Junior dos Santos (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Toe-to-Toe: UFC Fight Night 133 Preview and Predictions

Now that the dust has settled and our jaws have officially been raised to their upright positions, it’s time for UFC Fight Night 133.

The event itself is headlined by former World Series of Fighting heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanov, who makes his UFC debut against a formidable opponent in former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. Dos Santos looks to compete in his first fight of 2018 after being out since May 2017, when he suffered a loss to Stipe Miocic.

The co-headliner features Sage Northcutt, who seeks to keep his winning streak alive when he takes on Zak Ottow. Northcutt, with a victory, could earn a top-10 opponent, while Ottow is out to build off his huge victory over UFC veteran Mike “Quicksand” Pyle.


The card also features another former WSOF champion, Rick Glenn, who meets The Ultimate Fighter 14 finalist Dennis Bermudez. Glenn looks to get back in the win column after suffering a decision loss to Myles Jury. Bermudez needs a win even more — he is winless in his last three outings.

The main card also features Randy “Rude Boy” Brown in a welterweight scrap with Niko Price, plus featherweights Myles Jury and Chad Mendes and bantamweight ladies Cat Zingano and Marion Reneau.

The prelims should not be slept on this time around, either. The lineup includes standouts such as Eddie Wineland, Darren Elkins, Alexander Volkanovski, Liz Carmouche, Jennifer Maia and Jessica Aguilar.

UFC Fight Night 133 takes place at the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. The preliminary card gets underway at 6:30 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass. The action moves to Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET for the remainder of the prelims. The main card, which also airs on FS1, kicks off at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Bryan Henderson and Matt Quiggins preview the event in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.

Blagoy Ivanov is a new addition to the UFC roster, but he’s been thrust into a starring role on this card opposite veteran headliner Junior dos Santos. Does this show the company’s confidence in Ivanov, or is the intent to simply feed him to the former champion, who needs a rebound victory after his loss to Stipe Miocic?

Henderson: It’s not often that the UFC tosses a debuting fighter into the headlining slot. Hell, the company has started many a legitimate contender on the preliminary portion of the show for their first Octagon appearance. In the case of Ivanov, it could be a complete roll of the dice. He’s not a superstar on U.S. shores, but he has reigned as the champion in the WSOF. He could enter the UFC and tear the competition to threads, or he could serve as the rebound dos Santos needs to get back in the win column.

We have to be honest with ourselves about Ivanov. The Bulgarian heavyweight has the skills — he beat Fedor Emelianenko on his way to a world title in sambo in 2008 and holds a black belt in judo — but he lacks the stiff tests to prove he’s among the best big men in the world. Ivanov has made his way through Smealinho Rama, Derrick Mehmen and Shawn Jordan in recent stoppage victories, and he also decisioned the likes of Josh Copeland and Caio Alencar. However, the 31-year-old has also suffered a loss to Alexander Volkov, the one true top heavyweight he’s met.

The real question lies in where dos Santos is in his own career. The former UFC champion was once tough enough to endure beatings at the hands of Cain Velasquez and withstand the striking abilities of Shane Carwin, Mark Hunt and the aforementioned Miocic. Even just a couple of years ago, he was still able to edge Ben Rothwell on the scorecards. However, he’s now fallen victim to knockouts at the hands of Alistair Overeem and Miocic over the course of his last three fights. He’s vulnerable, and Ivanov has the skill set to expose those vulnerabilities.

Dos Santos once looked like the future of the heavyweight division, but he’s been in some wars since then and he doesn’t always emerge on top. The 34-year-old could ride out a decision in this one if Ivanov gets hit by the famed Octagon jitters or simply isn’t in peak form. However, the Bulgarian seems poised to hand dos Santos a big knockout loss.

Quiggins: Ivanov is going to be an interesting addition to the UFC heavyweight division. I still haven’t decided how I feel about the company thrusting him into a headlining slot against a former champion so soon. To be honest — and to credit my colleague — the Brazilian is not the same man he once was. We have to credit those aforementioned wars with Velasquez for that change.

