Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back at it again this Saturday (Feb. 23, 2019) as UFC Fight Night 145 — which airs on UFC on Sports TV24 — is set to go down from inside O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, featuring Jan Blachowicz against Thiago Santos in the five-round main event. In the co-headlining act, Stevan Struve will face Marcos Rogerio de Lima in Heavyweight action.
The Light Heavyweight division isn’t as stacked with legendary names as it once was (just ask this man), and it will have one less combatant moving forward as former division champion Daniel Cormier is set to retire this year. Jon Jones is once again at the top, but he has pretty much ran through everyone … some even twice.
That said, there are several promising contenders in the Top 10 on the rise who could make their way to a title fight this year. Anthony Smith already did it, as he is set to face “Bones” for the 205-pound strap at UFC 235. Next up could be the winner of Blachowicz and Santos, two men who have been on a roll as of late. Jan has won four straight, while Santos has won three in a row, good enough to earn them the No. 4 and No. 6 spots, respectively.
Alexander Gustafsson just lost to Jones a second time, so his prospects of getting a fourth shot to win the division title are very thin. With Volkan Oezdemir set to face Dominick Reyes next month, the only man who could get in the way of Jan and Thiago is Corey Anderson. That said, I don’t necassirly feel the winner of this fight will get next dibs at the winner of Jones vs Smith. But, it will get them one step closer. While they don’t carry the biggest name value, they both pack a punch and can end the fight in the blink of an eye. I fully expect a standup war in this one, and it will be necessary if either of them want to dazzle and put themselves in championship conversation. Thiago steamrolled right over Jimi Manuwa a few months ago, which earned him his second straight win at 205 pounds. Keep in mind, “Lionheart” punched his ticket to the big dance after only three wins in the division, so there is hope for “Marreta.” As for Jan, I’ve always considered him the dark horse of the division, as he doesn’t really get on people’s radar due to his quiet nature. He’s anything but once the cage door slams shut, as he’s taken out one tough foe after another such as Jimi Manuwa and Nikita Krylov. An impressive win over Santos can shine the light on him a bit more.
The rest of the card is lacking a bit. When you have a matchup between Magomed Ankalaev vs. Klidson Farias de Abreu on the main card, you can’t expect many people to be racing to their computers or other electronic devices to tune in on a Saturday morning.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Darko Stocic was forced out of his fight against Magomed Ankalaev and was replaced by Octagon newcomer Klidson Farias de Abreu. Sam Alvey was set face Gadzhimurad Antigulov, but “Smilin’” was yanked from the event to face Jim Crute at UFC 234, instead. A fight between Ramazan Emeev and Michel Prazeres was scrapped after Emeev pulled out. In turn, he was replaced by Ismail Naurdiev, another UFC newbie.
Darko Stocic and Ramazan Emeev were the only two men struck down by the injury bug. Though not an injury, it should be noted that both Carlos Diego Ferreira and Klidson Abreu missed weight for their bouts against Rustam Khabilov and Magomed Ankalaev, respectively. As a result, they were each docked 20-percent of their salary.
There are only two newcomers this time around, who earned great opportunities to shine on the biggest stage. Klidson Farias de Abreu — who will face Magomed Ankalaev — owns a 14-2 record, with all of his wins coming via stoppage. One of those victories came against Johnny Walker, UFC’s surprise contender at 205 pounds. Klidson is legit, but he will face a tough opponent in Magomed. Magomed lost to Paul Craig in his UFC debut, but bounced back impressively to handle Marcin Prachnio in one round. The Russian bomber has a great overall arsenal to give anyone problems.
