The UFC returns for the third straight weekend as they debut in a new city as the Octagon travels to Mexico for the third time. It will be UFC Fight Night 78, which will also serve as the finale for The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 when the UFC invades Monterrey for the first time this Saturday night. The main card airs on FS1 starting at 10 PM eastern time, with preliminary action kicking off on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 PM eastern time before moving over to FS1 at 8 PM eastern time. We will have coverage all weekend here.
The event will be headlined by a five-round welterweight bout as Neil Magny steps up, yet again, on short notice to take on Kelvin Gastelum, who looks to regain his traction in his return to the welterweight division. In the co-main event, it will be former featherweight title challenger Ricardo Lamas taking on the last man standing from the original TUF, Diego Sanchez. Also on the card is a potential flyweight title eliminator bout as Jussier Formiga takes on Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo. Let's take a closer look at the night's action and give you five storylines to keep an eye on during UFC Fight Night 78 on Saturday night.
1. Will Kelvin Gastelum get back on track in the welterweight division in the main event?
Kelvin Gastelum makes his return to the welterweight division in the main event of Saturday night's UFC Fight Night 78 event, his first fight back at 170 pounds since missing weight badly for his bout against Tyron Woodley at UFC 183 in January. Gastelum has fought since then, scoring a dominant TKO win over Nate Marquardt as a middleweight at UFC 188 in June, but pleaded his case to UFC management to go back down to 170 pounds. They're letting him, but another case of missing weight and he'll be done as a welterweight. Gastelum has had the issues making the welterweight limit, officially missing weight twice and coming close a couple of other times. He says he has the issues under control, but that truly remains to be seen. If he has those issues taken care of, at 24-years-old, Gastelum has the chance to become a very serious threat in the division.
Gastelum has just one loss in his career, to Woodley, but it was a close split decision loss that Gastelum almost won. He has scored eleven wins in his career, with eight coming by stoppage. He is the youngest winner of "The Ultimate Fighter" in show history, and is a huge prospect making his first main event appearance. His opponent, Neil Magny, is also making his first headline appearance as he fights for the fifth time this year, taking the fight on short notice as an injury replacement for Matt Brown. Magny is known as the man to call in the welterweight division to take a short-notice opportunity, as this will be his second straight year to fight five times. He won all five of his fights in 2014, and he has gone 3-1 in his four 2014 bouts. His lone loss over the past two calendar years came to Demian Maia at UFC 190 in August, a bout that Magny was outclassed in. For all of Magny's success over the past two years, he has only fought one fighter that was ranked at the time of the fight- Maia. Gastelum will be the second as Magny looks for his second straight win after defeating Erick Silva in August, just three weeks after his loss to Maia, in another bout he took on short notice.
Gastelum is a strong prospect and has the chance to be fighting for the title down the line if he can keep his weight issues in check. His size makes him better suited for the welterweight division, where he will be the relative same size as his opponents. It's important for him to keep his weight in check. As far as his fight against Magny, it will be an interesting test. Magny isn't a flashy fighter, but he gets the job done well. He has some decent power, but it has been showcased against lower-level competition. Magny will have a nine-inch reach advantage over Gastelum, which he will need to use to keep Gastelum on the outside. Gastelum is a solid wrestler and has some good power in his hands as well. Both men land a lot of strikes, and Gastelum eats a lot of punches. Neither man have gone 25 minutes. Gastelum, with the huge cut, may not have the energy to make it. Magny, with the short notice, may not either. This is a decent fight to make on short notice, but I like Gastelum to get the job done and move back up the rankings.
2. How much fight does Diego Sanchez have left?
And then there was one. Diego Sanchez is the last man standing in the UFC from the original cast of "The Ultimate Fighter" after the recent retirement of Mike Swick and the UFC departure of Josh Koscheck. Sanchez makes his long-awaited return on Saturday night in the co-main event, and in doing so, he will join another "TUF" alum, Kenny Florian, as a fighter to compete in four different weight classes in UFC competition as he makes the move to the featherweight division. It is an interesting time for a fighter to be dropping down with the IV ban, and with a long history of injuries, it is unsure how much fight Sanchez has left. He is 2-3 in his last five fights, but the two wins were split decisions that could've gone either way, so we are looking at a fighter that could very well have been on a five-fight losing skid. Sanchez is still only 33-years-old, but after having been with the UFC thru some 282 events, we may be seeing the end of the road for "The Nightmare".
