Dustin Jacoby (18-5-1) vs Khalil Rountree Jr (11-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Some brilliant kickboxers go head to head here. Jacoby is unbeaten in his last nine, with eight wins and a draw including winning his last four in a row. Rountree has won his last two, snapping Modestas Bukauskas’ ACL before smoking Karl Roberson back in March.
Jacoby is a legitimate kickboxer with elite striking skills to get in and out of range, while landing great boxing combinations at the same time too. Rountree is a striker too who’s performance blow from hot to cold and back again at the drop of a hat. You never know what you’re going to get from him, apart from lots of kicks and a solid clinch game.
With that said though, you surely have to go with the fighter who is consistently at a good level whether in victory or defeat. It’s been a long time since Jacoby lost a fight and that’s because he comes in and fights to his plan perfectly with great execution. His power and height advantage could play a big part too, despite a slightly shorter reach, so go with Jacoby on the cards. PICK – Dustin Jacoby via Decision
Josh Fremd (9-3) vs Tresean Gore (4-2) – (Middleweight/185llbs)
Ultimate Fighter finalist returns to the octagon in this one. Fremd suffered defeat in his UFC debut to Anthony Hernandez back at UFC 273, while Gore’s first two trips to the octagon ended in defeat when he lost to Bryan Battle via decision and then got knocked out by Cody Brundage most recently.
Gore is a decent striker with some good kickboxing and excellent power, but he’s incredibly green in the MMA game and he’s been shown up on the UFC stage so far. Fremd is a volume heavy fighter who thrives in chaos, and also has some decent grappling in his back pocket if he needs to use it. This is a bit of an odd bout though on paper.
Fremd can make this a horrible fight for Gore if he uses his cardio and chaos, but if it’s a tidy, technical bout then Gore should be able to win this relatively comfortably. An uptick in volume, plus his added size and good power has me leaning his way but this really is last chance saloon for Gore. PICK – Tresean Gore via Knockout, Round 1
Waldo Cortes-Acosta (7-0) vs Jared Vanderaa (12-9) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys back in the cage now. Cortes-Acosta is an undefeated fighter making his UFC debut after a first-round knockout win on Dana Whites’ Contender Series back in August. Vanderaa is a UFC veteran on the other hand, who has lost five of his last six including his last four against Alexander Romanov, Andrei Arlovski, Alexei Oleinik and Chase Sherman.
Acosta is an absolute powerhouse with good boxing and a huge overhand right that can turn the lights out in an instant. There’s also a bit of wrestling there too which can see him be content on the ground, but he wants the fight on the feet. Vanderaa on the other hand is a fighter who likes to mix in his big strikes with wrestling and grappling as a jiu-jitsu guy, but he tends to just stand and that gets him in a lot of trouble.
This is a very strange fight at a very strange spot on the card. With Vanderaa’s recent performances and results, it seems like a bit of a setup fight for Cortes-Acosta. A former pro boxer, he will be very happy with this matchmaking and I expect him to land a nasty combination to end the night early and make a statement. PICK – Waldo Cortes-Acosta via Knockout, Round 1
Tim Means (32-13-1) vs Max Griffin (18-9) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger of a bout at welterweight that could really take the shine off the main event. Means was on a three-fight win streak before being submitted by Kevin Holland most recently in June, while Griffin had the same before Neil Magny beat him in March.
Means is a technical striker with good boxing skills and a decent wrestling game too, while Griffin in a well-rounded fighter with really good wrestling to go with his striking skills. This is a fight between two guys who are incredibly well matched and have a very similar skillset that could go either way in reality. Means is 38 now though and past his best, so Griffin will be confident that he can get the job done.
Expect that Griffin will come forward and meet him in the middle to land good striking combinations and mix in his takedowns. Means will no doubt be able to hold his own and compete in this fight, but the age difference is big and Griffin should be a bit quicker and more eye-catching to earn the win on the cards. PICK – Max Griffin via Decision
Calvin Kattar (23-6) vs Arnold Allen (18-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
What. A. Fight. Kattar bounced back from a horror loss to Max Holloway (UFC Fight Island 7) by destroying Giga Chikadze at UFC Vegas 46, but then dropped a split decision to Josh Emmett most recently. Allen on the other hand is undefeated in the UFC with an 8-0 record and made a huge statement with a first-round knockout over Dan Hooker at UFC London back in March in his last fight.
Kattar is one of the best pure strikers in the UFC with terrific boxing combinations and incredible power, while he loves to mix in elbow strikes and showed his wrestling credentials against Chikadze. Allen on the other hand is a fantastic wrestler with a great grappling game, but he also has super power in his hands and good kickboxing combinations too. These two guys are well-rounded, but this is Allen’s biggest step up in competition in this division.
“Almighty” beat Hooker with ease, but that was a depleted lightweight. Kattar has been at the top of the mountain against the very best guys and while we saw that he’s not of that calibre, he knows what it feels like. Allen is likely to use his wrestling more, rather than standing and striking with Kattar who will have the advantage there. It could go either way in reality, but momentum is huge in this sport and I think Allen can do enough damage and use his wrestling well enough to get the decision on the cards. PICK – Arnold Allen via Decision
The UFC returns to the Apex arena for another UFC Vegas card, headlined this time by huge lightweight contenders as Rafael Dos Anjos takes on Rafael Fiziev in the main event.
The number seven ranked 155-pounder takes on the number 11 ranked 155-pounder, but they’re backed up by a solid card this weekend including one UFC debutant and a list of experienced talent too.
Last time out at UFC 276 e went 8/11 (we don’t count no contests) with two perfect picks, moving us to 649/1009 (64.32%) with 279 perfect picks (42.99%). You can check out our total picks history here.
Michael Johnson (21-17) vs Jamie Mullarkey (14-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A banger at lightweight. Johnson snapped a four-fight losing streak with a huge knockout win over Alan Patrick in his most recent bout, while Mullarkey saw a two-fight win streak snapped when he was KO’d by Jalin Turner at UFC 272.
