A fun light heavyweight card at the UFC Apex this weekend as former title challenger Thiago Santos takes on hot prospect Johnny Walker in the main event of UFC Vegas 38.
Santos previously fought Jon Jones for the 205lbs title and many thought he won, before ultimately falling to a decision defeat. He blew out both knees in that fight and has since returned to face Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic, where he was dominated and now looks to get back to winning ways. Walker went on a tear before suffering a small skid himself, but after getting back in the win column he is hoping to make a push for the top five.
Elsewhere on the card two hot prospects at women’s bantamweight clash as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson, while Antonina Shevchenko takes on the undefeated Casey O’Neill and Kevin Holland takes on Kyle Daukaus in the co-main event.
Last week at UFC 266 we went 10/13 with five perfect picks on the night to move us up to 421/659 (63.88%) with 183 perfect picks (43.47%). We’ll look to improve that here and after starting with the early prelims, we continue with the rest of the prelims here.
Devonte Smith (11-2) vs Jamie Mullarkey (13-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A banger at lightweight between two of the most exciting prospects on the card. Smith was on a six-fight finish streak before losing to Khama Worthy, before bouncing back with a KO finish over Justin Jaynes at UFC Vegas 18. Mullarkey on the other hand lost his first two in the UFC before bouncing back with a huge win over Khama Worthy at UFC 260 in just 46 seconds.
Smith and Mullarkey are both brilliantly technical and powerful strikers with pretty decent wrestlings skills to back themselves up too. Smith is a really intelligent power puncher, with a brilliant jab that he uses to set up his power hand. Mullarkey is more of a kickboxer, with good low kicks and better work from range but he has shown the ability to apply a wrestle-heavy game plan if needed.
It should be a brilliant fight but I think Smith just edges him overall and he has the power to turn the fight in an instant, so I think that’s what happens.
PICK – Devonte Smith via Knockout, Round 2
Bethe Correia (11-5-1) vs Karol Rosa (14-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A retirement bout for Correia as she steps into the cage one final time to take on Rosa. Correia has only won twice since 2015, with her most recent win coming against Sijaira Eubanks in 2019. Her most recent fight was against Pannie Kianzad, where she was dominated at UFC Fight Island 3. Rosa on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak, with a decision win over Joselyne Edwards at UFC Vegas 18 most recently.
Correia isn’t the most technical fighter in the land but she makes up for it with pure heart and grit, constantly stepping forward and almost refusing to get stopped until she is literally forced to. Rosa is a tidy, technical boxer who stays very patient with her attacks and makes sure that she throws everything with intent.
Rosa has the potential to fly up the rankings with some big wins and she is very good and Correia is just getting a farewell bout at this point, but it won’t go well. Expect Rosa to dominate her, rack up plenty of significant strikes and cruise to an easy win.
PICK – Karol Rosa via Decision
Antonina Shevchenko (9-3) vs Casey O’Neill (7-0) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very intriguing flyweight fight between the other Shevchenko sister and the undefeated O’Neill. Shevchenko has alternated wins and losses in the UFC, with a win over Ariane Lipski sandwiched between defeats to Kaitlyn Chookagian and most recently Andrea Lee at UFC 262. O’Neill is undefeated and has two finishes from two fights in the UFC, beating Shana Dobson via KO before submitting Lara Procopio at UFC Vegas 29.
Shevchenko is similar stylistically to her sister, incredibly well-rounded but just several levels below. She has great striking with a lovely body kick, but also adept on the ground when it comes to securing submissions and controlling position if necessary. O’Neill however is also equally well-rounded, with decent power striking, good hand speed and other-worldly grappling.
O’Neill is very dangerous on the ground and isn’t afraid to drag her opponents to that world if needed. Shevchenko tends to try and show everything off in every fight, rather than stick to what’s going well and that is likely to play into her downfall here. On the feet she should have the edge, but O’Neill can keep up and eventually will try to get this to the ground at which point it’s a long night for Shevchenko.
PICK – Casey O’Neill via Submission, Round 2
Joe Solecki (11-2) vs Jared Gordon (17-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight fight between a submission guru and a durable veteran in the featured prelim bout. Solecki is on a six-fight win streak, with his most recent win coming against Jim Miller at UFC Vegas 23 via unanimous decision. Gordon has won his last two fights by decision, beating Chris Fishgold and then Danny Chavez at UFC Vegas 19.
Solecki is a brilliant grappler with solid wrestling, great submissions and decent striking on the feet to set stuff up. Gordon has a reputation for being a brilliant wrestler himself, but he’s usually at his best at featherweight but he struggles to make the weight consistently. Solecki doesn’t push the pace to a point that could force Gordon into trouble but he is the naturally bigger man.
Gordon is smaller and while I think he has a slight edge on the feet, it’s not really enough to win him a three-round fight on the feet. Solecki will look to wrestle his way to top position and work from there, using his physicality and submission threats to secure a decision win.
PICK – Joe Solecki via Decision