The first pay-per-view of the year brings us two huge title fights in the smallest and biggest weights available to the men.
In the main event of the night Francis Ngannou will take on former teammate and interim champion Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title of the world, while the co-main will see the trilogy between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo for the flyweight title.
Both Ngannou and Gane will be fighting for more than just the title though considering the back story to the bout, while the 125-pound belt will see the two best in the world in their final form go head-to-head.
Last weekend at UFC Vegas 46 we went 6/10 with three perfect picks to move to 514/802 (64.09%) with 217 perfect picks (42.22%).
We’ll look to improve on that in this 11-fight card and after starting with the early prelims here, we move on to the rest of the prelims now.
Tony Gravely (21-7) vs Saimon Oliveira (18-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Banger at bantamweight closes out the early prelims. Gravely suffered defeat in his last outing, getting knocked out by Nate Manness at UFC Vegas 37. Oliveira on the other hand is currently on a five-fight win streak with four finishes, with his last win coming via split decision on the Contender Series.
Gravely is a boxer primarily, who uses those strikes to get a takedown and then work his excellent grappling skills on the ground. Oliveira is a Muay-Thai fighter with crisp striking, but exciting submission skills with 11 tap-out wins in his career. This is the type of fight that will be won by the guy with the better gas tank and that makes it a really tough pick. Gravely struggled with his cardio in his last fight and ended up getting KO’d, something Oliveira is more than capable of doing too.
But when you look at Oliveira’s last fight, it showed that he is open to being taken down himself because he throws naked kicks and can blitz into distance relatively recklessly. Gravely will eat those takedown opportunities up and with his ability to control on the ground, he should be able to secure enough of a gap to earn a decision win.
PICK – Tony Gravely via Decision
Jack Della Maddalena (10-2) vs Pete Rodriguez (4-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An intriguing bout between UFC debutants in this one. Maddalena is on a ten-fight win streak after losing his first two professional bouts, while Rodriguez is 4-0 and looking to make a big impression in the organisation after stepping in on a little over one week’s notice.
Maddalena is a seriously powerful striker with eight knockout victories in his career, with decent grappling too and an ability to get himself through deep waters and come out on the other side. Rodriguez on the other hand has got less than five minutes of professional cage time to his name, but they’ll all ended via knockout in his favour. He’s got genuine power in his hands and good boxing skills, but this seems like a big step up on such short notice.
Maddalena is a legit talent with a budding reputation, and he’s coming into this off a full camp for a fight against a much tougher opponent. Rodriguez has a real power puncher’s chance, but the likelihood of this fight going any way other than Maddalena putting on a clinic before securing a big knockout victory for himself.
PICK – Jack Della Maddalena via Knockout, Round 2
Raoni Barcelos (16-2) vs Victor Henry (21-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights on the entire card here and my pick for fight of the night. Barcelos saw a nine-fight win streak snapped last time out when Timur Valiev earned a majority decision win at UFC Vegas 30, while Henry makes his UFC debut after winning nine of his last ten fights.
Barcelos is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with brilliant boxing skills, fearsome leg kicks and a brilliant Brazilian jiu-jitsu game on the mat that has earned him ten stoppage wins in his career. Henry on the other hand is a decent wrestler himself with good power in his hands and some fine grappling himself to earn 14 stoppage wins in his career. Unfortunately for him, he’s outmatched everywhere in this fight in all honesty.
Henry has been beaten up on the feet by worse fighters, taken down by worse wrestlers and dominated on the ground by lesser grapplers. Barcelos has never really had a problem with his gas tank and while Henry has never been stopped, that comes to an end this weekend.
PICK – Raoni Barcelos via Knockout, Round 2
Ilia Topuria (11-0) vs Charles Jourdain (12-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs) An exciting short-notice featherweight bout headlines the prelims section of this card. Undefeated Ilia Topuria is 11-0 with a hugely impressive KO win over Ryan Hall at UFC 264 last time out. Jourdain steps in on short notice after a decision win at UFC Vegas 45 against Andre Ewell last time out. Topuria is a supremely talented striker with excellent boxing skills and some solid kicks too, all to go with some great power. But before that, he’s a super grappler with nasty submission skills and great wrestling. Jourdain on the other hand looks to bring blood and thunder to every fight and apply pressure on his opponents. He loves to throw flurries and has some good flying knees, but ultimately if Topuria gets hold of him on the ground it’s a long day. On the feet it’s a 50/50 fight, but because Topuria has the ability to be able to take this down relatively quickly and just dominate on the ground he is likely to get the win here. Jourdain will put up a fight for sure, but Topuria will wrap up the neck eventually and continue to move up towards a number next to his name.
PICK – Ilia Topuria via Submission, Round 2