The UFC heads to Arizona for a huge pay-per-view card this weekend headlined by two massive title fights in the lightweight and strawweight divisions.
The main event will see Charles Oliveira defend his 155-pound title for the second time against Justin Gaethje, who looks to earn the belt at the second time of asking.
In the co-main event we’ll see Rose Namajunas defend her 115-pound title for the second time of her second stint as champion when she takes on Carla Esparza, reigniting a rivalry years in the making from the inaugural title fight in the division.
We’ll also see Michael Chandler fight against Tony Ferguson in a huge lightweight fight, as well as ‘Shogun’ Rua, Donald Cerrone, Randy Brown, Khaos Williams, Danny Roberts and more.
Blagov Ivanov (18-4) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (19-8-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight banger up next in the prelims between two vets. Ivanov has lost his last two fights via split decision to Derrick Lewis and Augusto Sakai, and this will be his first fight since May 2020. Lima on the other hand is on a two-fight win streak after claiming a decision win over Maurice Greene at UFC Vegas 26 before knocking out Ben Rothwell in just 32 seconds at UFC Vegas 42.
Ivanov is a grinding wrestler who has done excellently against power punchers in the past, despite results going against him in his last two fights. His chin is solid and he will look to take this fight down, but he must avoid an early blitz from Lima. Lima will step forward and wing absolute bombs on the feet trying to take his opponent’s head off, with low kicks to set them up and some decent defensive wrestling too.
This fight goes one of two ways. Either Lima gets an early KO win via his blitzes in the opening round, or Ivanov survives that and wrestles his way to a dominant win on the ground with control and relentless takedowns. I favour the Russian, despite his long layoff, because of the level of competition and power punchers he’s faced off with in the past. PICK – Blagoy Ivanov via Decision
Brandon Royval (13-6) vs Matt Schnell (15-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
One of the potential fights of the night in the flyweight division between two absolute killers. Royval snapped a two-fight losing streak last time out by earning a split decision win over Rogerio Bontorin at UFC Vegas 46, while Schnell saw a defeat to Bontorin at UFC 262 in his last bout overturned to a no contest.
Royval is a great all-round fighter with explosive power on the feet and excellent skill off his back and scrambles to get the fight back to the feet, but he has struggled against overpowering wrestlers in the past. Schnell on the other hand is also a well-rounded fighter who prefers the game on the ground to work for submissions, with his chin historically rather shaky in the past.
Royval will undoubtedly have the edge on the feet with his kill-or-be-killed style. He will pressure forward and has the edge on the striking, while he won’t fear the fight potentially hitting the ground. It’s a really tough fight to call, but I do slightly edge towards Royval. Both fighters are well matched everywhere, but the weight cut has affected Schnell negatively in the past and I just expect Royval to overwhelm him for a finish midway through. PICK – Brandon Royval via Knockout, Round 2
Macy Chiasson (8-2) vs Norma Dumont (7-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A woman’s featherweight fight with no title implications is rare, but we’ve got one here. Chiasson suffered a submission defeat against Raquel Pennington in her last bout after two wins in a row before that, while Dumont is on a three-fight win streak with decisions against Ashlee Evans-Smith, Felicia Spencer and most recently Aspen Ladd.
Chiasson is a solid fighter with good knockout power in her striking, good wrestling offensively but she does struggle defensively against grapplers. Dumont on the other hand is a superb grappler with great submissions, while her Muay Thai and boxing are enough to cause plenty of problems for anyone in the division. If she watched the tape on the Pennington vs Chiasson fight, Dumont will know she can essentially mirror that performance for a win.
Dumont has got a size advantage naturally in terms of this being her natural weight class, but she also has the boxing skills to work behind her jab and hurt Chiasson with her poor striking defence. Chiasson has the tools to win this fight, but she’s historically always struggled to reach her potential in fights and with Dumont on a wave of momentum and flying I expect a dominant decision win. PICK – Norma Dumont via Decision
Francisco Trinaldo (27-8) vs Danny Roberts (18-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fun one at welterweight between a veteran and a fan favourite. Trinaldo earned a split decision win over Dwight Grant last time out to make it four wins in five for the 43-year-old. Roberts on the other hand returned from a two-year layoff to earn a split decision win over Ramazan Emeev in his last bout back in October.
Trinaldo is a low-output striker who has good power and tends to grind out his opponents with grappling and wrestling skills. Roberts on the other hand is a good striker with dynamic and explosive power, but his grappling is essentially non-existent and that doesn’t help him against the experience of Trinaldo.
The Brazilian has all the tools to win this fight. He has got great strength and he has an ability to slow fights down to his own pace. Roberts has the speed and power edge, just, but that grappling availability makes me lean away from him. It’ll be close though. PICK – Francisco Trinaldo via Decision
Randy Brown (14-4) vs Khaos Williams (13-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute banger at welterweight in the featured prelim bout of the night. Brown has won his last two fights, submitting Oliveira with a one-armed rear-naked choke back at UFC 261 before a decision win over Jared Gooden last time out. Williams is on a two-fight win streak himself, earning a decision over Matthew Semelsberger at UFC Vegas 29 before knocking out Miguel Baeza in a banger at UFC Vegas 42.
Brown is a terrific striker who uses his length brilliantly and has nasty power, while his grappling is of a very good level too when he is able to take an opponents back especially. Williams is a very technical striker on the feet who has got one-punch KO power to put anyone in the division to sleep. This fight is incredibly close and both fighters are often underestimated, but there is an edge for Brown in this bout.
‘Rude Boy’ can use his length well and while he probably can’t match Williams for power, he can match his output and he uses his length and range really well. Williams has got power that lasts the full 15 minutes and his output stays high throughout. Both guys will want this fight standing more than on the ground which means Williams will have a chance for as long as the clock is ticking, but I do lean towards Brown using that range and output to earn a close decision win. PICK – Randy Brown via Decision
TJ Brown def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Brown as he lands his jab well and a hard calf kick too as he takes the centre. Rosa looking for some calf kicks of his own now, but Brown is landing his right hand really clean and crisp. Rosa lands a hard low kick that drops Brown, but Brown then catches the next kick, fires one of his own and then drags him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a guillotine but Brown scrambles back to his feet quickly and they go back to striking. Rosa’s low kicks having a big effect and forcing Brown to switch stances, but Brown’s strikes landing really well. Brown goes for a takedown again but Rosa is able to scramble with another guillotine attempt, but ends up on his back with Brown searching for a head-and-arm choke. Rosa defends well and then eats a few ground and pound shots to end the round. 10-9 Brown.
More of the same from both guys to start the second round as Brown takes the centre and applies pressure with his right hand, while Rosa throws out leg kicks and then gets taken down by Brown. Brown transitions to the back and looks to control the position but Rosa threatening with a guillotine again and then is able to scramble to top position. Rosa tries to take an arm but Brown is able to reverse and ends up on top himself again, then moves for a head-and-arm choke again. Rosa defends brilliantly then eats a big elbow from Brown after trying for a triangle. Rosa goes for an armbar and Brown manages to escape before going right back to top position. Rosa is looking for submissions constantly but Brown is a step ahead, defending and maintaining control. Brown takes the back and puts both hooks in but once again Rosa defends it and they see the round out exchanging strikes on the ground. 20-18 Brown.
Final round and Brown looking for more of the same, getting on the front foot and landing a big right hand before getting a takedown and slamming Rosa down early. Brown takes the back and starts working for a rear-naked choke but Rosa gets to his knees and gets back to his feet, before eventually being able to put Brown on his back and get top position. Brown works his way back to the feet and then forces Rosa down to the mat, before securing top position and landing some heavy elbows. Brown slides over into mount and looks for the head-and-arm choke again before Rosa gets to his knees and back to his feet. Brown goes for a takedown but Rosa works for a d’arce choke as we enter the final minute. Brown defends it well but Rosa isn’t giving up the neck. Brown gets to his feet and lands a one two before moving back into the same d’arce position to see the round out. Should be a Brown decision victory. 29-28.
Brian Kelleher def Kevin Croom via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Very fast start to the fight from Croom, with lots of forward pressure and blitzes using his size advantage to get the best of Kelleher early. Kelleher takes the centre now and Croom being very active, before a big right hook from Kelleher drops him! He gets straight back up and Kelleher goes for another, but misses and then gets hit with an accidental low blow to pause the action. Croom using his big reach advantage well for now, just pawing out the jab to create distance. Kelleher trying to mix up his attacks and goes for a takedown but Croom defends it before landing a hard low kick. Front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Croom keeps using his distance and just touching Kelleher up. Big spinning back fist lands from Kelleher before a left hook and a takedown to end the round on top. 10-9 Kelleher, just.
Croom opens up the round with a big one two that lands flush, but Kelleher eats it and keeps coming forward. Lots of volume from Croom in this round, but Kelleher is moving well and looking to counter. Nice body kick from Croom before a check-left hook from Kelleher lands too. Croom blitzes forward and gets Kelleher against the cage to clinch, using his size to wear Kelleher down. Big body shot from Kelleher, and then another, before he shoots for a takedown. Kelleher goes for a submission on the ground and looking to control the position, stopping Croom from getting back up. Big elbow lands from Kelleher, but he has a big cut above his eye after a knee landed from Croom as he went for the takedown. 19-19 for me, but could go either way.
Kelleher goes straight back to body work in the third round early on and then shoots in for a takedown to control early. Kelleher looking to take the back and secure a choke but Croom fights his way back up, only to be dragged back down immediately. Kelleher lands some ground and pound while transitioning ground positions, then lands a big knee and slams Croom back down as he tries to get back up. Kelleher completely dominating the grappling exchanges here and controlling the positions as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kelleher rolling with him and looking for a rear-naked choke but Croom fighting the hands. Heavy ground and pound from Kelleher to end the round in what could possibly be a 10-8 round, should seal him the fight. 29-28 for me.
Court McGee def Ramiz Brahimaj via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Great start to the fight for McGee, who is using his superior striking to his advantage to keep distance. Brahimaj clinches against the cage but McGee seems physically stronger and is able to turn him and get the fight down. Brahimaj defending a lot against the cage, but lands a strong knee to the gut of McGee before forcing a separation. Brahimaj takes th centre now and is striking well, but McGee keeping the pace high and landing the more significant strikes. McGee lands a huge right hand that drops Brahimaj just as the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 10-9 McGee.
McGee comes out early and lands a hard low kick and right hook that drops Brahimaj again, who gets up quickly and shoots for a takedown. Brahimaj gets it and starts looking to take his back, but McGee defends it and then is able to get a takedown of his own. Brahimaj gets back to the feet but McGee is just too physically strong for him right now and is wearing him down. McGee locks his hands and gets another takedown, but Brahimaj bounces back up quickly. McGee using his strength again to control, before shooting in for a takedown. Brahimaj defends and the two engage in a striking battle, but McGee is too strong again and clinches up to end the round again with another takedown. 20-18 McGee.
McGee steps over and goes immediately for another clinch and takedown situation, but Brahimaj is looking to defend it well and throws a nice knee to the body. He then drops down for a guillotine and it looks quite tight but McGee defends it and ends up dominant in top position. Brahimaj goes for another guillotine and wraps the neck up, but McGee stays calm and is able to pop his head out and push Brahimaj against the cage. Brahimaj tries to get back to his feet but McGee grinding him out and takes the back. McGee going for a rear-naked choke now, but Brahimaj turns to his back which allows McGee to move into mount. Brahimaj tries to scramble but gives up his back again and McGee dominantly rides him from position to position until the end of the round. Great win for McGee. 30-27.
Jamie Pickett def Joseph Holmes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight as both men look to take the centre of the cage and trade strikes. Holmes starting with a bit more intent, just missing with a head kick but then landing a nice straight right. Pickett blitzes forward with an attack of his own, but Holmes clinches up and uses his strength well against the cage. Holmes lands a nice right hand and then just misses with a head kick again, but Pickett clinching well to stifle the attack. Hard low kick from Holmes but Pickett gets a takedown to end the round. 10-9 Holmes, just.
Aggressive start to the round from Pickett as he comes forward with a hard front kick to the body and then a big left hand, before looking to get a takedown. Holmes looks more tired already but gets back to his feet and lands a hard right hand, but Pickett responds with a takedown attempt again. Strong body kick from Pickett lands, and now his left hand is landing well too. Holmes goes for a single leg takedown but Pickett defends it well in a clinch position. Pickett being very aggressive and coming forward hard with Holmes looking tired, but he responds with a nice slip left hand before they clinch again. Pickett explodes again as the round ends and should take that. 19-19.
Pickett being aggressive once again in this final round as Holmes throws a hard right hand. Pickett using his better conditioning and strength right now to stop Holmes’ momentum, but eats a body kick for his troubles when they separate from the clinch. Pickett lands a nice side kick as Holmes is looking for a big shot. Another clinch situation initiated by Pickett before a nice elbow from Holmes lands. A left hand stumbles Pickett again but then he goes for another clinch and just avoids a big elbow. Big high kick from Pickett lands well and the round comes to an end, with what should be a Pickett victory. 29-28.
