Conor McGregor (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)The MMA Corner Round Table: UFC Fight Night 46 Preview and Predictions RJ Gardner July 15, 2014 Events, Previews, Spotlight On July 19, the UFC invades Dublin, Ireland’s O2 Arena. This marks the UFC’s second trip to Ireland, and this time its with Irish native Conor McGregor as the headliner. McGregor is 2-0 in the UFC and comes into the bout riding a 10-fight winning streak, nine of which have come by way of stoppage. McGregor will face The Ultimate Fighter 14 winner Diego Brandao, who enters the fight with a less than stellar 4-2 record in the UFC. The co-main event of the evening is a welterweight bout between undefeated grappling prodigy Gunnar Nelson and tough veteran Zak Cummings. The winner of this welterweight clash will find themselves knocking on the door of the UFC welterweight division’s top 10. The UFC Fight Pass main card also features a flyweight bout between Brad Pickett and Ian McCall and a lightweight tilt between Norman Parke and Naoyuki Kotani. The entire card airs live on UFC Fight Pass. The six-fight preliminary card begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, followed by the four-fight main card at 3 p.m. ET. The MMA Corner’s Rob Young, Bryan Henderson and RJ Gardner break down all of the action in this edition of Round Table. LW: Naoyuki Kotani (33-10-7) vs. Norman Parke (19-2-1) Young: Japan’s Naoyuki Kotani makes his triumphant return to the UFC coming off a 13-fight winning streak going all the way back to 2010. Sure, only one of his victims from this stretch (who is 38 years old) has a Wikipedia page, but there’s no denying that he is on a tear. Jorge Masvidal, the last relevant opponent Kotani has fought, defeated him at Hidehiko Yoshida’s retirement celebration four years ago. Usually when the UFC signs someone from Japan, they have a decent record, even if it’s only over the bigger names in the Japanese circuit, but that is definitely not the case here. It’s especially puzzling that the UFC would sign such a fighter to its talent-rich lightweight division, but I digress. *cough* OVERSATURATION *cough* The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes winner Norman Parke comes into this fight undefeated in the Octagon, but his last fight was a draw against Leonardo Santos. Parke has a foundation in judo and freestyle wrestling, and while many of his wins in the smaller shows have come via submission, he has left every one of his UFC fights in the hands of the judges. Considering all of this, I’m willing to bet that Parke’s level of competition, even on TUF, has been higher than that of Kotani, and I expect Parke to come out with a lopsided 30-27 decision. Henderson: Kotani’s arrival in the UFC was probably aided by his two most recent victories, which came under the Vale Tudo Japan banner. Granted, those wins weren’t anything special, but that series of events tends to garner more attention than Zst and Rings Outsider, the shows where Kotani picked up the other 11 wins in his current streak. To further support my colleague’s argument about Kotani’s lack of potential inside the Octagon, let’s look at his record as a whole. There are two significant stretches in which Kotani has gone undefeated. The first started with his 2000 debut and lasted through the end of 2003. The most notable name? Veteran fighter Hideo Tokoro, who has fought a lot of tough competition en route to a record which now stands at 32-26-2. Then, there’s his current 13-fight run, which started in late 2010. The most notable name there? Possibly Katsuya Inoue, though there’s also the 38-year-old fighter Rob mentioned. In between those two runs is where the real story of Kotani’s potential lies. From 2004 through the better part of 2010, the 32-year-old lightweight went 8-10-5. It also marks the era in which Kotani stepped up to fight some significant names—his losses came to Rich Clementi, Yves Edwards, Roger Huerta, Thiago Tavares, Dennis Siver and the aforementioned Masvidal, to name a few, and he appeared under the UFC and Pride banners. He did beat Tokoro once again during that stretch and added a win over Daisuke Nakamura, but his list of victories during that period doesn’t exactly read all that impressively. The placement of this fight on the main card and the choice of opponent makes it clear that the UFC’s intent is to showcase Parke as a promising TUF winner in front of a partisan crowd. Parke doesn’t have the striking prowess to hand Kotani yet another in a long line of knockout losses, but he does have the judo and wrestling skills necessary to control Kotani for the duration of the bout. Kotani will try to attack with submissions, but it won’t be enough. Parke will indeed emerge with the easy unanimous verdict. Gardner: I have to echo my fellow