UFC Fight Night 35: Preliminary Card Predictions
It's a new year for the UFC and 2014 has already started out well, as UFC Fight Night 34 had some great fights. You had to wake up early for the Singapore card, but if you did, you were in for a treat.
There isn't much rest in between events as UFC Fight Night 35 comes your way from Atlanta. Headlined by middleweight contenders Luke Rockhold and Costa Philippou, a number of prospects and future contenders are set to hit the Octagon in hopes to crack the top end of their respective divisions.
Here are the preliminary card predictions for that card.
2014 Riley's Record: 5-1
Last Event: UFC Fight Night 34 (5-1)
Charlie Brenneman vs. Beneil Dariush
The opening bout will be contested in the lightweight division, as returning Charlie Brenneman and newcomer Beneil Dariush move up a weight class on short notice to entertain the fans. This fight was originally supposed to be Jason High vs. Adlan Amagov, but multiple injuries and pullouts led to this pairing.
Dariush is 6-0, as the Wanderlei Silva disciple has slowly but surely gotten more fights since 2009. Though a powerful striker, Darish has half of his wins by submission while fighting in the West Coast regional promotions.
At 24, he is a very bright prospect. However, he is going up against a bigger, more experienced UFC vet in Brenneman.
Brenneman fights for the UFC for the first time since his expulsion in September of 2012. Since then, "The Spaniard" has gone 4-0, tapping three of his opponents out on the ground.
Brenneman is the more proven fighter with the better wrestling credentials. Though Dariush should put up a valiant fight, Brenneman should get the win here, sending both men back into the lightweight division.
Prediction: Brenneman def. Dariush via decision
Vinc Pichel vs. Garett Whiteley
Capping off the Facebook prelims will be a lightweight bout, as TUF 15 vet Vinc Pichel looks to rebound in his sophomore effort against Garett Whiteley. Both men are 7-1 and likely fighting for their jobs here.
Pichel showed great promise while on the only live version of TUF. After tapping out Cody Pfister to get into the house, he beat John Cofer and Chris Saunders before being eliminated in the semifinals by Al Iaquinta.
Pichel is a solid striker that has shown improved ground skills, especially in the ground-and-pound department. He looks to erase the memory of his last fight, where he was suplexed into oblivion by Rustam Khabilov.
Whiteley is also looking to bounce back after a loss in his UFC debut against Alan Patrick. He showed some reservations when standing up with Patrick, and though he was touted as the better striker, was tagged and finished by the Brazilian.
This should be an interesting firefight on the feet. If Whiteley was blasted by Patrick, Pichel should have no problem using his aggression and touching Whiteley's chin, which could give the Indiana native his walking papers.
Prediction: Pichel def. Whiteley via TKO
Alp Ozkilic vs. Louis Smolka
Kicking off the prelims on Fox Sports 1 will be the flyweights, as "The Turkish Delight" Alp Ozkilic welcomes Hawaiian Louis Smolka to the UFC.
Ozkilic is a Greco-Roman wrestling champion in Turkey that showed off his strength and wrestling in his UFC debut. In defeating Darren Uyenoyama, Ozkilic outstruck the California native and outmuscled him on the ground despite being touted as having a grappling disadvantage.
Smolka looks to join his Hawaiian brethren who dominated at UFC Fight Night 34 in Singapore. "Da Last Samurai" is well-rounded but, like his Hawaiian comrades Dustin Kimura and Russell Doane, is slick on the ground.
On the feet, Ozkilic will look to clinch and dirty box Smolka, something he won't like. Expect Ozkilic to mix in takedowns and ground-and-pound, earning him his second win in the UFC.
Prediction: Ozkilic def. Smolka via decision
Trevor Smith vs. Brian Houston
Next up are the middleweights, as Strikeforce crossover Trevor Smith looks to get in the win column against former football standout Brian Houston. This could be a loser-leaves-town fight.
Houston trains out of Nebraska and possesses some good strength and power. On the feet, if he touches your chin, he can easily put you to sleep.
His UFC debut was a disaster, though. Early in his fight with Derek Brunson, he was floored with a head kick and quickly tapped out on the ground, despite showing some solid defense.
He will need to strengthen that defense when he takes on a submission fighter in Smith. Smith lost his UFC debut in a dogfight against Ed Herman, but earned Dana White's respect for his heart and aggression.
His game plan will be to ground Houston and use his superior grappling to gain a dominant position. That will happen, earning him his 10th career submission win.
Prediction: Smith def. Houston via submission
Isaac Vallie-Flagg vs. Elias Silverio
The lightweights are set to do battle next, as Greg Jackson disciple Isaac Vallie-Flagg welcomes Elias Silverio to the 155-pound division.
Vallie-Flagg has turned into the new Leonard Garcia, so to say. His last three fights in a row have ended in split decisions in his favor, though he has shown to be an excellent fighter in those bouts.
He has not lost since 2007, and in that time, Vallie-Flagg has beaten the likes of Yves Edwards, JZ Cavalcante and Brian Melancon. He is a grinder with good all-around skills that will look to exploit the weakness of Silverio.
Silverio moves back the lightweight division after taking a short-notice bout with Joao Zeferino. He won that fight in lackluster fashion, despite being touted as an exciting striker.
On the feet, Silverio has a chance. However, Vallie-Flagg has faced better strikers in his day and should grind Silverio to a clear decision.
Prediction: Vallie-Flagg def. Silverio via decision
Ramsey Nijem vs. Justin Edwards
Last up on the prelims are the lightweights, as TUF 13 vet Ramsey Nijem looks to save his job against castmate Justin Edwards. This is probably another instance of win or go home.
Nijem is a wrestler who has been training with The Pit in an attempt to strengthen his striking. Currently, he is 3-3 with the UFC, though he finds himself on a two-fight skid against the likes of Myles Jury and James Vick. Three losses in a row would put him in the unemployment line.
Edwards is a grinder that has shown good submission ability and competent stand-up skills. Training with Jorge Gurgel, Edwards has learned some good tricks on the mat, as seen in his submission victory over Josh Neer.
He is 2-3 in the UFC and has switched between wins and losses. Despite beating Neer and Jorge Lopez, he has fallen to Clay Harvison, John Maguire and Brandon Thatch.
Nijem will be looking for the shot early and often, as Edwards can be susceptible on the takedown. However, as seen in the Nijem-Vick fight, The Pit member can leave his neck open, which means Edwards could score a tapout.
Prediction: Edwards def. Nijem via submission