Johnson is a power puncher who has got an excellent wrestling background, but he uses speed and low kicks to set up his big overhand right and boxing combinations. Mullarkey alternatively is a brawler with incredible power and good combinations, but he also has the ability to mix in takedowns in his fights too. They’re similar stylistically, but at very different places in their careers.
Mullarkey should be very confident coming into this fight. Johnson is still a super powerful fighter but he’s not as quick as he once was and nowhere near as durable as he was. That means when they get into the exchanges in close quarters, Mullarkey will land flush and likely put Johnson down. From there I expect him to get the finish and likely put an end to The Menace’s career. PICK – Jamie Mullarkey via Knockout, Round 2
Cynthia Calvillo (9-4-1) vs Nina Nunes (10-7) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A fun flyweight bout up next in the final women’s bout of the night. Calvillo started her flyweight career with a win over Jessica Eye (UFC Vegas 2), but has since lost three in a row to Katlyn Chookagian (UFC 255) via decision and then getting KO’d by Jessica Andrade (UFC 266) and a corner stoppage at the end of the second round against Andrea Lee most recently. Nunes on the other hand has lost her last two, with an armbar defeat to Mackenzie Dern most recently in her first bout since becoming a mother.
Calvillo tends to use her striking to set up her wrestling, using her top game to stay heavy on the opponent and land ground and pound strikes. Nunes is an all-rounder who is capable of striking and using her grappling to win fights, but she lacks power and isn’t a natural grappler either.
With that said, Calvillo has really struggled in this weight class. Nunes’ footwork and speed is something that has caused Calvillo problems in previous bouts but Nunes was outwrestled most recently and Calvillo is a strong wrestler. Despite that though, I expect a Nunes win. Her strengths outweigh her weaknesses in relation to her opponent and she should be able to bounce around the cage enough to nullify the wrestling and land some solid strikes to earn the win. PICK – Nina Nunes via Decision
Jared Vanderaa (12-8) vs Chase Sherman (15-10) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights on losing streaks clash in this one. Vanderaa has lost his last three, getting KO’d by Alexandr Romanov, dropping a split decision to Andrei Arlovski (UFC 271) and getting submitted by Aleksei Oleinik (UFC 273). Sherman on the other hand has lost his last four, dropping decisions to Arlovski and Parker Porter before getting submitted by Jake Collier (UFC Vegas 46) and Romanov.
Vanderaa has a good mixture of grappling and striking, but it’s not at a high level. He tends to use volume more than power, while Sherman is your typical heavyweight who has a big right hand and does all he can to set it up. This won’t be an entertaining fight and I’d be surprised if it didn’t go the full 15 minutes.
Sherman will look to counter with his boxing and land his big right hand, but Vanderaa moves better and should be able to pick him apart from range while mixing in and threatening with takedowns too. Vanderaa should earn the win on the cards in a fight nobody will remember in the morning. PICK – Jared Vanderaa via Decision
Douglas Silva de Andrade (28-4) vs Said Nurmagomedov (15-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An unbelievable fight in the bantamweight division up next. Andrade is on a two-fight win streak after KO’ing Gaetano Pirrello and then submitting Sergey Mozorov last time out. Nurmagomedov has also won his last two fights, KO’ing Mark Striegl (UFC Fight Island 6) before submitting Cody Stamann (UFC 270) most recently.
Andrade is an unbelievably powerful striker with brilliant technique and also excellent grappling skills to fall back on too, although he does prefer to get into a war and turn his opponent’s lights out. Nurmagomedov is a super well-rounded fighter too who uses his brilliant technique to mix up striking and grappling attacks, making him dangerous no matter what.
Nurmagomedov’s biggest advantage in this fight is his speed and his cardio. He is capable of going at full tilt for the full 15 minutes, while Andrade tends to fade away as the fight goes on. Of course Andrade could catch him with one of those heavy strikes and end the night early, but I expect Nurmagomedov to be able to use his length to land big and piece Andrade up to claim a massive victory. PICK – Said Nurmagomedov via Decision
Caio Borralho (11-1) vs Armen Petrosyan (7-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger between two prospects in the middleweight division next. Borralho is on an eight-fight win streak including a technical decision win in his UFC debut last time out, while Petrosyan has won his last three in a row including a split decision win over Gregory Rodrigues in his UFC debut last time out.
Both of these guys are excellent strikers, with Petrosyan having supreme technique and excellent power with six of his seven career wins coming via knockout. Borralho on the other hand is also a talented grappler, who will look to time the strikes of Petrosyan to get under him and use his jiu-jitsu skills to control the Armenian.
Neither of these guys really deserve to be in a co-main event at this point of their career, but it’s a really fun fight for sure. On the feet Petrosyan has the advantage with technique, speed and power, but eventually Borralho will need to use volume and pressure to close distance and try to get the fight to the ground. Once there Borralho should be able to control him and work his way to the neck to claim a big submission win. PICK – Caio Borralho via Submission, Round 2
Rafael Dos Anjos (31-13) vs Rafael Fiziev (11-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Absolute banger of a main event finally takes place at the third time of asking. Dos Anjos has won his last two since returning to lightweight, beating Paul Felder (UFC Vegas 14) and Renato Moicano (UFC 272) via decision in dominant performances. Fiziev has won his last five, with a spinning wheel kick KO over Brad Riddell most recently at UFC Vegas 44.
Dos Anjos is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the entire division, with excellent wrestling and grappling to go with his solid boxing combinations and incredible cardio. Fiziev is as pure a striker as they come, but his takedown defence is pretty good and his ability to scramble to his feet when he does go down is good too. Fiziev is the favourite in this bout, but stylistically this could be a tough bout for him.
The Brazilian has a big advantage in the grappling areas, but he’s also capable of holding his own in the striking realm. He’s still sharp despite his age and he’s been fighting five-round fights for a lot of his career, while this is Fiziev’s first ever five-round bout. RDA will use trips, grappling and experience to slow down the striking ability of Fiziev and I think he’ll be able to control him on the mat to earn a win as the underdog. PICK – Rafael Dos Anjos via Decision
The UFC returns after a two-week break with a huge pay-per-view card headlined by two massive title fights.
