Tag Archives: Donald Cerrone

UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje – Main card predictions

The UFC heads to Arizona for a huge pay-per-view card this weekend headlined by two massive title fights in the lightweight and strawweight divisions.

The main event will see Charles Oliveira defend his 155-pound title for the second time against Justin Gaethje, who looks to earn the belt at the second time of asking.

In the co-main event we’ll see Rose Namajunas defend her 115-pound title for the second time of her second stint as champion when she takes on Carla Esparza, reigniting a rivalry years in the making from the inaugural title fight in the division.

We’ll also see Michael Chandler fight against Tony Ferguson in a huge lightweight fight, as well as ‘Shogun’ Rua, Donald Cerrone, Randy Brown, Khaos Williams, Danny Roberts and more.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 53 we had a poor night with our picks, going 5/11 with four perfect picks. That moves us up to 613/951 (64.46%) with 259 perfect picks (42.25%).

We’ll look to improve on that here with this massive 15-fight card, and after starting with the early prelims then moving on to the rest of the prelims here, we finish up with our main card picks now.


Donald Cerrone (36-16) vs Joe Lauzon (28-16) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A retirement (?) fight opens up the main card between two legends of the UFC. Cerrone is winless in his last six fights with five losses and a draw (overturned to a no contest), with a first-round knockout defeat to Alex Morono at UFC Vegas 26 most recently. Lauzon on the other hand has lost three of his last four, with a win over Jonathan Pearce most recently via knockout way back in 2019.

Both of these fighters are super well-rounded with crisp striking and a solid ground game too. Cerrone looks to use his kickboxing skills while on the mat his jiu-jitsu is always capable of helping him out of a hole, while Lauzon is a brawler who comes forward and looks to land big strikes or force mistakes to latch on to submissions.

This is interesting because stylistically they match up great but their approach is very different. Cerrone is a notoriously slow starter while Lauzon tends to explode early and blitz his opponents, which could help him earn a quick win here. But skill for skill, I do think Cerrone has him here. He’s been more active in the cage and he is the bigger man naturally so I think he claims a decision win in an all-out war.
PICK – Donald Cerrone via Decision

Mauricio Rua (27-12-1) vs Ovince Saint Preux (25-16) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

A light heavyweight fight that really has no business being on the main card between a legend and a legend killer. ‘Shogun’ got well beaten in his last fight back at UFC 255 when he tapped out to strikes against Paul Craig, while OSP has suffered back-to-back knockout defeats against Jamahal Hill at UFC Vegas 16 and then Tanner Boser and UFC Vegas 30.

These two fought way back in 2014 with OSP earning a knockout win in just 34 seconds. ‘Shogun’ is a talented striker with powerful punches, excellent kicks and decent grappling skills when the fight hits the ground. OSP is a rangy striker with a beautiful left hook counter, while his ground game has seen him pick up an excellent eight wins via submission including his patented ‘Saint Preux choke’.

If the weight cut goes well, Saint Preux wins this fight. It’s really that simple. He has the range and style to keep Shogun away in a striking battle, has the power to knock him out and if he gets the fight down to the ground he has the qualities to control him and even get a submission. This should be a pretty straightforward fight for OSP to claim a win.
PICK – Ovince Saint Preux via Decision

Michael Chandler (22-7) vs Tony Ferguson (26-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Absolute banger in the lightweight division between two of the top seven ranked fighters, both coming in on losing streaks. Chandler made his debut with a first-round KO against Dan Hooker at UFC 257, before suffering a KO loss to Charles Oliveira for the title at UFC 262 and then a fight of the night loss to Justin Gaethje at UFC 268 in November. Ferguson saw a 12-fight win streak snapped by Gaethje back at UFC 249 in a one-sided five-rounder, before getting dominated by Oliveira at UFC 256 and then Beneil Dariush at UFC 262.

Chandler is a gladiator who walks his opponents down and swings huge hooks to the head, setting them up with jabs to the body and threatening with his excellent wrestling skills. Ferguson is a wild fighter, with incredible cardio ability, amazing jiu-jitsu skills and great power to go with an iron chin. But he has looked a shadow of himself in recent fights and his decline looks set to continue here. Against both Oliveira and Dariush they were able to nullify him entirely with wrestling and keep him on his back, something Chandler is more than capable of doing.

Ferguson will want the fight standing and will want to encourage a war with Chandler, who has proven to be chinny in the past and reckless when he gets carried away. But the blueprint to beat Ferguson is there and his tank seems to be emptying after being unbelievable in his prime. Chandler clips Ferguson in a big exchange, takes him down and dominates for 15 minutes for a huge win.
PICK – Michael Chandler via Decision



Rose Namajunas (12-4) vs Carla Esparza (19-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

Huge title fight between the two women who competed against each other in the first ever strawweight title fight in UFC history. Namajunas won the belt with a first-round KO win over Weili Zhang at UFC 261, before winning a close fight in a rematch at UFC 268. Esparza has won five in a row coming into this bout with decisions over Virna Jandiroba, Alexa Grasso, Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez (UFC Fight Island 3) and Yan Xiaonan most recently via knockout.

‘Thug Rose’ is a very well rounded fighter. She has got amazing striking, with great speed and power in her kicks and punches while her footwork and range management is near perfect. She’s also very good on the ground, with five submission wins across her career. Esparza is a terrific wrestler, who looks to use those skills to get the fight to the ground and work her own terrific submission game, as she did against Namajunas in their first fight where she won via rear-naked choke.

This fight is eight years later though and Namajunas is so much better than she was back then. She has completely evolved as a fighter to go up several levels and while Esparza is still great, it feels like Namajunas has to make a mistake to lose this fight. Add to that her record in rematches (4-0), I can’t look past Namajunas landing a hard kick at some point and getting another finish in a title fight to retain the belt.
PICK – Rose Namajunas via Knockout, Round 3

Charles Oliveira (32-8) vs Justin Gaethje (22-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

The best fight of the night on a wild card headlines the event for the lightweight championship. Oliveira is on a ten-fight win streak, with a submission win over Dustin Poirier most recently at UFC 269 in December. Gaethje bounced back from defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 with a huge win over Michael Chandler in his most recent fight.

Oliveira is one of the most complete fighters in the UFC. He has terrific Muay Thai striking skills with vicious knees and elbows, as well as crisp boxing and a snappy front kick to the body to go with the best submission skills in UFC history and amazing cardio. Gaethje is, like Chandler, a gladiator who just walks his opponents down and looks to take their head off with crazy power punches. He also has chopping low kicks, great wrestling defensively and an insane will to just never quit as well as amazing cardio of his own. This is, quite simply, going to be amazing.

In a straight up fire fight on the feet, Gaethje has the edge. He’s the more powerful fighter and he has got excellent head movement to go with it. But the grappling of Oliveira is an incredible game changer in this fight. The ease with which Khabib was able to get Gaethje down and advance positions to get a submission was scary, so Oliveira will feel and know he can do the same if he gets the chance to grapple. There is always a chance that Gaethje lands a nasty uppercut or a violent hook that turns the lights out, but with how good Oliveira has looked recently I expect him to be able to work his grappling patiently and eventually take the neck of Gaethje to leave him sleeping just like Khabib did before him.
PICK – Charles Oliveira via Submission, Round 3

UFC Vegas 26 Fallout: Rodriguez the real deal at 115lbs, Cerrone done?

