Jack Della Maddalena (12-2) vs Danny Roberts (18-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Potentially the fight of the night opens up the main card here. Maddalena is on a 12-fight win streak after losing his first two professional bouts, earning first-round knockouts over Pete Rodriguez (UFC 270) and Ramazan Emeev (UFC 275) to date in the UFC. Roberts returned from a two-year layoff to defeat Emeev back in October 2021, but lost to Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 274 via decision last time out.
Maddalena is a tremendous boxer with unbelievable power in his hands, earning 11 finishes in his last 12 fights which were all victories. He’s got an excellent kicking game too, to go with a pressure that exhausts his opponents. Roberts is a decent kickboxer himself too, but he has a lack of volume. He usually makes up for that with his decent wrestling game though, and his grappling is decent too earning him five tap out wins in the past.
But this seems like a bit of a set up fight for Maddalena. Roberts is a fighter who always brings it, and his name is probably bigger than his abilities. Maddalena is going to push forward, land lots of power shots and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see him just melt Roberts as the fight goes on before landing a nasty shot to earn the win. PICK – Jack Della Maddalena via Knockout, Round 2
Andre Fialho (16-5) vs Muslim Salikhov (18-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Another really exciting welterweight scrap up next between two guys who love to strike. Fialho is 2-2 in the UFC, losing to Michel Pereira (UFC 270) before knocking out Miguel Baeza and Cameron VanCamp (UFC 274). He was KO’d himself last time out though by Jake Matthews at UFC 275. Salikhov saw a five-fight win streak snapped last time out against Li Jingliang, with “The Leech” KO’ing him with strikes in the second round.
Fialho is a powerful boxer, who walks forward like Terminator and lands lots of power shots while being willing to take some of his own too. There is a decent kicking game in him too, but his game leans quite heavily on his boxing skills. Salikhov is a sambo world champion, with phenomenal kung-fu skills including spinning attacks and distance management. He lacks real power in those strikes though, without a KO win since 2019.
This is a battle of technique vs power, but on this occasion I expect power to come out on top. Fialho isn’t short of technique and after Salikhov got put out last time out, he’ll want to test the chin. Fialho is likely to come forward and close the distance to limit the kicks of Salikhov and eventually I expect him to back him against the cage and start landing big shots before the referee steps in. PICK – Andre Fialho via Knockout, Round 2
Chase Sherman (16-10) vs Waldo Cortes-Acosta (8-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys step up to the plate once again in this one in an interesting fight. Sherman has lost four of his last five, snapping a losing streak by claiming a KO win over Jared Vanderaa most recently back in July. Cortes-Acosta made his UFC debut just a couple of weeks ago, beating Vanderaa too via unanimous decision.
Both of these guys are your typical heavyweight scrappers, with Sherman having a decent leg kick to go with his overhand right while Cortes-Acosta is simply a boxer in an MMA cage. Sherman is also good with his elbows and his cardio is decent, but Cortes-Acosta definitely has the power edge here.
Neither of these guys are tearing up any trees in the UFC any time soon, but the low kicks are almost certainly going to play a big part here. Cortes-Acosta has good combinations with his striking and decent body work, but the experience of Sherman added on to those leg kicks means he should claim the win. PICK – Chase Sherman via Decision
Kennedy Nzechukwu (10-3) vs Ion Cutelaba (16-8-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Fun light heavyweight scrap up next in the co-main event. Nzechukwu is 2-2 in his last four with knockout wins over Danilo Marques and Karl Roberson either side of defeats to Da Un Jung and Nicolae Negemereanu. Cutelaba has just one win in his last six (1-4-1), losing each of his last two via submission to Ryan Spann and Johnny Walker most recently.
Nzechukwu is a pressure fighter with good Muay-Thai skills in the clinch and big power in his hands, but his takedown defence leaves plenty to be desired and is a big hole in his game. Cutelaba alternatively is a seriously impressive wrestler with scary power in his hands, but absolutely no fight IQ whatsoever and a lack of ability to pace himself while going in with crazy aggression. Both of these fighters have flaws where the other has strengths, which makes this a hard fight to pick.
