Tag Archives: Belal Muhammad

UFC 280: Oliveira vs Makhachev – Prelims predictions

The UFC returns with arguably the most stacked card of the year at UFC 280 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

The lightweight title will be on the line in the main event as Charles Oliveira puts his 11-fight win streak on the line against the man on a ten-fight win streak, Islam Makhachev.

In the co-main event we’ll see the bantamweight title on the line when Aljamain Sterling defends for the second time, taking on former two-time champion TJ Dillashaw in a five-round bout.

We’ll also see Petr Yan take on Sean O’Malley, Beneil Dariush fight Mateusz Gamrot, Belal Muhammad scrap with Sean Brady and many, many more top bouts.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 62 we went 8/11 with three perfect picks to move to 741/1154 (64.56%) with 313 perfect picks (42.01%). You can see our full pick history here.

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


Zubaira Tukhugov (20-5-1) vs Lucas Almeida (14-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A sneaky contender for exciting fight of the night here. Tukhugov is 2-1 in his last three, earning a KO win over Kevin Aguilar back in February 2020 before a split decision loss to Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 253. He bounced back with a decision win over Ricardo Ramos at UFC 267 in his last bout. Almeida on the other hand is also 2-1 in his last three, losing on the Contender Series before returning to the regional scene and submitting Italo Trindadfe at Jungle Fight 103, before winning his UFC debut by KO’ing Mike Trizano in the third round last time out.

Tukhugov is a well-rounded fighter, with crisp counter-striking and razor sharp takedown abilities too. Almeida is a powerhouse who has finished all of his career wins, but he tends to be open for wars and leaves himself open to getting hit flush. Almeida has a real chance of outlasting Tukhugov after an initial early blitz and then taking over the fight with his power striking, but that blitz is really hard to overcome.

Tukhugov has the ability to push the pace early and mix his takedowns in to open up his striking, but Almeida is a very durable fighter. It’s likely to be a really wild ride while it lasts, but I think Almeida could use his extra power to land clean and get the finish as Tukhugov starts to tire in the second half of the fight.
PICK – Lucas Almeida via Knockout, Round 2

Volkan Oezdemir (18-6) vs Nikita Krylov (28-9) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

A big scrap between two light heavyweight fighters up next, with a very real possibility of someone going to sleep. Oezdemir snapped a two fight losing streak after being knocked out by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 and dropping a decision to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 267, when he claimed a decision over the tricky Paul Craig at UFC London in July. Krylov also dropped a decision to Ankalaev at UFC Vegas 20, and was submitted by Craig via triangle choke at UFC London in March, then bounced back at UFC London in July with a first-round KO over Alexander Gustafsson.

Oezdemir is a power puncher with great durability, but his overall game is lacking and he’s starting to get on in his career after an initially promising start saw him get to a title shot with Daniel Cormier. Krylov is incredibly well-rounded with 15 submission wins and some dynamite in his hands too, but he hasn’t really found a way to mix it all together and can often get caught.

Krylov will look to start fast and hard, knowing that Oezdemir can be caught and dropped. But if he goes too hard, Oezdemir is more than capable of putting his lights out too. Both guys will go for the kill, feeling they’re the better and powerful guy, but it’s hard to see Krylov not landing flush first and with his ability to get takedowns and submissions too, I back him to claim the finish with a choke after he drops him.
PICK – Nikita Krylov via Submission, Round 1



Makhmud Muradov (25-7) vs Caio Borralho (12-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

Banger at middleweight up next. Muradov saw a 14 fight win streak, including a KO over Andrew Sanchez at UFC 257, snapped when Gerald Meerschaert tapped him out in August last year. Borralho on the other hand has claimed 11 wins in a row including previously mentioned decision wins over Omargadzhiev and Petrosyan in the UFC.

Muradov is a volume heavy striker with fantastic footwork and movement, while his power is not something to be overlooked with 17 wins by knockout in his career. His takedown defence is shoddy at best though, with Borralho a wizard on the ground who has great clinch work and solid combinations in close. Unless Muradov has improved his ability to get people off him when backing him towards the cage from his last bout, then he’s in trouble here.

Borralho is by far a better takedown artist than Meerschaert and he possesses far more of a threat on the feet too. As the fight goes on Borralho should be able to overwhelm him and once he gets it to the ground it’s a question of whether he goes for a choke or just pounds him out until the referee steps in.
PICK – Caio Borralho via Knockout, Round 3

Belal Muhammad (21-3) vs Sean Brady (15-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A fight that could easily main event a fight night card any other week is the featured prelim of this one, such is the strength of the card. Muhammad has won seven of his last eight, defeating all of Lyman Good (UFC Vegas 3), Dhiego Lima (UFC 258), Demian Maia (UFC 263), Stephen Thompson and Vicente Luque by decision. The win streak was interrupted by a no-contest against Leon Edwards due to an accidental eye poke in round 2 (UFC Vegas 21). Brady is undefeated and 5-0 in the UFC, with a submission win over Christian Aguilera, submission over Jake Matthews (UFC 259) and Michael Chiesa most recently.

Muhammad is a good kickboxer, but his game has really excelled in recent years when he started wrestling more and using his top control to nullify opponents completely. He also has some of the best cardio in the division. Brady is a well-renowned grappler himself with excellent wrestling and submission skills, but his cardio has failed him later on in fights in the past against lesser opposition. This is a really tough fight to call.

I do feel as though Muhammad is being overlooked though. Brady is excellent but Muhammad has fought better guys and this is the biggest stage Brady has ever been on. Muhammad is also the more experienced fighter and is slightly bigger physically too. It should be a great slog, but I expect Muhammad to be able to mix things together that little bit more to get the judges to go in his favour and earn him a title eliminator in his next fight.
PICK – Belal Muhammad via Decision

UFC Vegas 51: Luque vs Muhammad 2 – Main card predictions

A huge welterweight main event is the main attraction at UFC Vegas 51 this weekend as Vicente Luque takes on Belal Muhammad in a rematch from 2016.

The two top six 170-pounders will go head-to-head looking to extend their winning streaks here, knowing that title contention won’t be far behind.

Last week at UFC 273 we saw a great card that was lacking a little bit on finishes, but we still managed to go 8/12 with four perfect picks to go to 593/915 (64.81%) with 252 perfect picks (42.5%).

You can view our complete pick history here.

We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims and finishing off our prelims picks here, we move on to the main card picks now.


Mounir Lazzez (10-2) vs Ange Loosa (8-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Short-notice welterweight banger opens up this main card. Lazzez was on a three-fight win streak before coming up against Warrley Alves at UFC Vegas 46, getting KO’d in the first-round. Loosa on the other hand makes his UFC debut with a win over John Howard just two weeks ago earning him a spot following defeat on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Lazzez is an excellent kickboxer who showed great nous in the clinch too in his debut win, and he showed great composure against the big power of Alves before getting caught. Loosa is a talented fighter too, with a granite chin allowing him to walk forward and look to harm his opponents as much as possible. He also has decent takedowns, while his scrambling off the mat is brilliant too.

Lazzez has a speed advantage in this fight, but it’s due to be exciting because Loosa won’t be going anywhere and will force this fight to be at a good pace for the entire 15 minutes. He has the experience and the skill to win, but I’m getting a gut feeling that Loosa will be able to do something special here and ensure he’s in the UFC to stay.
PICK – Ange Loosa via Decision

Pat Sabatini (16-3) vs TJ Laramie (12-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A very fun featherweight bout in this one. Sabatini is on an excellent five-fight win streak right now, including a submission of Jamall Emmers at UFC Vegas 35 and a decision win over Tucker Lutz last time out. Laramie on the other hand saw a four-fight win streak snapped by Darrick Minner at UFC Vegas 11 last time out, getting choked out in just 52 seconds.

Sabatini is an absolute wizard on the mat, with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and some improved kickboxing in recent years. Laramie is also a bit of a ground wizard in his own right, but the power in his hands and boxing is his avenue to victory in this one here. Sabatini has some top wrestling, where he chains together his takedowns and holds position before he works for submissions.

Sabatini has the advantage when it comes to the wrestling and grappling, which means he can dictate where this fight goes. Add to that the lengthy spell off that Laramie has had, I’d expect Sabatini to claim a win. He’s good enough to get a submission, but Laramie is very good too and should be able to see him off to go the distance at least.
PICK – Pat Sabatini via Decision

Mayra Bueno Silva (7-2-1) vs Wu Yanan (11-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

Women’s bantamweights back in the limelight for this one. Silva is 1-1-1 in her last three, submitting Mara Romero Borrella, before a majority draw against Montana De La Rosa and then defeat last time out to the brilliant Manon Fiorot. Yanan has lost her last two fights, with a unanimous decision loss to Joselyne Edwards at UFC Fight Island 7 over a year ago in her last bout.

Silva is a jiu-jitsu specialist with a nasty armbar that she often goes to, whether she’s in top position or working from her guard. Her kickboxing and wrestling are greatly improved over recent years too, although they still have plenty of work to be done. Yanan is a striker with great volume and good hand speed, but she really lacks in power and her defensive wrestling leaves plenty to be desired.

Yanan has a chance of victory by sprawling and brawling with one-two’s down the middle and stuffing the takedowns of Silva, but it seems unlikely judging off previous outings. Neither fighter is particularly big for the division, both previously fighting at flyweight, so expect Silva to be able to get the fight down eventually and pull off another of her trademark armbar finishes.
PICK – Mayra Bueno Silva via Submission, Round 1



Miguel Baeza (10-2) vs Andre Fialho (14-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A banger at welterweight between two very exciting 170-pounders. Baeza has lost his last two fights, dropping a decision to Santiago Ponzinibbio before getting knocked out by Khaos Williams at UFC Vegas 42 in an incredible fight. Fialho was well beaten in a short-notice UFC debut back at UFC 270, dropping a decision to Michel Pereira.

Baeza is an absolutely brilliant striker, with excellent power and crisp technique adding to his ability to turn anyone’s lights out with a single punch or kick. Fialho on the other hand is a steady Muay-Thai fighter who pushes a steady pace throughout and proved to have a pretty decent chin, although he did lack speed or explosiveness. That leads me to believe Baeza will get back in the win column.

The Brazilian has got a ferocious low kick, decent grappling and some beautiful counter striking in his arsenal. As the fight goes on and Fialho takes more damage, there is more chance of Baeza landing big and closing the show so back a finish in this one.
PICK – Miguel Baeza via Knockout, Round 2

Caio Borralho (10-1) vs Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (13-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A very peculiar co-main event in this one between two fighters making their UFC debuts after victory on Dana White’s Contender Series in their most recent bouts. Borralho has won seven in a row coming into this, while Omargadzhiev is an undefeated prospect.

Borralho is a black belt in jiu-jitsu but is also a solid striker, with some good karate stance kicks and some good power in his hands. Omargadzhiev on the other hand is a powerful wrestler with an excellent top game, and some steady attacks on the feet. This is a real 50-50 fight wherever the fight goes and it will be really interesting to see who has the advantages on the ground, because that’s likely where this fight will go in an ideal world for both guys.

With that said, Borralho seems to be the better guy defensively. He has good submissions defensively, is the better striker on the feet and he seems to be the physically stronger guy. This is a close fight, but I’m leaning towards the Brazilian to hand the Russian the first defeat of his career.
PICK – Caio Barralho via Decision

Vicente Luque (21-7-1) vs Belal Muhammad (20-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

The fight of the night is the main event and this should be great fun. Luque has won his last four fights in a row earning stoppages against Niko Price, Randy Brown (UFC Vegas 5), Tyron Woodley (UFC 260) and Michael Chiesa (UFC 265) most recently. Muhammad on the other hand has is unbeaten in his last seven, with a no contest against Leon Edwards stopping his streak. He has beaten Demian Maia (UFC 263) and Stephen Thompson (UFC Vegas 45) in his most recent fights.

Luque is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division, with incredible boxing and some stunning jiu-jitsu skills mixed in with crazy intensity and cardio skills. Muhammad on the other hand is a solid kickboxer with brilliant wrestling skills and excellent cardio too, but he does lack knockout power from his arsenal. Muhammad is in a great vein of form in his career, mixing everything together to be able to really shut down his opponents’ offense. But Luque has so many weapons that I find it hard to see how he’ll be able to do that here.

The Brazilian pushes an unbelievable pace with superb power and technique, but he also has an excellent submission threat in scrambles and from his back too. For me, this is Muhammad’s peak level. I don’t see him getting into the title picture because the guys above him just have more to their game, whereas Luque has game-changing skills that can turn a fight on it’s head. I expect Luque to be tested, but I think he’ll be able to continue his run of finishes to push himself into the top five.
PICK – Vicente Luque via Knockout, Round 3

Major UFC fights announced for coming months

The UFC have been busy planning some big fights for the coming weeks and months.

Title fights, fight night main events, contender bouts, rumoured scraps in the pipeline and more have all been mentioned over recent weeks so here’s the big round-up for everyone that needs it.

Starting with April’s pay-per-view opener, we’ll list off all the fights that have been officially announced or rumoured for cards going through the summer so far.



UFC 273 takes place on April 9th after a two-week break in action with a big title-fight double header.

Already announced is the headliner between Alexander Volkanovski v Korean Zombie for the featherweight title, while Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan will finally meet in their rematch for the bantamweight title.

But we will also see the return of Khamzat Chimaev as he takes on Gilbert Burns in a bout that UFC president Dana White has admitted will serve as a title eliminator bout in the welterweight division.

The following week will see another welterweight clash serve as the main event in the Apex, as Vicente Luque takes on Belal Muhammad at UFC Vegas 51.

Down at 135-pounds at the end of April we’ll see a top contender bout between Rob Font and Marlon Vera battle in the main event of UFC Vegas 53, before UFC 274 takes place from Phoenix, Arizona.

Originally scheduled to be in Brazil, we’ll now get the 155-pound title fight between Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje in the headline slot in Gaethje’s home state, while Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza will meet in their long-anticipated rematch for the strawweight title in the co-main event.

We’ll also see an amazing lightweight bout between Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson on that card, as well as a stack of other amazing fights.

The following week the UFC is targeting the rescheduled main event from the UFC Columbus card in the light heavyweight division between Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic, as well as a fun fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Amanda Ribas.

Then at UFC 275 the delayed light heavyweight title fight between Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka will take place, while ‘Bullet’ Valentina Shevchenko will fight Taila Santos for the flyweight championship in the co-main event.

We’ll also see the return of Robert Whittaker at that event, as he is scheduled to take on Marvin Vettori in the middleweight division to get back on the title trail once again.

Dana White has also confirmed that the organisation are expecting welterweight champion Kamaru Usman to return in the summer, and he has promised the next title fight to British fighter Leon Edwards with the target aimed for international fight week in July.

It’s a great year coming up, so keep your eyes on Tap Ins & Tap Outs for coverage of all these events coming up.

Tap Ins & Tap Outs 2021 Awards – Breakthrough Fighter of the Year

An amazing year of fights has come to an end and that means it’s time to hand out the annual awards for the fight game.

After 509 fights in 2021 after the global pandemic was worked around, the UFC produced some amazing fights with incredible moments throughout the year. But which were the best? Who was the best?

For our second annual end of year awards, we’ll be handing out the honours for each of the following categories:



BREAKTHROUGH FIGHTER OF THE YEAR

3. Belal Muhammad (3-0-1 in 2021)

Muhammad has the perfect nickname heading into 2022 after the 2021 he had.

‘Remember the Name’ isn’t new to the UFC, but in 2021 he finally became a household name with some impressive victories and memorable moments in the octagon.

He opened the year with a win over Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 before stepping in on very short-notice to fight top contender Leon Edwards at UFC Vegas 21. When that fight ended in a no-contest due to an accidental eye poke, Muhammad took the momentum from the buzz of the fight and ran with it.

He called Edwards out all year and with dominant wins over Demian Maia at UFC 263 and then Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson at UFC Vegas 45 he may get his wish early in 2022 after breaking into the top five of the 170-pound rankings. What a year.


2. Erin Blanchfield (2-0 in 2021)

Blanchfield earned herself a big reputation outside of the UFC before finally making her debut with the organisation in September of this year, but she wasted no time making sure she made an impression.

A dominant decision win over Sarah Alpar set her up for a fight against Maycee Barber, who was forced to withdraw injured and was replaced by the equally highly rated Miranda Maverick at UFC 269.

Her performance in that fight was near flawless though as she showed her power, wrestling, composure and technique to waltz to a dominant decision win.

2022 could be a big year for ‘Cold Blooded’ if she continues winning in a division that is always desperate for new contenders with Valentina Shevchenko as dominant as ever.


1. Sean O’Malley (3-0 in 2021)

He’s not a new name and he’s without doubt one of the most popular fighters on the roster, but 2021 will be remembered as the real breakout year for Sean O’Malley in the UFC.

‘Suga’ opened the year with a brilliant knockout win over Thomas Almeida at UFC 260, as he dominated the Brazilian for three rounds before getting the highlight reel finish in the third-round.

He then fought short-notice opponent Kris Moutinho at UFC 264 and absolutely dominated for three rounds in that too. The UFC newcomer refused to go away, taking serious amounts of damage in the fight but O’Malley kept teeing off until the referee said enough was enough with seconds remaining.

He ended the year with a ranking though thanks to arguably the most impressive win of his year at UFC 269, when he stopped talented grappler Raulian Paiva in the first-round with a vicious combination.

Three wins, three knockouts and entering the new year as a ranked fighter – Sean O’Malley is the breakthrough fighter of the year.

UFC Vegas 45 Fallout: Lewis the KO king, Muhammad enters contention

The heavyweight division isn’t quite ready to move on to the next generation yet, as Derrick Lewis continued his reign of terror with a record-breaking 13th knockout victory over Chris Daukaus.

The number three ranked heavyweight in the world was going up against the number seven ranked fighter, with big implications in title contention for the early part of 2022.

But with victory for the red corner, the title picture won’t be changing too much ahead of UFC 270.



It was a cagey opening few minutes, with both fighters not wanting to feel the other’s power early on but also trying to measure the range they could strike at.

Lewis slowly backed Daukaus against the cage by taking the centre and cutting the angles, so Daukaus tried to use his speed and a few leg kicks to get him to back up. It didn’t work, and mid-way through the round ‘the Black Beast’ through together a big flurry of strikes that clearly hurt his opponent.

Daukaus attempted to clinch up, but Lewis kneed him in the body and landed three big uppercuts that dropped him and saw the fight waved off immediately.

The win will likely see him move up to number two in the rankings, ahead of former champion Stipe Miocic who hasn’t fought since losing the title back at UFC 260.

A fight between the two seems like a logical next step, with Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane meeting in the main event of January’s pay-per-view card at UFC 270 for the undisputed heavyweight title.

Lewis offered to step in on short-notice if anything happened to either of those fighters, but he also said he didn’t really want to fight five-round fights anymore either.

If Jon Jones opts to return to the UFC in 2022, he is likely to be next in line for a title shot against the winner of that main event which would make Miocic vs Lewis a brilliant number one contender fight.

In the welterweight division, there was a change of guard however in the title contender positions as Belal Muhammad beat number five ranked Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson convincingly to move into contention.

It was a dominant performance from ‘Remember the Name’, who used his brilliant wrestling to nullify the striking of Wonderboy and waltz to a 30-25, 30-26, 30-26 decision victory.

After the fight, he called out both champion Kamaru Usman and contender Leon Edwards for his next bout and both are very possible.

Usman is currently nursing a hand injury after his win over Colby Covington at UFC 268, but has cleaned out the division and is searching for new opponents.

Edwards is on a 12-fight unbeaten streak in the UFC, with a no-contest against Muhammad in their short-notice bout at UFC Vegas 21 snapping a winning streak that has stretched since 2015 when he lost to Usman.

Running that fight back now would make sense, although Edwards has certainly done enough to claim a title shot already and that could allow for Muhammad to be paired up with Gilbert Burns too.

Whoever his next fight is against, Muhammad has made it very clear that he belongs among the top names in the division and with a win over a top-five guy he could very well find himself standing across from the champion in 2022.

UFC Vegas 45: Lewis vs Daukaus – Main card predictions

The final UFC event of 2021 is upon us and will be headlined by heavyweight bangers in Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

The two are at different ends of their career realistically and are fighting to carry the torch of the division into 2022.

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%).

We’ll look to end the year on a high here and after starting with the early prelims on this 14-fight card then picking the rest of the prelims here, we move onto the main card now.


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

Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in last chance saloon at UFC Vegas 45

It’s been a little over five years since Stephen Thompson first challenged for a UFC welterweight championship against Tyron Woodley.

In a tactical bout, the first ended in a draw before their rematch five months later saw Woodley claim the victory via a majority decision. Since then it’s been a winding road for ‘Wonderboy’.

He has won just three of his last six fights and is coming off another loss to Gilbert Burns at UFC 264 most recently.



It ended a two-fight win streak fort he karate fighter, who previously dispatched of both Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17 with relative ease.

But now he goes head-to-head with Belal Muhammad, who is five places below him in the UFC rankings in number ten in order to get back to winning ways and find the top of the mountain once more.

His loss to Darren Till was more than questionable, with many believing he won convincingly but the home crowd swayed the judges in England and he was defeated.

He was dominating the fight against Anthony Pettis before an explosive, flash knockout meant he was finished for the first time in his professional career. But the following victories proved he is still among the very best strikers in the organisation.

In this handout image provided by UFC, Stephen Thompson punches Geoff Neal in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on...

His angles and footwork are truly brilliant, and while he doesn’t really possess fight changing knockout power he does have the skills to make anyone look silly.

When he takes on Muhammad he will be facing someone with an excellent gas tank and decent wrestling and kickboxing skills. An all-rounder, Muhammad is trying to prove himself as someone who can compete with those right at the top of the division.

If he can win, he’ll enter the top five and likely end any and all hopes ‘Wonderboy’ has of becoming champion. But if Thompson can recapture his form and get back to winning ways, he’s right back in the hunt.

He’ll keep his top five ranking and likely set up a rematch with Luque or potentially face off against Colby Covington in 2022. He would still be behind Leon Edwards and Burns in contention for the title shot, but he moves one step closer and gives himself the opportunity of reaching the pinnacle.

Thompson will be 39 by the time his next fight after Muhammad rolls around. Time is running out for him to get there, so this fight is a legitimate must-win bout.

UFC 263: Adesanya vs Vettori 2 – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Carlos Felipe def Jake Collier via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Good start to the fight from Collier as he uses his speed and volume to land early on Felipe. Felipe starts to walk forward and throws some wild hooks but Collier ducks them and throws a spinning back fist that just misses. Felipe takes the centre and starts working the body, and lands a few left hands too that stumble Collier backwards. Hard leg kicks from Collier as they throw down in the middle for the round to come to an end. 10-9 Felipe.

Second round starts and Felipe comes forward much more aggressive than the opening round, walking Collier down and testing his gas tank. Felipe landing big left hooks to the body and working Collier out, stepping forward and bobbing and weaving before throwing big one-twos. Collier’s leg kicks keep landing but Felipe doesn’t care and keeps going forward. More big punches land and he’s showboating despite a close round. 19-19.

Final round and Felipe is pushing forward again while Collier backs up exhausted. Felipe lands some nice body shots again and then starts going upstairs with some big strikes. Felipe lands a big left hand and Collier is rocked, then gets clocked twice more. Collier shoots for a takedown but Felipe sprawls, then gets up and lands some stiff jabs. Collier keeps checking the clock but Felipe is marching him down and throwing heavy shots in the pocket with 30 seconds to go. Collier lands a nice body shot followed by a kick but Felipe should get the nod. 29-28.

Fares Ziam def Luigi Vendramini via Majority Decision (29-28 x2, 28-28)

Great start to the fight from Ziam as he takes the centre of the cage and immediately starts flicking out the jab, landing flush on the nose of Vendarmini. Vendramini goes for a takedown but Ziam keeps it standing and immediately steps back to get his distance back. Lots of feints from Ziam and the jab is landing perfectly for the whole round. 10-9 Ziam.

Second round starts with more of the same, but this time Vendramini steps forward too and clinches up looking for a takedown. Ziam completely refuses to be taken down though and just pushes him off and starts landing the jab again. Ziam throws a hard leg kick but it gets partially checked and then Vendramini goes in for a deep takedown but Ziam throws him off and carries on striking to control the fight once more. 20-18.

Third round and Vendramini comes out heavy, throwing big bombs and he drops Ziam! He pushes forward and lands big strikes and eventually gets on top with ground and pound. Ziam trying to slow Vendramini down a little but he keeps going and lands some heavy strikes. Big elbows from full mount and he does brilliantly but Ziam stays calm off his back and eventually gets back up to his feet. Vendramini keeps pushing but he can’t get it done and Ziam should take the decision.

Steven Peterson def Chase Hooper via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

Strong start from Peterson as he comes flying out of the gate looking for an early knockout and tags Hooper hard with a right hand. Hard pressure from Peterson as he pressure forward, before Hooper looks to pull guard. Peterson throws huge elbows and Hooper looks hurt but he gets back to his feet. Hooper eventually pulls guard and starts fishing for submissions, including a heel hook, but Peterson stays calm and rides it out. 10-9 Peterson.

Peterson steps forward and looks for the early power again but just misses with a big right hand. Hooper looking to bring the fight to the ground again but Peterson doing well to control the range so far and overpowering Hooper as it goes so far. Peterson eventually takes over and controls from the top position, riding out from the top and sees out the round. 20-18.

Peterson steps out strong and lands a big right hand early in the third round. He closes the distance and starts making it ugly, throwing nice kicks and then clinching and dragging Hooper to the ground. He lands a few strikes from the top then goes for a head and arm choke. Hooper denies it and takes the back with 70 seconds to go but he’s not able to get it done and Peterson should take the fight.

Terrance McKinney def Matt Frevola via Knockout, Round 1 (0:07)

McKinney comes out and lands a one-two and Frevola is out!!! OH MY GOD!! TERRANCE MCKINNEY!!!

Pannie Kianzad def Alexis Davis via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

A fun stand up battle in the first round, with both women standing in the pocket and exchanging good strikes. Kianzad standing her ground and landing well with her jab and right cross while Davis is landing her jab well. Both women have cuts but Kianzad is landing the more accurate strikes and takes the round. 10-9 Kianzad.

Second round is more of the same as Kianzad throws that right hand more and more. Both women trading in the pocket but Davis is starting to land cleaner on the nose. Kianzad follows up with some big strikes and the jab landing clean too, but Murphy starting to throw some nice leg kicks too. Pretty even round could go either way, I edge it to Kianzad.

Final round and Davis is landing her jab well and throwing the leg kicks more often too. Kianzad is backing up a lot more than she was in the first but is firing back on Davis’ jab with combinations. Davis’ jab is landing perfectly now on the nose of Kianzad but she’s getting caught with counter straights. Both women strike throughout the 15 minutes and it’s a close call regardless. 29-28 Kianzad for me but could go either way.

PRELIMS

Movsar Evloev def Hakeem Dawodu via Unanimous Decision (29-27 x3)

Evloev opens up with a big overhand right that lands, but Dawodu does well to take it. Both men trade a few jabs before Evloev decides he’s had enough of that and goes for the takedown. Dawodu defends it well but eventually Evloev just picks Dawodu up and slams him down on the mat. Evloev then takes Dawodu’s back and looks for rear naked chokes and ground and pound strikes for the remainder. 10-9.

Evloev comes out early on again, ducks a big strike and gets a beautiful takedown immediately. Transitions to the back immediately once again and starts really piling on the pressure. He starts looking for submissions again but Dawodu defending them well, so he switches to ground and pound from Dawodu’s back and is really battering him.

Dawodu and Evloev start a bit slower in this round but Dawodu is able to keep the fight standing early on. Evloev

Lauren Murphy def Joanne Calderwood via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

Murphy comes out aggressive and uses her size well, landing well out of the gate. Calderwood starts mixing up her attacks, throwing leg kicks, body kicks, body punches and head strikes well. Murphy stepping forward and using her boxing, then steps in for a clinch. She uses her strength well against the cage and lands a nice knee, but Calderwood throws the spinning back-fist and lands it well. Very close round, I lean 10-9 to Calderwood.

Strong start to the second round from Murphy as she lands the jab well early on and then shoots in for a takedown and gets it brilliantly! Murphy ties up both legs and gets wrist control, keeping Calderwood on her side with one arm to defend and starts throwing some nice ground and pound. Murphy dominates the entire round on top and could potentially have it as a 10-8. Super close fight.

Murphy comes out with a hard punch but misses and Calderwood starts picking her off from range once again using her kicks and striking again. Murphy starting to look for takedowns again but Calderwood defending them well and landing decent strikes from distance. Murphy keeps coming though and they end the round in a straight scrap. Great fight, very close.

Eryk Anders def Darren Stewart via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-27)

Slow start to this one from both guys as Stewart takes the centre but lots of feints and hesitation from both guys. Anders throws a left straight that misses and then they go against the cage, with Stewart tying him up in a clinch to a stalemate. Stewart lands a big knee to the body and then changes levels and gets a nice trip to get top position on the ground. Stewart maintains wrist control and holds the position until the end of the round. Not the best round. 10-9 Stewart.

Second round and it’s much more of the same from both guys. Anders misses a left hand and the two clinch up against the cage for about two minutes before the referee steps in and separates them. Anders goes for a takedown but Stewart defends it well and they end up back in the same position. Anders trying to up the pressure but Stewart defending well and the round ends. 19-19 maybe?

Final round and Stewart comes out light on his feet with a couple of leg kicks before changing levels and securing a takedown on Anders. Anders manages to switch the position and ends up on top almost immediately though and finds himself in side control. Anders starts throwing some ground and pound and controlling the position well. Big ground and pound shots hurt Stewart as he tries to get up against the side of the cage but he survives until the buzzer. 29-28 Anders for me but all lays on that second round.

Brad Riddell def Drew Dober via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Very quick start to this one from Riddell as he opens with a big left hand followed by a leg kick that rattles Dober’s balance. Both men swing some big hooks that just miss and then Dober lands a stiff jab and a left straight right behind it that drops him! Dober looks for a finish but Riddell shoots and stalls for long enough on the legs to recover. Riddell lands a huge right hand that sees him step backwards, then lands it flush over and over as the round ends. Great round, 10-9 either way.

Second round and Riddell is looking for that right hand early once again. Dober eats a couple but then fires back with some big straights and lands flush on the nose! Riddell shoots for a takedown to recover but Dober sprawls and steps away. Riddell lands a big right hand again and then Dober shoots in for a takedown but they scramble to a stalemate. Riddell lands a few big shots and Dober replies as the round ends. What a fight. This scorecard could be anything.

Final round and Riddell lands a huge right hand early on that rocks Dober. Riddell lands a couple more heavy strikes but Dober steps away and recovers. Some big body kicks by Riddell force Dober to look for a takedown but Riddell defends it perfectly. Riddell lands a huge right hand that staggers Dober with 30 seconds to go and he goes in for the finish! Big ground and pound as Dober dives in for a takedown. Riddell sweeps him and ends the round on top raining down punches. What a fight!

MAIN CARD

Paul Craig def Jamahal Hill via Knockout, Round 1 (1:59)

Slow start for Hill as he takes the centre before Craig grabs hold of him and pulls guard early on. Craig has an overhook on the arm while he’s on his back and he’s torquing on it badly. Craig rolls through and snaps Hill’s arm but the referee doesn’t wave it off! Craig goes for elbows to the head of a defenceless Hill and the referee finally steps in to end it. What a performance.

*TRIGGER WARNING*

Belal Muhammad def Demian Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

Interesting start to the round as Muhammad looks to take the centre of the octagon but stay out of range of Maia’s takedown attempts. Maia shoots in for a takedown and gets the single leg but Muhammad gets himself against the cage and defends it brilliantly for around one minute before escaping. Maia goes in for three more takedown shots during the rest of the round but Muhammad defends them all perfectly, but will likely lose the round. 10-9 Maia.

Second round and Muhammad is closing the distance better and landing some nice jabs on the feet. He’s gained confidence from stopping all the takedowns in the first and is stepping forward, landing his right hand cleaner as Maia starts to tire. Nice jabs and he defends another takedown to see out the round. 19-19.

Maia starts the final round with another single leg takedown attempt but Muhammad denies him once again and then staggers him with a nice right hand. Maia continues to look for a single leg takedown but Muhammad just denies it once more and lands a few jabs to seal the round for himself.

Leon Edwards def Nate Diaz via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)

Slow start to the fight from both guys as they both feel each other out early on. Edwards throws some hard leg kicks that land while Diaz starts showboating and teasing his opponent. Edwards closes the distance and they clinch up, before he dumps Diaz down and transitions to his back to threaten a submission. Diaz defends the position and they see out the round squaring off on the feet. 10-9 Edwards.

Second round and Edwards staying composed, pushing a good pace landing some leg kicks. Diaz playing some mind games but Edwards clinches up and gets him down again. Edwards controlling Diaz totally and landing elbows and strikes at will so far. Dominant round, 20-18.

Edwards dominant again during the third as he steps forward and lands the jab well. Edwards gets another takedown from the clinch and starts to control from the top. Huge elbow gets through and opens up a big cut, then he starts looking for the finish but Diaz survives it. 30-27.

Fourth round and Edwards is just too big and strong at this point. Hard leg kicks have forced Diaz to switch stances but Edwards pouring on the pressure. Diaz is tiring and getting caught with big wild hooks as Edwards starts going for the finish. Diaz tries to come forward with strikes of his own but he’s not hitting many. 40-36 Edwards.

Final round and it’s more of the same. Edwards closing the distance and landing hard leg kicks with elbows following in behind. Diaz is getting hit but still standing and still coming forward. Diaz throws a Stockton slap and follows with a left hand that wobbles Edwards! Diaz points instead of going for the kill, then steps in and starts swinging wildly. Edwards survives, just, and takes the win.

Brandon Moreno def Deiveson Figueiredo via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3 (2:26)

Tense start to the fight from Figueiredo as Moreno steps in nice and sharp with jabs and a heavy leg kick. Moreno is stiffing the jab right down Figueiredo’s throat, not allowing him to close the distance. Lots of hard jabs and Figueiredo struggling to get going so far. Moreno lands a big left hook that drops Figueiredo! He goes for the kill but Figueiredo stalls on the ground for long enough and the buzzer goes. 10-9 Moreno.

Second round and Figueiredo comes out harder than the first and just misses with a huge hook. Moreno transitions with some good strikes and then takes the back of Figueiredo. Figueiredo manages to turn to his back but the rest of the round is spent with Moreno on top dominating. 20-18.

Third round and Figueiredo still looks gun shy still. Moreno steps forward again and manages to secure a trip to put the fight on the ground. Moreno quickly transitions to the back, gets both hooks in and then locks in a body triangle. Figueiredo starts fighting the hands as Moreno moves to sink in a rear-naked choke. He switches grips, tightens it and Figueiredo taps! NEW CHAMPION!!

Israel Adesanya def Marvin Vettori via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x3)

Lots of nervous energy at the start of this fight. Low kicks from Adesanya and one immediately gets caught by Vettori who takes him down. Adesanya backs himself up against the cage and gets back to the feet very quickly. Adesanya presses the action and starts landing some big low kicks again, before defending another takedown attempt. Nice strikes and some good kicks. 10-9 Izzy.

Second round and Adesanya is very confident now. Still throwing lots of kicks and damaging the legs of Vettori and not being hesitant. Vettori steps forward but can’t get close enough and the kicks are really adding up now. Adesanya dominating on the feet, 20-18.

Third round and Vettori charges across the octagon and gets a big takedown. He transitions to the back and goes for the rear naked choke, and almost locks it up but Adesanya is able to spin into his guard and lands a nice elbow. He stands back up and spends the rest of the round piecing Vettori up with the leg attacks and right uppercut.

Fourth round and it’s more of the same from Adesanya, who is staying at distance and just completely dominant. Plenty of leg kicks again and some big right hands landing, while Vettori looks for a double jab into a takedown. Adesanya denies everything and keeps landing. Easy work so far. 40-36.

Final round and Vettori wants the takedown but he can’t get it. Adesanya is too strong and quick, landing heavy leg kicks and still looking for the uppercut. Vettori pushing for the takedown again but just stalling against the cage as Adesanya holds him up and denies it. Lots of tussling but more stalling and eventually they separate. Adesanya lands a head kick and some more right hands and this one is over. 50-45 Izzy, dominant performance.

UFC 263: Adesanya vs Vettori 2 – Main card predictions

Another blockbuster pay-per-view card is upon us as UFC 263 finally lands on our TV screens from Arizona as Israel Adesanya returns to the octagon to defend his middleweight championship against Marvin Vettori.

It’s a highly anticipated rematch at 185lbs after the two previously met in 2018, with Adesanya getting the nod in a split decision. But after defeat last time out at light heavyweight, Vettori now has the blueprint to victory and will look to execute it to become the new champion.

In the co-main event the flyweight title will be on the line as Deiveson Figueiredo takes on Brandon Moreno in their rematch from UFC 256. After the first fight ended in a draw, Figueiredo will be targeting an early finish in this one to put a stamp on his title reign.

We also have a historic fight on the main card, as Leon Edwards gets a chance to become a household name against Nate Diaz in the first ever non-title, five-round bout not headlining the card.

Last week at UFC Vegas 28 we went 7/11 with three perfect picks to move to 328/516 (63.57%) with 142 perfect picks (43.29%).

We’ll look to improve on that with these 14 fights, and after predicting the early prelims here and the rest of the prelims here, here are our main card picks.


Paul Craig (14-4-1) vs Jamahal Hill (8-0 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

An intriguing 205lbs bout between submission specialist Paul Craig and power puncher Jamahal Hill. Craig has won his last two in a row, submitting Gadzhimurad Antigulov at UFC Fight Island 3 before KO’ing Shogun Rua at UFC 255. Hill got a big knockout win over Ovince Saint-Preux at UFC 255 last time out to remain unbeaten.

This is a real style vs style fight, as Craig is a horrible striker with brilliant jiu-jitsu skills from his back while Hill is a man who can probably knock out anyone in the division right now. He’s got brilliant range, uses kicks, punches and pressure and his power holds up late on too and unless Craig pulls off something sneaky, this one just seems too much for him to overcome.
PICK – Jamahal Hill via Knockout, Round 2

Demian Maia (28-10) vs Belal Muhammad (18-3 1NC) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A passing of the guard at welterweight is on the cards here as 43-year-old Demian Maia takes on ‘Remember The Name’ Belal Muhammad. Maia got knocked out by Gilbert Burns in his last fight, while Muhammad got a win over Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 before his fight with Leon Edwards ended in a no-contest after an eye poke.

Maia is one of the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioners in UFC history, with 50% of his career wins coming via submission. Muhammad is a volume striker, who can mix in some good wrestling too to rack up top control for victories too. If he’s to win this one though, he will look to keep it on the feet. Muhammad’s pace is great and his striking is miles ahead of Maia’s, but the Brazilian’s chances of winning lie strictly on the mat. If he can’t get him there, which I don’t think he can, he has no hope barring a lucky punch.

Muhammad will push the pace, land volume and come away with the biggest win of his career to date.
PICK – Belal Muhammad via Decision

Leon Edwards (18-3 1NC) vs Nate Diaz (21-12) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

An absolute banger at welterweight as the number three ranked 170lber Edwards takes on the most popular man in MMA not named Conor McGregor in Nate Diaz. Edwards has won eight in a row, but his last bout ended in controversy with an eye-poke against Belal Muhammad ending in a no contest. Diaz on the other hand has lost two of his last three, but those fights in 2016 and 2019.

Edwards is a brilliant fighter capable of doing absolutely everything in MMA, with brilliant striking, wrestling and submissions in his arsenal. Diaz is a brilliant boxer with world class jiu-jitsu, but he is way past his prime at this point. Edwards is the better striker and better wrestler and while Diaz is absolutely crazily durable, he gets hit A LOT. Edwards throws lots of leg kicks too which Diaz will hate and with the fight almost certain to stay on the feet, it’s Edwards’ to lose.

A win here finally earns him a title shot while Diaz earns a lot of money and puts in warrior-like performances to maintain his popularity. Edwards is too good though and I expect at least one 10-8 round in his favour.
PICK – Leon Edwards via Decision

Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) vs Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A flyweight title fight rematch here as ‘Deus de Guerra’ defends his 125lbs crown against Brandon Moreno once again. Figueiredo had a magnificent 2020, defeating Joseph Benavidez twice including at UFC Fight Island 2 to win the belt. He then defended it against Alex Perez at UFC 255 winning by first-round submission before the draw with Moreno at UFC 256. Moreno also had a great year, beating Jussier Formiga before knocking out Brandon Royval at UFC 255 before the draw.

Figueiredo is the scariest flyweight ever, with ridiculous power and tremendous jiu-jitsu, winning 17 of his fights by stoppage with them all coming in the first two rounds. Moreno is a pressure fighter with great striking and brilliant wrestling but the first fight told us a lot. Figueiredo won that first fight without the points deduction that happened and it’s hard to see this going any other way. Fig will push forward and pick his shots more and with Moreno confident he’ll be coming forward too.

Ultimately, Figueiredo showed he can win over five rounds and if it doesn’t go the distance then there’s only one guy finishing this fight so it’s an #andStill moment for me.
PICK – Deiveson Figueiredo via Knockout, Round 2

Israel Adesanya (20-1) vs Marvin Vettori (17-4-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

The return of the ‘Last Style Bender’ following the first defeat of his career to the middleweight division as he takes on old foe Marvin Vettori for the 185lbs title. Adesanya beat Paulo Costa in his last fight at middleweight before defeat last time out at UFC 259 to Jan Blachowicz at light heavyweight. Vettori has won his last five-in-a-row including main events against Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland.

Adesanya is arguably the best pure striker in mixed martial arts today, with brilliant power in his hands and legs and an ability to shift angles and knock people out. He’s fast, mobile and incredibly intelligent but the hole in his game is his grappling. That’s where Vettori excels, with great wrestling and an ability to take people down and control them from top position. He’s a decent striker in his own right too, but he uses that to close the distance for takedowns.

