The UFC returns with yet another banger of a title fight rematch at UFC 287 when Alex Pereira defends his middleweight title for the first time against long-time rival Israel Adesanya in the main event.
This will be the fourth time these two have met in a fight, with Pereira winning each of the previous three but Adesanya running him super close every time.
We’ll also see Gilbert Burns fight Jorge Masvidal in the co-main event, while we’ll also see the likes of Kevin Holland, Raul Rosas Jr, Adrian Yanez, Rob Font, Kelvin Gastelum and Chris Curtis fighting on the card.
Karl Williams (8-1) vs Chase Sherman (16-11) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights take to the cage next. Williams made his UFC debut last month and claimed a win over Lukasz Brzeski on the cards, while Sherman has lost five of his last six fights, with a decision to Waldo Cortes-Acosta most recently in November 2022. Williams steps in on short notice to replace Chris Barnett.
Williams is a big heavyweight at 6ft 3 with fantastic wrestling skills and the cardio to go with it. He also has good hand speed and power, although his striking is certainly his weak point. Sherman is a traditional heavyweight with some big haymakers and a decent leg kick, but pretty poor takedown defence and that’s a big issue for him here. Hi defeats to Alexandr Romanov and Jake Collier showed that he really struggles with persistent wrestlers, and that’s what Williams does brilliantly.
If Williams can implement the same game plan he did last month, then he should win this fight. His hand speed will make Sherman think twice in the striking exchanges, which will open up the takedowns for Williams to control him and claim a dominant win. PICK – Karl Williams via Decision
Gerald Meerschaert (35-15) vs Joe Pyfer (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Veteran vs hype train up next in the middleweight division. Meerschaert has won four of his last five fights in the UFC, with a stunning submission win over Bruno Silva last time out back in August. Pyfer has burst onto the scene with three wins in a row via knockout, including Alen Amedovski in his full UFC debut last time out.
Meerschaert is a stunning grappler with insanely good durability and submission skills, as shown by his 27 career wins by tap out. His boxing isn’t the best though and he can be clipped, as his three KO defeats show. Pyfer is a heavy-handed scrapper with solid fundamentals and good wrestling, but often he gets a bit carried away and can find himself huffing and puffing as the fight goes on. He has the skills to win this fight, but Meerschaert is no pushover.
GM3 has halted many a hype train and he knows how to stay safe until an opening shows itself before he takes advantage. However, relying on someone who is very skilled to make a mistake as your chance to win isn’t something that we can back. He could well get the win, but expect Pyfer to mix in his wrestling with his heavy hands to claim a decision victory with the judges in a statement win. PICK – Joe Pyfer via Decision
Michelle Waterson-Gomez (18-10) vs Luana Pinheiro (10-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A very fun strawweight scrap up next between a veteran and an upcoming star in the division. Waterson-Gomez has lost four of her last five, with a controversial win over Angela Hill sandwiched between losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Carla Esparza, Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Lemos. Pinheiro on the other hand is on an eight-fight win streak including both of her UFC bouts so far, where she beat Randa Markos via DQ and Sam Hughes most recently in November.
Waterson-Gomez is a talented karate style fighter who is also a good wrestler and has decent submission skills to boot. Pinheiro is a really complete fighter with heavy hands, good kicks, excellent takedowns, solid submissions and great judo to go with it. Generally the Brazilian has the edge everywhere here and it seems like a bit of a set up fight for her.
Pinheiro has the judo skills to take this fight down and dominate, and she has the size and power advantage on the feet to control the striking exchanges if she performs to her best. Waterson-Gomez needs to use her speed and movement to work a volume-heavy attack to tip the judges in her favour, but it seems highly unlikely that this goes anywhere other than in Pinheiro’s win column. PICK – Luana Pinheiro via Decision
Chris Curtis (30-9) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-8) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger at middleweight up next between two fan favourites on the roster. Curtis has won nine of his last 10 fights, including four of five in the UFC. He KO’d Phil Hawes and Brendan Allen before a decision win over Rodolfo Vieira was followed up by a decision loss to Jack Hermansson. He bounced back with a big KO win over Joaquin Buckley last time out. Gastelum has lost five of his last six including the last two in a row to Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier.
Curtis is an undersized middleweight with fantastic boxing skills and great power in his hands, to go with his granite chin and solid cardio. Gastelum is known for his chin and powerful left hand, while he also has decent wrestling skills too but he hasn’t fought in 20 months after suffering with injuries. This is a real coin toss of a fight.
Gastelum’s losses have come regularly in recent times, but they have come against top level opposition and the one time he fought someone he was expected to beat (Ian Heinisch) he did so comfortably. Curtis is probably fighting at his maximum level right now and Gastelum has fought at a far higher level than that. I won’t be surprised either way, but I think Gastelum can go with him for the full 15 to claim a win on the scorecards in a razor close yet entertaining fight. PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision
Jack Della Maddalena (12-2) vs Danny Roberts (18-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Potentially the fight of the night opens up the main card here. Maddalena is on a 12-fight win streak after losing his first two professional bouts, earning first-round knockouts over Pete Rodriguez (UFC 270) and Ramazan Emeev (UFC 275) to date in the UFC. Roberts returned from a two-year layoff to defeat Emeev back in October 2021, but lost to Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 274 via decision last time out.
Maddalena is a tremendous boxer with unbelievable power in his hands, earning 11 finishes in his last 12 fights which were all victories. He’s got an excellent kicking game too, to go with a pressure that exhausts his opponents. Roberts is a decent kickboxer himself too, but he has a lack of volume. He usually makes up for that with his decent wrestling game though, and his grappling is decent too earning him five tap out wins in the past.
But this seems like a bit of a set up fight for Maddalena. Roberts is a fighter who always brings it, and his name is probably bigger than his abilities. Maddalena is going to push forward, land lots of power shots and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see him just melt Roberts as the fight goes on before landing a nasty shot to earn the win. PICK – Jack Della Maddalena via Knockout, Round 2
Andre Fialho (16-5) vs Muslim Salikhov (18-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Another really exciting welterweight scrap up next between two guys who love to strike. Fialho is 2-2 in the UFC, losing to Michel Pereira (UFC 270) before knocking out Miguel Baeza and Cameron VanCamp (UFC 274). He was KO’d himself last time out though by Jake Matthews at UFC 275. Salikhov saw a five-fight win streak snapped last time out against Li Jingliang, with “The Leech” KO’ing him with strikes in the second round.
Fialho is a powerful boxer, who walks forward like Terminator and lands lots of power shots while being willing to take some of his own too. There is a decent kicking game in him too, but his game leans quite heavily on his boxing skills. Salikhov is a sambo world champion, with phenomenal kung-fu skills including spinning attacks and distance management. He lacks real power in those strikes though, without a KO win since 2019.
This is a battle of technique vs power, but on this occasion I expect power to come out on top. Fialho isn’t short of technique and after Salikhov got put out last time out, he’ll want to test the chin. Fialho is likely to come forward and close the distance to limit the kicks of Salikhov and eventually I expect him to back him against the cage and start landing big shots before the referee steps in. PICK – Andre Fialho via Knockout, Round 2
Chase Sherman (16-10) vs Waldo Cortes-Acosta (8-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys step up to the plate once again in this one in an interesting fight. Sherman has lost four of his last five, snapping a losing streak by claiming a KO win over Jared Vanderaa most recently back in July. Cortes-Acosta made his UFC debut just a couple of weeks ago, beating Vanderaa too via unanimous decision.