A card largely thrown together on short notice delivered some pretty decent scraps in the end as UFC Vegas 26 marked the rise of a new contender and potentially the end of a legend.

In the main event, number six ranked strawweight Marina Rodriguez took on number nine ranked strawweight Michelle Waterson in a five-round flyweight fight due to the short-notice nature of it.

Rodriguez used her size and power advantage to dominate the fight for the most part, landing big combinations and walking Waterson down. ‘Karate Hottie’ did well with her kicking game to keep moving and she beat up the lead leg of Rodriguez to hold her own, but being a natural atomweight the weight class was just too big.

While Waterson did have big joy on the ground in the fourth round, landing some vicious elbows and causing big problems for Rodriguez. Once the round ended and they got back to their feet though, Rodriguez made sure it didn’t happen again and continued to land some nice flurries to ensure she earned the victory.

Following the unanimous victory which should now see her move into the top five of the rankings despite the fight happening in a different weight class, she called to face off against the former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her next fight.

Jedrzejczyk hasn’t fought since a defeat to Weili Zhang in one of the greatest women’s mixed martial arts history back in February 2020 at UFC 248. It means she has now lost four of her last six fights, with all of them coming in title fights. Despite that, she remains one of the standard bearers for the 115lbs division and a fight against Rodriguez would be fantastic spectacle.

While we saw a new contender rise in one division, we saw potentially the end of a legend’s career in another as Donald Cerrone was knocked out in the first round of his co-main event against Alex Morono.

‘Cowboy’ was scheduled to face Diego Sanchez in a grudge match before the Ultimate Fighter 1 winner was released on medical grounds. That meant Morono stepped in on about one-weeks notice and put his stamp on the fight early.

He landed big right hands and some brutal body shots before a wild overhand right caught Cerrone cold and started proceedings for the end of the bout. It means Cerrone has now lost five of his last six, with the only anomaly being a no-c ontest against Niko Price. Even that fight against Price was originally a draw, only because Price had a point deducted during the fight for a couple of eye pokes.

While Cerrone insisted after the fight that he wasn’t done and didn’t want to see his legacy end this way, it’s hard to see a way back for him. The welterweights are beating him up and four of those five defeats have come by way of vicious knockout and there just isn’t any need for him to take more damage.

The UFC should look to promote him to a backstage role, in a similar way to Forest Griffin and stop allowing him to take unnecessary punishment at his age.

Also a quick shoutout to Neil Magny, whose excellent performance against Geoff Neal moved him up to 18 wins in the welterweight division in the UFC – just one behind the all-time record of Georges St-Pierre. After a win where he used his cardio as a weapon and long rangy jab, ‘The Haitian Sensation’ called out Vicente Luque for a possible fight in August which would be a very fight bout too, although Khamzat Chimaev was quick to get on Twitter and call him out too.

UFC Vegas 26: Rodriguez vs Waterson – Results (Highlights)

**Ryan Benoit missed weight and wasn’t cleared medically to compete, so his fight with Zarrukh Adashev was cancelled.

Phillipe Lins fell ill before the weigh-ins and wasn’t able to get on the scales, so his fight with Ben Rothwell was cancelled.

Amanda Ribas and a member of her corner team tested positive for COVID-19 hours before the event, so her bout with Angela Hill was cancelled.

The card will proceed with nine fights.**


PRELIMS

Carlston Harris def Christian Aguilera via Submission (Anaconda Choke), Round 1 (2:52)

Positive start for Aguilera in the opening minute as he tries to close the distance with strikes but Harris grabs him and looks for the takedowns. Aguilera is able to stay on his feet though and lands a big uppercut that seems to rock Harris. Harris stays calm and starts using his range well with kicks to recover, then lands a big left hand of his own that hurts Aguilera! Harris lands a nice right hand down the middle and then Aguilera shoots for a takedown to try and recover. Harris sprawls, locks up Aguilera’s neck with an anaconda choke and puts him to sleep! What a debut win!

Jun Yong Park def Tafon Nchukwi via Majority Decision (30-25, 29-26, 28-28

Good start to the fight from both men, as they both look to take the centre and be first ahead of their opponent. Park doing well behind his jab, using his great speed advantage to land well but Nchukwi is throwing good strikes too with more power. Park establishing the jab really well and trying to get Nchukwi to throw more so he can counter back. Nchukwi goes for an inside low kick but lands on the cup of Park and causes a pause in the action. Action resumes and Park continues with the jabs, both men trade leg kicks and the round ends. 10-9 Park.

Better start to the round for Nchukwi this time as he fakes a few times and lands a nice flurry of strikes to the face of Park. Park responds with his jabs once again but Nchukwi starting to throw some powerful kicks to the body. Park catches one of those kicks and looks for a takedown against the cage with it and gets a front headlock. Nchukwi fighting the hands and throws a knee to the body but misses and hits the cup once again for another low blow. The referee deducts one point from Nchukwi. Park continues to land his jab and come forward with his speed advantage and then changes levels for a takedown. Nchukwi reverses it with pure power and ends up on top but can’t land any damage before Park is able to work his way back up to the feet and start landing the jab again. Nchukwi goes in for a takedown but Park stops him with a headlock. Nchukwi uses pure power to lift him but Park locks in a guillotine and it’s tight, but the buzzer goes to end the round and save him. 20-17 Park.

Good exchanges at the start of the final round as Park’s jab goes to work once again while Nchukwi looks to come forward with a bit more urgency. A few low kicks from Nchukwi and some big swings with his right hand, but Park rolling well and is able to jab away with ease. Park changes levels and gets a takedown against the cage and is starting to wear on Nchukwi, putting all his weight on him and dragging him to and from. Park gets into three-quarter mount and starts throwing big elbows and heavy strikes, looking for a choke and big ground-and-pound as we enter the final 90 seconds. Nchukwi is bleeding badly but Park eases up on the mauling as the round ends and that’s a very dominant win. 30-25 for me.

Mike Trizano def Ludovit Klein via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Nice, tactical start to the fight from both guys as Trizano takes the centre and forces Klein backwards immediately. Klein lands a nice one two and Trizano responds with a right hand of his own before the exchange body kicks. Trizano’s pressure is forcing Klein to fight backwards and he’s struggling to get his attack going, but Trizano not landing much of his own. Klein shoots in with a nice double-leg takedown and gets Trizano down against the cage and tries to wrap his legs up Khabib-style. Trizano works his way back to his feet and the clinch and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Klein for me but it was close.

Nice right hand lands early on in the second round that puts Klein on his heels as Trizano continues his forward pressure. Klein goes for a head kick that just misses but follows it up with a nice right hand and a big left behind it. Klein shoots for a takedown again but Trizano is wise to it and stuffs it this time. Nice inside kick from Trizano as he forces Klein backwards again, but Klein explodes forward and lands a big left hand again. Trizano landing his jab well as he continues to push Klein backwards but he keeps bursting forwards with nice flurries. Klein bursts forward once more and gets another takedown and ends the round on top, but Trizano active off his back with body shots and should take that round. 19-19 for me.

