The UFC has scheduled four fight cards for the month of February, the first of which takes place this Saturday February 5, 2022. The card is headlined by two of the top Middleweight contenders in the division who have their sights set on a future crack at the title. While the rest of the main card lacks star value there are, nevertheless, some interesting matchups that may result in future contenders.
Jack Hermansson vs. Sean Strickland
A long-time veteran of the European MMA scene, Jack Hermansson finally broke through into top contention in 2019 when he parlayed a quick arm-across guillotine of Renzo Gracie black belt David Branch with a dominant decision victory over BJJ legend ‘Jacare’ Souza. While he has gone just 2-2 since these performances, Hermansson has still shown glimpses of top-level capabilities. In his recent performances, he executed a slick heel hook over The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 winner and former title challenger Kelvin Gastelum, earned fight of the night honors against former title challenger Marvin Vettori, and took a bludgeoning decision over former prospect Edmen Shahbazyan.
Opposing Hermansson will be Sean Strickland who, besides saying some perplexing things both in and out of the cage, has rattled off four straight victories since returning to the Middleweight division in 2020. This run has seen him beat the likes of prospect Brendan Allen, veteran Krzysztof Jotko, and human highlight reel Uriah Hall. Strickland now finds himself ranked seventh in the Middleweight division and could very well be eyeing a top contender’s bout with a victory over Hermansson.
Strickland has been utilizing a volume-heavy boxing style recently and his results have been sensational. In his last bout with Hall, he racked up 186 significant strikes over five rounds. He will no doubt look to deploy a similar gameplan against Hermansson who has showed susceptibility to striking affairs in a number of bouts in recent years (i.e. against Cannonier, Vettori, and the first round against Shahbazyan).
As for Hermansson, he will undoubtedly be looking to gain top control where he does his best work using his ground and pound to set up submission opportunities. While Strickland shows no submission losses in his MMA career, he did recently take part in a grappling event, Submission Underground 29, where he turned his back to his opponent, Andy Varela, in an attempt to showboat. This resulted in Varela jumping on Strickland’s back and submitting him with an RNC. Basically, with Strickland, you never know what you’re going to get so those interested in betting on him should gamble with caution.
Punahele Soriano vs. Nick Maximov
Hawaiian slugger, Punahele Soriano, punched his ticket to the UFC in 2019 when he took a decision victory over Jamie Pickett on season 3 of Dana White’s Contender Series. Since entering the promotion, Soriano is just 2-1 with first-round stoppage victories over Oskar Piechota and Dusko Todorovic and a decision loss to up-and-comer Brendan Allen. There’s no doubt that Soriano has monstrous power, however, he has yet to show that he can carry his finishing ability past the first round with all of his victories except his Contender Series win coming in the first round. In his bout with Allen, Soriano clearly showed fatigue after the first round and will need to address the issue if he plans to ascend the Middleweight ranks.
Diaz affiliate, Nick Maximov finds himself in a co-main event in just his second bout with the promotion. Despite having competed against competition with relatively limited records, Maximov landed a spot on the fourth season of Dana White’s Contender Series. While he was successful in defeating Oscar Cota, he was not offered a contract following his victory and instead turned to grappling where he competed at Submission Underground on numerous occasions. Maximov was eventually given his opportunity to compete in the UFC and he made good on his debut against Cody Brundage at UFC 266, winning the bout by decision. Maximov will likely look to extend the bout against Soriano past the first round and look to utilize his strong grappling ability. However, with just two victories over fighters with winning records (his last two bouts), the jury is still out on the ceiling of Maximov.
Shavkat Rakhmanov vs. Carlston Harris
Kazakhstani prospect Shavkat Rakhmanov has gained quite a bit of acclaim as a potential top contender in the stacked Welterweight division. Rakhmanov accumulated a number of solid victories in the M-1 promotion before submitting long-time UFC veterans Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira and Michel Prazeres in his first two bouts with the UFC to run his MMA record to 14-0. Rakhmanov has displayed well-rounded skills with strong clinch wrestling, powerful striking, and strong submission awareness. Against a grappler with heavy hands, Rakhmanov may look to utilize long strikes and clinch grappling to frustrate his opponent.
Similar to his opponent, Carlston Harris has shown strong capabilities early in his UFC career. In his first two bouts, Harris utilized unorthodox, yet powerful hands to set up finishes over both of his first UFC opponents. In his debut, he rocked Christian Aguilera before quickly applying an anaconda choke to put Aguilera to sleep. In his sophomore effort, he clipped Impa Kasanganay with a flurry of hooks to set up the ground and pound finish. Harris’ striking is awkward, but demonstrably powerful. While he may struggle to get a takedown against Rakhmanov, if he can clip him as he has done his prior foes, he may find an opportunity to latch onto a submission.
