The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas after the wild ride that was UFC 279 for a huge bantamweight main event.
Former title challenger Cory Sandhagen headlines the card against hot prospect Song Yadong, in his first main event and a real step up in competition.
A stacked 14-fight card will see several fights with some good debutants and some impressive prospects a chance to make themselves a name in the UFC.
Last time out at UFC 279 we went 8/13 with three perfect picks for the night to move to 723/1119 (64.61%) with 305 perfect picks (42.19%). You can see our full picks history here.
Anthony Hernandez (9-2) vs Marc-Andre Barriault (14-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger at middleweight opens the main card here. Hernandez shocked the world with a submission win over Rodolfo Vieira at UFC 258, before returning with a decision win over Josh Fremd at UFC 273 most recently. Barriault bounced back from a 16 second KO loss to Chidi Njokuani with a submission win over Jordan Wright in his most recent bout.
Hernandez is a technical freak with great wrestling and solid submission skills to go with excellent durability, footwork and decent striking. Barriault alternatively is a powerhouse striker with aggression and durability that tend to make up for his technical flaws. The Canadian tends to attempt to outwork his opponents and grind them out, but that’s unlikely to work in this one.
Barriault has struggled against fighters who pose a consistent takedown threat, and that’s exactly what Hernandez has. He rarely gets tired, can hold his own on the feet and has the wrestling to not allow Barriault a chance to find his rhythm on the feet. Expect relentless takedowns and some decent strikes on the feet to carry “Fluffy” to a win on the cards.
PICK – Anthony Hernandez via Decision
Tanner Boser (20-8-1) vs Rodrigo Nascimento (9-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys back in the cage for this one. Boser snapped a two-fight skid when he claimed a KO win over Ovince Saint-Preux in his last fight back in June 2021, while Nascimento suffered a 45 second KO loss to Chris Daukaus before a KO win over Alan Baudot was overturned to a no contest in his last bout in July 2021.
Boser is a talented kickboxer, using solid leg kicks, feints and footwork to set up his huge right hand and keep opponents ticking over rather than standing still. Nascimento is an elite grappler who has fantastic submission skills and nasty ground and pound from the top too. He has finished all nine of his victories, including the overturned result.
Nascimento will look to close the distance and drag this fight to the mat, because on the feet he’s outmatched by Boser. Boser isn’t the best defensive grappler, but he’s very good at avoiding getting into grappling matches with his movement and range management. He should be able to stay on the outside and use his kicks and jab to earn a decision win, but there is a risk of Nascimento blitzing him and dragging him into his world on the floor.
PICK – Tanner Boser via Decision
Joe Pyfer (9-2) vs Alen Amedovski (8-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
“Be like Joe Pyfer,” said Dana White. Now he gets a chance to do it in the UFC after his KO win on the Contender Series earned him a contract back in July. Amedovski has lost his last three in a row, getting submitted in 64 seconds by Joseph Holmes back in May after almost two years out.
Pyfer is a power striker with good boxing combinations and the 25-year-old has got an experienced mind beyond his years. Amedovski on the other hand is a really powerful striker himself, but he lacks technique and timing and it’s a mystery how he’s still on the roster in reality. If we’re being honest, this is a bit of a set-up fight to get Pyfer some hype in the UFC.
He’s the bigger and more powerful fighter and he’s also got decent wrestling in his back pocket, something Amedovski simply won’t be able to cope with. But Pyfer will step forward and go to war, and that leaves him susceptible to getting KO’d. But with more ways to win, an advantage in technique and arguably more power too, I expect him to get the job done in highlight reel fashion.
PICK – Joe Pyfer via Knockout, Round 2
Andre Fili (21-9) vs Bill Algeo (16-6) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolutely brilliant bit of matchmaking in the featherweight decision up next. Fili has just one win in his last five, losing to Bryce Mitchell and getting KO’d by Joanderson Brito in just 41 seconds last time out with a no contest sandwiched between them. Algeo on the other hand is on a two-fight win streak after beating Brito at UFC Vegas 46 and then making Herbert Burns retire mid-round last time out.
Fili is a really exciting striker who has slick boxing and a nice kicking game, while also being a more than competent grappler on the mat too who excels in the scramble. Algeo is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but he’s always ready for a war and he tends to get involved in striking battles a lot due to his love for Muay Thai. He tends to come forward a lot and that will leave him open to counter shots from “Touchy”.
If he chooses to make this a grappling match he has a far better chance of success, but it won’t be easy because his wrestling has never dominated and Fili is a good defensive wrestler too. With his volume and counters on the feet and his ability to defend takedowns or get back to his feet, expect Fili to get back into the win column in this one.
PICK – Andre Fili via Decision
Chidi Njokuani (22-7) vs Gregory Rodrigues (12-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A really fun middleweight fight takes up the co-main event slot here. Njokuani is on a four-fight win streak, including knockout wins in the UFC over Marc-Andre Barriault and Dusko Todorovic most recently. Rodrigues saw his own four-fight win streak snapped by Armen Petrosyan, but he got back in the win column by KO’ing Julian Marquez most recently.
Njokuani is a powerhouse striker with excellent Muay Thai skills and great experience when it comes to clinch work and grappling defence. Rodrigues is a powerful striker too who tends to walk opponents down and encourage a brawl, but that is a dangerous strategy in this one.
“Bang Bang” is the more technical striker and if he extends his combinations on the feet he could potentially get a finish here. But Rodrigues is capable of switching it up and going for takedowns to make this ugly, which is his best way to win. The problem with that though is that isn’t “Robocop”s usual game plan and it could have an adverse effect on him, so I think Njokuani will be able to claim a decision victory in a tight affair.
PICK – Chidi Njokuani via Decision
Cory Sandhagen (14-4) vs Song Yadong (19-6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best bantamweight fights available right now in a stacked division. Sandhagen suffered back-to-back defeats against TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan (UFC 267) most recently despite stunning performances in both bouts, while Yadong enters on a three-fight win streak after beating Casey Kenny (UFC 265), Julio Arce and most recently Marlon Moraes.
Sandhagen is an incredible striker, with brilliant boxing and kicks as well as explosive attacks like flying knees and superman punches to go with his 5ft 11′ frame. Yadong is a powerful boxer with a more traditional style, with great footwork and decent grappling too that he tends to avoid using. Sandhagen will enjoy this fight because Yadong is often quite static and he often relies on his big right-hand or a short combination to do the damage.
“Sandman” is always happy to go the distance if he needs to, because he’s constantly touching his opponent with good jabs, low kicks and body work. His constant activity is going to be really difficult for Yadong to cope with, and this is comfortably the biggest test of his career. In his first five-rounder, this is a tough task. I expect Sandhagen to wear him out with constant attacks, and while Yadong is powerful I don’t see him putting Sandhagen out with one shot. I think Sandhagen touches him up and puts on a clinic for 25 minutes to claim a win.
PICK – Cory Sandhagen via Decision