dustin Poirier in a battle of two the best fighters in recent UFC history.  Meanwhile the co-main event will feature potential for pure fireworks.  UFC veterans Matt Brown and Diego Sanchez will tangle in what is the early favorite for Fight of the Night.

Dustin Poirier vs Anthony Pettis this Saturday LIVE and FREE on @FS1!!!

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#8 Dustin Poirier vs. #13 Anthony Pettis – Lightweight Fight

Since losing his belt to challenger Rafael Dos Anjos in March of 2015, Anthony Pettis (20-6 MMA, 7-5 UFC) has had mixed success competing and both lightweight and featherweight inside the UFC.   Opposite “Showtime” will be Dustin Poirier (21-5 (1 NC) MMA, 13-4 (1 NC) UFC), a technically-sound competitor out of south Florida’s American Top Team.

Poirier has been rock solid during his UFC tenure. Since moving up to lightweight following a 2014 loss to current champion Conor McGregor, Poirier won four straight setting up a main event fight with Michael Johnson at UFC Fight Night: Hidalgo. A quick three-punch combination knocked Poirier out in the first round.  “The Diamond” answered back nicely, taking a decision victory over Jim Miller.  In his most recent outing at UFC 211 against former champion Eddie Alvarez, all was going to plan as Poirier was undoubtedly winning the fight when an illegal knee thrown by Alvarez rendered Poirier unable to continue.  Instead of the disqualification win, the fight was ruled a “No Contest.” Hungry to get back in the cage, the 28-year-old Poirier has a golden opportunity to add a former champion to his already impressive list of UFC accolades.

What to look out for with Poirier – Poirier is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC regardless of weight class.  He stands southpaw and utilizes his striking very well.  He favors rangy punching-combinations and does not offer much offense in the form of kicks.  He has the power to put the lights out, just ask Bobby Green or Yancy Meideros.  His offensive wrestling has been on display in a few of his UFC wins including when he earned a decision victory over Joe Duffy.  His submission grappling is also tricky as he’s worked tirelessly with former UFC fighters and grappling-aces Mike Brown and Tim Credeur.  Poirier always appears to be in shape and well-trained for when he steps into the cage.  Expect a heavy-dose of fluid combinations to set up the takedowns and follow the “blueprint” to beat Pettis that has proven effective in his UFC losses.

Former UFC Lightweight Champion Pettis had an opportunity at history in December of 2016 when he challenged Max Holloway for the UFC Interim Featherweight Championship. Unfortunately Pettis missed weight and was stripped of the title opportunity.  He fought Holloway anyway that night but was finished in the third round. This will be the second UFC appearance for “Showtime” in 2017, having earned a fairly dominant decision victory over Miller at UFC 213 in July. The longtime representative of Milwaukee’s Roufusport will look to prove to everyone that “Showtime” is back when he stands opposite Poirier in Virginia.

What to look out for with Pettis – While Pettis has undoubtedly made improvements and become a better-rounded martial artist, his gameplan and technical approach more or less remains the same.  Machida is a 3rd Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo and prefers to stay at range where he can unleash brutal body and head-kicks.  His highlight-reel includes flashy attacks and a decent amount of submission finishes.  He’ll want to avoid the clinch and takedown offense of Poirier if Pettis wants the best opportunity to win.

Prediction – Both like to strike and both have sneaky submission abilities. Besides the knockout to Johnson, Poirier has been on a solid run at lightweight.  While even on his worst day would he be a tough test for anybody, Pettis does not appear to have the same drive and passion that he once did.  Unless Pettis is able to land a knockout headkick, Poirier has the better opportunity to implement a smart strategy and takeout the former champion.  Poirier by TKO, round four.

Matt Brown vs. Diego Sanchez

Sometimes fights get booked that seem to be purely for the benefit of the fans.  This matchup between longtime fan-favorites Matt Brown (20-16 MMA, 13-10 UFC) and Diego Sanchez (27-10 MMA, 16-10 UFC) seems to fit that mold precisely. “The Immortal” Brown recently announced that this matchup would serve as his retirement fight.  After a seven-fight winning streak, Brown has since gone 1-5, entering Saturday on a three-fight skid.  His last appearance resulted in a knockout loss courtesy of a “Cowboy” Cerrone headkick.  Brown’s best work comes from engaging his opponents in a firefight, luring them into a brawl where he’s able to absorb punishment while dishing out continual sharp strikes attempting to break his opponent.  The Cincinnati-native has spent a majority of his fight camps in recent years training at the now-defunct Elevation Fight Team in Denver.