Alexander Volkanovski makes the third defence of his featherweight title when he takes on Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, in the main event.
In the co-main event we get the long awaited rematch at the top of the bantamweight division as Aljamain Sterling makes his first defence of the belt against Petr Yan, a little over a year after he won it via disqualification.
We’ll also see an incredible welterweight fight between Gilbert Burns and the freight-train that is Khamzat Chimaev before that, to see just how real the hype is.
Last time at UFC Columbus we went 7/12 with four perfect picks, which moves us to 585/903 (64.78%) with 248 perfect picks (42.39%).
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Julio Arce (17-5) vs Daniel Santos (10-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Arguably one of the fights of the night opens the card this weekend in the bantamweight division. Arce has lost two of his last three, including getting KO’d by Song Yadong in his last bout at UFC Vegas 42, while Santos makes his UFC debut on a two-fight win streak but he hasn’t competed since December 2019.
Arce is a very technical fighter who is no stranger to high-intensity brawls, with excellent kickboxing skills. Santos alternatively is an absolute powerhouse, who has incredible spinning techniques and great knockout power in his hands with wildly unpredictable striking. Arce’s experience and technical edge gives him an advantage but the fact he’s coming off his first ever KO loss and fighting someone who hasn’t fought in over two years leaves us with lots of question marks.
This is a really difficult fight to pick because of those variables, but I lean towards Arce. His technique should see him land well, especially considering Santos’ flimsy defence on occasion. He doesn’t have the sort of grappling to worry Arce too, so I think he lands clean enough to earn a very entertaining judge’s decision. PICK – Julio Arce via Decision
Piera Rodriguez (7-0) vs Kay Hansen (7-5) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An undefeated prospect against a young and hungry prospect next up in the strawweight division. Rodriguez earned this fight by coming through an winning a decision on Dana White’s Contender Series last time out, while 22-year-old Hansen is currently on a two-fight losing streak after losses to Cory McKenna at UFC Vegas 14 and Jasmine Jasudavicius at UFC 272 in her last outing.
Rodriguez is a boxer with good power in her hands, but she tends to stand quite square and flat footed because of her attack style. That opens up a big window for Hansen to wrestle, which is where she’s at her best, and she can start to work her strong submission game too.
Hansen has only ever been KO’d once before so will be confident that she can eat a shot to get in on her takedowns. There is every chance that Rodriguez can splatter her with a big strike, but if Hansen leans on her wrestling and doesn’t hesitate on her shots she should earn a win here. PICK – Kay Hansen via Submission, Round 2
Anthony Hernandez (8-2) vs Josh Fremd (9-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An intriguing middleweight bout next between two interesting prospects. Hernandez claimed a big win against Rodolfo Vieira at UFC 258 last time out, earning a stunning submission win against the ‘black belt hunter’. Fremd makes his UFC debut off a two-fight win streak, earning a submission win most recently in February.
Hernandez is a great grappler in his own right and has got decent striking too, but his defence was impressive in the last fight against Vieira. Fremd is a good wrestler who uses steady pressure throughout the 15 minutes to wear his opponents down, but ‘Fluffy’ showed last time out that he isn’t one to crumble under it.
Fremd isn’t a scary strong grappler, so Hernandez won’t be scared to go to the ground if needs be and he has the power on the feet to really hurt Fremd. Ultimately I expect him to clip Fremd early and then wrap up a submission on the ground to earn another win. PICK – Anthony Hernandez via Submission, Round 1
Aleksei Oleinik (59-16-1) vs Jared Vanderaa (12-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big heavyweight fight up next between a wiley veteran and an interesting prospect for the big men. Oleinik has lost his last three in a row, getting KO’d by Derrick Lewis (UFC Vegas 6), Chris Daukaus (UFC Vegas 19) and Sergey Spivak most recently at UFC Vegas 29. Vanderaa on the other hand has lost his last two, getting KO’d by Alexandr Romanov and then dropping a decision to Andrei Arlovski at UFC 272.
Oleinik is a terrifying submission artist with a stunning 46 submission wins in his career including 14 ezekiel chokes. He looks to walk through strikes, swinging a wild overhand right before getting hold of you and taking the fight to the ground. Vanderaa on the other hand is a decent boxer who uses calf kicks well, and will have a considerable size advantage in this bout. On the feet Vanderaa will walk forward and pressure, but Oleinik will enjoy that.
The issue for Oleinik here ultimately is the fact he is 44-years-old now and he will be much smaller. If he can get the fight down to the ground then it’s his fight to lose, without a doubt. But Vanderaa will have a big weight advantage and it could be difficult to do. That said, Vanderaa is coming into this bout on just ten days notice, so I think Oleinik does get him down in the first round and ties up a choke for an impressive victory. PICK – Aleksei Oleinik via Submission, Round 1
Maxim Grishin def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Slow start to this one, with Grishin attacking the body with kicks in the first minute and landing a nice low kick too. Grishin just misses with a front kick to the face, then Knight responds with a body kick attempt of his own. Grishin has a huge reach advantage and is staying on the outside, then lands a huge head kick! Knight doesn’t go down but he’s hurt, Grishin stays patient though and doesn’t go for the kill. Grishin lands a low outside kick and then goes for another head kick that misses. Knight throwing next to nothing so far, as Grishin just touches him from the outside and avoids all the damage coming his way. Grishin backs Knight against the cage but both guys are lacking with their output through the first round. 10-9 Grishin.
Similar start to this round as Grishin takes the centre and uses his kicking game to maintain distance, while Knight not doing much. Grishin lands a low inside kick and follows it with a right hand, then a hard low kick that gets a big reaction from Knight. Knight trying for a few kicks of his own but not landing anything, then Grishin lands another right hand and Knight goes in for a takedown. Grishin defends it well but Knight chain wrestling and eventually gets Grishin on his shoulders and slams him down! Knight goes for the back but Grishin fights out and ends up on top himself, landing two good elbows and taking side control. Knight powers his way back up to his feet but Grishin does well to separate and get back to his jab and kicking game from range. 20-18 Grishin.
