The UFC returns to the Apex centre in Las Vegas for the TUF 30 finale card, headlined by light heavyweight bangers.
Thiago Santos will take on Jamahal Hill looking for a place in the top five of the rankings at 205-pounds in the main event, while Vicente Luque will also fight Geoff Neal in the co-main event.
The TUF finale also takes place as the heavyweights Mohammed Usman, brother of Kamaru, takes on Zac Pauga while the women’s flyweights will see Brogan Walker take on Julianna Miller.
Last time out at UFC 277 we went 10/13 with two perfect picks to move to 683/1059 (64.49%) with 291 perfect picks (42.61%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims and moving on to the rest of the prelims, we now pick the main card.
Ariane Lipski (14-7) vs Priscilla Cachoeira (11-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very interesting women’s flyweight bout opens up the main card here. Lipski snapped a two-fight losing streak after KO defeats to Antonina Shevchenko (UFC 255) and Montana De La Rosa (UFC Vegas 28) when she beat Mandy Bohm last time out. Cachoeira has won three of her last four with KO wins over Shana Dobson (UFC Vegas 14) and Gina Mazany (UFC 262) as well as a decision last time out against Ji Yeon Kim. She was beaten by Gillian Robertson in the middle of that at UFC 269 via first-round submission.
Lipski is an effective Muay Thai striker with excellent technique, but her power is lacking and she tends to be relatively hesitant to throw. Cachoeira is the opposite, with incredible power and wild technique as she marches forward and takes one to give two. Lipski is by far the more technical, but that means little if she can’t keep Cachoeira away from her as she throws bombs.
Cachoeira will move forward through the lack of power and look to blast her head off with elbows and hooks. If they clinch then Cachoeira is big and strong enough to break away and if it goes to the ground then the Brazilian has the advantage there too. If it’s clean and tidy then Lipski has a chance, but Cachoeira fights rarely are so expect a nasty win.
PICK – Priscilla Cachoeira via Knockout, Round 2
Augusto Sakai (15-4-1) vs Serghei Spivac (14-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight banger up next. Sakai has lost his last three in a row, getting stopped by Alistair Overeem, Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UFC Vegas 28) and most recently Tai Tuivasa (UFC 269). Spivac on the other hand has won four of his last five, with a KO defeat against Tom Aspinall followed up by a KO win over Greg Hardy at UFC 272 most recently.
Sakai is a powerful striker with good combinations and kickboxing, and some solid takedown defence to show too. Spivac is a grappler who looks to wrestle and use his size to wear on his opponents although his striking has been improving in recent bouts. With that said, this fight is an interesting battle between differing styles and could be settled based upon each fighter’s approach.
Prior to his three defeats in a row this is the type of fight that Sakai absolutely loved. Spivac’s striking isn’t good enough or powerful enough to strike fear in Sakai’s heart, while he’s be confident of stifling the wrestling attempts. But if he’s more hesitant after those defeats to come forward and throw then he could be in trouble. Based on what we’ve seen in the past though, it’s hard not to pick Sakai. The Brazilian should be able to walk Spivac backwards and unload combinations against the cage, and his power is enough to close the show early.
PICK – Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 2
Brogan Walker (8-2) vs Julianna Miller (3-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The TUF 30 women’s flyweight finale up next. Walker us 8-2 in her professional career, fighting in Invicta before going on the show, while Miller is 3-1 having done the same thing. Both women claimed decision wins on the show throughout the series, except for Miller’s submission in the semi-finals.
Neither of these women are particularly standout athletes or fighters, but they’re here for a reason. Walker is a 10th planet jiu-jitsu fighter and is very comfortable fighting off her back, but her grit and volume won her bouts in the TUF house, while Miller has plenty of volume on the feet herself with solid leg kicks and a decent jab too. There will be plenty of grappling in this fight though.
Nobody knows who the better wrestler is at this point, because neither were really forced to grapple in the house. Both have submission wins in their career to this point, but the experience of Walker is a big factor here. She has fought a far higher level of competition in her career up to this point and if she ends up under Miller she’ll be confident enough with her submission skills, while Miller’s submission wins came from the top. Because of that, and only that, I’m going with Miller to claim a decision win but this could probably go either way in reality.
