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Diggin’ Deep on UFC on FOX 31: Lee vs. Iaquinta – FS1 prelims preview

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Y’all remember when the UFC gave a damn about the quality of their FOX cards? Like, even the prelims. For those of you who can’t stretch their memories back far enough, UFC on FOX 11 featured Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rafael dos Anjos on the prelims. It isn’t like they were bit players in the division either. Dos Anjos would become champion less than a year later.

Those days have been over for quite a while. You would hope with this being the last FOX card, the UFC would look to go out on a bang. Nope. That isn’t to say the FS1 prelims are crap. For instance, I’m looking forward to seeing Andrea Lee and Jessica-Rose Clark duke it out. But is this must-see-TV? No, it isn’t. You can probably skip over this portion of the card and not miss a beat for what the major happenings are in UFC. After all, if the UFC doesn’t particularly care what it puts on FS1 anymore, why should you?

The FS1 prelims begin at 5:00 PM ET/2:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Zak Ottow (16-6) vs. Dwight Grant (8-1), Welterweight

There may not be a more bland fighter on the entirety of the UFC roster than Ottow. A pillow fisted striker with a heavy dependence on low kicks and counterpunching, Ottow’s biggest strength comes in his top-heavy BJJ. The problem is he lacks much power, speed, or quickness to get the fight to the ground where he can operate. Despite his lack of physical attributes, Ottow is an intelligent fighter with enough know-how defensively to keep within striking distance to outpoint his opposition.

He may not have as many contests under his belt as Ottow, but Grant has been plying his trade as a professional longer than Ottow and is a bit older. In other words, he isn’t the typical product of the Contender Series. Well… unless you stop and realize Grant is a hard-hitting action fighter with a penchant for the KO. We all know how Uncle Dana loves fighters willing to go out on their shield swinging. Grant doesn’t like going to the ground – zero submission victories in his career – though he’s got enough wrestling to prevent that from happening.

I’ve never been a fan of Ottow’s skill set. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect his intelligence or what he’s been able to accomplish thus far. I just feel he’s not going to be finding much success once opponents have a feel for him. After six fights in the Octagon, the book on Ottow has been written. Grant is a smart fighter, even if he largely comes across as a brawler to the naked eye. He’ll find a way to put Ottow to sleep before the contest is out. Grant via TKO of RD2

Jessica-Rose Clark (9-5, 1 NC) vs. Andrea Lee (9-2), Women’s Flyweight

Unfortunately for Lee, a domestic issue between her and her husband has been the reason why Lee’s name has been in the headlines in recent months. No, I’m not mistaking Lee for Rachel Ostovich. Lee’s misfortune – to say the least – occurred back in August. Hopefully that’s enough time for it to not be a major distraction as Lee has been tabbed by many as someone who should break into the upper echelon in the division in short order.

It’s hard not to disagree with Lee’s supporters when you see her resume. World Muay Thai champion. Golden Gloves boxing champion. On top of her striking credentials, she’s picked up four wins via submission. There isn’t an area where she’s uncomfortable, but it’s pretty obvious the clinch is where she is strongest as her power best translates in her barrage of knees and elbows.

Even knowing Lee’s abilities in the clinch, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Clark take the fight there. The Aussie is a large flyweight and has found plenty of success thus far in her UFC run by bullying her opponents with her size and strength. She has developed a functional boxing game at this point, though her loss to Jessica Eye showed that it still has plenty of limitations. Thus, look for her to close the distance and look for trip takedowns in hopes of exercising her sound ground control.

If this fight goes the way Lee wants, this contest will be fun. If it goes along the lines of Clark’s strategy, this won’t be very fun to watch. While both have exhibited upsides beyond where they currently stand in management’s eyes, Lee appears to not only be further along in her development, but also looks to have a higher ceiling, even if just by a hair. Clark is tough as nails, so a finish appears unlikely. Lee via decision

Bobby Green (24-8-1) vs. Drakkar Klose (9-1-1), Lightweight

Green’s win over Erik Koch this January was his first UFC victory in three-and-a-half years. It makes it hard to look at him as a top lightweight given that long of a stretch without success, but the longtime veteran had proven prior to that stretch that he’s very much capable of hanging with the best. His confidence has much to do with his success. When Green is feeling it, his distance management and head movement can frustrate his opposition as he operates a distance attack in which he picks them apart behind a jab and selective combinations. When it isn’t flowing for him, Green takes a lot of damage.

Klose has proven to be a solid prospect, far better than anyone expected when the MMA Lab product was called to the UFC as an injury replacement. He isn’t the quickest fighter nor is he the hardest hitter. That said, he knows his strengths and weaknesses and does a solid job sticking to the strategy his coaches have drawn up for him. He did struggle with the outside attack of David Teymur, only to show better ability to close the gap with another range striker in Lando Vannata. When Klose does successfully navigate his opponent’s attack, he exercises excellent control against the cage as he slowly grinds away.

