The first of six UFC title fights in the next six events takes place this weekend as Kamaru Usman finally defends his welterweight title against Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.
The two have seen the fight collapse twice before, having originally been scheduled to meet at UFC 251 before a positive COVID-19 test ruled Burns out, before injuries to Usman meant their December date didn’t come to fruition either.
In the co-main event, Maycee Barber makes a return to the flyweight division after a serious knee injury saw her miss over a year of action. She will take on Alexa Grasso with the two strikers looking to make a name for themselves inside the top ten.
Last week at UFC Vegas 18 we went 8/12 with our picks, with five perfect selections to go with it. That moves us to 224/349 (64.18%) with 101 (45.09%) perfect picks since beginning our predictions back in June 2020.
We’ll look to improve that with this 12 fight card, starting with the seven prelim fights here.
Gillian Robertson (9-5) vs Miranda Maverick (10-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs) Another chance for Robertson to make an impact on the decision as she takes on Maverick in the flyweight division. Robertson was on a two-fight win streak prior to getting dominated by Taila Santos in December, while Maverick is on a four-fight win streak including a doctor’s stoppage between rounds last time out against Liana Jojua at UFC 254. Robertson is a strong wrestler who’s main aim is always to get the fight to the ground, with her six submission wins standing out on her record. Maverick is a great, technical striker with good wrestling of her own. Robertson’s striking is iffy at best, while Maverick often leaves herself open for takedowns by coming forward. Both can attack the weaknesses of their opponent but Maverick is the better all round fighter and I think she can come away with a wide decision win.
PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision
Gabe Green (9-3) vs Phil Rowe (7-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
There will be fireworks in this one, as Gabriel Green looks to bounce back from his debut defeat in the UFC against ‘The Fresh Prince’ Phil Rowe.
Green was on a six-fight win streak with six finishes before losing to Daniel Rodriuez via decision in May 2020, while Rowe is currently on a seven-fight win streak after beating Leon Shahbazyan on the Contender Series in 2019. He had several fights fall out in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but finally returns here.
Both men are incredibly powerful on the feet and have decent ground games too, although Rowe has the slight edge down there. The likelihood these two will go to war with heavy striking and it is Green who has the power advantage. He will need to get on the inside due to the big reach disadvantage, but don’t be surprised to see it happen.
PICK – Gabriel Green via Knockout, Round 2
Andre Ewell (17-6) vs Chris Gutierrez (15-3-2) – (Catchweight/140lbs)
A fight that was put together on late notice, Andre Ewell will take on ‘El Guapo’ Chris Gutierrez in a catchweight bout. Ewell won his last fight via split decision against Irwin Rivera back in September, while Gutierrez got a draw against Cody Durden in August.
Ewell was supposed to fight against Cody Stamann last weekend, but a false positive COVID-19 test put an end to that. He was quickly re-booked for this fight with a completely different match up, as Gutierrez is a primary striker. Ewell is also a striker, who stays at range and looks to catch you on the end of his strikes. Gutierrez is a heavy leg kicker and that could have a big say on the outcome of this fight.
With that said, it’s a very even match up but I think Ewell has the striking advantage with the power and speed and he should be able to land more for a close decision win.
PICK – Andre Ewell via Decision
Polyana Viana (11-4) vs Mallory Martin (7-3) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A very interesting fight down at 115lbs as Viana looks to make it consecutive wins for the first time in the UFC when she takes on Martin, looking for her first win streak in the company.
Viana had lost three in a row before getting matched up with Emily Whitmire in August and winning via submission in the first round. Martin made her debut against Virna Jandiroba who absolutely dominated her, before she got a submission win of her own against Hannah Cifers to bounce back on the same card.
Viana is the more powerful striker and has a great ground game from her back, while Martin is a competent striker with a good wrestling game. The submission game of Viana could put her off shooting for the takedowns but if she’s brave enough she should have the wrestling chops for the win.
PICK – Mallory Martin via Decision
Belal Muhammad (17-3) vs Dhiego Lima (17-7) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A clash between two fighters currently on three-fight win streaks in the welterweight division should be lots of fun. Belal Muhammad has beaten Curtis Millender, Takashi Sato and then Lyman Good in June while Lima’s last fight came in 2019 with a split decision win.
Muhammad’s style is typically a boxing style that leads to takedowns and a wet blanket approach, with dominant top position and wrestling while Lima is a solid striker who has a decent ground game too. This one though is a bit of mismatch.
Muhammad has incredible wrestling and while Lima has the height and reach advantage, it doesn’t mean much when you can’t stay on the feet and stop the takedowns. Muhammad takes Lima down with ease and cruises to a dominant decision win.
PICK – Belal Muhammad via Decision
Rodolfo Vieira (7-0) vs Anthony Hernandez (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Hot prospect Rodolfo Vieira looks to make it three wins in a row in the UFC and remain unbeaten against ‘Fluffy’ Hernandez.
Vieira is 7-0, with six submission wins including his most recent fight against Saparbek Safarov in March 2020 while Hernandez has lost two of his last three including getting knocked out in 39 seconds back in May against Kevin Holland.
Hernandez got submitted by Markus Perez in his UFC debut back in 2019, and Vieira is clear of Perez when it comes to ground game. He has better takedowns and is much more physical, which begs the question about how Hernandez stops him. The answer is he doesn’t. Hernandez’s striking is better but it means next to nothing considering he’ll probably be on his back rather quickly, and Vieira should be able to dominate to get another submission win in relatively quick fashion.
PICK – Rodolfo Vieira via Submission, Round 1