Bill Algeo def Joanderson Brito via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Brito as he takes the centre, moves across the octagon and gets a body lock to look for a takedown. Algeo defends it well but eventually Brito gets it and takes the back while standing. Brito transitions around and picks Algeo up, then walks around the octagon for a few seconds before slamming him down and taking his back. Brito looking for a rear-naked choke but Algeo is defending well. Brito looking for the choke but Algeo turns into Brito and ends up reversing the position on top, looking for big ground and pound strikes. Brito looks to explode out and gets back to the feet quickly and goes back for another takedown. Brito lands a nice jab but then eats a big knee up the middle from Algeo, before shooting in for another takedown that gets defended to end the round. 10-9 Brito.
Brito coming forward with a blitz and walking Algeo down with big strikes, but then he eats a big right hand from Algeo that wobbles him. Brito immediately turns and goes back for the takedown, but Algeo defends it perfectly and lands a big knee from a front headlock position. Algeo lets him back up and lands a left hand on the break but Brito is just walking forward through the storm. Big one-twos from Brito snap Algeo’s head back and he looks hurt but once again Brito goes for a takedown and Algeo is able to stuff it and reverse position to end up on top. Algeo moves into side control but Brito gets back up. Algeo lands a big knee but then Brito fires back with a big right hand. Algeo clinches up to end the round, very close. 19-19.
Algeo opens the round with a nice one two, before Brito comes forward with a big blitz of strikes that land well. Brito continues to walk forward and do damage with big shots but Algeo timing him well with counters and clinching up to slow down the Brazilian’s momentum. Brito continues to walk forward constantly and goes for a spinning elbow, but Algeo slips it and showboats. Final minute and Brito is really pushing the pace but Algeo gets a big hip throw and ends up on top landing big elbows then takes the back. Algeo ends the round on the back and should take the victory in a great back and forth fight. 29-28 Algeo.
Viacheslav Borshchev def Dakota Bush via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)
Fast start to the fight for Bush as he stays at distance and throws lots of kicks early on. Big overhand right lands but Borshchev eats it. Borshchev steps in and lands a nice little blitz with a left hook, but Bush moves in for a takedown and gets it. Borshchev defends himself well down there and is able to stand up, but gets wobbled by a strike. Bush moves in for a big finish but Borshchev avoids and lands a big left hook counter. Bush gets another takedown and tries to take the back but Borshchev escapes and goes into the guard, landing heavy body shots from top position. He gets back up and backs Bush against the cage, slips a shot and lands a huge body blow that drops him!! Borshchev lands a few follow up shots but that’s that! What a knockout!
Katlyn Chookagian def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Chookagian starts the fight well with a big slip right hand that lands flush, while Maia looking to land some low kicks. Chookagian is really sitting down on her punches right now, landing well and maintaining distance well. Maia lands a big left hand and Chookagian gets a body lock and a takedown to sit in half guard on top position. Good shoulder pressure from Chookagian and she defends the sweep well before passing to side control, before laying down some shoulder strikes from the top. Chookagian tried to pass to mount but Maia bounces back up quickly, eats a knee and the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Aggressive start to the round from Maia as she steps forward and lands a hard right hand, but Chookagian slips a second attempt and gets another body lock to look for a takedown. Maia defends it well this time though and then they break, with Chookagian looking to control distance again with her jab. Maia leading with a low kick and doing well, but Chookagian bouncing and lands a nice right hook. Maia looks for a body lock this time and rushes Chookagian against the cage, but she defends it well and reverses the position to look for a trip herself. Maia lands a couple of right hands in the pocket, before Chookagian lands a big head kick and then a nice knee too but Maia continues to be aggressive and walk forward. Maia looks for an arm drag but Chookagian defends and ends up on Maia’s back with both hooks in looking for a choke to end the round. 20-18 Chookagian.
Maia coming out strong again in this final round but Chookagian using her teep kick brilliantly to maintain distance and landing her right hand and jab. Maia lands a big right hand but she’s just a step behind right now. Nice head kick from Maia, but Chookagian responds with a low kick. Lovely overhand right from Chookagian, followed by a clean one-two but Maia is still there. Nice right from Maia on the break from a clinch lands clean but Chookagian starting to take over with counters and jabs. Big right hand from Maia lands and then they exchange right hooks. Final 30 seconds and Chookagian looks super comfortable, then lands a huge one-two and a third on her way back to claim a big win. 30-27 Chookagian.
Explosive start to this one with Royval taking the centre and using speed, but Bontorin lands a hard low kick that drops Royval early. Royval throwing a lot of kicks, but Bontorin looking to counter with his flush right hand. Royval goes for a body kick that Bontorin catches and then lands a right hand as Royval spins. Bontorin transitions to a takedown and gets side control but Royval very good with scrambles and looks to get to his feet. Bontorin holds him there briefly but Royval eventually gets back up and goes back to being very active. Slip left hand from Royval lands clean, before another takedown from Bontorin. Royval staying active from his back as he tries to roll through and starts throwing elbows, before both get back to the feet to end the round. 10-9 Royval.
Quick start again as Bontorin throws a right hand that drops Royval and he goes straight into his guard. Royval trying to scramble with submissions but Bontorin stays calm and takes the back. Royval defends it expertly but Bontorin retains the control from top position and lands a big elbow. Royval climbs back to his feet as Bontorin goes back to striking and then drops him with a nice left hook. Royval straight back up though and looking to overwhelm Bontorin but Bontorin staying calm and looking for control. Royval trying to up the pressure but Bontorin gets a body lock and trip in the final seconds to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Royval lands a big knee and hook combo. Bontorin fires back with a huge right hand, left hook combo that lands flush but Royval’s chin is holding up. Bontorin is loading up on his punches and Royval is able to land a few softer shots. Bontorin lands a leg kick and Royval goes down, but Royval defending with his submissions and looking for a gogoplata. He transitions to an armbar and it looks like Bontorin taps (?!) but the referee doesn’t see it and then Bontorin escapes and the fight continues. Royval transitions and is able to sweep Bontorin to get on top as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hard elbows from the top for Royval but Bontorin firing back from the bottom with elbows of his own. Royval landing some huge elbows and the buzzer goes. 29-28 Royval for me but could easily go the other way too! Great fight.
Collier comes forward very aggressively in the opening minute, walking Sherman down and throwing hard right hands. Sherman looking to counter with right hooks but Collier doing well to avoid too much damage early. Collier storms forward and pushes Sherman to the mat. He moves straight into full mount and lands some big nasty elbows from the top that cut Sherman open. Sherman tries to kick off the cage but just puts himself in an awful position. Sherman rolls over to his belly and Sherman synches up a rear-naked choke and gets the tap for the victory. Impressive performance.
