Said Nurmagomedov (16-2) vs Saidyokub Kakhramonov (10-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger at bantamweight up next. Nurmagomedov has won his last three in a row, KO’ing Mark Striegl (UFC Fight Island 6), submitting Cody Stamann (UFC 270) and then earning a decision over Douglas Silva de Andrade most recently. Kakhramonov is on a four-fight win streak including a submission win over Trevin Jones and a decision win over Ronnie Lawrence in his first two UFC bouts.
Nurmagomedov is a good grappler, but despite his surname it’s his striking that is his standout attributes, with really good kicks in his arsenal. Kakhramonov is more like you’d expect Nurmagomedov to be, with excellent and relentless grappling with a fantastic gas tank to go with it and some okay striking at best. But his gas tank is a big problem for Nurmagomedov who can start a bit slowly sometimes.
With that said, Nurmagomedov is very good at what Kakhramonov is best at. The same cannot be said the other way around. Nurmagomedov will look to stand and land from distance and if he gets taken down he will make Kakhramonov work hard and it’ll be 50-50, so that leads me to a pick for Nurmagomedov in a really fun bout. PICK – Said Nurmagomedov via Decision
Julian Marquez (9-3) vs Deron Winn (7-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A weird middleweight bout next. Marquez earned submission wins over Maki Pitolo (UFC 258) and Sam Alvey (UFC Vegas 23) before a knockout loss to Gregory Rodrigues most recently. Winn on the other hand 1-3 in his last four, getting KO’d by Phil Hawes in his most recent bout.
Marquez is a powerful striker with good elbows and a heavy right hand, but it’s his gas tank that stands out most. He really struggles with defensive wrestling too, which is a big problem against a wrestler of Winn’s calibre. Winn is small but he should be able to get on the inside here and get his takedowns off, but his biggest issue is his cardio which falls off a cliff at some point in the second round regularly.
Winn should win the first round because of his wrestling, but Marquez’s pressure and power is a big problem. As the fight goes on Winn will start to waiver and Marquez will get stronger, meaning the takedowns get easier to defend and the strikes become easier to land. This could be billed as a bit of a “comeback” win, but I do think Marquez has the power and cardio to get it done late on. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 3
Jake Matthews (18-5) vs Matthew Semelsberger (10-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Welterweight banger up next. Matthews has won four of his last five fights, with his only defeat coming to Sean Brady back at UFC 259. Most recently he claimed a win over Andre Fialho via knockout. Semelsberger is coming off a short-notice loss to Alex Morono at UFC 277, which snapped a two-fight win streak.
Matthews has developed himself into a really well-rounded MMA fighter, with excellent striking and power to go with really good wrestling and some fine submission skills too. Semelsberger on the other hand is a straight up powerhouse, with a huge right hand that puts people’s heads into orbit. Defensively he has struggled with wrestlers in the past and his striking defence isn’t the best either, as shown against Morono.
Semelsberger will always have a punchers chance in a fight, but in this match it seems tough that he has anything more than that. Matthews is the better striker with good power and volume, and his wrestling is a get out of jail free card if he needs it too. Both guys are durable so a finish is unlikely, but Matthews should pull away by mixing all his skills together and claim a big win to show he’s a serious contender in the division. PICK – Jake Matthews via Decision
Cheyanne Vlismas (7-2) vs Cory McKenna (7-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
The only women on the card take up the featured prelim spot for this card. Vlismas (formerly known as Buys) has won her last two in the UFC, KO’ing Gloria De Paula before earning a decision win over Mallory Martin most recently (UFC Vegas 44). McKenna has won five of her last six, with a defeat to Elise Reed at UFC London prior to her most recent win against Miranda Granger via submission.
Vlismas is a very good striker on the feet with good defensive takedown skills and plenty of output and volume, but she has often gone against an ideal game plan and found herself in trouble. McKenna is a strong wrestler who uses her striking to open up opportunities to shoot, but she struggled for control against Elise Reed which is a bad sign here. Vlismas is very good at moving away from shots and controlling distance, which would allow her to land clean a lot because of her five-inch reach advantage in this fight.
