UFC Jacksonville Preview: All you need to know

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After a long wait, the UFC finally returned to our TV screens on Saturday with an unbelievably stacked card at UFC 249 where we saw Henry Cejudo retain his bantamweight belt and then retire from the sport. Justin Gaethje shocked the world and stopped Tony Ferguson in the fifth earning him a lightweight title shot, and Francis Ngannou did Francis Ngannou things as he knocked out Jairzinho Rosenstruik within 20 seconds. 

Now, normally, the UFC would take a week off after such a big fight card and it was a miracle they even managed to have one in the first place with everything going on in the world right now. However, Dana and the UFC aren’t messing around as they have another fight night tonight starting with the prelims at 6pm EST and then another card this Saturday. So, I thought I’d give you a rundown of the fights that are happening tonight, starting with the prelims! 

Chase Sherman vs Isaac Villanueva – Heavyweight Bout 

Tonight sees the return of heavyweight contender Chase Sherman, known as the Vanilla Gorilla, who boasts a record of 11 wins and 6 losses, although his last win came against Damian Grabowski back in July 2017. It’ll be interesting to see where Sherman is currently with his fighting game, we haven’t seen him since his 2018 loss against Augusto Sakai and he rarely hit the ground running in the UFC. 

Isaac Villanueva is making his UFC debut tonight after amassing an MMA record of 16 wins and 9 losses. Villanueva recently fought within the Fury FC organization and is coming off a 4 fight win streak, all of them being TKO wins in the first round. Villanueva has a huge chance to impress tonight against Sherman and expect fireworks in the cage between these two. One thing to look out for is Villanueva’s submission game, he has 5 wins coming from submission and maybe a secret weapon to use against Sherman.  

I’m going with a Villaneuva win via TKO in the 2nd round, it’s risky as we haven’t seen Isaac in the UFC before, but I haven’t been impressed with Sherman in a while and Villanueva seems to have more to his game. 

Hunter Azure vs Brian Kelleher – Featherweight Bout 

Hunter Azure returns to UFC action tonight after winning his debut bout in the company against Brad Katona via decision back in September 2019. His overall MMA record stands at 8 wins and 0 losses with his method of victory being quite the variety. Azure has great cardio and can easily go 3 rounds without slowing down, but he can also shock people with his power early on as he has 3 TKO wins coming in the first round. 

Brian Kelleher is an MMA veteran who’s enjoyed a mixed 3-year career in the UFC, his overall record stands at 20 wins and 10 losses and he is coming off a win against Ode Osbourne back in January of this year. Kelleher has a wicked submission game and it’ll be interesting to see how he implements that game against Azure tonight. 

I’m going with a Hunter Azure win, I think he can outlast a guy like Kelleher over the 3 rounds and have enough production to take it via decision, but it all comes down to how good Azure is on the ground and defending the submission because if Kelleher can get him to the floor, the fight could be over pretty quickly. 

Gabriel Benitez vs Omar Antonio Morales Ferrer – Lightweight Bout 

Gabriel Benitez is a UFC veteran who has fought under the UFC name since 2014, in his overall MMA career, Benitez holds a record of 21 wins and 7 losses. The last time we saw him was back in 2019 when he lost to Sodiq Yusuff via TKO, however, Benitez holds some impressive accomplishments within the UFC having the third-best striking defense in UFC history with 73.2%, best striking defense in featherweight history and the best striking defense amongst active fighters in the UFC. 

Omar Morales is a newcomer to the UFC after coming through their contenders series back in 2019, he made his UFC debut against Dong Hyun Ma at the end of 2019, winning that bout via decision. Morales hasn’t been beaten during his MMA career and it’ll be interesting to see how he competes against a guy like Bentiez, personally I’m going with a Benitez win. 

Sijara Eubanks (#15) vs Sarah Moras – Women’s Bantamweight Bout 

Sijara Eubanks is currently the 15th ranked Women’s Bantamweight contender and sees herself return to action against Sarah Moras, both women possess small experience on their records with Eubanks winning 5 and losing 4, whilst Moras has won 5 and lost 6 but personally I can’t see Eubanks losing the fight. Eubanks is an interesting prospect in the women’s division right now, she has both a striking game and a takedown game that makes opponents think for too long about how to attack her. With a win here, Eubanks can move up the rankings and secure herself a big fight against one of the top-ranked contenders.  

Main Card: 

Michael Johnson vs Thiago Moises – Lightweight Bout 

Michael Johnson is a UFC legend who’s fought the likes of Edson Barboza, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje. Unfortunately for Johnson, he isn’t the fighter he once was and is coming off losses against Josh Emmett and Stevie Ray. Thiago Moises was an interesting contender when he first came to the UFC, however, he’s really struggled to get any momentum going during his UFC career and it’s going to be a fight that really determines whether either of the guys deserve to be in the UFC anymore. Johnson has taken some heavy KO losses during his time with the UFC that started back in 2010 and you just have to think that this could be his last bout in the organization. 

