Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-7) vs Jailton Almeida (17-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big heavyweight scrap up next between a veteran and one of the hottest prospects in the division. Abdurakhimov has lost three in a row and is winless since 2019, being KO’d by Curtis Blaydes, Chris Daukaus and Sergei Pavlovich. Almeida is on a 12-fight win streak, finishing all three of his UFC bouts in the first round.
Abdurakhimov is a decent grappler with decent power in his hands too, but at 41-years-old he is into the twilight of his career. Almeida is one of the most devastating jiu-jitsu practitioners among the big men in the world, who also has good power in his hands. His wrestling is sensational and his cardio is very good too, meaning he can be relentless with his pressure for as long as the fight lasts.
A win for Almeida here gets him ranked, and it’s likely to be the most one-sided fight on the card. Almeida will shoot to take down Abdurakhimov almost immediately, wrap the legs up and force him to give up his back. From there he will either choke him or pound him until the referee steps in, so expect a quick finish in this one. PICK – Jailton Almeida via Submission, Round 1
Gabriel Bonfim (13-0) vs Mounir Lazzez (11-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very interesting 170-pound bout up next. Bonfim is the younger brother on the card and comes into this fight as an undefeated fighter, with 10 submissions on his record professionally. Lazzez has won four of his last five, with his only loss coming to Warlley Alves in January 2021. He earned a decision win over Ange Loosa most recently in April 2022.
Bonfim is a terrific boxer, with fantastic power, speed and a lightning jab to go along with his excellent jiu-jitsu and submission skills. Lazzez is a really well-rounded fighter with good volume and cardio, although his power isn’t the best in the division. Bonfim is great offensively, but defensively he leaves a lot of holes that “Sniper” can take advantage of if given the opportunity.
Lazzez is probably a less rounded package than Bonfim, but he has got a great heart and resilience to keep pushing forward as the fight goes on. With that said, having the home crowd in his favour and having an edge in offensive striking and wrestling should be enough for Bonfim to get the win on the night. PICK – Gabriel Bonfim via Decision
Thiago Moises (16-6) vs Melquizael Costa (19-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A short-notice lightweight bout up next. Moises snapped a two-fight losing streak when he earned a first-round submission for Christos Giagos last time out, while Costa has won his last two in a row via knockout, with the most recent coming in November 2022 in the LFA.
Moises is an excellent wrestler and grappler, with fantastic jiu-jitsu skills allowing him the chance to secure seven submission wins in his career to date. Costa is a powerful striker with great speed and technique, and he has an excellent ability to get back to his feet in grappling exchanges. It’s clear as day though, that he has never faced a grappler the level of Moises.
This is a lucky break for Moises, because he likely would have lost the initial match-up against Guram Kutateladze. But in this one he has the skillset to be able to hold Costa down regularly and for long periods while doing damage, using his experience and quality to get the win in an all-Brazilian affair. PICK – Thiago Moises via Submission, Round 2
Gregory Rodrigues (13-4) vs Brunno Ferreira (9-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Robocop returns in this middleweight scrap against a UFC newcomer on short notice. Rodrigues has won his last two in a row, knocking out both Julian Marquez and Chidi Njokuani in his most recent bout. Ferreira earned a UFC contract with a 95-second KO over Leon Aliu on the Contender Series back in September.
Rodrigues is a really interesting fighter, who has a strange habit of fighting to the level of his opponent and just trying to cause as much damage as possible. Ferreira has a similar style who looks to cause chaos, but he’s never fought at this level before. Rodrigues’ jiu-jitsu pedigree is something that you’d expect him to lean on more often than not, but he just never does.
With Ferreira having an incredible ability to explode and put people out, that makes this a really interesting fight. He has the speed advantage and Rodrigues has been wobbled and hit clean on several occasions in the UFC. With that said, his chin has held up so far to this point and this seems like a big jump for Ferreira, especially on short-notice. Great fight, but Rodrigues gets it done in one. PICK – Gregory Rodrigues via Knockout, Round 1
Mauricio Rua (21-13-1) vs Ihor Potieria (19-3) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Legendary Brazilian gets back into the cage at home in this one. “Shogun” has lost his last two, tapping to strikes against Paul Craig before a split decision loss to Ovince St-Preux last time out. Potieria suffered a KO defeat in his last out, his UFC debut, against Nicolae Negumereanu, and is looking for his first win in the company.
Rua is a great grappler, but he has been outside of his prime for the best part of five years now and has trouble getting the bout anywhere near where his strengths lie. Potieria isn’t the greatest fighter in the world, but 15 years younger than Rua and far stronger physically to go with his nasty knockout power and this looks like a nasty send off for “Shogun” in his final bout.