Cutelaba has just struggled once too many in fights that he’s supposed to win for me to pick him. He has the big advantage in wrestling for sure, but his will to always go at 100 mph means if he doesn’t get it done early then he will burn out. Nzechukwu may not be able to cope with the early blitz, but his ability to be able to push a pace and retain his power late leads me to think he survives that initial blast from “Hulk” and puts him away later in the bout with combinations against the cage. PICK – Kennedy Nzechukwu via Knockout, Round 3
Derrick Lewis (26-10) vs Serghei Spivac (15-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights step up in the main event of this one as they look to put together a run for a potential title run in 2023. Lewis has lost three of his last four, getting KO’d by Ciryl Gane (UFC 265), Tai Tuivasa (UFC 271) and Sergei Pavlovich (UFC 277) with a KO win of his own against Chris Daukaus coming in the middle of that. Spivac on the other hand has won his last two after defeat to Tom Aspinall, KO’ing Greg Hardy and UFC 272 before a KO win against Augusto Sakai most recently in August.
Lewis is the scariest puncher in UFC history, with the record for the most knockout wins in the organisation’s history. He has also got much improved takedown defence in recent years, although his chin isn’t great and his cardio still lets him down at times. Spivac is a grappler who looks to wrestle and use his size to wear on his opponents although his striking has been improving in recent bouts, but he will almost certainly reset to default here.
The blueprint to beat Lewis has been there for years – take him down or overwhelm him with volume. Spivac is capable of doing both of those things, but he’s never fought someone who can put his lights out with one punch like Lewis can. He will know that Spivac wants to take him down and much like when he fought Curtis Blaydes, he will be loading up that uppercut. He’s never fought a five-round bout before and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spivac just wrestle and grapple for 25 minutes, I think Lewis gets back in the win column with a nasty knockout early on. PICK – Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2
The UFC heads to Singapore for only the fifth time ever for UFC 275 this weekend as we’re treated to two huge title fights in the main events.
Glover Teixeira will defend the light heavyweight title for the first time when he takes on Jiri Prochazka in the headline fight, while Valentina Shevchenko will defend her flyweight title for the seventh time against first-time challenger Taila Santos.
We’ll also see the hotly anticipated rematch between Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk as well as the likes of Manel Kape, Brendan Allen and Andre Fialho competing too.
We come into this card after a small break from picks. We sit at 634/987 (64.24%) with 272 perfect picks (42.9%) and you can see our total picks list here.
Jack Della Maddalena (11-2) vs Ramazan Emeev (20-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A really, really fun 170-pound scrap to open up this main card. Maddalena lost his first two professional fights but has gone unbeaten ever since, KO’ing Pete Rodriguez in his UFC debut at UFC 270 earlier this year. Emeev on the other hand is a decision machine, but was on the wrong end of a split decision against Danny Roberts last time out back in October.
Maddalena is a striking expert with a switch stance that allows him to throw power from both sides and with his hands and kicks. Emeev on the hand is a typical Dagestani fighter, with wrestling primarily and a strength that means he can hold people down and bore them into defeat. It’s a complete clash of styles and fans will be hopeful that Maddalena wins, because it means excitement.
Emeev will undoubtedly look for takedowns and use his heavy top pressure to keep the fight there for as long as possible, but he does very little damage while in that position. Maddalena will want to land heavy while standing but will know he’s still in the fight so long as the clock is ticking. Emeev’s takedown entries get worse as the fight wears on and by the time the third comes around he’s shattered, and Maddalena is the type to be able to punish him with just one opportunity. PICK – Jack Della Maddalena via Knockout, Round 3
Rogerio Bontorin (16-4) vs Manel Kape (17-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Very exciting flyweight bout on the main card heading towards the top of the rankings. Bontorin has lost three of his last four, with one no contest in the middle of that, to be winless since way back in 2019. Kape suffered defeat in his first two UFC fights due to a lack of volume, but earned a highlight reel KO over Ode Osbourne at UFC 265 before a brilliant KO over Zhalgas Zhumagulov most recently at UFC Vegas 44.
Bontorin is a well-rounded fighter who has solid striking and great wrestling to use his solid submission game which has earned him 11 wins via tap out throughout his career. Kape on the other hand is an explosive striker who uses low kicks and movement before exploding with blitzes of strikes to hurt his opponents. His wrestling defence hasn’t been great in the UFC but in a fight that could be chaotic, it could really suit him.