Ivanov’s most recent loss to Volkov makes for an interesting storyline if Ivanov is able to get through dos Santos. Maybe that’s even what the UFC has in mind. Ivanov will have to grind out a win over dos Santos or get a flash knockout in order to make his main-event status worth its weight in gold. JDS needs this win badly, and he can get it if he chooses his shots carefully and uses his roughly three-inch reach advantage.

Is Sage Northcutt still worthy of co-headlining status in the UFC?

Quiggins: No. Northcutt was supposed to be the next big thing when he entered the UFC. He did look great at the start, but his losses against Bryan Barberena and Mickey Gall completely stopped his hype train. He’s going to need some impressive wins to get back in the mix.

Ottow is the true winner here. Thanks to Northcutt’s status, Ottow has been thrust into a co-headlining slot in a winnable fight.

Henderson: No way. This kid was rushed to the top on looks, marketing potential and several very impressive victories under the Legacy Fighting Championship banner. However, he’s still just 22 years old and started to falter in only his third fight in the UFC. Now, Northcutt is just 3-2 over his last five Octagon appearances. He even lost to the aforementioned Gall, an upstart whose most notable previous wins came against a radio host and a WWE superstar.

This does indeed make Ottow the beneficiary of the situation. The 31-year-old has 21 fights under his belt, but he is only 3-2 inside the UFC and gets another chance at co-headlining after losing to Jingliang Li in his last effort at a co-main event. Ottow pushed Josh Burkman and Kiichi Kunimoto to their limits, and he did score the big knockout against Mike Pyle. He’s probably the toughest fight Northcutt has taken since the Barberena affair.

Northcutt’s going to lose again, but the UFC is going to keep trying to resurrect the hype train.

Said Nurmagomedov, Jennifer Maia, Raoni Barcelos and Elias Garcia — do we need to know these names?

Henderson: The UFC has had its ups and downs lately when it comes to new crops of talent. We’ve seen some truly outstanding freshman classes, and we’ve seen some real headscratchers. This group lands firmly in the former category.

Maia barely needs an introduction. The 29-year-old is arguably the best female flyweight fighter on the planet. Maia was the Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder before signing with the UFC, and her list of victims in Invicta includes Vanessa Porto, Roxanne Modafferi and Agnieszka Niedźwiedź. The Brazilian struggled earlier in her career and suffered losses to Porto, Sheila Gaff, Leslie Smith and DeAnna Bennett, but her confidence is up following a couple years atop the Invicta mountain. She’s a ready-for-primetime addition to the UFC’s women’s flyweight division, and she’s capable of grinding out Liz Carmouche for a victory in her Octagon debut.

Barcelos isn’t quite the big name, but he, too, has found success in a very prominent organization. After six wins on the regional circuit in Brazil, Barcelos joined the Resurrection Fighting Alliance, where he went 2-1 before fighting for the league’s vacant featherweight title. The 33-year-old claimed the crown with a decision over Ricky Musgrave and then made two successful title defenses. His 2017 campaign was a wash following a scrapped Legacy Fighting Alliance debut against Kevin Aguilar and the cancellation of his UFC debut, which was initially set for UFC Fight Night 119. Barcelos is likely to stick around the UFC for some time, whether or not he can shake the ring rust and defeat Kurt Holobaugh.

Nurmagomedov has a great pedigree. He’s the cousin of UFC star Khabib Nurmagomedov. He’s performed well at the bantamweight level across several Russian promotions, including Absolute Championship Berkut, but he enters the UFC as a flyweight. Nurmagomedov’s only loss came against the equally talented Magomed Bibulatov. The 26-year-old already has quite the resume — his last five foes combined for a 91-23-1 career mark at the time of their fights with the Dagestani native — so experience is hardly a concern. The biggest question is how he handles the shift down in weight, plus a game opponent like Justin Scoggins. Even if Nurmagomedov loses this one, he should get at least one more chance to stick with the UFC.

Finally, there’s Garcia. The 25-year-old continues this group’s trend of family bonds to the UFC — he’s a cousin to fellow Roufusport fighters Anthony and Sergio Pettis. Garcia posted a perfect record through seven amateur contests before turning pro and adding another five victories with no defeats. He’s been fighting at a very low level against opponents who combined for just a 9-6 mark before fighting him, but he has been a stoppage machine who has only gone the distance on one occasion. Garcia has a strong chance to win his Octagon debut against Mark De La Rosa, a Texan fighter who conquered the Mexican circuit but faltered in his UFC debut against Tim Elliott.

