The UFC returns to the Apex this weekend with some giant European heavyweights headlining the card as Ciryl Gane takes on Alexander Volkov with a potential title shot looming for the winner.
A make-believe European title will be on the line as the two top five heavyweights clash, coming into the fight off the back of win streaks over top contenders too.
Elsewhere on the card in the co-main event, Ovince Saint-Preux moves up to heavyweight to take on short-notice opponent Tanner Boser while Raoni Barcelos gets back in the octagon to take on Timur Valiev in an absolute banger at bantamweight.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 29, we went 8/12 on the night with four perfect picks to go up to 346/542 (63.84%) with 155 perfect picks (44.8%).
Renato Moicano (14-4-1) vs Jai Herbert (10-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very intriguing lightweight fight to open the main card as Renato Moicano takes on the UK’s Jai Herbert. Moicano has lost three of his last four fights, including most recently getting knocked out by Rafael Fiziev at UFC 256. Herbert on the other hand got knocked out in his UFC debut by Francisco Trinaldo at UFC Fight Island 3 to snap a six-fight win streak.
Moicano is a super technical striker with some brilliant jiu-jitsu skills, while Herbert is a fine striker of his own accord but seems to have left his chin behind at Cage Warriors after his last outing. Herbert has good power on his feet too but Moicano’s grappling is so far and away from Herbert’s that it makes it incredibly lopsided.
Moicano can work his way in to grappling range with his striking and can end up getting the fight down and working for a submission. Herbert is technical enough to avoid the submissions on the ground, but Moicano should control on the ground for a wide decision win.
PICK – Renato Moicano via Decision
Tim Means (31-12-1) vs Nicolas Dalby (19-3-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Two welterweights coming into this one on win streaks as Tim Means takes on Nicolas Dalby at 170lbs. Means has won two-in-a-row, with decision wins over Laureano Starapoli at UFC Vegas 6 and Mike Perry at UFC 255. Dalby had a no-contest against Jesse Ronson at UFC Fight Island 3 where he lost by submission on the night, before he bounced back with a win over Daniel Rodriguez.
Means is a fantastic boxer on the feet but he also has some good wrestling skills, while Dalby is a solid wrestler with some okay boxing skills too. Means doesn’t have top level power but he has enough to put a hurting on someone who doesn’t excel at striking, just like Dalby. Dalby is durable though but even his most recent performances haven’t been too convincing.
Means should pick Dalby apart using his jab and power strikes following them up but I don’t expect he’ll get the knockout.
PICK – Tim Means via Decision
Andre Fili (21-8) vs Daniel Pineda (27-14) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fun featherweight banger between Andre ‘Touchy’ Fili as he takes on Daniel Pineda with both guys coming off a loss. Fili was well beaten by Bryce Mitchell at UFC Vegas 12 back in October last year, while Pineda followed up a win over Herbert Burns at UFC 253 by getting knocked out cold by Cub Swanson at UFC 256.
Both these guys are really well rounded, but have their main strengths at opposite ends. Fili’s solid grappling is usually his starting spot for game plans, with good volume to his striking and a good ability to mix it up. Pineda is a boxing heavy guy who has some decent grappling skills to fall back on if needed, as seen with his stunning 18 submission wins. It’s a really, really interesting fight that will likely be in the conversation for fight of the night.
With that said Fili is the master of the decision and I think he’s capable of riding out the storm and using his good striking to earn a win.
PICK – Andre Fili via Decision
Raoni Barcelos (16-1) vs Timur Valiev (17-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
My pick for fight of the night, an absolute bantamweight banger in this one. Barcelos returned from a near two-year absence with a fight of the night win over Khalid Taha to extend his win streak up to nine in a row. Valiev on the other hand is officially on an eight-fight unbeaten run although he was knocked out by Trevyn Jones at UFC Vegas 7 in his debut only for it to be overturned. He returned with a great win over Martin Day at UFC Vegas 18 though.
Barcelos is a stunning fighter, with brilliant striking, jiu-jitsu, scrambles and footwork. Valiev is a black-belt in jiu-jitsu too with good kicks but he’s a striker first and foremost and both these guys will come forward and trade. Unfortunately for Valiev, that fight against Jones did happen and you can’t overlook it.
Both guys are fantastic prospects, but Barcelos has the knockout power and durability to stop this one early if it does become a war.
PICK – Raoni Barcelos via Knockout, Round 2
Tanner Boser (19-8-1) vs Ovince Saint-Preux (25-15) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A strange co-main event as Tanner Boser steps in on short-notice to take on Ovince Saint-Preux, moving up to heavyweight for this one. Boser has lost each of his last two, dropping decisions to Andrei Arlovski at UFC Vegas 13 and Ilir latifi last month at UFC Vegas 28. ‘OSP’ on the other hand was knocked out in his last one at light heavyweight against Jamahal Hill at UFC Vegas 16.
Boser is a boxer with a decent kicking game in his arsenal, while OSP is a laboured striker with terrific grappling skills including his own patented choke. OSP has fought at heavyweight before but made his name at 205lbs and Boser is not a small heavyweight fighter. Considering OSP has been KO’d at the smaller weight class before, that doesn’t pose too well against heavyweights.
OSP is likely to try and use his grappling skills in this one but Boser’s takedown defence is good and his striking is better than OSP’s, so I think he’ll take the win after 15 minutes.
PICK – Tanner Boser via Decision
Ciryl Gane (8-0) vs Alexander Volkov (33-8) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A really intriguing fight in the main event as Ciryl Gane puts his undefeated record on the line to take on Alexander Volkov with a future title shot surely on the line. Gane has beaten Junior Dos Santos at UFC 256 and then Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Vegas 20 in a dominant performance, while Volkov bounced back from defeat to Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 3 with knockout wins over Walt Harris at UFC 254 and Alistair Overeem at UFC Vegas 18.
Gane is a Muay-Thai fighter with some good grappling skills in his weaponary too, while Volkov is a rangy boxer standing at 6ft 7′ tall. Volkov’s performance against Overeem was arguably his best, as he used his jab brilliantly and stuffed some takedown attempts to keep the fight standing while against Blaydes he really struggled to do that. Blaydes is a far better grappler than Gane though, who is very patient and accurate with his striking.
Volkov’s got real knockout power in his hands and uses his body kicks well, while Gane’s stoppages come more from volume than just putting people away. It’s a really intriguing fight but having never seen Gane lose, it’s hard to know how he reacts to adversity. Volkov will land strikes and he has lots of experience, so I think Volkov is able to get the job done at this stage of their careers.
PICK – Alexander Volkov via Knockout, Round 4