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.
Cody Brundage (7-2) vs Tresean Gore (3-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A big middleweight banger up next. Brundage is 1-1 in his UFC career, dropping a decision to Nick Maximov in his debut at UFC 266 before claiming a first-round submission win against Dalcha Lungiambula last time out. Gore on the other hand was forced out of the TUF 29 finale with injury but had his debut against Bryan Battle eventually, dropping a decision for his first career loss.
Brundage is a solid wrestler with a super tight guillotine that he is never afraid to pull for if he feels it’s possible. He’s got okay striking too, but his bread and butter is definitely the grappling. Gore on the other hand is a powerful and aggressive striker with decent wrestling too, but it’s his power that is a real game-changer.
Gore has a habit of waiting for the perfect strike and thus his volume is low at times, but if he can pick it up in this fight then he can cause Brundage trouble. However Brundage will look to be pressuring Gore and threatening with takedowns constantly, and we saw in his debut that Gore is not at his best if he’s not the one coming forward. It’ll be close and tough, but Brundage has the skillset to make it ugly and after wearing down Gore he could secure a submission late on in the fight. PICK – Cody Brundage via Submission, Round 3
Antonina Shevchenko (9-4) vs Cortney Casey (10-9) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
First women’s fight of the card has the champ’s sister involved. Shevchenko has lost three of her last four including each of her last two, getting submitted by Andrea Lee at UFC 262 before getting KO’d by Casey O’Neill most recently. Casey on the other hand lost two in a row before getting back in the win column with a decision win over Liana Jojua at UFC Vegas 42 most recently.
Shevchenko is a budget version of her sister, with a solid all-round game but one that isn’t impenetrable by any stretch of the imagination. Casey however is a fighter whose best attribute is her heart and desire. Her striking is okay and her takedown defence is shocking, but her volume and durability keep her in fights she has no right to be in. That trend continues here.
“La Pantera” is by far the better technical striker on the feet, and if she can’t get the finish and Casey keeps coming forward, then she has the ability to get the takedown and control the fight on the ground too. It would be a huge shock if this went any other way, so back Shevchenko for a dominant win. PICK – Antonina Shevchenko via Decision
Aiemann Zahabi (8-2) vs Ricky Turcios (12-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A really fun bantamweight fight closes out the prelims section of the card here. Zahabi struggled in his opening UFC bouts, going 1-2 before then earning a huge KO win over Drako Rodriguez most recently. Turcios was a fan favourite on TUF 29 and claimed the trophy with an entertaining win over Brady Hiestand via split decision in the finale.
Zahabi is a great grappler with solid submission skills, but his poor wrestling game makes it tough to get fights down and his striking isn’t the best despite his KO win last time out. Turcios is a true mixed martial artist, with a wild offense on the feet with his strikes as well as solid wrestling and some great grappling skills too. He’s not the best defensive wrestler but his scrambling is great and his bottomless gas tank means it’s unlikely he stays on the bottom for too long anyway.
With that said, Zahabi faces a tough night at the office. With just three minutes of cage time in the last three years, he needs to have used the time outside the cage to make grand improvements. If he hasn’t, Turcios should win this one comfortably. His volume will see him march Zahabi down, use his unorthodox techniques on the feet and his scrambling skills to keep the fight where he wants it and claim victory on the cards. PICK – Ricky Turcios via Decision
It’s a very fun card also including the likes of Ben Rothwell, Cynthia Calvillo, Marc Diakiese, Thiago Moises and Khaos Williams.
Last week at UFC 268 we had a brilliant night, securing 13/14 correct picks with three perfect picks to move to 471/730 (64.52%) with 197 perfect picks (41.83%).
We’ll look to improve on that this week starting with the early prelims here.