Potieria has got some nasty boxing combinations and is physically strong enough to keep Rua off him and avoid any extended grappling exchanges. Expect a fast start from the Ukrainian and a couple of big shots get this done early on. PICK – Ihor Potieria via Knockout, Round 1
Anthony Hernandez (9-2) vs Marc-Andre Barriault (14-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger at middleweight opens the main card here. Hernandez shocked the world with a submission win over Rodolfo Vieira at UFC 258, before returning with a decision win over Josh Fremd at UFC 273 most recently. Barriault bounced back from a 16 second KO loss to Chidi Njokuani with a submission win over Jordan Wright in his most recent bout.
Hernandez is a technical freak with great wrestling and solid submission skills to go with excellent durability, footwork and decent striking. Barriault alternatively is a powerhouse striker with aggression and durability that tend to make up for his technical flaws. The Canadian tends to attempt to outwork his opponents and grind them out, but that’s unlikely to work in this one.
Barriault has struggled against fighters who pose a consistent takedown threat, and that’s exactly what Hernandez has. He rarely gets tired, can hold his own on the feet and has the wrestling to not allow Barriault a chance to find his rhythm on the feet. Expect relentless takedowns and some decent strikes on the feet to carry “Fluffy” to a win on the cards. PICK – Anthony Hernandez via Decision
Tanner Boser (20-8-1) vs Rodrigo Nascimento (9-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys back in the cage for this one. Boser snapped a two-fight skid when he claimed a KO win over Ovince Saint-Preux in his last fight back in June 2021, while Nascimento suffered a 45 second KO loss to Chris Daukaus before a KO win over Alan Baudot was overturned to a no contest in his last bout in July 2021.
Boser is a talented kickboxer, using solid leg kicks, feints and footwork to set up his huge right hand and keep opponents ticking over rather than standing still. Nascimento is an elite grappler who has fantastic submission skills and nasty ground and pound from the top too. He has finished all nine of his victories, including the overturned result.
Nascimento will look to close the distance and drag this fight to the mat, because on the feet he’s outmatched by Boser. Boser isn’t the best defensive grappler, but he’s very good at avoiding getting into grappling matches with his movement and range management. He should be able to stay on the outside and use his kicks and jab to earn a decision win, but there is a risk of Nascimento blitzing him and dragging him into his world on the floor. PICK – Tanner Boser via Decision
Joe Pyfer (9-2) vs Alen Amedovski (8-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
“Be like Joe Pyfer,” said Dana White. Now he gets a chance to do it in the UFC after his KO win on the Contender Series earned him a contract back in July. Amedovski has lost his last three in a row, getting submitted in 64 seconds by Joseph Holmes back in May after almost two years out.
Pyfer is a power striker with good boxing combinations and the 25-year-old has got an experienced mind beyond his years. Amedovski on the other hand is a really powerful striker himself, but he lacks technique and timing and it’s a mystery how he’s still on the roster in reality. If we’re being honest, this is a bit of a set-up fight to get Pyfer some hype in the UFC.
He’s the bigger and more powerful fighter and he’s also got decent wrestling in his back pocket, something Amedovski simply won’t be able to cope with. But Pyfer will step forward and go to war, and that leaves him susceptible to getting KO’d. But with more ways to win, an advantage in technique and arguably more power too, I expect him to get the job done in highlight reel fashion. PICK – Joe Pyfer via Knockout, Round 2
Andre Fili (21-9) vs Bill Algeo (16-6) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolutely brilliant bit of matchmaking in the featherweight decision up next. Fili has just one win in his last five, losing to Bryce Mitchell and getting KO’d by Joanderson Brito in just 41 seconds last time out with a no contest sandwiched between them. Algeo on the other hand is on a two-fight win streak after beating Brito at UFC Vegas 46 and then making Herbert Burns retire mid-round last time out.
Fili is a really exciting striker who has slick boxing and a nice kicking game, while also being a more than competent grappler on the mat too who excels in the scramble. Algeo is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but he’s always ready for a war and he tends to get involved in striking battles a lot due to his love for Muay Thai. He tends to come forward a lot and that will leave him open to counter shots from “Touchy”.
If he chooses to make this a grappling match he has a far better chance of success, but it won’t be easy because his wrestling has never dominated and Fili is a good defensive wrestler too. With his volume and counters on the feet and his ability to defend takedowns or get back to his feet, expect Fili to get back into the win column in this one. PICK – Andre Fili via Decision
Chidi Njokuani (22-7) vs Gregory Rodrigues (12-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A really fun middleweight fight takes up the co-main event slot here. Njokuani is on a four-fight win streak, including knockout wins in the UFC over Marc-Andre Barriault and Dusko Todorovic most recently. Rodrigues saw his own four-fight win streak snapped by Armen Petrosyan, but he got back in the win column by KO’ing Julian Marquez most recently.
Njokuani is a powerhouse striker with excellent Muay Thai skills and great experience when it comes to clinch work and grappling defence. Rodrigues is a powerful striker too who tends to walk opponents down and encourage a brawl, but that is a dangerous strategy in this one.
