UFC on ESPN: Undercard Preview and Prediction Pt 1
Randa Markos vs Luana Pinheiro
In the feature prelim, Randa Markos (10-10-1), looks to snap a 3 fight losing skid. The Canadian veteran has been fighting in the UFC since 2014 and has usually been a litmus test for most up-and-comers. She has never knocked anyone out in her career but has scored some decision and submission wins over a few semi notable names along the way (Angela Hill, Carla Esparza).
Luana Pinheiro (8-1-0) is fresh off a KO win on Dana White’s Contender Series back in November. Seven of her eight wins have come via finish (2 by KO/TKO and 5 by Sub), but the competition has been dreadful. If you added up the records of all the girls she’s beaten it would be on the wrong side of the win/loss ratio. She does have a solid judo base.
Markos will hold a 2 inch height and 1 inch reach advantage.
This is a classic UFC matchmaking move. Pit a DWCS winner and potential prospect against a longtime gate-keeperish veteran on a losing streak. Markos has been disappointing over her last stretch but I don’t think there’s any shame in losing to Murata, Dern or Ribas really. Pinheiro was incredibly inactive in her DWCS win up until the point she scored the knockout. A couple things here. First off, any sort of inactive counter striking style in the super light weight classes is very risky. You better have elite power or accuracy to score striking finishes in the divisions that go to the judges more often than not. Pinheiro may have been finishing her opponents but they were absolute cans and Markos has never even been knocked down statistically, let alone knocked out in her career. However, Pinheiro has solid judo and grappling but it’s just so difficult to tell if she’s a real contender or not with the people she's faced. With Markos back being against the wall and facing way stronger competition, I’m going to say she ekes out a split decision.
Winner: Randa Markos
Gabriel Benitez vs Jonathan Pearce
Gabriel “Moggly” Benitez (22-8-0) looks to make it two straight after he kneed Justin Jaynes into the shadowrealm. What impressed me about that fight is he stepped in against a guy who scored first round knockdowns in his last two fights, but still showed off improved striking. He landed great extended combinations, mixed up brutal low kicks, landed good counters, and when he did get hit, he rolled the shots and got out of danger well. He’s had nine fights in the UFC prior to that, going 5-3.
Jonathan Pearce (10-4-0) bounced back from a TKO loss against Joe Lauzon to score his own TKO victory via ground and pound against Kai Kamaka in his UFC sophomore effort. He started out as a lightweight in the UFC but dropped down to featherweight after that debut loss. He stands 6 feet tall but reach will be identical in this one.
What I liked about Jonathan “JSP” Pearce’s last fight was how well he mixed in offensive wrestling with his striking. However, there were times where he scored a great takedown but then made critical errors to wind up either back on the feet or completely reversed. I do not foresee him imposing that will on Benitez. “Moggly” is a southpaw who is technically way better on the feet and has improved his takedown defense and scrambling ability to nullify Pearce’s wrestling game. That’s not to say Pearce won’t have his moments but I think Benitez is going to do enough on the feet to sway the judges on this one.
Winner: Gabriel Benitez
Kai Kamaka III vs T.J Brown
Kai Kamaka (8-3-0) scored five wins on the regional circuit before getting the call to the UFC. He beat Tony Kelley by decision in his UFC debut but then lost to the man we talked about above, Jonathan Pearce.
T.J Brown (14-8-0) had similar success on the regional circuit but instead got a shot on the Dana White Contender Series first, before jumping to the big show. In his debut, UFC pitted him against Jordan Griffin which saw “Downtown” doing well for most of the fight before tapping to a guillotine out of position. He followed that up with a competitive bout with Danny Chavez.
Brown will have a 2 inch height and 3 inch reach advantage on this one.
This one is a do or die for both prospects. One loser will probably be cut and it’s a shame this one is as close to call as it is. Both fighters have learned lessons in their short UFC careers but only one can move on and I think Brown is going to get it done by a hair.