The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas this weekend as heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Serghei Spivac headline another card.
After their initial fight back in November fell out on fight night when “The Black Beast” suffered illness and was forced to pull out, they’re now going back to the well to finally settle their score in the Octagon.
This card will also see the finale of the Road to UFC tournament too, so there are plenty of new faces to take notice of during the card too.
Last time out at UFC 283 it was a great night of fights, where we managed to go 10/15 with our picks with three perfect picks, moving us to 823/1277 (64.45%) with 336 perfect picks (40.83%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims on the card and then moving on to the rest of the prelims here, we finish up with the main card picks here.
Yusaku Kinoshita (6-1) vs Adam Fugitt (8-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Main card bangers up next. Kinoshita makes his UFC debut on a two-fight win streak, including a KO on the Contender Series most recently back in August. He’ll face Fugitt, one of 3 Americans on this card, who lost his UFC debut at UFC 277 on nine days’ notice when he got KO’d in the 3rd round by Michael Morales.
Kinoshita is a super prospect being compared to Conor McGregor for his style, with fantastic counter-striking and great power and accuracy. Fugitt is a striker too with some excellent kicking and a nice left hand too. Fugitt is quite slow and stiff despite his striking pedigree, and the hand speed and activity of Kinoshita is likely to be a big advantage for him.
Fugitt has got wrestling in his back pocket too, but it’s unlikely that he goes for too many grappling attempts because it’s not his natural game plan. Kinoshita has power, speed and a great array of striking weapons, plus his age and energy should see him claim a big win on his UFC debut.
PICK – Yusaku Kinoshita via Knockout, Round 2
Dooho Choi (14-4) vs Kyle Nelson (13-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Someone’s losing streak needs to end in this one. Choi has lost each of his last three fights in the UFC, dropping a decision to Cub Swanson in 2016 and then being KO’d by Jeremy Stephens and Charles Jourdain. This is his first fight since December 2019. Nelson on the other hand has lost his last two, getting stopped by Billy Quarantillo before dropping a decision to Jai Herbert most recently at UFC London in July 2022.
Choi is an excellent striker with great power and speed in his arsenal, while his grappling skills have been more than good enough to compete at the top level. Nelson is a wrestler who looks to get control of his opponents against the cage before putting them on the mat and landing damage. The problem with this fight is that Choi has been out injured for the last three years with a torn ACL, a broken arm and eye issues. He is not the fighter that he once was.
If Choi is capable of reaching even 80% of what he used to be able to, then he should win this fight. But after so long away with so many injuries, and the fact he was on the decline before that anyway, I expect Nelson should be able to grind him out and out-work Choi for a decision win.
PICK – Kyle Nelson via Decision
Marcin Tybura (23-7) vs Blagoy Ivanov (19-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight banger up next. Tybura is on a run of six wins in his last seven fights, with a defeat to Alex Volkov the only blip. He bounced back with a majority decision win over Alexander Romanov most recently at UFC 278. Ivanov lost two in a row against Derrick Lewis and Augusto Sakai, but got back into the win column with a win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima at UFC 274.
Tybura is a very, very good heavyweight even if he is not the most exciting. He has got some really good leg kicks and grappling, while also having good power in his hands too. It’s the wrestling that has been the most impressive though, controlling opponents with ease. Ivanov is a decorated grappler, but he almost never uses it in the UFC and instead chooses to strike from distance hence his shaky record. He’s got good power, but lacks any urgency.
It would be a real shock to me if Ivanov wins this. Tybura is at his best when a fight is boring, meaning he is in total control of the cage and his opponent. The best way to break away from that is for Ivanov to try and grapple, but he’s never done that in the UFC and expecting him to start that at 36 years old is unlikely. Tybura will use leg kicks at distance and wrestle enough to earn a decision win in the longest 15 minutes of the night.
PICK – Marcin Tybura via Decision
Da-Un Jung (15-3-1) vs Devin Clark (13-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An interesting light heavyweight scrap up next. Jung was 14-0-1 in his last 15 fights before he came up against Dustin Jacoby back in July and got KO’d in the first round to snap that streak. Clark has lost three of his last four alternatively, with a win over William Knight coming between defeats to Anthony Smith, Ion Cutelaba and Azamat Murzakanov most recently.
Jung is a very good wrestler with lots of top pressure, great cardio and some excellent elbows – just ask Kennedy Nzechukwu. He’s also a powerful striker but technically he isn’t the greatest. Clark is a wrestler, pure and simple. He’s a strong grappler with decent ground and pound skills, but his striking on the feet is very poor considering how high he’s managed to climb in the rankings previously.
Clark will look to wrestle and control from top position, but Jung has got far more avenues to win here. He’s got the better boxing, has excellent takedown defence and is capable pushing the pace for the full 15 minutes too, so it would be somewhat of a surprise if he doesn’t begin to overwhelm Clark at some point in the latter rounds.
PICK – Da Un Jung via Decision
Derrick Lewis (26-10) vs Serghei Spivac (15-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights step up in the main event of this one as they look to put together a run for a potential title run in 2023. Lewis has lost three of his last four, getting KO’d by Ciryl Gane (UFC 265), Tai Tuivasa (UFC 271) and Sergei Pavlovich (UFC 277), with a KO win of his own against Chris Daukaus coming in the middle of that. Spivac on the other hand has won his last two after defeat to Tom Aspinall, KO’ing Greg Hardy at UFC 272 before a KO win against Augusto Sakai most recently in August.
Lewis is the scariest puncher in UFC history, with the record for the most knockout wins in the organisation’s history. He has also got much improved takedown defence in recent years, although his chin isn’t great and his cardio still lets him down at times. Spivac is a grappler who looks to wrestle and use his size to wear on his opponents although his striking has been improving in recent bouts, but he will almost certainly reset to default here.
The blueprint to beat Lewis has been there for years – take him down or overwhelm him with volume. Spivac is capable of doing both of those things, but he’s never fought someone who can put his lights out with one punch like Lewis can. He will know that Spivac wants to take him down and much like when he fought Curtis Blaydes, he will be loading up that uppercut. He’s never fought a five-round bout before and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spivac just wrestle and grapple for 25 minutes, I think Lewis gets back in the win column with a nasty knockout early on.
PICK – Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2