In the wee hours of Saturday morning for North Americans, 12 fighters will be attempting to prove they belong in the UFC in Auckland, New Zealand on the prelims of UFC Fight Night 43. Only two of the twelve men scheduled for the UFC Fight Pass prelims (starting at 2:30am ET) have a win in the UFC on their records, the rest have either gone 0-1, or are making their organizational debut. Some of the names featured amongst these six bouts will be familiar to fans who tuned into TUF Nations, including: Jake Matthews, Vik Grujic and Chris Indich, but many are fresh off of the Australian regional scene or making the long trek to the land down under from various other locales for their first shot in the UFC. Neil Magny will be the most recognizable name to fans, as he has had a successful start to his 2014 campaign, going 2-0 to rebound from a 1-2 start in the octagon. He’ll take on newcomer Rodrigo de Lima, a young submission grappler who will be at a massive size disadvantage, but could make things interesting on the ground. Gian Villante looks to rebound from a brutal beating at the hands of Fabio Maldonado as he goes up against another fighter with his back against the wall in Sean O’Connell. One has to think that the loser of this bout finds a pink slip in his locker not long after. The only other UFC veterans in these preliminary bouts are the aforementioned Grujic and Indich, as well as Richie Vaculik, who had the unfortunate pleasure of welcoming super prospect Justin Scoggins to the octagon. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the UFC Fight Night 43 preliminary card today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Check them out: ——————– MAIN CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 5am ET) James Te Huna -190 Nate Marquardt +150 Jared Rosholt -230 Soa Palelei +170 Charles Oliveira -125 Hatsu Hioki -115 Robert Whittaker -245 Mike Rhodes +175 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 2:30am ET) Jake Matthews -160 Dashon Johnson +120 Richie Vaculik -150 Roldan Sangcha-an +110 Chris Indich -125 Vik Grujic -115 Neil Magny -270 Rodrigo de Lima +190 Ian Entwistle -165 Daniel Hooker +125 Gian Villante -315 Sean O’Connell +235 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: As much as I’d love to tell you that I have a great read on all these fights, that’s simply not true. A few of these fights feature guys with potential, but some are downright bad as well. Jake Matthews is one of the fighters with potential, as he is still extremely young, but has a solid grappling game and has been working on his striking by mixing in some boxing matches as well. Dashon Johnson, on the other hand, is a complete unknown because of the poor level of competition he’s faced. There was a great deal of hoopla about the practices of his management team (which is also where he has fought all nine of his pro fights) when he signed with the UFC, and while it got him here, it could prove to be his downfall. I think that Matthews size and grappling will be too much for Johnson when combined with the travel and UFC debut. Another fight that is difficult to read is Vaculik/Sangcha-an. Sangcha-an actually has some decent wins on his record, Lakay MMA is a fairly solid team, and he’s shown some skill on tape, so I’m expecting him to be solid. Vaculik on the other hand is more celebrity than top-level fighter. Still, Vaculik should be a bit bigger here, he does have a serviceable grappling game. We’ve seen that some Filipino fighters really don’t have the wrestling for this level, although Sangcha-an has shown a willingness to use his wrestling on the regional circuit. I think Sangcha-an has a very good chance to win this bout, but it’s definitely not something I’m interested in betting unless the line gets ridiculous. Grujic/Indich has to be a loser leaves town match, right? Indich has shown the Andy Ogle-esque ability of “toughness” and “durability” being the best two words to describe his skills, while Grujic brings a little bit of punching power and a size advantage into this bout. I lean towards Grujic because of the lack of effectiveness I’ve seen from Indich both on TUF Nations and in his UFC debut, but he’s in his late thirties and not a particularly special fighter himself, so again I’m not tempted to bet it. I usually have a pretty good read on Neil Magny fights, and I feel like this is a fairly easy fight to read. Magny is going to be massive compared to de Lima, and will have striking and wrestling advantages. De Lima does have the ability to threaten on the ground, but he’s not on the level of a fighter like Sergio Moraes, who was able to control and submit Magny. I see Magny’s progression continuing here with another victory based on his utilization of reach, and surprisingly stout wrestling game. The question is whether it’s parlay material or not, and I think it’s close, but there are some spots on the main card that I prefer for straight bets, so I’ll likely stick to those. Ian Entwistle fights are normally over quickly. He has a very potent submission game and isn’t afraid to use it aggressively. In his last bout, he pulled off one of the best submissions of 2013, with a diving heel hook over Liam James. I expect that he’ll be able to put those submission skills to good use against Daniel Hooker, who has been stopped with subs a couple times on the regional circuit. However if Entwistle doesn’t find early success, Hooker may be able to take advantage of him in the later rounds. I still lean Entwistle here, but it’s not the most confident pick I’ve ever had. Gian Villante should beat Sean O’Connell, but he also should have beaten Fabio Maldonado. He’ll have the same advantage here in terms of his wrestling game, but should also be slightly better on the feet. As with every Villante fight though, you have to worry about his cardio once it hits the second and third round. Luckily for Villante, O’Connell has been fnished in all five of his losses, and a few of those have been against fighters who have made their careers at either 185 or 170. Villante’s the pick, but how you can put money on him after his most recent performance is beyond me.
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