The UFC returns this Saturday night with yet another solid card in the APEX Centre in Las Vegas as Curtis Blaydes takes on Alexander Volkov in the main event.
After we went 6/10 for picks last week (3 of them completely correct), I’ll try again this week to pick out the winners of each fight and how I expect the fight to go down.
Austin Hubbard (11-4) vs Max Rohskopf (5-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
‘Thud’ Hubbard will step into the Octagon for the fourth time this weekend with a 1-2 record currently, with both defeats coming to strong wrestlers. Rohskopf will make his UFC debut on just six-days notice, with a 5-0 record all coming by way of submission. A state wrestler, Rohskopf has all the ingredients to make this a winning start to his UFC career but Hubbard will be sure to make this his toughest test yet. PICK – Max Rohskopf via Unanimous Decision
Roxanne Modafferi (24-16) vs Lauren Murphy (12-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
‘The Happy Warrior’ Modafferi shocked the MMA world in her last outing, completely outclassing rising prospect Maycee Barber. She used her dirty boxing incredibly well before securing positions on the ground and laying vicious ground and pound. She’s arguably got the best top-game in the division behind Valentina Shevchenko, but her inconsistency will forever hold her back. Murphy is currently on a two-fight win streak, and will be looking to win 3 in a row for the first time since 2013. She’s got an impressive 8 KO wins from 12 fights so clearly carries power in her hands. It will be a close fight between the two and no result would particularly surprise me, but I think ‘Lucky’ has the advantage on the feet and a slight advantage in the clinch, so she should take a decision win. PICK – Lauren Murphy via Unanimous Decision
Frank Camacho (22-8) vs Justin Jaynes (15-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Another short-notice match up on the card as Jaynes steps in on two-days notice for this fight. Jaynes is making his UFC debut on the back of four straight first-round wins including three stoppages. Camacho was supposed to fight Matt Frevola, but he was pulled out of the fight when his cornerman was diagnosed with coronavirus. Camacho is a man who is straight offence mentally. A solid striker, he has 17 career wins by KO but has lost three of his last four outings. He needs a win to get back-on-track and while this may be a more competitive fight with a full-on camp, Jaynes’ short-notice call-up could be decisive as the fight enters later rounds. PICK – Frank Camacho by TKO, Round 3
Cortney Casey (9-7) vs Gillian Robertson (7-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
After a first round submission win last month, ‘Cast Iron’ Casey is back in the Octagon. She caught Mara Borello in a beautiful armbar on the Harris vs Overeem card and has stepped in on short-notice to fight Robertson. ‘The Savage’ lost her last fight to Maycee Barber, but prior to that had won 5 of her last 6 (4-1 in the UFC). Her excellent grappling skills have seen her win 5 of her 7 wins come by submission and hasn’t gone to the judges since her defeat to Cynthia Calvillo back in 2016. While Casey is coming in on short-notice, she will be in fighting shape. That said, Robertson’s ability on the ground will surely be too much for her. Takedown defence has always been a chink in her armour and despite the defeat in her last outing, she should be confident enough to end this early. PICK – Gillian Robertson via Submission, Round 1
Marc-Andre Barriault (11-4) vs Oskar Piechota (11-3-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
As the big boys step into the Octagon in this encounter, Barriault is looking to end a three-fight skid in the UFC. He’s lost all his fights in the organisation so far and he’s coming up another fighter who has lost their last three. While Barriault is a stand-up fighter, with 8 of his 11 wins coming via KO, ‘Imadlo’ is a more well-rounded fighter who is happy to take it to the ground as his 5 submission wins show. He’s got elite jiu-jitsu skills and ‘Power Bar’ has struggled with staying up standing in the UFC. This could end in a quick submission win for the Pole and could signal the end of Barriault’s UFC career. PICK – Oskar Piechota via Submission, Round 1
Tecia Torres (10-5) vs Brianna Van Buren (9-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
One of the bigger names in the division, Torres is on one of the most un-worrying losing streaks in the companies history. She’s lost her last four fights, but all to current/future champions and then to one of the biggest prospects in the company. Decision defeats to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jessica Andrade and Weili Zhang were followed by a decision loss to Marina Rodriguez in August and she hasn’t fought since. Van Buren on the other hand is in the midst of a 6 fight win streak, including finishes in 3 of her last 6. She won her debut in the UFC with a hard fought decision over Livinha Souza, showing a great skillset that includes striking, takedowns and constant pressure. This fight could really go either way, but I’m going to go with the experience of Torres to find a way to get back in the win column. PICK – Tecia Torres via Unanimous Decision
Clay Guida (35-19) vs Bobby Green (24-10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fight between two Octagon veterans entering the twilight of their career, Guida enters the cage having lost 4 of his last 7. His last outing was a submission defeat to Jim Miller, in a fight that lasted less than a minute. Green comes in having won just 1 of his last 7 fights, losing his last two in a row. Despite the results, the fights were incredibly close and you could argue he won both too. ‘King’ has seen as 8 of his last 10 fights go the distance. This match-up is an odd one but Green certainly has the advantage. He’s the better boxer and has good ground defence, while Guida’s greatest strength is his submission game. His work ethic is unrivalled and despite Green’s advantages he often looks lethargic in his performance. If the fight becomes a stalemate which is tough to score, I expect Guida will take the decision based on that. PICK – Clay Guida via Split Decision
Jim Miller (31-14) vs Roosevelt Roberts (10-1) – (Catchweight/160lbs)
A wily veteran against one of the contestants from Dana White’s ‘Contender Series’. Miller is a crafty submission expert while Roberts has shown solid skills in all aspects of MMA. ‘A-10’ has 17 submission victories in his career but lost in his last bout to Scott Holtzman via a unanimous decision. Roberts has won his last two fights, including a submission win over Brok Weaver just three weeks ago. ‘The Predator’ is a keen grappler but carries power in his hands which is something that Miller will have to watch out for. While he will arguably have an advantage on the ground, Miller will need to overpower the younger and fitter Roberts to gain the position which I think he’ll struggle to do. PICK – Roosevelt Roberts via Unanimous Decision
Lyman Good (21-5) vs Belal Muhammad (16-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Another fight between a true veteran and un upcoming prospect but this time at welterweight. Lyman Good has seen it all in MMA and his record is very good. 11 KO wins from 14 stoppages shows you exactly where his strengths lie. A brutal jab is usually the beginning of the end for his opponents, as he throws plenty of combinations off the back of it. Muhammad though is a powerhouse in his own right. He’s a solid striker but he often leaves it too late to secure a stoppage, as his 11 decision wins show. He’s won 6 of his last 7 fights, with one stoppage, and bases him game massively off of his takedowns and cardio. If he can get Good to the ground, then the fight will stay there until he finishes it or the round ends. If Good can keep it standing, he could out-strike ‘Remember the Name’ for a full 15 minutes. I think Muhammad will be able to secure a takedown or two and do enough to secure the decision win with the judges. PICK – Belal Muhammad via Unanimous Decision
Raquel Pennington (10-8) vs Marion Reneau (9-5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
‘Rocky’ makes a return to the Octagon after a defeat in her last outing against Holly Holm. A solid boxer, Pennington has lost 3 of her last 4 including her world title fight against the GOAT Amanda Nunes. Her toughness and cardio has seen her go to a decision in 12 of her 18 career bouts. Reneau on the other hand is a finishing machine. ‘The Belizean Bruiser’ has finished 8 of her 9 victories, with 5 KO’s and 3 submissions on her record while she’s never been finished in her career either. She has lost her last two bouts though. At 42 years old, Reneau is in the twilight of her career now and Pennington will be looking to get back into the win column. She’s better on the feet and more than capable of avoiding the ground battle against a dangerous jiu-jitsu grappler and she’ll take home the win in a not-so entertaining fight. PICK – Raquel Pennington via Unanimous Decision
Shane Burgos (13-1) vs Josh Emmett (15-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
In one of the best fights on the card, these two ranked featherweights will go head to head in battle for a potential Top 5 opponent in their next fight. Emmett is coming in on the back of two straight wins by knockout, while Burgos has won his last three with two stoppage victories. Burgos is arguably more well-rounded of the two but he doesn’t really possess that one-punch knockout power Emmett does. His footwork and leg-kicking game are solid but with Emmett’s wrestling background he risks being put on his back if one of those get caught. Emmet’s age could also be a factor, although his conditioning is exceptional. A fight that could literally end in the blink of an eye, but I think Burgos will stay patient and avoid the big punch Emmett looks for. A technical win is incoming for Burgos if you ask me. PICK – Shane Burgos via Unanimous Decision
Curtis Blaydes (13-2) vs Alexander Volkov (31-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The ultimate wrestler vs striker fight in this one, as ‘Razor’ takes on ‘Drago’ in the main event. Blaydes has been on a tear in recent years, losing only to Francis Ngannou twice while dominating everyone else. He holds the record for the most takedowns in heavyweight history, with 10 of his 13 wins coming by knockout.
Volkov is a big, strong striker who has knockout power for days. The Russian has 20 knockout wins on his record and at 6ft 7′ possesses a reach advantage over most of his opponents. He’s won 7 of his last 8 fights, with his only defeat coming in the closing seconds against Derrick Lewis in a fight he dominated for 3 rounds.
Blaydes has plenty of power in the stand-up game so won’t be afraid to exchange with Volkov, but ‘Drago’ will not want to get into a wrestling match with his opponent. If Blaydes can get this to the ground then I expect him to get a finish, like he has done against most of his other opponents. If Volkov can rush him like Ngannou did and catch him early he’ll have a chance. The longer this fight goes, the more chance Blaydes has of getting it to the ground which means he’ll take home the win. PICK – Curtis Blaydes via Technical Knockout, Round 2