Both of these guys are your typical heavyweight scrappers, with Sherman having a decent leg kick to go with his overhand right while Cortes-Acosta is simply a boxer in an MMA cage. Sherman is also good with his elbows and his cardio is decent, but Cortes-Acosta definitely has the power edge here.
Neither of these guys are tearing up any trees in the UFC any time soon, but the low kicks are almost certainly going to play a big part here. Cortes-Acosta has good combinations with his striking and decent body work, but the experience of Sherman added on to those leg kicks means he should claim the win. PICK – Chase Sherman via Decision
Kennedy Nzechukwu (10-3) vs Ion Cutelaba (16-8-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Fun light heavyweight scrap up next in the co-main event. Nzechukwu is 2-2 in his last four with knockout wins over Danilo Marques and Karl Roberson either side of defeats to Da Un Jung and Nicolae Negemereanu. Cutelaba has just one win in his last six (1-4-1), losing each of his last two via submission to Ryan Spann and Johnny Walker most recently.
Nzechukwu is a pressure fighter with good Muay-Thai skills in the clinch and big power in his hands, but his takedown defence leaves plenty to be desired and is a big hole in his game. Cutelaba alternatively is a seriously impressive wrestler with scary power in his hands, but absolutely no fight IQ whatsoever and a lack of ability to pace himself while going in with crazy aggression. Both of these fighters have flaws where the other has strengths, which makes this a hard fight to pick.
Cutelaba has just struggled once too many in fights that he’s supposed to win for me to pick him. He has the big advantage in wrestling for sure, but his will to always go at 100 mph means if he doesn’t get it done early then he will burn out. Nzechukwu may not be able to cope with the early blitz, but his ability to be able to push a pace and retain his power late leads me to think he survives that initial blast from “Hulk” and puts him away later in the bout with combinations against the cage. PICK – Kennedy Nzechukwu via Knockout, Round 3
Derrick Lewis (26-10) vs Serghei Spivac (15-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights step up in the main event of this one as they look to put together a run for a potential title run in 2023. Lewis has lost three of his last four, getting KO’d by Ciryl Gane (UFC 265), Tai Tuivasa (UFC 271) and Sergei Pavlovich (UFC 277) with a KO win of his own against Chris Daukaus coming in the middle of that. Spivac on the other hand has won his last two after defeat to Tom Aspinall, KO’ing Greg Hardy and UFC 272 before a KO win against Augusto Sakai most recently in August.
Lewis is the scariest puncher in UFC history, with the record for the most knockout wins in the organisation’s history. He has also got much improved takedown defence in recent years, although his chin isn’t great and his cardio still lets him down at times. Spivac is a grappler who looks to wrestle and use his size to wear on his opponents although his striking has been improving in recent bouts, but he will almost certainly reset to default here.
The blueprint to beat Lewis has been there for years – take him down or overwhelm him with volume. Spivac is capable of doing both of those things, but he’s never fought someone who can put his lights out with one punch like Lewis can. He will know that Spivac wants to take him down and much like when he fought Curtis Blaydes, he will be loading up that uppercut. He’s never fought a five-round bout before and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spivac just wrestle and grapple for 25 minutes, I think Lewis gets back in the win column with a nasty knockout early on. PICK – Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2
Grant Dawson (18-1-1) vs Mark O Madsen (12-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Very interesting lightweight scrap up first on the main card. Dawson is unbeaten in his last ten with a record of 9-0-1, earning a submission win over Jared Gordon last time out following a majority draw with Ricky Glenn in his prior bout. Madsen is an undefeated MMA fighter, having transitioned from Olympic wrestling in a dominant fashion with victories over Clay Guida and Vinc Pichel as his last two opponents.
Dawson is a super talented wrestler with world class jiu-jitsu skills and great power in his hands, making him a real threat for any opponent. Madsen is an Olympic wrestler as already mentioned, and he has shown his qualities in that field throughout his short MMA career to date. He’s got decent kickboxing to go with it, but the wrestling is his bread and butter. This is a very interesting match-up between two guys looking to earn a ranking next to their name.
Madsen has the edge in Olympic wrestling, but that’s very different to MMA wrestling and you could argue that Dawson has the edge there. Mix in his advantages in the striking and submission game, he could claim a win here but the short-notice nature of this bout makes it a hard call that could go either way. PICK – Grant Dawson via Decision
Tagir Ulanbekov (13-2) vs Nate Maness (14-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Super fun flyweight scrap up next. Ulanbekov was on a five-fight win streak before he ran into Tim Elliott last time out, dropping a decision at UFC 272. Maness on the other hand was on a four fight win streak before he ran into Umar Nurmagomedov in his last outing back in June.
Ulanbekov is your typical Dagestani fighter, with incredible chain wrestling and sambo skills to go with a unique striking style that is deceptively effective. Maness is a well-rounded fighter too, showing great ability to take the fight to his opponent wherever it goes and a great durability and toughness too. But just like his bout against Nurmagomedov, this seems like a nasty match-up for him in his new weight division.
Hitting the weight won’t be easy, and if he does make it then expect Ulanbekov to use his pressure an kicks to the body before making him wrestle for 15 minutes in what could be a really long night for Maness. PICK – Tagir Ulanbekov via Decision
Chase Sherman (16-10) vs Josh Parisian (15-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights collide next. Sherman has lost four of his last five fights, but claimed a knockout win over Jared Vanderaa in his last outing back in July. Parisian alternatively is 2-2 in his last four, alternating wins and losses with defeats to Parker Porter and Don’Tale Mayes and victories over Roque Martinez and Alan Baudot most recently.
Both of these guys are your typical heavyweight scrappers, with a decent low kick and incredibly powerful overhands and hooks with little else to their game. Parisian has more wrestling in his arsenal too, but he does struggle to get fights to the ground. When he does though, he’s quite dominant in top position.
Sherman has got a decent takedown defence and is the better striker by a decent margin. Both fighters are susceptible to being stopped, but in this one it seems far more likely that Sherman lands big than Parisian does. It won’t be fun while it lasts, but hopefully it won’t last too long anyway. PICK – Chase Sherman via Knockout, Round 1
Neil Magny (26-10) vs Daniel Rodriguez (17-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Big time scrap between two ranked welterweights up next. Magny saw a two-fight winning streak after victories over Geoff Neal and Max Griffin snapped by the imperious Shavkat Rakhmonov last time out. Rodriguez made it four wins in a row with a controversial decision win over Li Jingliang at UFC 279 last time out, after the crazy situation that saw three bouts put together on 24 hours notice.
Magny is a solid wrestler. He uses his excellent length and footwork to get his opponents moving and then uses his great wrestling to gain control and tends to ride fights out in that manner. Rodriguez on the other hand is a terrific boxer with some of the best combinations in the division, and his defensive wrestling is pretty good too. His last showing against Jingliang was cause for concern though, because he looked way off it only two months ago.
