The UFC returns to our screens this weekend after a two week break with a huge 15-fight card, headlined by light heavyweights Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith and Ryan Spann.
The 205lbs division is top heavy right now, with lots of guys vying for title contention and that includes former challenger Smith. A win for Spann however in his first ever main event would be a huge deal for him and mean he has no easy fights in his future.
Elsewhere on the card there is a hotly anticipated match-up between Ariane Lipski and debutant Mandy Bohm in the women’s flyweight division, while the likes of Joaquin Buckley, Nate Maness, Raquel Pennington, Impa Kasanganay and Arman Tsarukyan all fight too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 36, we had a decent run going 6/9 with three perfect picks. That moved us to 402/633 (63.51%) with 177 perfect picks (44.03%) since we began.
A huge card, we’ve split our picks up into three this week so we’ll start with the opening four early prelim bouts.
Emily Whitmire (4-4) vs Hannah Goldy (5-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A start to the card with two women who have each lost their last two fights in the UFC. Whitmire was submitted by Amanda Ribas and then Polyana Viana in her two bouts, most recently at UFC Vegas 8, while Goldy dropped decisions to Miranda Granger in 2019 and then Diana Belbita in July.
Whitmire is a pressure fighter with decent striking in her arsenal, and her ground game isn’t as bad as the two defeats against elite competition made it look. Goldy is a striker who looks to overwhelm her opponent from distance with lots of volume, but defensively she is poor and she has a horrible tendency of backing herself up against the cage.
Neither of these women are the greatest and the loser will likely get cut from the company. Whitmire has the advantage in the sense that her style almost perfectly suits a fighter who hates pressure like Goldy does. Whitmire’s grappling and pressure should be enough to see her sail through to a comfortable decision win.
PICK – Emily Whitmire via Decision
Gustavo Lopez (12-6) vs Alateng Heili (14-8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The super exciting Lopez makes his return to the octagon to take on ‘Mongolian Knight’ Heili in the bantamweight division. Lopez submitted Anthony Birchak at UFC Vegas 13 before a fight of the night defeat to Adrian Yanez in March at UFC Vegas 22. Heili was on a four-fight win streak before stepping into the octagon against Casey Kenney in August 2020 last time out.
Lopez is a brilliant all-round fighter with really good jiu-jitsu skills on the mat but some electric striking too. Heili is a very solid wrestler with a powerful right hand to fall back on if needed and that could be big in this fight. Lopez has fallen in love with his hands recently despite his great ground game but it could help him against Heili who is a really low output fighter with poor cardio.
Heili will have the wrestling edge, meaning he could rack up top control in the early rounds and he’s powerful enough to keep Lopez worried about his striking. But my gut tells me Lopez is able to scramble back to his feet if he gets taken down and do plenty of damage on the feet with his hands to secure a late stoppage.
PICK – Gustavo Lopez via Knockout, Round 3
Impa Kasanganay (9-1) vs Carlston Harris (16-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very interesting bout at 170lbs sees two relative newcomers to the UFC go head-to-head. Kasanganay has fought three times in the UFC, winning his debut before being on the wrong end of one of the greatest KO’s ever against Joaquin Buckley. He returned at welterweight and secured a submission win over Sacha Palatnikov at UFC Vegas 23. Harris made his UFC debut in May at UFC Vegas 26 and defeated Christian Aguilera via submission in the first-round.
Kasanganay is physically bigger and likes to try and lean on his wrestling for wins, but his punching power for his size isn’t impressive at all and his striking is relatively stiff. On the other side of the cage will be Harris, who is a lethal submission artist with great punching power and good wrestling to glue it all together.
Ultimately, this is a tough match up for Kasanganay. His strongest attributes aren’t as good as Harris’ abilities in those fields and his weaknesses play into Harris’ strengths too. Unless there has been lots of improvement, I expect Harris to just be a step too far and to be able to control the fight and potentially secure a submission on the ground.
PICK – Carlston Harris via Decision
Erin Blanchfield (6-1) vs Sarah Alpar (9-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A UFC debut for a very highly-rated fighter in Blanchfield as she takes on Alpar, who is yet to win in the UFC. Blanchfield has won her last three in a row but hasn’t fought for over a year, while Alpar lost her UFC debut against Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Vegas 11 last time out.
Blanchfield is a brilliant grappler with true submission skills to go with some great kickboxing and solid wrestling too. Alpar is a bantamweight who is moving down to flyweight for this fight so she will be the bigger fighter, but her wrestling being her biggest strength puts her in a world of danger against a top prospect.
It’s a lose-lose for Blanchfield to be honest. There’s plenty of expectation on her shoulders and if she wins then it’s what she’s supposed to do, but if she loses then it’s a worry because Alpar isn’t the greatest fighter. With that said, I expect a good performance and a big win for Blanchfield.
PICK – Erin Blanchfield via Submission, Round 2