Where once stood three Mexican UFC titlists, all that remains is Alexa Grasso, who defends her women’s Flyweight belt inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend (Sat., Sept. 19, 2023) against former division queenpin, Valentina Shevchenko. Noche UFC also features a pivotal Welterweight battle between Kevin Holland vs. Jack Della Maddalena alongside Lightweight prospect Daniel “Golden Boy” Zellhuber’s clash with Christos Giagos.
We’ve somehow still got six “Prelims” undercard bouts despite nine fights falling apart for one reason or another, so let’s have a look at the first half …
125 lbs.: Tracy Cortez vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius
Tracy Cortez (10-1) — the sole woman to beat Erin Blanchfield — defeated Mariya Agapova on season three of Contender Series to earn a UFC berth in 2019. She’s fought just four times in the last four years, though each bout produced a decision win.
This marks her first bout in 16 months.
Jasmine Jasudavicius (9-2) followed her Contender Series win with an upset of Kay Hansen, only to run afoul of Natalia Silva her next time out. Undeterred, she’s put together a 2023 campaign that features decision wins over Gabriella Fernandes and Miranda Maverick.
She’ll enjoy two inches of height and 2.5 inches of reach on Cortez.
If I’m not mistaken, I have a zero percent success rate when predicting Jasudavicius’ fights. I don’t think I’m wrong about her lack of speed, poor defense or questionable takedown defense, but she just keeps gritting her way to victory.
She can do so again here if she keeps Cortez on the back foot, which is how Melissa Gatto found significant success. On the other hand, she’s not as quick or sharp as Gatto on the feet, preferring instead to maul her way to victory. That leaves her hips open to opponents willing and able to shoot. And even though she managed to cow Maverick, “Fear the” has always struggled against fellow wrestlers. In short, Cortez seems like a tougher nut to crack, so expect her to grind her way to a narrow win.
Prediction: Cortez via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Charlie Campbell vs. Alex Reyes
Charlie Campbell (7-2) brought a five-fight win streak into Contender Series, where he found himself inches from victory before succumbing to a comeback knockout from Chris Duncan. “The Cannibal” returned to action 10 months later in CFFC, securing his fourth win in the promotion with a violent finish of Josh Streacker.
He steps in for Natan Levy on one week’s notice.
Alex Reyes (13-3) — who hadn’t lost since an winless (0-2) professional start — stepped up in weight on a three-week turnaround to battle Mike Perry in Pittsburgh. His results did not match his courage, as “Platinum” crushed him with a knee just 79 seconds into the first round.
This marks his first fight in exactly six years, as a 2018 fight with Nasrat Haqparast and a Feb. 2023 fight with Trevor Peek both fell through.
There’s only so much analysis I can do here because six years may as well be a lifetime in mixed martial arts (MMA); therefore, there’s no telling how Reyes will look in the cage. I will say, however, that Campbell is pretty nightmarish as far as homecoming opponents go. “The Cannibal” packs serious power and vicious killer instinct, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Reyes once again caught cold in the opening minutes.
Maybe Reyes reinvented himself in his time away and will enter the cage looking like brother, Dominick Reyes, in the latter’s prime, but that’s a whole heck of a lot of rust to shake off. In the end, Campbell bulldozes Reyes before the latter can find his footing.
Prediction: Campbell via first round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Josefine Knutsson vs. Marnic Mann
Allstar’s Josefine Knutsson (6-0) was perfect on UFC Fight Pass (2-0), with wins in Road to UFC and UAE Warriors. These carried her to Contender Series, where she dominated Isis Verbeek but failed to land a contract.
She’s the taller woman by three inches, but faces a four-inch reach disadvantage.
Marnic Mann (6-1) went 3-0 as an amateur and 5-0 as a professional en route to a Contender Series date with Bruna Brasil, who stopped “The Sawed-Off Savage” with a head kick late in the second. She then took her talents back to Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA), upping her record in the promotion to 3-0 with a decision over Amber Brown.
She replaces Iasmin Lucindo — who herself replaced Cynthia Calvillo — on one week’s notice.
By my reckoning, Knutsson had a not-inconsiderable chance of upsetting Lucindo, whom I consider one of the division’s top prospects. I don’t rate Mann anywhere near as highly; she’s tough and persistent, but has severe technical shortcomings that Knutsson is well-equipped to exploit. Mann’s so hittable at a distance that Knutsson should have little issue piecing her up with kicks and blasting her with check hooks any time the former tries to step in.
Even if Mann gets to the clinch (her area of expertise), Knutsson’s control and strikes are much more polished. A Mann takedown wouldn’t guarantee her victory, either, because she struggles to hold down opponents. When the dust settles, expect Knutsson to take her apart at every distance for a one-sided decision win.
Prediction: Knutsson via unanimous decision
Three more Noche UFC “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a quick turnaround for Roman Kopylov, as well as Lupita Godinez’s latest. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire Noche UFC fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
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