After a banger of a pay-per-view card last weekend the UFC returns to their APEX in Las Vegas for a big light heavyweight headline fight card as Thiago Santos takes on Magomed Ankalaev in the main event.
The 205-pound division is wide open at the top end and a big win for either man could see them enter title contention in the very near future.
We’ll also see Marlon Moraes take on Song Yadong in a bantamweight co-main event, while the likes of Drew Dober, Terrance McKinney, Miranda Maverick and Alex Pereira competing too in a sneakily stacked card.
Last time out at UFC 272 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 557/865 (64.39%) with 238 perfect picks (42.73%) with our picks.
Alex Pereira (4-1) vs Bruno Silva (22-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Someone is going to sleep in this middleweight bout to open the main card. Alex Pereira made his UFC debut at UFC 269 and scored a huge flying knee knockout, while Bruno Silva is on a seven-fight win streak with KO’s in all of them including Wellington Turman at UFC Vegas 29, Andrew Sanchez at UFC Vegas 40 and Jordan Wright at UFC 269 too.
Pereira is a world class kickboxer who owns two victories over middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in his career, who has shifted to MMA to force another fight with him. His takedown defence has shown improvements, but is still a glaring weakness right now. Silva on the other hand is a brawler with dynamite in his hands, but he also has a solid ground game and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Someone is going to sleep. It’s that simple. Pereira is super technical and very proficient with his striking, only needing to land clean once to put your lights out, while Silva looks to make the fight wild before landing a clean strike and putting your lights out too. The grappling gives Silva a huge chance though, although I don’t expect he’ll show it much. He will look to take his head off and Pereira can kick from range and pick him off to earn a huge knockout scalp on his resume. PICK – Alex Pereira via Knockout, Round 1
Drew Dober (23-11) vs Terrance McKinney (12-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A super short-notice bout in the lightweight division up next. Drew Dober has lost his last two fights against elite competition, getting submitted by Islam Makhachev at UFC 259 before dropping a decision to Brad Riddell at UFC 263. McKinney has made a big splash since his UFC debut, where he score a 7-second KO against Matt Frevola at UFC 263 and then earned a big win over Fares Ziam at UFC Vegas 49 just a few weeks ago. He steps in on eight days’ notice.
Dober is a hugely talented wrestler, whose entire game is based around shooting and then controlling opponents on the ground before raining down ground and pound or submissions. McKinney is a strong wrestler himself but he has serious knockout power too and is riding a huge wave of momentum right now. That said, it’s a big step up in competition for ‘T Wrecks’.
Dober’s chin has survived damage in the past, but he has been submitted in the past four times. McKinney showed in his last bout that he has submission skills and solid wrestling, which makes this fight very close on paper too. It’s hard to get a proper read on McKinney right now though, because he’s had less than half a round in the cage to date. I won’t be shocked if McKinney wins, but it will be mightily impressive. I expect Dober to wrestle defensively and use his striking on the feet to earn a good win, especially with the short-notice aspect being in his favour. PICK – Drew Dober via Decision
Khalil Rountree Jr (10-5) vs Karl Roberson (9-4) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A fascinating bout at 205-pounds in this one between UFC stalwarts. Rountree Jr snapped a two-fight losing streak with a TKO win via leg kick against Modestas Bukauskas at UFC Vegas 36, while Roberson looks to snap his own losing streak after submission losses to Marvin Vettori at UFC Vegas 2 and Brendan Allen at UFC 261.
Rountree is a Muay-Thai fighter with incredible leg kicks and explosive power in his hands, with a largely improved and evolved game over the years. Roberson is a kickboxer outside of the cage, but for some reason when the door gets locked he starts looking to grapple a lot. This won’t be a grapple heavy affair though, with both guys looking to strike from range and use counters.
That favours Rountree though, because he is a fighter with much better output and volume as well as his leg kicking game being much more advanced. Both guys have the power to put the other out, but the likelihood is this will be quite a cagey affair and Rountree will be able to use his slight speed advantage to catch the judge’s eyes. PICK – Khalil Rountree Jr via Decision
Sodiq Yusuff (11-2) vs Alex Caceres (19-12) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Two very talented featherweights go head-to-head in this one. Yusuff saw a six-fight win streak snapped by Arnold Allen last time out at UFC Vegas 23, while Caceres is currently on a five-fight win streak with a submission against Seung Woo Choi at UFC Vegas 41 in his most recent outing.
Yusuff is a powerhouse of a striker who fights with great patience and composure, while Caceres is very unorthodox and has an ability to take the fight anywhere with good grappling skills and a karate style of striking. Yusuff is physically the bigger and stronger fighter, which means he will be full of confidence when it comes to the striking game as well as defending any takedowns.
