UFC returns for the first time in 2017 with fight night from Phoenix on Saturday Jan. 14th headlined by #10 ranked featherweight Yair Rodriguez taking on UFC legend and Hall of Famer BJ Penn. While much of the MMA world is still a buzz over the future of Rhonda Rousey and both the men’s and women’s bantamweight division, we’ll be taking a look at the fight night card and give you our predictions. In the interest of time we’ll only be looking at the 4 main fights on the card. This is nothing against any of the other fighters but I don’t have enough time to write about 8 separate fights including one which features two fighters making their UFC debuts.
Starting things off we have #8 ranked John Moraga(16-5-0) taking on #15 ranked Sergio Pettis (14-2-0) in a Flyweight contest. The lightest weight class in the UFC, both Moraga and Pettis will be looking to impress and move up the ranks to get a shot at Flyweight Champ and #1 Pound-for-Pound ranked fighter Demetrious Johnson. On paper this looks to be a clash of styles with Moraga preferring to wrestle and look for submissions, while Pettis, younger brother of #6 ranked featherweight Anthony Pettis, will likely look to attack with his striking. Both fighters have a good deal of experience but I’m inclined to give the advantage to Pettis if he’s able to keep Moraga from getting him to the ground as recent history has shown that strikers who stick to their game plan hold an advantage over wrestlers.
Our second fight will feature two welterweight fighters looking to climb their way into the top 15 rankings as Court “The Crusher” McGee (19-5-0) takes on Ben “Killa B” Saunders (20-7-2). Saunders, a striking and jiu-jitsu specialist will have a bit of a reach advantage against the “All-rounder” McGee. McGee was the winner of the 11th season of Ultimate Fighter back in 2010 and is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, last fighting back in August. For Saunders, this will be his first appearance in the octagon in almost exactly a year after losing at Fight Night 81 in January 2016. It will be interesting to see how much a year out of competition has on Saunders, and despite his reach advantage I’m going to go with McGee in this one.
The penultimate fight of the night will feature two currently unranked lightweights in Joe Lauzon (26-13-0) taking on Poland’s Marcin Held (22-5-0). This is only Held’s second time fighting in the UFC, however he is a former Bellator lightweight tournament winner. Lauzon on the other hand is a UFC veteran with 7 “Fight of the Night” and 6 “Submission of the Night” bonuses to his credit. This match seem like it will likely be fought on the ground as both fighters are submission specialists. I’d say this one is a coin-flip with Held potentially having a slight advantage as he’s 7 years younger than Lauzon. My prediction is that it goes to the judges scorecards or somebody taps.
The headline of the card is a scheduled for 5 rounds with Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez (10-1-0) facing off against BJ “The Prodigy” Penn. Penn is a former two-division champion with great submission skills and a strong standup, but he’s 38 years old now and this is his first appearance in the octagon since July 2014. Rodriguez was the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America” and is on a 6 fight winning streak. Did I mention he’s also 24? Penn definitely has the ability to surprise and could give Rodriguez some problems if he’s able to take him to the ground, but in the end I just don’t see how he can win this and if he does, will it be enough for him to finally ride off into the sunset.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Image from UFC.com