Final round and Grishin lands a hard low kick early on, who reacts in pain but spins into a spinning back fist and gets a clinch. Knight goes for a takedown and gets the single leg to put Grishin on his backside, but he immediately switches and gets back up. He gets separation and lands a nice left hand and low kick combo, but Knight responds with a left hand too. Knight goes for another takedown and Grishin defends it well, but then he throws a kick that Knight catches and he trips Grishin to end up on top. Grishin is able to get back to his feet relatively quickly though and pushes Knight back against the cage. Knight goes for a flying knee and misses then gets another takedown, but Grishin defending well and lands a hard right hand followed by two low kicks. Knight goes for a big right hand but Grishin lands a left that drops him and he ends the round in full mount. Solid performance from Grishin. 30-27.
Wells sprints around the outside of the octagon and slips in the opening seconds, so Blood Diamond moves in quickly. Wells immediately gets a clinch and starts looking for a takedown, but Blood Diamond defending it really well so far 90 seconds in. Wells trying to use strength to get the takedown and eventually is able to lift him and puts him on the mat, then falls into mount! Wells looking for a choke but Diamond fighting the hands, so Wells starts landing heavy ground and pound. Diamond trying to get up but Wells is on his back heavy with hooks in and is throwing heavy shots on the ground. Wells slides the arm under the chin and tries to go for a choke again but Diamond looks to be defending well. Suddenly the referee stops the fight and we can see that Diamond is out cold! What a submission win!
Douglas Silva de Andrade def Sergey Morozov via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:34)
Both guys looking to take the centre early as Morozov lands a jab and Andrade lands two nice calf kicks. Morozov lands a nice right hand that wobbles Andrade and he follows it up with two hooks that drops him! Morozov goes into top position and starts working him with heavy ground and pound strikes. A huge elbow from Morotoz and he slices Andrade wide open and that is a nasty cut over the eye. Andrade tries to get back up but Morozov drops him down and then allows him up and lands a big knee to the head. Morozov lands a lovely one-two and Andrade is still hurt. Morozov lands a nice knee to the body, then Andrade explodes with a heavy left hook that lands. Spinning body kick from Morozov lands clean and then he shoots for a double leg takedown and gets it to end the round on top. Huge round for Morozov. 10-9.
Fast start from Andrade who knows he’s down a round early on. Morozov being backed up against the cage and Andrade lands a heavy strike that wobbles him! Big right hand and Andrade drops him! He goes for a finish but Morozov defends the position well and is able to grapple his way to safety. Andrade looking for haymakers and just missing. Andrade throws the same combination and drops Morozov again! Morozov in survival mode, but Andrade landing heavy strikes and a big knee connects. Andrade hurts him and moves for a choke! Morozov defending it well but Andrade changes the grip and secures it. Morozov refuses to tap but he goes out unconscious! What a comeback win!
Jacob Malkoun def AJ Dobson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Super quick punching combination from Dobson early on causes Malkoun problems. Malkoun trying to get close, but Dobson lands a nice short right hand that hurts him! Malkoun goes for a takedown to recover but he defends it well and starts looking to strike again. Malkoun changes levels again and is in deep, but once again Dobson defends it despite being lifted into the air. Dobson lands a hard knee to the body, and then both fighters exchange strikes to the chin. Malkoun catches a kick and tries for another takedown but Dobson again stays on his feet and defends it. Malkoun lands a nice right hand but Dobson responds with a lovely combo. Hard one-two from Dobson but Malkoun finally gets himself a takedown with ten seconds of the round remaining. 10-9 Dobson.
Malkoun and Dobson going after it early on in this second round. Malkoun lands a nice right hand and shoots for a takedown, but Dobson denies him and fires a knee up the middle that misses. Malkoun shoots in again and this time gets the trip and gets him down, then looks to move to his back but Dobson is able to get up quickly. Malkoun swings him down to the mat again and is landing some hard ground and pound strikes, hurting Dobson. Lots of ground strikes landing and Dobson is trying to find a way back to his feet but Malkoun controlling him well. Hard strikes and Malkoun continuing to control as he allows Dobson up for the final ten seconds to end the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 19-18 Malkoun.
Final round and Malkoun is back in with a takedown early on and gets it. Straight back to the same position on the back of Dobson, landing ground and pound strikes once again. Malkoun switches the position and gets to half guard with Dobson flat on his back and he’s controlling the position and landing good, solid ground and pound strikes. Dobson is trying to kick off the cage to get out from under Malkoun, but he blocks it and gets some big shots off again. Malkoun postures up and lands some heavy strikes. Malkoun throwing some elbows too as we enter the final 30 seconds and he’s dominated this final round again too. 29-26 Malkoun for me.
Ronnie Lawrence def Mana Martinez via Unanimous Decision (29-27 x2, 29-28)
Cagey start to this fight early on as Lawrence lands a few low kicks, while Martinez takes the centre and feints to try and set up his strikes. Lawrence steps forward and shoots with a beautiful takedown and gets it immediately, looking to control Martinez although he’s not doing much damage yet. Martinez fights the hands and is able to get back up to his feet, then lands a hard low kick of his own. Lawrence back to moving on the outside and then steps in with a low-kick, right hook combination that drops Martinez! Lawrence jumps on top for a finish and lands some good ground and pound strikes, and Martinez scrambles to survive. Lawrence in full guard looking for elbows as we enter the final 15 seconds. Good round. 10-9 Lawrence.
Martinez trying to land some strikes from range early on in this round, but Lawrence moving well and avoiding. Big right body shot and left hook to the chin from Lawrence lands and Martinez gets knocked down again! Lawrence goes back to top position and fires in some ground and pound and wrestles for control as he takes the back. Martinez gets to the cage and battles his way back up to the feet, but then Lawrence lands another huge right hook that drops him again! He misses with some ground and pound but then gets the hooks in and takes the back to look for a rear-naked choke. Martinez is able to reverse it and get up to his feet but then Lawrence shoots for a takedown again and takes control again. Lawrence gets another takedown to end the round, pure dominance. 20-17 Lawrence.
