Predictions! UFC ‘Nashville’ ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Anthony Pettis makes his debut in his third Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) weight class this Saturday evening (March 23, 2019), taking on Steven Thompson in Nashville, Tenn., on ESPN+. UFC Fight Night 147’s co-feature sees Curtis Blaydes attempt to rebound from his second loss to Francis Ngannou against American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained prospect Justin Willis, while the rest of the main card includes a clash between Jussier Formiga and the Flyweight division’s top knockout artist in Deiveson Figueiredo.

UFC Fight Night 148 features six “Prelims” this weekend, which will also stream on ESPN+. Let’s get to it:

115 lbs.: Randa Markos vs. Angela Hill

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Randa Markos (8-6-1) made her Cinderella run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 that saw her upset Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig. She’s gone 4-4-1 in the Octagon itself, most recently fighting undefeated Marina Rodriguez to a majority draw in the latter’s native Brazil.

She has tapped three professional opponents with armbars.

Angela Hill (8-5) made the most of her time between UFC stints, edging Livia Renata Souza for the Invicta Strawweight title and successfully defending it against Kaline Medeiros. She has alternated losses and wins in this second run, defeating Maryna Moroz but losing a controversial decision to Cortney Casey in her 2018 campaign.

“Overkill” is one inch shorter than Markos, but will have a one-inch reach advantage.

This might be the closest fight on the undercard. Hill is the better striker by a decent margin, but consistently struggles with the takedowns of her opponents. Markos, meanwhile, hasn’t lived up to the potential her wrestling and brutal right hand provide. This fight boils down to where they spend the majority of it.

To me, at least, the gap on the feet isn’t as big as the gap on the mat. Both women have a history of wonky decisions, but assuming things stay sensible, Markos ekes out a decision with top control.

Prediction: Markos via split decision

135 lbs.: Chris Gutierrez vs. Ryan MacDonald

Chris Gutierrez (12-3-1) brought a three-fight win streak into his Octagon debut against Raoni Barcelos, among them a win in his first LFA headliner. The Brazilian veteran proved too much for him, submitting him with a rear naked choke late in the second round.

He stands three inches taller than Ryan MacDonald (10-0).

“Main Event” MacDonald went 7-3 as an amateur before making his professional debut in 2016. He enters the Octagon as the MCF Featherweight and Bantamweight champion, having won his last three by stoppage.

He replaces the injured Martin Day on two weeks’ notice.

I’m honestly not super impressed by Garcia. He’s just 25, so there’s room to grow, but at the moment he’s an overly upright striker with decent combinations, but no defense whatsoever. Matt Murphy (7-9) tore him up and nearly finished him in the first round last year, and the majority of his opponents have been around the .500 mark.

Gutierrez is simply too good a striker for someone as defensively lax as MacDonald. In short, heavy low kicks set up a fight-ending punching sequence.

Prediction: Gutierrez via first-round knockout

125 lbs.: Eric Shelton vs. Jordan Espinosa

Eric Shelton (12-5) put together a surprisingly strong run on TUF 24, where he defeated highly touted Yoni Sherbatov and Ronaldo Candido before giving Tim Elliott all he could handle in the semifinals. He hasn’t had quite as much success in the Octagon, going 2-3.

“Showtime” will give up one inch of height and 1.5 inches of reach to Jordan Epinosa (13-5).

Espinosa opened his career even (4-4) before embarking on his current run, which is marred only by a loss to Dinis Paiva and a “No Contest” against Nick Urso. He punched his ticket to the Octagon with two stoppage victories on the Contender Series, among them an 83-second d’arce finish of Urso.

Seven of his nine finishes have come by submission.

This ought to be fun, with both men offering a similar blend of strong striking and dangerous submissions. The deciding factor is endurance; Espinosa bursts out of the gate but fades late, while Shelton is every bit as dangerous when the last bell sounds as when the first bell rings.

That said, Shelton is weirdly inconsistent and doesn’t seem to be fighting up to his athletic gifts, so Espinosa shouldn’t be counted out. He is, however, too durable for Espinosa to knock out or submit. “Showtime’s” takedowns and scrambles empty Espinosa’s gas tank and allow the former to take over as the fight progresses.

Prediction: Shelton via unanimous decision

Three more UFC Fight Night 148 bouts remain to preview and predict, including TUF standout Bryce Mitchell in the featured “Prelims” match. Same time as always, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 148 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 8 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).

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