UFC 169 takes place this Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and the card features two UFC championship defenses from Renan Barao and Jose Aldo against Urijah Faber and Ricardo Lamas respectively.
To prepare you for the card, I’ll be breaking down the entire card, starting off with the bouts that are scheduled to take place on the Fight Pass website.
Clint Hester (9-3) vs Andy Enz (10-1)
Upon finishing up on his season of The Ultimate Fighter, Clint Hester has looked great in his two performances against Bristol Marunde and Dylan Andrews. Hester, who has won five consecutive bouts, possesses an impressive boxing game with significant power in both of his hands. In the fight against Andrews, Hester showcased improvement with his wrestling and was able to dominate that area of the fight.
Andy Enz’s rise as a middleweight prospect was stunted by a loss in an exhibition bout to Uriah Hall on the preliminary round of the seventeenth of The Ultimate Fighter. Since then, Enz has pieced together three consecutive wins in AFC, the promotion where he made his name. Enz has found a lot of success thus far with a finish-first mentality on the ground that has led to seven submission victories.
While both fighters have their best days are ahead of them, I have to make a pick here, and in this one I like Hester. Hester showed me enough in the fight against Andrews that I think he should be able to keep it standing, and that is where he has a clear advantage. If the fight goes to the ground, look for Enz to have the advantage, but I expect Hester to add another knockout to his resume on Saturday.
My Pick: Clint Hester via 2nd KO/TKO
Neil Magny (8-3) vs Gasan Umalatov (14-2-1)
Wrestling has been the variable of the fight game that has been the indicator on how Neil Magny has faired in his three fight UFC stint. Against Jon Manley in his UFC debut, Magny controlled that aspect of the fight and obtained the decision victory, but he was promptly taken down and submitted by Sergio Moraes in his next fight. In his last fight, Magny dropped a close decision to Seth Baczynski that played out close in the wrestling department. Aside from his wrestling, Magny is a lanky striker that uses his reach to control the range and outpoints his opponents.
At 31 years of age, Gasan Umalatov is finally getting his shot in the UFC. The Russian has won eight out of his last nine fights, finishing six of those victories. Umalatov is reliant upon his heavy hands with his striking, but he thrives on the ground where he can go to work with his submission and positional control game, even when he is starting from a disadvantageous position.
Based on each fighters’ last few outings, Magny appears to be the better wrestler. Magny should be able to win the stand-up battle by using his range and as long as he doesn’t get tagged by any of Umalatov’s powerful lefts. Expect Magny to use his size advantage to control the fight within the clinch, keep Umalatov in an inferior position, and take home a decision.
My Pick: Neil Magny via unanimous decision.
Rashid Magomedov (15-1) vs Tony Martin (8-0)
With the recent success of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rustam Khabilov, it’s hard not to get excited for Rashid Magomedov, the latest Russian addition to the UFC roster. Magomedov actually has a more impressive resume on paper than his counterparts – he’s the reigning M-1 welterweight champion who is coming of back-to-back victories over two tough 170 pounders in Alexander Yakovlev and Yasubey Enomoto. Magomedov is a well-conditioned, composed fighter that possesses great defense both on the feet and on the ground. His strength would have to be his patient striking. In spite of being a smaller fighter, Magomedov tends to control the range by attacking opponents as they enter and leave it with barrages of hooks. Also, don’t sleep on his head kick.
Rashid Magomedov last fought in late 2012. Earlier in that year was when Martin made his professional debut. The six foot, one inch fighter from Minnesota has risen to the top of the lightweight prospect rankings through his stout wrestling and submission game. Martin’s most notable victory to date would have to be a majority decision win over TUF alumn Phillipe November in January 2013. For this fight, Martin started of his training camp up in Minnesota with his longtime training partner Brock Larson and has finished it up in Florida at American Top Team (Magomedov spent some time at Team Takedown recently).
When you take a look at what Nurmagomedov and Khabilov has done in the UFC and compound that with Magomedov’s notable victories, it’s hard to pick against him, but that’s what I’m going to do. Magomedov’s absence since November of 2012 worries me, and so does his lackadaisical approach to his last two five round fights. I’m concerned that he’ll start slowly and have issues readjusting to a three round fight. The size difference between both fighters is another issue, Martin will have a significant height and reach advantage in this one. I think Martin will be able to employ his wrestling, fend off the guard of Magomedov, and pull off an upset on the judges’ scorecards.