The UFC returns to the Apex once again this weekend for a big women’s flyweight main event between Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Lemos.
The two ranked contenders will be looking to earn victory in the five-round headliner with an eye on a future title shot in 2023.
There are other big names on the card including Neil Magny, Daniel Rodriguez and Miranda Maverick.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 63 it wasn’t the best card, but we went 7/11 with two perfect picks to move to 760/1177 (64.57%) with 319 perfect picks (41.97%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Tamires Vidal (6-1) vs Ramona Pascual (6-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An interesting women’s bantamweight scrap opens up the card. Vidal is making her UFC debut on a five-fight win streak, with her only defeat coming in her second professional fight against current UFC fighter Karol Rosa. Pascual has lost her two octagon appearances, dropping decisions to Josiane Nunes and most recently Joselyne Edwads at UFC 275.
Vidal is a jiu-jitsu practitioner who has moved across to MMA, and her submission skills are solid. But outside of that, she is very limited and really struggles if she’s not on the mat. Pascual on the other hand is a decent striker with good clinch work, but her defence is non-existent. This is a weird fight, between two very limited fighters.
But Vidal has shown that she knows about two takedowns and has a big overhand right. Outside of that, she’s completely lost on the feet. Considering Pascual has UFC experience and some good boxing combinations plus a strong clinch, she should be able to land flush and keep the fight standing to secure a finish at some point midway through.
PICK – Ramona Pascual via Knockout, Round 2
Carlos Candelario (8-2) vs Jake Hadley (8-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Fun flyweight bout next up as the men enter the cage for the first time on this card. Candelario lost a split decision on Dana White’s Contender Series but his next bout was still in the UFC, but ended in a defeat to Tatsuro Taira back in May. Hadley on the other hand earned a submission win on the Contender Series, but his UFC debut went the same way when he lost to Allan Nascimento on the same card in May.
Candelario is a technical striker with some okay submission skills, but his issue is a lack of pure dynamism and athleticism. Hadley on the other hand is a physical specimen with a fantastic gas tank and great speed, and his grappling is where he excels. With that said, his technique on the feet isn’t bad either and he can hold his own. This is tough to call, because Candelario has the skillset to nullify Hadley like Nascimento did.
But with a lack of snap on his strikes and Hadley having a big advantage in the grappling too, it allows him to be a bit more free with his own strikes. If Hadley took anything from his first professional loss last time out, he should be able to bounce back now and earn a solid win here.
PICK – Jake Hadley via Decision
Liudvik Sholinian (9-3-1) vs Johnny Munoz (11-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Bantamweight scrap up next between two guys with losing records in the UFC. Sholinian came into the UFC on a four-fight win streak, but saw that snapped by Jack Shore in a dominant showing. This is his first fight in over a year. Munoz on the other hand is 1-2 in the UFC, losing to Nate Maness and Tony Graveley most recently with a win over Jamey Simmons sandwiched in between them.
Sholinian is a pressure fighter who likes to walk forward and touch his opponent with combinations, but his speed and power are hardly fearsome. That allows people to survive for the most part. Munoz is an excellent submission artist on the mat with decent striking on the feet, and an ability to grapple for days with his excellent cardio. This seems like one way traffic for the most part in Munoz’s favour.
If he is able to overcome the pretty standard pressure coming his way, he should be able to shoot for takedowns at will and be able to snatch up his neck. Sholinian’s best bet is to stall as much as possible and do some damage while avoiding extended grappling sequences, but that seems highly unlikely so Munoz should claim the win.
PICK – Johnny Munoz via Submission, Round 1
Polyana Viana (12-5) vs Jinh Yu Frey (11-7) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Two UFC veterans go head-to-head in this one. Viana has lost four of her last six fights, but saw her two-fight win streak of first-round armbars over Emily Whitmire and Mallory Martin (UFC 258) come to an end when Tabatha Ricci earned a decision win last time out. Frey on the other hand beat Gloria De Paula (UFC Vegas 21) and Ashley Yoder via decision, before losing to Vanessa Demopolous last time out back in June.
Viana is a grappling specialist, with all eight of her finishes coming via submission and the rest of her game lagging way behind that. Frey alternatively is a pressure fighter who has a well rounded skillset, but she has struggled in the past to really use them to the best of her abilities. Both of these women have good qualities, but they seem to lean on their bad habits when things don’t go their way.
That to me is a worse thing for Viana, who tends to go for hail Mary submissions if that’s happening and often allows her opponent to control how the fight goes while she waits for an opportunity. Waiting here will do her no good, so I expect Frey to be able to do enough damage on the feet and in top control to stay safe and earn the judges’ nod.
PICK – Jinh Yu Frey via Decision