The UFC makes it’s way to Kansas City for a huge Fight Night card, headlined by the top of the featherweight division as Max Holloway takes on Arnold Allen in the main event.
Holloway hasn’t fought since his latest title shot against Alexander Volkanovksi ended in defeat back in July 2022, while Allen will be keen to claim a huge win to put himself into title contention for the first time in his career.
We’ll look to improve on that here as we break down the big featherweight bout and make our picks for the main event.
Recent fight history
Considered by many to be one of the best featherweight fighters of all time, “Blessed” has had a tough time recently having lost four of his last seven fights.
A move up to lightweight back in 2019 saw him lose to Dustin Poirier and snap his 13-fight win streak, before a return to 145lbs saw him defend his title against Frank Edgar.
He then lost the first of his trilogy bouts against Volkanovski before losing the rematch controversially too, but then he earned a third bout by defeating Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez in back-to-back fights.
Allen on the other hand comes into this fight in incredible form, having won each of his last 12 fights including all ten of his bouts in the UFC.
Most recently he has earned himself plenty of attention with a decision victory over Sodiq Yussuf, before knocking out Dan Hooker in the first-round and following that up with a TKO win over Calvin Kattar due to a knee injury.
Stylistically this fight is set to be a really, really exciting bout.
Holloway is one of the best boxers in the UFC with fantastic volume and jabs to go with a great shot selection.
His defence isn’t the greatest, but his chin has never let him down as he remains the fighter with the most UFC bouts to have never been knocked down in a fight.
He’s also got some decent wrestling in his back pocket too as he showed against Yair Rodriguez in that vital win, while his kicking game has improved tremendously.
“Blessed” is arguably the man with the best gas tank in the organisation too, and is one of the very best when it comes to weaponising it.
Allen on the other hand is a very well-rounded fighter with great power in his hands, but also some very good wrestling skills that allow him to control opponents from top position.
His cardio is also excellent and he is riding the wave of momentum, but Holloway is comfortably the best fighter he has come up against before.
This is a very classic case of power vs volume in the striking realm.
Holloway hits like no other, with over 4 significant strikes per minute on average in his fights and he is constantly moving forward to force his opponent backwards.
Allen simply can’t keep up with that on the feet, so his best chance will be to claim takedowns and use his power. But Holloway’s takedown defence is potentially some of the best ever, and even when he does go down he’s able to pop back up fairly quickly.
That means Allen will likely be holding out on Holloway slowing down a bit (which won’t happen) or landing a big enough shot that he can hurt him and then pounce.
We’ve just never seen that happen to Holloway though.
Against Poirier at 155 the power advantage was huge but he never stopped coming forward, and he got completely outclassed by Volkanovski last time out but Allen is nowhere near that level yet.
Realistically unless Holloway has got worse following the defeat to Volkanovski almost a year ago, or Allen has improved drastically since beating Kattar, then this fight is “Blessed’s” to lose over 25 minutes.
Dustin Jacoby (18-5-1) vs Khalil Rountree Jr (11-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Some brilliant kickboxers go head to head here. Jacoby is unbeaten in his last nine, with eight wins and a draw including winning his last four in a row. Rountree has won his last two, snapping Modestas Bukauskas’ ACL before smoking Karl Roberson back in March.
Jacoby is a legitimate kickboxer with elite striking skills to get in and out of range, while landing great boxing combinations at the same time too. Rountree is a striker too who’s performance blow from hot to cold and back again at the drop of a hat. You never know what you’re going to get from him, apart from lots of kicks and a solid clinch game.
With that said though, you surely have to go with the fighter who is consistently at a good level whether in victory or defeat. It’s been a long time since Jacoby lost a fight and that’s because he comes in and fights to his plan perfectly with great execution. His power and height advantage could play a big part too, despite a slightly shorter reach, so go with Jacoby on the cards. PICK – Dustin Jacoby via Decision
Josh Fremd (9-3) vs Tresean Gore (4-2) – (Middleweight/185llbs)
Ultimate Fighter finalist returns to the octagon in this one. Fremd suffered defeat in his UFC debut to Anthony Hernandez back at UFC 273, while Gore’s first two trips to the octagon ended in defeat when he lost to Bryan Battle via decision and then got knocked out by Cody Brundage most recently.
Gore is a decent striker with some good kickboxing and excellent power, but he’s incredibly green in the MMA game and he’s been shown up on the UFC stage so far. Fremd is a volume heavy fighter who thrives in chaos, and also has some decent grappling in his back pocket if he needs to use it. This is a bit of an odd bout though on paper.
Fremd can make this a horrible fight for Gore if he uses his cardio and chaos, but if it’s a tidy, technical bout then Gore should be able to win this relatively comfortably. An uptick in volume, plus his added size and good power has me leaning his way but this really is last chance saloon for Gore. PICK – Tresean Gore via Knockout, Round 1
Waldo Cortes-Acosta (7-0) vs Jared Vanderaa (12-9) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys back in the cage now. Cortes-Acosta is an undefeated fighter making his UFC debut after a first-round knockout win on Dana Whites’ Contender Series back in August. Vanderaa is a UFC veteran on the other hand, who has lost five of his last six including his last four against Alexander Romanov, Andrei Arlovski, Alexei Oleinik and Chase Sherman.