Magny has the skillset to stifle Rodriguez no doubt, but he’s also struggled against the better opposition in the division. Rodriguez believes he’s up there and his striking should cause Magny big problems if he’s performing the way we know he can. It’s a tough call, but I think D-Rod’s jab and defensive wrestling should be enough to claim victory, but don’t be surprised if Magny outwrestles him for 15 minutes either. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Decision
Marina Rodriguez (16-1-2) vs Amanda Lemos (12-2-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Women’s strawweight main event up next between two specialist strikers. Rodriguez has won each of her last four in a row with the most recent being a split decision over Yan Xiaonan at UFC 272. Lemos alternatively has won six of her last seven, with a loss to Jessica Andrade the only flaw in the run. She bounced back from that with a submission win over Michelle Waterson most recently.
Rodriguez is a fantastic boxer with terrific combinations and a really nice, long jab. Lemos is far more of a power puncher than Rodriguez, but her technical skills are still there although not quite as refined as Rodriguez’s. Rodriguez’s abilities to work from distance could really work in her favour here, and that’s why she’s my pick.
She’s already proven that going the full 25 minutes is something she can do, and she keeps her gas tank in check and holds her power throughout. Lemos isn’t a grappler despite the submission last time out, and that’s Rodriguez’s biggest weakness. With the match-up as it is, I expect Rodriguez to strike her way to a decision and claim an impressive win and potentially seal the next title shot in the division. PICK – Marina Rodriguez via Decision
The UFC returns to the Apex arena for another UFC Vegas card, headlined this time by huge lightweight contenders as Rafael Dos Anjos takes on Rafael Fiziev in the main event.
The number seven ranked 155-pounder takes on the number 11 ranked 155-pounder, but they’re backed up by a solid card this weekend including one UFC debutant and a list of experienced talent too.
Last time out at UFC 276 e went 8/11 (we don’t count no contests) with two perfect picks, moving us to 649/1009 (64.32%) with 279 perfect picks (42.99%). You can check out our total picks history here.
Michael Johnson (21-17) vs Jamie Mullarkey (14-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A banger at lightweight. Johnson snapped a four-fight losing streak with a huge knockout win over Alan Patrick in his most recent bout, while Mullarkey saw a two-fight win streak snapped when he was KO’d by Jalin Turner at UFC 272.
Johnson is a power puncher who has got an excellent wrestling background, but he uses speed and low kicks to set up his big overhand right and boxing combinations. Mullarkey alternatively is a brawler with incredible power and good combinations, but he also has the ability to mix in takedowns in his fights too. They’re similar stylistically, but at very different places in their careers.
Mullarkey should be very confident coming into this fight. Johnson is still a super powerful fighter but he’s not as quick as he once was and nowhere near as durable as he was. That means when they get into the exchanges in close quarters, Mullarkey will land flush and likely put Johnson down. From there I expect him to get the finish and likely put an end to The Menace’s career. PICK – Jamie Mullarkey via Knockout, Round 2
Cynthia Calvillo (9-4-1) vs Nina Nunes (10-7) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A fun flyweight bout up next in the final women’s bout of the night. Calvillo started her flyweight career with a win over Jessica Eye (UFC Vegas 2), but has since lost three in a row to Katlyn Chookagian (UFC 255) via decision and then getting KO’d by Jessica Andrade (UFC 266) and a corner stoppage at the end of the second round against Andrea Lee most recently. Nunes on the other hand has lost her last two, with an armbar defeat to Mackenzie Dern most recently in her first bout since becoming a mother.
Calvillo tends to use her striking to set up her wrestling, using her top game to stay heavy on the opponent and land ground and pound strikes. Nunes is an all-rounder who is capable of striking and using her grappling to win fights, but she lacks power and isn’t a natural grappler either.
With that said, Calvillo has really struggled in this weight class. Nunes’ footwork and speed is something that has caused Calvillo problems in previous bouts but Nunes was outwrestled most recently and Calvillo is a strong wrestler. Despite that though, I expect a Nunes win. Her strengths outweigh her weaknesses in relation to her opponent and she should be able to bounce around the cage enough to nullify the wrestling and land some solid strikes to earn the win. PICK – Nina Nunes via Decision
Jared Vanderaa (12-8) vs Chase Sherman (15-10) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights on losing streaks clash in this one. Vanderaa has lost his last three, getting KO’d by Alexandr Romanov, dropping a split decision to Andrei Arlovski (UFC 271) and getting submitted by Aleksei Oleinik (UFC 273). Sherman on the other hand has lost his last four, dropping decisions to Arlovski and Parker Porter before getting submitted by Jake Collier (UFC Vegas 46) and Romanov.
Vanderaa has a good mixture of grappling and striking, but it’s not at a high level. He tends to use volume more than power, while Sherman is your typical heavyweight who has a big right hand and does all he can to set it up. This won’t be an entertaining fight and I’d be surprised if it didn’t go the full 15 minutes.
Sherman will look to counter with his boxing and land his big right hand, but Vanderaa moves better and should be able to pick him apart from range while mixing in and threatening with takedowns too. Vanderaa should earn the win on the cards in a fight nobody will remember in the morning. PICK – Jared Vanderaa via Decision
Douglas Silva de Andrade (28-4) vs Said Nurmagomedov (15-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An unbelievable fight in the bantamweight division up next. Andrade is on a two-fight win streak after KO’ing Gaetano Pirrello and then submitting Sergey Mozorov last time out. Nurmagomedov has also won his last two fights, KO’ing Mark Striegl (UFC Fight Island 6) before submitting Cody Stamann (UFC 270) most recently.
Andrade is an unbelievably powerful striker with brilliant technique and also excellent grappling skills to fall back on too, although he does prefer to get into a war and turn his opponent’s lights out. Nurmagomedov is a super well-rounded fighter too who uses his brilliant technique to mix up striking and grappling attacks, making him dangerous no matter what.
Nurmagomedov’s biggest advantage in this fight is his speed and his cardio. He is capable of going at full tilt for the full 15 minutes, while Andrade tends to fade away as the fight goes on. Of course Andrade could catch him with one of those heavy strikes and end the night early, but I expect Nurmagomedov to be able to use his length to land big and piece Andrade up to claim a massive victory. PICK – Said Nurmagomedov via Decision
Caio Borralho (11-1) vs Armen Petrosyan (7-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger between two prospects in the middleweight division next. Borralho is on an eight-fight win streak including a technical decision win in his UFC debut last time out, while Petrosyan has won his last three in a row including a split decision win over Gregory Rodrigues in his UFC debut last time out.
Both of these guys are excellent strikers, with Petrosyan having supreme technique and excellent power with six of his seven career wins coming via knockout. Borralho on the other hand is also a talented grappler, who will look to time the strikes of Petrosyan to get under him and use his jiu-jitsu skills to control the Armenian.
Neither of these guys really deserve to be in a co-main event at this point of their career, but it’s a really fun fight for sure. On the feet Petrosyan has the advantage with technique, speed and power, but eventually Borralho will need to use volume and pressure to close distance and try to get the fight to the ground. Once there Borralho should be able to control him and work his way to the neck to claim a big submission win. PICK – Caio Borralho via Submission, Round 2
Rafael Dos Anjos (31-13) vs Rafael Fiziev (11-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Absolute banger of a main event finally takes place at the third time of asking. Dos Anjos has won his last two since returning to lightweight, beating Paul Felder (UFC Vegas 14) and Renato Moicano (UFC 272) via decision in dominant performances. Fiziev has won his last five, with a spinning wheel kick KO over Brad Riddell most recently at UFC Vegas 44.
