You know how when you take a shot of an exceptionally strong drink — say, whiskey, straight up — you need a chaser immediately after it? I know I can’t be the only one who has enjoyed many a Jager Bomb during my college days, accompanied immediately thereafter by the cheap-beer chaser.
That’s what UFC Fight Night 114, set to take place in Mexico City, feels like. It’s the chaser. We all enjoyed our strong drink of choice when we consumed UFC 214. Now, we swallow down a chaser after such a stacked card. We need a come-down from the epic high we just experienced. The UFC is offering us this nice little fight card to help us level off.
The headliner features two fighters who are jockeying for a UFC flyweight title shot, and hope they can get one before UFC President Dana White decides to follow through on his rumored threat to shutter the division entirely as part of his bizarre feud with champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Sergio Pettis brings his three-fight winning streak into the Octagon against Brandon Moreno, who hasn’t lost in five years. Pettis has defeated a pair of former flyweight title challengers in John Moraga and Chris Cariaso, while Moreno’s multi-year winning streak includes only three fights that went the distance, with plenty of submission wins mixed in.
The co-main event is an intriguing women’s strawweight bout between the resurgent Randa Markos, who’s coming off a win over inaugural UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza, and Alexa Grasso, the highly touted prospect looking to get back on track after a loss to Felice Herrig. Both women are a long, long way from title contention, but the “Quiet Storm” Markos is silently creeping her way up the ladder and Grasso is still much too young and talented to give up on. Does Markos continue on the comeback trail, or does Grasso get back on solid footing?
The UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 5, followed by the Fox Sports 1 prelims at 8 p.m. ET and the main card, also on FS1, at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Sal DeRose and Chris Huntemann are here to get you ready for the action in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Sergio Pettis is 6-2 in his UFC career and has won three straight, including two fights against former flyweight title challengers. His opponent, Brandon Moreno, is undefeated through three Octagon appearances. Will this fight determine the next flyweight challenger to meet the winner of UFC 215’s showdown between Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Ray Borg?
DeRose: It might.
The line at flyweight is mighty short, thanks to Johnson’s work to clear out the division. Of course, the answer is highly dependent on whether or not Johnson defeats Borg. If Borg were to win, the line opens right back up and this fight becomes pretty meaningless. For argument’s sake, let’s say Johnson continues to run roughshod over the division and makes Borg his next victim.
Pettis has risen up the ranks recently as a result of his winning streak, which includes his most recent victory over John Moraga. A fourth win should be enough in this uncrowded line at flyweight. Meanwhile, Moreno is riding an 11-fight winning streak. His victories in the UFC come against a good crop of guys in Louis Smolka, Ryan Benoit and Dustin Ortiz. Moreno hasn’t known an easy fight in the UFC and, better yet, he finished two of those fighters before the third round. These are two guys that deserve to be considered a part of the next crop of fighters in title contention if Johnson retains the belt.
Pettis is in a dangerous spot if this goes to the ground. Moreno has submitted 10 fighters, including in four of his past five victories. If this fight hits the canvas, the edge is certainly in Moreno’s favor. Pettis is going to find the most success on the feet with a creative striking style that will help to keep Moreno at bay.
Pettis has struggled against better competition, and Moreno is certainly better competition. Moreno will get this to the ground, and despite an offensive grappling display from Pettis, Moreno will get the victory.
Huntemann: Assuming the UFC still has a flyweight division after UFC 215 and White doesn’t continue his pissing contest with Johnson, then, yes, the winner of this contest should be next in line for a title shot.
Pettis has already dethroned two former title contenders. He also finally seems to be living up to the expectations that come with being the younger brother of Anthony Pettis, one of the more talented fighters in the UFC.
Moreno hasn’t lost in five years. He truly is dangerous on the ground. He might be able to counteract Johnson in that way, though Johnson has also scored a few submission wins in his career. However, Johnson’s biggest asset is his speed and movement; he routinely makes his opponents look foolish and busts out moves that you might see in The Matrix. If Moreno could get Johnson to the ground, he might able to neutralize Mighty Mouse’s advantage. But before he can do that, he needs to get by Pettis. He can, too.
Pettis has been on an impressive run after taking a little bit of time to find his footing after he debuted in the UFC in 2013. Yet, Moreno presents his toughest challenge to date. With only six finishes in his 15 overall wins, Pettis is susceptible to a finish against Moreno.
Alexa Grasso stumbled in her last outing against the surging Felice Herrig. Randa Markos is another opponent with a grinding style. Can Markos follow Herrig’s blueprint and shut down Grasso, or will the Mexican fighter rebound with a win?
Huntemann: I picked Grasso to lose to Herrig, because it just seemed like Herrig’s hiatus from the Octagon was exactly what she needed. She looked refreshed, re-energized and determined to derail the hype train that followed Grasso into the UFC, and she did just that.
I see a lot of similarities between Markos and Herrig. I labeled Markos as a “journeywoman” fighter going into her bout with Carla Esparza, but it looks like I was wrong. Trust me, it isn’t the first time I’ve been wrong, and it certainly won’t be the last. Markos displayed tremendous grit and determination in her victory over Esparza. It was a hard-fought battle that could have gone either way, but Markos ground it out and stuck through it, which seems to be the style that suits her the best. As we saw in Grasso’s fight against Herrig, that doesn’t appear to be Grasso’s preferred style.