Sanchez will take on former featherweight title challenger Ricardo Lamas, the fourth-ranked fighter at 145 pounds in the UFC. Lamas is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Chad Mendes in April, and is looking to erase the sting of his first stoppage loss inside the Octagon. It is a tough first outing for Sanchez at 145 pounds, but we are talking about one of the most experienced fighters in the UFC. Only a handful of fighters have had more time inside the Octagon than Sanchez, who has fought for a title and fought in a main event seven times, and has been in countless "Fight Of The Year" fights. Sanchez has a penchant for having extremely close fights, and most have gone his way. This will probably be another close fight as both land solid punches, and it will likely stay on the feet. It will be a chess match, but at this stage, Lamas is simply a better fighter. Unless we see the Diego Sanchez of old, it will be Lamas walking away with the win.
3. Who will secure the next title shot at 125 pounds when Jussier Formiga and Henry Cejudo square off?
For all intents and purposes, the flyweight bout between Jussier Formiga and Henry Cejudo at UFC Fight Night 78 on Saturday will determine the next challenger for UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson. That is definitely the case for Cejudo, who comes into the fight undefeated at 9-0 and has been being groomed for a title shot. Formiga has won three straight fights, and he isn't quite a 100% lock, but if he were to put a 1 in the loss column of Cejudo, you have to think he will be given a crack at Johnson despite having lost prior UFC bouts to Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, who have been frequent Johnson challengers in the short history of the UFC flyweight division. It will be an interesting battle on Saturday as it will be Formiga's grappling skills going against the Olympic wrestling game of Cejudo.
Cejudo is the most decorated wrestler in the UFC, having won an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. His striking has gotten better with every fight, and he hasn't seen much of a need to rely on his wrestling skill, though he has recently, to win fights as he has won them primarily on the feet. Formiga is very experienced on his feet, but is capable of being knocked out, and aside from a submission win off a headbutt over Scott Jorgensen, he hasn't shown the finishing capability in the Octagon. Cejudo hasn't finished an opponent either, but he has yet to lose a round in the UFC. Cejudo is wanting that crack at Johnson and the title shot, and if he keeps his weight issues in check, which he has since dropping back down, he may give Johnson the toughest test to date. Formiga is Cejudo's toughest foe, and while he has three straight wins, he hasn't quite lived up to expectations. He has fallen short against the elite competition, and this fight is shaping up for that to happen again. Look for Cejudo to cement his shot at the title.
4. Will Efrain Escudero make it three straight against Leandro Silva?
Efrain Escudero has done something that no other fighter in the history of the UFC has been able to do. He is the only fighter to ever win a season of "The Ultimate Fighter" to be cut and then brought back to the promotion. In fact, this is Escudero's third stint in the UFC. He won season eight of "TUF" but went just 3-2 in his first UFC stint, not a bad record by any means, but was cut after missing weight badly in his loss against Charles Oliveira. He was brought back in late 2011 as an injury replacement, but was cut again after two straight losses. He was brought back in 2014, and while he lost his return to Leonardo Santos, he has since won two straight to get himself back on track, and in his hopes, finally showing his potential in his third UFC stint.
It was almost five years between UFC wins for Escudero, but he goes into Saturday night against Leandro Silva looking for his first three-fight win streak inside the Octagon. Escudero's last win was a 54-second submission win over Drew Dober in June, and he went on to coach this season of "TUF: Latin America 2", and he will be one of the more popular fighters on the card. His opponent, Silva, should be on a three-fight win streak if not for an error by a referee that made his own win over Dober into a no contest, and he will be a tough test for Escudero. Escudero has some solid wrestling, but Silva is a good grappler. They are pretty even on the feet. Silva is a larger opponent and has used his strength to maintain top position in prior fights. Neither man is creeping up on being ranked in the division, but neither want to be in a position of being cut. I like Escudero to pull off a decision win.