Their first fight saw Adesanya able to get back to his feet but I think Vettori has got much better in that space of time when it comes to controlling opponents on the ground. It really is a fight of two styles and while Adesanya is the heavy favourite, there is something telling me that because the blueprint is there he may need to figure something new out to get back in the win column.

The cloak of invincibility is gone and I think there could be an upset on our hands here.
PICK – Marvin Vettori via Decision

UFC announce several high-profile bouts for second quarter of 2021

The UFC have announced a host of huge main event bouts for the remainder of the second quarter of 2021 as they look to return to normality following the COVID-19 pandemic.

After it was announced that the company would return to a full, sold-out, capacity crowd for UFC 261 on April 24th – headlined by Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal 2 for the welterweight title – they have looked to put together some mega fights and cards as we close out the first half of the year.

UFC 262 will also take place in front of a sold out arena on May 15th, with the vacant lightweight title on the line as Charles Oliveira takes on Michael Chandler in the main event. That card will also feature Leon Edwards taking on Nate Diaz in the first ever non-title five-round co-main event in UFC history, while Tony Ferguson will battle Beneil Dariush also.

Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno will then meet in their much anticipated rematch for the flyweight title at UFC 263 on June 12th before the big trilogy bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor at UFC 264 on July 10th.

With the pay-per-view main events set for the foreseeable future, the UFC have now announced some of their Fight Night main events and some other notable bouts too.

After UFC 261, former light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes returns to the octagon following his defeat at UFC 253 when he takes on Jiri Prochazka on May 1st in their main event bout. Prochazka made his UFC debut at UFC 251 with a stunning knockout win over Volkan Oezdemir to shoot himself into contention for the top five. This fight was originally scheduled for February but Reyes was forced to withdraw due to injury.

The bantamweight division will then see its next contender rise to the top of the rankings as Cory Sandhagen takes on returning former champion TJ Dillashaw in the main event on May 8th. Sandhagen impressively knocked out Marlon Moraes on Fight Island in October before flatlining Frankie Edgar in February and was expected to challenge for the title before the controversial finish to Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259.

These two will now battle it out for the number one contender spot, with Yan and Sterling certain to compete in a rematch later this year. Dillashaw makes his return to the octagon after serving a two-year suspension after admitting to injecting EPO ahead of his flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo in 2019.

The following weekend will see UFC 262, before a return to the bantamweights headlining as Cody Garbrandt takes on Rob Font in a battle of heavy hands. ‘No Love’ last fought at UFC 250 with a highlight reel knockout over Raphael Assuncao, before being scheduled to move down to 125lbs for a flyweight title fight against Figueiredo. Garbrandt was forced to withdraw with injury and ‘Deus da Guerra’ instead fought Alex Perez at UFC 255.

Font on the other hand made it three wins in a row when he took out Marlon Moraes in the first round of their bout at UFC Vegas 17 in the final card of 2020. A win for him will push him into the title picture too as he currently sits at number three in the rankings.

UFC 217 Weigh-ins : News Photo
TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt will both return to the octagon in May

Moving into June, at UFC 263 welterweight jiu-jitsu king Demian Maia will make his return to the octagon for the first time since being brutally knocked out by Gilbert Burns at UFC Brasilia last year – the first event to take place without fans due to the pandemic – when he takes on Belal Muhammad.

Muhammad stepped in on short notice to fight Leon Edwards last month but the fight was unfortunately cut short after an eye-poke from the Brit meant ‘Bully’ was unable to continue. He’s seemingly been rewarded for the short-notice step in though, as he’ll shoot up the rankings with a win as he takes on number eight Maia despite currently sitting at number 13.

The following Fight Night card on June 19th will be headlined by two top featherweights as the Korean Zombie returns to the cage to take on Dan ’50K’ Ige. Zombie was given a striking lesson in his last bout when he was dominated by Brian Ortega on Fight Island, while Ige bounced back from a defeat to Calvin Kattar last summer with a huge knockout win over Gavin Tucker at UFC Vegas 21 to live up to his nickname with a performance bonus.

Following on from that on June 26th, two heavyweight contenders will main event a Fight Night card as Alexander Volkov and Ciryl Gane meet in the octagon. Both giants have already picked up main event wins in 2021, with Volkov knocking out Alistair Overeem at UFC Vegas 18 before Gane dominated Jairzinho Rozenstruik to remain unbeaten at UFC Vegas 20 just a few weeks later.

With the top of the division currently at a standstill as Jon Jones and the UFC have a contract impasse and Derrick Lewis waiting on a decision to see if he will fight new champion Francis Ngannou next for the title, Volkov and Gane have chosen to stay busy and look improve their own situations in the running for a potential title shot in the future.

That fight will be backed up by a bantamweight banger between two of the most underrated fighters in the division as Raoni Barcelos takes on Timur Valiev. Barcelos returned after nearly a year away from the cage with a masterful performance against Khalid Taha at UFC Vegas 13 before seeing his next three bouts fall through for various reasons. He has won his last nine fights professionally and is 5-0 in the UFC.

Valiev earned himself a unanimous decision win over Martin Day at UFC Vegas 18, which followed a no-contest against Trevin Giles who failed a drug test following their bout at UFC Vegas 7. Valiev was knocked out in that fight but since it was overturned, he is officially unbeaten in eight bouts in a row.

Last but not least, the UFC also announced blockbuster welterweight co-main event for UFC 264 on July 10th when Gilbert Burns returns to the cage to take on Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.

Burns was on a tear at 170lbs and fought Usman for the title at UFC 258 in February, only to suffer a third round TKO loss to his former teammate. He’ll be taking on former title challenger Thompson who has won his last two fights in a row, defeating Vicente Luque and then Geoff Neal most recently at UFC Vegas 17 in December. Both men are looking to get back into the title picture as soon as possible and with Leon Edwards hoping that a win over Nate Diaz at UFC 262 can earn him a fight against the winner of Usman vs Masvidal later this year. A win for either of these two competitors in July could see them challenge next for the title, especially if they can do it impressively.