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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Gdansk: Cerrone vs. Till – Prelim preview Part 1

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Get the inside scoop on the first half of the preliminary contests of UFC Gdansk, featuring Conor McGregor’s training partner Artem Lobov clashing with the always exciting Andre Fili.

An under the radar event – UFC Gdansk — kicks off a string of eleven events over the next eleven weeks. It is under the radar for a reason as Donald Cerrone and – to a lesser extent — Karolina Kowalkiewicz are the only established names on the card. Well…I suppose quite a few people know who Artem Lobov is. Easily the biggest name on the first half of the prelims, he’ll get an opportunity to prove he deserves the push the UFC has given him lately against Team Alpha Male product, Andre Fili. If nothing else, the contest should be entertaining.

The prelims begin at 11:30 AM ET/8:30 AM PT on Saturday on Fight Pass.

Artem Lobov (14-13-1, 1 NC) vs. Andre Fili (16-5), Featherweight

There isn’t a member of the featherweight roster that doesn’t want a crack at Lobov, so in essence you could say Fili won the lottery.

The reason for the division’s animosity towards Lobov is their belief that the push he has received from the UFC is only due to his friendship with Conor McGregor. It’s hard to argue otherwise. Lobov ended up headlining a card opposite Cub Swanson following a win over Teruto Ishihara. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Ishihara, but I also don’t know anyone that would consider him to be a quality UFC win, much less one to launch someone into any sort of main event status. Nonetheless, Lobov has proven himself to be granite-tough with an accurate countering game from close distances. Though his left hand tends to be his power hand, he switches stances effectively and can do just as much damage with his right with his short counter combinations.

In terms of physical skills, Fili is far ahead of the Russian transplant. I’m not just referring to pure athleticism either. Though the two inches in height Fili will possess isn’t that big of a deal, the nine-inch reach advantage almost surely will come into play. Well…it will if Fili has made strides in his distance management. A pressure fighter who throws a high volume of kicks, Fili is too content to let his opponent dictate where the fight goes due to his confidence to succeed wherever they decide to take the contest. While Fili can do a little bit of everything – wrestle, scramble, box, etc. – he’s better off being the one to dictate the pace and where the contest takes place. If he can do that, the fight is in the bag.

Stylistically, Lobov is a bad matchup for Fili. Anytime Fili’s opponent takes the fight to him, he tends to make some sort of mistake and pays the price for it. Remember Godofredo Pepey’s flying triangle choke on Fili? How about Yair Rodriguez’s flying knee? One thing they possess that Lobov doesn’t: dynamism and explosion. Lobov does hit hard and he could easily catch Fili off guard with a left hand from a low angle – his specialty, as he tends to keep his hands low. But does Lobov really hit that hard? He couldn’t finish off Chris Avila or a completely gassed Ishihara. Provided Fili fights smart, his physical advantages will be too much to overcome. Fili via decision

Salim Touahri (10-1) vs. Warlley Alves (10-2), Welterweight

Touahri faces a major uphill battle. It was announced that Jim Wallhead pulled out of his contest with Alves with just under a week before it was scheduled to take place, leaving Touahri to step in on very short notice. The Polish prospect does have some talent, employing a pressuring style with jabs and low kicks thrown in hopes of enticing his opponent to throw their own offense as Touahri is at his best on the counter. He doesn’t appear to have much wrestling ability, but he does show some defensive grappling abilities as well as some good offense in the clinch. Perhaps most worrisome is his lack of decent competition as Alves represents a massive step up in competition.

Among the most athletic and talented members of the welterweight division, Alves has what it takes to be a serious contender. The problem with Alves is his lack of progress in strategizing and picking up the little nuances of the sport, relying almost solely on his natural explosion. There isn’t much craft to his standup, putting everything he has into single strikes to take his opponent out or throwing a sudden flurry. More often than not, the energy expenditure is too much for the Brazilian if he is unable to get the finish and he is often easy pickings for his opponent about midway through the contest. If Alves can find a way to improve his stamina – whether through better conditioning or energy management – he could begin to fulfill the immense potential many have seen within him. Don’t sleep on his scrambling and transitions either. He’s caught more than one opponent in his guillotine choke before.

Alves is already seen as a bit of a disappointment, but he’ll be a complete bust if he is unable to get past a late replacement. Even if Alves is unable to secure a finish in the first round, it’s unlikely that Touahri could end up pulling off the upset despite Alves’ struggles beyond the first round. This is just way too big of a jump in competition for Touahri to make on short notice. Alves has scrapped by before to pull out a decision and he should be able to do so against Touahri should the fight go the distance. However, I don’t see it going that far. Alves via submission, RD1

Lina Lansberg (7-2) vs. Aspen Ladd (5-0), Women’s Bantamweight

It’s unlikely Lansberg will ever surpass the spotlight placed upon her in her UFC debut, but that’s what happens when you accept a contest with Cyborg Justino. Lansberg didn’t look great returning to bantamweight, but she did look good enough to walk out with a win and establish herself as a low-level gatekeeper of sorts. Known as the Elbow Princess thanks to her inclination to use that appendage in the clinch, Lansberg makes it her goal to get the fight in close quarters and keep the fight there. If forced to fight in space, she has a solid Muay Thai base, but it isn’t anything special. Still, it’s more than what she has to offer on the ground…

Ladd offers less specialization and more diversity. Preferring to stay in the pocket and slug it out with her basic yet effective boxing combinations, Ladd has shown a willingness to take some damage in order to land her offense. However, she has also shown a granite chin and a relentless chain-wrestling game. Once on the ground, Ladd unleashes a vicious torrent of ground-and-pound that tends to either produce a finish or create an opening for a submission. Though she has fought as low as flyweight, Ladd’s physical strength isn’t something opponents can take for granted.

Stylistically, this is a difficult contest for Ladd’s UFC debut. She likes to bully her opponents and Lansberg isn’t one to be bullied…unless your name is Cyborg. Nonetheless, Lansberg did gas badly in her last appearance despite having a full camp. Ladd’s conditioning has never been an issue, even when making a greater cut to 125. At bantamweight, she should feel strong. Given Lansburg’s durability, a finish doesn’t appear likely, though it wouldn’t be wise to completely discount one coming late. Ladd via decision

Felipe Arantes (18-8-1) vs. Josh Emmett (11-1), Featherweight

After continued struggles to make the bantamweight limit, including being forced to pull out of a scheduled contest with Luke Sanders last month, Arantes has given up trying to make 135 and is returning to his former home of featherweight. Though it’s a given that he’ll have more energy, that hasn’t necessarily been an issue for the Brazilian, relying heavily on a wide array of kicks to serve as his primary form of offense on the feet. To his credit, Arantes has been developing a more reliable boxing game, but his defensive liabilities on the feet don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Emmett is a greater wild card here as he too is changing weight classes, but he is dropping down as opposed to moving up as Arantes is. Given that Emmett never seemed to be undersized at 155, it will be a curiosity to see how much cutting the extra weight affects the Team Alpha Male veteran. Sure, the boys from Sac-town have a reputation for always being in great shape, but Emmett’s tendency to throw his punches at near or full power does give credence to those questions. Nonetheless, Emmett has proven to be an effective counter puncher despite relying heavily on the trademark hooks of his camp.

Another trademark of Alpha Male is its wrestling and Emmett once again doesn’t disappoint in that avenue, utilizing good timing and determination against the fence. However, outside of his ability to scramble a bit, Emmett’s ground game has been lacking as he has struggled to even keep opponents grounded. Arantes will likely afford him that opportunity as he has complete and utter confidence in his guard, often to a fault. He has picked up a pair of slick armbars in that manner, but expecting him to do so against Emmett is unlikely.

Though I like the idea of Arantes moving up in weight against the hesitation of Emmett moving up, this contest stylistically favors Emmett all the way. Arantes has some offensive wrestling abilities, but doesn’t offer much resistance to stopping them. Arantes would be better off trying to knock Emmett’s block off as opposed to submitting him, but Emmett has proven to be durable. Unless the weight cut proves too much for Emmett, he should take this comfortably. Emmett via decision

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