Dos Anjos is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the entire division, with excellent wrestling and grappling to go with his solid boxing combinations and incredible cardio. Fiziev is as pure a striker as they come, but his takedown defence is pretty good and his ability to scramble to his feet when he does go down is good too. Fiziev is the favourite in this bout, but stylistically this could be a tough bout for him.
The Brazilian has a big advantage in the grappling areas, but he’s also capable of holding his own in the striking realm. He’s still sharp despite his age and he’s been fighting five-round fights for a lot of his career, while this is Fiziev’s first ever five-round bout. RDA will use trips, grappling and experience to slow down the striking ability of Fiziev and I think he’ll be able to control him on the mat to earn a win as the underdog. PICK – Rafael Dos Anjos via Decision
Gabe Green (10-3) vs Yohan Lainesse (8-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very interesting welterweight bout up next between two excellent prospects. Green lost his UFC debut to Daniel Rodriguez before returning nine months later and defeating Phil Rowe back at UFC 258 last time out. Lainesse is an undefeated prospect with a 97 second knockout on Dana White’s Contender Series earning him a contract.
Green is a solid all-round fighter with some decent striking on the feet and decent grappling defensively, but he is also regularly hittable and that’s not great news. Lainesse is a very explosive fighter who starts fights at 100mph. He has six knockout wins in his career, with five of them coming in the first round while his superior wrestling usually helps him as his cardio starts to fail him in the second round. In the second round though, that will allow Green to move forward and start applying his own pressure to pick Lainesse off with leg kicks and body attacks.
Defensively, Green is absolutely a hittable target. Lainesse has the power and the aggression to walk forward and cause a lot of trouble for Green in the first round, but beyond that he tends to slow and that gives Green a big opportunity. It’ll be very close, and very entertaining, but I think Lainesse will be able to use his wrestling in the later rounds to eek out a fun decision. PICK – Yohan Lainesse via Decision
Alexandr Romanov (15-0) vs Chase Sherman (15-9) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big 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. This fight was scheduled for last week, but illness to Sherman saw it moved.
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
Daniel Lacerda (11-2) vs Francisco Figueiredo (12-4-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Flyweight never die in the featured prelim bout of the card in a very fun fight. Lacerda suffered a knockout defeat in his UFC debut back in October when Jeff Molina put him out in the second round, while Figueiredo is the brother of the champion and has gone 1-1 in the UFC so far. He claimed a debut win over Jerome Rivera at UFC Fight Island 8 before Malcolm Gordon toppled him via a unanimous decision at UFC Vegas 31.
Lacerda is a very exciting fighter, using his kickboxing skills to push forward and do as much damage as possible. He uses his kicks well usually and is a decent grappler too, with six submission wins in his career. Figueiredo is a very steady fighter, using kicks from range and punches in short combinations, but he doesn’t have great output and that could cost him here.
This is Lacerda’s fight to lose in reality. He’s more powerful, he’s faster, he’s a better grappler and he’s far more aggressive. His cardio has been an issue in the past but even if it does start to fail him, the lack of output from Figueiredo is a problem and I struggle to see how he can avoid trouble. So long as Lacerda doesn’t get carried away and does his job smartly, he should win this comfortably. PICK – Daniel Lacerda via Knockout, Round 2
TJ Brown def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Brown as he lands his jab well and a hard calf kick too as he takes the centre. Rosa looking for some calf kicks of his own now, but Brown is landing his right hand really clean and crisp. Rosa lands a hard low kick that drops Brown, but Brown then catches the next kick, fires one of his own and then drags him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a guillotine but Brown scrambles back to his feet quickly and they go back to striking. Rosa’s low kicks having a big effect and forcing Brown to switch stances, but Brown’s strikes landing really well. Brown goes for a takedown again but Rosa is able to scramble with another guillotine attempt, but ends up on his back with Brown searching for a head-and-arm choke. Rosa defends well and then eats a few ground and pound shots to end the round. 10-9 Brown.
More of the same from both guys to start the second round as Brown takes the centre and applies pressure with his right hand, while Rosa throws out leg kicks and then gets taken down by Brown. Brown transitions to the back and looks to control the position but Rosa threatening with a guillotine again and then is able to scramble to top position. Rosa tries to take an arm but Brown is able to reverse and ends up on top himself again, then moves for a head-and-arm choke again. Rosa defends brilliantly then eats a big elbow from Brown after trying for a triangle. Rosa goes for an armbar and Brown manages to escape before going right back to top position. Rosa is looking for submissions constantly but Brown is a step ahead, defending and maintaining control. Brown takes the back and puts both hooks in but once again Rosa defends it and they see the round out exchanging strikes on the ground. 20-18 Brown.
Final round and Brown looking for more of the same, getting on the front foot and landing a big right hand before getting a takedown and slamming Rosa down early. Brown takes the back and starts working for a rear-naked choke but Rosa gets to his knees and gets back to his feet, before eventually being able to put Brown on his back and get top position. Brown works his way back to the feet and then forces Rosa down to the mat, before securing top position and landing some heavy elbows. Brown slides over into mount and looks for the head-and-arm choke again before Rosa gets to his knees and back to his feet. Brown goes for a takedown but Rosa works for a d’arce choke as we enter the final minute. Brown defends it well but Rosa isn’t giving up the neck. Brown gets to his feet and lands a one two before moving back into the same d’arce position to see the round out. Should be a Brown decision victory. 29-28.
Brian Kelleher def Kevin Croom via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Very fast start to the fight from Croom, with lots of forward pressure and blitzes using his size advantage to get the best of Kelleher early. Kelleher takes the centre now and Croom being very active, before a big right hook from Kelleher drops him! He gets straight back up and Kelleher goes for another, but misses and then gets hit with an accidental low blow to pause the action. Croom using his big reach advantage well for now, just pawing out the jab to create distance. Kelleher trying to mix up his attacks and goes for a takedown but Croom defends it before landing a hard low kick. Front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Croom keeps using his distance and just touching Kelleher up. Big spinning back fist lands from Kelleher before a left hook and a takedown to end the round on top. 10-9 Kelleher, just.
Croom opens up the round with a big one two that lands flush, but Kelleher eats it and keeps coming forward. Lots of volume from Croom in this round, but Kelleher is moving well and looking to counter. Nice body kick from Croom before a check-left hook from Kelleher lands too. Croom blitzes forward and gets Kelleher against the cage to clinch, using his size to wear Kelleher down. Big body shot from Kelleher, and then another, before he shoots for a takedown. Kelleher goes for a submission on the ground and looking to control the position, stopping Croom from getting back up. Big elbow lands from Kelleher, but he has a big cut above his eye after a knee landed from Croom as he went for the takedown. 19-19 for me, but could go either way.
Kelleher goes straight back to body work in the third round early on and then shoots in for a takedown to control early. Kelleher looking to take the back and secure a choke but Croom fights his way back up, only to be dragged back down immediately. Kelleher lands some ground and pound while transitioning ground positions, then lands a big knee and slams Croom back down as he tries to get back up. Kelleher completely dominating the grappling exchanges here and controlling the positions as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kelleher rolling with him and looking for a rear-naked choke but Croom fighting the hands. Heavy ground and pound from Kelleher to end the round in what could possibly be a 10-8 round, should seal him the fight. 29-28 for me.
