The biggest fight in heavyweight history is finally here as UFC 252 pulls into the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this weekend.
With Daniel Cormier making the final walk of his career as he looks to reclaim the heavyweight gold against Stipe Miocic, the UFC has filled the undercard with prospects and build-em-up fights rather than stacking the card. There are plenty of good fights on the night and I’ll break them down now, starting with the prelims.
Last time out, I got 11/12 picks right with 4/11 being perfect picks (winner, round, method) to have a great night. You can see those picks here (main card/prelims). I’ll look to improve on that this time around with this round of predictions.
Kai Kamaka III (7-2) vs Tony Kelley (5-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fight put together on just three days notice, two fighters making their UFC debuts will open the card. Kai Kamaka has won his last five in a row all by decision, including his most recent fight just two weeks ago. Kelley hasn’t fought in over a year, when he secured a first round submission win. This is a fight between two relative unknowns and there isn’t much tape on either of them. From the small bit I’ve seen, Kamaka likes to exchange in the pocket but doesn’t have any real power in his hands which explains why six of his seven wins have come via decision. Kamaka is in guaranteed fight shape and I think he’ll be able to get it done.
PICK – Kai Kamaka III via Unanimous Decision
Chris Daukaus (8-3) vs Parker Porter (9-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Another fight where two UFC debutants meet for the first time in the octagon, but this time in the heavyweight division. Daukaus makes his first appearance in just under a full year, where he knocked out Danny Holmes in just 90 seconds. Porter has fought two of the best big-men ever in Jon Jones and Gabriel Gonzaga (he lost both inside the distance) and is also making his first walk of 2020. Daukaus has smoother, crisper hands and while Porter is a clinch fighter. Daukaus has excellent knees that will negate that point of attack for Porter and and should be able to land enough blows to end this one inside the distance.
PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 2
Livinha Souza (13-2) vs Ashley Yoder (7-5) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Two ladies take the limelight in this one as both women look to bounce back from a loss in their last fight in the strawweight division. Livinha Souza has 8 submission wins on her record, with her top-notch judo game getting the fight down to the ground effectively. Yoder is an all-rounder but doesn’t do anything in particular exceptionally well. She’s 2-4 since coming to the UFC and Souza is likely to make that record worse. Souza has the advantage everywhere in this fight so as long as she turns up and performs well, she should win.
PICK – Livinha Souza via Unanimous Decision
T.J Brown (14-7) vs Danny Chavez (10-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
‘Downtown’ Brown makes his return to the UFC following a submission defeat to Jordan Griffin in his debut after a successful appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. He takes on Danny Chavez, who makes his organisation debut following three first-round stoppage wins in a row. There’s not much footage of Chavez around so a lot of this is guess-work, but Brown seems to be the more complete fighter. He is more comfortable on the ground and it’s not often that he doesn’t end a fight inside the distance. I think he should be able to secure an early takedown in this fight and land some flush ground and pound before sinking in a rear-naked choke.
PICK – T.J Brown via Submission, Round 2
Felice Herrig (14-8) vs Virna Jandiroba (15-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
‘Lil Bulldog’ Felice Herrig returns from a two-year layoff following an ACL injury to take on her kryptonite in Virna Jandiroba’s wrestling and submission game. Jandiroba is an exceptional wrestler, which is usually where Herrig wins most of her fights and ‘Carcara’ has a highly skilled submission game, seeing 12 of her 15 wins come via tapout. Herrig has an advantage on the feet but it isn’t her greatest strength anyway, but with two years out to battle through too I can’t see this going any other way. Jandiroba should be more than good enough to stop this inside the distance for back-to-back UFC wins.
PICK – Virna Jandiroba via Submission, Round 2
Jim Miller (32-14) vs Vinc Pichel (12-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The featured bout of the prelims showcases Jim Miller’s second fight in two months as he takes on Vinc Pichel. Both fighters beat Roosevelt Roberts in their last bout, with Miller landing the submission win in the first round and Pichel going the distance with him. Miller is a dangerous submission artist and has heavier hands, but he also has considerably more miles on the clock. Pichel is the superior wrestler and has a good gas tank too, plus he has the size and strength advantage in this fight. While Miller is the better finisher of the two, he’d need to catch Pichel with a wild punch or hope to at least knock Pichel off balance to get into a dominant position on the ground. ‘In Hell’ Pichel will be able to take the fight down almost at will if the striking game gets a bit too much for him to handle, and he is competent enough to avoid submission attempts to grind out a decision win.
PICK – Vinc Pichel via Unanimous Decision