Martinez coming out in this final round knowing he needs a finish and pressing forward. Lawrence staying very calm on the feet but Martinez lands a couple of nice right hands. Hard low kick from Martinez and then Lawrence goes for a head kick. Lawrence goes for a takedown but Martinez stuffs it, then lands a nice right hook. Martinez stuffs a takedown attempt again and then lands a huge spinning back fist that drops Lawrence! He lands some huge follow up strikes but Lawrence just about survives and shoots for a takedown. Martinez goes for a triangle and then goes for an armbar but Lawrence rolls through it and defends it well, then ends the round in top position. So close to a comeback. 29-27 Lawrence for me.
Carlos Ulberg def Fabio Cherant via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Relatively slow start to the round for both guys as Ulberg takes the centre and backs Cherant up against the cage. Hard low kick from Ulberg lands and then goes for a body kick but lands low and pauses the action. Cherant is mad now and blitzes out when the action resumes, landing a big left hand and then clinching. Ulberg denies him and then gets a takedown of his own, before letting him up quickly. Cherant flies in for a big left hand but Ulberg fires a low kick that drops Cherant but then he lets him stand up again. Nice work from Ulberg but he looks quite cocky right now and Cherant is dangerous. Big left from Cherant lands just before the buzzer and drops Ulberg, but he’s not really hurt at all. 10-9 Ulberg for me, but a weird round.
Cherant more aggressive early on in this round and backing Ulberg up with his left hand. Ulberg lands a low kick and then counters Cherant’s left hand with a beautiful left hook that opens up a cut over his eye. Ulberg goes to the body with his kicks and is landing his jab well, while Cherant continues to look for that left hand explosion. Ulberg landing some nice kicks to the body and his jab getting through, plus his check-left hook is doing well. Easy round for Ulberg. 20-18.
Ulberg using nice footwork inside the opening 90 seconds of this round to stay away from Cherant, who knows he needs a finish to get anything from this fight. Very slow pace to this one with neither man really doing much to win the fight yet. Ulberg lands two nice body shots, but Cherant just standing in front of him and not throwing anything at all. Cherant steps forward and swings a big left hand but Ulberg ducks under and takes his back, then secures a takedown with a minute to go. Cherant fights his way back to the feet with ten seconds to go and this one fizzles out. 30-27 Ulberg, but not the most entertaining fight by any means.
Blistering start to this fight as Phillips throws a huge leg kick and then lands some big combinations on Rojo. Rojo steps forward and lands a nice combo to the body himself, before Phillips lands a nice straight right hand. Flying knee from Phillips and then another hard leg kick drops him. Phillips lands another lovely combination, but Rojo still coming forward and lands a nice right hand himself. Phillips lands a good right hand as the clinch, then gets a takedown and moves to the back of Rojo very quickly. He gets the hooks in and takes him down to the mat, then transitions to mount but Rojo quickly gets half-guard back. Hard knee from Phillips but Rojo gets back to his feet. Rojo continues to come forward and looking for combinations, but Phillips seems to have him beaten everywhere. A lovely trip sees Phillips end the round on top too. 10-9 Phillips.
More of the same early on in this second round as Rojo tries to take the centre, but he’s just a step behind the lightning quick Phillips. Phillips lands low kicks and his jab well, but Rojo is trying to push forward and land blitzes. Overhand right misses by Rojo, and Phillips steps in with a nice combo and flying knee attempt. Rojo keeps coming forward though and looking for combinations, but Phillips’ leg kicks are doing lots of damage now. Rojo denies a takedown attempt but Phillips eventually gets him in a clinch position against the cage and sees the round out in control. 20-18 Phillips.
FInal round now and Rojo is suffering with some severe damage on his lead leg, but he is soldiering through it. Phillips goes for a takedown but Rojo stuffs it, only for Phillips to chain wrestle and secure a different position on top. Phillips pushing for a submission and gets into full mount. He goes for an inverted mounted triangle, then synches in an armbar too. Rojo tries to get out but taps out before he rolls through to a belly down position and Phillips secures the victory! What a performance!
Modafferi coming forward with lots of pressure early on and is landing her jab well, but O’Neill countering well with her right hand. Nice left hook from O’Neill as she starts to work her own jab and force Modafferi backwards. Both women land a left hook at the same time, then Modafferi lands a right hand behind it too. Hard one-two from O’Neill lands over and over again but Modafferi continues to come forward with pressure. O’Neill comes forward and just misses with a big elbow, but she’s still landing well with her punches. O’Neill landing hard and heavy shots but Modafferi eating them all and firing back herself to end the round. 10-9 O’Neill, but it’s competitive.
Lots of forward pressure from Modafferi once again early on but O’Neill without doubt has the advantage all over in the striking battle. O’Neill landing big shots on her counters and they’re starting to take an effect on Modafferi. O’Neill starting to up the pressure now and looking for big strikes, but Modafferi responds with a forward blitz and then separates from a clinch attempt. O’Neill is landing her one-two and her overhand right at will now, and is starting to mix in some kicks to her attacks too. Modafferi still marching forwards though. Modafferi goes for a knee but just misses and O’Neill starts screaming while she’s striking. Modafferi changes levels and gets the takedown with seconds remaining to end up on top, but that’s O’Neill’s round. 20-18.
O’Neill coming out very aggressive in the final round looking for a finish, as Modafferi once again looks to blitz her way into a successful striking battle. O’Neill is very sharp though and is landing first and hardest in these exchanges. O’Neill lands a hard right but Modafferi responds with two nice knees to the body. Modafferi still stepping forward and lands a big spinning back fist, but O’Neill eats it and then lands a lovely combo of her own. Modafferi clinches up and lands some knees but O’Neill again lands her right hand freely. Modafferi goes for a takedown but O’Neill sprawls, then throws a kick and sees it caught by Modafferi who pushes her to the ground. O’Neill gets up quickly and is attacking the body lock that Modafferi has wrapped around her, while she throws knees looking to do damage. Modafferi pushing for a takedown but O’Neill defends it all the way to the buzzer and should take a dominant decision win.
