A huge light heavyweight main event with title implications headlines the UFC Vegas 54 card this week after a brilliant card last week.
Former champions Jan Blachowicz returns to the octagon for the first time since losing his title to take on the highly rated Aleksandar Rakic, with the winner hoping it will take them towards a title shot.
In a sneaky good card, we’ll also see the likes of Davey Grant take on Louis Smolka and Katlyn Chookagian taking on Amanda Ribas to give you plenty to get your teeth into.
We’ll look to improve on that record here and after starting with the early prelims for the night we move on to the rest of the prelims section of the card.
Virna Jandiroba (17-3) vs Angela Hill (13-11) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A banger at strawweight between two fighters going through rough patches recently. Jandiroba has 1-2 in her last three, beating Kanako Murata via TKO (UFC Vegas 29) in between decision defeats to Mackenzie Dern (UFC 256) and Amanda Ribas (UFC 267). Hill has gone 1-4 in her last five, with a decision win over Ashley Yoder (UFC Vegas 21) sandwiched in the middle of decision defeats to Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson (UFC Vegas 10), Tecia Torres (UFC 265) and Amanda Lemos (UFC Vegas 45).
Jandiroba is a tremendous grappler with some excellent wrestling and nasty ground and pound, while her submission game is top notch having earned her 13 wins in her career. Hill is a striker, with excellent Muay Thai skills and some decent defensive wrestling skills but she regularly leaves fights in the judge’s hands by giving one to take one. This one seems like an unfavourable match up though because her recent performances have seen her struggle against top wrestlers.
Hill could easily have won three of her four recent defeats with different judges, but when you leave it open like that you’re asking for trouble. Jandiroba has had cardio problems in the past and Hill will go strong for the full 15 which could help in the latter rounds, but I expect Jandiroba’s wrestling to be enough to claim at least two rounds and another judge’s decision. PICK – Virna Jandiroba via Decision
Michael Johnson (20-17) vs Alan Patrick (15-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A bit of a retirement bout in the lightweight division here as Michael Johnson takes on Alan Patrick at 155-pounds. Johnson hasn’t won since 2018, losing four in a row, with defeat to Clay Guida most recently at UFC Vegas 18. Patrick is winless in his last three after defeats to Scott Holtzman and Bobby Green, before an accidental eye poke saved him from another defeat to Mason Jones at UFC Vegas 28.
Johnson is a striker, with great power in his hands and nasty body kicks as well as some solid wrestling in his back pocket too. Patrick is a powerful wrestler who wants to use his top game to dominate position , but his wrestling to get the fight there isn’t good. These are two fighters who probably shouldn’t be in the UFC at this point, but here we are.
Patrick just isn’t very good, to put it plainly. If he manages to get the fight to the ground he will have success, but his cardio means he probably has about a round and a half in him before Johnson takes over. Overall, Johnson should be able to stay at range and piece him up on the feet while avoiding the takedowns to secure a win. PICK – Michael Johnson via Decision
Viviane Araujo (10-3) vs Andrea Lee (13-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun women’s flyweight fight sits as the featured prelim bout in a highly competitive affair. Araujo saw a run of seven wins in eight bouts snapped last time out when Katlyn Chookagian claimed a decision win against her at UFC 262. Lee on the other hand has earned consecutive wins after a run of three defeats in a row, defeating Antonina Shevchenko at UFC 262 via submission before a TKO win against Cynthia Calvillo at UFC Vegas 42.
Araujo is a brilliant athlete, with great on-punch power as well as a gruelling top game from wrestling. Her big undoing however is her cardio, as she tends to only be able to go for two rounds or so before she fades away and rapidly. Lee on the other hand has improved her ground game well, while her striking game stands out among the contenders in the division although she struggles with wrestling defensively.
If the Brazilian has improved on her cardio then she should win this with her aggression and power. But if she hasn’t, it smells like a potential upset in ‘KGB’s favour with her effective striking and pace. The likelihood is that she hasn’t, because it’s always been an issue, so expect Lee to overcome a tough opening round to take over and claim the decision win. PICK – Andrea Lee via Decision
In the co-main we’ll see welterweight contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson enter the last chance saloon for title contention when he takes on Belal Muhammad, who is looking to break into the top five of the rankings for the first time.
Last time out at UFC 269 we went 9/14 on the night in a fantastic card to move to 500/779 (64.18%) with 211 perfect picks (42.2%).
Cub Swanson (27-12) vs Darren Elkins (27-9) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight fight between two vetereans of the fight game. Swanson earned a big KO win over Daniel Pineda at UFC 256 before getting smoked by Giga Chikhadze last time out at UFC Vegas 25. Elkins on the other hand has won his last two-in-a-row with a submission against Luiz Garagorri at UFC Vegas 13 before a knockout against Darrick Minner at UFC Vegas 32.
Swanson is a fantastic jiu-jitsu fighter with great power in his hands and plenty of experience to his name with 15 stoppage wins in his career. Elkins on the other hand is a pressure fighter with plenty of strikes and great wrestling in his weaponry. This will be an interesting fight because they are both well matched up and well-rounded.
Both of these guys will come forward and continue to pressure as usual, but I think Swanson has the edge on the feet and has enough about him to see off any wrestling attacks or submission threats and ultimately earn a judges decision. PICK – Cub Swanson via Decision
Diego Ferreira (17-4) vs Mateusz Gamrot (19-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight bout here as the veteran Ferreira takes on the very hot prospect in Gamrot. Ferreira has lost his last two against Beneil Dariush via decision at UFC Vegas 18 and then Gregor Gillespie at UFC Vegas 26 when he got KO’d. Gamrot on the other hand bounced back from the first defeat of his career in his debut at UFC Fight Island 6 by earning wins over Scott Holtzmann at UFC Vegas 22 and then a submission over Jeremy Stephens at UFC Vegas 31.
Ferreira is a very good grappler, with great jiu-jitsu skills and some decent striking too earning him seven submission wins from ten stoppages in his career. Gamrot on the other hand is a machine when it comes to the wrestling, earning multiple takedowns and then using position to land solid ground-and-pound and threaten with submissions too to earn 11 stoppage wins in his career.
Gamrot is the physically bigger fighter and he seems stronger, which plays into his advantage in the grappling game. Ferreira is probably the better striker of the two, but he doesn’t really have the power to put Gamrot off coming forward. If ‘Gamer’ gets hold of him he should be able to take him down and control him, and I think his relentless pace earns him a ground and pound finish. PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Knockout, Round 2
Raphael Assuncao (27-8) vs Ricky Simon (18-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An interesting bantamweight fight between two guys on very different trajectories in their career. Assuncao has lost the last three fights he’s had, with a KO on the buzzer against Cody Garbrandt at UFC 250 in his last outing. Simon on the other hand has won three-in-a-row, earning a decision over Ray Borg before submitting Gaetano Pirrello at UFC Fight Island 8 and claiming another decision against Brian Kelleher at UFC 258.
Assuncao is a powerful striker with a great pace and some solid leg kicks, but he comes into this one aged 39 and on the decline big time. Simon on the other hand is a pure wrestling specialist who looks to secure positions on the ground and dominate from there on to usually grind out decisions. Assuncao has got great submission skills, claiming ten wins via tap-out in his career but Simon isn’t a scrub in the grappling.
Simon has got the ability to go into the octagon and wrestle for as long as is needed, whether that be 15 minutes, 25 minutes or an hour. He’s also a pretty good striker and can use that to set up his takedowns in this one, against a dangerous opponent. In the end though, Simon should be able to get the fight down and I back him to defend himself from top position to earn a victory. PICK – Ricky Simon via Decision
Amanda Lemos (10-1-1) vs Angela Hill (13-10) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An interesting strawweight clash between two wannabe contenders gets a high slot on this card. Lemos is on a four-fight win streak, including back-to-back knockout wins over Livinha Souza at UFC 259 and then Montserrat Ruiz at UFC Vegas 31. Hill on the other hand has lost three of her last four but has turned in great performances in every one, dropping decisions to Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson at UFC Vegas 10 and Tecia Torres at UFC 265 with a win against Ashley Yoder at UFC Vegas 21 pausing the rot.
Lemos is a very powerful striker, with seven knockout victories in her career and some good defensive wrestling on her side too. Hill is a pressure fighter who can mix up her game really well, using kickboxing skills to mix in takedowns and a decent ground game too. Lemos will walk forward in this fight looking to land power shots, knowing that Hill isn’t powerful at all.
Hill will likely use her speed to step away, but Lemos will likely look to throw a hard low kick to stop that movement from being so effective and use that power to earn her a judges decision. PICK – Amanda Lemos via Decision
Stephen Thompson (16-5-1) vs Belal Muhammad (19-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Ranked welterweights go head-to-head in the co-main event here. ‘Wonderboy’ saw a two-fight win streak snapped recently, after his win over Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17 was countered by a dominant decision loss against Gilbert Burns at UFC 264. Belal Muhammad is unbeaten in six, having battered Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 before his no contest against Leon Edwards. He then returned to dominate against Demian Maia at UFC 263.
Thompson is as pure a striker as you will find in the UFC, with his karate game making him an expert in movement, range control and kicking as well as his brilliant counter striking. Muhammad is a well-rounded fighter, who can mix volume and pressure with some good wrestling too to figure out his opponents. This is by far the highest level striker he has ever fought though and it’s going to be tough for Muhammad to get that wrestling going.
Muhammad will look to set up takedowns with his boxing skills, but he isn’t as good a striker as Thompson and ‘Wonderboy’ has got brilliant takedown defence regardless of Burns’ success last time out. I like Muhammad, but this is too big a step up and stylistically it stinks for him. ‘Wonderboy’ will move around for 15 minutes and land big enough shots without taking damage to earn a decision win. PICK – Stephen Thompson via Decision
Derrick Lewis (25-8) vs Chris Daukaus (12-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Main event time and it’s a banger at heavyweight. Derrick Lewis was on a four-fight win streak with KO’s against Alexei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 6 and Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19 before he was beaten by Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 in an interim title fight. Daukaus on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak with all knockouts, with his most recent one coming impressively against Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 266 after he stopped Oleinik on the Blaydes-Lewis card.