Forward pressure once again from Trizano and it pays dividends early as he lands a big right hand that rocks Klein! Klein goes for a desperate takedown to survive and Trizano stuffs it, but Klein moves and manages to shake the cobwebs for now. Klein lands a nice left hand of his own but Trizano eats it, then Klein lands a nice leg kick. Body kick from Klein lands and Trizano goes for a right straight to the body. Trizano starting to land his strikes more as he forces Klein backwards and it forces another takedown from Klein. They get back up and then Klein takes him down again, but Trizano looks to sink in a guillotine but runs out of time. 29-28 Trizano for me but could go either way.

MAIN CARD

Phil Hawes def Kyle Daukaus via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 29-27)

Big pressure early on from Hawes as he backs Daukaus against the cage, while Daukaus looks to keep him at range. A few wild exchanges from both on the feet and Hawes goes in for a takedown early. He gets him down and passes the legs, but Daukaus holds on to the neck and it looks like Hawes has a Von Flute choke in. Daukaus elevates his hips and sweeps Hawes to end up on top and starts looking for control. Hawes eventually gets back to the feet and Daukaus goes in for a takedown again immediately but Hawes defends really well and the rest of the round plays out in a stalemate. 10-9 Daukaus for controlling the grappling against the cage.

Huge start to the second round from Daukaus as he comes out swinging with short hooks and combinations. He lands six or seven big punches and Hawes looks badly hurt on the feet before Hawes is able to clinch up and stall until he has recovered. They separate and Hawes lands a few strikes of his own and Daukaus gets wobbled! Daukaus immediately clinches up too but Hawes then breaks with a big elbow. Nice right hand against from Hawes and they clinch up, then both throw a knee at the same time but Hawes hits the cup to cause a pause. Action resumes and Hawes goes back to working the body with big hooks, slowing Daukaus down as the round ends. 19-19.

Final round and Hawes lands a big right hand early before shooting in for a takedown and getting the fight down. Daukaus trying to be very active off his back, but Hawes defending everything well and landing some nice short strikes from top position. Daukaus looks to sweep again but Hawes denies it and goes back to the ground pound, going body-head. Hawes starts landing heavy shots and forces Daukaus to try and cover up and the referee is threatening to call the fight off here. He moves enough to supress that, but Hawes is working brilliantly from top position and in complete control. Final 30 seconds and Hawes continues the ground and pound to win the round and probably the fight. Great performance. 29-28 Hawes.

Gregor Gillespie def Diego Ferreira via Knockout, Round 2 (4:51)

Interesting start to the fight as Gillespie takes the centre and lets off a nice left hook. Ferreira shoots a few strikes of his own before Gillespie goes for the early takedown, but the Brazilian defends with submission attempts and eventually gets back up to the feet. Gillespie shoots for another takedown but it’s denied, then Ferreira lets off a couple of right hands that have wobbled him! Gillespie keeps going to the well for the takedown but Ferreira is scrambling brilliantly and using his jiu-jitsu to escape regularly. Ferreira scrambles and sweeps to Gillespie’s back with hooks in, going for a choke and ground and pound but the round ends. 10-9 Ferreira.

Second round and Gillespie looks tired but he’s shooting in for the takedowns still and avoiding the big swings of Ferreira. Lots of scrambling on the ground and Ferreira looks for a kimura from the bottom but Gillespie just keeps moving and floating to the next position as Ferreira is tiring. Gillespie starts landing some big strikes and threatening with chokes of his own and is really wearing on Ferreira. Gillespie takes his back, flattens him out and starts landing big elbows and strikes and the referee steps in to end the fight! Huge win for Gregor Gillespie!!

Marcos Rogerio de Lima def Maurice Greene via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)

Fast start to the heavyweight bout as de Lima starts throwing wild hooks looking to take Greene’s head off. Both men swing and miss for the most part before they clinch up and de Lima takes the fight down to the ground in Greene’s full guard. Nice ground and pound from de Lima from top position as he’s putting some big pressure on to win the round. 10-9 de Lima.

Second round and immediately de Lima gets the fight down to the ground and gets control. Lots of control and ground and pound from top position as Greene looks to tie him up but it’s just more and more control and ground and pound. As the buzzer goes to end the round, Lima throws a big bomb and Herb Dean gives him a very serious warning. 20-18.

Third and final round and once again de Lima gets a very early takedown into top position and controlling the fight. Plenty of ground and pound again from de Lima as Greene just continues to accept bottom position and get beaten up. This is a completely one-sided fight and relatively pointless as the round ends. 30-27 for me because of a lack of damage, but could be a 10-8 for each round in reality.

Neil Magny def Geoff Neal via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Great start to the round from Neal as he steps forward quickly and immediately puts Magny on the back foot. Nice straight shots as Magny looks to throw a kick or two, but Neal catches it and pushes him back to the cage. Nice one-two lands from Neal before they clinch up and Magny starts to throw some nice knees to the body. Magny bursts forward with a flurry of punches to get a clinch, but Neal takes him across to the cage. Magny changes levels and gets a takedown and looks to take the back, but Neal spins out and gets back to the feet once again. Another clinch against the cage as the round ends. 10-9 Neal.

Magny looking to up the pressure a bit in the second now as he starts throwing some kicks to the body and nice flurries to the head too. Neal doing well to block most of them though and firing back with some nice combinations of his own. Neal clinches and gets a nice trip before a big left hand lands, but Magny gets up and then shoots for a takedown of his own. Neal sprawls and puts Magny against the cage. Nice straight left lands from Neal before Magny goes for a single leg takedown but Neal defends it relatively well until Magny changes the angle and is able to take the back with a body lock. Magny is able to escape it again as they go back to trading in the centre. Magny just touching him with more jabs and kicks as Neal’s output is starting to slow a little. Another clinch against the cage and Neal lands a big elbow as the round ends. 19-19, great fight.

Neal looking to close the distance in the third but trying to avoid a clinch situation, as Magny continues to throw out jabs that are barely landing. Magny definitely the more active of the two, but not much damage being done by either guy at the moment. Neal stuffs a Magny takedown attempt, as he starts to walk Magny down more. Nice one-two lands against the cage but Magny immediately grabs him and clinches before separating and landing some nice jabs. Neal looking frustrated now and Magny gets hold of him and drags him down to the mat, but Neal gets back up quickly once again. Final 30 seconds and Neal lands a huge straight left but Magny sees out the round with with jabs to probably take the win. 29-28 Magny.

Alex Morono def Donald Cerrone via Knockout, Round 1 (4:40)

Fast start from Morono as he charges out into the centre, but Cerrone grabs hold of him and clinches up against the cage to drain that early start out of him. Morono swinging bombs as they separate but Cowboy avoiding it for now and landing a few shots of his own. Nice body kick from Cerrone and then Morono swings in hard again, but Cerrone changes levels and goes for a takedown that is denied. Morono gets a trip of his own but allows Cerrone up and hits him with a right hand on his way up. Morono throws a big right hand that lands clean on Cerrone and he’s backing up. Cerrone throws a left hand and Morono ducks under and a huge looping left overhand cracks Cerrone clean! He’s badly hurt and Morono goes for the finish, throwing a big body shot and knees to the head. Big right hands again from Morono and the referee steps in with Cowboy out on his feet! Wow! What a knockout win for Morono!