Two very hard low kicks from Chikadze open the fight up before a nice right hand behind them. Kattar takes the centre of the octagon trying to pressure him, but Chikadze with great footwork around the outside to stay off the cage. Chikadze lands two hard body kicks and a right hand then goes for another kick but loses his balance and Kattar charges for a takedown and secures top position. Kattar working to pass Chikadze’s guard but he’s defending well. Chikadze tries to get back up but Kattar drags him back down. A scramble sees Chikadze end up on top but Kattar reverses it to an arm triangle from the bottom and then secures the back with a body triangle to see out the round. 10-9 Kattar.
Hard body kick from Chikadze early on and he starts blitzing Kattar with hard punches and a variation of kicks again. Kattar switching stances to take the kick away from Chikadze. Kattar pressuring forward and landing hard strikes that have Chikadze looking a bit more tired. Big jab from Chikadze though and then Kattar continues to come forward and Chikadze is tired! Kattar lands a big right hand then shoots for a takedown but Chikadze defends it. Big knee from Kattar lands, followed by a left hook. Huge step-in elbow from Kattar and Chikadze is struggling. Kattar lands a big left hook and follows it with a body shot. Four big left hands from Chikadze land but Kattar responds with a huge right hand and a knee, then he secures a takedown and heavy right hands to end the round. What a round! 20-18 Kattar.
Kattar comes out with forward motion once again and is putting a pace on Chikadze, who’s trying to recover his cardio still. Elbow from Kattar lands and then a flush one-two straight down the middle lands. Kattar steps forward with his jab and is teeing off on Chikadze, who can’t get his hands up to block his head. Two low kicks from Chikadze and a left hand, before a big right cross. Kattar goes for a takedown but Chikadze just about stays up with a little help from the fence. Both guys are tired, but Kattar pushing forward still. Huge right elbow lands from Kattar and then they trade hooks to the chin. Chikadze lands a right hand that gets Kattar to cover up, but Chikadze swings wildly and misses big. Kattar continues with forward pressure to close the distance but then just misses with two big shots. Big spinning elbow from Kattar right on the buzzer. What a fight. 30-27 Kattar.
Kattar crowding Chikadze with forward pressure as he looks to stop the kicks, and he’s just picking the jab well. Chikadze is looking for kill shots now but he’s too tired to land, while Kattar continues to come forward with his jab and picking him apart. Huge elbow again from Kattar and then he shoots for a takedown, but Chikadze defends it brilliantly and lands some big strikes of his own. Chikadze lands a big right hand but Kattar comes forward with his jab and elbows. Head kick attempt from Chikadze but Kattar just keeps coming forward. Massive elbow from Kattar and the buzzer goes again. 40-36, this is a beating now.
Chikadze comes forward early throwing bombs in the final round. Kattar continues to walk forward and just jab him to death, and Chikadze just has no answer for the pressure. Two huge elbows land back-to-back from Kattar, but Chikadze’s chin holds up again! Another nasty elbow from Kattar as he starts throwing them instead of hooks. Chikadze lands a nice one-two before Kattar lands a spinning elbow. Kattar just constantly coming forward with elbows and straights. Chikadze backing up and getting pieced up as Kattar looks for a finish. Huge right hand lands on the chin but Chikadze is still standing. Chikadze throws a one-two and Kattar responds with another flush spinning elbow. Both guys swinging for the fences with 30 seconds left. Kattar starts throwing elbows and drops Chikadze right on the buzzer!! He follows up with a couple of shots, but that is an exclamation point on a stunning performance. Wow! 50-44 Kattar for me.
Bill Algeo (14-6) vs Joanderson Brito (12-2-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A potential fight of the night contender in the featherweight division. Algeo is coming off a defeat to Ricardo Ramos at UFC Vegas 27 in May, while Brito makes his UFC debut on a ten-fight win streak with the most recent coming on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August.
Algeo is the type of fighter whose sole game-plan is simply to hit you harder than you can hit him. Brito on the other hand is a huge power puncher with both hands and has great speed too, but can often be quite reckless defensively. Algeo has a big size advantage in this fight and has never been knocked out and while his record isn’t great, he has fought much better competition throughout his career. Algeo’s defensive grappling is pretty poor, which opens up a big opportunity for Brito to land his big double-leg takedowns.
For Brito, this is a big opportunity to make a name for himself in the USA and in the UFC. Algeo will do his part to make this exciting too, which likely won’t help him, and I expect Brito to close the show early and make a big impression. PICK – Joanderson Brito via Knockout, Round 2
Dakota Bush (8-3) vs Viacheslav Borshchev (5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Two exciting lightweight prospects in the UFC go head-to-head here. Bush is a stud who was beaten in his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 24 by Austin Hubbard via decision, while Borshchev makes his debut in this fight after an impressive KO win over Chris Duncan in Dana White’s Contender Series.
Bush is an athletic fighter who uses mobility and movement more than technique and power in his attacks, while Borshchev makes his debut as the head striking coach of Team Alpha Male which tells you exactly where his strengths lie. Bush is likely to try and use his four-inch reach advantage to his benefit by fighting on the outside and mixing in takedowns to test the defensive wrestling of Borshchev. That said though, ‘Slava Claus’ has worked with Team Alpha Male for long enough that I expect he’ll come good defensively.
The longer the fight goes, the harder it will be for Bush to get a takedown and even hold Borshchev down, who is very good at scrambling up to his feet. He will attack the body and eventually start to target the chin before claiming a highlight-reel knockout finish midway through the fight. PICK – Viacheslav Borshchev via Knockout, Round 2
Katlyn Chookagian (16-4) vs Jennifer Maia (19-7-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The big women’s fight for the card is a flyweight bout between two former title contenders at 125-pounds. Chookagian bounced back from a KO defeat to Jessica Andrade at UFC Fight Island 6, before decision wins over Cynthia Calvillo and Viviane Araujo most recently. Maia on the other hand bounced back from her title fight defeat with a decision win over Jessica Eye at UFC 264. These two fought previously, with Chookagian winning at UFC 244 via decision.
Chookagian is a very mobile kicker, with good karate skills and great fight IQ where she’s able to fight from range and constantly move in-and-out of distance. Maia on the other hand looks to use her Muay-Thai game to get into clinch range before looking for takedowns to work her excellent jiu-jitsu skills. Chookagian has got some underrated grappling skills, but if Maia can get this fight down then you can safely make the assumption the round or fight will end there.
Unfortunately for Maia though, her takedown ability isn’t great and she won’t get close enough to Chookagian to be able to use her clinch game. Chookagian will bounce around on the outside, using her kicks and blitzes and once again claim a decision victory to put herself back into title contention in the division. PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Brandon Royval (12-6) vs Rogerio Bontorin (17-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An absolute banger of a flyweight fight and another contender for fight of the night. Royval was on the verge of a title shot before he dislocated his shoulder and was beaten by Brandon Moreno at UFC 255, before getting submitted by Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Vegas 34 last time out too. Bontorin on the other hand bounced back from a KO defeat against Kai Kara-France at UFC 259 with a decision win over Matt Schnell last time out at UFC 262.
Royval is an excellent grappler with terrific scrambles and some lightning fast striking techniques too. Bontorin is more of a striker, who has good physical strength and some good grappling too despite his preference to trade punches. This is a very high level fight between two potential future title contenders.
Bontorin certainly has the striking edge on the feet and is a solid submission artist himself, but Royval is so active in all aspects of MMA. The issue with Royval though is that because he’s so unorthodox, it can somehow hurt him here. If Bontorin can get top position, he should use his strength to hold position. On the feet he is the more powerful, but Royval has great speed and his own grappling is great too so ultimately I think the activity of ‘Raw Dawg’ gets him a razor thin win. PICK – Brandon Royval via Decision
Jake Collier (12-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-8) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout takes the co-main event slot between relatively different big guys. Collier has alternated wins and losses since a win in 2014, with a defeat to Carlos Felipe last time out at UFC 263 via split decision. Sherman on the other hand has lost each of his last two via decision, losing to Andrei Arlovski and Parker Porter.
Collier is a former middleweight who still tries to fight like one, just with an added 80-pounds of weight. He has good leg kicks and often attempts a few spinning techniques to catch his opponents off guard. Sherman is a similar fighter but is a much more natural heavyweight. He loves a strong leg kick, but isn’t the best when it comes the checking them.
Collier is the faster fighter and technically probably the better one, but naturally Sherman is the bigger fighter so the power lands in his favour. It’s probably not going to be a very exciting fight , but Collier is due another win on his run so I’m going with him.. PICK – Jake Collier via Decision
Calvin Kattar (22-5) vs Giga Chikadze (14-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A beauty of a main event in the featherweight division, with the winner potentially entering title contention territory. Kattar had won two-in-a-row against Jeremy Stephens and Dan Ige at UFC Fight Island 1 before getting absolutely destroyed by Max Holloway at UFC Fight Island 7. Chikadze on the other hand is now 7-0 in the UFC and has won each of his last three via knockout against Jamey Simons at UFC Vegas 13, Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 25 and Edson Barboza at UFC Vegas 35.
Kattar is a terrific boxer, with a brilliant jab and brilliant power punches while trading from within a phone booth against his opponents. He likes to throw a few leg kicks here and there, but generally it’s to set up his power strikes. Chikadze on the other hand is a brilliant kickboxer with a trademark head kick and amazing power in his hands too. Both of these guys have got genuine knockout power and can hold a hard pace for a full fight. This is only Chikadze’s second five-round fight in the UFC, and he won the first in the third round.
Chikadze is riding an incredible wave of momentum right now and that is definitely affecting people’s perception of this fight. Kattar has got genuine skills and if he lands clean on Chikadze, I expect him to do a lot f damage. While his counter striking is better than Chikadze’s, he can’t get hit as much as he did by Holloway in this fight or he’s going to sleep. Chikadze is far more powerful and can use his kicks well to set everything up. This is due to be a magnificent fight of high level striking, and I lean ever so slightly towards Chikadze and I think he’ll get a stoppage. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Knockout, Round 4
The UFC returns after a two week break with two middleweights battling to get back into contention at the top of the rankings as Jared Cannonier takes on Kelvin Gastelum.
Originally supposed to be Paulo Costa, Gastelum stepped in to take over this bout and knows that a win for him can get him back in the conversation for a future title shot while Cannonier knows he’s just two big wins away from a title shot in all likelihood.
In a 12 fight card, it’s a card with a few sleeper fights and a killer main event so lets see how we do with our picks.
Last time out at UFC 265 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 383/600 (63.83%) with 169 perfect picks (44.13%). We’ll look to improve that here and after starting with the early prelims here and the rest of the prelim picks, here are the main card picks for the night.
Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) vs Brandon Royval (12-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Pantoja is a phenomenal striker, with brilliant combinations, kicks and hand speed at 125lbs. Royval is a very active striker too, with brilliant scrambles and hand speed himself. This is a fight that is undoubtedly between two top contenders and could go either way. Royval is a solid grappler too, with really good submissions all around the mat and eight submission wins in his career.
Unfortunately for Royval though, Pantoja has fantastic leg kicks and takedown defence as well as scary power for the division and I think overall he will be able to use his experience to earn a very entertaining win. PICK – Alexandre Pantoja via Decision
Vinc Pichel (13-2) vs Austin Hubbard (13-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight fight between a veteran and a newcomer in this one. Piche is 38-years-old and on a two-fight win streak, beating Roosevelt Roberts and then Jim Miller at UFC 252 in his last fight. Hubbard on the other hand is 29 and has alternated wins and losses in his last six, beating Dakota Bush last time out via decision.
Pichel has good stand up and good wrestling, but against the specialists in those departments he struggles. Physically he’s strong and he has decent cardio, but he doesn’t really excel in any level in particular. Hubbard on the other hand is a fighter who’s greatest attribute is his cardio, with good knees and strikes from range.
Hubbard is a good defensive wrestler and because of his cardio and attacks up the middle, Pichel may struggle to get his grappling game going and on the feet Hubbard has him beat. The longer the fight goes with Hubbard not on his back, the further he is able to pull away and earn a decision win. PICK – Austin Hubbard via Decision
Trevin Jones (13-6) vs Saidyokub Kakhromonov (8-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Jones is a powerful striker with genuine knockout power but also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, while Kakhromonov is a fantastic striker with good kicks and good enough wrestling to score a takedown over a Nurmagomedov relative. In a full camp, this would be an incredible fight but with Kakhromonov taking the fight on just four days notice this seems like a jump too far.
This is likely to be one of the best fights on the card but with both at a high level, but the lack of preparation time for Kakhromonov means I can’t go against Jones in this one. Remember the Kakhromonov name though. PICK – Trevin Jones via Decision
Parker Porter (11-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight banger as the impressive Sherman takes on Porter and looks to get back to winning ways. Porter is 1-1 in his last two fights, losing to Chris Daukaus before earning a decision over Josh Parisian last time out. Sherman on the other hand was on a four-fight win streak before stepping into the cage with former champ Andrei Arlovski in April where he was beaten by decision.
Porter is a typical heavyweight, who uses jabs and a big overhand to earn most of his victories but when that doesn’t work he looks low quality and poor. Sherman has tried to evolve his game more, throwing some leg kicks and good volume but his knockout power is excellent. He has 14 wins via knockout and has some decent footwork for a heavyweight.