“Bang Bang” is the more technical striker and if he extends his combinations on the feet he could potentially get a finish here. But Rodrigues is capable of switching it up and going for takedowns to make this ugly, which is his best way to win. The problem with that though is that isn’t “Robocop”s usual game plan and it could have an adverse effect on him, so I think Njokuani will be able to claim a decision victory in a tight affair. PICK – Chidi Njokuani via Decision
Cory Sandhagen (14-4) vs Song Yadong (19-6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best bantamweight fights available right now in a stacked division. Sandhagen suffered back-to-back defeats against TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan (UFC 267) most recently despite stunning performances in both bouts, while Yadong enters on a three-fight win streak after beating Casey Kenny (UFC 265), Julio Arce and most recently Marlon Moraes.
Sandhagen is an incredible striker, with brilliant boxing and kicks as well as explosive attacks like flying knees and superman punches to go with his 5ft 11′ frame. Yadong is a powerful boxer with a more traditional style, with great footwork and decent grappling too that he tends to avoid using. Sandhagen will enjoy this fight because Yadong is often quite static and he often relies on his big right-hand or a short combination to do the damage.
“Sandman” is always happy to go the distance if he needs to, because he’s constantly touching his opponent with good jabs, low kicks and body work. His constant activity is going to be really difficult for Yadong to cope with, and this is comfortably the biggest test of his career. In his first five-rounder, this is a tough task. I expect Sandhagen to wear him out with constant attacks, and while Yadong is powerful I don’t see him putting Sandhagen out with one shot. I think Sandhagen touches him up and puts on a clinic for 25 minutes to claim a win. PICK – Cory Sandhagen via Decision
It’s not the most stacked card this week in name value, but there are some very fun fights on the card that we’ll look to predict.
Last week at UFC Vegas 40 we struggled at went 5/10 with zero perfect picks, moving us to 439/689 (63.72%) with 187 perfect picks (42.6%) since June 2020.
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims picks, we complete our prelim picks here.
Jamie Pickett (11-6) vs Laureano Staropoli (9-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very fun middleweight scrap continues the prelims of the card here. Jamie Pickett has lost his last two, dropping a decision to Tafon Nchukwi at UFC Vegas 17 before getting stopped by Jordan Wright at UFC 262. Staropoli has lost his last three via decision, with the most recent coming against Roman Dolidze at UFC Vegas 28.
Pickett is powerful puncher with some decent kicks, but he struggles to use his length to its maximum potential. Staropoli is a brawler who likes to march his opponents down and use his strong boxing and decent power on the inside to overpower opponents. The issue for the Argentine however is that he’s a natural welterweight and was way undersized at middleweight last time out.
His last five fights have gone the distance, but stylistically he is a nightmare for Pickett. ‘The Night Wolf’ likes to take his time to pick his shots and fight on the front foot, but Staropoli will come forward and force him onto the back foot with his pressure. For that, I think Staropoli can outwork him and earn a late finish. PICK – Laureano Staropoli via Knockout, Round 3
Tabatha Ricci (5-1) vs Maria Oliveira (12-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An interesting fight in the strawweight division between two women looking for their first UFC wins. Ricci fought Manon Fiorot in her UFC debut on super short notice and got KO’d at UFC Vegas 28, while Oliveira makes her organisation debut on a two-fight win streak.
Ricci is a jiu-jitsu black belt with really good submission and grappling skills, but obviously we haven’t seen it at the elite level. Oliveira on the other hand is an okay striker on the feet but is very lengthy, with a non-existent ground game.
It’s a much nicer match-up for Ricci in this one than her debut and while Oliveira is talented, her record is as padded as they come. She doesn’t really have the greatest of KO power and Ricci should be confident enough to come forward and tie her up to get her to the mat. Once it gets there, it’s all about survival for Oliveira and I don’t think she lasts too long. PICK – Tabatha Ricci via Submission, Round 1
Mason Jones (10-1) vs David Onama (8-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really exciting fight between two prospects at 155lbs on short notice in this one. Mason Jones bounced back from his first defeat against Mike Davis at UFC Fight Island 8 with a great performance against Alan Patrick, where an accidental eye-poke made it a no contest. Onama on the other hand is an unbeaten fighter with all eight wins coming via finish and steps in on less than a week’s notice.
Jones is a phenomenal athlete, who likes to stand and strike with his opponent but also with great grappling to fall back on too while Onana is an absolute powerhouse of a man with power and good fighting instincts on the ground too. Despite his short career, he looks ready for this step up and with more time and a better match up he’d have a great chance of making an impression.
