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%).
We’ll look to improve on that here with this 13-fight card and after starting off with the early prelims here, we move on to the rest of the prelims here.
Marcin Prachnio (14-5) vs Ike Villanueva (18-11) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An interesting light heavyweight scrap booked in this one as Prachnio looks to make it back-to-back wins over ‘Hurricane’ Ike Villanueva. Prachnio lost three-in-a-row including a first-round stoppage against Mike Rodriguez at UFC Vegas 7, before bouncing back with a decision win over Khalil Rountree JR at UFC 257. Villanueva himself lost two in a row, including a KO inside 90 seconds against Jordan Wright at UFC Vegas 7 before beating Vinicius Moreira by knockout at UFC Fight Island 8.
Both guys are strikers and while Prachnio opts for volume and combinations, Villanueva just looks for a slug fest. Both guys have been beaten by knockouts but the nature of those finishes were very different. Villanueva got stopped by a cut and by a heavyweight, while Prachnio got separated from consciousness three times and could’ve been against an exhausted Rountree last time too.
I don’t think either guy are really UFC calibre at this point, but I’d trust Villanueva to land the big show-stopping punch before Prachnio so he’ll get the dub.
PICK – Ike Villanueva via Knockout, Round 1
Warlley Alves (15-4) vs Jeremiah Wells (8-2-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight ar Warlley Alves takes on UFC debutant Jeremiah Wells. Alves returned from over two years out with a first-round stoppage win over Mounir Lazzez, while Wells is on a two-fight win streak but hasn’t fought since 2019.
Alves is super powerful but is more known for his terrific grappling skills that go with being a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Wells is a great wrestler with good hand speed and jiu-jitsu brown belt, making him a legit threat to Alves wherever the fight ends up. It’s tough to see an ideal path to victory for Wells because he prefers to wrestle his way into fights, but he won’t want to be on the ground with Alves.
Overall, I think Alves is the man who has the advantage with this one and I think he can out-grapple Wells or potentially KO him with the short notice aspect working in his favour too.
PICK – Warlley Alves via Decision
Shavkat Rakhmonov (13-0) vs Michel Prazeres (26-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A really exciting welterweight fight as the undefeated Rakhmonov takes on the highly underrated Prazeres in this one. Rakhmonov won his UFC debut at UFC 254 with a submission over Cowboy Oliveira, while Prazeres is well over two years out from his last fight – a defeat to Ismail Naurdiev.
Rakhmonov is an absolute beast of a fighter, with seven knockouts and six submission wins. He is a fantastic grappler on the ground but also a crisp striker on the feet. Prazeres on the other hand is a tremendous grappler and is very grapple heavy stylistically, looking for takedowns early and then working to positions where he can attack submissions. Rakhmonov though has a HUGE advantage in size, with a nine inch height advantage and ten inch reach advantage.
Prazeres is very good, but Rakhmonov has all the advantages at this stage and this could be a real showcase fight for the Kazakhstan fighter.
PICK – Shavkat Rakhmonov via Knockout, Round 2
Kennedy Nzechukwu (8-1) vs Danilo Marques (11-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A banger at 205lbs as ‘African Savage’ Nzechukwu takes on Danilo Marques in the featured prelim bout. Nzechekwu returned to the UFC after an 18-month absence to knock out Carlos Ulberg at UFC 259, while Marques has won his last four including a submission over Mike Rodriguez at UFC Vegas 18.
Nzechukwu is a powerful puncher with good accuracy who showed some improved cardio in his last fight, as well as a solid chin. Marques on the other hand is a terrific grappler on the ground who can match Nzechukwu for size, standing at 6ft 6′. He has lots of good tripping techniques and has the clear advantage on the ground, so if he can get the fight down then it’s his to lose.
Nzechukwu is a power puncher but Marques has shown a decent chin and unless he can stop the takedown attempts I can’t see the Nigerian getting the win on this occasion.
PICK – Danilo Marques via Submission, Round 2