The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas this weekend as heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Serghei Spivac headline another card.
After their initial fight back in November fell out on fight night when “The Black Beast” suffered illness and was forced to pull out, they’re now going back to the well to finally settle their score in the Octagon.
This card will also see the finale of the Road to UFC tournament too, so there are plenty of new faces to take notice of during the card too.
Last time out at UFC 283 it was a great night of fights, where we managed to go 10/15 with our picks with three perfect picks, moving us to 823/1277 (64.45%) with 336 perfect picks (40.83%). You can see our full pick history here.
Yusaku Kinoshita (6-1) vs Adam Fugitt (8-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Main card bangers up next. Kinoshita makes his UFC debut on a two-fight win streak, including a KO on the Contender Series most recently back in August. He’ll face Fugitt, one of 3 Americans on this card, who lost his UFC debut at UFC 277 on nine days’ notice when he got KO’d in the 3rd round by Michael Morales.
Kinoshita is a super prospect being compared to Conor McGregor for his style, with fantastic counter-striking and great power and accuracy. Fugitt is a striker too with some excellent kicking and a nice left hand too. Fugitt is quite slow and stiff despite his striking pedigree, and the hand speed and activity of Kinoshita is likely to be a big advantage for him.
Fugitt has got wrestling in his back pocket too, but it’s unlikely that he goes for too many grappling attempts because it’s not his natural game plan. Kinoshita has power, speed and a great array of striking weapons, plus his age and energy should see him claim a big win on his UFC debut. PICK – Yusaku Kinoshita via Knockout, Round 2
Dooho Choi (14-4) vs Kyle Nelson (13-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Someone’s losing streak needs to end in this one. Choi has lost each of his last three fights in the UFC, dropping a decision to Cub Swanson in 2016 and then being KO’d by Jeremy Stephens and Charles Jourdain. This is his first fight since December 2019. Nelson on the other hand has lost his last two, getting stopped by Billy Quarantillo before dropping a decision to Jai Herbert most recently at UFC London in July 2022.
Choi is an excellent striker with great power and speed in his arsenal, while his grappling skills have been more than good enough to compete at the top level. Nelson is a wrestler who looks to get control of his opponents against the cage before putting them on the mat and landing damage. The problem with this fight is that Choi has been out injured for the last three years with a torn ACL, a broken arm and eye issues. He is not the fighter that he once was.
If Choi is capable of reaching even 80% of what he used to be able to, then he should win this fight. But after so long away with so many injuries, and the fact he was on the decline before that anyway, I expect Nelson should be able to grind him out and out-work Choi for a decision win. PICK – Kyle Nelson via Decision
Marcin Tybura (23-7) vs Blagoy Ivanov (19-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight banger up next. Tybura is on a run of six wins in his last seven fights, with a defeat to Alex Volkov the only blip. He bounced back with a majority decision win over Alexander Romanov most recently at UFC 278. Ivanov lost two in a row against Derrick Lewis and Augusto Sakai, but got back into the win column with a win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima at UFC 274.
Tybura is a very, very good heavyweight even if he is not the most exciting. He has got some really good leg kicks and grappling, while also having good power in his hands too. It’s the wrestling that has been the most impressive though, controlling opponents with ease. Ivanov is a decorated grappler, but he almost never uses it in the UFC and instead chooses to strike from distance hence his shaky record. He’s got good power, but lacks any urgency.
It would be a real shock to me if Ivanov wins this. Tybura is at his best when a fight is boring, meaning he is in total control of the cage and his opponent. The best way to break away from that is for Ivanov to try and grapple, but he’s never done that in the UFC and expecting him to start that at 36 years old is unlikely. Tybura will use leg kicks at distance and wrestle enough to earn a decision win in the longest 15 minutes of the night. PICK – Marcin Tybura via Decision
Da-Un Jung (15-3-1) vs Devin Clark (13-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An interesting light heavyweight scrap up next. Jung was 14-0-1 in his last 15 fights before he came up against Dustin Jacoby back in July and got KO’d in the first round to snap that streak. Clark has lost three of his last four alternatively, with a win over William Knight coming between defeats to Anthony Smith, Ion Cutelaba and Azamat Murzakanov most recently.
