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. I have already made my picks for the prelims here, so lets break down the main card now.
Beneil Dariush (18-4-1) vs Scott Holtzmann (14-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A four-fight win streak for Dariush has seen him finish his last three opponents in a row and is now matched up with Holtzmann who has won two in a row but is entering the twilight of his career now at 36 years old. Dariush is largely a ground grappler, he’ll wrestle you down and then with his top control wear you down and submit you, while Holtzmann is a power puncher who looks to set up his hard punches with exchanges in the pocket. Dariush’s biggest flaw though is his durability against power punches, which opens up the possibility of a shock in this bout. ‘Hot Sauce’ will need to avoid being taken down early or he could be in trouble since he has big issues with getting up off his back. If he can avoid that then he has a chance, but in reality I don’t think he can avoid it.
PICK – Beneil Dariush via Submission, Round 1
Yana Kunitskaya (12-5) vs Julija Stoliarenko (9-4-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The reincarnation of Ronda Rousey has arrived in the UFC as Julija Stoliarenko makes her debut against former featherweight title challenger Yana Kunitskaya. Stoliarenko has 9 professional wins, with 8 by submission and all of those by armbar. Kunitskaya took on Cyborg in her debut but since moving back to her natural weight class has been more impressive, winning two in a row before being KO’d by Aspen Ladd in her last fight. Stoliarenko is a brown-belt in jiu-jitsu but also a Lethwei champion, meaning she absolutely knows how to strike. Kunitskaya is a world class kickboxer though and will be by far and away the best fighter that Stoliarenko has ever come up against. It’s because of that gap in competition that I think ‘Foxy’ will be able to get the win using her superior striking ability to maintain distance and out-point her opponent.
PICK – Yana Kunitskaya via Unanimous Decision
Darren Stewart (11-5) vs Maki Pitolo (13-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
London born and bred, Stewart returns to the Octagon for the first time since his defeat to Bartosz Fabinski back in March on a Cage Warriors card following UFC London’s cancellation. Maki Pitolo has won four of his last five fights with all coming via finishes. Stewart is a straight up knockout artist, but his UFC record is poor at 4-5-1 since his debut in 2016. Both men like to exchange at close distance, with Pitolo loving to rip body shots while Stewart prefers to use the point of his elbow to punish his opponents. Overall, this fight will be about who is more durable and considering Stewart has never been KO’d before I think he’ll be able to take the win.
PICK – Darren Stewart via Knockout, Round 2
Chris Weidman (14-5) vs Omari Akhmedov (20-4-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Former middleweight champion Chris Weidman is desperate to snap his losing run as he has lost five of his last 6 bouts coming into this, being knocked out every time. Akhmedov is unbeaten in his last six fights, after beating Ian Heinisch in his last outing. All of his those fights have gone the distance and I can’t see this one ending early either. Weidman is a world class wrestler with legit jiu-jitsu skills and heavy hands but his confidence has truly suffered since losing his world title back in 2015. He tried to move up to light-heavyweight most recently but was knocked out in the first round by Dominick Reyes and has now come back down to his natural weight class for this bout. Akhmedov is a good all-round fighter but Weidman should be able to get him down and keep him there with grinding ground-and-pound to snap his run and get back in the win column.
PICK – Chris Weidman via Unanimous Decision
Derrick Lewis (23-7) vs Alexei Oleinik (59-13-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Knockout artist vs submission expert. This is a war about whether or not someone can get the fight where they want it to be. Lewis has won 18 of his 23 victories via knockout, while Oleinik has 46 submission wins from 59 wins. Oleinik has a grinding style where he marches forward with a not-so-great guard as he usually eats punches on his way in for a clinch and takedown. If he does that against Lewis, he’s getting knocked out. In fairness, I think he’s getting knocked out regardless but he definitely has a path to victory in this fight. His grappling skills are among the best in the UFC and he’s dangerous from top or bottom position. If he tries to set up submissions from the bottom though, Lewis has a nasty ground and pound game that could put to an end any plans Oleinik has. Overall, Lewis’ path to victory via knockout is far wider than Oleinik’s via submission and that’s the reason for my pick.
PICK – Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2