Acosta is an absolute powerhouse with good boxing and a huge overhand right that can turn the lights out in an instant. There’s also a bit of wrestling there too which can see him be content on the ground, but he wants the fight on the feet. Vanderaa on the other hand is a fighter who likes to mix in his big strikes with wrestling and grappling as a jiu-jitsu guy, but he tends to just stand and that gets him in a lot of trouble.
This is a very strange fight at a very strange spot on the card. With Vanderaa’s recent performances and results, it seems like a bit of a setup fight for Cortes-Acosta. A former pro boxer, he will be very happy with this matchmaking and I expect him to land a nasty combination to end the night early and make a statement. PICK – Waldo Cortes-Acosta via Knockout, Round 1
Tim Means (32-13-1) vs Max Griffin (18-9) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger of a bout at welterweight that could really take the shine off the main event. Means was on a three-fight win streak before being submitted by Kevin Holland most recently in June, while Griffin had the same before Neil Magny beat him in March.
Means is a technical striker with good boxing skills and a decent wrestling game too, while Griffin in a well-rounded fighter with really good wrestling to go with his striking skills. This is a fight between two guys who are incredibly well matched and have a very similar skillset that could go either way in reality. Means is 38 now though and past his best, so Griffin will be confident that he can get the job done.
Expect that Griffin will come forward and meet him in the middle to land good striking combinations and mix in his takedowns. Means will no doubt be able to hold his own and compete in this fight, but the age difference is big and Griffin should be a bit quicker and more eye-catching to earn the win on the cards. PICK – Max Griffin via Decision
Calvin Kattar (23-6) vs Arnold Allen (18-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
What. A. Fight. Kattar bounced back from a horror loss to Max Holloway (UFC Fight Island 7) by destroying Giga Chikadze at UFC Vegas 46, but then dropped a split decision to Josh Emmett most recently. Allen on the other hand is undefeated in the UFC with an 8-0 record and made a huge statement with a first-round knockout over Dan Hooker at UFC London back in March in his last fight.
Kattar is one of the best pure strikers in the UFC with terrific boxing combinations and incredible power, while he loves to mix in elbow strikes and showed his wrestling credentials against Chikadze. Allen on the other hand is a fantastic wrestler with a great grappling game, but he also has super power in his hands and good kickboxing combinations too. These two guys are well-rounded, but this is Allen’s biggest step up in competition in this division.
“Almighty” beat Hooker with ease, but that was a depleted lightweight. Kattar has been at the top of the mountain against the very best guys and while we saw that he’s not of that calibre, he knows what it feels like. Allen is likely to use his wrestling more, rather than standing and striking with Kattar who will have the advantage there. It could go either way in reality, but momentum is huge in this sport and I think Allen can do enough damage and use his wrestling well enough to get the decision on the cards. PICK – Arnold Allen via Decision
After a three year absence the UFC returns to London and the O2 Arena for a huge UFC London fight card, headlined by heavyweights Alexander Volkov and Tom Aspinall.
A stacked card will see the two heavyweights competing to get title contention with a win, while we’ll also see the likes of Arnold Allen take on Dan Hooker, Paddy Pimblett makes his UK return while Jack Shore, Nathaniel Wood and Muhammad Mokaev also compete too.
Jai Herbert (11-3) vs Ilia Topuria (11-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A banger of a fight to open the main card in the 155-pound division. Herbert earned his first win in the octagon with a first-round KO against Khama Worthy at UFC Vegas 41, while Topuria is an undefeated prospect with his last win coming via brutal KO against Ryan Hall at UFC 264. This is Topuria’s debut at lightweight.
Herbert is a boxer with good power in his hands, but his defensive grappling isn’t great and that’s a big problem in this fight. Topuria is a super talented grappler with great cardio and also some solid boxing skills with knockout power. Topuria’s only disadvantage in this fight could end up being size, because he’s not the biggest in this weight class.
Topuria will trade on the feet until an opportunity for a takedown presents itself and he will take it immediately. Topuria will land nasty elbows on the mat, pass guard and eventually work to the back before snatching up the neck for an impressive win in quick fashion. PICK – Ilia Topuria via Submission, Round 1
Molly McCann (11-4) vs Luana Carolina (8-2) – (Flyweight/135lbs)
‘Meatball’ is back and she’s back in London for this women’s flyweight bout on the main card. McCann suffered back-to-back defeats to Taila Santos and Lara Procopio before getting back in the win column against Ji Yeon Kim at UFC Vegas 36 most recently. Carolina has won her last two via decision, beating Poliana Botelho at UFC Vegas 25 and Lupita Godinez at UFC Vegas 40.
McCann is a pressure fighter who looks to use low kicks and boxing to force her opponent backwards and make them crumble. Carolina is a lengthy boxer herself, but she struggles to make the most of her reach advantage. Her takedown defence is good, but when it comes to mixing it all up she tends to be troubled and that’s what McCann is best at.