Brown will almost positively stand across from an opponent always willing to engage in a stand-up war.  Diego Sanchez has had a storied UFC-career after being one of two of the original winners of The Ultimate Fighter.  He’s competed in 26 UFC fights stemming across four weight classes.  Sanchez has been responsible for being a part of some of the greatest fights in UFC history.  However, he enters the octagon having been brutally knocked out in two of his last three.  For Sanchez, this fight might be do-or-die.

Prediction – Oddsmakers see Brown as a significant favorite here (-340).  Both combatants have shown the ability to go the distance and create an all-out war.  But given Sanchez’s recent track-record, his ability to take a punch appears to be dwindling.  The much larger Brown has proven power and after a fun-filled first couple of minutes, he finds the target pitting “The Nightmare” to sleep.  Brown by TKO, round one.

#11 Júnior Albini vs. #12 Andrei Arlovski

A young, intriguing heavyweight burst onto the scene this past July when Júnior Albini (14-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) needed less than three minutes to dispatch durable heavyweight Tim Johnson. The Brazilian’s financial struggles came to light as “Baby” won a $50,000 Performance of The Night bonus in the process. Albini has twelve finishes in his fourteen professional wins.

His opponent may very well be fighting for his UFC career.  Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski (25-15 (1 NC) MMA, 14-8 UFC) has lost five straight fights including being finished in four. Arlovski is a well-rounded fighter and a true veteran of the sport who’s more prone to exchanging on the feet and getting lured into wild slugfests.  Arlovski will have to dig deep as oddsmakers have him as a moderate underdog (+225).  Arlovski has chosen to do this fight camp at American Top Team in South Florida, leaving his longtime gym Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque.

Prediction – Arlovski made some noise when he returned to the UFC in 2014.  But in recent fights, he has not been able to handle the power of his opponents.  Albini showed good patience and fluid combination striking in his UFC debut.  The Brazilian finds a home for an uppercut then follows up to get the finish.  Albini by TKO, round two.

Cezar Ferreira vs. Nate Marquardt

Longtime division-staple Nate Marquardt (35-18-2 MMA, 13-11 UFC) is clearly on the tail-end of his professional career.  Marquardt enters the cage having lost his last two and only winning two of his last seven.  He’ll need to be on top of his game come Saturday when he steps into the octagon with the younger Brazilian.

Marquardt draws a foe in Cezar Ferreira (11-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC) who is 3-1 since returning to the middleweight division in 2016. A longtime mentee of the great Vitor Belfort, “Mutante” enters the octagon looking to get back in the win column following a decision loss to Elias Theodorou this past Febrary. “Mutante” is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt who has also developed strong wrestling.

Prediction – Marquardt has proven that power is “the last to go” with his knockout wins over Tamdan McCrory and CB Dollaway.  But he’ll likely be on his heels dealing with the striking and offensive-minded attack of Ferreira. “Mutante” clips and finishes the veteran.  Ferreira by TKO, round one.

#4 Raphael Assunção vs. #13 Matthew Lopez

A lot of eyes remain on the UFC bantamweight division these days and an exciting matchup of ranked 135ers serves as the main-card’s second bout for the evening.  #4 Raphael Assunção (25-5 MMA, 9-2 UFC) has been ultra-impressive since arriving in the UFC via the WEC acquisition in 2011. Assunção enters the cage off wins over fellow ranked fighters Aljamain Sterling and Marlon Moraes. Assucao has developed an elusive, high-volume striking game while also maintaining his ability to grapple.  At 35-years of age, the Georgia resident will need to make a run sooner rather than later.

Getting a huge opportunity to climb the rankings will be Assuncao’s opponent, Matthew Lopez (10-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC). Lopez was discovered on Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight but fell short to elite-grappler Rani Yahya in his UFC debut.  Lopez bounced back with a win over Mitch Gagnon, then followed with his most impressive performance to date, a first-round TKO-finish over Nova Uniao’s Johnny Eduardo. This past summer, Lopez served on the coaching staff for Justin Gaethje on The Ultimate Fighter 26.  Lopez will certainly be looking to take the fight to the mat where his strong top control can generate offense.

Prediction – Lopez’s UFC 212 was impressive.  But it’s hard not to think he’s in over his head when stepping in there with the bonafide top-five competitor in Assunção. Assunção defends the takedowns and utilizes strong in-and-out movement en route to a decision.  Assunção by unanimous decision.

Joe Lauzon vs. Clay Guida

Kicking off the main card showcases two of the longest-tenured athletes in all of the UFC.  With a combined 48 UFC fights, both Joe Lauzon (27-13 MMA, 13-10 UFC) and Clay Guida (33-17 MMA, 13-11 UFC) are known by even the most casual of fans.  The Boston-native Lauzon has had mixed success in recent years, alternating wins and losses in his last eight fights.  Lauzon has tremendous submission grappling, but hasn’t earned a submission since his triangle-choke finish of Jamie Varner in 2012.  In recent fights, Lauzon has had strong first rounds but shown a tendency to fade the longer the fight goes.

If there’s one thing Lauzon’s opponent Guida does not do, it is fade the longer the fight goes.  “The Carpenter” has been a perennial top 10 fighter in both the lightweight and featherweight divisions.  He’s extremely well-rounded but works best leveraging his wrestling and unleashing continuous pressure towards his opponents from top position.  He’s coming off an extremely impressive victory over Erik Koch this past June.  Guida has relocated his training camp full-time to Sacramento under the tutelage of Team Alpha Male.

Prediction – Lauzon will be in this fight from the get-go. But recent history has proven that Lauzon has had a hard time dealing with grueling, tiring battles.  In classic Guida-style, “The Carpenter” battles hard for fifteen minutes and comes out the victory. Guida by unanimous decision.

UFC Norfolk Prelims Highlights

The absolutely loaded prelims portion of the UFC: Norfolk will feature three prelim fights exclusively on UFC Fight Pass and four fights will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 in the United States prior to the main card.  Headlining the prelims will be ranked Bantamweights who possess lightning speed and explosive power. #8 John Dodson (19-8 MMA, 8-3 UFC) will battle former WSOF Bantamweight Champion, #9 Marlon Moraes (18-5-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC), who will look to pick up his first octagon victory in his sophomore UFC outing. Four talented strawweights will step into the cage including The Ultimate Fighter 23 winner Tatiana Suarez (4-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC).  MMA Today’s Drake Riggs goes into deep review of these two matchups here.  Welterweights Court McGee (18-6 MMA, 7-5 UFC) and Sean Strickland (18-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) will enter with a combined 12 UFC victories when they square off.  The original Dana White’s Looking For A Fight discovery and social-media star Sage Northcutt (8-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) faces American Top Team’s Michael Quiñones (8-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC).  And for the first time, a contract winner from Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series will make an official UFC debut.* Karl Roberson (4-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) earned the contract on week three of the show.  He’ll make his official UFC debut against England’s Darren Stewart (7-1 (1 NC) MMA, 0-1 (1 NC) UFC).

 *Mike Santiago and Zu Anyanwu both competed and won on the series but were not awarded official contracts.  They have since made their UFC debuts as injury replacements where both fell short.        

UFC: Norfolk Main Card

  • #8 Dustin Poirier vs. #13 Anthony Pettis
  • Matt Brown vs. Diego Sanchez
  • #11 Júnior Albini vs. #12 Andrei Arlovski
  • Cezar Ferreira vs. Nate Marquardt
  • #5 Raphael Assunção vs. #13 Matthew Lopez
  • Joe Lauzon vs. Clay Guida

UFC: Norfolk Prelims

  • #8 John Dodson vs. #9 Marlon Moraes
  • Tatiana Suarez vs. Viviane Pereira
  • Sage Northcutt vs. Michel Quiñones
  • Angela Hill vs. Nina Ansaroff
  • Court McGee vs. Sean Strickland
  • Jake Collier vs. Marcel Fortuna
  • Darren Stewart vs. Karl Roberson

 

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