Unfortunately for him, his debut comes against someone who is relentless and more experienced. Jones will look to overwhelm Onama and with his experience, wrestling and power of his own he should prove too much for the debutant as the fight goes on. PICK – Mason Jones via Decision
Junyong Park (13-4) vs Gregory Rodrigues (10-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Another fun middleweight scrap is the featured prelim bout on the card. Park is on a three-fight win streak with a dominant grappling and ground and pound display against Tafon Nchukwi last time out at UFC Vegas 26. Rodrigues on the other hand has also won his last three, with a decision win over Dusko Todorovic in his debut at UFC Vegas 28 most recently.
Park is a well-rounded fighter, with tight striking and some solid wrestling to go with his violent ground and pound. Rodrigues is a supremely powerful fighter with brilliant wrestling and jiu-jitsu too, boasting four submissions and four knockouts in is career.
Rodrigues has the power to finish, but Park is very good at defending himself and pushing forward. Unfortunately, he hates being on his back and being out-matched in the wrestling department doesn’t bode too well for him. Both guys have the power to land and hurt the other, but I think Rodrigues’ control from the top will earn him a decision win. PICK – Gregory Rodrigues via Decision
Claudio Puelles def Jordan Leavitt via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Interesting start to the fight as both men trade leg kicks and body kicks before Leavitt changes levels and shoots in for a takedown. Puelles immediately rolls through to try and reverse but Leavitt holds onto the single leg and forces a scramble for the position. Neither men give anything up and eventually Leavitt is able to get into the guard but only for a few seconds before Puelles kicks him off. Leavitt doesn’t let go and tries to hold him down again but Puelles is eventually able to get back to the feet where they trade leg kicks again. Puelles shoots in for a takedown this time but Leavitt defends it pretty well before Puelles gets into his guard with about 40 seconds left. Neither fight lands any real offence as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Leavitt probably.
Second round more of the same early on from both guys with a few rangy kicks before Leavitt shoots in for a single leg takedown again. Puelles defends it well once again and manages to reverse to end up on Leavitt’s back, but he’s able to reverse into a kneebar attempt to escape and ends up with Puelles in his guard again. Puelles stands up and avoids an up-kick before landing a big left hand as Leavitt looks to get back up and they end up on the ground once again. Puelles looks to take the back and starts throwing a few strikes to free it up but Leavitt is defending faitly well. Puelles locks in a body triangle with 30 seconds to go but nothing else happens and the round ends. 19-19.
Puelles opens up the round with a takedown early on this time and he gets it easily, with Leavitt pretty content to work from his back currently. Leavitt tries to scramble back to his feet but Puelles doing really well to shut it down and starts landing some ground and pound too. Position over submission for Puelles so far but Leavitt is trying to get up again and goes for an inverted triangle but Puelles avoids it pretty easily. Puelles in the north-south position but not doing enough so the referee stands them up with 90 seconds to go, only for Puelles to score an instant takedown once they resume. A bit of ground and pound but nothing crazy and Puelles should waltz to the victory 29-28.
Sean Woodson def Youssef Zalal via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Fast paced start to this one as Woodson takes the centre and looks to pump out his jab, while Zalal is firing leg kicks and firing overhand rights to counter. Zalal starts landing some nice strikes from the middle and Woodson starting to back up a bit, so Zalal shoots for a takedown. Woodson is able to stuff it against the cage though and then lands a couple of nice kicks before a left hand wobbles Zalal! Zalal recovers well and seems to have the speed advantage so is landing first and preventing the jab of Woodson from being effective. Zalal moves in for another takedown but Woodson defends it well against the cage again before they break and Zalal goes for a double leg this time and gets it to end the round on top. 10-9 Zalal but close round.
Woodson comes out strong in the second round and lands some nice body kicks to back Zalal up, but the ‘Moroccan Devil’ avoids it and goes in for a takedown against the cage once again. Zalal breaks and lands an elbow before shooting back in again, then lands another elbow as they separate again. Woodson loading up with kicks and Zalal finding it pretty easy to avoid them, but Woodson lands a nice straight left. Zalal throws a nice left hook that lands before both guys trade leg kicks and then Woodson lands a nice left hand and jab again. Zalal shoots for a takedown against the cage with 20 seconds left but Woodson synchs up a guillotine but just runs out of time. 19-19 for me.
More of the same at the start of the final round as Zalal goes for another takedown and puts Woodson against the cage, but he is able to defend it well again and break out into the centre. Woodson takes the centre and is forcing Zalal backwards now, landing some decent strikes but then Zalal shoots in again to stop that momentum. Woodson throws a couple of nice knees to the body and is looking for a guillotine again but Zalal picks him up to escape with a minute to go. Zalal shoots in again but Woodson switches it and goes for a guillotine from the top, but Zalal explodes out and they get back to swinging to end the fight. 29-28 Woodson but close for sure.
