Tag Archives: Alexa Grasso

UFC Columbus: Blaydes vs Daukaus – Main card predictions

The UFC returns to the USA and a full crowd for a fight night event this weekend as Curtis Blaydes fights Chris Daukaus in Columbus.

After an amazing trip to London, we have another heavyweight main event this time with two fighters battling to stay in top five conversations and enter their name into the round-robin that’s buzzing in Francis Ngannou’s absence.

We’ll also see a huge flyweight eliminator between Askar Askarov and Kai Kara-France to see who could be the next title contender in the division.

Last time out at UFC London we had a great night, going 10/12 with our picks with three perfect picks to move up to 578/891 (64.87%) with 244 perfect picks (42.21%).

We’ll look to improve on that and after starting with the early prelims here and rounding up the rest of the prelims here, we move on to the main card here.


Marc Diakiese (14-5) vs Viacheslav Borshchev (6-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A lightweight bout to open up the main card in this one. Diakiese has lost five of his last seven and is battling for his UFC career right now, having lost to Rafael Fiziev and then Rafael Alves most recently at UFC Vegas 42. Borshchev is 6-1 professionally with a huge body shot KO against Dakota Bush at UFC Vegas 46 in his debut last time out.

Diakiese and Borshchev are both strong kickboxers with good explosive power in their attacks, while grappling is their weakness although they’re strong enough to hold their own. Diakiese has a major speed advantage between the two and from the outside will look to land kicks and combinations, while Borshchev will look to walk forward and counter with power shots and he has the ability to end the show early.

This will be a highly entertaining striking battle and I’ll be surprised to see it go the distance. Diakiese’s defeats have come to some of the top guys in the division, and Borshchev is one of the best strikers in the division. It’ll be fun and competitive, but I think the power advantage will take it’s toll as the fight goes on for him to score a late finish.
PICK – Viacheslav Borshchev via Knockout, Round 3

Ilir Latifi (16-8) vs Aleksei Oleinik (59-16-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Big heavyweight bout in this one to warm the crowd up for the rest of the main card. Latifi is a former light-heavyweight who has lost three of his last four, but picked up a win against Tanner Boser last time out at UFC Vegas 28 via split decision. Oleinik has lost his last three, getting KO’d by Derrick Lewis (UFC Vegas 6), Chris Daukaus (UFC Vegas 19) and dropping a decision to Sergei Spivak most recently at UFC Vegas 29.

Latifi is a little man for the division with big weight and an excellent wrestling skillset, while Oleinik is a submission specialist looking for his 60th professional win. He is the master of the Ezekiel choke and is even capable of getting taps off his back with it, so Latifi must be careful. He has an incredible squeeze and can take a huge shot on the chin. Age is a big factor in this fight with a combined age of 82, so I don’t think it lasts too long.

Latifi is going to look to take the fight to the ground with wrestling and stay on top, throwing elbows and ground and pound to earn a win. Oleinik will happily go to ground and will look to sweep him with jiu-jitsu and then explode with chokes and limb attacks.

If this fight is on the way to the mat, then there are plenty of avenues from which Oleinik can secure a submission. He’s by far the bigger man, with Latifi way undersized for the division, and with great experience and submission skills I expect him to be be able to stay on top for long enough to wrap something up and squeeze the life out of Latifi for a win.
PICK – Aleksei Oleinik via Submission, Round 1

Askar Askarov (14-0-1) vs Kai Kara-France (23-9) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

An absolute banger and my pick for the fight of the night in this flyweight bout. Askarov is undefeated earned a dominant win over Joseph Benavidez at UFC 259 last time out. Kara-France has found a resurgence recently and earned a huge KO win over Cody Garbrandt at UFC 269 to set this title eliminator bout up.

Askarov is phenomenal. His wrestling is so clean and crisp, and his grappling skills deserve far more praise than they get and they already get plenty. Askarov’s striking is decent too, with decent power and enough to concern opponents to back up to the cage which allows his takedowns. Kara-France has got solid boxing skills and great power in his hands, while his takedown defence is decent and his lateral movement is solid.

This is a really good match-up, with different outcomes possible for both fighters. Ultimately though, the wrestling of Askarov just looks like too much for Kara-France to handle. Despite his good scrambling skills, Askarov has a habit of controlling guys once he has them down and his attempts are relentless until he gets them there. I’ve not seen anybody deny him on the mat yet, so until Kara-France does it it’s hard to predict he will.
PICK – Askar Askarov via Decision



Matt Brown (25-18) vs Bryan Barberena (16-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Big banger at welterweight incoming here. ‘The Immortal’ Brown is on a farewell tour and earned a big KO win over Dhiego Lima at UFC Vegas 29 in his last bout, while Barberena is 2-2 in his last four with a win over Darian Weeks at UFC Vegas 44 last time out bringing him on a wave of momentum.

