The UFC returns after a two week break for one of the most stacked Fight Night cards of the year when Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson takes on Kevin Holland in the main event.
A huge welterweight bout should see a new contender emerge for 2023 at the top of the division, with both guys looking to break into the top five soon.
This card also has the likes of former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, Tracy Cortez, Michael Johnson, Clay Guida, Niko Price and the super exciting Tai Tuivasa.
Last time at UFC Vegas 65 we went 8/11 with four perfect picks to move to 784/1213 (64.63%) with 324 perfect picks (41.33%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims section of the card, we move on to the rest of the prelims here.
Darren Elkins (28-10) vs Jonathan Pearce (13-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight fight next between the past and potentially future of this division. Elkins has won three of his last four, losing to Cub Swanson and beating Tristan Connelly in his last two bouts. Pearce on the other hand has won his last four in a row with three finishes, beating Kai Kamaka III, Omar Morales (UFC 266), Christian Rodriguez and most recently Makwan Amirkhani at UFC London in July.
Elkins is a fighter with a bit of everything in his arsenal, but nothing to an outstanding level outside of his heart and durability. He pushes and pushes when others wouldn’t to grind out the win, using a rushing style and excellent cardio to his advantage. Pearce alternatively though is a sensational wrestler with a suffocating ground game as well as some technical standup on the feet, with a gas tank that seemingly never waivers.
Considering Elkins’ best chance of winning is turning this into a war of attrition, something that JSP thrives in, him winning this would be a miracle. Pearce should be able to overwhelm him everywhere and while he could get the finish to make a statement, I think Elkins should be able to survive that much at least.
PICK – Jonathan Pearce via Decision
Michael Johnson (21-18) vs Marc Diakiese (16-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight fight between two guys who have had solid UFC careers. Johnson snapped a four-fight losing streak when he KO’d Alan Patrick back in May, but he lose a split decision against Jamie Mullarkey back in July most recently. Diakiese on the other hand bounced back from defeats to Rafael Fiziev (UFC Fight Island 2) and Rafael Alves to beat Viacheslav Borshchev and Damir Hadzovic in his two most recent bouts.
Johnson is a solid boxer with legitimately scary power in his hands and a decent wrestling background too but he really struggles if he ends up on the bottom. Diakiese is an excellent, technical kickboxer on the feet but has always been willing to wrestle if he needs too, which may be his best route to victory here.
Diakiese will feel he has the edge wherever this fight goes and when his confidence is flowing he’s at his best. Johnson will know he likely needs to land one of those detonators to win this bout which could see him chase it, but eventually he’ll be on his back and Diakiese will cruise to the win.
PICK – Marc Diakiese via Decision
Clay Guida (37-19) vs Scott Holtzman (14-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight scrap up next. Guida is one of the legends of the sport but he’s struggled in recent outings, losing a decision to Mark O. Madsen, before a knee bar submission loss to Claudio Puelles most recently. He earned a submission win over Leonardo Santos between those fights at UFC Vegas 44. Holtzman has lost his last two outings, but both came against elite opposition in Beneil Dariush (UFC Vegas 6) and Mateusz Gamrot (UFC Vegas 23).
Guida is a wrestler. That’s it. He will rush forward with great energy and bounce and look to take you down or push you against the cage and take you down. As for Holtzman, he has struggled in the past against persistent takedown offences, but his striking game is excellent and his takedown defence isn’t horrible. Add to that Guida’s takedown accuracy leaves plenty to be desired, Holtzman has a great shot here.
Guida won’t get tired and will be relentless with his shots for the takedown, but Holtzman can light him up like a Christmas tree on the feet with his punches and nasty knees. I don’t anticipate a finish on either side, but I think Holtzman lands enough killer shots to catch the judge’s eyes and claim a close decision.
PICK – Scott Holtzman
Angela Hill (14-12) vs Emily Ducote (12-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Strawweights up next looking to break into the rankings. Hill has lost five of her last seven officially but there are some dodgy decisions involved. Last time out though it went her way, claiming a decision win over Lupita Godinez to snap a three-fight losing streak. Ducote on the other hand has won her last four in a row, including a decision win over Jessica Penne in her UFC debut back in July.
Hill is a Muay-Thai fighter with good striking and a relentless work rate, constantly scrambling on the mat and pushing forward when on the feet to get her opponent moving backwards. Ducote is a decent boxer on the feet with good combinations and footwork, and she’s also got some good wrestling in her back pocket too.
Ducote will know that if she’s at her best then she should have too much for Hill, but Hill’s specialty is making people not be able to perform at their best. That should see Ducote even more tuned in and more focused, and with a deeper toolbox to delve into over the course of 15 minutes she should get the win.
PICK – Emily Ducote via Decision
Niko Price (15-5) vs Phil Rowe (9-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute banger at welterweight as our featured prelim bout next. Price is 1-2-1 in his last four, losing to Vicente Luque and drawing with Donald Cerrone at UFC Vegas 11 (later overturned to a NC for cannabis), and losing to Michel Pereira (UFC 264). He bounced back with a big decision win over Alex Oliveira most recently though. Rowe recovered from defeat in his UFC debut at UFC 258 to Gabriel Green by knocking out Orion Cosce and Jason Witt in each of his last two bouts.
Price is one of the most exciting fighters on the roster, constantly pushing forward to land heavy strikes and knock opponents out, while also being willing to eat a few shots to give them back. Rowe tends to start quite slowly, but has got incredible punching power and good combinations once he starts going, as well as some okay wrestling to fall back on.
The problem he faces is that while he starts slowly, Price rushes out of the gate and against someone who can finish you in an instant that is dangerous. Price will respect the power coming back at him so it may take a few minutes to really start flying, but expect Price to up the pressure early and land a few big shots to close the show before Rowe gets the chance to really wake up.
PICK – Niko Price via Knockout, Round 1