McKenna is capable of getting her to the ground, and once there she has a big advantage. She’s stronger physically and has good technique, but she may eat a host of shots trying to get in there. If Vlismas fights to her strengths by keeping distance on the outside and limiting her kicks, then she should be able to come away with a win. PICK – Cheyanne Vlismas via Decision
Vince Morales def Louis Smolka via Knockout, Round 1 (2:02)
Good early start from both guys as Smolka lands a low kick or two while Morales lands a few jabs cleanly and then goes to the body too. Smolka trying to push the pace and step forward, but Morales evading relatively easily and landing some nice strikes of his own. Smolka goes to clinch with a knee and as they separate Morales lands a huge right hand that puts Smolka out cold face first! He follows up with a couple but the referee stops it quickly and that’s that! What a KO!
Claudio Puelles def Chris Gruetzemacher via Submission (Kneebar), Round 3 (3:25)
Hard body kick to open up the fight for Puelles, but Gruetzemacher fires back with one of his own. Puelles shoots for a takedown and gets it, ending up on top and working from full guard. Gruetzemacher defending well from his back, taking very little damage. He throws up a lazy armbar which Puelles uses to pass guard and try to take the back, but Gruetzemacher gets his back to the cage and staying calm while fighting hands. Puelles steps over and moves into full mount and starts raining down elbows and strikes. Gruetzemacher avoiding most of the strikes and gets half guard back well and survives the round well. 10-9 Puelles.
Puelles opens up with kicks again and then goes for a couple of lazy takedowns again. Gruetzemacher denies it but rather than keeping the fight standing he tries to transition and ends up on top but not doing much offensively. Puelles throws up a triangle as a threat but Gruetzemacher defends well and eventually they get back to the feet. Puelles lands some big kicks and a nice left hand before another lazy takedown attempt that Gruetzemacher denies easily. Puelles trying to throw some hard head kicks but Gruetzemacher avoiding damage and lands some low kicks of his own. Clinch against the cage and Puelles lands some nice elbows and knees before switching levels for a takedown but it’s not a good attempt and the round ends. Probably 19-19 but could be 20-18 Puelles.
Final round and Gruetzemacher comes forward more aggressively and looks for a knee in the clinch but accidentally lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Restarted now and Gruetzemacher coming forward again with more volume. Nice body shots and a left hand before Puelles shoots and it gets sprawled. Some nice short elbows in the clinch by Gruetzemacher force another shot but he sprawls and then spins on to the back of Puelles for a few strikes before they get back to the feet. Gruetzemacher gets a nice foot sweep to be on top but Puelles goes for a leg and tries for a heel hook but Gruetzemacher defends it and ends up on the back. Nice ground and pound but Puelles rolls for the leg again and extends a straight kneebar to get the tap! Big win for Puelles!
William Knight def Alonzo Menifield via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Knight comes out quickly and goes straight for a takedown attempt but Menifield is able to sweep him as he hits the ground and ends up in side control. Knight manages to slip out around the back and tries to get into mount quickly before moving to the back and looking to lock in a rear-naked choke. Menifield defends it well and explodes back to the feet himself before they clinch up against the fence. Knight holding on to the neck of Menifield to stay standing, but Menifield doing well to stay out of a guillotine and force Knight to continue defending. Menifield throws a right hand but Knight counters with a big left hook that drops him! He goes for the finish but the buzzer goes and he survives. 10-9 Knight. Great round.
Menifield opens with a low kick and then a big strike that sends Knight backwards and literally running away from Menifield. Menifield lands a big right hand flush that wobbles Knight, but he stays patient then throws a low kick. Nice left hook from Menifield again and Knight looks very hesitant to throw now. Knight throwing wild strikes but missing hugely and Menifield staying calm and just looking to pick Knight off a little bit now. Left hand landing well for Menifield again and Knight doesn’t really have an answer for it. Knight explodes with the right hand with 15 seconds to go and starts going wild again but doesn’t land flush and the round ends. Definitely a Menifield round. 19-19.
