The middleweight division continues to move on at UFC Vegas 24 as Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker takes on short-notice replacement Kelvin Gastelum in the main event.
Whittaker knows a win cements his place as the number one contender for a potential rematch with Israel Adesanya, while Gastelum looks to get back to the sort of run that saw him fight Adesanya in an interim title fight two short years ago.
In the co-main event, Jeremy Stephens makes a return to the lightweight division for the first time since 2012 when he takes on heavy hitter Drakkar Klose at 155lbs.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 23 we had a pretty good night, going 9/13 with four perfect picks to take our total up to 279/439 (63.55%) with 125 perfect picks (44.8%).
In a fun 12 fight card we’ll look to improve that here. Having already predicted the early prelims, here are our picks for the rest of the prelims.
Bartosz Fabinski (15-4) vs Gerald Meerschaert (31-14 – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A middleweight bout between ‘The Butcher’ against the man who got run over in his last fight Gerald Meerschaert. Fabinski has lost two of his last three, with a decision win over Darren Stewart sandwiched between first-round submission defeats to Michel Prazeres and Andre Muniz. Meerschaert has lost five of his last seven including his last two in a row to Ian Heinisch at UFC 250 and Khamzat Chimaev at UFC Vegas 11.
Fabinski is a wrestler who will look to put you on your back and dominate from top position, while Meerschaert is a jiu-jitsu practitioner with 23 careers wins by submission. Fabinski is an okay striker on the feet and may choose to use that early on because of Meerschaert’s skill off his back. Early on when they’re dry Fabinski may be careful, but his wrestling should see him in a comfortable position for the most part and get a comfortable win here.
PICK – Bartosz Fabinski via Decision
Jessica Penne (12-6) vs Lupita Godinez (5-0) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A very interesting bout in the strawweight division as Jessica Penne makes her return for the first time in three-and-a-half years following issues with USADA to take on debutant Lupita Godinez.
Penne is a wrestler who we’ve seen in the past get absolutely wailed on by any sort of top striker and that’s exactly what Godinez is. She has a tremendous jab, really powerful punches and solid combinations – all things that will trouble the veteran Penne. While she is likely to have improved a bit after nearly four years away, her weaknesses are likely to still be her weaknesses. At 38, she is now coming up against a more youthful, more powerful and hungrier opponent.
Godinez will likely step forward and land some heavy shots early to put Penne on the back foot and from there it’s a matter of when not if.
PICK – Lupita Godinez via Knockout, Round 1
Alexander Romanov (13-0) vs Juan Espino (11-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A super exciting heavyweight bout between two ground specialists among the biggest of big boys in the UFC. Romanov is undefeated in his career and has smashed through his two UFC opponents so far, submitting Roque Martinez at UFC Vegas 10 before choking out Marcos Rogerio de Lima in one round at UFC Vegas 13. Espino is a former Ultimate Fighter winner and won his first UFC bout against Jeff Hughes at UFC 253 with a first round submission win too.
Romanov is a powerful wrestler, who has rag dolled opponents so far throughout his career and has violent ground and pound as well as a submission game. Espino is also a wrestler but he tends to move for submissions far more than working ground and pound. Both men want to be on top to work their game and we haven’t really seen either on the bottom during their career. We haven’t seen either have to defend takedowns either because that is something their opponents try to avoid so it makes for a very interesting clash.
In the end, Romanov is a younger and fresher fighter who has been more active. If the fight stays on the feet he has the striking edge and a deeper gas tank too so I think he gets the win here but don’t be surprised if Espino gets him down early and works a submission from the top.
PICK – Alexander Romanov via Knockout, Round 1
Tracy Cortez (8-1) vs Justine Kish (7-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
In the featured prelim bout of the card the impressive Tracy Cortez makes a return to take on former Ultimate Fighter contestant Justine Kish. Cortez lost the first bout of her career but has gone unbeaten since, including decision wins in the UFC over Vanessa Melo and most recently Stephanie Egger at UFC Fight Island 5. Kish on the other hand has lost three of her last four, including most recently against Sabina Mazo at UFC Vegas 10 when she was submitted.
Cortez is an excellent wrestler with super takedowns and a well polished ground game, while Kish is anything but. Kish likes to stand and trade kickboxing techniques when she gets the chance but she once literally pooped herself trying to escape from a choke against a strong grappler. Cortez can hold her own the feet for sure but her best work is done on the ground and with Kish’s lacklustre takedown defence there is only one place this is going to end up.
Cortez gets her down and beats her up for 15 minutes for a ninth consecutive career win.
PICK – Tracy Cortez via Decision