UFC Fight Night 43: Preliminary Card Predictions
If you're not busy this week, there is plenty of UFC to be watched. That's because the promotion will be holding two events on Saturday.
The first event will be UFC Fight Night 43 in New Zealand, which airs exclusively on Fight Pass at 5 a.m. ET. Headlined by New Zealander James Te Huna and Nate Marquardt, the card has a bunch of prospects who are fighting for name recognition.
UFC 174 was good to me when it came to the prelim predictions. It kept separating me from the .500 mark, as I continue to climb up the win-percentage ladder.
So, who will win this Saturday on the New Zealand prelims? Let's take a look at the six fights.
2014 Riley's Record: 81-52
Last Event: UFC 174 (4-2)
Gian Villante vs. Sean O'Connell
Kicking off the card will be the light heavyweights, as Gian Villante looks to jump back in the win column against Sean O'Connell. Villante was originally supposed to fight Anthony Perosh, but an injury opened up the opportunity for O'Connell.
Villante is a kickboxer who came from a collegiate football background. The Strikeforce vet is a knockout artist who showed his power in a UFC knockout win over Cody Donovan. That said, he is 1-2 in the Octagon with losses to Ovince Saint Preux and Fabio Maldonado, so he is in desperate need of a win here.
O'Connell is a wrestler with good ground-and-pound and solid submission ability. He is tough on the feet, though he prefers bringing guys to the mat. In his UFC debut, he took a late-notice bout opposite Ryan Jimmo and was knocked out in a fun fight.
In this bout, we should have an exciting battle. Villante has pretty good takedown defense, so he will likely keep this standing with O'Connell. From there, he should control the bout and get another win.
Prediction: Villante def. O'Connell via decision
Dan Hooker vs. Ian Entwistle
Two debuting lightweights are set to make a name for themselves, as New Zealand's own Dan Hooker takes on British submission fighter Ian Entwistle.
Entwistle is from England, but he trains with Phucket Top Team in Asia. The Cage Warriors vet is a submission specialist, winning 75 percent of his bouts via submission. His most recent outing saw him tap Liam James with a nasty heel hook, which he loves to use.
Hooker is a finisher and a ground fighter like Entwistle. He also enjoys the submission game, though he likes to use more ground strikes. Currently, he is on a five-fight win streak, including his most recent win over Nick Patterson via TKO.
On the feet, Hooker is probably better. On the ground, Entwistle has a better track record. If the Brit can get Hooker down, he will be successful here.
Prediction: Entwistle def. Hooker via submission
Neil Magny vs. Rodrigo De Lima
UFC veteran Neil Magny is set to make a quick turnaround from his last fight, and in his way of another victory is late-replacement Brazilian Rodrigo de Lima. He steps in for Claudio Silva, who went down with an injury.
Magny has turned around his UFC career after a 1-2 start that saw him on the chopping block. Since that start, he has gone 2-0 and has looked vastly improved in the process, beating Gasan Umalatov and Tim Means. His striking and takedown defense have looked better and better, making him into a dark horse at 170.
De Lima is 8-1-1 and just 22 years old. The Jungle Fights vet is a submission specialist who is known for his python-tight chokes. According to Sherdog, he has been fighting since 2004, which would mean he has been a pro since he was 12 years old!
He is potentially a great prospect, but this is a tough bout for his debut. Magny will not be taken down by De Lima, and from there, the vet will outstrike the Brazilian to a decision.
Prediction: Magny def. De Lima via decision
Chris Indich vs. Vik Grujic
Next up are a pair of The Ultimate Fighter Nations teammates, as Australians Chris Indich and Vik Grujic square off.
Grujic was a semifinalist in the middleweight division of the reality show, beating Luke Harris while falling to Sheldon Westcott. In the finale, Grujic was dominated by Nordine Taleb, but he gets a second chance here. He is a ground fighter who relies on being on top to work his submission game.
Indich, a jiu-jitsu fighter, is known to be a brawler as well. He was outted in the quarterfinals by Chad Laprise but earned high praise for his toughness. Richard Walsh beat him at the finale, but like Grujic, Indich gets another opportunity here.
He is a tough guy with decent enough cardio to weather an early storm by Grujic. From there, I see him defending takedowns and throwing bombs on the feet, allowing him to take a close fight over his former teammate in my upset pick.
Prediction: Indich def. Grujic via decision
Richie Vaculik vs. Roldan Sangcha-an
Next up are the flyweights, as Australian Richie Vaculik welcomes Filipino prospect Roldan Sangcha-an to the cage.
Vaculik, a veteran of TUF: The Smashes, dropped to 125 pounds for his last fight but was thoroughly dismantled by Justin Scoggins. Vaculik has some knockout power, but he is known for his submission game when the bout hits the mat. In fact, two-thirds of his wins have come via tapout.
Sangcha-an is a Lakay MMA rep, one of the most recognizable gyms in the South Pacific. Like most of the fighters from that gym, he is known for his kicking and knockout ability, which he should use in this fight.
The biggest X-factor in this fight is Sangcha-an's takedown defense, which if it's like most of his brethren at Lakay MMA, will be suspect. Vaculik has good enough wrestling to get him down and work his magic for most of the fight.
Prediction: Vaculik def. Sangcha-an via decision
Jake Matthews vs. Dashon Johnson
Headlining the undercard are the lightweights, as undefeated Dashon Johnson takes on TUF Nations vet Jake Matthews.
Johnson is 9-0 in his career, though most of his bouts have been against low-level competition. He is a striker with some submission skills and takes on his toughest test to date in Matthews.
Matthews looked to be one of the best prospects on TUF Nations, but he was not invited to compete on the finale. However, he won a regional bout in Australia, which earned him a call back to the UFC. He likes the ground game, where he throws some ground-and-pound and searches for his underrated submissions.
I'm glad the UFC is giving him another chance. He's only 19 and has great potential. Given Johnson's history of fighting cans, I think Matthews will battle through his strikes, get takedowns and control Johnson for a decision.
Prediction: Matthews def. Johnson via decision