The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas after the wild ride that was UFC 279 for a huge bantamweight main event.
Former title challenger Cory Sandhagen headlines the card against hot prospect Song Yadong, in his first main event and a real step up in competition.
A stacked 14-fight card will see several fights with some good debutants and some impressive prospects a chance to make themselves a name in the UFC.
Last time out at UFC 279 we went 8/13 with three perfect picks for the night to move to 723/1119 (64.61%) with 305 perfect picks (42.19%). You can see our full picks history here.
We’ll look to improve on that, starting with the early prelims picks now.
Nikolas Motta (12-4) vs Cameron VanCamp (15-6-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fun lightweight scrap to open the card here. Motta suffered defeat in his UFC debut when he got KO’d by the legendary Jim Miller back in February, while VanCamp suffered the same fate against Andre Fialho at UFC 274 in his debut.
Motta is a counter striker who likes to use pressure to force his opponents into decisions they don’t want to make, before landing bombs of his own to starch opponents. He has won eight of 12 via knockout. VanCamp on the other hand is a striker too, but he has rather unorthodox technique and likes to use it to set up his solid submission game which has seen him earn nine tap out wins in his career.
Despite both guys getting knocked out last time they were in the cage, this fight tends to lean towards Motta’s style. He is aggressive with his strikes and has good takedown defence to keep the fight standing. VanCamp will look to create space using his size, but I expect Motta to be able to slip and counter to score a big knockout and get into the win column.
PICK – Nikolas Motta via Knockout, Round 2
Tony Gravely (23-7) vs Javid Basharat (12-0) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An exciting bantamweight clash up next between two fun guys. Gravely has won his last two after claiming a decision over Saimon Oliveira (UFC 270) before a knockout win over Johnny Munhoz Jr back in June. Basharat is an unbeaten fighter who claimed a decision win over Trevin Jones back in March in his debut.
Gravely is a very underrated 135-pounder with heavy hands and excellent wrestling in his back pocket and plenty of experience. Basharat is a super well-rounded fighter who has great striking and a decent submission game too, splitting his wins 6/5 between submissions and knockouts. This is a big step up in competition for him though and he’s never faced a wrestler as good as Gravely.
If Basharat is capable of moving well and stuffing takedowns against a guy that he has a decent size advantage on, then he will be proving that he’s ready for ranked opponents in my eyes. Gravely will be a phenomenal test, but I think he could be more eye catching with his strikes to claim a close decision win.
PICK – Javid Basharat via Decision
Mariya Agapova (10-3) vs Gillian Robertson (10-7) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An interesting women’s flyweight bout next. Agapova came into the UFC as a wrecking ball but has lost two of her last three, including a submission loss to Maryna Moroz at UFC 272 last time out. Robertson on the other hand is highly rated, but has lost three of her last four in the UFC dropping decisions to Taila Santos (UFC Vegas 17), Miranda Maverick (UFC 260) and JJ Aldrich most recently. She did submit Priscila Cachoeira at UFC 269 though.
Agapova is a powerful striker with great speed and movement in her arsenal, but big struggles with the grappling side of her game. Robertson is the opposite, a brilliant grappler with trouble on the feet against top strikers. So obviously, this fight will be exciting. Agapova will want to keep the fight standing and use her boxing combinations, while Robertson will try to wrestle and drag her to the mat to work her jiu-jitsu game.
Ultimately this is a question about whether or not Agapova is powerful enough to get a finish on the feet before she gets taken down, because she will get taken down. Robertson looked off against Aldrich but she’s shown enough in the past to convince me she can get this to the mat, and then she’ll work to get the back of a panicking Agapova and eventually take the neck for a choke.
PICK – Gillian Robertson via Submission, Round 1
Trey Ogden (15-5) vs Daniel Zellhuber (12-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight scrap now closes out this section of the card. Ogden came into the UFC on a three-fight win streak, but suffered a split decision loss to Jordan Leavitt in his debut last time out. Zellhuber is an undefeated fighter, who earned a contract a year ago on the Contender Series thanks to a decision win.
Ogden is a wrestler with good cardio but he showed in his debut that his striking defence is essentially non-existent, especially when it comes to low kicks. That’s a big problem in this fight, as Zellhuber is a powerful striker with great footwork, cardio, crushing kicks and good defensive grappling. Stylistically it’s a really tough match up, but Zellhuber has the advantages.
“Golden Boy” has got good volume and his length should see him control the range, meaning he will be able to pick Ogden off with more leg kicks and eventually hurt Ogden with his combinations for a solid decision win.
PICK – Daniel Zellhuber via Decision