Andrei Arlovski def Jared Vanderaa via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Hard low kick from Arlovski to open up the fight and then a lovely combination of strikes to the head lands on Vanderaa. Arlovski moving a lot on the outside and bursting with speed and precision to land. Vanderaa backing Arlovski against the cage, but he’s not really throwing much yet. Arlovski lands a big right cross and then Vanderaa just misses with a right uppercut. They clinch against the cage and Vanderaa looking for trips, but Arlovski is able to separate. Arlovski throws a spin kick to the body and then a hard right hand follows which rock Vanderaa. Arlovski stays patient and throws a spinning back fist that just misses and that’s the round. 10-9 Arlovski.
Vanderaa goes for a low kick and Arlovski lands a beautiful combination that sends Vanderaa backwards. They clinch against the cage and Vanderaa lands some solid knees to the body and thighs before Arlovski is able to separate and get away. Hard right hand lands again from Arlovski and he follows it up with three more clean strikes with his overhand, but Vanderaa is still there. Another hard right hand lands from Arlovski and Vanderaa is just eating them now. Vanderaa gets a body lock against the cage but Arlovski defends it easily and lands his right hand a couple more times for good measure before the round ends. 20-18.
Final round and Vanderaa is coming out with more kicks. Lots of leg kicks followed by a heavy body kick and then they clinch up, with Vanderaa throwing some knees against the cage too. Lots of stalling and then Arlovski finally steps away and then lands a nice right hand, but Vanderaa is still coming forward. Nice counter strikes from Vanderaa and a good left hook lands as Arlovski is backing up against the cage. Final 20 seconds and they clinch again, before Arlovski lands a big right hand as the round ends. 29-28 Arlovski for me.
Bobby Green def Nasrat Haqparast via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to this one from Green as he takes the centre early on and starts looking to implement his jab. Haqparast accidentally pokes him in the eye to cause a pause in the action, then he misses with two wild hooks as Green showboats. Green coming forward with his hands very low, while Haqparast has a very high guard and is trying to counter. Hard low kick from Haqparast, but then Green responds with more jabs. Green is very confident and is landing well in the centre and Haqparast is struggling to get any sort of offense going. 10-9 Green.
Haqparast trying to apply more forward pressure in this round from the off but Green slipping and countering so well to land his jabs. Green is striking through the high guard well and busting up Haqparast’s face, but he’s still coming forward. Nice left hand from Haqparast lands as Green tries to chip away at the guard. Both guys land with a stiff jab, then Haqparast lands a hard low kick to go with it. Haqparast throws another left overhand that connects, but Green rolling with the shots for the most part. Big straights and crosses from Green busting up the face of Haqparast at this point as we enter the final minute. Big overhand left again from Haqparast lands and he’s starting to land more by keeping Green backed up against the cage. Green still landing too with double jabs and straights. What a great fight. I give it to Green, but could be Haqparast’s round. 20-18 for me.
Haqparast comes out firing in the final round, but Green catches a kick and then lands some more straight shots to the nose through the high guard. Green’s boxing has been excellent, with body shots mixed in now. Haqparast trying to apply forward pressure, but Green is doing so well to land combinations at speed through the guard and mix his attacks up. Green dominating the exchanges now and he lands a couple of big strikes to end the round and claim a huge career victory. 30-27 Green.
Renato Moicano def Alexander Hernandez via Knockout, Round 2 (1:23)
Hernandez opens up with some hard low kicks, but Moicano lands the first big strike of the night with an overhand right to the chin. Hernandez landing those low kicks well, but Moicano slipping shots well and countering. Moicano looks to change levels and go for a single leg takedown, but Hernandez defends it well. They clinch against the cage and Moicano gets him down, but Hernandez scrambles back up to his feet immediately. Moicano holds on to the body lock though and eventually does throw Hernandez down and ends up in half guard after another scramble. Hernandez uses his strength to get up and goes straight back to striking, throwing jabs and hooks with a high pressure. Hernandez stalking him around the cage now, but Moicano responds with a lovely right hand down the pipe. Fun round, 10-9 Moicano, just.
Hernandez trying to weaponise his cardio in the second round, coming out very aggressively. Moicano lands a beautiful left hand, right uppercut combination to slow him right down. Hernandez goes to clinch and Moicano avoids it and lands a beautiful combination that rocks him! Moicano follows up with a knee that drops Hernandez! He goes for the finish but Hernandez gives up his back, so Moicano takes it, sinks in a choke and gets the tap! What a performance!
Jared Cannonier def Derek Brunson via Knockout, Round 2 (4:29)
Interesting start to the fight as Cannonier comes out looking for big strikes early on, while Brunson looking to stay away from those striking exchanges to wrestle. Brunson shoots in and Cannonier defends it, but Brunson switches to a single leg and lifts it high to secure the takedown, but Cannonier gets up relatively easily. Brunson looking to wear on him using clinches and takedown attempts, making Cannonier miss. Brunson shoots in again and after battling he gets the trip and ends up on top, looking for an arm triangle. Cannonier gets back up and misses with a kick, then Brunson lands a huge right hook that drops him! Brunson takes the back immediately and locks up a rear-naked choke but the buzzer goes and saves him. Close. 10-9 Brunson!
Brunson opens the round with an immediate takedown attempt in the centre of the octagon and gets it. He tries to secure position but Cannonier scrambles up to his feet and looks much fresher than Brunson. Brunson lands a couple of left hands but Cannonier is fresh and can see Brunson tiring. Brunson goes back in for a takedown but it’s denied. Big right hook from Cannonier lands and then an uppercut lands too. Hard jab from Cannonier and then a combination misses. Brunson looks very slow right now but he shoots in for a takedown anyway. Cannonier denies it easily and as they clinch he lands a huge short elbow and a back fist. Brunson is hurt badly and Cannonier drops him again. He gets on top position and lands huge elbows to put him out cold and that’s enough for the referee! What a win!
Tai Tuivasa def Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2 (1:40)
Tuivasa comes out with feints and some hard low kick attempts inside the first minute as they look to feel each other out. Lewis goes for a right hand but Tuivasa ducks under it and gets a clinch against the cage, landing knees against his thighs. Lewis goes for a head kick that gets blocked then a flying knee that misses, before a right overhand lands and they clinch up again. Lewis drops down for a single leg but Tuivasa defends it well. Lewis gets an outside trip and ends up on top then as he postures up to land big strikes Tuivasa starts to get up too. Lewis lands four or five flush shots but Tuivasa gets up and starts swinging back before they clinch up again. Lewis gets another takedown but Tuivasa gets back up too and the round ends. Wild round. 10-9 Lewis.
Tuivasa looks for a low kick once again to open the round, but Lewis just misses with a big right hand. Lewis looks to blitz him with big strikes but Tuivasa evades him and they clinch up against the cage once again. Lewis tries to blitz him again but Tuivasa swings with him and lands a few of his own! Lewis is hurt! Tuivasa swinging big shots and Lewis is in trouble. Tuivasa lands a huge elbow and Lewis faceplants! He’s out cold! Tuivasa with the biggest win of his career! Wow!
Israel Adesanya def Robert Whittaker via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x2, 49-46)
Very methodical start from both guys as they miss with several low kicks each and lots of fakes and feints. Adesanya finally lands a hard low kick and then another about halfway through the round. Whittaker lunges in for a left hook but misses and Adesanya lands a left hand that drops Whittaker! He gets back up quickly and then looks to shoot a takedown, but Adesanya sprawls well and goes back to the centre. A hard low kick again from Adesanya and then a check left hook lands, before Whittaker shoots for another takedown and misses it. Whittaker checks a low kick but then eats on to the body and that’s the round. 10-9 Adesanya.
Whittaker just misses with a head kick early in the second round but then eats a heavy low kick. He swings overhand with his right hand and Adesanya lands another hard right hand. Whittaker moving backwards a lot but then he moves forward for a double jab and Adesanya counters with a right uppercut. Whittaker lands a nice left hand that gets a reaction but Adesanya evades a high kick. Whittaker shoots in for a takedown and gets Adesanya to the ground, but the champion immediately gets his back to the cage and stands back up before separating. A hard low kick from Adesanya again, followed by a head kick that’s partially blocked and a body kick. Low kick from Whittaker lands with a minute to go, then Adesanya returns fire with one 30 seconds later before the round ends. Close round that could go either way, but I probably lean towards Whittaker there. 19-19.
Adesanya taking the centre again in the third round and doing well to close of the octagon. Whittaker trying to use double jabs to close the distance, while Adesanya is using his low kicks well. Whittaker lands a jab and Adesanya responds with a hook, but neither man is hurt by it. Whittaker shoots for a takedown but Adesanya defends it perfectly and lands a nice knee before they break. Adesanya goes for a head kick but Whittaker ducks under it and goes for a takedown. He gets a body lock but Adesanya gets back to his feet well and then uses a kimura trap to force the break. Hard low kick from Adesanya gets a big reaction, before Whittaker steps in with a jab that gets countered by a hook. Round ends, 29-28 Adesanya for me.
Whittaker opens the round with a big right hand that lands flush and stuns Adesanya. He returns with two hard low kicks before they miss with big hooks. Whittaker goes for a takedown again and gets it and ends up in the backpack position against the cage looking to get a choke in! Adesanya fights the hands and gets him off relatively quickly, and they return to the centre. Adesanya lands another low kick and then misses with a big hook. Hard low kicks again from Adesanya, and Whittaker comes forward with his jabs again. Big hook from Adesanya just misses and then Whittaker just misses with his own as the round ends. 39-37 Adesanya.
Whittaker steps in with his double jab again as Adesanya misses a right hook. Hard low kick from Adesanya again, then another jab from Whittaker. Hard body kick from Adesanya and then a stiff jab from Whittaker does get a reaction, but he sits off him again. Whittaker shoots for a takedown but Adesanya defends it well. Whittaker shoots for a takedown again and gets it, but once again Adesanya bounces back to his feet and fights the hands of the body lock to try and separate. Adesanya goes for a knee, then Whittaker throws a big left hook that lands. Final 90 seconds now and Adesanya lands a nice low kick again. Whittaker goes for another takedown but Adesanya’s defence is impeccable again. They clinch against the cage and the fight ends, it should be #AndStill.. 48-47 Adesanya.
Carlos Ulberg (5-1) vs Fabio Cherant (7-3) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A really fun light heavyweight bout between two huge 205-pounders. Ulberg came into the UFC with a big reputation, but was knocked out by Kennedy Nzechukwu at UFC 259 in his debut. Cherant on the other hand was expected to be a problem in this division, but has been finished by Alonzo Menifield at UFC 260 and then got KO’d by William Knight at UFC Vegas 34.
Ulberg is a brilliant kickboxer, with great power and movement to go with blistering speed. Cherant on the other hand is a huge wrestler, who looks to close distance and get hold of you before using his pure power to drag you to the mat. It’s a battle of polar opposites in this one and it’s hard to decipher which way it’s going to go.
Cherant is more than capable of getting a takedown and his submission skills are top tier, but he’s shown a capability to get his lights turned out. Ulberg has got great power and almost KO’d Nzechukwu in his first bout before his cardio gave up on him. If he can land early, he’ll claim the victory. If he gets dragged to the mat, it’ll be a long night for him. Because of the obviousness of their plans, I expect Ulberg to be able to land big before Cherant can close the distance for a takedown, and that will be enough for the win. PICK – Carlos Ulberg via Knockout, Round 1
Alex Perez (24-6) vs Matt Schnell (15-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A super fun flyweight bout up next. Perez makes his return to the cage after his title fight submission loss to Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 255, while Schnell looks to return to winning ways after a decision loss to Rogerio Bontorin at UFC 262 earlier this year.
