The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas for a featherweight clash in the main event between Calvin Kattar and Arnold Allen in a potential title eliminator.
Both guys are coming off great wins last time out and will be hoping to put their case forward for a shot against Alex Volkanovski in 2023.
There’s a pretty good undercard to go off too in comparison to recent weeks, so it’s a good set of fights to look forward to.
Last time out at UFC 280 we went 8/12 with four perfect picks to move to 749/1166 (64.58%) with 317 perfect picks (42.1%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Christian Rodriguez (7-1) vs Joshua Weems (10-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An interesting bantamweight fight opens the card here. Rodriguez made his UFC debut back in February but was on the wrong side of a decision against Jonathan Pearce, while Weems makes his promotional debut in this one on a two-fight win streak via submissions.
Weems is a terrific grappler with a fantastic submission game, but he almost never uses it offensively and instead waits for his opponents to try and take him down before latching onto their neck or arm. He’s a brawler outside of that and it always makes for exciting bouts. Rodriguez on the other hand is a more steady boxer with good combinations and a decent low kick too, while his defensive grappling and offensive wrestling are decent too.
Both of these guys are unlikely to pull up any trees in the UFC any time soon, but Rodriguez certainly has more to his game. Weems is likely to come in as usual quite aggressively, and I expect Rodriguez to deal with that relatively easily with his jab and footwork. He’s got decent finishing power and with a really short-notice build for this for Weems, he could secure a late finish if he stays sharp and focus throughout.
PICK – Christian Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 2
Cody Durden (13-4-1) vs Carlos Mota (8-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Flyweights going at it next in a fun bout. Durden was submitted by Muhammad Mokaev in just 58 seconds back in March, but rebounded from that with a 68 second knockout win over JP Buys in June most recently. Mota makes his UFC debut in this one having won his last two in a row via first-round knockouts.
Durden is an excellent wrestler with great top control and some nasty ground and pound to go with it, while his improvements in the striking department are noted too. Mota is a super aggressive and brilliant striker with a phenomenal body attack and great power that has earned him four knockout wins in his career to date. The longer this stays standing it will suit the Brazilian, and Durden has got a habit of fading as we get later into the fight.
With that said though, Durden’s wrestling and experience at this level should be enough to win at least two rounds. Mota is a good scrambler but Durden doesn’t often need multiple takedowns to gain control, but he has it in his toolbox to do that. I expect him to win both the first two rounds with his wrestling and top game, before surviving a late comeback from Mota to earn the decision win.
PICK – Cody Durden via Decision
Chase Hooper (11-2-1) vs Steve Garcia (12-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Another fun bout this time in the featherweight division to close out this portion of the card. Hooper was super highly rated in the UFC but is now 2-2 in his last four, alternating losses to Alex Caceres (UFC 250) and Steven Peterson (UFC 263) with wins over Peter Barrett (UFC 256) and Felipe Colares most recently. Garcia on the other hand is 1-2 in the UFC, losing to Luis Pena, before beating Charlie Ontiveros and then losing most recently to Maheshate at UFC 275 in the first round.
Hooper is a grappling wizard on the ground with supreme technical skills in jiu-jitsu, who leaves a lot to be desired in the realm of striking on the feet. Garcia on the other hand is a striker who relies a lot on his power, but often overthrows and finds himself in trouble as he isn’t the most durable man on the roster. With that said, Hooper will be licking his lips at this match-making.
Garcia really struggles to control distance on the feet and if he gets too close and allows Hooper to grab him, this will likely end up on the mat. There he is basically in the ocean with a shark, as Hooper will control him relatively easily and likely cave his head in until the referee steps in to call it a day.
PICK – Chase Hooper via Knockout, Round 2