The UFC returns to it’s Fight Night schedule this weekend following UFC 252 last week at the APEX Centre in Las Vegas.
11 fights await us on this card, as Frankie Edgar drops down to Bantamweight finally to take on Pedro Munhoz in the main event. Ovince Saint-Preux returns to light heavyweight in the co-main event for a clash with Contender Series contestant Alonzo Meinfield who steps in on short-notice.
Last week at UFC 242: Miocic vs Cormier, I correctly predicted 7/11 on the night with four of the seven completely perfect picks (winner, method, round). I’ll break down this card and try to do better on this occasion than the last.
Timur Valiev (16-2) vs Mark Striegl (18-2-0 1NC) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
After VISA issues put a hold on Valiev’s debut against Jamal Emmers last month, he now drops down to his natural weight-class to take on fellow debutant in Mark Striegl. Valiev is an excellent striker on the feet and is very, very high volume. Striegl is a wrestler who has 14 submission wins on his record but on the feet he struggles massively. Valiev’s a good scrambler on the ground and good enough to avoid the takedown and then dominate on the feet with his style.
PICK – Timur Valiev via Unanimous Decision
Matt Semelsberger (6-2) vs Carlton Minus (10-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Two strikers match up in this welterweight bout where both fighters make their UFC debuts. Carlton Minus’s only defeat was against ex-UFC contender Rick Story in a short notice bout, but prior to that he was dominant in his fights while winning the only fight since via unanimous decision this past February. Semelsberger is an aggressive brawler who’s record isn’t the most impressive but the power in his hands gives him an undeniable path to victory. Minus’ loss saw him be outwrestled and submitted, something that should not be a problem here. Semelsberger will look to close the distance with power punches and while Minus isn’t the most elusive, he should be able to see these punches coming and land counters to secure a comfortable decision win.
PICK – Carlton Minus via Unanimous Decision
Ike Villaneuva (16-10) vs Jordan Wright (10-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Ike Villaneuva returns to his natural weight class in this one after he was knocked out by Chase Sherman in his last bout at heavyweight. He was due to take on Jorge Gonzalez but injury means undefeated Jordan Wright steps in on less than a weeks notice. Wright was beaten on Dana Whites’ Contender Series in just 40 secs by Alexander Hernandez, but it was overturned to a no-contest and following that fight and an 18 month hiatus, Wright returned with a stunning second-round KO over jiu-jitsu specialist Gabriel Checco. Both guys will look to slug it out early and will believe their power is enough to put their opponent away, but Wright has a severe speed and athleticism advantage. If he can use that to get in quickly, land and step out he should be able to secure a knockout win.
PICK – Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 1
Dwight Grant (10-2) vs Calen Born (7-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Dwight Grant is a kung-fu fighter who isn’t fond on throwing volume with his hands despite possessing great power and skill. Born stepped into this fight on just two-days notice and has a good record for submissions with four of his seven wins coming via tap-out. I haven’t seen anything of Born in all honesty, but coming in on such short notice can’t be a good thing and with Grant’s power this is likely to be a short fight anyway. Grant is capable of staying on the feet for long enough to land some big blows and get the win.
PICK – Dwight Grant via Knockout, Round 1
Austin Hubbard (12-4) vs Joe Solecki (9-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A contender for fight of the night as two all-rounders come back into the lightweight scene for this fight. Austin Hubbard fought just two months ago, securing the stoppage win over Max Roshkopf who quit on his stall between rounds after a beating in the second while Joe Solecki is currently on a four-fight win streak. Hubbard is someone who prefers to strike but is comfortable on the ground, while Solecki is the opposite with a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Solecki has enough about him to cause Hubbard trouble on the feet, much like Roshkopf did last time out but with a full camp he won’t be worried about his cardio coming into question. If he does get tired, he has the jiu-jitsu to fall back on and I think that will get him the decision win.
PICK – Joe Solecki via Unanimous Decision
Mizuki Inoue (14-5) vs Amanda Lemos (7-1-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
The headline fight for the prelims sees Amanda Lemos looking for back-to-back wins in the UFC against Mizuki Inoue looking for the same. Inoue’s most recent defeat came in Invicta to Virna Jandiroba, who has taken the UFC by storm including a first-round submission win over Felice Herrig last weekend. Lemos isn’t an unknown by any means but she is definitely less well known than Inoue and that’s for good reason. Lemos has fought for just four minutes in the last three years following a USADA suspension and has now dropped from bantamweight down to strawweight. Inoue is as good a striker and has excellent submission skills, while Lemos has been known to struggle with her cardio in the past. The win in her last fight didn’t show whether she’d conquered those problems because it ended inside the opening round, but if she hasn’t then Inoue will take her into deep waters.
PICK – Mizuki Inoue via Unanimous Decision