Ladies and Gentlemen and You Lovely Non-Binaries, It’s Supercard Time!
A ridiculously good card from the MMA leader comes to Chicago this Saturday, headlined by Robert Whitaker versus Yoel Romero in a rematch for the undisputed UFC middleweight champion and Rafael Dos Anjos versus Colby Covington for the interim welterweight title. But hours before the main eventers hit the cage in Chi-Town, fights that wouldn’t be out-of-place on any UFC main card grace UFC Fight Pass, starting at 5pm central time. Before we even get to FS1, we have a battle between well-known lightweights, the return of a flyweight superstar, and a crossroads light heavyweight battle.
1) Mike Santiago (20-11, 1-2 UFC) vs Dan Ige (8-2, 1-1 UFC) — Featherweights
A battle of Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series Season 1 standouts kick off this banger of a card as hometown boy Santiago takes on Ige, a Hawaiian fighter who now trains at what is affectionately known as the Sixth Island in Las Vegas.
Santiago came into the Contender Series with a ridiculous twenty-eight pro fights to his credit, and put away Mark Cherico in the first round. He didn’t get a contract that night, but actually became the first DWTNCS alum to make his UFC debut when accepted a call to make his Octagon debut in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The problem-it was against Zabit Magomedshapirov, who has emerged as the number one prospect in the entire sport. Santiago actually fought very well in that fight until he was overwhelmed and submitted in the second round. He fought even better in his second fight against Mads Burnell in January in St, Louis, but lost a close decision.
Ige had to face a heavily hyped prospect in Cuban judoka Luis Gomez, but he was able to use his aggression against him, wear him out, and choke him out in the third round. Ige made his debut at UFC 220 against another DWTNCS product, Julio Arce. Ige fought well, but Arce has emerged as the class of that show, and Ige got outboxed on his way to a unanimous decision loss.
It’s an interesting fight because Santiago is an aggressive pressure fighter who is good everywhere, but Ige is a good defender who seems to like to take what his opponents give him and turn it against them. But he also seems to have more success when he takes his opponent down, and Santiago seems a little too eager to fight on his back, instead of getting up. So Ige should look to get close and get the takedown, and Santiago needs to stay on his feet and dictate the pace. Both need a win to establish themselves, and this is a great choice to kick off the night.
2) Clay Guida (34-17, 14-11 UFC) vs Charles Olivera (22-8, 10-8 UFC) — Lightweights
Despite being in the UFC for seemingly forever (12 years), “The Carpenter” Guida remains a serious threat to the lightweight division and since an ill-fated 3-4 run at featherweight, he has come back to 155 and won two in a row, the last victory being a smashing of Joe Lauzon. He was supposed to fight Bobby Green, but he pulled out two weeks ago. Enter Charles “Da Bronx” Oliveira.
Oliveira is another long tenured UFC fighter, fighting in the company since 2010. He has more submissions than anyone in UFC history other than some guy named Royce Gracie and is deceptively good striker. After missing the featherweight limit several times, Oliveira was forced to move back up to lightweight where he started his career. He made a glorious return, submitting Will Brooks in one round and was looking good in a short notice fight against Paul Felder in Detroit, but he got stuck under him and ate some brutal elbows in route to a second round TKO. So he’s looking for a rebound, taking another fight on short notice.
It’s an interesting fight because both guys do their best work up close. Guida likes to get in your face and be either punching you or taking you down and smothering you. Oliveira wants you to get close and wrap his arms around you neck or arm or leg. So something has to give there. Guida has shown to be vulnerable to submissions, but Olivera can be grounded and pounded. It’s a high risk, high reward fight for both men. Sign me the fuck up.
3) Joseph Benavidez (25-4, 10-2 UFC) vs Sergio Pettis (16-3, 7-3 UFC) — Flyweights
God bless Joseph Benavidez. You’d be hard pressed to find a fighter whose been as excellent in one division for so long and been unable to win the title. But he remains 10-and Demetrious Johnson in the UFC, although he did win a very questionable decision over Henry Cejudo in his last fight eighteen months ago. Since then, Benavidez has been trying to recover from a serious knee injury and he will come back riding a five-fight winning streak to try and get that one last shot at the fighter who has the Ali to his Frazier.
Sergio Pettis is the kind of fighter that can get Benavidez there. He really came into his own in 2016 and 2017 and while he got outwrestled by an Olympic Gold Medalist in Cejudo in his last fight, he’s still the best he’s ever been and still getting better at 24. He also has the kind of striking style that Cejudo used to give Benavidez all kinds of problems in his last fight. He is probably better at that style even. So it’s a big challenge.
But really it comes down to how healthy Benavidez’ knee is. Will he be able to spring off with the same power he used to have? How will his takedowns be? Will he have the legs to execute the kind of style that has proven to beat both Pettis brothers-get in their face, put on pressure, and smother. It makes an already highly competitive fight even more interesting.
4) Rashad Evans (19-7-1, 14-7-1 UFC) vs Anthony Smith (28-13, 4-2 UFC) — Light Heavyweights
When you look at fighters who help make the UFC, Rashad Evans should be on everyone’s list-winning the second Ultimate Fighter, knocking out Chuck Liddell with one punch, winning the UFC light heavyweight title, and taking part in numerous main events. But after being shut out by Ryan Bader and knocked out by Glover Teixeira, he went down to middleweight and got out hustled and out foxed by two very tricky fighters in Dan Kelly and Sam Alvey.
But now he’s heading back to light heavyweight and he’s facing a guy in Smith who will not be hard to find. And with Smith moving up to light heavyweight after going 4-2 as a UFC middleweight, Rashad theoretically won’t be facing the size disadvantage that he often faces in 205. He will be facing a tough bullet, which Smith proved in back to back comeback knockouts over TUF champion Andrew Sanchez and the highly respect Hector Lombard. Although you do have to question how will do at 205 considering he was knocked out by the bigger Thiago Santos in his last fight.
So there are a lot of questions in this fight, the biggest being what does Rashad have left. What probably isn’t disputed is that Smith is going to come after Rashad and put on a lot of pressure. He won’t be hard to find. What Rashad can do with that, we have to wait and see…
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