Lewis is a one-shot killer, with ridiculous power in both hands and explosive power that can shut out anyones lights in an instant. Daukaus is a super powerful striker too with tremendous hand speed, but it’s the jiu-jitsu black belt that makes this extra intriguing. If Daukaus looks to take this fight to the ground, Lewis will throw uppercuts and knees before trying to explode to his feet. If they go on the feet, Daukaus will look to use volume and speed like Gane did before going for a killshot.
This is hard to predict, because a fighter with the power of Lewis is impossible to write off. But with Daukaus’ speed advantage, solid power himself and grappling expertise he has far more routes to victory and I think that ultimately he will be able to shake up the heavyweight division by claiming a knockout win. PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 3
Johnny Munoz def Jamey Simmons via Submission (Rear naked choke), Round 2 (2:35)
Cagey start from both men to start out, with neither man looking to grapple early on. Simmons swings a big overhand right that Munoz ducks and goes for a takedown but Simmons avoids easily. Munoz flicking out the jab to keep the distance while Simmons has him against the cage and looks for some more power strikes. Munoz pushing forward with the jab and gets clipped by a left hand by Simmons that causes him to lose balance, but he’s not hurt and gets back to his feet immediately. Short blitz from Munoz and he just misses with a head kick as we enter the final minute of the fight. Simmons lands a nice one-two and then Munoz ducks under and lands a big takedown late in the round. Simmons battles well off his back and the round ends. Super close, I’d go 10-9 Munoz for the takedown but could really go either way.
More of the same to start the second round as Simmons comes out looking to blitz through some jabs, before Munoz ducks under and times a takedown perfectly. Munoz starts working for position and as soon as Simmons goes to his knees Munoz takes his back and puts the hooks in. He starts landing some ground and pound and looks for the rear-naked choke but Simmons fights the hands and breaks the grip. He goes back to his knees but Munoz drags him back down, locks in the choke and gets the tap! Big win for Munoz!
Melissa Gatto def Victoria Leonardo via Doctor’s Stoppage (Broken Arm), Round 2 (5:00)
Good start to the bout from Gatto as she lands a quick one two and then secures a body lock against the cage. She controls the clinch and then with an inside trip gets the takedown nice and easily before starting to search for submissions. She goes for the neck, then moves to a kimura attempt and then ends up on Leonardo’s back looking for chokes and armbars. Leonardo defending well though and eventually is able to roll through and get on top to land a bit of ground and pound herself. Gatto throws up a high guard and is being very active but Leonardo is defending well, following the hips and eventually allows the fight to get back up. Both women clinch and go for an inside trip but both fail at it and the round ends. 10-9 Gatto, but Leonardo can take some encouragement from the ground exchanges.
Second round and Gatto looks a lot fresher than Leonardo, landing a nice jab and forcing Leonardo backwards. Leonardo lands two nice left hands but Gatto is still there and pushing the pace with her range, landing a one-two. Then another one-two and Leonardo looks rocked there, but she comes forward again with a low kick. Gatto continuing to push the pace and lands a nice kick. Leonardo looks tired and Gatto putting the pressure on with strikes, forces Leonardo to shoot but it’s well defended. Leonardo goes for another takedown but is denied again and is stepping backwards a lot, clearly exhausted. 20-18 Gatto for me but could be 19-19.
Between rounds Leonardo says her right arm “isn’t working”. Doctor comes in, takes a look and says that it’s broken. Leonardo says she can fight through it but the referee waves the fight off. Gatto gets the win.
Miles Johns def Anderson Dos Santos via Knockout, Round 3 (1:16)
Tactical start to the fight from both men as they look to control the range, but it’s Johns who is landing the better shots early. Santos looking for clinches but Johns lands two big left hands and then two leg kicks, the last of which drops Dos Santos. Johns landing his jab with ease, but Dos Santos fires back with a right hand. Johns landing jabs at will and another leg kick is causing big problems for Dos Santos. Straight right hand just misses from Johns and Dos Santos forces his way forward but he’s in a lot of trouble with his leg. Johns lands a couple more strikes and Dos Santos is visibly limping. 10-9 Johns, Dos Santos needs to find a solution.
Johns opens up the second round by staying just out of range and using his big right hands to use the injured leg against Dos Santos. Some huge right hands land from Johns but Dos Santos is still standing and lands a nice knee himself. Johns lands a nice body shot and follows with a hook but Dos Santos shoots for a takedown. Johns denies it and lands a huge leg kick again that drops Dos Santos. Dos Santos coming forward but his leg is jacked and Johns is being patient, to the point where Dos Santos puts his hand behind his back. Johns lands a big one two and stays out of the way of any counters but Dos Santos takes it and the round ends. 20-18 Johns.
Final round starts and it’s more of the same from both men, as Johns lands a big right hand followed by a nice combination. Wild exchange from both guys as Dos Santos keeps coming forward. Johns digs a left body shot and lands a huge right hook and puts Dos Santos out cold!! What a knockout!! Wow!!
Manel Kape def Ode Osbourne via Knockout, Round 1 (4:44)
Osbourne takes the centre early on as both men are bouncing and feeling each other out. Kape lands a nice one-two and then a jab to the body, while Osbourne is looking to counter with his big left hand. Kape throws a kick but Osbourne catches it and as Kape falls Osbourne lands a big left hand. Kape and Osbourne both looking to counter each other, and Osbourne lands two excellent left hands clean on the chin. Kape responds with a left straight of his own and steps away. Kape stepping backwards switches stances and lands a huge flying knee bang on the chin that puts Osbourne down! He follows it up with some ground and pound and the referee steps in to end it! What a knockout! Wow!
Interesting start to the fight as Penne lands some quick strikes to rattle KK early. Penne throws a kick that KK catches and Penne falls backwards, which allows KK to throw some big leg kicks while she’s down. She chooses to engage on the ground and Penne is able to sweep her and take top position. She lands some decent strikes from the top and KK fights well from the bottom and attacks a kneebar, but Penne scrambles well and eventually rolls through into an armbar. KK is looking to extend the arm and is attacking the body to free up KK’s grip but she’s battling hard. Penne finally manages to extend the arm and gets the tap! Impressive performance from the veteran!
Alonzo Menifield def Ed Herman via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Menifield comes out fast with some heavy right hands but Herman just about avoids them, before Menifield lands some nice leg kicks. Herman lands a jab, but Menifield responds with one of this own before an overhand just misses again. Herman jab again but Menifield just misses with the counter right and Herman lands a check-left hook that rattles Menifield and cuts the eye. Menifield starting to throw the jab more but Herman throwing with him, so Menifield throws a hard low kick again. Menifield lands two more big leg kicks and gets some big reactions from Herman because of it. 10-9 Menifield.
Herman comes forward very aggressive out of the gate in this round looking to land his left hand, but Menifield moving well and then lands a big right hand of his own. Herman lands a jab but then eats a hard low kick and a jab himself. Menifield loses balance and falls but explodes back up to his feet and then starts throwing bombs of his right hand. Herman is hurt but still standing and Menfield stops pushing for the finish to save himself. Herman lands a big uppercut himself but Menifield eats it. A few hard leg kicks again from Menifield and some good footwork to avoid Herman who’s hunting him right now. Another hard leg kick and Herman is limping badly and forced to switch stances. Lots of jostling in the final seconds but then Herman goes for a push kick and Menifield moves away and then smashes a hard low kick again that drops Herman on the buzzer. 20-18 Menifield.
Menifield comes out hard in the final round and Herman pulls guard immediately but eats some heavy ground and pound shots. Menifield moves to side control, lands some strikes then gets up and tells Herman to get back up too. Menifield staying very patient and lands a nice left hand against the cage, but Herman is just looking to survive right now by circling and avoiding damage. Big head kick from Menifield lands but not much action in this round so far. Big right hand from Menifield lands clean but Herman is still standing somehow. Big one-two from Menifield as he stays on the outside. Big right hand misses and Herman lands a left but Menifield lands a jab and moves away to end the fight. 30-27 Menifield.
Cagey start to this fight from both men, with Morales stepping forward but not throwing much and Rodriguez just flicking out the stiff jab well. Morales throws a decent right overhand to counter Rodriguez’s jab, but the jab lands cleaner and is doing a fair bit of damage to the nose. Morales keeping Rodriguez pinned to the cage but he’s moving well and then Rodriguez lands a nice right hand to create himself some space. Right overhand and uppercut just misses from Morales before he ducks under a Rodriguez shot and secures a body lock to try and get the takedown. Rodriguez does well to get to the cage though and then separates to stay on the feet. Short exchange and Rodriguez lands a flush right hand on the buzzer. 10-9 Rodriguez for me.
Second round starts very well for Morales as he catches a low kick from Rodriguez and throws a straight right hand down the pipe that drops him! He goes to ground but Rodriguez defends and he then steps up and allows Rodriguez back to his feet. Rodriguez lands a short left hook back on the feet and then he goes for a takedown of his own, but Morales defends mostly until Rodriguez switches to a single but then he scrambles back up to his feet. Rodriguez then sweeps him back down but Morales gets back up quickly again before being dumped down and getting back up. Morales starting to land his right hands but Rodriguez responds with a low leg kick and a right hand. Short one-two lands from Rodriguez before a left hook lands again, but Morales is still in there and doing well. 20-18 Rodriguez for me.
Cagey start to the third round once again as Morales starts to come forward a bit more aggressively, but Rodriguez landing his straight right hand well. Both men throwing at a similar volume and Rodriguez goes for a takedown but it’s denied. Morales starts chasing but Rodriguez avoiding a lot of damage with good footwork. Morales goes for the takedown but Rodriguez defends it brilliantly against the cage and then misses with a head kick. Final minute of the fight now and Morales is pushing forward throwing heavy left hands, but they’re largely missing. Rodriguez lands a big counter right hand and then Morales lands a big left as the fight comes to an end. Morales round, but 29-28 Rodriguez for me. Could go either way though.
