The UFC returns after a month-long absence for it’s first card of 2023, and there has already been drama.
Originally slated to be a middleweight main event between Nassourdine Imavov and Kelvin Gastelum, before Gastelum fell out with a mouth injury during fight week.
He’s now replaced by Sean Strickland, who steps in after his main event defeat to Jared Cannonier in the final card of 2022.
During that even we went 9/13 with five perfect picks to end the year at #UFCVegas66, moving us to 804/1251 (64.27%) with 331 perfect picks (41.17%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims of the night.
Priscila Cachoeira (12-4) vs Sijara Eubanks (8-7) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The first fight of the year is a fun flyweight scrap in the women’s division. Cachoeira is on a two-fight win streak, beating Ji Yeon Kim via decision before knocking out Ariane Lipski most recently in the first round. Eubanks on the other hand has lost three of her last four, including her most recent bout to Melissa Gatto back in December 2021.
Cachoeira is a well-rounded fighter who prefers to stand-up, mainly because her takedown defence is essentially non-existent. Eubanks is a fantastic boxer, but her Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills are very good too, which is almost certainly where she’s going to try to take this bout. But despite her skillset, she’s never been able to put it all together.
That’s because her cardio is horrible and after about a round and a half, she starts to drop her hands and slow all the way down. If Cachoeira can survive the initial onslaught on the mat, which she should considering Eubanks has never won via submission, then she should be able to get to her feet in the latter stages and beat her up enough to claim the win.
PICK – Priscila Cachoeira via Decision
Charles Johnson (12-3) vs Jimmy Flick (16-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An intriguing men’s flyweight bout up next. Johnson bounced back from defeat to Muhammad Mokaev by earning a controversial split decision over Zhalgas Zhumagulov most recently. Flick is on a four-fight win streak but retired after his most recent bout in December 2020. This is his return fight after four-straight submission wins.
Johnson is a wrestler first and foremost, who looks to control opponents and work his ground and pound to claim victories. Flick is also a grappler, but he is a very serious submission specialist with phenomenal jiu-jitsu skills on the mat. The short-notice view of this bout should see Johnson as a relatively heavy favourite, but skill-for-skill it’s close.
You cannot rule out a Flick submission in the early rounds, but as the fight goes on it leans more towards Johnson’s favour. He should be able to win any striking exchanges and with the wrestling he will be able to fight his way up to his feet too. It’ll be closer than the odds suggest, but on short notice I think Johnson can claim the decision win.
PICK – Charles Johnson via Decision
Dan Argueta (8-1) vs Nick Aguirre (7-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Two guys looking for a first UFC win in this one in another short-notice match up. Argueta was defeated in his UFC debut by Damon Jackson last time out, while Aguirre has split his seven wins with three KO’s and four submissions to have a 100% finish rate. He steps in for Isaac Dulgarian during fight week.
Argueta was the number one pick for Brian Ortega in the Ultimate Fighter recently, but got beaten by eventual winner Ricky Turcios in the opening round. He is a super well-rounded fighter with six finishes in his eight wins, including four submissions. He’s a solid grappler with decent power too. Aguirre is a very aggressive fighter who is comfortable wherever the fight goes, but his preference will certainly be grappling.
Considering the way Jackson dominated Argueta in the grappling department, and how undersized he looks in the division, there is a chance for an upset. With that said though, Aguirre’s level of competition to date is poor and this is a short-notice bout against someone better than he’s ever faced before. On a full camp he’d have a better shot, but as it stands I expect Argueta to be able to get it done.
PICK – Dan Argueta via Decision