The UFC returns to the Apex centre in Las Vegas for UFC Vegas 55, headlined by women’s bantamweight contenders Holly Holm and Ketlen Vieira.
In a rather underwhelming card, there is a banger of a co-main event on display though in the welterweight division when fan favourites Santiago Ponzinibbio and Michel Pereira clash in a ranked bout.
Last week at UFC Vegas 54 we went 6/11 on the night with three perfect picks, moving our total to 628/976 (64.34%) with 268 perfect picks (42.68%). You can check out our total picks chart in detail here.
Eryk Anders (14-6) vs Junyong Park (13-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting middleweight scrap opens up the main card here. Anders picked up a big win over Darren Stewart back at UFC 263, but then had his arm ripped off by Andre Muniz at UFC 269 in no time at all last time out. Park picked up a good win over Tafon Nchukwi at UFC Vegas 10, before getting stopped by Gregory Rodrigues in the second round in his last bout.
Anders is a solid wrestler with some good straight punches, but his durability in the past has been questioned and his cardio has never been the greatest. Park is a super steady fighter with a solid all-round game, although none of his attributes really stand out among others. This is likely to be a pretty steady fight with both guys waiting for the other to move first.
Because of that, I expect Park’s fundamentals to get him the win. He has good variety in his attacks, has good wrestling and his straight cardio usually holds up so expect him to pick up an underwhelming decision victory.
PICK – Junyong Park via Decision
Polyana Viana (12-4) vs Tabatha Ricci (6-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Strawweights go head-to-head in this main card scrap. Viana snapped a three fight losing streak when she submitted Emily Whitmire via first-round armbar at UFC Vegas 8, then did the same to Mallory Martin in her last bout at UFC 258 too. Ricci got stopped in her UFC debut by Manon Fiorot at UFC Vegas 28, but got back in the win column against Maria Oliveira at UFC Vegas 41.
Viana is an excellent grappler with brilliant submissions off her back and on top, while her striking is pretty solid too earning her four knockout wins in the past. Ricci will walk forward to try and blitz strikes before clinching and looking for a takedown herself, so where this bout ends up will be pivotal to the result. Whoever is on top will have the greater success, with both women Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts.
Ricci’s awkward striking makes me lean towards Viana though. Viana has a big size advantage for height and reach, but she does struggle technically with her striking. But the size should be enough to avoid any strikes and clinches with the judoka and lots of scrambles, but I think Viana should be able to get on top and control position enough for a win.
PICK – Polyana Viana via Decision
Chidi Njokuani (21-7) vs Dusko Todorovic (11-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Another middleweight scrap here between two guys who know how to bang. Njokuani is on a three-fight win streak including a violent knockout win over Marc-Andre Barriault in just 16 seconds back in February. Todorovic snapped a two-fight losing skid with a first-round knockout win over Maki Pitolo in his last bout back at UFC Vegas 44.
Njokuani is a powerhouse with fantastic hand speed and great striking, while he has got decent wrestling in his back pocket too. Todorovic is a former Serbian grappling world champion, but loves to step forward and use his kickboxing although his defensive striking is pretty poor. Todorovic tends to stand up straight and with Njokuani’s hand speed, that makes the target bigger and easier to hit.
Both of these fighters are strong in the stand up and steady in the grappling, able to mix it up well so where this fight goes will be interesting. But with that said, the lack of head movement from Todorovic and his willingness to move backwards will open up the chance for ‘Bang Bang’ to land a nasty combination that turns the lights out.
PICK – Chidi Njokuani via Knockout, Round 2
Santiago Ponzinibbio (29-5) vs Michel Pereira (27-11) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Fight of the night, bar none, without question. Ponzinibbio once upon a time was a serious contender at welterweight, but a long injury layoff saw him miss several years and he’s returned to mixed fortunes. He was flatlined by Li Jingliang at UFC Fight Island 7, before earning a brilliant win over Miguel Baeza at UFC Vegas 28. Last time out though, he was beaten by Geoff Neal at UFC 269. Pereira on the other hand is on a four-fight win streak, with impressive decision wins against Niko Price (UFC 264) and Andre Fialho (UFC 270) most recently.
Ponzinibbio is a stud striker with great boxing and superb power in his hands, while his kicks are among the best in the division even today. Pereira is one of the wildest fighters in UFC history, pulling off capoeira techniques including back flips and spinning attacks to go with his incredible dynamic power and excellent grappling. This fight has got fireworks written all over it.
Pereira will likely lean on his grappling in this fight quite heavily, because a firefight with Ponzinibbio is a huge risk he just doesn’t have to take. After a few initial blitzes and exchanges, expect Pereira to change levels and get a takedown to control him on the ground in order to save his energy for any blitzes that he needs in the latter rounds.
PICK – Michel Pereira via Submission, Round 3
Holly Holm (14-5) vs Ketlen Vieira (12-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Main event time as the former champion returns to the cage. Holm has won her last two, defeating Raquel Pennington and Irene Aldana via decision but hasn’t fought since October 2020. Vieira on the other hand picked up a huge win over Miesha Tate back in Novemeber to put her name firmly on the map, claiming a unanimous decision win.
Holm is one of the best pure strikers in women’s MMA history, using a karate style and kickboxing skills that secured her several world championships outside of the UFC. Her kicks are remarkable and her footwork excellent, but her volume is sometimes lacking and her power isn’t what it once was. Vieira on the other hand has shown great improvement in her striking recently, but it’s the grappling where her bread gets buttered and she will be looking to get this fight to the ground ASAP.
Vieira absolutely needs this fight on the mat to win. Holm is so good with her striking and movement that she can piece her up on the feet, and her defensive grappling has been solid in the past. But Vieira is the best grappler she’s faced probably and it’ll be tough, especially now that she’s 40. With that said, her style suits this match up favourably and she should claim a decision win quite comfortably.
PICK – Holly Holm via Decision