Personally, I’m going with Johnson to win here, he desperately needs a win and has an opponent in Moises that he can beat. Moises needs this win against Johnson, adding him to your UFC CV means something and could kickstart his career in the UFC but I just don’t see it happening, maybe I’m just playing favorites, who knows? 

Andre Arlovski vs Philipe Lins – Heavyweight Bout 

We now see two heavyweights clash in Arlovski and Lins. Arlovski is a true UFC legend and has fought some of the best there’s been in the heavyweight division over his long tenure with the UFC. However, it seems father time has caught up with him the past couple of years and is in a similar boat to Johnson, where you just know this fight may be his last. 

Philipe Lins, however, is making his UFC debut tonight against Arlovski after an MMA career mainly in the PFL, and in Bellator saw him amass a record of 14 wins and 3 losses. Lins currently holds a 4 win streak and it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in the UFC, especially when he’s starting off against a legend like Arlovski. 

Personally I’m going with Lins to win this bout, I just can’t confidently back Arlovski anymore and it’s sad to say. 

Ricky Simon vs Ray Borg – Bantamweight Bout 

Ricky Simon has been a mixed bag in the UFC since he debuted in 2018, he has 3 wins and 2 losses to his name, with those 2 losses being in his past 2 bouts. However, those losses are against solid fighters in Rob Font and Urijah Faber so you can forgive him for that. Ray Borg has been pretty active since he returned to fighting after personal problems and is coming off 2 wins in his last 2 fights.

The UFC has done a really good job with the matchmaking here and I’m really looking forward to the fight. Personally, I have Borg winning via decision but Simon does have a real chance at winning this fight. All I know is I expect this to go the distance and entertain the fans a lot, but don’t moan at me when it isn’t… 

Alexander Hernandez (#15) vs Drew Dober – Lightweight Bout 

Hernandez has been a guy who’s impressed me since joining the UFC back in 2018 when he beat Beneil Dariush via TKO in round 1. Hernandez has shot himself up the rankings quite quickly and has impressed in all but one of his fights when he lost to Donald Cerrone but you can’t really mark him down for that. UFC matchmaking has struck gold again with the bout in my opinion because Drew Dober isn’t far behind Hernandez whatsoever. 

Dober has been on a good run of results since 2017 winning 5 fights and losing just the one, Dober has decent power behind his punches that can put guys away so it’ll be interesting to see the chin of Hernandez being tested once again. I also have this fight going to decision, with Hernandez continuing his climb up the rankings, but don’t be surprised if Dober catches Hernandez. 

Ben Rothwell vs Ovince Saint Preux – Heavyweight Bout 

I have to admit something – OSP has been one of my favorite fighters in the UFC and I can’t really explain why. I’ve just taken to him ever since I first watched him. OSP has fought at light heavyweight his whole career so his move to heavyweight is a really interesting one, and it could pay off as he should be quicker than a lot of the heavyweights currently in the division. He also has an insane submission game that you aren’t used to seeing in the division. The only question you have about OSP at heavyweight is whether his chin can take heavyweight punches and the only way to find out is to be hit by them. 

Ben Rothwell made his return to the UFC in 2019 after last seeing him in 2016. His return to the octagon hasn’t gone according to plan as he’s lost two of the three bouts he’s fought in. He is coming off a win against Stefan Struve however and it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with OSP this time around. Rothwell also has an underrated submission game so this could be a really intriguing matchup, especially with OSP moving up a division. 

Personally, I have to go with OSP winning here, I can’t not back my guy but this fight is such a weird one to call because we just don’t know where OSP will be at in the heavyweight division and Rothwell may have shrugged off his ring rust with that win over Struve. Surely though, OSP can’t win with another Von Flue Choke, surely. 

Main Event: Anthony Smith (#4) vs Glover Teixeira (#8) – Light Heavyweight Bout 

The main event of the evening is a really interesting one that has me thinking for a couple of days now. Anthony Smith recently fought Jon Jones for the title after scorching up the LHW rankings, many people were intrigued to see if Smith could dethrone one of the best fighters in history, however, Smith really disappointed fans with his lackluster performance, he allowed Jones to control the fight and you can’t afford to do that against Jon Jones. 

With a win. Smith would have a decent shot at getting a title rematch against Jones, and after seeing Jones’ last two fights, I personally thought he lost, it would be interesting to see Smith have another shot at Jones and if he went in like Santos and Reyes did, he’d have a good chance at winning the belt. 

Glover Teixeira has really impressed in his recent fights and has found himself on a real tear up the light heavyweight rankings with wins over Nikita Krylov, Ion Cutelaba and Karl Roberson. Teixeira is a real veteran of MMA and has 30 wins to his name, has fought some big names in that time, and has shown off a great standing game and a really polished submission game that could easily take Anthony Smith out of the light heavyweight equation. 

This main event is really hard for me to call, Smith is coming off a great performance against Alexander Gustafsson and he must be hungry for another shot at Jon Jones, whilst Glover has a 3 fight win streak under his belt that he doesn’t want to lose, especially with how close he is to a title shot. I’m going to go with a Smith win via TKO in the 4th, but both guys have underrated submission games at the fight could be a really entertaining one, both on the feet and on the ground. 

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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