By Ryan Frederick, WrestlingObserver.com
The UFC heads north of the border for the second time in 2015 as the Octagon makes its’ debut at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for UFC Fight Night 74 on Sunday evening on FOX Sports 1. The main card airs at 9 PM eastern time with preliminary card action kicking off on UFC Fight Pass at 6 PM eastern time before moving over to FOX Sports 1 at 7 PM eastern time for the resy of the prelims.
The UFC’s debut in Saskatoon will be headlined by a fight that could be a potential fight of the year in the featherweight division as rising contenders Max Holloway and Charles Oliveira try to firmly establish themselves as top-five fighters and title contenders when they meet in a five-round bout. Both men have solid win streaks on the line, and being a part of the young blood at 145 pounds, it will be their chance to be showcased in front of a large audience as both men have their first headline spot. In the night’s co-main event, Neil Magny returns quickly from a disappointing loss to take on Erick Silva. The rest of the card is mixed with Canadian standouts, so let’s delve deeper into the card and find five storylines to keep our eye on come Sunday night at UFC Fight Night 74.
1. Who wins the main event between Max Holloway and Charles Oliveira?
The main event of UFC Fight Night 74 on Sunday features a great and potentially exciting pairing of rising featherweight contenders when Max Holloway and Charles Oliveira square off. This is the first main event for both men, and it comes at a time when both mens’ stocks are rising in the featherweight division. Holloway has won six straight fights, and the only losses in his career have come to Conor McGregor, Dennis Bermudez and Dustin Poirier- that is stiff competition. He is coming off the biggest win of his career, a third-round submission win over Cub Swanson in a big spotlight fight on FOX in April, and it has vaulted him into a top-five ranking in the division. The best part of it all is that Holloway is still just 23-years-old, and he has a lot of time to be a title contender.
Oliviera has been touted as a contender ever since he made his UFC debut in 2010. He has struggled at times and not been as complete of a fighter as many had hoped, but he has put it together in recent bouts. His only losses since moving down to 145 pounds have come to Frankie Edgar and the aforementioned Swanson, and his last two wins have come over Nik Lentz and Jeremy Stephens, who are top-ten ranked fighters. In contrast, Holloway has only beaten one ranked fighter. Both have been impressive during their current win streaks as Holloway has won five of his six wins by stoppage, and Oliviera has won three of his last four fights by submission.
The biggest problem when it comes to Oliviera is making weight. He has struggled a lot with the cut, missing weight three times officially, even having a fight cancelled after missing it. He’s one of the most talented prospects when he is on his game. Holloway is as well. Holloway is an excellent striker, and Oliveira is a high-level jiu-jitsu fighter with great skills on his feet. This fight has the potential for a lot of fireworks, and is an excellent example of great match-making. The fact that it is five rounds makes the fight even more of a potential barnburner. I don’t think it’ll go five rounds, though. It all comes down to if Oliviera can get over the mental hurdle that hurts him and get the fight to the ground. I do like Oliviera to win by a submission in the later rounds after he probably loses the bulk of the first couple of rounds. It should be exciting.
2. Can Neil Magny bounce back 22 days after losing to Demian Maia at UFC 190?
A fighter coming in on short notice is always tough, and it is especially tough three weeks after competing in a big fight. That is what Neil Magny is doing after taking a short-notice co-main event bout against the dangerous Erick Silva. Magny replaces Rick Story and is looking to start a new win streak after having his seven-fight win streak snapped by Demian Maia earlier this month at UFC 190. It was the big step up in competition for Magny against a top-ten opponent, and he was outclassed handily by the Brazilian, who took Magny down at will and submitted him in the second round. Magny gets another shot against another Brazilian in Silva, but Silva may be more dangerous than Maia is at this stage.
Silva is a solid kickboxer and has some good submission skills, and he comes out blitzing fast. The key to beating Silva is to get past the first round as he fades after the first five minutes. Magny usually starts out slow, and a slow start here could spell trouble. That is also without mentioning the short time between fights. That generally doesn’t bode well for fighters, especially against tougher competition. It was probably not a wise move for Magny to take this fight as he will likely suffer his second straight loss, but kudos to him for willing to take the risk as not many would step up against a fighter like Silva on short notice. It might just be a bad night for Magny.
3. Patrick Cote vs. Josh Burkman on a UFC main card in 2015. Who takes the win?
2015 has seen several fight bookings between competitors that have been around the UFC for an extended period of time, and the welterweight bout between Patrick Cote and Josh Burkman is another example of that. While both have spent some time away from the Octagon at points in their careers, this will be Cote’s 19th UFC appearance and the 13th for Burkman. Cote has even fought for a championship, fighting Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Championship at UFC 90 way back in October 2008. Cote has been riding quite the wave of momentum since making his UFC return, as after losing his return bout to Cung Le, he has since won four of five fights. Burkman hasn’t yielded the same success, dropping both of his fights since returning (though one loss, to Hector Lombard, was overturned to a no contest after Lombard failed a drug test).
This is an especially big fight for Burkman, as a loss would essentially signal three straight losses and could spell the end for his second stint in the UFC. He actually comes in as the slight betting favorite despite the recent history as he still likely possesses the better overall skillset between him and Cote. Cote has been solid, if not unspectacular, in his recent run, but he has been beating guys he should beat at this stage. Burkman is tougher competition, but it is still a winnable fight for Cote. It is a tough fight to predict, and it will likely go to the judges. It will come down to who wins the grappling exchanges. I’m giving Cote the slight edge in his home country.
