UFC 189 isn't the only enticing event this weekend, as International Fight Week 2015 concludes with a second impressive card from Las Vegas. Here's how I see the fights playing out.
Main Event – WelterweightJake Ellenberger (30-9-0) v. Stephen Thompson (10-1-0)
Vegas Odds: Ellenberger (+180), Thompson (-220)
Ellenberger looked like he was on the verge of being a contender in the welterweight division after a first-round knock out of Nate Marquardt in March 2013, but he followed that with a three-fight losing streak. Granted, those loses came against Rory MacDonald, Robbie Lawler and Kelvin Gastelum, but Ellenberger looked overwhelmed and disinterested in all of those bouts. He submitted Josh Koscheck in his last fight in February, but that doesn't prove much, as Koscheck should have retired two years ago. Ellenberger is a better wrestler than Thompson, but that's about it. Thompson is a former undefeated amateur kickboxer (57-0) and he should be able to rip Ellenberger apart on the feet. Thompson has a tall, lanky frame and he should be able to get off a ton of kicks that Ellenberger won't see coming. Ever since entering the UFC in September 2009, Ellenberger has come up short against every elite fighter that he's faced. Thompson isn't on the level of someone like MacDonald or Lawler, but he has more ways to win than Ellenberger. Ellenberger has looked so poor lately that I have zero confidence in his ability to get his act together against an elite striker like Thompson.
The Pick: Thompson
Co-Main Event – WelterweightJorge Masvidal (28-9-0) v. Cezar Ferreira (9-4-0)
Vegas Odds: Masvidal (-260), Ferreira (+220)
Masvidal started out on fire in his last fight against Al Iaquinta in April, but then he stood around and did nothing for the final 13 minutes of the bout, and lost a split decision as a result. Despite being a big favorite (-265) against Sam Alvey in his last fight, his opponent Ferreira suffered a first-round knockout loss. Ferreira's biggest advantage in this fight will be his size. He usually fights at middleweight, while Masvidal generally fights at lightweight. To recap, Ferreira is moving down a division, while Masvidal is moving up a division. It's entirely possible that Ferreira will just lie on top of Masvidal and ride out a decision, but it seems unlikely that Masvidal would willingly allow that to happen. Especially after what happened in the Iaquinta fight, expect Masvidal to be very aggressive in this fight. As long as he can deal with Ferreira's size, Masvidal has the better all-around game that should help him pull out the win.
The Pick: Masvidal
Women's StraweightMichelle Waterson (12-4-0) v. Angela Magana (11-7-0)
Vegas Odds: Waterson (-600), Magana (+450)
This will be the much-anticipated UFC debut for Waterson, who is the former Invicita atomweight (105-pound) champion. Magana isn't a particularly good fighter, and seems to be just a stepping-stone for Waterson. Waterson was an expensive acquisition for the UFC, and they want to make sure that she has a successful debut (similar to what they did with Holly Holm). Waterson has a black belt in karate and has good submission skills. Magana was steamrolled by Tecia Torres in her UFC debut in December. It would seem the only advantage that Magana has in this fight is the fact that she has been competing at 115-pounds for a while, while Waterson is moving up a weight class. Still, it's hard to believe that alone will make up for the difference in pure talent between Waterson and Magana.
The Pick: Waterson
BantamweightRussell Doane (14-4-0) v. Jerrod Sanders (14-3-0)
Vegas Odds: Doane (-380), Sanders (+315)
Doane suffered his first UFC loss in his last bout against Iuri Alcantara, but he landed six takedowns in that bout and even though he was defeated, he didn't look terrible. Sanders is a former Division I All-American wrestler from Oklahoma State, and he's moving down two weight classes for this fight. He should be the stronger fighter, but that's an awful lot of weight to cut and Sanders is already 35 years old. He's looked terrible in his first two UFC bouts -- both first-round losses. Doane can't match Sanders' wrestling, but he's going to be the more comfortable fighter, especially when considering he's used to fighting at 135-pounds and has gone up against far better competition than Sanders. Sanders' best chance to win this fight would seem to be to lay on top of Doane for 15 minutes and to ride out a boring decision. It seems unlikely to happen.
The Pick: Doane
FlyweightDarrell Montague (13-4-0) v. Willie Gates (11-5-0)
Vegas Odds: Montague (-125), Gates (+105)
This has the potential to be a fun, fast-paced fight. Montague and Gates are a combined 0-3 in the octagon, but all three of those losses have come against top-10 competition (John Dodson and Kyoji Horiguchi for Montague, John Moraga for Gates). Both fighters have solid all-around games, and while neither are elite grapplers, neither really have a big hole in their games either. It's a really close bout and the odds show that. Montague is probably the slight favorite because he's faced slightly better competition, but from what I've seen, I think Gates has more upside and he's my pick.
The Pick: Gates
FeatherweightMaximo Blanco (11-6-1, 1NC) v. Mike De La Torre (13-4-0, 1NC)
Vegas Odds: Blanco (-150), De La Torre (+130)
The Pick: De La Torre
WelterweightGeorge Sullivan (16-4-0, 1NC) v. Dominic Waters (9-2-0)
Vegas Odds: (Waters was a late injury replacement and odds haven't been posted)
The Pick: Sullivan (no matter what the odds are!)