Makwan Amirkhani (17-7) vs Jonathan Pearce (12-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A really fun 145-pound fight up next between two great grapplers. Amirkhani snapped a three-fight losing streak last time out, submitting Mike Grundy in just 57 seconds via anaconda choke. Pearce is on a three-fight win streak KO’ing Kai Kamaka III, submitting Omar Morales (UFC 266) and then earning a decision over Christian Rodriguez most recently.
Amirkhani is a great grappler with really tight submission skills to work from, earning 12 submission wins in his career. “JSP” on the other hand is a great wrestler, but he tends to use his physicality to wear on opponents and uses his volume as a weapon to really grind on them. That means this fight goes one of two ways – a quick submission or a dominant display.
I’m leaning towards the dominant display, because Amirkhani isn’t as active from the top as he should be considering his skillset and his cardio lets him down on a regular basis. So long as Pearce doesn’t give up his back early doors, he should be able to use his activity to score points and then eventually grind his way to a wide decision of potentially even a late finish. PICK – Jonathan Pearce via Decision
Nathaniel Wood (17-5) vs Charles Rosa (14-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Finally, “The Prospect” is back in a UFC octagon! Wood suffered defeat way back at UFC 254 against Casey Kenney and has seen several fights fall out ever since. Rosa on the other hand has lost his last two, dropping decisions to Damon Jackson and then most recently TJ Brown at UFC Vegas 46.
Wood is a fine striker on the feet but he’s also got some half-decent wrestling and submission skills from the top position. Rosa meanwhile is a great striker and he has got some violent top position which opens up submission attempts, but he has never been able to sort out his God-awful takedown defence and that’s a huge problem in this match up.
His offensive wrestling isn’t good enough to take Wood down at will, and the Brit is very good at scrambling back to his feet anyway. Outside of that, Wood is the better fighter everywhere. He’s a better striker, better wrestler, more powerful and quicker. He chooses how to win this essentially barring a hail Mary submission win, so go with Wood for a W. PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Decision
Marc Diakiese (15-5) vs Damir Hadzovic (14-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Another British lightweight on the card in this match up. Diakiese suffered back-to-back defeats against Rafael Fiziev and Rafael Alves, before bouncing back with a decision win over Viacheslav Borshchev most recently. Hadzovic did the same in his last fight, beating Yancy Medeiros via unanimous decision.
Diakiese is a solid kickboxer with good power and explosiveness, while his takedown defence is strong too. Hadzovic is a brawler who relies on his heavy hands big time, and hopes to encourage his opponents to be drawn into a scrap with him. Diakiese won’t do that, because he’s got the advantage everywhere this fight goes.
“Bonecrusher” is taller, has a better reach, is the better technical striker and if he really needs it he’s by far the better wrestler too. Hadzovic’s takedown defence is pretty poor and Diakiese has shown great durability throughout his career to make a one-punch KO unlikely, so expect a dominant win for Diakiese. PICK – Marc Diakiese via Decision
Mason Jones (11-1) vs Ludovit Klein (18-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An absolute barnstormer of a fight gets the featured prelim spot, just one week after the fight got put together. Jones suffered the first defeat of his career to Mike Davis at UFC Fight Island 8, before a no contest against Alan Patrick at UFC Vegas 28. He finally got back in the win column last time out though, dominating David Onama. Klein on the other hand snapped a two fight losing-streak last time out when he grabbed a split decision over Devonte Smith at UFC 272.
Jones is a really well-rounded prospect, who has controlled the distance and pace of all his fights so far and dominated most people with his relentless pressure. Klein meanwhile is a really talented striker, with incredible kicks and striking skills but his overall game tends to let him down against people who won’t have a kickboxing match with him. Jones is almost certain to pressure Klein to death and look to land combinations and knees to the body.
Klein has the ability to knock Jones out because he’s always willing to take a shot to give three back. But if Jones is capable of eating them, in the way he’s been able to against everyone else, then he will walk through them and punish Klein with his pressure. Klein’s cardio tends to let him down later in fights, so expect Jones to really put it on him and maybe even get a finish late on. PICK – Mason Jones via Knockout, Round 3
TJ Brown def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Brown as he lands his jab well and a hard calf kick too as he takes the centre. Rosa looking for some calf kicks of his own now, but Brown is landing his right hand really clean and crisp. Rosa lands a hard low kick that drops Brown, but Brown then catches the next kick, fires one of his own and then drags him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a guillotine but Brown scrambles back to his feet quickly and they go back to striking. Rosa’s low kicks having a big effect and forcing Brown to switch stances, but Brown’s strikes landing really well. Brown goes for a takedown again but Rosa is able to scramble with another guillotine attempt, but ends up on his back with Brown searching for a head-and-arm choke. Rosa defends well and then eats a few ground and pound shots to end the round. 10-9 Brown.
More of the same from both guys to start the second round as Brown takes the centre and applies pressure with his right hand, while Rosa throws out leg kicks and then gets taken down by Brown. Brown transitions to the back and looks to control the position but Rosa threatening with a guillotine again and then is able to scramble to top position. Rosa tries to take an arm but Brown is able to reverse and ends up on top himself again, then moves for a head-and-arm choke again. Rosa defends brilliantly then eats a big elbow from Brown after trying for a triangle. Rosa goes for an armbar and Brown manages to escape before going right back to top position. Rosa is looking for submissions constantly but Brown is a step ahead, defending and maintaining control. Brown takes the back and puts both hooks in but once again Rosa defends it and they see the round out exchanging strikes on the ground. 20-18 Brown.
Final round and Brown looking for more of the same, getting on the front foot and landing a big right hand before getting a takedown and slamming Rosa down early. Brown takes the back and starts working for a rear-naked choke but Rosa gets to his knees and gets back to his feet, before eventually being able to put Brown on his back and get top position. Brown works his way back to the feet and then forces Rosa down to the mat, before securing top position and landing some heavy elbows. Brown slides over into mount and looks for the head-and-arm choke again before Rosa gets to his knees and back to his feet. Brown goes for a takedown but Rosa works for a d’arce choke as we enter the final minute. Brown defends it well but Rosa isn’t giving up the neck. Brown gets to his feet and lands a one two before moving back into the same d’arce position to see the round out. Should be a Brown decision victory. 29-28.
Brian Kelleher def Kevin Croom via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Very fast start to the fight from Croom, with lots of forward pressure and blitzes using his size advantage to get the best of Kelleher early. Kelleher takes the centre now and Croom being very active, before a big right hook from Kelleher drops him! He gets straight back up and Kelleher goes for another, but misses and then gets hit with an accidental low blow to pause the action. Croom using his big reach advantage well for now, just pawing out the jab to create distance. Kelleher trying to mix up his attacks and goes for a takedown but Croom defends it before landing a hard low kick. Front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Croom keeps using his distance and just touching Kelleher up. Big spinning back fist lands from Kelleher before a left hook and a takedown to end the round on top. 10-9 Kelleher, just.
Croom opens up the round with a big one two that lands flush, but Kelleher eats it and keeps coming forward. Lots of volume from Croom in this round, but Kelleher is moving well and looking to counter. Nice body kick from Croom before a check-left hook from Kelleher lands too. Croom blitzes forward and gets Kelleher against the cage to clinch, using his size to wear Kelleher down. Big body shot from Kelleher, and then another, before he shoots for a takedown. Kelleher goes for a submission on the ground and looking to control the position, stopping Croom from getting back up. Big elbow lands from Kelleher, but he has a big cut above his eye after a knee landed from Croom as he went for the takedown. 19-19 for me, but could go either way.
Kelleher goes straight back to body work in the third round early on and then shoots in for a takedown to control early. Kelleher looking to take the back and secure a choke but Croom fights his way back up, only to be dragged back down immediately. Kelleher lands some ground and pound while transitioning ground positions, then lands a big knee and slams Croom back down as he tries to get back up. Kelleher completely dominating the grappling exchanges here and controlling the positions as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kelleher rolling with him and looking for a rear-naked choke but Croom fighting the hands. Heavy ground and pound from Kelleher to end the round in what could possibly be a 10-8 round, should seal him the fight. 29-28 for me.
Court McGee def Ramiz Brahimaj via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Great start to the fight for McGee, who is using his superior striking to his advantage to keep distance. Brahimaj clinches against the cage but McGee seems physically stronger and is able to turn him and get the fight down. Brahimaj defending a lot against the cage, but lands a strong knee to the gut of McGee before forcing a separation. Brahimaj takes th centre now and is striking well, but McGee keeping the pace high and landing the more significant strikes. McGee lands a huge right hand that drops Brahimaj just as the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 10-9 McGee.
McGee comes out early and lands a hard low kick and right hook that drops Brahimaj again, who gets up quickly and shoots for a takedown. Brahimaj gets it and starts looking to take his back, but McGee defends it and then is able to get a takedown of his own. Brahimaj gets back to the feet but McGee is just too physically strong for him right now and is wearing him down. McGee locks his hands and gets another takedown, but Brahimaj bounces back up quickly. McGee using his strength again to control, before shooting in for a takedown. Brahimaj defends and the two engage in a striking battle, but McGee is too strong again and clinches up to end the round again with another takedown. 20-18 McGee.
McGee steps over and goes immediately for another clinch and takedown situation, but Brahimaj is looking to defend it well and throws a nice knee to the body. He then drops down for a guillotine and it looks quite tight but McGee defends it and ends up dominant in top position. Brahimaj goes for another guillotine and wraps the neck up, but McGee stays calm and is able to pop his head out and push Brahimaj against the cage. Brahimaj tries to get back to his feet but McGee grinding him out and takes the back. McGee going for a rear-naked choke now, but Brahimaj turns to his back which allows McGee to move into mount. Brahimaj tries to scramble but gives up his back again and McGee dominantly rides him from position to position until the end of the round. Great win for McGee. 30-27.
Jamie Pickett def Joseph Holmes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight as both men look to take the centre of the cage and trade strikes. Holmes starting with a bit more intent, just missing with a head kick but then landing a nice straight right. Pickett blitzes forward with an attack of his own, but Holmes clinches up and uses his strength well against the cage. Holmes lands a nice right hand and then just misses with a head kick again, but Pickett clinching well to stifle the attack. Hard low kick from Holmes but Pickett gets a takedown to end the round. 10-9 Holmes, just.
Aggressive start to the round from Pickett as he comes forward with a hard front kick to the body and then a big left hand, before looking to get a takedown. Holmes looks more tired already but gets back to his feet and lands a hard right hand, but Pickett responds with a takedown attempt again. Strong body kick from Pickett lands, and now his left hand is landing well too. Holmes goes for a single leg takedown but Pickett defends it well in a clinch position. Pickett being very aggressive and coming forward hard with Holmes looking tired, but he responds with a nice slip left hand before they clinch again. Pickett explodes again as the round ends and should take that. 19-19.
Pickett being aggressive once again in this final round as Holmes throws a hard right hand. Pickett using his better conditioning and strength right now to stop Holmes’ momentum, but eats a body kick for his troubles when they separate from the clinch. Pickett lands a nice side kick as Holmes is looking for a big shot. Another clinch situation initiated by Pickett before a nice elbow from Holmes lands. A left hand stumbles Pickett again but then he goes for another clinch and just avoids a big elbow. Big high kick from Pickett lands well and the round comes to an end, with what should be a Pickett victory. 29-28.
Bill Algeo def Joanderson Brito via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Brito as he takes the centre, moves across the octagon and gets a body lock to look for a takedown. Algeo defends it well but eventually Brito gets it and takes the back while standing. Brito transitions around and picks Algeo up, then walks around the octagon for a few seconds before slamming him down and taking his back. Brito looking for a rear-naked choke but Algeo is defending well. Brito looking for the choke but Algeo turns into Brito and ends up reversing the position on top, looking for big ground and pound strikes. Brito looks to explode out and gets back to the feet quickly and goes back for another takedown. Brito lands a nice jab but then eats a big knee up the middle from Algeo, before shooting in for another takedown that gets defended to end the round. 10-9 Brito.
Brito coming forward with a blitz and walking Algeo down with big strikes, but then he eats a big right hand from Algeo that wobbles him. Brito immediately turns and goes back for the takedown, but Algeo defends it perfectly and lands a big knee from a front headlock position. Algeo lets him back up and lands a left hand on the break but Brito is just walking forward through the storm. Big one-twos from Brito snap Algeo’s head back and he looks hurt but once again Brito goes for a takedown and Algeo is able to stuff it and reverse position to end up on top. Algeo moves into side control but Brito gets back up. Algeo lands a big knee but then Brito fires back with a big right hand. Algeo clinches up to end the round, very close. 19-19.
Algeo opens the round with a nice one two, before Brito comes forward with a big blitz of strikes that land well. Brito continues to walk forward and do damage with big shots but Algeo timing him well with counters and clinching up to slow down the Brazilian’s momentum. Brito continues to walk forward constantly and goes for a spinning elbow, but Algeo slips it and showboats. Final minute and Brito is really pushing the pace but Algeo gets a big hip throw and ends up on top landing big elbows then takes the back. Algeo ends the round on the back and should take the victory in a great back and forth fight. 29-28 Algeo.
Viacheslav Borshchev def Dakota Bush via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)
Fast start to the fight for Bush as he stays at distance and throws lots of kicks early on. Big overhand right lands but Borshchev eats it. Borshchev steps in and lands a nice little blitz with a left hook, but Bush moves in for a takedown and gets it. Borshchev defends himself well down there and is able to stand up, but gets wobbled by a strike. Bush moves in for a big finish but Borshchev avoids and lands a big left hook counter. Bush gets another takedown and tries to take the back but Borshchev escapes and goes into the guard, landing heavy body shots from top position. He gets back up and backs Bush against the cage, slips a shot and lands a huge body blow that drops him!! Borshchev lands a few follow up shots but that’s that! What a knockout!
Katlyn Chookagian def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Chookagian starts the fight well with a big slip right hand that lands flush, while Maia looking to land some low kicks. Chookagian is really sitting down on her punches right now, landing well and maintaining distance well. Maia lands a big left hand and Chookagian gets a body lock and a takedown to sit in half guard on top position. Good shoulder pressure from Chookagian and she defends the sweep well before passing to side control, before laying down some shoulder strikes from the top. Chookagian tried to pass to mount but Maia bounces back up quickly, eats a knee and the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Aggressive start to the round from Maia as she steps forward and lands a hard right hand, but Chookagian slips a second attempt and gets another body lock to look for a takedown. Maia defends it well this time though and then they break, with Chookagian looking to control distance again with her jab. Maia leading with a low kick and doing well, but Chookagian bouncing and lands a nice right hook. Maia looks for a body lock this time and rushes Chookagian against the cage, but she defends it well and reverses the position to look for a trip herself. Maia lands a couple of right hands in the pocket, before Chookagian lands a big head kick and then a nice knee too but Maia continues to be aggressive and walk forward. Maia looks for an arm drag but Chookagian defends and ends up on Maia’s back with both hooks in looking for a choke to end the round. 20-18 Chookagian.
Maia coming out strong again in this final round but Chookagian using her teep kick brilliantly to maintain distance and landing her right hand and jab. Maia lands a big right hand but she’s just a step behind right now. Nice head kick from Maia, but Chookagian responds with a low kick. Lovely overhand right from Chookagian, followed by a clean one-two but Maia is still there. Nice right from Maia on the break from a clinch lands clean but Chookagian starting to take over with counters and jabs. Big right hand from Maia lands and then they exchange right hooks. Final 30 seconds and Chookagian looks super comfortable, then lands a huge one-two and a third on her way back to claim a big win. 30-27 Chookagian.
Explosive start to this one with Royval taking the centre and using speed, but Bontorin lands a hard low kick that drops Royval early. Royval throwing a lot of kicks, but Bontorin looking to counter with his flush right hand. Royval goes for a body kick that Bontorin catches and then lands a right hand as Royval spins. Bontorin transitions to a takedown and gets side control but Royval very good with scrambles and looks to get to his feet. Bontorin holds him there briefly but Royval eventually gets back up and goes back to being very active. Slip left hand from Royval lands clean, before another takedown from Bontorin. Royval staying active from his back as he tries to roll through and starts throwing elbows, before both get back to the feet to end the round. 10-9 Royval.
Quick start again as Bontorin throws a right hand that drops Royval and he goes straight into his guard. Royval trying to scramble with submissions but Bontorin stays calm and takes the back. Royval defends it expertly but Bontorin retains the control from top position and lands a big elbow. Royval climbs back to his feet as Bontorin goes back to striking and then drops him with a nice left hook. Royval straight back up though and looking to overwhelm Bontorin but Bontorin staying calm and looking for control. Royval trying to up the pressure but Bontorin gets a body lock and trip in the final seconds to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Royval lands a big knee and hook combo. Bontorin fires back with a huge right hand, left hook combo that lands flush but Royval’s chin is holding up. Bontorin is loading up on his punches and Royval is able to land a few softer shots. Bontorin lands a leg kick and Royval goes down, but Royval defending with his submissions and looking for a gogoplata. He transitions to an armbar and it looks like Bontorin taps (?!) but the referee doesn’t see it and then Bontorin escapes and the fight continues. Royval transitions and is able to sweep Bontorin to get on top as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hard elbows from the top for Royval but Bontorin firing back from the bottom with elbows of his own. Royval landing some huge elbows and the buzzer goes. 29-28 Royval for me but could easily go the other way too! Great fight.
Collier comes forward very aggressively in the opening minute, walking Sherman down and throwing hard right hands. Sherman looking to counter with right hooks but Collier doing well to avoid too much damage early. Collier storms forward and pushes Sherman to the mat. He moves straight into full mount and lands some big nasty elbows from the top that cut Sherman open. Sherman tries to kick off the cage but just puts himself in an awful position. Sherman rolls over to his belly and Sherman synches up a rear-naked choke and gets the tap for the victory. Impressive performance.
Two very hard low kicks from Chikadze open the fight up before a nice right hand behind them. Kattar takes the centre of the octagon trying to pressure him, but Chikadze with great footwork around the outside to stay off the cage. Chikadze lands two hard body kicks and a right hand then goes for another kick but loses his balance and Kattar charges for a takedown and secures top position. Kattar working to pass Chikadze’s guard but he’s defending well. Chikadze tries to get back up but Kattar drags him back down. A scramble sees Chikadze end up on top but Kattar reverses it to an arm triangle from the bottom and then secures the back with a body triangle to see out the round. 10-9 Kattar.
Hard body kick from Chikadze early on and he starts blitzing Kattar with hard punches and a variation of kicks again. Kattar switching stances to take the kick away from Chikadze. Kattar pressuring forward and landing hard strikes that have Chikadze looking a bit more tired. Big jab from Chikadze though and then Kattar continues to come forward and Chikadze is tired! Kattar lands a big right hand then shoots for a takedown but Chikadze defends it. Big knee from Kattar lands, followed by a left hook. Huge step-in elbow from Kattar and Chikadze is struggling. Kattar lands a big left hook and follows it with a body shot. Four big left hands from Chikadze land but Kattar responds with a huge right hand and a knee, then he secures a takedown and heavy right hands to end the round. What a round! 20-18 Kattar.
Kattar comes out with forward motion once again and is putting a pace on Chikadze, who’s trying to recover his cardio still. Elbow from Kattar lands and then a flush one-two straight down the middle lands. Kattar steps forward with his jab and is teeing off on Chikadze, who can’t get his hands up to block his head. Two low kicks from Chikadze and a left hand, before a big right cross. Kattar goes for a takedown but Chikadze just about stays up with a little help from the fence. Both guys are tired, but Kattar pushing forward still. Huge right elbow lands from Kattar and then they trade hooks to the chin. Chikadze lands a right hand that gets Kattar to cover up, but Chikadze swings wildly and misses big. Kattar continues with forward pressure to close the distance but then just misses with two big shots. Big spinning elbow from Kattar right on the buzzer. What a fight. 30-27 Kattar.
Kattar crowding Chikadze with forward pressure as he looks to stop the kicks, and he’s just picking the jab well. Chikadze is looking for kill shots now but he’s too tired to land, while Kattar continues to come forward with his jab and picking him apart. Huge elbow again from Kattar and then he shoots for a takedown, but Chikadze defends it brilliantly and lands some big strikes of his own. Chikadze lands a big right hand but Kattar comes forward with his jab and elbows. Head kick attempt from Chikadze but Kattar just keeps coming forward. Massive elbow from Kattar and the buzzer goes again. 40-36, this is a beating now.
Chikadze comes forward early throwing bombs in the final round. Kattar continues to walk forward and just jab him to death, and Chikadze just has no answer for the pressure. Two huge elbows land back-to-back from Kattar, but Chikadze’s chin holds up again! Another nasty elbow from Kattar as he starts throwing them instead of hooks. Chikadze lands a nice one-two before Kattar lands a spinning elbow. Kattar just constantly coming forward with elbows and straights. Chikadze backing up and getting pieced up as Kattar looks for a finish. Huge right hand lands on the chin but Chikadze is still standing. Chikadze throws a one-two and Kattar responds with another flush spinning elbow. Both guys swinging for the fences with 30 seconds left. Kattar starts throwing elbows and drops Chikadze right on the buzzer!! He follows up with a couple of shots, but that is an exclamation point on a stunning performance. Wow! 50-44 Kattar for me.
The UFC returns to the Apex once again this weekend for a strawweight main event that could decide the next title contender for the division.
Mackenzie Dern looks to continue her win streak when she goes up against Marina Rodriguez in the main event, with both women aware that a win could pit them against the winner of Rose Namajunas vs Weili Zhang 2 at UFC 268 next month.
Elsewhere on the card is a fun welterweight clash between Randy Brown and Jared Gooden, while there is also an exciting flyweight fight between Tim Elliott and Matheus Nicolau as well as the return of heavyweight Alexandr Romanov.
Last week at UFC Vegas 38, we went 7/11 on picks with just one perfect pick to move us up to 428/670 (63.88%) with 184 perfect picks (42.99%).
We’ll look to improve on that here on this ten-fight card, starting with the prelims.
Steve Garcia (11-4) vs Charlie Ontiveros (11-7) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting fight to start off the card as two fighters who lost their UFC debuts clash here. Garcia made his UFC debut in February 2020 against Luis Pena, while Ontiveros is a previous welterweight who made his debut at middleweight and got slammed to defeat by Kevin Holland last year at UFC Vegas 12.
Garcia is a natural featherweight who has decided to stick around at lightweight for now, with good striking volume and decent power. Ontiveros is another with great strength in the striking department. Both have been absolutely battered on the ground in the past and that means this should be a fun, stand-up affair.
With that said though, it’s unlikely to last very long. Between them they have had 33 professional fights and only one of them has taken place at lightweight before but further to that, Ontiveros has been KO’d SEVEN times in his career. This doesn’t stand to go better for him, with Garcia powerful enough to fold him early. PICK – Steve Garcia via Knockout, Round 1
Lupita Godinez (5-1) vs Silvana Gomez Juarez (10-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A short-notice strawweight bout here as ‘Loopy’ takes on debutant Silvana Gomez Juarez. Godinez suffered a split-decision loss on her debut to Jessica Penne back in April, while Juarez is on a three-fight win streak as she makes her UFC debut.
Godinez is a striker first with some decent grappling in her back pocket too, but lots of volume and a great gas tank. Juarez is a brilliant striker on the other hand, with a brilliant boxing stance and even a 4-0 professional boxing record. She is a cardio machine with good power and great cardio too, even though she is 37.
Juarez has the edge on the feet and Godinez really needs to make this an ugly fight to get the win. Short-notice helps her, but Juarez was due to fight next week anyway on the Contender Series so it’s not a massive factor. However the grappling is a big factor for Godinez and I think she’ll be able to control from the top to grind out a decision. PICK – Lupita Godinez via Decision
Charles Rosa (14-5) vs Damon Jackson (18-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very interesting grapple-heavy bout in the featherweight division up next. Rosa has alternated wins and losses ever since joining the UFC in 2014, beating Justin Jaynes most recently at UFC Vegas 30. Jackson is 1-1 in the UFC, beating Mirsad Bektic at UFC Vegas 11 before defeat last time out against Ilia Topuria at UFC Vegas 16.
Rosa is a solid submission artist with eight tap-out wins in his career but some really poor takedown defence. Jackson is also a brilliant grappler and one of the premiere back-takers in the UFC, with 14 submission wins in his career. His top control game is really, really good and if Rosa leaves any limbs dangling then Jackson will take them.
Jackson has been KO’d three times in his career and Rosa is a decent enough striker to land some clean shots and hurt him, but overall the defensive takedown struggles of Rosa lead me to believe that Jackson will be able to get on top and control for a win. PICK – Damon Jackson via Decision
Alexandr Romanov (14-0) vs Jared Vanderaa (12-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight banger coming up as the undefeated Romanov returns to the cage to take on Vanderaa. Romanov has run through opponents in the UFC until he came up against Juan Espino, with the fight ending in a technical decision after a low blow saw the fight ended early. Vanderaa got a win the last time out when he beat Justin Tafa back in May, taking his UFC record to 1-1.
Romanov is an absolute monster with the wrestling, who just charges forward with a takedown and dominates on the ground with pure aggression. Vanderaa is a fighter with decent striking and some good cardio, but considering he’s a heavyweight he doesn’t have the most power in the world. He is the cleaner and more technical fighter in this bout, but Vanderaa likes to clinch up and get inside on his opponent which plays into the strengths of Romanov.
Unfortunately for Vanderaa, that is just not ideal. Romanov will find a way to get the fight down to the ground early and do plenty of damage with strikes and submission attempts, before probably getting a finish. PICK – Alexandr Romanov via Submission, Round 1
Chris Gutierrez (16-3-2) vs Felipe Colares (10-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Banger in the bantamweight division steps into the place of the featured prelim bout in this one. Gutierrez is unbeaten in his last five with four wins and a draw, beating Andre Ewell at UFC 258 most recently, while Colares has alternated wins and losses in his last four with a win over Luke Sanders at UFC Vegas 25 last time out.
Gutierrez is a decent wrestler who is one of the best leg kickers in the entire company, with a large percentage of his strikes in all his fights being leg kicks. Colares on the other hand is a solid striker with some decent jiu-jitsu, but his takedown defence is lacking and often his weakness. Gutierrez is often someone who works at quite a slow pace, which could work against him in this one because Colares is quick and super durable.
That said though, Gutierrez has the advantage in the wrestling and has the advantage in the striking which means Colares will need to catch a kick to get him down. That’s unlikely and I think Gutierrez will be able to piece him up from range and do lots of damage with the leg kicks for a decision win. PICK – Chris Gutierrez via Decision
Elsewhere on the card in the co-main event, Ovince Saint-Preux moves up to heavyweight to take on short-notice opponent Tanner Boser while Raoni Barcelos gets back in the octagon to take on Timur Valiev in an absolute banger at bantamweight.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 29, we went 8/12 on the night with four perfect picks to go up to 346/542 (63.84%) with 155 perfect picks (44.8%).
We’ll look to improve on that here with this 13-fight card, starting off with the early prelims here.
Yancy Medeiros (15-7) vs Damir Hadzovic (13-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Likely a ‘loser leaves UFC’ bout at 155lbs here as former fan favourite Yancy Medeiros takes on Damir Hadzovic with both men on losing streaks. Medeiros has lost his last three in a row to Donald Cerrone, Gregor Gillespie and Lando Vannata, while Hadzovic has lost two in a row to Christos Giagos and Renato Moicano.
Medeiros’ record recently doesn’t look great, but he’s lost to only very capable fighters. He’s a great, technical striker with power in his hands and feet and has good wrestling to back himself too unless he’s coming up against someone as elite as Gillespie. Hadzovic isn’t elite at anything, and will look to step in and have a straight up fire-fight in the octagon.
If that’s the case, Medeiros should fancy his chances. Hadzovic has been finished twice in his last two and while he has decent power himself, I think Medeiros still has the tools to use his big reach advantage for a decision. PICK – Yancy Medeiros via Decision
Charles Rosa (13-5) vs Justin Jaynes 16-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Rosa is a great grappler with an active guard off his guard, while Jaynes is a good wrestler who has fallen in love with his hands in recent fights after his knockout win over Frank Camacho back at UFC Vegas 2. Rosa is far too happy to accept his guard position and especially against someone who overpowers him, but Jaynes seems unlikely to use his wrestling any more now that he’s moving down to 145lbs.
Rosa has the technique edge and a great chin and the longer the fight goes, he will have the advantage so I think stylistically he’ll claim another yo-yo win for his record. PICK – Charles Rosa via Decision
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
*Drakkar Klose vs Luis Pena was cancelled a few hours before the event after one of Klose’s cornermen tested positive for COVID-19.*
*Rafael Alves vs Pat Sabatini was cancelled after the weigh-ins, after Alves weighed in a 157.5lbs for their featherweight (146lbs limit) fight.*
Serghei Spivac def Jared Vanderra via Knockout, Round 2 (4:32)
Good start to the fight for Spivac as he responds to being back up against the cage with some nice overhand rights, before catching a leg kick and charging forward to get a takedown. Vanderra is able to get back to his feet and clinch before Spivac sweeps him and ends up on top in half guard. Spivac looks to advance into side control but Vanderra does well to get him back into half guard, while Spivac looks to touch him with ground and pound. Lots of top control from Spivac but not much damage from him as Vanderra seems content to see out the round from the bottom – and that’s what he does. 10-9 Spivac.
Another quick start for Spivacas he ducks a head kick attempt from Vanderra and gets the fight back to the ground early to dominate from the top once again. Spivac content to stay in half guard and rain down short elbows and short punches, while Vanderra isn’t active enough at all to try and get out of the position. Vanderra is busted up bad with Spivac blasting him. The referee taking a close look as Spivac moves into full mount and continues to blast him with strikes, with Vanderra barely defending himself and the referee finally calls it off. Impressive from Spivac.
Aiemann Zahabi def Drako Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 1 (3:05)
Interesting start to this one as Rodriguez takes the centre of the cage but both men seem to be waiting for the other to throw. Rodriguez throws a nice uppercut down the middle and Zahabi fires back with some strikes of his own, before a short clinch. Nice calf kick from Rodriguez and he seems to be loosening up a little now. Both men go for a right hand and Zahabi starches him! Rodriguez goes down and Zahabi lands one more shot before the referee steps in and ends it. Wow what a punch!
Chas Skelly vs Jamall Emmers – CANCELLED
Unbelievable. Skelly makes the walk to the octagon and before Emmers comes out, the broadcast team tells us that he is suffering from back spasms backstage and can’t make the walk. The fight is cancelled. Crazy scenes.
Casey O’Neill def Shana Dobson via Knockout, Round 2 (3:41)
Very fast start to this fight as O’Neill comes out quickly, they both exchange strikes and O’Neill goes for the takedown with a single leg. Dobson defends it well and O’Neill lets go, before another exchange and finally getting the takedown she craved. Dobson rolls through and ends up on top but O’Neill scrambles and they get back up. Dobson throwing some powerful strikes but O’Neill isn’t fazed at all and after a clinch she dumps Dobson back to the ground and goes into side control. O’Neill landing some nice elbows from the top but Dobson defending well and forces a scramble, which O’Neill wins by coming out on top before getting another takedown. Lots of ground and pound but Dobson doing well to not take too much damage, as the round comes to an end with O’Neill trying to lock in a heel hook. 10-9 O’Neill.
Fast start to the second round again, with Dobson throwing a nice body kick but O’Neill catches it and takes the fight to the ground. She tries to take the back of Dobson but it’s defended well despite two hooks being in. O’Neill gets into full mount and starts raining down crazy levels of ground and pound and Dobson tries to escape by kicking off the cage, but O’Neill maintains the position and keeps landing damage. Dobson tries to escape by O’Neill just stays tight to her and continues to stay in dominant positions landing elbows and punches and forces the referee to step in and end it. What a performance from the debutant!
Julian Erosa def Nate Landwehr via Knockout, Round 1 (0:56)
HOLY!! What a fight!!! Both men come out all guns blazing, Erosa sends Landwehr flying backwards with a right hand, Landewehr drops Erosa with strikes in the clinch, Erosa rattles the brain of Landwehr with some uppercuts in the clinch and then knocks him out with a flying knee! Landwehr protests to the referee but I think it was the right call. What a knockout for Julian Erosa! Wow!
John Castaneda def Eddie Wineland via Knockout, Round 1 (4:44
Tactical start to the fight early on as Wineland takes the centre of the cage and looks to pressure forward, with Castaneda circling on the outside. Wineland with lots of head movement and feints, with his rapid right hand landing hard a couple of times. Leg kick from Castaneda as he continues to circle, before an exchange of strikes sees Wineland get caught with a counter left hand. Lead right hand lands from Castaneda and wobbles Wineland and Castaneda charges for the finish. He lands four or five shots clean that drop Wineland and pours on the pressure with ground and pound to force the referee to stop the fight. Huge knockout for Castaneda!
Jared Gordon def Danny Chavez via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Cagey start to this bout as both men look to feel each other out with feints and movements. Gordon backs Chavez up against the cage but misses with some big strikes before they exchange calf kicks. Big one-two from Chavez backs Gordon up momentarily before he comes forward again with some leg kicks. Chavez throws a kick that hits Gordon right on the cup and there’s a brief pause in the action. Fight restarts and Gordon lands two nice leg kicks that Chavez tries to check, before he throws a beautiful spinning wheel kick that Gordon just avoids. Gordon backs Chavez up against the cage again and the two play with throwing heavy strikes but they’re both tentative about it and keep missing. Heavy leg kick from Chavez and Gordon goes for a takedown but it’s stuffed quite easily. Good round, very close. 10-9 Gordon for me but could go either way really.
Quicker start to this round from Chavez, as he comes out quickly for a takedown and gets it only for Gordon to pop back up to his feet quickly. Chavez trying to take the centre now but his leg is definitely hurting him and Gordon shoots for a takedown and gets it. He takes him against the cage and starts applying good top pressure from the guard position. Chavez tries to get back up to his feet but Gordon defends the position really well and is able to stay on top. More ground and pound as he goes body-head and Gordon is completely dominating on the ground right now. Chavez kicks Gordon away and tries to get back up but Gordon is able to recover and push him back down before he gets back up. Gordon passes guard with seconds remaining and takes the second round clearly. 20-18 Gordon.
A more tentative final round as Chavez takes the centre and starts walking Gordon down now. Some good shots from Chavez land but his leg is definitely compromised, and Gordon goes for a takedown which is denied. Chavez lands a couple more right hands and Gordon lands a few more of his own before shooting for the single leg and getting the takedown. Chavez looks exhausted on the bottom as Gordon keeps busy from top position and looks to pass guard while throwing lots of ground and pound. Chavez gets back to the feet and goes for a flying knee but once again Gordon gets hold of him and clinches to force the grappling exchange to see out the round. 30-27 Gordon.
Tom Aspinall def Andrei Arlovski via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (1:09)
Very positive start to the fight for you Brit as Aspinall takes the centre and is using excellent footwork to step in and out of range. A few leg kicks from both and some nice blitzes but Aspinall staying very calm. Aspinall slips a shot and lands a big right hand that rocks Arlovski! He throws a barrage of strikes with tremendous hand speed and Arlovski looks hurt, then he keeps going to the body to try and get Arlovski to stop covering up before the veteran clinches up with him. Arlovski slowing this fight all the way down with a clinch as we enter the final 30 seconds and the clinch is broken. Both guys connect with a big right hand simultaneously just as the round ends. 10-9 Aspinall, good round.
Arlovski opens the round with a nice leg kick before landing a beautiful right hand that pushes Aspinall back. A bit more feinting and moving from Aspinall before he shoots in for a big power double leg takedown and gets it. He immediately wraps his arm around the neck of Arlovski and sinks in a rear naked choke which Arlovski taps too! Beautifully done! We have a new contender at heavyweight!
Phil Hawes def Nassourdine Imavov via Majority Decision (28-28, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Hawes as he comes out and lands lots of calf kicks early on to chop away at Imavov. Big combination of strikes land too but Imavov covers up well, before Hawes kicks at the leg again and drops Imavov. Hawes misses a looping right hook and Imavov clinches up with him, which allows Hawes to go for a takedown but it’s good defending from Imavov to keep it standing. Imavov throws and lands a big elbow but Hawes responds with an immediate takedown and then slams him down too to end up in side control. A couple of nice shots on the ground from Hawes land as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Hawes.
Couple of kicks each start the round before Hawes ducks a straight right from Imavov and goes for the takedown against the cage once again. The clinch battle continues before Imavov is able to separate after a few minutes against the cage. Imavov lands a straight right and then another that wobbles Hawes! He comes forward with a big right hand again but Hawes ducks it and blasts a takedown against the cage. Hawes is able to get the back and drag him down to the mat back into side control and starts throwing ground and pound strikes once again. Imavov doing a good job of defending from the bottom but Hawes ends the round on top. 20-18 but Imavov is still in this.
Imavov comes out quickly and heavy, but Hawes ducks immediately and gets a takedown once again. Imavov is able to get back to the feet but Hawes continues to hold him against the cage and throws knees before they break. Imavov tries to walk forward and throws an uppercut but Hawes avoids it and clinches up against the cage once again. Imavov frames off and lands two big elbows and then breaks away and lands some big right hooks that have Hawes wobbling! Hawes steps away and Imavov goes for a Thai clinch, which allows Hawes to clinch up against the cage again. Imavov breaks away and lands more shots but Hawes clinches up again and survives to the buzzer. 29-28 Hawes in the end for me. Great fight.
Chris Daukaus def Aleksei Oleinik via Knockout, Round 1 (1:55)
Very quick start to the fight as Daukaus comes out and throws a big right hand but Oleinik grabs hold of him and clinches up. He starts looking for a key lock but Daukaus does well and then he tries to pull guard for that famed Ezekiel choke but Daukaus stays standing. Huge shots land from Daukaus and they rock Oleinik, who comes forward again and throws a big overhand right that misses. Daukaus stays patient, fires of some big shots that are all landing flush including knees to the head and the referee steps in and waves it off! Hugely impressive win for Chris Daukaus!
Darrick Minner def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27)
Minner comes out with a fast pace to start the fight, closing the distance quickly and clinching up. Rosa goes for a guillotine immediately but Minner pops out and the two separate. Minner pushes forward and throws some heavy shots but only a couple land and Rosa eats them well. Minner gets the fight down to the ground with a nice takedown and then starts riding the positions. Both men transition really well throughout the round and Minner takes the top position for the most part to take the round. 10-9 Minner.
Second round and Minner lands a beautiful leg kick and follows it up with a big right hand that drops Rosa! Minner pounces for a finish and takes the back looking for a choke. Rosa defends it well and Minner continues to land some ground and pound while fishing for the submission but Rosa continues to defend it well. Minner controls the position and Rosa explodes back up to his feet, but Minner takes the back, and drags him back down and ends up in full mount. Minner threatening with a head and arm choke and it looks tight but Rosa transitions to an armbar attempt to escape! Minner lets it go and sees the round out on top. Potentially a 10-8 round. 20-17 Minner.
Minner opens the final round with a big right hook that wobbles Rosa and he ends up taking the top position once again after dragging him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a kimura but it’s perfectly defended by Minner who gets back into top position and stacks Rosa against the cage looking for ground and pound. Rosa looking to attack an armbar and transitions to an omoplata but he’s cut open bad and Minner is able to defend it very well. Minner goes into north south position and controls the neck and Rosa looks to cage walk to roll out but Minner stops him again and just takes the back. Minner stretches Rosa out as we enter the final 30 seconds. Rosa starts throwing elbows and punches from the bottom but Minner eats the shots and rides it out until the buzzer. Big win for Darrick Minner.
Yana Kunitskaya def Ketlen Vieira via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Vieira opens the fight up with a couple of right hands before going straight in for a takedown. After some battling against the cage she gets Kunitskaya down, but the Russian battles her way back up and they re-engage in the clinch. Lots of knees to the body from Kunitskaya in the clinch which Vieira is not enjoying at all. Vieira goes for a throw, Kunitskaya throws a knee which lands but Vieira follows through with a takedown and gets it. Vieira steps over into mount pretty quickly but Kunitskaya does well to get back to half guard before Vieira steps into mount again and starts looking for submissions. Kunitskaya battles for half guard again and Vieira spends the last 90 seconds trying to get back into mount while they exchange ground and pound strikes. 10-9 Vieira.
Kunitskaya comes out fast in the second round and applies pressure from the off with strikes before clinching up against the cage. More of those uncomfortable knees to the body and as Vieira tries to get a takedown, Kunitskaya reverses it and gets herself on top as they fall to the ground. Vieira looking for submissions from the bottom while Kunitskaya defends well and throws lots of good ground and pound. Vieira transitions for an armbar but loses it and then goes for a knee bar which is close, but Kunitskaya kicks off and gets back to her feet. Vieira tries to drag the fight to the ground again but Kunitskaya defends it well and starts throwing those knees again. Vieira goes for a kimura but Kunitskaya defends it well and starts throwing big knees to the body on the ground followed by solid elbows too to end the round. 19-19.
Calf kicks for Kunitskaya to start the third round before Vieira changes levels and gets the takedown within the first minute. Vieira ends up in half guard on top and throws some nice ground and pound and is trying to pass into guard but Kunitskaya is defending well and the cage isn’t helping her either. She goes chest to chest and finally passes into mount and starts looking for a head and arm choke. Kunitskaya trying to escape but Vieira’s level is so high and she takes the back now. Kunitskaya starts fighting the hands and legs to break the locks but Vieira is still controlling the position well as she searches for an opening for a rear-naked choke. Kunitskaya throwing punches from the top with Vieira on her back and she reverses the position with 10 seconds and starts raining down huge ground and pound to end the round. Should be a Vieira round though which would give her the fight. 29-28 Vieira.
Derrick Lewis def Curtis Blaydes via Knockout, Round 2 (1:26)
A very static start to this fight as Lewis stands pretty much still in the centre and invites Blaydes to come towards him. Blaydes moves in to close the distance and Lewis cracks him with a big right hand that sends Blaydes retreating. He comes back in and lands a nice jab, but Lewis loops a big right hand again and misses. High kick attempt from Lewis misses and Blaydes is staying very patient, and then lands a big right hand. He slips Lewis’ counter and lands two more right hands that rock Lewis a little, then follows that up with some leg kicks. Blaydes is controlling the striking with his speed and movement and is throwing lots of leg kicks to destabilise Lewis. Lovely jab from Blaydes followed by another leg kick and Lewis is hurting on that leg. 10-9 Blaydes.
Second round and Blaydes comes out quickly with some nice right hands once again. He shoots for the takedown and Lewis denies it brilliantly. They meet in the middle again and Blaydes shoots for another takedown and Lewis throws an uppercut and Blaydes is out cold!! Lewis lands two more huge shots while Blaydes is unconscious and the referee ends it! Holy wow! What a knockout!
Arlovski is the epitome of a mixed martial artist, with fantastic striking and a solid ground game to his name too. Aspinall is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who took time away from the cage to become a professional boxer, training with world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. He has tremendous one-punch power, great hand speed and technique and is so confident in his ground game that he isn’t hesitant to throw hands.
Arlovski is a veteran and knows how to stuff momentum, but with where they both are in their careers right now this could be the statement win Aspinall’s career needs to really take off. PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 1
Phillip Hawes (9-2) vs Nassourdine Imavov (9-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
After getting a random, undisclosed injury during fight week of UFC Fight Island 7 this fight was rescheduled for this card. Someone’s winning streak end as Hawes and Imavov go to war at 185lbs. Hawes has won each of his last five fights, including an 18 second knockout on his UFC debut at UFC 254, while Imavov has won each of his last six including his UFC debut against Jordan Williams in October.
Hawes is a violent counter striker who is very physical in his approach, while Imavov is a bit more of a rounded fighter. His issue is that when he’s out-gunned on the feet he tends to use his wrestling, but Hawes is the better wrestler here. Imavov has good footwork but with a range and power deficit, but Hawes should be able to get the victory here. PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 2
Aleksei Oleinik (59-14-1) vs Chris Daukaus (10-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A very, very interesting fight at heavyweight between a true veteran of the sport against an up and coming prospect. Aleksei Oleinik will be competing in his 75th professional fight here against Daukaus, who has was his last three in a row including both of his UFC fights.
If you have knockout power, which Daukaus has with nine knockout wins in ten victories, you can beat Oleinik. But you have to do it before he gets his hands on you and puts you on the ground. He can submit you from the top or the bottom but Daukaus’ striking is so powerful and heavy hands have beaten Oleinik in three of his last five fights. I’ll either get this spot on or horribly wrong, but I think Daukaus pulls out the big knockout win. PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 1
Charles Rosa (13-4) vs Darrick Minner (25-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fight that will take place between two unranked fighters with two of the best submission artists in the featherweight division. Rosa has won eight of 13 via submission, but his most recent fight was a split decision win over Kevin Aguilar. Minner on the other hand has won 22 of 25 wins by submission and in each of his last 13 wins, including his most recent fight against TJ Laramie back in September.
Rosa has a great karate style on the feet and he fights in a similar way to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, but Minner will pressure him well with boxing and attack the legs with solid calf kicks. Rosa has the advantage on the feet and his movement could see him look to keep it there, but Minner has a great wrestling background and looks to land a big shot then take the fight down to the ground.
It’s a very close fight between the two but I think with Minner more likely to get Rosa to the ground than Rosa is to keep the fight standing, I’ll go with Minner to get the win. PICK – Darrick Minner via Submission, Round 2
Ketlen Vieira (11-1) vs Yana Kunitskaya (13-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Both women are grapplers by trade, by Vieira is a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is comfortable off her back and on top, while Kunitskaya prefers to lay and prey from the top and uses her kicking game when on the feet. It seems like a recipe for disaster against Vieira, who is among the elite grapplers in the women’s MMA world.
It’s close, but stylistically Vieira seems to have a path to victory wherever the fight ends up while Kunitskaya will need to win in a realm where her opponent is at her best or where she isn’t at her best also. PICK – Ketlen Vieira via Decision
Curtis Blaydes (14-2) vs Derrick Lewis (24-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
That Oleinik fight doesn’t bode well for Lewis though. He was taken down and dominated on the ground by the much smaller man and only got back to his feet when the bell went to end the first round. Blaydes will take this to the ground and look to blast him out of there from top position. If Lewis somehow survives the first round, he will need a knockout just like against Oleinik but Blaydes is elite and will take it back to the ground for a dominant win. PICK – Curtis Blaydes via Knockout, Round 2