The UFC is finally back after a month away and kicks off on Fight Island with an absolute belter headlined by Max Holloway taking on Calvin Kattar in the featherweight division.
Both men are looking to make a case for the next title shot with a win, and are accompanied on the card by two legends in Carlos Condit and Matt Brown in the co-main event. Knockout of the year winner Joaquin Buckley also returns to action on the main card, taking on Alessio Di Chirico.
Last time out we had a great ending to the year, correctly predicting 9/11 fights with FIVE perfect picks. Those results mean that since starting our predictions in June 2020, we are 194/303 (63.36%) with 85 perfect picks (43.81%).
We’ll look to improve that record here, starting with the six prelim fights.
Jacob Kilburn (8-3) vs Austin Lingo (7-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A featherweight bout between two relative youngsters who lost their UFC debuts last time out. Kilburn was beaten by Billy Quarantillo way back in December 2019 in his last fight, while Lingo was beaten by Youssef Zalal back in February 2020 at UFC 247.
Kilburn’s poor ground game got wildly exposed by Quarantillo in that fight, so he’ll be delighted to be matched with a striker like Lingo. The issue for him though, is Lingo is better at it than he is. He finishes fights for fun, with five first round stoppages including four in under a minute.
Lingo has a reach advantage but he prefers to fight in the pocket and that’s where he’ll likely get clipped early and finished.
PICK – Austin Lingo via Knockout, Round 1
Sarah Moras (6-7) vs Vanessa Melo (10-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
These two women are arguably fighting for their future in the UFC after a string of defeats in recent times. Sarah Moras has lost four of her last five stretching back to 2018, with her only win coming over Liana Jojua in September 2019. Melo on the other hand has lost her last three straight, most recently to Karol Rosa on Fight Island in July 2020.
Moras has good submission skills but no wrestling to get the fight down to the ground, while Melo is a striker who barely throws any strikes which explains their lowly position among the division’s pecking order.
It’s a fight that you won’t be too annoyed at missing in an all likelihood, but I think Moras’ ground game is clear enough and she puts out enough volume that she gets a decision win quite comfortably.
PICK – Sarah Moras via Decision
David Zawada (17-5) vs Ramazan Emeev (19-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fun match up in the welterweight division as two very skilled fighters go head to head here. Zawada won his last fight, submitting Abubakar Nurmagomedov in November 2019, while Emeev picked up a win on Fight Island in July 2020 last time out against Nicklas Stolze.
Zawada is a skilful striker who has submission skills, as he showed by winning via tapout from his back last time out while Emeev is as wrestle heavy as they come in the UFC. He will look to get you to the ground as quickly as possible and then essentially glue his chest to yours. Your only way of winning is to stop the takedown, and history suggests Zawada will struggle to do so.
Emeev will close the distance quickly and shoot, then control the bout on the ground until the clock runs down for a one-sided decision win.
PICK – Ramazan Emeev via Decision
Carlos Felipe (9-1) vs Justin Tafa (4-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big boys are in town on Fight Island as these two behemoths meet in the middle of the octagon. Carlos Felipe made a return after three years away with a decision defeat to Sergey Spivak on Fight Island in July 2020, before bouncing back with a win over Yorgan De Castro in October. Tafa made his UFC debut against De Castro, getting knocked out in October 2019 before bouncing back with a knockout win over Juan Adams in February 2020 in his last fight.
Both men are brawlers but Felipe has a bit more about him, with body attacks and great cardio to go with it. Tafa had some good takedowns in his pre-octagon career, but he’s only had five professional fights so it’s tough to go with him for his one-punch power against someone who is more well rounded.
Felipe should be able to move and land strikes enough to earn himself a decision win, so long as his rather durable chin can stay away from any of Tafa’s violent strikes.
PICK – Carlos Felipe via Decision
Wu Yanan (11-3) vs Joselyne Edwards (9-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fight that has been put together on short notice as Joselyne Edwards steps in to make her UFC debut in place of Bethe Correia against Wu Yanan. Yanan hasn’t fought since August 2019, when she lost to Mizuki Inoue, while Edwards won her last bout in July 2020 via knockout.
Yanan and Edwards are both aggressive strikers who have their own deficiencies on the ground but both also carry good power. Edwards mixes in kicks with her punches well, but Yanan is a bit more volume heavy and should probably out-work Edwards. That said though, Edwards is more physical and I think that as long as her cardio holds up then she could get an upset win here.
PICK – Joselyne Edwards via Decision
Phil Hawes (9-2) vs Nassourdine Imavov (9-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs) The featured prelim bout will see someone’s winning streak end as Hawes and Imavov go to war at 185lbs. Hawes has won each of his last five fights, including an 18 second knockout on his UFC debut at UFC 254, while Imavov has won each of his last six including his UFC debut against Jordan Williams in October. Hawes is a violent counter striker who is very physical in his approach, while Imavov is a bit more of a rounded fighter. His issue is that when he’s out-gunned on the feet he tends to use his wrestling, but Hawes is the better wrestler here. Imavov has good footwork but with a range and power deficit, Hawes should be able to get the victory here.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 2