UFC 118 Fight Card: Preview and Predictions for Preliminary Fights
Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Ruediger
The Hype: After a loss to Sam Stout at UFC 108, Joe Lauzon was scheduled to meet Terry Etim. However, an injury suffered by Etim during training left Lauzon without an opponent. The opening was filled by Gabe Ruediger, a former TUF participant.
Nearly four years ago, Ruediger suffered a loss to Melvin Guillard in his only UFC appearance. Six straight victories outside of the UFC have earned Ruediger a second chance with the promotion. That chance will come against fellow TUF 5 competitor Joe Lauzon.
Lauzon’s Key to Victory: Lauzon holds an advantage over Ruediger in every facet of MMA. Because Ruediger’s strength is grappling, Lauzon’s biggest advantage in this match-up may be striking. However, Lauzon is equally as likely to finish Ruediger with a submission.
Ruediger’s Key to Victory: If Ruediger is forced into a boxing match, he stands no chance of winning this fight. Ruediger’s best chance at beating Lauzon would be a submission from the top position. For that reason, Ruediger is going to need to secure at least one takedown in order to win this fight.
The Fight: Lauzon should simply outclass Ruediger in this fight. After softening Ruediger up in the stand-up, Lauzon will take the fight to the ground and work for the finish. With the most likely method of victory for either fighter coming by submission, this fight has Submission of the Night written all over it. Most likely, Lauzon will be the one coming away with the honors.
The Finish: Lauzon defeats Ruediger by submission (Armbar) in the second round.
Andre Winner vs. Nik Lentz
The Hype: After losing in the TUF 9 Finale to Ross Pearson, Andre Winner has rattled off two victories against Rolando Delgado and Rafaello Oliveira. His job with the UFC now secure, Winner can now set his sights on climbing the lightweight ladder with a win over Nik Lentz.
Lentz, who also has a unanimous decision victory over Rafaello Oliveira, has not lost in 11 fights. Training at Minnesota Martial Arts under Brock Lesnar and Sean Sherk, Lentz has learned from some of the best at transitioning from amateur wrestling to MMA.
Winner’s Key to Victory: Winner is a much better striker than Lentz. However, keeping this fight standing will be the biggest challenge for Winner. If he can use his reach advantage to keep distance, Winner should be able to defend Lentz’s long-range takedown attempts.
Lentz’s Key to Victory: The chances of Lentz losing this fight will become greater with every second this fight remains standing. In order to come away with the victory, Lentz will need to take Winner down and display dominant top control throughout the entire fight.
The Fight: Eight of Winner’s last nine fights have gone to decision, while five of Lentz’s last six have gone to decision. There is a very good chance that neither fighter will be able to finish this fight. Nine times out of ten that situation plays into the favor of the better grappler.
Lentz may have to prove that he can eat a punch of two, but he shouldn’t have too much trouble grounding Winner throughout the fight. It will be far from dominating, but Lentz should be able to walk away with a decision victory.
The Finish: Lentz defeats Winner by unanimous decision
Dan Miller vs. John Salter
The Hype: Over the past year, Dan Miller has fought some of the best the middleweight division has to offer. Unfortunately, Miller came up short against Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, and Michael Bisping, losing all three fights by unanimous decision.
Now, Miller will likely have to defeat John Salter in order to keep his job with the UFC. It is unlikely that the UFC would retain a fighter with four straight losses, especially when that fighter has little or no mainstream name recognition.
After losing his UFC debut to Gerald Harris, John Salter met Jason MacDonald at UFC 113. Early in that fight, MacDonald suffered a broken ankle and Salter was declared the winner. Still without a legitimate UFC win, this fight could be a must-win for Salter as well.
Miller’s Key to Victory: Miller isn’t going to out-strike anyone, as evidence in his fight against Maia. If Miller wins this fight, it will be done on the ground.
With Salter’s wrestling background, there is a good chance that Miller will have the opportunity to put his BJJ black belt to use at some point in this fight. He must make the most of those opportunities.
Salter’s Key to Victory: While Salter’s strength is in his grappling, he may be safer getting into a boxing match with Miller. If Salter does plan on taking this fight to the ground, he better make sure it happens on his terms because Miller’s BJJ is much stronger from the top position. Takedown defense and submission defense should be Salter’s focus heading into this fight.
