The baddest men on the planet settle a long-running score this Saturday (Aug. 15, 2020) when Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier — each of whom sports a knockout win over the other — lock horns at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. UFC 252 pay-per-view (PPV) viewers will also get to enjoy Marlon Vera attempting to halt the rise of Bantamweight star Sean O’Malley, Jairzinho Rozenstruik taking on Junior dos Santos in a clash of destructive punchers, and a rematch between top Light Heavyweight prospect Magomed Ankalaev and the always entertaining Ion Cutelaba.
Four UFC 252 “Prelims” bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here). Shall we?
155 lbs.: Jim Miller vs. Vinc Pichel
Jim Miller (32-14) — not long ago fighting for his UFC life in the midst of a 1-5 skid — enters the cage this Saturday having won three of his last four. All three victories came by first-round submission, two of which earned Miller “Performance of the Night” bonuses.
“A-10” has tapped 18 professional opponents overall and knocked out another four.
Vinc Pichel (12-2) returned from three years away to knockout Damien Brown in 2017, then followed that up with a narrow victory over then-unbeaten Joaquim Silva. Gregor Gillespie soon ended Pichel’s win streak at four, though he got on track a year later with a decision over another unbeaten in Roosevelt Roberts.
“From Hell” will have one inch of height and two inches of reach on Miller.
As far as odds go, this is tied with the main event for closest fight on the card, and I’m inclined to agree with the bookies. Both men have clear avenues of victory: Miller is the far smoother striker and the more dangerous submission artist, while Pichel has a notable size advantage and considerably less wear.
Fond as I am of Miller, I’m leaning toward The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran. Miller needs a slip or a knockdown to put Pichel on his back, while Pichel can ostensibly take him down whenever things get hairy on the feet. Expect something like Miller’s recent fight with Scott Holtzman, where he starts strong but ultimately fades under his opponent’s superior physicality.
Prediction: Pichel via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Felice Herrig vs. Virna Jandiroba
Despite falling to Randa Markos in the second round of TUF 20, Felice Herrig (14-8) established herself as a Strawweight contender with wins in five of her first six Octagon appearances, including a notable upset of Alexa Grasso. “Lil’ Bulldog” enters the cage this weekend on the heels of two consecutive losses, having dropped a split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz and a unanimous one to Michelle Waterson.
A torn ACL (details) makes this her first fight in nearly two years.
Virna Jandiroba (15-1) defeated Mizuki Inoue to claim the Invicta Strawweight title in 2018, then followed that up with a submission win over Janaisa Morandin in her first defense. Though she felt to Carla Esparza in her Octagon debut, she rebounded eight months later by tapping “Contender Series” veteran Mallory Martin in Washington D.C.
Twelve of her professional wins have come by submission.
“Carcara” may be the more one-dimensional of the two, but that one dimension is so good that the distinction ceases to matter. Herrig’s Octagon success has come in large part because of her unexpectedly stout wrestling, an area in which Jandiroba has her sorely out-classed, and Herrig’s striking is nowhere near enough to make up the difference.
Even at the best of times, Herrig would struggle mightily with Jandiroba’s lethal ground game. With two years of rust behind her, it goes from difficult to downright unreasonable. Jandiroba overpowers her on the mat for either a wide decision or late submission.
Prediction: Jandiroba via second-round submission
265 lbs.: Christopher Daukaus vs. Parker Porter
Christopher Daukaus (8-3) — brother of “Contender Series” alumnus Kyle Daukaus — won four straight before suffering a comeback knockout loss to UFC veteran Zu Anyanwu in a bid for the Cage Fury Heavyweight title. He returned to action five months later, knocking out Danny Holmes with a head kick just 90 seconds into their bout.
Eight of his professional wins, including his last five, have come by form of knockout.
Parker Porter (10-5) made his first walk to the cage in 2007, facing the likes of Jon Jones and Gabriel Gonzaga in his first 10 fights. After a nearly 2.5-year hiatus, he got back to work with wins in three of his next four, the only loss coming by disqualification.
He gives up two inches of height to Daukaus.
Interestingly, both men present stylistic issues that the other has recently struggled with. Daukaus fell to a heavy-handed slugger in Anyanwu after a strong start, while Porter was losing ground against the boxing attack of Dirlei Broenstrup before turning things around with a left hook. Though deceptively savvy with his head movement and counters, Porter will likely spend most of the fight playing catch-up as Daukaus puts his hands to work, especially since the threat of Daukaus’ knees neuters the clinch work that is Porter’s best weapon.
The question, then, is whether Daukaus can avoid the game-changing counter long enough to land the telling blows. Between his crisper punches and height advantage, I say yes. He clips Porter late in the first or early in the second.
Prediction: Daukaus via second-round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Livinha Souza vs. Ashley Yoder
Livinha Souza (13-2) — the former Invicta Strawweight champion — kicked off her Octagon career with a dominant 81-second submission of Alex Chambers, then followed that up with a narrow decision over Sarah Frota. The wins set up a clash with Phoenix Series winner Brianna Van Buren, who out-hustled Souza en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Eight of her professional wins have come by submission.
Ashley Yoder (7-5) pulled herself out of a three-fight slump with consecutive decisions over Amanda Cooper and Syuri Kondo, upping her professional record to 3-3 since her unsuccessful TUF bid. Late replacement Randa Markos proved too much to handle, however, and handed Yoder a split decision loss in Oct. 2019.
“The Spider Monkey” is the taller woman by four inches and will have a 3.5-inch reach advantage.
If Souza fights to the best of her abilities, she’s a nightmare to deal with, combining surprisingly powerful strikes with top-notch judo and lethal submissions. As we saw against Frota and Van Buren, though, she can be frustratingly inactive and reticent to use her best weapons. Luckily for her, she has Yoder sufficiently out-classed that I can pick her with confidence.
Though the taller of the two, Yoder lacks the physicality that Souza’s last two opponents used to great effect against her, leaving her unable to compensate for the technical disparity in the striking and grappling. She’s unlikely to outwrestle Souza or pose a notable finishing threat anywhere the fight goes; so long as Souza puts forth even a modicum of effort, superior stand up and long stretches of top control carry her to victory.
Prediction: Souza via unanimous decision
If UFC 252’s PPV main card doesn’t produce at least one highlight-reel finish, I’ll eat my laptop. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 252 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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