Manon Fiorot def Tabatha Ricci via Knockout, Round 2 (3:00)
Tentative start from both ladies early on as Fiorot uses her significant size advantage to land he patented side kick and jab. Ricci circling on the outside and bursting with some flurries, but Fiorot staying calm and composed and lands a nasty body kick. She follows up with a nice left hook straight to the chin, but Ricci keeps moving and looking for an entry. Huge left straight from Fiorot down the pipe lands and easily denies a takedown attempt. Fiorot fires off a combination but Ricci just about slips it and gets away. Fiorot has the centre and lands a big left hand again but Ricci responds with a nice strike as the round ends. 10-9 Fiorot but Ricci is showing promise.
Fast start to the second round for Fiorot as she starts to hunt Ricci down and throw combinations against the cage. Fiorot goes for a takedown inexplicably but Ricci denies it and eats another combination up top. Ricci trying to throw some leg kicks but Fiorot checks and keeps coming forward, clinching up and landing two big elbows. Fiorot steps forward with a big combination and drops Ricci and starts teeing off! Ricci gets back to her feet but Fiorot keeps pouring it on and eventually the referee mercifully steps in to end it. Huge knockout win!
Alan Patrick vs Mason Jones – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Absolutely wild first round to start as Jones takes the centre of the octagon and looks to counter some crazy strikes from Patrick. The Brazilian shoots for a takedown but Jones avoids it and lands a nice right hand. Patrick throws some spinning kicks and back fists but Jones is slipping then and responding with big counters. Big exchange of punches from both men as Jones lands a left hand that staggers Patrick. Jones pushes forward with more pressure and Patrick clinches up and pulls guard but Jones starts smashing him with ground and pound. Big, heavy elbows from top position and huge strikes from the top and the referee nearly waves it off but he just runs out of time. 10-9 Jones, great round.
Patrick opens the second round with some more wild techniques before Jones steps in, gets a trip and starts working from top position once again. Some nice ground and pound strikes land but Patrick is able to jump back to his feet. He eats a big left hand and then an accidental eye poke causes a stop. Patrick tells the doctor he can’t see and the fight is waved off. Tough break for Jones.
Steady start to the fight from both guys as they look to feel each other out early on. Amirkhani shoots in for two takedowns but Kirk is able to slip his leg out both times pretty easily. Kirk steps forward and looks to land a right hand but Amirkhani then steps in to close the distance with another shot. This time he gets hold around the body of Kirk and throws him over his head and refuses to let go, before securing a trip and getting heavy on top. Kirk is able to push Amirkhani off and get up relatively quickly though and with no damage before a nice left hand clips Amirkhani. A bit of pressure from Kirk but the round ends, 10-9 either way.
Good start to the second round from Kirk as he steps in with some nice body work and a few straight right hands. Attempted flying knee just misses from Kirk, who then lands a massive right hand right to the side of the head. Three big body shots in a row from Kirk and Amirkhani shoots in again for a takedown but this time gets it, with Kirks attempts at a guillotine and heel hook coming to nothing. Amirkhani now in top position, staying heavy but Kirk throws up a triangle armbar and it’s tight! He locks it out and extends but Amirkhani refuses to tap and the buzzer goes. 20-18 to Kirk for me but could be 19-19 or 20-18 the other way too to be fair.
Final round and Amirkhani lands a big left hand clean on the chin to open up. Both guys look tired and after another left hand from Amirkhani he shoots for the takedown and secures it. Amirkhani heavy on top again, but Kirk throws up another triangle that just can’t get locked up. Kirk gets him back up to the feet but Amirkhani keeps hold of him and drags him down to the mat again, but this time Kirk reverses it and ends up on top. Kirk throwing body shots from the top as Amirkhani just holding him down to stall for time. Kirk postures up and lands a big left hand and the round ends with a stalemate for position. Super close fight, honestly could go either way.
Muslim Salikhov def Francisco Trinaldo via Decision (30-27 x3)
Very tense opening to this fight as both men throw out lots of feints and feelers early on, with Trinaldo coming forward. Salikhov throws a beautiful body kick that slaps, but Trinaldo rushes forward and lands a nice left hand in response. Salikhov taking his time and trying to counter, lands a big overhand right after missing with a left hook and then throwing a big body kick again. Trinaldo coming forward in bursts again and lands a nice left hand to the chin. Salikhov throws a leg kick but it gets checked and then follows up with a big left uppercut that drops Trinaldo! He follows up with some big ground and pound but Trinaldo stays calm on his back and sees it out until the bell. Whew! 10-9 Salikhov.
Good start from Trinaldo in the second round as he comes forward again and bull-rushes Salikhov, landing a nice right hand. Salikhov looks for the uppercut again that just misses, but then follows up with a couple of right hands himself that do land. Trinaldo lands a nice left hand before Salikhov lands a huge right hook that wobbles Trinaldo again! Trinaldo swings some huge punches after he recovers but Salikhov slips them all and lands some nice right hands of his own in between to really start piecing Trinaldo up. Salikhov is seeing the punches coming now and slipping then countering as he throws Trinaldo to the ground. 20-18 Salikhov but Trinaldo is still in this fight.
