With every main-card fighter successfully making weight, the top portion of the UFC’s 126th Fight Night has been finalized and will begin Sunday, February 18that 9pm ET. In total, six fights are scheduled for the events main-card, with the finale being a contest between Welterweight athletes, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Yancy Medeiros. Before the action takes place, however, a preview of the card is needed.
“Super” Sage Northcutt Vs Thibault “GT” Gouti
Beginning the night of action, “Looking for a fight” alumni, Sage Northcutt will look to have his hand raised for the second consecutive time when he takes on fellow lightweight, Thibault “GT” Gouti. After taking the local circuit by storm with 5 wins in a little over a year, “Super” Sage Northcutt was quickly recruited by the organizations’ president, Dana White.
Since entering the UFC at just 19 years of age, Northcutt has gone 4-2 under MMA’s premier banner, but both of his losses have come from his time in the Welterweight division. Most recently, “Super” Sage used his striking to keep Michel Quiñones at bay for 3 rounds, coming out with a decision victory. Like Northcutt, Gouti also came out victorious in his last fight, finishing Andrew Holbrook via TKO last September. The win was “GT”’s first win in the Octagon, previously going 0-3 in the UFC before stopping Holbrook with a forceful head-kick and punches. In his 4 UFC fights, Gouti has shown that he does have the tools to compete with undercard fighters, but he has yet to show any consistency or flashes of brilliance in the octogen.
On the other hand, Northcutt’s counter-striking karate attack has provided plenty of entertainment for audiences already and looked extremely efficient in his last performance. Furthering this, following the Quiñones fight, Northcutt made a vital career decision; moving to Sacramento, California in order to train with Team Alpha-Male on a full-time basis. Stemming from this, audiences should see a Northcutt who will do a better job using his wrestling skills in defense and not finding himself stuck on the bottom for long periods of time. With this being said, Northcutt is also faster than Gouti on the feet, has a more diverse striking attack and uses his level changes much more effectively; thus, he should have Gouti defeated in most areas of the game.
If Gouti has any chance of winning, it will be by way of a knockout finish, but, Northcutt’s defensive improvements should be enough to avoid that from happening
Prediction: “Super” Sage Northcutt Def. Thibault “GT” Gouti Via TKO Round 1
Steven “Ocho” Peterson vs Brandon “Killa B” Davis
Slated in the second spot on the main portion of the event, Steven “Ocho” Peterson will undergo his first UFC scrap when he faces one of Alan Belchers’ pupils, Brandon “Killa B” Davis. Though this matchup may not contain any recognizable name for casual UFC observers, hardcore fans may remember Peterson from Dana White’s Contender series when he lost a competitive split decision to the undefeated Benito Lopez. Following the loss, Peterson snapped the 3-fight win streak of Dustin Winter at LFA 28, a performance that convinced UFC execs that “Ocho” is indeed ready to compete with the highest level of talent.
Congruent to his opponent, Brandon Davis also fought in Dana White’s Contender series prior to earning a spot on the roster, however, he earned a more favorable result, upsetting Austin Arnett by way of unanimous decision. After this, Davis went without a fight for 4 months but returned earlier this year to take on Kyle Bochniak. Unfortunately for “Killa B”, Bochniak was able to get the better of him, aggravating Davis on route to a clear decision victory. In the fight against Bochniak, Davis seemed bothered by Bochniaks’ unwillingness to engage in a brawl with him and as a result, was methodically picked up by Bochniak for a majority of the fight.
If Davis hopes to get his first official UFC win on Sunday, he not only needs to fight more seemingly unfazed, but he must compete at a higher pace and avoid remaining stationary. Based on the quick turnaround and the damage accumulated by Bochniak, Davis will likely be an easier target to finish for Peterson, whom seems to hold a more well-rounded game of the two men. Because of this, Peterson should be able to override the grit of Davis and either finish him by strikes in the second or do enough on points to earn a decision victory.
