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.
I picked the prelims already, which you can see here.
Magomed Ankalaev (13-1) vs Ion Cutelaba (15-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
The first time these two fought each other was one of the strangest fights in UFC history. Cutelaba came out super aggressive and nearly came to blows in the octagon with Ankalaev before the fight even started, before employing a “drunken master” strategy where he acted hurt when getting hit to egg Ankalaev on. It backfired though when the referee stepped in insanely early and handed Ankalaev a TKO win. The fight has been rescheduled three times since but fallen apart due to COVID-19 but is now finally set to happen. Realistically, Ankalaev is the better fighter. Both are strong wrestlers with powerful strikes but the Russian mixes his strikes up better with kicks too and his defence is much better. Cutelaba’s best chance is to hang in there until Ankalaev gets tired, or he lands a big punch.
PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 1
Ricardo Lamas (19-8) vs Bill Algeo (13-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
The legend that is Ricardo Lamas was supposed to take on Uriah Hall this week but with that falling apart, it’s UFC debutant Algeo who he’ll come up against instead. Algeo is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who’s sole aim in every fight is to get the fight to the ground, take his opponents back and strangle them. Lamas is a veteran who knows how to cope against all types of threats, but is on a 1-3 streak currently. He is a range fighter on the feet but if the fight goes to the ground Lamas has some of the best ground and pound in the game. I think it’s likely that this fight ends up with Lamas in top control landing shots with Algeo looking for a sweep and submission. Without a full camp though, ‘The Bully’ should be able to dominate his way to a comfortable decision win.
PICK – Ricardo Lamas via Unanimous Decision
Alexa Grasso (11-3) vs Ji Yeon Kim (9-2-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An interesting bout here between a former strawweight and a former bantamweight. Alexa Grasso is a fantastic boxer who has spent her entire career at 115lbs up to now. She’s struggled in the past against wrestlers and grapplers, but won’t have to worry about that against the bigger opponent in Kim. Both women are strikers first but with Grasso being at her more natural weight class for this fight, I expect her to be able to be quicker and with the more naturally heavy hands she should land the bigger shots throughout. The size discrepancy could potentially be a problem but Kim is likely to suffer in the cardio battle too, so Grasso should be able to get back in the win column.
PICK – Alex Grasso via Unanimous Decision
Robbie Lawler (28-14) vs Neil Magny (23-7) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
The fight of the night in the co-main event of the night. Robbie Lawler steps in on short-notice to take on Neil Magny after Geoff Neal dropped out injured. Lawler is known for his violent style, in which he steps forward and goes for the kill at all times. He’s not fought since he was dismantled by Colby Covington just over a year ago. Magny is a rangy striker who has won his last two fights against Anthony Rocco Martin and Jingliang Li via decision. He used his footwork well and his karate style to counter strike and avoid any problems. Magny will have a 6 inch reach advantage and therefore will be able to implement his favoured style well, which has me leaning in his favour. Lawler has incredible power and wrestling skills though, so it’s not a sure-fire pick but I’ll go with my head and pick Magny via decision.
PICK – Neil Magny via Unanimous Decision
Anthony Smith (33-15) vs Aleksandar Rakic (12-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A firework in the light heavyweight division as former title challenger ‘Lionheart’ Smith takes on top prospect ‘Rocket’ in a fight that could determine who the first challenger to the soon-to-be-crowned new champion is. Smith went on a tear through the division beating legends Shogun Rua and Rashad Evans then Volkan Oezdemir before losing his title shot to Jon Jones. He bounced back from that by submitting Alexander Gustafsson in Stockholm but was then dismantled by Glover Teixiera in May. Rakic was on a 12 fight win streak including a violent first-round head-kick knockout of Jimi Manuwa before he was beaten by Oezdemir back in December. Both men are violent strikers with one punch power, but Smith is a talented grappler too which often gets overlooked. This main event is just three rounds, so cardio shouldn’t come into the equation so it’s all about who can land the bigger shots to catch the eye of the judges. It’s unlikely to get to the ground but just in case it does, I’m going with Smith to shut down the prospect and keep himself in the top of the division.
PICK – Anthony Smith via Split Decision