UFC 170 is headlined by women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, as she looks to make her third successful title defense since coming to the Octagon by defeating Sara McMann, but the undercard to the show could also feature the next contender hoping to snatch the belt away from her after Saturday night is over.
The preliminary card at UFC 170 features a bout pitting grappling ace Alexis Davis against tough as nails Ohioan Jessica Eye in a fight that could determine the next contender at 135 pounds in the women's division. Also on the card is Raphael Assuncao, who could be next in line for a title shot against bantamweight champion Renan Barao, but he first has to get through newcomer Pedro Munhoz.
In today's fantasy preview, we are going to break down the preliminary card and see who has the best chance of picking up a win and who might surprise a few people with the upset.
ALEXIS DAVIS (-190 FAVORITE) VS. JESSICA EYE (+150 UNDERDOG)
An argument could easily be made that No. 3 ranked bantamweight Alexis Davis should be in the title fight against Rousey instead of McMann. Davis has a wealth of experience in her career, she's faced a who's who of women's fighters, and on her current four fight win streak, she's looked better than ever before.
Davis is best known for her grappling skills, as she holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but she's also devastating when she can get on top of an opponent and rain down shots. She overwhelmed Amanda Nunes with that exact strategy, but in the long run, the submission game is where she cruises past most of the other women fighting in the UFC. Davis loves to work from the clinch to get a takedown, and she's powerful in that position. She handled Liz Carmouche for three straight rounds while pushing and moving her around the cage, and it's well known that the military veteran and former top contender is one of the strongest fighters in the division. Davis is also impossibly tough, as witnessed in her bout against former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman, where she lost the early standup battles and had an eye that looked like hamburger by the third round, but she came back and nearly got the finish before losing by majority decision according to the judges.
Jessica Eye is going to be a tough test for Davis because she has the kind of striking and quickness that gave her fits in the fight against Kaufman. Eye actually beat Kaufman back in October using a stiff jab and superior boxing over the course of three rounds (a bout where the result was later changed to a no contest). She's also got an underrated jiu-jitsu game that she doesn't show off very often, but it's there and Eye can defend on the ground whenever needed.
Where Davis can take over in this fight is with her power and clinch work. If she can press Eye against the cage and stay away from her boxing, Davis has a great chance of pitching another shutout. She's got the grappling acumen to keep Eye guessing, and her best weapon could be the threat of the takedown, because the ground is one place the Ohio-based fighter will want to avoid in this matchup. Davis puts constant pressure on her opponents and she doesn't slow down for any of the 15 minutes.
In the end, Davis should get another decision victory as she frustrates and keeps Eye guessing with a multitude of takedowns and trips over the course of three rounds.
RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO VS. PEDRO MUNHOZ
Raphael Assuncao is treading a path towards a title shot in 2014, but he'll first have to dispose of newcomer Pedro Munhoz, who steps in to face his fellow Brazilian on short notice after Francisco Rivera suffered a broken hand in training.
Munhoz is an undefeated prospect with a chance to become a very successful UFC fighter over the course of his career. He trains out of Black House MMA as well as Kings MMA, which means on any given day he could be working with fighters like Lyoto Machida as well as being trained by Master Rafael Cordeiro, who is responsible for fighters like Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Munhoz is well-rounded, as most fighters are these days, but he's best on the ground, where he's finished five different opponents by submission.
Unfortunately, he has his hands full facing a fighter like Assuncao on short notice. Assuncao is a tough out even with a full training camp because his wealth of experience and talent are almost unmatched in the bantamweight division. Assuncao is a beast on the feet or on the ground. He packs a powerful punch when striking with opponents, and his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu base always gives him a submission game to threaten any fighter. In this fight, given Munhoz's best weapon, look for Assuncao to keep the fight standing, where he will punish the newcomer with superior boxing.
Assuncao has defended nearly 77 percent of takedowns attempted on him, and that's facing a litany of wrestlers throughout his UFC and WEC career. Assuncao has to be somewhat wary of Munhoz in this fight simply because as a newcomer stepping in on two weeks’ notice, he's got virtually nothing to lose. Assuncao, on the other hand, has a title shot possibly dangling in the balance, so look for him to play it smart and not take too many chances as he works towards a unanimous decision win in the fight.
ZACH MAKOVSKY VS. JOSH SAMPO
Following his debut in the UFC, Josh Sampo declared that he's already the best flyweight in the world; it's just a matter of time before he earns a title shot and takes the belt. His path may prove to be a little more difficult than he believes, because Zach Makovsky is not only a tough test, but may just prove to be the better fighter on Saturday night.
Makovsky comes from a wrestling background, but his toughness is what really defines him as a fighter. He's evolved from his early grappling roots to develop a strong striking game as well, but where Makovsky usually outworks an opponent is in the scramble. Whether he's attempting a takedown or getting caught in an exchange on the feet, Makovsky takes advantage of every opening an opponent gives him, so Sampo simply cannot make many mistakes in this fight.
Another weapon that could come in handy is Makovsky's conditioning, because despite the fact that he's spent a large part of his career fighting as a bantamweight, the move down to 125 pounds has only strengthened his work ethic in the gym. On the other side, Sampo is another huge flyweight fighter, but as witnessed in his UFC debut, he struggles to cut down to the weight class, so given the pace this fight is expected to carry by the time the last few minutes are counting down, he could be zapped.
Makovsky is a pressure and counter fighter - he'll push the action forward, wait for an opponent to come back and then counter them with either a takedown or his quick boxing game. He gave his first opponent Scott Jorgensen fits with his attacks, and he should do the same to Sampo in this one. Makovsky is a legitimate contender in the flyweight division, and he should be able to do enough to best the best fighter at 125 pounds (at least according to Sampo).
ERIK KOCH VS. RAFAELLO OLIVEIRA
Following an entire career in the UFC and WEC spent as a featherweight, Erik Koch will make the move to 155 pounds for his upcoming matchup against Rafaello Oliveira at UFC 170.
Koch was a long, lanky fighter at 145 pounds, but the weight cut was just too much for his body, so he instead opted to pack on a few more pounds, add some muscle and move up a division. Koch is a very talented striker who trains under coach Duke Roufus, so on any given day he's going round after round with the best fighter in the world in his new weight class, Anthony Pettis. Koch's size won't be a problem at lightweight either because he was already one of the tallest fighters in the featherweight division, so he'll have a similar reach advantage at lightweight as well.
Oliveira is a tough customer who can survive some awfully bad spots and still come back to get the win. Oliveira is primarily a grappler who enjoys the submission game, but he's not opposed to standing with an opponent, although that's rarely his best position.
Koch's success at lightweight won't be determined until he gets into the deeper end of the division, which won't take long because the weight class is impossibly stacked with talent. This should be a good debut fight for him, however, because Koch's long, rangy striking should allow him to outwork Oliveira from the distance. If Koch keeps Oliveira on the end of his punches, look for him to uncork a head kick at some point that could end the fight and bring him a big win in his debut at 155 pounds.