Brown is a brawler at this stage of his career, with violent striking and great power in his limbs while he looks to take your head off. He’s also a solid wrestler when he needs to lean on it, which isn’t very often. Barberena is a powerful brawler too, but he’s been more prone to punishment since getting badly beaten by Vicente Luque five fights ago.

This fight will almost certainly be a barn-burner. Barberena will walk forward into the range that makes Brown incredibly dangerous and they’ll brawl in a phone booth until someone falls. Brown could get clipped, but the likelihood is he uses his clinch game well to land elbows and knees too. Ultimately that will be the difference and Brown climbs further up the all-time knockout list.
PICK – Matt Brown via Knockout, Round 2

Joanne Wood (15-7) vs Alexa Grasso (13-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A women’s flyweight fight as the co-main event, but no idea why considering some of the fights on this card. Wood (formerly Calderwood) is on a two-fight losing streak, dropping a decision to Lauren Murphy at UFC 263 and then getting submitted by Taila Santos at UFC Vegas 43. Grasso on the opposite hand has won each of her last two, claiming a decision win against Maycee Barber most recently at UFC 258.

Wood is a solid striker on the feet with good pressure fighting, mixing in clinches but struggling to battle against submission and grappling experts. Grasso is a solid boxer with some decent takedown skills of her own, while the volume of her striking is high. Wood likes 50/50 positions quite a lot to try and stamp her authority on fights, but Grasso will look to avoid them and just pump her jab and kicks from distance.

Defensively both of these women are not good defensively when it comes to grappling, so expect it to stay on the feet as much as possible. Wood needs to close the distance and will try to clinch, but Grasso has good movement and excellent boxing and that should ultimately be enough to stay away from the clinch and claim a pretty comfortable win.
PICK – Alexa Grasso via Decision

Curtis Blaydes (15-3) vs Chris Daukaus (12-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Heavyweight main event, stake your claim for fight of the night. Blaydes was on a great run before running head first into a Derrick Lewis uppercut at UFC Vegas 19 and going unconscious, but bounced back with a dominant win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 266. Daukaus was doing the same until Lewis KO’d him against the cage at UFC Vegas 45 in the final card of 2021 to snap a five-fight win streak.

Blaydes’ game plan is the same against everyone – shoot for the takedown and dominate you on the ground until you can’t get up or the timer runs out. Daukaus on the other hand has got brilliant boxing and hand speed and is believed to have tremendous jiu-jitsu skills although it’s not been seen in the UFC just yet. If he’s going to win here though, he’ll need to show it from his back.

Blaydes will use his looping hooks on the feet and some low kicks to set up takedowns against the cage and while that’s the plan Daukaus will use his speed to land as much damage as he can. Once Blaydes shoots though, it’s unlikely he doesn’t get the fight down and then it’s a case of whether or not Daukaus can get back up or submit him from his back. I’d hedge my bets that is highly unlikely. Blaydes will lay and pray for 25 minutes from top position and do enough damage to earn a dominant win.
PICK – Curtis Blaydes via Decision

UFC 258 Fallout: Usman shows the levels at 170lbs

The welterweight monarchy has been settled and Kamaru Usman is still at the top of the food chain, after a spectacular performance saw him defeat Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.

The two former Blackzilians teammates met in the main event with the welterweight championship on the line, with many believing that the former lightweight would pose the biggest threat to the Nigerian Nightmare’s crown.

It looked like that might be the case too, as the first big punch of the fight that was thrown by Burns and rocked Usman more than he’s ever shown in a fight before. He was clearly stunned by the punch and used his jab to circle away and shake the cobwebs, which ended up being the pattern of the rest of the fight.

Interestingly enough Usman refused to engage with Burns on the ground when he did get him down on a few occasions, instead opting to throw kicks from a standing position and the odd body shot too. From then on, Burns seemed to buzz Usman whenever he landed the overhand right but the champ took the fight over with his jab.

He dropped him several times in round two with it, switching stances and landing power shots including a beautiful pull right-hand counter that rocked Burns to the point of him doing a dance. He ended up getting the finish early in the third round, having dropped Burns with another jab and then ground and pounding him until Herb Dean stepped in.