Rafael Fiziev def Bobby Green via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Cagey start from both men as Fiziev looks to land some kicks early but Green is out of the way relatively easily. Nice right hand from Green lands as Fiziev looks to throw another body kick and two hooks. Left hand from Green misses then Fiziev charges forward with a nice combination that ends with a kick, but he mostly misses. Green is landing some slick shots but Fiziev is dangerous and busy with his kicks and then just misses with an elbow. Right hand and body kick lands from Green but Fiziev responds with a nice elbow before both men make each other miss just on the buzzer. Really tough round to score, 10-9 Green probably but really could be either way.
Second round and Fiziev lands a hard low kick and a big right hook but Green eats it. Green clinches up but eats an elbow before responding with a nice right of his own, before Fiziev steps forward with two hooks. Green catches a kick and tries to force Fiziev down but he stays standing so well and steps forward again with hooks and kicks. Green is slipping strikes perfectly but he’s eating leg and body kicks more frequently now. Both men land big body kicks but Fiziev then lands a big strike that rocks Green. Fiziev throws knees and hooks but Green eats it and pushes him away, then clinches after avoiding a head kick. Fiziev’s kicks starting to take effect but Green is still there and throwing hands back well. Both guys trade leg kicks then Fiziev lands a big elbow and cuts Green. Both guys throwing hooks and jabs and really going to war. What a round. 19-19 for me.
Fire start to the final round once again as Fiziev steps forward again and lands a big right hand that rocks Green. Green stands firm and both men start throwing down in the centre of the octagon. Fiziev throws some hard leg kicks but Green throwing one-twos down the middle again. Fiziev and Green going to war with hard hooks and feints. Green lands some big hooks and two one-twos of his own down the middle. Fiziev throwing body and leg kicks but Green is still pushing forward with big punches of his own. Green looks fresher and is landing the jabs and then catches Fiziev’s body kick attempt to land a knee to the body of his own. Huge short elbow from Fiziev and then Green lands some huge bombs with the right hand as the fight ends! What a crazy fight. 29-28 Green for me, but it’s all on that first round.
Song Yadong def Casey Kenney via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Fast start to the fight as Yadong steps forward and throws fast combinations early, while Kenney looks to close the distance and pressure Yadong. Body kick from Kenney lands but Yadong catches it. Kenney taunts Yadong by laughing at him so Yadong throws a solid body kick and Kenney responds with a hard low leg kick. Yadong throwing good combinations and kicks, not allowing Kenney to settle and back him against the fence. Yadong goes for a kick but slips and Kenney jumps on him immediately, but Yadong works his way back up to the feet quickly and escapes. Both guys just miss with big hooks as the round ends. 10-9 Yadong.
Second starts off exactly the same as Yadong steps forward but Kenney looking to apply pressure. Nice body shots from Yadong and then Kenney replies with a nice left hook onto the chin. Kenney forcing Yadong backwards and throwing low kicks, but Yadong replies with his own low kicks too. Yadong circling away but Kenney is pushing and Yadong is slowing down. Not a single takedown attempt yet from Kenney is surprising. Nice left hand from Kenney but then Yadong replies with a nice right. Two left hands land from Kenney and Yadong clinches against the cage, before Kenney switches and goes for the takedown himself to end the round. Closer round, 19-19.
Final round and Yadong is landing his strikes better, with Kenney slowing down a little and being less bouncy and mobile. Yadong with three hard body kicks but Kenney continues to come forward and looking to land jabs. Kenney throws a head kick and the knee connects with the head but Yadong eats it and comes forward. Good body shots from Yadong and Kenney shoots for a takedown, but Yadong sprawls and denies him. Yadong lands a jab and two body kicks but Kenney throws a nice right hook. Final minute and Kenney goes for the takedown again but Yadong sprawls once more. Kenney ducks under a strike and secures a takedown with seconds left and lands some big elbows from the top to end the round. I think that’s 29-28 Yadong but that’s a really close fight again.
Tecia Torres def Angela Hill via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Good start to the fight from Torres as she gets herself into range and lands some nice strikes and flurries. Hill looks to clinch up and then catches a kick to put Torres on the ground then looks to hold her down, but Torres does really well to get up and out of it. Hard leg kick from Torres on Hill, who comes forward with a one-two and a head kick attempt but they all miss. Torres shoots for a takedown but Hill gets immediately back up. Torres lands a body kick then just misses with a spinning back fist. Torres ducks under a strike and goes for a takedown but bails and lands some big strikes, but Hill replies with three of her own. Big kicks from Torres to end the round as Hill tries for a takedown. 10-9 Torres.
Hill pushing the pressure in the second round as Torres uses her side kicks to push her away and keep the range between them. Hill lands two nice strikes as Torres looks for a kick, but then she lands a big check-right hook and pivots away. Big side kick to the body again from Torres and then two big hooks. She goes for the kick again but Hill catches it and pulls her in for a body lock and takedown attempt, before landing some knees against the cage and a right hand on the break. Head kick from Torres and Hill grabs for the clinch. Hill throws knees but Torres avoids most of them and lands some huge hooks of her own in the clinch before they break. Wild exchange from both ladies and Hill gets the better of it with a big left hand. Big flurry ends with Torres on her back and Hill moves into mount immediately but the round ends. 20-18 Torres for me.
Final round and Hill is coming forward aggressively again and looks to clinch and trip her. Torres too quick though and is moving well, landing nice right hands well. Hill putting the pressure on and sprawls to deny a Torres takedown then lands a nice right hand. Torres goes for a kick that Hill catches again and lands a big right hand down the middle, but Torres keeps throwing strikes in return. Nice right hand from Hill and then a knee in the clinch but Torres breaks away. Big lunging right hand from Torres lands again before Hill goes in for a takedown but gets denied. Torres changes levels and gets a takedown with 20 seconds to go and lands some good ground strikes before the buzzer goes. 30-27 Torres for me, competitive but pretty straight forward.
Vicente Luque def Michael Chiesa via Submission (D’Arce Choke), Round 1 (3:25)
Very cagey start to the round with Chiesa circling on the outside and Luque holding the centre. Hard low kick lands from Luque and Chiesa fires off a big one-two that cuts Luque’s eye immediately. Luque comes forward hard and Chiesa ducks under and gets the takedown. Immediately he slides the knee over and takes the back to start searching for a rear naked choke. He has a crank in tight but Luque fights the hands and Chiesa switches to an armbar but loses it. As they go to get up to the feet Luque sinks in a d’arce choke and it’s tight! Chiesa tries to fight it but Luque tightens it and Chiesa taps! Wow!
Jose Aldo def Pedro Munhoz via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to the fight from Munhoz as he takes the centre and throws a couple of hard leg kicks. Head kick attempt misses from Munhoz and then Aldo makes him miss with the hands too. Nice one-two from Aldo and then a straight right lands nicely too. Nasty left hook to the body from Aldo and a jab, but Munhoz still has the centre and is throwing bombs with his right hand. Nice right hand from Munhoz and he’s swinging for the stands, but Aldo counters with a body shot and uppercut. 10-9 Aldo.
Munhoz coming very aggressive again with some leg kicks but Aldo is checking them and then throws one of his own. Munhoz stepping in with more leg kicks and a looping right hand but Aldo hangs in there and fires back with a big right hand before a combination to the body. Aldo’s jab is landing well and defensively he looks sound as usual, with Munhoz struggling to land anything of note so far. Aldo checks a leg kick then goes back for the body combination, but Munhoz’s leg kicks are still there and he’s still in Aldo’s face. Aldo fakes the right knee and lands a big right straight as the round ends. Another close round, but I think that’s 20-18 Aldo.
Final round and Munhoz comes out with a big blitz early on. Aldo returns fire with a beautiful combo of his own before Munhoz clinches up. Aldo working the jab again as Munhoz goes for a spinning capoeira kick and misses. Triple jab from Aldo lands and he follows it with a big combination to the chin. Hard low kick from Aldo but Munhoz responds with a hard right hand and Ado retreats a little. Big leg kick from Aldo drops Munhoz and he follows it up with two hard right hands that cut Munhoz over the eye. Aldo lands a three-punch combo and follows it with a leg kick that gets a big reaction from Munhoz again. Final 30 seconds and Munhoz goes for a big spinning wheel kick before Aldo hits him with another big combo and leg kick to see the fight out. Should be a big win for Aldo. 30-27.
Ciryl Gane def Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 3 (4:11)
Lewis opens the fight with a high kick and slips and then Gane slides a right hand in on his way back up. Gane bouncing, with some light leg kicks and pokes to the knee as Lewis starts to step forward. Lewis changes levels to load up his right hand but Gane scoots out of the way and evades before he even throws. Leg kicks from Gane once again and then Lewis throws a right hand to the body. Lewis goes for an inside leg kick but catches the cup flush and causes a pause in the action. Lewis steps forward again and Gane immediately ducks under and clinches up before they break. Lewis swings a big right hand again but Gane literally runs away from it before resetting. Big right hand from Gane before a hard low kick and then a stiff jab to the face as the round ends. 10-9 Gane.
Second round and Gane once again comes out with his jab landing flush. Lewis lands a hard leg kick and then tries a flying switch kick but Gane is too quick and is gone before he gets there. Gane with some more short kicks to the leg before Lewis explodes and tries to rush Gane, only for Gane to throw him off to the side. Flying knee attempt from Gane sees them end up in a clinch and Gane throwing big knees to the thighs and overpowering Lewis against the cage. Gane lets a big elbow and right hand fly but both just miss as the round ends. 20-18 Gane.
Some heavy leg kicks land from Gane to open the round before a right hand over the top just clips Lewis. Another hard leg kick, then another and then another as Lewis struggles to get any sort of offense going. High kick from Lewis is blocked and then Lewis goes to clinch up, but once again Gane just stuffs his attemts. Knee to the body in the clinch and then a big leg kick again and Lewis is hurt bad! Gane goes in for the finish and lands some huge strikes to the head and Lewis is covering up. Lewis throws a few haymakers but misses wildly and then Gane throws a big knee and more strikes that drop Lewis. He gets on top and lands some bombs and the referee steps in! It’s allll over! Ciryl Gane with a huge knockout win. What a performance.
