After a successful return to Fight Island last weekend for UFC 253, the women take over the island this weekend.
Holly Holm takes on Irene Aldana in the main event on a card with plenty of room to make new stars as lots of relatively unknown names make the cut for this one. With 11 fights in total on the card, I’ll look to have a much better weekend of picks this time around. I’ll go through the card in it’s entirety, starting with the prelims, and break down each fight and offer up my predictions.
Last weekend at UFC 253, I managed to get just 5/11 in total with only two perfect picks. It was comfortably the worst showing I’ve had while doing these picks.
Jessin Ayari (16-5) vs Luigi Vendramini (8-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting fight to open up the card as both fighters return to the UFC after two year lay-offs. Ayari has lost his last two bouts, being beaten comfortably via unanimous decision to both Stevie Ray and Darren Till while Vendramini was 8-0 coming into the UFC before taking a short-notice fight on his debut up at welterweight and being KO’d in the second round by Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos. Ayari is a karate-style striker who keeps the distance well and does have a nice pop to his shots, while Vendramini is a wrestler mostly who has good submission skills on the ground. Ayari is the bigger man physically but it’s really a fight with one of two outcomes. If Ayari can keep the fight on the feet, he should be able to out-strike his opponent relatively comfortably to a decision win. If Vendramini can score a takedown, he should be able to finish it on the ground pretty quickly. Due to the size advantage I mentioned though, I think Ayari can keep away and land enough to get his first win since 2016.
PICK – Jessin Ayari via Unanimous Decision
Casey Kenney (14-2-1) vs Heili Alateng (14-7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun fight in the bantamweight division as two guys looking to break into the top 15 face off. Kenney is 3-1 in the UFC, with his sole defeat coming to ‘The Machine’ Merab Dvalishvili but he bounced back with a submission win over Louis Smolka last time out. Alateng is on a four-fight win streak coming into this one, including a split decision win over Ryan Benoit last time out. Alateng has got heavy hands but a reluctance to throw them as much as he should, while Kenney is comfortable wherever the fight goes as a true all-rounder. He focuses that little bit more on his wrestling than Alateng and when ‘The Mongolian Knight’ can’t get the knockout with one punch, he tends to grapple too. That should make for an exciting opening round but after that, Kenney should be able to control the grappling exchanges with his superior wrestling skills and grind out a decision win.
PICK – Casey Kenney via Unanimous Decision
Loma Lookboonmee (4-2) vs Jinh Yu Frey (9-5) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A fight in the lightest weight-class in the company between two women who are undersized for the division. Loma Lookboonmee is a tremendous Muay-Thai fighter who’s an active striker with great punches and kicks but lost last time out to Angela Hill. Frey is also a clinch fighter with better wrestling, but her output is questionable as she showed when she got beaten by Kay Hansen in June. She has a height and reach advantage but I can’t see her using it well enough to keep the Thai fighter away from her. I think Lookboonmee should be able to quite comfortably strike her way to a decision win to get herself back into the win column.
PICK – Loma Lookboonmee via Unanimous Decision
Jordan Williams (9-3 1NC) vs Nassourdine Imavov (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very interesting fight here between two undersized middleweight fighters as Jordan Williams looks to ride the wave of his Contender Series win just two weeks ago into this one against Imavov on a five-fight win streak. Williams got a knockout win against Gregory Rodrigues on the Contender Series but the fight was originally supposed to be Rodrigues vs Imavov before the Frenchman pulled out. Williams stepped in for his third appearance on the show after having his initial win overturned for a positive marijuana test and then losing a split decision the second time around. Imavov hasn’t fought since December 2019 but moves up from welterweight to step into the octagon for the first time. Williams is a powerhouse, who walks forward and is happy to take a shot to give one back. Imavov has the speed advantage but doesn’t really have the power to put Williams’ lights out for me. It should be a fun striking match and if Williams can land big, he can end it. For my money though, Imavov will be able to avoid the heavier shots and strike his way to a decision win.
PICK – Nassourdine Imavov via Unanimous Decision
Josh Culibao (8-1) vs Charles Jourdain (10-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fight that for me is arguably the biggest lock of the night. Josh Culibao has got one previous fight in the UFC, where he stepped in on late notice to fight up a weight class against one of the divisions bigger men in Jalin Turner and he got expectedly battered. He returns to his natural weight division now to take on ‘Air’ Jourdain who looks to bounce back from defeat to Andre Fili last time out in a split decision. Prior to that, Jourdain showed the crazy power he possesses with a fight of the night performance against Doo Ho Choi in Korea. Culibao is good on the feet but doesn’t have real power to cause Jourdain problems and his grappling skills are untested at this level. Jourdain for me has the advantage everywhere in the fight and if he isn’t able to put him away with the power, he should do more than enough to get a decision.
PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 2
Carlos Condit (30-13) vs Court McGee (19-9) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Once upon a time Carlos Condit was one of the most feared welterweights on the planet but he’s now on a five-fight losing streak with no wins since 2015. He takes on Court McGee who is 1-4 in his last five fights too, making this a battle to stay in the company most likely. Condit has decided that when he gets taken down his best bet is now to fight from his back, despite having not submitted anyone for over 12 years. Against McGee, it just seems like a bad idea. ‘The Crusher’ is a good wrestler and more than comfortable in top position, so with that being said it’s hard to see this fight going any other way than towards him. 13 of his last 14 fights have gone the distance, so I expect he’ll take the win via the judges once again.
PICK – Court McGee via Unanimous Decision