The Brit will be relentless with her forward pressure, will land strikes and will almost certainly mix it up with takedowns against teh cage and she’s good enough to hold Carolina down and control her for long periods of time. If Carolina is able to make reads and defend it though, her reach and speed should see her pick McCann apart. For my money, ‘Meatball’ comes forward enough to slip the reach disadvantage, get takedowns and win rounds. PICK – Molly McCann via Decision
Gunnar Nelson (17-5-1) vs Takashi Sato (16-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A strange welterweight bout up next on the main card between two guys returning from lengthy lay offs. Nelson is on a two-fight losing streak after defeats to Leon Edwards and Gilbert Burns back in 2019, while Sato lost via submission to Miguel Baeza back in November 2020 at UFC Vegas 15.
Nelson is a brilliant submission fighter with a karate stance where he looks to counter strike to land on his opponents clean. Sato on the other hand is a solid striker with an excellent jab and good combinations, and is confident in the grappling but mostly struggles against elites in that field. Nelson is elite in that field, but he’s been away for so long it’s hard to get a proper read on him.
Sato is coming in on very short notice in this bout, which goes against him, and if Nelson is at least not completely rusty and done then he should be able to get a pretty convincing win here. PICK – Gunnar Nelson via Decision
Paddy Pimblett (17-3) vs Kazula Vargas (12-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The most popular fighter on the card by a distance makes a return to the UK fight scene to take on Rodrigo Vargas. Pimblett earned a massive comeback knockout win at UFC Vegas 36 against Luigi Vendramini, while Vargas snapped a two-fight losing streak against Rongzhu at UFC 261 last time out.
Pimblett is a solid all-rounder, with excellent submissions skills and much improved striking in recent years with great knockout power. Vargas on the other hand is a decent boxer with plenty of experience but while he has a bigger frame and could overpower Pimblett, the trouble is he’s outmatched in skill.
‘The Baddy’ is a great kicker from range and has got the ability to take this fight wherever he feels he has the most advantage. He has promised a first-round finish, so who am I to go against that. Pimblett lands a hard right hand to drop Vargas and then jumps on the neck for a quick finish. PICK – Paddy Pimblett via Submission, Round 1
Arnold Allen (17-1) vs Dan Hooker (21-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A truly brilliant fight in the featherweight division in the co-main event as both guys look to become a serious contender at 145-pounds. Allen is on a ten-fight win streak, including a big decision of Sodiq Yusuff last time out at UFC Vegas 23. Hooker on the other hand has lost three of his last four to Dustin Poirier (UFC Vegas 4), Michael Chandler (UFC 257) and Islam Makhachev (UFC 267) most recently with a win against Nasrat Haqparast just before that at UFC 266. He returns to featherweight for the first time since 2016.
Allen is a tremendous wrestler and solid defensive fighter on the feet who knows exactly what he’s good at and goes straight to it. Hooker on the other hand is a striker who doesn’t want to be on the ground, but is capable of holding his own down there and battling to get it back into a striking battle. Allen will not allow that.
‘Almighty’ is strong in the grappling, good enough to hold his own in the striking, has constant volume, is younger, fresher and won’t be struggling with the weight cut. This is his chance to make a real impact on the division and I think he does just that. PICK – Arnold Allen via Decision
Alexander Volkov (34-9) vs Tom Aspinall (11-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight main event in what should be an absolute banger. Volkov has won three of his last four, with defeat to Ciryl Gane at UFC Vegas 30 splitting up wins over Walt Harris, Alistair Overeem (UFC Vegas 18) and Marcin Tybura (UFC 267) most recently. Aspinall is an undefeated 4-0 in the UFC with stoppage wins over Jake Collier (UFC Fight Island 3), Alan Baudot (UFC Fight Island 5), Andrei Arlovski (UFC Vegas 19) and Sergei Spivak (UFC Vegas 36).
Volkov and Aspinall are both tremendous boxers, with brilliant jabs and combinations as well as legitimate knockout power. The difference between the two fighters is that Aspinall is a true grappler also, with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and some solid wrestling too. Aspinall has a speed advantage and with a five-year age gap, his cardio has looked good so far. He has never fought in front of a live UFC crowd though and has never had a five-round fight in his career.
This fight will stay on the feet for the early exchanges as Aspinall looks to test the chin and make reads. His jab is more than good enough to land despite the size advantage but it’s the submission and grappling threat that will open up a big opportunity for him to land a combination. That could be enough to put Volkov out, but if not he’ll take the neck and secure a submission as a result to claim the biggest win of his career. PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 3
It’s fight week baby and for the first time in three years the UFC is back in London, England for a hugely exciting fight card.
Headlined by heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall as he looks to crack the top five against Alexander Volkov, the UFC have put some of Britain and Europe’s best talent together on the card for the fans.
But while there are some obvious headlines coming out of the card, here are some thing to look out for that you definitely don’t want to miss.
PADDY PIMBLETT AND ILIA TOPURIA BEEF
There’s a big rivalry brewing between these two hot prospects in the UFC, and the fact they’ve been in different weight classes may not even matter.
Ilia Topuria is an undefeated featherweight contender, currently sitting with a record of 11-0 and scheduled to fight against Jai Herbert at this event. But that fight will now take place at 155lbs, after a botched weight cut most recently.
Pimblett is one of the biggest names to come out of the UK & Ireland since Conor McGregor, with a record of 17-3 after winning his UFC debut in the lightweight division. He will fight Kazula Vargas at UFC London.
But these two have gone back and forth on social media in recent months and even came to blows in the hotel during check-in. If both are able to secure wins, don’t be surprised to see them meet in the octagon against each other before too long.
