Fans who watch the prelims on Fight Pass week in and week out know what to expect at this point: fights that have no effect on the divisional picture and the occasional promising prospect. UFC Santiago offers a pair of prospects who look like they could hang around for a long while as entertaining action fighters in Enrique Barzola and Brandon Davis. Though neither of them has the look of a special prospect, they have put together some promising performances in their short stints in the UFC. What makes this contest even more promising is there doesn’t appear to be one of them the UFC is pushing over the other. Though there isn’t any excitement behind the other two contests on Fight Pass you know we got you covered.
The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.
Enrique Barzola (14-3-1) vs. Brandon Davis (9-4), Featherweight
Perhaps the most underrated contest on the card, both Barzola and Davis have brighter days ahead of them. Barzola has been in the UFC for a few years now following his victory in TUF Latin American 2 tournament and has put together a respectable 4-1 record in the UFC. Sure, not all of his opposition has been UFC-caliber – for whatever that term is worth these days – but his level of competition has improved enough that he has shown he belongs himself. Barzola’s endless gas tank is his biggest weapon as he maintains constant pressure with simplistic boxing combinations with a mix of low kicks. What really completes the attack though is the threat of the takedown as the Peruvian native can chain together takedown attempts at a rapid rate. It isn’t going to produce many finishes at the highest levels of MMA, but Barzola’s extreme durability also ensures he isn’t going to be subject to many finishes himself.
Davis’ durability is just as much of a weapon as Barzola’s, though Davis’ style is more akin to that of a brawler than Barzola’s more measured attack. Not that Davis isn’t down to brawl as that is just what he did with Steven Peterson in one of the more exciting contests 2018 has provided us thus far. What separated Davis was his technical striking and ability to stuff the more experienced Peterson’s shots with relative ease. However, the biggest reason Davis won: Peterson gave him the type of fight he wanted by staying in his face. Fortunately for Davis, Barzola is also a pressure fighter.
Barzola’s pressure isn’t as sloppy or consistent as Peterson’s, so he isn’t likely to get tuned up as often by Davis. Nonetheless, Barzola’s range striking is largely limited to low kicks. Not that he isn’t willing to throw a high volume of kicks, but Barzola’s ability to strike in the pocket and move out before Davis can hit him back is highly suspect. It should be a very close contest, but it seems Davis’ willingness to take risks should pay off for him against an opponent as heavily dependent on taking a decision as Barzola is should pay off for the American. Davis via decision
Enrique Briones (16-7-1) vs. Frankie Saenz (11-5), Bantamweight
Aside from a spirited contest from the then-future champion Cody Garbrandt, Briones’ UFC career hasn’t been noteworthy, pulling in a 1-3 record. Nonetheless, the UFC saw fit to bring him back for at least one more fight despite having lost three in a row. Causing even greater concern in bringing back the Mexican representative is his advanced age, clocking in at 37. Nonetheless, Briones’ experience and well-rounded arsenal provides a stiff test for any youngster looking to make their way up the ladder… just as he did against Garbrandt.
However, Saenz isn’t a young up-and-comer looking to test his mettle. In fact, Saenz is one the few bantamweights on the roster – if not the only one – who is older than Briones, even if just by a couple of months. A collegiate wrestler at Arizona State, Saenz has instead opted to stand and bang with his UFC opposition over the last few years, throwing a high volume of low kicks and punching combinations. One of the most impressive aspects of his game is his gas tank has yet to begin fading despite his advancing age.
Expect Saenz’s wrestling to make an appearance in this contest as Briones hasn’t shown much in terms of takedown defense. Throw in the fact Briones’ best chance to win is to outpoint Saenz on the feet and the path to victory for Saenz is clear. Even though this contest doesn’t make much sense, it could prove to be a solid contest. Saenz via decision
Claudio Puelles (7-2) vs. Felipe Silva (8-1), Lightweight
It’s been 18 months since we last saw Puelles. Not that we knew much about the young Peruvian prior to that long absence, but his youth and inexperience would lead to most guessing he learned a lot in the duration of his time away. The 22-year old showed poise and footwork in his run through the third iteration of TUF Latin America 3 before a similarly athletic Martin Bravo put him down for the count. Puelles had been used to being the better athlete on the regional scene. Now that he’s in the UFC, he can’t do that anymore. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any potential in the youngster, but he may have been pushed into the big show too soon.
Silva is similarly inexperienced, having begun his career roughly around the same time. However, Silva is a lot older, clocking in at 33. Granted, being older isn’t a bad thing on all levels as maturity generally comes with age. Then again, it might be hard to apply “mature” as a description to Silva’s fighting style as he neglects to utilize his 77” reach to any notable advantage, preferring instead to launch his powerful kicks and punches in the pocket with reckless abandon.
Puelles is hardly a can’t-miss prospect, despite the promise he does offer. Silva offers up the biggest challenge of his career by far too. Up until his last contest against Mairbek Taisumov, Silva had been able to walk through whatever resistance his opponents offered. Puelles doesn’t have the same type of power Taisumov offers. Expect this contest to go the way of the Brazilian. Silva via TKO of RD1