Caceres is on a great run, but this is a bad match up for him. Caceres likes to use volume to get his range, but Yusuff will happily eat a pitter-patter strike to land a bomb and that’s what I expect he will do. He will press forward and force Caceres backwards, before landing some heavy strikes and either forcing a stoppage or earning a wide decision win. PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Decision
Marlon Moraes (23-9-1) vs Song Yadong (18-5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The best division in the UFC serves up yet another beautiful fight for the fans here. Moraes is on a rough run right now, with three losses in a row to Cory Sandhagen at UFC Fight Island 5, Rob Font at UFC Vegas 17 and Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 266. A controversial win over Jose Aldo is the only thing stopping him from a five-fight losing streak. Yadong on the other hand is one of the best young fighters in the company and is on a two-fight win streak after a decision against Casey Kenny at UFC 265 before a KO against Julio Arce at UFC Vegas 42.
Moraes is a world class striker, with incredible power in his high kicks and lightning fast striking in his hands. He has got huge problems with his cardio however and recently his chin has really let him down, with repetitive stoppages. Yadong is a terrific boxer with great speed and some good wrestling skills too, which he may need to use in order to gain a victory here. This has got fight of the night potential all over it.
If Yadong wants to secure the win, he needs to mix it up and drag the fight into the latter rounds. Moraes is a better striker and is incredibly well-rounded, but his cardio always drains away in every fight if he doesn’t get the finish early. Yadong is powerful enough to clip that chin of Moraes once again, especially if he’s tired, and earn himself a huge win that potentially ends Moraes’ run with the UFC. PICK – Song Yadong via Knockout, Round 2
Thiago Santos (22-9) vs Magomed Ankalaev (16-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A huge light heavyweight main event headlines this card with potential title implications. Santos has bounced back from three consecutive defeats to earn a decision win over Johnny Walker most recently at UFC Vegas 38, while Ankalaev is on a seven-fight win streak with his only defeat coming in the final second of his three-round fight with Paul Craig, where he was submitted. His most recent win came against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 267 via decision.
Santos is an excellent Muay-Thai fighter with ridiculous power in his punches, and a genuine ability to break your face. Ankalaev on the other hand is a very talented striker who also has grappling in his back pocket, but has patience and power in his strikes. Santos had both his knees ripped to shreds against Jon Jones and since coming back he’s been much more patient and less mobile, which doesn’t help him in this fight. He hasn’t lost his power, but he’s not as willing to stand and trade which may have been the key to winning this fight.
In a straight technique-for-technique clash with Ankalaev, he will lose. Ankalaev has speed, spinning attacks, a good variety to his strikes and enough power to put people out. Santos has a good chin but his lack of volume in recent fights worries me and that can allow Ankalaev to step in and pick him apart, while also not testing his cardio so he can waltz to a dominant decision win. PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Decision
Nicolae Negumereanu (10-1) vs Ike Villanueva (18-12) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A 205lbs stepping stone bout between a prospect and a veteran. Negumereanu returned from over two years out to earn a split decision win over Aleksa Camur at UFC Vegas 29, while Villanueva has lost three of his last four with a KO defeat to Marcin Prachnio last time out at UFC Vegas 30.
Villanueva is a decent boxer with good power, preferring a hook to a straight and looking to take someone’s head off. Negumereanu on the other hand is a powerful striker himself with good wrestling to dictate where the fight goes. He’s incredibly aggressive and physical, with a pretty decent gas tank too.
For Negumereanu the game plan should be simple; do what you do well, and you’ll win. If he uses his wrestling, his aggressive and avoids the big punches that Villanueva can threaten with, then this should be a relatively comfortable win for ‘Nick’. PICK – Nicolae Negumereanu via Knockout, Round 2
Francisco Trinaldo (26-8) vs Dwight Grant (11-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An interesting welterweight bout set up here between the 43-year-old Trinaldo and the man with the biggest back in MMA. Trinaldo was defeated by Muslim Salikhov at UFC Vegas 28 last time out, while Grant earned a split decision win at UFC 261 against Stefan Sekulic.
Trinaldo is a powerful striker with one of the best left hands in the division, with good boxing skills. Grant is a good mover with explosive power too, using his jab and length. He tends to throw his strikes just one at a time though and the lack of volume can often be an issue.
Grant doesn’t really set his knockout shots up well, but when he lands he hurts his opponents. Trinaldo tends to plant his feet and throw bombs too, so it comes down to durability. At 43-years-old, I think Trinaldo’s chin will likely give out first and Grant can grab a win. PICK – Dwight Grant via Knockout, Round 2
Alex Caceres (18-12) vs Seungwoo Choi (10-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight clash between ‘Bruce Leeroy’ and ‘Sting. Caceres has won his last four-in-a-row with a big decision win over Kevin Croom last time out at UFC Vegas 20, while Choi has won his last three with a KO against Julian Erosa at UFC Vegas 29 in his last outing.
Caceres is a really well-rounded fighter, with good striking and a great pace to go with some good grappling too. Choi will be opposite him with a pure boxing stance with great power in his hands and improved takedown defence over recent performances.