The UFC heavyweight division moves a step closer to naming a solidified number one contender as Derrick Lewis takes on Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 265.
After a deal with Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones couldn’t be found, the UFC moved to keep the division moving and will see the number two and three ranked heavyweights battle it out in the main event with the winner essentially guaranteeing themselves the next shot at the belt.
In the co-main event Jose Aldo continues his push for bantamweight greatness when he takes on Pedro Munhoz, while the welterweight division looks to create a new contender too as Michael Chiesa takes on Vicente Luque.
We skipped last week’s Hall vs Strickland card, which means we remain on 374/387 correct picks (63.71%) with 165 perfect picks (44.12%).
Song Yadong (16-5-1) vs Casey Kenney (16-3-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger in the bantamweight division as two highly-rated 135lbers look to get themselves back into the win column. Yadong was beaten by Kyler Phillips back at UFC 259 last time out, while Kenney suffered defeat to former champion Dominick Cruz on the same night.
Yadong is traditionally a kung-fu fighter but he has got good boxing and also some decent defensive wrestling chops. He’ll need all of that when he takes on Kenney, who is a top level wrestler but also has got some good power in his striking and kicks. Yadong’s cardio is his biggest advantage in this bout, with Kenney fairly often fading away in the third round.
If Kenney chooses to wrestle almost exclusively then he is more than good enough to wrap up the first two rounds and then look to survive the third when he eventually tires. But against Cruz he opted to battle it out on the feet and Yadong is a better striker who could punish that decision. Really close and interesting fight, but I think Kenney’s wrestling proves the difference. PICK – Casey Kenney via Decision
Tecia Torres (12-5) vs Angela Hill (13-9) – (Strawweight/125lbs)
Torres is scrappy boxer with good striking and some decent wrestling in her arsenal too, while Hill is a well-rounded Muay-Thai fighter who uses her knees and cardio brilliantly. Torres has fought some of the best around and while she’s not as good as she once was she still has a terrific skillset. Hill on the other hand has never really beaten any of the top contenders and wins fights she’s supposed to win.
Torres has a size disadvantage but Hill will look to wrestle and clinch, which can open opportunities up for her to land her offense. The issue both of these women have is that neither have fight-changing power so it really comes down to skill. For me, Torres is the more skilled of the two though and she should claim a win. PICK – Tecia Torres via Decision
Michael Chiesa (18-4) vs Vicente Luque (20-7-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Chiesa is a magnificent wrestler and grappler, with incredible jiu-jitsu and superhuman strength on the ground, while Luque is a powerhouse with aggressive boxing but also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Chiesa will undoubtedly use his kicks before shooting for takedowns and if he gets control on the mat then he very rarely lets it slip. In Luque though he has someone who can knock him out if he makes a mistake and can also hold his own on the ground.
Luque’s struggled in the past against the best of the best and right now Chiesa is one of the best. His fight IQ is very high, his grappling is good enough to beat anyone in the division and I think he’s content to make it boring and control the distance and ground exchanges to earn a very big win. PICK – Michael Chiesa via Decision
Jose Aldo (29-7) vs Pedro Munhoz (19-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Aldo is arguably one of the best ever, with brilliant striking and kicking to go with his jiu-jitsu black belt and stunning wrestling defence. Munhoz is a good boxer and kicker himself with decent wrestling too, so this is a well balanced fight. The issue for Munhoz however is that Aldo is still so elite, despite recent results.
I find it hard to look at this match-up and see Aldo coming out second best. Munhoz is good enough to cause Aldo problems but I think the Brazilian earns himself the win by mixing his striking attack up to the body and head. PICK – Jose Aldo via Decision
Derrick Lewis (25-7) vs Ciryl Gane (9-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A huge heavyweight battle for the interim title headlines this card as Derrick Lewis takes on the undefeated Ciryl Gane. Lewis is on a four-fight win streak, with a stunning one-punch finish over Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19. Gane has fought twice since then, beating Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alexander Volkov via unanimous decisions and keeping his 100% record.
Lewis is a big man with decent offensive wrestling but a hammer of a right hand and stunning ground and pound that can literally put any man to sleep. Gane on the other hand is a very technical and polished kickboxer who has rounded his game out with good takedowns and even some submissions. Gane is undoubtedly the better fighter of the two and uses his range well, with kicks and great cardio but sometimes that doesn’t matter because Lewis is always just one punch away from ending the fight.
Unfortunately though, I do think that one punch hail mary won’t be enough this time. Gane is so good at moving in, landing his strike then moving away before he takes any damage. He’s powerful himself and talented enough to earn a big win and set up a huge title fight against former teammate Ngannou later down the line. PICK – Ciryl Gane via Decision
Hawes is an incredibly powerful striker with legit one-punch knockout power, but he showed his wrestling chops in his last fight too. Daukaus on the other hand is a brilliant grappler, who has good height and reach against most opponents. He’s taller than Hawes, but not longer and that’s an issue for him. Hawes will know that and will look to stand and strike with him, using his wrestling only defensively to keep this fight standing.
Daukaus is pretty hittable and has shown a good chin in the past, but he’s never been hit by someone like Hawes. If Hawes lands clean as Daukaus tries to close the distance for a takedown, this will be a short night. PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 1
Amanda Ribas (10-2) vs Angela Hill (13-9) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Ribas is a brilliant jiu-jitsu grappler and decent striking on the feet, while Hill is a great all-round mixed martial artists. Hill loves an active fight, where she keeps pushing forward with kicks and Muay-Thai clinches using knees. Her issue with going for those clinches could be that Ribas will try and get her to the ground which is a whole world of trouble for her.
On the feet Hill has the advantage but Ribas can hold her own and won’t get overpowered, and I can’t imagine Hill keeps the fight standing for the full 15 minutes and Ribas is skilled enough to finish it quickly down there. PICK – Amanda Ribas via Submission, Round 3
Diego Ferreira (17-3) vs Gregor Gillespie (13-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An especially fun fight in the lightweight division here as Diego Ferreira takes on the returning Gregor Gillespie. Ferreira lost his last fight via decision against Beneil Dariush at UFC Vegas 18, while Gillespie hasn’t fought since getting knocked out by Kevin Lee at UFC 244 in November 2019.
Ferreira is a solid technical striker with good jiu-jitsu skills on the ground, while Gillespie is arguably the best wrestler in the division now that Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired. Ferreira will use his kicks and speed to avoid the wrestling, but if Gillespie gets hold of him it could be a long night for the Brazilian. He’s a good scrambler and if he ends up on top the level of jiu-jitsu he has is far superior to Gillespie’s, but ‘The Gift’ is likely to get that top position and look to hold it throughout.
From the top, Gillespie will land ground and pound and control the position en route to a good decision win. PICK – Gregor Gillespie via Decision
Maurice Greene (9-6) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (17-8-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Greene is a power striker with a solid chin and in his last fight showed some decent kicking too. de Lima is a good striker too, with good Muay-Thai and some good takedown defence to back it up also. He has alternated wins and losses in every fight since 2015 but he has got skills. Fast hands (for the division), good power and despite a size advantage Greene doesn’t really know how to use it.
Greene has the advantage of the ground but he rarely looks for takedowns and doesn’t have a wide enough advantage to work a submission, so I think de Lima lands one of his big overhand rights and ends the night early. PICK – Marcos Rogerio de Lima via Knockout, Round 2
Neil Magny (24-9) vs Geoff Neal (13-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Magny is an excellent wrestler who has used that to beat some top level opposition in the past, but he also has some really good striking too. Neal on the other hand is a powerhouse with a nasty left-hand, who stays very technical and tight at all times. Neal has some good leg kicks too and is without a doubt the more powerful of the two, but if Magny is able to get the fight to the ground he has the ability to grind his opponents out and land good ground and pound.
With that said, Neal seems to have all the tools to get the win here. His takedown defence is decent and the power and accuracy with which he lands his left hand should cause Magny enough problems to earn ‘Handz of Steel’ the win. PICK – Geoff Neal via Decision
Donald Cerrone (36-15) vs Alex Morono (18-7) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Cerrone is a great kickboxer with so much experience, but also has terrific wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills if he needs it. Morono on the other hand is a solid wrestler who uses his striking to get close enough to clinch up and get it down for a grind. Cerrone has got a brilliant head kick in his arsenal and if Morono keeps his hands relatively low to look for takedowns he could quite easily get caught with it, but Morono’s submission skills are really good and dangerous enough to make Cerrone be wary.
‘Cowboy’ is notorious for being a slow starter and Morono could look to take advantage, but if he performs as he did against Pettis then he could get lit up at kickboxing range. It’ll be close, but the short-notice nature of the bout takes me in Cerrone’s direction. PICK – Donald Cerrone via Decision
Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) vs Michelle Waterson (18-8) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Rodriguez is a power puncher with great range and kicks, while Waterson is a karate fighter who uses her kicks a lot to maintain distance and look to work the body a lot. Rodriguez is without a doubt one of the better strikers in the division and that doesn’t bode well for Waterson. She has got nine wins via submission in her career and her takedowns are decent, but Rodriguez has a lot of size on her and with them both moving up a division for this short-notice clash she’ll be at even more of a disadvantage.
I don’t think Waterson will have enough to get the fight down to the ground and Rodriguez’s power is excellent so I think she could get the stoppage win pretty early on. PICK – Marina Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 2
Matthew Semelsberger def Jason Witt via Knockout, Round 1 (0:16)
HOLY JESUS. Matthew Semelsberger lands a bomb of a right hand after 16 seconds and puts Witt out cold. Goodnight.
Jinh Yu Frey def Gloria De Paula via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Frey comes out with a nice left hand before the two ladies clinch and Frey gets an early takedown. De Paula threatens with an armbar from the bottom but Frey defends well and lands a few nice strikes from top position before a scramble allows her to take De Paula’s back. De Paula defends it well and is able to bring it back to full guard, before landing a couple of elbows from the bottom. Frey controlling the position with ease at the moment from the top although not much action from either fighter as we head into the final 90 seconds. Frey controls the position for the remainder of the round too as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Frey.
