UFC Fight Night 144: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2019

UFC Fight Night 144: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    December and January were slow months for UFC fans, but things are set to pick up in a big way. The UFC is about to kick off a nine-week run that will feature a card on every weekend, a stretch that kicks off with UFC Fight Night 144. 

    Taking place in Fortaleza, Brazil, the event features a slew of top talent from the host nation, ranging from former featherweight champion Jose Aldo to hot upstarts such as Livia Renata Souza and Marlon Moraes.

    The main card currently stands as follows:

    • Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes 
    • Jose Aldo vs. Renato Moicano 
    • Demian Maia vs. Lyman Good 
    • Charles Oliveira vs. David Teymur 
    • Johnny Walker vs. Justin Ledet 
    • Livia Renata Souza vs. Sarah Frota

    Naturally, the Bleacher Report team is here to deliver the spoilers for Saturday night, picking out who is going to win and how. So who does the job this weekend? Read on to find out.

Livia Renata Souza vs. Sarah Frota

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    Scott Harris

    Two Brazilian strawweights do battle in the main card curtain-jerker. There's been a lot of heat around Livia Renata Souza since her days tearing up the Brazilian circuits and up through her Invicta title reign. She's a finisher, mainly on the ground.

    This is Frota's first fight in the UFC proper after impressing on Dana White's reality show. She's more of a striker. I'll go with Souza, who appears more polished at this level, to catch Frota in a compromising position.

    Souza, submission, Rd. 1

             

    Steven Rondina

    I mean...Souza is a bona fide former champion. Meanwhile, there's no reason yet to look at Frota as anything more than an above-average regional name.

    Souza, submission, Rd. 1

          

    Nathan McCarter

    The former Invicta champ should roll in this one. It was nice to see her on form in her UFC debut. Another performance like that, which we should see here, should thrust her into contention. 2019 will be a good year for elite strawweight fights.

    Souza, submission, Rd. 1

Johnny Walker vs. Justin Ledet

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    Harris

    A quick turnaround for Johnny Walker, who memorably elbow-KOd Khalil Rountree in mid-November. Justin Ledet is a scrapper and tough out at light heavyweight, but Walker is a dangerous striker and should win the day.

    Walker, TKO, Rd. 2

         

    Rondina

    This one is a toss-up for me as I look over the records, and with that I break my trusty "who does the UFC want to win?" barometer. The UFC still wants to make the Tuesday Night Contender Series a thing, so it is probably looking to give the series' alum, Walker, a win to help bolster its profile.

    Walker, TKO, Rd. 1

              

    McCarter

    Walker may have made a big impression in his Octagon debut, but I'm not buying into him just yet. Ledet has a solid UFC record. It will likely be a gritty fight going the distance. If Walker doesn't end things early, he'll get outworked en route to a decision.

    Ledet, unanimous decision

Charles Oliveira vs. David Teymur

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    Harris

    I like Charles Oliveira. I like David Teymur more. The converted Swedish kickboxer is 5-for-5 in the UFC and 8-1 overall. It's time he started to get more love, and that will start against the streaking but streaky Brazilian. He knows he needs a finish to reach the next level, and he'll get it.

    Teymur, TKO, Rd. 2

             

    Rondina

    Teymur is undoubtedly good and will have a definitive striking edge over Oliveira, but he doesn't have the kind of overwhelming punching power to reliably end the fight early. Oliveira will eventually get this on the ground. And when he does, that's ballgame.

    Oliveira, submission, Rd. 2

              

    McCarter

    I really want to pick Teymur here, but I have a love affair with Do Bronx. Especially right now. He has been looking sensational. Teymur is probably the smart pick as he has solid takedown defense and better striking. However, Oliveira will get this to the mat in some fashion. Once there, it should be a wrap.

    Oliveira, submission, Rd. 1

Demian Maia vs. Lyman Good

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    Harris

    This is a fun one. Lyman Good wants to knock you the fudge out, and his hands are pure stone. You already know Demian Maia, the 41-year-old, ground-fighting, back-taking wizard. Lyman's not a babe in the grappling woods, but the old man still has some tricks left. He'll delight the Brazilian crowd, maybe for the last time.

    Maia, submission, Rd. 1

              

    Rondina

    The days of Maia tying top-10 welterweights up in knots with his exceptional Brazilian jiu-jitsu are probably done, but I don't think his days as a high-end talent are over. Look for him to grapple his way to a boring, but convincing, decision win.

    Maia, unanimous decision

              

    McCarter

    This is another "how washed is he" kind of fight. If Maia is washed, Good wins by knockout. I am not pulling the trigger on that one. Maia isn't a title contender anymore, but he still fights intelligently. Good won't be able to land the devastating KO blow, and Maia will work his grappling methodically until the choke appears.

    Maia, submission, Rd. 2

Jose Aldo vs. Renato Moicano

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    Harris

    Jose Aldo may be the single most revered fighter among hardcore fans who is almost fully unheralded outside. Now, the 32-year-old has his toughest test since losing back-to-back to Max Holloway. Moicano is an outstanding grappler, but Aldo should outscore him on the feet while preventing big moments on the ground. Sound the (mild) upset alarms.

    Aldo, unanimous decision

           

    Rondina

    This one is tough to call since we still don't quite know how good Renato Moicano is. I mean, we know he's good, but is he the kind of elite who can best an all-time great in Jose Aldo? Maybe. But I'm guessing not.

    Aldo, unanimous decision

            

    McCarter

    If this had been prior to Aldo's knockout of Jeremy Stephens, I may have picked Moicano. But I am back on the Aldo train. The former divisional kingpin looked like his old self. Moicano is a bit of a tougher stylistic matchup for Aldo, but there is nowhere Aldo shouldn't hold an advantage. Moicano's skills have me hesitant in picking a finish so I'll just roll with a decision win for Aldo.

    Aldo, unanimous decision

Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes

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    Harris

    Anyone familiar with my written opinions knows I'm a Raphael Assunaco fan. With this fight, he's inching his way ever closer to a bantamweight title shot, or at least his strongest possible case. Moraes is well-rounded, but Assuncao's defensive-minded game will prevail. Also, happy trails, Steven.

    Assuncao, unanimous decision

               

    Rondina

    From a technical standpoint, not much has changed with either man since their 2017 showdown, which Assuncao won by split decision. Granted, Moraes' knockout power is a big X-factor here, but I reckon this looks quite similar to the first go.

    Assuncao, split decision

            

    McCarter

    This should be a spectacular fight once again. Just don't expect history to repeat itself. Moraes was tossed into the deep end with his UFC debut against Assuncao, but now he is acclimated to the company. That comfort level makes all the difference. Assuncao won't be able to avoid getting tuned up for a full 25 minutes. Moraes finishes him and becomes the top contender at 135 pounds.

    Moraes, TKO, Rd. 2