It’s been three weeks since the UFC last held an event. That’s an eternity in this day and age… provided you didn’t indulge in any Bellator or PFL action. Returning to action this weekend, the UFC is touching down in Moncton. That would be southeast Canada for those of you who are unfamiliar where Moncton would be. While it marks the end of a long break from UFC action, it also represents the beginning of a long stretch without a respite from UFC action as the next UFC-free weekend coming the last weekend before Christmas. So while the likes of Stevie Ray and Te Edwards could very well tickle your fancy – they are typically fun fighters – you’re forgiven if you decide to pass given you haven’t heard of them. Then again, three weeks is a long time….
The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.
Te Edwards (6-1) vs. Don Madge (7-3-1), Lightweight
The UFC has tried to find a way to make inroads to Africa, mining several fighters out of the Extreme Fighting Championship based in South Africa with minimal success. Madge is the latest import, though he is both younger and more athletic than their previous efforts. Winning the Muay Thai championship of South Africa at the tender age of 16, Madge has blown through his recent competition with minimal effort, finishing his last four opponents in the first round in a variety of ways. He does show some decent grappling chops, but his wrestling is worrisome.
That isn’t too big of a concern for this contest as Edwards is almost exclusively a striker despite having some wrestling in his background. Edwards has become supremely confident in his ability to end the contest with a single strike, as indicated by his lackadaisical attitude towards defense. It has paid off thus far as he has secured every one of his victories in the first round. However, he’s also faced a lot of underwhelming opponents in that time. Nonetheless, his ability to snipe with a hard hook or a head kick needs to be taken seriously.
Edwards appears to have more upside going forward, but he also hasn’t really been tested very much. Madge may not have a huge advantage in terms of fights on his record, but his MMA record doesn’t show all the battles he has been in over his Muay Thai career. I feel more comfortable going with the South African given his experience in deep waters. Madge via decision
Arjan Singh Bhullar (7-1) vs. Marcelo Golm (6-1), Heavyweight
Though I understand the UFC’s thought process in pairing these two together, I don’t like it. Bhullar and Golm are both talented youngsters who are young in the sport. If given enough time, they could become major players in a division that’s showing some signs of a rebirth. Do they really want to slap a second consecutive loss on one of these guys?
If I’m being brutally honest, Bhullar isn’t really a youngster at 32, but he’s only four years into his professional career after representing Canada at the 2012 Olympics. His wrestling hasn’t been as dominant as most expected it to be given his credentials, though he also showed his inexperience with subs when he walked right into an omoplata from Adam Wieczorek as he attempted to advance his position. His striking is still raw as he doesn’t put much power into his strikes, focusing more on scoring points than landing a KO blow.
Golm spent more time in the cage in his decision loss to Timothy Johnson than he had in his previous six fights combined. While his ability to dispose of his opponents in a hurry has been impressive, he’s largely been a can crusher. His loss to Johnson was probably an incredible learning experience as he was unable to throw the former college wrestler to the ground and pound him out as he did to his previous opposition. Then again, he really didn’t try to, attempting to strike instead.
If Golm can keep the fight standing, he stands a good chance of pulling out the W. He’s more comfortable on the feet than Bhullar is and shows more power. However, I don’t like the likelihood of him stopping Bhullar’s takedowns. Even if he can, Johnson controlled him against the fence and there is little doubt Bhullar can do the same. Much like Johnson did to Golm, Bhullar should control him on the way to a victory. Bhullar via decision
Stevie Ray (21-8) vs. Jessin Ayari (16-4), Lightweight
Just because no one is on the Ray-train anymore doesn’t mean he isn’t a viable gatekeeper and action fighter at this point. The southpaw from Scotland may be one of the better pure boxers in the division, but wrestling has been his Achilles heel. He has made some respectable improvements both offensively and defensively in his wrestling, though I doubt anyone would jump to calling it a strength.
The biggest question is whether Ayari is skilled enough to take advantage of Ray’s wrestling deficiencies. Given he has yet to secure a single takedown in his two UFC contests, that appears highly unlikely. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost as he has good explosion from the outside in addition to showing a lot of creativity with his stance switching. The problem is Ayari’s lack of defense is worrisome against a skilled boxer like Ray.
Ayari is a tough SOB, going the distance with recent title challenger Darren Till in his last appearance. However, toughness and a creative striking game isn’t enough. Ray’s striking fundamentals should allow him to outpoint the young German by a comfortable margin, getting himself back on track in the process. Ray via decision