The middleweight division picks up this weekend as Derek Brunson takes on Kevin Holland in the main event of UFC Vegas 22.
In a big month in the division, with six of the top contenders facing off against each other, ‘Trailblazer’ looks to make it six wins in a row after going 5-0 in 2020 by going up against the middleweight gatekeeper.
Elsewhere on the card, Gregor Gillespie makes his return to the cage for the first time since the vicious head-kick knockout against Kevin Lee back in 2019 at UFC 244, to take on the kickboxing mastermind in Brad Riddell in the co-main event.
Last week at UFC Vegas 21, it was a strange card that saw two no decisions meaning our picks got cut down to just 11. We went 6/11 on the night with four perfect picks, to take our total to 256/406 (63.05%) with 115 perfect picks (44.92%).
On a 12 fight card this week, lets see if we can improve that with the main card picks. You can see our picks for the prelims here.
Tai Tuivasa (11-3) vs Harry Hunsucker (6-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big boys open up the main card as Tai Tuivasa looks for consecutive wins in the UFC against super-late notice replacement Harry Hunsucker. Tuivasa had lost three in a row before a first round knockout win over Stefan Struve at UFC 254, sending ‘The Skyscraper’ back into retirement. Hunsucker is a brawler, who has never seen the second round in his professional career.
Both men love a fire fight and have been knocked out in the past and considering the short-notice nature of the fight this one isn’t likely to last long either. Both guys will come out swinging and it’s all about who has the better chin. Tuivasa has fought by far the higher calibre of fighter throughout his career and we’ve seen him eat big shots before, while Hunsucker’s best shot is his left hook. Hunsucker will look to land a big shot and then shoot for a takedown to work submissions or ground and pound, but the likelihood is that Tuivasa catches him with one of his trademark big shots and start the night with a bang.
PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 1
Adrian Yanez (12-3) vs Gustavo Lopez (12-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A big banger at bantamweight as Adrian Yanez returns following his big debut win back at UFC Vegas 12 to take on Gustavo Lopez. Lopez went 1-1 in 2020, getting dominated by Merab Dvalishvili in his promotional debut before getting a win over Anthony Birchak at UFC Vegas 13.
Yanez is compared to a certain Jorge Masvidal for his style with fantastic boxing, great kicks and knockout power with all his limbs. Lopez is a wrestler with good top control and some very good submissions, with six tap-out wins in his career. Yanez has some decent takedown defence and it should be enough for the skills of Lopez. Yanez will use good footwork, his excellent boxing and some knees to avoid the takedown and eventually score a knockout win.
PICK – Adrian Yanez via Knockout, Round 2
Cheyanne Buys (5-1) vs Montserrat Ruiz (9-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A big debut in the women’s strawweight division as Cheyanne Buys makes her first appearance in the big time against a very short notice opponent in Montserrat Ruiz. Buys has won four in a row including her Contender Series bout against Hilarie Rose in August, while Ruiz went 1-1 in Invicta before getting this call-up on just nine days notice.
Buys is a striker with excellent kickboxing skills, using distance management and kicks to her advantage to outstrike opponents, while Ruiz is also a is a pressure fighter with very good clinch fighting. Both women have an excellent work-rate and lots of volume but the fact Buys has the height, reach and kicking advantage this is her fight to lose. Neither woman has one-punch knockout power so the chances of this fight ending early are slim, but it should still be a pretty fun fight for the 15 minutes it goes.
PICK – Cheyanne Buys via Decision
Gregor Gillespie (13-1) vs Brad Riddell (9-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs) Another possible fight of the night between two very highly rated lightweights in Gregor Gillespie and Brad Riddell. Gillespie was an undefeated contender in his last fight, before getting head-kicked into oblivion by Kevin Lee back in 2019. This is his first fight since that bout. Brad Riddell is a kickboxer for City Kickboxing gym and has enjoyed a 3-0 start to his UFC career including his most recent decision win over Alex da Silva Coelho at UFC 253. If there has ever been a clash of styles bout in the UFC, this is it. Gillespie is a power wrestler with decent striking but moreso a huge ground and pound scrapper. Riddell is a technically gifted striker who lands nice power shots and uses excellent footwork to evade his opponent, but also has a fantastic ability to pop back up to his feet after being taken down. With that said, Riddell has never fought a wrestler as good as Gillespie. ‘The Gift’ will take you down, hold you down and break your spirit before beating you into oblivion. If the fight stays on the feet, then Riddell will probably knock Gillespie out. The likelihood is though that Gillespie gets the takedown in each round and clubs him to a wide decision win.
PICK – Gregor Gillespie via Decision
Song Kenan (16-5) vs Max Griffin (16-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A potential fight of the night bout here at welterweight. Song Kenan is 4-1 in the UFC and currently on a two-fight win streak, with wins over Derrick Krantz and Callan Potter in his most recent fight back in February 2020. Griffin on the other hand has lost four of his last six and two of his last three, but won his most recent fight against Ramiz Brahimaj at UFC Vegas 13 via doctor’s stoppage.
Both guys are power punchers who have a wild, brawling style that test the will of their opponent. Griffin has developed a great jab and a good kickboxing game but also has an excellent wrestling game now too. Kenan’s record is somewhat padded, with the majority of his opponents not really UFC calibre fighters. If Griffin comes out looking to just swing for the fences as he has in the past, then he probably gets clipped and knocked out by the Chinese fighter. If he decides to use his wrestling game and gets the takedowns then he should do enough for a comfortable decision win. The likelihood is that Griffin swings early to test the power out and then shoots the takedowns for a win in a highly entertaining bout.
PICK – Max Griffin via Decision
Derek Brunson (21-7) vs Kevin Holland (21-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A big middleweight main event, as both men look to break into the top five of the division en route to a potential title shot. Brunson is on a three-fight win streak having beaten Elias Theodorou, Ian Heinisch and most recently Edmen Shahbazyan, while Holland went 5-0 in 2020 including his most recent win – a huge first-round knockout of Jacare Souza from his back.
Brunson is a very wrestle heavy fighter, who will look to get hold of his opponent and put him into the mat then land big ground and pound from the top position. Holland on the other hand is a fantastic kickboxer with ridiculous power in his hands, but also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. We’ve seen Brunson struggle against power punchers before like Israel Adesanya but he’s only ever been beaten by the elite of the elite in the UFC. If Holland is a legit threat, he should be able to deal with the wrestling and on the feet he has a clear advantage. Confidence is key and he will believe he can knock Brunson out and survive on the ground if he gets taken down. It’s a super close fight and I could get this totally wrong, but my gut tells me Holland lands a big punch or three for a career-defining win.
PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 2