panelists. This match-up is meant to be a showcase fight for Parke, who has yet to finish an opponent in his UFC career. Parke is a talented grappler with national championships in judo and wrestling. Kotani is not what I would call a “can” by any means, but he is not truly a UFC-caliber lightweight either. He is riding one hell of a winning streak, though, with 11 of the 13 wins coming by way of stoppage. He has been feasting on lesser competition, and he has never defeated anyone of note. If Parke get sloppy or if he takes his opponent lightly, then Kotani will make him pay for it. But as long as he shows up, Parke should be able to handle Kotani. Parke has only won three career fights by TKO, but once he gets Kotani to the mat he should be able to put him away with ground-and-pound. Parke via third-round TKO. FlyW: Ian McCall (12-4-1) vs. Brad Pickett (24-8) Henderson: Not everyone likes flyweights, but for those who do, partial credit may go to Ian McCall for his performances against Demetrious Johnson in the tournament that ultimately crowned Johnson as the first UFC flyweight champion. It’s been more than two years since the second of those meetings, though, and McCall now finds himself at 1-1 since losing to Johnson and he stands far outside the current title landscape. He’ll look to reestablish himself as a contender when he squares off with Brad Pickett. Pickett was a perennial mid-tier bantamweight in the UFC before realizing that perhaps he’d be better suited for the 125-pound ranks. He made his flyweight debut in March when he fought Neil Seery, who was actually a replacement for McCall in the bout. Pickett scored the win, but Seery, who possesses just a 13-10 record, put up a stiff challenge and forced Pickett to go the distance. There’s still hope for Pickett as a new injection of talent among flyweight contenders, but he’ll need to impress against McCall. Further adding to the intrigue of a future title bid for Pickett against Johnson is the fact that Pickett topped Johnson on the scorecards in a bantamweight meeting at WEC 48. These two men are entertaining scrappers who can get the job done with their striking or grappling. McCall had a great year in 2011, when he beat Jussier “Formiga” da Silva, Dustin Ortiz and Darrell Montague over a three-fight span, but he’s struggled to maintain similar levels of success since that time. His fights against Johnson were highly entertaining, but he couldn’t overcome the “Mighty Mouse.” Pickett will provide another difficult test for McCall, who has been sidelined for nearly a year. Pickett’s flyweight debut may not have gone as well as he had hoped, but he’ll find more solid footing this time around. That’s not to say that he’ll dominate against McCall—the two should engage in a great back-and-forth fight full of scrambles, submission attempts and perhaps even a few near finishes on the feet. In the end, Pickett will emerge with the judges’ nods to take a hard-fought decision victory. Gardner: It is astounding to me that the flyweight division is not more popular with MMA fans. The fighters are extremely technical and the pace is amazing. Pickett and McCall will surely not disappoint. I expect these two men to battle back and forth for every second of every round. McCall hasn’t been in the Octagon since August 2013, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to shake the cobwebs loose and get back into his groove. If he isn’t on his “A” game from the onset, he could be in trouble. Pickett may not have the one-punch knockout power his moniker suggests, but he is a dangerous fighter in all facets of the fight game. In his first foray in the flyweight division, Pickett was taken to the limit by Seery. However, I think that was more of a result of the weight cut than anything else. Pickett may be on the backside of his career now, but he is still only one of two fighters to defeat the flyweight champion. A win over McCall puts him in a great place in the title picture. Pickett wins this one via unanimous decision. Young: When this fight is about to start, I highly suggest that anyone with the television on in the background, not paying much mind to this admittedly weak Fight Night card, give this fight in specific their undivided attention. To call “Uncle Creepy’s” time in the UFC tumultuous would be an understatement. McCall came into the UFC’s new flyweight division lauded with praise for his run under the Tachi Palace Fights banner, and he was a heavy favorite to win the UFC’s inaugural flyweight championship. McCall was robbed of an extension round against “Mighty Mouse” in the tournament’s semifinals due to a clerical scoring error and lost their rematch three months later. His personal life has gone in something of a downward spiral from there, from legal trouble preventing him from