ESPN+ 17: Rodriguez vs. Stephens

Preview and Predictions for UFC on ESPN+ 17: Rodriguez vs. Stephens By Danny Rourke and Darell Garner

The UFC travels to Mexico City 🇲🇽 this week for UFC on ESPN+ 17: Rodriguez vs. Stephens. The entire UFC Mexico City card will stream on the ESPN+ Network, and your start times are as follows:
Prelims          ESPN+   5:00PM/ETMain Card     ESPN+   8:00PM/ET
UFC Mexico City Main Card Predictions
Martin Bravo (-110) vs. Steven Peterson (-110)
“El Toro” Martin Bravo (11-2-0) and gritty journeyman Steven “Ocho” Peterson (17-9-0) will be trying to get the monkey off their back as both fighters aim to end two fight losing skids as  they clash in a Featherweight matchup. Even though he is coming off of losses to Alex Caceres and Luis Pena, and has a 1-3 UFC record, Steven Peterson puts on a show, and leaves it all in there every time he steps in the cage. Martin Bravo would like to get some redemption in Mexico City. Bravo suffered the first loss of his professional career in Mexico City two years ago, getting knocked out by Humberto Bandenay in the First Round. Bravo was unable to rebound in his last Octagon appearance at the Ultimate Fighter Finale last summer, losing via Split Decision to Alex Caceres, an opponent that Peterson and Bravo now have a shared history with. This should be a good fight as both fighters could really use a win, that added ingredient usually results in some entertaining and memorable fights. 

Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction

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: Peterson via Decision 
D’Bo Pick: Bravo 
#10 Irene Aldana (-500) vs. Vanessa Melo (+350)
Irene Aldana (10-5-0) attempts to continue her ascent on the divisional rankings as she meets Vanessa “Ms. Simpatia” Melo (9-5-0) in a bout a Bantamweight. Vanessa Melo will be making her promotional debut against Aldana, having won her last four fights in a row competing on the Brazilian regional fight circuit. Vanessa Melo also holds a 2015 Decision win over the UFC’s “Meatball” Molly McCann on her resume.  Irene Aldana is coming off a narrow Split Decision loss in her last appearance in July against former title challenger Raquel Pennington at UFC San Antonio, and will be making a quick turnaround against Vanessa Melo. Aldana had previously won her last three bouts against Bethe Correia, Lucie Pudilova, and Talita Bernardo, and her confidence will only continue to grow if she can put together another strong outing against the newcomer Melo, who will have her hands full this weekend. 
Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction

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: Aldana via First Round Submission 
D’Bo Pick: Aldana via Decision 
#9 Brandon Moreno (+130) vs. Askar Askarov (-150)
“The Assassin Baby”  Brandon Moreno (15-5-0) hopes to begin his second stint in the UFC with a win as he battles undefeated Dagestani prospect Askar “The Bullet” Askarov (10-0-0) in a Flyweight bout. Askar Askarov has definitely earned the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage, going 10-0 in his first ten professional fights, with ten stoppage victories. With those kind of results, and with his  ties training with Khabib Nurmagomedov’s  Fighting Eagle camp, it was only a matter of time before the Bullet would make his UFC debut. His debut opponent, Brandon Moreno should make a great dance partner. Moreno’s departure from the UFC didn’t last long. Who knows whether Brandon Moreno’s release last year came as a result of the intended removal of the Flyweight division before the organization had a change of heart and would keepthe Flyweight division around after Henry Cejudo narrowly defeated Demetrius Johnson , coincidently three months after Moreno suffered his second consecutive loss to Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Chile in May 2018. The Assassin Baby had one fight appearance with Legacy in June 2019, earning a victory over Maikal Perez via Fourth Round TKO. Shortly after Moreno resigned with the UFC picks up where he left off, maintaining the ninth position  in the Flyweight division rankings  heading into his clash with Askarov. Regardless of who wins, this one should be a barn burner and a Fight of the Night contender.  That is if the spicy  Main Event doesn’t the honors of course. 

Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction

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: Moreno via Decision 
D’Bo Pick: Moreno via First Round Submission 
#9 Alexa Grasso (-120) vs. #8 Carla Esparza (+100)
Alexa Grasso (11-2-0) will be looking to stay hot as she takes on the former inaugural UFC Strawweight Champion, Carla “The Cookie Monster” Esparza (14-6-0) in the UFC Mexico City Co-Main event. Since joining the promotion in 2016, Alexa Grasso has gone 3-2 alternating wins and losses and learning a lot along the way in her defeats to wrestling phenom Tatiana Suarez and veteran Felice Herrig. Grasso is coming off a Unanimous Decision win over former title challenger Karolina Kolwalkiewicz at UFC 238 in June in which Grasso looked her most confident and complete inside the Octagon to date. With a win against a former title challenger, Grasso hopes to string back to back UFC wins together for the first time in her career against former Strawweight title holder Carla Esparza, who is coming off of a Decision win over Virna Jandiroba in April. While Esparza has had some ups and downs since losing her title in 2015, this fight should be a great litmus test for Grasso and interesting to see who can put together consecutive wins and get themselves into the Strawweight title picture. 
Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction

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: Grasso via Second Round TKO 
D’Bo Pick:
MAIN EVENT 
#7 Yair Rodriguez (-120) vs. #8 Jeremy Stephens (-110)
 “El Pantera” Yair Rodriguez (11-2-0) returns to action in Mexico City to face the always game  “Lil Heathen” Jeremy Stephens (28-16-0) in what should be an exciting bout between these two ranked Featherweight contenders. Yair Rodriguez is back following his iconic last second knockout of the Korean Zombie last year at the UFC 25th Anniversary show in Denver, Colorado. The win over the Zombie was an epic and triumphant win for Rodriguez following a tumultuous period in regards to his place on the UFC roster following a lopsided loss to Frankie Edgar and coupled rumors about a fight with Zabit Magomedsharipov that never materialized and led to a soured relationship, for the time being. Well that all changed after El Pantera’s epic come from behind, last second KO of the Korean Zombie. Rodriguez is a star again,  and gets the opportunity to shine in the headliner against Stephens in his home country. While any fight against Stephens is no cake walk, El Pantera can enter that next level with another big win Saturday. Jeremy Stephens lost a Unanimous Decision to Zabit in his last Octagon appearance in March at UFC 235, Lil Heathens’ second straight defeat after Stephens was taken out by former Champ Jose Aldo by TKO (Body shot) at UFC Calgary in July 2018. Stephens was previously on a three fight win streak, so you can never sleep on the Lil Heathen. This one should be a war. 
Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction

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: Rodriguez via Third Round TKO
D’Bo Pick: Stephens via Fourth Round TKO
Next week the UFC heads to Copenhagen, Denmark 🇩🇰 for UFC on ESPN+ 18: Hermansson vs. Cannonier LIVE from the Royal Arena on Saturday, September 28. Share your thoughts and picks with us in the Comments section below and enjoy the fights!!

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