The UFC returns to the Apex after a short break for a short-notice middleweight main event bout that looks to clear up the top of the division.
Marvin Vettori was scheduled to fight Darren Till, but a training injury for the Brit means Kevin Holland has stepped in just three weeks after his last fight to take another chance at the main event. A win for Vettori will go a long way to him proving he deserves a title shot and rematch against Israel Adesanya, but Holland has his own point to prove after his defeat to Derek Brunson at UFC Vegas 22.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
With a belting 14 fights on the card, we’ve split it up into three sections and having already predicted the early prelims here we move onto the rest of the prelims now.
Yorgan De Castro (6-2) vs Jarjis Danho (6-1-1 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big boys are in action on this card as Yorgan De Castro looks to snap a two-fight losing streak against Jarjis Danho, who makes his first appearance in a cage fight in almost five years.
Castro dropped consecutive decision defeats to Greg Hardy and Carlos Felipe, while Danho lost and drew his last two fights but hasn’t fought since September 2016 for no reason in particular. Both guys are heavy punchers who have a sledgehammer of a right hand and are completely one dimensional when it comes to a game plan.
Neither man has ever been finished before but combined they have got ten wins by stoppage, with nine knockouts and a single submission in Danho’s favour. Both guys are going to trade swinging their right hand and whoever’s chin holds up the most will get the win but this will not be the most exciting fight the longer it goes.
PICK – Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1
John Makdessi (17-7) vs Ignacio Bahamondes (11-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Striking technique meets striking power in this lightweight bout as John Makdessi takes on debutant Ignacio Bahamondes. Makdessi lost his last bout to Francisco Trinaldo and then tore his ACL, making this his first fight in just over a year while Bahamondes has won his last two fights coming into this debut.
Makdessi is as pure a striker as they come in the UFC, landing ZERO takedowns in his 17 previous UFC fights while Bahamondes is a powerful striker who stands at 6ft 3 and has a tremendous reach advantage. He has a few defensive lapses still, which Makdessi can absolutely take advantage of, but with a 12 year age gap and a 7.5 inch reach advantage it’s hard to see this going the Canadian’s way.
Bahamondes has the power advantage with hands and even legs, so I think Bahamondes can use the reach and power to get a win in a fun back-and-forth fight.
PICK – Ignacio Bahamondes via Knockout, Round 2
Norma Dumont (5-1) vs Erin Blanchfield (6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs) An exciting debut for Erin Blanchfield as one of the biggest prospects in women’s MMA enters the UFC to take on Norma Dumont in the bantamweight division. Dumont has gone 1-1 in her two-fight UFC career so far, losing at featherweight to Megan Anderson before winning a decision against Ashlee Evans-Smith at UFC Vegas 15 and will fight Blanchfield in a short-notice fight. Blanchfield is a natural flyweight fighting up a division in her debut due to the short notice. Dumont will have a considerable size advantage, but Blanchfield is a really exciting jiu-jitsu practitioner. Her ground game is stunning and her striking is only improving as her last knockout win via head-kick showed, but Dumont is a good wrestler on her own accord. While Blanchfield is brilliant, it’s hard to overlook the size disparity especially considering ‘Cold Blooded’ uses her physicality so well at flyweight. It will be a tough debut for her, I think Dumont gets the win.
PICK – Norma Dumont via Decision
Scott Holtzman (14-4) vs Mateusz Gamrot (17-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight bout between ‘Hot Sauce’ Holtzman and ‘Gamer’ Gamrot. Holtzman has had a fun run in the UFC but lost his last bout, getting knocked out by a Beneil Dariush spinning back-fist at UFC Vegas 6. Gamrot on the other hand suffered the first defeat of his career at UFC Fight Island 6 when he dropped a decision to Guram Kutateladze.
Gamrot is a very wrestling heavy fighter, whose bread and butter is to close distance and get the takedown to dominate from top position. Holtzman is more of a striker with good boxing skills and while his takedown defence is horrible, I can’t see him being able to hold off Gamrot’s attacks for long periods.
Holtzman has had wars in the past so his cardio isn’t really in question here, but those wars came against sub-par opposition which just adds to the concerns around the 37-year-old. Gamrot gets him down and grinds him out for a wide decision win.
PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Jim Miller (32-15) vs Joe Solecki (10-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The featured prelim bout plays host to some history this weekend as Jim Miller becomes the fighter with the most octagon appearances when he takes on Joe Solecki in the lightweight division.
Miller got a submission win over Roosevelt Roberts back at UFC Vegas 3 before losing a decision to Vinc Pichel at UFC 252, while Solecki is on a five fight win streak including a beautiful first-round submission win over Austin Hubbard at UFC Vegas 7. Both these guys are absolutely insane submission artists with 25 submission wins between them throughout their careers.
Miller is now 37 and his explosiveness has depleted, which gives Solecki a big advantage if they get to the ground. The issue for both is that usually when two grapplers meet the fight will stay on the feet, where Miller probably has a slight edge. But with his cardio problems, the longer the fight goes the more it swings in the younger man’s favour and while Miller is probably good enough to avoid getting tapped out, Solecki is likely to dominate the majority of the bout for a decision win.
PICK – Joe Solecki via Decision