fighting John Moraga in Los Angeles to separation from his wife, and even the untimely death of close friend and Team Oyama comrade Shane del Rosario. McCall has pulled out of multiple scheduled fights due to injury leading up to this card, including a first attempt at a fight with Pickett. He is a year removed from his only UFC win to date, which was his aforementioned last fight versus Santos. Having said all of that, I feel that McCall is a much better fighter than his recent record suggests and I believe he has what it takes to be competitive in this match-up. RJ mentioned potential issues with Pickett’s first weight cut to 125 pounds as a reason for his worse-than-expected performance against Seery, and that makes perfect sense. At 35 years of age, Pickett won’t have it any easier cutting down to 125 pounds as time goes on. I’m going against the previous consensus here and picking “Uncle Creepy” to win a unanimous decision in this fight, which has all the makings of an epic war. WW: Zak Cummings (17-3) vs. Gunnar Nelson (12-0-1) Gardner: The co-main event of the evening is a welterweight bout between undefeated prospect Gunnar Nelson and talented veteran Zak Cummings. Cummings was scheduled to face Ryan LaFlare at UFC Fight Night 45. However, when LaFlare went down with an injury, Cummings got a huge break by landing this bout with Nelson. Nelson is one of the UFC’s hottest prospects. The Icelandic fighter is a grappling phenom. Cummings may not have the accolades that Nelson has coming into this bout, but he is undefeated in the UFC and has won four straight. Cummings is the perfect fighter to test where Nelson is in his development. Cummings is well rounded, but his bread and butter is his grappling. Too bad that is where Nelson is an absolute beast. Fans will be treated to some solid exchanges on the mat between these two talented fighters, but ultimately Nelson will force a mistake and finish Cummings. Nelson wins this one via second-round submission. Young: Cummings certainly had some great luck in escaping a fight with LaFlare. LaFlare and Brandon Thatch are the future of the 170-pound division, as far as I’m concerned. However, Cummings merely jumped out of the fire and into the frying pan. RJ broke down the match-up perfectly. Cummings is a good grappler who often goes to that well to get his wins, but Nelson is an amazing, top-tier grappler. Something tells me Cummings will have no qualms about going to the mat with Nelson, but it will be his downfall. Nelson will submit Cummings in the first round, and he’ll look spectacular in doing so. Henderson: LaFlare and Thatch might be a part of the future of the welterweight division, but they’ll be joined by one-half of this contest as well. That’d be Nelson, of course. The 25-year-old has put together an impressive run since turning pro in 2007, and he has a bright future ahead of him. My colleagues have talked about the ground games of both men, but it doesn’t really matter whether Cummings opts to stand or go to the mat with his Icelandic foe. Nelson has the well-rounded game to top Cummings in either area. Cummings has four TKO victories, but he’s fighting a man who holds the rank of black belt in Gōjū-ryū karate and brings an unorthodox stand-up style to the Octagon. Nelson is so dangerous on the mat that he forces opponents to anticipate his takedown attempts. With his adversaries worried about avoiding the takedown, his striking becomes even more effective. He might be known for his submissions, but unlike a lot of extremely high-level grapplers, Nelson has posted some knockout and TKO stoppages. The one thing Cummings has working in his favor is that he has never been stopped via strikes. Cummings, who is a BJJ brown belt, is definitely more comfortable fighting on the mat. He has tallied nine submission wins, but he did suffered a submission loss to the much larger Tim Kennedy. In fact, Cummings has faltered every time he has stepped up to fight top competition. First, there was Kennedy under the Strikeforce banner. Then, it was a decision loss to Elvis Mutapcic. Then, a decision loss to Ryan Jimmo. However, all of those men compete at middleweight or light heavyweight. Cummings is obviously enjoying the benefit of fighting guys closer to his own size at welterweight. I’ll acknowledge the truth in RJ’s assertion that Cummings stands as a good test of where Nelson sits in his development. There’s no doubt the 29-year-old Cummings is a difficult fight for any opponent. However, his strengths do lie in the same areas where Nelson stands out as an elite fighter, and the option of falling back on his striking just puts Cummings in another realm where Nelson holds the edge. Unlike my fellow panelists, I believe Cummings will look to test Nelson’s stand-up rather than obliging him in a ground