Quiggins: Stick with the cousins in this one. If they carry any weight like that of their more well-known counterparts, it will be an exciting weekend for sure.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Quiggins: Cat Zingano and Marion Reneau. This is otherwise known as the “Battle of the Badass Moms.”

Reneau just turned 41, and she is 3-0-1 in her last four bouts. She continues to defy the odds and prove that age really is just a number. Meanwhile, Zingano is desperately seeking her first win since defeating current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in 2014.

Look for this to be a gritty, exciting, back-and-forth bout.

Henderson: It’s a tough choice, but sign me up for the featherweight showdown between Darren Elkins and Alexander Volkanovski.

Elkins has been a UFC mainstay since 2010. The veteran hasn’t always won, but it’s been more success than failure. The failures aren’t embarrassments, though. He lost at lightweight to Charles Oliveira, and he stumbled at featherweight against Chad Mendes, Jeremy Stephens and Hacran Dias. Meanwhile, he’s scored victories over the likes of Duane Ludwig, Michihiro Omigawa, Diego Brandão, Chas Skelly, Mirsad Bektic, Dennis Bermudez and Michael Johnson. He’s currently riding a six-fight winning streak that includes his epic comeback victory over the aforementioned Bektic.

The 29-year-old Volkanovski has only one loss, which came against Corey Nelson in just the fourth fight of Volkanovski’s pro career. The Aussie fighter has a background in wrestling, but he also competed as a rugby player. He’s now on a 14-fight winning streak that includes four victories — two by way of knockout — in the UFC. Overall, Volkanovski has 10 knockout finishes and three submission victories.

Someone’s winning streak will be snapped, but the real question is whether Volkanovski can land another big finish or if Elkins will stage another epic comeback. This one makes for an exciting battle of two featherweight on the fringes of the title mix.

Pair this card with…

Henderson: The future. Blagoy Ivanov, win or lose, is a solid addition to the UFC’s heavyweight division. Jennifer Maia is an instant contender at 125 pounds. Raoni Barcelos, Said Nurmagomedov and Elias Garcia are all Octagon newcomers with a chance to hang around for the foreseeable future. Niko Price, Myles Jury, Marion Reneau and Alexander Volkanovski all have a chance to make statement wins. This card could be a preview of a number of future title challengers. So, while the lineup might not look overwhelming in the present, viewers should take note, because it will in hindsight.

Quiggins: I will also have to say the future. The heavyweight division is in the midst of a huge shakeup with Daniel Cormier capturing the title. However, the newly crowned champion is 39 years old and his time is limited. A new breed of heavyweight will need to be ready, including the UFC Fight Night 133 headliner Ivanov.

Fight Picks

Fight Henderson’s Pick Quiggins’s Pick
Main Card (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET)
HW: Junior dos Santos vs. Blagoy Ivanov Ivanov Ivanov
WW: Sage Northcutt vs. Zak Ottow Ottow Ottow
FW: Dennis Bermudez vs. Rick Glenn Bermudez Glenn
WW: Niko Price vs. Randy Brown Price Brown
FW: Chad Mendes vs. Myles Jury Jury Mendes
Women’s BW: Cat Zingano vs. Marion Reneau Reneau Reneau
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET)
BW: Eddie Wineland vs. Alejandro Perez Wineland Wineland
FW: Darren Elkins vs. Alexander Volkanovski Elkins Elkins
FlyW: Justin Scoggins vs. Said Nurmagomedov Nurmagomedov Nurmagomedov
FW: Kurt Holobaugh vs. Raoni Barcelos Barcelos Holobaugh
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30 p.m. ET)
Women’s FlyW: Liz Carmouche vs. Jennifer Maia Maia Maia
BW: Mark De La Rosa vs. Elias Garcia Garcia Garcia
Women’s StrawW: Jessica Aguilar vs. Jodie Esquibel Aguilar Aguilar