Marina Rodriguez def Michelle Waterson via Unanimous Decision (48-47, 49-46 x2)

Slow start to the fight in this one as both women look to feel each other out early on, with Waterson throwing some hard leg kicks that are just missing. Rodriguez takes the centre as the round goes on, throwing some nice body kicks and hard punches while Waterson looks to counter with some nice spin kicks. Rodriguez trying to close the distance to nullify the kicks but Waterson moving well so far to stay out of danger. Bit of a wild clinch at the end of the round ends with a nice knee from Rodriguez, good round that could go either way. 10-9 Rodriguez for me.

Waterson unloading with kicks in this second round, looking to really keep Rodriguez at distance with a side kick counter. Rodriguez continues to come forward and throw the right hand, but Waterson keeps moving away. Waterson goes for a takedown but Rodriguez stuffs it easily and then lands two big punches. Rodriguez grabs a clinch against the cage and lands a nice knee to the body and Waterson separates. Both women trade leg kicks before Rodriguez goes for another clinch and lands some more knees. Waterson goes for a leg kick that just misses but then she lands a body kick and avoids a big right hook from Rodriguez. Big flurry of hooks from Rodriguez followed up by some big knees and an elbow to end the round. 20-18 Rodriguez.

Waterson goes for a leg kick early but misses and ends up on her butt, before Rodriguez catches her with a nice head kick on her way up. Waterson clinches against the cage but Rodriguez defends well and the separate with the Brazilian back in the centre. Rodriguez lands some huge hooks and Waterson covers up hurt, before stepping out and escaping. Two hard leg kicks by Waterson put Rodriguez down for a second, before a nice body kick too. Rodriguez swinging with a lot of power, but Waterson is absorbing it for now. Rodriguez is landing heavy punches but Waterson is still moving and countering with leg kicks and side kicks. Leg kick from Rodriguez followed up by a three-punch combo lands nicely. Rodriguez clinches and throwing big knees but Waterson replies with an uppercut to end the round. 30-27 Rodriguez.

Rodriguez staying patient in the centre as we enter the main event rounds, throwing some low kicks and searching for a home for the big right hand. Waterson keeps moving around the cage, throwing leg kicks of her own as Rodriguez lands a body kick. Waterson goes in for a takedown and gets it, straight into the guard of Rodriguez. Waterson controls the position and lands some heavy elbows on the ground with Rodriguez pinned against the cage. Rodriguez threatens a kimura to try and escape but Waterson rains down big elbows again to end the round on top. 39-37 Rodriguez.

Final round and Waterson staying calm in the centre, not shooting straight in for a takedown as many would have expected. Rodriguez just misses with a right hand and then Waterson throws back-to-back head kicks with the second one clipping Rodriguez. Side kick to the body from Waterson looks like it hurts Rodriguez, but she stays calm and then hits Waterson with a big right hand of her own. Waterson finally goes for the takedown but Rodriguez stuffs it and lands a nice body shot. Another big body shot and left hook from Rodriguez but Waterson replies with a right hand. Waterson steps forward and lands a side kick to the body again, but Rodriguez throws a jab and then looks to clinch up. Big knee and head kick from Rodriguez but Waterson keeps moving and the two women go out swinging as the round ends. 49-46 Rodriguez for me. Great fight.

UFC Vegas 26: Rodriguez vs Waterson – Main card predictions

A rather short-notice card finally comes together this weekend when Marina Rodriguez takes on Michelle Waterson in the main event.

After the original main event between Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw fell through due to an injury to the former champion, the UFC were left scrambling and managed to throw together two strawweights competing at flyweight to headline the card.

In the co-main event, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone will now also face off against a short-notice opponent when Alex Morono replaces Diego Sanchez in the welterweight division. There’s also a big welterweight bout on the card between Geoff Neal and Neil Magny, with both men looking to get back on the winning trail and among the contenders of the division.

Last week at UFC Vegas 25, we went 8/11 with four perfect picks to improve to 302/473 (63.85%) with 133 perfect picks (44.04%).

With a fun 12 fight card ahead of us this weekend and after predicting the prelims here, let’s look to improve that record with the main card now.


Phil Hawes (10-2) vs Kyle Daukaus (10-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

An absolute banger at middleweight as Phil Hawes takes on Kyle Daukaus in this one. Hawes is on a six-fight win streak including an 18 second KO against Jacob Malkoun at UFC 254, before a dominant decision win over Nassourdine Imavov at UFC Vegas 19 in February. Daukaus lost his UFC debut to Brendan Allen at UFC Vegas 4, before winning against Dustin Stoltzfus at UFC 255 in his most recent fight.

Hawes is an incredibly powerful striker with legit one-punch knockout power, but he showed his wrestling chops in his last fight too. Daukaus on the other hand is a brilliant grappler, who has good height and reach against most opponents. He’s taller than Hawes, but not longer and that’s an issue for him. Hawes will know that and will look to stand and strike with him, using his wrestling only defensively to keep this fight standing.

Daukaus is pretty hittable and has shown a good chin in the past, but he’s never been hit by someone like Hawes. If Hawes lands clean as Daukaus tries to close the distance for a takedown, this will be a short night.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 1

Amanda Ribas (10-2) vs Angela Hill (13-9) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

A very fun strawweight fight to open up the main card as Ribas looks to bounce back from a defeat when she takes on the most active woman in the division. Ribas was on a five-fight win streak beating Emily Whitmire, Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos and then Paige VanZant at UFC 251 before losing to Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257. Hill bounced back from her main event defeat to Michelle Waterson at UFC Vegas 10 with a decision win over Ashley Yoder at UFC Vegas 21 in March.

Ribas is a brilliant jiu-jitsu grappler and decent striking on the feet, while Hill is a great all-round mixed martial artists. Hill loves an active fight, where she keeps pushing forward with kicks and Muay-Thai clinches using knees. Her issue with going for those clinches could be that Ribas will try and get her to the ground which is a whole world of trouble for her.

On the feet Hill has the advantage but Ribas can hold her own and won’t get overpowered, and I can’t imagine Hill keeps the fight standing for the full 15 minutes and Ribas is skilled enough to finish it quickly down there.
PICK – Amanda Ribas via Submission, Round 3

Diego Ferreira (17-3) vs Gregor Gillespie (13-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

An especially fun fight in the lightweight division here as Diego Ferreira takes on the returning Gregor Gillespie. Ferreira lost his last fight via decision against Beneil Dariush at UFC Vegas 18, while Gillespie hasn’t fought since getting knocked out by Kevin Lee at UFC 244 in November 2019.

Ferreira is a solid technical striker with good jiu-jitsu skills on the ground, while Gillespie is arguably the best wrestler in the division now that Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired. Ferreira will use his kicks and speed to avoid the wrestling, but if Gillespie gets hold of him it could be a long night for the Brazilian. He’s a good scrambler and if he ends up on top the level of jiu-jitsu he has is far superior to Gillespie’s, but ‘The Gift’ is likely to get that top position and look to hold it throughout.