Kape will want to get into exchanges to use his amazing hand speed and land first, but Bontorin will be aware of that and will look to get in close and grapple. Kape is a great scrambler though and their recent fights show Kape is adjusting well while Bontorin is struggling. Expect a close fight, but Kape to land the more eye-catching shots to earn the decision. PICK – Manel Kape via Decision
Andre Fialho (16-4) vs Jake Matthews (17-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute banger at welterweight in this one. Fialho appears on his third card in three months after KO wins over Miguel Baeza and then Cameron VanCamp, while Matthews makes his first appearance in 15 months after suffering defeat to Sean Brady at UFC 259 in his most recent bout.
Fialho is a terrific boxer who uses great power and positioning to outstrike opponents and while he has good grappling defence, he tends to try and keep fights standing. Matthews on the other hand looks to take his opponents down and implement his fearsome top game with relentless pressure and good wrestling. This one boils down to who wins the battle of where the fight will take place, and usually I’d back the wrestler.
But the Portuguese fighter showed against Stefan Sekulic that he is more than capable of defending himself in those positions and he has a nasty set of hooks that could catch Matthews out if he drops his hands for a takedown. Momentum is a big thing in fighting, so I’m leaning towards the power of Fialho to claim the win. PICK – Andre Fialho via Knockout, Round 2
Zhang Weili (21-3) vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
The greatest fight in women’s MMA history gets a rematch. Zhang Weili earned a win over Jedrzejczyk in their first bout back at UFC 248, but suffered back-to-back defeats to Rose Namajunas at UFC 261 and UFC 268 most recently while Joanna hasn’t fought since their first fight.
Weili is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with tremendous power in her hands, great speed and some great wrestling too to be able to mix it up. Jedrzejczyk on the other hand is one of the finest kickboxers in WMMA history who has got very good wrestling defence too. The first fight was splitting hairs to decide a winner but I don’t expect this second bout to be as close.
Jedrzejczyk has been away for over two years enjoying the fruits of her labour, while Weili has been learning from defeats and getting better. She has the hands and striking to be able to stand with Joanna if needs be, but I expect her to be more wrestling heavy this time around and even get a finish to earn the next title shot. PICK – Weili Zhang via Knockout, Round 2
Valentina Shevchenko (22-3) vs Taila Santos (19-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
‘Bullet’ Valentina wants to make a statement but there is a Brazilian who wants to spoil the party. Shevchenko is on an eight-fight win streak and looking to defend her title for the 7th time, after a KO win over Lauren Murphy at UFC 266 most recently. Santos lost her UFC debut but has won her last four in a row, picking up a dominant submission win over Joanne Wood last time out.
Shevchenko may be the most complete MMA fighter in the world, male or female, with amazing grappling combined with next level striking skills and knockout power. Santos however has shown a tremendously complete game herself with vicious knockout power, good wrestling skills and some jiu-jitsu also. Stylistically these two are very similar, but from what we’ve seen of them both Shevchenko is simply a level or two above everyone in her weight class.
Santos has made it clear that she plans to grapple her way to victory and Jennifer Maia showed there is a path there, but this is a huge step up in competition. Shevchenko tends to dictate the tempo of fights and as good as I believe Santos is, it’s nigh on impossible to pick against Shevchenko. I think it’ll be tougher than some of her more recent defences though, and I think it goes the distance. PICK – Valentina Shevchenko via Decision
Glover Teixeira (33-7) vs Jiri Prochazka (28-3-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Light heavyweight needs a big boost and this title fight could be exactly what the division needs as the championship is on the line. Teixeira is on a six-fight win streak and fights for the first time since submitting Jan Blachowicz to win the belt at UFC 267, while Prochazka makes his third UFC appearance after separating both Volkan Oezdemir (UFC 251) and Dominick Reyes (UFC Vegas 25) from their consciousness in his first two.
The champ is a brilliant boxer who uses great combinations to open up the chance for takedowns, where he can use his incredible jiu-jitsu skills and dominate the fight on the ground. Prochazka on the other hand is a violent striker who is every bit a sibling of the Terminator, walking through shots to inflict damage and having crazy show-stopping power. He has notoriously struggled against takedown artists in his career though, and that could be a problem.
