Bantamweights lead the way at UFC Vegas 27 this weekend when Rob Font and Cody Garbrandt go toe to toe in the main event.
The number three and four ranked 135lbers in the world will battle it out to give UFC president Dana White a headache when it comes to the top of the division right now, as ‘No Love’ looks to prove he really is back while Font looks to prove he’s a real contender among the elite.
Elsewhere on the card Yan Xiaonan takes on Carla Esparza in the co-main event to potentially determine the next contender for Rose Namajunas’ strawweight title, while Jack Hermansson and Edmen Shahbazyan meet in their delayed middleweight scrap too.
Last week at UFC 262 we didn’t have the best of nights prediction wise, going 6/12 with two perfect picks to move up to 314/494 (63.56%) with 136 perfect picks (43.31%).
Jack Hermansson (21-6) vs Edmen Shahbazyan (11-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A fight that could easily have been a headline bout this time last year opens up the main card as the veteran Jack Hermansson takes on the prospect Shahbazyan in the middleweight division. Hermansson was on a decent run before getting knocked out by Jared Cannonier, before he bounced back with a very quick heel hook win over Kelvin Gastelum then got dominated by Marvin Vettori last time out. Shahbazyan was on an absolute tear himself, before his first main event against Derek Brunson saw him get dominated and finished in the third round.
Hermansson is one of the best grapplers in the division, with a sneaky submission game and fantastic top control once he gets on top, while Shahbazyan is as pure a striker as they come in the division with sensational kickboxing. Hermansson will be happy to stand if he can keep the distance short, but if he gets hold of him will almost certainly look to put him on his back.
While Shahbazyan has got great talent for all to see, his hype has made people forget he’s only 23. He’s in no rush to hit the top of the mountain right now and I think he still has holes in his game that ‘Joker’ can expose and I think he’ll get the win here.
PICK – Jack Hermansson via Knockout, Round 2
David Dvorak (19-3) vs Raulian Paiva (20-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs) A potential fight of the night at flyweight here as two 125lbers look to break into the top ten of the rankings with a big win. Dvorak has won 15 fights in a row, including wins over Bruno Silva and then Jordan Espinosa in 2020, while Paiva bounced back from consecutive defeats to earn back-to-back wins over Mark De La Rosa and then Zhalgas Zhumagulov at UFC 251. Dvorak is a special grappler, with good striking to set up his takedowns where he will look to control position and eventually try and get to the back and look for chokes. Paiva on the other hand is a super striker with quick hands and great kicks, who’s ground game is okay but not so much when it’s against someone like Dvorak. ‘The Undertaker’ is relentless with his pressure and can hold his own on the feet too, meaning those kicks Paiva throws leave him susceptible to getting them caught and taken down. Paiva could win the striking battle on the feet, but Dvorak will win any grappling battles on the mat and that’s where the difference lies. For me, Dvorak gets the fight down and controls position to nullify the threat of Paiva for a wide decision win.
PICK – David Dvorak via Decision
Felicia Spencer (8-2) vs Norma Dumont (5-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
The first ladies on the card get a nice spot on the main card as former title challenger Felicia Spencer looks to get back in the win column against Norma Dumont. Spencer took ‘Cyborg’ to a decision in a losing effort before beating Zarah Fairn dos Santos via KO in the first round to set up a defeat to Amanda Nunes at UFC 250. Dumont got slaughtered in her first UFC performance against Megan Anderson, before earning a win at bantamweight over Ashlee Evans-Smith.
Spencer is a natural 145lbser among the women which is a positive immediately, with great striking and decent grappling to boot. Dumont on the other hand is a grappler with jiu-jitsu skills and a decent bit of striking on the feet, but will have a huge size disadvantage that she’ll need to overcome. Spencer is the far better wrestler and has better striking and this fight just seems like a lay up for the bigger woman in a division that is limited in it’s contenders.
Spencer should be able to have her way entirely in this one for a dominant decision win.
PICK – Felicia Spencer via Decision
Justin Tafa (4-2) vs Jared Vanderaa (11-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big men get a run-out in this one as ‘Bad Man’ Justin Tafa takes on Jared Vanderaa in the heavyweight division. Tafa is 1-2 in the UFC, losing his debut to Yorgan De Castro before knocking out Juan Adams and then losing to Carlos Felipe at UFC Fight Island 7 in January. Vanderaa on the other hand also lost his UFC debut, getting KO’d by Sergey Spivak at UFC Vegas 19.
Tafa is a brawler, with tremendous power in his hands but an interesting chin and not the best boxing skills as he showed against Felipe. Vanderaa is a striker/wrestler type, who will look to step forward to close the distance with his hands and then get hold of you to put you on the ground. He has a big height and reach advantage meaning Tafa will have to take risks to step inside.
Despite that, I don’t think Vanderaa will be able to get a finish. If Tafa lands a heavy shot or two early on it could cause big problems, but Vanderra should be able to use his size and experience to see out a pretty comfortable win.
PICK – Jared Vanderra via Decision
Yan Xiaonan (13-1 1NC) vs Carla Esparza (18-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A huge fight at the top of the strawweight division between a touted future champion against the inaugral champ of the weight class. Xiaonan is on a six-fight win streak and undefeated in her last 12 fights, with an impressive win over Claudia Gadelha back at UFC Vegas 13, while Esparza has won four-in-a-row including a split decision over Marina Rodriguez at UFC Fight Island 3 last summer.
Xiaonan is a great striker, with terrific speed and solid kicks to go with some brilliant takedown defence. That will be put to the test though against Esparza, who’s biggest strength is her wrestling skills. She can get you to the ground and control the top position, with decent strikes and submission skills. Xiaonan’s path to victory is clearly on the feet, with decent power although all her UFC fights thus far have gone the distance.
Ultimately it comes down to whether or not Esparza can put Xiaonan on her back and keep her there, but I’d be very shocked if that’s the case. Expect Xiaonan to piece her up on the feet and deny the takedown attempts to cruise to a huge win on the judge’s scorecards.
PICK – Yan Xiaonan via Decision
Rob Font (18-4) vs Cody Garbrandt (12-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger of a main event that will almost certainly be the fight of the night as Rob Font and Cody Garbrandt do battle at 135lbs. Font is coming off the back of a three-fight win streak, with a stunning first-round knockout over Marlon Moraes last time out at UFC Vegas 17, while Garbrandt snapped a three-fight knockout loss streak with a stunning knockout win over Raphael Assuncao at UFC 250.
Both Font and Garbrandt are boxing heavy fighters, with terrific hand speed and legitimate one-punch power. Font is the technically cleaner fighter of the two, working behind his jab with great footwork and combinations, while Gabrandt is quicker and more powerful but a bit looser with his technique. Font’s biggest win came in his last fight and while impressive on paper, Moraes has proved to be rather chinny in recent fights and that’s definitely something to consider. Garbrandt’s three losses were all by knockout because he refused to fight smart but we’ve seen his brilliance in the past and he looked much better against Assuncao too.
It’s a super even fight, between two guys who will feel they can beat the other at what they do best. For Font, he’s never been knocked out in the past but also never had to go five rounds. Despite that, I think Garbrandt’s past of being knocked out viciously could play against him in this one. Font hits hard and clean and with his speed to counter, I think he gets the biggest win of his career.
PICK – Rob Font via Knockout, Round 3