The Fight: Salter is going to determine where this fight goes. Eventually, he is going to want to try to take the fight into his comfort zone and attempt a takedown. When that time comes, Miller will be ready.
Miller, who has fought and submitted much better wrestlers than Salter in his career, will take advantage of Salter’s decision to turn the fight into a grappling match.
The Finish: Miller defeats Salter by submission (Guillotine choke) in the first round.
Nick Osipczak vs. Greg Soto
The Hype: Both Osipczak and Soto enter this fight following the first losses of their careers. Soto’s loss came after he landed an illegal up-kick in his fight against Matthew Riddle.
Despite the disqualification, it was fairly obvious that Soto was on his way to a loss in that fight. Meanwhile, Osipczak’s loss in his last fight came by way of a controversial split decision against Rick Story.
Having scored a technical knockout victory over Riddle, Osipczak will be the favorite heading into this fight based on the two fighters’ performances against that similar opponent. However, anything could happen in a pivotal fight with both fighters looking to bounce back from a loss.
Osipczak’s Key to Victory: In terms of style, Soto is a less talented version of Riddle. Therefore, Osipczak will hold a significant advantage over Soto in striking.
While Soto probably doesn’t possess the power or skill to finish the fight with ground and pound, Osipczak’s takedown defense will still be a necessity for him to come away with the victory.
Soto’s Key to Victory: Soto’s best chance of winning this fight is to lay and pray for 15 minutes. Even if he able to take Osipczak to the ground, I question whether Soto would be able to keep the fight there for very long. However, taking Osipczak down would beat the alternative of Soto being embarrassed on his feet.
The Fight: Anytime this fight is standing, Osipczak is going to pick apart Soto. For that reason, Soto is going to be looking for the takedown early and often. He may score one or two takedowns over the course of the fight, but it is unlikely that Soto will inflict much damage from the top position.
In fact, Osipczak will probably inflict more damage from his back than Soto will from any position throughout this entire fight.
Osipczak is clearly the more talented fighter and is fully capable of finishing this fight. However, Soto has not shown any signs of a weak chin in his career. Therefore, he may have to endure a three-round beating rather than the quick out.
The Finish: Osipczak defeats Soto by unanimous decision.
Mike Pierce vs. Amilcar Alves
The Hype: After Rob Kimmons was forced to pull out of their scheduled fight in March, Mike Pierce was matched-up against UFC newcomer Julio Paulino.
Pierce controlled Paulino throughout the fight on his way to a unanimous decision victory. Now, Pierce will meet another UFC newcomer when he fights Amilcar Alves at UFC 118.
Alves, a training partner of WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, earned his way into the UFC after posting a record of 11-1 in smaller Brazilian promotions. Alves’ most recent victory, a first-round knockout of Fernando Paulon, avenged the only loss of his career.
Pierce’s Key to Victory: Since his UFC debut, Pierce has not shown the desire to want to stand with anyone. While his lay and pray style has become extremely predictable, Pierce has only been bested by superior wrestlers.
Though Pierce’s takedowns have been very effective, he has not been able to inflict much damage from the top position. If he is unable to finish Alves, or at least remain active on top, Pierce could be tapping out for the first time in his career.
Since there has been little sign of Pierce having the ability to finish opponents at this level of competition, submission defense could be the key to beating Alves.
Alves’ Key to Victory: In his pre-UFC fights, Alves has shown that he is very comfortable submitting opponents off of his back. Anyone without elite level takedown defense will probably find themselves on their back against Pierce.
For that reason, Alves will likely need to show that he can still finish fights from his back at a higher level of competition in order to win this fight.
The Fight: Both Pierce and Alves are excellent grapplers, so it is unlikely that this fight will remain standing for long. While securing a takedown will be part of Alves’ game plan, it will be Pierce’s entire game plan. However long this fight lasts, Alves will be spending the majority of it on his back.
This fight will not be determined by Alves’ ability to defend the takedown because Pierce will undoubtedly take him down eventually. Instead, this fight will be decided on the ground.
Although Alves has won fights by submission from his back in the past, he has not competed with anyone at the same level of Mike Pierce. Additionally, Pierce has never been submitted in his professional MMA career.
While Pierce’s inactivity from the top position disables him from finishing his opponents, it will also minimize the amount of opportunities for Alves to submit him. Barring a major mental mistake, Pierce should be able to grind out another decision victory over a UFC newcomer.
The Finish: Pierce defeats Alves by unanimous decision
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