The UFC returns from a two week break to make history with the companies first ever card from Paris, France.
The historic card is headlined by hometown heavyweight favourite Ciryl Gane, as he takes on fan favourite and knockout artist Tai Tuivasa in the main event.
The co-main will also see two world class middleweight contenders go head-to-head too as Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori clash in a potential title eliminator.
Last time out at UFC 278 we saw an amazing card, where we landed 7/12 correct picks with three perfect picks to move to 705/1094 (64.51%) with 298 perfect picks (42.26%). You can see our full picks history here.
Charles Jourdain (13-5-1) vs Nathaniel Wood (18-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A super fun fight and potentially the fight of the night. Jourdain suffered a defeat to Shane Burgos in his last bout back in June, snapping a two fight win streak. Wood alternatively returned to the Octagon at UFC London after nearly two years out with a brilliant performance, earning him a decision win over Charles Rosa.
Jourdain and Wood are very similar fighters and that should make this a fantastic fight. Jourdain is a relentless fighter with powerful strikes and a fantastic gas tank, who is comfortable on the mat if the fight goes to the ground too. Wood is an excellent kickboxer with brilliant range management and solid wrestling techniques too, making him an all-round threat.
This will be really difficult to call. Jourdain is cutting weight for a second time in six weeks which could have an effect on his style, while Wood looked as sharp as ever last time out. He’s about the right size for the division and his range management and calf kicks could really help in keeping Jourdain at distance to maintain control. He’s also got the takedown threat, something Jourdain has struggled with and that leads me to think he can claim an entertaining win as the underdog. PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Decision
William Gomis (10-2) vs Jarno Errens (13-3-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Two UFC debutants fight each other on the main card of this card. Gomis is on an eight-fight win streak, with his most recent coming with a third-round KO back in June. Errens earned a decision win less than a month ago and steps into this fight on short notice.
Gomis is a fantastic striker with a great arsenal of attacks, mixing up boxing combinations and kicks to go with lateral movement and great knockout power. Errens has got some decent boxing techniques too, while his submission skills have earned him five tap out wins in his career to date. This bout is a question of which version of Gomis steps up in reality.
If the really good version shows up, then he should run rings around Errens with his technique and power while trying to put a show on for his home nation fans. If it’s the version who looks for highlight finishes rather than fighting properly and backs himself against the cage then he’ll have a tough night. Obviously it’s impossible to know before the fight, but logic tells you to go with the best version of both guys in this one and that means Gomis gets a dominant win and probably finishes it in style. PICK – William Gomis via Knockout, Round 2
John Makdessi (18-7) vs Nasrat Haqparast (13-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight scrap between two guys trying to make waves in the division. Makdessi has won four of his last five fights, with a win over Ignacio Bahamondes most recently at UFC Vegas 23 over a year ago. Haqparast has lost his last two against Dan Hooker (UFC 266) and Bobby Green (UFC 271) and will be keen to get back to winning ways.
Makdessi is a talented striker with unorthodox kicks and spinning attacks as part of his weaponry, but with a picture perfect jab arguably his best shot. Haqparast is also a brilliant striker, with a traditional boxing approach meaning his jab is sensational and he also packs great power to claim nine knockout wins in his career. Neither fighter is big on wrestling so this is likely to stay on the feet and that favours the younger southpaw, Haqparast.
The German knows how to smother his opponents lead hand and counter with a powerful left cross, and Makdessi’s game falls right into that trap. Both will jab a lot but when they counter each other and look for the kill-shot, it’s Haqparast who will land first and harder so I expect him to get a stoppage win midway through the fight. PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 2
Alessio Di Chirico (13-6) vs Roman Kopylov (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A weird middleweight scrap up next between two heavy hitters. Di Chirico earned a memorable head-kick win over Joaquin Buckley at UFC Fight Island 7, but has lost the other four of his last five including his most recent fight against Abdul Razak Alhassan where he got KO’d in 17 seconds. Kopylov has lost his last two fights too, getting submitted in 2019 by Karl Roberson and then losing a decision to Albert Duraev at UFC 267 most recently.
Di Chirico is a bog standard striker with some okay takedowns and wrestling to go with it, while Kopylov is a good volume striker with lots of power and variety and some decent takedown defence. There is absolutely no reason for this fight to be on the main card, but the fact it is means the UFC expect something to happen. I don’t.
There will likely be quite a lot of stalemates against the cage as Di Chirico looks to close the distance and get the fight down, while Kopylov defends it with little striking in between. In the gaps Kopylov is likely to land good combinations and that should be enough for a judge’s decision, but this will be a great time to go for snacks or something. PICK – Roman Kopylov via Decision
Robert Whittaker (24-6) vs Marvin Vettori (18-5-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A top level middleweight scrap up next. Whittaker 3-2 in his last five, with both defeats coming to Israel Adesanya in title fights (UFC 271). His wins were all via decision, where he dominated Darren Till (UFC Fight Island 3), Jared Cannonier (UFC 254) and Kelvin Gastelum. Vettori six of his last eight, with his two defeats also coming to Adesanya, with a title fight ending in defeat at UFC 263. He’s beaten Karl Roberson (UFC Vegas 2), Jack Hermansson (UFC Vegas 16), Kevin Holland (UFC Vegas 23) and most recently Paulo Costa.
Whittaker is arguably the best kickboxer in the UFC outside of Israel Adesanya, but he is also a brilliant wrestler and his dynamic movement make him a horror match up for anyone in the division. Vettori has got incredible cardio and uses that to over power his opposition with wrestling takedown attempts, and then smothering them from top position. The game plan will be clear here. Whittaker wants to stand and strike, Vettori wants the takedown.
I’m a big fan of Vettori even though he can be pretty boring to watch, but I’m a firm believer that Whittaker is the best in the world behind Adesanya and there’s a big gap between them and the rest. Whittaker’s pace, ability to mix it up and perfect technique when striking should see him do enough to claim a decision win as usual. PICK – Robert Whittaker via Decision
Ciryl Gane (10-1) vs Tai Tuivasa (15-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
An absolute banger in the heavyweight division is the main event of this card. Ciryl Gane returns to the octagon for the first time since January, where he lost a title fight against Francis Ngannou via decision at UFC 270. His last win came at UFC 265 where he knocked out Derrick Lewis. Tuivasa is on an amazing roll, winning five in a row all by knockout against Stefan Struve (UFC 254), Harry Hunsucker (UFC Vegas 21), Greg Hardy (UFC 264), Augusto Sakai (UFC 269) and Derrick Lewis (UFC 271).
Gane is a tremendous fighter who is arguably the most well-rounded heavyweight fighter in the world outside of Jon Jones (maybe). His kicks are fantastic, he has good boxing and his wrestling is good too. He also possesses great cardio and some submission skills, making him a threat wherever the fight goes. Tuivasa on the other hand is a straight up brawler. He has got excellent leg kicks and dynamite in both hands, but he hasn’t been past the second round since losing to Blagoy Ivanov in 2019. This is a very similar match up to what people believed Gane vs Ngannou was, just on a different level.
“Bon Gamin” is likely to use his reach and kicks to dominate from the outside, bouncing around to avoid the heavy hands of Tuivasa. The difference from this fight to the title fight is that Tuivasa’s cardio is less reliable and he doesn’t have the new wrestling chops that Ngannou had to overpower him to the ground. Gane will take his time and wear Tuivasa out, before pouring it on late for a stoppage in his hometown. PICK – Ciryl Gane via Knockout, Round 3
The UFC heads to Long Island for a fight night event with a live crowd, as two featherweight contenders go head-to-head in the main event when Brian Ortega takes on Yair Rodriguez.
A very solid card will see plenty of excellent fights, with the 145-pound eliminator bout right at the top of the card. We’ll also see the likes of Li Jingliang, Michelle Waterson, Jack Shore, Shane Burgos and Miesha Tate.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 58 we went 7/11 with two perfect picks, moving us to 656/1020 (64.31%) with 281 perfect picks (42.84%). You can check out our full picks history here.
Lauren Murphy (15-5) vs Miesha Tate (19-8) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An interesting flyweight bout that was rescheduled after a late cancellation off UFC 276. Murphy saw a five-fight win streak snapped when she challenged Valentina Shevchenko for the title in her last bout, getting dominated at UFC 266 for a KO defeat. Tate won on her UFC return against Marion Reneau, but was beaten last time out by Ketlen Vieira via decision.
Murphy is a great striker, no two ways about it. She’s a rangy fighter who looks to use her size to kick and hit strikes from distance, claiming eight wins via knockout in her career. She has just one KO win since 2016 though. Tate on the other hand is a bit of an all-rounder, but it’s her wrestling that separates her from other fighters and got her a world championship once upon a time. If she’s going to win this bout, then she’s got to work that wrestling to the best of her ability.
Tate is a dog, in the sense that she never gives in and is always persevering. Murphy is undoubtedly going to look to box and use her jab, but Tate will walk forwards until she gets her hands on her and as the naturally bigger fighter she shouldn’t struggle to get the fight down. Once it’s there, she’s in her own world and she should be able to dominate the fight. I don’t think she’ll be able to get the finish, but that advantage should be able to claim her the victory at the very least. PICK – Miesha Tate via Decision
Shane Burgos (14-3) vs Charles Jourdain (13-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolutely insane fight at featherweight between two of the division’s most exciting athletes. Burgos snapped a two-fight losing streak when he earned a decision over Billy Quarantillo at UFC 268, while Jourdain is on a two-fight win streak with a decision against Andre Ewell before submitting Lando Vannata last time out.
Burgos is a terrific boxer with superb hand speed and power as well as counter striking. He does however also get hit an awful lot and relies heavily upon his durability to get into all-out wars with his opponents. Jourdain is also someone who looks to get into wars to try and catch his opponents with his speed and power. This is going to be a war, no doubt about it.
Stylistically they’re very similar, but I do feel that Burgos is the more powerful and more technical striker. Jourdain has never been KO’d before in his career, but Burgos is the best fighter he’s ever come up against. With a big reach advantage to work with, I expect Burgos will use his jab effectively and be able to land first in the wild exchanges to be able to claim a FOTN bonus and a win on the judge’s scorecards. PICK – Shane Burgos via Decision
Matt Schnell (15-6) vs Sudumaerji (16-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A fun flyweight scrap between two top guys in the division up next. Schnell has picked up just one win in his last four, suffering a submission defeat to Brandon Royval in the first round back at UFC 274. Sudumaerji on the other hand has won three in a row, with a decision win over Zarrukh Adashev in his most recent bout back at UFC Fight Island 8 in January 2020.
Schnell is an excellent submission artist, with eight victories by way of tap out in his career. He’s a very good wrestler and has got solid striking too, but he struggles to mix things together which often leaves him in limbo. Sudumaerji on the other hand is a powerful striker with great footwork, but he struggles against takedowns and his grappling isn’t the best. These two are essentially polar opposites when it comes to fight styles.
I expect Sudumaerji will stay on the outside and use his striking skills while trying to maintain distance, while Schnell will look to close him down against the cage to get the fight into his submission world. The fact it’s orthodox vs southpaw means Sudumaerji’s striking will be even more at an advantage because his power strikes will have more space to land. With that, I think he should be able to push on past Schnell and higher up the rankings to claim an impressive win. PICK – Sudumaerji via Knockout, Round 2
Li Jingliang (18-7) vs Muslim Salikhov (18-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very fun welterweight scrap up next. Li is seen as a top prospect in the weight class despite being 34, but got dominated by Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 267 before being choked out last time out. Salikhov is on a five-fight win streak, with his last three all coming via decisions.
Li is a powerful striker who has got explosive traits and also got solid grappling skills too, as proven in his five submission wins during his career. Salikhov on the other hand is one of the most skilled strikers in MMA history, although his volume and technique outweighs his power these days. This fight depends on which approach Li takes in all honesty, because he’s capable of going both ways.
Salikhov will strike no matter what. Li prefers to strike when he has the opportunity, but he will know that is a dangerous game against someone as skilled as “King of Kung Fu”. That means he could look to mix it up and use his grappling here and he will have a big advantage in that field. If he just chooses to strike he’ll probably lose, but I don’t expect that to be his game plan and he should be able to grapple enough to earn the win. PICK – Li Jingliang via Decision
Michelle Waterson (18-9) vs Amanda Lemos (11-2-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Considering the calibre of fight on show on this card, this co-main event is a little underwhelming. Waterson has lost three of her last four fights, with Marina Rodriguez claiming a decision against her last time out. Lemos on the other hand saw a five-fight win streak snapped last time out when she was submitted by Jessica Andrade in the first round.
Waterson’s nickname “The Karate Hottie” explains her style off the bat. She has a stand-up stance that keeps her distance and she likes to use kicks and manage distance well, but she’s also a pretty good grappler with decent wrestling skills in her back pocket. Lemos is a powerhouse striker on the feet, with seven wins in her career via KO who comes forward and knows she can end fights in an instant. This seems like quite a lopsided fight.
Lemos has a huge power advantage and will come forward with pressure plenty. Waterson will use her sidekick to try to maintain distance, but once Lemos gets past that she’s in danger. While I don’t think Waterson will be KO’d as she is pretty durable, Lemos is powerful enough to cause plenty of damage and keep the fight standing for the most part to claim a win. PICK – Amanda Lemos via Decision
Brian Ortega (15-2) vs Yair Rodriguez (14-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Fight of the night and one of the most exciting match ups of the year. Ortega has fought for the title in two of his last three fights and been dominated, with Alexander Volkanovski smashing him at UFC 266 in his last outing. He dominated the Korean Zombie in between those fights though at UFC Fight Island 6. Rodriguez saw a three fight unbeaten run snapped by Max Holloway last time out, in one of the best fights of 2021 at UFC Vegas 42.
Ortega is a lethal jiu-jitsu practitioner with some of the best submissions in the UFC, but his striking has improved massively in recent years and he’s now a confident boxer too. Rodriguez on the other hand is an incredible striker with some of the best kicks in the UFC, with incredible speed and power on the end of them. His grappling defence isn’t the greatest though, as Holloway showed by taking him down and controlling him in the last fight. Stylistically, this is undoubtedly an incredible close fight.
Both guys will be happy to stand and strike, and if that’s the case then Ortega will be in trouble. He has been out-struck a lot in his career but his boxing is decent and any kicks will give him the chance to catch them and take the fight to the ground. If the fight is to end via knockout then it’s more likely to be a Rodriguez win, but with Ortega’s sensational grappling skills he seems to have more paths to victory and that leans me towards him getting the fight down to the mat and finding “El Pantera”‘s neck eventually to claim an impressive win. PICK – Brian Ortega via Submission, Round 3
Lando Vannata (12-5-2) vs Charles Jourdain (12-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Banger at featherweight to open up the main card in this one. Vannata claimed a split decision win back at UFC 262 in his last outing against Mike Grundy, while Jourdain earned a decision win over Andre Ewell at UFC Vegas 45 in his latest bout.
Vannata is a very talented kickboxer with great power in his hands and a sniper-like right hand, who absolutely loves a scrap and is more than willing to trade strikes for a knockout win. Jourdain on the other hand is also a brilliant kickboxer with great technique and power, but as a more regular featherweight we know he pushes the pace hard and eventually breaks opponents with his cardio as well as his striking. All of that equals a potential fight of the night bout between these two men.
Jourdain is the crisper striker from distance and while Vannata is a good wrestler, Jourdain is no scrub if the fight goes to the mat either. The early exchanges will undoubtedly be close and violent, but as the bout goes on I expect Jourdain to be able to carry it on further and with more weapons, he should claim a wild decision win. PICK – Charles Jourdain via Decision
Alexandr Romanov (15-0) vs Chase Sherman (15-9) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big short notice heavyweight bout up next, as Sherman returns to the organisation just days after initially being released by the company. Romanov is an undefeated monster with relentless grappling skills, beating Jared Vanderaa most recently via knockout back in October. Sherman is on a three-fight losing streak, getting submitted by Jake Collier at UFC Vegas 46 most recently in January.
Romanov is an exciting grappling machine, who uses amazing suplexes and takedowns to get the fight down before using a suffocating top game to blast his opponents with ground-and-pound as well as submissions. Sherman on the other hand is an old school heavyweight fighter, who stands quite flat footed and throws out jabs and low kicks one at a time before looping hooks as he looks to land a killer blow.
This is a shocking stylistic match up for Sherman and shy of landing a stunning one-punch KO there is only one direction that this fight is going in. Romanov will put him on his back and absolutely light him up until the referee pulls him off or the opportunity for a choke shows itself and he takes it. This won’t be a warm welcome back for Sherman and I’d be shocked if it gets out of the first round. PICK – Alexandr Romanov via Submission, Round 1
Sumudaerji (16-4) vs Manel Kape (17-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Another contender for fight of the night in this flyweight bout. Sumudaerji is on a three-fight win streak in the UFC defeating Zarrukh Adashev most recently at UFC Fight Island 8 last January, while Kape has won his last two fights after KO’ing Ode Osbourne (UFC 265) and Zhalgas Zhumagulov (UFC Vegas 44) in the first round.
Sumudaerji is a very talented striker who has earned 11 knockout wins in his career. He uses his length excellently, with great kicks and very good punches down the middle and has got a decent grappling game too. Kape is a very solid wrestler but his flashy striking is the stand-out attribute in his game, using flying knees and his amazing hand speed to counter his opponents. He fires off good combinations, but recently his output has come into question and is the reason for his two defeats in the organisation.
Both guys have got real knockout power and insane hand speed and this is a really close fight. The grappling is a good avenue to victory for Kape, but he doesn’t tend to use it much without his wrestling shoes in the UFC. Neither guy has ever been knocked out before, but if Kape can get the fight down his five submission wins and Sumudaerji’s four submission defeats are worrying. I expect a banger, but Kape has more paths to win and I think he takes one of them. PICK – Manel Kape via Decision
Maycee Barber (9-2) vs Montana De La Rosa (12-6-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun women’s flyweight bout sees ‘The Future’ return to the octagon. Barber ended a two-fight skid by claiming a split decision against Miranda Maverick back at UFC Vegas 32, while De La Rosa claimed a KO win over Ariane Lipski at UFC Vegas 28 in her most recet outing.
Barber is a fighter who strikes well, closes distance with kicks and has good wrestling to control her opponent and use aggressive ground and pound. Her takedown defence is excellent too, and she uses elbows and knees well in the clinch too. De La Rosa uses her jab well and her heavy-handedness to hurt but her head movement is really lacking. Her takedown game has improved in recent years, but she’s not amazing yet and it will be difficult to see her claim repeated takedowns in this fight. If she does though, her jiu-jitsu is very good as her eight submission wins show.
Ultimately, this seems like Barber’s fight to lose though. She has a huge power advantage on the feet, she’s more aggressive and physically stronger too. If De La Rosa can get a takedown then it changes things, but I think she gets put out before that happens. PICK – Maycee Barber via Knockout, Round 2
Clay Guida (37-18) vs Claudio Puelles (12-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Grizzly veteran vs hot prospect in this co-main event. Guida is a legendary name in the sport and earned a submission win in his most recent fight against Leonardo Santos most recently back in December. Puelles on the other hand is on a four-fight win streak, earning a kneebar submission win against Chris Gruetzmacher most recently on the same card.
Guida is a grinder who uses his amazing cardio to constantly apply pressure on his opponents and wrestles them relentlessly. Puelles on the other hand is a lengthy fighter who uses kicks well but ultimately tries to get fights to the ground to use his amazing jiu-jitsu skills. He has some decent Muay-Thai skills too, using knees in the clinch well.
This fight is almost sure to take place largely against the cage with both guys working for control and trading shots on the inside. That screams like a Guida-style fight to me and there may be nobody better than him at this type of bout. Puelles on paper is likely to secure a submission, but he’s hittable on the feet and he doesn’t have better cardio than Guida so I have to go with the veteran here. PICK – Clay Guida via Decision
Amanda Lemos (11-1-1) vs Jessica Andrade (22-9) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A fun strawweight main event between two fighters who are lacking star power but should still produce a great fight. Lemos has put together a five-fight win streak in the UFC, with a split decision win over Angela Hill most recently at UFC Vegas 45. Andrade took a trip to flyweight beating Katlyn Chookagian (UFC Fight Island 6) and Cynthia Calvillo (UFC 266) via first-round knockout either side of a title-fight defeat to Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 261.
Lemos is a very good striker, with good kicks and great counter-striking down the middle. Andrade is a powerful unit with brilliant knockout power and some really good takedowns and slams in her arsenal. Lemos likes to open quickly with a blitz of strikes and forward pressure, which is something that Andrade has struggled with in the past. She has great experience though and her cardio is something that is a big advantage for her here.
Andrade is able to weather storms and keep pushing forward, while Lemos is considerably slower in the third round than she is in the first. So with this fight set for five rounds, Lemos could be in trouble if she doesn’t get it done early. I don’t think she will either and Andrade will eventually slam her down and do enough damage on the mat to get a referee stoppage late on. PICK – Jessica Andrade via Knockout, Round 4
The first pay-per-view of the year brings us two huge title fights in the smallest and biggest weights available to the men.
In the main event of the night Francis Ngannou will take on former teammate and interim champion Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title of the world, while the co-main will see the trilogy between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo for the flyweight title.
Tony Gravely (21-7) vs Saimon Oliveira (18-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Banger at bantamweight closes out the early prelims. Gravely suffered defeat in his last outing, getting knocked out by Nate Manness at UFC Vegas 37. Oliveira on the other hand is currently on a five-fight win streak with four finishes, with his last win coming via split decision on the Contender Series.
Gravely is a boxer primarily, who uses those strikes to get a takedown and then work his excellent grappling skills on the ground. Oliveira is a Muay-Thai fighter with crisp striking, but exciting submission skills with 11 tap-out wins in his career. This is the type of fight that will be won by the guy with the better gas tank and that makes it a really tough pick. Gravely struggled with his cardio in his last fight and ended up getting KO’d, something Oliveira is more than capable of doing too.
But when you look at Oliveira’s last fight, it showed that he is open to being taken down himself because he throws naked kicks and can blitz into distance relatively recklessly. Gravely will eat those takedown opportunities up and with his ability to control on the ground, he should be able to secure enough of a gap to earn a decision win. PICK – Tony Gravely via Decision
Jack Della Maddalena (10-2) vs Pete Rodriguez (4-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An intriguing bout between UFC debutants in this one. Maddalena is on a ten-fight win streak after losing his first two professional bouts, while Rodriguez is 4-0 and looking to make a big impression in the organisation after stepping in on a little over one week’s notice.
Maddalena is a seriously powerful striker with eight knockout victories in his career, with decent grappling too and an ability to get himself through deep waters and come out on the other side. Rodriguez on the other hand has got less than five minutes of professional cage time to his name, but they’ll all ended via knockout in his favour. He’s got genuine power in his hands and good boxing skills, but this seems like a big step up on such short notice.
Maddalena is a legit talent with a budding reputation, and he’s coming into this off a full camp for a fight against a much tougher opponent. Rodriguez has a real power puncher’s chance, but the likelihood of this fight going any way other than Maddalena putting on a clinic before securing a big knockout victory for himself. PICK – Jack Della Maddalena via Knockout, Round 2
Raoni Barcelos (16-2) vs Victor Henry (21-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights on the entire card here and my pick for fight of the night. Barcelos saw a nine-fight win streak snapped last time out when Timur Valiev earned a majority decision win at UFC Vegas 30, while Henry makes his UFC debut after winning nine of his last ten fights.
Barcelos is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with brilliant boxing skills, fearsome leg kicks and a brilliant Brazilian jiu-jitsu game on the mat that has earned him ten stoppage wins in his career. Henry on the other hand is a decent wrestler himself with good power in his hands and some fine grappling himself to earn 14 stoppage wins in his career. Unfortunately for him, he’s outmatched everywhere in this fight in all honesty.
Henry has been beaten up on the feet by worse fighters, taken down by worse wrestlers and dominated on the ground by lesser grapplers. Barcelos has never really had a problem with his gas tank and while Henry has never been stopped, that comes to an end this weekend. PICK – Raoni Barcelos via Knockout, Round 2
Ilia Topuria (11-0) vs Charles Jourdain (12-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An exciting short-notice featherweight bout headlines the prelims section of this card. Undefeated Ilia Topuria is 11-0 with a hugely impressive KO win over Ryan Hall at UFC 264 last time out. Jourdain steps in on short notice after a decision win at UFC Vegas 45 against Andre Ewell last time out.
Topuria is a supremely talented striker with excellent boxing skills and some solid kicks too, all to go with some great power. But before that, he’s a super grappler with nasty submission skills and great wrestling. Jourdain on the other hand looks to bring blood and thunder to every fight and apply pressure on his opponents. He loves to throw flurries and has some good flying knees, but ultimately if Topuria gets hold of him on the ground it’s a long day.
On the feet it’s a 50/50 fight, but because Topuria has the ability to be able to take this down relatively quickly and just dominate on the ground he is likely to get the win here. Jourdain will put up a fight for sure, but Topuria will wrap up the neck eventually and continue to move up towards a number next to his name. PICK – Ilia Topuria via Submission, Round 2
In the co-main we’ll see welterweight contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson enter the last chance saloon for title contention when he takes on Belal Muhammad, who is looking to break into the top five of the rankings for the first time.
Last time out at UFC 269 we went 9/14 on the night in a fantastic card to move to 500/779 (64.18%) with 211 perfect picks (42.2%).
We’ll look to end the year on a high here, starting with the early prelims on this 14-fight card.
Jordan Leavitt (8-1) vs Matt Sayles (8-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight fight opens the card here. Leavitt started his UFC run excellently with slam KO just 22 seconds into his fight against Matt Wiman at UFC Vegas 16, before he dropped a decision to Claudio Puelles at UFC Vegas 28 in his last fight. Sayles hasn’t fought since 2019, where he was beaten by Bryce Mitchell via twister submission.
Leavitt is a solid wrestler with great slams and very crisp submission skills on the mat, while Sayles is a power striker with limited grappling skills. This is a tough return to action for Sayles, who is coming into a fight where his weaknesses are likely to get violently exposed.
Sayles is a natural featherweight making just his second professional appearances as a lightweight, while Leavitt is big for the division. That size will pay dividends when Leavitt goes in search of his takedown, gets it, keeps him down and eventually works his way to the back for a choke victory early on. PICK – Jordan Leavitt via Submission, Round 1
Don’Tale Mayes (8-4) vs Josh Parisian (14-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights up next as they look to steal the shine early doors. Don’Tale Mayes suffered a heel hook defeat to Ciryl Gane in his UFC debut before getting submitted by Rodrigo Nascimento in May 2020. He finally earned a win when he gained a decision against Roque Martinez most recently at UFC Vegas 14. Parisian on the other hand bounced back from defeat to Parker Porter with a decision win against Martinez himself at UFC Vegas 29.
Both fighters are primary strikers with limited grappling techniques, which means this is likely to become a straight up kickboxing match. Mayes isn’t a great kicker, but he has a size advantage that means his strikes are likely to have a bit more of an effect. Parisian often struggles to maintain distance and finds himself with his back against the fence, which could give Mayes the chance to tee off.
Parisian is the more powerful fighter though who has more experience and he uses leg kicks well to try and keep opponents off him. He’s the busier fighter in the in between moments of the fight and in a fight that I expect to go the difference, that’s usually the difference. PICK – Josh Parisian via Decision
Raquel Pennington (12-9) vs Macy Chiasson (8-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A banger between two ranked bantamweights fighting at featherweight on short-notice. Pennington is on a two-fight win streak after earning decision wins against Marion Reneau and Pannie Kianzad. Chiasson on the other hand is also on a two-fight win streak having defeated Shana Young and Reneau via decision also at UFC Vegas 21.
Pennington is a wrestle-boxer with good combinations who is very good at getting on the inside to help with her small size and stature to affect distance. Chiasson on the other hand is a very tidy kickboxer with good clinchwork and decent KO power too.
This is a 50/50 fight because if Pennington can make it ugly, she has the advantage. She’s extremely well rounded and confident, but the fact this is happening at 145lbs plays into the bigger fighter’s hands. Chiasson will use range, land the bigger shots and make a bigger impression on the judges for a decision win. PICK – Macy Chiasson via Decision
Charles Jourdain (11-4-1) vs Andre Ewell (17-8) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A brilliant featherweight encounter up next. Jourdain is 1-1-1 in his last three, with a draw against Josh Culibao followed up by a KO win over Marcelo Rojo at UFC Vegas 21 and then a defeat to Julian Erosa via submission at UFC Vegas 36. Ewell on the other hand has lost each of his last two fights via decision to Chris Gutierrez at UFC 258 and then Julio Arce by knockout at UFC Vegas 32.
Jourdain is a powerful striker with some good wrestling skills too and excellent kicks, while Ewell is a primary boxer who is starting to learn to check kicks. For a fighter with such a huge reach, Ewell doesn’t use it nearly enough or nearly well enough. Against someone like Jourdain who is a great kicker, a natural 145er and a power puncher himself with a great gas tank, this is an uphill battle for Ewell.
Ultimately, this is Jourdain’s fight to lose. He has the edge in power, size and grappling if he chooses to use it and while Ewell is the better boxer it’s easily countered with kicks and wrestling so he should claim a decent win here. PICK – Charles Jourdain via Decision
The UFC middleweight division is back in the spotlight in the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night, on a card that was supposed to take place in London initially.
The main event will see Derek Brunson take on the UK’s own Darren Till with the winner making a case to become the next fighter to challenge for a title shot after Robert Whittaker’s upcoming rematch with Israel Adesanya.
Last week at UFC Vegas 35, we went 7/12 with three perfect picks on the night to move up to 396/624 (63.46%) with 174 perfect picks (43.94%). We’ll try to improve on that here, starting with the prelims.
Jonathan Martinez (13-4) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger to start the night in the bantamweight division. Martinez’s record in the UFC currently stands at 4-3, with a KO defeat to Davey Grant last time out at UFC Vegas 21 while Rojo lost an incredibly exciting debut against Charles Jourdain in his last fight on the same card.
Martinez is a very technical boxer with genuine knockout power and some crisp striking combinations and he’s also nice and comfortable on the ground. Rojo is aggressive too and has some great strikes of his own but he’s not quite as tidy technically. Martinez for me is the more powerful and we’ve seen him take the action to strong fighters in the past and if he’s likely to continue that way then he’s got the edge here.
Rojo is more than capable of stepping forward with pressure and landing heavy blows of his own, but with the more comfortable striking and good footwork I think Martinez will be able to get a stoppage in a brilliant fight. PICK – Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2
Dalcha Lungiambula (11-2) vs Marc-Andre Barriault (12-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very exciting middleweight fight up next. Lungiambula earned a decision win last time out against Markus Perez at UFC Fight Island 8 in January, while Barriault earned his first UFC win against Abu Azaitar at UFC 260.
Lungiambula is a grappler who uses big bursts of energy to land some strikes and then go in for the takedown, while Barriault is a considerably better striker than him with constantly improving scrambles off his back. Lungiambula is shorter with a longer reach, but his cardio issues make him struggle as the fight goes on. His striking is pretty poor and while Barriault isn’t stunning in any department, his cardio keeps him going later and gives him a chance here.
On the feet Barriault has a clear edge and while Lungiambula will likely score a takedown or two, Barriault is able to get back to his feet and with the cardio issues visible for all to see he could secure a sneaky decision win. PICK – Marc-Andre Barriault via Decision
Julian Erosa (23-10) vs Charles Jourdain (11-3-1) – (Catchweight/150lbs)
Yet another banger of a fight at the halfway point of the prelims in a short-notice catchweight bout. Erosa had won three in a row before his most recent fight, which saw him knocked out by Seung Woo Choi at UFC Vegas 29. Charles Jourdain is 1-1-1 in his last three, with a win over Marcelo Rojo last time out at UFC Vegas 21.
Erosa is a slick striker who is always looking for an exciting war with his opponent, marching forward to slug it out with whoever is standing across the cage from him. Jourdain is a fantastic boxer himself with a great jab and plenty of punching power in his bank and good durability. Erosa has a wrestling edge over Jourdain, but ‘Air’ has a fantastic gas tank and great scrambles so even that is a tough run to victory.
Overall, Erosa will land powerful strikes but leave himself open to eating some of his own from the more powerful fighter and Jourdain should be able to score the victory in a fun fight. PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 2
Jack Shore (14-0) vs Liudvik Sholinian (9-2-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The undefeated against the unknown in this one. Jack Shore is 14-0 including 3-0 in the UFC, with a split decision win over Hunter Azure last time out at UFC Vegas 23, while Sholinian makes his promotional debut on a four-fight win streak.
Shore is a slick submission grappler with eight wins via tap-out in his career, but he’s also shown improved striking in recent performances too. Sholinian was part of the most recent TUF season on Team Ortega and takes the fight on short notice. He is a brilliant wrestler with some decent submission skills of his own but some brilliant top control to round off his skills.
The Welshman is the overwhelming favourite but this fight is a bit closer than that. Shore has the edge on the feet, has more experience on the big stage and is a good wrestler in his own right. If Sholinian gets top position, Shore is good enough to submit him from his back but the likelihood is he controls the fight and earns a finish as the fight goes on either late in the second or in the third. PICK – Jack Shore via Submission, Round 2
Molly McCann (10-4) vs Ji Yeon Kim (9-3-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Featured prelim bout is a women’s flyweight clash coming off defeats. McCann has lost her last two, getting dominated by Taila Santos and most recently Lara Procopio at UFC Vegas 18 while Kim was beaten by Alexa Grasso at UFC Vegas 8 last year in her last fight.
McCann is a straight up brawler who walks forward with pressure and looks to outland her opponent as much as possible using her kicks and cardio as a weapon. Kim is a technical striker with a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, using her counter-attacking skills as much as she can. It’s almost to her detriment in that sense, because she never kicks due to how good her boxing is and she is often left waiting for a long time.
McCann is well out-matched in terms of height and reach but she’s a much improved wrestler and has the edge there over Kim. Kim doesn’t really use her reach as much as she should and her defence isn’t the best which means she will leave herself open and that tells me McCann has a path to victory, which I think she’ll take – just. PICK – Molly McCann via Decision
Matthew Semelsberger def Jason Witt via Knockout, Round 1 (0:16)
HOLY JESUS. Matthew Semelsberger lands a bomb of a right hand after 16 seconds and puts Witt out cold. Goodnight.
Jinh Yu Frey def Gloria De Paula via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Frey comes out with a nice left hand before the two ladies clinch and Frey gets an early takedown. De Paula threatens with an armbar from the bottom but Frey defends well and lands a few nice strikes from top position before a scramble allows her to take De Paula’s back. De Paula defends it well and is able to bring it back to full guard, before landing a couple of elbows from the bottom. Frey controlling the position with ease at the moment from the top although not much action from either fighter as we head into the final 90 seconds. Frey controls the position for the remainder of the round too as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Frey.
Slower start to the round from both women in this one as Frey lands a couple of nice left hands in exchanges. De Paula lands a few leg kicks from distance then goes up top with a nice head kick that lands clean. Frey continues to come forward to close the distance but De Paula doing well to get in and out quickly. De Paula in control of the exchanges on the feet halfway through the round and being first in the exchanges every time. Frey closes the distance and gets a clinch against the cage, but De Paula lands some nasty knees to the body and they separate. De Paula takes the centre now and is landing clean and fast into the final minute. Frey catches a kick but De Paula keeps her balance excellently to deny the takedown and should win the round. 19-19 going into the third.
De Paula comes out and throws her hands quickly once again, then has a kick caught and Frey sweeps her other foot away and gets an early takedown once again. Frey passes into half guard but De Paula threatens with a kimura grip, which allows Frey to pass into mount. De Paula tries to explode out but Frey takes the back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Frey staying composed on the back of De Paula who isn’t looking to get back to her feet at all as we enter the final minute. Frey gets the arm under the chin and tries for a one-armed choke but De Paula does really well to defend it and see the round out. Clear 29-28 win for Frey.
Aldrich takes the centre of the cage early on and has Casey circling the outside for the first 40-odd seconds before she engages in a clinch against the cage. Casey is able to stay strong and Aldrich separates, a big boost for Casey. Aldrich landing lots of leg kicks early on but Casey retaliates with some nice knees and a right hook as they clinch up once again. Casey charges forward once again with a flurry but Aldrich shoots and gets the takedown. Casey tries to threaten with a triangle and while Aldrich defends it will and lands a bit of ground and pound, Casey gets back to her feet. Aldrich gets it down again with a guillotine attempt in the final 30 seconds but Casey defends well and sees out the round. 10-9 Casey for me.
Casey looks stronger on the feet so far and she lands a big right hand that wobbles Aldrich! Casey follows it up with a head kick attempt that Aldrich catches and then Casey tries to jump on the back but ends up on the ground with Aldrich on top of her. Casey landing some nice strikes from the bottom but Aldrich now has wrist control after eating those shots and starts landing some huge ground and pound strikes with her left hand. Casey works her way back up to her feet against the cage with 90 seconds to go and throws two big right hooks that are blocked. Aldrich throws a right hook and then shoots in for another takedown with 20 seconds to go and gets it to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Aldrich comes forward again to get Casey backing up and she lands a nice one-two. Aldrich continues to push forward but Casey lands a couple of jabs nicely too. Big right hook and left straight from Casey lands and rocks Aldrich’s head back. A big exchange from the two sees them both landing well as we hit the halfway point. Aldrich lands a jab and then Casey turns away to move and Aldrich throws a big left straight down the pipe. Casey throws a hook that just misses and then Aldrich changes levels with a beautiful takedown. Casey gets back to her feet against the cage but Aldrich maintains a body lock until Casey is able to break the grip and separate. Casey comes forward with flurries again and is landing hard shots. Spinning back kick from Aldrich lands in Casey’s nether-regions and the referee pauses the fight with three seconds to go. Super close round, I’ve got it 29-28 Aldrich just.
Good start to the round for the debutant as Garcia takes the centre of the octagon and starts looking to land strikes through the guard of Haqparast. Lots of feelers and blocked strikes from both as Haqparast throws a very heavy left hand that that is partially blocked too. Garcia shoots in for a takedown against the cage but Haqparast denies him, but Garcia lands a nice knee to the body on the break. Garcia fakes a takedown and throws a huge overhand right that lands flush and wobbles Haqparast, but he recovers quickly and keeps going. Great rip to the body from Haqparast but Garcia backs him against the cage and throws a nice elbow that just misses too. Garcia goes for two more takedowns against the cage but they get stuffed well too as the round ends. 10-9 Garcia but it’s a close round.
Garcia comes out quickly in the second round once again and puts the pressure on against the cage well. Garcia lands a couple of nice hooks but Haqparast stays composed and starts digging to the body with some great punches. Nice elbow from Haqparast lands and Garcia comes forward with a right hand of his own. Haqparast lands two nice left hands and Garcia charges forward again with jabs and front kicks to the body. Haqparast denies a takedown attempt and then lands a left hand, before throwing Garcia to the floor with a judo throw. Great uppercut lands from Haqparast but Garcia continues to walk forward with jabs, before Haqparast lands a big body kick too. Big front kick to the body again from Haqparast who denies another takedown on the buzzer. 19-19 for me, but could be 20-18 Haqparast.
Garcia looks a bit slower in this final round but is still coming forward with intensity. Haqparast has started finding his timing now though and lands a great elbow followed by an uppercut and hook that land clean. Another elbow and uppercut from Haqparast lands as Garcia continues to come forward, but Haqparast throwing body kicks hard that are slowing Garcia down more and more. Straight left lands against for Haqparast as Garcia is bleeding now and getting picked apart on the feet. Garcia lands a nice right hand as we enter the final minute of the round and they exchange kicks. Big head kick from Haqparast twice lands but he doesn’t get the finish as the round ends. 29-27 for me.
Rani Yahya def Ray Rodriguez via Submission (Head and Arm Choke), Round 2 (3:09)
Fast start as Rodriguez goes for a head kick off the bat and then lands a straight right in an exchange, but Yahya goes straight for a body lock looking for a takedown and eventually gets it. Yahya with heavy top pressure, landing some nice ground and pound but really just trying to maintain position from half guard. Yahya looking to move into side control with great shoulder pressure but abandons it after decent defence from Rodriguez. Final minute now and Rodriguez manages to get into full guard for a few seconds before Yahya looks to lock up a head and arm choke with 20 seconds left but Rodriguez defends well and survives the round. 10-9 Yahya, easily.
Rodriguez opens the second round with some nice boxing once again, keeping a distance and doing well but he backs up to the cage and Yahya gets another takedown at the first attempt once again. Straight back into half guard once again and Yahya starts threatening with the head and arm choke early on. Rodriguez tries to explode up with the butterfly guard but Yahya jumps over it, gets back into half guard and passes to the other side. He sinks in the head and arm choke and forces Rodriguez to tap. Beautiful performance from Yahya.
Charles Jourdain def Marcelo Rojo via Knockout, Round 3 (4:31)
Fun start to the first round as both men trade hard kicks to begin, with Jourdain throwing lots of head kicks. Rojo throws a right hook that misses and then they clinch, with both men landing nice knees before Jourdain separates. Nice left hand from Rojo looking to counter but just misses, then Jourdain lands a nice uppercut in the clinch. Rojo throwing lots of knees in the clinch towards the face, but they’re not quite landing yet. Rojo lands a leg kick that drops Jourdain, then lands a one-two as Jourdain gets back to his feet. Very even round as we head into the final 90 seconds and Rojo throws a nice flurry that lands nicely before looking to rip Jourdain’s body with a left hook. Jourdain retaliates with nice body shots in the clinch before the round ends. 10-9 Rojo for me but genuinely could go either way.
Rojo comes out hard in the second round and throwing some hard shots and combinations that either graze or just miss Jourdain. Strong leg kick is responded to by Jourdain with a great jab, who then lands a big right hook. A close exchange sees Jourdain accidentally eye-poke Rojo which forces a pause in the action but they get back to it quickly with flurries. Jourdain catches a kick and lands a big body shot and right hook, before Rojo charges forward and lands a big three-punch combo to the head, followed by a knee and body shot. Clinch against the cage is a stalemate and Rojo looks for a spinning elbow on the break. Snappy jab from Jourdain lands flush but Rojo continues to come forward and just misses with that big knee again. Jourdain eats some big leg kicks and responds with a huge flying knee that lands! He lands a couple of big hooks too with Rojo rocked but he survives the round. Another close one, 19-19 for me.
Fast start for Jourdain in this final round as he comes forward and puts the pressure on Rojo immediately, landing his left hand a lot. Rojo is considerably slower now and Jourdain is picking him apart, then lands a huge left hand down the middle that drops him! Jourdain jumps on him and looks for the ground and pound finish, then runs and jumps off the cage to continue the strikes. Heavy shots on the ground but Rojo is tiring and Jourdain is landing big. Jourdain lets Rojo back up and they start throwing haymakers against each other looking for a finish. Jourdain keeps pounding away and lands another left hand that drops Rojo and the referee ends it! What a performance!
Angela Hill def Ashley Yoder via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Competitive start to the fight with Hill looking to land straight rights and Yoder landing some nice kicks so far. Hill has the centre of the cage and is feinting the body shots, then shoots in against the cage for a clinch. Hill lands some nice knees before Yoder looks for a head and arm throw but it’s well defended by Hill. Hill responds with a huge elbow and then goes back to the clinch before they separate with about 90 seconds to go in the round. Hill controlling the range right now and landing shots freely and has a big speed advantage to get in and out, avoiding the attacks of Yoder. Hill steps in with a front kick to the body then lands three huge overhand rights that rock Yoder! She goes for a finish and takes Yoder down but she recovers enough to see out the round. 10-9 Hill.
More of the same in this second round as Hill takes the centre and looks to land body kicks and overhand rights. Yoder can’t get close enough for the takedown and is getting picked apart on the feet. Hill lands a big straight right hand once again that snaps Yoder’s head back and she’s in total control right now. Hill goes for a clinch and lands some nice knees to the body, with Yoder starting to slow down a bit. Hill lands more right hands and now is chopping down the legs of Yoder. Big knee to the body followed by a kick and Yoder is hurting. Flurry of punches to the head and Yoder is surviving right now, then Hill goes for a knee to the body and Yoder catches it and secures a takedown to end the round on top. 20-18 Hill.
Yoder comes out like a bull in a china shop looking to close the distance and get a takedown but Hill immediately out-muscles her, clinches up and starts landing big knees to the body against the cage. Hill just too strong physically for Yoder and completely dominating the position and pace of the fight. Big punch to the body again from Hill before another clinch and some more nasty Muay Thai knees to the body allow Yoder to overpower her onto the floor. Yoder controls the position from the top and is fighting Hill well, but Hill is too strong and gets back to the feet and lands more knees again. Round comes to an end with Hill landing two big right hands to take a wide decision. Great performance. 30-27 Hill.
Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart – NO CONTEST (Illegal knee)
Lots of feelers being put out by both guys early on with feints and flicks before Stewart lands a nice left hand. A good exchange between the two and it’s Stewart who comes out on top once again, as he starts showboating a little. Anders shoots in for a takedown but Stewart does well to defend it and the battle in the clinch. Stewart lands some good knees but then Anders lands a huge left hand that rocks him! Anders lands some huge punches and drops Stewart but the Brit continues to fight back. Anders throws an illegal knee (d’oh!) against the cage and the referee stops the fight. Stewart tries to continue but the doctor calls the fight off. No contest called.
Fun start to the fight as both men look to feint early. Nicolau lands an immediate leg kick that hurts Kape but he continues to come forward with jabs and leg kicks of his own. Nicolau being more explosive and faster right now and Kape falling into the same trap as his first fight by being not active enough. Nicolau gets a takedown and Kape is able to work his way back to the feet and slip out of a guillotine attempt. Nicolau gets another takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Nicolau.
Second round and Kape comes out with more urgency this time. Big left uppercut lands and rocks Nicolau early! He follows it up with a couple of other shots and when he’s landing he’s hurting Nicolau. He stuffs a takedown attempt and comes forward again, but this time Nicolau lands a big hook of his own. Kape lands a leg kick and then a knee followed by a right hand that lands flush. Kape walking Nicolau down against the cage and letting strikes flow but Nicolau shoots for a power double across the cage and gets him down, but Kape bounces straight back up. Nicolau tries to launch forward with a left hand but misses and Kape counters with a right hook. 19-19, much better.
Kape takes the centre in the third round and is letting his hands go again. Kape throws a nice leg kick but Nicolau throws a nice left hand that lands on the forehead. Kape stings him with a nice jab and then lands a nice counter right hook again. Nicolau goes for a takedown but Kape stuffs it brilliantly and stands back up immediately. Nicolau gets back up and drops Kape with a leg kick and starts landing with a lot of volume. Big hooks and straight land but Kape replies with a right hook well. Final minute and Kape throws a head kick then follows it up with a left hook. He stuffs two takedown attempts brilliantly and is throwing big combinations too. Huge flying knee lands from Kape and then he follows it up with another to the body! Nicolau lands a spinning back elbow as the round ends! Super close round but I think Kape edges it. 29-28.
Davey Grant def Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2 (3:03)
Good start to the round from Grant as he comes forward well and applies pressure with lots of strikes and kicks. Martinez happy to stand and trade with him and throws an excellent leg kick to hurt Grant. Grant continues with spinning kick attacks and high kicks but Martinez is countering really well with his fast hands. Grant with a switch step and a big right hook but it’s well blocked by Martinez. Big leg kick from Martinez again but Grant keeping the pressure on with kicks from range and heavy hooks. Huge left hook from Martinez lands on the chin and Grant gets dropped! Martinez looks to land some ground and pound but the round ends and allows Grant a chance to recover. 10-9 Martinez.
Grant comes out nice and aggressive in the second round and continues to chop away at the leg, before Grant lands a right hand on the chin. Grant continues to come forward with flurries and then shoots in for a takedown but Martinez defends it brilliantly. Grant lands another right hand and is throwing combinations now just to touch him and is stopping Martinez from throwing anything significant because of the pace. Grant throws a body shot and left hook and Martinez is OUT!! Grant follows it up with an extra shot but it’s all over! Wow!
Dan Ige def Gavin Tucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:22)
DAN IGE!!! ONE PUNCH KNOCKOUT!! HOLY COW!
Ryan Spann def Misha Cirkunov via Knockout, Round 1 (1:11)
Fast start to the round from both fighters as they exchange jabs and kicks, as Cirkunov lands a low blow by accident after 30 seconds. A short pause and they get to it again and Spann lands a straight right hand that drops Cirkunov! He goes for the ground and pound but Cirkunov kicks him off and so Spann makes him get back to the feet. Spann stays calm and then lands a big punch on the side of the head that drops him again and after some ground and pound the referee waves it off! Huge KO for Ryan Spann!
Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Tentative start to the fight as Edwards takes the centre of the cage and forces Muhammad backwards immediately, landing a body kick and following up with a big one two. Edwards goes for a takedown against the cage but Muhammad clinches up and reverses the position well before they separate. Edwards throws a head kick and wobbles Muhammad! Edwards throws some wild hooks but Muhammad blocks them all and then Edwards shoots for a takedown but once again it’s denied well by Belal. Body kick from Muhammad lands nicely but it’s Edwards pushing the pace and pressuring forwards. Big one-two from Edwards lands again and wobbles Muhammad before the buzzer goes to end the round. 10-9 Edwards.
Second round starts and both guys are aggressive early on. Edwards goes to throw a head kick and his hand accidentally pokes Muhammad in the eye as it lands. Muhammad goes down screaming and crying, saying he can’t see anything. Herb Dean waves the fight off almost immediately and it’s another no contest.
It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.
Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.
Last weekend at UFC 259 we managed to go 10/15 on our predictions with four perfect picks to take our total up to 250/395 (63.29%) with 112 perfect picks (44.8%).
We will look to improve that further with this 13 fight card and having already predicted the early prelims here, lets move on to the rest of the preliminary bouts.
Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs Rafa Garcia (12-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A truly exciting lightweight fight between ‘Baby Gastelum’ Nasrat Haqparast against undefeated debutant Rafa Garcia in a short-notice fight. Haqparast won his last fight against Alex Munoz at UFC Vegas 6 and was scheduled to fight Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 257 before failing to weigh in. Rafa Garcia makes his UFC debut after over a year away from the cage, coming in as a highly rated grappler.
Haqparast has great hand speed and fantastic footwork and while his takedown defence isn’t phenomenal, his ability to get back to his feet after being taken down is. He has good power in his hands too with nine knockout wins in his career. Garcia is a fighter who pushes a crazy pace and hunts his opponents down for a takedown so he can work his tremendous submission game, as his seven wins by tap-out show. He has decent striking too and much like Kamaru Usman, uses his strikes to back you up to the cage and put you on the mat.
It’s a really good match up where both men’s strengths compliment their opponents but the stand up skills of Haqparast and the fact he was in a full camp already mean I lean his way. He’s got great boxing and a power advantage and as the fight goes on, the cardio will have a big say. PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 3
Rani Yahya (26-10-1) vs Ray Rodriguez (16-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing bantamweight bout between two MMA veterans at completely different ends of their UFC career. Yahya has been with the UFC since 2011 but hasn’t won either of his last two fights going back to 2018 after losing to Ricky Simon and then fighting to a draw with Enrique Barzola in March 2020. Rodriguez made his UFC debut on short notice back in September and was submitted in just 39 seconds by Brian Kelleher.
That doesn’t bode well for Rodriguez, who comes up against a jiu-jitsu master in Yahya in this one. Yahya has won 20 of his fights via submission with 12 of those coming in the first round. His game plan is always the same, ambush his opponent with multiple takedown attempts and use technique to get an early submission until he’s too tired – and then just don’t get KO’d in the hope he doesn’t lose a third round 10-8. Against Rodriguez, that should work considering his not-so-great takedown defence and poor submission defence. PICK – Rani Yahya via Submission, Round 1
Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger at featherweight as a short-notice bout comes together for ‘Air’ Jourdain and debutant Marcelo Rojo. Jourdain’s UFC tenure has been more than interesting, going 1-2-1 in his four bouts, with a defeat to Andre Fili at UFC Vegas 2 before a draw against Joshua Culibao back in October. Rojo originally stepped in to face Raoni Barcelos on short-notice, only for Barcelos to drop out and this fight to be made and he will finally return to the cage for the first time since September 2019.
Both guys like to come out and fight fire with fire, throwing bombs and looking to knock their opponent out with power. Both hit hard and have skills on the ground with 24 finishes in their career but prefer to keep the bout on the feet. Jourdain seemingly has the power advantage and has fought in the UFC before although his run hasn’t been good. Neither will look to wrestle but the cardio is also in Jourdain’s favour so with Rojo stepping up a weight-class to fight a bigger and better fighter than he has before, I think Jourdain edges it in a fight of the night contender. PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 3
Angela Hill (12-9) vs Ashley Yoder (8-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Despite their close fight the first time around, I can’t see this one being as competitive. Hill is the better striker by a distance and has improved her ground game to a point where she can stuff the takedowns of some of the better wrestlers in the division and fight off her back and get back to her feet well. Yoder will try to get this fight to the ground to add to her four submission wins, but Hill is just too advanced now and should get a pretty comfortable win. PICK – Angela Hill via Decision
Holly Holm takes on Irene Aldana in the main event on a card with plenty of room to make new stars as lots of relatively unknown names make the cut for this one. With 11 fights in total on the card, I’ll look to have a much better weekend of picks this time around. I’ll go through the card in it’s entirety, starting with the prelims, and break down each fight and offer up my predictions.
Last weekend at UFC 253, I managed to get just 5/11 in total with only two perfect picks. It was comfortably the worst showing I’ve had while doing these picks.
Jessin Ayari (16-5) vs Luigi Vendramini (8-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting fight to open up the card as both fighters return to the UFC after two year lay-offs. Ayari has lost his last two bouts, being beaten comfortably via unanimous decision to both Stevie Ray and Darren Till while Vendramini was 8-0 coming into the UFC before taking a short-notice fight on his debut up at welterweight and being KO’d in the second round by Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos. Ayari is a karate-style striker who keeps the distance well and does have a nice pop to his shots, while Vendramini is a wrestler mostly who has good submission skills on the ground. Ayari is the bigger man physically but it’s really a fight with one of two outcomes. If Ayari can keep the fight on the feet, he should be able to out-strike his opponent relatively comfortably to a decision win. If Vendramini can score a takedown, he should be able to finish it on the ground pretty quickly. Due to the size advantage I mentioned though, I think Ayari can keep away and land enough to get his first win since 2016. PICK – Jessin Ayari via Unanimous Decision
Casey Kenney (14-2-1) vs Heili Alateng (14-7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun fight in the bantamweight division as two guys looking to break into the top 15 face off. Kenney is 3-1 in the UFC, with his sole defeat coming to ‘The Machine’ Merab Dvalishvili but he bounced back with a submission win over Louis Smolka last time out. Alateng is on a four-fight win streak coming into this one, including a split decision win over Ryan Benoit last time out. Alateng has got heavy hands but a reluctance to throw them as much as he should, while Kenney is comfortable wherever the fight goes as a true all-rounder. He focuses that little bit more on his wrestling than Alateng and when ‘The Mongolian Knight’ can’t get the knockout with one punch, he tends to grapple too. That should make for an exciting opening round but after that, Kenney should be able to control the grappling exchanges with his superior wrestling skills and grind out a decision win. PICK – Casey Kenney via Unanimous Decision
Loma Lookboonmee (4-2) vs Jinh Yu Frey (9-5) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A fight in the lightest weight-class in the company between two women who are undersized for the division. Loma Lookboonmee is a tremendous Muay-Thai fighter who’s an active striker with great punches and kicks but lost last time out to Angela Hill. Frey is also a clinch fighter with better wrestling, but her output is questionable as she showed when she got beaten by Kay Hansen in June. She has a height and reach advantage but I can’t see her using it well enough to keep the Thai fighter away from her. I think Lookboonmee should be able to quite comfortably strike her way to a decision win to get herself back into the win column. PICK – Loma Lookboonmee via Unanimous Decision
Jordan Williams (9-3 1NC) vs Nassourdine Imavov (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very interesting fight here between two undersized middleweight fighters as Jordan Williams looks to ride the wave of his Contender Series win just two weeks ago into this one against Imavov on a five-fight win streak. Williams got a knockout win against Gregory Rodrigues on the Contender Series but the fight was originally supposed to be Rodrigues vs Imavov before the Frenchman pulled out. Williams stepped in for his third appearance on the show after having his initial win overturned for a positive marijuana test and then losing a split decision the second time around. Imavov hasn’t fought since December 2019 but moves up from welterweight to step into the octagon for the first time. Williams is a powerhouse, who walks forward and is happy to take a shot to give one back. Imavov has the speed advantage but doesn’t really have the power to put Williams’ lights out for me. It should be a fun striking match and if Williams can land big, he can end it. For my money though, Imavov will be able to avoid the heavier shots and strike his way to a decision win. PICK – Nassourdine Imavov via Unanimous Decision
Josh Culibao (8-1) vs Charles Jourdain (10-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fight that for me is arguably the biggest lock of the night. Josh Culibao has got one previous fight in the UFC, where he stepped in on late notice to fight up a weight class against one of the divisions bigger men in Jalin Turner and he got expectedly battered. He returns to his natural weight division now to take on ‘Air’ Jourdain who looks to bounce back from defeat to Andre Fili last time out in a split decision. Prior to that, Jourdain showed the crazy power he possesses with a fight of the night performance against Doo Ho Choi in Korea. Culibao is good on the feet but doesn’t have real power to cause Jourdain problems and his grappling skills are untested at this level. Jourdain for me has the advantage everywhere in the fight and if he isn’t able to put him away with the power, he should do more than enough to get a decision. PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 2
Carlos Condit (30-13) vs Court McGee (19-9) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Once upon a time Carlos Condit was one of the most feared welterweights on the planet but he’s now on a five-fight losing streak with no wins since 2015. He takes on Court McGee who is 1-4 in his last five fights too, making this a battle to stay in the company most likely. Condit has decided that when he gets taken down his best bet is now to fight from his back, despite having not submitted anyone for over 12 years. Against McGee, it just seems like a bad idea. ‘The Crusher’ is a good wrestler and more than comfortable in top position, so with that being said it’s hard to see this fight going any other way than towards him. 13 of his last 14 fights have gone the distance, so I expect he’ll take the win via the judges once again. PICK – Court McGee via Unanimous Decision