Fight Island is real and is happening this weekend.
UFC 251 takes place on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on July 11th with three title fights headlining the card. Before that happens though, the early prelims and prelims with host four bouts each.
Last time out for UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker, I selected 6/10 winning fighters in my predictions with one of those completely correct (winner, method, round). I’m confident I can improve on that this time round so lets start it off with the early prelims
Martin Day (8-3) vs Davey Grant (10-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Following his defeat on Dana White’s Contender Series, Martin Day went on a three-fight win streak to get into the UFC the hard way. In his debut he was defeated by Pingyuan Liu via a unanimous decision and he hasn’t fought since. His key weakness in that fight was his grappling, which ironically is his opponent’s strength at UFC 251. Davey ‘Dangerous’ Grant has 8 wins via submission in his career although none of those have come in the UFC. He won his last fight via split decision against Grigory Popov in November 2019. He comes into this fight as the underdog thanks to Day’s striking skills and good takedown defence but I think he could be successful. His conditioning was an issue in his last fight as he looked completely exhausted by the end of the third round, but should he secure one he should be able to get a submission victory.
PICK – Davey Grant via Submission, Round 2
Karol Rosa (12-3) vs Vanessa Melo (10-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
After two straight 3rd round stoppage wins, Karol Rosa made her UFC debut against Lara Procopio back in August 2019. She completely outclassed the Brazilian in that fight, out-striking her and landing over 170 significant strikes over three round. Vanessa Melo on the other hand has lost both of her UFC bouts, although both were short-notice fights and lost on the scorecards. Rosa is a training partner to Jessica Andrade and it’s clear to see why with her striking skills as they are. She carries more power and her output is phenomenal, as she landed 11.4 strikes per minute against Procopio. Melo is a good counter-striker but can be hit-and-miss with her accuracy which means the judges will see enough from Rosa to give her the win.
PICK – Karol Rosa via Unanimous Decision
Raulian Paiva (19-3) vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A 12-fight win streak for Raulian Paiva, including a show-stealing decision win in Dana White’s Contender Series saw the Brazilian native enter the UFC with a good reputation behind him. He lost his first fight via a split-decision to Kai Kara France before a strange fight against Rogerio Bontorin was called off in the first-round for a bad cut over his eye. He bounced back though with a win in his last scrap, defeating Mark De La Rosa with a beautiful knockout. Zhumagulov is making his UFC debut following a win over former UFC title challenger Ali Bagautinov in his last bout. He’s won his last four fights by decision and will be entering this fight looking to make a name for himself. Paiva will be a tough first fight for him however, with both fighters preferring to strike and Paiva having the slight edge. There is a big height discrepancy in this clash and Zhumagulov usually rushes in with volume to close the distance. This is something that Paiva is used to and will likely counter well. Paiva is more accurate and crisp striker but Zhumagulov loves a leg-kick and always swings haymakers that can catch the judges eye. It’ll likely be a close fight but Paiva’s greater accuracy should secure him the decision.
PICK – Raulian Paiva via Unanimous Decision
Marcin Tybura (18-6) vs Maxim Grishin (30-7-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A clash of of two veterans of the MMA world sees light heavyweight Maxim Grishin step up a weight division on one week’s notice against former heavyweight contender Marcin Tybura. Originally due to face Alexander Romanov, Tybura will have to have a complete change of game-plan for Grishin. Romanov is a power wrestler who works for the ground and pound while Grishin is a strong kicker with a solid right hand. While Tybura is a solid kickboxer himself, Grishin will have a speed advantage for sure. Tybura though will of course have a size and power advantage and I think it will prove too much for the Russian to withstand. While a decision is possible, I’m going to go with some excitement and pick the KO win for the Pole.
PICK – Marcin Tybura via TKO, 2nd Round