Final round and Trinaldo comes out swinging once again, but Salikhov counters with a left hook and gets a big eye poke for his troubles. After a pause in the action Trinaldo comes forward and lands a big left hand to that eye that wobbles him. Salikhov responds with a body kick and leg kick, but Trinaldo continues to come forward and look for that big left hand. Salikhov lands a nice leg kick and pushes Trinaldo to the ground at the same time, then eats up some time with a few leg kicks to his grounded opponent too. The referee stands him up and Trinaldo continues to come forward again as we enter the final minute as Salikhov lands a nice straight right hand. Big left hand from Trinaldo forces Salikhov to change levels and dump Trinaldo to the mat to see out the final 30 seconds and surely claim a win. 29-28 Salikhov for me.
Boser taking the centre early on and being the aggressor with some head kick attempts. Latifi just circling on the outside as Boser bounces around and feints some strikes, before another kick attempt gets caught and Latifi puts him on the mat immediately. Latifi works from guard into side control and looks to grind, but Boser is able to swivel his hips and explode back to his feet. Boser steps in with some nice jabs and a left straight but Latifi looking to clinch up every time. Boser lands another big jab and throws another two kicks to see out the round. Tough to score to be honest but I lean to Boser.
Latifi looking to punch his way in early in the second round, stepping forward with a nice overhand right. Boser responds with good foot work and his jab, slipping Latifi’s big punches and just piecing him up rather than landing bombs of his own. Boser steps forward and lands a big right hand that makes Latifi go down holding his eye, but the referee doesn’t step in and Boser goes for the kill! Huge ground and pound strikes against the cage but Latifi defends himself well and eventually clinches up. He shoots for a takedown but Boser defends it and goes for his jabs once again to end the round. 20-18 Boser for me.
Final round and Boser steps out with his jabs again but Latifi goes for an early takedown this time and gets it. Straight into Boser’s guard and this time Latifi is throwing some ground and pound strikes with heavy top pressure, stopping Boser from doing anything significant from his back. More grinding ground and pound from Latifi for almost two minutes at the end of the round and it’s his round but I think Boser will get the nod. 29-28 Boser for me.
*TOM BREESE VS ANTONIO ARROYO CANCELLED DUE TO A MEDICAL ISSUE FOR BREESE*
Montana De La Rosa def Ariane Lipski via Knockout, Round 2 (4:27)
Very patient start to the fight from both women, as Lipski using some feints as De La Rosa keeps the distance short. A few kick attempts from Lipski but eventually De La Rosa closes the distance, secure a body lock and gets Lipski to the ground. De La Rosa stays heavy on top and works her way to full guard where she starts raining down elbows and cuts Lipski wide open to the side of her eye. Lipski not doing much to get up and De La Rosa is able to just land big strikes at will here as the round ends. 10-9 De La Rosa.
Second round and Lipski lands a big right hand immediately, but De La Rosa shoots and gets the takedown perfectly in response. De La Rosa is able to slide into side control and has Lipski against the cage, keeping her in a really tough position and landing those big elbow strikes once again. Lipski is threatening with a kimura but it doesn’t have much hope and then De La Rosa slides into full mount and starts raining down huge elbows and punches. Lipski trying to roll away but De La Rosa refuses to let her and just keeps thumping away until the referee steps in and ends it! Huge win for De La Rosa!
Gregory Rodrigues def Dusko Todorovic via Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
A super start to the fight from the UFC newcomer as Rodrigues steps forward and is landing his power jab well. Rodrigues firing his right straight perfectly too and is catching Todorovic clean very, very often. A clinch up against the cage sees Rodrigues with a judo throw put Todorovic down, but he gets back up to his feet immediately. More crisp right hands land from Rodrigues as Todorovic just eats them, but he’s walking back with his chin high. Todorovic lands a nice right hand of his own to see out the round but that’s a Rodrigues round clearly. 10-9.
Rodrigues coming out aggressive in the second round and finding a home for that right hand over and over again. Some digs to the body from Rodrigues and another big right hand, before a power double leg secures him a takedown too. Todorovic tries to get up using the cage and eats a knee to he head but is able to get away. Rodrigues lands a big straight right hand on the chin again as Todorovic steps forward and throws a little flurry. Final minute and Rodrigues slips a punch and lands a beautiful left-hook, right hand combo. 20-18 Rodrigues, but he’s start to slow down a little.
Third and final round and Todorovic looks like he’s still trying to make reads. Good jab lands twice and forces Rodrigues backwards, but he replies with another big right hand that lands flush. Rodrigues goes for a takedown but Todorovic defends it well this time. Rodrigues steps forward again and lands some big combinations and then eats a jab for his trouble. Rodrigues lands a big right hand once more and then goes to the body, but Todorovic replies with a nice left hand of his own. Into the final 30 seconds and Todorovic lands some great body shows but eats another right hand. Todorovic goes for the takedown at the end of the round but the buzzer goes and it should be a win for the newcomer.
