Get all the essential information for the main card of UFC Nashville, featuring bonus king Joe Lauzon and former title contenders Ovince Saint Preux and John Dodson.
Like most, I had very little enthusiasm for UFC Nashville as I went into studying up for these previews. By the time I finished things up, I had to admit to myself that there are a lot of contests that look like they could be quite a bit of fun. It’s rare when Joe Lauzon has a boring performance. His opponent, Stevie Ray, should be a willing dance partner. Ovince Saint Preux has been hit or miss, but I have a hard time seeing him turn in a snoozer against someone like Marcos Rogerio de Lima. It will be a shock to see Mike Perry and Jake Ellenberger go the distance. And I haven’t even mentioned my personal favorite in John Dodson vs. Eddie Wineland.
Is the main event a joke? Yes… but let it be known I don’t blame Cub Swanson. Is there much substance in any of these fights? Not really. But that doesn’t mean these fights can’t be fun as hell. Entertainment is ultimately why we watch anyway, right?
The main card begins on FS1 at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Ovince Saint Preux (19-10) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (15-4-1), Light Heavyweight
This is the last chance for Saint Preux to get his career back on track as he faces one of the few fighters more inconsistent that him in de Lima. One thing Saint Preux has in his favor: he gets to fight in front of a home crowd.
Saint Preux has had every opportunity to prove himself as one of the best 205ers in the world. It’s obvious at this point that he isn’t. Losses to the likes of Glover Teixeira, Jon Jones, and Jimi Manuwa aren’t anything to be ashamed of. Those losses don’t necessarily say that he won’t ever be amongst the elite. Losing to Volkan Oezdemir firmly establishes that he isn’t in the same category as those mentioned earlier.
Saint Preux has tried to change things up based on each of his previous contests with disastrous results. Largely tentative against Jones, Saint Preux came out aggressive against Manuwa looking for takedowns. He ended up tiring quickly, allowing Manuwa to put him away. Thus, Saint Preux largely sat back while trying to counter Oezdemir. Does that mean Saint Preux is going to be aggressive against de Lima? Considering de Lima likes to come out like his hair is on fire, Saint Preux likely won’t have a choice.
De Lima is amongst the most technically sound strikers in the division. His kicks are what most fans are aware of, though his fists have proven to be just as dangerous. He throws his strikes lightning fast, often surprising his opponent with his speed. Don’t sleep on de Lima in the clinch either; he has devastated more than one opponent with his knees to the gut and head.
The problem with de Lima is that he tends to be mentally fragile. For example, the moment an opponent is able to escape from a submission attempt or reverses a takedown, de Lima panics and either gives up position. If he can’t put away an opponent on the feet quickly, he starts throwing reckless strikes that are easy to counter. It doesn’t take long for something to give. In six UFC contests, de Lima has yet to have a single contest leave the first round.
If de Lima comes out as aggressive as usual, Saint Preux may have a hard time getting off his trademark body kicks. Saint Preux’s jab has been helped by his 80″ reach, though he doesn’t use it as much as you’d think he would as he prefers to fight on the counter. When Saint Preux is aggressive, it’s in his wrestling as he owns an explosive double-leg, complimented by his ground-and-pound and top control.
Saint Preux’s wrestling has fallen short in the past, but that’s been against better competition than de Lima. Don’t get me wrong, de Lima has the physical tools to hang with the best, just like Saint Preux. He just hasn’t been able to put together a full round, much less a full fight. I won’t be surprised if de Lima is able to pull off the upset, but Saint Preux has more riding on this contest as he is riding a three-fight losing streak in addition to being in front of his home crowd. I think that should be enough to motivate him. Saint Preux via submission of RD1
John Dodson (18-8) vs. Eddie Wineland (23-11-1), Bantamweight
Perhaps the most intriguing contest on the card, Dodson and Wineland are both former title contenders who are trying to claw their way to the top of a crowded bantamweight picture.
Coming off a paper-thin loss to John Lineker, Dodson likely improved his standing with fans and pundits as he ate a number of hard punches from Lineker and lived to tell the tale. If nothing else, the contest proved Dodson can take a hell of a beating and keep coming. He’s always been known for his power and speed, the combination of which has proven to be unmatched. What has held him back – aside from being unable to get past Demetrious Johnson of course – has been his tendency to coast through a fight without a strategy, often waiting for an opening in which to exploit his natural athleticism. While that has worked well for him thus far, one has to wonder when his physical skills could end up declining. At 32, Dodson is hardly a spring chicken at 135.
Wineland is only a few months older, but you’d never guess given he has been at or near the top of the bantamweight division for over a decade. He’s been in a lot of wars in that time, including two broken jaws, the second of which had him strongly considering retirement. Utilizing some janky footwork and a lot of feints, Wineland is all about throwing fists. He operates mostly behind a jab, though he has picked up the knowledge of when to sit down on a hard shot, something that usually comes at the end of a combination. Traditionally, Wineland has been one of the more durable bantamweights, though there are signs of cracks in his armor.
Don’t expect this contest to go to the ground. Mighty Mouse has been the only opponent to take Dodson down in his UFC run while Wineland has been taken down only once himself in his last nine contests. Neither takes much initiative to take the contest to the ground themselves, though they have both shown the ability to get the fight to the ground if they so desire.