Slower start to the round from both women in this one as Frey lands a couple of nice left hands in exchanges. De Paula lands a few leg kicks from distance then goes up top with a nice head kick that lands clean. Frey continues to come forward to close the distance but De Paula doing well to get in and out quickly. De Paula in control of the exchanges on the feet halfway through the round and being first in the exchanges every time. Frey closes the distance and gets a clinch against the cage, but De Paula lands some nasty knees to the body and they separate. De Paula takes the centre now and is landing clean and fast into the final minute. Frey catches a kick but De Paula keeps her balance excellently to deny the takedown and should win the round. 19-19 going into the third.
De Paula comes out and throws her hands quickly once again, then has a kick caught and Frey sweeps her other foot away and gets an early takedown once again. Frey passes into half guard but De Paula threatens with a kimura grip, which allows Frey to pass into mount. De Paula tries to explode out but Frey takes the back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Frey staying composed on the back of De Paula who isn’t looking to get back to her feet at all as we enter the final minute. Frey gets the arm under the chin and tries for a one-armed choke but De Paula does really well to defend it and see the round out. Clear 29-28 win for Frey.
Aldrich takes the centre of the cage early on and has Casey circling the outside for the first 40-odd seconds before she engages in a clinch against the cage. Casey is able to stay strong and Aldrich separates, a big boost for Casey. Aldrich landing lots of leg kicks early on but Casey retaliates with some nice knees and a right hook as they clinch up once again. Casey charges forward once again with a flurry but Aldrich shoots and gets the takedown. Casey tries to threaten with a triangle and while Aldrich defends it will and lands a bit of ground and pound, Casey gets back to her feet. Aldrich gets it down again with a guillotine attempt in the final 30 seconds but Casey defends well and sees out the round. 10-9 Casey for me.
Casey looks stronger on the feet so far and she lands a big right hand that wobbles Aldrich! Casey follows it up with a head kick attempt that Aldrich catches and then Casey tries to jump on the back but ends up on the ground with Aldrich on top of her. Casey landing some nice strikes from the bottom but Aldrich now has wrist control after eating those shots and starts landing some huge ground and pound strikes with her left hand. Casey works her way back up to her feet against the cage with 90 seconds to go and throws two big right hooks that are blocked. Aldrich throws a right hook and then shoots in for another takedown with 20 seconds to go and gets it to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Aldrich comes forward again to get Casey backing up and she lands a nice one-two. Aldrich continues to push forward but Casey lands a couple of jabs nicely too. Big right hook and left straight from Casey lands and rocks Aldrich’s head back. A big exchange from the two sees them both landing well as we hit the halfway point. Aldrich lands a jab and then Casey turns away to move and Aldrich throws a big left straight down the pipe. Casey throws a hook that just misses and then Aldrich changes levels with a beautiful takedown. Casey gets back to her feet against the cage but Aldrich maintains a body lock until Casey is able to break the grip and separate. Casey comes forward with flurries again and is landing hard shots. Spinning back kick from Aldrich lands in Casey’s nether-regions and the referee pauses the fight with three seconds to go. Super close round, I’ve got it 29-28 Aldrich just.
Good start to the round for the debutant as Garcia takes the centre of the octagon and starts looking to land strikes through the guard of Haqparast. Lots of feelers and blocked strikes from both as Haqparast throws a very heavy left hand that that is partially blocked too. Garcia shoots in for a takedown against the cage but Haqparast denies him, but Garcia lands a nice knee to the body on the break. Garcia fakes a takedown and throws a huge overhand right that lands flush and wobbles Haqparast, but he recovers quickly and keeps going. Great rip to the body from Haqparast but Garcia backs him against the cage and throws a nice elbow that just misses too. Garcia goes for two more takedowns against the cage but they get stuffed well too as the round ends. 10-9 Garcia but it’s a close round.
Garcia comes out quickly in the second round once again and puts the pressure on against the cage well. Garcia lands a couple of nice hooks but Haqparast stays composed and starts digging to the body with some great punches. Nice elbow from Haqparast lands and Garcia comes forward with a right hand of his own. Haqparast lands two nice left hands and Garcia charges forward again with jabs and front kicks to the body. Haqparast denies a takedown attempt and then lands a left hand, before throwing Garcia to the floor with a judo throw. Great uppercut lands from Haqparast but Garcia continues to walk forward with jabs, before Haqparast lands a big body kick too. Big front kick to the body again from Haqparast who denies another takedown on the buzzer. 19-19 for me, but could be 20-18 Haqparast.
Garcia looks a bit slower in this final round but is still coming forward with intensity. Haqparast has started finding his timing now though and lands a great elbow followed by an uppercut and hook that land clean. Another elbow and uppercut from Haqparast lands as Garcia continues to come forward, but Haqparast throwing body kicks hard that are slowing Garcia down more and more. Straight left lands against for Haqparast as Garcia is bleeding now and getting picked apart on the feet. Garcia lands a nice right hand as we enter the final minute of the round and they exchange kicks. Big head kick from Haqparast twice lands but he doesn’t get the finish as the round ends. 29-27 for me.
Rani Yahya def Ray Rodriguez via Submission (Head and Arm Choke), Round 2 (3:09)
Fast start as Rodriguez goes for a head kick off the bat and then lands a straight right in an exchange, but Yahya goes straight for a body lock looking for a takedown and eventually gets it. Yahya with heavy top pressure, landing some nice ground and pound but really just trying to maintain position from half guard. Yahya looking to move into side control with great shoulder pressure but abandons it after decent defence from Rodriguez. Final minute now and Rodriguez manages to get into full guard for a few seconds before Yahya looks to lock up a head and arm choke with 20 seconds left but Rodriguez defends well and survives the round. 10-9 Yahya, easily.
Rodriguez opens the second round with some nice boxing once again, keeping a distance and doing well but he backs up to the cage and Yahya gets another takedown at the first attempt once again. Straight back into half guard once again and Yahya starts threatening with the head and arm choke early on. Rodriguez tries to explode up with the butterfly guard but Yahya jumps over it, gets back into half guard and passes to the other side. He sinks in the head and arm choke and forces Rodriguez to tap. Beautiful performance from Yahya.
Charles Jourdain def Marcelo Rojo via Knockout, Round 3 (4:31)
Fun start to the first round as both men trade hard kicks to begin, with Jourdain throwing lots of head kicks. Rojo throws a right hook that misses and then they clinch, with both men landing nice knees before Jourdain separates. Nice left hand from Rojo looking to counter but just misses, then Jourdain lands a nice uppercut in the clinch. Rojo throwing lots of knees in the clinch towards the face, but they’re not quite landing yet. Rojo lands a leg kick that drops Jourdain, then lands a one-two as Jourdain gets back to his feet. Very even round as we head into the final 90 seconds and Rojo throws a nice flurry that lands nicely before looking to rip Jourdain’s body with a left hook. Jourdain retaliates with nice body shots in the clinch before the round ends. 10-9 Rojo for me but genuinely could go either way.
Rojo comes out hard in the second round and throwing some hard shots and combinations that either graze or just miss Jourdain. Strong leg kick is responded to by Jourdain with a great jab, who then lands a big right hook. A close exchange sees Jourdain accidentally eye-poke Rojo which forces a pause in the action but they get back to it quickly with flurries. Jourdain catches a kick and lands a big body shot and right hook, before Rojo charges forward and lands a big three-punch combo to the head, followed by a knee and body shot. Clinch against the cage is a stalemate and Rojo looks for a spinning elbow on the break. Snappy jab from Jourdain lands flush but Rojo continues to come forward and just misses with that big knee again. Jourdain eats some big leg kicks and responds with a huge flying knee that lands! He lands a couple of big hooks too with Rojo rocked but he survives the round. Another close one, 19-19 for me.
Fast start for Jourdain in this final round as he comes forward and puts the pressure on Rojo immediately, landing his left hand a lot. Rojo is considerably slower now and Jourdain is picking him apart, then lands a huge left hand down the middle that drops him! Jourdain jumps on him and looks for the ground and pound finish, then runs and jumps off the cage to continue the strikes. Heavy shots on the ground but Rojo is tiring and Jourdain is landing big. Jourdain lets Rojo back up and they start throwing haymakers against each other looking for a finish. Jourdain keeps pounding away and lands another left hand that drops Rojo and the referee ends it! What a performance!
Angela Hill def Ashley Yoder via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Competitive start to the fight with Hill looking to land straight rights and Yoder landing some nice kicks so far. Hill has the centre of the cage and is feinting the body shots, then shoots in against the cage for a clinch. Hill lands some nice knees before Yoder looks for a head and arm throw but it’s well defended by Hill. Hill responds with a huge elbow and then goes back to the clinch before they separate with about 90 seconds to go in the round. Hill controlling the range right now and landing shots freely and has a big speed advantage to get in and out, avoiding the attacks of Yoder. Hill steps in with a front kick to the body then lands three huge overhand rights that rock Yoder! She goes for a finish and takes Yoder down but she recovers enough to see out the round. 10-9 Hill.
More of the same in this second round as Hill takes the centre and looks to land body kicks and overhand rights. Yoder can’t get close enough for the takedown and is getting picked apart on the feet. Hill lands a big straight right hand once again that snaps Yoder’s head back and she’s in total control right now. Hill goes for a clinch and lands some nice knees to the body, with Yoder starting to slow down a bit. Hill lands more right hands and now is chopping down the legs of Yoder. Big knee to the body followed by a kick and Yoder is hurting. Flurry of punches to the head and Yoder is surviving right now, then Hill goes for a knee to the body and Yoder catches it and secures a takedown to end the round on top. 20-18 Hill.
Yoder comes out like a bull in a china shop looking to close the distance and get a takedown but Hill immediately out-muscles her, clinches up and starts landing big knees to the body against the cage. Hill just too strong physically for Yoder and completely dominating the position and pace of the fight. Big punch to the body again from Hill before another clinch and some more nasty Muay Thai knees to the body allow Yoder to overpower her onto the floor. Yoder controls the position from the top and is fighting Hill well, but Hill is too strong and gets back to the feet and lands more knees again. Round comes to an end with Hill landing two big right hands to take a wide decision. Great performance. 30-27 Hill.
Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart – NO CONTEST (Illegal knee)
Lots of feelers being put out by both guys early on with feints and flicks before Stewart lands a nice left hand. A good exchange between the two and it’s Stewart who comes out on top once again, as he starts showboating a little. Anders shoots in for a takedown but Stewart does well to defend it and the battle in the clinch. Stewart lands some good knees but then Anders lands a huge left hand that rocks him! Anders lands some huge punches and drops Stewart but the Brit continues to fight back. Anders throws an illegal knee (d’oh!) against the cage and the referee stops the fight. Stewart tries to continue but the doctor calls the fight off. No contest called.
Fun start to the fight as both men look to feint early. Nicolau lands an immediate leg kick that hurts Kape but he continues to come forward with jabs and leg kicks of his own. Nicolau being more explosive and faster right now and Kape falling into the same trap as his first fight by being not active enough. Nicolau gets a takedown and Kape is able to work his way back to the feet and slip out of a guillotine attempt. Nicolau gets another takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Nicolau.
Second round and Kape comes out with more urgency this time. Big left uppercut lands and rocks Nicolau early! He follows it up with a couple of other shots and when he’s landing he’s hurting Nicolau. He stuffs a takedown attempt and comes forward again, but this time Nicolau lands a big hook of his own. Kape lands a leg kick and then a knee followed by a right hand that lands flush. Kape walking Nicolau down against the cage and letting strikes flow but Nicolau shoots for a power double across the cage and gets him down, but Kape bounces straight back up. Nicolau tries to launch forward with a left hand but misses and Kape counters with a right hook. 19-19, much better.
Kape takes the centre in the third round and is letting his hands go again. Kape throws a nice leg kick but Nicolau throws a nice left hand that lands on the forehead. Kape stings him with a nice jab and then lands a nice counter right hook again. Nicolau goes for a takedown but Kape stuffs it brilliantly and stands back up immediately. Nicolau gets back up and drops Kape with a leg kick and starts landing with a lot of volume. Big hooks and straight land but Kape replies with a right hook well. Final minute and Kape throws a head kick then follows it up with a left hook. He stuffs two takedown attempts brilliantly and is throwing big combinations too. Huge flying knee lands from Kape and then he follows it up with another to the body! Nicolau lands a spinning back elbow as the round ends! Super close round but I think Kape edges it. 29-28.
Davey Grant def Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2 (3:03)
Good start to the round from Grant as he comes forward well and applies pressure with lots of strikes and kicks. Martinez happy to stand and trade with him and throws an excellent leg kick to hurt Grant. Grant continues with spinning kick attacks and high kicks but Martinez is countering really well with his fast hands. Grant with a switch step and a big right hook but it’s well blocked by Martinez. Big leg kick from Martinez again but Grant keeping the pressure on with kicks from range and heavy hooks. Huge left hook from Martinez lands on the chin and Grant gets dropped! Martinez looks to land some ground and pound but the round ends and allows Grant a chance to recover. 10-9 Martinez.
Grant comes out nice and aggressive in the second round and continues to chop away at the leg, before Grant lands a right hand on the chin. Grant continues to come forward with flurries and then shoots in for a takedown but Martinez defends it brilliantly. Grant lands another right hand and is throwing combinations now just to touch him and is stopping Martinez from throwing anything significant because of the pace. Grant throws a body shot and left hook and Martinez is OUT!! Grant follows it up with an extra shot but it’s all over! Wow!
Dan Ige def Gavin Tucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:22)
DAN IGE!!! ONE PUNCH KNOCKOUT!! HOLY COW!
Ryan Spann def Misha Cirkunov via Knockout, Round 1 (1:11)
Fast start to the round from both fighters as they exchange jabs and kicks, as Cirkunov lands a low blow by accident after 30 seconds. A short pause and they get to it again and Spann lands a straight right hand that drops Cirkunov! He goes for the ground and pound but Cirkunov kicks him off and so Spann makes him get back to the feet. Spann stays calm and then lands a big punch on the side of the head that drops him again and after some ground and pound the referee waves it off! Huge KO for Ryan Spann!
Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Tentative start to the fight as Edwards takes the centre of the cage and forces Muhammad backwards immediately, landing a body kick and following up with a big one two. Edwards goes for a takedown against the cage but Muhammad clinches up and reverses the position well before they separate. Edwards throws a head kick and wobbles Muhammad! Edwards throws some wild hooks but Muhammad blocks them all and then Edwards shoots for a takedown but once again it’s denied well by Belal. Body kick from Muhammad lands nicely but it’s Edwards pushing the pace and pressuring forwards. Big one-two from Edwards lands again and wobbles Muhammad before the buzzer goes to end the round. 10-9 Edwards.
Second round starts and both guys are aggressive early on. Edwards goes to throw a head kick and his hand accidentally pokes Muhammad in the eye as it lands. Muhammad goes down screaming and crying, saying he can’t see anything. Herb Dean waves the fight off almost immediately and it’s another no contest.
It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.
Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.
Last weekend at UFC 259 we managed to go 10/15 on our predictions with four perfect picks to take our total up to 250/395 (63.29%) with 112 perfect picks (44.8%).
We will look to improve that further with this 13 fight card and having already predicted the early prelims here, lets move on to the rest of the preliminary bouts.
Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs Rafa Garcia (12-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A truly exciting lightweight fight between ‘Baby Gastelum’ Nasrat Haqparast against undefeated debutant Rafa Garcia in a short-notice fight. Haqparast won his last fight against Alex Munoz at UFC Vegas 6 and was scheduled to fight Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 257 before failing to weigh in. Rafa Garcia makes his UFC debut after over a year away from the cage, coming in as a highly rated grappler.
Haqparast has great hand speed and fantastic footwork and while his takedown defence isn’t phenomenal, his ability to get back to his feet after being taken down is. He has good power in his hands too with nine knockout wins in his career. Garcia is a fighter who pushes a crazy pace and hunts his opponents down for a takedown so he can work his tremendous submission game, as his seven wins by tap-out show. He has decent striking too and much like Kamaru Usman, uses his strikes to back you up to the cage and put you on the mat.
It’s a really good match up where both men’s strengths compliment their opponents but the stand up skills of Haqparast and the fact he was in a full camp already mean I lean his way. He’s got great boxing and a power advantage and as the fight goes on, the cardio will have a big say. PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 3
Rani Yahya (26-10-1) vs Ray Rodriguez (16-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing bantamweight bout between two MMA veterans at completely different ends of their UFC career. Yahya has been with the UFC since 2011 but hasn’t won either of his last two fights going back to 2018 after losing to Ricky Simon and then fighting to a draw with Enrique Barzola in March 2020. Rodriguez made his UFC debut on short notice back in September and was submitted in just 39 seconds by Brian Kelleher.
That doesn’t bode well for Rodriguez, who comes up against a jiu-jitsu master in Yahya in this one. Yahya has won 20 of his fights via submission with 12 of those coming in the first round. His game plan is always the same, ambush his opponent with multiple takedown attempts and use technique to get an early submission until he’s too tired – and then just don’t get KO’d in the hope he doesn’t lose a third round 10-8. Against Rodriguez, that should work considering his not-so-great takedown defence and poor submission defence. PICK – Rani Yahya via Submission, Round 1
Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger at featherweight as a short-notice bout comes together for ‘Air’ Jourdain and debutant Marcelo Rojo. Jourdain’s UFC tenure has been more than interesting, going 1-2-1 in his four bouts, with a defeat to Andre Fili at UFC Vegas 2 before a draw against Joshua Culibao back in October. Rojo originally stepped in to face Raoni Barcelos on short-notice, only for Barcelos to drop out and this fight to be made and he will finally return to the cage for the first time since September 2019.
Both guys like to come out and fight fire with fire, throwing bombs and looking to knock their opponent out with power. Both hit hard and have skills on the ground with 24 finishes in their career but prefer to keep the bout on the feet. Jourdain seemingly has the power advantage and has fought in the UFC before although his run hasn’t been good. Neither will look to wrestle but the cardio is also in Jourdain’s favour so with Rojo stepping up a weight-class to fight a bigger and better fighter than he has before, I think Jourdain edges it in a fight of the night contender. PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 3
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
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, starting with the seven prelim fights here.
Dustin Jacoby (13-5) vs Maxim Grishin (31-8-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs) **Maxim Grishin weighed in 3.5lbs over the weight limit of 206lbs**
Jacoby is a solid striker who had a few cardio issues during his Contender Series bout, but considering it was only his second MMA bout since 2015 you can probably make a case of exception. Grishin is a talented kickboxer with great conditioning and a huge experience advantage. It’s a pretty even contest and one that will likely go the distance, but considering the cardio issues in the past and the level of inactivity I think Grishin can sneak a decision win here. PICK – Maxim Grishin via Decision
Vince Cachero (7-3) vs Ronnie Lawrence (6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing fight between two guys looking for their first UFC wins as Cachero takes on Lawrence. Cachero was 1-2 in his last three LFA fights before taking a super-late notice fight with Jamall Emmers up in the featherweight division in August, being dominated to a wide decision defeat. Lawrence on the other hand got a dominant decision go his way on the Contender Series despite being a huge underdog.
Lawrence is a super talented wrestler, who has a gas tank for days and secured a dozen takedowns in his last fight. That doesn’t bode well with Cachero struggling in the past against people who are great wrestlers. That said, Cachero is a powerful striker and Lawrence sometimes throws lazy shots which could give him a chance to land some valuable strikes. Despite that, I think Lawrence is able to get the takedowns he wants and secures a decision win for a debut victory. PICK – Ronnie Lawrence via Decision
William Knight (9-1) vs Alonzo Menifield (9-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Knight’s striking isn’t the cleanest and his offensive wrestling isn’t the most impressive, but he uses his brute strength in clinch situations to get the fight down to the ground and then unleash violent ground and pound. Menifield is a bit more well rounded but seems to lack some cage IQ and struggles to make in-fight adjustments. He seemed shocked by the strength of OSP and if that’s the case, then Knight could blow him out of the water.
