The biggest trilogy fight in UFC history arguably is finally upon us as Dustin Poirier takes on Conor McGregor to break the deadlock between them at UFC 264.
McGregor knocked Poirier out in their first fight back in 2014, but Poirier got his own back in January at UFC 257 with a knockout win of his own to level it up at 1-1. The winner of this bout is highly likely to challenge for the lightweight title in their next bout, so the stakes could not be any higher.
In the co-main event we have a huge welterweight contender fight too as former title challengers Gilbert Burns and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson go head-to-head with each other to try and climb towards another shot against Kamaru Usman in the near future.
Also on the card is the return of ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley as he opens up the main card, while the prelims are full of exciting bouts too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 30, we went 12/6 with two perfect picks for our selection for a not so good outing. That took us to 352/554 (63.54%) with 160 perfect picks (45.45%) since starting up.
We’ll look to improve that with this huge 13 fight card, starting with the early prelims here.
Hu Yaozong (3-2) vs Alen Amedovski (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting fight to open up the card in the middleweight division as Hu looks to earn his first UFC win against the knockout machine Amedovski. Hu made his UFC debut in 2017 and has lost his two fights, with his last bout coming in November 2018, while Amedovski went 8-0 with eight knockouts before losing his first two UFC bouts too back in 2019.
Hu has been severely beaten in both his bouts so far in the UFC, showing some poor striking defence and some okay wrestling mixed in with it. Amedovski’s UFC career is shocking so far but he can genuinely bang with his hands. He has legit KO power and while his grappling isn’t great, it’s not the worst I’ve seen.
Hu will be without his coaching team due to visa issues and will be dealing with a big time difference issue since he is only arriving in Vegas just five days before the fight. All of this adds up to Amedovski starching him into oblivion and likely out of the UFC – but this fight won’t be super high level.
PICK – Alen Amedovski via Knockout, Round 1
Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-5) vs Jerome Rivera (10-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Two more fighters likely fighting for their UFC future in the flyweight division as Zhumagulov and Rivera look for their first wins in the organisation. Zhumagulov has lost his last two, dropping a decision to Raulian Paiva at UFC 251 before losing to Amir Albazi at UFC 257 in January. Rivera on the other hand has lost three in a row, getting KO’d by Tyson Nam at UFC Vegas 11 before dropping a decision to Francisco Figueiredo at UFC Fight Island 8 and then getting KO’d by Ode Osbourne a month later at UFC Vegas 18.
Zhumagulov is a solid striker on the feet who switches stances well and throws great combinations, while Rivera is a grappler who looks to gain top control and work for a submission – something he’s done to win seven fights. It’s a real clash of styles in this one but Zhumagulov’s record in the UFC reflects badly on his talent.
The Kazakhstani fighter is supremely talented, has great scrambling to prevent Rivera’s top control from gaining momentum and he has good knockout power too. I expect he’ll be able to get the win using his superior striking and scrambling skills.
PICK – Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Decision
Omari Akhmedov (21-5-1) vs Brad Tavares (18-7) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very intriguing middleweight bout between two veterans in the UFC in what should be a very fun fight. Akhmedov has won four of his last five fights, losing to Chris Weidman at UFC Vegas 6 before bouncing back with a submission win over Tom Breese in January. Tavares on the other hand bounced back from a two-fight losing skid to get a win over Antonio Carlos Jr at UFC 257 via decision.
Akhmedov is a fighter who is very keen on getting the fight down to the ground quickly. He steps forward looking to clinch and then starts to try for trips and lifts, meaning Tavares’ striking game will be front and centre as his defence whenever Akhmedov comes forward. His takedown defence is excellent and his cardio always holds up, so it will be tough for Akhmedov to get his preferred game plan going.
Tavares is the crisper striker, better athlete and overall more well-rounded martial artist so I expect he’ll come away with a win here.
PICK – Brad Tavares via Decision
Jennifer Maia (18-7-1) vs Jessica Eye (15-9) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very strange early prelim bout between two of the most recent title contenders in the division between Maia and Eye. Maia earned a win over Joanne Calderwood at UFC Vegas 5 before losing to champion Valentina Shevchenko via decision at UFC 255, while Eye has lost three of her last four including a decision to Cynthia Calvillo at UFC Vegas 2 and and Calderwood at UFC 257.
Maia, like her name-sake Demian, is a jiu-jitsu master and is at her best when she gets the fight to the ground and works for submissions, even winning a round against Shevchenko from that position. Eye on the other hand prefers to stand and box, with a decent jab and a good right hook in the back pocket too. Despite that though, Maia’s grappling is most likely to come out on top here.
Maia can hold her own on the feet and will be able to close the distance to bring the fight to her world and likely control position for long enough to earn a judge’s decision.
PICK – Jennifer Maia via Decision