battle. It won’t work, though. Nelson will tag Cummings here and there, eventually setting Cummings up for the takedown. Once on the mat, Nelson will catch Cummings in a submission for the second-round finish. FW: Conor McGregor (14-2) vs. Diego Brandao (18-9) Henderson: Despite all of the talking Conor McGregor has done in interviews and on social media, nothing will resonate more with fans and the UFC brass than the statements he makes with his performances inside the Octagon. He’ll have a chance to add another statement when he takes to the cage in his native Ireland against Diego Brandao in the headlining fight of UFC Fight Night 46. Given how much McGregor’s name has been in the spotlight, it’s hard to believe that this will mark only his third appearance in the UFC. It’s also quite remarkable how quickly he has risen to headlining status, albeit on a UFC Fight Pass broadcast event. McGregor’s persona, combined with his reputation as an entertaining fighter who has held belts in two divisions within the Cage Warriors organization, has allowed him to make this quick rise through the ranks. He’s already viewed as a looming threat to featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo, despite a UFC record that contains wins against lower-tier fighters Marcus Brimage and Max Holloway. The 25-year-old, who holds the rank of purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has been submitted twice, but he does a fine job of putting away opponents with his striking skills. He captured Cage Warriors lightweight gold with a knockout of Ivan Buchinger and took home a “Knockout of the Night” bonus with his TKO finish of Brimage. The southpaw, who trains out of SBG Ireland, will press the action and intimidate opponents, which only contributes to his ability to finish fights. He’ll need to deliver against Brandao and then take a step up in in competition if he wants to prove his worth as a legitimate challenger to Aldo. Brandao, the winner of season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, always stumbles just when it seems like he’s gaining some traction. The BJJ black belt, who trains at Jackson’s MMA, has maintained that trend from the earliest days of his pro career. He won his first three fights, then lost two in a row, won three more, lost again, won two more, lost again and so on. In fact, his longest winning streak lasted four fights and culminated in his TUF championship victory over Dennis Bermudez. His UFC career has seen him lose to the better competition (Darren Elkins and Dustin Poirier) and dispatch the lesser competition (Joey Gambino, Pablo Garza and Daniel Pineda). He was able to submit Bermudez and Garza, but he has an affinity for standing with opponents that was highlighted in his four knockout victories over the course of the TUF 14 tournament. Brandao will need to play it smart and attack McGregor’s biggest weakness, the ground game, in this affair. However, Brandao’s stand-and-bang nature should make it easy for McGregor to bait him into a firefight. Despite just a one-inch discrepancy in height between the Brazilian and his slightly taller Irish counterpart, the reach advantage for McGregor is a stunning 10 inches. The Irishman knows how to use that reach edge, too. He’ll keep Brandao on the outside and land punches with regularity. Risk is the price that comes with a willingness to stand, and Brandao has found himself on the receiving end in five KO/TKO losses, including his most recent defeat at the hands of Poirier. Fans should be prepared to see him on the receiving end once again in Dublin. McGregor via second-round knockout. Young: There’s no denying that McGregor has great stand-up, and the brutal beating he put on Brimage proved it. Although McGregor didn’t perform quite as well against Holloway after the UFC made a point to air his walkout on TV during their Fox Sports 1 debut, the lukewarm performance was most likely due to McGregor’s ACL injury occurring in the middle of the fight. If there was such a thing as a cool-headed Brandao, he would focus entirely on getting McGregor to the ground and submitting him, which he is probably very capable of doing. However, there is no such thing as a cool-headed Brandao. I, too, see Brandao indulging McGregor and playing right into his hand by engaging in a stand-up war, which is an aspect of MMA where Brandao severely lacks the technique and power necessary to emerge victorious, at least while he is up against this Irishman. Barring any ring-rust issues or a less than satisfactory recovery from ACL surgery, I’m picking McGregor to knock out the hot-headed Brazilian in the second round. Gardner: McGregor is coming off a torn ACL, an injury that was once a career-ender in the world of sports. But with modern surgical techniques, athletes have been able to