Santiago Ponzinibbio def Miguel Baeza via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast paced start to this one as Ponzinibbio takes the centre of the cage and looks to land some jabs and his right hand as backs Baeza up against the fence. Baeza responding with his kicks, throwing a lot of heavy leg kicks to the lead leg and throwing his right hand behind it. Baeza blasting those calf kicks and forcing Ponzinibbio backwards, and then he lands a nice left-right hand combo. Ponzinibbio comes forward again and lands a nice left hand but Baeza is throwing more and more leg kicks and they’re really totalling up now. Big flurry from Ponzinibbio at the end of the round lands a couple of strikes but ultimately that’s a Baeza round. 10-9.
Fantastic start to the round from Baeza as he targets the calf kicks once again. Baeza lands three body kicks in a row and as Ponzinibbio throws a jab he gets kicked in the calf once again. Big overhand right from Baeza wobbles Ponzinibbio but Baeza stays calm and doesn’t go straight for the kill. Ponzinibbio throws a few calf kicks of his own and a nice right hand but Baeza then goes back to work with the leg kicks. Ponzinibbio starting to land his jab a lot more now as he comes forward with a big flurry of strikes. Ponzinibbio coming forward constantly and is landing lots of strikes in the second half of this round with big combinations to end the round. 19-19.
Fast start to the final round too as Ponzinibbio steps forward again and they trade jabs. Baeza lands two leg kicks again then follows with a right hand that staggers Ponzinibbio. The Argentine continues to come forward with the lead jab and is now throwing a right hand behind it, but Baeza retaliates with a nice right hand combo to the head and body. Ponzinibbio lands a huge flurry and Baeza is hurt, but Baeza lands two right hands and hurts Ponzinibbio right back! Body kick from Baeza before a left hook lands from Ponzinibbio! Both men trade huge leg kicks and exchange wild hooks. Big uppercut from Baeza but Ponzinibbio lands a big one-two, followed by a Baeza right hand again. Both men spend the final 30 seconds going absolutely crazy with hooks and power punches, with Ponzinibbio getting the better of the exchange to end the round! What a fight! 29-28 Ponzinibbio for me.
Roman Dolidze def Laureano Starapoli via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Staropoli comes out very early and very quickly with a solid body kick, followed by two heavy leg kicks. He goes for a head kick that misses and Dolidze immediately shoots in for a takedown. Staropoli gets to his feet against the cage but Dolidze keeps a body lock and drags Staropoli down over and over again for almost the full round. A few knees to the thigh from Dolidze but otherwise a pretty dull round. 10-9 Dolidze.
Second round starts with an immediate power double leg from Dolidze who gets the fight down momentarily before they end up against the cage once again, in the same way as they did the first round. Staropoli eventually is able to spin away and get away from the grip of Dolidze and then lands a couple of kicks again. Big left uppercut from Staropoli lets Dolidze change levels and get another takedown. More clinching against the cage as Staropoli tries to escape and finally he does, before going for a takedown of his own and the same stalemate occurring again. 20-18 Dolidze.
Third and final round and we see more of the same from both fighters, with Staropoli unable to get his striking game going at all because of Dolidze’s strength whenever he gets close. Dolidze holding him against the cage throughout and any spec of danger is evaded. 30-27 Dolidze, next please.
Marcin Tybura def Walt Harris via Knockout, Round 1 (4:06)
Fast start to the round from Harris as he comes forward with intent and starts throwing bombs early. Huge rights and lefts from Harris landing clean but Tybura still standing and wobbling. Harris tries to clinch and goes for knees, then throws a flurry of hooks that drops Tybura again. He goes for a finish but Tybura drives forward for a takedown and gets it against the cage. Harris does well but then Tybura catches a kick and sweeps the leg to get on top. He transitions to the back and puts one hook in, working for a rear naked choke. He then starts landing heavy strikes that are having a big effect on Harris and eventually the referee steps in and ends the fight! Huge knockout win for Tybura!
Jairzinho Rozenstruik def Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)
Slow start to this one as Rozenstruik takes the centre and flicks out a leg kick or two, but generally both guys just feeling each other out for now. Another leg kick is matched by Sakai this time and then goes for another but Rozenstruik catches it and just misses with a counter right hand. Sakai throws a right hand that misses and Rozenstruik fires back with an overhand that whistles past Sakai. Rozenstruik backs Sakai against the cage and throws a flurry of shots but Sakai defends well. He does it again and this time lands a left hook right hand and Sakai is down! He lands a couple of follow ups just before the horn goes but it’s all over! Huge win!
