After a two-week break from action, the UFC returns with a very fun 15-fight card at the Apex in Las Vegas for UFC Vegas 44, headlined by two top five bantamweights.
Rob Font will look to break through the glass ceiling and become a genuine title contender when he steps into the octagon against former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo, who knows a win could set up a dream bout next for himself.
We also get to finally see the exciting bout between Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev, while Jimmy Crute and Brendan Allen also return to action on the main card.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 43 we went 6/11 on the night with two perfect picks to move to 482/752 (64.1%) with 202 perfect picks (41.91%).
Alex Morono (20-7) vs Micky Gall (7-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very interesting welterweight fight between two guys still looking to make a big impression in the UFC. Morono is on a two-fight win streak after KO’ing Donald Cerrone at UFC Vegas 26 before a decision win over David Zawada in September. Gall on the other hand has alternated wins and losses since 2016, going 4-3 with a first-round submission win over Jordan Williams in his most recent outing.
Morono is a powerful striker with looping hooks and good timing with his counter strikes, while Gall is a supreme jiu-jitsu grappler with decent wrestling in his back pocket too. Gall has however shown more of a willingness to strike in recent fights, and that is a recipe for trouble in the one. Morono has the power to stop him, but if Gall chooses to wrestle and use his jiu-jitsu then he will likely have much more success.
Morono isn’t hard to take down but he is hard to keep down, so that will be an interesting battle. Ultimately however, Morono’s ability to get back to his feet and keep pushing will likely wear Gall down over the 15 minutes and be able to earn a decision win.
PICK – Alex Morono via Decision
Brendan Allen (17-4) vs Chris Curtis (27-8) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An absolute banger at middleweight as Brendan Allen takes on the short-notice replacement Chris Curtis in this one. Allen is on a two-fight win streak after submitting Karl Roberson at UFC 261 before a decision win over Punahele Soriano last time out. Curtis on the other hand made his debut at UFC 268 against Phil Hawes and after overcoming a tough first-round, he landed a nasty right hand a KO’d him for a huge upset win.
Allen is a primary grappler with terrific wrestling, while he has also improved his striking in recent fights to be able to mix it up well. Curtis on the other hand is a very well-rounded fighter with tremendous power in his hands to go with his high level wrestling. He was a UFC calibre fighter way before his debut, and he proved it on the night. In this one though, it could be a rough night. Allen is relentless with his pressure and his takedowns, then once he gets it down he possesses a very real submission threat.
Curtis has the ability to knock anyone in the division out, without a doubt, but Allen just seems to be a bit too much of a level up on this occasion. Curtis is a natural welterweight too and Allen is as big a middleweight as there is. He’s going to pressure him, use his size and eventually grind his way to a relatively comfortable decision win.
PICK – Brendan Allen via Decision
Clay Guida (36-18) vs Leonardo Santos (18-5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The grizzly veterans go head-to-head in the lightweight division here. Guida is 1-3 in his last four, with a split decision defeat to Mark O Madsen last time out. Santos on the other hand saw a 13-fight unbeaten run snapped last time out when Grant Dawson knocked him out in the final second of their bout at UFC Vegas 22.
Guida is a grinder, who steps forward with reckless abandon and then shoots for a double leg takedown to try and earn top control. Santos uses his jiu-jitsu and Muay-Thai skills generally to damage his opponents, but at 41-years-old now he is certainly slowing down. He seems to fatigue earlier and earlier in bouts, but he is still super dangerous in the first round.
With that said, Guida’s chin hasn’t started letting him down yet and with his amazing cardio and volume-heavy style the likelihood is that he grinds his way to another career win.
PICK – Clay Guida via Decision
Jimmy Crute (12-2) vs Jamahal Hill (8-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A very fun light heavyweight bout in this one as two prospects look to bounce back from unfortunate defeats last time out. Crute was beaten by Anthony Smith at UFC 261 when a leg kick caused his leg to completely give way, forcing the doctor to stop the fight after the first round. For Hill, he took on Paul Craig at UFC 263 and saw his arm disturbingly dislocated and then was elbowed into oblivion for defeat.
Beyond those defeats though, both of these guys are excellent prospects. Crute is a decent striker with a good job and winging hooks, but it’s his amazing wrestling and ground game that separates him from the pack. Hill on the other hand is a power striker with unbelievable knockout power and good speed on the feet. He probably has a slight edge in a striking battle, but Crute has a huge edge when it comes to the ground game.
Crute will likely stand on the feet for just long enough to time a takedown and secure top control, where he will work his way to the back via ground and pound and then secure a rear-naked choke at some point in the middle round.
PICK – Jimmy Crute via Submission, Round 2
Brad Riddell (10-1) vs Rafael Fiziev (10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
This one is a genuine contender for fight of the night. Riddell is on a seven-fight win streak with four coming in the UFC, including a decision over Drew Dober at UFC 263. Fiziev is on a four-fight win streak, with a decision over Bobby Green at UFC 265 in his last outing.
Both guys are amazing strikers, with brilliant kickboxing technique and knockout power as well as some decent wrestling defence on both sides too. Both have kick heavy attacks, with Fiziev’s body kick a trademark weapon of his while Riddell is arguably more comfortable with his hands in the striking department.
Both will throw leg kicks but Fiziev’s preference to fight at range is likely to be a difference maker here. He’s had some cardio issues in the past which Riddell could look to target in the latter rounds, but I do think that Fiziev’s kicking game and edge in power will see him claim a hugely entertaining victory.
PICK – Rafael Fiziev via Decision
Rob Font (19-4) vs Jose Aldo (30-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A truly brilliant main event to headline this card between two top five bantamweights. Font is on a four-fight win streak, after stopping Marlon Moraes at UFC Vegas 17 and dominating Cody Garbrandt most recently. Aldo on the other hand has picked up consecutive wins for the first time since February 2019 when he earned decisions over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz most recently at UFC 265.
Both of these guys could easily have turned professional when it comes to their boxing skills, with brilliant jabbing skills and excellent combinations. They both also have solid leg kicks, while Aldo is also a jiu-jitsu black belt although he very rarely uses it at all. Font has a slight reach advantage in this one which will undoubtedly play a part in the striking battle that will ensue.
Font’s combinations are truly great and if he can work the body of Aldo then it could pay dividends in the latter rounds, with the Brazilian fading in his most recent fights. However Aldo has got his own combinations, throws super-hard leg kicks and his own body work is great too. The grappling is something we could end up seeing out of Aldo which would lean it towards him, but it’s the low kicks and combinations to the head that have me edging the victory in Aldo’s favour.
PICK – Jose Aldo via Decision