For Choi, he needs to avoid takedown attempts and use his physicality to slow Caceres down. He has solid knockout power, works the body well and is constantly improving. For Caceres he must use his speed to get in and out, but I see Choi doing enough to secure a big career win. PICK – Seung Woo Choi via Decision
Jessica-Rose Clarke (10-6) vs Joselyne Edwards (10-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A decent bantamweight bout that seems way too high up on the card for me. Clarke returned from two straight defeats to earn a KO win over Sarah Alpar at UFC Vegas 11, while Edwards won her UFC debut against Yanan Wu at UFC Fight Island 7 before a defeat to Karol Rosa a month later at UFC Vegas 18.
Clarke is a proper grinder. stepping forward with good takedowns and willing to take strikes to close the distance. Edwards on the other hand is a brilliant kickboxer with decent takedown defence but with a definite preference to keep the bout standing. For Clarke, she needs the bout on the ground and her pressure will likely get it there.
Edwards will need to show an improved takedown defence to keep it standing, where she has a clear edge and the ability and power to potentially score a finish. You’ll know after the first takedown attempt who wins this fight, but I think Clarke will just be able to scrape a victory. PICK – Jessica-Rose Clarke via Decision
Grant Dawson (17-1) vs Ricky Glenn (22-6-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun co-main event in the lightweight division as the mightily impressive Dawson takes on Glenn. ‘KGD’ is on an eight-fight win streak with a KO victory against Leonardo Santos at UFC Vegas 22 last time out, while Glenn secured a first-round KO win over Joaquim Silva at UFC Vegas 29 in his last fight to get back to winning ways.
Dawson is a pressure fighter with some decent striking defence and a brilliant grappling background that has helped him secure 11 submission wins in his career. Glenn on the other side of the cage is a technical striker with good combinations and power, with a comfortable enough level on the ground where he’s not completely outmatched.
This is a great match up and stylistically Dawson has a big edge. His pressure and pace is relentless and when he gets a fight to the ground his striking and submissions are really good, while his cardio has held up a lot recently since his move to 155lbs. Glenn has stopping power, but the longer it goes the more I lean to Dawson. PICK – Grant Dawson via Submission, Round 3
Paulo Costa (13-1) vs Marvin Vettori (17-5-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A BANGER of a main event, which has been switched to a light heavyweight fight at 205lbs after Costa admitted he couldn’t make weight during fight week. Costa was unbeaten before he clashed with Israel Adesanya at UFC 253 and got KO’d and has had plenty of professionalism problems since. Vettori was on a five-fight win streak with wins over Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 16 and Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 23, before a defeat to Adesanya himself at UFC 263.
Costa is an absolute powerhouse, with bricks for hands and a stellar physique as well as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Vettori on the other hand is a fighter who steps forward, closes the distance with dirty boxing before taking his opponents down and dominating with ground and pound. Costa will come forward and look to take Vettori’s head off with each and every strike, with a violent body kick in his arsenal.
Vettori though has the advantage with taking the fight to the ground and the weight issues that Costa has been having this week can’t be a good thing. Vettori’s chin has held up throughout his career, with zero defeats by finish and while Costa has other-worldly power that becomes useless if he’s on his back. I expect Vettori to press forward, clinch against the cage and work for takedowns to control on the ground for a decision win in an entertaining fight. PICK – Marvin Vettori via Decision
Angela Hill vs Ashley Yoder was cancelled on the day of the event due to a positive COVID-19 test from one of Yoder’s cornermen. The fight has been rescheduled for UFC Vegas 21, on March 13th.
The card will proceed with nine fights.
Dustin Jacoby def Maxim Grishin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Pretty steady start to the fight from both fighters as both men meet in the middle and trade calf kicks. A few attempts that miss from both guys before Grishin looks for a shot and takedown. Jacoby avoids it then as he steps forward Grishin lands a nice straight right that drops Jacoby. Grishin lands a big strike onto him on the ground then looks to take the back but Jacoby defends well and gets back up to his feet relatively unscathed. Heavy calf kick from Grishin lands before Jacoby just misses with a mean overhand right. Jacoby lands a nice head kick but Grishin walked through it and lands a big leg kick in return. Grishin lands a big punch after catching a kick and drops Jacoby again and ends the round on his back looking for a rear naked choke. 10-9 Grishin.
Jacoby with a better start to this round, landing some nice calf kicks and his jab well too, as Grishin fakes a few level changes and looks for some counter strikes. Jacoby circling on the outside against the cage, with Grishin looking to cut him off with good footwork and some nice hooks. Nice jab from Jacoby and then a clean left hook lands as Grishin starting to slow down a little. Grishin looks to clinch up but Jacoby lands a huge right hook that pushes Grishin onto his back foot. Lazy shot from the Russian is easily stuffed by Jacoby and he looks to be in the ascendancy as the round comes to a close. 19-19 going into the third.
