The UFC returns to where it all began 25 years ago in Denver, Colorado with a battle in the featherweight division between Chan Sung “The Korean Zombie” Jung and Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez. This is the first fight in over a year for both the Korean Zombie and El Pantera, but oddsmakers have Jung as a -140 favorite with Rodriguez coming back at +110. I have a breakdown and pick for each fight on the main card for UFC Fight Night: Zombie vs Rodriguez.
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Korean Zombie vs Yair Rodriguez
This is the first time that the Korean Zombie is a favorite based on the odds we have over his last three fights dating back to 2012. The 31-year-old only has one UFC loss, coming against former featherweight champion Jose Aldo via fourth-round TKO. This is the first Octagon appearance for the South Korea native since February last year when he knocked out Dennis Bermudez.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez fights for the first time since May of 2017 when he was finished by Frankie Edgar at the end of the second round, his first loss in the UFC. That bout was just the second time El Pantera was an underdog in his career.
Jung (-125) has been in the UFC since 2011, but this is just his sixth fight as he had to do his country’s mandatory two-year military service, which he completed following his defeat to Jose Aldo in 2013. The Korean Zombie returned from his hiatus in February 2017, earning a first-round knockout victory over Dennis Bermudez. He is an intelligent fighter with true knockout power, a solid chin and an underrated ground game. Jung averages 3.78 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 3.45 per minute.
Rodriguez (-105) had his eight-fight winning streak snapped his last time out against Frankie Edgar in May 2017. That loss was a doctor stoppage at the end of the second round. Prior to that defeat, the Mexico native had been on a tear in the featherweight division with eight straight wins, including four finishes, three by T/KO. The 26-year-old is creative with great kicks and impressive striking defense, landing 3.86 significant strikes per minute while limiting his opponents to just 2.59 per minute.
This will be a standup war and a battle of wills. We have seen the Korean Zombie return from a long layoff and perform spectacularly, but this will be the longest hiatus in Rodriguez’s career. What changes has he made in his time off? Jung has a little more power than Rodriguez and that may be the difference maker in the end.
Prediction: Korean Zombie (-125) via knockout
Donald Cerrone vs Mike Perry
Perry (-210) looks to break into the rankings in the welterweight division and pick up his third two-fight winning streak in the UFC in his career. “Platinum” has gone to decision in each of his last three fights, getting his hand raised in just one of those scraps, earning a split-decision victory over Paul Felder at UFC 226, a fight in which Felder’s forearm was broken. The 27-year-old likes to get into brawls with his opponents as 11 of his 12 career wins have come via knockout, while his three losses all came via unanimous decision.
Cerrone (+170) made the move from lightweight to welterweight following a first-round TKO loss to Rafael dos Anjos in 2015 and the move appeared to be a good decision as he rattled off four straight wins in his new weight class – all by finishes. However, since then he has dropped four of his last five fights, including most recently a five-round decision loss to Leon Edwards in June. “Cowboy” is a well-rounded fighter who has a lot of experience and he likes to stand toe to toe with his opponents but also has an impressive submission game.
There is a lot of bad blood heading into this bout as Perry now trains at Jackson-Wink MMA, where Cerrone trained for many years, and they chose to corner him over Cerrone. With inside knowledge, Platinum will have the edge in this bout, but when Cowboy is in the right mindset, he is an extremely dangerous fighter. This is my favorite fight on the card because there will be fireworks.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone (+170) via decision
Raquel Pennington vs Germaine de Randamie
De Randamie (-190) is entering the Octagon for the first time since February 2017 when she beat Holly Holm at UFC 208 to become the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight champion. She was stripped of the belt after rejecting a fight vs Cris Cyborg and announcing her intentions of moving back down to the bantamweight division, which she is doing Saturday. “The Iron Lady” has good striking, especially in the clinch where she lands strong knees, a method by which she has finished two fights. De Randamie hasn’t landed a takedown inside the UFC and defends 86 percent of takedown attempts from her opponents.
Pennington (+155) looks to get back on track following her fifth-round knockout loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 224 in May. “Rocky” is well-rounded but was simply outmatched by the bigger, stronger Nunes in their bout. Prior to that loss, she had a four-fight winning streak, with three of those bouts going the distance, with her only finish being a rear-naked choke of Jessica Andrade at UFC 191, avenging her split-decision loss from UFC 171. Pennington is predominantly a striker, averaging 3.63 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 3.37.
I think this will be a similar result for Pennington as the Nunes fight as de Randamie will be the bigger fighter in this scrap. If Rocky is unable to drag The Iron Lady to the mat, I think she will get picked apart in the standup area of the fight and she will be relying on her heart and chin to carry her to the finish.
Prediction: Germaine de Randamie (-190) via knockout
Beneil Dariush vs Thiago Moises
Dariush (-155) is looking to put an end to a recent rough patching, going 0-2-1 in his last three fights with his two losing coming via knockout to Alexander Hernandez and Edson Barboza. Prior to that defeat, the Iran native had won seven of eight fights, with his only loss coming against Michael Chiesa. The 29-year-old is a well-rounded that has finished nine of his 14 career victories, three by T/KO and six by submission. He averages 4.04 significant strikes per minute while only absorbing 2.91 significant strikes per minute, however, three of his four career losses have come via knockout.
