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 and after starting with the early prelims picks, we move on to the rest of the prelims here.
Mickey Gall (7-4) vs Mike Malott (7-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fun welterweight bout up next as Mickey Gall looks to earn a much needed win for his record. Gall has gone 3-3 in his last six after initially starting off 3-0 in the UFC, with a defeat to Alex Morono last time out at UFC Vegas 44. Malott on the other hand makes his UFC debut after a 39 second victory on Dana White’s Contender Series last time out to earn his contract.
Gall is a brilliant jiu-jitsu practitioner who has been working on his striking in recent years to try and round out his game. Malott alternatively is a powerful striker with quick hands, who has won all of his fights in under two minutes. He’s also an adept grappler himself, but the lack of in-cage experience makes it hard to pick this fight.
Based on what we’ve seen, Malott has got a great chance of getting a big name on his record. But what happens if Gall manages to survive the initial two minute burst? Does Malott have the cardio to go 15 minutes if he needs to? Nobody knows but we can only go on what we’ve already seen from these guys, so I think Gall will survive the initial burst and be able to go for the full fight and edge out a close decision.
PICK – Mickey Gall via Decision
Aspen Ladd (9-2) vs Raquel Pennington (13-9) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very interesting bantamweight bout between two of the bigger names in the division. Ladd missed weight last time she was due to fight at bantamweight, but then moved up to featherweight on short notice and was beaten by Norma Dumont. Pennington on the other hand is on a three-fight win streak, with victories against Marion Reneau, Pannie Kianzad and most recently Macy Chiasson.
Ladd is an aggressive wrestler who has a very active top game, with the ability to finish bouts from that position as the six KO wins in her career show, while Pennington is an absolute grinder who has solid boxing and good clinch work. Ladd’s recent performances have been underwhelming and the weight is a big issue here. She was incredibly hesitant against Dumont and Pennington looks back to her best currently.
If Pennington is able to put the pressure on and make Ladd go backwards then she has a great chance of victory here. If Ladd makes weight easily though she has the wrestling credentials to make this a long night for Pennington. But the weight is a big problem and Pennington is quick enough and active enough to be able to earn a big win here.
PICK – Raquel Pennington via Decision
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-3) vs Marcin Tybura (22-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs) Heavyweights assemble! ‘Big Boi’ has alternated wins and losses in his last six, falling to defeats against Francis Ngannou, Ciryl Gane (UFC Vegas 20) and Curtis Blaydes in his most recent fight at UFC 266. Tybura on the other hand was on a five-fight win streak before running into Alexander Volkov most recently at UFC 267 where he dropped a decision. Rozenstruik is a former world champion kickboxer who has got incredible one-punch knockout power and solid kicks, while Tybura is a good pressure fighters with decent boxing and a solid array of leg kicks to dip into. This will almost certainly be a striking battle and that means that Rozenstruik will have the advantage. That is, unless Tybura goes into his wrestling well and looks to just drown Rozenstruik with pressure. There is a big opportunity for Tybura to get takedowns and work his top pressure for 15 minutes to get another big scalp on his resume, but Rozenstruik’s power makes that dangerous. Especially considering Tybura has been KO’d several times in the past. His durability has improved over recent fights, but Rozenstruik is the best striker he’s come up against in a while and the Suriname native should claim a big KO win here.
PICK – Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Knockout, Round 2
Ian Garry (8-0) vs Darian Weeks (5-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Two super hot prospects get the featured prelim headline spot in this one. Garry made his UFC debut at UFC 268 and claimed a Conor McGregor-esque knockout in the first round over Jordan Williams, while Weeks suffered defeat to Bryan Barberena in his debut at UFC Vegas 44 on short notice.
Garry is a brilliant striker, with great kicks and really quick counters that have got genuine knockout power. Weeks is a good wrestler, but he really struggled against Barberena to hold him down and get any sort of control so he doesn’t stand much hope of doing that here against Garry. There’s a huge gap in skill on the feet, and Garry is also decent on the ground himself with good defence and good front chokes.
This fight, on paper, looks like a setup fight for Garry’s star to continue to rise. He had more issues against Williams than initially expected, but that was likely debut nerves. Here he has the edge pretty much everywhere, so expect a violent TKO win for the Irishman.
PICK – Ian Garry via Knockout, Round 1