One of MMA’s most dominant fighters and occupier of the upper reaches of many a pound-for-pound list, Renan Barao will be making the second defence of his UFC Bantamweight Championship when he takes on Team Alpha Male product, TJ Dillashaw at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada this Saturday.
A Daniel Cormier-Dan Henderson bout and Robbie Lawler taking on Jake Ellenberger are also on the card, but from that point onwards, the rest of the main card and undercard fights are pretty interchangeable.
That being said, they could still be fun and below are the ones on the undercard that I feel you should be keeping an eye out for:
Michael Chiesa vs. Francisco Trinaldo – 155lbs.
In addition to Dillashaw in the main event, there are a lot of ex-TUF ‘stars’ on this card, especially the prelim portion. Michael Chiesa, winner of TUF 15, was beginning to look the part as a potential contender in the UFC’s lightweight division until he got subbed by Jorge Masvidal last year. Chiesa did, however, bounce back from his only career defeat in his most recent performance with a submission victory over Colton Smith. Trinaldo is also a product of TUF, although this time TUF: Brazil. Since debuting with the UFC in 2012, Trinaldo, a former Jungle Fight lightweight champion, has compiled a 4-2 UFC record, with a win over Jesse Ronson in February his most recent performance.
Trinaldo is the more effective and aggressive striker, but Chiesa should be able to avoid Trinaldo’s power shots long enough to secure takedowns and dominate the grappling exchanges en route to a decision victory.
Prediction – Chiesa via decision
Tony Ferguson vs. Katsunori Kikuno – 155lbs.
Save for a loss to the surging Michael Johnson, Tony Ferguson is undefeated in his UFC career since taking the TUF 13 crown back in 2011, and in addition to a solid all-round game, Ferguson possesses a wicked right hand. Kikuno, who made his UFC debut last time out defeating Quinn Mulhern back in January via decision, is a former DEEP lightweight champion and will look to display his karate technique with brutal efficiency this Saturday.
Kikuno is a fun fighter who will pose many an opponent problems with his brand of karate and likely hang around the UFC’s lightweight division for little while, but I’ve got to side with Ferguson on this one. Ferguson will hold a significant physical advantage over Kikuno and should be able to control where the fight goes if he is smart and stays away from Kikuno’s striking.
Prediction – Ferguson via decision
Al Iaquinta vs. Mitch Clarke – 155lbs.
You may not be aware of this, but Al Iaqunita is on a three-fight win streak. Having failed at the final TUF hurdle against Chiesa, Iaquinta has collected the names of Ryan Couture, Piotr Hallmann and Kevin Lee. Mitch Clarke, on the other hand, only just got back in the win column with victory over John Maguire, having dropped his previous two to John Cholish and Anton Kuivanen.
Clarke has shown a fondness for close quarter grappling, be that in a clinch up against the fence or through forming a blanket over his opponent on the mat, and this will likely be his plan going in to this one. Tough thing about that is, is that Iaquinta has solid enough wrestling, will carry a sizeable strength advantage over Clarke and have the edge on the feet, so Clarke’s intentions shouldn’t come in to it too much.
Prediction – Iaquinta via decision
Anthony Njokuani vs. Vinc Pichel – 155lbs.
Njokuani has been alternating wins and losses since late 2010, going 4-3 over that period, but can still be relied on for some highlight-reel Muay Thai when he strikes, while Pichel, who has also gone through the TUF treatment, is somewhat underrated, yet still best known for being ragdolled by Rustam Khabilov in his lone career loss.
Pinchel will look to drag this one to the mat where he will enjoy an advantage, but I can’t see him getting it there before he eats an Njokuani limb.
Prediction – Njokuani via KO/TKO
Tags: Al Iaquinta, Anthony Njokuani, Francisco Trinaldo, Michael Chiesa, Mixed Martial Arts, Tony Ferguson