From the top, Gillespie will land ground and pound and control the position en route to a good decision win.
PICK – Gregor Gillespie via Decision

Maurice Greene (9-6) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (17-8-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

The big boys are back in the heavyweight division as two guys coming off losses meet here. Greene has lost three of his last four, beating Gian Villante via submission at UFC Vegas 4 before losing to Greg Hardy via knockout at UFC Vegas 12. de Lima has lost two of his last three including getting dominated by Alexander Romanov and submitted in round one at UFC Vegas 13.

Greene is a power striker with a solid chin and in his last fight showed some decent kicking too. de Lima is a good striker too, with good Muay-Thai and some good takedown defence to back it up also. He has alternated wins and losses in every fight since 2015 but he has got skills. Fast hands (for the division), good power and despite a size advantage Greene doesn’t really know how to use it.

Greene has the advantage of the ground but he rarely looks for takedowns and doesn’t have a wide enough advantage to work a submission, so I think de Lima lands one of his big overhand rights and ends the night early.
PICK – Marcos Rogerio de Lima via Knockout, Round 2

Neil Magny (24-9) vs Geoff Neal (13-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

My pick for fight of the night right here, as two scary welterweights go head to head. Both men lost their last fights after good win streaks, with Magny losing to Michael Chiesa at UFC Fight Island 8 while Neal got well beaten by Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in December at UFC Vegas 17.

Magny is an excellent wrestler who has used that to beat some top level opposition in the past, but he also has some really good striking too. Neal on the other hand is a powerhouse with a nasty left-hand, who stays very technical and tight at all times. Neal has some good leg kicks too and is without a doubt the more powerful of the two, but if Magny is able to get the fight to the ground he has the ability to grind his opponents out and land good ground and pound.

With that said, Neal seems to have all the tools to get the win here. His takedown defence is decent and the power and accuracy with which he lands his left hand should cause Magny enough problems to earn ‘Handz of Steel’ the win.
PICK – Geoff Neal via Decision

Donald Cerrone (36-15) vs Alex Morono (18-7) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Short-notice co-main event alert as Donald Cerrone looks to snap a five-fight winless streak against Alex Morono in the welterweight division. Cerrone has lost to Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor and Anthony Pettis before a draw against Niko Price got overturned to a no contest due to a positive marijuana test for Price. Morono has lost two of his last three, getting a win over Rhys McKee at UFC Vegas 14 in between defeats to Khaos Williams and Anthony Pettis at UFC Vegas 17.

Cerrone is a great kickboxer with so much experience, but also has terrific wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills if he needs it. Morono on the other hand is a solid wrestler who uses his striking to get close enough to clinch up and get it down for a grind. Cerrone has got a brilliant head kick in his arsenal and if Morono keeps his hands relatively low to look for takedowns he could quite easily get caught with it, but Morono’s submission skills are really good and dangerous enough to make Cerrone be wary.

‘Cowboy’ is notorious for being a slow starter and Morono could look to take advantage, but if he performs as he did against Pettis then he could get lit up at kickboxing range. It’ll be close, but the short-notice nature of the bout takes me in Cerrone’s direction.
PICK – Donald Cerrone via Decision

Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) vs Michelle Waterson (18-8) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

An even shorter notice main event as two ranked strawweights meet in the flyweight division. Rodriguez won her last fight against Amanda Ribas via knockout at UFC 257, while Waterson won her last fight against Angela Hill at UFC Vegas 10 via split decision.

Rodriguez is a power puncher with great range and kicks, while Waterson is a karate fighter who uses her kicks a lot to maintain distance and look to work the body a lot. Rodriguez is without a doubt one of the better strikers in the division and that doesn’t bode well for Waterson. She has got nine wins via submission in her career and her takedowns are decent, but Rodriguez has a lot of size on her and with them both moving up a division for this short-notice clash she’ll be at even more of a disadvantage.

I don’t think Waterson will have enough to get the fight down to the ground and Rodriguez’s power is excellent so I think she could get the stoppage win pretty early on.
PICK – Marina Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 2

UFC Vegas 11 Fallout: What Next For Colby? Two Legends To Retire?

The most stacked card of the year from top to bottom didn’t fail to deliver as we saw 10 finishes and a competitive draw from 14 fights, including the main event between Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley.

Despite promising to let his hands go and knock Covington out, it was more of the same from Woodley in this bout as he was dominated for four rounds before succumbing to a rib injury in the fifth round and being beaten via TKO. While a finish wasn’t on the cards prior to the injury, the result was never in doubt. Colby outmuscled, outworked and out-struck his long-time rival throughout the fight to earn a dominant win over another top name for his resume.

As soon as the referee waved the fight off, with Woodley still on the ground writhing in agony, Colby immediately went to a camera and screamed profanities and threats towards both Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal.

The rivalry between Colby and the rest of the division is well documented, but with Usman and Masvidal it’s personal. Usman was of course the only man to beat him in the UFC, with a fifth-round TKO win in December 2019 in their undisputed title fight which left Covington with a broken jaw. Masvidal and Covington were actually team-mates and friends up until recently, when Colby spoke out against the gym and began trashing Masvidal publicly.

But now a fight against either is possible, although the UFC have already got plans in mind for both opponents. Kamaru Usman is scheduled to fight Gilbert Burns in their re-arranged title fight in December, while the UFC had planned for Masvidal to fight Nate Diaz in a rematch for the BMF title in January.

With both of his preferred opponents otherwise engaged, there are calls for him to take the fight against Leon Edwards. The UK fighter is unbeaten in eight fights and was scheduled to fight Tyron Woodley back in March before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to be cancelled. Since then he has been training and trying to get a fight with anyone that will listen in the Top 5, but has so far been ignored. This could prove to be the perfect opportunity for both men to cement themselves as next up in the title picture.

Edwards started the war on Twitter with a statement after the fight calling Colby out, but Colby hasn’t responded publicly since. Prior to the fight though, Colby answered a question about a potential fight against ‘Rocky’ with a simple one word answer – “Who?”

Dana White said after the fight that there are plenty of options for Covington after his win and they would offer the fight to Masvidal, but it’s too soon to know for sure what is next. A fight between Covington and any of the three possible opponents would surely have all eyes on it and it keeps the division moving forward in the right way.

As for Woodley, it’s time for him to think about walking away. As said prior to the fight, he needed to win to ensure his legacy remained untarnished and after another crushing defeat he’s now in limbo in the division anyway. Having lost 14 consecutive rounds across three fights before then being finished in the 15th. He’s no longer an appealing name to the top of the division after three straight losses, while judging from his own comments he doesn’t want to be a gatekeeper to the new guys making their way up the rankings. UFC President Dana White agreed too, stating in the post-fight presser that he’s come to the end of the road.

Another man who White said he thought needed to have a conversation about the end of his career with was Donald Cerrone. ‘Cowboy’ took on Niko Price in his 53rd professional bout but the fight ended in the first draw of his career, after Price was deducted a point in the first round for two eye pokes. Following the bout ‘Cowboy’ said it should count as a loss because of the point deduction. Taking that into account, that makes it five straight losses for Cerrone. At 37 years old and with so much mileage on his clock, it’s surely time to consider slowing down and potentially stopping.