Kennedy Nzechukwu (9-1) vs Da-Un Jung (14-2-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Very fun light heavyweight fight to open the card here. Nzechukwu is on a three-fight win streak, with a TKO win over Danilo Marques most recently at UFC Vegas 30 while Jung is undefeated since 2015 with a draw against Sam Alvey the only thing preventing a 14-fight win streak. He picked up a dominant win over William Knight last time out at UFC Vegas 23.
Nzechukwu is a powerful pressure fighter, with a formidable gas tank that has got him through a lot of tough situations so far in his career. Jung on the other hand is an awkward striker, who uses his physicality well and has good takedown skills. That could be a problem for Nzechukwu, who has struggled with takedowns in the past.
These two fighters are highly unlikely to rip up any trees in the division but this should be a fun fire-fight. Nzechukwu will walk forward and while he may get taken down, I think he will get back up and really wear on Jung to land heavy late on and take a decision win. PICK – Kennedy Nzechukwu via Decision
Marc Diakiese (14-4) vs Rafael Alves (19-10) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Another fun fight next up on the early prelims in the lightweight division. Diakiese suffered defeat last time out to Rafael Fiziev at UFC Fight Island 2 over a year ago, while Alves was beaten in his UFC debut by Damir Ismagulov at UFC Vegas 27 in May to snap his five-fight win streak.
The Briton is a well-rounded fighter who’s four defeats in the UFC have come against the upper echelon of fighter in Dan Hooker, Nasrat Haqparast and Drakkar Klose. He has a solid low kick, good striking skills and can hold his own in the grappling too. Alves on the other hand is an explosive striker with good submission skills too, with his 14 career finishes split evenly between KO’s and tap-outs.
Alves is a dangerous opponent but he lacks an in-between game. He’s either exploding for attacks or getting pieced up, with a real disdain for setting up shots. Diakiese is at his best from range and with an advantage in the volume category, he should be able to stay there and control the fight for a comfortable decision win. PICK – Marc Diakiese via Decision
Cortney Casey (9-9) vs Liana Jojua (8-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A flyweight bout between a veteran and a prospect in this one. Casey has lost six of her last nine bouts, with two-in-a-row to Gillian Robertson at UFC Vegas 3 and then JJ Aldrich at UFC Vegas 21. Jojua has lost two of her last three, with a win over Diana Belbita at UFC Fight Island 1 sandwiched between defeats to Sarah Moras and Miranda Maverick at UFC 254.
Casey is a good striker on the feet, who uses her range well and likes her kicking game a lot. Jojua on the other hand is a specialist grappler, whose wrestling skills aren’t the best but if the fight hits the ground it’s usually a wrap. With the tape on both of these women, it’s hard to gauge where this fight ends up.
On the feet, Casey should absolutely batter her. Jojua’s striking defence is horrible and she tends to walk through shots to try and get her hands on her opponent. Casey doesn’t have a lot of power though, which means Jojua could potentially drag her down. Unfortunately for her though, Casey’s defence is decent so I think she pieces her up for 15 minutes and claims a win. PICK – Cortney Casey via Decision
Matthew Semelsberger def Jason Witt via Knockout, Round 1 (0:16)
HOLY JESUS. Matthew Semelsberger lands a bomb of a right hand after 16 seconds and puts Witt out cold. Goodnight.
Jinh Yu Frey def Gloria De Paula via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Frey comes out with a nice left hand before the two ladies clinch and Frey gets an early takedown. De Paula threatens with an armbar from the bottom but Frey defends well and lands a few nice strikes from top position before a scramble allows her to take De Paula’s back. De Paula defends it well and is able to bring it back to full guard, before landing a couple of elbows from the bottom. Frey controlling the position with ease at the moment from the top although not much action from either fighter as we head into the final 90 seconds. Frey controls the position for the remainder of the round too as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Frey.
