Before I start talking about the Nashville card coming up on Saturday, I want to take a second to brag a little on my picks from the Kansas City event. Not only did all 3 of my picks deliver (including the Fight of the Night between Elliott and Smolka) but I correctly predicted all 3 winners.
Ok, bragging over, as the evil emperor Bill Belichick would say, “we’re on to Nashville”.
UFC Nashville features a bunch of fun fights spread throughout the card, including the main event of Cub Swanson vs Artem Lobov. I never imagined I’d have to type the words Main Event and Artem Lobov in the same sentence.
Despite the main event being somewhat of a head scratcher (although I’m low-key pretty excited for it if I’m being honest), the rest of the card has quite a few fights that show some promise. I’ve decided to avoid any of the main card fights since I know that most people tend to try and catch the full main card anyway if they can and I want to put the spotlight on some of the prelim fights that I feel deserve it. For this card, I’m focusing on 1 fight from the Fight Pass prelims and 2 from the FS1 prelims.
Bryan Barberena vs Joe Proctor
Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena is best known by MMA fans as the guy who choked out Sage “Zack Morris” Northcutt with an arm-triangle choke that was barely locked in.
That win over Northcutt was Barberena’s 3rd UFC fight and 1st at Welterweight. He would go on to defeat Warlley Alves by unanimous decision at UFC 198 before losing a decision to Colby Covington in December. In the Covington fight, Barberena’s takedown defense (or lack thereof) was shown as Covington took him down and smothered him virtually the entire fight.
His upcoming fight with Proctor will be a return to Lightweight and Barberena will be looking to return to his winning ways on Saturday night. With only 2 of his 12 professional wins coming by decision, he’s more than capable of delivering a highlight finish to this fight and bringing his UFC record to 4-2.
Joe Proctor is a student of UFC fan favorite Joe Lauzon’s who’s been in the UFC since the Summer of 2012. He made it to the quarter-finals of The Ultimate Fighter Live as a member of Team Faber before being eliminated by James Vick.
His UFC tenure since the show has been a series of ups and downs, resulting in a current UFC record of 4-3. Of those 7 UFC fights, only 2 have gone the distance. Proctor has shown himself to be capable on the ground or on the feet although he certainly seems to be more comfortable on the feet, as evidenced by his 0% takedown accuracy (no, that’s not a typo).
That’s not to say that Proctor is an easy fight, anyone trained by Joe Lauzon will never be considered an easy fight. He likes to push the pace and use his boxing to work his opponent into making a mistake. As soon as he sees an opening, he tends to exploit it as quickly as possible. He will look to use that to his advantage and get himself back in the win column after being away for almost 1 1/2 years.
Prediction: Proctor’s best bet in this fight is to finish it early. Unfortunately for him, Barberena has shown himself more than capable of riding out the early flurries of his opponents and use his superior cardio to take advantage of them when they start to flag. That, combined with the long layoff for Proctor makes me think that Barberena takes this one by submission in the 2nd round.
Dustin Ortiz vs Brandon Moreno
Dustin Ortiz has been in the UFC since 2013 and he’s fought some of the best that the Flyweight division has to offer. While you can try and judge him off of his 5-4 UFC record, you need to look at his opponents and how those fights played out to really get a grasp of who Ortiz is.
The #9 ranked Ortiz 4 UFC losses have come against fighters that are currently ranked #1 (Benavidez), #4 (Reis), #5 (Formiga) and #11 (Moraga) in the Flyweight division. Add in the fact that he went the distance in all 4 of those fights and the loss to Moraga was a split decision, and you begin to get the picture of just how much potential Dustin Ortiz has.
Coming off a split decision win over Zach Makovsky at UFC 206 (the 4th split decision he’s been involved in since his UFC debut), Ortiz will look to break the trend of distance fights that he’s been a part of in the UFC. With 10 finishes in his 16 wins (6 KO/TKO, 4 Submissions), he’s certainly shown he’s capable of taking his opponent out on either the feet or the ground.
Brandon “The Assassin Baby” Moreno may have the weirdest nickname in the UFC now that Corey Anderson is no longer using “Beastin 25/8”. He also reminds of Anton Chigurh from “No Country For Old Men” if Chigurh got a haircut.
Nicknames and resemblance to sociopaths aside, the #10 ranked Moreno is a dangerous man inside the octagon. He was a part of The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions courtesy of being the World Fighting Federation Flyweight Champion since 2014.
Despite losing his opening fight on The Ultimate Fighter, Moreno actually debuted in the UFC while his season of the show was still on the air. He faced Louis Smolka at UFC Portland and won the fight in the 1st round via guillotine choke, earning himself a Performance of the Night bonus. He would fight again at the Finale of The Ultimate Fighter, defeating Ryan Benoit by split decision.
Prediction: The key factor here for Ortiz is keeping the fight on the feet. If he can keep it standing then I think he has a shot at taking a decision against Moreno. That being said, I don’t think that’s how this fight plays out. I see this getting to the ground at some point and Moreno is just too good on the ground to not be able to finish the fight there. I’ll take Moreno by submission in either the 2nd or 3rd round.
Thales Leites vs Sam Alvey
Longtime MMA and UFC fans will know Thales Leites. The Brazilian fighter made his pro debut in 2003 and his UFC debut in 2006 at The Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale, amassing a 26-7 record in that time frame. He’s fought some of the biggest names in the Middleweight division, including Martin Kampmann, Nate Marquardt, Michael Bisping, Gegard Mousasi and even challenging Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title at UFC 97 (although he’d probably like to forget that last one since it’s been called the worst fight in MMA history by many).
Leites is 1-3 in his last 4 UFC fights, losing 3 decisions and submitting Chris Camozzi in that range. Leites certainly has shown how capable he is of finishing fights over the course of his career, only going the distance in 13 of his 33 total fights and finishing 19 of his 26 wins.
While he can be hesitant at times, once he gets going Leites has shown himself to still be a force in the Middleweight division, even after 14 years in the sport.
Sam Alvey, better known to MMA fans as Smilin’ Sam, is looking to tie a record on Saturday night in Nashville. Once he steps into the cage in Nashville, Alvey will be competing in his 6th fight in the past 12 months, tying a record currently held by Donald Cerrone. A win on Saturday will also put him 2nd most wins in a 12 month period with 5, behind Cerrone who has 6.
After back to back losses to Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou, Alvey has ripped off 4 straight wins since July of last year. While 2 of those fights went the distance, the other 2 ended with a TKO of Kevin Casey and an absolutely brutal standing guillotine of Eric Spicely where he lifted Spicely off his feet with the choke.
Alvey is also a slow starter in fights, almost too patient in trying to set up the homerun shot, but when he turns it up, he really turns it up. And more often than not, he turns his opponent lights out.
Prediction: Before anything else, I don’t expect the 1st few minutes of this fight to be anything to write home about. Both fighters are notoriously slow starters, even more so when they respect their opponents skill/power. That being said, I think that 1 punch is going to open this fight wide open and I think Smilin’ Sam Alvey will be the one who lands that punch. And once he lands one, he’s going to land others, and Leites isn’t going to enjoy the results. I see Alvey getting the late 1st round KO win.
There you have it, 3 more fights that you should definitely not be in the bathroom during. Let’s hope my momentum from last week carries over from last week and these fights turn out as good as my last picks.
We’ll be back in 2 weeks for UFC 211, where narrowing my picks down to 3 fights should be interesting considering how stacked that card is.