Sam Alvey vs. Brendan Allen
Sam Alvey looks to avoid an 8-fight winless run in the UFC on Saturday, having lost six bouts alongside one draw since June of 2018. While it is not typical for a fighter to be given this many opportunities in the UFC, Alvey has fought very frequently (22 times) since the organization signed him in 2014 and is likely being rewarded for his “anyone, anywhere, anytime” attitude. In his time with the organization, “Smile’n” Sam has notched notable victories over the likes of former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans, former title challenger Nate Marquardt, and The Ultimate Fighter Brazil season one winner Cezar Ferreira. Alvey’s style is predicated on hard-hitting counter punching. However, this style has often led to Alvey being too patient and a lack of volume which has in turn resulted in a number of losses.
Brendan Allen takes his place opposite Alvey on just five days’ notice, replacing the injured Phil Hawes. In this bout with Alvey, Allen looks to rebound following an upset TKO loss at the hands of short-notice replacement Chris Curtis in his last bout. Despite his most recent showing, Allen has shown shades of a future top contender since entering the promotion. His 5-2 run thus far with the promotion is highlighted by impressive finishes of Kevin Holland, Tom Breese, and Karl Roberson. Allen utilizes a well-rounded game, making use of solid kickboxing fundamentals, well-timed body kicks, and a dangerous submission arsenal. Having suffered both of his UFC losses by way of strikes, it would make the most sense for Allen to seek to get the hard-hitting Alvey to the mat before latching onto a submission. At just 26 years of age, it will be quite interesting to see what refinements Allen has made in his skillset since his last appearance inside the cage.
Tresean Gore vs. Bryan Battle
While he missed his opportunity to become the winner of season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter due to injury, Tresean Gore looks to claim a moral victory over the man he was supposed to face in the finale. Carrying just a 3-0 record into his stint on the series, Gore showed fantastic striking ability in a decision victory over Ryder Newman and a KO over Gilbert Urbina. There are question marks surrounding Gore’s ability following the knee injury he suffered prior to the finale, however, if Gore is able to display striking at the level he did during the series, highlighted by an extremely fast jab, he will pose a dangerous threat to Battle.
Bryan Battle surpassed expectations on TUF, going from being coach Alexander Volkanovski’s last pick to winning the entire show. During his run, Battle picked up a decision victory over Kemran Lachinov and a submission victory over a tiring Andre Petroski to reach the finale. Battle fought Gilbert Urbina at the finale, who replaced the injured Gore. In that bout, Battle had to endure a tough first round before submitting Urbina in the second round. Battle’s best attribute is his gas tank, having finished both Petroski and Urbina as they began to tire. To defeat Gore, Battle will have to push the pace and get the fight to the floor where Gore has yet to be tested. Battle pulled off a number of upsets during his stint on the series, so viewers would be remiss in discounting him now.
Julian Erosa vs. Steven Peterson
A veteran of The Ultimate Fighter season 22, Julian Erosa’s third stint in the UFC has been his most successful as he is currently 3-1 since being brought back into the promotion in 2020. In this run, he has finished Sean Woodson, Nate Landwehr, and Charles Jourdain and only lost to Korean prospect Seung Woo Choi. Erosa is a dangerous finisher, with 23 of his 26 victories coming by way of stoppage – split between 11 KO/TKO victories and 12 submission victories. Alongside his finishing ability, Erosa has consistently shown a strong gas tank, acquiring stoppage victories in the latter rounds numerous times in his bouts. Erosa’s primary problem has been that of durability, having suffered five of his losses by KO/TKO. Against Peterson, Erosa should maximize his four-inch height and four-and-a-half-inch reach advantages to pick his opponent apart, while being opportunistic with submission opportunities.
In 28 MMA fights, Steven Peterson has only been finished once and that was back in 2013. His durability has led to a number of back-and-forth battles which has resulted in a 3-3 UFC record, highlighted by a spinning backfist KO over The Ultimate Fighter Latin America season 3 winner Martin Bravo and a decision victory in his last contest over prospect Chase Hooper. Peterson is well-rounded and may find his best success against Erosa if he can corral him to the cage to prevent Erosa from utilizing space. From there, Peterson may opt to attempt tagging the chin of Erosa or engage in a grappling affair against the cage to keep Erosa close.
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