Slower start to the round from both women in this one as Frey lands a couple of nice left hands in exchanges. De Paula lands a few leg kicks from distance then goes up top with a nice head kick that lands clean. Frey continues to come forward to close the distance but De Paula doing well to get in and out quickly. De Paula in control of the exchanges on the feet halfway through the round and being first in the exchanges every time. Frey closes the distance and gets a clinch against the cage, but De Paula lands some nasty knees to the body and they separate. De Paula takes the centre now and is landing clean and fast into the final minute. Frey catches a kick but De Paula keeps her balance excellently to deny the takedown and should win the round. 19-19 going into the third.
De Paula comes out and throws her hands quickly once again, then has a kick caught and Frey sweeps her other foot away and gets an early takedown once again. Frey passes into half guard but De Paula threatens with a kimura grip, which allows Frey to pass into mount. De Paula tries to explode out but Frey takes the back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Frey staying composed on the back of De Paula who isn’t looking to get back to her feet at all as we enter the final minute. Frey gets the arm under the chin and tries for a one-armed choke but De Paula does really well to defend it and see the round out. Clear 29-28 win for Frey.
Aldrich takes the centre of the cage early on and has Casey circling the outside for the first 40-odd seconds before she engages in a clinch against the cage. Casey is able to stay strong and Aldrich separates, a big boost for Casey. Aldrich landing lots of leg kicks early on but Casey retaliates with some nice knees and a right hook as they clinch up once again. Casey charges forward once again with a flurry but Aldrich shoots and gets the takedown. Casey tries to threaten with a triangle and while Aldrich defends it will and lands a bit of ground and pound, Casey gets back to her feet. Aldrich gets it down again with a guillotine attempt in the final 30 seconds but Casey defends well and sees out the round. 10-9 Casey for me.
Casey looks stronger on the feet so far and she lands a big right hand that wobbles Aldrich! Casey follows it up with a head kick attempt that Aldrich catches and then Casey tries to jump on the back but ends up on the ground with Aldrich on top of her. Casey landing some nice strikes from the bottom but Aldrich now has wrist control after eating those shots and starts landing some huge ground and pound strikes with her left hand. Casey works her way back up to her feet against the cage with 90 seconds to go and throws two big right hooks that are blocked. Aldrich throws a right hook and then shoots in for another takedown with 20 seconds to go and gets it to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Aldrich comes forward again to get Casey backing up and she lands a nice one-two. Aldrich continues to push forward but Casey lands a couple of jabs nicely too. Big right hook and left straight from Casey lands and rocks Aldrich’s head back. A big exchange from the two sees them both landing well as we hit the halfway point. Aldrich lands a jab and then Casey turns away to move and Aldrich throws a big left straight down the pipe. Casey throws a hook that just misses and then Aldrich changes levels with a beautiful takedown. Casey gets back to her feet against the cage but Aldrich maintains a body lock until Casey is able to break the grip and separate. Casey comes forward with flurries again and is landing hard shots. Spinning back kick from Aldrich lands in Casey’s nether-regions and the referee pauses the fight with three seconds to go. Super close round, I’ve got it 29-28 Aldrich just.
Good start to the round for the debutant as Garcia takes the centre of the octagon and starts looking to land strikes through the guard of Haqparast. Lots of feelers and blocked strikes from both as Haqparast throws a very heavy left hand that that is partially blocked too. Garcia shoots in for a takedown against the cage but Haqparast denies him, but Garcia lands a nice knee to the body on the break. Garcia fakes a takedown and throws a huge overhand right that lands flush and wobbles Haqparast, but he recovers quickly and keeps going. Great rip to the body from Haqparast but Garcia backs him against the cage and throws a nice elbow that just misses too. Garcia goes for two more takedowns against the cage but they get stuffed well too as the round ends. 10-9 Garcia but it’s a close round.