Breese is a powerhouse of a striker with good takedowns and fantastic jiu-jitsu from the top, but on his back he almost seems to freeze against anyone who can get him there. Arroyo is also a grappler but he has really struggled since coming into the UFC and has completely frozen every time he’s got in the octagon.
Breese is in a bit of a rut right now but his skillset is far too well rounded to be caused problems by Arroyo and he should win this one pretty comfortably. PICK – Tom Breese via Submission, Round 2
Dusko Todorovic (10-1) vs Gregory Rodrigues (9-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A short notice middleweight clash as Dusko Todorovic looks to put the first defeat of his career behind him when he takes on replacement opponent Gregory Rodrigues. Todorovic had won ten in a row heading into UFC Fight Island 8, where he was knocked out in the first round by Punahele Soriano. Rodrigues replaed Maki Pitolo on a two-fight win streak, having won his last fight just two weeks ago.
Todorovic is a good kickboxer with some decent kicks but really good straight punches and power. An issue he has however is that he often steps out of exchanges with his hands low and chin high, which could allow for the powerful Rodrigues to cause an upset. The Brazilian is a solid striker himself but he also some good grappling skills to work with and Todorovic on the ground isn’t something we’ve seen much, if any, of.
The short notice nature of the bout makes Todorovic a wide favourite, simply because he has good combinations and hand speed and is at his best when pressuring opponents. Rodrigues could catch him with a big overhand, but the most likely option is Todorovic gets a win with a big blitz. PICK – Dusko Todorovic via Knockout, Round 1
Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-4) vs Miguel Baeza (10-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Ponzinibbio is a brilliant striker, with huge power in his legs and hands and real explosive power. He’s also a more than decent grappler, but he’s got nothing on Baeza when it comes to the ground game. Baeza is a tremendous grappler but also has exceptional power on the feet as shown by his seven knockout wins in his career. The old version of Ponzinibbio would have won this fight no question, but the version who fought Li is likely to lose.
Baeza has had trouble against guys who force him backwards, which Ponzinibbio will likely do, but he’s got such big knockout power in his hands that you have to now question ‘Gente Boa’s’ chin. It’s going to be one-sided, but it completely depends on which Ponzinibbio turns up and after so long away, I just don’t think the old version exists anymore. PICK – Miguel Baeza via Knockout, Round 2
Roman Dolidze (8-1) vs Laureano Staropoli (9-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Dolidze is a solid wrestler, who looks to get takedowns and secure top position as much as possible before landing his good ground and pound game, while Staropoli is a man who prefers to stand and strike if he has the option. It’s a real clash of styles, but there is a big size difference between the two. Dolidze was fighting at 205lbs not long ago while Staropoli has fought at 170lbs in the past and that could be a big factor here.
Staropoli has the striking advantage, but Dolidze will be able to get hold of him and get him down to the ground for long spells of control and a decision victory. PICK – Roman Dolidze via Decision
Walt Harris (13-9 1NC) vs Marcin Tybura (21-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A banger at heavyweight in the co-main event as ‘Big Ticket’ Walt Harris looks to get back in the win column against Marcin Tybura. Harris was knocked out by Alistair Overeem last year before Alexander Volkov outclassed him and stopped in in round two at UFC 254. Tybura is on a four-fight win streak after beating Sergey Spivak, Maxim Grishin at UFC 251, Ben Rothwell at UFC Fight Island 5 and Greg Hardy at UFC Vegas 17.
Harris is as much a first-round heavyweight that there is in the UFC. He’s got incredible power in his hands, winning all 13 of his victories via knockout, and has a relatively poor gas tank considering the level he fights at. Tybura on the other hand is a tidy striker with good techniques and some leg kicks too, but a fantastic gas tank and really good takedowns too.
This was just a weird fight to make in the first place considering their recent records, but it’s also one of those that is quite lopsided stylistically too. Tybura can piece him up on the feet or take him down and land ground and pound to get a comfortable win. PICK – Marcin Tybura via Decision
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (11-2) vs Augusto Sakai (15-2-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight main event that sets up the cushion for those in the heavyweight title picture as Jairzinho Rozenstruik takes on Augusto Sakai. Rozenstruik is 1-2 in his last three, getting starched by Francis Ngannou before a big win over Junior Dos Santos and defeat to Ciryl Gane most recently. Sakai had won six-in-a-row before his last fight, getting knocked out and dominated by Alistair Overeem.
Rozenstruik is an excellent, technical kickboxer with some legitimate one-punch knockout power in his arsenal too. Sakai is also a big, powerful striker and his biggest problems have come against guys who have grappled him and closed the distance. Rozenstruik won’t do that, but he’s without doubt the more technical striker of the two and I’d argue he has the power advantage too.
Both of these guys have big power but while I’m not totally sold on Rozenstruik as a top level guy in this division, he is better than Sakai for me and I expect him to get a spectacular knockout win here once again. PICK – Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Knockout, Round 3