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These seven fights make up a perfectly fine set of prelims for UFC Fight Night 181 on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The featured slot will see Alexander Hernandez attempt to recapture the form that made him one of the breakout prospects of 2018, while further down the lineup, the perennially underrated Sean Strickland looks to make his comeback from a major motorcycle accident. In addition, the undercard provides a stage for the promotional debut of Adrian Yanez, who, if nothing else, expects to serve up guaranteed excitement. While the preliminary slate does not run particularly deep, it should fly by without much issue.
Now to the preview for the UFC Fight Night “Silva vs. Hall” prelims:
LightweightsAlexander Hernandez (11-3) vs. Chris Gruetzemacher (14-3)
ODDS: Hernandez (-345), Gruetzemacher (+285)
Texas’ Hernandez was one of the UFC’s breakout stars of 2018. He was relatively unknown heading into his UFC debut against Beneil Dariush, but he managed to blitz the Kings MMA rep and score a knockout in just 42 seconds. He followed it with a one-sided decision over Olivier Aubin-Mercier. However, his situation immediately went sideways in 2019, as Donald Cerrone took advantage of Hernandez’s aggressive approach and dominated the rising prospect on his way to a second-round stoppage. Hernandez said all the right things about the loss afterwards and how it was a learning experience, but he may have overlearned those lessons. His bout against Francisco Trinaldo was an absolutely terrible decision win, as Hernandez suddenly adopted a range striking game that was patient to a fault. In the end, neither man did much of anything. Hernandez was at least more potent in that approach against Drew Dober, but the Elevation Fight Team was much more effective in turn and handled “Alexander The Great” without much trouble. Hernandez still has the physical tools to stay in the UFC, but so much of his success was built around aggression that if Cerrone has effectively beaten it out of him, he suddenly has much less upside. He will likely rebound here against Gruetzemacher, who has yet to find much momentum in his UFC career due to some long injury layoffs. “Gritz” has all the makings of a solid gatekeeper, as he can hold his own anywhere and can afford to be aggressive thanks to his durability. The issue? Gruetzemacher is near the bottom rungs of the UFC roster in terms of natural athleticism, so he is often forced to chase quicker opponents that he cannot outlast. That figures to be Hernandez. If nothing else, he has shown a willingness to stick to this newfound approach, even when it is not entirely working. While it does not figure to be a huge sign that he has turned the corner, the pick is Hernandez via clear decision.
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