The UFC heads to Utah for a huge welterweight showdown as Kamaru Usman defenders his 170-pound crown against Leon Edwards in the main event.
The two fight for a second time, with neither fighter suffering defeat since the first showing back in 2015 and are supported by an undercard including Paulo Costa, Luke Rockhold, Jose Aldo, Merab Dvalishvili, Alexandr Romanov, Miranda Maverick and more.
Last time out at UFC San Diego we went 8/13 with three perfect picks to move to 698/1082 (64.51%) with 295 perfect picks (42.26%). You can see our full picks history here.
We’ll look to improve on that now and after starting with the early prelims, here are the rest of our prelims picks.
Tyson Pedro (8-3) vs Harry Hunsucker (7-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
If anyone can explain why this happening at all, never mind on the main card of a pay-per-view, then they’re better than me. Pedro returned from over three years out through injury with a first-round KO of Ike Villanueva back in April, while Hunsucker has lost three of his last four and got starched in under two minutes by both Tai Tuivasa (UFC Vegas 22) and Justin Tafa in his most recent fight.
Pedro looked great on his return and showed tremendous cardio, as well as explosive power with his kicks and hands to earn a knockout. Hunsucker is a guy who likes to stand in the middle and trade strikes, but doesn’t have the chin to stand there with the UFC calibre of fighter, never mind Pedro.
This is a weird fight because they’re galaxies apart in terms of ability, but also because of it’s placement on the card. Pedro blasts him with low kicks and combinations down the pipe to earn another knockout win and put an end to Hunsucker’s UFC run.
PICK – Tyson Pedro via Knockout, Round 1
Wu Yanan (12-5) vs Lucie Pudilova (13-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun woman’s bantamweight scrap that got shifted to the main card on late notice. Yanan has lost her last three in a row, dropping decisions to Mizuki Inoue, Joselyne Edwards and Mayra Bueno Silva. Pudilova alternatively has won her last two in a row and makes her second UFC debut in this one.
Yanan is a striker with good movement who looks to stick and move throughout the fight, while Pudilova is a more powerful striker who likes to step forward and apply pressure on her opponent. Yanan likes to try and set up strikes by changing direction, but her distinct lack of power and the fact she gets hit quite a lot certainly doesn’t help.
Pudilova isn’t the most powerful either but she is definitely more powerful than Yanan. She’s the slightly bigger woman of the two and could use that to wear on Yanan throughout, but expect her to land the more noticeable strikes with a bit more power to claim a win on the scorecards on her return to the octagon.
PICK – Lucie Pudilova via Decision
Jose Aldo (31-7) vs Merab Dvalishvili (14-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An incredible fight in the bantamweight division up next. Featherweight GOAT and title contender Jose Aldo has won his last three in a row with decisions against Marlon Vera (UFC Vegas 17), Pedro Munhoz (UFC 265) and most recently Rob Font (UFC Vegas 44). Merab is on a seven-fight win streak, including a stunning comeback win against Marlon Moraes at UFC 266 most recently.
Aldo is one of the very best strikers in UFC history, with terrific boxing and terrifying low kicks but he also has some of the best takedown defence ever and a elite ground game that he rarely ever has to use. Merab on the other hand is one of the most dominant wrestlers in the UFC, with the most takedowns in bantamweight division history and a ridiculous cardio that means he can seemingly go for forever. That is arguably his biggest avenue to victory here, because we’ve seen Aldo tire out in the past later in fights.
On the feet Aldo has a clear and dominant advantage, but if he looks to wrestle in any way at any time then he faces getting absolutely smashed. Merab will almost certainly take the centre and shoot relentlessly for 15 minutes. His success on the first two attempts will say a lot, but he also must avoid being hit clean because we’ve already seen Moraes hurt him last time out too. This is a super hard fight to call, but I think the cardio and grappling of Merab will eventually take it’s toll on the 35-year-old Aldo and claim him a tight decision win.
PICK – Merab Dvalishvili via Decision
Paulo Costa (13-2) vs Luke Rockhold (16-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A crazy fight in the co-main event at this stage of their careers. Costa was an undefeated behemoth before suffering a KO defeat against Israel Adesanya at UFC 253, before getting wrestled to death by Marvin Vettori in October after missing weight by 20lbs and watching the fight get moved up to light heavyweight in advance because of it. Rockhold has been knocked out cold in his last two fights by Yoel Romeo and Jan Blachowicz. This is his first fight in over three years.
Costa is a powerhouse who walks forward and blasts incredible combinations to the body and head while trying to take your head off, while also possessing a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt – although we’ve never seen him use it in the Octagon. Rockhold is a tremendous kickboxer with great power too, and he arguably has some of the best top position work in the entire UFC as well as great jiu-jitsu himself. Both guys have a huge problem in this fight though.
Costa is obviously going to have issues making weight, and that’s a big problem. The Brazilian literally couldn’t do it last time out, but is looking to do it again here and if he does make it, there will be a question mark around how compromised he is. Rockhold’s is his glass jaw. It will be tested in this fight, without a doubt. Unfortunately for him, after three years out, I highly doubt it has improved. Costa walks him down and turns the lights out on his MMA career early doors, despite the likely difficult weight cut.
PICK – Paulo Costa via Knockout, Round 1
Kamaru Usman (20-1) vs Leon Edwards (19-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
The two best welterweight fighters in the entire world go head to head for the welterweight title of the world. Usman has defended his title five times with knockout and decision wins over Jorge Masvidal (UFC 251 & UFC 261) and Colby Covington (UFC 268) each, as well as a knockout over Gilbert Burns too (UFC 258). Edwards is on a ten-fight unbeaten streak with a no contest against Belal Muhammad in a fight he was dominating being followed up with a dominant win over Nate Diaz at UFC 263.
Usman is probably the best wrestler in the UFC right now, but his striking game has elevated in recent years and seen him develop great power in his strikes too. Edwards is a brilliant striker with great accuracy, technical ability and speed, with a wrestling game that has improved ten-fold since defeat to Usman back in 2015. Both guys have improved tremendously and this is a really tough fight to call because both are so good in all disciplines.
But there is one thing that stands out, and that’s a Joe Rogan quote about wrestling, when he said that there’s only so much you can learn against someone who has a “lifetime” of it. That’s the situation Edwards finds himself in. Usman has fallen in love with his hands of late, and Edwards is more than good enough to make him pay for that. But Usman has the ability to dictate where this fight takes place, and if it’s going wrong I expect him to wrestle and control Edwards on the ground for long periods to claim a close decision and break the record for most consecutive wins in UFC history.
PICK – Kamaru Usman via Decision