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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Denver: Korean Zombie vs. Rodriguez – FS1 prelims preview

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As usual, the injury bug strikes again. Ray Borg and Joseph Benavidez were expected to do the damn thing on the main card of UFC Denver, but Borg’s injury has ramifications in every section as the UFC plucked a fight from the prelims to fill the gap. Thus, the preview for Beneil Dariush and Thiago Moises will be on tomorrow’s preview. Furthermore, the contest between Davi Ramos and John Gunther doesn’t appear on this preview as it was covered in yesterday’s Fight Pass preview.

The quality of the FS1 prelims are relatively low. Chas Skelly is the most established combatant and many fans have forgotten he was even on the roster due to a long absence. In fact, the other seven fighters outside of Skelly combine for 6 wins inside the Octagon between them. To say the UFC isn’t putting a lot of effort into what is supposed to be the 25th anniversary show would be an understatement.

The FS1 prelims begin at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Ashley Yoder (5-4) vs. Amanda Cooper (3-4), Women’s Strawweight

I suppose it only makes sense to pair the two victims of Mackenzie Dern together to see who deserves to stick around. Cooper is the younger and likely more physically gifted of the two. The problem is she only shows her talents in fits and starts. One of the better fundamental boxers in the division thanks to her time in the Golden Gloves circuit, Cooper struggles to keep the fight standing as her takedown and submission defense still have a long way to go. She has become a solid offensive wrestler with good GnP, which has led to her victories in the UFC.

Yoder has yet to pick up a win in the UFC despite three tries. Regardless, she has hung tough with each of her opponents, her resilience allowing her to go the distance despite inferior physical talents. It isn’t that Yoder has nothing to offer physically. It’s that the UFC has been using her to get other talented fighters back on track. Yoder shows good technique in all phases, but she can also be predictable. Where she really excels is in scrambles and in the grappling department… Cooper’s weakness.

It isn’t just because Cooper is weak in her submission defense I’m going with Yoder. Yoder’s will to win has been apparent even in her losing efforts. Unless Cooper can jump ahead early – and stay ahead – she hasn’t shown the ability to overcome adversity. Yoder hands Cooper her fourth submission loss in the UFC. Yoder via submission of RD2

Chas Skelly (17-3) vs. Bobby Moffett (13-3), Featherweight

It’s been 18 months since Skelly last stepped into the cage, a slew of injuries being to blame. Though some still think of him as an up-and-comer, Skelly is already 33-years old. He’s probably past his physical prime. Despite that, Skelly shouldn’t experience much – if any – of a drop off excepting some ring rust as he’s never been that fast or quick. Instead, the Texan relies on strength, grit, and durability… not much of a surprise given his collegiate wrestling background. Skelly has plenty of power in his fists too, but he also has a very wonky style that isn’t the most technical. At least he can catch his opponent off-guard with it….

Moffett made his way to the UFC through both Lookin’ for a Fight and the Contender Series. Primarily a wrestler and submission artist, Moffett is one of the few whom it doesn’t appear is being rushed to the big show from the aforementioned series. The MMA Lab product can fall into bouts of inactivity on the feet as he tends to look for the counter, but I’d be selling him short if I said he was anything less than competent. In fact, he’s far more technically sound than Skelly.

Given Skelly has been knocking on the door of the official UFC rankings, he seemed to be an unusual choice for the UFC to introduce Moffett into the organization. It isn’t that Moffett can’t win this fight, but it isn’t going to be an easy task by any means. Skelly does tend to fade by the time the final frame rolls around, but he also has a lot of resolve. Moffett only takes the contest if Skelly exhausts himself too much and Moffett gets a late stoppage. I see Skelly surviving and taking the decision. Skelly via decision

Devonte Smith (8-1) vs. Julian Erosa (22-5), Lightweight

It’s been two-and-a-half years since Erosa was let go from the UFC. Not much has changed in that time. He’s still most effective when he attacks in bursts from the outside, but he’s also still very much prone to his opponent landing their own heavy shots despite Erosa’s 6’1” frame and 75” reach. He does have good power in his fists and feet and stays active despite his propensity to throw a single strike at a time. He’s a competent wrestler and grappler, but the effectiveness of those areas is very much matchup dependent.

Smith provides a lot of upside, entering the big stage at the age of 25. While he isn’t particularly tall at 5’8”, he does own a freakishly long 76” reach. He does a good job utilizing it too, a jab being his weapon of choice. Smith has fast hands, decent takedown defense, and power to spare, all but one of his victories coming by way of KO/TKO. What he does need to bring up to speed is his grappling and wrestling.

Make no mistake, Smith has far more upside than Erosa. He’s younger, more athletic, and has a lot more power. However, Erosa has far more experience. I don’t just mean overall number of fights either. Erosa has fought some solid competition over the course of his career. Smith hasn’t fought terrible competition for someone who was where he was at heading into his appearance on the Contender Series, but now he’s being rushed to the big stage. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he walks out the victor. I just see him having to overcome too much. Erosa via decision

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