Grasso seems to be most effective when she uses her speed and quickness to outstrike her opponent. Markos needs to get in Grasso’s face, get her up against the cage, use some dirty boxing, and transition to get Grasso to the mat. Grasso has no submission wins in her young career, so we’ve never really seen what she can do on the ground. If Markos gets her there, then Markos could take another step back into contention in one of the UFC’s deepest divisions.
Who wins this fight? You’ll just need to scroll down a little more to find out. How’s that for a teaser?
DeRose:This is a tough fight for Grasso. Markos is a very underrated fighter who can trip up anybody in the division if they don’t bring their A-game. She has tough wrestling that can grind on an opponent and completely neutralize anything her opponent has planned for her on the feet. She displayed this ability on [i]The Ultimate Fighter[/i], where, despite her low seeding, her wrestling took her deep into the show’s tournament.
Grasso was certainly tabbed as the next big thing for the women’s strawweight division. A highly touted prospect from Invicta FC and one of the best up-and-comers the country of Mexico has to offer in its growing status in the MMA world, Grasso had the misfortune of facing Herrig recently. However, Grasso did look great in her UFC debut against Heather Jo Clark. She displayed what everybody wanted to see from her striking, which has become a major asset for Grasso.
If there is one knock on Markos, then it pertains to her striking. Markos needs to display some greatly improved defense if she wants to make this an easy night and land takedowns. This is the best wrestler Grasso has faced so far in her young career. Markos needs to work in some head movement, parry shots and shoot when the time is right and Grasso leaves herself open. It will be an extremely long night for the young Mexican prospect if Markos can execute this strategy.
Grasso has been off for almost six months. In that time, her coaches must have made takedown defense a priority. It would help her extremely when she gets to face the gatekeepers the strawweight division has to offer. Markos has been alternating between winning and losing so far in her UFC career and, what do you know, she won her last fight. If patterns are anything to believe, then that helps further solidify this decision for me. I won’t force you to scroll down to see my pick for this fight. I have Grasso.
Humberto Bandenay, Joseph Morales and Roberto Sanchez — do we need to know these names?
DeRose: I usually lean toward saying yes to these questions, but this is a Fight Night card taking place in Mexico. Typically on these trips, the UFC likes to fill the lineup with local or regional talent. The talent coming from Mexico isn’t anywhere near what it is in boxing, but is steadily growing. That isn’t a knock on these guys at all, but the strength of this card isn’t exactly very high. It’s rare that these sorts of fights turn out anything big for the UFC besides being a nice filler to help bring the bill up to 10, 11 or however many fights the UFC decides to put on the card.
Huntemann: Since my girlfriend is from Peru, I’m going to pay tribute to her and mention Bandenay, who is also from Peru. He’s only lost once since 2014. In that timeframe, only one of his fights went the distance. He has six submission victories, but he also suffered four losses by submission. It appears Bandenay lives or dies by the ground game. He will have his hands full with Martin Bravo, who won his UFC debut by knockout and has almost evenly split his 11 total wins between five knockouts and four submissions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll tell my girlfriend a Peruvian fighter is competing on this card and she’ll tune in!
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Huntemann: The preliminary-card bout between Henry Briones and Rani Yahya has the definite potential to leave an impression.
Briones went the distance with current UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt before coming up short. He is coming off a knockout loss to Douglas Silva de Andrade, so you know he’s desperate for a win.
Yahya lost his last fight to former title challenger Joe Soto, but he had won his previous four in a row.
Both guys have something to prove, for sure. There is room toward the bottom of the bantamweight top 15 for someone like Yahya to make a move, so perhaps sending Briones to the unemployment line could be just what the doctor ordered.
Both guys will treat this fight like their lives depend on it.
DeRose: Rashad Evans and Sam Alvey has my interest.
Alvey has been a huge delight on social media and places like Reddit. That alone makes me want to see a successful run for Alvey.
I like Evans, the former light heavyweight champion, and I’m interested in how his run at middleweight goes. Evans is 37 years old, which makes this run even more interesting. There might not be much time left for him to make a run in what has turned out to be a very strong division.
Pair this card with…
DeRose: The DVR. Look, the most important and best fights are the two at the top of this card. There really isn’t too much else going on here. It’s understandable that this card would feel weak after UFC 214. So fire up the good ol’ DVR, record the event and watch the last two fights at a later date. Perhaps watch a rerun of [i]Game of Thrones[/i] instead?
Huntemann: Given the epic analogy I used in the introduction to this piece, I’m pretty sure you can tell where I’m going with this. We’re all worn out after watching UFC 214. It was just such an amazingly entertaining and life-altering fight card. We need to relax a little bit. We need to decompress in our fight fandom. So, while you’re watching this card, kick back and put your feet up. Find your favorite pillow. Just exhale. As Aaron Rodgers once so eloquently put it, R-E-L-A-X.
Main Card (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET)
FlyW: Sergio Pettis vs. Brandon Moreno
Women’s StrawW: Randa Markos vs. Alexa Grasso
WW: Alan Jouban vs. Niko Price
FW: Martin Bravo vs. Humberto Bandenay
MW: Rashad Evans vs. Sam Alvey
BW: Alejandro Perez vs. Andre Soukhamthath
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET)
MW: Brad Scott vs. Jack Hermansson
FlyW: Dustin Ortiz vs. Hector Sandoval
BW: Rani Yahya vs. Enrique Briones
BW: Diego Rivas vs. Jose Alberto Quiñones
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 7 p.m. ET)
FlyW: Joseph Morales vs. Roberto Sanchez
LW: Jordan Rinaldi vs. Alvaro Herrera
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