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The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s return to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday offers a loaded slate, with the UFC Fight Night 192 undercard consisting of nine bouts. The featured prelim between light heavyweights Mike Rodriguez and Tafon Nchukwi sums up the bulk of these fights: While there is some intrigue involved, these matches are primarily about talented prospects working out their flaws to try and gain some momentum. Just below the Rodriguez-Nchukwi fight sits the clear highlight of this preliminary lineup, at least in terms of immediate relevance, as Pannie Kianzad looks to continue a quietly successful run in the women’s bantamweight division with a breakthrough victory against former title challenger Raquel Pennington.
Now to the preview for the UFC Fight Night “Smith vs. Spann” prelims:
Light HeavyweightsNR | Tafon Nchukwi (5-1, 1-1 UFC) vs. NR | Mike Rodriguez (11-6, 2-4 UFC)
ODDS: Nchukwi (-125), Rodriguez (+105)
Nchukwi is a tantalizing prospect, and it will be interesting to see how much is too much too soon for the talented Cameroonian. Immediately upon his professional debut, it was apparent that Nchukwi would be enough of a powerhouse to make it to a major promotion without much issue. In just his third fight, he physically outmatched fellow tank William Knight and scored a quick finish, and after his 2020 performance on Dana White’s Contender Series, awarding Nchukwi a UFC contract was a no-brainer. Cutting down to light heavyweight to face natural middleweight Al Matavao, Nchukwi looked like a terrifying force on route to a head kick finish. From there, Nchukwi surprisingly decided to cut down to middleweight for his UFC debut, and that is where things started to go south a bit. While Nchukwi remained a thudding hitter at 185 pounds, his move down another weight class negated any speed advantages. He still came out with a decision win over Jamie Pickett, but Jun Yong Park took apart Nchukwi without much issue in May. Nchukwi is thankfully moving back up to light heavyweight, but Rodriguez could make for a rough return to what is likely his best weight class. It feels like Rodriguez should have better results in the UFC than what he has enjoyed to date. The Bostonian is a smooth striker with a large frame for the division and fast hands. However, wrestling defense has been a weakness, as has a general tendency for Rodriguez to get tracked in on offense to the complete detriment of his defense. Rodriguez is light enough on his feet that he could cause a lot of the same issues for Nchukwi that he had at middleweight. With that said, it is difficult to pick Rodriguez to avoid danger over the course of 15 minutes against someone with the type of power Nchukwi possesses. The pick is Nchukwi via second-round knockout.
Continue Reading » Pennington vs. Kianzad