Cerrone said following the fight that he was going to take the rest of the year off to spend time with his family and new born child and I sincerely hope that it makes him realise that he needs to hang up the gloves. We all know he has no intention of doing so, but he’s in a similar spot to Woodley. He’s no longer in the title picture, he’s no longer seen as a viable opponent for anyone in the upper rankings and he doesn’t want to be a gatekeeper to the up and comers.

The UFC is on the verge of losing two big names at welterweight due to age but they have the opportunity to keep the division burning with some super fights over the next few months.

UFC Vegas 11: Covington vs Woodley – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Tyson Nam def Jerome Rivera via Knockout, Round 2 (0:34)

A competitive opening round of the night between these two flyweights. Rivera staying at distance for the most part of the round, using heavy inside leg kicks and push kicks to maintain the range while Nam is looking for a big right hand. Nam forcing Rivera against the cage to land a big overhand right but Rivera doing well with his footwork to avoid it for the most part. A solid round that Rivera edges. 10-9 Rivera.

Second round starts and Rivera goes for another leg kick but Nam counters with a huge overhand right that drops Rivera! Some ground and pound is enough and the referee ends it. Big win for Nam!

Andre Ewell def Irwin Rivera via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

Really competitive opening round again. Ewell opened up well landing some nice strikes and using his range really well. Rivera adjusts well to the range and starts countering the straight left with a big knee and lands one flush. Rivera shoots in for a takedown and Ewell stuffs it, then searches to take the back. He eventually gets it but Rivera reverses into his guard as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Ewell.

Another competitive round between these two as the pace slows a little bit and Ewell uses his range and superior striking well. Both men throwing one shot at a time for the most part but then Ewell starts ripping the body well. Rivera tries to counter with the same shots but Ewell uses his length to stay out of the distance and land more to take another round, but he’s tired. 20-18 Ewell.

Third round and Ewell using his range well yet again to stay out of distance and danger from Rivera. Nice jabs and kicks by Ewell keeps him active and lets him recover despite him looking tired but Rivera just not quite pushing the way he probably should be. Rivera lands his first takedown of the night with 10 seconds remaining but it should be a comfortable decision win for Ewell.

Randy Costa def Journey Newson via Knockout, Round 1 (0:41)

WOW! Randy Costa and Journey Newson begin the fight with a feeling out process, which ends with Randy Costa throwing a straight left-hand and following it up with a left high kick that knocks Newson out! A couple of follow up blows but this one is over. WOW!

PRELIMS

Darrick Minner def T.J Laramie via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (0:52)

Well that was quick. Minner locks up a clinch and then locks in a quick guillotine and it’s over just like that. Wow.

Jessica-Rose Clark def Sarah Alpar via Knockout, Round 3 (4:21)

Clark opens up the fight with some nice body kicks and strikes from distance, using her legs to keep Alpar’s inevitable takedown attempt away. Alpar throws a one-two and changes levels and shoots for the double leg but Clark defends it very well and after a long battle, it’s Clark who ends up in top position in side control. 10-9 Clark, great confidence boosting first round for her.

Better start to the round for Alpar as she secures two nice takedowns, but Clark gets back to her feet quickly both times. Clark lands a nice knee to the body in the clinch and reverses the position to put Alpar against the cage and then lands a big elbow on the break. Clark enters into a clinch exchange again and is physically just too strong for Alpar. She eventually gets the fight down herself and starts landing heavy ground and pound strikes but the buzzer likely saves Alpar. 20-18 Clark, Alpar needs a finish.

Clark comes out and starts landing big shots once again as Alpar goes for a takedown again. Clark lands big elbows and against the cage as Alpar seemingly sits down in the cage hurt she eats a huge knee to the nose and is hurt. The referee stops the fight believing the knee was illegal and Alpar receives treatment. The referee then discovers the knee was legal, meaning the fight should be stopped after use of instant replay, but he instead restarts the fight! Clark goes on the offence and absolutely batters Alpar for another two minutes before the referee finally ends the fight. Big win.

Mayra Bueno Silva def Mara Romero Borella via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (2:29)

Borella opens up the round by initiating a ground exchange so you know she’s a lunatic. She lands some nice ground and pound strikes but nothing damaging and Silva is looking to set things up the entire time. She throws up an armbar out of nowhere and gets the early tap-out for the win. Baffling decision by Borella.

Damon Jackson def Mirsad Bektic via Submission (Guillotine), Round 3 (1:21)

Bektic comes with an immediate one-two followed by a double leg. Lots of scrambles and positional changes but Bektic ends up on top and lands a big punch to the back of the head. The referee pauses the fight and stands the fighters up as punishment, but Bektic rocks Jackson as the fight resumes and gets the fight back down to the ground quickly. Jackson locks up a really deep kimura but Bektic doesn’t even think about tapping and instead just steps over and lands nice ground and pound strikes to break it. Bektic sees the round out with more ground and pound. 10-9 Bektic.

Fast start to the second round as Bektic opens up again with the takedown but Jackson does well to grab the neck and locks in a really tight guillotine. It’s in deep but Bektic fights it with body shots and eventually pops out and continues to dominate the grappling exchanges on the mat with raw strength. Bektic attempts for a guillotine of his own in the final minute of the round but Jackson reverses and lands some nice elbows on the ground to end the round. 20-18 Bektic.

Third round starts with Bektic engaging in a clinch yet again but this time Jackson ends up on top by grabbing for the guillotine again. He sweeps to end up on top and gets a mounted guillotine in deep. Bektic fights for a while, but Jackson is too good here and gets the tap. Huge win for Jackson!

David Dvorak def Jordan Espinosa via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

A methodical opening round from both fighters as both men look to land leg kicks to slow their opponent down. Espinosa trying to move on the outside and Dvorak using good boxing to land some nice left hooks to counter. A few slips from Espinosa throughout but never really hurt, but I give the opening round to Dvorak for landing a bit more flush throughout and pushing the pace a bit more. 10-9 Dvorak.

More feeling out going on in this second round as Dvorak avoids the heavy right hand of Espinosa by continuing to throw leg kicks and left hooks. Espinosa is struggling with the left leg and is forced to switch stance repeatedly as he has to decide between landing the big right hand and eating more kicks to the leg. Dvorak staying aggressive and busy and takes the second round too. 20-18 Dvorak.

Dvorak comes out in the third with leg kicks on the brain yet again as Espinosa looks to counter. A quick clinch sees both men exchange in the pocket but Dvorak is landing heavier with the hands and on the leg kicks too. Dvorak has limited Espinosa’s movement with the kicks and is able to walk forward and close the distance better to land big hooks. Into the final minute and a heavy leg kick lands that wobbles Espinosa but that’s all and it should be a comfortable win for Dvorak. 30-27 Dvorak.

MAIN CARD

Kevin Holland def Darren Stewart via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

A real fun first round in this middleweight fight. Holland and Stewart both come out throwing bombs early but nothing lands clean and they engage in a clinch against the cage. Stewart lands an inadvertant low blow which causes a pause in the action. Stewart eats two heavy shots from Holland but they both continue to feel each other out and exchange heavy blows. 10-9 Holland but it’s a close fight.

