Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 138 Preview: Preliminary Fights

While it’s been fun previewing every fight on every UFC fight card, the work that goes into writing specific posts for every fight has just been too much. Sometimes, I only have 250 words worth of really insightful commentary on a fight, and I try to stretch it to 500 or more words. I’ve decided that if I only have 250 words to say, then that’s all I’m going to say.

And for that reason, I’ve decided to go back to doing one post for the preview of all preliminary fights on a card. I’ll still have unique commentary and predictions, and I feel that what I have to say will favor quality over quantity. In short, this will be better for me, and I think it will be better for readers too.

As promised, SILVA 1.1 will now be used for all fight predictions and previews.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the previews for UFC 138 this Saturday:


135 lbs: Chris Cariaso vs. Vaughan Lee

I’m still very uncertain about how good Chris Cariaso is. Cariaso is 1-1 in the UFC, with a win over Will Campuzano and a loss to Michael McDonald. Cariaso was also 1-1 in the WEC, losing to Renan Barao while beating Rafael Rebello. It seems that Cariaso only fights opponents who are excellent or opponents who are, to be nice, lower level UFC fighters. There’s no shame in losing to Barao (4th among bantamweights in SILVA) or McDonald (5th), but beating Campuzano and Rebello doesn’t really say a whole lot either.

Naturally, Cariaso is going from the loss to McDonald (which, by the way, was by split decision) to fighting a low-level opponent in Vaughan Lee. As is the case with many of the participants of UFC 138, Lee is making his UFC debut after an extensive history of fighting on the U.K. regional circuit. None of Lee’s recent wins are of the quality that is usually necessary to compel the UFC to sign a fighter to a contract. In fact, Lee’s last three wins were against Mark Jones (1-3), Ian Cox (1-1), and Rob Bunford (1-3).


Lee’s only wins rated as above-average by Victory Score are over 6-5 Antanas Jazbutis and 7-6 Mark Chen. Now, in his UFC debut, he has to face a striker in Cariaso who just went toe to toe against Michael McDonald, and almost won. I like Cariaso all the way.


170 lbs: Chris Cope vs. Che Mills

When Chris Cope was a participant on season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter, he was portrayed as one of the antagonists on the show, first as a “double agent” and then as the guy who constantly shouted “Woo!” in the house. When I watched it, I thought of it as something that would seem irritating to somebody in the house. Then, when Cope fought Chuck O’Neil on the finale, the crowd constantly shouted “Woo!” during his fight. Now, I was the one who was irritated. So now I have a very silly reason to root against Chris Cope.

Here’s the thing about Cope’s fight against Chuck O’Neil: it wasn’t a very good fight. In fact, it seemed that Cope won because he was “less bad” than O’Neil was. It was a very tentative striking match, and Cope was better at it than O’Neil was. In SILVA 1.1, Cope has a score of 12.31 and O’Neil has a very dismal score of -24.01. Now, consider that I’ve set SILVA up to be on a 0-100 scale for UFC fighters.

That’s why I’m not enthusiastic about Cope’s chances against the debuting Che Mills on Saturday. Mills isn’t a terrific prospect – at 13-4, he isn’t likely to be making any title runs – but he’s beaten enough quality opponents to show that he at least deserves a shot in the UFC. His best wins include decisions against Magomed Shikshabekov and Jake Hecht, and a TKO win over DREAM grand prix winner Marius Zaromskis.


It’s time for Cope to show something beyond the defensive game he’s utilized in the past. It’s one thing to win decisions against Chuck O’Neil and an injured Shamar Bailey, and it’s quite another to take on real UFC welterweight talent. Che Mills might not be a five-star prospect or anything, but he is good enough to belong in the UFC, which is more than Cope has proven thus far.


265 lbs: Rob Broughton vs. Phil De Fries

At first glance, it might seem like Joe Silva has a pretty sweet job. It’s like a fantasy: he gets to be the matchmaker in the UFC, deciding who fights who, and when. But I can only imagine how stressful things become for him sometimes, when injuries happen on short notice, or when he has a fighter that he just can’t find a good opponent for. I can’t explain why he decided to match Rob Broughton against Travis Browne, but it happened, and it resulted in Browne winning a very lackluster decision.

