The final pay-per-view card of 2021 is finally upon us and it is absolutely stacked, with the lightweight championship bout between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier headlining the card.
The co-main event features women’s G.O.A.T Amanda Nunes as she looks to silence all doubters when she takes on Julianna Pena in a bantamweight title fight.
Also on the main card will see the flyweight debut of Cody Garbrandt, who is looking to prove it’s the perfect weight class for him while Sean O’Malley hopes to kickstart a huge 2022 for himself when he takes on Raulian Paiva.
Last time at UFC Vegas 44 we had a pretty good night with our picks, as we went 9/13 with five perfect picks to move to 491/765 (64.18%) with 207 perfect picks (42.16%).
We’ll look to improve on that here on this massive 15-fight card, starting with the early prelims.
Gillian Robertson (9-6) vs Priscilla Cachoeira (10-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A women’s flyweight bout opens up the card live from the T-Mobile Arena. Robertson has lost her last two-in-a-row against Taila Santos at UFC Vegas 17 and Miranda Maverick at UFC 260, while Cachoeira has won her last two via knockout against Shana Dobson and then Gina Mazany at UFC 262.
Robertson is a skilled grappler who is very keen on securing takedowns and then working her submission game, scoring six submission wins in her career. Cachoeira on the other hand is a strong striker with good power and solid stand-up skills, but she has had troubles with the grappling game in the past.
Cachoeira has the ability to end this fight on the feet, but if it goes to the ground then it’s all Robertson. Robertson has better cardio than Mazany, who dominated Cachoeira in their bout before her cardio ran out. Robertson shouldn’t have any such issues and if she can secure the takedown early with her wrestling, then she has the skills on the ground to tie up and early submission win.
PICK – Gillian Robertson via Submission, Round 1
Randy Costa (6-2) vs Tony Kelley (7-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger at 135-pounds up next. Costa has been impressive in victory and defeat so far in the UFC, but was stopped in his last fight by Adrian Yanez at UFC Vegas 32. Kelley on the other hand is 1-1 in the UFC so far, with a win over Ali AlQaisi at UFC Fight Island 5 last year coming via decision last time out.
Costa is a brilliant young boxer, with excellent combinations and head movement to go with his power and kicking game too. Kelley is a well-rounded fighter who can mix up takedowns with some striking on the feet. Costa’s biggest issue in this fight is his cardio, because he seems to fade in the second round every time. He throws with great power but it goes against his gas tank, but if he slows it down his technical deficiencies come to the surface.
Kelley is going to have issues here. He is skilled enough to cause problems, but his big flaws play straight into Costa’s strengths and that likely leads to a short night. He throws lots of naked kicks while in range of his opponent and he doesn’t defend his body relatively well, so expect Costa to drop him early with a counter and finish it with follow up shots.
PICK – Randy Costa via Knockout, Round 1
Ryan Hall (8-2) vs Darrick Minner (26-12) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A grappler’s paradise in this one between two of the best jiu-jitsu artists in the game. Ryan Hall saw his winning streak snapped at UFC 264 when he got KO’d by Ilia Topuria, while Minner got KO’d by Darren Elkins at UFC Vegas 32 in his last outing too.
Both of these guys are jiu-jitsu masters. Hall is one of the most feared submission artists in the world, with his leg lock attacks absolutely brutal and dangerous. Minner is just as feared in the grappling world in MMA, with his 22 submission wins in his career. Defensively though, Minner has been submitted eight times himself and that shows that he isn’t the best when he’s not on offense.
Hall is the greatest jiu-jitsu player in MMA since the Gracie’s probably and with both of these guys guaranteed to try and take it to the ground, it’s just an open goal to Hall eventually claiming a submission win yet again.
PICK – Ryan Hall via Submission, Round 1
Alex Perez (24-6) vs Matt Schnell (15-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs) A super fun flyweight bout up next. Perez makes his return to the cage after his title fight submission loss to Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 255, while Schnell looks to return to winning ways after a decision loss to Rogerio Bontorin at UFC 262 earlier this year. Perez is a very well-rounded fighter with good boxing skills and some excellent grappling skills too, while Schnell is equally well-rounded with some decent submission skills and a good high guard when striking, although he doesn’t have show-stopping one-punch power. His wrestling isn’t the best and I think Perez has the edge there, while on the feet he also has a disadvantage int his match up. Schnell’s best hope in this one is to either clip Perez on the feet in an exchange, or locking up a submission in a scramble. Perez is likely to be able to out-box him in a striking battle and he has the grappling to survive for the most part so I think he grinds him down on the feet with leg kicks and lands the bigger shots in the fight to earn the judge’s decision.
PICK – Alex Perez via Decision
Miranda Maverick (11-3) vs Erin Blanchfield (7-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A really, really competitive women’s flyweight bout closes out the early prelims section of the card. Maverick suffered a close defeat to Maycee Barber last time out at UFC Vegas 32 to snap a five-fight win streak, and replaces her in this fight. Blanchfield made it four wins in a row when she earned a decision over Sarah Alpar at UFC Vegas 37.
Maverick is a solid wrestler who looks to take her opponents down and grind them down with ground-and-pound attacks, while her power on the feet is good too. Blanchfield is of a similar ilk, with brilliant wrestling and a very good jiu-jitsu game while her striking game has seen huge improvements in recent years.
This is such a 50/50 fight that it’s really hard to pick. I think Maverick has a slight edge in wrestling, but Blanchfield definitely has the submission edge in grappling exchanges while Maverick probably has a slight edge in striking. Defensively Maverick leaves herself open a lot, but her experience against top level opponents is also a factor. Ultimately, it’ll be razor thin but I think Maverick can use that experience to earn a decision win.
PICK – Erin Blanchfield via Decision