That said it’s a 50/50 fight between these two and I think the ground game of Knight and the fact he’s been to a judges decision before and won is a positive. It’s a solid match up and I think Knight just edges a good, competitive bout. PICK – William Knight via Knockout, Round 2
Alexis Davis (19-10) vs Sabina Mazo (9-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fight between two women at completely different points of their UFC careers in the women’s bantamweight division. Davis is a UFC veteran who has lost her last three fights by decision to Katlyn Chookagian, Jennifer Maia and Viviane Araujo most recently back in 2019. Mazo on the other hand is on a three-fight win streak, beating Shana Dobson, JJ Aldrich and Justine Kish last time out in September 2020.
Davis is a solid grappler, even fighting her way to a title shot back in the day against Ronda Rousey. She has eight submission wins on her record, plus two knockouts too. Mazo is a fantastic kickboxer with some great wrestling defence and she has a decent ground game herself, winning her last fight by rear naked choke. The ‘Colombian Queen’ is only 23, but she’s super busy and has good footwork and I think she should be able to deny the takedowns and land enough on the feet to get a win. PICK – Sabina Mazo via Decision
Alex Oliveira (22-9-1) vs Ramazan Kuramagomedov (8-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A highly anticipated short-notice debut for Kuramagomedov as he takes on the wily veteran ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira. Oliveira has lost four of his last six fights, including his most recent to Shavkat Rakhmonov via a first-round submission at UFC 254. Kuramagomedov got a win against Jordan Williams on the Contender Series back in 2019 but didn’t get signed, but has maintained his unbeaten record and now gets a big chance on five days’ notice.
Oliveira is a powerful striker but he has relatively low output in most bouts and likes to get top control to reserve his energy until the later rounds. Kuramagomedov is a versatile striker with a suffocating top game too, who focuses heavily on leg attacks to make the takedowns a bit easier. When someone fires back with lots of volume, like Williams did on the Contender Series, then his defence gets called into question. This fight is unlikely to go that way though, with the Russian able to outland on the feet with his volume and he’s the considerably better wrestler too.
Kuramagomedov should be able to get the win here, but you can never rule out Oliveira in a fight like this. PICK – Ramazan Kuramagomedov via Decision
Alexander Hernandez (12-3) vs Thiago Moises (14-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really exciting lightweight bout as the featured prelim in this one between two of the better prospects in the division. Hernandez started his UFC run with knockout wins over Beneil Dariush and Olivier Aubin-Mercier, before being stopped in his tracks by Donald Cerrone. His last fight was a knockout win over Chris Gruetzemacher in October. Moises is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with unbelievable grappling skills who has never been stopped in his career, winning his last two fights against Michael Johnson and Bobby Green in October.
Hernandez has all the tools to win here. He’s a powerful striker and loves to take the centre of the cage, with excellent wrestling defence and a fantastic gas tank. Moises struggles off his back foot and will look to get his hands on Hernandez to bring the fight down to the ground. If Hernandez stays aggressive like he has in all his UFC wins so far and fights on the front foot, he gets the win. Unfortunately, I don’t think he does so Moises should do enough for the victory. PICK – Thiago Moises via Decision
Sabina Mazo def Justine Kish via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3 (3:57)
Kish comes out to start the round super aggressively, charging in with wild swings and some heavy leg kicks. Mazo uses her reach well to get away and land nice shots of her own, before a big head kick settles the fight down. Kish trying to use speed to get inside and land but Mazo staying calm and eating the leg kicks but landing some jabs. 30 seconds to go and Kish catches a kick and takes the fight to the ground but good defence sees nothing land as the round ends. 10-9 Mazo.
Kish aggressive once again in this second round and the leg kicks are starting to add up now. Mazo looks timid and hesitant to throw shots from range and Kish using her speed well to step in and land well. She seems to be the more powerful of the two but she is struggling with the range to make them really count. As the round goes on Kish seems to be getting stronger while Mazo looks a little lost. 19-19, all to play for in the final round.
Mazo using her reach really well in this round, landing two more big head kicks and the jab very effectively. Kish continuing to push forward with leg kicks and strikes on the inside but Mazo’s reach causing a lot more problems now. Big head kick lands again and Kish is down! Mazo pounces on the back and goes for the rear naked choke and eventually sinks it in for the tap. Huge win for Mazo!
Bryan Barbarena def Anthony Ivy via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
The whole first half of the first round is essentially Anthony Ivy trying to complete his first takedown attempt of the night. Barbarena defends really well against the cage and lands some nothing shots to distract Ivy but manages to stay on his feet throughout. Barbarena then comes forward and lands some nice shots that see Ivy turtle up in a defensive mode, trying to get away. Ivy wants absolutely nothing to do with this stand-up battle and lands a big takedown 30 seconds before the end of the round. 10-9 Barbarena.
Second round is more of the same as Ivy looks intent on getting a takedown but Barbarena is defending brilliantly and landing nice return shots of his own. Every time he lands Ivy looks hurt, but he then returns fire with a shot of his own. Bam Bam’s cardio looks much better as the round draws to a close and he starts walking Ivy down landing elbows. 20-18 Barbarena.
Final round and Ivy lands a takedown inside the first minute and Barbarena is seen clearly mouthing “sh*t!”. He gets back to his feet quickly and starts landing heavy shots yet again. Every time there’s any type of exchange, Ivy shoots for a takedown quickly and Barbarena defends them mostly. The pattern continues for the rest of the round until the end. 30-27 Bam Bam for me.
A fun start to the round as Turner comes out very aggressive and starts lighting up Weaver early. Lightning quick jabs and crosses bust up the nose of Weaver and Turner looks really sharp. Fight settles down with Turner throwing jabs and Weaver throwing leg kicks before Turner throws a big right hand that drops Weaver! He jumps on him looking to finish but good defending by Weaver gets him back to his feet and he scores a takedown of his own as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Turner.
A slower pace to the second round as both fighters look to use the jab more. Turner is quicker and more powerful than Weaver but Brok is trying hard to stay in this fight. Heading into the final 90 seconds of the round and Turner lands a beautiful right uppercut and right hook combo that drops Weaver! Turner walks off as if the fight is over but the referee doesn’t wave it off so he stands the fight back up. Turner puts Weaver down again, lands some ground and pound and then sinks in a rear naked choke for the win.
Alexandr Romanov def Roque Martinez via Submission (Head & Arm Choke), Round 2 (4:22)
What a crazy round that is. Romanov comes out with a scary offence immediately and goes straight for the takedown. Martinez fights it and gets back up but then Romanov just throws him across the octagon with a german suplex. Huge ground and pound from full mount has the referee looking at stopping the fight but Martinez survives. A straight armbar attempt almost secures a tap but Martinez guts it out and survives the round. 10-8 Romanov.
More of the same in this second round. Romanov gets an early takedown and lands more huge ground and pound strikes. He’s levelled off the pace slightly and not being so gung-ho, but Martinez has absolutely no answers for him. This is heading for another 10-8 round but then Romanov locks up a head and arm choke, squeezes real tight and gets the tap. What a performance.
Kevin Croom def Roosevelt Roberts via Submission (Standing Guillotine), Round 1 (0:31)
WOW! Roberts comes out aggressively but Croom slips a shot, lands a nice straight to the body and then a massive left hook that drops Roberts! He pounces, locks up the neck in a modified guillotine before adjusting the grip for the tap! Amazing!
Sijara Eubanks def Julia Avila via Unanimous Decision (29-27 x3)
Really fun first round there! Avila came out charged up and started swinging for the fences early and Eubanks engaged with her. They both landed huge bombs and Eubanks was forced to pull out of the firefight and charged forward with a big takedown. Nice battle on the ground and Avila got back to her feet before getting a takedown of her own and doing her own good work on the mat. Fun, competitive round. 10-9 Avila.
Avila comes out strong in the second round again, having a lot of success with her right cross. She goes for a front kick but Eubanks catches it and takes the fight to the ground once again. Good grappling battle on the mat but Eubanks showing her jiu-jitsu credentials and dominating the transitions on the floor. Several submission attempts by Eubanks but Avila defending with everything she has and the round ends with Eubanks landing ground and pound. Could be a 10-8 round for Eubanks. 19-19 for me.
More of the same in round 3 as Avila comes out looking for a war on the feet but Eubanks survives it and then gets the fight down to the ground. Avila scoots towards the fence trying to get up but Eubanks strong on top and controlling the position. A flat third round as Eubanks looks to ride it out and stays safe throughout and takes the win. 29-28.
Billy Quarantillo def Kyle Nelson via Knockout, Round 3 (0:07)
Nelson comes out firing in this one with a big overhand right that catches Quarantillo flush but he eats it well. Nice leg kicks by Billy land but Nelson charges forward with a nice body shot combo into a clinch/takedown attempt. Quarantillo defends it well and after more leg kicks gets a takedown of his own. Nelson gets back to his feet but Quarantillo lands a knee to the groin against the fence which causes a stop in the action. Nelson recovers nice and quickly and the round comes to an end. Close round but I’ve got it 10-9 Billy Q.
Second round is much of the same, but Quarantillo starting to turn the pace up a bit and Nelson is starting to tire a bit. Quarantillo marching forward with more takedown attempts and some big elbows in the clinch against the cage but Nelson is returning fire when he can. Quarantillo turning it on now and pushing forward and ends the round in dominant ground and pound. 20-18 Quarantillo.
Round 3 starts, Quarantillo lands a HUGE right hand and it’s all over. 7 second round. What a punch, great performance from Billy Q.
Bobby Green def Alan Patrick via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
A fast paced round as Patrick tries to fly into a takedown attempt but Green bounces off the cage and ends up on top. Green lands some nice ground and pound before they get back to the feet and Green lifts and slams him back onto the mat. More ground and pound as Patrick throws up an armbar but Green defends well. Round comes to an end as both men get back to their feet and Green lands a nice right hand that puts Patrick down to one knee. 10-9 Green.
