UFC San Diego: Vera vs Cruz – Early prelims predictions

The UFC heads to San Diego, California for a bantamweight banger in the main event between Marlon Vera and former champion Dominick Cruz.

A 13-fight card that has got plenty of fire match ups on it is headlined by the two contenders in the 135-pound division, where a win could put them firmly in title contention for early 2023.

Last week a UFC Vegas 59 we went 7/10 with one perfect pick, moving to 690/1069 (64.55%) with 292 perfect picks (42.32%). You can see our full picks history here.

We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.


Youssef Zalal (10-5) vs Da’Mon Blackshear (12-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A fun bantamweight scrap opens up this card. Zalal has lost his last three fights in a row, dropping decisions to Ilia Topuria (UFC Fight Island 5), Seung Woo Choi (UFC Vegas 18) and Sean Woodson (UFC Vegas 28). Blackshear makes his UFC debut on a four-fight win streak with three submissions in that run.

Zalal’s successes in the UFC have come from solid wrestling and great movement on the feet too, and that bodes really well for him here. Blackshear is a solid submission artist from the top, with eight career tap-out wins, but he is pretty poor at keeping himself from being on the bottom and his striking is woeful at best. Zalal has shown an ability to be able to wrestle and keep opponents grounded, so that’s a clear path to the victory.

It will be really tough for the debutant to get success here, especially on just two weeks’ notice. If he manages to get top control he will be in a great position to control and execute chokes, but Zalal is good defensively and more than comfortable enough on the feet so he should be able to claim a relatively comfortable decision win.
PICK – Youssef Zalal via Decision

Jason Witt (19-8) vs Josh Quinlan (5-0) – (Catchweight/180lbs)

Big time fire-fight up next in a fight that was supposed to take place last week. Witt has lost two of his last three via KO, getting stopped in 16 seconds by Matthew Semelsberger at UFC Vegas 21 and then by Phillip Rowe in February. He earned a majority decision win over Bryan Barbarena in between those fights. Quinlan is an undefeated fighter who has finished all his wins, including a 47 second KO on the Contender Series last time out that got switched to a no contest for a positive drug test.

Witt is a strong wrestler who has good takedowns and solid top control, but has a leaky chin and has been KO’d six times in his professional career to date. Quinlan is a power puncher with excellent Muay Thai skills, but has shown a difficulty in fighting when being pressured backwards in the past. That said though, this looks set up for a Quinlan victory.

“The Renegade” is powerful, fast, strong and accurate which will be way too much for Witt. Quinlan is capable of being taken down, but he’s also more than capable of getting back to his feet and any extended sequence of striking will likely end with Witt staring up at the lights. Expect a statement win from the newcomer with a violent combination.
PICK – Josh Quinlan via Knockout, Round 1



Ode Osbourne (11-4) vs Tyson Nam (20-12-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A very exciting flyweight bout up next. Osbourne bounced back from a flying knee KO against Manel Kape (UFC 265) with consecutive wins over CJ Vergara (UFC 268) and most recently a KO win over Zarrukh Adashev. Nam was beaten via split decision against Matt Schnell back at UFC Fight Island 8, and makes his return after 19 months out.

Osbourne is a very active striker on the feet, but one who has great wrestling and strong submission skills on the mat too. Nam on the other has barely changed over his long career, with good power and low volume often seeing his fights end in a decision that goes against him or a KO win in his favour. That’s not a good thing against someone as explosive and volume heavy as Osbourne.

“The Jamaican Sensation” is unlikely to be too successful with his wrestling in this one with Nam’s takedown defence among the best in the division, but with a five-inch reach advantage and more volume he should easily claim a decision win if he avoids getting his clock cleaned by a big punch.
PICK – Ode Osbourne via Decision

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