It’s the big one, as the baddest man on the planet is decided in the main event of UFC 260 when Stipe Miocic defends his heavyweight championship against Francis Ngannou.
The two met previously during Miocic’s first reign as champion, and he dominated to a victory but yet he is still the underdog coming into this fight. Overlooking Miocic seems crazy, but it’s happening again and not least because of the sheer power of his opponent.
In the co-main event, Tyron Woodley fights for his career in the UFC as he takes on Vicente Luque after the featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega was cancelled due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Last week at UFC Vegas 22, we went 6/10 with three perfect picks to move to 262/416 (62.98%) with 118 perfect picks (45.04%).
There are scheduled to be ten bouts on this card, so lets look to improve that record starting with the prelims here.
Marc-Andre Barriault (11-4) vs Abu Azaitar (14-2-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting clash to open the card in the middleweight division. Barriault is winless in his last four fights, losing three in a row before knocking out Oskar Piechota. That fight was overturned to a no contest though, when he failed a drugs test. Abu Azaitar makes a long awaited return to the roster, having not fought since 2018 following fights falling out and a failed drugs test of his own. He hasn’t lost since 2012 though and before his spell on the sidelines had won five in a row.
‘Power Bar’ Barriault is a technical striker with big power punches, but he struggles with takedowns and looks to take your head off with every punch. Azaitar is an average striker with wrestling good enough to get him out of rough spots, but not much else. He’s now 35 and hasn’t fought in almost three years which just makes this a nightmare match up for him. Barriault is bigger, stronger, more powerful and Azaitar isn’t a strong enough wrestler to trouble Barriault’s takedown defence.
Unless Azaitar has made big changes in his time away, which is possible, I think Barriault gets him out of there.
PICK – Marc-Andre Barriault via Knockout, Round 2
Shane Young (13-5) vs Omar Morales (10-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Two exciting featherweights come into this card looking to bounce back from a defeat last time out. Young was KO’d by Ludovit Klein at UFC 253 back in September on Fight Island, while Morales was well beaten by Giga Chikadze the following week at UFC Fight Island 5.
Young is a fine striker, who loves to throw combinations and mixes it up with some kicks too while Morales is a former lightweight who throws big shots and relies on that power to put his opponents on the back foot. He has good submission skills, with half his career wins coming via tap out but this will likely be a stand up bout. Morales has the power advantage between the two and while Young has a more volume-heavy approach, he has shown to be far more hittable than the fighters Morales has struggled against in the past. Young will probably land more shots, but Morales will land the bigger stand-out shots to take a close decision win.
PICK – Omar Morales via Decision
Modestas Bukauskas (11-3) vs Michal Oleksiejczuk (14-4) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Two young light heavyweights looking to get back on the winning trail in this highly exciting match up. Bukauskas made his UFC debut back on Fight Island and got the knockout win in interesting circumstances with big elbows to deny a takedown before the round ended, with his opponent unable to get back up and answer the round. He then got knocked out by Jimmy Crute a few months later, while Oleksiejczuk’s last bout was also a defeat to Crute where he was submitted in the first round in February 2020.
This is a really interesting fight because both men excel where the other struggles, which means this fight could well be one-sided in either direction. Bukauskas has phenomenal cardio and does hit hard while Oleksiejczuk is a bulldozer who will take your head off if given the opportunity. Bukauskas often finds himself with his back against the cage and with no takedown offence in his arsenal, Oleksiejczuk will march him down and throw his vicious combos to make the gas tank null and void.
PICK – Michal Oleksiejczuk via Knockout, Round 1
Jared Gooden (17-5) vs Abubakar Nurmagomedov (15-3-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fun welterweight bout between two guys who lost their UFC debuts. Gooden took on Alan Jouban at UFC 255 and was well beaten to a unanimous decision, while Nurmagomedov was submitted by David Zawada back in November 2019. This is his first fight since then.
This is a complete clash of styles, with Gooden a good striker with not-so-great grappling while Nurmagomedov is a rubbish striker with grappling that goes hand in hand with his surname. Gooden throws some good strikes up the middle that will make Nurmagomedov think twice about shooting in lazily, but it’s his clearest path to victory. Gooden could definitely clip him and we’ve seen Nurmagomedov freeze up when hurt before, but I think his grappling skills should see him able to get the fight down often enough to secure top control and a win.
PICK – Abubakar Nurmagomedov via Decision
Alonzo Menifield (9-2) vs Fabio Cherant (7-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A super-late notice bout in the light heavyweight division as Alonzo Menifield takes on UFC debutant Fabio Cherant. Menifield has lost his last two, dropping a decision to Devin Clark at UFC 250 before being knocked out by Ovince Saint-Preux, while Cherant has won his last three after the first defeat of his career in Dana White’s Contender Series in July 2019.
Menifield is a power striker, with eight of his nine career wins coming via knockout, while Cherant is a very different type of fighter with five of his seven wins coming via submission. Menifield is a very big 205lber and is good at backing his opponent against the cage to try and unload his heavy hands. Cherant is very well rounded fighter but coming in on just a few days’ notice is likely to hinder him more than help him. If Menifield can apply pressure early and land big against the cage, he should get the win. The longer the fight goes though, the more likely it is that Cherant can get a big upset win.
PICK – Alonzo Menifield via Knockout, Round 1