The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 61 this weekend with a strawweight contender main event headlining.
Brazilian bombshell Mackenzie Dern looks to bounce back from defeat when she takes on Yan Xiaonan in a five-round bout at the top of the card, with some decent support acts too.
The likes of Randy Brown, Randy Costa, Sodiq Yusuff and Raoni Barcelos are all on the card too, so it should be a sneakily good card.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 60 we went 8/13 with three perfect picks to move to 731/1132 (64.58%) with 308 perfect picks (42.13%). You can see our full picks history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims and then moving on to the rest of our prelims picks here, we continue with our main card picks now.
Mike Davis (9-2) vs Viacheslav Borschchev (6-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight scrap up next. Davis is on a two-fight win streak currently in the UFC, defeating Thomas Gifford by KO back in 2019 before returning with a decision win over hot prospect Mason Jones at UFC Fight Island 8. Borschchev suffered the first defeat of his UFC career last time out, dropping a decision to Mark Diakiese in March.
Davis is a phenomenal striker with fantastic technique and tremendous power in his hands, while he also has some great wrestling in his back pocket too. “Slava” on the other hand is a renowned kickboxer who transitioned to MMA in 2019 and has been working on his grappling and wrestling. In a straight up striking bout, which this is likely to be, he is at home though and that’s a big advantage.
Diakiese was able to beat “Slava” by wrestling him constantly and controlling him on the mat. Davis could look to match that, but it’s not his natural game and that will exhaust him. In a striking bout, it’s hard to look past “Slava”. He’s the more powerful and more technical guy, but Davis is a brute of an athlete. It will be a great fight, but expect the fact he can mix his wrestling in with his striking to claim him a close win on the night.
PICK – Mike Davis via Decision
John Castaneda (19-5) vs Daniel Santos (10-2) – (Catchweight/140lbs)
Arguably one of the best fights of the night up next. Castaneda has won each of his last two bouts, KO’ing Eddie Wineland at UFC Vegas 19 before submitting Miles Johns most recently. Santos on the other hand suffered defeat in his UFC debut, as Julio Arce edged a decision at UFC 273.
Castaneda is a fine boxer with a good jab and decent power in his hands too, while Santos is a grappler with excellent jiu-jitsu who looked totally lost on the feet in his last fight. If Santos wants to win this, he needs to get his wrestling going early and get himself into a dominant position on the ground.
The problem with that is that Castaneda is as good a wrestler as he is, and he has a big advantage on the feet. He’s more powerful with his kickboxing and has a speed advantage too, so expect Castaneda to be able to claim a win in an entertaining bout.
PICK: John Castaneda via Decision
Sodiq Yusuff (12-2) vs Don Shainis (12-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An intriguing featherweight scrap in this one. Yusuff bounced back from defeat to Arnold Allen at UFC Vegas 23 when he claimed a decision over Alex Caceres earlier this year in his last fight. Shainis is making his UFC debut on a five-fight win streak, having won each of his last three via a first-round knockout.
Yusuff is a power puncher who has incredible striking skills, earning six wins via knockout throughout his career but he’s also got an excellent double-leg takedown in his arsenal too. Shainis on the other hand is a solid boxer with great knockout power too, earning eight wins via KO. Shainis is a talented fighter who earned his shot, but this is a huge step up.
There’s just two weeks’ notice for the newcomer in this fight and he’s going up against a ranked opponent. He will look to come forward and land big to end the fight early, but Yusuff is known to be patient with his striking and technically excellent. Expect him to wait out the initial blitz before blasting Dainis to sleep in the latter half of the fight.
PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Knockout, Round 2
Raoni Barcelos (16-3) vs Trevin Jones (13-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A really exciting bantamweight fight up next. Barcelos was one of the most underrated 135-pounders in the division but he has lost each of his last two fights dropping decisions to Timur Valiev and then Victor Henry most recently at UFC 270. Jones has also lost his last two, getting submitted by Saidyokub Kakhramonov before a decision loss to Javid Basharat last time out.
Barcelos is one of the most complete fighters in the division with excellent Muay-Thai, super chain wrestling, and a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt but at 35 years old age may be catching up with him. Jones on the other hand is a ridiculously powerful individual who uses his reflexes to fight on the counter. Against Barcelos though, that may leave him too much catching up to do.
Jones doesn’t have a lot of output but when he lands he makes it count. A big issue he’ll have though is that Barcelos can take this to the ground pretty seamlessly and Jones’ defence is unlikely to be able to hold up against that. It will be entertaining, but I expect Barcelos to mix his kickboxing and takedowns to take the win.
PICK – Raoni Barcelos via Decision
Randy Brown (15-4) vs Francisco Trinaldo (28-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
“Rude boy” makes his return in the co-main event here. Brown is on a three-fight win streak after submitting “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira with a one-arm rear-naked choke at UFC 261, before earning decisions over Jared Gooden and Khaos Williams most recently at UFC 274. Trinaldo alternatively has won his last two, with decisions over Dwight Grant and Danny Roberts. A loss to Muslim Salikhov at UFC Vegas 28 has stopped him being on a six-fight win streak.
Brown is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with all the tools to really be something special in the UFC. He has got legitimate knockout power in his hands as well as real submission skills on the mat too, as well as an incredible frame for the weight class. Trinaldo alternatively has got great durability, but his striking skillset is incredibly basic. Power jab, big overhand left. But his ability to grind means guys just can’t get him out of there.
But Brown has got great footwork, incredible power and his ability to mix it up means he’s a threat everywhere and for the full 15 minutes. Trinaldo should be able to hang early on, but at 44 years old he is likely to slow down and with the way Brown hits people don’t be shocked to see this one end inside the distance.
PICK – Randy Brown via Knockout, Round 3
Mackenzie Dern (12-2) vs Yan Xiaonan (13-3) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Main event time and a fight to see who moves towards title contention for 2023. Dern bounced back from defeat to Marina Rodriguez by winning against Tecia Torres via split decision last time out at UFC 273. Xiaonan on the other hand has lost her last two in a row, getting KO’d by Carla Esparza and then going the distance with Rodriguez too at UFC 272 last time out.
Dern is a world class jiu-jitsu fighter with the best submission game in women’s MMA. Her biggest issue is that she struggles to get the fight to the ground as her wrestling is poor, but her striking on the feet has improved in recent years and her durability is good. Yan is a pure striker with excellent technique and good power too, although each of her UFC wins has gone the distance. This is a straight up clash of styles, and it’s all about who can get the fight where they want it.
Xiaonan will want the fight standing and she is talented enough to dominate in that area. Dern will want it on the ground and if she gets it there, Xiaonan will really struggle to survive if she finds herself for extended periods of time. Over the course of 25 minutes it’s hard to imagine that Dern won’t be able to get into a dominant position at least once. For that reason I have to pick her, but don’t be surprised to see Xiaonan control distance and keep the fight standing throughout for a decision win.
PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2