The UFC featherweight division headlines a banger of a card in the APEX as Edson Barboza takes on Giga Chikadze in the main event, while The Ultimate Fighter finals take place too.
Chikadze takes on the former lightweight contender in his first main event, but before that the finale of both the bantamweight and middleweight division from the Ultimate Fighter Returns finale will take place as Ricky Turcios takes on Brady Hiestand, followed by Bryan Battle taking on late replacement Gilbert Urbina.
Kevin Lee also makes his return to the octagon against Daniel Rodriguez at welterweight in his first fight since he was submitted by Charles Oliveira back in March 2020.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 34 we went a disappointing 6/12 with two perfect picks for the night to move to 389/612 (63.56%) with 171 perfect picks (43.96%). We’ll look to improve that here, starting with the early prelims.
Mana Martinez (8-2) vs Guido Cannetti (8-6) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very fun bantamweight fight to open the card in this one. Martinez makes his UFC debut on a two-fight win streak from Fury FC while Cannetti has lost four of his last six in the UFC organisation.
Martinez is a powerful puncher with excellent takedown defence as he likes to keep the fights standing, while Cannetti is an aged brawler who never really figured out the best way to get the best from his favourite style. Martinez is more powerful, more technical and quicker but Cannetti is the better wrestler and that is his best path to victory.
Unfortunately though, Martinez is more than good enough to keep him at bay with sprawls and good footwork and eventually he lands a nasty punch to close the show early on 41-year-old Cannetti.
PICK – Mana Martinez via Knockout, Round 2
Jamall Emmers (18-5) vs Pat Sabatini (14-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Another super fun fight in this one as Emmers and Sabatini go head-to-head in the featherweight division. Emmers is 1-1 in the UFC after a debut loss to Giga Chikadze before getting first win over Vince Cachero at UFC Vegas 5, while Sabatini has won three-in-a-row with a debut win over Tristan Connelly at UFC 261.
Emmers is a solid wrestler who is nice and rangy for the weight class and with his style, while Sabatini is a sound striker who also has a superb ground game with ten submission wins to his name. Emmers is quite relaxed and has a good clinch game to go with his advanced wrestling, but Sabatini is arguably the more powerful fighter and definitely the bigger submission threat.
Despite that, Emmers has the advantage where the fight starts on the feet and is the better wrestler of the two for me so I think he’ll be able to nick a tight decision in a great fight.
PICK – Jamall Emmers via Decision
JJ Aldrich (9-4) vs Vanessa Demopoulos (6-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Two relatively young flyweights clash in this one in what should be a competitive bout. Aldrich got a win last time out at UFC Vegas 21 via split decision against Cortney Casey, while Demopoulos bounced back from two defeats in a row with a 37-second KO last time out in the LFA.
Aldrich is a great kickboxer with great kicking and range control in her game, while Demopoulous is a phenomenal grappler with heart and grit to come forward and strike if and when needed. With that said though, she’s hugely outclassed on the feet here. Aldrich will have a huge reach advantage in this one and Demopoulos’ wrestling isn’t great which doesn’t help her grappling edge.
Aldrich is a very good professional and has good skills to be able to strike from range and just piece Demopoulos up from the outside to secure a comfortable decision win.
PICK – JJ Aldrich via Decision