There are a couple of factors that lead me to favor Dodson. Wineland’s durability concerns me after the many battles he has been through, even if he has looked reinvigorated in his last two contests. The other is Dodson’s ability to implement and successfully execute a game plan against Lineker. I know that Dodson lost, but that doesn’t take away from what was an intelligent and impressive performance. Wineland has a strong chance to pull off the upset should the fight go the distance simply due to the likelihood of him landing the greater volume, but getting to that point against Dodson won’t be easy. Dodson via TKO of RD2
Joe Lauzon (27-12) vs. Stevie Ray (20-6), Lightweight
Ray, fresh off a win over longtime UFC vet Ross Pearson, gets one of the few lightweights on the roster who has been around longer than Pearson in performance bonus king Joe Lauzon.
It’s almost impossible not to like Lauzon. One of the most consistently entertaining competitors in the history of the organization, Lauzon showed his class in his last contest by immediately disagreeing with the judges’ decision. While a lot of fighters do that, it’s rare they disagree when the judges say that they won. As he gets older, Lauzon doesn’t always seem to have it every time he steps into the cage. When he does have it, Lauzon is just as dangerous as ever, if not more so with all the experience that he possesses.
Over the years, the reputation of Lauzon is that of a dangerous submission artist with minimal power in his fists and poor wrestling. The 18 submission victories – two-thirds of his career total – lends credence to his grappling credentials, but the other two labels are unfair. In fact, his last three stoppage victories have come by either punches or doctor stoppage due to damage from his striking. He’s always been an aggressive striker who tires relatively quickly. While his wrestling isn’t overpowering, Lauzon’s ability to chain together his takedown attempts to get the fight where he is his most dangerous… the ground.
Depending on how well Ray’s takedown defense holds up, this fight is either his for the taking or he’s in serious trouble. A dangerous southpaw striker, Ray has had problems with wrestlers throughout his career. Fortunately for Ray, there aren’t too many strong wrestlers on the European scene nor has he faced many in the UFC. The one that he faced in the UFC resulted in his lone loss in five tries in Alan Patrick. Whether Lauzon is strong enough to get the Scot to the ground is the biggest question in this contest.
If Ray can survive the early onslaught from Lauzon – as well as keep the fight standing – his southpaw counterstriking could be the perfect foil for Lauzon. His speed and athleticism are major pluses and he’s been adding a greater amount of kicks to his repertoire as well. Then again, perhaps he’s been willing to risk the kicks as – I know I’ve already said it – he hasn’t faced many wrestlers. Otherwise, he’ll have to rely upon his combination boxing.
Ray has proven to be durable, so I don’t think Lauzon will get him out with strikes. However, Ray has long had a vulnerability to submissions. While Ray has improved his submission defense in recent years, going against someone as dangerous of a grappler and scrambler as Lauzon has to be a cause for concern. I’ll pick Lauzon here with the belief he’ll snag one early in the contest. If Lauzon is unable to do so, look for Ray to either pick up a late stoppage or decision. Lauzon via submission of RD1
Jake Ellenberger (31-12) vs. Mike Perry (9-1), Welterweight
Someway, somehow, Ellenberger continues to find ways to hang on to his roster spot. Coming off one of the weirdest losses seen in the sport – getting his foot stuck in the cage as Jorge Masvidal beat on him — he once again looks to get back on track against talented youngster Perry.
Perry is an interesting cat. Getting into MMA following a stint in prison, the 25-year old is still very inexperienced with less than three years of professional fight time. He has shown great killer instinct in putting away Hyun Gyu Lim and Danny Roberts before dropping a decision to Alan Jouban. Perry fell short to Jouban as he didn’t know how to alter his strategy mid-fight as Jouban countered the aggressive hard-hitter for the duration of the contest. To his credit, Perry knows what he does well and sticks to that. Still, he needs more depth if he is going to continue climbing the ladder as toughness and packing a punch will only get you so far.
Perry holds his head up high and hasn’t ever bothered to try and mix things up by taking the fight to the ground. It isn’t any wonder why Jouban was able to figure him out. Remember what I said about depth? Perry has exhibited surprisingly effective grappling thus far, using his guard passing to improve his position for ground-and-pound. His defensive wrestling has been sound too.
Then again, Perry hasn’t exactly faced someone noted for their wrestling skills. That may be where Ellenberger’s biggest advantage comes into play. Early in contests, Ellenberger’s explosive shot is about as hard to stop as anyone else in the game. The issue is that Ellenberger has fallen in love with the idea of landing the KO blow, his last successful takedown coming all the way back in November 2015. Ellenberger does still hit hard as proven by him being the first person to finish Matt Brown with strikes. But is that really the strategy he wants to take with Perry?
Ellenberger has likely taken that approach due to his tendency to fade the longer the fight lasts. Usually in survival mode by the time the third round rolls around, Ellenberger hasn’t won a fight that went past the second round in over four years. When Ellenberger paces himself, he has a sound jab, heavy kicks, and a large frame he can use to tire the opposition. The problem is that he hasn’t made much of an attempt to pace himself in recent fights.
It’s hard to believe people were once talking about whether Ellenberger deserved a title shot as he has slipped far from where he was in his heyday. He still has something left in the tank in short bursts, but I don’t think it will be enough to crack Perry. In fact, I see Perry cracking Ellenberger, whose chin hasn’t held up very well. If nothing else, I expect this to be a fun contest. Perry via KO