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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 228: Woodley vs. Till – Fight Pass prelims preview

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Though it would hardly be across the board of this portion of the card, there is a theme of the old lion potentially making a last stand for the Fight Pass prelims of UFC 228. Diego Sanchez has been in the UFC for well over a decade and Jim Miller is closing in on that amount of service himself. Now much closer to the end than the beginning of their careers, they’re fighting to simply remain relevant at this point. If both of them lose, it’ll be a White-out. Keep reading if you want to understand my stupid pun.

The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Diego Sanchez (27-11) vs. Craig White (14-8), Welterweight

There aren’t many who are excited about this contest. Sanchez has become the favorite callout of young up-and-comers in part due to his name value. The other part of that reason: he’s a shell of his former self, looking like easy pickings to these youngsters.

Sanchez used to be indestructible, capable of walking through a thresher machine and coming out the other end of it asking for more. It wasn’t until the 35th fight of his career that he lost before making it to the final bell. However, his chin has completely dissipated. He’s been finished in three of his last four contests – all in the first round – with the lone exception being a controversial win over pillow-fisted Marcin Held. Without his chin, Sanchez can’t outwork his opponent to secure a win, the only way he was picking wins for the better part of the last decade.

About the only special thing about White is his height and reach at 6’2” and 76” respectively. Despite that, White prefers to close the distance and operate in the clinch with elbows, knees, and trips. He is active in looking for submissions, though it seems highly unlikely he’d be the first to submit Sanchez as the original TUF winner is still a capable grappler.

Sanchez in his prime would absolutely truck over White. Now, it’s hard to see the road to victory. He’ll need to walk into White’s wheelhouse if he hopes to win. White may not be a heavy hitter, but he is active and can pile up the punishment in a hurry. It doesn’t seem likely Sanchez will be able to hold up for very long. White via TKO, RD1

Jim Miller (28-12, 1 NC) vs. Alex White (12-4), Lightweight

Two years ago, the talk was that Miller was on his way out the door after a surprisingly memorable UFC run. Then he won three in a row in impressive fashion to quell those talks. Well…we find ourselves back in the same situation as Miller has now lost four in a row.

While he hasn’t fallen as far as Sanchez, whatever success Miller has found in his career, he has had to earn the hard way. He isn’t a special athlete. He doesn’t have overwhelming power either. In fact, his last KO/TKO win – unless you count the ghost of Takanori Gomi – came all the way back in 2011. What Miller tends to do is outwork his opponent or utilize his tricky submission game to secure a finish. He doesn’t have the same durability that once allowed him to hang in any fight he was in. Because of his previous ability to absorb punishment, he hasn’t always made the best effort to avoid damage. He might look to avoid oncoming punches a bit more at this stage.

Heading into the eighth fight of his UFC career, White has come a long way from the single-shot power puncher he was upon his UFC entry. He can now put together sound combinations and hit the occasional takedown when needed. One thing he has yet to shore up: his defense. Part of that is due to White’s stiffness. His overall athleticism helps make up for that, but that should only get him to the middle of the pack without some changes.

I really want to pick Miller. The longtime veteran has long been a favorite for FOTN on any card he’s on in addition to one of the more likeable personalities on the roster. Unfortunately, his long career is coming close to the finishing line. This is a very winnable fight for him, but there’s a reason he’s the underdog too. White via TKO, RD2

Irene Aldana (8-4) vs. Lucie Pudilova (8-2), Women’s Bantamweight

It wouldn’t be wrong to say Aldana’s run in the UFC has been disappointing, but it wouldn’t necessarily be fair either. The representative of Mexico has been given some underrated opposition in Leslie Smith and Katlyn Chookagian. She has learned how to stay on the outside with a steady jab with the occasional power shot to follow, though her defense still leaves much to be desired. The one thing Aldana does have down pat: her takedown defense.

Too bad that’s unlikely to come into play as Pudilova employs a similar sprawl-and-brawl strategy with little desire to take the fight to the mat at any point. She’s proven herself to be resilient, making a strong comeback in her UFC debut only to fall just short of earning the judges’ nod. Pudilova pushes a hard pace and maintains a high level of activity. Translation: this should be fun.

There are a lot of similarities between these ladies. Pudilova has looked better with every contest she has had in the UFC while it isn’t clear if we can say the same thing about Aldana. However, Aldana’s losses have come against far superior talent than those Pudilova has fallen short against. I like the chances of that experience paying off for her against the young Czech. Aldana via decision

Roberto Sanchez (8-1) vs. Jarred Brooks (13-2), Flyweight

Brooks produced the most notable highlight of his career when he KO’d himself attempting to slam Jose Torres to the mat. Not the type of highlight a fighter wants to produce. Prior to that mishap, Brooks fought like a man possessed in that contest, showing improved hands and getting any takedown he wanted against a respected flyweight. He doesn’t have a lot of power in his fists, but he’s among the fastest and quickest fighters on the roster with a knack for getting his opponent’s back.

Sanchez operates in a similar way, looking to get his opponent to the ground and find their back. He’s been pretty good at it too as five of eight victories have come by way of RNC. However, he doesn’t have the same physical tools possessed by Brooks, potentially making it a Herculean task for him to execute his preferred method of victory against Brooks. Sanchez does have some veteran tricks up his sleeve that will give him a chance at victory, but things aren’t looking very rosy.

What gives Sanchez his best chance is that Brooks is taking this contest on very short notice, the announcement of him stepping in for an injured Ryan Benoit coming with less than a week before UFC 228. However, Brooks is small even for the flyweight division and shouldn’t have too many issues making weight given his history. It should prove to be a wise move for him. Brooks via decision

Geoff Neal (9-2) vs. Frank Camacho (21-6), Welterweight

If this contest turns out to be a stinker, you can blame Neal. Camacho doesn’t seem to recognize a fighter doesn’t always have to be moving forward swinging fisticuffs. Fortunately for fight fans, it typically results in some incredibly entertaining scraps as he is three-for-three when it comes to winning FOTN bonuses in the UFC. Though Camacho does pack a nice punch, he’s on the small side for the division and tends to get hit more in exchanges.

Neal is a striker too, though he takes a more disciplined approach. A southpaw, Neal effectively uses jabs and short hooks to set up more powerful shots with his right hand. His Achilles heel thus far has been a lack of wrestling. Fortunately for him, Camacho is unlikely to exploit that. Neal has done a nice job to shore up his grappling to alleviate some of this concerns on the ground, though he still has a way to go.

There isn’t a true fight fan that doesn’t look forward to watching Camacho do his thing. However, his brawling nature isn’t bred for much success against UFC-caliber fighters as Camacho’s opponents choose whether they are willing to enter his world. If they aren’t, his chances for success decline immensely. Neal doesn’t look like he’ll want to do that. Couple that with his athletic advantage and I’m going with the veteran of the Contender Series. Neal via decision

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