The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas this week for a card that has been littered with changes on short notice.
Originally scheduled to be headlined by Rafael Dos Anjos and Rafael Fiziev, that fight was forced to be moved to UFC 272 due to visa issues and will now be headlined by Johnny Walker and Jamahal Hill.
It’s not the greatest of cards, with the only ranked fighters scheduled to compete in the main event but there are some decent fights expected to take place.
Last week at UFC 271 we had a great night, correctly predicting 11/14 fights with seven perfect picks which takes our picks totals to 539/840 (64.17%) with 231 perfect picks (42.86%).
Joaquin Buckley (13-4) vs Abdul Razak Alhassan (11-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An absolute slugfest coming up in the middleweight division here. Buckley bounced back from a head-kick KO defeat to Alessio Di Chirico at UFC Fight Island 7 by KO’ing Antonio Arroyo back in September. Alhassan on the other hand snapped a three-fight losing streak in his last fight, by KO’ing Alessio Di Chirico via head-kick in just 17 seconds. MMA, eh?
Both of these fighters are powerhouses with tremendous knockout power in their hands and legs and put their opponents’ lights out. Buckley is a good wrestler, but he never uses it, instead opting to box with good head movement and keeping a good pace throughout. Alhassan is a patient striker with real one-shot power, but he tends to struggle outside of the first round and his cardio isn’t good at all. That spells problems to me.
While this fight is anyone’s to win in the first round, the longer it goes the more it suits Buckley. He has the cardio advantage and he’s shown that his power can carry through the full 15 minutes, so I expect him to drag it out a little and then secure a big knockout later in the fight.
PICK – Joaquin Buckley via Knockout, Round 2
Jim Miller (33-16) vs Nikolas Motta (12-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Legend vs prospect in this lightweight division fight. Jim Miller will extend his record as the man with the most fights in the UFC, coming in on a 2-2 run in his last four with a knockout win over Erick Gonzalez most recently. Motta on the other hand is on a three-fight win streak and makes his UFC debut in this fight following a win on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Miller is one of the best submission artists the UFC has ever seen, with great wrestling and incredible jiu-jitsu which has earned him 18 submission wins in his career. Motta on the other hand has got incredible hand speed with his boxing-heavy approach with a sprawl-and-brawl strategy usually in place for most of his fights. Miller will look to test that in order to try and land and big strike or wrap up a position on the ground, but if he can’t get it done early he could be in trouble.
Motta will likely play it relatively cautiously early on in order to allow Miller to potentially blow himself out, and then use his speed and superior striking to pile up damage in the later rounds. It could end up being a “comeback” win, but I expect Motta to never really be in too much danger and come away with a decision win.
PICK – Nikolas Motta via Decision
Parker Porter (12-6) vs Alan Baudot (8-2) – Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights will be in Las Vegas for this fight card folks. Porter is on a two-fight win streak with decisions over Josh Parisian and Chase Sherman in his most recent outings, while Baudot was KO’d by Tom Aspinall in his debut at UFC Fight Island 5 before a defeat to Rodrigo Nascimento was overturned to a no contest.
Porter is a deceptively technical striker with good movement and speed, despite being 6 foot 7 and 260lbs. Baudot hasn’t shown much at all in the UFC so far, but he has got some decent power in his striking if I had to find something. This fight is likely to stay on the feet for the entirety of the bout, with Porter to use his jab and leg kicks to chip away at his defences.
Ultimately, this fight won’t be fun and I doubt there will be a finish because neither man is particularly known for being a power puncher. Porter has the cardio to go 15 minutes and I expect he will just piece him up throughout and earn a win.
PICK – Parker Porter via Decision
Kyle Daukaus (10-2) vs Jamie Pickett (13-6) – (Catchweight/195lbs)
A very intriguing short-notice catchweight fight between these two middleweight fighters. Daukaus lost two of his first three UFC bouts before a clash of heads before he tapped out Kevin Holland saw his last fight end in a no contest at UFC Vegas 38. Pickett steps in on short-notice on a two-fight win streak, with a decision against Joseph Holmes at UFC Vegas 46 last month.
Daukaus is a wrestler who looks to use his looping strikes to set up takedowns and then control his opponents on the ground for victories. Pickett on the other hand is a solid kickboxer with good Muay Thai skills and excellent power in his striking. That said, Pickett has found himself wrestling a lot since joining the UFC and if he does that here then he is likely to struggle to claim a victory.
Pickett is the more technical striker of the two, but Daukaus is the more powerful of the two and is certainly the one who can dictate where this fight takes place. Add in a five-year age gap too, I expect Daukaus to be able to get this fight to the ground and eventually take the back to secure a rear-naked choke with his relentlessness.
PICK – Kyle Daukaus via Submission, Round 2
Johnny Walker (18-6) vs Jamahal Hill (9-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A banger at light heavyweight in the main event, where someone is likely to go to sleep. Walker was beaten in his last fight by Thiago Santos in a very cagey fight back at UFC Vegas 38, making it three defeats in his last four. Hill on thje other hand bounced back from the first defeat of his career to Paul Craig at UFC 263 by knocking out Jimmy Crute in just 38 seconds last time out at UFC Vegas 44 in December.
Both of these fighters are hugely explosive knockout artists with legitimate one-punch power in their hands. Walker is incredibly unorthodox with the way he strikes, and he uses his kicks well from the outside. Hill however is a decent wrestler with lightning fast strikes with either hand and legitimate one-punch power. This is a fight that is similar to the Santos and Walker bout, but Hill is far more unlikely to be hesitant when it comes to pull the trigger.
Hill will walk forward and cut the cage off to Walker, which narrows down his opportunities to be wild with his attacks and opens up Hill’s window to land a big strike. It may take a round to warm-up, but I don’t think we’ll need the extra ten minutes this bout has been given a Hill earns a big knockout win.
PICK – Jamahal Hill via Knockout, Round 2