Garcia comes out quickly in the second round once again and puts the pressure on against the cage well. Garcia lands a couple of nice hooks but Haqparast stays composed and starts digging to the body with some great punches. Nice elbow from Haqparast lands and Garcia comes forward with a right hand of his own. Haqparast lands two nice left hands and Garcia charges forward again with jabs and front kicks to the body. Haqparast denies a takedown attempt and then lands a left hand, before throwing Garcia to the floor with a judo throw. Great uppercut lands from Haqparast but Garcia continues to walk forward with jabs, before Haqparast lands a big body kick too. Big front kick to the body again from Haqparast who denies another takedown on the buzzer. 19-19 for me, but could be 20-18 Haqparast.
Garcia looks a bit slower in this final round but is still coming forward with intensity. Haqparast has started finding his timing now though and lands a great elbow followed by an uppercut and hook that land clean. Another elbow and uppercut from Haqparast lands as Garcia continues to come forward, but Haqparast throwing body kicks hard that are slowing Garcia down more and more. Straight left lands against for Haqparast as Garcia is bleeding now and getting picked apart on the feet. Garcia lands a nice right hand as we enter the final minute of the round and they exchange kicks. Big head kick from Haqparast twice lands but he doesn’t get the finish as the round ends. 29-27 for me.
Rani Yahya def Ray Rodriguez via Submission (Head and Arm Choke), Round 2 (3:09)
Fast start as Rodriguez goes for a head kick off the bat and then lands a straight right in an exchange, but Yahya goes straight for a body lock looking for a takedown and eventually gets it. Yahya with heavy top pressure, landing some nice ground and pound but really just trying to maintain position from half guard. Yahya looking to move into side control with great shoulder pressure but abandons it after decent defence from Rodriguez. Final minute now and Rodriguez manages to get into full guard for a few seconds before Yahya looks to lock up a head and arm choke with 20 seconds left but Rodriguez defends well and survives the round. 10-9 Yahya, easily.
Rodriguez opens the second round with some nice boxing once again, keeping a distance and doing well but he backs up to the cage and Yahya gets another takedown at the first attempt once again. Straight back into half guard once again and Yahya starts threatening with the head and arm choke early on. Rodriguez tries to explode up with the butterfly guard but Yahya jumps over it, gets back into half guard and passes to the other side. He sinks in the head and arm choke and forces Rodriguez to tap. Beautiful performance from Yahya.
Charles Jourdain def Marcelo Rojo via Knockout, Round 3 (4:31)
Fun start to the first round as both men trade hard kicks to begin, with Jourdain throwing lots of head kicks. Rojo throws a right hook that misses and then they clinch, with both men landing nice knees before Jourdain separates. Nice left hand from Rojo looking to counter but just misses, then Jourdain lands a nice uppercut in the clinch. Rojo throwing lots of knees in the clinch towards the face, but they’re not quite landing yet. Rojo lands a leg kick that drops Jourdain, then lands a one-two as Jourdain gets back to his feet. Very even round as we head into the final 90 seconds and Rojo throws a nice flurry that lands nicely before looking to rip Jourdain’s body with a left hook. Jourdain retaliates with nice body shots in the clinch before the round ends. 10-9 Rojo for me but genuinely could go either way.
Rojo comes out hard in the second round and throwing some hard shots and combinations that either graze or just miss Jourdain. Strong leg kick is responded to by Jourdain with a great jab, who then lands a big right hook. A close exchange sees Jourdain accidentally eye-poke Rojo which forces a pause in the action but they get back to it quickly with flurries. Jourdain catches a kick and lands a big body shot and right hook, before Rojo charges forward and lands a big three-punch combo to the head, followed by a knee and body shot. Clinch against the cage is a stalemate and Rojo looks for a spinning elbow on the break. Snappy jab from Jourdain lands flush but Rojo continues to come forward and just misses with that big knee again. Jourdain eats some big leg kicks and responds with a huge flying knee that lands! He lands a couple of big hooks too with Rojo rocked but he survives the round. Another close one, 19-19 for me.