However, despite that, Teixeira is 42-years-old and a lot of his most recent wins have come after being hurt by heavy-handed punchers. Prochazka will know that every fight starts standing and will force Teixeira backwards to try and shunt any takedown threat. If he gets taken down it will be a huge problem, but I expect him to slump the champ before that happens and claim a violent finish to become champion. PICK – Jiri Prochazka via Knockout, Round 2
Jasmine Jasudavicius def Kay Hansen via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Hansen shoots in for a takedown immediately as the fight starts and both women clinch against the cage fighting for position. Jasudavicius is able to defend and looks for a right hand on the break but misses. Hansen trying to box from the outside but Jasudavicius the longer fighter and able to land her jab well. Lovely slip and left hook from Hansen lands, then she changes levels looking for a takedown but Jasudavicius defends it really well. Clinch against the cage and then Hansen gets tripped and ends up on her back with Jasudavicius in her guard. Big elbow lands from Jasudavicius but Hansen is looking for something from her back. She kicks her off but Jasudavicius lands a big elbow on the ground before the round ends. 10-9 Jasudavicius.
Jasudavicius throws a kick early doors which Hansen catches and is able to trip her down. She looks to move straight into mount, but Jasudavicius sweeps her and ends up on top herself and is landing some big shots against the cage. Hansen is looking for armbars but is eating big elbows to the face. Jasudavicius controlling the position on top but not much happening and the referee stands them up. Hansen catches another kick but doesn’t get her down, then throws a big spinning elbow and then shoots in for a takedown but Jasudavicius defends it brilliantly and reverses the position against the cage. After some grinding against the cage Jasudavicius gets another takedown with 10 seconds left to take the round. 20-18.
Nice exchange of right hands between the two ladies at the start of the round as Hansen tries to close the distance. Jasudavicius fakes a takedown and lands a nice left hand, before Hansen fires back with a crisp right hook that lands clean. She’s landing well on the feet despite being smaller, but Jasudavicius lands her jab well too in return. Beautiful left hand lands from Hansen but Jasudavicius eats it and continues to come forward. Hansen having the better of the fight on the feet but she needs a finish. Final 90 seconds and they trade big strikes, before another left hook from Hansen. Jasudavicius just misses with a left high kick, then Hansen lands a big elbow and a left hand. Jasudavicius gets hold of Hansen and lands some big knees in a Thai clinch for the final ten seconds. 29-28 Jasudavicius for me.
Lots of forward movement early on from Demopoulos, but Juarez moves away relatively easily and lands a bomb of a right hand. Hard low kicks land from Demopoulos but then Juarez lands another huge overhand right that drops her! She moves in for ground and pound and lands some heavy shots but Demopoulos manages to control her posture on the ground and cover up. Demopoulos starts looking for an armbar and is threatening hard with it. She sweeps Juarez from the bottom with the arm locked up and gets the tap! What a brilliant comeback win!
Matt Frevola def Genaro Valdez via Knockout, Round 1 (3:15)
High pace to start this one as Frevola goes high with a kick that just misses before both guys start swinging from the hip. Hard low kick from Frevola lands but both guys land with big right hands. Frevola pushing forward and lands a big right hand that wobbles Valdez! He drops him and then goes for ground and pound but Valdez keeps going. They get back to the feet and Frevola lands another hard right that drops him again! Valdez goes for a left hand that lands but Frevola too powerful now and knocks him down again! Valdez trying to defend himself but Frevola starts landing big knees up the middle. Huge strikes again from Frevola and Valdez goes down again but the referee still letting it go. Frevola takes his back instead, moves into mount and starts raining down punches and forces the referee to stop the fight! Wow, what a crazy fight! Huge win for Frevola!
Tony Gravely def Saimon Oliveira via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very fast start to this fight as Oliveira throws a high kick and then a big flying knee as Gravely moves in for a takedown. Oliveira sweeps and gets on top and looks for a guillotine and it’s in deep, but Gravely is gutting it out and trying to lift the hips to ease the pressure. He pops his head out and lands some big ground strikes before controlling position from the top. Oliveira works his way back up to his feet and looks for a guillotine again, but Gravely steps behind him and takes him back down to the ground. Oliveira works his way back up again but Gravely throwing short combinations then shoots for a takedown again. Oliveira goes for another guillotine, but Gravely takes him down again and should take the round. 10-9.
Second round and Gravely immediately comes in for a takedown and gets it. Oliveira threatens with a kimura from the bottom but Gravely denies it and steps in. Good pressure again, but Oliveira lands a big left hook before Gravely goes for a takedown and denies another guillotine attempt. Gravely steps in and changes levels with an excellent takedown again and passes into half-guard immediately as Oliveira looks to throw elbows from the bottom. Gravely landing some big shots from top position but Oliveira eats them to get back to his feet, then starts throwing some hard elbows to force a break. Gravely taking Oliveira down whenever he wants now and landing heavy shots to end the round. 20-18 Gravely.
Oliveira comes storming out wildly but Gravely immediately goes to his wrestling to get a takedown and fight off another guillotine choke attempt. Oliveira throwing short elbows from the bottom but Gravely controlling the position well. Oliveira works his way back up to the feet, before Gravely goes for the takedown once again and successfully stops any momentum. Once again Oliveira goes for a guillotine but Gravely defends it easily and lands some solid ground and pound too. Oliveira works his way back up once more but Gravely lands a nice right hook as we enter the final minute. Exchange of strikes and Gravely lands a big uppercut that wobbles Oliveira. Spinning back elbow from Oliveira and a big knee but Gravely takes him down. Back up and a big knee from Gravely lands followed by a left hook before the round ends. 30-27 Gravely, great fight.
Jack Della Maddalena def Pete Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 1 (2:59)
Good pace to this fight early on as Maddalena applying pressure and stepping forward. Maddalena using his jab brilliantly but Rodriguez is responding with decent combinations of his own, including a nice left uppercut. Maddalena’s jab is picking Rodriguez apart and has busted his nose up bad. Maddalena lands a right hand, then follows it with a brilliant combination that rocks Rodriguez! Big left hand lands and drops Rodriguez and he follows it up with two shots on the ground to end the fight! What a performance from Maddalena.
Victor Henry def Raoni Barcelos via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very even start to the fight as both guys trade singular shots while they look for range and movement. Barcelos lands a nice left hand then follows up with a beautiful combination that lands heavy on Henry. Henry throws a body kick but Barcelos side steps and lands a nice counter right. Big uppercut from Barcelos and a quick one-two lands, then he just misses with a big right hook. Henry lands a big left hand and Barcelos shoots, but Henry stuffs it and eats two big punches. Henry stepping forward now and he’s landed some big strikes too on the chin. Barcelos takes his head off the centre line and lands a big left hand, but Henry comes forward again. Barcelos landing heavy strikes but Henry still coming and lands some big shots of his own. Barcelos trips him to get a takedown but lets him back up immediately and Henry hurts him with a left hand. He rushes forward to clinch and lands some big punches before the round ends. 10-9 Barcelos, but momentum with Henry.
Henry keeping the pace very high at the start of the second after noticing Barcelos fade. Barcelos lands a nice combination, but Henry throwing kicks and then he lands a nice left hook. Nice double jab from Barcelos and after some more soft touches, Barcelos lands a big, hard one-two. Barcelos starting to land heavy again with some nice combinations but Henry is still right there. Two big right hands from Henry land but Barcelos responds with a very good combination in close. Barcelos catches a kick and goes for a trip takedown, but Henry gets back up immediately and they go back to trading. Big head kick just misses from Barcelos as the buzzer goes. 19-19? It’s very close.
Final round and Henry is working some heavy body kicks while Barcelos looking to land big punches to counter it. Both men are landing heavy strikes but neither going anywhere. Barcelos is fading and Henry is just continuing to come forward. Henry starting to land clean strikes on the chin and Barcelos is reacting. Henry looking for a finish but Barcelos clinches and Henry looks for a takedown. Hard knees to the back of the leg from Barcelos before he explodes out and lands some huge strikes on Henry. Left hand wobbles Henry but he’s still there and fights back himself to end the round and surely claim the win. 29-28 Henry for me.
Michael Morales def Trevin Giles via Knockout, Round 1 (4:06)
Three hard low kicks from Giles to open the round and Morales hasn’t checked any of them. Morales throws one back but then Giles throws another and then drops him with a huge one two! Morales recovers quickly and clinches, but Giles uses his strength and drags him down to the mat. Giles moves towards an arm triangle submission but Morales sweeps him brilliantly to end up on top, although Giles is able to scramble back to his feet quickly. Morales throws a big counter right hand and lands clean and Giles is hurt! Morales follows up with huge strikes and follows up with heavy ground and pound to force the referee to step in and stop the fight! Big performance from Morales, what a win!
Said Nurmagomedov def Cody Stamann via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (0:47)
Nurmagomedov comes out fast and aggressive early on with strikes including a spinning back fist and spinning back side kick. Stamann shoots in for a takedown immediately because he doesn’t like that and Nurmagomedov grabs the neck quickly. He locks in a high-elbow grip, rolls through and secures the tap out! Wow! What a performance.
Michel Pereira def Andre Fialho via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Fialho as he takes the centre immediately and throws a nice combination. Fialho goes for a wheel kick but misses, before Pereira throws a big body kick and then a huge combination after kicking off the cage. Nice jab from Fialho lands and makes Pereira stumble back against the cage, then another lands flush too. Nice overhand right from Pereira lands but Fialho eats it then steps forward, feints, and lands a beautiful combo flush on the chin. Pereira responds with a couple of big shots too but Fialho has been excellent so far. Fialho coming forward and the jab is landing beautifully, before Pereira goes for a takedown and sees it stuffed. Big overhand right from Pereira lands but then he slips and Fialho ends the round on top landing some nice ground and pound. 10-9 Fialho.
Second round and Pereira has scaled back the wacky explosions and has gone back to fundamentals, and is doing well. Big left jab to the body and right overhand lands, Big combination and Fialho is rocked. Pereira goes for a flying knee but misses before landing a crazy body kick and a front flip lariat. Hard strikes land from Pereira, but Fialho responds with some big strikes himself. Big wheel kick misses again from Pereira, but then the hard front kick to the body lands. Pereira clinches and throws knees to the body, but Fialho lands some hard uppercuts at the same time. Pereira continuing to throw front kicks to the body, and mixing it up with hard right hands. Fialho counters with a right hand of his own as Pereira scores a takedown with 20 seconds to go. 19-19, great recovery.
Fialho continuing to come forward in this final round but Pereira seems to have figured him out and is now landing hard low kicks. Nice combination from Pereira, before he shoots for a takedown but doesn’t get it. Fialho forces Pereira backwards with strikes but then he replies with an explosive right hand. Pereira chopping away at the body but Fialho not going anywhere and landing his jab well. Pereira getting in and out with his strikes, but Fialho is still there and is landing really well. Pereira goes for one of those body kicks but gets it a bit low and there’s a pause in the action. Crazy exchanges to see the round out from both guys, but Pereira should claim the victory.
Deiveson Figueiredo def Brandon Moreno via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x3)
Hard low kick from Figueiredo early on, but when he goes for a second Moreno avoids it and chases him looking for a strike. Clinch against the cage forces a stalemate for about a minute, before they break and Moreno just misses with a left hook. Hard low kick from Figueiredo sits Moreno down but he bounces back up quickly. Another hard low kick from Figueiredo and then Moreno lands a hard right hand that seems to hurt Figueiredo. The Brazilian changes levels and drags Moreno down with a takedown and transitions to the back, but Moreno scrambles up to his feet quickly. Spinning low kick hurts Figueiredo’s leg but he lands a nice right hand before the buzzer ends the round. 10-9 Figueiredo, just.
Moreno coming forward well in this second round and he looks confident and calm. Figueiredo lands a right hand, then goes for a body kick but Moreno catches it and tries to drop him to the ground but they immediately scramble back up to the feet. Moreno starting to throw his own low kicks and both guys are looking to counter the other as it stands. Moreno steps in and lands a nice left hook to the body before a left to the chin, before Figueiredo changes levels and grabs a leg but misses with the big right hand. Nice combination to the body from Figueiredo, but Moreno fires back with a left hand. Figueiredo throws a big right hand that hurts Moreno, but the champ returns with a shot of his own that hurts Figueiredo. Both guys just miss with a head kick and the buzzer goes. 19-19.
Both fighters land a left hook early, before Moreno charges in with a knee but gets taken down. He gets to the cage and gets back to his feet while preventing Figueiredo from taking his back. Low kick each to add to the damage, before a left hand makes Moreno stumble! Moreno responds with a right hand that makes him wobble too, then they exchange big strikes again that make each other stumble. Hard low kick from Figueiredo but Moreno lands a few big strikes again that keep Figueiredo on the back foot. Another hard leg kick forces Moreno to the ground, before he throws a big combo that sees a left hand land on the chin of Figueiredo. Heavy left hand from Figueiredo lands but Moreno returns fire with the same strike himself. Head kick from Moreno is partially blocked. Figueiredo lands a huge right hand that drops Moreno! He sinks in a guillotine choke but the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 29-28 Fig.
