UFC 171: Preliminary Card Predictions
UFC 171 marks the return to pay-per-view for the world's largest MMA promotion on Saturday. Headlined by a welterweight title bout, the card boasts a deep lineup from the main event to the bottom of the card.
Johny Hendricks will meet Robbie Lawler for the vacant 170-pound title. It marks the first time in more than five years that we will have an undisputed welterweight champion not named Georges St-Pierre.
As for the prelims, I bring you another edition of picks. The average-at-best picks have continued, as not going with my gut on Louis Gaudinot and Ilir Latifi cost me. I still sit above .500 though, looking to break out with eight prelim picks here.
Without further ado, let's make some predictions on UFC 171's prelims.
2014 Riley's Record: 25-23
Last Event: UFC Fight Night 37 (3-2)
Daniel Pineda vs. Rob Whiteford
Leading off the card is a featherweight showdown, as Texas native Daniel Pineda welcomes Scottish judoka Rob Whiteford.
Pineda is a submission specialist who has finished every fight he has won. He is 3-3 in the UFC, submitting Pat Schilling, Mackens Semerzier and Justin Lawrence.
He has struggled when taking a step up in competition, but he takes on another middling 145er in Whiteford. That means Pineda has a good chance of winning here.
However, don't count out Whiteford, who is a physically imposing man in the cage. He is very strong, which helps him take opponents down or stay on his feet.
His debut came on very short notice where he fell to Jimy Hettes. It marked his first career loss, though it was against a good grappler with little time to prepare.
On the ground, Pineda is vastly underrated. On the feet, he is outright superior. That should lead to a victory for the home-state hero.
Prediction: Pineda def. Whiteford via submission
Bubba McDaniel vs. Sean Strickland
Next up are the middleweights, as The Ultimate Fighter 17 vet Bubba McDaniel welcomes top prospect Sean Strickland to the UFC. Strickland steps up on real late notice for Tor Troeng, who pulled out due to an injury.
McDaniel is a well-rounded fighter who is a training partner of Jon Jones. He is noted for his submission prowess, though, as most of his wins have come via tapout.
He is 1-1 with the UFC thus far, tapping out Gilbert Smith before being outpointed by Brad Tavares. He has shown to be inconsistent on the next level, so we'll see how he fares in Dallas.
Strickland is a blue-chip prospect whom many have been waiting for the UFC to sign for a while. The 13-0 King of the Cage champ has finished all but three of his opponents and took this fight while prepping for a bout with Tomasz Drwal in Europe.
He is a good grappler, but because McDaniel is noted for his submissions, he should look to strike with him. If he does that, it will be a good night for Strickland, who should be able to score a finish in his debut.
Prediction: Strickland def. McDaniel via TKO
Will Campuzano vs. Justin Scoggins
The flyweights are next, as Texas native Will Campuzano moves back to his normal weight class of 125 to take on young gun Justin Scoggins.
Campuzano is a striker who has been putting in time with Team Alpha Male lately. He has good hands and movement but lately has been incorporating more diverse strikes like knees into his arsenal.
After getting ejected from the UFC in his first run, he won five straight bouts, including picking up the Legacy FC title. That earned him a late-notice bout with Sergio Pettis at 135 pounds, where he lost a close one.
As for Scoggins, he is a karate practitioner with decent wrestling chops. This was evident in his last bout, where he completely outclassed Richie Vaculik.
This will be an interesting fight, as both men excel on the feet. However, Campuzano is more durable and probably a better all-around fighter, so he will take a decision.
Prediction: Campuzano def. Scoggins via decision
Renee Forte vs. Frank Trevino
Capping off the Fight Pass prelims is a lightweight bout, as Brazilian Renee Forte takes on Mexican debutant Frank Trevino.
Forte is a grappler who is 1-2 in the UFC. Despite owning a win over notable Terry Etim, he was choked out by Sergio Moraes and violently knocked out by John Makdessi.
The Team Nogueira rep meets Trevino, an undefeated fighter who is dropping down from welterweight. He would be smart to stay off the ground with Forte, as Trevino has good hands and Forte is superior on the mat.
Trevino could play the spoiler here, but it's hard to pick him, given that this is his biggest test. Forte has taken on some tough competition, which will benefit him here.
Prediction: Forte def. Trevino via decision
Sean Spencer vs. Alex Garcia
Kicking off the prelims on Fox Sports 2 are the welterweights, as Dominican-Canadian Alex Garcia takes on Texas native Sean Spencer.
Garcia is a vicious striker, as evidenced by his UFC debut against Ben Wall. He didn't work for very long, stalking, connecting and putting Wall's lights out in 43 seconds.
He is a Tristar rep who also has a good submission arsenal, showing that he's not just a deadly striker. He is a brute as well, being one of the strongest competitors in the 170-pound class.
Spencer is a boxer who will gladly engage Garcia on the feet. That could be tough, though; while he is more technical, he is not nearly as powerful as his opponent.
Spencer will engage on the feet, but it won't be a great strategy either way. He will connect on a few punches, but once Garcia lands, it could spell the end of the night for Spencer.
Prediction: Garcia def. Spencer via TKO
Dennis Bermudez vs. Jimy Hettes
A fun featherweight bout is afoot, as TUF 14 runner-up Dennis Bermudez takes on judoka Jimy Hettes in what could be a Fight of the Night.
Bermudez is a wrestler who is rarely in a dull fight. Since losing TUF 14 to Diego Brandao, he has yet to lose and is on a five-fight win streak against Pablo Garza, Tommy Hayden, Matt Grice, Max Holloway and Steven Siler.
He is tough as nails and can take a shot. He is likely the better striker here, so he should look to avoid grappling with Hettes.
Hettes is a judo and jiu-jitsu brown belt who has won all but one of his bouts via submission. He relies on takedowns, trips and throws to control opponents, where he then employs his submissions to finish fighters.
Bermudez won't be easy to take down, though. He has good wrestling, which will keep him upright, and from there, he should outstrike Hettes.
Prediction: Bermudez def. Hettes via decision
Raquel Pennington vs. Jessica Andrade
The ladies will compete next, as late replacement Raquel Pennington takes on Brazilian Jessica Andrade. Pennington steps up for Julianna Pena, who was severely injured coming into this bout.
Pennington is a brawler, although she has added a nice guillotine choke to her arsenal. She benefited greatly from competing on TUF 18, where she was coached by Miesha Tate.
Andrade has a similar skill set. Like Pennington, she is also a brawler, although she has a more consistent guillotine choke. She has finished four fighters with that choke, showing her squeeze and technique.
These two will likely get after it early, throwing heat throughout the fight. Andrade will land more frequently, especially seeing as Pennington had trouble with Roxanne Modafferi in her UFC debut. The Brazilian will win this in a close one.
Prediction: Andrade def. Pennington via decision
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Rick Story
The featured prelim takes place in the welterweight division, as TUF 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum takes on UFC vet Rick Story.
Story is a 14-fight UFC veteran with vast experience in this sport. He is a wrestler with solid hands, which he showcased against Brian Ebersole.
He takes on Gastelum, who has a style that Story has struggled with in the past. Gastelum is a good wrestler, although he showed improvements with his hands in his last bout when he knocked out Brian Melancon.
Gastelum may be the better striker here, though this is his biggest test to date. It will be a strategic chess match, but the TUF winner looks to be a very good bet here.
Prediction: Gastelum def. Story via decision