Ismael Naurdiev will make his official UFC debut against Michel Prazeres, a 12-fight UFC veteran. Known as “The Austrian Wonderboy,” Ismael prefers to stand-and-bang, and he won’t have trouble getting Michel to engage. Prazeres has quietly won eight in a row, so it’s about time he gets some rankings love. A win here should get him there. That’s the problem I have with the voters who rank these fighters; Michel has gone on a tear inside the Octagon since 2015 and he can’t get any respect, while Geoff Neal wins three in a row after making his debut a year ago and he gets the No. 15 spot.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Again, with such a lacking card, you can’t expect the “Prelims” to be filled with well-known and established combatants. Headlining the undercard is a fight between Chris Fishgold vs. Daniel Teymur, both coming off defeats. They each need a win badly if they want to stay relevant in the Featherweight division.
The aforementioned fight between Prazeres and Naurdieve should be interesting, as is a fight between Diego Ferreira vs. Rustam Khabilov. Khabilov is searching for his seventh straight win, which should get him out of undercard purgatory and on to bigger matchups.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Stefan Struve has lost three straight and hasn’t tasted sweet victory since 2016. Up next for “Skyscraper” is a bag man showdown against Marcos Rogerio de Lima, the hard-hitting heavyweight who has been unable to collect back-to-back wins since 2014. This is a big test for both men, but Struve needs to avoid his fourth straight loss if he wants to secure his spot on the roster. Let’s not forget, Stefan holds a knockout win over former champion Stipe Miocic, so he definitely has the skills to pay the bills.
Interest Level: 4/10
I hate to be such a harsh critic here, but this card overall just isn’t all that great. It feels like it was put together with little thought. I’m not trying to belittle the combatants on here, but I’d expect the promotion to sprinkle in a few marquee matchups in here to draw a bit more interest to ESPN+. After all, that is thier main objective right, to sell? That said, don’t expect this to happen againbased on the card at hand. The fact that it’s another early event could also hurt some viewership, but as we’ve seen before, sometimes the cards with less name value and promotion behind it end up delivering. Still, it’s good to see men like Santos and Blachowicz get the headlining spots, as they have put the work in to get the wins to elevate their respective careers. They are trying to set themselves up as the next title contender, so this fight should be fireworks.
John Dodson needs a win to avoid going 0-2 in hast two outings. Over his last seven fights, “The Magician” has alternated wins and losses and has been unable to find a groove.
His last fight saw him come up short against Jimmie Rivera, and a loss against Petr Yan will put him in a bit of a hole. Dodson needs to get a good win not only to get back in the winner’s circle, but to get some confidence and start a run. He came out of the gates strong early on in his UFC career, but finding consistency has been an issue for him ever since. Yan, menawhile, has won his first three fights inside the Octagon, so I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see him get his fourth in a row against the longtime veteran.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Fight Night 145 Card:
UFC Fight Night 145 Sports TV24 Main Event:
205 lbs.: Jan Blachowicz vs. Thiago Santos
UFC Fight Night 145 Sports TV24 Main Card (2 p.m. Start Time):
265 lbs.: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Stefan Struve
205 lbs.: Gian Villante vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
125 lbs.: Liz Carmouche vs. Lucie Pudilova
135 lbs.: John Dodson vs. Petr Yan
205 lbs.: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Klidson Farias de Abreu
UFC Fight Night 145 ESPN 2 ‘Prelims’ Undercard (11 a.m. ET start time):
145 lbs.: Chris Fishgold vs. Daniel Teymur
125 lbs.: Veronica Macedo vs. Gillian Robertson
170 lbs.: Dwight Grant vs. Carlo Pedersoli Jr.
155 lbs.: Damir Hadzovic vs. Marco Polo Reyes
170 lbs.: Michel Prazeres vs. Ismail Naurdiev
155 lbs.: Diego Ferreira vs. Rustam Khabilov
155 lbs.: Damir Ismagulov vs. Joel Alvarez
*Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to change.
EspnProSports.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 145 fight card later today (click here), starting with the ESPN 2 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 11 a.m. ET, followed by the Sports TV24 main card start time at 2 p.m. ET.
For more upcoming UFC events click here.