Moises (+125) is making his Octagon debut after earning a contract earlier this year in Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. He had a first-round TKO victory in that bout, his third career win by that manner. The 23-year-old also has four submissions to his name and three wins by decision. As like many of his Brazilian brethren, Moises has an exceptional Jiu Jitsu game and explosive kicks. He has never been finished in his young career and trains out of American Top Team with the likes of Colby Covington and Edson Barboza, who knocked out Dariush.
Dariush was rolling through the lightweight division and was involved in some very entertaining fights, but he has been less than spectacular recently and hasn’t fought since May so it’ll be interesting to see what changes he has made. Meanwhile, this is the first time we see Moises in the UFC but he has a great training camp that will surely have him ready for this battle.
Prediction: Beneil Dariush (-155) via decision
Joseph Benavidez vs Ray Borg
*This fight has been removed from the card due to Borg failing a medical*
Benavidez (-120) looks to rebound from his first loss since 2013, after losing a split decision to Sergio Pettis at UFC 225 following a layoff of a year and a half due to a knee injury. The 34-year-old has a great ability to push the pace for the duration of the bout, with a strong combination of striking and wrestling. The New Mexico native was knocked out by Demetrious Johnson in 2013 but was working his way back to a title fight by picking up six straight wins, including a split-decision win over Henry Cejudo in 2016, before tearing his ACL. Benavidez averages 3.44 significant strikes per minute while absorbing just 2.5 per minute.
Borg (-110) is also coming off a loss as he was submitted via armbar by Demetrious Johnson at UFC 216. “The Tazmexican Devil” was set to fight at UFC 223 but he suffered an eye injury when Conor McGregor threw a dolly through the window of the bus he was in. The 25-year-old is an exceptional wrestler, averaging 2.91 takedowns per 15 minutes, and he was able to drag “Mighty Mouse” to the mat three times in their fight last year.
This is a battle of the elite in the flyweight division with two great fighters coming off losses and the division in limbo with Demetrious Johnson leaving for ONE FC. Benavidez did not look like himself in his return against Sergio Pettis at UFC 225 so it’ll be interesting to see how he comes back in this fight. Similarly, there’s a question about how Borg will look having not fought in over a year. If The Tazmexican Devil can get his wrestling going early, he should control the fight.
Prediction: Ray Borg (-110) via decision
Maycee Barber vs Hannah Cifers
Barber (-450) is a Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series alumna after putting in a dominant performance against Jamie Colleen. “The Future” earned a third-round TKO victory in that bout, finishing Colleen via elbows, her second win in that manner after knocking out Audrey Perkins at LFA 39 in May. The 20-year-old landed two takedowns in her fight vs Colleen and averaged an astonishing 7.86 significant strikes per minute.
Cifers (+325) is an aggressive brawler with good takedown defense to ensure the fight remains standing. “Shockwave” has eight professional victories with five coming via knockout, including four in her last five bouts. The 26-year-old doesn’t have great kicks and mostly relies on punches and elbows, always trying to bully her opponent, getting close to them and imposing her will.
This is the official UFC debut for both of these women and they are surely going to bring the fireworks. The big question for this fight will be whether Barber can get this fight to the mat where she can work her ground and pound. If not, this fight could go either way because both girls have a similar style of aggressive brawling with good head movements and willingness to trade hands.
Prediction: Maycee Barber (-450) via decision
Michael Trizano vs Luis Pena
Pena (-175) is making his second career walk to the Octagon, coming off a first-round submission victory over Richie Smullen in July. “Violent Bob Ross” was in The Ultimate Fighter 27 and earned a decision win over Jose Martinez Jr. in the Sportsbook bout, but in the victory, he suffered a foot injury that forced him to be removed from the competition. The 25-year-old is training at AKA with the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and his coach from the show, Daniel Cormier. He is tall for the lightweight division at six-foot-three and he is creative with his strikes with an above-average wrestling game.
Trizano (+145) was the Sportsbook of The Ultimate Fighter 27 after edging Joe Giannetti via split decision in July. “The Lone Wolf” has good striking and a strong ability to push the pace for the duration of the bout. The 26-year-old has good head movement and does a good job bouncing in and out of his opponent’s range, which will be key against Pena’s 76-inch reach. Trizano is a perfect 7-0 with four of those fights being finishes, including two knockouts and two submissions.
This is great matchmaking as Pena was the favorite to go to the finale in that season but the injury forced him out of the competition. It’s only right that he fights the Sportsbook. Violent Bob Ross fights extremely long and is very dangerous, but The Lone Wolf will get in his face and make this a brawl.
Prediction: Luis Pena (-175) via submission
Here’s a look at all the odds for the entire UFC Fight Night: Zombie vs Rodriguez card: