Top MMA News Breaks Down UFC 154: The Canadian Prelims
The last time Montreal received an event was back in December of 2010. Nearly two years later, the organization returns to the Bell Centre for UFC 154 on November 17th. The preliminary card will feature big name Canadian fighters such as former Middleweight title challenger Patrick ‘The Predator’ Coté and five time Fight of the Night bonus winner Sam ‘Hands of Stone’ Stout. Four of the preliminary bouts will be aired live on FX in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada, with a total of four Canadian fighters. The remaining bouts will be aired live on Facebook, with two Canadians competing.
Patrick Coté (17-8) vs. Alessio Sakara (15-9)
After Patrick Coté’s comeback fight at UFC 148 ended in a loss, Coté gets an opportunity to redeem himself when he takes on Italian veteran, Alessio Sakara. Coté had a tough time dealing with the speed and versatility of Cung Le. He needed to get close and use his power to get the best of the movie star but his inability to accomplish this had more to do with Le’s talent in utilizing his range. He will not have to worry about wild kicks and exhausting range against Sakara. Both of these guys prefer to stand and bang it out and it should be interesting to see who gets the better of the exchanges early on to set the tone for the fight. The last time Sakara fought inside the Octagon, it was against a very dangerous Brian Stann back in April. In that fight, Stann showed off his power and Sakara showed off his questionable chin.
This is perfect matchmaking as both of these guys are coming off of tough losses to tough opponents and know how to put on a show. Sakara is the more talented striker of the two. Not taking anything away from Coté but Sakara is very well rounded and needs to rely on his offensive ability to make up for his lackluster chin. Coté is willing to take some shots as he is known for his granite chin. If Sakara is going to win, he will have to pick the Canadian apart throughout the fight, similar to others that have been able to successfully defeat him. Sakara will get the better of the exchanges early, however, that should end when he feels the power of Coté.
Prediction: Coté via TKO Round 2
Mark Bocek (11-4) vs. Rafael Dos Anjos (17-6)
Two of the most underrated fighters in the Lightweight division, Canadian Mark Bocek is set to take on Brazilian Rafael Dos Anjos. Both of these fighters have a very similar style. They have excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu and underappreciated wrestling. Where they differ is striking. Bocek’s idea of striking is pinning a fighter up against the cage and using some dirty boxing until he can find a good opportunity to get a takedown. The improvement of Dos Anjos’ stand up has been very exciting to watch. He has looked great in his last couple fights and has figured out how to mix up his striking and takedowns. He showed the true potential in his striking against Anthony Njokuani, who is known for his precision and efficiency on the feet. The biggest advantage Bocek will carry into this bout is his work ethic. He pushes the pace and wears down his opponents on the ground. He has looked dominant in his last two outings against Nik Lentz and John Alessio, however, Dos Anjos poses a different challenge. If the fight goes to the ground, the fight becomes extremely even. Dos Anjos is strong enough to keep the fight standing and he has proven that he can be successful against some of the tougher grapplers in the UFC. Dos Anjos should be able to pick Bocek apart and do enough standing up to take the decision.
Prediction: Dos Anjos via Unanimous Decision
Sam Stout (18-7-1) vs. John Makdessi (9-2)
Questionable matchmaking is the best way to describe this bout. Sam Stout impressed in his last fight, showing off his newly found wrestling ability in defeating Spencer Fisher. He has won three of his last four, one of which by spectacular knockout. On the other side, there is John Makdessi, who looked great in his first two bouts in the UFC, but has struggled in his fights against bigger Lightweights in his last two. In his last fight, Makdessi tried to push the pace against Njokuani but struggled to handle the reach and speed advantage that the Nigerian striker had. Both of these Canadian Lightweights love the stand up, but Stout has been diversifying his attack with takedowns. Fans can almost certainly expect him to continue doing so against a dangerous and versatile striker like Makdessi. Although Stout is the more experienced fighter and has been on the winning end of fights lately, it does not necessarily mean he is the better fighter. If Stout shows a willingness to stand, expect Makdessi to win the fight. After Makdessi was taken down early in his bout against Hallman, there had to be a sense of urgency to figure out the grappling portion of MMA. Makdessi will be taken down at some point but he should be able to scramble his way back to his feet, where he will likely pick apart Stout.
Prediction: Makdessi via Unanimous Decision
Antonio Carvalho (14-5) vs. Rodrigo Damm (10-5)
The last time Canadian fans had the opportunity to watch Antonio Carvalho was back in Calgary, where he impressed with an outstanding knockout of a very resilient Daniel Pineda. A resident of Ajax, Ontario, Carvalho is looking to make it two in a row as he takes on Brazilian MMA veteran, Rodrigo Damm. The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil contestant looked great in his UFC debut, winning by submission against fellow contestant, Anistavio Medeiros, using his excellent BJJ to get the rear naked choke victory. Both fighters have been in big fights prior to their entrance into the UFC and they will both look to continue their recent success. Damm is primarily a grappler and will push the pace with constant takedown attempts. Carvalho prefers to keep the fight standing but he is no slouch when it comes to grappling. He, similar to Damm, is a BJJ black belt. Where they differ is Carvalho is not a specialist. He is a well rounded mixed martial artist and has a proven background in both grappling and striking. Damm will need to get top position on the ground to gain a distinct advantage. Carvalho will need to counter Damm’s grappling with maintaining a consistent distance and not falling into the Brazilian’s trap. He will need to mix up combinations of high and low strikes to slow down the grappler. He should be able to do so and get the finish to get a second straight victory.
Prediction: Carvalho via TKO Round 1
Ivan Menjivar (24-9) vs. Azamat Gashimov (7-1)
An impressive three-fight win streak had Ivan Menjivar climbing up the UFC Bantamweight standings. He was nearing a title shot before he lost a decision against Mike Easton and took a few steps back. He was unimpressive in his performance and the step up in competition certainly made him look like a different fighter. He will be taking on Russian prospect Azamat Gashimov. Though not much is known about Gashimov, many have been awaiting his arrival to the UFC as he already trains with some of the best fighters in the world at AKA. If there is a fighter to compare the Russian to, he is similar to his close friend and training partner Khabib Nurmagomadov. He has a versatile repertoire with unorthodox striking and aggressive grappling. Four of his seven victories came via submission and he will likely look to take the fight to the ground if he struggles against a very experienced Menjivar on the feet. If Menjivar wants to defeat the prospect, he will need to use that experience and understand that he must stay away from Gashimov’s aggressive style. This should be a very exciting back and forth but Menjivar has shown that he can easily get himself trapped in rough positions. If he avoids doing so against a hungry fighter like Gashimov, he could very well get back on track with a win. We have recently seen a wave of awesome Russian prospects make their way into the biggest organizations in the world. Gashimov is one of those prospects. He should be able to frustrate Menjivar with his pace en route to a decision win.
Prediction: Gashimov via Unanimous Decision