More of the same in round 2 as Green proves too big and too strong for Patrick in every department. The fight stays on the feet for the most part with Green keeping his hands low and staying out of range of Patrick. A nice right hand with 30 seconds to go drops Patrick again and then Green goes for a Thai clinch with knees but Patrick avoids it as the buzzer goes. 20-18 Green, Patrick needs a finish.
Third and final round and Patrick knows he needs a finish. He comes forward looking for a takedown again but Green uses his power to switch positions and slam Patrick down to the mat again. Nice ground and pound keeps the time ticking over but Patrick rolls through and they get back to the feet. Green cruising through the round with his hands down and landing right straights at will but not really pushing for a finish here as the round comes to a close. Should be a comfortable decision for Green.
Ed Herman def Mike Rodriguez via Submission (Kimura), Round 3 (2:41)
An interesting first round between these two as both men use the clinch to their advantage. Rodriguez using his huge reach advantage by throwing out push kicks like jabs to maintain the range, while Herman is using leg kicks to try and close the distance. Rodriguez throwing big knees in the Thai clinch and throwing heavy elbows on the break too. He lands a massive elbow to the face that lands flush and Herman is wobbled but Rodriguez follows up with a knee and ends up clinched so Herman survives the round. 10-9 Rodriguez.
All Rodriguez in the second round here. He continues to use that push kick and elbows but he’s really working the body of Herman a lot with knees in the clinch. Rodriguez avoids a takedown attempt and gets back up to his feet quickly. He lands two big knees to the body that drop Herman but the referee calls time for a groin strike. Replays show it was nowhere near the groin but Herman is milking this and takes several minutes to recover. Fight resumes and then Rodriguez drops him again with more body shots but the buzzer goes. 20-18 but this fight should’ve been over already.
Herman comes out looking for a big takedown and gets it early but Rodriguez gets back to his feet and starts landing big elbows to the side of the head and body. Herman ends up going down due to the strikes and Rodriguez looks to land ground and pound but Herman locks up a kimura out of nowhere for the comeback win! Controversy will ensue.
Roxanne Modfferi def Andrea Lee via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
First round is a wild affair as both women keep up a fast pace and exchange strikes and takedowns. Modafferi has top control for slightly longer throughout the round and lands nice ground and pound to take a close first round. 10-9 Modafferi.
Second round is more of the same but Andrea Lee seems to have her timing down a little bit more in this one. Nice jabs and front kicks as well as crosses and hooks see Lee turn the pace up a bit and score the second round for herself. 19-19.
Third round with all to play for with both women pushing the pace once again. Lee lands nice strikes and kicks once again but Modafferi charges forward and secures a takedown halfway through the round. She secures top position and lands some nice ground and pound that while it isn’t putting Lee in any trouble, it’s scoring her points. The fight comes to an end and Modafferi’s takedown has likely got her the win. 29-28 Modafferi.
Ottman Azaitar def Khama Worthy via Knockout, Round 1 (1:33)
Fireworks!!! After an initial minute or so of feints and feeling each other out, Azaitar lands a big one-two combo that wobbles Worthy! He moves in for the kill and lands several heavy shots that drop him. He takes the back and lands big shots on the ground and the referee steps in and waves it off. What a win for Azaitar!
Michelle Waterson def Angela Hill via Split Decision (49-46, 48-47, 47-48)
Intriguing opening round here in the main event as Angela Hill shows her punching prowess with some nice right hands causing huge swelling on the head of Waterson. Waterson trying to use her clinch and kicking game but Hill is crowding her and throwing bombs while denying takedown attempts. Hill more physical and in a five-round fight that could be telling. 10-9 Hill.
Second round and Waterson is stringing some nice combos together. She’s throwing jabs followed by front leg kicks to keep range but also threaten with damage. Hill doing well to eat them and continue to step forward though, landing nice overhand rights and jabs of her own. Waterson moving well but Hill cracks her with a nice hook that seems to stun her, but she sees out the round. 19-19, but close second round.
Third round and Hill goes for a push kick to the body but Waterson catches it and trips her for a takedown. She holds top position well and starts to progress with nice ground and pound. She transitions and tries to take the back but Hill defends really well to avoid a submission attempt but eats some big punches for her troubles. As the buzzer is about to go and Waterson lands some more ground and pound, Hill throws an up-kick to a Waterson’s face while she’s down. Referee gives a stern warning but nothing more. 29-28 Waterson for me.
Fourth round now and Waterson is starting to find her rhythm and land kicks and punches much more frequently. Hill continuing to push forward but the energy is clearly draining and she’s not as crisp and sharp as she was. Waterson lands a nice side kick to the body and then a side kick straight to the chin that stuns Hill. Waterson goes for another takedown but Hill denies her as the round comes to an end. 39-37 Waterson for me but could easily be 38-38 going into the final round.
Final round and it’s all up for grabs. Both women come out and exchange kicks as Hill looks to inject her physicality advantage into the fight by walking forward and throwing big punches, but Waterson continues to use her kicks to keep her range. A really even round into the final minute as Hill throws a big overhand that lands flush onto Waterson’s chin and hurts her but she charges forward with some kicks of her own in response. Both women start exchanging big strikes into the final seconds as the buzzer goes. What a fight. 48-47 Waterson for me but could easily go the other way.
The UFC looks to get back on track with another card at the APEX in Las Vegas this weekend as Michelle Waterson takes on Angela Hill in the main event.
Originally scheduled to be headlined by Thiago Santos vs Glover Teixeira, that bout was postponed after Glover tested positive for COVID-19. However after last weeks card fell apart at the last minute and ended up with just 7 fights, the UFC are making up for it with a 12 fight card this weekend.
Billy Quarantillo (14-2) vs Kyle Nelson (13-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An interesting bout between two very well rounded fighters in the featherweight division. Billy Quarantillo is a fantastic wrestler with good grappling skills with five submission wins on his record. He’s also a solid striker which shows when he employs his favoured game-plan of a fast pace and grinding strikes into top position. Nelson on the other hand lost his first two UFC fights being stopped by Diego Ferreira and Matt Sayles before finally getting a win against Marco Polo Reyes in 96 seconds with strikes. When Nelson was beaten by Sayles, he was the stronger man physically but his cardio eventually let him down when the pace was picked up and he ended up getting beat. I feel Quarantillo’s pace will do similar to Nelson here and he’s arguably a better wrestler too. While he may not get the finish, he should get the win at least. PICK – Billy Quarantillo via Unanimous Decision
Ed Herman (25-14) vs Mike Rodriguez (11-4-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
After two straight wins for 39 year old Ed Herman, he looks to make it 3 in a row for the first time since 2012 when he takes on ‘Slow’ Mike Rodriguez. Rodriguez won his last fight just a few short weeks ago, knocking out Marcin Prachnio with a vicious elbow and punches in the first round. He’s the far bigger man for the fight, with a 2.5inch height advantage and a 5.5inch reach advantage but he’s also far more powerful and energetic. Herman himself has stopped shooting for takedowns in recent years and now prefers to clinch and land big knees. If Rodriguez chooses to try and steamroll Herman, it’s all on how the elder statesman’s chin holds up. If it does, he will look to use all his experience to drain the energy of Rodriguez and land his own heavy shots. Herman hasn’t beaten anyone still on the UFC roster since 2013 and I don’t think that changes with Rodriguez riding a wave of momentum. PICK – Mike Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 1
Andrea Lee (11-4) vs Roxanne Modafferi (24-17) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Roxanne Modafferi has traded wins and losses since May 2017, going 4-4 in the UFC. Her most recent fights saw her beat the hottest of prospects in Maycee Barber, before being well beaten by Lauren Murphy last time out. Andrea Lee has lost her last two bouts via split decision, including her last bout against Lauren Murphy also. Lee is a solid kickboxer with good wrestling takedown defence, something that will come in handy against Modafferi. These two previously fought each other in Lee’s 3rd professional bout, where Modafferi managed to get a decision win. But six years later with the age and experience gap the same, Lee is a much better fighter now. I struggle to predict Modafferi’s fights because she tends to turn up against fighters she shouldn’t and vice versa. Lee is good enough though to avoid Modafferi’s best attempts and land shots of her own to get her a win on the scorecards. PICK – Andrea Lee via Unanimous Decision
Ottman Azaitar (12-0) vs Khama Worthy (16-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
My pick for fight of the night, as two hard hitting knockout artists square off. Ottman Azaitar made his UFC debut just over a year ago with a stunning knockout of Teemu Packalen, forcing the Finnish fighter to faceplant into the mat with one punch. Khama Worthy’s most recent fight was against Luis Pena back in June, where he scored a surprising submission win in the last round with a guillotine. Between them, 23 of their 28 wins have come via stoppage. This will be a straight up war and I can’t see it going the distance. Azaitar has never lost and throws absolute bombs but he’s never fought anyone remotely as good as Khama Worthy. The issue there, is that Worthy has been knocked out five times before and therefore we know he has a limit to the damage he can take. We saw though that he can fight on the ground as well as throw bricks of his own. His experience advantage and the fact that he has fought (and knocked out) fighters better than Azaitar mean I’ll pick Worthy for this, but it could honestly go either way. PICK – Khama Worthy via Knockout, Round 2
Michelle Waterson (17-8) vs Angela Hill (12-8) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A late main event change means these two strawweights headline the card as ‘Karate Hottie’ Michelle Waterson looks to bounce back from two straight losses against Angela Hill, who fights for the fourth time in 2020 and fifth time in the last 12 months. Hill was on a three-fight win streak before a controversial split-decision loss to Claudia Gadelha last time out. Waterson’s fighting style goes with her nickname. A karate base with rangey striking skills and good defence takedown and crafty submission skills, while Hill uses her range well and comes with volume and a gritty heart to push limits. Hill has Muay-Thai skills and uses her knees really well on the inside, so Waterson needs to look to take this to the ground. Overall, Waterson has always been deemed as undersized for this division and despite being very similar in build to Hill she’s nowhere near as powerful. Hill can grind out a win everywhere and physically is just too strong in my opinion, so I believe she’ll land the bigger shots and secure a decision. PICK – Angela Hill via Unanimous Decision