Prediction: Stephen “Ocho” Peterson Def. Brandon “Killa B” Davis via TKO Round 2
Thiago “Pitbull” Alves vs “Curtious“ Curtis Millender
In the most anticipated UFC debut on the main-card, former Welterweight title-challenger, Thiago Alves, will welcome newcomer, Curtis Millender to the Octagon. Over the duration of this bout, expect very little grappling to occur, as the two fighters have only 2 submissions victories between them in 36 combined wins. Of these mentioned wins, knockout victories by Thiago Alves accounts for 1/3 of them, with Pitbull winning over half of his 22 bouts by way of KO/TKO.Considering this and the fact Alves has not been finished by strikes in over a decade, expect to see “Pitbull” attempt to impose his usual leg-kick heavy attack on his opponent. This ferocious gameplan regularly used by Alves has put him into elite-company in UFC history, as the “Pitbull” is one of only 34 fighters to fight for the organization to have at least 14 wins finding under the recognized banner. When his last fight ended, Alves sent Patrick Cote into retirement after defeating him via Unanimous Decision and will look to build off that performance on Sunday evening.
When speaking about momentum, it would simply be unfair not to discuss newly signed prospect, “Curtius’ Curtis Millender. As of now, Millender is currently riding a six-fight win streak and has two consecutive Head-Kick knockouts in the process. Over his 17 fight career, Millender has competed in organizations such as Bellator and LFA but is yet to defeat any recognized names in the MMA world. If Millender is able to defeat Alves on Sunday however, expect the American to immediately jump into the top-20 of the division and get paired up with the likes of Alex Olivera.
When comparing the two men, it should be noted that Millender is about half a foot taller than Alves and holds an 8-inch reach department. This significant reach advantage should be a key factor allowing Millender to find his range on a much more consistent basis than “Pitbull” will be able to and should help him win on points.
Prediciton: “Curtius” Curtis Millender Def. Thiago “Pitbull” Alves via SD (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
James “The Texecutioner” Vick(#12-LW) vs Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo (#14-LW)
The nights first of 3 top-15 fights is set for 3 rounds in the UFC’s lightweight division, as James Vick and Francisco Trinaldo will look to move up the divisions’ rankings with a win over one another. In their UFC careers thus far, both men have posted solid winning percentages, going a combined 20-5 inside the Octagon. Though Trinaldo is accountable for 4 of those losses, he has gone 9-1 in his last 10 UFC fights; with his only loss coming to recent title challenger, Kevin Lee. As his record indicates, Trinaldo has been extremely consistent in his MMA career and is a strong, intimidating force inside the cage, but as the Lee fight showed, Trinaldo is susceptible to the submission when the fight goes to the ground. Attempting to expose this flaw, James “The Texecutioner” Vick will look to use his lanky limbs to secure his fourth tap-out victory under the UFC banner.
Not only is Vick a threat should the fight reach the mat, his striking is extremely technical, being a two-time golden gloves champion in the open-weight division. As the divisions tallest fighter, Vick has been one of the better fighters at not only using his frame to his advantage, something he must continue to do should he wish to have his hand raised come fight time. In summary, Trinaldo has the heart to take Vick into the later rounds and his 47% striking accuracy assures he will eventually find the “Texecutioners’” chin the longer the fight lasts. Considering Vick’s lone professional and exhibition losses have come by knockout to shorter opponents, Vick’s best way to victory will be by getting his timing down early and finishing Trinaldo before he can find a way to make the fight a grind. Trinaldo has proven not to be an easy out, but Vick should be able to find his range with his straight punches before rocking Trinaldo and finishing him via choke.
Prediction: James “The Texecutioner” Vick Def Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo Via Submission (Choke) in Round 2
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (#7-HW) vs Marcin “Tybur” Tybura (#9-HW)
When two top-10 heavyweights collide, audiences are aware that the fight can end at any moment. Looking to remain on board with this trend, Derrick Lewis and Marcin Tybura will to add another finish to their respected resumes when they face-off in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 126. In the blue corner, Marcin “Tybur” Tybura is looking to get back in the win column as his last outing was a hard-fought decision loss to the former heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum. Despite coming out on the losing end of the fight, “Tybur” gained the respect of many as he was able to go the distance with Werdum in only his 5th UFC appearance; something Mark Hunt and Cain Velasquez were each unable to do. Performance wise, Tybura did show flaws in his stand-up as Werdum constantly found opening when Tybura threw sloppy hooks and telegraphed head kicks. One thing Tybura has impressed with thus far however is his versatility; being one of the only Heavyweights to incorporate Muay-Thai sweeps in his fights regularly. For “Tybur”, catching Lewis off-guard with his diverse techniques will be his key to victory as Lewis is not one to make great in-fight adjustments.