Early second round and Stewart rushes in and catches a kick and trips Holland to the ground. He attempts ground and pound but Holland defends well. Stewart gets to his feet with Holland still down and they exchange a few kicks before the referee stands them up. Holland goes for a takedown and Stewart grabs the neck for a guillotine but he can’t quite secure it so gets back to his feet and lands two big punches. Stewart throwing nice teep kicks to the lead leg of Holland before the two exchange in another clinch as the round comes to an end. 20-18 Holland.

Third round and both guys are coming looking for a finish. Stewart goes for another takedown and secures it but Holland gets up quickly before being dumped back down immediately afterwards. Holland goes for a kimura but can’t quite get it and they both get back to their feet. Holland beginning to tire now and shoots for a takedown but Stewart reverses and puts Holland on his back with 90 seconds to go. Big ground and pound for the rest of the round as both men trade verbals in the cage as the buzzer goes. 29-28 Holland for me.

Mackenzie Dern def Randa Markos via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:44)

The fight opens with a rush from Dern before she misses a head kick and ends up on her back. Markos engages on the ground and Dern quickly locks in a triangle but Dern is looking for an armbar. Markos is defending well but Dern sweeps into top position and keeps working transitions until she locks an armbar in deep! Markos refuses to tap but Dern adjusts slightly and it’s hard to watch but eventually Markos taps out. A grappling clinic from the Brazilian.

Johnny Walker def Ryan Spann via Knockout, Round 1 (2:43)

Walker comes out and explodes immediately which forces Spann straight into a takedown attempt. He gets Walker against the cage and both men clinch for a short while, throwing short knees to the thigh of one another. Walker separates and Spann lands a huge left hand that drops him! Spann goes for the finish but Walker escapes from full mount and gets back up. Both men land massive punches simultaneously that rock one another, but Spann rushes over looking for a takedown again. Walker starts landing big punches to the side of the head, before a massive elbow knocks Spann unconscious. A few more punches and the referee steps in to finish it. What a comeback win!

Khamzat Chimaev def Gerald Meerschaert via Knockout (0:17)

Chimaev comes out, throws a body kick then throws a straight right hand and knocks Meerschaert out cold. Goodnight.

Donald Cerrone vs Niko Price – Majority Draw (29-27, 28-28 x2)

A frantic pace to the start of this fight as Niko Price puts it on Cowboy early. Big strikes early on using his extra physicality to just walk forward and land heavy blows. Cerrone is stunned but surviving and comes back with some knees to the body. They go to clinch up and Price accidentally pokes Cerrone in the eye which causes a short break. They get back into it and Price lands a big one-two immediately that rocks Cerrone. He clinches up again and lands some nice knees but then Price pokes him in the eye again and the referee takes a point away! Round ends and what would be a Price round is now a tie. 9-9.

Second round is more even as both men look to go for steady combinations instead of those bombs. Price is visibly slower in this round but still has power, while Cerrone is finding a home for his jab. Cerrone getting in and out very well, but once again Price landing with a bit more power and a bit more volume to take the round but it could go either way. 19-18 Price for me.

Third and final round and the fight is up for grabs. Both men continue to walk forward on each other and land strikes but the pace is slowing and less power is in these strikes. ‘Cowboy’ steps forward and lads nice jabs, then lands a big head kick that Price just eats and continues to walk forward. The fight continues to go in the same direction as we enter the final 30 seconds, with Cerrone landing blows to a visibly tired Price. The round ends and I’ve got this as a draw. 28-28.

Colby Covington def Tyron Woodley via Knockout (Injury), Round 5 (1:19)

Woodley rushes out and takes the centre of the octagon as the two fighters exchange leg kicks. Woodley throws some jabs to establish distance then lets his right hand fly and Colby ducks under and blasts a double leg for a successful takedown. Woodley is patient and eventually makes his way back to the feet and separates. Colby has the centre now and throws a solid body kick and then a big right hook that lands clean before engaging in the clinch against the cage. Covington breaks away with a big elbow and an uppercut follows up but just misses. 10-9 Colby.

Woodley comes out with a nice right hand to open the round but once again Colby moves away and looks to engage in a clinch. Colby pushes forward and Woodley backtracks all the way to the cage constantly, as a defence mechanism to defend the inevitable takedown attempts. Flying knee attempt from Colby just misses and then another clinch. Every attack from either fighter leads to a clinch at the end of it, the respect for each other’s skillset is obvious. 20-18 Colby.

Third round opens up and Colby starts with an early eye poke that causes Woodley a lot of trouble. The fight pauses for almost two minutes but they get back into it as Woodley comes out with a nice combo attempt. Colby avoiding that power of Woodley and landing jabs before then engaging with a clinch against the cage. Woodley reverses the position momentarily but Colby then turns it back. Woodley visibly tiring against the cage as Colby lands annoying, point-scoring shots that don’t do much damage but will catch the eye of the judges. 30-27 Colby.

Into the main event rounds and Colby lands a beautiful body kick immediately before engaging in a takedown attempt. Woodley defends with a guillotine attempt but Colby pops out and puts Woodley down. In full guard and Colby is using the cage to try and prevent Woodley moving while landing some nice ground and pound to the body and head. A big elbow from Colby cuts Woodley open just below the eye and he’s landing a lot of volume on the ground, Woodley unable to get up but trying to defend himself. Colby continues with the ground and pound but Woodley survives the round. He needs a finish into the final round. 40-35 Colby.

Final round and Colby comes out with the same mentality to try and get the takedown. He lifts a high crotch against the cage but Woodley holds onto the neck. Suddenly, Woodley starts screaming in pain and the referee waves the fight off. Bizarre ending but the result is the same regardless.

UFC Vegas 11: Covington vs Woodley – Main Card Predictions

A not-so stacked card last weekend is followed up this weekend by one of the most stacked Fight Night cards in recent memory as Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley finally meet in a grudge match in the main event.

The card will also see the likes of Donald Cerrone,Β Khamzat Chimaev, Kevin Holland and Mackenzie Dern on the main card, but the undercard isn’t short of names either. With a HUGE 14 fights scheduled for this weekend ahead of the UFC’s second trip to Fight Island, I will break down each fight and give my predictions.

Last weekend was my worst showing for picks so far, as I ended with just 6/12 and only 1 perfect pick (winner, method, round).

With EIGHT prelim fights scheduled at the time of writing, I’m splitting this card into three rather than the usual two. I have already predicted the early prelims of the card here and the rest of the prelims here, so now I’ll try my hand at the stacked main card to better last weeks attempts.

