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. We’ve already predicted the early prelims here and the rest of the prelims here, so lets move onto the main card now.
Thiago Santos (21-8) vs Aleksandar Rakic (13-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An absolute war is sure to happen here in the light heavyweight division between the scarily powerful Thiago Santos and the hottest prospect in the division in Aleksandar Rakic. Santos was on a tear in the 205lbs division before losing a close decision to Jon Jones in the title fight where he blew out both knees, before being finished by Glover Teixeira last time out at UFC Vegas 13. Rakic bounced back from a decision defeat to Volkan Oezdemir with a dominant decision win over Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC Vegas 8.
Santos is a tremendous kickboxer with enough power to put anyone out cold with one punch, while Rakic is a really technical striker who showed his excellent wrestling game against Smith last time out. Rakic has knockout power of his own with nine stoppage wins and has the youth and size factor on his side too. The likelihood is Rakic uses his boxing game and mixes in takedowns for a decision win.
PICK – Aleksandar Rakic via Decision
Islam Makhachev (18-1) vs Drew Dober (23-9) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A lightweight fight between two guys expected to be contenders in the future as Makhachev takes on Drew Dober. Makhachev hasn’t fought in almost 18 months, but is on a six-fight win streak coming into this one. Dober on the other hand has won six of his last seven, with his only defeat coming to Beneil Dariush in the middle of that run.
Makhachev is an active striker who uses his length brilliantly and also has a hugely impressive ground game, which you’d expect considering he trains with the champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dober is a decent boxer with a pretty impressive ground game too, as shown by his six submission wins in his career. The likelihood of this fight is that while Makhachev should get the win, we won’t see him at his free-flowing striking best. I think they’ll exchange on the feet and Makhachev will take it down to the ground and just control his way to a win.
PICK – Islam Makhachev via Decision
Petr Yan (15-1) vs Aljamain Sterling (19-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
For my liking, the best fight on the card. The bantamweight division is arguably the most stacked in the entire company and these two are the very best of that bunch. Yan is on a a ten-fight win streak and currently sits at 7-0 in the UFC, winning the title in his last fight by KO’ing Jose Aldo on Fight Island at UFC 251. Sterling is a UFC veteran but is only 31 years old and is currently riding a five-fight win streak beating all the top guys in the world en route, including Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 with a sub-90 second submission.
Yan is a stunning boxer who’s punching and footwork in the pocket saw him outstrike the legendary Aldo and has seen him rack up seven KO wins in his career. He’s also got excellent takedown defence as he showed when he avenged the only defeat of his career against Magomed Magomedov outside the UFC. Sterling is potentially the best grappler in the division with super jiu-jitsu but he’s also a decent striker too. It’s a really intriguing fight between the two and it could quite easily go either way.
We’ve not had to see Yan on the ground in the UFC and if anyone is going to get him there it’s Sterling. Sterling has a four inch reach advantage too and likes to use his kicks to keep distance. While it’s more than possible that Yan closes that distance and just outboxes him from the pocket but something tells me that Sterling will be able to get a takedown in the rounds and control from the top position for a new champion.
PICK – Aljamain Sterling via Submission, Round 4
Amanda Nunes (20-4) vs Megan Anderson (11-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
The women’s G.O.A.T is back to defend her 145lbs belt once again as she takes on a legitimate featherweight in Megan Anderson. Nunes is on an 11-fight win streak having won two belts and beaten everyone there is to beat en route to this fight, including Felicia Spencer most recently at UFC 250. Anderson is a world class fighter on a two-fight win streak after beating Zarah Fairn dos Santos and Norma Dumont.
Nunes is the hardest hitting woman ever while also being a truly great grappler and an extremely good kicker. While Anderson is a hard hitter too with a great right cross and a good clinch game, she doesn’t match up to Nunes’ level anywhere. It’s really hard to see how Anderson can get a win here, with the truest description of the outcome here being that if Nunes is motivated then she wins by stoppage.
PICK – Amanda Nunes via Knockout, Round 3
Jan Blachowicz (27-8) vs Israel Adesanya (20-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
The main event sees champion vs champion with the light heavyweight king Jan Blachowicz making the first defence of his title against middleweight king Israel Adesanya. Blachowicz is on a four-fight win streak, knocking out Luke Rockhold, Corey Anderson and Dominick Reyes in that run. Adesanya is undefeated and has run through everyone in the division, KO’ing his rival Paulo Costa at UFC 253 last time out to retain his title.
This should prove to be Adesanya’s toughest test yet. He’s expected to weigh in at around 193lbs, way below the limit, while Blachowicz will be cutting weight to get there so there is a considerable size difference between them. Blachowicz is a powerful puncher with good submission skills and decent grappling, but at 38 years old he isn’t the quickest or sharpest anymore. Adesanya has a height and reach advantage over the Polish fighter and he will look to use that and his speed to avoid anything and point score/counter strike. Blachowicz will undoubtedly look to put this fight on the ground to use his size advantage but I think Adesanya will be too quick and be able to get a stoppage. I’m envisioning a head kick followed by a TKO by strikes, but it should be a super main event.
PICK – Israel Adesanya via Knockout, Round 2