A huge light heavyweight main event with title implications headlines the UFC Vegas 54 card this week after a brilliant card last week.
Former champions Jan Blachowicz returns to the octagon for the first time since losing his title to take on the highly rated Aleksandar Rakic, with the winner hoping it will take them towards a title shot.
In a sneaky good card, we’ll also see the likes of Davey Grant take on Louis Smolka and Katlyn Chookagian taking on Amanda Ribas to give you plenty to get your teeth into.
Last week at UFC 274 we went 9/14 with six perfect picks, taking us to 622/965 (64.46%) with 265 perfect picks (42.6%). You can check out our complete record here.
We’ll look to improve on that record here and after starting with the early prelims for the night we move on to the rest of the prelims section of the card.
Virna Jandiroba (17-3) vs Angela Hill (13-11) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A banger at strawweight between two fighters going through rough patches recently. Jandiroba has 1-2 in her last three, beating Kanako Murata via TKO (UFC Vegas 29) in between decision defeats to Mackenzie Dern (UFC 256) and Amanda Ribas (UFC 267). Hill has gone 1-4 in her last five, with a decision win over Ashley Yoder (UFC Vegas 21) sandwiched in the middle of decision defeats to Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson (UFC Vegas 10), Tecia Torres (UFC 265) and Amanda Lemos (UFC Vegas 45).
Jandiroba is a tremendous grappler with some excellent wrestling and nasty ground and pound, while her submission game is top notch having earned her 13 wins in her career. Hill is a striker, with excellent Muay Thai skills and some decent defensive wrestling skills but she regularly leaves fights in the judge’s hands by giving one to take one. This one seems like an unfavourable match up though because her recent performances have seen her struggle against top wrestlers.
Hill could easily have won three of her four recent defeats with different judges, but when you leave it open like that you’re asking for trouble. Jandiroba has had cardio problems in the past and Hill will go strong for the full 15 which could help in the latter rounds, but I expect Jandiroba’s wrestling to be enough to claim at least two rounds and another judge’s decision.
PICK – Virna Jandiroba via Decision
Michael Johnson (20-17) vs Alan Patrick (15-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A bit of a retirement bout in the lightweight division here as Michael Johnson takes on Alan Patrick at 155-pounds. Johnson hasn’t won since 2018, losing four in a row, with defeat to Clay Guida most recently at UFC Vegas 18. Patrick is winless in his last three after defeats to Scott Holtzman and Bobby Green, before an accidental eye poke saved him from another defeat to Mason Jones at UFC Vegas 28.
Johnson is a striker, with great power in his hands and nasty body kicks as well as some solid wrestling in his back pocket too. Patrick is a powerful wrestler who wants to use his top game to dominate position , but his wrestling to get the fight there isn’t good. These are two fighters who probably shouldn’t be in the UFC at this point, but here we are.
Patrick just isn’t very good, to put it plainly. If he manages to get the fight to the ground he will have success, but his cardio means he probably has about a round and a half in him before Johnson takes over. Overall, Johnson should be able to stay at range and piece him up on the feet while avoiding the takedowns to secure a win.
PICK – Michael Johnson via Decision
Viviane Araujo (10-3) vs Andrea Lee (13-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun women’s flyweight fight sits as the featured prelim bout in a highly competitive affair. Araujo saw a run of seven wins in eight bouts snapped last time out when Katlyn Chookagian claimed a decision win against her at UFC 262. Lee on the other hand has earned consecutive wins after a run of three defeats in a row, defeating Antonina Shevchenko at UFC 262 via submission before a TKO win against Cynthia Calvillo at UFC Vegas 42.
Araujo is a brilliant athlete, with great on-punch power as well as a gruelling top game from wrestling. Her big undoing however is her cardio, as she tends to only be able to go for two rounds or so before she fades away and rapidly. Lee on the other hand has improved her ground game well, while her striking game stands out among the contenders in the division although she struggles with wrestling defensively.
If the Brazilian has improved on her cardio then she should win this with her aggression and power. But if she hasn’t, it smells like a potential upset in ‘KGB’s favour with her effective striking and pace. The likelihood is that she hasn’t, because it’s always been an issue, so expect Lee to overcome a tough opening round to take over and claim the decision win.
PICK – Andrea Lee via Decision