Jung is a very good wrestler with lots of top pressure, great cardio and some excellent elbows – just ask Kennedy Nzechukwu. He’s also a powerful striker but technically he isn’t the greatest. Clark is a wrestler, pure and simple. He’s a strong grappler with decent ground and pound skills, but his striking on the feet is very poor considering how high he’s managed to climb in the rankings previously.
Clark will look to wrestle and control from top position, but Jung has got far more avenues to win here. He’s got the better boxing, has excellent takedown defence and is capable pushing the pace for the full 15 minutes too, so it would be somewhat of a surprise if he doesn’t begin to overwhelm Clark at some point in the latter rounds. PICK – Da Un Jung via Decision
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 at 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
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
Great start to the fight for Kasanganay as he comes forward to close the distance early and lands a nice right hand. Palatnikov throws a kick which Kasanganay catches and then he lands another big right hand before getting a body lock and taking Palatnikov down to the ground. Kasanganay using heavy top pressure but not landing much damage and Palatnikov is able to get back to his feet. Kasanganay goes for another takedown but Palatnikov defends it well and they clinch against the cage now. Palatnikov starts teeing off against the cage but Kasanganay does well to avoid any strikes and clinch up again. Nice left hand lands from Palatnikov at the end of the round but should be 10-9 Kasanganay.
Kasanganay comes out quickly in the second round and lands a big right hand that drops Palatnikov! He forces the takedown with pure power and scrambles to take his neck. He locks in a rear-naked choke and squeezes, forcing Palatnikov to tap out! Big win for Kasanganay!
Da-Un Jung def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Reserved start from both fighters as Knight comes out throwing low calf kicks to prevent Jung from letting his jab fly. Knight goes in for a takedown and lifts Jung but he defends it well, switches the position and is able to get a throw perfectly to end up in top position. Knight is landing some nice right hands from the bottom as he holds Jung in place, but Jung fires back with a couple of right hands of his own to shut that down. Jung passes into half guard and tries to move into side control but Knight sweeps him really well and explodes back onto his feet. Knight clinches up once again and Jung is able to get the same trip once more to get back in top position. Some decent ground and pound from Jung as Knight looks quite tired now but he’s able to explode to his feet again as the round ends. 10-9 Jung.
Knight comes out throwing lots of low kicks once again, but Jung is backing him up to the cage and looking to hunt him down. Both guys land a nice right hand each before Knight shoots in for a takedown. Jung defends it, clinches up and then lands the same outside trip once again to take top position and starts landing ground and pound against the cage. Knight tries to get to his feet but Jung stays heavy and drags him down to the mat once more, then takes his back and sinks in both hooks. Jung starts raining down punches and Knight is trying to explode out again rather than use technique. Knight is just surviving right now and Jung continues to smash him up from his back on top. Lots of damage but Knight survives the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Jung.
Jung comes forward early in the final round and Knight has abandoned the leg kicks and is throwing bombs. Jung lands a nice uppercut, then switches levels and gets a big takedown! Knight explodes to his feet again but Jung is able to drag and throw Knight back to the mat with relative ease. Jung floats through the positions and ends up in side control, landing knees to the body and just completely dominating all the exchanges in this fight. Jung stays busy from top position on the ground landing damage for the rest of the fight for a very comfortable win. 30-26 Jung.
Luis Saldana def Jordan Griffin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Really good start to the fight for Saldana as he comes out with his hands low and is throwing quick kicks to the legs and body. Saldana throws a night three punch combo that clips Griffin, who shoots in for a takedown and gets it but Saldana gets back up very quickly. More leg kicks from Saldana take Griffin off his feet but he keeps coming forward and lands two big punches as he rushes forward and goes in for a takedown again. Saldana defends well against the cage and they break, but Griffin stays in his face and keeps throwing big punches. He keeps pouring punches and then eventually gets the takedown, but Saldana is able to roll through and escape before Griffin gets a headlock and looks for some sort of bulldog choke. Saldana is able to escape and Griffin charges once again and just misses with a big head-kick before the round ends. Very close, but I go 10-9 Griffin.
Slower start to the round from both guys as Saldana comes out again looking for low kicks and front kicks to the body, but Griffin pressures him again. Saldana slips as he throws a kick and Griffin jumps on top. Saldana looks for an armbar and then switches to a heel hook to create space which gets both guys back up. Saldana jumps on the neck of Griffin looking for a guillotine, but Griffin is calm and escapes before getting the fight back down. He starts looking for a bulldog choke again but Saldana escapes it only for Griffin to continue with his pressure and get back into a dominant position. Griffin starts floating and then takes the back and sinks in a rear naked choke deep but he runs out of time so we’re going to the final round. 20-18 Griffin.
Saldana comes out in the final round and knows he needs a finish. He’s trying to stay out of wrestling range, using punches rather than kicks to avoid being taken down but he looks exhausted. Griffin isn’t exactly fresh himself but he’s coming forward still but doing enough to stay out of range. Saldana looks to kick off the cage with a superman punch but just misses with that and the follow up hook, before Griffin shoots in for a tired takedown against the cage. Saldana defends it well and switches the position around but Griffin gets his arm under the chin and looks for a rear-naked choke! Saldana stays calm and escapes and ends up on top with 90 seconds to go. Saldana is able to take the back of Griffin for a split second, but Griffin then switches around and finishes the round on top looking for a submission. Probably a Saldana round but should be a win for Griffin. 29-28.
Jack Shore def Hunter Azure via Split Decision (30-27 x2, 28-29)
Composed start to the bout from both men as they feel each other out with jabs and low kicks before they both clinch up against the cage. Shore looking like the stronger fighter as they battle for position and he gets a body lock in nicely and picks Azure up and sweeps the legs for a takedown. Azure gets back up quickly but Shore keeps the hands locked and continues to drag Azure around. Shore tries to take the back but Azure drops to his knees and counters by turning into Shore’s guard. Shore kicks off the hips to get back to his feet quickly before Azure can do any damage and they clinch against the cage again before separating. Both men throw a simultaneous kick that makes for a big thud before a nice high kick lands from Shore. Azure looks for a takedown against the cage but Shore defends and the round ends. 10-9 Shore.
Fast start from Azure in the second round as he goes straight in for a clinch against the cage and lands some nice knees to the body and thighs. Shore is patient and eventually gets back up and catches a kick from Azure and lands a right hand that drops Azure. Azure gets back up quickly though and Shore looks for a clinch against the takedown before going for a takedown of his own. He shoots in and Azure looks for a guillotine which forces Shore to abandon and go to his back to escape, but Azure ends up on top in half guard. Shore uses his long legs and hips really well to get back up to the feet and the clinch continues against the cage once again. Accidental low blow from Azure causes a short pause in the action but they clinch again when they resume. Azure lands a nice right hand when they separate and then lands a good right hook but Shore starts landing some strikes of his own too. Azure lands a big right hand clean but Shore responds with an uppercut as the round ends. Very close round, probably in Azure’s favour. 19-19.
Azure goes straight in for a takedown at the start of the third but Shore stuffs it well and starts working off his jab from the outside. Azure changes levels to avoid a right hand and goes for a single leg, but Shore defends it brilliantly once again against the cage. Stiff low kick from Shore and then a nice left hook lands that stings Azure, who shoots for a takedown quickly after but is denied. Shore stuffs another attempt and then takes Azure down himself, landing some short punches against the cage and leaning all his weight on Azure to drag him back down. He looks to take Azure’s back and then moves into mount, switching between both positions. Azure is able to get back to his feet but Shore keeps hold of him and is able to take him down once again as we enter the final 90 seconds. Azure scrambles and rolls through to escape Shore’s grip and ends up on top and looks to land ground and pound but Shore defends brilliantly and then escapes a rear naked choke attempt to see out the round. Should be a win for Shore, 29-28.
Jarjis Danho def Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1 (3:02)
Slow start to the fight for both guys as they throw some leg kicks and circle each other. Danho throwing more and more leg kicks but not much action in the first two minutes. Danho looks to clinch up but De Castro throws him off and lands a big left hand that wobbles Danho! He comes forward with more punches but Danho avoids and goes for a takedown. The two separate and De Castro continues to come forward, then both men throw big right hands and Danho lands on the side of the head and puts De Castro’s lights out!! He lands one more on the ground but it’s all over! What a knockout!
John Makdessi def Ignacio Bahamondes via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Bahamondes using his length well very early on, with long jabs and front kicks. Bahamondes doing really well to mix up his attacks, landing leg kicks, jabs, straight rights, body shots and kicks while changing up his stance constantly. Makdessi just can’t get a read right now as Bahamondes keeps moving. Makdessi lands a big right hand that makes Bahamondes do the chicken dance and he pushes on for the finish, but Bahamondes clinches up to try and recover. Bahamondes now is trying to stay away and land from range but Makdessi continues to pour on the pressure. Bahamondes goes for a takedown against the cage but Makdessi defends it well. Bahamondes lands a couple of elbows on the break and they exchange strikes again as the round ends. That’s a really close round could go either way. I go Makdessi for the damage.
Bahamondes seems to have recovered now as he comes out popping his jab once again and circling on the outside. Makdessi taking the centre and looking to catch Bahamondes on his way in, but it’s not working too well for him just yet. Three jabs in a row land for Makdessi who returns with a big left hand of his own. Bahamondes lands a big straight left then misses with a few kicks before shooting in for a takedown, but Makdessi defends it with ease. Bahamondes starts throwing some knees against the cage before they separate and go back to trading straight punches. Both guys trading jabs and straights and landing, then Bahamondes lands a huge spinning heel kick to the head but Makdessi eats it. Makdessi responds with two body shots and a short left hook to the chin then lands a clean one two. Another super close round, I’ve got it even.
Third round following the pattern of the previous two, with Bahamondes landing from range but Makdessi standing firm in the middle and popping him back too. Bahamondes lands some nice jabs but Makdessi keeps landing the straight right and left jab in response. Bahamondes looks for a big knee that just misses and then he shoots in for a takedown to mix it up. Makdessi stuffs it and lands a nice right hand, before Bahamondes starts pouring on pressure and lands a big one-two. Bahamondes lands another nice left hand that sends Makdessi backwards but they continue to stand in a phonebox and trade for the remainder of the round in what was a brilliant fight. Another very close round, I don’t know how to call it. 29-28 either way, I lean to Bahamondes.
Mateusz Gamrot def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 2 (1:22)
Good start to the round from both guys, with Gamrot looking to land from range to set up his takedowns while Holtzman is looking to counter with heavy punches. Gamrot steps in for a takedown and grabs the leg and tries to go for a heel hook but Holtzman defends it well. Gamrot lands a nice left but Holtzman responds with a huge left hand on his way in! Gamrot responds with a couple of left hands again and then goes for single leg again and transitions to a double leg to get the takedown against the cage. Gamrot allows him back up and throws a huge elbow to the ear that wobbles Holtzman towards the end of the round. 10-9 Gamrot.
Holtzman comes out very aggressive and starts walking Gamrot down, but he’s loading up his attacks with big uppercuts and overhands. Gamrot moving side to side to stay out of the way and he throws a big one two down the middle which folds Holtzman! He jumps on and lands a couple more shots before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Gamrot!
Joe Solecki def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Very positive start from Solecki as he looks to be first in the striking exchanges between the two, but Miller just misses with his big left hand. Nice calf kick lands from Miller but Solecki is coming forward and landing nice short flurries of punches. Big right hand lands and forces Miller to think twice but then the veteran lands a nice body kick. Solecki shoots in for a takedown but Miller stuffs it and ends up on top, so Solecki goes into full guard and starts defending. Miller is landing some nice short elbows from the top position and stacking Solecki up to prevent him from being able to get back to his feet easily. Miller misses with an elbow as the rounds ends, probably a Miller round because of the top control. 10-9 Miller.
Solecki comes out aggressive in the second round and lands a nice right hand before shooting in for the takedown. Miller looks to defend it but Solecki takes the legs from under him and moves into full guard. Now it’s Solecki looking to stack Miller against the cage and throw some ground and pound, but Miller is staying busy from his back too. A few body shots from Solecki as he looks to wear Miller down heading into the final 90 seconds of the round. Not much action in this round but Solecki controlled it and takes the round. 19-19 going into the final round.
Both men see the route to victory as being on top and so immediately they both move into a clinch position. Solecki the physically stronger guy right now and gets a body lock, which Miller tries to roll through from but Solecki holds on and ends up on top once again. Solecki throwing short shots on the ground from half guard but Miller is trying to get back to his feet now rather than accepting the position. Solecki doing really well to control the position now and just doing enough damage to stop the fight from being stood back up. Solecki maintains the position for the rest of the round to secure what should be a straight forward decision win.
Daniel Rodriguez def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Tense start to this one with both men respecting the power of their opponent early on. Perry throws a few le kicks and Rodriguez is throwing his jab well and has already busted up the nose. Rodriguez throws a big one-two down the middle that staggers Perry but he continues to come forward to look for a finish. Rodriguez is landing big one-twos at will and Perry is getting pieced up, so he changes levels and powers through with a takedown. He lifts Rodriguez up and slams him down but Rodriguez holding on for a guillotine which Perry does well to defend against and avoid. Perry stays in top position and works for some ground and pound to see the round out. Perry still in it, but that’s a Rodriguez round for me. 10-9.
Second round and Rodriguez is doing really well on the feet, with his jab landing at will and the left hand following up behind it cleanly too. Perry is throwing some nice leg kicks and is just struggling to be first with the punches because of the range difference. Perry gets a body lock and looks for a takedown which he gets, then tries to transition onto Rodriguez’s back, but Rodriguez does well to stay strong and get back up pretty quickly. Rodriguez continues to land the jab and left straight at will, but Perry is still standing in front of him and throwing shots of his own. Big right hook, left hand from Rodriguez lands clean. Perry comes forward looking for a takedown with 20 seconds to go but Rodriguez defends it well to claim the round again. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Final round and the pattern continues, as Rodriguez lines up the jab and takes the centre of the cage. Perry is struggling to land anything of note because he keeps getting pummelled every time he tries to go first. Perry shoots for a takedown but Rodriguez denies it again and shrugs him off in the clinch. Rodriguez throws three huge left hands in an exchange but Perry is still taking the punishment and trying to come forward. Perry’s face is so busted up right now and at this point it’s just about not getting finished as Rodriguez shoots in for a takedown but Perry stuffs it to see the round out with a big exchange. 30-27 Rodriguez, excellent performance.
Fast start to the fight from Dern as she charges forward throwing big punches with a couple landing but Nunes responds with a couple of her own. Dern charges forward again and lands a nice left hand, but Nunes throws a good right hand to counter it too. Dern shoots in for a takedown against the cage and lifts the leg high then sweeps the standing leg and dumps her down. She immediately works to advance the position and threatens with a leg attack to pass into half guard. From half guard she quickly moves into mount and starts raining down elbows from the top. She transitions into an armbar position and despite Nunes’ best attempts to defend it, Dern extends the arm and gets the tap out.
Julian Marquez def Sam Alvey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (2:07)
Pretty tame opening to the round as Marquez takes the centre early and looks to figure out his range by flicking out his lead hand. Neither men throw anything really for the first two minutes barring a couple of missed hooks. Alvey is loading up big with his left hand and it’s allowing Marquez to avoid it well. Marquez lands a big right hook clean and Alvey is hurt. Marquez goes in again and lands two more that drops Alvey but he falls into Marquez and quickly recovers. Two more big right hands land from Marquez but Alvey just about stays standing and now throws a huge left of his own. Alvey is all the way back against the cage and just trying to hit Marquez on his way in but he’s missing wildly. 10-9 Marquez at the end of the round.
More of the same in the second round as Marquez backs Alvey up and lands a nice body shot, but Alvey explodes forward and lands a nice right hand of his own. Marquez throws an overhand right that lands clean on Alvey’s chin but he’s still there throwing his own heat. Marquez lands a huge right hand that drops Alvey and he goes all in for the finish with big strikes. Alvey looks to defend with a takedown but he’s eating big shots. Marquez abandons the strikes and goes for a rear-naked choke and puts Alvey to sleep for the win. Great performance.
Arnold Allen def Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start for Allen as Yusuff comes forward and throws a body kick which he catches and immediately gets a takedown. Yusuff does well to defend well against the cage and hooks up a guillotine choke that forces Allen to roll to his back and abandon the takedown attempt. Yusuff comes forward and is chopping away at the leg of Allen, but both men are throwing heat. Allen lands a big left hand but Yusuff keeps coming and clinches up. Allen lands a big left hand that drops Yusuff and he moves in to take top position but Yusuff does well to recover and avoid further damage. Allen goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s defended well and the round comes to an end with a nice exchange in the centre. 10-9 Allen.
Yusuff continues to push the pace and pressuring forward, but Allen is threatening with the big left hand once again. Yusuff lands some nice chopping leg kicks again and Yusuff is starting to land with his jab. He’s starting to touch Allen more and more, then Allen throws a huge head-kick that rocks him! Allen slips as it lands but he jumps back up and goes to land some ground and pound, but Yusuff recovers well once again and they get back to competing in the middle. Clinch against the cage and Allen is physically stronger and able to dictate the position more, and he sees out the round in control. 20-18 Allen.
Good start from Allen as he looks to back Yusuff up to the cage with his physicality and shoot for takedowns, but Yusuff refusing to accept it and defending really well. He switches the position on the cage and lands some nice knees to the body of Allen before they separate and go back into the centre. Lots of short exchanges and clinch work against the cage for the rest of the round as Yusuff arguably takes the round but it won’t be enough for a win. 29-28 Allen for me, very competitive fight.
Marvin Vettori def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (50-44 x3)
Holland makes a fast start throwing some leg kicks and big right hands but early on he lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Vettori comes in tight for the clinch after the action resumes, but Holland is striking from range and lands a heavy right hand. Vettori finally gets a body lock and clinch against the cage to start wearing on Holland, but he defends the attempted trip well which forces Vettori to change to a double leg. Holland defends it well again and Vettori separates, but he’s right in Holland’s face and applying lots of pressure. Vettori is able to drag Holland down to the ground, but Holland starts throwing up-kicks to try and create space to get up to his feet. Vettori is able to get full guard and starts applying lots of pressure and looking to land ground and pound. Holland is able to roll through and gets back to the feet, but then eats a big left hand. Good first round from both, very close to score. 10-9 Vettori for me but could go either way.
Holland comes out fast once again and lands some sharp punches and straight kicks but Vettori is trying to close the distance earlier this time. Holland lands a big one-two but Vettori eats it, slips a shot and then shoots in for another takedown against the cage. He gets him down quickly this time and avoids the guillotine attempt to go into full guard and land big ground and pound strikes. Vettori starts stacking Holland against the cage and raining down strikes, completely dominant. Holland tries to kick out of it but Vettori controls the position well and gets right back to work with the ground and pound from the top position. More strikes from Vettori opens up a cut on Holland’s face and he tries to scramble out but Vettori just controls his position even once Holland gets back to his feet to end the round. 20-17.
Holland’s left eye is closing up but he’s battling on and Vettori comes out like a freight train and looks to go straight for the takedown again. He gets it quickly and then moves into mount almost immediately. He looks to set up an arm triangle submission and locks it in tight, but Holland doesn’t tap and is able to escape from the bottom to get back up to his feet. Vettori goes straight back for the takedown again but Holland does well to avoid it. Holland lands a couple of nice strikes standing but then once again Vettori changes levels, clinches against the cage and controls the position. Holland lands a couple of huge strikes that seem to wobble Vettori a little but the buzzer goes. 30-26 Vettori.
Big early left hand lands at the start of the fourth for Vettori, but Holland responds with a couple of big hooks of his own. Vettori shoots in for a takedown and gets it down pretty easily once again and goes straight into full guard to land some ground and pound. Vettori looks to stack Holland who rolls through to avoid it and gets back to full guard. Holland is able to get back to the feet after a short scramble but very quickly Vettori is able to drag him back down and goes straight into mount. He looks for the arm triangle submission again, but Holland stays calm and takes it back to half guard. Vettori lands some heavy strikes and then goes back into full guard before passing into half guard again. Vettori tries to stack him and Holland starts throwing up-kicks again but Vettori is just too strong and sees out the round on top. 40-35 Vettori.
Holland still looks fresh and lands a bomb of a right hand that gets Vettori’s attention, so the Italian changes levels and gets the takedown immediately and goes into full guard. Holland kicks off the cage and finds a way to get back to the feet but once again Vettori just locks his hands, finds an angle and drags him back down to the mat. Vettori steps over into half guard and starts throwing some more ground and pound with Holland fighting off his back. Vettori steps over into mount once again looking to set up the arm triangle choke, but Holland explodes back up to his feet. Vettori holds the body lock once again though and drags the fight to the mat again with 40 seconds to go and he sees the round out in control. 50-44 Vettori, pure domination.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
With a belting 14 fights on the card, we’ve split it up into three sections and start with the early prelims section here.
Impa Kasanganay (8-1) vs Sasha Palatnikov (6-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
After being on the wrong end of the 2020 knockout of the year, Impa Kasanganay returns to the octagon and moves down to welterweight to take on Sasha Palatnikov.
Palatnikov’s win was impressive for sure, but it largely came thanks to his opponents completely running out of gas in their bout allowing him to take over. He will not get that joy against Kasanganay, who can fight hard for 15 minutes with no issues. Palatnikov has a good kickboxing style but also has good takedowns, something that Kasanganay has the wrestling skills to shut down. He’s yet to win a fight in his career via knockout despite good power in his hands, but Kasanganay has all the tools to get back on the winning trail here. PICK – Impa Kasanganay via Decision
Da-Un Jung (13-2-1) vs William Knight (9-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A fun light heavyweight bout between two prospects in the division looking to remain unbeaten in the UFC.
Knight is an okay wrestler and a not-so great striker, while Jung is certainly a better stand-up fighter of the two. Jung has tremendous power as he has shown with ten KO wins in his career and good takedown defence. Knight is very physical and is able to wear opponents down, but Jung has a size advantage and is the better striker so I think he is able to get the finish by catching Knight at the end of his strikes. PICK – Da-Un Jung via Knockout, Round 2
Luis Saldana (14-6) vs Jordan Griffin (18-8) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A UFC debut for Saldana as he takes on Jordan Griffin in the featherweight division. Saldana has won his last four fights in a row to earn this opportunity, while Griffin has lost three of his last four including his most recent fight against Youssef Zalal at UFC Vegas 4 back in June.
Saldana and Griffin are both very good, well rounded fighters who have lots of submission wins on their records. Saldana is arguably a better striker of the two, but he has a habit of jumping for submissions which could end up with Griffin on top which is where he’s at his best. Saldana has a great jab and some good kicks, but Griffin is a vet who knows all about grinding out wins if needed.
Griffin will look to close distance and get a takedown to work his top game, but Saldana will take lots of encouragement from Zalal’s joy against Griffin back in June. It’s a super close fight and both are evenly matched up, but I expect Griffin to use that vital experience just to grind out a close decision win. PICK – Jordan Griffin via Decision
Hunter Azure (9-1) vs Jack Shore (13-0) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A banger at bantamweight between two hot prospects as Hunter Azure looks to make it consecutive wins against the undefeated Jack Shore.
Shore is a tremendous grappler coming out of Wales, with eight of his 13 career wins coming by submission. Azure is a great wrestler himself, with fantastic top control which makes him very hard to move once he gets on top of you. Both guys will come forward to lock up, but for as long as the fight is on the feet it’s Azure who has the advantage. Because of that, Shore will have the edge when it comes to getting the bout to the ground which means he has a huge edge.
Azure has suspect cardio and with Shore’s gruelling style designed to tire an opponent out before choking them out, I can’t see anything but exactly that happening again. PICK – Jack Shore via Submission, Round 3