A bizarre UFC card last weekend saw just 8 fights take place after a number of withdrawals in the build-up, including one on the night.
We’ll be looking for a more action-packed card this time around when Derrick Lewis meets Alexei Oleinik in the main event in the heavyweight division. Prior to the headliner though, there are 11 other fights scheduled for the card including seven on the prelims and five on the main card.
I got 5/8 picks right last weekend with 2/5 being completely correct (winner, round, method). Not the best but in a card that got chopped up so much in the build-up I’m not too worried overall. Hopefully I can do better this time around though.
Irwin Rivera (9-5) vs Ali Al-Qaisi (8-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
After a debut loss in the UFC to Giga Chikadze, Irwin Rivera comes back down to his natural weight looking for his first win in the company against debutant Ali Al-Qaisi. ‘The Royal Fighter’ comes in on a five-fight win streak including three first round submission wins. Rivera is a good offensive fighter with good power in his hands but still raw defensively, especially when facing takedowns, while Al-Qaisi is pretty one dimensional in that he wants to take you down and submit you. On paper it seems like a good match up for Al-Qaisi, but the problem here is that his level is not the highest. Rivera is a very good scrambler and while he’s not the best at stopping the takedown, he’s good at getting back to his feet. Rivera may get taken down but any time he’s on his feet he’s dangerous enough to stop Al-Qaisi and I think that’s what happens here.
PICK – Irwin Rivera via Knockout, Round 3
Youssef Zalal (9-2) vs Peter Barrett (11-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A short-notice favourite is rare, but Youssef Zalal has every right to be in that category for this fight. He’s currently 2-0 in the Octagon following wins over Austin Lingo and Jordan Griffin, while ‘Slippery Pete’ makes his UFC debut following a win on Dana White’s Contender Series almost a year ago. Zalal has a complete advantage in every aspect of MMA in this bout and should be able to dominate wherever it ends up. Barrett is a hittable target with dodgy takedown defence but he has got power to put people away as his 7 knockout wins show. In this instance though, I don’t think he’ll be able to get near enough to ‘The Moroccan Devil’ to land that big punch. Zalal should be able to maintain distance and control the fight for a win.
PICK – Youssef Zalal via Unanimous Decision
Justin Jaynes (16-4) vs Gavin Tucker (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Five fight win streak vs 1 loss ever, this fight could be the fight of the night. Gavin Tucker destroyed Sam Sicilia in his UFC debut back in 2017 before being destroyed himself in his next fight against Rick Glenn. He took two years out before his submission win over Seung Woo Choo and now returns after a year out. Jaynes made his UFC just over a month ago when he KO’d UFC vetera Frank Camacho after just 41 seconds. Jaynes isn’t naturally a 145lber and was fighting at 165lbs for that Camacho fight so I expect the weight cut will have some kind of effect on him. Add to that Tucker is very capable on the feet and a solid wrestler himself, so I think he’ll have the tools to keep Jaynes’ power at bay to secure a decision win.
PICK – Gavin Tucker via Unanimous Decision
Andrew Sanchez (11-5) vs Wellington Turman (16-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A former Ultimate Fighter winner against a big prospect at middleweight in what is an interesting bout. Sanchez has heavy hands and a great wrestling game, tools that should see him having a much better career than he’s had so far. He’s lost 3 of his last 5 in the UFC. Turman on the other hand is 1-1 in the UFC but has done nothing but impress. He stepped in on short notice and took Karl Roberson to a split decision that he lost, before controlling a win over Markus Perez. Turman is a grapple heavy fighter who looks for submissions to win the fight. Sanchez though has never been taken down in the UFC and the only issues he’s had in his defeats have come against volume strikers who outlast his poor cardio. He shouldn’t have that problem in this fight and should be able to overcome the young Turman for a win.
PICK – Andrew Sanchez vs Unanimous Decision
Nasrat Haqparast (11-3) vs Alex Munoz (6-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Baby Gastelum makes his return following a first-round knockout defeat back in January to Drew Dober. Prior to that, Haqparast had won his last three in impressive performances and was slowly moving up towards being ranked. Munoz is making his UFC debut in this fight but is highly thought of as the match up shows. He was scheduled to fight Luis Pena in February but pulled out with injury. This one could be a step too far for the Team Alpha Male fighter though. Haqparast has lethal striking and a steady wrestling game, while his conditioning has never caused him a problem. His defeat to Dober is no reason to write him off considering what Dober has done since too. Munoz will need to get an early takedown and grind through his opponent to be able to stay in the fight, but overall I think Haqparast will be able to outland Munoz and eventually be able to power through for the knockout win.
PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 3
Kevin Holland (17-5) vs Joaquin Buckley (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A late addition to the card as the UFC get Kevin Holland on a UFC card once again following his cancellation last weekend. He was supposed to fight Trevin Giles but he passed out moments before the walk-out, leaving the ‘Trailblazer’ without an opponent. His opponent makes his UFC debut in this one, but he fought just last weekend himself avenging one of his only two losses via a second round knockout. Holland has a huge height and reach advantage which will definitely help him in keeping Buckley’s power away from him and I think he’ll score the knockout win.
PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 2
Tim Means (29-12-1) vs Laureano Staropoli (9-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An interesting fight headlines the prelims of this card as veteran Tim Means takes on ‘El Matador’. Means has lost 5 of his last 8 fights, being finished 3 times in that period. His two most recent wins came via stoppage in the first round but neither of those fighters are with the UFC anymore. Staropoli won his first two fights in the UFC with comfortable decisions before losing to Muslim Salikhov back in October 2019. Despite being the more all-round fighter, Means’ last defeat was to a man that, on paper, he was much better than too. Staropoli’s takedown defence is somewhat of a weakness as he allowed Salikhov to take him down three times, so Means may look to use some wrestling in addition to his Muay-Thai. If he can use his reach advantage well he should get the win, while Staropoli will know that if he lands clean a few times he will hurt Means.
PICK – Laureano Staropoli via Knockout, Round 2
You can watch the early prelims of this card exclusively on UFC Fight Pass while UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Oleinik will air live on BT Sport this Saturday night, starting at midnight. The main card will start at 2am.
Do you agree with my picks for the prelims? Let me know.