UFC Fight Night 49 Preliminary Card Preview

UFC Fight Night 49One down, one to go. With UFC Fight Night 48 already in the books from Saturday morning, the scene shifts to Tulsa, Oklahoma at night for UFC Fight Night 49. While the top two fights on the card stand out, the quality is pretty consistent from bouts three through eleven. That’s going to be a welcome sight for fans who sat through some low quality MMA on the card in Macau. While the main card airs on Fox Sports 1 starting at 10pm ET, let’s take a closer look at the five preliminary bouts that are spread out over Fox Sports 2 and UFC Fight Pass, starting at 7:30pm. The lead-in to the FS1 card will be a welterweight bout between a pair of rising 27-year-old welterweights. Alex Garcia (9-1) looks to move to a perfect 3-0 inside the Octagon, while Neil Magny (11-3) will be attempting to notch his fourth consecutive victory in the UFC, in what has been a stellar 2014 for him already. When the 5’9″ Garcia and 6’3″ Magny get in the cage, the visual will be stark in multiple ways. Obviously the height difference is a plus for Magny, but Garcia will be significantly thicker and should hold strength and power advantages. Garcia is more of a finisher (10 career stoppages) while Magny often wears opponents down over the distance (6 career wins by decision), so these two clash in many different ways. The key for Magny will be to avoid Garcia’s early power on the feet and submission game on the mat, if he’s able to do that he may turn the tide later in the fight and take a decision or earn a late stoppage. If not, Magny could be in for the same type of quick night he suffered at the hands of Sergio Moraes back at UFC 163. The public is split on this bout, as Magny saw a great deal of early action as an underdog, but has now settled at +135 (bet $100 to win $135) while Garcia has remained a favorite at -145 (bet $145 to win $100), albeit a much smaller one than he opened at Several Bookmakers. Down one weight class, Beneil Dariush (7-1) and Tony Martin (8-1) look to rebound from their first career losses. After winning his UFC debut with a first-round submission over Charlie Brenneman, Dariush was mauled by Ramsey Nijem and suffered a TKO defeat back in April. Martin saw a very successful first round go down the drain against Rashid Magomedov at UFC 169 as he tired and the Russian came back to take a decision. Each of these fighters is primarily a grappler, but Martin seems to be the stronger wrestler while Dariush has the better submission game. Whether Martin can use his wrestling to stay on the feet or nullify his opponent’s guard game from top position will be the question here, and at this point the public ever so slightly leans towards yes, as Martin is the -135 favorite with the comeback on Dariush at +125, which is tied for the closest line on the card. Bantamweights are up next, as Aaron Phillips (5-1) and Matt Hobar (8-2) hope to steer their UFC careers back in the right direction. Both dropped their UFC debuts, with Phillips being outwrestled by Sam Sicilia to a decision, while Hobar was blitzed by Pedro Munhoz and finished via TKO early. This will be Phillips UFC debut at his proper weight class, and that should help mitigate some of the grappling issues he faced against Sicilia. Hobar will be hoping to replicate the performance by Sicilia, as his game is also predicated on wrestling and submissions. Phillips’ takedown defense will once again determine his fate, as on the feet he is the more talented fighter and should be able to pick up a decision if not stop Hobar with strikes. Oddsmakers don’t like his chances however, as Hobar is the -205 favorite with the comeback on Phillips at +188. The opening fight on Fox Sports 2 features a UFC return, as Ben Saunders (16-6-2) makes his way back into the Octagon after 10 fights with Bellator. Saunders did find some success, going 7-3 across those bouts, with the only defeats coming to that organization’s champion Douglas Lima (twice) and the solid Bryan Baker. Saunders will be facing strong grappler Chris Heatherly (8-1), who makes his UFC debut coming from RFA. Heatherly’s gameplan here will be no secret, as he’ll use some winging punches to set up takedowns so he can work on the ground from top position. Saunders will look to keep this bout at range or punish Heatherly in the clinch if he fails on those takedown attempts. Saunders won’t discriminate with his finishes however, so if Heatherly gets hurt or leaves an opening for a submission we may see Saunders jump on it. His ability to finish the fight anywhere and his UFC experience have Saunders a healthy -360 favorite at this point, a number surpassed only by Benson Henderson and Max Holloway on the entire card. The lone UFC Fight Pass bout on this card will be in the flyweight division, with another Bellator veteran, Wilson Reis (17-5), making his debut at the weight. His opponent is undefeated 125lb prospect Joby Sanchez (6-0), a student of Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn. Sanchez was originally scheduled to fight three weeks from now at RFA 18, so he was in the gym preparing when he got the short notice call from Sean Shelby, but ideally it would have been nice for the youngster to get a bit more time to work on a gameplan for a veteran like Reis. This is another striker vs. grappler bout on this card, as Sanchez will look to keep the distance to avoid the powerful wrestling of a man who has competed against some of the best in the world at 135 and 145 already in his career. The size and experience edges are likely what have Reis sitting as a -295 favorite just a few hours removed from fight time.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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