After a banger of a pay-per-view card last weekend the UFC returns to their APEX in Las Vegas for a big light heavyweight headline fight card as Thiago Santos takes on Magomed Ankalaev in the main event.
The 205-pound division is wide open at the top end and a big win for either man could see them enter title contention in the very near future.
We’ll also see Marlon Moraes take on Song Yadong in a bantamweight co-main event, while the likes of Drew Dober, Terrance McKinney, Miranda Maverick and Alex Pereira competing too in a sneakily stacked card.
Last time out at UFC 272 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 557/865 (64.39%) with 238 perfect picks (42.73%) with our picks.
We’ll look to improve on that going forward, starting with the early prelims on this 14-fight card here.
Tafon Nchukwi (6-1) vs Azamat Murzakanov (10-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An interesting light heavyweight bout opens the card up here. Nchukwi picked up a win in last fight, earning a decision over Mike Rodriguez most recently after suffering the first loss of his career prior to that against Jun Yong Park at UFC Vegas 26. Murzakanov makes his UFC debut in this one as an undefeated fighter.
Nchukwi is an explosive striker with good wrestling skills, but a real lack of speed to go with his karate background. Murzakanov on the other hand is a very quick 205-pounder, with a Sambo background to match up in the grappling and serious power in his hands and feet too. Nchukwi has a big problem with his volume and while a lack of speed isn’t usually too much of an issue in this weight class, Murzakanov is much faster than the average light heavyweight.
Technically on the feet Murzakanov is a better striker, has a serious speed advantage, is just as powerful and can match up (if not better) Nchukwi on the ground. This is all set up for a mightily impressive performance from the debutant to earn a big win.
PICK – Azamat Murzakanov via Knockout, Round 2
Kris Moutinho (9-5) vs Guido Cannetti (8-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fan favourite returns looking to get his first win in the UFC in this one. Kris Moutinho earned a boat-load of fans for his heart and performance in defeat to Sean O’Malley on short-notice at UFC 264, while Cannetti returned after one year away to suffer a split-decision loss against Leomana Martinez at UFC Vegas 35 to make it three losses in a row.
Moutinho is a pressure fighter who has a granite chin and undeniable cardio, while Cannetti is a powerful striker with good wrestling but horrendous cardio. The question for this fight is simple; can Cannetti get him out of there in the first round? If not, he’s going to lose this fight.
Moutinho will not stop coming forward and that will wear on Cannetti. ‘Ninja’ could look to earn a takedown or two to get some control, but Moutinho has got some decent takedown defence too. If he fails, that just empties the gas tank quicker and while Moutinho isn’t the most powerful the volume could add up and see him earn a stoppage via accumulation.
PICK – Kris Moutinho via Knockout, Round 3
Dalcha Lungiambula (11-3) vs Cody Brundage (6-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Very interesting middleweight fight up next between two relative UFC newcomers. Lungiambula is 2-2 in the company alternating his wins and losses, with the most recent win coming against Markus Perez at UFC Fight Island 8 and a defeat to Marc-Andre Barriault at UFC Vegas 36. Brundage suffered defeat in his UFC debut to Nick Maximov at UFC 266 via decision.
Lungiambula is a powerhouse who uses looping strikes and patience, while he has a good judo background and a solid leg kick too. Brundage however is a grinding wrestler, which looks to spell big trouble for the former LFA double champion. Lungiambula has a tendency to load up his strikes too much and move backwards towards the cage, which against a wrestler is a formula for trouble.
Brundage does leave his chin exposed sometimes and if he gets caught with a lazy entry then he could very well wake up staring at the ceiling, but the likelihood is that he gets to the hips, gets takedowns and just grinds his way to an impressive decision win.
PICK – Cody Brundage via Decision
Sabina Mazo (9-3) vs Miranda Maverick (11-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very good women’s flyweight bout up next between two hot prospects at 125-pounds. Mazo went 3-1 in her first four UFC fights but has since suffered defeat in each of her last two, dropping a decision to Alexis Davis at UFC Vegas 20 and then being submitted by Mariya Agapova at UFC Vegas 39. Maverick opened her career with a 2-0 start in the UFC, but then suffered short-notice defeats to both Maycee Barber and Erin Blanchfield at UFC 269 in her most recent bouts.
Mazo is a striker but has really struggled to impress in the organisation so far, with even her victories showing her struggles more than her triumphs in the cage. Maverick on the other hand has been the opposite, dominating her opponents while her defeat to barber was controversial and Blanchfield is a stunning prospect in her own right. Stylistically, she is a strong wrestler who is very aggressive with her striking and her pace is relentless. That spells big trouble for ‘Colombian Queen’.
She has struggled badly in the past against wrestle-heavy opponents like Davis, while on the feet she lacks the volume to keep Maverick at range. Despite a big size advantage in height and reach, expect Maverick to overpower Mazo into clinch or wrestling situations to claim an impressive win.
PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision