After a banger of a pay-per-view card last weekend the UFC returns to their APEX in Las Vegas for a big light heavyweight headline fight card as Thiago Santos takes on Magomed Ankalaev in the main event.
The 205-pound division is wide open at the top end and a big win for either man could see them enter title contention in the very near future.
We’ll also see Marlon Moraes take on Song Yadong in a bantamweight co-main event, while the likes of Drew Dober, Terrance McKinney, Miranda Maverick and Alex Pereira competing too in a sneakily stacked card.
Last time out at UFC 272 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 557/865 (64.39%) with 238 perfect picks (42.73%) with our picks.
Alex Pereira (4-1) vs Bruno Silva (22-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Someone is going to sleep in this middleweight bout to open the main card. Alex Pereira made his UFC debut at UFC 269 and scored a huge flying knee knockout, while Bruno Silva is on a seven-fight win streak with KO’s in all of them including Wellington Turman at UFC Vegas 29, Andrew Sanchez at UFC Vegas 40 and Jordan Wright at UFC 269 too.
Pereira is a world class kickboxer who owns two victories over middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in his career, who has shifted to MMA to force another fight with him. His takedown defence has shown improvements, but is still a glaring weakness right now. Silva on the other hand is a brawler with dynamite in his hands, but he also has a solid ground game and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Someone is going to sleep. It’s that simple. Pereira is super technical and very proficient with his striking, only needing to land clean once to put your lights out, while Silva looks to make the fight wild before landing a clean strike and putting your lights out too. The grappling gives Silva a huge chance though, although I don’t expect he’ll show it much. He will look to take his head off and Pereira can kick from range and pick him off to earn a huge knockout scalp on his resume. PICK – Alex Pereira via Knockout, Round 1
Drew Dober (23-11) vs Terrance McKinney (12-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A super short-notice bout in the lightweight division up next. Drew Dober has lost his last two fights against elite competition, getting submitted by Islam Makhachev at UFC 259 before dropping a decision to Brad Riddell at UFC 263. McKinney has made a big splash since his UFC debut, where he score a 7-second KO against Matt Frevola at UFC 263 and then earned a big win over Fares Ziam at UFC Vegas 49 just a few weeks ago. He steps in on eight days’ notice.
Dober is a hugely talented wrestler, whose entire game is based around shooting and then controlling opponents on the ground before raining down ground and pound or submissions. McKinney is a strong wrestler himself but he has serious knockout power too and is riding a huge wave of momentum right now. That said, it’s a big step up in competition for ‘T Wrecks’.
Dober’s chin has survived damage in the past, but he has been submitted in the past four times. McKinney showed in his last bout that he has submission skills and solid wrestling, which makes this fight very close on paper too. It’s hard to get a proper read on McKinney right now though, because he’s had less than half a round in the cage to date. I won’t be shocked if McKinney wins, but it will be mightily impressive. I expect Dober to wrestle defensively and use his striking on the feet to earn a good win, especially with the short-notice aspect being in his favour. PICK – Drew Dober via Decision
Khalil Rountree Jr (10-5) vs Karl Roberson (9-4) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A fascinating bout at 205-pounds in this one between UFC stalwarts. Rountree Jr snapped a two-fight losing streak with a TKO win via leg kick against Modestas Bukauskas at UFC Vegas 36, while Roberson looks to snap his own losing streak after submission losses to Marvin Vettori at UFC Vegas 2 and Brendan Allen at UFC 261.
Rountree is a Muay-Thai fighter with incredible leg kicks and explosive power in his hands, with a largely improved and evolved game over the years. Roberson is a kickboxer outside of the cage, but for some reason when the door gets locked he starts looking to grapple a lot. This won’t be a grapple heavy affair though, with both guys looking to strike from range and use counters.
That favours Rountree though, because he is a fighter with much better output and volume as well as his leg kicking game being much more advanced. Both guys have the power to put the other out, but the likelihood is this will be quite a cagey affair and Rountree will be able to use his slight speed advantage to catch the judge’s eyes. PICK – Khalil Rountree Jr via Decision
Sodiq Yusuff (11-2) vs Alex Caceres (19-12) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Two very talented featherweights go head-to-head in this one. Yusuff saw a six-fight win streak snapped by Arnold Allen last time out at UFC Vegas 23, while Caceres is currently on a five-fight win streak with a submission against Seung Woo Choi at UFC Vegas 41 in his most recent outing.
Yusuff is a powerhouse of a striker who fights with great patience and composure, while Caceres is very unorthodox and has an ability to take the fight anywhere with good grappling skills and a karate style of striking. Yusuff is physically the bigger and stronger fighter, which means he will be full of confidence when it comes to the striking game as well as defending any takedowns.
Caceres is on a great run, but this is a bad match up for him. Caceres likes to use volume to get his range, but Yusuff will happily eat a pitter-patter strike to land a bomb and that’s what I expect he will do. He will press forward and force Caceres backwards, before landing some heavy strikes and either forcing a stoppage or earning a wide decision win. PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Decision
Marlon Moraes (23-9-1) vs Song Yadong (18-5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The best division in the UFC serves up yet another beautiful fight for the fans here. Moraes is on a rough run right now, with three losses in a row to Cory Sandhagen at UFC Fight Island 5, Rob Font at UFC Vegas 17 and Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 266. A controversial win over Jose Aldo is the only thing stopping him from a five-fight losing streak. Yadong on the other hand is one of the best young fighters in the company and is on a two-fight win streak after a decision against Casey Kenny at UFC 265 before a KO against Julio Arce at UFC Vegas 42.
Moraes is a world class striker, with incredible power in his high kicks and lightning fast striking in his hands. He has got huge problems with his cardio however and recently his chin has really let him down, with repetitive stoppages. Yadong is a terrific boxer with great speed and some good wrestling skills too, which he may need to use in order to gain a victory here. This has got fight of the night potential all over it.
If Yadong wants to secure the win, he needs to mix it up and drag the fight into the latter rounds. Moraes is a better striker and is incredibly well-rounded, but his cardio always drains away in every fight if he doesn’t get the finish early. Yadong is powerful enough to clip that chin of Moraes once again, especially if he’s tired, and earn himself a huge win that potentially ends Moraes’ run with the UFC. PICK – Song Yadong via Knockout, Round 2
Thiago Santos (22-9) vs Magomed Ankalaev (16-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A huge light heavyweight main event headlines this card with potential title implications. Santos has bounced back from three consecutive defeats to earn a decision win over Johnny Walker most recently at UFC Vegas 38, while Ankalaev is on a seven-fight win streak with his only defeat coming in the final second of his three-round fight with Paul Craig, where he was submitted. His most recent win came against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 267 via decision.
Santos is an excellent Muay-Thai fighter with ridiculous power in his punches, and a genuine ability to break your face. Ankalaev on the other hand is a very talented striker who also has grappling in his back pocket, but has patience and power in his strikes. Santos had both his knees ripped to shreds against Jon Jones and since coming back he’s been much more patient and less mobile, which doesn’t help him in this fight. He hasn’t lost his power, but he’s not as willing to stand and trade which may have been the key to winning this fight.
In a straight technique-for-technique clash with Ankalaev, he will lose. Ankalaev has speed, spinning attacks, a good variety to his strikes and enough power to put people out. Santos has a good chin but his lack of volume in recent fights worries me and that can allow Ankalaev to step in and pick him apart, while also not testing his cardio so he can waltz to a dominant decision win. PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Decision
Fast paced start to this fight as Robertson looks to take the centre and attempts a couple of takedowns early. Cachoeira defends them well and is starting to land some decent strikes on the feet, landing good jabs and starting to do damage. Robertson suddenly changes levels in the centre though and scores a nice takedown before looking to secure a kimura lock. She transitions into side control and then full mount and starts raining down huge elbows! Cachoeira is in danger and Robertson switches to the back and gets a choke in under the neck. Cachoeira tries to defend it by sticking her thumb in Robertson’s eye but she refuses to let it go and then gets the tap with one second left! What a performance!
Tony Kelley def Randy Costa via Knockout, Round 2 (2:15)
Very fast start from Kelley who steps forward immediately and starts chasing Costa across the cage looking to land big shots. Costa trying to weather the storm and countering with his jab, but Kelley continuing to come forward aggressively. Clinch against the cage and Kelley is trying to wear on Costa early, landing some nice knees but Costa seemingly the stronger fighter physically. Kelley switching stances as he throws his combinations and Costa is struggling to make reads, before they clinch up against the cage once again and tangle until the end of the round. 10-9 Kelley.
Another fast start from Kelley as he comes forward quickly again and starts the clinch battles again once again. Costa looks a little fatigued but he’s defending himself well and and staying in it. Costa starting to land his jabs well but Kelley closing the distance and making this fight ugly. Costa lands a nice kick and follows it up with a short right hand that hurts Kelley, but he clinches up quickly and starts defending. Kelley gets him in a Thai clinch and lands some big knees to the body and Costa drops to his knees! Kelley battering the body and thrashing elbows onto Costa who’s just trying to defend himself now. Kelley going for the finish and the referee steps in! What a performance from Kelley.
Ryan Hall def Darrick Minner via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-27)
Tactical start to the fight from both guys here as Minner lands a couple of leg kicks and misses wildly with some big strikes. Hall very patient and lands a nice body kick and then Hall shoots for the legs. Lots of transitions and rolling for submissions but Minner defending against the kneebars and heel hook attempts well. Minner gets back to the feet and lands a big right hand that cracks Hall who starts to retreat. Hall starts to go for a takedown again and ends up in top position landing some decent ground and pound to end the round. 10-9 either way, but I lean to Hall just.
Hall coming out more aggressive now as he starts swinging kicks, before Minner lands a nice right hand and gets a takedown as Hall goes for a leg. Minner in Hall’s full guard and looking for ground and pound, but Hall is looking to throw up an armbar or triangle submission. Minner stands up and slams Hall down to escape it and goes back for ground and pound. Hall throws up another triangle and it’s tight and he starts throwing big elbows from his back but Minner surviving. Hall looks to advance to a straight armbar but Minner denies it and then he rolls to an omoplata attempt and ends the round with ground and pound. 20-18 Hall.
Final round and Hall rolls under a punch and secures a triangle attempt immediately from his back. Minner defends it well but Hall then switches and is able to get on top. He advances to full mount and is in complete control here, looking for an arm triangle.
Erin Blanchfield def Miranda Maverick via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to the bout for Maverick as she steps forward aggressively and throws a few strong strikes. Maverick looks to step in with a right hand but Blanchfield ducks under and immediately has a body lock from the back. She maintains the lock and continuously forces Maverick to the ground with excellent wrestling. She moves to full guard and maintains position again, dragging Maverick to the mat every time she tries to get back to the feet. 10-9 Blanchfield.
Maverick starts up well with a little blitz but immediately Blanchfield is able to hip throw her and end up on top. Blanchfield quickly transitions to a crucifix position and starts blasting elbows down on Maverick, but she manages to just about escape as Blanchfield switches to an armbar attempt. Maverick just about defends but Blanchfield then goes for a kimura, but Maverick defends it well. Blanchfield switches to another armbar attempt but Maverick defends it by scissoring the head of her and the buzzer goes. 20-18.
Final round and Maverick is trying to go for a finish because she knows she needs it, but Blanchfield is landing well too. Clinch up against the cage and then Blanchfield catches a leg and moves straight into a takedown. She moves into top control and looks to dominate again and starts landing some big shots from mount. She controls the rest of the round from the top and claims a dominant decision win.
Andre Muniz def Eryk Anders via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:13)
Good start to the fight for Anders as he takes the centre and starts to throw powerful strikes early. Muniz does well and throws a nice calf kick before throwing a short left hook. Anders goes for a right hand again and Muniz ducks under and changes levels with a big takedown. Muniz looks to pass from side control straight into mount but Anders defends it well. Anders gets to his feet but Muniz has a body lock and drags him back down after a bit of back and forth and takes the back. He threatens with a choke and then switches to an armbar attempt and forces the tap from Anders. What a performance.
Bruno Silva def Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 1 (1:28)
Crazy start to this fight as Wright charges forward and looks to engage quickly with hard strikes. Wright continues to come forward and attack and he hurts Silva! They clinch up and Wright lands some big knees but Silva lands some big strikes too. They separate and Silva lands two huge blows and Wright is wobbled! Silva goes for the finish and drops him! Some huge shots and the referee steps in! What a KO by Silva!
Tai Tuivasa def Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 2 (0:26)
Slow and steady start so far with Tuivasa in the centre stalking Sakai, who’s throwing leg kicks and circling on the outside. Tuivasa goes for a nice combination and Sakai retreats, before they clinch up and Sakai lands a nice knee to the body. More knees to the body from Sakai as he holds Tuivasa close to him, before they separate and Tuivasa just misses with a big uppercut. Sakai landing heavy knees and hurting Tuivasa, but he then retaliates with a big right hand and forces Sakai to cover up before they clinch again to end the round. 10-9 Sakai, but Tuivasa looking dangerous too.
Second round and Tuivasa lands a huge left hook early and Sakai is rocked! Tuivasa steps forward and goes for the kill, landing huge hooks as Sakai tries to cover up. Another huge strike and Sakai is out coldddd! What a KO!
Dominick Cruz def Pedro Munhoz via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to this fight as both guys look to take the centre and trade leg kicks and movement. Munhoz throwing hard low kicks but Cruz making him miss big. Munhoz throwing bombs but only just missing and Cruz is doing well to land blitzes and flurries of strikes. Cruz goes for a big right hand and Munhoz lands first with a big left hand that drops him! Munhoz lands a huge left hook and goes for the finish but Cruz grabs a leg and somehow survives. He gets up and continues the pattern of the earlier fight. 10-9 Munhoz.
Second round and Munhoz coming forward again and looking for his big bombs. Cruz using his excellent footwork well again though and is using his speed brilliantly. Cruz throwing great combinations on the feet and Munhoz is eating shots, but there isn’t enough power in them to hurt him. Cruz throws a hard low kick that hurts Munhoz and continues to throw his strikes brilliantly. 19-19.
Final round and Cruz has definitely taken over now with his speed and footwork. Cruz has made his reads now and is landing his combinations well, but Munhoz is throwing powerful strikes back and just barely missing. Cruz lands a big one-two clean down the pipe and Munhoz is starting to back up a little. Munhoz lands some nice jabs but Cruz is too slick and is moving so well, throwing leg kicks and left hands. Cruz lands a big combo in the centre as the round comes to an end and that should be the comeback victory for him. 29-28 Cruz.
Josh Emmett def Dan Ige via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Nothing happens between these two in the opening minute and them Emmett explodes with a massive overhand right that drops Ige! Emmett goes down for a finish but Ige recovers quickly and starts to wrestle. Both guys scramble well and end up back to their feet where they separate. Ige taking the centre now and using his jab well and sees out the round relatively comfortably. 10-9 Emmett most likely for the knockdown, but could go either way in honesty.
Emmett comes out with a big right hand early once again but Ige takes it and continues to come forward. Good exchanges on the feet and Ige landing his jab well with movement and power. Emmett looking for one big shot but he keeps missing it. Ige replies with a big strikes and wobbles Emmett with a big left hook. He stays patient and Emmett eventually recovers. Ige staying so calm though and using that jab well again, circling on the outside and threatening then ending the round with a big right straight. 19-19, Ige round.
Final round and Ige takes the centre once again, looking to use that jab and counter with his left hook. Emmett still looking for the power right hand but Ige seems to have him scouted now. Emmett steps forward and throws a straight right down the middle and wobbles Ige but he recovers very quickly and circles out. Ige lands his jab over and over, but Emmett is being more aggressive and coming forward. Both guys are missing with big shots as we enter the final minute. Emmett ducks under a big head kick but then eats a big uppercut. Both guys throw a final flurry, but that’s a super tough fight to call. Great fight.
Sean O’Malley def Raulian Paiva via Knockout, Round 1 (4:42)
Composed start to this fight from both guys as Paiva looks for an early takedown attempt but O’Malley sidesteps him into the cage. Body kick grazes the cup of Paiva and causes a short pause in the action. Paiva throws a hard low kick that gets a reaction, before O’Malley steps in with a hard straight left hand. Paiva trying to apply pressure but O’Malley moving well and avoids a leg kick then lands two left jabs and a big right hand behind it. O’Malley steps well to his right and lands a huge right hand that wobbles Paiva! He stays composed and lands a beautiful combination that hurts him badly! Huge body shot and hook combo drops Paiva and the referee steps in, huge win for O’Malley! Amazing!
Kai Kara-France def Cody Garbrandt via Knockout, Round 1 (3:21)
Lots of range finding in the opening minute of this fight as Garbrandt finds himself with his back against the cage circling, throwing some loose kicks. Kara-France just misses with a big overhand right and then just avoids a big right-hook from Garbrandt. Kara-France lands a big right hand that flattens Garbrandt! A big follow up shot drops him again but Garbrandt retreats and eggs him on, but he’s clearly hurt! Kara-France staying patient and then he lands a stunning combination that ends with a massive uppercut and Garbrandt is out! Kara-France lands a couple of strikes before Herb Dean steps in, but that’s that! What a KO!
Geoff Neal def Santiago Ponzinibbio via Split Decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Steady start to the fight for Neal with plenty of bouncing on his toes and throwing his jab and some leg kicks, forcing Ponzinibbio backwards. Both guys trade leg kicks and are starting to try and hold their ground in the centre. Neal lands a nice high kick and the referee warns both fighters about having their fingers out. A few short strikes each but not much damage so far. Neal using his jab well and both guys exchange before an accidental low kick from Neal causes a pause. They get back to it and Ponzinibbio lands a huge one-two right on the buzzer to end the round. 10-9 Neal for me.
More active start to the round as Ponzinibbio comes forward with a hard low kick and some straight right hands. Big one-two from Ponzinibbio down the middle to counter Neal’s leg kick and then a short right hand from Neal lands too. Ponzinibbio changes levels and blasts a takedown before Neal sweeps him to get back to his feet nearly immediately. Hard left hand lands from Neal, but Ponzinibbio lands a nice left jab-right hand. Neal lands a hard right hand but then eats a big leg kick in return, before a one-two of his own down the middle into the final minute of the round. Neal lands a big shot and Ponzinibbio claims it was a finger but the referee says no. They stare at each other and then trade a couple of strikes before the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Ponzinibbio lands a right hand before Neal lands a left. More exchanges in the centre and Neal lands a hard right hook that wobbles Ponzinibbio but he recovers quickly and lands a hard low kick. Neal starting to come forward and throws his left hand before a left high kick that just misses. Right hand gets a reaction from Ponzinibbio again, but then he lands a hard low kick to get Neal to back up. Hard left hand from Neal lands but Ponzinibbio replies with a solid right hook himself. Hard low kick and Neal steps backwards, but then he counters another attempt with a right hand. Neal coming on strong with jabs but Ponzinibbio continues to come forward too. Neal lands a big three-punch combo with the left hand and Ponzinibbio is wobbled! Final 30 seconds and Ponzinibbio just misses with a right hand to end the fight. Good fight. 29-28 Neal for me.
Nunes opens up with a hard low kick that drops Pena immediately. Nunes lets her up and kicks the leg again, before Pena tries to throw a small flurry. Nunes throws a right hand that drops Pena and then she eventually drops on top of her looking to control on the ground. Nunes looks to transition to the back for a rear-naked choke but Pena just about defends it, before Nunes gets back to top position. Pena threatens with a kimura from the bottom but Nunes stays patient, defends it and sees the round out on top. 10-9 champ.
Nunes takes the centre and she starts looking for huge strikes early doors but Pena isn’t going anywhere. Pena is landing her jab at will and Nunes is getting hurt! Nunes trying to slug it out but she’s slow and looks exhausted already. Pena keeps coming and is smashing Nunes up! Big strikes from Pena and Nunes is rocked! Pena goes for a takedown and immediately goes to the back and locks up a choke! NUNES TAPS! NUNES TAPS! AND NEWWWW!!!
Charles Oliveira def Dustin Poirier via Submission (Rear-naked choke), Round 3 (1:02)
Fast paced start to the fight as Oliveira looks to take the centre and land body shots and his jab, but Poirier lands a right hand that knocks Oliveira off balance. Oliveira lands a big strike of his own and backs Poirier up and then he clinches looking for knees. Poirier getting kicked in the body and firing back with big combinations and drops Oliveira again. He lands a huge shot on the ground but Oliveira ties him up and then Poirier stands them up again immediately. Body work from Oliveira again is affecting Poirier and the rounds ends. Wow. 10-9 Poirier.
Huge start to the second round again as the frantic pace starts again and Oliveira immediately goes in for a takedown against the cage. He drags Poirier to the ground but as he tries to escape Oliveira takes the back. Poirier tries to escape but Oliveira holds his arm in place and illegally holds the glove before rolling into full guard. He lands some huge, thudding elbows as Poirier looks to defend off his back. Oliveira absolutely dominant with pressure and elbows but Poirier survives. 19-19.
Oliveira comes out fast once again and shoots in for a takedown and immediately transitions to a body lock from behind. He drags Poirier down and then jumps on to his back, sinking in hooks and looking for a standing rear-naked choke. Poirier defending the hands but Oliveira continues to switch the grips, sinks in the choke and forces the tap! Amazing!! What a fight!
Last time at UFC Vegas 44 we had a pretty good night with our picks, as we went 9/13 with five perfect picks to move to 491/765 (64.18%) with 207 perfect picks (42.16%).
We’ll look to improve on that here on this massive 15-fight card and after starting with the early prelims we move on to the rest of the prelims here.
Andre Muniz (21-4) vs Eryk Anders (14-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger at middleweight in this one as the jiu-jitsu master takes on the powerhouse. Muniz is on a seven-fight win streak, culminating with a nasty submission win over Jacare Souza at UFC 262 where he broke the legendary Brazilian’s arm. Anders earned a victory in his last outing with a decision over Darren Stewart at UFC 263, which saw him then leave the UFC.
Muniz is one of the most dangerous jiu-jitsu artists in the game and he will look to get this fight down to the mat to use it. He’s a half-decent striker too, which helps him set those takedowns up. Anders on the other hand is a good Muay-Thai fighter with good clinch work and power on the feet, while he also has a big edge in speed. Unfortunately for Anders, there is such a huge gap on the ground that it’s hard to see how he wins this.
Anders has good takedown defence, but it only takes one to give Muniz a huge window to victory. Anders’ cardio isn’t amazing and ultimately, Muniz should be able to drag him down and take the back before securing the submission once again. PICK – Andre Muniz via Submission, Round 2
Jordan Wright (12-1) vs Bruno Silva (21-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A kill or be killed bout at 185-pounds between two relative prospects. Wright has never seen the judge’s scorecards and after suffering the first defeat of his career to Joaquin Buckley at UFC 255, he bounced back against Jamie Pickett at UFC 262 with a first-round KO. Silva on the other hand is on a six-fight win streak with six finishes, including a big KO over Andrew Sanchez at UFC Vegas 40.
Wright is a talented kickboxer with excellent technique and good power too, while Silva is just a terrifying bulldozer of a striker who puts people out cold with 18 KO’s in 21 career wins. Wright has a decent wrestling background, but almost never uses it in the cage and getting into 50/50 exchanges with Silva is a recipe to go to sleep early.
Silva is likely to walk forward with pressure and with a huge advantage in power, cardio and experience this seems like a bit of a mismatch. Wright will try and likely land a couple of clean strikes, but eventually he gets clipped and finished off with some follow-ups to hand Silva yet another KO victory. PICK – Bruno Silva via Knockout, Round 2
Augusto Sakai (15-3-1) vs Tai Tuivasa (13-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The only heavyweight fight on the card up next between a ranked opponent and an unranked fan favourite. Sakai has been defeated in each of his last two fights, which were main events, against Alistair Overeem and then Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Vegas 28. Tuivasa returned from a slump to earn three knockout wins in a row, with the most recent coming against Greg Hardy at UFC 264.
Sakai is a good striker on the feet but he is also a decent wrestler with violent ground and pound attacks in his weaponary. Tuivasa is a straight up brawler with one-punch knockout power, more down the route of your traditional heavyweight fighter.
This won’t be the highest quality fight of the night, but there’s likely to be an early finish. The two will stand at range and trade leg kicks for a while before Tuivasa gets frustrated and looks to blitz him. If he lands a big shot after pushing Sakai against the cage, then this one is over. If Sakai goes against the grain and counters, he has the potential to end it early too. I lean towards Tuivasa simply because I expect him to be the guy on the front foot, meaning he’s more likely to land the big shot first. PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 1
Pedro Munhoz (19-6) vs Dominick Cruz (23-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Bantamweight banger up next as 135-pound royalty go head-to-head. Munhoz has lost three of his last four against elite competition, with decision losses to Aljamain Sterling, Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 7 and Jose Aldo at UFC 265 surrounding a win over Jimmie Rivera at UFC Vegas 20. Cruz on the other hand seems to have finally overcome his injury issues to secure a victory over Casey Kenney last time out at UFC 259.
Munhoz is one of the strongest leg kickers in the game with good striking power and very sharp grappling skills, while Cruz is a very good wrestler who uses his excellent footwork to dart in-and-out of range and land his strikes. This is a very intriguing match-up because technically Cruz is a superior fighter, but his lack of power means Munhoz is likely to be willing to walk him down and chop his legs with those trademark kicks.
Cruz has the technical advantages and stylistically should win, but Munhoz’s power with the leg kicks could be a huge game-changer. With that said, Cruz was able to keep his footwork going when Kenney attacked the legs and I think he’s fast enough to make Munhoz miss a lot to claim a decision win. PICK – Dominick Cruz via Decision
Josh Emmett (16-2) vs Dan Ige (15-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A banger at featherweight is the featured prelim bout. Emmett is on a three-fight win streak with his most recent coming in a fight of the year contender against Shane Burgos at UFC Vegas 3, while Ige is 1-2 in his last three with defeats against Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 1 and Korean Zombie at UFC Vegas 29 coming either side of a 22-second KO win over Gavin Tucker at UFC Vegas 21.
Emmett is a solid boxer with big one-punch power that is almost always the main part of his game plan to a fight. Ige is a very well-rounded fighter with solid wrestling and good punching power to go with his boxing skills. It’s that well-roundedness that leads me to think Ige has a big edge here. Emmett’s persistence in landing that big bomb could let him down, as Ige will look to change levels and secure top position.
With that said, Ige has struggled to land takedowns against top level opposition in the past so Emmett will find comfort in his takedown defence. Emmett is coming off a long lay-off though and unless he is at 100% then Ige is good enough to box-wrestle his way to a judge’s decision. PICK – Dan Ige via Decision
The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas once again for yet another fight night card, this time headlined by female featherweight Norma Dumont and short-notice replacement Aspen Ladd.
Ladd was pulled from UFC Vegas 38 just two weeks ago after missing the bantamweight limit by one pound, scrapping her fight with Macy Chiasson. But after Holly Holm pulled out of this card with an injury, the UFC called her in up a weight class to fill in for this main event.
Elsewhere on the card the legendary Jim Miller makes a return while two Contender Series alum in Jordan Wright and Julian Marquez meet in a fun middleweight scrap.
Last week at UFC Vegas 39, we went 6/9 with three perfect picks on a rather forgettable card to move us up to 434/679 (63.92%) with 187 perfect picks (43.09%) since June 2020.
We’ll look to improve on that record here and after starting with the early prelim bouts here, we move on to the prelims now.
Lupita Godinez (6-1) vs Luana Carolina (7-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A super short notice bout in the women’s flyweight division as Lupita Godinez makes it two fights in two weeks. Godinez defeated Silvana Gomez Juarez via first-round armbar at UFC Vegas 39 last weekend and steps up in place of Sijara Eubanks up a weight class in this one. Carolina earned a split decision win over Poliana Botelho at UFC Vegas 25 in her last outing.
Godinez is a pressure fighter with some decent boxing and a decent bit of grappling in her back pocket, using her gas tank as a weapon throughout her career. Carolina is a striker herself, but uses her range and length well which is where she will have an advantage here. She’ll also have a size and power advantage, being the natural flyweight in the fight.
Despite that though, Godinez has a great chance. She is riding a wave of momentum, has the better ground game and also has the bigger gas tank. If she can use her pressure to get on the inside, force Carolina backwards and mix in her wrestling I think she can claim a close decision win. PICK – Lupita Godinez via Decision
Danny Roberts (17-5) vs Ramazan Emeev (20-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight as Britain’s Danny Roberts makes a return after two years out to take on Ramazan Emeev. Roberts hasn’t fought since a brilliant KO win back in 2019 over Zelim Imadaev, while Emeev is on a two-fight win streak with a decision over David Zawada most recently at UFC Fight Island 7.
Roberts is a highlight reel of a fighter, who looks to take your head off with every strike and possesses good power and wrestling too. Emeev on the other hand is the opposite. A talented grappler who looks to take fights to the ground and controls position as a priority in his bouts. Roberts is usually at his best when fighting at range which will help him avoid takedowns, but if Emeev gets in on him then the fight is going down.
That’s a problem for Roberts. However, with Emeev prioritising position of submission it means Roberts will likely get the chance to land bombs on the feet again and in the third round, Emeev tends to tire. That’s a window of opportunity for him to land a knockout win, but it’s too small for me and Emeev should claim another decision. PICK – Ramazan Emeev via Decision
Andrew Sanchez (13-6) vs Bruno Silva (20-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Another banger but this time in the middleweight division as former TUF champion Andrew Sanchez takes on Brazil’s Bruno Silva. Sanchez is 1-2 in the UFC so far, with a win over Wellington Turman sandwiched in between defeats to Marvin Vettori and Makhmud Muradov most recently at UFC 257. Silva on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak but claimed a brilliant KO win over Turman in his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 29.
Sanchez is a top wrestler who is also a karate champion and a sound striker on the feet. Silva on the other hand is a powerful striker with 17 knockout wins in 20 career victories. He storms forward with reckless abandon and insane power, looking to force a war with his opponent to take their head off.
Silva has got the ability and strength to put anyone in the division’s lights out and while Sanchez could choose to not strike and just wrestle, he seems to favour his point striking recently which means Silva is putting him to sleep. PICK – Bruno Silva via Knockout, Round 2
Fast start to the fight from Procopio as she comes forward with some nice strikes before clinching up and using he strength and knees. O’Neill fires back with some fine combinations of her own, kneeing back in the clinch too and using her jab well. Procopio fires off some hard leg kicks and big right hands before clinching up again and pushing O’Neill against the cage. Lovely takedown from Procopio sees her on top with 90 seconds left but O’Neill is able to bounce back up very quickly and they start trading strikes again. Procopio using her strength to her advantage and pushing O’Neill against the cage again and the round ends with a scramble. 10-9 Procopio.
Another fast start to the second round but this time from O’Neill, as she marches forward with some good strikes and a knee before Procopio catches it and takes her down. Procopio tries to control position but O’Neill fires off some big elbows from the bottom which forces her to move and allows O’Neill to kick her off and get back up. O’Neill has picked up the pace well and Procopio struggling to cope. O’Neill takes Procopio down and lands some big elbows on the ground from side control, before grinding her elbow across the face of Procopio. Procopio tries to set up a submission from the bottom before a scramble sets up a heel hook attempt, but O’Neill stays heavy on top to defend and sees out the round with ground and pound. 19-19.
O’Neill comes out quickly again and lands some decent strikes before tripping Procopio and immediately transitioning to a crucifix position. O’Neill landing lots of ground and pound strikes but not much damage being done, although Procopio struggling to escape. She finally gets her arm free and O’Neill switches to take her back, then goes full mount and then takes her back again looking for a rear-naked choke. Procopio stands with O’Neill on her back but she locks up the choke and squeezes until Procopio drops unconscious! What a win for O’Neill!
Rick Glenn def Joaquim Silva via Knockout, Round 1 (0:37)
RICKY GLENN!! FIRST LEFT HAND OF THE FIGHT LANDS AND DROPS SILVA! He follows it up with some ground and pound and then drops Silva again and the referee ends it! What a knockout!
Interesting start in this one as Martinez steps forward straight into the pocket to close the distance and starts roughing Parisian up with some clinches and dirty boxing. Some big punches from Martinez against the cage and he lands a huge slicing elbow that cuts Parisian. Parisian fires back with a knee and then two big hooks, but Martinez closes the distance again and just misses with a one-two. Martinez landing some heavy punches, with three nice uppercuts in a clinch and Parisian is struggling.Parisian trying to fight behind a jab but Martinez slips it and counters with a huge overhand right that wobbles Parisian! They clinch up again and Martinez doing plenty of damage as the round ends. 10-9 Martinez.
Parisian takes a dominant position early in the second round, getting hold of Martinez and pushing him against the cage but Martinez is landing lots of strikes to the head to try and get him off. Parisian being very heavy and leaning on Martinez, throwing some nice knees to the body and then a big elbow to the head. More short strikes but Parisian lands an inadvertant knee to the groin to cause a pause in the action. Martinez takes the centre and puts Parisian against the cage now but he gets away and then lands a flush right hand to the chin. Another clinch and Parisian lands three big elbows in a row before they clinch again. Martinez tries to sink in a guillotine but Parisian rolls through and avoids as the round ends. 19-19, big final round incoming.
Final round and Martinez trying to push the pace again, landing a nice four punch flurry while forcing Parisian backwards. Parisian lands a nice left hook but Martinez fires back with a right overhand that connects and Parisian is wobbled! He lands three more strikes but Parisian ties him up and pushes him against the cage. Martinez forces himself off the cage and lands some more strikes but Parisian using his size to try and wear Martinez down again. Parisian looking for a takedown but Martinez denying it well against the cage and forces the break. Martinez comes forward again but Parisian throws a lazy kick to the groin and causes a break with a minute to go. Another clinch once we restart sees both guys throwing short strikes as the round ends. Close third round but I think Martinez should get the nod.
Khaos Williams def Matthew Semelsberger via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Very fast start to the fight as Williams explodes with a big punch that cracks Semelsberger right on the nose and wobbles him! Lots of blood coming from the nose as he looks to tie Williams up and recover. They eventually separate and both trade big right hooks, with Semelsberger landing nicely himself. Williams goes for a big combo after catching a kick but Semelsberger steps to the side then lands a big right hand himself to counter. Williams firing first but Semelsberger countering well, good round. 10-9 Khaos.
Early exchange from both guys as they trade powerful hooks but both miss narrowly. Semelsberger lands a flush one-two that stuns Williams but he’s okay. He comes forward again and lands a nice right hook of his own that sends Semelsberger backwards but Semelsberger now is starting to back Williams up more. Williams lands some nice leg kicks and then lands a nice counter right hook of his own as Semelsberger tries to shoot in first himself. Nice one-two again from Semelsberger and his own leg kicks are having an effect on Williams. Good charge across the cage with some wild hooks from Williams to end the round. 19-19 for me but could easily be 20-18 too.
Khaos takes the centre early on in this one and lands a few tight hooks, but Semelsberger is coming forward to try and be first now. Another leg kick gets a reaction, but Williams returns with two of his own. Beautiful combination lands from Williams that ends with a heavy left hook cutting Semelsberger over the eye, but he’s walking gingerly on his front leg now from the leg kicks. Semelsberger not throwing enough volume in this round as Williams lands two more big hooks, but Semelsberger counters with a right hook that just misses. Big right hand from Semelsberger then Williams responds with one of his own before they clinch and end the round. 29-28 Williams for me.
Virna Jandiroba def Kanako Murata via Doctor Stoppage (Arm Injury), Round 2 (5:00)
Fast start to the round from Jandiroba as she comes forward with some decent striking and catches Murata with some big one-twos. Jandiroba lands three big right hands and Murata is wobbled but she evades well and steps back. Murata closes the distance and clinches up and then Jandiroba looks to pull guard from against the cage. Murata slams her down and lands some heavy ground and pound strikes, but Jandiroba eats it and then throws up an armbar! It looks tight but Murata doesn’t tap and is able to step over and eventually get out of it, ending the round on top trying to land ground and pound. 10-9 Jandiroba.
Another good start to the round from Jandiroba as she starts throwing her big right hand early on once again. Murata is eating strikes and her left arm is clearly injured from the armbar in the first round, with Jandiroba landing a huge head kick. She follows it up with some big right hands too and Murata is defenceless at this point but still looking to fight back. 20-18.
The doctor looks at the arm between rounds and tells the referee immediately to wave it off, this one is over. Big win for Virna Jandiroba!
Nicolae Negumereanu def Aleksa Camur via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Good start early on for Camu as he lands a nice jab and is showing feints that Negumereanu is struggling to read. Two more jabs and a power right hand land too and Camur is doing well, then slips a left hand. Negumereanu finally lands a big left hand and Camur is staggered immediately, then starts turning up the pressure and lands big shots. Camur slowing down and getting hit a lot more and Negumereanu is growing into the fight. 10-9 Nicolae.
Second round and Negumereanu does really well with forward pressure and lands another nice left hand early. They clinch up against the cage and Negumereanu has the controlling position, but Camur defending himself well to keep the fight standing. Both fighters start trading hooks in the centre that land, then Negumereanu lands a big left hook before the round ends. 20-18 Nicolae but it’s close and Camur is still in it.
Final round and Negumereanu comes forward with good pressure and heavy strike attempts early on. Camur countering well but Negumereanu keeps coming forward and is really turning the pressure up. Nice jabs and Camur lands some shots of his own but Negumereanu’s chin is unreal right now. Camur goes for a takedown but it’s denied easily and then Negumereanu lands a big elbow and two left hands. Negumereanu puts Camur against the cage and holds him with strikes but gets an incredibly stern warning for holding the fence, when really he should have a point deducted at this point (he’s been warned countless times already). Final 30 seconds and they strike it out to the buzzer. Great fight but should be 30-27 Nicolae.
Matt Brown def Dhiego Lima via Knockout, Round 2 (3:02)
Slow start to this fight from both guys, with Brown taking the centre of the cage and faking for his shots while Lima throws some heavy calf kicks as usual. Nice body kick from Brown before a jab to the body as Lima throws another big calf kick. Lima slips Brown’s jab and hits two hard leg kicks before looking for a takedown, but Brown stuffs it. More hard leg kicks from Lima and while Brown looks for the jab neither guy really taking control. 10-9 Lima but this one is up in the air in reality.
Another close start to the round as Lima comes out early with leg kicks, while Brown moving gingerly already. Lima throws two leg kicks in a row and gets a reaction from Brown, but then he goes for a takedown and Brown stuffs it well. Lima using his strength advantage to get a clinch situation against the cage but Brown is stuffing them well. Lima goes for a right hand but Brown slips it and lands his own right hand straight down the middle and Lima faceplants!!! Oh my what a knockout!!! Matt Brown!!
Bruno Silva def Wellington Turman via Knockout, Round 1 (4:45)
Fast start from Turman who steps forward and goes straight for a takedown against the cage. After some back and forth, Turman is able to lift him and slam him down to the mat but Silva reverses the position and looks to control Turman against the cage. Turman uses a kimura grip to escape and he reverses and goes back to takedowns against the cage. Turman takes the back of Silva who’s standing and is looking for a rear-naked choke. Silva is able to shake him off and ends up in Turman’s guard, firing off big ground and pound strikes from top position. Silva lands a right hand then a left to the temple and Turman is out cold! Silva lands one more as the referee waves it off!! Huge win for Bruno Silva!
Seeungwoo Choi def Julian Erosa via Knockout, Round 1 (1:37)
Powerful start to the fight from Choi as he lands his big right hand on three separate occasions, but Erosa stays standing. Erosa fires back with a left hook but Choi lands another big strike and Erosa looks taken aback by his power. Choi slips, throws a right hand that just misses but follows with a big left hook that drops Erosa!! Choi jumps on with ground and pound and the referee waves it off! Huge win for Choi! Wow!
Marlon Vera def Davey Grant via Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-28, 30-26)
Nice start from both guys with lots of feelers and leg kicks getting thrown in the octagon early. Grant throwing plenty of volume, with high kicks, wheel kicks and some overhand rights but Vera blocking almost everything and taking the centre. Big leg kick misses from Vera and then Grant lands a nice left hook. Grant throws a body kick but Vera catches it and puts him on his back, but Grant makes his way back up to the feet but has a cut on his forehead. Nice leg kick from Grant again but Vera responds with one of his own. Nice right hand from Vera but then he follows that with some heavy leg kicks again and Grant is switching stance. Good round, could be 10-9 either way.
Vera takes the centre in the second round and starts throwing teep kicks to the body as well as leg kicks. Vera upping the pace a little and lands a nice left hook but Grant comes back with some hooks of his own. Thai clinch from Vera and he throws four big elbow to the face that open up a big cut on Grant’s head. Head kick from Grant before another elbow from Vera and a knee to the body. Clinch and Grant manages to throw Vera onto his back and ends up in top position. Vera looks for a triangle then tries to escape but Grant keeps him down and takes side control. Nice elbows from Grant but Vera rolls out of a guillotine attempt to end up on top and start raining down ground and pound to end the round. Another close one, I think that could be Vera’s though. 19-19.
Great start to the third round from Vera again as he presses forward, gets a takedown and locks up the back. He goes for a rear-naked choke but Grant escapes, then Vera moves into full mount with an arm-triangle. Again he escapes and they end up back on the feet, when Grant lands a huge left hook that staggers Vera! Vera blocks the next one and lands a lovely straight elbow to the head and starts attacking the body of Grant and he’s hurt. Vera trips him and gets on top again and lands another big elbow that hurts Grant, then a big body shot as Grant tries to get back to his feet. One minute to go and Grant looks for a kimura but Vera defending it very well and is able to escape it and get into full mount. Grant surviving and gives up his back but Vera sinks in a rear-naked choke! Grant refuses to tap and sees out the fight! What a fight, should be a Vera win.
Serghei Spivac def Aleksei Oleinik via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Encouraging start from Spivac as he is able to escape from an immediate clinch attempt from Oleinik before landing a really nice left hook. Spivac keeping his distance and lands a nice right hand again on his break, but Oleinik fires off a hard leg kick. Oleinik goes for a single leg takedown but Spivac defends it well and currently looks too strong for Oleinik. Nice overhand right lands from Oleinik but Spivac counters with a big uppercut too. Spivac right hook misses by inches and Oleinik goes to clinch again, but Spivac clinches and finally manages to get his back and drags him down to the ground. Less than a minute to go and Oleinik is looking for a head and arm choke but then he moves into full mount and goes for a scarf hold but the buzzer goes. 10-9 Oleinik.
Second round starts and Oleinik is walking Spivac down, but the pace is slow and the power is waivering on his punches. Spivac keeps moving and then Oleinik clinches and pulls guard, which allows Spivac to throw a few strikes on the ground. Oleinik looking to sweep from the bottom but Spivac starts throwing elbows. Oleinik starts looking for submission but Spivac is controlling the position with power and landing some nice elbows and ground strikes. Spivac goes for an anaconda choke but Oleinik escapes and rolls into full mount. He switches to the scarf hold again but once more, the buzzer goes. 19-19.
Oleinik is absolutely exhausted going into the final round and Spivac opens up with a big right hook that opens a cut on Oleinik’s head. He goes for a takedown again but Spivac denies it and then lands some big shots while Oleinik is on his knees, forcing him to get up quickly. Oleinik still walking forward and throwing his big overhand right before he goes for another takedown against the cage. Spivac ends up on top and starts throwing some short elbows. Less than a minute to go and Oleinik starts throwing strikes off his back but Spivac fires back from a more dominant position and sees the round out that way. 29-28 Spivac for me.
Korean Zombie def Dan Ige via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x2, 48-47)
Nice, competitive start as Jung takes the centre and throws a nice leg kick early, then follows up with a left straight. Ige throws a few leg kicks of his own then smashes a big body shot in range and then steps out. Ige goes for another big looping hook but Jung times it and shoots under it for a takedown. Zombie on top but Ige explodes out from under him and they both get back to the feet. Zombie lands a big right hand and smells blood but Ige retreats and seems okay now. Zombie lands some nice jabs and sees out the round. Close, but 10-9 Zombie.
Both guys trade leg kicks early in the second round, with Zombie using his reach to land first as it stands. Zombie landing jabs nicely and disguising the calf kicks well too, but Ige still trying to come forward too. Nice right hand from Zombie lands and Ige shoots for a takedown, but his defence is too good and he denies it. Heavy leg kick again from Zombie but Ige shows no reaction. Ige goes for another takedown but Zombie defends it and in a scramble ends up on Ige’s back looking for a rear-naked choke but the buzzer goes. 20-18 Zombie.
Ige comes out aggressive in the third but Zombie immediately flicks out the jab and ends up in top position after getting a takedown. Ige throwing big elbows from the bottom but the Zombie lands a big slicing elbow of his own. Zombie stacks him and lands a nice shot then takes the back of Ige and goes for a rear-naked choke but Ige fighting the hands and just about surviving. Zombie has a body triangle locked up and he’s throwing some good strikes but Ige looking to tie him up and prevent the submission. Zombie goes for a crank with ten seconds to go but no chance of getting it and the buzzer goes. 30-27 Zombie, dominant so far.
Tight fourth round now as Zombie is pumping out the jab and Ige is being far more aggressive. Zombie trying to counter strike while Ige looks for an opening and he lands a big right hand. He moves for a double jab then clinches up but Zombie just moves him away and resets. Big right hand from Ige again but Zombie eats it and lands a nice counter left-hook. Ige having a much better round this time but then throws a body kick and Zombie catches it, throws a straight right hand and then gets taken down with a minute left in the round. Zombie stacks Ige and lands a bit of ground and pound before the round ends. 39-37 Zombie.
Ige knows he needs a finish and comes forward aggressively early on, but Zombie looks very composed and calm just staying behind his jab. Ige throws a nice shot to the body and follows it with a left hook and it hits hard. Zombie didn’t like it so Ige does it twice more, then stuffs a Zombie takedown! Zombie lands a nice right hand counter but Ige goes to the body again. Another takedown attempt that Ige denies but Zombie lets the jab go again. Both guys trade body shots then Zombie lands a knee that hurts Ige and he’s able to drag him down and take his back with a body triangle again. Zombie just riding out the clock as Ige tries to escape but Zombie just too strong on the ground and sees out the clock for a big win. 49-46 Zombie.
The UFC returns to the APEX this weekend for a featherweight banger of a main event as ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chang Sung Jung takes on Dan Ige.
Both men have earned a reputation as one of the better guys at 145lbs but having previously lost to the best of the best, they want to prove they’re not nearly men by getting a win in this main event.
In this 12 fight card, you also have two heavyweights in the co-main event as Aleksei Oleinik takes on Serghei Spivac while Davey Grant takes a step up in competition to take on Marlon Vera at bantamweight.
Last week at UFC 263 we had an incredible night of picks, going 10/14 with NINE perfect picks to take us up to 338/530 (63.77%) with 151 perfect picks (44.67%). We’ll look to improve that record here and having started with the six prelim bouts here, here’s our main card picks.
Matt Brown (24-18) vs Dhiego Lima (17-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Brown is a top level wrestler but is now 40-years-old and his durability has really started to waiver as he’s got older. Lima on the other hand is a competent striker and grappler himself, but he’s just not a top level guy in any aspect. Brown will look to take Lima down, control from top position and land ground and pound but Lima has got good takedown defence and a range advantage too.
Lima has been rocked in the past but I think he’s big enough to take the strikes of Brown who isn’t close to what he once was and get himself a win. PICK – Dhiego Lima via Decision
Wellington Turman (16-4) vs Bruno Silva (19-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger of a fight in the middleweight division between the experienced youngster Wellington Turman and Bruno Silva. Turman has lost two of his last three, including a KO loss to Andrew Sanchez at UFC Vegas 6 while Silva returns from a two-year USADA suspension to make his long-awaited UFC debut on a four-fight win streak.
Silva is an absolute monster on the feet, with incredible power in his hands as his 16 knockout wins in his career show you. He has good cardio and steps forward with tremendous pressure to just suffocate opponents, forcing them into a war and eventually knocking them out. Turman is a jiu-jitsu expert with some okay striking to set up his takedowns, but fighting backwards is not something he is good at.
Silva will walk him backwards against the cage and swing his chin into oblivion to land a knockout win and a bonus for the night. PICK – Bruno Silva via Knockout, Round 1
Julian Erosa (25-9) vs Seungwoo Choi (9-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Erosa is a striker who can take plenty of damage and has good submission skills, while Choi is a really well-rounded fighter who switches up his attacks based on whatever his opponents weaknesses are. The problem is, Erosa doesn’t have many weaknesses. Yes he gets hit too much, but he has power himself and wild technique to catch opponents off guard. Choi is patient and able to mix it up well, but his best bet in this one will be on the feet.
Overall, I think Choi is too well-rounded for Erosa to exploit. His jab is good and he’ll be able to pick Erosa off over the course of 15 minutes while also mixing in his own takedowns and preventing Erosa’s. PICK – Seungwoo Choi via Decision
Marlon Vera (16-7-1) vs Davey Grant (13-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Vera is a good wrestler with some excellent striking in his repertoire, with heavy leg kicks a big part of his arsenal. Grant is a grappler naturally but has found out recently that he has dynamite in his left hook to earn back-to-back KO wins. Despite that though, there are levels between these two fighters. Vera has solid grappling himself and is definitely the better striker on the feet and I think the leg kicks will have a big say in the fight.
‘Chito’ will use his kicks and takedown defence to empty the gas tank of Grant and use some takedowns of his own to secure a fairly comfortable win for himself. PICK – Marlon Vera via Decision
Aleksei Oleinik (59-15-1) vs Serghei Spivak (12-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight clash of styles in the co-main event as the veteran Aleksei Oleinik takes on the up and coming Serghei Spivak. Oleinik has lost his last two-in-a-row, getting knocked out by Derrick Lewis at UFC Vegas 8 before getting knocked out by Chris Daukaus at UFC Vegas 19 earlier this year. Spivak has won his last two, earning a decision over Carlos Felipe before knocking out Jared Vanderaa.
Oleinik is a submission specialist, with 46 submission wins in his career. He is not a good striker and looks to close the distance to get hold of his opponent and take them to the ground to work his unorthodox submission game while Spivak likes to take his opponents down to beat them up and earn a submission of his own. But the striking gap between the two is very, very wide.
Spivak is good enough as a grappler to avoid submissions from Oleinik and with a size and strength advantage, Spivak should earn himself a stoppage as Oleinik’s gas tank empties out. PICK – Serghei Spivak via Knockout, Round 2
Korean Zombie (16-6) vs Dan Ige (15-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Zombie is a pressure fighter with crazy power in his strikes and some solid grappling skills on the mat, while Ige is more of a volume puncher with good wrestling to fall back on too. Ige’s got good boxing and skills but only four KO wins in his career tell you that Jung can walk forward to land his shots. Jung is physically stronger and also the bigger man and I feel that he has the speed and power edge too.
Overall, TKZ is still just better than Ige is. He has the edge everywhere and unless the beating that Ortega put on him has sent him into a shell of himself, Jung should pop him into oblivion to earn a wide decision win much like Kattar did. PICK – Korean Zombie via Decision
Elsewhere on the card Yan Xiaonan takes on Carla Esparza in the co-main event to potentially determine the next contender for Rose Namajunas’ strawweight title, while Jack Hermansson and Edmen Shahbazyan meet in their delayed middleweight scrap too.
Last week at UFC 262 we didn’t have the best of nights prediction wise, going 6/12 with two perfect picks to move up to 314/494 (63.56%) with 136 perfect picks (43.31%).
We’ll look to improve that here with this 13-fight card, and after picking the early prelims here we move onto the rest of the prelims now.
Bruno Silva (11-5-2) vs Victor Rodriguez (7-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Silva is a powerhouse at 125lbs, with great striking and some nasty body kicks to go with some great grappling skills. Rodriguez is highly rated because he has crazy knockout power, with all his wins coming via knockout. Aside from that, he doesn’t offer much in the way of beating Silva. ‘Bulldog’ has the advantage in speed, power, technique and experience, as well as having fought and beaten better competition more recently.
It seems a pretty one-sided fight where Rodriguez’s chances are landing the big shot first in a fire-fight, but I can’t see Silva not getting an impressive win. PICK – Bruno Silva via Knockout, Round 2
Court McGee (20-10) vs Claudio Silva (14-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Two veterans go toe to toe in the welterweight division as ‘The Crusher’ takes on ‘Hannibal’ in an intriguing fight. McGee has lost five of his last six, including his last three in a row to Dhiego Lima, Sean Brady and Carlos Condit. Silva on the other hand was on a 14-fight win streak which included the likes of Leon Edwards before he got beaten via decision by James Krause at UFC Fight Island 6 last October.
McGee’s best attributes are his physical gifts. He has brilliant cardio and a fantastic chin, with his wrestling getting set up by his striking in the clinch and ability to close the distance. Silva is a jiu-jitsu freak on the mat, with nine submission wins in his career which makes this fight a very interesting stylistic match up.
Both guys will want the fight on the ground, meaning the stand up will be extra important. McGee has that slight edge on the feet but I think Silva will be more likely to get the takedown at some point and his top control is so good he should be able to edge out a win. PICK – Claudio Silva via Decision
Ben Rothwell (38-13) vs Chris Barnett (21-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big banger at heavyweight as Ben Rothwell steps in on short notice to take on debutant ‘Huggy Bear’ Chris Barnett. Rothwell was beaten last time out by Marcin Tybura and was supposed to fight against Phillipe Lins just two weeks ago, while Barnett steps in on short notice himself to replace Askar Mozharov on a six-fight win streak.
Rothwell is the typical heavyweight, with a big overhand right and some okay cardio with a decent chin. Barnett is as far from that as you can get, with a Tae Kwon Do background, who throws spinning kicks and has incredible athleticism for a 5ft 9′ heavyweight. He also has brilliant power, with 16 knockout wins in his career and has never really had cardio issues despite what you’d think looking at his body type.
With that said, Rothwell’s recent performances haven’t been good and while he hasn’t been KO’d since his UFC debut back in 2009 I do think Barnett’s unorthodox approach could take everyone by surprise and he could make headlines with a big finish. Rothwell has the ability to make this boring and just suffocate Barnett with pressure to get a win himself, but I’m going with the more exciting option. PICK – Chris Barnett via Knockout, Round 1
Ricardo Ramos (14-3) vs Bill Algeo (14-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Ramos is a dynamic striker with the ability to achieve true violence both on the feet and on the mat with good submission skills too, while Algeo has got an attitude that is just that he can hit you harder than you can hit him. Algeo has so many defensive deficiencies on the feet that Ramos could pick him apart at range, but Algeo’s pressure is relentless and we’ve seen Ramos’ gas tank empty out in the past.
With that said, it’s hard to look beyond Ramos just using his technical qualities to out-land Algeo on the feet and trust his skills on the mat if the fight ends up down there too. PICK – Ricardo Ramos via Decision
** Gregor Gillespie vs Brad Riddell was cancelled on fight day due to COVID-19 protocols and will be rescheduled for a later date.**
** Julija Stoliarenko was withdrawn from her fight with Julia Avila on medical advice after fainting twice during the weigh-ins.**
THE CARD CONTINUES WITH TEN FIGHTS.
Bruno Silva def JP Buys via Knockout, Round 2 (2:56)
First shot of the fight is a kick from Silva that lands straight on the cup and the referee pauses the fight immediately. Silva throws a hard calf kick once they resume and follows it with a right hand, but Buys comes forward. Buys throws a punch and Silva tries to push him away but a thumb catches Buys in the eye and the referee pauses the fight again. Silva lands a stiff right hand once they restart again ad then Buys lands a nice left hand, before Silva hits a front kick to the body. Buys pulls guard as he closes the distance and starts working for submissions, but Silva very good from the top and lands some nice ground and pound while stifling the transitions. Buys manages to scramble back to his feet and then looks to lock in a kimura that Silva just about defends, but Buys gets himself in a more dominant position against the cage in a clinch. They separate and then Silva lands a big right uppercut that definitely gets Buys’ attention. Buys looks for a takedown as the round ends but it’s denied and Silva lands a spinning back fist that rocks him on the buzzer. 10-9 Silva.
Buys comes out more aggressive in the second round, throwing some head kicks and doubling his jab but he slips when throwing a kick and then Silva gets on top of him. Silva throws some nice strikes on the ground but Buys does well to get back to his feet well. He’s starting to hunt Silva who’s slowing down a bit, but Silva still has the power advantage. Buys lands a huge elbow as they break on the clinch and Silva is hurt. Both men start swinging and Silva lands a beautiful pull right-hand that drops Buys! He goes for the ground and pound and hurts Buys again but he’s able to get up and move away. Silva stalks him again and lands a big right hand again that drops Buys once more and the referee waves the fight off! Huge win for Silva!
Montel Jackson def Jesse Strader via Knockout, Round 1 (1:58)
Patient start from both fighters as they circle, trade jabs and feint. The two clinch up together in the centre and Strader lands some nice knees to the body but Jackson counters with a big right hand that drops Strader! He looks to land ground and pound but Strader gets back up and Jackson stays patient. Jackson continues to come forward and lands a nice left-right combo that drops Strader again and then he stands over him, lands some vicious ground and pound and the referee steps in to wave it off. Impressive win from Jackson!
Trevin Giles def Roman Dolidze via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Strong leg kicks to start the fight from Dolidze, as Giles stays calm in the middle and looks to work his way into striking range. Giles lands a nice head kick with speed, but Dolidze continues with the heavy calf kicks. Giles lands a nice, strong right hand before Dolidze throws a left and then a spinning-back fist with his right. Giles goes in for a punch but Dolidze changes levels perfectly and gets a takedown with relative ease. Giles works his way up to the feet but Dolidze keeps a body lock against the cage and throws plenty of knees to the body and to the thighs to see out the round. 10-9 Dolidze.
Giles comes out in the second round with a huge right hand to wobble Dolidze immediately, but Dolidze gets back to the low kicks. Giles is throwing heavy shots and lands a big left hook, overhand right. Big shots land from Giles again and then Dolidze changes levels and starts looking for a leg lock submission. Giles defends it by throwing some huge strikes to Dolidze’s face, but he’s still in danger. Dolidze finally lets go and they scramble back to the feet, with Dolidze getting another body lock and seeing out the round with knees to the thighs again. 19-19, all to fight for now.
Dolidze comes out in the third with some low kicks and a high kick, then a nice right hand. Giles threatening with his right hand and then thumps one down the pipe that drops Dolidze! Giles looks for a finish but Dolidze clinches up and then starts rolling for submissions and takedowns to recover and ends up on top. Giles works his way back to the feet with a minute to go and Dolidze’s nose is bleeding and causing him problems. Giles goes for a big right hand again and the two clinch against the cage, before Dolidze falls on top of him and sees out the round from top position. Very close fight, I edge it 29-28 to Dolidze.
Grant Dawson def Leonardo Santos via Knockout, Round 3 (4:59)
Nice fast paced start to the fight from both guys as Santos lands some nice low kicks and threatens with his right hand too. Dawson throws a couple of head kicks and starts faking the level change, throwing an overhand right behind it. One of those overhands lands clean and Santos’ legs go from under him, then Dawson goes straight in for a takedown against the cage. He tries to lift Santos but the Brazilian defends it well and they continue to battle against the cage. Santos with a beautiful outside trip and throw to end up on top, but Dawson works his way back to his feet quickly and gets back into a dominant position against the cage. The two continue their clinch battle until the end of the round. 10-9 Dawson for me, but only just. Could go either way.
Good start to the second round once again from both fighters, with both guys willing to stand in front of each other and exchange. Dawson lands a couple of solid right hands that get Santos’ attention, then the Brazilian throws a body kick that lands straight on the cup to cause a pause in the action. Dawson lands some nice leg kicks as the restart, but Santos backing him up against the cage and letting his hands go. Dawson changes levels and clinches up against the cage in a solid position, looking for the takedown but Santos defends well. Referee separates them for inactivity and Santos walks forward again, forcing Dawson to shoot. Santos sprawls and ends up taking the back of Dawson and landing some nice shots but Dawson gets back up to end the round. 20-18 Dawson for me but could well be 20-18 the other way or 19-19.
Final round and Dawson comes out looking for a knockout, with big hooks and trying to put some punches together. Dawson shoots in for a single-leg takedown but Santos defends it brilliantly. Dawson continues to push for a takedown in the clinch against the cage and eventually switches to the back and is able to lift and slam Santos down. Dawson sitting in half guard is firing some ground and pound out but Santos is blocking a lot of the strikes, so not much damage being done. Dawson continues to hold Santos down on the ground as we enter the final minute, landing some nice ground and pound strikes from the top. More pressure from Dawson who stands up in the final seconds and starts to thump Santos in the face and knocks him unconscious!! Oh my God what a finish!
Macy Chiasson def Marion Reneau via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Cagey start to the fight from both ladies, as Chiasson keeps her distance with Reneau looking to land some leg kicks early. Chiasson starting to come forward and lands a couple of nice jabs but still looking quite cagey. Reneau lands a nice left hand and follows that up with a quick flurry as she gets on the inside. Chiasson backs Reneau against the cage and swings a hook but Reneau using some nice footwork to escape. Nice left hand from Chiasson lands and then both ladies exchange a body kick each before they clinch up against the cage. Reneau lands a couple of nice knees then slips to the back to end the round on the attack. 10-9 Reneau.
Second round start and Chiasson being more aggressive from the jump. An exchange in the middle of the cage sees Chiasson land a big left hand that busts up Reneau’s nose immediately and forces her on the back foot. Chiasson throws a combo against the cage but Reneau does well to tie her up in a clinch to try and recover, but Chiasson starts throwing some nice shots to the face as they clinch up. Big elbow from Chiasson as they continue to battle for position in the clinch. Chiasson lands a body kick as they break from the clinch that hurts Reneau and she continues to come forward again looking for a finish. Reneau charges in but Chiasson slips and lands a nice one-two to the chin, then Reneau changes levels and shoots for the takedown. Chiasson battling off her back and attacks a leg lock, then uses it to sweep Reneau and end the round on top. 19-19, great round for Chiasson.
Fast start from both ladies to the final round as they both look for a potential finish. Chiasson doing well to maintain her distance and range on the feet, landing her straight punches but Reneau is doing her best to continue to be a threat. Reneau shoots in for a takedown against the cage and switches to the back, but Chiasson is able to fight it off and keep it on the feet. Reneau comes forward with punches as Chiasson uses her footwork to avoid damage, but Reneau battles for a clinch position against the cage. Reneau gets the fight down but Chiasson is able to get guard quickly and then get back to her feet well. They clinch up again and Chiasson is then able to get a takedown fo her own and starts looking for ground and pound to end the fight on top. 29-28 Chiasson for me.
Tai Tuivasa def Harry Hunsucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:49)
Fast start as Tuivasa comes out with some heavy low kicks that immediately make Hunsucker uncomfortable. Hunsucker lands a big right hand, then Tuivasa responds with a leg kick that makes him grimace in pain. Tuivasa lands a big right hook on the chin that drops him, follows it up with some ground and pound and that’s all she wrote. Big first round KO!
Adrian Yanez def Gustavo Lopez via Knockout, Round 3 (0:27)
Slow start from both guys as they throw out lots of feints and feelers early on to get their range. Lopez wings a wild overhand that just misses, as Yanez throws a calf kick while he looks to find his range. Yanez lands a lovely right hand as Lopez looks to close the distance, then snaps a straight right out there again that lands. Lopez throws a double jab that misses but then throws another one of those wild swings but this time it clips Yanez. Nice left straight and short right hook lands clean on Lopez that forces him backwards. Yanez starting to counter now and rocks Lopez with a lovely one-two down the pipe. Another lands and Lopez is hurt but Yanez stays patient and the round ends. 10-9 Yanez.
Yanez has taken control of the fight now as he stands in the centre and allows Lopez to circle on the outside, showing great patience. Yanez still looking for that one-two and it’s landing well once again. Yanez feinting then rips a beautiful shot that drops Yanez! He goes for the finish but Lopez looks to shoot to recover, but Yanez defends it perfectly. He goes for a flying knee that just misses then exchanges in the pocket with Lopez before easing back up once again. Great head kick from Yanez lands, before Lopez responds with a calf kick. Excellent round for Yanez. 20-18.
Lopez comes out in the third knowing he needs a finish and looks for a big swing. Yanez counters a jab with a pull right-hook that knocks Lopez out cold! What a knockout! Yanez is a star.
Very quick start to the fight as Buys and Ruiz meet in the middle, exchange a wild flurry before Ruiz gets hold of Buys against the cage. She uses her physicality to drag Buys to the ground in a scarf hold like grip and starts to throw rabbit punches from the top. Buys tries to escape with different transitions but the entire round plays out with Ruiz holding that position and throwing those short punches. Buys escapes with seconds remaining and tries to take the back, but too late. 10-9 Ruiz.
Second round and Buys comes out hard once again, landing a big flurry of punches and a head kick too. Ruiz threatening with a left-hand but Buys doing well to avoid, until Ruiz closes in for a clinch and looks for a takedown. She goes for the same position again, but Buys defends it for a second until Ruiz grabs the head and takes her down once more. Ruiz continues with the short rabbit punches and looks to isolate Buys’ arm between her legs but Buys is able to escape momentarily only to get thrown once again into the same position. Buys escapes quicker this time and ends the round in full mount raining down punches. 20-18 Ruiz.
Big right hand from Buys lands hard on Ruiz, who looks much slower and more tired in this final round. Buys is standing in the centre and trying to pick her shots, but not quite enough urgency yet from her considering she’s comfortably down in the fight. Buys throws a flurry of punches then a knee as Ruiz looks to clinch her. Big straight right hand from Buys lands and then Ruiz goes immediately for the head and arm throw and gets it first time. Buys is able to escape and take the back, then looks like she’s going for a calf slicer submission but Ruiz reverses the position and ends up on top to see out the round. 29-28, but it’s a clear Ruiz decision.
Max Griffin def Song Kenan via Knockout, Round 1 (2:20)
A few feelers to start the bout as they trade leg kicks and jabs before Griffin lands a right hook and then shoots in for a takedown. Song defends it well and is able to step away from the cage and throws a head kick that just misses. Griffin lands another strong calf kick that gets a reaction from Song, but he responds with a couple of heavy body kicks. Griffin steps forward with a right straight that wobbles him and knocks him off balance, then follows it up with a one-two that face plants Song! He lands one more shot before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Griffin, big knockout!
Derek Brunson def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (49-45, 49-46 x2)
Confident start from Holland as he comes out throwing kicks and trying to check his range and distance. Holland slips as he throws another kick though and Brunson launches onto him and takes top position immediately. Brunson landing big strikes from the top while Holland looks to swing round on his hips for a potential submission, but Brunson defends well and rains down more punches. Brunson is throwing elbows from the top but Holland is blocking the impact for the most part. Brunson goes for some more ground and pound and Holland escapes back up to his feet as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Brunson.
Brunson comes out meaning business and closes the distance quickly and early but Holland throws kicks and long strikes once again. Brunson goes for a trip but Holland denies the attempt and lands some huge punches that have got Brunson rocked! Holland goes for the kill but Brunson clinches up and then gets a trip to take the fight down to the mat and he controls the round from there, attempting a head and arm choke and landing some ground and pound. 20-18 Brunson.
Third round starts in a similar way, with Holland striking well and landing clean but Brunson’s wrestling is too good for him and he’s getting takedowns at will. He gets hold of him again and gets the trip to sit in the full guard, with Holland seemingly accepting bottom position and looking for strikes from his back. Brunson looks absolutely exhausted on top but Holland not really taking advantage of that as the clock winds down. Brunson throws some ground and pound but it’s really laboured and he remains on top for the remainder of the round. 30-27 Brunson.
Holland comes out a bit more serious than the previous three rounds and looks to land straight shots against a tired Brunson. A couple of straight rights land well from Holland, but Brunson keeps trying to grab hold of him to get the fight to the ground again. Holland falls into the clinch after landing a right hand and Brunson now gets a body lock and takes Holland down into top position. Ground and pound from Brunson as we enter the final minute but Holland tries to get up and Brunson does well to grab hold of him again against the cage and see out the round. 40-36 Brunson.
Final round and Holland knows he needs a finish. Holland goes for an axe-kick that just misses and lands some nice right hands before Brunson clinches up again. Holland throws a couple of knees in the clinch and then trips Brunson to end up on top! Holland throws some decent elbow strikes and some punches before Brunson kicks him off and then shoots in for an immediate takedown of his own which he gets. Short elbows and ground and pound from Brunson as he ends the round standing.
Elsewhere on the card, Gregor Gillespie makes his return to the cage for the first time since the vicious head-kick knockout against Kevin Lee back in 2019 at UFC 244, to take on the kickboxing mastermind in Brad Riddell in the co-main event.
Last week at UFC Vegas 21, it was a strange card that saw two no decisions meaning our picks got cut down to just 11. We went 6/11 on the night with four perfect picks, to take our total to 256/406 (63.05%) with 115 perfect picks (44.92%).
On a 12 fight card this week, lets see if we can improve that starting with the prelims here.
Julia Avila (8-2) vs Julija Stoliarenko (9-5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two women looking to get back into the win column in the women’s bantamweight division as ‘Raging Panda’ Julia Avila takes on former Invicta fighter Julija Stoliarenko. Avila started her UFC career with two wins against Pannie Kianzad and Gina Mazany in just 22 seconds, before losing to Sijara Eubanks at UFC Vegas 10. Stoliarenko was on a five fight win streak coming into her debut against Yana Kunitskaya at UFC Vegas 5, but lost a decision.
Avila is a wonderful stand-up fighter, who has good power in her hands and good takedown defence. With that said, Stoliarenko has a fantastic ground game which includes eight armbar submission wins in her career. If Stoliarenko is able to get the fight down to the ground then it’s highly unlikely the fight sees an end, despite Avila’s skills. While the fight is standing, Avila has the advantage and I think he’s overall skillset will help her to avoid the takedowns and outland Stoliarenko on the feet – but she will be a threat for the entire three rounds. PICK – Julia Avila via Decision
Bruno Silva (10-5-2) vs JP Buys (9-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An exciting UFC debut for South African prospect JP Buys as he takes on Bruno Silva, who looks to earn his first win in the organisation at the fourth attempt. Silva lost his first fight to Khalid Taha, but it was overturned to a no contest after a positive drug test, before losing to David Dvorak and Tagir Ulanbekov on Fight Island most recently. Buys is on a five-fight win streak coming into the UFC, including a submission win on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Both these guys are very solid wrestlers, with Buys arguably having the advantage there. With that said, Buys has struggled in the past with adversity and Silva loves to throw a calf kick. With his own strengths in wrestling Silva could provide good resistance to his takedowns and start to drain the cardio of the ‘Young Savage’. Despite that though, Buys does have the wrestling advantage and those kicks that Silva throws will open the takedown up for him and I expect he’ll be able to get the takedown and control for long stretches on top for a win. PICK – JP Buys via Decision
Montel Jackson (9-2) vs Jesse Strader (5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A banger at bantamweight as Jesse Strader makes his UFC debut against Montel Jackson. Strader comes into the company on a two-fight win streak having won four of his five fights by knockout and his only defeat coming to Marcelo Rojo who debuted last week. Jackson has five UFC bouts under his belt and a positive 3-2 record but lost his last scrap to Brett Johns on Fight Island back in July.
Strader is sure to be a fan-favourite, because he loves to walk forward and force opponents to stand and trade with him. He rips the body so well, is always in your face and just wears his opponents down with firrepower. Jackson on the other hand is a powerful striker too but has great wrestling and that is arguably his best path to victory. Jackson will look to put you on the ground and wear you out but he’s more than comfortable landing strikes too and considering Strader hasn’t fought since 2019 he should get a comfortable win. PICK – Montel Jackson via Decision
Trevin Giles (13-2) vs Roman Dolidze (8-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Dolidze is moving down to middleweight for this fight on short notice, which makes this all the more intriguing. He is a tremendous grappler, with super submission skills and really good control while also having some power in his hands with wild striking technique. Giles on the other hand is a bit of an all-rounder, but he doesn’t really stand out in any department. He’s struggled with good grapplers in the past and if Dolidze decides to go with a judo-heavy attack he will win this comfortably. If he doesn’t, Giles should have a striking advantage and a speed advantage but with such a hole in his grappling, the path to victory is right there for Dolidze. PICK – Roman Dolidze via Decision
Leonardo Santos (18-4-1) vs Grant Dawson (16-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very intriguing lightweight fight between the veteran Leonardo Santos as the hot prospect Grant Dawson. Santos hasn’t lost a fight since 2009 and is 7-0-1 in the UFC including a KO win over Kevin Lee back in 2015 and a decision win over Roman Bogatov at UFC 251. Dawson is Khabib-esque in his gameplan with grinding ground and pound and phenomenal wrestling. Dawson has won seven in a row, including four in the UFC with a decision win over Nad Narimani on Fight Island last year.
Santos is a power puncher with stunning submission skills, winning half of his fights by tap-out. Dawson is a violent wrestler who looks to pound you out after he gets the takedown, but he does sometimes get a little carried away with shooting straight in for takedowns. Santos has a huge right hand that can put Dawson’s lights out but at 41-years-old, his cardio isn’t what it used to be and if Dawson survives the early KO threat then it should be a walk in the park for ‘KGD’. PICK – Grant Dawson via Knockout, Round 3
Marion Reneau (9-6-1) vs Macy Chiasson (7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two women at the complete opposite ends of their career meet in the bantamweight division a couple of weeks later than originally scheduled. Reneau has lost her last three fights in a row, being well beaten by all of Cat Zingano, Yana Kunitskaya and Raquel Pennington at UFC Vegas 3. Chiasson is 4-1 in the UFC after winning the Ultimate Fighter then beating Gina Mazany, Sarah Moras and Shanna Young, with a loss to Lina Lansberg in the middle too.
Reneau is a jiu-jitsu murderer, but her wrestling is absolutely pants. She’s not the best striker in the world by any stretch but she can hold her own and will look to get the fight down quickly to work her submission game. Chiasson is a striker with very good clinch work and good wrestling and should be comfortable enough on the feet to out-land Reneau. With that said, she could go for the takedown to work from top position and so long as she doesn’t go wild and get caught, I expect her to win pretty easily. PICK – Macy Chiasson via Decision
It’s a full card this weekend with 13 fights scheduled so we’re going to split it into three once again and look to break down each fight and predict how they all go.
Last weekend we secured 7/11 correct picks with four perfect picks (winner, method, round) so we’ll look to carry on the good run with this card.
Bruno Silva (10-4-2) vs Tagir Ulanbekov (10-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
‘Bulldog’ Bruno Silva makes his third walk to the octagon looking for the first victory of his UFC career when he takes on Tagir Ulanbekov making his UFC debut from the Eagles MMA camp alongside Khabib Nurmagomedov. Much like the lightweight champion, Ulanbekov is a world class wrestler and grappler who’s style relies entirely on taking you down and smothering you on the mat. Silva is a great jiu-jitsu fighter but the likelihood is that he ends up on the bottom and suffers great pain for 15 minutes before a very one-sided decision. PICK – Tagir Ulanbekov via Unanimous Decision
Tracy Cortez (7-1) vs Stephanie Egger (5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very interesting fight in the women’s 135lbs ranks as Tracy Cortez looks to make it back-to-back wins in the UFC over debutant Stephanie Egger. Cortez is a pressure fighter who is very well-rounded in all aspects of the sport, while Egger is a renowned judo fighter who holds a win over Ronda Rousey in her judo career. She has since rounded out her skillset and is a blue belt in jiu-jitsu while also adding kicks and striking to her game. She’s the larger woman physically but Cortez is more skilled. She’s a good wrestler herself so is no stranger to the ground and to clinches. She’s not the strongest physically which is where Egger has the advantage but if Cortez uses her greater experience and can use her striking efficiently she should be able to claim a decision win. PICK – Tracy Cortez via Unanimous Decision
Giga Chikadze (10-2) vs Omar Morales (10-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fascinating scrap expected in the featherweight division when two fighters undefeated in the octagon face off with each other. Giga Chikadze has won three in a row in the UFC and five overall while Morales has never tasted defeat in his professional career and has won twice in the octagon previously. On the face of it, both men are stand up fighters who like to use their kicks from range and Chikadze for me is the better of the two when it comes to that type of fight. Despite that however, Morales showed some decent wrestling chops in his last fight and that could be a more than viable plan B. Morales is the bigger man, moving down from lightweight for this fight and Chikadze has struggled convincing judges unanimously so far with two out of three split decisions. Overall, if Morales’ weight cut doesn’t effect him too much he could pull off the upset but I think Chikadze will do just enough to scrape another close decision. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Unanimous Decision