Hard low kick again from Figueiredo and Moreno is hurting. Moreno throws a couple of low kicks himself and gets a reaction from Figueiredo, but Fig taking the centre. Hard low kick from Moreno puts Figueiredo down to one knee but he bounces back up immediately. Figueiredo just misses with a left hook and right cross, before a body lock and clinch against the cage as he looks for a takedown. Moreno scrambles out and starts throwing big flurries, with a left hook landing well. Hard body kick from Moreno, but Figueiredo returns it. Round ends with little action, got to give it to Moreno. 38-38.
Some good distance management early on from both guys before Moreno steps in and gets a takedown. Figueiredo uses his butterfly guard to elevate Moreno and scramble back to his feet quickly though. Nice left hand from Moreno lands, before a hook to the body too. Great slip from Moreno as he avoids Figueiredo’s strike and lands a strong left hand. Big right hand from Figueiredo lands and he drops Moreno! Moreno responds with a nice left hand, before Figueiredo lands a head kick. Both guys land a flush one-two. Final 30 seconds and both guys just start swinging for the fences, with both guys landing clean and both getting hurt. Amazing fight. 48-47 Fig for me, but no complaints if it goes the other way.
Francis Ngannou def Ciryl Gane via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x2, 49-46)
Ngannou takes the centre immediately and Gane bounces on the outside, before shooting in for a takedown but Ngannou defends it well. Ngannou clinches well against Gane and then Gane looks for an upwards elbow. Ngannou lands a big right hook and uppercut, but Gane avoids the big actions and steps away. Spinning kick to the body lands for Gane, and then he moves side-to-side and lands a nice jab too. Ngannou staying very calm so far and then clinching against the cage, landing a big knee to the body. Gane switches the position and lands a knee of his own, before Gane throws a nice body shot. Gane lands a push kick to the body and the round ends. 10-9 Gane.
Slow start to the round from both guys, as Gane throws a front leg side kick to the body. Nice low kicks from Gane and a jab, but the round has been very slow so far. Gane throws a big body shot and hook that lands well, but Ngannou relaxed and eats them. Ngannou misses with a big right hand but they clinch and Gane separates easily. Ngannou throws the one-two and just misses, but Gane responds with a spinning heel-kick that lands well. Gane is basically fighting at walking pace right now, in complete control while Ngannou is barely throwing. Hard body kick lands from Ngannou as we head into the final 30 seconds. Gane throws a right hand and Ngannou replies with an uppercut that lands, but not flush. Gane bounces around the outside to see out the round. 20-18.
Gane very relaxed for the opening minute as he moves around on the outside before throwing a kick that Ngannou catches and he slams him to the mat! Ngannou in side control looking to control the position but Gane does well to get out. Ngannou takes the back and lands some good shots in the ground and pound but Gane gets back up and they separate. Big spinning elbow from Gane on the break lands but Gane then steps back and steps in with a big double leg takedown. Gane goes for a kimura but Ngannou defends it well and ends the round on top. 29-28.
Gane showing his gas tank is nowhere near empty with good movement again, as Ngannou holds the centre and moves slowly. Gane walking around with his hands low, landing short leg kicks before Ngannou throws a hard body kick. He gets a body lock and spins to get Gane down to the mat. Gane trying to keep wrist control but gives it up and throws a short elbow, with Ngannou looking for ground and pound. Another takedown from Ngannou as he looks to move into full mount, but Gane manages to roll out. Ngannou gets him against the cage and lands a big knee to the chest before ending the round on top. What a combeack this is. 38-38, final round.
Gane comes out with leg kicks again and just misses with a big overhand right. Big left hand from Gane lands but Ngannou still in the centre and eats it. Gane changes levels and gets a single leg takedown, but Ngannou tries to get back up. Gane goes for a leg attack and Ngannou manages to get on top instead! Gane rolls it back through and torques for a heel hook but he can’t get it and now Ngannou gets back on top. Ngannou in half-guard and stalling the position as we enter the final minute. Gane can’t work any offense from the bottom and Ngannou is controlling the position. Ngannou looks for ground and pound to end the round and he’s surely taken the decision victory! 48-47 Ngannou.