Though Klose dealt with Vannata rather handily, Vannata also lacks the fundamentals that Green’s game is built upon. In other words, Green’s style is more closely associated to Teymur’s than Vannata’s. Though he’s primarily become a striker at this stage in his career, Green’s base is wrestling and he can still turn to it if he needs to. Even more important, he usually uses it to stay on his feet to great effect. Green via decision

Jared Gordon (14-2) vs. Joaquim Silva (10-1), Lightweight

Giving y’all fair warning, I’ve been terrible at picking Silva contests, getting wrong every one of his contests that I’ve ever picked. That said, it isn’t that I’m unaware of what he’s capable of. The Brazilian is primarily a striker despite possessing the nickname Netto BJJ, winging heavy shots with fight-ending intent. However, he doesn’t have a Plan B if that doesn’t work as he doesn’t throw out much volume and his ground game leaves much to be desired. Silva may have potential, but time is running short to fulfill it as his career began over eight years ago.

Gordon is the opposite of Silva, going hard after his opponent with minimal chance of putting them out on the feet. That doesn’t mean Gordon is unable to put away his opposition. Not the cleanest technical wrestler, his relentlessness usually results in putting his opponent on their back about once a round. If he can keep them down, Gordon’s GnP is just as relentless as his attempts to get the fight to the ground in the first place.

Gordon’s defense has always been a sore spot, though I’m reluctant to blame that for his loss to Diego Ferreira given he ate a couple of kicks to the groin right off the bat. The better question is whether Silva is skilled enough to exploit that. I don’t think so, but I’ve also revealed my poor record in picking Silva’s contests. I’m going with Gordon, though you might want to be wary of doing the same. Gordon via decision

Gerald Meerschaert (28-9) vs. Jack Hermansson (17-4), Middleweight

Meerschaert will never be a contender. The poor guy simply doesn’t have the physical tools to climb that high in the rankings. However, Meerschaert’s physical toolbox doesn’t indicate he should be a UFC fighter with a 4-1 record either. A longtime veteran of the regional scene, Meerschaert knows just about every trick in the book, particularly when it comes to securing takedowns or winning scrambles. Well… perhaps I shouldn’t say winning scrambles. Snatching submissions wherever they present themselves is a better way to put it. Regardless, his striking is the most overlooked aspect of his game. Not that it’s great, it’s just that it isn’t trash as many assume it is.

Hermansson is less of a specialist than Meerschaert, attacking his opponent where he feela they are weakest. Thus, why he took down Alex Nicholson and Brad Scott off the back and pounded them out only to attack Scott Askham with a jab and a barrage of low kicks. The Swede is well-rounded, but doesn’t specialize in anything either. His toughness was on display in his last contest, suffering a painful rib injury against Thales Leites, only to persevere and pound out the Brazilian veteran. However, he has also fallen short when presented with a specialist.

Meerschaert is a specialist of sorts as his knowledge of submissions and how to sink them in from a creative angle is near the top of the sport. It’s hard to see him not getting Hermansson to the ground at least once given Meerschaert’s relentlessness. Regardless, I like Hermansson’s chances of surviving Meerschaert’s onslaught and catching the veteran risk-taker in a precarious position and finishing him off. Hermansson via TKO of RD2

Dan Ige (9-2) vs. Jordan Griffin (17-5), Featherweight

Griffin – like Grant — is one of the few Contender Series alum who got his call up to the UFC without the need for additional seasoning. He’s as ready for the big stage as he’ll ever be. However, Griffin’s ceiling is also amongst the lowest of those who graduate from the Fight Pass exclusive. Despite that, the longtime vet is as tough and durable as they come, either putting a young up-and-comer in their place or putting them through hell to achieve victory. More of a scrambler than a traditional grappler, Griffin is riding a streak of four straight submission victories.

Ige secured his first UFC victory on the back of his wrestling and grappling roots, taking down and pounding out another Contender Series member in Mike Santiago. Ige is still developing as a striker, being exposed by Julio Arce on the feet. Then again, Griffin isn’t on the same technical level as Arce as a striker and Ige’s boxing, though still rudimentary, is dangerous.

It’s hard to take a whole lot of stock out of Ige’s win over Santiago as it lasted a mere 50 seconds. However, his takedown was set up by his striking, indicating Ige is connecting the dots of the different aspects of his game more efficiently. Griffin is a savvy opportunist who tends to take more than his share of damage before capitalizing on the holes his opponents leave open. Ige will certainly leave holes. The question is whether Ige’s durability and grappling knowledge allows him to survive Griffin’s attempts to put him away. It’s really a coin flip, so I’ll listen to my gut on this one. Ige via decision


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