The UFC returns to the APEX in Las Vegas for the first time in 2021 after a successful trip to Fight Island kicked the year off.
Alistair Overeem looks to continue his final run en route to UFC gold when he takes on Alexander Volkov in the heavyweight division in the main event, with both men knowing they need a win to enter the top five conversations.
In the co-main, Cory Sandhagen takes on the legendary Frankie Edgar in the bantamweight division with both guys believing a win could set them up with a title shot against the winner of UFC 259’s title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling.
In a 13 fight card, we’ve split it up into three to break down and predict; starting with the early prelims here.
Last time out we went 4/10 at UFC 257 with three perfect picks for a bad night, to take us to 216/337 (64.09%) with 96 (44.44%) perfect picks. We look to improve that record with this card.
Ode Osbourne (8-3) vs Jerome Rivera (10-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An interesting fight to open the card as Ode Osbourne returns after over a year away to take on Jerome Rivera, less than two weeks from a defeat on Fight Island. Osbourne was submitted by Brian Kelleher at UFC 246 in January 2020, while Rivera was beaten by Francisco Figueiredo in a unanimous decision.
Osbourne was supposed to fight Denys Bondar at flyweight, but due to the short notice this fight will take place at featherweight. Osbourne is a great striker with lots of power, but is also capable of holding his own on the ground. Rivera is the opposite, always looking to get the fight down to the mat but throws good volume on the feet. If Rivera can’t get the fight down to the ground, Osbourne’s power should come up trumps and he could get the knockout win.
PICK – Ode Osbourne via Knockout, Round 2
Timur Valiev (16-2) vs Martin Day (8-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
After being stopped in his UFC debut but seeing it overturned to a no contest, Valiev steps into the octagon to take on Martin Day on a three fight losing streak.
Day lost twice in 2020, being stopped by both Davey Grant at UFC 251 and then by Anderson dos Santos in November by submission. Valiev has the advantage anywhere this fight goes in reality, with really sharp boxing skills and far superior wrestling skills. Day throws good knees that could catch Valiev if he looks for takedowns but overall I think the Russian gets him down and dominates for a wide decision win.
PICK – Timur Valiev via Decision
Seungwoo Choi (8-3) vs Youssef Zalal (10-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An interesting fight in the featherweight division between these two prospects. Choi is coming off an impressive decision win against Suman Mokhtarian way back in December 2019, while Zalal went 3-1 in the UFC in 2020 beating Austin Lingo in February, Jordan Griffin in June and Peter Barrett in August before losing to Ilia Topuria in October.
Choi is a good striker with a really nice straight right hand and good takedown defence, while Zalal is an okay striker with excellent takedowns. His footwork is good enough to avoid the power shots of Choi and with his takedown chops, he should be able to get top position relatively easily and work his way to a decision win.
PICK – Youssef Zalal via Decision
Molly McCann (10-3) vs Lara Procopio (6-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
This should be a good scrap between England’s ‘Meatball’ Molly and Brazil’s Lara Procopio in the flyweight division. McCann lost her last fight against Taila Santos on Fight Island in July, while Procopio lost her last fight to Karol Rosa in August 2019.
McCann is a brawler who has worked on her wrestling game a lot in the last two years, with takedowns playing a big part in her three-fight win streak prior to her most recent loss. Procopio is a very good all rounder, who stood toe to toe with Rosa in her defeat and has shown a great ground game in the past too. She has the big advantage on the ground and McCann’s improvements aren’t quite enough to keep up with it, while on the feet they’re pretty even. Procopio will be able to stand with McCann without fear of getting knocked out and with her takedown advantage she should get the win in a close fight.
PICK – Lara Procopio via Decision