4. Two Canadian lightweight prospects, Chad Laprise and Olivier Aubin-Mercier, are showcased. How will they fare?
Chad Laprise and Olivier Aubin-Mercier squared off in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Nations in April 2014, looking to score a six-figure contract. It was a solid, back-and-forth fight that went the distance. Laprise scored a close, split decision win to earn the contract and keep his undefeated record. It was Aubin-Mercier’s first career loss. Both men have won both of their Octagon appearances since that fight, with Laprise scoring wins over Yosdenis Cedeno and Bryan Barberena, and Aubin-Mercier finishing fights against Jake Lindsey and David Michaud. Both men have gotten themselves into solid prospect status in the lightweight division, and both have tough tests on Sunday.
Laprise will be facing veteran Francisco Trinaldo while Aubin-Mercier will be fighting Tony Sims, who is a short-notice replacement for Chris Wade. Laprise fights at a good pace, but is not much of a finisher, and winning a fight against a grinder like Trinaldo will be a tough task. Trinaldo is strong and has good takedowns and wins close fights. This may be tough for Laprise to pull out on the scorecards. Aubin-Mercier has won all of his fights by submission, but his opponent, Sims, is an owner of stoppage wins in all twelve of his wins. Sims is coming off a big knockout win in his UFC debut in June, but he is taking this fight on short notice and dropping back down to his normal 155 pounds. This is a big test for Aubin-Mercier in just his eighth fight. Both men have tough match-ups, and their prospect status will be on the line.
5. What else is there to be on the look out for on the card?
We’ve taken a look at the top five fights on the card, but the final main card fight is an interesting bout in the women’s strawweight division as Maryna Moroz and Valerie Letourneau face off. Moroz is remembered as the woman who submitted Joanne Calderwood in April, derailing Calderwood’s hopes for a title shot and establishing herself as a threat at 115 pounds. She is undefeated in six career fights with all wins coming by stoppage. Letourneau comes in as the winner of three straight fights including a decision win in her strawweight debut over Jessica Rakoczy at UFC 186 in April. It was a dominant win for the American Top Team fighter and has her set up to be a threat in the division.
In preliminary action, Canadian standout Sam Stout will be making his 20th Octagon appearance and is looking to bounce back after two brutal knockout losses when he takes on Frankie Perez, fighting in the UFC for the second time. Yves Jabouin and Felipe Arantes look to get back into the win column in a bantamweight contest, the first time Arantes will compete at 135 pounds. Light heavyweight action also takes place as Marcos Rogerio de Lima takes on Nikita Krylov, and flyweights Chris Kelades and Chris Beal meet. In the two fights airing on UFC Fight Pass, it will be lightweights Shane Campbell and Elias Silverio squaring off, and in the night’s opening bout, it will be the debut of two new light heavyweights as Misha Cirkunov takes on Daniel Jolly, stepping in on short notice.
Full UFC Fight Night 74 Fight Card, Betting Odds and Predictions
MAIN CARD (FOX SPORTS 1- 9 PM ET/6 PM PT)
Featherweights: (#5) Max Holloway vs. (#7) Charles Oliveira
Betting Odds: Holloway (-240), Oliviera (+200)
Prediction: Oliveira by submission in round 3
Welterweights: (#15) Neil Magny vs. Erick Silva
Betting Odds: Magny (+150), Silva (-170)
Prediction: Silva by submission in round 2
Welterweights: Patrick Cote vs. Josh Burkman
Betting Odds: Cote (+115), Burkman (-135)
Prediction: Cote by decision
Lightweights: Chad Laprise vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Betting Odds: Laprise (-335), Trinaldo (+275)
Prediction: Laprise by decision
Lightweights: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Tony Sims
Betting Odds: Aubin-Mercier (-240), Sims (+200)
Prediction: Aubin-Mercier by submission in round 2
Women’s Strawweights: (#8) Maryna Moroz vs. Valerie Letourneau
Betting Odds: Moroz (-180), Letourneau (+158)
Prediction: Moroz by submission in round 1
PRELIMINARY CARD (FOX SPORTS 1- 7 PM ET/4 PM PT)
Lightweights: Sam Stout vs. Frankie Perez
Betting Odds: Stout (+115), Perez (-135)
Prediction: Stout by decision
Bantamweights: Yves Jabouin vs. Felipe Arantes
Betting Odds: Jabouin (+173), Arantes (-205)
Prediction: Jabouin by decision
Light Heavyweights: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Nikita Krylov
Betting Odds: de Lima (-145), Krylov (+125)
Prediction: de Lima by knockout in round 1
Flyweights: Chris Kelades vs. Chris Beal
Betting Odds: Kelades (+145), Beal (-165)
Prediction: Beal by decision
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC FIGHT PASS- 6 PM ET/3 PM PT)
Lightweights: Shane Campbell vs. Elias Silverio
Betting Odds: Campbell (+210), Silverio (-250)
Prediction: Silverio by decision
Light Heavyweights: Misha Cirkunov vs. Daniel Jolly
Betting Odds: Cirkunov (-450), Jolly (+360)
Prediction: Cirkunov by knockout in round 1