come back and compete at a high level. However, ACL tears are a big deal if athletes don’t take enough time away to properly heal. McGregor is only 25, but I’m not sure a 10-month layoff is enough to fully recover from this injury, especially considering the fact that McGregor is a striker. Without a solid base, strikes have no power. His injury aside, though, McGregor is a star and one of the best young prospects the UFC has under its banner right now. He is a very skilled and aggressive striker, but his ground game leaves a lot to be desired at this point. Brandao is a tremendous grappler, but, as my counterparts have mentioned, he has fallen in love with the striking game. That could prove to be disastrous against McGregor. If Brandao’s coach, Greg Jackson, can get him to stick to the game plan and get the fight to the mat, then Brandao will have a huge advantage over McGregor. However, I just don’t see that happening, Brandao is going to throw caution to the wind and engage McGregor in a striking battle which McGregor will easily win. McGregor via second-round TKO. Preliminary Card FlyW: Patrick Holohan (9-0-1) vs. Josh Sampo (11-3) Young: Dublin’s Patrick Holohan is making his UFC debut. He is undefeated, winning many of his fights via submission. One thing that does stand out on his record, however, is that his last fight took place on July 21, 2012, nearly two years ago. Unfortunately for Holohan, he’s making his debut against Josh “The Gremlin” Sampo. Although Sampo is 1-1 in the UFC, his loss is to former Bellator bantamweight champ Zach Makovsky, who is shaping up to be one of the division’s elite fighters. Holohan has submitted a fair amount of fighters, but Sampo has submitted better ones. Sampo also just looked flat out spectacular in his UFC debut against Ryan Benoit. I’m going with Sampo, but I don’t think he’ll manage to pull off the sub. Instead, he will settle for a 30-27 score on the judges’ cards. Gardner: Holohan is getting a tough draw for his UFC debut, but he will have the benefit of fighting in front of a hometown crowd. He just doesn’t have the experience against UFC-caliber competition. Sampo’s win over Benoit showed that he has a real killer instinct. Sampo is a much better wrestler than Holohan, and that is what will decide this fight. Sampo wins via unanimous decision. Henderson: The UFC’s global expansion has brought with it a number of fighters who have not fought for an extended time. Holohan is the latest of these fighters to join the roster, but his long layoff isn’t the only reason for concern. There’s also the level of competition he has faced. To echo my colleagues, Sampo has met and defeated the better set of opponents. This fight is headed to the mat, where Sampo will dominate. My fellow panelists think this one is headed the distance, but it isn’t. Sampo gets the victory via submission. LHW: Cody Donovan (8-4) vs. Nikita Krylov (16-4) Gardner: This fight has a lot of potential to be a fun match-up between lower-tier light heavyweights Cody Donovan and Nikita Krylov. The 22-year-old Krylov is 11 years the junior of Donovan, but he has eight more fights. Both fighters are 1-2 in their UFC careers, so there is a pretty good chance that this is a loser-leaves-the-promotion fight. Donovan and Krylov are solid grapplers and both have knockout power, so this fight can end in a number of ways. Considering that Donovan has gone the distance once in his career and Krylov has never made it to the final bell, it is unlikely that this bout will end in a decision. Krylov is the younger, faster, stronger fighter, so he has the edge. Krylov wins this one via first-round knockout. Henderson: Donovan has one UFC win, but that’s more the fault of Nick Penner, who rocked Donovan on a couple of occasions but couldn’t finish the Colorado-based fighter. Donovan was able to return fire and score the knockout with less than 30 seconds remaining in the bout. However, his two follow-up performances came against opponents who could finish fights. Krylov has had a rocky start to his UFC run. He tired quickly against Soa Palelei, destroyed Walt Harris via knockout and was submitted by Ovince Saint Preux. Krylov’s victory over Harris suggests he has the power to finish Donovan in quick fashion. As long as Krylov avoids going to the ground with Donovan, who has some sneaky submissions, the Ukrainian fighter should be able to repeatedly tag Donovan en route to a TKO finish. Young: My colleagues summed up this match-up pretty well. Both fighters are pretty flawed, but Krylov seems to be less so. I just hope UFC President Dana White allows Krylov to walk out in his mobster getup since James Te Huna’s Haka dance thing was permitted. “The Al Capone” will go to the mattresses and get a TKO win in the first round MW: Trevor Smith (11-5) vs. Tor