The first pay-per-view of the year brings us two huge title fights in the smallest and biggest weights available to the men.
In the main event of the night Francis Ngannou will take on former teammate and interim champion Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title of the world, while the co-main will see the trilogy between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo for the flyweight title.
Tony Gravely (21-7) vs Saimon Oliveira (18-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Banger at bantamweight closes out the early prelims. Gravely suffered defeat in his last outing, getting knocked out by Nate Manness at UFC Vegas 37. Oliveira on the other hand is currently on a five-fight win streak with four finishes, with his last win coming via split decision on the Contender Series.
Gravely is a boxer primarily, who uses those strikes to get a takedown and then work his excellent grappling skills on the ground. Oliveira is a Muay-Thai fighter with crisp striking, but exciting submission skills with 11 tap-out wins in his career. This is the type of fight that will be won by the guy with the better gas tank and that makes it a really tough pick. Gravely struggled with his cardio in his last fight and ended up getting KO’d, something Oliveira is more than capable of doing too.
But when you look at Oliveira’s last fight, it showed that he is open to being taken down himself because he throws naked kicks and can blitz into distance relatively recklessly. Gravely will eat those takedown opportunities up and with his ability to control on the ground, he should be able to secure enough of a gap to earn a decision win. PICK – Tony Gravely via Decision
Jack Della Maddalena (10-2) vs Pete Rodriguez (4-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An intriguing bout between UFC debutants in this one. Maddalena is on a ten-fight win streak after losing his first two professional bouts, while Rodriguez is 4-0 and looking to make a big impression in the organisation after stepping in on a little over one week’s notice.
Maddalena is a seriously powerful striker with eight knockout victories in his career, with decent grappling too and an ability to get himself through deep waters and come out on the other side. Rodriguez on the other hand has got less than five minutes of professional cage time to his name, but they’ll all ended via knockout in his favour. He’s got genuine power in his hands and good boxing skills, but this seems like a big step up on such short notice.
Maddalena is a legit talent with a budding reputation, and he’s coming into this off a full camp for a fight against a much tougher opponent. Rodriguez has a real power puncher’s chance, but the likelihood of this fight going any way other than Maddalena putting on a clinic before securing a big knockout victory for himself. PICK – Jack Della Maddalena via Knockout, Round 2
Raoni Barcelos (16-2) vs Victor Henry (21-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights on the entire card here and my pick for fight of the night. Barcelos saw a nine-fight win streak snapped last time out when Timur Valiev earned a majority decision win at UFC Vegas 30, while Henry makes his UFC debut after winning nine of his last ten fights.
Barcelos is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with brilliant boxing skills, fearsome leg kicks and a brilliant Brazilian jiu-jitsu game on the mat that has earned him ten stoppage wins in his career. Henry on the other hand is a decent wrestler himself with good power in his hands and some fine grappling himself to earn 14 stoppage wins in his career. Unfortunately for him, he’s outmatched everywhere in this fight in all honesty.
Henry has been beaten up on the feet by worse fighters, taken down by worse wrestlers and dominated on the ground by lesser grapplers. Barcelos has never really had a problem with his gas tank and while Henry has never been stopped, that comes to an end this weekend. PICK – Raoni Barcelos via Knockout, Round 2
Ilia Topuria (11-0) vs Charles Jourdain (12-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An exciting short-notice featherweight bout headlines the prelims section of this card. Undefeated Ilia Topuria is 11-0 with a hugely impressive KO win over Ryan Hall at UFC 264 last time out. Jourdain steps in on short notice after a decision win at UFC Vegas 45 against Andre Ewell last time out.
Topuria is a supremely talented striker with excellent boxing skills and some solid kicks too, all to go with some great power. But before that, he’s a super grappler with nasty submission skills and great wrestling. Jourdain on the other hand looks to bring blood and thunder to every fight and apply pressure on his opponents. He loves to throw flurries and has some good flying knees, but ultimately if Topuria gets hold of him on the ground it’s a long day.
On the feet it’s a 50/50 fight, but because Topuria has the ability to be able to take this down relatively quickly and just dominate on the ground he is likely to get the win here. Jourdain will put up a fight for sure, but Topuria will wrap up the neck eventually and continue to move up towards a number next to his name. PICK – Ilia Topuria via Submission, Round 2