5. Who is a fighter to keep an eye on during the rest of the card?
The card will feature the finals in the welterweight and lightweight tournaments coming off of "TUF: Latin America 2" when Erick Montano faces Enrique Marin in the welterweight finals, and Horacio Gutierrez takes on Enrique Barzola in the lightweight finals. Also on the card is a former winner of "TUF: Latin America" as Alejandro Perez, who won the first season in the bantamweight division, takes on UFC and WEC veteran Scott Jorgensen, who is looking to get back on track after a disappointing 4-7 tenure during his time with the UFC. In featherweight action, Gabriel Benitez will take on Team Alpha Male member Andre Fili. In the opening bout of the night, it is two powerful Brazilian lightweights as Valmir Lazaro takes on Michel Prazeres.
We wanna keep our eye on the featured preliminary bout as Erik Perez returns from a long layoff to take on Taylor Lapilus. Perez was thought to become the Mexican star the UFC was looking for, but he hasn't quite lived up to recent expectations. After winning eight straight fights, including his first three UFC bouts. He has since lost two of his last three bouts, and he hasn't fought since a June 2014 loss to Bryan Caraway. He gets a tough foe in Lapilus, who is an interesting prospect at 135 pounds. Lapilus is 10-1 in his career and has won five straight fights, including his last two in the UFC. He hasn't fought someone at the level of Perez, who had been ranked in the top 15 before the bout of inactivity. It is a tough test for both men as Perez looks to bounce back and Laplius looks to score the biggest win of his career. We will keep an eye on that bout for sure.
Full UFC Fight Night 78 Fight Card, Betting Odds & Predictions
MAIN CARD (FS1- 10 PM ET/7 PM PT)
Welterweights: (#13) Neil Magny vs. (#15) Kelvin Gastelum
Betting Odds: Magny (+230), Gastelum (-270)
Prediction: Gastelum by decision
Featherweights: (#4) Ricardo Lamas vs. Diego Sanchez
Betting Odds: Lamas (-590), Sanchez (+445)
Prediction: Lamas by decision
Flyweights: (#3) Jussier Formiga vs. (#5) Henry Cejudo
Betting Odds: Formiga (+400), Cejudo (-500)
Prediction: Cejudo by decision
TUF: Latin America 2 Welterweight Finals: Erick Montano vs. Enrique Marin
Betting Odds: Montano (+160), Marin (-185)
Prediction: Montano by submission in round 1
TUF: Latin America 2 Lightweight Finals: Horacio Gutierrez vs. Enrique Barzola
Betting Odds: Gutierrez (-150), Barzola (+130)
Prediction: Gutierrez by knockout in round 2
Lightweights: Efrain Escudero vs. Leandro Silva
Betting Odds: Escudero (+120), Silva (-140)
Prediction: Escudero by decision
PRELIMINARY CARD (FS1- 8 PM ET/5 PM PT)
Bantamweights: Erik Perez vs. Taylor Lapilus
Betting Odds: Perez (-125), Lapilus (+105)
Prediction: Perez by decision
Welterweights: Hector Urbina vs. Bartosz Fabinski
Betting Odds: Urbina (+165), Fabinski (-190)
Prediction: Urbina by submission in round 2
Bantamweights: Scott Jorgensen vs. Alejandro Perez
Betting Odds: Jorgensen (-145), Perez (+125)
Prediction: Jorgensen by decision
Featherweights: Gabriel Benitez vs. Andre Fili
Betting Odds: Benitez (+165), Fili (-190)
Prediction: Fili by submission in round 2
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC FIGHT PASS- 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT)
Welterweights: Vernon Ramos vs. Alvaro Herrera
Betting Odds: Ramos (-165), Herrera (+145)
Prediction: Ramos by knockout in round 1
Lightweights: Cesar Arzamendia vs. Polo Reyes
Betting Odds: Arzamendia (-190), Reyes (+165)
Prediction: Arzamendia by decision
Lightweights: Valmir Lazaro vs. Michel Prazeres
Betting Odds: Lazaro (+105), Prazeres (-125)
Prediction: Lazaro by decision