It was a tremendous performance from the 33-year-old, who moved ahead of Georges St-Pierre for most consecutive wins in the welterweight divisions at 13 while also tying Khabib Nurmagomedov for best start to a UFC career with 13 wins. Only Anderson Silva went longer before tasting defeat in the octagon, with 16 wins.

The win proved to many what they already believed, Usman is levels above everyone else in the welterweight division. It means he has now defeated six of the current top eight ranked 170lbers in the company, more than any other champion.

He called out Jorge Masvidal for a rematch following back and forth online, stating that he wants ‘Street Jesus’ to have no excuses this time so he can finish him and shut his mouth. He finished the “call out” by also stating that “any of these fools can get it” if it ends up being someone else. While that fight is possible, he’s also got the likes of Leon Edwards, Colby Covington, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Michael Chiesa chomping at the bit for a shot at his gold.

A performance like that, with a resume like his and the potential challenges going forward that he has, Usman is well on his way to cementing G.O.A.T status in his division.

In the co-main event, Maycee Barber’s return to action was spoiled by an excellent boxing display from Alexa Grasso as she toughed out a unanimous decision win. Grasso landed crisper strikes and showed that flyweight is her natural weight class as she was able to hold her own in the clinch exchanges and even showed some excellent grappling transitions in the second round too.

Grasso will move into the top ten now where a fight against the likes of Viviane Araujo become a fun prospect, while Barber’s chances of becoming the youngest UFC champion in history are completely over now if they weren’t already before this.

She will have to go back to the drawing board, but she showed enough toughness and skill at just 22-years-old to prove that she will be around for a long time and will only get better as time goes on.

UFC 258: Usman vs Burns – Results (Highlights)

**Gillian Robertson vs Miranda Maverick was cancelled hours before the event after Robertson withdrew due to a non-covid related illness.**

**Jim Miller vs Bobby Greene was cancelled the day before the event due to Greene collapsing following his weight cut.**


EARLY PRELIMS

Gabe Green def Phil Rowe via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

Interesting start to the fight as Rowe opens with a leg kick and flicks out some long punches to use his range. Both men exchange leg kicks but Rowe lands a couple of nice right hands. Green looking to go first with his strikes but Rowe using his footwork well to step away. The two clinch up and Green gets a takedown, but Rowe quickly reverses the position and ends up in mount. Rowe looks for a few submissions but Green defends well and eventually gets back up to his feet and goes for a submission of his own. Rowe defends it well and eventually gets back up, with the two clinching against the cage to end the round. 10-9 Rowe.

Fast start to the round for Green as he comes out with a heavy low kick that drops Rowe! He gets on with some ground and pound but Rowe gets up quickly and the two start exchanging heavy strikes. Green throws a body kick but it hits Rowe in the cup and there is a short pause in the fight. The two come back and Green lands a huge right hook that wobbles Rowe! He looks for the kill with big shots against the cage but then accidentally lands another low blow that allows a pause for Rowe to recover. They come out swinging again and Green lands some nice shots before Rowe lands a flying knee and clinches up quickly. They break and meet in the middle and Rowe lands a huge right hand but Green eats it and keeps coming forward. Green throws another heavy leg kick and Rowe drops again, so Green throws some ground and pound until the end of the round. 19-19.

Green lands a big leg kick early in the round and immediately Rowe starts hobbling and limping. Green tries to throw a head kick but Rowe catches it and shoots for the takedown and gets it. Green tries to get up and transitions into a leg lock but doesn’t really know what he’s doing there and as they try to get up again, Rowe trips him and gets another takedown. Green fighting off his back and not really trying to get back to his feet weirdly, so Rowe continues riding him from mount until Green finally gets up with 90 seconds to go. Green throws a big leg kick again that drops Rowe but then he steps in for ground and pound and Rowe is able to clinch up and battle until the end of the round. I think the top control has won this for Rowe, 29-28.

PRELIMS

Chris Gutierrez def Andre Ewell via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27)

A tactical start to this one with both men flowing between stances, with Gutierrez feinting a lot while Ewell is flicking out right hands. Ewell lands a flush left hand but Gutierrez eats it and the tactical battle continues, with some leg kicks beginning to be thrown. Not much action as we enter the final minute, with Ewell on his bike and circling. Gutierrez rushes in to close the distance and they clinch against the cage, which allows Gutierrez to land a nice knee to the body and he’s opened a cut above Ewell’s eye. We enter the final 10 seconds and Ewell dips for hook and Gutierrez counters with a big head kick that drops him! He charges for the finish but the buzzer may well have saved him. 10-9 Gutierrez.