PICK – Brogan Walker via Decision
Mohammed Usman (8-2) vs Zac Pauga (6-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight TUF 30 finale next. Usman suffered defeat in his last bout before entering the house, getting submitted by Brandon Sayles in the PFL back in May 2021. Pauga is an undefeated fighter with a decision win over Markus Perez in Cage Warriors last time out in October 2021 via decision.
Usman is a natural heavyweight who is pretty well rounded, with decent striking and very good wrestling similar to his brother. He has finished five fights in his career, split pretty evenly with three knockouts and two submissions. Pauga is a natural light heavyweight who uses his slick movement and kickboxing skills to outpoint opponents so far in his career, with just one KO finish to his name. He has a big speed advantage here, but he will be severely undersized.
It’s strength and size against technique in this one. If Usman is able to get his hands on Pauga and take the fight to the mat, then it will be incredibly difficult for “The Ripper” to get back to his feet. If he keeps it standing though, Pauga wll be too quick and should be able to land well. I expect it to go the distance, and I can’t see how Pauga keeps Usman off him for 15 minutes so I expect “The Motor” to make it a family affair in the UFC.
PICK – Mohammed Usman via Decision
Vicente Luque (21-8-1) vs Geoff Neal (14-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An absolute banger at welterweight in my pick for the fight of the night. Luque was on a four-fight win streak with submission wins over Tyron Woodley (UFC 260) and Michael Chiesa (UFC 265) the stand outs, before being dominated by Belal Muhammad last time out. Neal snapped a two-fight losing streak to Stephen Thompson (UFC Vegas 17) and Neil Magny (UFC Vegas 26) when he earned a split decision win over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC 269.
Luque is a brilliant boxer with unbelievable power and cardio, as well as a solid jiu-jitsu game and unreal durability. Neal is a powerful striker too, but he tends to throw less volume and has been more hesitant in recent fights than usual. He’s got a bit of wrestling in his back pocket too, but he’s rather reluctant to use it. This should be a banger on the feet, and I can’t look past Luque at this point.
He’s the faster fighter, has better combinations and variety in his striking, great durability and he’s also more than capable of taking the fight to the ground. His chokes are great, but I expect plenty of body work and a threat of takedowns to be enough for Luque to be able to claim a highly entertaining decision victory.
PICK – Vicente Luque via Decision
Thiago Santos (22-10) vs Jamahal Hill (10-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Heavy hitters up next in the main event in the light heavyweight division. Santos is a former title challenger, but that defeat started a 1-4 run. He was beaten by Jon Jones, submitted by Glover Teixeira (UFC Vegas 13), dominated by Aleksandar Rakic (UFC 259) and most recently controlled by Magomed Ankalaev. He did claim a decision win over Johnny Walker at UFC Vegas 38. Hill recovered from the only defeat of his career where Paul Craig snapped his arm at UFC 263 by KO’ing Jimmy Crute (UFC Vegas 44) in just 48 seconds and then sleeping Johnny Walker in the first-round in February this year.
Santos is a brilliant kickboxer with unreal one-punch knockout power, but his volume has dramatically decreased since he blew out both his knees in the defeat to Jones. He’s also a black belt, but it’s hard to know why because whenever he’s gone to the mat he’s been dominated. Hill is also a brilliant striker with unbelievable knockout power, and he is confident on the mat too. It’s his surreal striking power and speed that make him a huge threat though.
This fight should be what many expected Santos vs Walker to be. That one ended up being very slow as both guys were worried about the power coming back their way, but Hill never has that fear. He will come forward, use his boxing and low kicks to close the range and look to take Santos’ head off. Santos is very durable on the feet but his lack of volume is a problem, and he’s nowhere near as effective when going backwards. Hill could make a big statement with a KO, but expect it to go 25 minutes with a bit more caution in Hill’s favour.
PICK – Jamahal Hill via Decision