Both guys look more hesitant in this round as they clinch up and Menifield pushes Knight to the cage. Menifield holding Knight against the cage and not much happening as we hit the halfway point of the round. 90 seconds left and it’s just more of the same position for this round. Separation as we get into the final minute and Knight goes for a flying knee. Some wild head kicks miss and Menifield stays on the outside for the rest of the round to likely earn a victory.
Cheyanne Vlismas def Mallory Martin via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Fast start to the fight from both women as Martin takes the centre and they start throwing hands. Some beautiful combos from Vlismas land but Martin is trading back and landing some shots of her own. Vlismas defending against Martin’s strikes well and landing some excellent counter strikes from the outside. Martin in the centre and start to fake some strikes but Vlismas reading well and countering. Martin lands a beautiful short left hook and Vlismas clinches up to throw some short uppercuts and dirty boxing before stepping out of the way again. Lovely right hand lands again as the rounds closes out. 10-9 Vlismas.
Fast start again from Vlismas as she steps forward with fast combinations again and excellent lateral movement. Martin standing in the centre again but she’s being more hesitant to throw now. Nice right hand, left high kick combo from Vlismas lands sbut Martin continues to come forward and then lands a nice body shot. Vlismas lands a beautiful counter right hand. Martin clinches and starts looking to wrestle a bit, but Vlismas defends it well and keeps it standing for now. Nice knees from both ladies landing but Martin is getting the better of the exchanges. They separate and both land a right hand simultaneously before going back to the pattern of the fight. 20-18 Vlismas.
Martin moves for a takedown early on in the final round but Vlismas defends it brilliantly against the cage again before separating. Beautiful one two lands from Vlismas and Martin goes for another takedown but Vlismas defends it well again. Martin lands some knees in the clinch but Vlismas is able to separate and comes forward with some more clean strikes of her own. Big right hand lands from Vlismas in the exchange and Martin steps back slightly before changing levels and going for a takedown again, but Vlismas keeps her balance and keeps it standing again. Both women landing their jabs together but then Vlismas lands a couple of extra shots that she adds to the end of it. Vlismas’ striking has just been a level ahead and she ends the fight stepping forward with big combinations! Great fight! 30-27 Vlismas for me.
Bryan Barbarena def Darian Weeks via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Weeks coming out of the gate confidently throwing lots of kicks but nothing really landing. Barbarena launches forward and Weeks changes levels with a body lock and then secures a takedown, but Barbarena gets back to his feet quickly. Weeks looking very comfortable and throwing plenty of strikes, but Barbarena lands a big inside low kick and gets a big reaction. He throws a few more quickly after and Weeks is limping now, but fighting through it. Change of levels from Weeks as he gets it against the cage, but Barbarena reverses the position and starts chopping at the leg again. Weeks having problems with his leg but still stepping forward. Barbarena staying patient and lands a nice left hand before another heavy low kick to end the round. 10-9 Barbarena.
Weeks comes out early and secures a takedown immediately but Barbarena defends well from his back before eventually getting back to his feet. Weeks continuing to be aggressive but Barbarena using his experience well to stem the tide. Weeks throwing some wild hooks and Barbarena throwing some tired ones of his own and both are landing, but nothing doing too much damage yet it seems. Barbarena lands another hard low kick and starts to go to the body as the round ends. That’s anybody’s round but I lean towards Barbarena again. 20-18.
Barbarena turning the pace up in the final round, coming forward and throwing combinations but Weeks gets another body lock and pushes him against the cage. Nice knee from Barbarena and they trade big hooks before going back into the clinch. Barbarena throws a high kick and slips but he gets back up quickly. Weeks is tired now and Barbarena is coming forward, landing some big hooks to the body and then a left hand to the chin. Weeks lands a couple of hooks of his own but Barbarena eating them and coming forward again with the body shots. Hard low kicks again from Barbarena but Weeks is digging in and landing some big hooks of his own. A few hard strikes land well but Barbarena takes them and fires back with his own. He’s really taken over in this round and is continuing to pour the pressure on in the final minute. Weeks changes levels under a hook and secures a big takedown in the final seconds but Barbarena jumps up and lands a big strike that wobbles Weeks! He moves forward with big swinging strikes that miss as the buzzer goes! Great fight. 30-27 for me but could be 29-28 too with round two being close.