Despite the loss, Broughton has been brought back to fight on relatively short notice at UFC 138, against the debuting Phil De Fries. I’ve never seen De Fries fight, but he has a very interesting record. First of all, he’s undefeated at 7-0, which means there’s at least a chance that he could be a pretty decent prospect. But it goes beyond that; all of his wins are by submission, including six in the first round, and a second-round submission over previously 11-1-1 Stav Economou. It stands to reason that De Fries wants to get this fight to the ground as quickly as possible.


Unfortunately, there’s just not enough quality in the 7-0 record of De Fries to recommend him to win this fight. Only the Economou win is a truly good win (at least, according to Victory Score), meaning that De Fries has a lot to prove as far as whether or not he belongs in the UFC heavyweight division. Rob Broughton is a very appropriate test for him.


145 lbs: Michihiro Omigawa vs. Jason Young

I’m happy to see the UFC giving Michihiro Omigawa at least one more shot to show what he can do. I wasn’t able to catch all of Omigawa’s last fight, against Darren Elkins, but in the portion I did watch (the second half of the fight), it certainly seemed like Omigawa was the better fighter. This line of thinking was bolstered by the online reaction to the ensuing decision win for Elkins, as many commenters expressed frustration with it. So it is that, despite a UFC record of 0-4, Omigawa is being given one more chance.

His opponent will be Jason Young, a fighter who put together a very respectable effort against Dustin Poirier at UFC 131, but ultimately lost by decision. Young likes to strike, as should be expected of somebody whose nickname is “Shotgun,” so I fully expect him to focus on keeping this fight standing and boxing with Omigawa.

Since Omigawa’s background is in judo, I would expect him to try to take this fight to the ground, but surprisingly, Omigawa has only two submission wins on his record. For what it’s worth, both of those wins took place in the relatively recent past, against Cole Escovedo and Young Sam Jung in DREAM. Submitting Escovedo is a legitimate accomplishment for a UFC fighter; submitting Jung… not so much.


It’s also quite possible that Omigawa would be completely happy to stand and bang against Jason Young. Omigawa has shown very good boxing skills in the past, most notably in Sengoku against opponents like Nam Phan, so even if this fight is contested in Young’s domain, I have confidence in Omigawa’s ability to end up winning.


170 lbs: Justin Edwards vs. John Maguire

Justin Edwards has been a very interesting fighter to follow. On The Ultimate Fighter, SILVA had Edwards rated as the #1 fighter of his season. Looking at his record begged the question: is Edwards beating his opponents so quickly because he’s that good, or because he just fights very aggressively? After Edwards lost to Tony Ferguson on the show, and then Clay Harvison on the finale, the answer seemed to be the latter, especially because Edwards did, in fact, fight very aggressively, gassing out after just one round of fighting.

So, after dismissing Edwards as a potential threat in the welterweight division, he came back to beat Jorge Lopez in his last fight. Edwards just seems to be one of those fighters I have trouble figuring out. I wasn’t able to watch his fight against Lopez, but it seemed like a fight in which Edwards skated by, as opposed to dominating in any way.

Edwards will have a tough test again at UFC 138 when he faces 16-3 John Maguire. Maguire has fought some very tough opponents, most notably beating Dean Amasinger and Peter Irving, but a loss to Tom Watson takes a little bit of the shine off of his record. Still, Watson is a quality fighter, as is Simeon Thoresen, the other fighter Maguire has lost to in the recent past.


My generic analysis of all Justin Edwards fights will be the following: if Edwards starts strong and is able to either get an early finish or punish Maguire badly in the first round, he’s in very good shape. If Maguire weathers the early storm without taking too much damage, then Edwards will be in trouble, as he just doesn’t have the conditioning necessary to keep up his torrid pace. This will be my analysis until proven otherwise.


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