Court McGee def Ramiz Brahimaj via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Great start to the fight for McGee, who is using his superior striking to his advantage to keep distance. Brahimaj clinches against the cage but McGee seems physically stronger and is able to turn him and get the fight down. Brahimaj defending a lot against the cage, but lands a strong knee to the gut of McGee before forcing a separation. Brahimaj takes th centre now and is striking well, but McGee keeping the pace high and landing the more significant strikes. McGee lands a huge right hand that drops Brahimaj just as the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 10-9 McGee.
McGee comes out early and lands a hard low kick and right hook that drops Brahimaj again, who gets up quickly and shoots for a takedown. Brahimaj gets it and starts looking to take his back, but McGee defends it and then is able to get a takedown of his own. Brahimaj gets back to the feet but McGee is just too physically strong for him right now and is wearing him down. McGee locks his hands and gets another takedown, but Brahimaj bounces back up quickly. McGee using his strength again to control, before shooting in for a takedown. Brahimaj defends and the two engage in a striking battle, but McGee is too strong again and clinches up to end the round again with another takedown. 20-18 McGee.
McGee steps over and goes immediately for another clinch and takedown situation, but Brahimaj is looking to defend it well and throws a nice knee to the body. He then drops down for a guillotine and it looks quite tight but McGee defends it and ends up dominant in top position. Brahimaj goes for another guillotine and wraps the neck up, but McGee stays calm and is able to pop his head out and push Brahimaj against the cage. Brahimaj tries to get back to his feet but McGee grinding him out and takes the back. McGee going for a rear-naked choke now, but Brahimaj turns to his back which allows McGee to move into mount. Brahimaj tries to scramble but gives up his back again and McGee dominantly rides him from position to position until the end of the round. Great win for McGee. 30-27.
Jamie Pickett def Joseph Holmes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight as both men look to take the centre of the cage and trade strikes. Holmes starting with a bit more intent, just missing with a head kick but then landing a nice straight right. Pickett blitzes forward with an attack of his own, but Holmes clinches up and uses his strength well against the cage. Holmes lands a nice right hand and then just misses with a head kick again, but Pickett clinching well to stifle the attack. Hard low kick from Holmes but Pickett gets a takedown to end the round. 10-9 Holmes, just.
Aggressive start to the round from Pickett as he comes forward with a hard front kick to the body and then a big left hand, before looking to get a takedown. Holmes looks more tired already but gets back to his feet and lands a hard right hand, but Pickett responds with a takedown attempt again. Strong body kick from Pickett lands, and now his left hand is landing well too. Holmes goes for a single leg takedown but Pickett defends it well in a clinch position. Pickett being very aggressive and coming forward hard with Holmes looking tired, but he responds with a nice slip left hand before they clinch again. Pickett explodes again as the round ends and should take that. 19-19.
Pickett being aggressive once again in this final round as Holmes throws a hard right hand. Pickett using his better conditioning and strength right now to stop Holmes’ momentum, but eats a body kick for his troubles when they separate from the clinch. Pickett lands a nice side kick as Holmes is looking for a big shot. Another clinch situation initiated by Pickett before a nice elbow from Holmes lands. A left hand stumbles Pickett again but then he goes for another clinch and just avoids a big elbow. Big high kick from Pickett lands well and the round comes to an end, with what should be a Pickett victory. 29-28.
Bill Algeo def Joanderson Brito via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Brito as he takes the centre, moves across the octagon and gets a body lock to look for a takedown. Algeo defends it well but eventually Brito gets it and takes the back while standing. Brito transitions around and picks Algeo up, then walks around the octagon for a few seconds before slamming him down and taking his back. Brito looking for a rear-naked choke but Algeo is defending well. Brito looking for the choke but Algeo turns into Brito and ends up reversing the position on top, looking for big ground and pound strikes. Brito looks to explode out and gets back to the feet quickly and goes back for another takedown. Brito lands a nice jab but then eats a big knee up the middle from Algeo, before shooting in for another takedown that gets defended to end the round. 10-9 Brito.
Brito coming forward with a blitz and walking Algeo down with big strikes, but then he eats a big right hand from Algeo that wobbles him. Brito immediately turns and goes back for the takedown, but Algeo defends it perfectly and lands a big knee from a front headlock position. Algeo lets him back up and lands a left hand on the break but Brito is just walking forward through the storm. Big one-twos from Brito snap Algeo’s head back and he looks hurt but once again Brito goes for a takedown and Algeo is able to stuff it and reverse position to end up on top. Algeo moves into side control but Brito gets back up. Algeo lands a big knee but then Brito fires back with a big right hand. Algeo clinches up to end the round, very close. 19-19.
Algeo opens the round with a nice one two, before Brito comes forward with a big blitz of strikes that land well. Brito continues to walk forward and do damage with big shots but Algeo timing him well with counters and clinching up to slow down the Brazilian’s momentum. Brito continues to walk forward constantly and goes for a spinning elbow, but Algeo slips it and showboats. Final minute and Brito is really pushing the pace but Algeo gets a big hip throw and ends up on top landing big elbows then takes the back. Algeo ends the round on the back and should take the victory in a great back and forth fight. 29-28 Algeo.
Viacheslav Borshchev def Dakota Bush via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)
Fast start to the fight for Bush as he stays at distance and throws lots of kicks early on. Big overhand right lands but Borshchev eats it. Borshchev steps in and lands a nice little blitz with a left hook, but Bush moves in for a takedown and gets it. Borshchev defends himself well down there and is able to stand up, but gets wobbled by a strike. Bush moves in for a big finish but Borshchev avoids and lands a big left hook counter. Bush gets another takedown and tries to take the back but Borshchev escapes and goes into the guard, landing heavy body shots from top position. He gets back up and backs Bush against the cage, slips a shot and lands a huge body blow that drops him!! Borshchev lands a few follow up shots but that’s that! What a knockout!
Katlyn Chookagian def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Chookagian starts the fight well with a big slip right hand that lands flush, while Maia looking to land some low kicks. Chookagian is really sitting down on her punches right now, landing well and maintaining distance well. Maia lands a big left hand and Chookagian gets a body lock and a takedown to sit in half guard on top position. Good shoulder pressure from Chookagian and she defends the sweep well before passing to side control, before laying down some shoulder strikes from the top. Chookagian tried to pass to mount but Maia bounces back up quickly, eats a knee and the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Aggressive start to the round from Maia as she steps forward and lands a hard right hand, but Chookagian slips a second attempt and gets another body lock to look for a takedown. Maia defends it well this time though and then they break, with Chookagian looking to control distance again with her jab. Maia leading with a low kick and doing well, but Chookagian bouncing and lands a nice right hook. Maia looks for a body lock this time and rushes Chookagian against the cage, but she defends it well and reverses the position to look for a trip herself. Maia lands a couple of right hands in the pocket, before Chookagian lands a big head kick and then a nice knee too but Maia continues to be aggressive and walk forward. Maia looks for an arm drag but Chookagian defends and ends up on Maia’s back with both hooks in looking for a choke to end the round. 20-18 Chookagian.
Maia coming out strong again in this final round but Chookagian using her teep kick brilliantly to maintain distance and landing her right hand and jab. Maia lands a big right hand but she’s just a step behind right now. Nice head kick from Maia, but Chookagian responds with a low kick. Lovely overhand right from Chookagian, followed by a clean one-two but Maia is still there. Nice right from Maia on the break from a clinch lands clean but Chookagian starting to take over with counters and jabs. Big right hand from Maia lands and then they exchange right hooks. Final 30 seconds and Chookagian looks super comfortable, then lands a huge one-two and a third on her way back to claim a big win. 30-27 Chookagian.
Explosive start to this one with Royval taking the centre and using speed, but Bontorin lands a hard low kick that drops Royval early. Royval throwing a lot of kicks, but Bontorin looking to counter with his flush right hand. Royval goes for a body kick that Bontorin catches and then lands a right hand as Royval spins. Bontorin transitions to a takedown and gets side control but Royval very good with scrambles and looks to get to his feet. Bontorin holds him there briefly but Royval eventually gets back up and goes back to being very active. Slip left hand from Royval lands clean, before another takedown from Bontorin. Royval staying active from his back as he tries to roll through and starts throwing elbows, before both get back to the feet to end the round. 10-9 Royval.
Quick start again as Bontorin throws a right hand that drops Royval and he goes straight into his guard. Royval trying to scramble with submissions but Bontorin stays calm and takes the back. Royval defends it expertly but Bontorin retains the control from top position and lands a big elbow. Royval climbs back to his feet as Bontorin goes back to striking and then drops him with a nice left hook. Royval straight back up though and looking to overwhelm Bontorin but Bontorin staying calm and looking for control. Royval trying to up the pressure but Bontorin gets a body lock and trip in the final seconds to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Royval lands a big knee and hook combo. Bontorin fires back with a huge right hand, left hook combo that lands flush but Royval’s chin is holding up. Bontorin is loading up on his punches and Royval is able to land a few softer shots. Bontorin lands a leg kick and Royval goes down, but Royval defending with his submissions and looking for a gogoplata. He transitions to an armbar and it looks like Bontorin taps (?!) but the referee doesn’t see it and then Bontorin escapes and the fight continues. Royval transitions and is able to sweep Bontorin to get on top as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hard elbows from the top for Royval but Bontorin firing back from the bottom with elbows of his own. Royval landing some huge elbows and the buzzer goes. 29-28 Royval for me but could easily go the other way too! Great fight.
Collier comes forward very aggressively in the opening minute, walking Sherman down and throwing hard right hands. Sherman looking to counter with right hooks but Collier doing well to avoid too much damage early. Collier storms forward and pushes Sherman to the mat. He moves straight into full mount and lands some big nasty elbows from the top that cut Sherman open. Sherman tries to kick off the cage but just puts himself in an awful position. Sherman rolls over to his belly and Sherman synches up a rear-naked choke and gets the tap for the victory. Impressive performance.
Two very hard low kicks from Chikadze open the fight up before a nice right hand behind them. Kattar takes the centre of the octagon trying to pressure him, but Chikadze with great footwork around the outside to stay off the cage. Chikadze lands two hard body kicks and a right hand then goes for another kick but loses his balance and Kattar charges for a takedown and secures top position. Kattar working to pass Chikadze’s guard but he’s defending well. Chikadze tries to get back up but Kattar drags him back down. A scramble sees Chikadze end up on top but Kattar reverses it to an arm triangle from the bottom and then secures the back with a body triangle to see out the round. 10-9 Kattar.
Hard body kick from Chikadze early on and he starts blitzing Kattar with hard punches and a variation of kicks again. Kattar switching stances to take the kick away from Chikadze. Kattar pressuring forward and landing hard strikes that have Chikadze looking a bit more tired. Big jab from Chikadze though and then Kattar continues to come forward and Chikadze is tired! Kattar lands a big right hand then shoots for a takedown but Chikadze defends it. Big knee from Kattar lands, followed by a left hook. Huge step-in elbow from Kattar and Chikadze is struggling. Kattar lands a big left hook and follows it with a body shot. Four big left hands from Chikadze land but Kattar responds with a huge right hand and a knee, then he secures a takedown and heavy right hands to end the round. What a round! 20-18 Kattar.
Kattar comes out with forward motion once again and is putting a pace on Chikadze, who’s trying to recover his cardio still. Elbow from Kattar lands and then a flush one-two straight down the middle lands. Kattar steps forward with his jab and is teeing off on Chikadze, who can’t get his hands up to block his head. Two low kicks from Chikadze and a left hand, before a big right cross. Kattar goes for a takedown but Chikadze just about stays up with a little help from the fence. Both guys are tired, but Kattar pushing forward still. Huge right elbow lands from Kattar and then they trade hooks to the chin. Chikadze lands a right hand that gets Kattar to cover up, but Chikadze swings wildly and misses big. Kattar continues with forward pressure to close the distance but then just misses with two big shots. Big spinning elbow from Kattar right on the buzzer. What a fight. 30-27 Kattar.
Kattar crowding Chikadze with forward pressure as he looks to stop the kicks, and he’s just picking the jab well. Chikadze is looking for kill shots now but he’s too tired to land, while Kattar continues to come forward with his jab and picking him apart. Huge elbow again from Kattar and then he shoots for a takedown, but Chikadze defends it brilliantly and lands some big strikes of his own. Chikadze lands a big right hand but Kattar comes forward with his jab and elbows. Head kick attempt from Chikadze but Kattar just keeps coming forward. Massive elbow from Kattar and the buzzer goes again. 40-36, this is a beating now.
Chikadze comes forward early throwing bombs in the final round. Kattar continues to walk forward and just jab him to death, and Chikadze just has no answer for the pressure. Two huge elbows land back-to-back from Kattar, but Chikadze’s chin holds up again! Another nasty elbow from Kattar as he starts throwing them instead of hooks. Chikadze lands a nice one-two before Kattar lands a spinning elbow. Kattar just constantly coming forward with elbows and straights. Chikadze backing up and getting pieced up as Kattar looks for a finish. Huge right hand lands on the chin but Chikadze is still standing. Chikadze throws a one-two and Kattar responds with another flush spinning elbow. Both guys swinging for the fences with 30 seconds left. Kattar starts throwing elbows and drops Chikadze right on the buzzer!! He follows up with a couple of shots, but that is an exclamation point on a stunning performance. Wow! 50-44 Kattar for me.
Bill Algeo (14-6) vs Joanderson Brito (12-2-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A potential fight of the night contender in the featherweight division. Algeo is coming off a defeat to Ricardo Ramos at UFC Vegas 27 in May, while Brito makes his UFC debut on a ten-fight win streak with the most recent coming on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August.
Algeo is the type of fighter whose sole game-plan is simply to hit you harder than you can hit him. Brito on the other hand is a huge power puncher with both hands and has great speed too, but can often be quite reckless defensively. Algeo has a big size advantage in this fight and has never been knocked out and while his record isn’t great, he has fought much better competition throughout his career. Algeo’s defensive grappling is pretty poor, which opens up a big opportunity for Brito to land his big double-leg takedowns.
For Brito, this is a big opportunity to make a name for himself in the USA and in the UFC. Algeo will do his part to make this exciting too, which likely won’t help him, and I expect Brito to close the show early and make a big impression. PICK – Joanderson Brito via Knockout, Round 2
Dakota Bush (8-3) vs Viacheslav Borshchev (5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Two exciting lightweight prospects in the UFC go head-to-head here. Bush is a stud who was beaten in his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 24 by Austin Hubbard via decision, while Borshchev makes his debut in this fight after an impressive KO win over Chris Duncan in Dana White’s Contender Series.
Bush is an athletic fighter who uses mobility and movement more than technique and power in his attacks, while Borshchev makes his debut as the head striking coach of Team Alpha Male which tells you exactly where his strengths lie. Bush is likely to try and use his four-inch reach advantage to his benefit by fighting on the outside and mixing in takedowns to test the defensive wrestling of Borshchev. That said though, ‘Slava Claus’ has worked with Team Alpha Male for long enough that I expect he’ll come good defensively.
The longer the fight goes, the harder it will be for Bush to get a takedown and even hold Borshchev down, who is very good at scrambling up to his feet. He will attack the body and eventually start to target the chin before claiming a highlight-reel knockout finish midway through the fight. PICK – Viacheslav Borshchev via Knockout, Round 2
Katlyn Chookagian (16-4) vs Jennifer Maia (19-7-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The big women’s fight for the card is a flyweight bout between two former title contenders at 125-pounds. Chookagian bounced back from a KO defeat to Jessica Andrade at UFC Fight Island 6, before decision wins over Cynthia Calvillo and Viviane Araujo most recently. Maia on the other hand bounced back from her title fight defeat with a decision win over Jessica Eye at UFC 264. These two fought previously, with Chookagian winning at UFC 244 via decision.
Chookagian is a very mobile kicker, with good karate skills and great fight IQ where she’s able to fight from range and constantly move in-and-out of distance. Maia on the other hand looks to use her Muay-Thai game to get into clinch range before looking for takedowns to work her excellent jiu-jitsu skills. Chookagian has got some underrated grappling skills, but if Maia can get this fight down then you can safely make the assumption the round or fight will end there.
Unfortunately for Maia though, her takedown ability isn’t great and she won’t get close enough to Chookagian to be able to use her clinch game. Chookagian will bounce around on the outside, using her kicks and blitzes and once again claim a decision victory to put herself back into title contention in the division. PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Brandon Royval (12-6) vs Rogerio Bontorin (17-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An absolute banger of a flyweight fight and another contender for fight of the night. Royval was on the verge of a title shot before he dislocated his shoulder and was beaten by Brandon Moreno at UFC 255, before getting submitted by Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Vegas 34 last time out too. Bontorin on the other hand bounced back from a KO defeat against Kai Kara-France at UFC 259 with a decision win over Matt Schnell last time out at UFC 262.
Royval is an excellent grappler with terrific scrambles and some lightning fast striking techniques too. Bontorin is more of a striker, who has good physical strength and some good grappling too despite his preference to trade punches. This is a very high level fight between two potential future title contenders.
Bontorin certainly has the striking edge on the feet and is a solid submission artist himself, but Royval is so active in all aspects of MMA. The issue with Royval though is that because he’s so unorthodox, it can somehow hurt him here. If Bontorin can get top position, he should use his strength to hold position. On the feet he is the more powerful, but Royval has great speed and his own grappling is great too so ultimately I think the activity of ‘Raw Dawg’ gets him a razor thin win. PICK – Brandon Royval via Decision
Jake Collier (12-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-8) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout takes the co-main event slot between relatively different big guys. Collier has alternated wins and losses since a win in 2014, with a defeat to Carlos Felipe last time out at UFC 263 via split decision. Sherman on the other hand has lost each of his last two via decision, losing to Andrei Arlovski and Parker Porter.
Collier is a former middleweight who still tries to fight like one, just with an added 80-pounds of weight. He has good leg kicks and often attempts a few spinning techniques to catch his opponents off guard. Sherman is a similar fighter but is a much more natural heavyweight. He loves a strong leg kick, but isn’t the best when it comes the checking them.
Collier is the faster fighter and technically probably the better one, but naturally Sherman is the bigger fighter so the power lands in his favour. It’s probably not going to be a very exciting fight , but Collier is due another win on his run so I’m going with him.. PICK – Jake Collier via Decision
Calvin Kattar (22-5) vs Giga Chikadze (14-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A beauty of a main event in the featherweight division, with the winner potentially entering title contention territory. Kattar had won two-in-a-row against Jeremy Stephens and Dan Ige at UFC Fight Island 1 before getting absolutely destroyed by Max Holloway at UFC Fight Island 7. Chikadze on the other hand is now 7-0 in the UFC and has won each of his last three via knockout against Jamey Simons at UFC Vegas 13, Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 25 and Edson Barboza at UFC Vegas 35.
Kattar is a terrific boxer, with a brilliant jab and brilliant power punches while trading from within a phone booth against his opponents. He likes to throw a few leg kicks here and there, but generally it’s to set up his power strikes. Chikadze on the other hand is a brilliant kickboxer with a trademark head kick and amazing power in his hands too. Both of these guys have got genuine knockout power and can hold a hard pace for a full fight. This is only Chikadze’s second five-round fight in the UFC, and he won the first in the third round.
Chikadze is riding an incredible wave of momentum right now and that is definitely affecting people’s perception of this fight. Kattar has got genuine skills and if he lands clean on Chikadze, I expect him to do a lot f damage. While his counter striking is better than Chikadze’s, he can’t get hit as much as he did by Holloway in this fight or he’s going to sleep. Chikadze is far more powerful and can use his kicks well to set everything up. This is due to be a magnificent fight of high level striking, and I lean ever so slightly towards Chikadze and I think he’ll get a stoppage. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Knockout, Round 4
The UFC returns after a two week break with two middleweights battling to get back into contention at the top of the rankings as Jared Cannonier takes on Kelvin Gastelum.
Originally supposed to be Paulo Costa, Gastelum stepped in to take over this bout and knows that a win for him can get him back in the conversation for a future title shot while Cannonier knows he’s just two big wins away from a title shot in all likelihood.
In a 12 fight card, it’s a card with a few sleeper fights and a killer main event so lets see how we do with our picks.
Last time out at UFC 265 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 383/600 (63.83%) with 169 perfect picks (44.13%). We’ll look to improve that here and after starting with the early prelims here and the rest of the prelim picks, here are the main card picks for the night.
Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) vs Brandon Royval (12-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Pantoja is a phenomenal striker, with brilliant combinations, kicks and hand speed at 125lbs. Royval is a very active striker too, with brilliant scrambles and hand speed himself. This is a fight that is undoubtedly between two top contenders and could go either way. Royval is a solid grappler too, with really good submissions all around the mat and eight submission wins in his career.
Unfortunately for Royval though, Pantoja has fantastic leg kicks and takedown defence as well as scary power for the division and I think overall he will be able to use his experience to earn a very entertaining win. PICK – Alexandre Pantoja via Decision
Vinc Pichel (13-2) vs Austin Hubbard (13-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight fight between a veteran and a newcomer in this one. Piche is 38-years-old and on a two-fight win streak, beating Roosevelt Roberts and then Jim Miller at UFC 252 in his last fight. Hubbard on the other hand is 29 and has alternated wins and losses in his last six, beating Dakota Bush last time out via decision.