Grishin doing well in this third round by taking the centre and landing the left hand well. Grishin throws a nice leg kick that takes Jacoby off balance but he bounces up quickly again. Grishin throws another leg kick but Jacoby checks it and sends Grishin off balance. Jacoby throws a flying knee that partially lands, but Grishin grabs hold of him and tries to tie him up on the cage, switching positions and landing a nice combo. Final minute of the round and it’s still up for grabs but Jacoby’s leg attacks are stacking up. Grishin now avoiding the leg attacks and lands a nice combo against the cage to end the round. Really close, but I lean towards Grishin for that final round. 29-28 Grishin.
Ronnie Lawrence def Vince Cachero via Knockout, Round 3 (2:38)
Lots of fast movements from both fighters in the opening minute of the fight, with Lawrence bouncing around on the outside and throwing leg kicks and spinning body kicks, while Cachero looks to land shots as he comes in. Lawrence finally shoots and gets the takedown immediately, but after some scrambles Cachero manages to get back to the feet. Lawrence continues to strike well on the feet with Cachero still looking for counter strikes, landing a big right hand before another takedown attempt. Lawrence gets into top position and avoids a triangle attempt from Cachero and ends the round in a dominant position. 10-9 Lawrence.
More of the same in the second round as Lawrence comes out really aggressive with kicks and body work. Cachero looks to be a step behind on the feet and Lawrence is so busy too, constantly touching him or moving. Takedown from Lawrence again and he holds the position well this time on top and passes into side control. Lawrence looks for the neck and Cachero gets back up to his feet, then Lawrence takes him down again but Cachero grabs the neck and goes for a guillotine. He transitions to a d’arce choke attempt but Lawrence defends it perfectly, stands up and then takes the fight down once again. He looks for a head and arm choke from three-quarter mount but Cachero defends well until the round ends. 20-18 Lawrence.
Both fighters meet in the middle and Lawrence throws a spinning body kick again. Nice leg kick lands and drops Cachero and Lawrence goes straight for a finish. Lots of short ground and pound strikes before a German suplex slams Cachero down again. Lawrence maintains control on the top and starts landing ground and pound and looks to take the back. Cachero defends well but Lawrence ends up back on top and is throwing big ground and pound strikes from mount now. So many strikes from Lawrence as Cachero keeps trying to move but Lawrence is relentless and gets the stoppage win. What a performance.
Alexis Davis def Sabina Mazo via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Fast start to the fight as both women open up with big combo exchanges, with Mazo landing hard and heavy early on. Mazo throws a body kick as Davis throws a leg kick which drops Mazo, and Davis drops down to make it a grappling match quickly. Davis passes into side control relatively quickly and Mazo tries to explode up, but Davis holds on and takes her back. Both hooks in and she rolls away from the cage and as she hunts for a rear-naked choke Mazo tries to reverse the position but Davis holds it and ends the round landing shots while having back control. 10-9 Davis but Mazo was dominant on the feet early on, so will have confidence.
Davis comes out aggressive in the second with lots of peppering leg kicks and marching forward, but Mazo is staying calm and throwing shots back herself. Lots of jabs and straights from Mazo landing clean on Davis, but the leg kicks are persistent and causing lots of damage to Mazo right now. The Colombian Queen continues to come forward with her jab but Davis’s leg kicks are so relentless. Final 30 seconds of the round and Davis shoots for the takedown and gets it and ends the round on top. Close round, but probably Davis’. 20-18.
Final round and Mazo throws a body kick that gets caught and she gets sent back to the ground almost immediately. Mazo looks for a heel hook to threaten but Davis defends it well and gets back on top with ground and pound before taking her back early on in the round. Mazo looks to reverse into her guard but Davis looks fresher and stronger and pops back onto the top. More ground and pound from Davis and Mazo looks for an armbar but it’s defended well and she’s able to take the back once again. Final minute and she’s hunting for a finish but Mazo defending honourably and manages to see the round out. 30-27 Davis, very good performance from the veteran.
Thiago Moises def Alexander Hernandez via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Fun start to the round with both guys pushing forward and throwing heavy strikes together. Hernandez taking the centre of the cage and forcing Moises to circle along the cage, with the Brazilian throwing lots of heavy calf kicks. Hernandez lands a nice body kick and is throwing good shots to the head and body. Moises lands a nice right hand on Hernandez and then Hernandez fires back with a body kick that clips the top of the cup and causes a pause in the action. Both fighters meet in the middle once the action resumes and the both miss wild overhand rights at the same time. Moises lands a heavy right hand that cracks Hernandez and he pushes forward for a finish, but misses everything and the round ends. Close, but I edge it to Moises. 10-9.
Hernandez opens the round with a right hand that misses and Moises lands a beautiful counter strike of his own. Hernandez is trying to be first a lot the time and Moises seems content with that and counters back perfectly almost every time. Spinning back kick from Moises is partially blocked but does some damage, before a nice left hand stuns Hernandez. Moises’ striking defence has been stellar so far and the round ends with Moises coming forward with big swings but Hernandez avoiding them and landing a nice counter of his own. 20-18 but again, close round.
