A three round main event on top of a decent looking card is what the UFC have put together for the fans this weekend, as they return for yet another Fight Night card at the APEX in Las Vegas.
Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith takes on prospect Aleksandar Rakic in the light-heavyweight division, with all eyes on the top of the division following Jon Jones vacating the belt for a move up to heavyweight.
With 11 fights on the night including a stacked main card considering it’s a Fight Night event, i’ll break down the card and pick my winners for each fight. Last weekend’s card chopped and changed so much between the predictions being written up and the card happening (Thurs-Sat) that we didn’t keep track of the picks. Hopefully no such thing will happen here.
Christian Aguilera (14-6) vs Sean Brady (12-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
After an impressive short notice win back in June, Christian Aguilera gets another shot in the UFC this time against undefeated Sean Brady. Aguilera is on a three-fight win streak heading into this bout with two knockout wins, while Brady has won four of his last five by unanimous decision. Aguilera has great power in his hands but other than that doesn’t hold any substantial advantages in this fight. Brady is a Gracie-black belt in jiu-jitsu but also comfortable on the feet and he’ll be more of an issue than Anthony Ivy was wherever the fight ends up. He should be able to control the bout on the feet and on the floor and he’ll scoop another decision win.
PICK – Sean Brady via Unanimous Decision
Emily Whitmire (4-3) vs Polyana Viana (10-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
After fighting in the Ultimate Fighter house, ‘Spitfire’ has gone 2-2 in her last four fights including submission defeats to Gillian Robertson and then Amanda Ribas in her last outing. She takes on Polyana Viana who has lost her last three in a row after winning her UFC debut. This will be her first fight in over a year. Whitmire has struggled against grapplers and wrestlers in almost all of her fights and she comes up against a submission expert in Viana. Despite her recent poor run, Viana has all the skills and strengths to be able to secure a tap in this fight. She had the same advantages in her last fights though and failed, so this is far from a guaranteed pick but I expect her to snap her streak.
PICK – Polyana Viana via Submission, Round 1
Alex Caceres (16-12) vs Austin Springer (12-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Caceres will enter the Octagon this Saturday night against a third scheduled opponent of fight week after original opponent Giga Chikadze dropped out for undisclosed reasons before initial replacement Kevin Croom also dropped out. He now takes on Springer, who’s holds a win over Chikadze on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2018. Despite a late submission win in that fight, he didn’t earn a contract and has one win since, last October. Caceres has back-to-back wins for the first time in four years after victories over Steven Peterson and Chase Hooper. Caceres has a great ground game and good submission skills but Springer is stronger on the feet as his 7 KO wins show. It’s sure to be a tight affair but with such short notice for the fight, Caceres should be able to scrape a close decision win.
PICK – Alex Caceres via Unanimous Decision
Zak Cummings (23-7) vs Alessio Di Chirico (12-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Most of Cummings’ career so far in the UFC has been at welterweight, but he takes on ‘Manzo’ at 185lbs in this fight as he looks to take his UFC record to 9-4. Di Chirico is 3-4 in the UFC coming into this fight, having lost his last two fights via decision to Kevin Holland and Makhmud Muradov. Cummings, despite being a slightly smaller guy in the fight, he has the more powerful hands, the better wrestling and the more prominent submission game with with 12 of his 23 wins coming via tap-out. He should be able to control this bout regardless of where it ends up and secure a relatively easy decision win.
PICK – Zak Cummings via Unanimous Decision
Hannah Cifers (10-6) vs Mallory Martin (6-3) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
After losing her UFC debut to Maycee Barber, Cifers went on to win her next two via decision before being finished in her next three fights against Angela Hill, Mackenzie Dern and Mariya Agapova. She steps into the octagon to take on Mallory Martin who had won five in a row before a submission defeat in her UFC debut to submission expert Virna Jandiroba back in December. Cifers has a big right-hand but other than that, Martin dominates her. She’s got a reach and height advantage over Cifers plus a much stronger wrestling game. She should be able to just overpower Cifers to the ground and beat her down using ground and pound for a finish or a very wide decision win.
PICK – Mallory Martin via Knockout, Round 2
Impa Kasanganay (7-0) vs Maki Pitolo (13-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
After being submitted in the first round by British fighter Darren Stewart earlier this month, Maki Pitolo returns to the octagon to take on a Contender Series winner with an even shorter turnaround on fights. Kasanganay beat Anthony Adams via decision just 18 days prior to this Saturday night and will come in as an underdog in his UFC debut. Pitolo is a bruiser who has great boxing and enough power to finish Justin Sumter with body shots. Kasanganay is a wrestler who seems to take big shots before eventually feeling his way into a fight but is also capable on the feet. The big difference for me here is that Pitolo will comfortably be the best fighter Kasanganay has ever fought. The waiver is that both are coming off quick turnarounds but one off a win and one off a stoppage defeat. It’s a tough fight to pick and could be fight of the night, but I’m leaning towards Pitolo to grind out a decision.
PICK – Maki Pitolo via Unanimous Decision