The biggest and best card of 2021 is finally upon as as a title fight triple header takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Petr Yan will defend his bantamweight title against Aljamain Sterling in potentially the best 135lbs title fight ever, before Amanda Nunes returns to the octagon to fight Megan Anderson in a featherweight title fight. The card will be headlined by Israel Adesanya trying to become just the fifth dual-weight simultaneous champion in the companies history as he moves up to light heavyweight to take on Jan Blachowicz.
Elsewhere on the card, Islam Makhachev returns to the octagon to take on Drew Dober while bantamweight great Dominick Cruz headlines the prelims against Casey Kenney in a do-or-die fight for his career on a blockbuster 15 fight card.
Last week at UFC Vegas 20 we had a poor night for predictions going 4/9 on the night, although it was worsened by a majority draw and a dodgy decision too. It moved us to 240/380 (63.16%) with 108 perfect picks (45%) since starting our predictions.
We’ll look to move ahead with a big week this week on a stacked card, breaking the card down into three this week.
Mario Bautista (8-1) vs Trevin Jones (12-6 1NC) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The opening fight of the card is a fun bantamweight fight between two up and comers in the UFC. Bautista is coming off two wins in a row after losing his debut on short-notice to Cory Sandhagen, where he beat Jin Soo Son and Miles Johns, while Jones’s UFC debut win over Timur Valiev at UFC Vegas 7 was overturned to a no-contest following a positive test for marijuana.
Bautista is a great striker, with fantastic knees and straight punches while Jones is a power puncher with a strong wrestling base behind him too. Bautista has really good takedown defence too but is so well rounded when it comes to MMA that he should be considered a threat wherever the fight goes. Jones is more one-dimensional and will likely find himself with his back to the cage and his best path to victory is with that role reversed. Bautista is good enough to avoid takedowns and if he doesn’t, he’s great at getting back to his feet quickly. On the feet, Bautista has a clear advantage and I think he’ll be able to pick Jones off for the victory while standing.
PICK – Mario Bautista via Decision
Uros Medic (6-0) vs Aalon Cruz (8-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A UFC debut for Serbian lightweight Uros Medic as he takes on fellow Contender Series alumni Aalon Cruz. Medic is 6-0 with all finishes in his career, including a knockout against Mikey Gonzalez back in August. Cruz made his UFC debut in February last year where he was knocked out in 85 seconds by Spike Carlyle.
Medic has never gone past the first minute of a second round because of the pure power and aggression he shows in fights. While Cruz is the more weathered fighter who has fought much better competition, he tends to back up in straight lines when defending and when he got cracked by Carlyle his response was less than impressive. He has a huge reach advantage over Medic but he doesn’t really fight in a way that uses it well and if Medic steps forward with the same aggression and clips him early then this could be a short night in ‘The Doctor’s’ favour.
PICK – Uros Medic via Knockout, Round 1
Livinha Souza (14-2) vs Amanda Lemos (8-1-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A strawweight fight between two women who won their only fight in 2020 and will look keep that momentum going in 2021. Souza won her first two fights in the UFC before losing to Brianna Van Buren, but she bounced back with a unanimous decision win over Ashley Yoder at UFC 242. Lemos made it consecutive wins in the same month with her decision win over Mizuki Inoue making her 2-0 since her suspension for a failed drugs test.
Souza’s skillset should see her much higher up in the reckoning of the strawweight world. She has tremendous striking, brilliant jiu-jitsu skills and even some judo throws under her belt with ten stoppage wins in her career paying to that. Lemos is an active striker, with great grappling skills of her own but her volume should see her take this fight. If Souza can’t outwrestle her opponent she seems to panic a bit despite her great skills and she just doesn’t let her hands go. If that’s the case here, Lemos will punish her with strikes and should take the victory.
PICK – Amanda Lemos via Decision
Sean Brady (13-0) vs Jake Matthews (17-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A cracker of a fight at welterweight between the undefeated Sean Brady and ‘The Celtic Kid’ Jake Matthews. Brady made his UFC debut back in 2019 and has gone 3-0, beating Christian Aguilera last time out in August 2020 at UFC Vegas 8. Matthews is a UFC vet despite being only 26 years old and is on a three-fight win streak after beating Diego Sanchez on Fight Island last year at UFC 253.
Brady and Matthews are very similar in style and this should be a competitive match up. Both are good wrestlers with good striking too, but Matthews is more of a finisher on the mat while Brady tends to mix it up a little more. Despite that, Matthews has only had one submission win in the last five years and while he’ll look for the takedowns more Brady is arguably the slightly better wrestler of the two and he has the edge on the feet too. That quality should shine through and Brady should do enough to get a decision win.
PICK – Sean Brady via Decision
Kennedy Nzechukwu (7-1) vs Carlos Ulberg (5-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Two relative newcomers to the light heavyweight division meet up on the card where the title is on the line to showcase their skills as prospects. ‘The African Savage’ is 1-1 in the UFC and took all of 2020 off following his last win, while Ulberg is an undefeated prospect making his UFC debut in this game.
Nzechukwu is 6ft 5′ tall and incredibly lengthy when it comes to his striking, while Ulberg is a former professional kickboxer who has transitioned over to MMA and brought those striking skills to the fore with him. Nzechukwu doesn’t like to commit too much and a real lack of volume means he’s in for a torrid time against Ulberg who is quicker, better technically and arguably just as powerful. Ulberg will feint, leg kick and then terrorise Nzechukwu for a spectacular finish.
PICK – Carlos Ulberg via Knockout, Round 2
Tim Elliott (17-11-1) vs Jordan Espinosa (15-8) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A super fun flyweight fight between two guys who could be fighting for their careers in the company. Both Elliott and Espinosa have lost three out of their last four, with Elliot winning against Ryan Benoit last time out on Fight Island after defeats to Deiveson Figueiredo, Askar Askarov and Brandon Royval. Espinosa lost his last fight to David Dvorak at UFC Vegas 11, after beating Mark De La Rosa and losing to Alex Perez and Matt Schnell.
Elliott is a wrestler by trade and always looks to get the takedown and smother his opponents on the ground, while Espinosa is a mobile striker who likes to shoot himself in the foot strategically in fights. Elliott will look to box himself into takedown range and despite Espinosa’s reach and footwork advantage he should be able to push the pace for a relatively comfortable win.
PICK – Tim Elliott via Decision