Moises comes out hard early in the final round and lands some nice right hands. Hernandez still in this as Moises shoots for a takedown but Hernandez stuffs it and lands some nice punches as Moises holds his foot before they separate. Moises throws a few head kick attempts that narrowly miss as they continue to swing and miss on each other. Big head kick from Moises lands and he starts talking to Hernandez while walking him down and throwing big strikes and kicks. Hernandez stays composed but doesn’t land anything significant as the round ends. 30-27 Moises for me.
Alex Caceres def Kevin Croom via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Croom comes out hard early on with some heavy swings but Caceres stays composed, avoids them and lands some nice kicks to the legs and body. Croom comes forward though and is looking to make it a dirty fight, clinching up and trying to grind him down. Caceres gets double underhooks and looks for some knees but Croom escapes well and continues to press against the cage for a trip. Croom finally manages to get the fight down by dragging Caceres from his back, but he ends up on the bottom and eats some big ground and pound shots. He gets back to the feet and tries the same takedown again to end the round. 10-9 Caceres.
Croom comes out looking for a takedown early once again, but Caceres defends it really well once again. Croom goes in for another shot and eats a beautiful check right-hook that stuns him, but he continues to come forward again. Another takedown attempt and Caceres starting to feel it so Croom finally gets him down. He lands a nice elbow but then Caceres throws up a triangle and it looks tight. He picks the ankle too and tries to tighten it and as it looks like no way out for Croom, he then inexcusably just lets it go!? They battle for position for the remainder of the round but that is probably a Croom round. 19-19.
Final round and Caceres lands some huge counter strikes that wobble Croom! He keeps walking forward and is throwing some really lazy takedown attempt, clearly is absolutely exhausted. Caceres is defending the takedown attempts with ease and landing some nice strikes and eventually Caceres is the one who gets the takedown. He takes the back and wraps in a body triangle and starts throwing some ground and pound, before looking to sink in a rear naked choke. More ground and pound strikes from Caceres as he takes the round, potentially a 10-8, and the victory.
Pedro Munhoz def Jimmie Rivera via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Crazy start to this one as Munhoz rushes out and goes for a high kick that gets countered and he ends up on his face. Both men stand in the pocket and trade big hooks and crosses each, with Rivera landing the heavier shots. Munhoz throwing some heavy calf kicks to the lead leg, while Rivera is countering with huge hooks that are landing flush. Rivera starting to return the leg kicks now too as Munhoz is wearing the damage more on his face. Munhoz lands two big calf kicks and drops Rivera both times! Rivera responds with a nice one two but his leg is in bits as the round ends. 10-9 Rivera.
Munhoz goes for another leg kick but Rivera moves and counters with a straight right hand and then charges forward to get the fight down to the ground. Munhoz instantly goes for a leg lock but Rivera rolls through into a 50/50 position and both fighters let go and stand back up. Rivera lands three big shots in a row but Munhoz fires a nasty leg kick in the middle of it that drops him to one knee again. Rivera throwing a few kicks of his own and then they both exchange big left hooks that land simultaneously. Munhoz lands another kick that drops Rivera and denies a takedown attempt from Rivera too. A wild exchange in the centre ends the round and it’s a Munhoz one. 19-19.
Final round and it’s all to fight for, so Rivera comes storming out and starts throwing big hooks and straights that land clean. Munhoz continues to throw the leg kicks and then throws one up to the head too. Rivera still throwing big punches but Munhoz showing that chin that has seen him never get stopped. Two accidental low blows from Munhoz cause short breaks but they go again. Final minute and Rivera lands two huge left hands and Munhoz is wobbled. He catches the leg kick and throws some big strikes and has Munhoz backing up but it’s not enough for the knockout and it’ll go to a decision. 29-28 Munhoz.
Montana De La Rosa vs Mayra Bueno Silva – Majority Draw (27-28, 28-28 x2)
Fast start from De La Rosa as she comes out and lands a couple of nice punches square to the face of Silva early on. Silva looks for a Thai clinch on a couple of occasions but De La Rosa is able to get the underhooks and push her against the cage. She gets the takedown nicely and Silva is able to get back up, but De La Rosa tries to put her back down immediately and is denied only by a fence grab. The referee stops the fight and deducts a point from Silva because it prevented a takedown. They go again and Silva lands more excellent knees while De La Rosa’s right hand is connecting well too. Great round, 10-8 De La Rosa.
Second round starts quickly again and Silva lands a big head kick that rocks De La Rosa! She’s throwing with some real venom and forces De La Rosa to shoot for a takedown, but Silva defends it well and ends up on top. Some big ground and pound from the Brazilian but De La Rosa gets back up to the feet well and recovers. Nice takedown attempt from De La Rosa and she eventually is able to dump her down and control from top position. Lots of ground and pound strikes and ends the round looking for a head and arm choke. Very close round, but 20-17 for me.