Troeng (16-5-1) Young: Trevor “Hot Sauce” Smith should be a name that is recognized by people who watched the Strikeforce Challengers shows back in the day. You can take a glance at his record and see that he is something of a lower-level gatekeeper—if you lose to this guy, you really should not be fighting professionally and should find something else to do with your life. Meanwhile, Tor Troeng should be familiar to anyone who watched The Ultimate Fighter: Jones vs. Sonnen. Troeng made it into the house, but he was knocked out by Josh Samman in the preliminary round. He made it into the UFC proper afterwards, where he is 1-1, submitting castmate Adam Cella and dropping a decision to Rafael Natal. “Hot Sauce” has definitely had tougher fights in his career, but he has lost all of those contests. Troeng has more room for improvement, and his lone UFC win to date is a bit better than Smith’s. Troeng is at the level of some of the people Smith has lost to at worst, so I’ll pick Troeng to win this fight by unanimous decision. Henderson: Troeng really disappointed during his TUF run. With a lengthy, successful resume, the Swede was viewed as a favorite by many, but that came crashing down when he lost to Samman. His official record is solid, but not spectacular. He has only lost to the likes of Mamed Khalidov, Lucio Linhares, Daniel Acacio, Thales Leites and Rafael Natal, all of whom have fought in either the UFC, Pride or Sengoku. Smith has a similarly strong list of fighters in his loss column, including Tim Kennedy, Ed Herman, Gian Villante and the aforementioned Leites, but he, too, lacks a real whopper of a name in the win column. Smith tends to pick up his wins via submission, whereas Troeng features a balanced record of six striking victories and six submission wins. Smith’s only UFC win was a split decision over Brian Houston. Troeng trains out of the Allstars Training Center, which houses the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, and that’s the deciding factor here. With a rising gym to back him, Troeng will be able to do just enough to edge Smith on the scorecards. Gardner: Smith against Troeng is just not an exciting match-up. You have to wonder why both of these fighters are even in the UFC. After all, they are in their 30s with no really great wins and neither has the potential to even be a top-20 middleweight. Troeng is the better fighter on paper, but Smith has a very solid wrestling background, which will be the difference in this fight. Going against the grain here, I’ll say Smith wins this one via unanimous decision. MW: Mike King (5-0) vs. Cathal Pendred (13-2-1) Henderson: The MMA Corner’s own The Ultimate Fighter 19 blogger, Cathal Pendred, finally gets his chance to step into the Octagon. He’ll do so against TUF 19 castmate Mike King. Pendred may not have won the middleweight crown on the reality series, but he was a favorite on the show from the moment the cast was revealed. The former Cage Warriors welterweight champion is a teammate of the evening’s headliner, Conor McGregor, at SBG Ireland. He has only lost twice in his career, most recently in late 2010, and is undefeated through his last eight fights with seven wins and a draw. King, an American Top Team fighter and former football player, was a NAAFS amateur champion. He dropped a unanimous decision to eventual TUF 19 middleweight winner Eddie Gordon, before Gordon edged Pendred via a split verdict. King has a strong wrestling base, which could pose a problem for Pendred, who tends to win via strikes or decision. Pendred’s experience, especially on a bigger stage and against more established talent, should come in handy, however. King will look for takedowns, but Pendred will keep his distance and blast away with punches. This one could see the final bell, and I’ll take Pendred via a close decision. Gardner: You have to appreciate a classic grappler vs. striker match-up. It makes you remember the old days when the UFC was more spectacle than sport; when it was about who had the best style. Pendred is very dangerous on the feet and he can hold his own on the mat, but, like most European fighters, his prue wrestling game leaves a lot to be desired. King is not an elite wrestler by any stretch of the imagination, but he is good enough to take Pendred down and put him in bad situations. King will make it a fight, but ultimately Pendred will find his range and unload on the American. Pendred via third-round TKO. Young: Bryan and RJ both touched on King’s serviceable wrestling skill level, which is definitely going to make or break this fight for King. Yes, the meme about European fighters lacking in wrestling prowess persists for a reason, but Pendred does seem to be experienced to the point where he should be able to defend himself from enough takedown attempts by