Ewell still looks a little wobbly as they come out for the second round and Gutierrez is landing some nice leg kicks again that are taking their toll on Ewell’s movement. Ewell is trying to counter Gutierrez’s striking with his range but he’s not landing anything of note. Gutierrez’s lack of volume costing him again at the moment as Ewell continues to move and uses his left jab well to land more frequently. Ewell pushes forward and forces an exchange, catches a kick and gets a takedown with 40 seconds to go in the round. He looks for a heel hook and has it in deep but Gutierrez is able to escape as the round ends. 19-19.

Final round and Gutierrez comes out strong and is throwing heavy leg kicks again and even gets Ewell to acknowledge the pain. Gutierrez starting to up the pace a little and pushes forward and lands a huge spin kick that Ewell eats. More leg kicks and Ewell is struggling to stand now, so he starts landing some big punches that have Ewell wobbling. More leg kicks from Gutierrez and Ewell is really struggling to move around, but he doesn’t have the power to put Gutierrez away. Ewell looks for a takedown late on but Gutierrez stuffs it and ends the round looking for a submission. Great round for him and that should be a win for Gutierrez.

Polyana Viana def Mallory Martin via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:18)

Quick start to the round from both women as they stand and exchange before Martin grabs for a clinch and Viana pulls guard immediately. Viana starts throwing lots of elbows on the ground and is moving constantly to prevent Martin from holding her down. She throws up a triangle and it’s in tightttt! Martin tries to escape but Viana grabs and arm and starts throwing elbows to the head with the triangle still synched in. Martin is still fighting it and stands up and tries to slam Viana, which just makes the triangle tighter. She refuses to tap and Viana starts attacking the arm, first going for an Americana and then she transitions to a full armbar before she gets the tap. What a performance from the Brazilian!

Belal Muhammad def Dhiego Lima via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

Immediate pressure from Muhammad who walks straight over to Lima and starts pressuring him. He shoots for a takedown against the cage but Lima defends it will and they separate. Nice leg kicks in response from Lima land well, but Muhammad continues to come forward with big, looping hooks and some body work. Straight left hand lands from Muhammad as he fakes the level change and he’s controlling the pace of this fight. Takedown attempt from Muhammad again and he gets it in deep but Lima is able to defend it once more. Lima throws a big right hand that snaps the head back of Muhammad and gets his attention. Muhammad responds with a beautiful combination of jabs, hooks and body shots to take back control and see the round out. 10-9.

Muhammad comes out and once again looks to control the range by backing Lima up against the cage and throwing nice combinations. Lima throwing out some jabs of his own but Muhammad really dominating the striking exchanges early on. Another takedown attempt from Muhammad but easily defended by Lima to keep the fight on the feet. Big overhand right from Muhammad lands but Lima responds with a calf kick that wobbles him! Lima throws two more in the exchanges that follow but Muhammad is trying to grit his teeth and keep going, pushing the pace still. Muhammad’s pace starting to take it’s toll on Lima, who’s breathing heavy, and he shoots in for a takedown which Lima defends again. Round ends with the two clinching against the cage, in what should go Muhammad’s way. 20-18.

Lima opens the round with a leg kick and then a head kick, but Muhammad comes back with some big shots of his own. Muhammad shoots in for a takedown again and manages to take the back while standing, but Lima defends really well against the cage. Muhammad pouring on the pressure now and landing some solid strikes against the cage before shooting for another takedown that gets stuffed. Lima breathing really heavy now and eats a huge right hand but Muhammad just keeps coming forward, landing jabs and one-twos to the face. Lima goes for a single leg takedown but he’s exhausted and Muhammad easily stuffs it and starts pouring on more shots. Muhammad shoots for a takedown again and finally gets it with a minute to go in the fight. Muhammad takes the back but Lima stands with him on top of him still as Muhammad reigns down punches until the end of the round. 30-27, great performance.

Anthony Hernandez def Rodolfo Vieira via Submission (Guillotine), Round 2 (1:53)

An immediate takedown shot from Vieira allows him in deep and he picks Hernandez up and slams him down immediately. He ends up on top and starts pressuring for an arm triangle immediately, then switches to take the back. He looks to crank the neck, but Hernandez turns and allows him into mount before defending an armbar attempt and getting back to the feet. Hernandez pours the pressure on and starts landing bombs and Vieira is hurt! Hernandez is landing huge strikes and now he’s going for a choke but the buzzer goes and saves him! What a round! 10-9 Hernandez.

