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.
In the lead-up for the event, I’ll be breaking down each and every fight that takes place at UFC 169.The breakdown continues today with a look at the four bouts that will take place on the preliminary card on FOX Sports 1.
John Makdessi (12-2) vs Alan Patrick (11-0)
Following back-to-back losses to Anthony Njokuani and Dennis Hallman, John Makdessi’s UFC record regressed to .500, but he has rallied to piece together three consecutive victories over Sam Stout, Daron Cruickshank, and Renee Forte. The Tristar product is a bit small for the lightweight division, but he has found success with his stellar striking. Makdessi does a great job of controlling the range of striking by constantly dropping levels and being unpredictable with his combinations.
A 10-0 start to his career on the Brazilian circuit earned Alan Patrick a shot in the UFC that culminated with an impressive first round stoppage of Garett Whiteley. Patrick finished Whiteley on the feet, but he also flaunted an ability to take the fight down within the clinch. Because of his questionable level of competition up until this point, there are some questions about how Alan Patrick is expected to fair in the lightweight division, although his performance on Saturday will offer some evidence to that conclusion.
While Makdessi will suffer a reach advantage to the southpaw, he should have little trouble winning the fight standing. As long as he is able to defend Patrick in the clinch and keep the contest on the feet, he should be able to extend his winning streak.
My Pick: John Makdessi via 2nd KO/TKO
Chris Cariaso (15-5) vs Danny Martinez (16-4)
Since dropping down to the flyweight division, Chris Cariaso has gone 2-2 in the division with wins over Iliarde Santos and Josh Ferguson and losses to John Moraga and Jussier da Silva. With his only loss prior to that being a close decision to Michael McDonald, I expected Cariaso to have had more success in the division, but he’s had trouble keeping the fight on the feet against superior grapplers. Nevertheless, he’s a scrappy fighter that possesses a dynamic striking game.
When the UFC announced that it would add the flyweight division, one of the names that continued to pop up on the radar as potential addition to the roster was Danny Martinez. After losing to Davey Grant on the preliminary round of The Ultimate Fighter, Martinez will finally get his shot. He’s on a four fight win streak since a loss to Jussier da Silva in late 2012. Martinez, who trains at Alliance MMA, has a wrestling base with enough boxing skills to hang with the majority of the division.
Martinez’s performance against Davey Grant on The Ultimate Fighter along with his absence and lack of a win over a fight near the level of Cariaso’s level leads me to believe that Chris Cariaso will win this bout. In all likelihood, Martinez should be able to bring the fight down to the ground, but Cariaso should be able to work his way back up or sweep him. Cariaso should be able to outpoint Martinez on the feet with explosive combinations and win a decision.
My Pick: Chris Cariaso via decision
Nick Catone (9-4) vs Tom Watson (16-6)
After an unsuccessful debut at welterweight against TJ Waldburger and then failing to make the weight in a fight that was eventually scratched with James Head at UFC 159, Nick Catone will return back to the middleweight division. Injuries have plagued Catone throughout his mixed martial arts career, but the collegiate wrestler has been able to win enough to sustain a UFC career that started in 2009.
Tom Watson developed into a notable middleweight thanks to a 5-0 stint in BAMMA, although he hasn’t found as much success in the UFC. He’s lost in two of his three outings. Nevertheless, Watson remains a fan favorite thanks to his zero regrets, brawling style that leads to fight of the night contenders. Watson’s wrestling is fine enough to keep the fight standing where he can put a lot of middleweights in trouble.
It’s been a while since Nick Catone has been able to use his wrestling to dominate a fight, so I wouldn’t expect anything different against Tom Watson. Watson’s aggressive style allows for his opponents to keep it close, and Catone has enough skill on the feet to capitalize on that. Still Watson is the clear favorite if the bout becomes a grueling striking contest.
My Pick: Tom Watson via 2nd KO/TKO
Al Iaquinta (7-2-1) vs Kevin Lee (7-0)
Al Iaquinta is a representative of the rising Serra-Long fight team, and he has risen up the lightweight ranks after in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter to Michael Chiesa. Iaquinta rebounded with decision victories over Ryan Couture and Piotr Hallman. He’s established himself as a composed, technically proficient striker with takedown defense. Iaquinta hasn’t finished a fight since 2011, but he flaunted his power in the second round of his bout against Hallman.
The fighter that will stand opposite of Al Iaquinta on Saturday didn’t even have a fight on his professional record two years. 21 year-old Kevin Lee has quickly become one of the more intriguing lightweight prospects. Unlike a lot of prospects with impressive records, Lee has several quality wins in his young career over the likes of Mansour Barnaoui, J.P. Reese, and Kyle Prepolec. Lee is a stout wrestler that has won last his four with a submission.
If this fight plays out on the feet, Al Iaquinta has the edge. Iaquinta showed some holes in his wrestling department in his lone UFC loss to Chiesa. Kevin Lee has the wrestling base to bring it to the ground where has the clear advantage, so I think he’ll be able to pick the slight upset over Iaquinta with another submission victory.