The UFC returns after a two-week break with a huge pay-per-view card headlined by two massive title fights.
Alexander Volkanovski makes the third defence of his featherweight title when he takes on Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, in the main event.
In the co-main event we get the long awaited rematch at the top of the bantamweight division as Aljamain Sterling makes his first defence of the belt against Petr Yan, a little over a year after he won it via disqualification.
We’ll also see an incredible welterweight fight between Gilbert Burns and the freight-train that is Khamzat Chimaev before that, to see just how real the hype is.
Last time at UFC Columbus we went 7/12 with four perfect picks, which moves us to 585/903 (64.78%) with 248 perfect picks (42.39%).
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Julio Arce (17-5) vs Daniel Santos (10-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Arguably one of the fights of the night opens the card this weekend in the bantamweight division. Arce has lost two of his last three, including getting KO’d by Song Yadong in his last bout at UFC Vegas 42, while Santos makes his UFC debut on a two-fight win streak but he hasn’t competed since December 2019.
Arce is a very technical fighter who is no stranger to high-intensity brawls, with excellent kickboxing skills. Santos alternatively is an absolute powerhouse, who has incredible spinning techniques and great knockout power in his hands with wildly unpredictable striking. Arce’s experience and technical edge gives him an advantage but the fact he’s coming off his first ever KO loss and fighting someone who hasn’t fought in over two years leaves us with lots of question marks.
This is a really difficult fight to pick because of those variables, but I lean towards Arce. His technique should see him land well, especially considering Santos’ flimsy defence on occasion. He doesn’t have the sort of grappling to worry Arce too, so I think he lands clean enough to earn a very entertaining judge’s decision.
PICK – Julio Arce via Decision
Piera Rodriguez (7-0) vs Kay Hansen (7-5) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An undefeated prospect against a young and hungry prospect next up in the strawweight division. Rodriguez earned this fight by coming through an winning a decision on Dana White’s Contender Series last time out, while 22-year-old Hansen is currently on a two-fight losing streak after losses to Cory McKenna at UFC Vegas 14 and Jasmine Jasudavicius at UFC 272 in her last outing.
Rodriguez is a boxer with good power in her hands, but she tends to stand quite square and flat footed because of her attack style. That opens up a big window for Hansen to wrestle, which is where she’s at her best, and she can start to work her strong submission game too.
Hansen has only ever been KO’d once before so will be confident that she can eat a shot to get in on her takedowns. There is every chance that Rodriguez can splatter her with a big strike, but if Hansen leans on her wrestling and doesn’t hesitate on her shots she should earn a win here.
PICK – Kay Hansen via Submission, Round 2
Anthony Hernandez (8-2) vs Josh Fremd (9-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An intriguing middleweight bout next between two interesting prospects. Hernandez claimed a big win against Rodolfo Vieira at UFC 258 last time out, earning a stunning submission win against the ‘black belt hunter’. Fremd makes his UFC debut off a two-fight win streak, earning a submission win most recently in February.
Hernandez is a great grappler in his own right and has got decent striking too, but his defence was impressive in the last fight against Vieira. Fremd is a good wrestler who uses steady pressure throughout the 15 minutes to wear his opponents down, but ‘Fluffy’ showed last time out that he isn’t one to crumble under it.
Fremd isn’t a scary strong grappler, so Hernandez won’t be scared to go to the ground if needs be and he has the power on the feet to really hurt Fremd. Ultimately I expect him to clip Fremd early and then wrap up a submission on the ground to earn another win.
PICK – Anthony Hernandez via Submission, Round 1
Aleksei Oleinik (59-16-1) vs Jared Vanderaa (12-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big heavyweight fight up next between a wiley veteran and an interesting prospect for the big men. Oleinik has lost his last three in a row, getting KO’d by Derrick Lewis (UFC Vegas 6), Chris Daukaus (UFC Vegas 19) and Sergey Spivak most recently at UFC Vegas 29. Vanderaa on the other hand has lost his last two, getting KO’d by Alexandr Romanov and then dropping a decision to Andrei Arlovski at UFC 272.
Oleinik is a terrifying submission artist with a stunning 46 submission wins in his career including 14 ezekiel chokes. He looks to walk through strikes, swinging a wild overhand right before getting hold of you and taking the fight to the ground. Vanderaa on the other hand is a decent boxer who uses calf kicks well, and will have a considerable size advantage in this bout. On the feet Vanderaa will walk forward and pressure, but Oleinik will enjoy that.
The issue for Oleinik here ultimately is the fact he is 44-years-old now and he will be much smaller. If he can get the fight down to the ground then it’s his fight to lose, without a doubt. But Vanderaa will have a big weight advantage and it could be difficult to do. That said, Vanderaa is coming into this bout on just ten days notice, so I think Oleinik does get him down in the first round and ties up a choke for an impressive victory.
PICK – Aleksei Oleinik via Submission, Round 1
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