Sherman will come out, bide his time, avoid the big strikes with good footwork and eventually land his big right hand to get back on the winning trail in this one. PICK – Chase Sherman via Knockout, Round 1
Clay Guida (36-17) vs Mark O Madsen (10-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fun lightweight fight is the co-main event of the night as veteran Clay Guida takes on undefeated Mark Madsen. Guida is 1-2 in his last three but beat Michael Johnson last time out at UFC Vegas 18 and will take on the Olympic silver medalist Madsen who hasn’t fought since UFC 248 pre-COVID.
Both these guys are wrestle heavy fighters, but the Olympic level wrestler is obviously the better of the two when it comes to that section of a fight. Guida is aggressive and storms forward constantly, throwing good strikes with not much power that Madsen will have to try and avoid. One advantage that Guida has though is his cardio. Despite being 364 years old, Guida never tires and Madsen has shown some cardio problems in the past.
With that said though, Madsen is a good enough wrestler that in both of their plan A’s he should be able to win at least two rounds to earn a decision win. PICK – Mark O. Madsen via Decision
Jared Cannonier (13-5) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-7) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Cannonier is a powerhouse with incredible one-punch knockout power and some violent leg kicks to go with it, while Gastelum is a solid boxer with good wrestling and a powerful left hand of his own to go with a granite chin. Cannonier has got scary power though and is capable of ending any fight at any moment and Gastelum isn’t exactly the most evasive when it comes to punches.
Gastelum has the option of using his wrestling to win rounds but Cannonier’s takedown defence is pretty good at 185lbs. He’s never been knocked out in his career and I think he has the better skillset to win rounds, so I’m going for an upset in the main event and Gastelum to earn a decision win. PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision
Sasha Palatnikov def Louis Cosce via Knockout, Round 3 (2:47)
What a round! Cosce comes out super aggressive but Palatnikov does well to use his kicks and attempt to slow him down. Palatnikov shoots for a takedown and Cosce defends well with a guillotine attack. Both men get to their feet and start swinging haymakers and Cosce catches a body kick attempt and starts throwing big punches. Palatnikov attempts a forward roll to escape but Cosce holds on and starts throwing haymakers again and he’s hurt him! Big punches go close to ending the fight but Palatnikov recovers and starts hurting Cosce back! Wild exchanges have both men hurt but Cosce is now exhausted! Spinning back first by Palatnikov lands flush as the round ends. 10-9 Palatnikov for me but could be either way.
Second round is much more composed by both fighters as Cosce is still trying to recover from an energy sapping opening round. Palatnikov throwing lots of combinations and landing big strikes, trying to put Cosce out but he’s showing real heart and determination to stick it out. A low blow from Cosce puts a pause in the action and allows Cosce a chance to recover but Palatnikov’s striking is giving him a big edge here. 20-18 Palatnikov.
Final round and Palatnikov comes out more calm and considered this time around, trying to stay away from the inevitable onslaught. Nice body kicks and a snapping jab while he continues to dominate the clinch with knees to the body. Another low blow from Cosce causes a pause in the action once again. Palatnikov comes out after the restart with a quick pace against the tired Cosce with more body attacks. A lazy takedown attempt from Cosce is defended well and then Palatnikov gets up to his feet and starts landing bombs on a downed Cosce! Cosce moving his head but not defending well and the referee steps in and ends it! What a win for Palatnikov!
Very tactical start to the fight between both guys with Daukaus looking to use his big frame to use his range well. A big left hand lands by Daukaus and the two end up clinching against the cage trying to apply their grappling game. Daukaus eventually gets a takedown after lots of 50/50 positions and a scramble sees them in an interesting position with their legs tangled on the ground at the end of the round. 10-9 Daukaus but interesting nonetheless.
Second round is much more of the same, with Daukaus dominating the striking exchanges but Stoltzfus holding his own in the grappling realm of the fight. An accidental low blow from Daukaus causes a brief pause in the fight. Daukaus using his jab and a big left hand well as the action resumes but they tie each other up against the cage and battle it out there for the remainder of the round. 20-18 Daukaus.
Final round and the pattern continues at the start of it as Daukaus goes for the big left hand before a clinch ensues against the cage. Daukaus stuffs the takedown attempt from Stoltzfus and lands some big shots while he’s down! He throws a few bombs and then stands up to force Stoltzfus back to his feet. More big shots with the left hand and he continues to deny the takedown attempts to completely dominate the round. He threatens with a guillotine and ends up trying to lock up a d’arce choke with 30 seconds to go but Stoltzfus survives until the bell. Impressive performance.
Alan Jouban def Jared Gooden via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very fun opening round between these two as Gooden looks to take Jouban’s head off with big hooks and Jouban responds with heavy left body kicks and some nice right check-hooks of his own. Jouban showing great head movement and footwork, mostly avoiding the big shots of Gooden. Gooden lands a big right hand and follows with an accidental headbutt that the referee misses and has caused Jouban’s eye to swell up. 10-9 Jouban.
Jouban comes out in the second round continuing to be aggressive and goes for the body kicks early but Gooden is throwing less haymakers and more pop shots. A nice right hand lands and wobbles Jouban but he stays calm and composed. Jouban starts to make a comeback with some big punches of his own and wobbles Gooden with a big right hook! Jouban goes for the kill but Gooden survives well as we head into the final round. 20-18 Jouban.
Final round and Gooden knows he is down on the scorecards, so he comes out very aggressively. He takes the centre of the cage and starts head hunting, landing left hooks on the closed eye of Jouban. Jouban still throwing big body kicks and doing well to avoid too much damage but Gooden continues to come forward. A big exchange of punches leads to Gooden shooting for a takedown and Jouban sinks in a guillotine as he hits the mat. 30 seconds to go and he hold the position but isn’t squeezing yet and then with 15 seconds to go, ramps up the pressure. A big squeeze almost puts Gooden out cold but the buzzer goes to save him a stoppage and it’ll go to the cards.
Nicolas Dalby def Daniel Rodriguez via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
A very intriguing opening round between these two fighters as Dalby takes a traditional wide-base stance and bounces around a lot early on. Rodriguez is looking to move in and land big punches but Dalby is switching stances and using his front leg well to keep distance. Dalby throws a big one-two that lands flush on Rodriguez and wobbles him but ‘D-Rod’ recovers very quickly. Head kick by Dalby lands too and he is doing really well to stay out of range. Rodriguez lands a nice left hand and starts chasing for the punches and ends the round well. 10-9 Dalby.