Silva opens the round once again with a Thai clinch and a head kick attempt that just misses. Silva throws a nice left hand that lands but De La Rosa closes the distance well and they tie up against the cage. De La Rosa looks for a takedown against the cage and Silva starts throwing elbows and punches, which busts up the nose of De La Rosa. She gets her up against the cage and goes for a single leg but instead of taking her down just holds against the cage and tries to beat her up. Into the final minute and De La Rosa gets the takedown and ends the round on top landing ground and pound for what should be a decision win.
Magomed Ankalaev def Nikita Krylov via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
A tentative start to this one as Krylov closes the distance early and immediately goes for a takedown, not looking to trade on the feet too much. He gets him against the cage and eventually drags him to the ground, isolating the leg and trying to hold him down. Ankalaev is able to get up to his feet and they separate, which allows Ankalaev to start throwing some strikes. Nothing significant from either fighter as we enter the final minute. Ankalaev shoots for a takedown but Krylov is able to stay on the feet and the round ends. 10-9 Krylov, just.
Wild start to the round as Ankalaev comes out and looks to land some big shots early on. Krylov circling on the outside with his back to the cage, as Ankalaev circling and taking the centre cutting him off. Nice left hook from Ankalaev lands but Krylov responds with a right cross of his own. Takedown attempt from Krylov denied and then Ankalaev gets a clinch and lands a big knee up the middle. Krylov goes for a spinning attack but Ankalaev reads it and gets a takedown off it and ends up in top position. Krylov defending well from the bottom in his butterfly guard, so Ankalaev pops up and forces the issue to get Krylov on his back and lands a couple of elbows before the buzzer goes. 19-19.
Body kick from Krylov opens up the round but Ankalaev continues to march forward. Krylov goes for a takedown but it’s shrugged off and seconds late it’s Ankalaev who shoots against the cage. Nice inside trip gets the fight down and he’s looking to land some ground and pound, but Krylov is able to get back upright. Ankalaev holds on to him and eventually trips him back down against the cage and starts throwing some ground and pound. Complete control from top position by Ankalaev for the remainder of the round and that should be enough to get him a victory. 29-28 Ankalaev.
Ciryl Gane def Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x3)
Very slow start to the fight as both mean stand in the centre and just kind of stare each other out for the first two minutes. Gane flicks out a lovely jab and avoids a wild swing from Rozenstruik but other than that not much action so far as we hit the halfway point of the round. Gane throws a lazy body kick that Rozenstruik catches and then he throws a combo, of which one punch lands. Gane throws a better body kick and then changes levels to go in for a takedown against the cage. Rozenstruik defends and then goes for some elbows, which allows Gane to get the takedown to end the round. 10-9 Gane.
More of the same from both fighters in the second round as Gane throws the snappy jab and some body kicks, while Rozenstruik is just waiting for the right moment to throw a big counter strike. A couple more jabs and Rozenstruik steps forward to start an attack and Gane changes levels quickly and turns him against the cage. Gane then throws Rozenstruik to the ground and jumps to take the back for a choke, but Rozenstruik escapes quickly. Rozenstruik catches a kick and walks him backwards but doesn’t throw anything and allows Gange off the hook and the second round ends. 20-18 Gane.
Gane starting to loosen up a bit in this round with a nice head kick early on that brings a smile from both competitors. More jabs and some leg kicks too from Gane, while Rozenstruik is still very flat and throwing next to nothing. Big swing from both men lands simultaneously but they both continue to stand tall. More jabs from Gane to the chin and body, before a nice on-two followed by a leg kick lands too. Jab and leg kick combo from Rozenstruik lands nicely and he ends the round landing a big right hook that Gane eats and goes for a single leg as the buzzer goes. 30-27 Gane, light work right now.
Gane continues from the outside with the jab and fighting at a really easy pace, with Rozenstruik essentially refusing to throw at this point. Gane on the front foot and landing lots of leg kicks and jabs, but just really untroubled. Gane goes to close the distance against the cage and throws a knee that glances the cup and causes a pause in the action. Nice jab from Gane followed with a big left hook lands clean as he sees out the round with ease. 40-36, this isn’t a good fight at all.
Final round and Gane continues with what he’s been doing for the past 20 minutes – jabs and leg kicks. Rozenstruik still seemingly forgetting he’s allowed to hit Gane back, as Gane closes the distance and clinches up against the cage. Both men throw some light knees before they separate and get straight back to the pattern of the fight so far. Rozenstruik throws a left hand and Gane overpowers him back to the cage and clinches up as we enter the final 90 seconds. Gane uses his strength again and takes the back of Rozenstruik before dragging him down momentarily and the fight ends against the cage. 50-45 Gane, bleh.
