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UFC Atlantic City predictions: Early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Blanchfield vs. Fiorot

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The top women’s Flyweight contender will be decided inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., this weekend (Sat., March 30, 2024) when Erin Blanchfield and Manon Fiorot put their undefeated Octagon records on the line. UFC Atlantic City’s co-feature sees Joaquin Buckley step up to battle Vicente Luque after Sean Brady’s exit (details here), while Chris Weidman chases his second win since 2017 against Brazilian finisher, Bruno Silva.

Eight “Prelims” set the main card stage this week, all of them on ESPN+/ESPN2. Let’s check out the first batch …

Dana White’s Contender Series – Aslan v Renato Jr.

205 lbs.: Ibo Aslan vs. Anton Turkalj

Ibo Aslan (12-1) battled his way to a perfect (8-0) professional start before falling to Anton Turkalj (8-3) in his 2020 Brave CF debut. A subsequent trio of first round finishes put him back in the win column and carried him to Contender Series, where he smashed Paulo Renato Jr. to earn a UFC contract.

All 12 of his wins have come via knockout.

Having failed to secure a contract with his Contender Series decision over Acacio dos Santos, Turkalj stepped up on short notice to battle Jailton Almeida less than two months later. Though behold, the move kicked off what’s now a three-fight losing streak, the most recent of which saw him knocked out by Tyson Pedro.

He stands one inch taller than Aslan and sports a half-inch reach advantage.

These first meeting between these two saw Aslan put the hurt on Turkalj for more than one round before running out of steam and committing a fatal unforced error. Turkalj won’t be so fortunate this time — Aslan seems significantly sharper than before and Turkalj’s durability failed him badly against Pedro, suggesting he won’t survive long enough to pull a similar comeback.

Aslan admittedly hasn’t had his cardio tested since last time and could very well collapse again, but it’s far likelier that he batters Turkalj into submission within minutes.

Prediction: Aslan def. Turkalj via first round technical knockout

MMA: MAY 07 UFC 274

125 lbs.: Viktoriia Dudakova vs. Melissa Gatto

Viktoriia Dudakova (8-0) defied 2:1 odds to defeat Maria Silva on Contender Series and claim a UFC contract in 2022. Two UFC bouts have seen her defeat Istela Nunes by injury stoppage, then floor Jinh Yu Frey on her way to a unanimous decision.

Her six professional finishes are split 4:2 between submissions and (technical) knockouts.

Melissa Gatto (8-2-2) made up for nearly two years on the sidelines with back-to-back knockouts of Victoria Leonardo and Sijara Eubanks in the Octagon. She’s winless since, dropping competitive decisions to Tracy Cortez and Ariane Lipski over the course of 14 months.

She’ll enjoy a two-inch reach advantage.

Even with Gatto’s recent struggles, this seems like a mighty big ask for Dudakova. That vaunted wrestling of hers was nowhere to be found against the undersized Jinh Yu Frey, who managed to rack up an entire round of top control with little resistance. That’s not a great sign against a competent takedown artist in Gatto, especially considering this will be Dudakova’s Flyweight debut.

Dudakova did show off some improved boxing in the Frey fight — and considering both her young age and what was probably a serious weight cut — there’s every reason to expect a much-improved product come Saturday. Her lack of a bottom game is just too big a concern against a grappler of this caliber and I’m not convinced she can overwhelm someone who went toe-to-toe with Ariane Lipski on the feet.

In the end, Gatto holds her own in the striking exchanges and racks up top control for a clean win.

Prediction: Gatto via unanimous decision

UFC Fight Night: Fiziev v Gamrot

185 lbs.: Andre Petroski vs. Jacob Malkoun

Andre Petroski (10-3) put his unsuccessful The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) run behind him to win five straight in the Octagon, including a 76-second submission of Nick Maximov as a nearly 3:1 underdog. He then got the call to welcome Michel Pereira to the Middleweight division, but fell to “Demolidor’s” right hand just 66 second into the fight.

His eight professional finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.

The 2020 UFC debut of Malkoun (7-3) saw him lose his undefeated record to Phil Hawes in just 18 seconds. He’s since put together a 3-2 run, notably losing a controversial decision to Brendan Allen and earning a disqualification against Cody Brundage because of illegal strikes.

He gives up three inches of height to Petroski.

We can expect a dominant start from Petroski. Malkoun’s boxing pedigree has yet to translate into a noteworthy striking attack and the Maximov fight showed what will happen if Malkoun gets too predictable with his takedowns.

I’m just not convinced it’ll last.

Petroski’s gas tank has proven fickle over the years — at least against opponents who put up meaningful resistance — and Malkoun’s style is as exhausting as they come. Malkoun can be patient if needed (as seen against A.J. Dobson) and odds are he’ll find it progressively easier to manhandle Petroski as the rounds go by. Though Petroski has a real chance to either flatline Malkoun in the opening minutes or preserve his gas by attacking Malkoun’s weirdly porous takedown defense, the likeliest outcome sees Malkoun weather a rough start to grind Petroski into oblivion down the stretch.

Prediction: Malkoun via unanimous decision

UFC Fight Night: Gane v Spivac

145 lbs.: Angel Pacheco vs. Caolan Loughran

Thirteen months after finishing Vilson Ndregjoni via flying knee-assisted rear-naked choke, Angel Pacheco (7-1) entered the Contender Series cage to face Danny Silva. The pair wound up landing a combined 401 significant strikes in 15 minutes. And even though Pacheco fell short on the scorecards, his efforts were enough to earn him a contract.

He boasts two inches of height and reach on Caolan Loughran (8-1).

Loughran capped off his four-fight stint in Cage Warriors by knocking out Dylan Hazan to claim the promotion’s Bantamweight title. He was slated to make his UFC debut four months later against Yanis Ghemmouri, but instead took on French veteran, Taylor Lapilus, who handed Loughran his first defeat of any kind since 2018 via unanimous decision.

Five of his seven professional finishes have come via knockout.

Pacheco’s heart and toughness cannot be questioned, but the rest of his game sure can. He’s a defensive sieve with little power and a tendency to wind up in the pocket even when it’s against his best interest. Those are not great issues to have against a tank like Loughran, who is also hittable; however, “The Don” is significantly more dangerous than Pacheco in close quarters and the superior wrestler to boot.

Pacheco just doesn’t have anything in his arsenal that can trouble Loughran and his bad habits play directly into Loughran’s strengths. In the end, Loughran floors him with an early right hand and pounds him out before he can get his wits back.

Prediction: Loughran via first round technical knockout

Four more UFC Atlantic City “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from Featherweight highlight machine, Nate Landwehr. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 90 On ESPN+

FLYWEIGHT FISTICUFFS! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to its APEX venue in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., March 23, 2024, with an action-packed bout featuring No. 10-ranked Flyweight contender, Amanda Ribas, locking horns with former Strawweight queenpin, Rose Namajunas, in the five-round main event. In UFC Vegas 89’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, Karl Williams will tussle with Justin Tafa in a hard-hitting Heavyweight showdown.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Atlantic City fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN (simulcast on ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Atlantic City: “Blancfield vs. Fiorot” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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