Baltimore plays host to UFC 172, and while this card was boasted to be “the best card in UFC history” by Dana White, I think we can all agree that’s some hyperbole. Still, it’s a solid card with some good matchups from the main card to the prelims.
In the prelim main event on FOX Sports 1, we have flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez (19-4) who is coming off his knockout loss to “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in December of last year. He faces Tim Elliott (10-4-1) in what on paper looks like it very well could be a squash match. Joseph Benavidez, as you likely know, is second on the totem pole at the famed Alpha Male gym with Uriah Faber and Chad Mendes to name a few. Elliott is a solid flyweight who has defeated Louis Gaudinot and Jens Pulver, but is still looking for that signature win. Like many of his bouts, Benavidez will have a hard time losing this one. His takedowns, top control and overall game are better than Elliott in every way. It only comes close in the stand up department, but even that gap has closed as Joe-B has improved much in the years since the WEC. Elliott does have a size advantage, but other than that, he’s outclassed.
At lightweight, a Pride legend in Takanori Gomi (34-9-1) makes his first return to the Octagon after more than a year away, as he takes on Strikeforce vet Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-4-1). Let me get this out of the way – Gomi beat Diego Sanchez in Japan last year. He did. It was a robbery. That said, Gomi wasn’t the fighter he was back in his Pride heydays, and while Vallie-Flagg isn’t a world beater, he’s possibly good enough to steal one from Gomi. Vallie-Flagg is kind of a young 36, and has only lost once in the last seven years. He has a split-decision win in the UFC against Yves Edwards and another over Gesias Cavalcante in Strikeforce. This fight makes sense for both, and while Vallie-Flagg has the better wave of momentum, Gomi is still a force with his left hook wrecking most everyone he faces and his wrestling is solid. Vallie-Flagg is a come-forward type of guy, and he’s either going to pressure Gomi against the cage or get caught doing it. This should be a real fun fight.
Women bantamweights are up next, as Jessamyn Duke (3-0-1) looks to cement her place alongside Ronda Rousey as part of the Four horsewoman stable, but Bethe Correira (7-0) stands in her way. Bethe took a split-decision win over the scrappy Julie Kedzie at UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs. Bigfoot with her aggressive style reminiscent of her training partners, Bellator’s Pitbull bros. Stylistically, this should be a fun fight. Duke uses her range well, has underrated BJJ and I’ve personally witnessed her working on her judo with Ronda Rousey since her last fight against Peggy Morgan at the TUF finale. Neither of these women are vastly-experienced, but they will both put on a show, and they are both quality fighters. Don’t let their records fool you. These ladies match up well, but it will be a hairy bet to lay. This will be a tight contest unless one of them figures the other out within 15 minutes, which is going to be a tough test for both. Watch for Correira to close the distance, but then Duke to use her newfound clinch game.
Opening the FOX Sports 1 prelims are lightweights Danny Castillo (16-6) and Charlie Brenneman (19-6). Brenneman’s return to the Octagon was cut short by Beneil Dariush at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Philippou, so he’s looking to redeem himself against a Castillo that who’s coming off a loss to Edson Barboza at UFC on FOX: Johnson vs Benavidez 2. Castillo has evolved from a pure wrestler into a complete fighter. Brennamen is still that grinder who will make this fight as nasty as possible. If it stays on the feat, it will be Brennamen chasing the takedown while Castillo peppers him into oblivion. However, it could very quickly devolve into the fight Brenneman wants if he can even land a single takedown, but that’s easier said than done. Castillo has fantastic takedown defense, and can use that perfectly in this scenario. On paper, this fight is made for a Castillo decision.