Second round starts and Hernandez knows that Vieira is out on his feet already. He’s completely exhausted and Vieira is throwing kicks, elbows and hooks looking to take his head off. A huge elbow lands from Hernandez and opens up a massive cut on his face! Vieira is out on his feet and shoots for a takedown but it’s easily defended by Hernandez, who syncs in a guillotine choke and forces Vieira to tap out! Unbelievable!

MAIN CARD

Julian Marquez def Maki Pitolo via Submission (D’Arce Choke), Round 3 (4:17)

No feeling out process in this one as Pitolo comes out and immediately throws a calf kick, a head kick and then a combination of strikes that ends with an uppercut. They clinch up against the cage and Pitolo seems like the stronger man off the bat and eventually gets a takedown. Pitolo completely dominating on the ground and landing some heavy ground and pound as Marquez works his way back up to his knees, before Pitolo looks to drag him back down again. He gets up again and Pitolo just starts grinding him against the cage but Marquez throws him off and then sinks in a guillotine! Pitolo stays standing and is able to fight the hands to break the grip before Marquez lands a heavy right hand to end the round. 10-9 Pitolo.

Second round starts out on the feet and Marquez looking to take the centre and establish a striking battle. He gets the better of the first couple of exchanges and then a kick from Marquez grazes the cup and the fight is paused for a short while. Fight resumes and Marquez comes marching forward again and slips, which allows Pitolo to grab onto his body and start wrestling again. He rag dolls Marquez for a few seconds before a striking exchange and change of levels allows Marquez to go for that guillotine again! It looks like it’s in really tight but Pitolo rolls through and escapes. Some good ground and pound from Marquez but Pitolo explodes up and is able to get on top himself once again. The rest of the round has Pitolo landing solid ground and pound and searching for submissions, 20-18 Pitolo.

Marquez comes out hard in the final round knowing he needs the finish. Lots of heavy strikes from Marquez land hard and Pitolo is looking tired. Body kick lands and Marquez lands big against the cage with a spinning elbow! Pitolo moves away but he’s rocked and shoots for a takedown, which Marquez defends with a guillotine again. Pitolo eventually gets the takedown and moves for a submission but Marquez escapes and starts landing huge strikes again. Big three punch combo rocks Pitolo and then he lands a big knee to the head. Pitolo shoots again but Marquez stuffs it and sinks in a d’arce choke for the win! What a round! Unbelievable!

Ricky Simon def Brian Kelleher via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

Fast start to this fight as both fighters meet in the middle of the octagon and exchange before Simon shoots and scores a takedown. He immediately starts throwing big ground and pound strikes and as Kelleher looks to escape he jumps back on him and takes the back. Kelleher has a big cut above his eye as Simon squeezes him and looks to grind him. More ground and pound before Kelleher eventually gets to his feet, with the cut really bothering him. More pressure from Simon, who gets another takedown before Kelleher fights his way back up before the end of the round. 10-9 Simon.

Another fast start for Simon as he comes in quickly with some jabs and lovely uppercut to the body. Kelleher responds with a front kick to the face that snaps Simon’s head back, but he continues to come forward and lands another body shot. Another big front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Simon eats it and walks forward for a takedown, but Keller is able to get back to his feet quickly. Both fighters exchange leg kicks and check them well, before Simon shoots in for a takedown and gets it – avoiding the guillotine attempt from Kelleher. They clinch against the cage and Simon throws a big spinning elbow on the break that just misses. Fun round, 20-18 Simon.

Bit of a slower start to this one, with Simon happy to circle on the outside as Kelleher comes forward. Some nice upwards elbows from Simon look good before he ducks under an attempted elbow from Kelleher and clinches up. Simon changes levels against the cage and takes him down, with Kelleher looking for a guillotine but Simon gets out easily and starts landing nice ground and pound to the face. Kelleher goes for a kimura from the bottom but Simon defends it by reversing the position and going for his own kimura, which allows Kelleher to scramble back to his feet. Simon keeps him against the cage and takes the back, landing big knees and just dominating the position and then holding his own in the striking for what should be a comfortable win. 30-27 Simon.

Kelvin Gastelum def Ian Heinisch via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

Heinisch comes out early and quickly and lands a leg kick followed by shooting for a takedown, which he gets. Gastelum quickly gets to his feet and rolls through to end up on top, so Heinisch attacks a kimura. He’s got the arm extended but Gastelum stays calm and is able to escape it. He takes Heinisch down again and ends up in mount, but another kimura attempt allows him to get towards the cage and kick off it to escape. Clinch against the cage and Gastelum changes levels to score takedowns, although he is unable to keep Heinisch down. Both men miss a head kick as the round ends. 10-9 Gastelum.

