The UFC returns after a two week break with two middleweights battling to get back into contention at the top of the rankings as Jared Cannonier takes on Kelvin Gastelum.
Originally supposed to be Paulo Costa, Gastelum stepped in to take over this bout and knows that a win for him can get him back in the conversation for a future title shot while Cannonier knows he’s just two big wins away from a title shot in all likelihood.
In a 12 fight card, it’s a card with a few sleeper fights and a killer main event so lets see how we do with our picks.
Last time out at UFC 265 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 383/600 (63.83%) with 169 perfect picks (44.13%). We’ll look to improve that here and after starting with the early prelims here and the rest of the prelim picks, here are the main card picks for the night.
Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) vs Brandon Royval (12-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An absolute banger at flyweight and my pick for fight of the night in this one. Pantoja is tipped for future title aspirations and is 2-2 in his last four, losing to Deiveson Figueiredo and Askar Askarov while beating Matt Schnell and Manel Kape most recently at UFC Vegas 18. Royval was on a tear in the UFC before losing his last fight to Brandon Moreno at UFC 255 when he dislocated his shoulder and got TKO’d.
Pantoja is a phenomenal striker, with brilliant combinations, kicks and hand speed at 125lbs. Royval is a very active striker too, with brilliant scrambles and hand speed himself. This is a fight that is undoubtedly between two top contenders and could go either way. Royval is a solid grappler too, with really good submissions all around the mat and eight submission wins in his career.
Unfortunately for Royval though, Pantoja has fantastic leg kicks and takedown defence as well as scary power for the division and I think overall he will be able to use his experience to earn a very entertaining win.
PICK – Alexandre Pantoja via Decision
Vinc Pichel (13-2) vs Austin Hubbard (13-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight fight between a veteran and a newcomer in this one. Piche is 38-years-old and on a two-fight win streak, beating Roosevelt Roberts and then Jim Miller at UFC 252 in his last fight. Hubbard on the other hand is 29 and has alternated wins and losses in his last six, beating Dakota Bush last time out via decision.
Pichel has good stand up and good wrestling, but against the specialists in those departments he struggles. Physically he’s strong and he has decent cardio, but he doesn’t really excel in any level in particular. Hubbard on the other hand is a fighter who’s greatest attribute is his cardio, with good knees and strikes from range.
Hubbard is a good defensive wrestler and because of his cardio and attacks up the middle, Pichel may struggle to get his grappling game going and on the feet Hubbard has him beat. The longer the fight goes with Hubbard not on his back, the further he is able to pull away and earn a decision win.
PICK – Austin Hubbard via Decision
Trevin Jones (13-6) vs Saidyokub Kakhromonov (8-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A banger at bantamweight as Jones takes on the very short notice replacement Kakhromonov. ‘5 Star’ has won his last four in a row by finish, but his UFC debut against Timur Valiev at UFC Vegas 7 was overturned after a positive marijuana test. He then stopped Mario Bautista via knockout at UFC 259. Kakhromonov has won his last two, KO’ing Askar Askar in 30 seconds before a KO over Tycen Lynn and makes his UFC debut on just four days’ notice.
Jones is a powerful striker with genuine knockout power but also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, while Kakhromonov is a fantastic striker with good kicks and good enough wrestling to score a takedown over a Nurmagomedov relative. In a full camp, this would be an incredible fight but with Kakhromonov taking the fight on just four days notice this seems like a jump too far.
This is likely to be one of the best fights on the card but with both at a high level, but the lack of preparation time for Kakhromonov means I can’t go against Jones in this one. Remember the Kakhromonov name though.
PICK – Trevin Jones via Decision
Parker Porter (11-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight banger as the impressive Sherman takes on Porter and looks to get back to winning ways. Porter is 1-1 in his last two fights, losing to Chris Daukaus before earning a decision over Josh Parisian last time out. Sherman on the other hand was on a four-fight win streak before stepping into the cage with former champ Andrei Arlovski in April where he was beaten by decision.
Porter is a typical heavyweight, who uses jabs and a big overhand to earn most of his victories but when that doesn’t work he looks low quality and poor. Sherman has tried to evolve his game more, throwing some leg kicks and good volume but his knockout power is excellent. He has 14 wins via knockout and has some decent footwork for a heavyweight.
Sherman will come out, bide his time, avoid the big strikes with good footwork and eventually land his big right hand to get back on the winning trail in this one.
PICK – Chase Sherman via Knockout, Round 1
Clay Guida (36-17) vs Mark O Madsen (10-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fun lightweight fight is the co-main event of the night as veteran Clay Guida takes on undefeated Mark Madsen. Guida is 1-2 in his last three but beat Michael Johnson last time out at UFC Vegas 18 and will take on the Olympic silver medalist Madsen who hasn’t fought since UFC 248 pre-COVID.
Both these guys are wrestle heavy fighters, but the Olympic level wrestler is obviously the better of the two when it comes to that section of a fight. Guida is aggressive and storms forward constantly, throwing good strikes with not much power that Madsen will have to try and avoid. One advantage that Guida has though is his cardio. Despite being 364 years old, Guida never tires and Madsen has shown some cardio problems in the past.
With that said though, Madsen is a good enough wrestler that in both of their plan A’s he should be able to win at least two rounds to earn a decision win.
PICK – Mark O. Madsen via Decision
Jared Cannonier (13-5) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-7) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A contender fight between the number three and number nine ranked middleweights headlines this card. Cannonier was on a three-fight finish streak before coming up against Robert Whittaker at UFC 254 where he was outclassed in his last fight. Gastelum on the other hand lost three-in-a-row before earning a good win over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 before suffering his own defeat to Whittaker in April.
Cannonier is a powerhouse with incredible one-punch knockout power and some violent leg kicks to go with it, while Gastelum is a solid boxer with good wrestling and a powerful left hand of his own to go with a granite chin. Cannonier has got scary power though and is capable of ending any fight at any moment and Gastelum isn’t exactly the most evasive when it comes to punches.
Gastelum has the option of using his wrestling to win rounds but Cannonier’s takedown defence is pretty good at 185lbs. He’s never been knocked out in his career and I think he has the better skillset to win rounds, so I’m going for an upset in the main event and Gastelum to earn a decision win.
PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision