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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 243: Whittaker vs. Adesanya – ESPN prelims

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The televised prelims of UFC 243 feature a few familiar names on a card devoid of depth. Not that Jake Matthews and Megan Anderson are anywhere close to being household names, but those who follow the UFC on a regular basis should recognize their names. Too bad their opponents don’t produce any familiarity. It’s hard to sell a card on the quality of the fights when fans don’t even know who it is that is fighting. Thus, in this case, about all I can do is point to the names fans might recognize. Yeah, I get it. Not the best way to sell a card – not that it’s my job either – but it’s about all I got given I can’t give a reasonable case for why the unknowns might be able to pull off an upset.

The televised prelims begin on ESPN at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Megan Anderson (8-4) vs. Zarah Fairn dos Santos (6-2), Women’s Featherweight

Given these are two of the four women’s featherweights on the roster who fight exclusively in the division, it’s fair to say there are going to be major implications for the make up of the division based on the outcome of this contest. Then again, that says more about the pathetic nature of the division than it does of the Anderson and dos Santos’ skill level….

It isn’t that neither of them can’t develop into competitors within the division, particularly Anderson. Owning a lanky frame, Anderson knows how to use her length and power very well on her feet. Whether it’s from the outside or her using her frame to smother her opponent in the clinch, Anderson would probably be competitive with Amanda Nunes on the feet. The problem is what happens when Anderson isn’t vertical. For all the efforts over the years to improve her ability to stay standing, her takedown defense is still a major problem. Her grappling defense is just as much of an issue. She’s been fortunate that there aren’t many in the division who’ve been able to exploit that, but her contest with Felicia Spencer showed what happens when an opponent knows what they’re doing on the mat.

Anderson is in luck in this case as dos Santos may be worse on the ground than herself. Dos Santos has spent a good chunk of her career fighting opponents significantly smaller than herself, both of her losses coming against true featherweights. That doesn’t bode well against Anderson as the Aussie wouldn’t ever be able to conceivably be able to cut down any further. Regardless, dos Santos is dangerous in the clinch, possessing brutal knees and usually stays busy in close quarters, giving her an outside shot if she can keep the fight in that range.

The UFC is trying very hard to make Anderson a star in the division. In hopes of making that happen, dos Santos largely appears to be fodder for her as her defense on the outside is miserable. In other words, she’s the perfect type of fighter for Anderson to secure a highlight KO. Dos Santos may be able to make things competitive if she can close the distance, but even then, it appears Anderson is better in that department too. Anderson via TKO of RD1

  • Rostem Akman isn’t a UFC newcomer, but that would be news to even many of the most ardent UFC fans. While I’m not sure if it’s a positive or a negative, the Swede is best known for the gnarly mane covering his body, looking like he walked off the set of The Wolfman. Aside from his unique appearance, Akman is a solid striker with decent power, but his ground game is lacking. That’s a major problem as Jake Matthews has recognized a ground attack is where he’s at his best, even if he’s no longer assured of being the bigger man now that he competes at welterweight. Despite having been on the roster for 5-plus years, Matthews is still only 25 and still hasn’t tapped into all his physical abilities. His striking, though more effective than it was a few years ago, is still in need of progress. Nonetheless, Akman’s takedown defense is worrisome enough that it should be an easy win for the Aussie. Matthews via submission of RD2
  • Maki Pitolo impressed all those who saw his performance this past summer on DWCS, dispatching of his much larger opponent in just 97 seconds. Now dropping to welterweight, the aggressive Hawaiian should be a forceful presence at 170. He’s prone to having his chin tested as he’s far from being mindful on defense. However, that doesn’t seem to be too much of a worry this time around as his opponent, Callan Potter, isn’t much of a threat on the feet. Despite that, Pitolo will still want to be wary of the Aussie’s abilities on the ground, particularly his scrambling. Given Potter isn’t much of a wrestler and is past his physical prime after a long career on Australia’s regional scene, the only logical pick appears to be Pitolo. Pitolo via KO of RD1
  • I’ve stated I’m not too crazy about some of the Australian competitors on this card, but lightweight debutants Jamie Mullarkey and Brad Riddell I don’t have an issue with. Mullarkey is the more experienced MMA competitor with a solid ground game, but Riddell also has extensive experience in the kickboxing avenue. Mullarkey is a well-rounded striker in his own right, but he’d be best served to get Riddell to the ground and try to control/submit him. Whether he will is another story as he prefers to stand and trade himself. Regardless of who wins this coin flip of a fight, it should be one of the more entertaining scraps on the card. Mullarkey via decision

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