Much more aggressive start to the round for Rodriguez as he comes out, takes the centre and forces Dalby against the cage. Some nice jabs and straight lefts before a takedown attempt is defended well by Dalby. Dalby then shoots for a takedown of his own but Rodriguez defends well this time. Dalby misses with a few head kick attempts but starts landing some nice inside leg kicks. Another takedown attempt from Dalby forces Rodriguez against the cage but he defends well and the buzzer ends the round. 19-19 but very close round.
Slower final round as both guys come out clearly quite tired. Rodriguez is throwing single punches and leg kicks while Dalby is continuing with the game plan to dart in and out using kicks and jabs. There’s not much action other than that, but it’s Dalby who has the upper hand and probably wins the round. 29-28 overall to Dalby for me but it could go either way.
Antonina Shevchenko def Ariane Lipski via Knockout, Round 2 (4:33)
Both ladies come out and swing big punches early before clinching up. Lipski looks to block a throw attempt from Shevchenko and they end up against the cage once again. Both women throwing knees and elbows before Shevchenko lands a nice takedown against the fence. Lipski tries to sweep to take the back but Shevchenko does well to control the position and land some nice shots before the round ends. 10-9 Shevchenko.
Second round and Lipski looks to stand and strike and lands a big right hook to the eye that troubles Shevchenko immediately. Shevchenko forces a clinch and a trip and immediately ends up in top position where she remains for the remainder of the round. She lands ground and pound and passes guard with complete ease constantly. Lipski in real trouble as Shevchenko moves into full mount and starts absolutely smashing ground and pound strikes until the referee stops. What a performance.
Joaquin Buckley def Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 2 (0:18)
Buckley rushes across the octagon early and engages in a clinch as Wright does well to hold his own. Some big looping strikes land from Buckley but Wright is doing well to move his head off the centre line for the most part. Some nice kicks land and he’s popping his jab well. Buckley explodes with a big hook and lands! He drops Wright and Wright is in big trouble! Some big ground and pound shots but the bell saves him! Very, very lucky to see a second round. 10-9 Buckley.
Second round starts and Wright still looks rocked. Buckley lands two big left hands down the middle and then a big hook that knocks Wright out cold! What a performance and another highlight reel knockout.
Brandon Moreno def Brandon Royval via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)
What a round! Both guys come flying out of the traps with fast exchanges and strong strikes. Royval goes for a spinning elbow attack but Moreno avoids it and takes the back of Royval. He gets the fight down to the ground and looks to sink in a rear-naked choke but it turns into a nasty neck crank. It’s in tight but Royval refuses to tap and breaks the grip before escaping into full guard. A big scramble on the ground leads to a yell of pain from Royval and Moreno gets heavy on top and starts blasting him with ground and pound which forces the referee to stop the fight with a second to go in the round.
After the fight it’s spotted that Royval’s shoulder dislocated during the scramble, hence the lack of defence from the ground and pound.
Paul Craig def Mauricio Rua via Knockout, Round 2 (3:36)
Fast pace start to the fight as Shogun comes out with big shots and Craig looks to manage distance with a Muay-Thai stance and throws some nice kicks. Craig shoots for a takedown and gets it fairly easily to get the fight to the ground and proceeds to control with his excellent grappling. Shogun eventually reverses the position and ends up on top and the round ends with Craig looking to reverse. 10-9 Craig.
Second round and Craig is coming with a very wrestle-heavy approach. Shogun landing a few shots but Craig ducks and takes the fight down to the ground once again. Craig gets in double hooks as he takes the back and looks for submissions. Shogun defends the submission well but gets flattened out and Craig starts smashing him with big punches that forces the legend to tap to strikes. Great performance.
Katlyn Chookagian def Cynthia Calvillo via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
A very tactical start to this round as Chookagian looks to stay at range and use her jab and kicking game. Calvillo catches a kick and gets a takedown early but Chookagian gets right up to her feet. The rest of the round is a jab and kick test and while there isn’t much action everything happens in Chookagian’s comfort zone. 10-9 Chookagian.
Second round is more of the same as Chookagian is using her length well to just pop jabs off at Calvillo’s face. Calvillo lands a nice left hook twice that lands clean but she has a cut on her nose and some swelling under her eye from the jab. Excellent footwork from Chookagian who is just moving in and out of range at will and picking her shots. 20-18 Chookagian.
Final round and it’s more of the same from both fighters for the final five minutes. Chookagian continuing to just pick her off at will with superior striking and kickboxing skills. Calvillo goes for a clinch but Chookagian pushes her away with ease, showing a clear physical advantage. Not much action throughout the bout but should be a comfortable decision win for Chookagian.
Tim Means def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
A very intriguing opening round as Mike Perry shows off his grappling skills early on. Means lands a few nice jabs and Perry opts to shoot for the takedown against the cage. A nice body lock gets the fight down and Perry passes his guard and then eventually takes his back. Perry nice and calm on Means’ back and looks to sink in a rear-naked choke but Means fights it well and ends up on top before getting back to the feet. Means spends the rest of the round landing his jab at will but it’s a Perry round. 10-9.
Second round is more tactical from Means, who is using his jab well and much more aware of the takedown threat now. He’s starting to work the body more too but Perry is landing his right hook well too. Perry lands a huge right hand that wobbles Means but he looks to go for the takedown instead of more strikes and allows Means to recover. Big lead elbow by Means cracks Perry in the nose and they exchange more punches and elbows as the round comes to an end. 19-19, great fight.
Final round and Perry comes out looking to use his physical advantage to get another takedown. Means defends well against the cage and breaks away to land some nice punches. Calm approach from both suddenly disappears as the two start exchanging haymakers in the centre of the cage, both landing big hooks and crosses flush to the chin. Means shoots for a takedown to move the fight against the cage and break it up a bit. Final minute and Perry lands a big right hand before Means responds with an elbow. Both men end the round with another crazy exchange in the pocket. What a great fight!
Valentina Shevchenko def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
Interesting start to the round as both women exchange short flurries of strikes before Shevchenko gets hold of Maia and throws her to the mat, ending up in full guard. Maia ties up the guard as Shevchenko stays patient and lands some short shots and some elbows in ground and pound. Pretty chill round, 10-9 Shevchenko.
A very, very interesting second round as Maia controls the round. Another clinch but this time it’s Maia who controls the position against the cage and eventually she gets the takedown. She controls the position entirely for the round and gets in some offence too to take the second round for herself. 19-19.
Third round and Shevchenko opens up with two big left hands that land flush on Maia’s chin. Maia fires back with a right hand of her own and clinches against the cage. Shevchenko breaks away and then lands two more big shots that wobble Maia! They clinch up again and Shevchenko lands a heavy takedown and ends up in side control. Maia gets back up to her feet before one more takedown by Shevchenko as the round ends with ‘Bullet’ in top position. 29-28 Shevchenko.
