The UFC middleweight division is back in the spotlight in the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night, on a card that was supposed to take place in London initially.
The main event will see Derek Brunson take on the UK’s own Darren Till with the winner making a case to become the next fighter to challenge for a title shot after Robert Whittaker’s upcoming rematch with Israel Adesanya.
In the co-main event is the UK’s best chance at heavyweight gold as Tom Aspinall takes on short-notice opponent Sergei Spivac, while Paddy Pimblett makes his UFC debut in the main card opener when he takes on Luigi Vendramini.
Last week at UFC Vegas 35, we went 7/12 with three perfect picks on the night to move up to 396/624 (63.46%) with 174 perfect picks (43.94%). We’ll try to improve on that here, starting with the prelims.
Jonathan Martinez (13-4) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs) An absolute banger to start the night in the bantamweight division. Martinez’s record in the UFC currently stands at 4-3, with a KO defeat to Davey Grant last time out at UFC Vegas 21 while Rojo lost an incredibly exciting debut against Charles Jourdain in his last fight on the same card. Martinez is a very technical boxer with genuine knockout power and some crisp striking combinations and he’s also nice and comfortable on the ground. Rojo is aggressive too and has some great strikes of his own but he’s not quite as tidy technically. Martinez for me is the more powerful and we’ve seen him take the action to strong fighters in the past and if he’s likely to continue that way then he’s got the edge here. Rojo is more than capable of stepping forward with pressure and landing heavy blows of his own, but with the more comfortable striking and good footwork I think Martinez will be able to get a stoppage in a brilliant fight.
PICK – Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2
Dalcha Lungiambula (11-2) vs Marc-Andre Barriault (12-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very exciting middleweight fight up next. Lungiambula earned a decision win last time out against Markus Perez at UFC Fight Island 8 in January, while Barriault earned his first UFC win against Abu Azaitar at UFC 260.
Lungiambula is a grappler who uses big bursts of energy to land some strikes and then go in for the takedown, while Barriault is a considerably better striker than him with constantly improving scrambles off his back. Lungiambula is shorter with a longer reach, but his cardio issues make him struggle as the fight goes on. His striking is pretty poor and while Barriault isn’t stunning in any department, his cardio keeps him going later and gives him a chance here.
On the feet Barriault has a clear edge and while Lungiambula will likely score a takedown or two, Barriault is able to get back to his feet and with the cardio issues visible for all to see he could secure a sneaky decision win.
PICK – Marc-Andre Barriault via Decision
Julian Erosa (23-10) vs Charles Jourdain (11-3-1) – (Catchweight/150lbs)
Yet another banger of a fight at the halfway point of the prelims in a short-notice catchweight bout. Erosa had won three in a row before his most recent fight, which saw him knocked out by Seung Woo Choi at UFC Vegas 29. Charles Jourdain is 1-1-1 in his last three, with a win over Marcelo Rojo last time out at UFC Vegas 21.
Erosa is a slick striker who is always looking for an exciting war with his opponent, marching forward to slug it out with whoever is standing across the cage from him. Jourdain is a fantastic boxer himself with a great jab and plenty of punching power in his bank and good durability. Erosa has a wrestling edge over Jourdain, but ‘Air’ has a fantastic gas tank and great scrambles so even that is a tough run to victory.
Overall, Erosa will land powerful strikes but leave himself open to eating some of his own from the more powerful fighter and Jourdain should be able to score the victory in a fun fight.
PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 2
Jack Shore (14-0) vs Liudvik Sholinian (9-2-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The undefeated against the unknown in this one. Jack Shore is 14-0 including 3-0 in the UFC, with a split decision win over Hunter Azure last time out at UFC Vegas 23, while Sholinian makes his promotional debut on a four-fight win streak.
Shore is a slick submission grappler with eight wins via tap-out in his career, but he’s also shown improved striking in recent performances too. Sholinian was part of the most recent TUF season on Team Ortega and takes the fight on short notice. He is a brilliant wrestler with some decent submission skills of his own but some brilliant top control to round off his skills.
The Welshman is the overwhelming favourite but this fight is a bit closer than that. Shore has the edge on the feet, has more experience on the big stage and is a good wrestler in his own right. If Sholinian gets top position, Shore is good enough to submit him from his back but the likelihood is he controls the fight and earns a finish as the fight goes on either late in the second or in the third.
PICK – Jack Shore via Submission, Round 2
Molly McCann (10-4) vs Ji Yeon Kim (9-3-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Featured prelim bout is a women’s flyweight clash coming off defeats. McCann has lost her last two, getting dominated by Taila Santos and most recently Lara Procopio at UFC Vegas 18 while Kim was beaten by Alexa Grasso at UFC Vegas 8 last year in her last fight.
McCann is a straight up brawler who walks forward with pressure and looks to outland her opponent as much as possible using her kicks and cardio as a weapon. Kim is a technical striker with a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, using her counter-attacking skills as much as she can. It’s almost to her detriment in that sense, because she never kicks due to how good her boxing is and she is often left waiting for a long time.
McCann is well out-matched in terms of height and reach but she’s a much improved wrestler and has the edge there over Kim. Kim doesn’t really use her reach as much as she should and her defence isn’t the best which means she will leave herself open and that tells me McCann has a path to victory, which I think she’ll take – just.
PICK – Molly McCann via Decision