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 around though. Following on from the early prelim predictions for UFC 251, we predict the Prelim fights here.
Leonardo Santos (17-4-1) vs Roman Bogatov (10-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Santos is a 40 year old UFC veteran, having never tasted defeat in his 7 fights with the organisation so far. On a five-fight win streak since his draw with Norman Parke, Santos has beaten Kevin Lee and Steven Ray via knockout in two of his last three outings. This is however only his second fight since 2016, with his last fight coming against Ray over a year ago. Roman Bogatov is making his UFC debut after winning and defending the M-1 Lightweight championship. His wrestling-heavy style is likely to play into Santos’ hands with the Brazilian holding a fearsome jiu-jitsu game, shown by his 9 submission wins. On the feet, Santos has shown he has power in recent fights but those fights were so long ago we have no idea if he still has it. His inactivity could be a real issue in this fight with the younger Bogatov’s style. I think Bogatov gets the takedowns he wants and it’s all about whether he can avoid being submitted by Santos. I think he’ll survive a few scares to take a decision win and remain unbeaten.
PICK – Roman Bogatov via Unanimous Decision
Makwan Amirkhani (15-4) vs Danny Henry (12-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
After smashing through his first two UFC opponents in less than two minutes combined, Amirkhani went on to win 5 of his first 6 fights with the company. His last fight however ended in defeat against Shane Burgos, who’s power was just too much for ‘Mr. Finland’ to deal with in the final round. Danny Henry entered the UFC limelight with two huge upset wins, overcoming a shaky start against Daniel Teymur to take the decision in his debut before an insane submission win over Hakeem Dawodu in just 39 seconds in his next fight. He was unable to continue his winning ways in his next fight, as Dan Ige forced him to tap in just 77 seconds via rear naked choke. Henry has shown that if he can overcome the early aggression of his opponent, that he is a problem on the feet. That means he needs to survive the onslaughts though. Amirkhani will look to start hard and fast and if he can secure a takedown with his strong wrestling skills, he has enough about him to secure a choke early. If not, Henry will look to power through and out-strike Amirkhani taking encouragement from how gassed he was against Burgos.
PICK – Makwan Amirkhani via Submission, Round 1
Elizeu Dos Santos (22-6) vs Muslim Salikhov (16-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
‘Capoeira’ Dos Santos went on a tear through the welterweight division, winning 7 in a row following a loss in his debut. His streak was cut when he was knocked out by Li Jingliang last August, but bounced back with a decision win over Alexey Kunchenko in March. Salikhov is on a three-fight win streak following his own UFC debut defeat, with two stoppage wins en route to this fight. Salikhov is an extremely technical kickboxer with 12 wins by way of KO on his record. While Dos Santos got the judges decision over Kunchenko, it was a contentious call and could easily have gone the other way. It was another example of his frantic approach being picked apart by the more technical striker. Salikhov falls into that category and thus will be expected to get the win here. While ‘Capoeira’ is a decent wrestler who isn’t afraid to go for a takedown, Salikhov showed in his last fight that he’s no slouch in that department either. I think the fight stays on the feet and the ‘King of Kung-Fu’ gets a stoppage win.
PICK – Muslim Salikhov via Knockout, Round 2
Volkan Oezdemir (17-4) vs Jiri Prochazka (26-3-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
‘No Time’ entered the UFC as if he had no time to wait, earning a decision win over Ovince Saint-Preux before knocking out Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa in a combined 70 seconds. That led to a title fight where he was completely out-classed by Daniel Cormier and it led to a downward spiral that saw him lose to Anthony Smith and Dominick Reyes too. He’s since bounced back from those three losses with wins over Illir Latifi and Aleksandar Rakic as he looks to get back into contention. Prochazka makes his UFC debut after clearing out the division in Rizin. His record of 11-1 in that promotion showed that he is no joke and 23 of his 26 wins coming by way of knockout shows where his strength lies. Volkan is the favourite but that might be because Prochazka is a more unknown name. It’s a much more even fight than the odds suggest. Prochazka has a deep gas tank and carries his power later into fights, something that Oezdemir struggles with sometimes. Oezdemir carries power too but this could be the start of a new star in the UFC making a name for himself.
PICK – Jiri Prochazka via Knockout, Round 3