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 and after starting with the early prelims here, we move on to the rest of the prelims now.
Aliaskhab Khizriev (13-0) vs Denis Tiuliulin (10-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Two big debutants go head to head in the middleweight division up next. Khizriev is an undefeated 13-0 fighter, with victories split fairly evenly at 5-4-4 between knockouts, submissions and decisions. Tiuliulin has won four of his last five fights, including a first-round TKO last time out over a year ago.
This will be Khizriev’s second fight in just four years due to fights falling out and the COVID pandemic, but his talent is undeniable. He is a solid striker on the feet with good boxing skills, but he also has tremendous submission skills and is a brilliant wrestler. Tiuliulin is an explosive striker with very little ground game and after taking this fight on just three weeks’ notice, he better hope that Khizriev is rusty.
I just don’t see that he will be though, despite his lack of action recently. Khizriev will drag him to the mat very early on and while Tiuliulin flops around on the mat like a fish out of water, Khizriev will be deciding whether he looks for a choke or to just land violent elbows from the top. My guess is he wraps up a neck and gets the tap early on for a comfortable win.
PICK – Aliaskhab Khizriev via Submission, Round 1
Chris Gutierrez (17-3-2) vs Batgerel Danaa (10-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Exciting bantamweights go toe-to-toe up next in this one. Gutierrez is undefeated in his last six fights, with a draw against Cody Durden stopping it being flawless. He’s earned decisions against Andre Ewell (UFC 258) and Felipe Colares (UFC Vegas 39) in his last two fights. Danaa has won his last three in a row, earning first-round KO’s against Guido Cannetti (UFC 248), Kevin Natividad (UFC 261) and Brandon Davis (UFC Vegas 40).
Gutierrez and Danaa are both strong strikers with good power, volume and accuracy and both will be coming up for the toughest test of their careers so far against each other. Gutierrez is a sharp boxer with good technique, while Danaa is just pure power who tries to back his opponents up to the cage and tee off until the get chopped down. Gutierrez mixes in kicks a little bit more to his attacks, especially chopping at the lead leg and that could be the difference here.
Danaa will come forward without a doubt but Gutierrez will look to chop away at the leg and body from range with his legs and then punish him on the feet with crisp technique if he gets past that barrier of defence. Danaa has good wrestling, but he tends to ignore it, and that should allow Gutierrez to do enough damage to accumulate for a nice finish midway through.
PICK – Chris Gutierrez via Knockout, Round 2
Sara McMann (12-6) vs Karol Rosa (15-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing bantamweight bout between two talented women up next. McMann has lost three of her last four, with the most recent coming against Julianna Pena at UFC 257, while Rosa is on a six-fight win streak and a decision over Bethe Correia at UFC Vegas 38 in her most recent bout.
McMann is a 41-year-old freestyle wrestler who is way past her prime years right now and doesn’t really have any place being on the roster right now. Rosa on the other hand has gone from strength to strength in her UFC appearances, with her straight striking doing damage and some decent grappling in her own right. McMann’s game plan is obvious and the same in every fight. She will wrestle and look for top position then try to hold them down and advance for head-and-arm chokes. Rosa has an over 90% takedown defence though, and is capable of holding her own on the ground if she needs to also.
Rosa is a heavy favourite in this fight for a reason and I’d be absolutely stunned if she lost this. Her striking volume is excellent, she mixes in kicks, knees and punches really well, is more active and just overall better. Expect Rosa to run her over over 15 minutes.
PICK – Karol Rosa via Decision
Neil Magny (25-9) vs Max Griffin (18-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Big welterweight bout is the featured prelim fight of the night. Magny bounced back from a suffocating defeat to Michael Chiesa at UFC Fight Island 8 by earning a dominant win against Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 26, while Griffin is on a three-fight win streak including a decision win over Carlos Condit most recently at UFC 264.
Magny is a great wrestler, who uses his length and range to keep fighters against the cage and then tries to take them down and control them on the ground. He’s got a good point style for his striking too, but he’s not really elite in any field. Griffin on the other hand is a decent boxer with good power in his hands, but he’s also a primary wrestler and I don’t see him as being better at that than Magny. Griffin is very explosive with his striking, but this seems like a tough bout for him.
Magny is good at fighting on the back foot and throwing lots of volume, but that leaves the door open for Griffin to land power shots. His best bet will be to break up the rhythm with clinches and takedown attempts, while landing good strikes from range to claim a relatively comfortable decision win.
PICK – Neil Magny via Decision