After a nice break from UFC action – three weeks to be exact – the UFC returns by making its debut in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lincoln isn’t quite the MMA hotbed Iowa once upon a time was when Miletich Fighting Systems dominated the sport, but that hardly means the heartland of America is bereft of talent. Representing the Cornhusker state on the Fight Pass prelims is Drew Dober. However, what most fans will be keeping an eye on – at least for this portion of the card – will be how well Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood translates to her new home. Could Jo Jo finally begin to reach her potential?
The UFC Lincoln Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.
Joanne Calderwood (11-3) vs. Kalindra Faria (18-7-1), Women’s Flyweight
As much as I love Jo Jo, let’s not pretend she hasn’t been a disappointment over her UFC run. Expected to be a contender for the strawweight crown as she entered the organization undefeated, Calderwood has dropped just as many contests as she has won. Given her best performance was the one occurrence where she fought at 125, it appears fair to say the cut to 115 was taking too much out of her. Even with that being an issue, Calderwood has always pushed a fast pace that opponents have had difficulty matching. It’s not a stretch to say she is the best clinch fighter in the division and she doesn’t get enough credit for her wrestling… when she remembers to utilize it.
Faria’s career has some similarities to Calderwood, having fought a large chunk of her career at strawweight too despite finding more success at flyweight. However, Faria’s UFC career – all two fights of it — has been disastrous. She appeared totally unprepared in her debut against Mara Romero Borella and her lack of takedown defense did her in against Jessica Eye. When allowed to stand, Faria has some lethal kicks, solid boxing, and an underrated clinch game. That damned ground game though….
Nobody will ever mistake Calderwood for a grappling specialist, making a submission of Faria unlikely despite the Brazilian’s struggles on the ground. That doesn’t mean Calderwood can’t institute a similar strategy to what Eye did and could even do it more effectively. In fact, she probably would implement it more effectively… provided she take that route. The moments on the feet could prove to be a lot of fun, but Calderwood will probably look to put Faria on her back more than anything. Calderwood via decision
Drew Dober (19-8, 1 NC) vs. Jon Tuck (10-4), Lightweight
After it was strongly recommended he move up to welterweight by the CSAC, Dober is returning to lightweight… for now. It’s a shame the recommendation came when it did as Dober was really hitting his stride. As it currently sits, he’s 4-1 in his last five after opening his UFC career with an underwhelming 1-3 with a no contest. Moving to Colorado with the Elevation Fight Team was a big part of his recent success, encouraging him to sit down on his punches and refining his wrestling. The results speak for themselves.
Tuck’s UFC career has been a bit underwhelming, though he is coming into this contest on the high of dispatching the legendary Takanori Gomi in 72 seconds. Then again, everyone not named Melvin Guillard has taken out Gomi in recent years. Though Tuck can operate both as the aggressor and as a counter puncher, he doesn’t throw enough when waiting for his opponent to lead the dance, leading to him coming out on the short end of the stick in close decision. Not much of a wrestler, Tuck’s ability to scramble and overall submission prowess ensure he’s rarely dominated on the ground.
Both Tuck and Dober are tough as nails, a single KO/TKO loss existing between them that happened seven years ago. Dober’s upped aggression and improved power should mark him a definitive favorite over Tuck’s tentativeness. It’ll be a surprise if this turns into a stinker. Dober via decision
Rani Yahya (25-9, 1 NC) vs. Luke Sanders (12-2), Bantamweight
Yahya is not an exciting fighter. Nobody has ever made that claim. However, it’s prevented him from getting any notable contests despite having lost just one time in his last eight appearances. Sanders, though talented, was most likely a loss away from being outside of the organization. To his credit, Sanders did what he needed to do to stick around by turning away Patrick Williams, but it didn’t do anything to convince anyone he’s going to fulfill the expectations that circled him upon his UFC entry.
This contest is simple to break down. Yahya is a grappling expert, a winner of numerous prestigious grappling tournaments. His striking is rudimentary, though he has made enough strides that he can hurt someone if they don’t show him at least a modicum of respect. Sanders is a former amateur boxer whose constant pressure has proven too much for opponents who aren’t well-conditioned or exhaust themselves early. Yahya does have a history of tiring badly about halfway through the contest thanks to his relentlessness to get his opponent to the ground and nab a sub.
Sanders is a sound wrestler, but I have doubts he’ll be able to stop Yahya from getting his early takedowns. What he’ll need to do from there is survive long enough for his Brazilian counterpart to tire before Sanders can take over. The danger there is Sanders is whether he can survive. It’s a bit of a coin flip, but I’m favoring Yahya’s ability to slowly constrict the Tennessee native. Yahya via submission of RD1