The UFC returns to Perth, Australia for one of the biggest main event bouts in history as Alexander Volkanovski moves up to lightweight to challenge Islam Makhachev for the title.
The undisputed featherweight champion is currently ranked as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, while Makhachev is ranked at number two, making this the first time the top two fighters in the company have gone head to head.
We’ll also see an interim featherweight champion crowned in Volkanovski’s absence from the 145-pound division, as Yair Rodriguez takes on Josh Emmett in an exciting fight too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 68 we went 6/10 with three perfect picks (we don’t count draws) to move to 829/1287 (64.41%) with 340 perfect picks (41.01%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims section of the card.
Zubaira Tukhugov (20-5-1) vs Elves Brenner (13-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Fun lightweight scrap to open up this card. Tukhugov suffered defeat to Hakeem Dawodu back at UFC 253 before bouncing back with a win over Ricardo Ramos at UFC 267 last time out, missing out all of 2022. Brenner makes his UFC debut on a two-fight win streak, with both coming via first-round armbar submission.
Tukhugov is an excellent wrestler with a very heavy right hand in his arsenal too, while also having some nice low kicks and takedown defence. Brenner is a fast-starter, with his usual approach being to wrestle his opponent and then work ground and pound while looking for a submission. The problem here is that Tukhugov looks to be the far better grappler of the two, and he’s the more powerful and technical striker too.
When you add all of that to the fact that Brenner also took the fight on about a month’s notice, replacing Joel Alvarez, then it all suggests Tukhugov should win. The grappling is likely to be a non-starter for both guys because it’s where their main strengths are, so Tukhugov’s power should shine through with an early KO.
PICK – Zubaira Tukhugov via Knockout, Round 1
Shane Young (13-6) vs Blake Bilder (7-0-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Featherweights up next in another fun scrap. Young has lost his last two in the UFC, with his last fight coming against Omar Morales back at UFC 260 in March 2021. Bilder on the other hand makes his UFC debut after earning a contract on the Contender Series back in August with a first-round submission win over Alex Morgan.
Young is an aggressive striker on the feet with good power and slick movement, but a tendency to struggle against strong grapplers. Bilder is a super aggressive fighter who has got a solid ground game, but is fragile on the feet and hasn’t got the wrestling chops to get the fight to the mat where he wants it often enough. Bilder’s aggression is likely to be a big problem here, because Young is the best fighter he’s ever fought and has got the great power to put him out.
With that said though, if he can get the fight to the mat he will have a great chance with his excellent skill being exactly what Young struggles with. However to get it there he’ll have to walk through fire, and Young should have enough about him to finish him early before being dragged into danger.
PICK – Shane Young via Knockout, Round 2
Loma Lookboonmee (7-3) vs Elise Reed (6-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Strawweight starlets up next in an interesting fight. Lookboonmee bounced back from defeat to Lupita Godinez with a decision win over Denise Gomes most recently, while Reed was able to bounce back from defeat to Sam Hughes by beating Melissa Martinez at UFC 279 last time out.
Lookboonmee is a fantastic wrestler, but she also has got excellent Muay-Thai credentials that make her nasty in tight with her striking and clinch work. Reed is a tidy kickboxer with solid striking skills, and an ability to use her length and kicks better than a lot of female fighters in this division. This fight goes one of two ways, and it seems it relies on how brave Lookboonmee wants to be when it comes to closing distance.
Reed has the ability and skill to keep Lookboonmee away from her with kicks and range striking, which all but nullifies the clinch game of her opponent. But if Lookboonmee looks to use her wrestling aggressively, she should be able to get the takedown and dominate on the mat. She has to be careful about eating a shot or two on her entries, but I expect with such a clear advantage in this realm she should be able to land the takedowns and take rounds for the win.
PICK – Loma Lookboonmee via Decision
Jack Jenkins (10-2) vs Don Shainis (12-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A banger at featherweight up next. Jenkins comes into the UFC on a seven-fight win streak, with his most recent coming via a third-round knockout on the Contender Series against Freddy Linares. Shainis arrived in the UFC on a five-fight win streak, but suffered a first-round submission defeat to Sodiq Yusuff on his debut in just 30 seconds last time out.
Jenkins is a very complete fighter, with excellent boxing and some really good wrestling to go with his proven cardio skills and lovely low kicks. Shainis is a similar fighter, but seemingly on a slightly lower level right now with less technique but plenty of heart to make this a really interesting fight to predict. Shainis won’t want to go toe-to-toe without making it clean, and he has the ability to rush Jenkins and take him off his rhythm early.
If he does that then there is every chance he can cause an upset, but the likelihood is that he won’t be able to. Jenkins is faster, stronger, the better striker, the better wrestler and his gas tank means he’s highly unlikely to gas out in a 15 minute fight. He’ll also have the home crowd behind him, so expect a show from “Phar” to get the win and make a statement.
PICK – Jack Jenkins via Knockout, Round 1
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