A swift return to action for the UFC as the final instalment of their Fight Island triple header is upon us, with Dustin Poirier taking on Conor McGregor in a lightweight eliminator.
A rematch from six years prior, both men look to put their stamp to a claim to be the next challenger for the 155lbs championship while in the co-main event, two other lightweight contenders scrap to do the same thing. Michael Chandler makes his UFC debut after signing from Bellator to take on Dan Hooker, with both men knowing that a win puts them firmly in the conversation for the next title shot.
A fun 11 fight card is on the horizon here, with plenty of good fights on the undercard to come before the two big bouts of the night.
Last time out at UFC Fight Island 8, we went 12/14 with our picks with four perfect picks to boost us up to 212/327 (64.83%) with 93 perfect picks (43.87%) since starting our picks back in June 2020.
We’ll look to improve that record here, starting with the six prelim bouts.
Amir Albazi (13-1) vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Both these men had differing debut experiences in the UFC on Fight Island last year and now meet together in the card opener.
Albazi won his debut with a first round submission over Malcolm Gordon, while Zhumagulov was beaten rather controversially in a unanimous decision defeat to Raulian Paiva. Zhumagulov is a tidy striker, throwing lots of one-twos but also with strong wrestling skills. Albazi is also a tidy striker but he has supreme submission skills from his back and even moreso from top position.
It’s a well contested fight with two relatively evenly-matched fighters. On the feet they’re almost identical in technique and execution and on the ground I give the edge to Albazi so I think he’ll be able to take a tight decision win.
PICK – Amir Albazi via Decision
Nik Lentz (30-11-2) vs Movsar Evloev (13-0) – (Catchweight/150lbs)
UFC Veteran Nik Lentz returns to the octagon for the first time in a year to take on an undefeated Russian in Movsar Evloev, who steps in on short notice to take this.
Lentz has lost his last two, being knocked out by Charles Oliveira in 2019 before dropping a decision to Arnold Allen in January 2020. Evloev is undefeated and 3-0 in the UFC, with wins over Seung Woo Choi, Enrique Barzola and Mike Grundy on Fight Island last year. Lentz is a solid grappler who has some striking power, but Evloev is a well-rounded stud who holds the advantage everywhere in this fight.
This should be a pretty one-sided fight, with Evloev just a level above Lentz. His wrestling will see him take the top position at some point and control for 15 minutes for a lopsided win.
PICK – Movsar Evloev via Decision
Khalil Rountree Jr (9-4) vs Marcin Prachnio (13-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A return to the octagon after over a year away for Khalil Rountree as he takes on ‘Polish power V2’ in Marcin Prachnio.
Rountree turned in a fantastic performance to beat Eryk Anders in April 2019, before dropping a first round KO to Ion Cutelaba last time out. Prachnio came into the UFC in great nick, but has been knocked out in the first round of all three of his UFC fights so far including most recently against Mike Rodriguez in August 2020.
Rountree’s trip to Thailand has turned his style on it’s head, and he’s a great power puncher with speed and accuracy. Prachnio comes forward looking for the knockout but it just doesn’t seem to work in the UFC. His karate style likes to see him stay at range but Rountree’s speed and power should be enough to see him get another win.
PICK – Khalil Rountree Jr via Knockout, Round 1
Juliana Pena (10-4) vs Sara McMann (12-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Juliana Pena returns to the octagon having lost two of her last three fights to take on 40-year-old Sara McMann in the women’s bantamweight division.
Pena’s last win came against Nicco Montano in July 2019, but that was sandwiched between losses to Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine De Randamie. McMann has also lost two of her last three, but she returned after almost two years out to get a decision win over Lina Lansberg last time out.
Both these women will look to take the fight to the ground with striking neither of their strong suits, with McMann a strong wrestler while Pena is a black-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It’s all about who ends up on the top in this one and the wrestling advantage gives McMann the edge in that, so she has the best chance of winning.
PICK – Sara McMann via Decision
Brad Tavares (17-7) vs Antonio Carlos Junior (11-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting middleweight scrap between two prospects at 185lbs. Tavares has lost his last two fights, losing to champion Israel Adesanya back in 2018 before losing to Edmen Shahbazyan in November 2019 via first round knockout. ‘Shoeface’ is in the same boat too, losing his last two to Ian Heinisch and Uriah Hall in September 2019.
Both men have not looked good in their most recent fights but have taken a long time away from the sport recently. Tavares has a good striking background while Shoeface has some of the strangest striking techniques you’ll ever see, but is a very good grappler. He has a huge jiu-jitsu advantage and with the grappling advantage too, I think Tavares taps out for the first time in his career.
PICK – Antonio Carlos Junior via Submission, Round 2
Arman Tsarukyan (15-2) vs Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs) A sleeper for fight of the night after the top two fights on the card, these two lightweights look to steal the show on a card where their division is in the limelight. Tsarukyan has won his last two in a row in the UFC, with decision wins over Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Davi Ramos last year on Fight Island, while ‘Baby Gastelum’ Haqparast bounced back from a first round knockout loss to Drew Dober with a decision win over Alex Munoz in August. Haqparasr is a really good boxer with good footwork and a great jab, but also strong takedown defence too with over 80% success rate in his UFC career. Tsarukyan is another good striker but he has tremendous takedowns and chain wrestling. He’s also a tidy striker on his own, but his game plan is almost always to strike until the opportunity presents itself to get the takedown. It all hangs on whether Haqparast can keep it standing and I’m not so confident he will this time around.
PICK – Arman Tsarukyan via Decision