A wild week surrounding this fight card will finally come to a head at the UFC Apex when former lightweight champions Rafael Dos Anjos takes on Paul Felder, who steps in on five days notice for this main event.
After Islam Makachev withdrew from the fight with injury, Felder stepped in from the commentary booth to put his gloves on once again with the hope that a big win on short notice can get him a top five opponent in the near future.
The fight will have 11 other fights on the card too, including Brendan Allen taking on Sean Strickland in a short-notice fight following his fight against Ian Heinisch falling through on fight night last week.
Last weekend, I correctly predicted 8/10 fights with three perfect picks for a pretty solid week of predictions. This week with 12 fights on the card, I’ll see if I can better that and continue with a pretty decent percentage.
Don’Tale Mayes (7-4) vs Roque Martinez (15-6-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Two big heavyweights coming off the back of defeats in the UFC looking to finally make their way onto the win column. Mayes is a power puncher who finally got a contract with a win in Dana White’s Contender Series at the third attempt last year before being submitted by Cyril Gane and Rodrigo Nascimento. Martinez made his short notice debut against Alexander Romanov back in September and was rag-dolled for two rounds before being choked out by the hugely impressive prospect. Both these guys are brawlers and Mayes has a huge eight inch height advantage and ten inch reach advantage, as well as more power. Martinez has the better technique but with such physical disadvantages, he eventually gets clipped and put out for a quick night.
PICK – Don’Tale Mayes via Knockout, Round 1
Tony Graveley (19-6) vs Geraldo De Freitas (12-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
After entering the UFC on an 11-1 streak thanks to a stoppage victory on Dana White’s Contender Series, Tony Graveley looks to get his first win in the organisation proper when he takes on Geraldo De Freitas. De Freitas himself entered the UFC having not lost since 2015 but was ultimately pipped in his last fight in a controversial split decision loss to Chris Gutierrez. Graveley should have the advantage in this fight in most areas. He’s an excellent wrestler and keeps a tremendous pace, while also having the skills on the feet to stand with anyone in and around him in the division. De Freitas has a tendency to drop his hands low when anticipating takedown attempts, so Graveley has many paths to victory and I think he’ll be able to get top position at some point and land enough ground and pound for a wide decision win.
PICK – Tony Graveley via Decision
Randa Markos (10-9-1) vs Kanako Murata (11-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
‘Quiet Storm’ Randa Markos puts her winning record on the line in a short notice fight against Invicta strawweight champion Kanako Murata. Murata is a stud amateur wrestler who has eeked her way to a super 11-1 record and is currently on a seven-fight win streak. Markos is a grapple heavy fighter who alternated wins and losses religiously until she was beaten twice in a row earlier this year by Amanda Ribas and then Mackenzie Dern in September. This is a big step up in competition for Murata, depending on which version of Markos shows up. If the passive, reactionary version shows up then Murata should land takedowns and dominate from top position for three rounds. If the aggressive and determined version shows up then this will be a very evenly contested fight. Solely due to the short notice factor, I fear the former shows up and Murata gets a statement win in her UFC debut.
PICK – Kanako Murata via Decision
Louis Smolka (16-7) vs Jose Quinonez (8-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A bantamweight clash between two guys trying to find their standing in the division. Louis Smolka, who has been around forever but mainly as a flyweight, is a submission starlet who also carries power in his hands. After leaving the UFC off a four-fight skid, he returned after winning his next three and has since alternated wins and losses. He lost his most recent fight to Casey Kenney back in May when he was submitted in the first round. Jose Quinonez has an interesting record where he is 5-3 in the UFC but none of the guys he has beaten are still with the company, while his defeats have come to contenders in Alejandro Perez, Nathaniel Wood and Sean O’Malley. Overall, Quinonez has the advantage on the feet and physically is the bigger man. He’s got good wrestling chops too but Smolka is good enough on the ground to wrap up a submission if he is successful with just a single takedown attempt. It should be a back and forth fight but I believe Quinonez will be able to land more and more significantly throughout the 15 minutes for a big win.
PICK – Jose Quinonez via Decision
Alex Morono (17-6) vs Rhys McKee (10-3-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
After being run over by Khamzat Chimaev back in July, Rhys McKee returns to the octagon to take on UFC veteran Alex Morono. McKee had won three in a row before his short-notice UFC debut against Chimaev and is a very well rounded fighter. He has good jiu-jitsu and great stand up, while his long frame makes him awkward to fight against. His issue is he lacks true power. Morono is also well rounded and has a lot more experience in his pocket. He’s got a massive edge in wrestling, with a power advantage on the feet too. The fact he has these advantages here mean he essentially controls where this fight goes and while McKee definitely has a chance if he can keep the fight standing, it’s hard to go against Morono in this one.
PICK – Alex Morono via Decision
Ashley Yoder (7-6) vs Miranda Granger (7-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
This might be the most even fight in women’s MMA history. Both women are 5ft 7′ with just an inch difference in reach (in Yoder’s favour) and with almost identical fighting styles. Yoder has lost five of her last seven in the UFC, including her last two but her record looks much worse on paper than it should. Four of those losses came in very competitive decisions against Angela Hill, Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos and Livinha Souza who are all top fighters in their own right. Granger on the other hand was 7-0 going into her last bout, where she was stopped by Amanda Lemos by submission in the first round. Yoder will look to get the fight to the ground and control with her top game while Granger tends to use her frame and range better, despite a slight disadvantage in this fight. It’s really a case of who implements their game better early on and because of how close they are I think the fact Granger is capable of using her range more will help her get the decision win.
PICK – Miranda Granger via Decision
Brendan Allen (15-3) vs Sean Strickland (21-3) – (Catchweight/195lbs)
Potentially the fight of the night as Brendan Allen and Sean Strickland meet in a short notice catchweight bout. Allen was supposed to fight Ian Heinisch last weekend but a positive COVID-19 test scrapped the fight at the last minute. Strickland won two weeks ago in a thriller of a fight against Jack Marshman, where he showed a new level to his striking game to get the comfortable decision win. Allen is a phenom on the ground, with 8 submission wins on his record while also capable on his feet while Strickland is just as good on the ground. The new level of striking Strickland showed with his combinations and power could be a big, big problem for Allen and after a win so recently he will be flying high on momentum. It’s a really, really tough fight to call but I think Allen is going to be pumped up for this. He will be coming up against a similar style to the one he was scheduled to fight last week and will be fresher than Strickland too. It really is a toss up but I’m going with Brendan Allen in fight of the night.
PICK – Brendan Allen via Decision