Heinisch looking to land heavy shots early in this second round with wild hooks and cracks Gastelum twice, but he just eats it and walks forward. Flying knee lands clean from Heinisch, but Gastelum catches the leg too and ends up with a takedown. Heinisch gets back to his feet and Gastelum lands a leg kick, then clinches against the cage again. Another shot from Gastelum as he gets a body lock and pushes Heinisch all the way back to the cage. Nice one-two lands from Gastelum, but Heinisch trying to make it a dirty fight with more wild exchanges. Wild hook misses and Gastelum shoots and drives to the cage again to end the round, 20-18 Kelvin.

Gastelum starts the round with a lazy shot that is easily defended by Heinisch, who then shoots for his own takedown and gets it before Gastelum scrambles back to his feet quickly. Gastelum using his jab and straight left hand more in this round, as Heinisch goes for a flying knee that gets caught once again and ends up with Gastelum on top of him. Beautiful roll through from Heinisch sees him reverse the position and take Gastelum’s back. He lands some nice ground and pound as he searches for a submission but Gastelum is able to reverse and ends up on top before they get back to the feet and clinch. Looping left hook by Gastelum misses and and Heinisch shoots and gets one last takedown, although Gastelum reverses the position and gets a takedown of his own to end on top. 30-27, he’s back in the win column.

Alexa Grasso def Maycee Barber via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Good start to the fight from Grasso as both women throw out a few feeler strikes before clinching up against the cage and coming to a stalemate before separating. Sharp one-two from Grasso lands flush on the chin of Barber and forces her to move in for another clinch position. Nice elbow lands in the clinch from Grasso before Barber throws some nice knees in the clinch. Big elbow and left hand on the break from Barber lands clean but Grasso eats it. Both girls lands huge shots that land clean on each other before they clinch up and see the round out. 10-9 Grasso, but it’s close.

Barber throwing a lot of feints from way out of range that are serving little to no purpose other than wasting energy right now. Short exchange leads to a clinch before a quick separation before both women lands huge right hands at the same time. Barber seems to be rocked a little more than Grasso from it and they clinch up again. Barber lands an elbow on the break before they clinch up once again. Barber separates and throws a straight left hand that lands clean before a right hook follows it up. Grasso ends up on her back and Barber goes hunting for ground and pound, but Grasso transitions with an armbar attempt then switches to a head-and-arm choke before taking the back and ending the round in dominant fashion. 20-18 Grasso.

Barber comes out in the third throwing wild strikes with no real end goal to them as Grasso keeps out of range and looks calm. Grasso eats a right hand and then they clinch against the cage, with Grasso landing big knees to the body. Nice trip by Barber gets her into top position and she lands a huge elbow on the ground. A few more shots and Grasso gets back to her feet. Barber lands a knee in the clinch and keeps throwing big hooks and power punches that have got Grasso wobbling. Another clinch as Barber fails with a takedown attempt, with Barber throwing big elbows from the clinch too. Final 30 seconds and Barber going hell for leather but I don’t think it’ll be enough for the win. 29-28 Grasso.

Kamaru Usman def Gilbert Burns via Knockout, Round 3 (0:34)

Crazy start to the fight as Burns comes out early and lands a huge right hand that rocks Usman! Burns pours on the pressure early but Usman defends himself with a jab and some composure. Burns goes for a head kick but Usman catches it and sends him to the mat, but then doesn’t follow him down. The next two minutes are spent with Burns on his back tempting Usman to come to the ground, but instead he just kicks the legs and throws body shots. They get back to the feet and Usman lands a stiff jab several times and stuffs a Burns takedown attempt to end the round. Fun stuff! 10-9 either way, but to Usman for me. Just.

Slower start to this round from both fighters, as Burns takes the centre of the octagon again. Usman’s jab still landing nicely, but Burns coming forward with an overhand right that seems to stun Usman whenever it lands. The jab is having a big effect, and Usman throws a big overhand right that lands flush and hurts Burns! He follows up with more hooks and jabs and Burns is wobbling bad. Burns shoots for the takedown but Usman stuffs it and lads another jab that drops Burns. Burns tries to tempt Usman down to the floor again but Usman makes him stand again and sees the round out with his jab. Huge round for Usman! 20-18 Usman.

Third round starts and Usman comes to take the centre early. Big left jab lands clean and drops Burns once again! He lands a huge overhand right that puts Burns’ lights out on the ground and keeps punching as Burns tries to stand up. A few more shots and Herb Dean waves the fight off! Huge knockout win for the Nigerian Nightmare! Wow!