Last week we went 6/12 for predictions with just two perfect picks, taking us to 236/371 (63.61%) with 106 (44.92%) perfect picks since starting in June 2020. We’ll look to improve that this weekend with a fun 12 fight card and having already started with the prelim fights, we’ll preview the main card here.
Alex Caceres (17-12 1NC) vs Kevin Croom (21-12 1NC) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Caceres is an exciting fighter, who throws lots of spinning attacks and can fight from either stance while Croom is very much a kill-or-be-killed style fighter. Caceres is the better martial artist of the two, with better footwork, a better jab and better kicks but Croom has the power advantage and is more likely to get a finish. Despite that, I think Caceres is able to outlast Croom for the full 15 minutes but more likely is that Croom lands the more telling shots throughout and gets a finish. PICK – Kevin Croom via Knockout, Round 2
Angela Hill (12-9) vs Ashley Yoder (8-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Despite their close fight the first time around, I can’t see this one being as competitive. Hill is the better striker by a distance and has improved her ground game to a point where she can stuff the takedowns of some of the better wrestlers in the division and fight off her back and get back to her feet well. Yoder will try to get this fight to the ground to add to her four submission wins, but Hill is just too advanced now and should get a pretty comfortable win. PICK – Angela Hill via Decision
Pedro Munhoz (18-5) vs Jimmie Rivera (23-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Probably the highest level fight on the card as Munhoz and Rivera meet in a rematch from back in 2015. Rivera won that one via split decision and has since gone on to have a great run in the UFC although he has lost three of his last five but won against Cody Stamann last time out. Munhoz has lost two in a row too, losing to Aljamain Sterling and Frankie Edgar most recently back in August.
Munhoz is a fantastic wrestler and has great power in his hands, similar to Gilbert Burns in the way that he’ll march forward and throw knowing he can grapple. Rivera is the more polished and better striker though and he has fantastic takedown defence too. If Munhoz can get the fight down then he should be able to ride out to a comfortable decision from top control, but the chances of him getting the takedown are slim. Rivera is incredibly experienced and has such an edge on the feet, plus a win over Munhoz already, that I think we see a repeat here. PICK – Jimmie Rivera via Decision
Montana De La Rosa (11-6) vs Mayra Bueno Silva (7-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An interesting flyweight clash between two unranked fighters looking to make their way into the top 15. De La Rosa got beaten by Andrea Lee back in 2019 before getting a win over Mara Romero Borella and then suffering a loss last time out to Viviane Araujo in September. Silva on the other hand lost her first fight of 2020 to Maryna Moroz before bouncing back with an impressive submission win over Romero Borella in September.
Both these women are impressive grapplers, with 13 submission wins combined in their careers. Silva has some decent boxing behind her too, coming out of the same camp that a certain Charles Oliveira trains at. Neither fighter will be keen to go to the ground with the other because of the submission threat, which means the striking becomes key. Silva has that advantage and she’s arguably got the better jiu-jitsu too, although De La Rosa has the better wrestling. It’s not the most confident pick, but Silva gets a decision win for me. PICK – Mayra Bueno Silva via Decision
Nikita Krylov (27-7) vs Magomed Ankalaev (14-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A very, very fun fight at light heavyweight as Nikita Krylov steps into the octagon to take on Magomed Ankalaev. Krylov is only 28-years-old but has 34 professional fights to his name, alternating wins and losses in his last five going back to 2018. Ankalaev was literally one second away from a perfect 15-0 record, but was submitted at 4:59 of round three against Paul Craig back in 2018. He won his last two fights by knockout against Ion Cutelaba, with serious power in the rematch after a controversial first fight.
Krylov is a sensational grappler with good power in his hands, while Ankalaev is a fantastic striker with excellent takedown defence. Ankalaev’s footwork is high level, while he loves to throw a head kick in the same way Krylov does. It’s a really exciting match up that is evenly matched for the most part. Krylov has the edge on the ground but whether he can get it there is questionable, while on the feet Ankalaev has the edge but Krylov isn’t completely outclassed there.
It should be highly competitive but with Ankalaev’s power advantage on the feet, I think the Russian can get it done. PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 3
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (11-1) vs Ciryl Gane (7-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The blueprint to beat Rozenstruik is there, despite the fact he got the win, from the fight against Alistair Overeem. He has unbelievable power as he showed to win that Overeem fight, but a top kickboxer is able to keep distance and land big on him. Gane has the ability to do all that, but also can take the fight to the mat and bust out some of his excellent submission skills too. Gane doesn’t have Ngannou power, but he does train with him on a regular basis and they will be perfectly prepared for Rozenstruik’s style.
While I wouldn’t be shocked to see Rozenstruik land a killer shot that puts Gane away because his power is that insane, I think Gane is the more well rounded martial artist, has the speed and footwork advantage and I think he gets a huge win to break into the top five. PICK – Ciryl Gane via Decision
A three round main event on top of a decent looking card is what the UFC have put together for the fans this weekend, as they return for yet another Fight Night card at the APEX in Las Vegas.
Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith takes on prospect Aleksandar Rakic in the light-heavyweight division, with all eyes on the top of the division following Jon Jones vacating the belt for a move up to heavyweight.
With 11 fights on the night including a stacked main card considering it’s a Fight Night event, i’ll break down the card and pick my winners for each fight. Last weekend’s card chopped and changed so much between the predictions being written up and the card happening (Thurs-Sat) that we didn’t keep track of the picks. Hopefully no such thing will happen here.
Christian Aguilera (14-6) vs Sean Brady (12-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
After an impressive short notice win back in June, Christian Aguilera gets another shot in the UFC this time against undefeated Sean Brady. Aguilera is on a three-fight win streak heading into this bout with two knockout wins, while Brady has won four of his last five by unanimous decision. Aguilera has great power in his hands but other than that doesn’t hold any substantial advantages in this fight. Brady is a Gracie-black belt in jiu-jitsu but also comfortable on the feet and he’ll be more of an issue than Anthony Ivy was wherever the fight ends up. He should be able to control the bout on the feet and on the floor and he’ll scoop another decision win. PICK – Sean Brady via Unanimous Decision
Emily Whitmire (4-3) vs Polyana Viana (10-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
After fighting in the Ultimate Fighter house, ‘Spitfire’ has gone 2-2 in her last four fights including submission defeats to Gillian Robertson and then Amanda Ribas in her last outing. She takes on Polyana Viana who has lost her last three in a row after winning her UFC debut. This will be her first fight in over a year. Whitmire has struggled against grapplers and wrestlers in almost all of her fights and she comes up against a submission expert in Viana. Despite her recent poor run, Viana has all the skills and strengths to be able to secure a tap in this fight. She had the same advantages in her last fights though and failed, so this is far from a guaranteed pick but I expect her to snap her streak. PICK – Polyana Viana via Submission, Round 1
Alex Caceres (16-12) vs Austin Springer (12-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Caceres will enter the Octagon this Saturday night against a third scheduled opponent of fight week after original opponent Giga Chikadze dropped out for undisclosed reasons before initial replacement Kevin Croom also dropped out. He now takes on Springer, who’s holds a win over Chikadze on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2018. Despite a late submission win in that fight, he didn’t earn a contract and has one win since, last October. Caceres has back-to-back wins for the first time in four years after victories over Steven Peterson and Chase Hooper. Caceres has a great ground game and good submission skills but Springer is stronger on the feet as his 7 KO wins show. It’s sure to be a tight affair but with such short notice for the fight, Caceres should be able to scrape a close decision win. PICK – Alex Caceres via Unanimous Decision
Zak Cummings (23-7) vs Alessio Di Chirico (12-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Most of Cummings’ career so far in the UFC has been at welterweight, but he takes on ‘Manzo’ at 185lbs in this fight as he looks to take his UFC record to 9-4. Di Chirico is 3-4 in the UFC coming into this fight, having lost his last two fights via decision to Kevin Holland and Makhmud Muradov. Cummings, despite being a slightly smaller guy in the fight, he has the more powerful hands, the better wrestling and the more prominent submission game with with 12 of his 23 wins coming via tap-out. He should be able to control this bout regardless of where it ends up and secure a relatively easy decision win. PICK – Zak Cummings via Unanimous Decision
Hannah Cifers (10-6) vs Mallory Martin (6-3) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
After losing her UFC debut to Maycee Barber, Cifers went on to win her next two via decision before being finished in her next three fights against Angela Hill, Mackenzie Dern and Mariya Agapova. She steps into the octagon to take on Mallory Martin who had won five in a row before a submission defeat in her UFC debut to submission expert Virna Jandiroba back in December. Cifers has a big right-hand but other than that, Martin dominates her. She’s got a reach and height advantage over Cifers plus a much stronger wrestling game. She should be able to just overpower Cifers to the ground and beat her down using ground and pound for a finish or a very wide decision win. PICK – Mallory Martin via Knockout, Round 2
Impa Kasanganay (7-0) vs Maki Pitolo (13-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
After being submitted in the first round by British fighter Darren Stewart earlier this month, Maki Pitolo returns to the octagon to take on a Contender Series winner with an even shorter turnaround on fights. Kasanganay beat Anthony Adams via decision just 18 days prior to this Saturday night and will come in as an underdog in his UFC debut. Pitolo is a bruiser who has great boxing and enough power to finish Justin Sumter with body shots. Kasanganay is a wrestler who seems to take big shots before eventually feeling his way into a fight but is also capable on the feet. The big difference for me here is that Pitolo will comfortably be the best fighter Kasanganay has ever fought. The waiver is that both are coming off quick turnarounds but one off a win and one off a stoppage defeat. It’s a tough fight to pick and could be fight of the night, but I’m leaning towards Pitolo to grind out a decision. PICK – Maki Pitolo via Unanimous Decision