Predictions! UFC 269 ‘Prelims' Preview - Pt. 1

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The penultimate Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event of 2021 hits T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as the pay-per-view (PPV) airwaves, this Saturday (Dec. 11, 2021) with two title fights in tow. Charles Oliveira makes the inaugural defense of his Lightweight title in UFC 269’s main event, while Julianna Pena looks to end the seemingly unstoppable reign of Bantamweight queenpin, Amanda Nunes, in the PPV co-feature. UFC 269’s PPV main card will also see Geoff Neal look to bounce back from recent struggles against Santiago Ponzinibbio and Cody Garbrandt make his Flyweight debut against the always-dangerous Kai Kara-France.

Predictions! UFC 269 ‘Prelims’ Preview - Pt. 1
© Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

UFC brass have loaded the card with no fewer than 10 “Prelims” undercard matches, the first six of which take place on ESPN+/Fight Pass. Let’s have a look …

185 lbs.: Andre Muniz vs. Eryk Anders

Andre Muniz (21-4) — whose only loss since 2013 came against undefeated Light Heavyweight Azamat Murzakanov — choked out the favored Taylor Johnson to secure a UFC contract in his second “Contender Series” appearance. “Sergipano” has found similar success in the Octagon itself, most recently breaking Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Ronaldo Souza’s arm with a vicious armbar (watch it).

He has ended 14 professional fights by submission.

The perfect Octagon start (2-0) for Eryk Anders (14-5) gave way to a 1-4 skid, and though he managed to build a bit of momentum with wins over Vinicius Moreira and Gerald Meerschaert, a loss to Krzysztof Jotko knocked him right back down. His 2021 campaign has seen him fight Darren Stewart to a “No Contest,” then cruise to a decision win in their rematch.

He steps in for the injured Dricus Du Plessis on just over one month’s notice.

When was the last time Anders truly impressed in a fight? His only stoppage win in his last eight fights came against Vinicius Moreira, who got knocked out four times in four UFC appearances. The man just hasn’t parlayed his athleticism into a cohesive striking attack and remains an underdeveloped wrestler. Even if he’s markedly superior to Muniz on the feet, I don’t trust him to actually keep it there or land a game-changing bomb during his brief windows of opportunity.

Muniz’s lackluster boxing is inevitably going to get him sparked when he runs into a quality striker whom he can’t take down. Unfortunately for Anders, he doesn’t fit that bill. Muniz drags him down for a quick submission, and even if the early tap isn’t there, he’s got what it takes to ride out a decision.

Prediction: Muniz via first round submission

115 lbs.: Miranda Maverick vs. Erin Blanchfield

Miranda Maverick (9-3) parlayed a strong Invicta run into a 2020 UFC debut, which saw her batter Liana Jojua en route to a first-round stoppage. She then claimed a wide decision over Gillian Robertson, only to lose a highly questionable split decision to Maycee Barber four months later.

She has submitted six professional foes and knocked out one other.

Erin Blanchfield (7-1) followed her successful pro debut with a 4-1 run in Invicta, which included a head kick knockout of future UFC competitor Victoria Leonardo. Though she’s been held to just one Octagon appearance due to assorted issues, she made up for quantity with quality, dominating Sarah Alpar in her Sept. 2021 debut.

She stands an inch taller than Maverick at 5’4.”

This may not be the closest fight on the card in terms of odds, but it’s certainly the most difficult to pick. These are two hugely promising prospects in a division that’s in desperate need of new contenders; both the winner and loser will likely remain fixtures of the division for some time.

It’s hard to see this as anything other than a 50/50 clash. Maverick has the edge in size and wrestling, but Blanchfield is the more dangerous clinch fighter and boasts a lethal submission game. I favor Blanchfield by the tiniest of margins; Maverick leaves herself open to takedowns at times and looks outgunned on the ground. Either way, it’ll be razor-thin.

Prediction: Blanchfield via split decision

125 lbs.: Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell

A 6-1 run — marred only by a loss to Joseph Benavidez — put Alex Perez (24-6) in position to accept a last-minute title shot against Deiveson Figueiredo in Nov. 2020. Things didn’t quite work out for Perez, who tapped to a guillotine less than two minutes into the first round.

This will be both his first fight in more than one year and his third attempt at facing Matt Schnell (15-6).

“Danger” put a winless (0-2) UFC start behind him to win five of his next six, four of them as an underdog or even money. This set up a clash with rising Brazilian Rogerio Bontorin, who came out on top in what was largely a striking battle. He’s tapped nine opponents as a professional.

I won’t deny that Schnell’s surprised me more than once. He’s still worryingly fragile and lacking in the wrestling necessary to make full use of his excellent submission game, but he just keeps making it work. That said, this would be the most surprising upset of the bunch if he pulled it off. Perez looks to be every bit his equal on the ground and boasts the sort of solid boxing and powerful low kicks that Bontorin used to great effect against “Danger” earlier this year.