MUHAMMAD MOKAEV – A STAR WILL BE BORN
There a few undefeated prospects on this card, and one of the most exciting is Muhammad Mokaev in the flyweight division.
After going 23-0 in the amateur scene, Mokaev is now 6-0 (1 no contest) as a professional and will make his UFC debut against Cody Durden during the prelims section of the card.
Compared to Khamzat Chimaev and Khabib Nurmagomedov, the 21-year-old has a very bright future and you don’t want to miss out on the birth of a superstar at UFC London this weekend.
JACK SHORE V TIMUR VALIEV! – FIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Without doubt the fight of the night, and somehow it’s only on the prelims section of the card in the O2 Arena.
Shore is 15-0 and one of the best English talents in mixed martial arts, but he faces the toughest test of his career to date when he takes on the incredibly talented Valiev in their bout at 135-pounds.
Both men are incredibly well-rounded and will look to make an impression, with the bantamweight division one of the most stacked in the entire company. A win would be huge for both, and this should be fireworks. So don’t miss it!
ARNOLD ALLEN – NEXT FEATHERWEIGHT CONTENDER
Featherweight is screaming for a new contender at the top of the division, and Arnold Allen has the chance to make that place his own.
Currently ranked at number 7, ‘Almighty’ will take on Dan Hooker who returns from an exciting run at lightweight back into the division he originally entered the UFC in.
A high-profile win for Allen against a household name like Hooker would see the attention Allen gets rise exponentially, but also make his claims for a title shot far more legitimate.
With Alexander Volkanovski defending his title against Korean Zombie next month at UFC 273 and Max Holloway next in line, a win for Allen sets him up for a number one contender fight later this year to get a crack at gold in 2023.
TOM ASPINALL TITLE CHALLENGE?
The heavyweight headliner, Aspinall will fight in front of a UFC crowd for the very first time despite being 4-0 in the organisation after making his debut in 2020.
Taking on a veteran like Volkov is never easy, but there will be added pressure with the fight being in his home nation and in his first main event.
A win however would see him enter the title picture. Francis Ngannou is unlikely to fight again until the end of the year at best, it opens up plenty of opportunities for those around him.
The likes of Stipe Miocic, Tai Tuivasa, Ciryl Gane and even Jon Jones are hanging around, while Derrick Lewis will be keen to get back to winning ways too. The opportunities are aplenty with a win, but he must get a win first and foremost.
Great start to the fight for Kasanganay as he comes forward to close the distance early and lands a nice right hand. Palatnikov throws a kick which Kasanganay catches and then he lands another big right hand before getting a body lock and taking Palatnikov down to the ground. Kasanganay using heavy top pressure but not landing much damage and Palatnikov is able to get back to his feet. Kasanganay goes for another takedown but Palatnikov defends it well and they clinch against the cage now. Palatnikov starts teeing off against the cage but Kasanganay does well to avoid any strikes and clinch up again. Nice left hand lands from Palatnikov at the end of the round but should be 10-9 Kasanganay.
Kasanganay comes out quickly in the second round and lands a big right hand that drops Palatnikov! He forces the takedown with pure power and scrambles to take his neck. He locks in a rear-naked choke and squeezes, forcing Palatnikov to tap out! Big win for Kasanganay!
Da-Un Jung def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Reserved start from both fighters as Knight comes out throwing low calf kicks to prevent Jung from letting his jab fly. Knight goes in for a takedown and lifts Jung but he defends it well, switches the position and is able to get a throw perfectly to end up in top position. Knight is landing some nice right hands from the bottom as he holds Jung in place, but Jung fires back with a couple of right hands of his own to shut that down. Jung passes into half guard and tries to move into side control but Knight sweeps him really well and explodes back onto his feet. Knight clinches up once again and Jung is able to get the same trip once more to get back in top position. Some decent ground and pound from Jung as Knight looks quite tired now but he’s able to explode to his feet again as the round ends. 10-9 Jung.
Knight comes out throwing lots of low kicks once again, but Jung is backing him up to the cage and looking to hunt him down. Both guys land a nice right hand each before Knight shoots in for a takedown. Jung defends it, clinches up and then lands the same outside trip once again to take top position and starts landing ground and pound against the cage. Knight tries to get to his feet but Jung stays heavy and drags him down to the mat once more, then takes his back and sinks in both hooks. Jung starts raining down punches and Knight is trying to explode out again rather than use technique. Knight is just surviving right now and Jung continues to smash him up from his back on top. Lots of damage but Knight survives the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Jung.
Jung comes forward early in the final round and Knight has abandoned the leg kicks and is throwing bombs. Jung lands a nice uppercut, then switches levels and gets a big takedown! Knight explodes to his feet again but Jung is able to drag and throw Knight back to the mat with relative ease. Jung floats through the positions and ends up in side control, landing knees to the body and just completely dominating all the exchanges in this fight. Jung stays busy from top position on the ground landing damage for the rest of the fight for a very comfortable win. 30-26 Jung.
Luis Saldana def Jordan Griffin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Really good start to the fight for Saldana as he comes out with his hands low and is throwing quick kicks to the legs and body. Saldana throws a night three punch combo that clips Griffin, who shoots in for a takedown and gets it but Saldana gets back up very quickly. More leg kicks from Saldana take Griffin off his feet but he keeps coming forward and lands two big punches as he rushes forward and goes in for a takedown again. Saldana defends well against the cage and they break, but Griffin stays in his face and keeps throwing big punches. He keeps pouring punches and then eventually gets the takedown, but Saldana is able to roll through and escape before Griffin gets a headlock and looks for some sort of bulldog choke. Saldana is able to escape and Griffin charges once again and just misses with a big head-kick before the round ends. Very close, but I go 10-9 Griffin.
Slower start to the round from both guys as Saldana comes out again looking for low kicks and front kicks to the body, but Griffin pressures him again. Saldana slips as he throws a kick and Griffin jumps on top. Saldana looks for an armbar and then switches to a heel hook to create space which gets both guys back up. Saldana jumps on the neck of Griffin looking for a guillotine, but Griffin is calm and escapes before getting the fight back down. He starts looking for a bulldog choke again but Saldana escapes it only for Griffin to continue with his pressure and get back into a dominant position. Griffin starts floating and then takes the back and sinks in a rear naked choke deep but he runs out of time so we’re going to the final round. 20-18 Griffin.
Saldana comes out in the final round and knows he needs a finish. He’s trying to stay out of wrestling range, using punches rather than kicks to avoid being taken down but he looks exhausted. Griffin isn’t exactly fresh himself but he’s coming forward still but doing enough to stay out of range. Saldana looks to kick off the cage with a superman punch but just misses with that and the follow up hook, before Griffin shoots in for a tired takedown against the cage. Saldana defends it well and switches the position around but Griffin gets his arm under the chin and looks for a rear-naked choke! Saldana stays calm and escapes and ends up on top with 90 seconds to go. Saldana is able to take the back of Griffin for a split second, but Griffin then switches around and finishes the round on top looking for a submission. Probably a Saldana round but should be a win for Griffin. 29-28.
Jack Shore def Hunter Azure via Split Decision (30-27 x2, 28-29)
Composed start to the bout from both men as they feel each other out with jabs and low kicks before they both clinch up against the cage. Shore looking like the stronger fighter as they battle for position and he gets a body lock in nicely and picks Azure up and sweeps the legs for a takedown. Azure gets back up quickly but Shore keeps the hands locked and continues to drag Azure around. Shore tries to take the back but Azure drops to his knees and counters by turning into Shore’s guard. Shore kicks off the hips to get back to his feet quickly before Azure can do any damage and they clinch against the cage again before separating. Both men throw a simultaneous kick that makes for a big thud before a nice high kick lands from Shore. Azure looks for a takedown against the cage but Shore defends and the round ends. 10-9 Shore.
Fast start from Azure in the second round as he goes straight in for a clinch against the cage and lands some nice knees to the body and thighs. Shore is patient and eventually gets back up and catches a kick from Azure and lands a right hand that drops Azure. Azure gets back up quickly though and Shore looks for a clinch against the takedown before going for a takedown of his own. He shoots in and Azure looks for a guillotine which forces Shore to abandon and go to his back to escape, but Azure ends up on top in half guard. Shore uses his long legs and hips really well to get back up to the feet and the clinch continues against the cage once again. Accidental low blow from Azure causes a short pause in the action but they clinch again when they resume. Azure lands a nice right hand when they separate and then lands a good right hook but Shore starts landing some strikes of his own too. Azure lands a big right hand clean but Shore responds with an uppercut as the round ends. Very close round, probably in Azure’s favour. 19-19.
Azure goes straight in for a takedown at the start of the third but Shore stuffs it well and starts working off his jab from the outside. Azure changes levels to avoid a right hand and goes for a single leg, but Shore defends it brilliantly once again against the cage. Stiff low kick from Shore and then a nice left hook lands that stings Azure, who shoots for a takedown quickly after but is denied. Shore stuffs another attempt and then takes Azure down himself, landing some short punches against the cage and leaning all his weight on Azure to drag him back down. He looks to take Azure’s back and then moves into mount, switching between both positions. Azure is able to get back to his feet but Shore keeps hold of him and is able to take him down once again as we enter the final 90 seconds. Azure scrambles and rolls through to escape Shore’s grip and ends up on top and looks to land ground and pound but Shore defends brilliantly and then escapes a rear naked choke attempt to see out the round. Should be a win for Shore, 29-28.
Jarjis Danho def Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1 (3:02)
Slow start to the fight for both guys as they throw some leg kicks and circle each other. Danho throwing more and more leg kicks but not much action in the first two minutes. Danho looks to clinch up but De Castro throws him off and lands a big left hand that wobbles Danho! He comes forward with more punches but Danho avoids and goes for a takedown. The two separate and De Castro continues to come forward, then both men throw big right hands and Danho lands on the side of the head and puts De Castro’s lights out!! He lands one more on the ground but it’s all over! What a knockout!
John Makdessi def Ignacio Bahamondes via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Bahamondes using his length well very early on, with long jabs and front kicks. Bahamondes doing really well to mix up his attacks, landing leg kicks, jabs, straight rights, body shots and kicks while changing up his stance constantly. Makdessi just can’t get a read right now as Bahamondes keeps moving. Makdessi lands a big right hand that makes Bahamondes do the chicken dance and he pushes on for the finish, but Bahamondes clinches up to try and recover. Bahamondes now is trying to stay away and land from range but Makdessi continues to pour on the pressure. Bahamondes goes for a takedown against the cage but Makdessi defends it well. Bahamondes lands a couple of elbows on the break and they exchange strikes again as the round ends. That’s a really close round could go either way. I go Makdessi for the damage.
Bahamondes seems to have recovered now as he comes out popping his jab once again and circling on the outside. Makdessi taking the centre and looking to catch Bahamondes on his way in, but it’s not working too well for him just yet. Three jabs in a row land for Makdessi who returns with a big left hand of his own. Bahamondes lands a big straight left then misses with a few kicks before shooting in for a takedown, but Makdessi defends it with ease. Bahamondes starts throwing some knees against the cage before they separate and go back to trading straight punches. Both guys trading jabs and straights and landing, then Bahamondes lands a huge spinning heel kick to the head but Makdessi eats it. Makdessi responds with two body shots and a short left hook to the chin then lands a clean one two. Another super close round, I’ve got it even.
Third round following the pattern of the previous two, with Bahamondes landing from range but Makdessi standing firm in the middle and popping him back too. Bahamondes lands some nice jabs but Makdessi keeps landing the straight right and left jab in response. Bahamondes looks for a big knee that just misses and then he shoots in for a takedown to mix it up. Makdessi stuffs it and lands a nice right hand, before Bahamondes starts pouring on pressure and lands a big one-two. Bahamondes lands another nice left hand that sends Makdessi backwards but they continue to stand in a phonebox and trade for the remainder of the round in what was a brilliant fight. Another very close round, I don’t know how to call it. 29-28 either way, I lean to Bahamondes.
Mateusz Gamrot def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 2 (1:22)
Good start to the round from both guys, with Gamrot looking to land from range to set up his takedowns while Holtzman is looking to counter with heavy punches. Gamrot steps in for a takedown and grabs the leg and tries to go for a heel hook but Holtzman defends it well. Gamrot lands a nice left but Holtzman responds with a huge left hand on his way in! Gamrot responds with a couple of left hands again and then goes for single leg again and transitions to a double leg to get the takedown against the cage. Gamrot allows him back up and throws a huge elbow to the ear that wobbles Holtzman towards the end of the round. 10-9 Gamrot.
Holtzman comes out very aggressive and starts walking Gamrot down, but he’s loading up his attacks with big uppercuts and overhands. Gamrot moving side to side to stay out of the way and he throws a big one two down the middle which folds Holtzman! He jumps on and lands a couple more shots before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Gamrot!
Joe Solecki def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Very positive start from Solecki as he looks to be first in the striking exchanges between the two, but Miller just misses with his big left hand. Nice calf kick lands from Miller but Solecki is coming forward and landing nice short flurries of punches. Big right hand lands and forces Miller to think twice but then the veteran lands a nice body kick. Solecki shoots in for a takedown but Miller stuffs it and ends up on top, so Solecki goes into full guard and starts defending. Miller is landing some nice short elbows from the top position and stacking Solecki up to prevent him from being able to get back to his feet easily. Miller misses with an elbow as the rounds ends, probably a Miller round because of the top control. 10-9 Miller.
Solecki comes out aggressive in the second round and lands a nice right hand before shooting in for the takedown. Miller looks to defend it but Solecki takes the legs from under him and moves into full guard. Now it’s Solecki looking to stack Miller against the cage and throw some ground and pound, but Miller is staying busy from his back too. A few body shots from Solecki as he looks to wear Miller down heading into the final 90 seconds of the round. Not much action in this round but Solecki controlled it and takes the round. 19-19 going into the final round.
Both men see the route to victory as being on top and so immediately they both move into a clinch position. Solecki the physically stronger guy right now and gets a body lock, which Miller tries to roll through from but Solecki holds on and ends up on top once again. Solecki throwing short shots on the ground from half guard but Miller is trying to get back to his feet now rather than accepting the position. Solecki doing really well to control the position now and just doing enough damage to stop the fight from being stood back up. Solecki maintains the position for the rest of the round to secure what should be a straight forward decision win.
Daniel Rodriguez def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Tense start to this one with both men respecting the power of their opponent early on. Perry throws a few le kicks and Rodriguez is throwing his jab well and has already busted up the nose. Rodriguez throws a big one-two down the middle that staggers Perry but he continues to come forward to look for a finish. Rodriguez is landing big one-twos at will and Perry is getting pieced up, so he changes levels and powers through with a takedown. He lifts Rodriguez up and slams him down but Rodriguez holding on for a guillotine which Perry does well to defend against and avoid. Perry stays in top position and works for some ground and pound to see the round out. Perry still in it, but that’s a Rodriguez round for me. 10-9.
Second round and Rodriguez is doing really well on the feet, with his jab landing at will and the left hand following up behind it cleanly too. Perry is throwing some nice leg kicks and is just struggling to be first with the punches because of the range difference. Perry gets a body lock and looks for a takedown which he gets, then tries to transition onto Rodriguez’s back, but Rodriguez does well to stay strong and get back up pretty quickly. Rodriguez continues to land the jab and left straight at will, but Perry is still standing in front of him and throwing shots of his own. Big right hook, left hand from Rodriguez lands clean. Perry comes forward looking for a takedown with 20 seconds to go but Rodriguez defends it well to claim the round again. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Final round and the pattern continues, as Rodriguez lines up the jab and takes the centre of the cage. Perry is struggling to land anything of note because he keeps getting pummelled every time he tries to go first. Perry shoots for a takedown but Rodriguez denies it again and shrugs him off in the clinch. Rodriguez throws three huge left hands in an exchange but Perry is still taking the punishment and trying to come forward. Perry’s face is so busted up right now and at this point it’s just about not getting finished as Rodriguez shoots in for a takedown but Perry stuffs it to see the round out with a big exchange. 30-27 Rodriguez, excellent performance.
Fast start to the fight from Dern as she charges forward throwing big punches with a couple landing but Nunes responds with a couple of her own. Dern charges forward again and lands a nice left hand, but Nunes throws a good right hand to counter it too. Dern shoots in for a takedown against the cage and lifts the leg high then sweeps the standing leg and dumps her down. She immediately works to advance the position and threatens with a leg attack to pass into half guard. From half guard she quickly moves into mount and starts raining down elbows from the top. She transitions into an armbar position and despite Nunes’ best attempts to defend it, Dern extends the arm and gets the tap out.
Julian Marquez def Sam Alvey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (2:07)
Pretty tame opening to the round as Marquez takes the centre early and looks to figure out his range by flicking out his lead hand. Neither men throw anything really for the first two minutes barring a couple of missed hooks. Alvey is loading up big with his left hand and it’s allowing Marquez to avoid it well. Marquez lands a big right hook clean and Alvey is hurt. Marquez goes in again and lands two more that drops Alvey but he falls into Marquez and quickly recovers. Two more big right hands land from Marquez but Alvey just about stays standing and now throws a huge left of his own. Alvey is all the way back against the cage and just trying to hit Marquez on his way in but he’s missing wildly. 10-9 Marquez at the end of the round.
More of the same in the second round as Marquez backs Alvey up and lands a nice body shot, but Alvey explodes forward and lands a nice right hand of his own. Marquez throws an overhand right that lands clean on Alvey’s chin but he’s still there throwing his own heat. Marquez lands a huge right hand that drops Alvey and he goes all in for the finish with big strikes. Alvey looks to defend with a takedown but he’s eating big shots. Marquez abandons the strikes and goes for a rear-naked choke and puts Alvey to sleep for the win. Great performance.
Arnold Allen def Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start for Allen as Yusuff comes forward and throws a body kick which he catches and immediately gets a takedown. Yusuff does well to defend well against the cage and hooks up a guillotine choke that forces Allen to roll to his back and abandon the takedown attempt. Yusuff comes forward and is chopping away at the leg of Allen, but both men are throwing heat. Allen lands a big left hand but Yusuff keeps coming and clinches up. Allen lands a big left hand that drops Yusuff and he moves in to take top position but Yusuff does well to recover and avoid further damage. Allen goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s defended well and the round comes to an end with a nice exchange in the centre. 10-9 Allen.
Yusuff continues to push the pace and pressuring forward, but Allen is threatening with the big left hand once again. Yusuff lands some nice chopping leg kicks again and Yusuff is starting to land with his jab. He’s starting to touch Allen more and more, then Allen throws a huge head-kick that rocks him! Allen slips as it lands but he jumps back up and goes to land some ground and pound, but Yusuff recovers well once again and they get back to competing in the middle. Clinch against the cage and Allen is physically stronger and able to dictate the position more, and he sees out the round in control. 20-18 Allen.
Good start from Allen as he looks to back Yusuff up to the cage with his physicality and shoot for takedowns, but Yusuff refusing to accept it and defending really well. He switches the position on the cage and lands some nice knees to the body of Allen before they separate and go back into the centre. Lots of short exchanges and clinch work against the cage for the rest of the round as Yusuff arguably takes the round but it won’t be enough for a win. 29-28 Allen for me, very competitive fight.
Marvin Vettori def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (50-44 x3)
Holland makes a fast start throwing some leg kicks and big right hands but early on he lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Vettori comes in tight for the clinch after the action resumes, but Holland is striking from range and lands a heavy right hand. Vettori finally gets a body lock and clinch against the cage to start wearing on Holland, but he defends the attempted trip well which forces Vettori to change to a double leg. Holland defends it well again and Vettori separates, but he’s right in Holland’s face and applying lots of pressure. Vettori is able to drag Holland down to the ground, but Holland starts throwing up-kicks to try and create space to get up to his feet. Vettori is able to get full guard and starts applying lots of pressure and looking to land ground and pound. Holland is able to roll through and gets back to the feet, but then eats a big left hand. Good first round from both, very close to score. 10-9 Vettori for me but could go either way.
Holland comes out fast once again and lands some sharp punches and straight kicks but Vettori is trying to close the distance earlier this time. Holland lands a big one-two but Vettori eats it, slips a shot and then shoots in for another takedown against the cage. He gets him down quickly this time and avoids the guillotine attempt to go into full guard and land big ground and pound strikes. Vettori starts stacking Holland against the cage and raining down strikes, completely dominant. Holland tries to kick out of it but Vettori controls the position well and gets right back to work with the ground and pound from the top position. More strikes from Vettori opens up a cut on Holland’s face and he tries to scramble out but Vettori just controls his position even once Holland gets back to his feet to end the round. 20-17.
Holland’s left eye is closing up but he’s battling on and Vettori comes out like a freight train and looks to go straight for the takedown again. He gets it quickly and then moves into mount almost immediately. He looks to set up an arm triangle submission and locks it in tight, but Holland doesn’t tap and is able to escape from the bottom to get back up to his feet. Vettori goes straight back for the takedown again but Holland does well to avoid it. Holland lands a couple of nice strikes standing but then once again Vettori changes levels, clinches against the cage and controls the position. Holland lands a couple of huge strikes that seem to wobble Vettori a little but the buzzer goes. 30-26 Vettori.
Big early left hand lands at the start of the fourth for Vettori, but Holland responds with a couple of big hooks of his own. Vettori shoots in for a takedown and gets it down pretty easily once again and goes straight into full guard to land some ground and pound. Vettori looks to stack Holland who rolls through to avoid it and gets back to full guard. Holland is able to get back to the feet after a short scramble but very quickly Vettori is able to drag him back down and goes straight into mount. He looks for the arm triangle submission again, but Holland stays calm and takes it back to half guard. Vettori lands some heavy strikes and then goes back into full guard before passing into half guard again. Vettori tries to stack him and Holland starts throwing up-kicks again but Vettori is just too strong and sees out the round on top. 40-35 Vettori.
Holland still looks fresh and lands a bomb of a right hand that gets Vettori’s attention, so the Italian changes levels and gets the takedown immediately and goes into full guard. Holland kicks off the cage and finds a way to get back to the feet but once again Vettori just locks his hands, finds an angle and drags him back down to the mat. Vettori steps over into half guard and starts throwing some more ground and pound with Holland fighting off his back. Vettori steps over into mount once again looking to set up the arm triangle choke, but Holland explodes back up to his feet. Vettori holds the body lock once again though and drags the fight to the mat again with 40 seconds to go and he sees the round out in control. 50-44 Vettori, pure domination.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
‘Platinum’ is a striker with powerful punches and a pretty decent wrestling game, but despite being naturally talented when it comes to fighting he just doesn’t care. He’s had issues with alcohol and dieting in the past and now he comes up against a man who hits harder and is taking this game very seriously.
Rodriguez has crazily heavy hands but Perry has an iron chin and both guys have got some deficiencies in their cardio but it’s hard to pick Perry when you don’t know which version will turn up. He hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2017 and I think Rodriguez does enough to get a decision win. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Decision
Nina Nunes (10-6) vs Mackenzie Dern (10-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A battle of the mothers in the strawweight division as Nina Nunes (formerly Ansaroff) returns from child birth to take on Mackenzie Dern.
Nunes has tremendous wrestling and cardio and throws some really good combinations with her hands, while Dern is a jiu-jitsu master who has started working on her kickboxing game. The striking still needs work and she will need to get the fight to the ground to stand a chance of winning and I back Nunes to be able to keep the fight standing for the longest period because Dern’s takedown attempts are awful. If the fight goes down it’s Dern’s to lose. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
Sam Alvey (33-14-1) vs Julian Marquez (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Alvey has good takedown defence and a good right hook counter, but other than that he tends to just wait for a chance to land it and is hilariously bad to watch in the cage. Marquez on the other hand loves absolute chaos and throws big punches in bunch with wild aggression, who has pretty decent submissions too.
The likelihood is that Alvey will land his big right hand at some point, but with 20lbs of less power behind it against a young fighter with a sturdy chin, I don’t think it gets the job done. That means Marquez can go crazy as he loves to and I think he’s able to get a stoppage win. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 1
Arnold Allen (16-1) vs Sodiq Yusuff (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger of a featherweight bout between England’s Arnold Allen and another hot prospect in Sodiq Yusuff. Allen has won nine in a row including wins over Gilbertz Melendez and Nick Lentz most recently while Yusuff is on a six-fight win streak himself. Both make their first appearances since January 2020.
Yusuff is a tremendously powerful striker, who has great calf kicks and a very solid overhand right while Allen is a really good, well-rounded fighter who has split his knockout and submission wins at 5/4. Allen is a really good pressure fighter and opts for volume over power, using those combinations to close distance and get takedowns.
Yusuff is one of the most powerful fighters in the division and he does a good job of landing accurate strikes, so if he can take Allen’s takedowns away from him he has a great chance of landing those heavy strikes and moving into the rankings with a big win. PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Knockout, Round 2
Marvin Vettori (16-4-1) vs Kevin Holland (21-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Vettori has good power in his hands but his best work comes when he gets hold of you, takes you down and lands ground and pound from top position. Holland has got genuine one-punch knockout power on the feet, or his back if you ask Jacare Souza, but he struggles against wrestlers who know how to control him from the top.
Vettori is one of those fighters, who has a good chin but is just efficient in all his movements. If Holland comes in with the same antics he did against Brunson where he plays up to the camera then he will get punished, but if he comes in focused and with a solid game plan he could land big punches on Vettori’s way in to put him out.
That seems highly unlikely to me though, because Vettori just doesn’t waste any chances and knows exactly how to get the job done. Vettori gets takedowns, beats Holland up for 25 minutes and then calls out Israel Adesanya for a rematch. PICK – Marvin Vettori via Decision