UFC 258: Usman vs Burns – Main Card Predictions

The first of six UFC title fights in the next six events takes place this weekend as Kamaru Usman finally defends his welterweight title against Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.

The two have seen the fight collapse twice before, having originally been scheduled to meet at UFC 251 before a positive COVID-19 test ruled Burns out, before injuries to Usman meant their December date didn’t come to fruition either.

In the co-main event, Maycee Barber makes a return to the flyweight division after a serious knee injury saw her miss over a year of action. She will take on Alexa Grasso with the two strikers looking to make a name for themselves inside the top ten.

Last week at UFC Vegas 18 we went 8/12 with our picks, with five perfect selections to go with it. That moves us to 224/349 (64.18%) with 101 (45.09%) perfect picks since beginning our predictions back in June 2020.

We’ll look to improve that with this 12 fight card and with the prelims already predicted, lets get on the main card!


Maki Pitolo (13-7) vs Julian Marquez (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

An interesting middleweight bout between Pitolo and the returning Marquez, who makes his first appearance in the octagon since July 2018.

Pitolo is 1-3 in the UFC, including losses in his last two against Darren Stewart and Impa Kasanganay, while Marquez lost a split decision to Alessio Di Chirico before tearing his latissimum dorsi muscle and being told he’d never fight again.

Pitolo is a good grappler and good striker, pretty well rounded all over while Marquez was a relatively hittable striker back in the day. The fact he hasn’t fought for so long is worrying but he has a power advantage from what he had in the past and with Pitolo happy to take a punch to give a punch, that could land him in trouble. It’s tough to call, but I’ll lean with the power of Marquez.
PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 2

Ricky Simon (17-3) vs Brian Kelleher (22-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A quick turnaround for Simon as he takes on ‘Bam Bam’ Kelleher in the featherweight division.

Simon got a win on Fight Island last month with a fantastic performance and submission win against Gaetano Pirrello, while Kelleher went 3-1 in 2020 including a 39 second submission win over Ray Rodriguez back in October.

Simon is a fantastic wrestler, who applies phenomenal pressure and looks to work his submission game once he gets down there while Kelleher is a powerful striker who has a violent guillotine in his locker too. Kelleher’s wrestling isn’t awful, but Simon has a huge advantage in that area. He has shown a wobbly chin before and Kelleher has finished all but one of his wins in the UFC. With that said, Simon’s wrestling is so good I do expect he’ll get the takedowns in a safe way to avoid the guillotine chokes and dominate from top position for a decision win.
PICK – Ricky Simon via Decision

Jim Miller (32-15) vs Bobby Green (27-11-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Two UFC veterans come together in this one in what should prove to be a relatively exciting fight at lightweight. Miller went 1-2 in 2020 losing to Scott Holtzman in February, beating Roosevelt Roberts in June and then losing to Vinc Pichel at UFC 252, while Green went 3-1 in 2020 with wins over Clay Guida, Lando Vannata and Alan Patrick before a controversial loss to Thiago Moises.

Miller is a submission monster, with 18 wins coming by way of tap-out in his career. He’s excellent on the mat but he comes up against Green who has been excellent on the feet in his most recent fights but has also shown fantastic grappling defence and solid wrestling.

Green has power to hurt Miller and a speed advantage, so I expect Green should be able to out land Miller on the feet an keep the fight standing with his takedown defence so I expect a decision win.
PICK – Bobby Green via Decision

Kelvin Gastelum (15-6 1NC) vs Ian Heinisch (14-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A middleweight clash that will see two men battling to get back on track to work their way up the rankings in the 185lbs division. Gastelum put together a decent run at middleweight before losing to Israel Adesanya in the interim title fight, before losing to Darren Till and then getting ankle-picked by Jack Hermansson in July in just 78 seconds. Heinisch lost two in a row at the back end of 2019 before bouncing back with a win over Gerald Meerschaert in June.

Gastelum is a heavy handed striker with a good wrestling background, while Heinisch is very similar in style. In a very even match up, the difference between the two is generally in the cardio department where Gastelum rarely gasses out. Heinisch is the crisper striker of the two but Gastelum has a speed advantage and is coming back with a point to prove after three losses in a row.