MAIN CARD

Kevin Holland (18-5) vs Darren Stewart (12-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

With so many contenders for fight of the night, this is another that stands out. Kevin Holland and Darren Stewart are making quick turnarounds after wins in their last bout. Holland knocked out Joaquin Buckley with a stunning punch in the third round last month, while Stewart secured a first round submission win over Maki Pitolo on the same card. Holland is a top level striker with good wrestling chops and has come into his own in recent months but has shown a propencity to showboat in the cage. Stewart is a powerful puncher who’s usual style is to sprawl-and-brawl, making himself very difficult to take down which allows him to open up his kickboxing game. With both guys preferring the stand-up game, it comes down to accuracy and power. Either fighter could knock the other out, but Holland is that little bit more dynamic and I think he should be able to get the win.
PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 2

Mackenzie Dern (8-1) vs Randa Markos (10-8-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

This will be a fight that will almost certainly take place on the ground if Mackenzie Dern has anything to do with it, but Markos may need to have other ideas. Both women have only ever stopped fights via submission but Markos has a wrestling advantage. Dern is a multiple time jiu-jitsu world champion and holds a black belt, making her super dangerous no matter her position on the mat. After suffering her first defeat, she bounced back in her last bout with a kneebar submission win over Hannah Cifers back in May. Markos has alternated wins and losses over the last six years and lost her last fight to Amanda Ribas also. She would usually rely on top control to get a win but on the ground, she’s in danger in this bout. She will have to look to use striking to win this and while it’s not her usual path to victory, she has the edge on the feet. Dern’s takedowns aren’t good and her striking arsenal comprises of a looping hook and some wild overhands. Dern has the advantage on the ground which is where both women usually do their work, but she needs to get it there first.
PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2

Johnny Walker (17-5) vs Ryan Spann (18-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

A light heavyweight showdown where a one-time top prospect in Johnny Walker looks to get back to winning ways against another top prospect in Ryan Spann. Walker was on a wrecking path when he entered the UFC, with showreel knockout wins over Khalil Rountree, Just Ledet and Misha Cirkunov but he fell in to Corey Anderson in his biggest test via a first round knockout. His comeback fight in May against Nikita Krylov didn’t go his way either as he was held to a decision. Spann is on an eight-fight win streak including 4-0 in the UFC, with his latest win a split decision over Sam Alvey. Walker is an explosive kickboxer with vicious power and acrobatic ability while Spann is more of a boxer who uses his leg-kicks to set them up. Spann has severe cardio problems and we’ve seen Walker’s main issues come against those who are prepared to wrestle him. Anderson KO’d him simply because Walker wasn’t expecting anything other than takedown attempts, but he won’t have that issue with Spann. In a striking match, Walker should be able to land heavy blows for a knockout win as Spann begins to fade.
PICK – Johnny Walker via Knockout, Round 2

Khamzat Chimaev (8-0) vs Gerald Meerschaert (31-13) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

The hype train for Khamzat Chimaev returns to the APEX as he looks for his third UFC win against the biggest name he’s faced so far in Gerald Meerschaert. Chimaev destroyed John Phillips at middleweight and Rhys McKee at welterweight in just 10 days last time around, while Meerschaert was knocked out by Ian Heinisch in his last fight back in June. Chimaev has shown in his last two fights that he will go straight for takedowns and dominate with relentless strikes until he gets the submission or the referee stops it, but Meerschaert is a black-belt and will be able to hold his own on the ground. He also has good power in his hands but he is most dangerous on the ground, as his 23 submission wins show. Chimaev is a skilled kickboxer though and will have no issues keeping the fight standing for a while and using his superior striking skills for the first time in his short UFC career. Despite the big jump in competition, Chimaev is so skilled and good at what he does that he should be able to get a mightily impressive win here. The UFC obviously think so too, having already booked him for a fight after this one.
PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Knockout, Round 2

Donald Cerrone (36-15 1NC) vs Niko Price (14-4 1NC) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

‘Cowboy’ Cerrone looks to ensure he doesn’t take the gatekeeper tag just yet as he looks to get into the win column after four straight defeats when he takes on Niko Price. Price is a knockout artist who is a natural 170lbs-er and that spells bad things for Cerrone. Both men throw great kickboxing combinations and while Cerrone is slightly better technically, Price’s extra power makes up for it. If Cerrone wants success he’ll need to use his footwork to get in and out quickly but Price has a three-inch reach advantage so will likely stay out of range. This is a fight where both men will employ similar tactics and it’s simply about who can outland the other. I think because of Price’s physicality advantage and power edge, he will be able to stay for the full three rounds and secure a big win.
PICK – Niko Price via Unanimous Decision

Colby Covington (15-2) vs Tyron Woodley (19-5-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

The grudge match of the year. A fight over two years in the making is finally among us as Colby Covington looks to get back into the win column following his title defeat in December last year while Woodley looks to snap a two-fight losing streak against his long time rival. Woodley’s style is usually to sprawl and brawl, with his huge power in his right hand his most trusted weapon. He’s failed to throw it with any real vim in his last two fights though as he was crushed by both Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. Covington is almost the worst possible match up for Woodley at this point. He has a suffocating wrestling style, much like Usman does, but he showed in that fight for the title last year that he has good striking too. His heavy hands caused damage to Usman and although he ultimately lost, he showed that he is the second best welterweight in the world. This fight is the type that ‘Chaos’ would have been dreaming of to get back into the picture – a big name, but past his best in the cage. Colby could go for a finish in this one just to make a statement, but I think he takes it the full 25 minutes for a dominant win.
PICK – Colby Covington via Unanimous Decision

Donald Cerrone: Time To Accept Gatekeeper Status?

The record for the most appearances, the most wins and the most head-kick knockouts in the UFC all belong to one man, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. The man just loves to fight.

On Saturday night at UFC Vegas 11, Cerrone will make his 36th walk to the octagon when he takes on Niko Price on a run of four straight defeats. He was beaten by Tony Ferguson after taking a beaten in the second round, with his eye swelling shut and the doctor stopping the fight. His next bout saw him knocked out in the first round by lightweight contender Justin Gaethje, before his embarrassing 40 second KO to Conor McGregor at the start of this year. He then took on Anthony Pettis in May and suffered a unanimous decision loss.

He now moves on to Price who has yo-yo’d wins and losses in his last six fights, with each of those bouts ending via knockout. Price is a finisher who possesses great power in his hands, with 10 knockout wins from his 14 career victories. That could spell trouble for Cerrone, who has struggled with power punchers in recent times.

Every time Cerrone fails on the big stage, he gets labelled as a gatekeeper. He usually comes back from it and wins a few fights but this time it seems significant that he didn’t. The loss to Pettis was a fight he really should have won. Pettis is a former featherweight and this bout was at welterweight, Cerrone should have been too big and too strong. But while the decision was a controversial one, the record shows he lost.

With Price looking to get back on the winning trail following a knockout defeat to Vicente Luque last time out, Cerrone is a big name that could see him shoot back up the rankings. If Cerrone struggled against McGregor and Pettis in terms of size and strength, a natural 170lbs-er will cause him even more trouble. He also has a great knack for turning fights into a war, which will favour him.

So is it time for Cerrone to forget a title hunt and just focus on wins and wins only? Should he accept the gatekeeper status? Probably.

At 37 he’s entering the end of a normal fighter career, but this man has fought more than anyone. He’s always active, always competing and always training. He has more miles on the clock than anyone in MMA bar Alistair Overeem. It’s time to accept his status in the game now.

He’s had several attempts at the top of the mountain and fallen flat on his face every time. He’s now the marker between those not ready for those top of the mountain challenges and those who are. There’s nothing wrong with it either, not everyone can finish at the top. Cowboy has never been one of the truly elite in any division.

There are plenty of exciting fights he can still have as the gatekeeper in the UFC with his ability to compete in two of the most stacked weight-classes in the company. He must accept his time to become the man has gone and if he can adapt to his new role, he could extend this sensational career a little while longer yet.