Fast start for Jourdain in this final round as he comes forward and puts the pressure on Rojo immediately, landing his left hand a lot. Rojo is considerably slower now and Jourdain is picking him apart, then lands a huge left hand down the middle that drops him! Jourdain jumps on him and looks for the ground and pound finish, then runs and jumps off the cage to continue the strikes. Heavy shots on the ground but Rojo is tiring and Jourdain is landing big. Jourdain lets Rojo back up and they start throwing haymakers against each other looking for a finish. Jourdain keeps pounding away and lands another left hand that drops Rojo and the referee ends it! What a performance!
Angela Hill def Ashley Yoder via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Competitive start to the fight with Hill looking to land straight rights and Yoder landing some nice kicks so far. Hill has the centre of the cage and is feinting the body shots, then shoots in against the cage for a clinch. Hill lands some nice knees before Yoder looks for a head and arm throw but it’s well defended by Hill. Hill responds with a huge elbow and then goes back to the clinch before they separate with about 90 seconds to go in the round. Hill controlling the range right now and landing shots freely and has a big speed advantage to get in and out, avoiding the attacks of Yoder. Hill steps in with a front kick to the body then lands three huge overhand rights that rock Yoder! She goes for a finish and takes Yoder down but she recovers enough to see out the round. 10-9 Hill.
More of the same in this second round as Hill takes the centre and looks to land body kicks and overhand rights. Yoder can’t get close enough for the takedown and is getting picked apart on the feet. Hill lands a big straight right hand once again that snaps Yoder’s head back and she’s in total control right now. Hill goes for a clinch and lands some nice knees to the body, with Yoder starting to slow down a bit. Hill lands more right hands and now is chopping down the legs of Yoder. Big knee to the body followed by a kick and Yoder is hurting. Flurry of punches to the head and Yoder is surviving right now, then Hill goes for a knee to the body and Yoder catches it and secures a takedown to end the round on top. 20-18 Hill.
Yoder comes out like a bull in a china shop looking to close the distance and get a takedown but Hill immediately out-muscles her, clinches up and starts landing big knees to the body against the cage. Hill just too strong physically for Yoder and completely dominating the position and pace of the fight. Big punch to the body again from Hill before another clinch and some more nasty Muay Thai knees to the body allow Yoder to overpower her onto the floor. Yoder controls the position from the top and is fighting Hill well, but Hill is too strong and gets back to the feet and lands more knees again. Round comes to an end with Hill landing two big right hands to take a wide decision. Great performance. 30-27 Hill.
Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart – NO CONTEST (Illegal knee)
Lots of feelers being put out by both guys early on with feints and flicks before Stewart lands a nice left hand. A good exchange between the two and it’s Stewart who comes out on top once again, as he starts showboating a little. Anders shoots in for a takedown but Stewart does well to defend it and the battle in the clinch. Stewart lands some good knees but then Anders lands a huge left hand that rocks him! Anders lands some huge punches and drops Stewart but the Brit continues to fight back. Anders throws an illegal knee (d’oh!) against the cage and the referee stops the fight. Stewart tries to continue but the doctor calls the fight off. No contest called.
Fun start to the fight as both men look to feint early. Nicolau lands an immediate leg kick that hurts Kape but he continues to come forward with jabs and leg kicks of his own. Nicolau being more explosive and faster right now and Kape falling into the same trap as his first fight by being not active enough. Nicolau gets a takedown and Kape is able to work his way back to the feet and slip out of a guillotine attempt. Nicolau gets another takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Nicolau.
Second round and Kape comes out with more urgency this time. Big left uppercut lands and rocks Nicolau early! He follows it up with a couple of other shots and when he’s landing he’s hurting Nicolau. He stuffs a takedown attempt and comes forward again, but this time Nicolau lands a big hook of his own. Kape lands a leg kick and then a knee followed by a right hand that lands flush. Kape walking Nicolau down against the cage and letting strikes flow but Nicolau shoots for a power double across the cage and gets him down, but Kape bounces straight back up. Nicolau tries to launch forward with a left hand but misses and Kape counters with a right hook. 19-19, much better.
Kape takes the centre in the third round and is letting his hands go again. Kape throws a nice leg kick but Nicolau throws a nice left hand that lands on the forehead. Kape stings him with a nice jab and then lands a nice counter right hook again. Nicolau goes for a takedown but Kape stuffs it brilliantly and stands back up immediately. Nicolau gets back up and drops Kape with a leg kick and starts landing with a lot of volume. Big hooks and straight land but Kape replies with a right hook well. Final minute and Kape throws a head kick then follows it up with a left hook. He stuffs two takedown attempts brilliantly and is throwing big combinations too. Huge flying knee lands from Kape and then he follows it up with another to the body! Nicolau lands a spinning back elbow as the round ends! Super close round but I think Kape edges it. 29-28.
Davey Grant def Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2 (3:03)
Good start to the round from Grant as he comes forward well and applies pressure with lots of strikes and kicks. Martinez happy to stand and trade with him and throws an excellent leg kick to hurt Grant. Grant continues with spinning kick attacks and high kicks but Martinez is countering really well with his fast hands. Grant with a switch step and a big right hook but it’s well blocked by Martinez. Big leg kick from Martinez again but Grant keeping the pressure on with kicks from range and heavy hooks. Huge left hook from Martinez lands on the chin and Grant gets dropped! Martinez looks to land some ground and pound but the round ends and allows Grant a chance to recover. 10-9 Martinez.
Grant comes out nice and aggressive in the second round and continues to chop away at the leg, before Grant lands a right hand on the chin. Grant continues to come forward with flurries and then shoots in for a takedown but Martinez defends it brilliantly. Grant lands another right hand and is throwing combinations now just to touch him and is stopping Martinez from throwing anything significant because of the pace. Grant throws a body shot and left hook and Martinez is OUT!! Grant follows it up with an extra shot but it’s all over! Wow!
Dan Ige def Gavin Tucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:22)
DAN IGE!!! ONE PUNCH KNOCKOUT!! HOLY COW!
Ryan Spann def Misha Cirkunov via Knockout, Round 1 (1:11)
Fast start to the round from both fighters as they exchange jabs and kicks, as Cirkunov lands a low blow by accident after 30 seconds. A short pause and they get to it again and Spann lands a straight right hand that drops Cirkunov! He goes for the ground and pound but Cirkunov kicks him off and so Spann makes him get back to the feet. Spann stays calm and then lands a big punch on the side of the head that drops him again and after some ground and pound the referee waves it off! Huge KO for Ryan Spann!
Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Tentative start to the fight as Edwards takes the centre of the cage and forces Muhammad backwards immediately, landing a body kick and following up with a big one two. Edwards goes for a takedown against the cage but Muhammad clinches up and reverses the position well before they separate. Edwards throws a head kick and wobbles Muhammad! Edwards throws some wild hooks but Muhammad blocks them all and then Edwards shoots for a takedown but once again it’s denied well by Belal. Body kick from Muhammad lands nicely but it’s Edwards pushing the pace and pressuring forwards. Big one-two from Edwards lands again and wobbles Muhammad before the buzzer goes to end the round. 10-9 Edwards.
Second round starts and both guys are aggressive early on. Edwards goes to throw a head kick and his hand accidentally pokes Muhammad in the eye as it lands. Muhammad goes down screaming and crying, saying he can’t see anything. Herb Dean waves the fight off almost immediately and it’s another no contest.
It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.
Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.
Semelsberger is a power striker who looks to put fights away as his four knockout wins show. He has decent takedown defence too, which will come in handy against Witt who looks to take fights to the mat and control position and look for submissions. With Semelsberger’s aggression, he can leave himself open to takedowns by someone as good and willing as Witt. With that said, Witt has been knocked out four times in his career before and against the power of Semelsberger it’s a fair question to ask how his chin will hold up. Overall, I back Witt to be able to get the takedown and control the top position enough drain Semelsberger of his power and take a decision win. PICK – Jason Witt via Decision
Gloria de Paula (5-2) vs Jinh Yu Frey (9-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A UFC debut in the strawweight division as Gloria de Paula takes on Jinh Yu Frey, coming off two straight losses. De Paula earned her spot with a win on Dana White’s Contender Series back in November, while Frey was submitted via kneebar back in June 2020 by Kay Hansen before being outclassed by Loma Lookboonmee in October.
De Paula is a fantastic Muay Thai striker, who loves to throw combinations and has a considerable size advantage in this fight against Frey, who used to fight at atomweight before joining the UFC. Frey will have to press forward and make in an uncomfortable fight which totally goes against her style or grind out a decision from top position which is unlikely considering De Paula’s improving grappling skills. This fight arguably couldn’t be a worse match up for Frey and she should be dominated by the bigger fighter, in what will likely be the last fight of her UFC career for now. PICK – Gloria de Paula via Decision
Cortney Casey (9-8) vs JJ Aldrich (8-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A couple of UFC vets in the women’s MMA world match up in the flyweight division here. Casey went 1-1 in 2020, tapping Mara Romero Borella before being tapped herself by Gillian Robertson at UFC Vegas 3 just a month later. Aldrich has gone 1-2 in her last three, being knocked out by Maycee Barber and losing a decision to Sabina Mazo with a win over Lauren Mueller sandwiched between them.
Both women are strikers by trade but haven’t knocked anyone out in the UFC yet despite lengthy runs with the company, which means we should have an entertaining bout on our hands. Aldrich is the sharper and more crisp striker but Casey is more physical and aggressive which allows her to bite down on her mouthpiece and go toe-to-toe with anyone in the company. The accuracy of Aldrich is likely to mean she lands the more eye-catching shots and that could be the difference between getting a judge’s decision. PICK – JJ Aldrich via Decision
After the fun of Fight Island, the UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas for a 12 fight card with some interesting fights including a featherweight clash between Bryce Mitchell and Andre ‘Touchy’ Fili in the co-main event.
I will break down each fighters skills and style and give my prediction for each fight, starting with the seven prelim fights.
Last weekend at UFC 254, I got 9/12 picks correct with five perfect picks. Since starting my predictions back in June, my current record stands at 145/222 total picks, with 67 perfect picks in that time. I will look to improve that this week with these picks.
Miles Johns (10-1) vs Kevin Natividad (9-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two very well rounded bantamweights are scheduled to open the card up as Kevin Natividad makes his UFC debut against Miles Johns. ‘Chapo’ won his debut in September last year, a split decision against Cole Smith before losing his last fight when he was mauled by Mario Bautista and eventually knocked out. Natividad was supposed to debut against Brian Kelleher in September but withdrew after testing positive for COVID-19. He comes into this fight on a five-fight win streak including a knockout in his most recent fight in July. Johns has the advantage in boxing and wrestling, so he probably should control where the fight takes place but Natividad has got fantastic power. If Johns employs and sticks to a game-plan to mix it up he should be able to get a decision win, but he needs to ensure he doesn’t take too many shots from a man looking to make an impression. PICK – Miles Johns via Decision
Cortney Casey (9-8) vs Priscilla Cachoeira (9-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Cortney Casey returns for her third appearance in the octagon of 2020, after beating Maria Romero Borella before losing to Gillian Robertson a month later. Cachoeira lost her first three UFC fights, including her debut against the division champion Valentina Shevchenko but finally got herself in the win column with a knockout of Shana Dobson back in February. Casey is a solid all round fighter but has real issues with consistency, not winning back-to-back fights since back in 2016. Cachoeira however is a power puncher and nothing more. She has heavy hands but struggles on the ground and isn’t particularly fast either. Casey has the skillset to nullify her and get a win, but knowing her she’ll make it tougher than it needs to be. PICK – Cortney Casey via Decision
Dustin Jacoby (12-5) vs Justin Ledet (9-3) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A return to the Octagon for the first time since 2012 for Justin Jacoby as he takes on former heavyweight Justin Ledet. Jacoby was in the UFC previously, but consecutive defeats saw him leave the company without a win. Ledet started at 3-0 in the heavyweight division but then moved down to 205lbs and has been battered ever since. He was dominated by Aleksandar Rakic, KO’d in 15 seconds by Johnny Walker and then beaten convincingly by Aleksa Camur back in January. Jacoby went into kickboxing after leaving Bellator and had lots of success before returning to MMA in 2019. Ledet is a talented boxer but his output is poor and he gets hit far too easily for someone who relies on striking. Jacoby should be able to use his kickboxing skills to control the fight and pick up a pretty comfortable win. PICK – Dustin Jacoby via Decision
Cole Williams (11-2) vs Jason Witt (17-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
This is a fight that in all honesty has no business on a UFC card. Both guys have had decent regional careers but when they entered the UFC, albeit on short notice, were both trounced in no time by specialists of their craft. Williams was submitted in the first round by Claudio Silva back in August, while Witt was knocked out in under a minute by Takashi Sato in June. Both guys are well-rounded but not to a particularly high level and it’s tough to predict who will come out on top. Williams has the slightly sharper striking skills but is also now 36 years old having fought just three times in the last three years. Witt has been much more active with 12 fights since January 2017 and has a decent submission game in his arsenal. It won’t be the most memorable of fights, but I think Witt has enough about him to get another tap out on his record. PICK – Jason Witt via Submission, Round 2
Sean Strickland (20-3) vs Jack Marshman (23-9) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An exciting fight between ‘Tarzan’ Sean Strickland and Wales’ Jack Marshman who steps in on short-notice for Wellington Turman, who tested positive for COVID-19. Strickland has fought some of the best welterweights around, losing to Kamaru Usman and Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos but beating Court McGee and Nordine Taleb but this is his first fight since 2018 and first fight at 185lbs since 2014. Marshman is a powerful striker but has lost four of his last six fights in the UFC, including his last bout against Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC 239. On the feet the fight is close, with Strickland’s reach advantage likely to give him the edge but on the ground it’s as one-sided as can be. Strickland has good submission skills and great wrestling so I think he uses the jab to get in on a takedown and gets a quick submission on his return to the cage. PICK – Sean Strickland via Submission, Round 1
Adrian Yanez (11-3) vs Victor Rodriguez (7-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
This could be a blowout. Adrian Yanez is arguably the hottest prospect in the 135lbs division, with unbelievable boxing and hand power coming up against a short-notice opponent in Victor Rodriguez who hasn’t got much to show for his record. Yanez demolished his opponent on Dana White’s Contender Series in just 39 seconds and Rodriguez is so easy to hit that this might as well be an exhibition fight to show off Yanez’s skills. A highlight right hand lands in the first round and turns out the lights of ‘Vicious’ early. PICK – Adrian Yanez via Knockout, Round 1
Chris Gruetzmacher (14-3) vs Alexander Hernandez (11-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
This is another fight that seems like a bit of a mismatch on the card as Chris ‘Gritz’ Gruetzmacher takes on Alexander ‘The Great’ Hernandez. Hernandez was one of the top prospects in the division until he was smashed by Donald Cerrone and has since struggled to gain momentum, beating Francisco Trinaldo but then being knocked out by Drew Dober. ‘Gritz’ has also lost two of his last three, being submitted by Chas Skelly and Davi Ramos in 2017 before winning his last fight against Joe Lauzon in 2018. Hernandez is the better striker, better grappler, more physical fighter and more skilled fighter. Hernandez isn’t really a finisher and ‘Gritz’ has never been knocked out before but so I expect ‘The Great’ to dominate the fight wherever it goes for the full 15 minutes to get himself back in the win column. PICK – Alexander Hernandez via Decision