UFC Fight Night 45: Preliminary Card Predictions
The UFC returns to Atlantic City for the first time in a long time, as UFC Fight Night 45 comes live on Wednesday. Headlined by Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller, the card boasts some great young talent who are looking to establish their names.
International Fight Week was rough on my preliminary card record. My record was at .500, which was not bad in theory but wasn't good either.
Without further ado, here are the preliminary picks for UFC Fight Night 45.
2014 Riley's Record: 94-63
Last Event: 6-6 (UFC 175/The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale)
Claudia Gadelha vs. Tina Lahdemaki
Kicking things off on Fight Pass is the first women's strawweight bout in the UFC, as undefeated Brazilian Claudia Gadelha takes on fellow undefeated fighter Tina Lahdemaki.
Finland's Lahdemaki is undefeated at 5-0 and dropping down from 125 pounds. She is a ground fighter by trade, using a controlling top position and punches to try and open up submission attempts. She got her biggest win in her latest outing against Karla Benitez.
As for Gadelha, she is a top-three 115er in the world and is undefeated at 11-0. The Nova Uniao product is a vicious ground fighter, with heavy ground-and-pound and excellent submissions. Her go-to submission on the ground is the armbar, though she has shown more punching-heavy style on the ground lately.
Lahdemaki is tough, but Gadelha has been fighting at a much higher level with success. She will finish the Finnish fighter and become the top contender to the eventual 115-pound title.
Prediction: Gadelha def. Lahdemaki via TKO
Yosdenis Cedeno vs. Jerrod Sanders
Kicking things off on the Fox Sports 1 prelims are the lightweights, as Yosdenis Cedeno makes his sophomore UFC effort against World Series of Fighting vet Jerrod Sanders. Sanders fills in for Leo Kuntz, who was set to make his debut but got injured.
Cedeno is a striker with flashy kicks but has shown lackluster takedown defense and ground ability. His UFC debut saw him drop a decision to Ernest Chavez, who didn't look like a world-beater. That doesn't give one a lot of confidence in Cedeno.
Sanders is a power wrestler with impressive physical strength and great takedowns. He has tight choke holds that allows him to finish his opponents when he grabs their neck. He is 1-0 in WSOF, beating Jeff Smith at the WSOF 3.
Cedeno needs to stay on the outside and use his kicks to slow Sanders. However, Sanders will walk through them and take the Cuban down on demand. He will likely get the finish as well.
Prediction: Sanders def. Cedeno via submission
Hugo Viana vs. Aljamain Sterling
Next up are the bantamweights, as Aljamain Sterling makes his sophomore UFC effort against TUF Brazil vet Hugo Viana.
A Serra-Longo Fight Team member, Sterling is the former CFFC champion who possesses great athleticism and wrestling. In his debut, he used a balanced attack to earn a well-deserved decision over a very game Cody Gibson. He is the future of the division and can really establish his name with a win here.
Viana is a grinder who has been vastly underrated in his time with the UFC. He is 3-1 in the company, beating John Teixeira, Reuben Duran and Ramiro Hernandez. His only loss came to UFC champion TJ Dillashaw in his pre-championship run.
Viana has been very good, but his competition level has been low. All three of his wins came against guys who are no longer on the UFC roster. Sterling is better everywhere, including in the wrestling category, which is Viana's biggest strength. Notch another win for Serra-Longo.
Prediction: Sterling def. Viana via decision
Jessamyn Duke vs. Leslie Smith
The women's bantamweights are set to meet next, as TUF 18 vet Jessamyn Duke takes on former Invicta title challenger Leslie Smith. This could be a win-or-go-home situation.
Duke is physically gifted at 5'11" and has incredibly long limbs. That said, despite being 1-1 with the UFC, she hasn't looked outstanding in her official two UFC bouts. She won a very close decision over Peggy Morgan before losing easily to Bethe Correia.
Smith is a brawler who has a granite chin and a never-die attitude. She has finishing ability with good power in her hands. She was thoroughly outclassed in her UFC debut, though, as Sarah Kaufman surgically tore her apart.
This is going to be a brawl. If you saw Duke's bout against Raquel Pennington on TUF, you may see a similar type of fight here. However, Smith has been more successful in these types of fights than Duke and should win in a fun scrap.
Prediction: Smith def. Duke via decision
Gleison Tibau vs. Pat Healy
Capping things off on the prelims are the lightweights, as longtime MMA vets Pat Healy and Gleison Tibau square off.
Tibau is a giant at 155 pounds; he is physically strong and a grinder who wears out opponents. He has been with the UFC since 2006 and has kept very busy in his time with the company. He is coming off a devastating loss to Michael Johnson, who knocked the Brazilian clean out.
Healy is also a grinder with a wrestling-heavy attack who has run into some hard times lately. After beating Jim Miller but having the decision overturned, Healy has lost three straight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Bobby Green and Jorge Masvidal. He needs a win here, or he will be looking for a new job.
Their wrestling is pretty similar, though I would still give Healy the advantage. Tibau also has a suspect gas tank, which means Healy needs to make this a war of attrition. Healy wins a close decision to save his job.
Prediction: Healy def. Tibau via decision