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%).
Lets see if we can improve that here and after starting with the early prelims, we round up our prelims picks here.
Diana Belbita (14-6) vs Gloria De Paula (5-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A strawweight bout opens up the main prelims. Belbita lost her first two UFC fights before finally claiming a win over Hannah Goldy last time out via unanimous decision. De Paula on the other hand is nearing a 50/50 record having lost her first two UFC fights, dropping a decision to Jinh Yu Frey at UFC Vegas 21 before getting KO’d by Cheyanna Vlismas last time out.
Belbita is a pressure fighter with some good striking and great work rate and volume, while De Paula is a technical striker on the feet who has struggled so far with the level of competition. That said though, stylistically this one suits her well. De Paula should be able to land relatively clean shots from distance if she can maintain it, but Belbita will be looking to close it quickly and use her slight size advantage to wear on De Paula as much as possible.
De Paula will almost certainly land the better strikes throughout the fight, but Belbita will win this fight if she can make it ugly. She will come forward with pressure to force De Paula to take steps backwards, which will prevent the kicking game and I think she’ll mix in takedowns too to edge a close decision win.
PICK – Diana Belbita via Decision
Chas Skelly (18-3) vs Mark Striegl (18-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight fight between two great fighters with excellent professional records. Skelly hasn’t fought since 2019 when he earned a decision win over Jordan Griffin, while Striegl suffered a 51 second knockout defeat in his only UFC bout against Said Nurmagomedov at UFC Fight Island 6 in 2020.
Both of these fighters will be looking to get the fight to the ground at the earliest convenience considering their strengths laying in the world of submissions. All 14 stoppage wins in Striegl’s career have come by way of tap out, while Skelly has earned ten submissions of his own throughout his career. Neither of these fighters have a great gas tank and their striking isn’t the best, so a stand-up war between them is unlikely.
But on the mat, Skelly has a big advantage. He’s the better wrestler of the two and has submitted the greater level of competition in the past, while he also has more power in the striking department while the fight is there. His layoff is a big concern obviously, but I expect he will be able to control Striegl on the ground for long enough to earn a decision win on his comeback.
PICK – Chas Skelly via Decision
Jessica-Rose Clark (11-6) vs Stephanie Egger (6-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two women coming off victories go head-to-head in the bantamweight division. Clark is coming off two consecutive wins, KO’ing Sarah Alpar at UFC Vegas 11 before earning a decision win over Joselyn Edwards most recently. Egger claimed a win in her most recent fight by KO’ing Shanna Young in the second round via a nasty elbow at UFC Vegas 38.
Clark is a wrestler who takes her opponents towards the cage and looks to grind them out until an opportunity opens up to either slide a submission in or land ground and pound. Egger on the other hand is a talented judoka who has some very crisp striking in close, although her technique is lacking on occasion. Egger is very good with her throws and takedowns, but she’s shown a weakness to being taken down herself which suits Clark perfectly here.
Egger has the capabilities of being able to reverse takedown situations into her favour, but Clark is more than good enough to work her way back up if that happens. If she can not be too predictable with her grappling and level changes, then I expect Clark to be able to do what she does best and grind her way to a victory.
PICK – Jessica-Rose Clark via Decision
Gabriel Benitez (22-10) vs David Onama (8-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A potential fight of the night contender in this one at 145-pounds. Benitez has struggled recently with three defeats in her last four, including most recently to Billy Quarantillo via unanimous decision. Onama on the other hand saw his UFC debut end in defeat, snapping his undefeated start to his career, as Mason Jones dominated him up a weight class on short notice.
Benitez is a very talented striker, with leg kicks like a mule and nasty body attacks too. He uses his kicks like a jab, trying to maintain distance from his opponent with them and setting up other attacks too. Onama on the other hand is an absolute powerhouse with explosive striking and an ability to wrestle too. He switches stances well and likes to close his distance too, which spells trouble for Benitez.
Onama looks to have all the tools to really make a name for himself in the UFC and it seems as though the UFC have set him up with a really good stylistic match-up in this one. Benitez got dropped by an overhand from Quarantillo last time out and if Onama lands one, he’s going out. Ultimately, Onama’s strengths lie where Benitez’s weaknesses are and that should lead to a highlight reel KO.
PICK – David Onama via Knockout, Round 1