The UFC returns to the Apex once again this weekend for a strawweight main event that could decide the next title contender for the division.
Mackenzie Dern looks to continue her win streak when she goes up against Marina Rodriguez in the main event, with both women aware that a win could pit them against the winner of Rose Namajunas vs Weili Zhang 2 at UFC 268 next month.
Elsewhere on the card is a fun welterweight clash between Randy Brown and Jared Gooden, while there is also an exciting flyweight fight between Tim Elliott and Matheus Nicolau as well as the return of heavyweight Alexandr Romanov.
Last week at UFC Vegas 38, we went 7/11 on picks with just one perfect pick to move us up to 428/670 (63.88%) with 184 perfect picks (42.99%).
We’ll look to improve on that here on this ten-fight card and after starting with the prelims picks, we move on to the main card picks now.
Phil Hawes (11-2) vs Deron Winn (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs) A very fun middleweight fight opens up the main card in the middleweight division. Hawes is on a seven-fight win streak, beating Kyle Daukaus last time out at UFC Vegas 26 via decision while Winn is coming off the back of a win over Antonio Arroyo at UFC Vegas 17 following back-to-back losses. Hawes is a power puncher with legitimate one-punch KO power, while Winn is a wrestler before everything with some okay boxing too. Winn is only 5ft 6′ so he tends to struggle when it comes to engaging in his strengths, and with Hawes having such a big advantage in the striking and the range this is a weird match-up. Most likely, Hawes keeps his distance and just picks Winn apart from range before landing one of his really big punches and securing a stoppage win.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 2
Sabina Mazo (9-2) vs Mariya Agapova (9-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun women’s flyweight bout between two up and coming prospects in the division. Mazo lost her last fight to Alexis Davis last time out at UFC Vegas 20, while Agapova was beaten by Shana Dobson last time out at UFC Vegas 7 over a year ago.
Both of these women are excellent kickboxers who look at their best from range, but seem to struggle whenever their opponent looks to close the distance and starts grinding in style with dirty boxing and grappling. Luckily for them both, neither will do that here. Agapova has had trouble with her cardio in the past and Mazo is the bigger woman naturally, having previously fought at bantamweight.
This is a close fight but I think Mazo’s size, reach and cardio will edge her over the line to earn a decision win.
PICK – Sabina Mazo via Decision
Tim Elliott (18-11-1) vs Matheus Nicolau (16-3-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
My pick for the fight of the night in the flyweight division next. Elliott has won each of his last two, with decisions over Ryan Benoit and most recently Jordan Espinosa at UFC 259. Nicolau won his second UFC debut against former RIZIN champion Manel Kape in a controversial split-decision at UFC Vegas 21.
Elliott is a great wrestler who gets his takedowns using his cardio as a weapon and making every fight a straight up war. Nicolau on the other hand is a power puncher with some decent wrestling defence too and some good kicks in his arsenal. Elliott is a veteran who has never even been dropped in the UFC but it’s his relentless pace that often breaks opponents.
Nicolau’s best chance of a win is a big knockout and with Elliott’s durability it seems unlikely. Elliott will keep the pace high, perform his wrestling duties well and be able to just overwhelm Nicolau for a decision win.
PICK – Tim Elliott via Decision
Randy Brown (13-4) vs Jared Gooden (18-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight in the co-main event between ‘Rudeboy’ and ‘Nite Train’. Brown bounced back from defeat against Vicente Luque with a one-arm rear-naked choke win over ‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira last time out at UFC 261, while Gooden starched Niklas Stolze last time out at UFC Vegas 33 to bounce back from two consecutive losses.
Brown is a great striker with terrific length and some very good submission skills, with his 11 stoppage wins split 6-5 in KO’s and taps. Gooden on the other hand is an explosive puncher with some good wrestling skills, but it’s still hard to know where he stands at the UFC level. He got dominated in his first two fights, but then earned a win with a flash knockout early so it’s hard to see if he made many improvements.
That said, he has the power advantage in this fight if he and Brown were to go strike for strike. I don’t think Brown will do that though and he’ll look to mix in his grappling and use his length well to earn himself a close decision win.
PICK – Randy Brown via Decision
Mackenzie Dern (11-1) vs Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
The main event is a super fun strawweight battle between grappler and striker as they look to make themselves title contenders with a win. Dern has won each of her last four, with three by submission including her most recent against Nina Nunes at UFC Vegas 23, while Rodriguez made it two in a row with wins over Amanda Ribas at UFC 257 and Michelle Waterson at UFC Vegas 26.
Dern is one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners on the roster, with seven submission wins in her career but she has shown a marked improvement in her striking in recent fights too. Rodriguez on the other hand is a boxer first with some decent kicking too, with six knockout wins in her career. It’s a classic striker vs grappler bout and my mind tends to almost always go with the grappler, because they can dictate where the fight goes.
Rodriguez will look to keep the distance and use her slight reach advantage to land strikes, but Dern will be aggressive and likely pull guard because her takedowns are pretty rubbish. If she does, she’ll lock up a submission in no time but if Rodriguez keeps it standing she’ll win easily. That said, I don’t see Rodriguez keeping it standing for five rounds, so I’m backing Dern to earn yet another submission win.
PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2