Into the championship rounds and Shevchenko lands some big left hands once again. She throws a right hook, wraps in a body lock and takes the fight down to the ground again. She spends the entire round in top position landing strikes from the top, mainly to the body to take this round too. 39-37 Shevchenko.
Final round and Maia charges across the cage looking for a clinch early on to try and get a takedown. Shevchenko defends excellently and then lands a flurry of strikes that bust up the nose of the challenger. Maia tries again for a clinch but Shevchenko is defending perfectly now and landing big, heavy shots on the break. Into the final minute now and Maia lands a front kick to the face but Shevchenko eats it. Spinning back fist misses as the Maia goes for a final takedown attempt but the buzzer goes. 49-46 Shevchenko for me, pretty straight forward win.
Deiveson Figueiredo def Alex Perez via Submission, Round 1 (1:57)
A fast start to the fight as both men meet in the middle and throw big body kicks but miss. Perez moves in quickly and throws some nice shots but they all miss, then Figueiredo lands a body kick. Two big kicks from Perez and then he shoots for a single leg takedown, but Figueiredo keeps it standing. Perez tries to get the back but Figueiredo spirals around the leg and looks for a knee bar which leads to a scramble. Figueiredo turns on the ground mid-scramble and sinks in a deep guillotine and secures the tap! Wow! Figueiredo is the real deal.
Lets see if we can improve those numbers with this big card, starting with the prelims here.
Louis Cosce (7-0) vs Sasha Palatnikov (5-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An absolute powerhouse in the welterweight division in Louis Cosce makes his UFC debut after a successful appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series in August. He’ll take on Hong Kong’s first UFC fighter in Sasha Palatnikov, who makes his company debut also. Cosce has won four of his last five fights in 79 seconds or less and it’s hard to see this one going any way other than a quick knockout win. Palatnikov is a good wrestler with decent kicks but Cosce is arguably the better wrestler and has a big edge in power and technique on the feet. It may not be as quick, but my money is on it happening in the first round. PICK – Louis Cosce via Knockout, Round 1
Kyle Daukaus (9-1) vs Dustin Stoltzfus (13-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Kyle Daukaus makes a second appearance in the UFC following his short-notice defeat to Brendan Allen back in June, when he takes on debutant Dustin Stoltzfus. Both men are grappling experts with Daukaus claiming eight of his nine wins via submission, while Stoltzfus has five submissions of his own. On the feet, Daukaus has a slight boxing edge while Stoltzfus has the power advantage but this bout will almost certainly take place on the ground where I believe Daukaus takes the cake. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu and his takedowns are good enough to present him with the top position. Stoltzfus loves a guillotine choke which will often see him on his back and Daukaus should be able to move through the positions to secure a choke win for himself. PICK – Kyle Daukaus via Submission, Round 2
Alan Jouban (16-7) vs Jared Gooden (17-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super even bout between two experienced welterweights as Alan Jouban takes on Jared Gooden at 170lbs. Jouban has lost three of his last four and makes his return to the octagon for the first time since his defeat to Dwight Grant in April 2019. Gooden on the other hand makes his UFC debut on the back of three straight wins, including a TKO stoppage win back in July. Both guys are incredibly well rounded and open themselves up to a brawl, which will suit Jouban that little bit more. He’s got a slight edge everywhere for me, but Gooden has the youth factor and is a bit more explosive. ‘Nite Train’ is a good offensive wrestler, but defensively he struggles. Jouban is very capable of getting back to his feet if he gets taken down and he has the power to end the fight on the feet. Ultimately I think it goes the distance but don’t be shocked if someone gets put to sleep. PICK – Alan Jouban via Decision
Nicolas Dalby (18-4-1 1NC) vs Daniel Rodriguez (13-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A potential barn burner in the welterweight division as Daniel Rodriguez steps in on short notice looking to go 4-0 during 2020 to take on UFC veteran Nicolas Dalby. Rodriguez was supposed to fight Ryan Barbarena last week but after that fight fell through, he now comes in to replace Orion Cosce on a week’s notice. He currently sits on a nine-fight win streak including a KO win over Dwight Grant in August, while Dalby was beaten last time out after getting submitted by Jesse Ronson on Fight Island. Rodriguez has great power and Dalby has a habit of starting slowly, despite his obviously great skillset. If Dalby can avoid that, he has the technical edge in most places but I think Rodriguez could get it done early. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 1
Antonina Shevchenko (8-2) vs Ariane Lipski (13-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
There’s another Shevchenko family member on this card and it’s the older sister of the champion, as Antonina looks to bounce back from two losses in her last three against up and comer Ariane Lipski. ‘Pantera’ saw the unbeaten start to her career ended by Roxanne Modafferi in April 2019, before bouncing back with a win over Lucie Pudilova. She went back into the loss column in May of this year, being dominated by Katlyn Chookagian. Lipski is on a two-fight win streak including a win last time out against Luana Carolina on Fight Island. It’s a true striker bout, with both women awful at defending takedowns and more comfortable on their feet. It should be a banger but I think Lipski has the power advantage and better footwork to be able to continue her winning run. PICK – Ariane Lipski via Decision
Joaquin Buckley (11-3) vs Jordan Wright (11-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
The human highlight reel Joaquin Buckley returns following his incredible knockout win over Impa Kasanganay back in October. He takes on Jordan Wright, who looks to make it 2-0 in the UFC and maintain an unbeaten record in his career. Buckley is an absolutely powerhouse with excellent striking techniques and a great chin, while Wright is also a fine striker in his own right. Both guys possess fantastic power but Wright struggles when it comes to fighting off the back foot. Buckley is happy to take a shot on his way in and once he’s in the pocket he is violent and it won’t be long until he turns Wright’s lights out. PICK – Joaquin Buckley via Knockout, Round 1
Brandon Moreno (17-5-1) vs Brandon Royval (12-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
One of the best fights on the card for me as we could be potentially looking at the next contender for the title. Brandon Moreno has won his last two fights, outclassing Kai-Kara France and Jussier Formiga following a draw to Askar Askarov. Royval entered the UFC in May and has taken it by storm, beating Kai-Kara France and Tim Elliot using his aggressive submission skills. Both of these guys thrive in chaos with scrambles from takedowns while also holding their own on the feet which makes this arguably the most even fight on the card. Moreno has the edge in power and has performed well in scrambles before in previous fights but Royval’s unbelievable work-rate is something he hasn’t come up against before. Royval is so slick on the ground and so aggressive that it’s hard to see him letting the opportunity slide if he gets into a dominant position on the ground and I think he goes into 2021 as the next big thing in the flyweight division. PICK – Brandon Royval via Decision