It’s a really close fight and there’s not much in it either way, but I think Gastelum’s power and speed could be enough to get him a close decision win once the fight gets into the later rounds.
PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision

Maycee Barber (8-1) vs Alexa Grasso (12-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

The return of Maycee Barber is the co-main event of this event as she takes on Alexa Grasso in the women’s flyweight division. Barber was 8-0 before losing her last fight to Roxanne Modafferi, where she tore her ACL in the second round and got dominated on the ground. Grasso has alternated wins and losses since 2016, with a win in her last bout against Ji Yeon Kim in August last year.

Both women are great strikers with Barber having a big power advantage, but Grasso’s boxing is arguably more polished. Barber is bigger physically, stronger, faster and just has a lot of advantages in this bout. While Grasso is a good talent in her own right, she’s been set up to fail in this one.

Barber should return to the octagon with a statement win here, and I expect a one-sided display for ‘The Future’.
PICK – Maycee Barber via Knockout, Round 2

Kamaru Usman (17-1) vs Gilbert Burns (19-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

The welterweight division can finally move on from this match up after this weekend as ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ takes on his long-time teammate Gilbert Burns for the title. Usman is undefeated in the UFC and has won 16 fights in a row in total, defeating Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington before dominating Jorge Masvidal last time out. Burns is on a six-fight win streak of his own, with wins over Demian Maia and Woodley himself in his last two fights to set this bout up.

The two trained together for many years under Henry Hooft but when this fight was made, Usman went to work with Justin Gaethje and Trevor Wittman which means his striking will almost certainly have improved while he’s been away. Burns is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion who has started leaning on his knockout power more in recent times, because he’s so confident on the ground.

He’s going to need that grappling more than ever in this one, with Usman’s style always to back his opponent up to the cage then use his incredible physicality to get a takedown and dominate on the ground. He showed in his fight with Covington that he has a great chin and knockout power too and while Burns will cause him problems from the bottom, Usman is a level above any welterweight in the world and should win this one.
PICK – Kamaru Usman via Decision

Maycee Barber back to show the flyweight division hasn’t left her behind

Stretch your mind back to the start of 2020. UFC 246 was about to take place and all the talk was about the return of Conor McGregor.

That card was more successful for the Irishman than the beginning of 2021, but another fighter looking to change their fortunes from one year to the other is young Maycee Barber.

The then 21-year-old was being tipped for the top of the game, with her goal to become the youngest champion in UFC history. What occurred on the night though was a huge shock to many.

As she came up against wily veteran Roxanne Modafferi in the featured prelim bout, the consensus was that she’d be too strong and too powerful for Modafferi and be able to knock her out and put a statement out there. Instead though, we saw a totally different fight.

In the first round, Barber got caught a couple of times by the right hand of Modafferi and once she got taken down it was one-sided on the ground. Modafferi was able to pass into guard and land some nice ground and pound strikes. The game plan from then on was simple for Barber, stay on the feet.

That plan was ruined almost immediately in the second round though when a jab grazed her and as she stepped back her knee buckled and she fell to the ground. Modafferi dominated on the ground from top position once again for the majority of the round, opening up a huge cut on the side of Barber’s head with a vicious elbow. As they stood for the end of the round, Barber was limping heavily and it was clear she was in trouble.

The doctor examined her knee between rounds and told the referee that she had a minor partial tear to her ACL and she was fine to continue. In truth, she could put no weight on her leg and could barely stand and Modafferi did her a favour by taking her down again in the third and beating her up.

Barber showed tremendous toughness throughout the fight, refusing the give up despite the clear injury and she took her beating humbly – even if her dad didn’t.

That “minor partial tear” to her ACL turned out to be full tear of her ACL and she didn’t fight again for the rest of the year. She is now fully recovered though and after a change of camps will fight Alexa Grasso at UFC 258.

Only 22-years-old, the first defeat of her career would’ve been a hard one to swallow but her confidence won’t have been shaken too much. She will see it simply as a part of the game, she was beaten by the injury rather than by her opponent.

A win over Grasso will get right back in the mix and she will be surely be keen to make up for lost time in her quest to become the youngest champion in history. By the time the fight takes place, she will have a year to win the belt to take over from Jon Jones as the youngest champion in history.

The timeline seems too short considering the strength of the division, but with her skillset you can never say never in the world of MMA. She has excellent striking technique and genuine knockout power, which is rare in the women’s game.

You have to hope that in the year she’s been away that she’s been able to work on her ground game a bit too, but even then losing out to Modafferi on the ground isn’t something to be ashamed of – it’s where she shines.

The likelihood of becoming the youngest champion ever is highly unlikely, but becoming a champion is definitely not out of her reach. At UFC 258 she gets back on the horse and starts working her way up the ladder once again.