UFC on ESPN 15 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Frankie Edgar might finally be where he belongs.

That’s probably an odd statement to make about a surefire UFC Hall of Famer who held a world title at 155 pounds and twice challenged for another at 145 pounds. But “The Answer” has always punched above his weight (literally) and even though he’s had enormous success up to this point, it always felt like a move down one more division was in his future.

Edgar starts his latest (and likely last) run to a title shot on Saturday when he faces top contender Pedro Munhoz in the bantamweight main event of UFC on ESPN 15. It’s an ideal matchup for both men as Edgar gets the chance to jump right into the top-five with a win, while Munhoz can add an all-time great to his resume and keep himself on the short list for the next championship opportunity at 135 pounds.

Light heavyweights face off in the co-main event as Ovince Saint Preux returns from a one-fight sojourn as a heavyweight to face finishing machine Alonzo Menifield. “OSP” is no stranger to avoiding the judges himself as his 10 finishes currently place him in a tie for second place with Jon Jones for the most finishes in UFC light heavyweight history behind only Glover Teixeira (11).

In other main card action, Marcin Prachnio returns from a 700-plus day layoff to face Mike Rodriguez in a light heavyweight bout, flyweight prospect Mariya Agapova fights Shana Dobson, and welterweights Daniel Rodriguez and Dwight Grant collide after both men lost their opponents at the last minute.

What: UFC on ESPN 15

Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas

When: Saturday, Aug. 22. The five-fight preliminary card begins at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+, with the five-fight main card starting at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN+.


Frankie Edgar vs. Pedro Munhoz

It’s time for Frankie Edgar to pick on someone his own size.

As poor as the results have been for Edgar in his recent losses, there was something poetic about him battling to the bitter end even as it was clear that he was not going to triumph over the giants of the featherweight division. His striking is as sharp as ever, his wrestling elite, and now without having to be overly concerned about any size and strength deficit, he should be dangerous at 135 pounds.

What effect will the extra weight cut, career wear-and-tear, and age (Edgar turns 39 in October) have on him is anybody’s guess. If he’s lost one step too many, he’ll be a sitting duck for Pedro Munhoz. Munhoz is not going to be content to outpoint Edgar. His goal will be to finish fast and he has the skills to not only hurt Edgar on the feet, but possibly become the first fighter to make Edgar tap out.

Munhoz has only fought a full five rounds once in his career and that could play a major factor if this bout doesn’t end in the first 10 minutes. Even though Edgar has lost his fair share of decisions, that championship experience goes a long way. Since I don’t see Munhoz finishing Edgar, then I have to go with the former UFC champ to get back in the win column.

Pick: Edgar

Ovince Saint Preux vs. Alonzo Menifield

This is a great bit of matchmaking here as we have one of the light heavyweight division’s savviest veterans facing one of its most promising prospects.

Yes, the Alonzo Menifield hype train hit a snag in his previous outing against Devin Clark as he was put into some situations that he was clearly unfamiliar with and paid the price for it. It happens. The good news for Menifield is that it was the kind of loss a fighter at this stage of his career should learn from. He remains a terrifying force in the cage, with deadly quick-strike power and natural finishing instincts.

Ovince Saint Preux has an excellent chin, as evidenced by him sharing the cage with countless elite 205ers throughout his career. He should be resilient enough to absorb a few shots from Menifield and smart enough to take the fight in a different direction should he start to take more than expected. Saint Preux can be inconsistent at times, but I firmly believe there are levels to this and I don’t know if Menifield is where he needs to be yet to knock off a high-grade gatekeeper like OSP.

There’s bigger things ahead for Menifield, but I think we see him fall for one of Saint Preux’s sneaky submissions this time.

Pick: Saint Preux

Marcin Prachnio vs. Mike Rodriguez

Neither Marcin Prachnio nor Mike Rodriguez have set the octagon ablaze with their performances thus far. However, there is huge potential for fireworks here as they both bring serious power and questionable defense into this matchup.

Look for Prachnio and Rodriguez to take a minute or two to measure each other before they start slinging leather. These two are fighting for their UFC lives here, so don’t expect strategy to play a major part in their approaches.

I’d be lying if I told you I knew what to expect here, so I’ll lean towards the slightly quicker Rodriguez and just assume I’m correct in guessing that someone gets finished.

Pick: Rodriguez

Mariya Agapova vs. Shana Dobson

Mariya Agapova got what she wanted, calling out Shana Dobson following her first UFC victory and getting the Ultimate Fighter 26 alumna for her next fight. Now she has to take care of business or risk having egg on her face.

While Dobson is no world beater, she’s tough as nails and has good physical tools for a flyweight. She won’t be out-muscled by the younger Agapova. That said, Agapova has the aggressiveness of a future title contender and I don’t know if Dobson has faced anyone quite as talented as her. She’ll try to keep Agapova off of her as long as she can, but it’s only a matter of time until Agapova asserts herself and puts Dobson down.

If Agapova was looking for a showcase fight, this should be one for her.

Pick: Agapova

Daniel Rodriguez vs. Dwight Grant

Daniel Rodriguez and Dwight Grant are going to need time to feel each other out given the fact that they’re dealing with last-second opponent switches. Add in the fact that Grant is competing for the first time in nearly 500 days and a tentative start is to be expected.

When the action gets going, expect these fighters to show off their skillful striking, with Rodriguez working to establish the jab and Grant countering with his impressive reach while also digging inside with body shots. They’re so evenly matched in the standup department it’s a wonder that this wasn’t the originally scheduled fight to begin with.

Rodriguez’s pressure game should give him the advantage here as Grant has shown he can be too tentative at times looking for the perfect moment to strike. That’s a great strategy when facing a reckless opponent, but Rodriguez has the fundamentals to match Grant counter for counter and feint for feint.

This one goes the distance, with Rodriguez having his hand raised at the end.

Pick: Rodriguez

Preliminaries

Amanda Lemos def. Mizuki Inoue

Austin Hubbard def. Joe Solecki

Jordan Wright def. Ike Villanueva

Matthew Semelsberger def. Carlton Minus

Timur Valiev def. Trevin Jones

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