The UFC returns to the USA and a full crowd for a fight night event this weekend as Curtis Blaydes fights Chris Daukaus in Columbus.
After an amazing trip to London, we have another heavyweight main event this time with two fighters battling to stay in top five conversations and enter their name into the round-robin that’s buzzing in Francis Ngannou’s absence.
We’ll also see a huge flyweight eliminator between Askar Askarov and Kai Kara-France to see who could be the next title contender in the division.
Last time out at UFC London we had a great night, going 10/12 with our picks with three perfect picks to move up to 578/891 (64.87%) with 244 perfect picks (42.21%).
We’ll look to improve on that starting with the early prelims here.
Luis Saldana (15-7) vs Bruno Souza (10-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fun featherweight fight opens up this card. Saldana saw a five-fight win streak snapped last time out when he dropped a decision to Austin Lingo, while Souza lost his UFC debut at UFC 268 against Melsik Baghdasaryan.
Both of these guys are strikers but they have very different styles when it comes to attacking their opponents. Saldana is a more traditional striker with good jabs and low kicks, with excellent power and a real eye for a finish. Souza on the other hand is more of a point fighter, striking out of a karate stance and usually staying at distance and range while picking his opponents apart. Saldana is a good jiu-jitsu player too, but generally they are both going to look to keep this standing and trade hands.
Saldana is the more powerful striker, has really good range management and varies his attacks more and the low kicks that landed on Souza against Baghdasaryan should be part of his game plan. If they are, I expect his power and volume to be enough to earn a win, because Souza doesn’t do enough to push the pace and doesn’t have the power to threaten him with a one-and-done finish.
PICK – Luis Saldana via Decision
Matheus Nicolau (17-3-1) vs David Dvorak (20-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Very fun flyweight bout between two very highly rated fighters up next. Nicolau is on a four-fight win streak including 2-0 in the UFC after decision wins against Manel Kape at UFC Vegas 21 and Tim Elliott most recently. Dvorak is on a 16-fight win streak and is undefeated in the UFC, earning a first-round submission win over Juancamilo Ronderos in his last bout.
Nicolau is a pressure fighter who likes to grind on his opponents and has solid wrestling in his back pocket too. Dvorak is a really well-rounded fighter with great takedown defence and sharp boxing skills on the feet. Dvorak has more power in his hands and is a crisper striker, while on the ground they’re pretty evenly matched up.
This fight has no business being this far down the pecking order, it should absolutely be main card or at the very least a featured prelim bout. But regardless of that, in the cage it’ll be excellent. Dvorak’s sharper striking skills and own solid wrestling should be enough to see him claim a decision victory.
PICK – David Dvorak via Decision
Jennifer Maia (19-8-1) vs Manon Fiorot (8-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Another fight that has absolutely no business being this low down the fight card. Maia is a former title challenger but is 1-1 since then, with a win over Jessica Eye and then a defeat to Katlyn Chookagian last time out at UFC Vegas 46. Fiorot on the other hand is on an eight-fight win streak, going 3-0 in the UFC and earning a dominant decision win over Mayra Bueno Silva last time out at UFC Vegas 40.
Maia is a jiu-jitsu master of her craft, with five submission wins in her career but an elite grappling game. Fiorot on the other hand is a brilliant striker with great physical strength and a decent ground game. This is a huge clash of styles and the winner will undoubtedly be determined by whoever can dictate where this fight happens. Maia will be desperate to get it down to the mat and keep Fiorot from being able to pound her head in, but Fiorot’s takedown defence is decent.
The French striker can learn a lot from Maia’s most recent bout. Stay on the outside, land big power strikes from range and completely avoid letting her get this to the ground. It’s easier said than done, but she’s capable and I expect her to do it.
PICK – Manon Fiorot via Decision
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