Perez has definitely been caught and tapped before, most notably by Figueiredo, so Schnell locking something up either from his back or in transition isn’t out of the question. More likely, Perez wears him down on the feet until Schnell’s stationary enough to eat a fight-ending punch.

Prediction: Perez via second round technical knockout

145 lbs.: Ryan Hall vs. Darrick Minner

The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 winner, Ryan Hall (8-2), quietly put together an undefeated (4-0) UFC run over the course of six years, at one point scoring a bonus-winning heel hook finish of B.J. Penn. He then ended a two-year layoff against fast-rising Ilia Topuria, who knocked out “The Wizard” in the first round of their July 2021 clash.

He boasts three inches of height and an inch of reach on Darrick Minner (26-12).

An unsuccessful “Contender Series” bout with Herbert Burns didn’t stop Minner from eventually reaching the Octagon, where he bounced back from a debut loss to Grant Dawson by upsetting T.J. Laramie and Charles Rosa. He then started strong against Darren Elkins in his fourth UFC bout, only to fall victim to one of “The Damage’s” signature late comebacks.

The decision win over Rosa was just the third of Minner’s professional career, as he’s scored 22 submissions and one (technical) knockout.

When two single-minded submission specialists square off, odds are that they’ll either keep it on the feet or deadlock on the ground when neither proves willing or able to force a more dynamic submission battle. That’s not the case here because Minner only knows how to chase submissions, as seen when he willingly scrambled with Burns. He’s not going to sprawl-and-brawl Hall or try to grind him out from guard.

Laudable as that mindset may be, it’s not going to end terribly well for him. Hall’s BJJ credentials vastly outstrip Minner’s, and the latter’s eight submission losses amply demonstrate that his ground defense is far from airtight. He could theoretically exhaust the aging “Wizard” and take over down the stretch, but it’s much likelier that Hall latches onto his back and forces a quick tap.

Prediction: Hall via first round submission

135 lbs.: Randy Costa vs. Tony Kelley

Randy Costa (6-2) punched his ticket to the Octagon by knocking out his first four opponents in a combined 2:50, but succumbed to Brandon Davis’ grappling after a strong start in his debut. He returned to form with brutal knockouts of Boston Salmon and Journey Newson, the latter of which earned him “Performance of the Night,” only to suffer another comeback finish at the hands of Adrian Yanez.

None of his six victories lasted more than 2:15 minutes.

Though he was unable to sway the judges, Tony Kelley (7-2) nonetheless walked away with a hefty bonus for his Fight of the Night UFC debut against Kai Kamaka III. He was more successful against Ali AlQaisi, whom he outstruck to win a decision in Oct. 2020.

This marks his first appearance in 14 months.

I’m not sure Costa will ever develop the cardio necessary to maintain his offense beyond the first round, especially since dialing back the pace makes his technical shortcomings much more exploitable. Luckily for him, Kelley’s porous defense makes that early finish very possible. “PrimeTime” has a number of bad habits, namely a tendency to throw naked kicks from inside his opponents’ punching range, that Costa is well-equipped to exploit.

Even a deeply flawed fighter like AlQaisi was able to tag Kelley at times, so even if Costa can’t stay on the attack for more than five minutes, he won’t need to. He blasts Kelley into oblivion within the first three minutes.

Prediction: Costa via first round knockout

125 lbs.: Gillian Robertson vs. Priscilla Cachoeira

Gillian Robertson (9-6) emerged as one of the stronger TUF 26 alumni with a 6-2 UFC start, five of those wins coming inside the distance. The success wasn’t to last, and she enters the cage this Saturday on the heels of two consecutive defeats. She’s scored six submissions and one ground-and-pound finish as a pro.

A one-sided UFC debut loss to Valentina Shevchenko kicked off a three-fight losing streak for Priscilla Cachoeira (10-3), who finally scored her first Octagon victory with a bonus-winning uppercut knockout of Shana Dobson in 2020. She would not see action again for another 15 months, at which point she survived a rough first round to upset Gina Mazany in Houston.

“Zombie Girl” will enjoy two inches of height and reach on Robertson.

Even if the rest of the division may have caught up with her, Robertson remains a highly adept takedown and submission artist, While Cachoeira’s last bout showed that she’s yet to tighten up that area of her game. Robertson won’t run out of gas the way Mazany did and is a much better finisher to boot; even if Cachoeira does survive the first round this time, there’s no guarantee that the rest of them will treat her any better.

So long as Robertson’s cardio holds up the way it always has and she doesn’t somehow succumb to Cachoeira’s basic pressure, she’s got this. A quick double-leg puts the fight in Robinson’s wheelhouse, where she ends it before long.

Prediction: Robertson via first round submission

Four more UFC 269 “Prelims” remain to preview and predict, including three potential slugfests and an intriguing clash between Pedro Munhoz and Dominick Cruz. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 269 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 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+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 269: “Oliveira vs. Poirier” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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