King to eke out a decision win. I don’t see it being pretty and could see some home-cooking accusations flying around, but after getting his bad break in TUF with the judges, Pendred is due for a good break here. FlyW: Phil Harris (22-11) vs. Neil Seery (13-10) Gardner: In a flyweight fight for the hometown fans, Irishman Neil Seery takes on England’s own Phil Harris. Seery really impressed me in his UFC debut, even though he lost a decision to Brad Pickett. Pickett has a ton of high-level experience against some of the best fighters in the world, yet Seery gave him everything he could handle. Seery may not be a future champion, but he is not going to be anyone’s stepping stone in the division. Harris does have some slick judo, and if he gets Seery locked up, he will toss him to the mat. However, Seery will do enough to get the win in front of his hometown fans. Seery via unanimous decision. Young: I’m going to bank on the hunch that Seery’s performance in his debut against Pickett was more of a failure on Pickett’s part than some breakthrough on Seery’s part. Harris, however, has been finished in three of his four Octagon outings (one of which was overturned due to diuretic use by Louis Gaudinot). Neither of these guys look like they’ll be world beaters in the UFC’s flyweight division. I’m picking Seery via unanimous decision solely based on his better-than-expected performance against Pickett, because, all things considered, I can’t see him being worse than Harris. Henderson: This isn’t just an Ireland vs. England fight. It’s actually a rematch of a 2010 bout held in the BAMMA cage. In that fight, it wasn’t Seery who won, but rather Harris who claimed the unanimous decision. Seery credits a knee injury and a strong morphine patch (which he says almost rendered him unconscious) he used the day before the fight as factors in his loss to Harris, who used takedowns and top control to score the win. Seery’s boxing can be effective against Harris, but Harris has already demonstrated his ability to overcome Seery’s striking and put the Irishman on the mat and control him. I’ll be the voice of dissent and take Harris to score another decision win over Seery. LHW: Chris Dempsey (10-1) vs. Ilir Latifi (8-3) Henderson: If it hadn’t been for Ilir Latifi’s spot opposite Gegard Mousasi in a headlining bout at UFC on Fuel TV 9, his name might still be unfamiliar to most fight fans. The stocky Swedish fighter had gone 7-2-1 prior to his fight with Mousasi, but the most notable names on his resume were the fighters to whom he suffered losses, Emanuel Newton and Tatsuya Mizuno. Latifi has a strong wrestling and grappling base. After an impressive submission finish of Cyrille Diabate in his sophomore UFC outing, Latifi returns to take on promotional newcomer Chris Dempsey. Dempsey is enjoying an eight-fight winning streak and has seen action 11 times since his September 2012 pro debut. The 26-year-old has five decision wins, three victories by way of submission and two wins via strikes. Dempsey is a two-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler. He will probably want to get this fight to the mat, but he’ll have a difficult time dealing with Latifi’s strength when seeking the takedown. Latifi should hold the edge in the striking department, and he’ll use that advantage to take the decision in this contest. Young: I’d have to agree with Bryan on at least one point: I had absolutely no idea who Latifi was prior to him being plucked out of obscurity to replace Alexander Gustafsson on something like a day’s notice against Mousasi. Bryan brought up Latifi’s losses to Newton and Mizuno, and although I can forgive his loss to Newton since the guy appears to be able to win fights against good opponents despite his extremely awkward-looking fighting style, I cannot forgive him for losing to Tatsuya Mizuno. That is something no fighter who takes their career seriously should do. (I will exempt Melvin Manhoef from this since his head was somehow caught in between the Dream ring’s turnbuckle padding and the canvas, and that fight was just plain odd anyways.) Something to note about Latifi’s win over Diabate is that the “Snake” announced his plans for retirement prior to this fight happening, whether he won or lost. If I had to pick a winner for this fight, I’d pick the wrestler, Dempsey, to take a unanimous decision based on his positional dominance. Gardner: Generally, I am quick to pick the wrestler when I am making my predictions. However, Dempsey doesn’t have the kind of wrestling required to simply wrestle his way past opponents. He is good, but not overwhelmingly great with his ability. Latifi may not have been know to the casual fans prior to his bout with Mousasi, but his place in the UFC is well deserved. Latifi wins this one via third-round submission.