Pichel has good stand up and good wrestling, but against the specialists in those departments he struggles. Physically he’s strong and he has decent cardio, but he doesn’t really excel in any level in particular. Hubbard on the other hand is a fighter who’s greatest attribute is his cardio, with good knees and strikes from range.
Hubbard is a good defensive wrestler and because of his cardio and attacks up the middle, Pichel may struggle to get his grappling game going and on the feet Hubbard has him beat. The longer the fight goes with Hubbard not on his back, the further he is able to pull away and earn a decision win. PICK – Austin Hubbard via Decision
Trevin Jones (13-6) vs Saidyokub Kakhromonov (8-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Jones is a powerful striker with genuine knockout power but also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, while Kakhromonov is a fantastic striker with good kicks and good enough wrestling to score a takedown over a Nurmagomedov relative. In a full camp, this would be an incredible fight but with Kakhromonov taking the fight on just four days notice this seems like a jump too far.
This is likely to be one of the best fights on the card but with both at a high level, but the lack of preparation time for Kakhromonov means I can’t go against Jones in this one. Remember the Kakhromonov name though. PICK – Trevin Jones via Decision
Parker Porter (11-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight banger as the impressive Sherman takes on Porter and looks to get back to winning ways. Porter is 1-1 in his last two fights, losing to Chris Daukaus before earning a decision over Josh Parisian last time out. Sherman on the other hand was on a four-fight win streak before stepping into the cage with former champ Andrei Arlovski in April where he was beaten by decision.
Porter is a typical heavyweight, who uses jabs and a big overhand to earn most of his victories but when that doesn’t work he looks low quality and poor. Sherman has tried to evolve his game more, throwing some leg kicks and good volume but his knockout power is excellent. He has 14 wins via knockout and has some decent footwork for a heavyweight.
Sherman will come out, bide his time, avoid the big strikes with good footwork and eventually land his big right hand to get back on the winning trail in this one. PICK – Chase Sherman via Knockout, Round 1
Clay Guida (36-17) vs Mark O Madsen (10-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fun lightweight fight is the co-main event of the night as veteran Clay Guida takes on undefeated Mark Madsen. Guida is 1-2 in his last three but beat Michael Johnson last time out at UFC Vegas 18 and will take on the Olympic silver medalist Madsen who hasn’t fought since UFC 248 pre-COVID.
Both these guys are wrestle heavy fighters, but the Olympic level wrestler is obviously the better of the two when it comes to that section of a fight. Guida is aggressive and storms forward constantly, throwing good strikes with not much power that Madsen will have to try and avoid. One advantage that Guida has though is his cardio. Despite being 364 years old, Guida never tires and Madsen has shown some cardio problems in the past.
With that said though, Madsen is a good enough wrestler that in both of their plan A’s he should be able to win at least two rounds to earn a decision win. PICK – Mark O. Madsen via Decision
Jared Cannonier (13-5) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-7) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Cannonier is a powerhouse with incredible one-punch knockout power and some violent leg kicks to go with it, while Gastelum is a solid boxer with good wrestling and a powerful left hand of his own to go with a granite chin. Cannonier has got scary power though and is capable of ending any fight at any moment and Gastelum isn’t exactly the most evasive when it comes to punches.
Gastelum has the option of using his wrestling to win rounds but Cannonier’s takedown defence is pretty good at 185lbs. He’s never been knocked out in his career and I think he has the better skillset to win rounds, so I’m going for an upset in the main event and Gastelum to earn a decision win. PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision
Pena is a great striker with a good submission game too, while Munhoz is a strict wrestler who if he can’t get the fight down to the ground will undoubtedly struggle. Pena has all the tools to put a good run together, but it just never seems to click for him in the cage. Munhoz suffered a first defeat last time out against one of the better boxers in the division last time out.
It’s a one-sided fight, it’s just hard to know which way it goes because of the weaknesses both men have leading in to the opposite numbers strengths. As it stands though, I think Munhoz is likely to get the takedowns needed to grind out a decision win. PICK – Alexander Munhoz via Decision
Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-3) vs Jacob Malkoun (4-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Both guys are violent strikers with power that puts people to sleep, but Alhassan is by far the more experienced man in the cage. Malkoun’s record is short and a bit stodgy and his biggest claim to fame is that he’s a training partner of Robert Whittaker’s. Both guys have the power to put the other to sleep, but I can’t see past Alhassan getting back on the winning trail with a big, violent stoppage. PICK – Abdul Razak Alhassan via Knockout, Round 1
Andrei Arlovski (30-20) vs Chase Sherman (15-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The legendary former world champion makes a quick turnaround to take on a big prospect in the heavyweight division. Andrei Arlovski had won two in a row beating Phillipe Lins and Tanner Boser at UFC Vegas 13, before being submitted by Tom Aspinall at UFC Vegas 19 earlier this year. Sherman has won four in a row including his UFC return against Isaac Villanueva back in May 2020.
Arlovski is a legendary kickboxer with tremendous punching power and great technique, while Sherman is a bit more of a traditional boxer with great power in his hands. Sherman is a specialist knockout artist, but considering he’s mainly a boxer he gets hit an awful lot.
It’s a tough fight to call, because both men have had questionable chins in the past and while Sherman has more power now Arlovski is the better all-round fighter. Despite that, Arlovski has lost a step in age at 42-years-old now and I think Sherman should be able to get enough volume going to get a win. PICK – Chase Sherman via Decision
Jeremy Stephens (28-18 1NC) vs Drakkar Klose (11-2-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight bout in the co-main event as ‘Lil Heathen’ makes a return to 155lbs for the first time in nine years to take on the highly rated Drakkar Klose. Stephens was a contender at featherweight for a while but then went 0-4 (1 NC) in his last five to send him on a spiral back up to lightweight, while Klose had won three in a row before getting knocked out in a crazy fight against Beneil Dariush just over a year ago.
Stephens is a well rounded fighter who often relies on his heavy hands and steady boxing for big wins and it’s come up trumps more often than not. While his recent record is horrendous, he’s only been beaten by the elite of the 145lbs division so it’s hard to see how far he’s fallen if at all. Klose on the other hand is fantastic wrestler who has heavy hands of his own, but usually looks to take fights to the mat and work his ground and pound.
This is a really fun fight, but I can’t see it going particularly well for Stephens. Klose is the more technical fighter of the two, and while both men are durable Stephens was getting hurt by smaller guys than Klose. I think Klose will threaten the takedown and throw his hands too to be able to secure a decision win. PICK – Drakkar Klose via Decision
Robert Whittaker (23-5) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Whittaker is an elite level kickboxer who is a master of range, with heavy hands and great footwork. Gastelum on the other hand is a heavy-handed wrestler who has good submission skills too. Whittaker is one of the best middleweights of all-time but he does get hit and rocked quite often. Gastelum has the power to hurt Whittaker with his hands, but he needs to get close enough and land clean to do it and I can’t see that.
‘Bobby Knuckles’ is better in every aspect of MMA and while Gastelum has a remarkable chin that will likely hold out, I cannot look past Whittaker waltzing to a decision win once again. PICK – Robert Whittaker via Decision