Sporting the red tape, Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis has proven to be one of the most lethal heavyweights on the roster, which is supported by his 89% KO rate. Ironically, Lewis’s last knockout came a year ago from yesterday, as “The Black Beast” was able to earn a stellar come-from behind finish over Travis Browne last February. In the fight, Lewis recovered after getting hurt early by a series of front kicks by Browne, however, luck was not on his side in his previous performance when he was unable to weather the storm of Mark Hunt; losing by 4th round TKO. Wisely, Lewis took some time off to recover following the fight, a move which has contributed to him no longer “half-ass” training. Whether the training regiment of Lewis has trained or not, the “Black Beast’s’ gameplan is likely to remain the same. Specifically, Lewis has the power and weight to get the takedown whenever he wishes and his ground and pound is extremely vicious. Yet, Lewis seems to be happier remaining in the pocket and engaging in a stand-up war with his opponents when given the chance to do so. Come fight time, expect Lewis to attempt to match the versatility of Tybura’s attack by showcasing his surprising athleticism in using jumping switch kicks or flying knees. When this likely fails, the “Black Beast” would be wise to remain in the pocket and look to land his big counter-right hand that did catch Mark Hunt by surprise a few times. If Lewis is able to land with the same success on Tybura, he should be able to pick up his 17th win by KO/TKO, but, if he fights at an extremely lackadaisical pace as he has in the past, Tybura will be able to pick him apart with body kicks and clinch-work.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (#11-WW) vs Yancy Medeiros
Capping off the event, fan-favourite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will look to earn his record-tying, 20th UFC victory when he squares off against the equally as exciting, Yancy Medeiros.
If you were to ask every fighter on the UFC roster how many of them “enjoy” fighting, a good portion of the athletes would surprisingly answer “no”. One man who would unquestionably be on the other end of the spectrum though is Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. To put things into perspective, “this fight for “Cowboy” will be his 27th octagon appearance, tying him for third all-time in the category. What’s more impressive about this, however, is the short-amount of time he has accomplished the feat; taking only 7 years to do so. To compare, the all-time leader in UFC tussles, Michael Bisping has competed 29 times in total but has been fighting for the organization since 2006. Cerrones’ tendency to remain active has done him well over his career, for the most part, earning two UFC title shots in the process, however, it may be starting to take its toll on “Cowboy” who has lost 3 straight fights, 2 coming by way of TKO. In pre-fight interviews, Cerrone did admit he may have underestimated opponents in the past but seems certain he has the right mindset to come out victorious later tonight.
Moving to the underdog in the fight. Yancy Medeiros. Similar to Cerrone, Medeiros is an individual who welcomes a violent fight. Most recently, he extended his winning streak to 3 when he defeated a fellow welterweight nicknamed “Cowboy”, Alex Oliviera. After being rocked twice early in the fight, the heart of Medeiros played dividends in the comeback victory, a feature Medeiros has constantly been praised for. Adding to this, the win over Oliviera allowed him to keep his undefeated status at welterweight, as like Cerrone, Medeiros feels he may perform better when he decides not to dehydrate his body to make a lower weight class.
If Medeiros has the fight his way, this contest will remain on the feet as he is sure to understand that Cowboy has a serious advantage over him in the submission realm. If Medeiros can lure Cerrone into the fight he seeks, he has a fair shot at winning as he imposes a similar style of a man who caused Cerrone problems a year ago, Jorge Masvidal. Sadly for the Hawaiian, this fight is sure to find its way to the ground at some point, at which point Cerrone should be able to finish him.
Even if Medeiros has been training his ground-game, Cerrones’ own win over Alex Oliviera is evidence of how Cerrone can and often will expose those who he holds a grappling advantage over. Lastly, Medeiros does have a tendency to get hit often in his fights, something “Cowboy” is sure to make him pay for.
Prediction: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone Def. Yancy Medeiros Via Submission in Round 1