Manel Kape def Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Knockout, Round 1 (4:02)
Super fast start to this one as Kape opens with a flying knee attempt before both men trade combinations. Zhumagulov throwing hard leg kicks and hard right overhands and connecting with some, but Kape moving well and landing a few counters of his own. Zhumagulov lands a big right that sends Kape stumbling backwards, but he responds with a nice right hand too. Zhumagulov coming forward hard and fast and pushing the pace but Kape is moving well and countering effectively too. Kape lands a nice body shot and a knee and he starts picking his shots. Hard one-two lands and drops Zhumagulov! Kape steps forward and looking for the finish but staying calm, then lands a huge string of punches that puts Zhumagulov down covering up and the referee steps in! What a knockout! What a performance!
Dusko Todorovic def Maki Pitolo via Knockout, Round 1 (4:34)
Lively start from both guys looking to step in and land first with their jabs and some low kicks. Pitolo lands a low kick and then a big right hand lands flush. Another low kick gets a reaction from Todorovic but he changes levels and shoots in for a takedown. Pitolo latches on to the neck and goes for a guillotine but Todorovic stays calm, rides it out and eventually secures top position as he starts to look for ground and pound. Todorovic dominating on the ground and trying to move to a crucifix position while landing big strikes and then he moves into full mount. Todorovic flattens Pitolo out and starts raining down heavy ground and pound until the referee waves it off! Hugely impressive win.
Alex Morono def Micky Gall via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Slow start from both guys as Morono takes the centre and tries to feel his way into range before firing a strong right hand to the chin of Gall. Hard low kick from Gall lands but both fighters being very patient and not throwing much early on. Morono lands a nice right hand and then eats a body kick, before firing in another nice one-two that lands on Gall. Lots of feinting and patience and then Morono lands a jab that sits Gall down! Morono goes for the finish but Gall manages to tie him up on the ground by going for a leg lock and recovers enough to get back to his feet at the end of the round. 10-9 Morono.
Gall comes out for the second round with a jab to the body before a nice right hand lands. Morono comes back with a powerful hook himself and then he steps in with a left hook that lands well too. Gall charges forward and lands two big hooks and Morono just misses with a check-left hook counter. Gall continues to come forward with hooks and a jab and he’s fighting very well from range right now. Lovely right hook counter from Morono just clips Gall before he misses with another in the next attack. Gall trying to use his size to be first, but Morono using his technique to match him or even beat him to it. Gall changes levels and shoots for a takedown but Morono sprawls to deny it and ends the round landing a hard left hook. 20-18 Morono.
Big overhand right lands from Morono on Gall, who fires back with a body kick that just misses. Another nice right hand from Morono connects but Gall replies again with a nice double jab followed by a low kick. Morono staying out of range but stepping in quickly when he wants to throw his strikes. Gall misses with a big right hand as we enter the final two minutes. Hard right hand from Morono before both guys trade wild swings in the final minute. Spinning back fist from Morono lands and Gall starting to come forward with his hands down. Both guys swing wildly as the buzzer goes, should be comfortable for Morono.
Chris Curtis def Brendan Allen via Knockout, Round 2 (1:58)
Fast start from Allen as he comes out with a few strong strikes that just miss before a big takedown attempt sees him pick Curtis up and slam him down, before taking the back. Curtis defends well and they separate quickly though. Curtis lands a nice four-punch combo to the head of Allen but he eats it and comes back with a nice knee. Allen goes for a head kick before Curtis returns with some big strikes again. Hard body kick from Allen before they trade low kicks together. Lead elbow from Allen lands before Curtis lands a nice right hook counter and then goes to the body himself. Head kick from Curtis just misses but he follows it up with a nice one-two. Allen goes for a takedown and then transitions for a leg lock but Curtis defends it well and ends up on top to end the round. Close round, 10-9 Allen for me but only just.
Hard low kick early from Allen drops Curtis to one knee before another hard low kick lands. Both guys trade in the pocket and Allen just misses with a knee. Allen lands a hard body kick but Curtis replies with a nice one-two down the pipe. Both guys trade big right hooks and Allen is wobbled!! Curtis going for the finish and lands a strong knee and Allen goes down again and the referee waves it off! Amazing! What a KO!
Slow start to this one as Santos looks to keep his distance and use his powerful strikes from range. Santos lands a powerful body kick and Guida drops in pain! Santos goes for the kill with huge ground and pound strikes to the head and body but Guida is surviving currently. Santos blasting him with big strikes and the referee is looking closely but Guida is holding a leg and surviving! Guida gets up and manages to create separation and Santos is exhausted! Guida goes on the offensive for the final minute with his crazy pressure and wrestling! What a round! 10-9 Santos.
Guida comes out super aggressive and lands a big left hook then goes for a takedown again. He gets the fight down to the ground quickly and starts blasting knees to the body of Santos who is completely out of it through exhaustion. Guida goes for the neck, takes the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke and forces Santos to tap! Incredible! What a comeback.
Jamahal Hill def Jimmy Crute via Knockout, Round 1 (0:48)
Crute comes out hard with some heavy leg kicks and high kicks but Hill stepping out and avoiding too much damage. Hill fires a hard right hand down the pipe and drops Crute who immediately shoots for a takedown out of instinct. Hill gets some separation and counters with another solid right hook to the chin that puts Crute down and out! One more strike on the ground before the referee gets there and that’s that! Unbelievable from Jamahal Hill! Wow!
Rafael Fiziev def Brad Riddell via Knockout, Round 3 (2:20)
Tactical start to this one from both guys as they throw out some feelers for each other. Fiziev looks to land one of his trademark head kicks but just misses, before both guys trade hooks. Big exchange of counter strikes from Fiziev in particular as he rips the body with his lead leg. Riddell just misses with a right hand and then slips a kick from Fiziev. Riddell goes for a jab to the body and overhand right but just misses as Fiziev takes the centre and pushes him back against the cage with pressure. Both guys land a big right hook each before Fiziev fires a hard low kick at the end of it. Hard body kicks again from Fiziev before Riddell ends the round with a beautiful combination that sees two strikes land on the chin. Good round, 10-9 Fiziev.
Hard low kick from Riddell opens the round up. Riddell throwing his jab out before committing to combinations, but Fiziev lands a nice right hand counter too. Fiziev lands a jab followed with a step-in elbow that cuts Riddell badly over the eye. Nice left hand from Riddell lands though and then Fiziev lands with a short left hook. Both guys fire the same combination that ends with a left hook at the same time and both land too. Lovely right hook lands from Fiziev and then he goes for a knee but Riddell ties him up in a clinch before they separate. Back to the body kick from Fiziev and that’s the round. 20-18 Fiziev for me but could be 19-19.
Fiziev goes for a low leg kick but Riddell catches it and shoots for a takedown and briefly gets it, but Fiziev pops up to his feet quickly. They clash together again and Fiziev lands a hard right hand in the exchange, but Riddell’s right hand landed too. Big left hook from Riddell lands after a body shot as he starts to get more aggressive in this final round. Riddell changes levels and attempts a takedown but Fiziev denies it, before a big clash of strikes yet again from both guys. Riddell circles away on the outside and Fiziev throws a spinning wheel kick and catches Riddell clean in the face!! Riddell is out on his feet and Herb Dean steps in quickly before any more damage can be done!! WOW! What a KO! Amazing!
Jose Aldo def Rob Font via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x2, 49-46)
Fast start to this fight as Font comes forward and starts to use his jab immediately, following up with one-twos. Aldo lands a body kick before Font charges forward and gets a surprising takedown. Font forcing Aldo to be very defensive in the early going, landing his jab clean and following it with a right hand too. Font just misses with an uppercut but lands a glancing elbow as Aldo looks to step away. Aldo ducks under a straight right and counters with a pull right hand, but Font is putting it on him so far. Big body shot from Aldo lands and both guys trade leg kicks. Font lands his jab again and a nice right hand before Aldo rolls and blocks the follow up strike attempts. Aldo lands a one two straight down the pipe and Font goes down! Aldo goes for the finish but after a couple of shots on the ground the buzzer goes to end the round. Whew. 10-9 Font.
Font coming forward once again behind his jab with a relentless pace trying to offset Aldo’s rhythm. Nice right hand from Font lands but Aldo seems calm. Aldo lands a huge one-two again and the right hand is flush and sends Font backwards reeling, but Aldo goes for a big knee that misses and Font is able to recover. Aldo just misses with a big left uppercut and then blocks a right hook from Font. Right hand lands from Font and gets Aldo’s attention, so he fires back with another hard right hand himself. Font trying to land but he seems to be lacking in power, so Aldo returns with a big right hand again. Font goes for a takedown but Aldo denies it easily, but then eats a right hand. Huge body shot from Aldo. Round ends, what a fight. 19-19.
Aldo has returned to his old ways and lands three very hard low kicks early on that are affecting Font immediately. Nice one-two from Font and then he goes for a takedown that Aldo manages to defend and reverse to end up on top himself. Aldo into side control and lands a nice short elbow before going back into full guard. Font looking to be active from his back but Aldo doing well to control him and minimise the threat. Font gets back to his feet and looks for some combos but Aldo pushes him off. Aldo’s right eye has closed up now but he lands a hard body shot before Font comes over the top with a right hand that just misses. Hard low kick again from Aldo and it drops Font! Another hard one but Font is coming forward again and landing his jab well. Another low kick from Aldo to end the round, but he looks like he’s tiring. 29-28 Aldo.
Font comes aggressively but Aldo rolls with it and lands a huge right hand once again that drops Font! Font is wobbling badly and Aldo going for the finish but Font is scrambling and Aldo eventually settles in side control. Font trying to find a way back to his feet, but Aldo controlling him well and looking to pass. Aldo eventually passes into mount but Font quickly gets full guard back. Aldo looking to get some ground and pound off but Font is defending it well and landing some short elbows of his own off his back. Aldo continuing to control the position on the ground though as the round ends and he’ll take the round. 39-37 Aldo.
Fast start from Font as he comes out swinging hard in combinations to the body and to the head. Aldo looks hesitant and tired now but Font is coming forward much fresher. Font clinches up and Aldo is tying him up against the cage, then Font lands a big elbow. Aldo coming forward and lands a big right hand again before Font clinches again against the cage. Font throwing some strikes but Aldo fairly comfortable with where the fight is currently. Font creates space and lands a big uppercut but Aldo responds with a hard right hand and wobbles Font again! Aldo lands two more and Font goes down but Font ties up Aldo on the mat to try and recover. Aldo gets to his back and gets two hooks in and is seemingly looking for a choke, but he’s not rushing. Aldo locks in a body triangle and is looking for a rear-naked choke with 30 seconds left but Font fights out of it and survives the round to make the buzzer. What a fight. 49-46 Aldo for me.
Cheyanne Vlismas (6-2) vs Mallory Martin (7-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
The only ladies on the card step up next in the strawweight division. Vlismas (aka Buys) lost her UFC debut to Montserrat Ruiz at UFC Vegas 22 before earning a head-kick KO next time out at UFC Vegas 33. Martin on the other hand earned a win over Hannah Cifer at UFC Vegas 8 before being submitted by Polyana Vieira at UFC 258 last time out.
Vlismas is a solid striker who throws with good technique and great power, while Martin generally tends to wrestle her opponents and look to secure top control in her fights. That bodes well for Martin stylistically, but Vlismas has shown in the past that her wrestling isn’t as bad as it may have seemed on her UFC debut.
Martin has had some big problems on the feet in the past and defensively she has big flaws that Vlismas can exploit. If she is able to rediscover her wrestling defence and keep the fight standing, then she should piece up Martin on the feet for a potential stoppage win. Ultimately though, I think this goes the distance. PICK – Cheyanne Vlismas via Decision
Jake Matthews (17-5) vs Jeremiah Wells (9-2-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight between two unranked fighters in this one. Matthews saw a three-fight win streak snapped by Sean Brady back at UFC 259 last time out, while Wells secured a second-round KO win over Warlley Alves at UFC Vegas 30 in his debut last time out.
Both guys are strikers primarily, but Matthews is far more technical than the powerhouse that is Wells. The only times Matthews has looked in trouble during his UFC run has been against supreme wrestlers, and that is something Wells is not.
Wells has issues with his cardio mainly, but he does have legitimate power to end a fight early at times. Both guys are solid wrestlers in their own right too, but ultimately the technique and cardio of Matthews should see him secure a fairly comfortable decision win. PICK – Jake Matthews via Decision
Bryan Barbarena (15-8) vs Darian Weeks (5-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super short-notice welterweight bout opens the main card. Barbarena is on a 1-3 run currently with a loss to Jason Witt most recently, and he’ll take on Weeks who is 5-0 in his professional career. Weeks steps in on less than one week’s notice for Matt Brown, who tested positive for COVID-19.
Barbarena is a powerful striker with good wrestling skills and plenty of experience, fighting from southpaw with a great jab. Weeks on the other hand is a powerful right-handed striker himself, with great pressure and some decent wrestling in his back pocket too. The short-notice aspect of this fight is telling, because it could well come down to conditioning in the latter rounds.
Barbarena is capable of fighting on the outside but if Weeks is able to time the takedown attempts when Barbarena throws his one-two, then he could secure some control and manage his gas tank. Ultimately though, I think the experience of Barbarena and the fact it’s on short notice means he will be able to earn a close decision win. PICK – Bryan Barbarena via Decision
Manel Kape (16-6) vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An intriguing flyweight bout between two ranked stars looking to move towards the top of the division. Kape lost his first two UFC bouts where a lack of volume cost him on the scorecards, but he secured a highlight reel flying knee KO of Ode Osbourne last time out at UFC 265. Zhumagulov suffered defeats in his first two UFC bouts too, before earning a submission win at UFC 264 over Jerome Rivera last time out.
The former RIZIN champ has got brilliant striking techniques and legitimate knockout power for the weight class, but volume has been a big problem for him and has cost him in the past. He has decent wrestling too but it’s his flurries on the feet that are where he’s at his best. Zhumagulov is a relentless pressure fighter with good wrestling and eyecatching flurries that could catch Kape out if he is a deer in the headlights once again.
If Kape is flying though, then he should win this bout. He is the better striker, with more power and more routes to win the fight on the feet and with a reach advantage too he should be able to stay on the outside and secure a victory with a counter-strike knockout. PICK – Manel Kape via Knockout, Round 1
Maki Pitolo (13-8) vs Dusko Todorovic (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A middleweight clash is the featured prelim bout for this card. Pitolo has lost his last three in a row with a submission loss against Julian Marquez at UFC 258 last time out, while Todorovic has suffered the only defeats in his career in his last two fights with a decision loss against Gregory Rodrigues at UFC Vegas 28 in his last outing.
Pitolo is a decent boxer who has really let himself down with his showings so far in the UFC, while Todorovic is a bit of an all-rounder with no stand-out skills. This fight is in a weird spot on the card, because it shouldn’t be the featured prelim. But with that said, the match up is interesting. If he’s firing, Pitolo is more than capable of using his boxing skills to light Todorovic up who tends to block punches with his head.
The issue is that he almost never uses his skills, often trying to stop his opponent from dominating rather than trying to dominate himself. Todorovic is able to step forward and use his kickboxing, but also hold Pitolo against the cage in clinch situations and likely will secure a victory using that tactic. PICK – Dusko Todorovic via Decision