Perez is a very well-rounded fighter with good boxing skills and some excellent grappling skills too, while Schnell is equally well-rounded with some decent submission skills and a good high guard when striking, although he doesn’t have show-stopping one-punch power. His wrestling isn’t the best and I think Perez has the edge there, while on the feet he also has a disadvantage int his match up.
Schnell’s best hope in this one is to either clip Perez on the feet in an exchange, or locking up a submission in a scramble. Perez is likely to be able to out-box him in a striking battle and he has the grappling to survive for the most part so I think he grinds him down on the feet with leg kicks and lands the bigger shots in the fight to earn the judge’s decision. PICK – Alex Perez via Decision
Kyler Phillips (9-2) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger at bantamweight between two super exciting 135-pounders. Kyler Phillips saw a four-fight win streak snapped by Raulian Paiva last time out at UFC Vegas 32, while Rojo suffered an incredibly exciting defeat to Charles Jourdain in his debut at UFC Vegas 21.
Phillips is a terrific striker, with great movement and power and combinations that usually end with a high kick landing clean. He’s also a good wrestler, with a strong double-leg and a willingness to mix it up. Rojo is a powerful striker with lots of kicking techniques and explosive Muay Thai. While Rojo probably has the power advantage, everything else starts to lean towards Phillips’ side.
He’s quicker, more evasive, has good power of his own and sets a good pace which means he should win this bout. Rojo absolutely has the ability to slow him down with leg kicks and use his size to clinch, but Phillips is good enough to cause a variety of problems and because of his willingness to take punches I think Phillips could get a finish. PICK – Kyler Phillips via Knockout, Round 2
Roxanne Modafferi (25-20) vs Casey O’Neill (8-0) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A passing of the torch moment in the flyweight division for the women here as Modafferi makes her walk to the cage for the final time in her career. A 46th occasion as a pro, Modafferi is on a two-fight losing streak having been beaten by Viviane Araujo at UFC Fight Island 8 and Taila Santos at UFC 266 most recently. O’Neill on the other hand is an impressive 8-0 including three finishes from three fights in the UFC with victories over Shana Dobson (UFC Vegas 19), Lara Procopio (UFC Vegas 29) and Antonina Shevchenko (UFC Vegas 38).
Modafferi is probably the worst fighter in the UFC when it comes to aesthetics, with horrible striking but some classy grappling and jiu-jitsu skills. She knows how to make a fight ugly and find a way to win. O’Neill on the other hand is a freight train at the moment, with excellent grappling with ground-and-pound, submissions and good striking on her feet too.
Realistically the only question in this fight is whether or not O’Neill can finish Modafferi rather than take her the full 15 minutes. She’s better everywhere and not even in her prime yet. I expect that she’ll be relentless in the pursuit of a finish but Modafferi will go out without being finished on this occasion. PICK – Casey O’Neill via Decision
Andrei Arlovski (32-20) vs Jared Vanderaa (12-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout between two relative veterans is the featured prelims fight of the night. Former champion Arlovski is on a two-fight win streak having earned decisions against Chase Sherman at UFC Vegas 24 and Carlos Felipe at UFC Vegas 40. Vanderaa on the other hand was well beaten in his last fight against Alexandr Romanov at UFC Vegas 39 when he got TKO’d in the second round.
Arlovski is an all-round heavyweight, with good wrestling and excellent striking as well as the experience and cardio to go all night. Vanderaa is a volume heavy striker, which is weird to see from a heavyweight, but he also has some solid ground and pound. If he can get Arlovski to the ground then he should be able to hold him there and secure a victory, potentially via finish.
Unfortunately for him though, Arlovski is very tough to take down and almost impossible to knockout even at his age now. He’ll look to close the distance to keep Vanderra from exploiting him but ultimately Arlovski will land the bigger shots in their exchanges to earn a narrow judge’s decision. PICK – Andrei Arlovski via Decision
We also get to finally see the exciting bout between Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev, while Jimmy Crute and Brendan Allen also return to action on the main card.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 43 we went 6/11 on the night with two perfect picks to move to 482/752 (64.1%) with 202 perfect picks (41.91%).
We’ll look to improve on that this time around, starting with the early prelims here.
Louis Smolka (17-7) vs Vince Morales (10-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very fun bantamweight bout to open the card here. Smolka is 2-2 in his last four fights, but earned a win over Jose Alberto Quinonez via KO at UFC Vegas 16 last time out, while Morales bounced back from consecutive defeats to earn a decision win over Drako Rodriguez at UFC 265.
Smolka is an excellent grappler with some solid submission skills, earning seven tap-outs wins in his career, while Morales is a technical striker who has a missile of a right hand. This is a fight that is close because they both have glaring advantages over their opponent in different areas and it’s all about where the fight takes place. Smolka’s submission skills mean he will want the fight on the mat, while his ‘kill or be killed’ mindset plays right into Morales’ hands.
With that said, Smolka is notoriously bad at securing takedowns himself and while the fight is on the feet he is in danger of being clipped. Because of that, I expect Morales to be able to keep it standing and land enough power shots to secure a judge’s decision. PICK – Vince Morales via Decision
Jared Vanderaa (12-6) vs Azamat Murzakanov (10-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout up next with a short-notice opponent stepping in against an undefeated prospect. Vanderaa steps in on a week’s notice to take on UFC debutant Murzakanov after getting stopped by Alexandr Romanov at UFC Vegas 39.
Vanderaa is a power puncher on the feet who is a natural heavyweight fighter, with a six-inch height advantage and a nine-inch reach advantage over Murzakanov in this fight. ‘The Professional’ is a natural light heavyweight fighter who has great power in his hands too and has earned eight stoppage wins from ten career wins. Murzakanov has got excellent footwork and movement, but this size difference is a big thing to overcome.
Thankfully for him, Murzakanov has got excellent wrestling available to him too and that could be the difference here. Vanderaa’s takedown defence is basically non-existent and with the power both guys have, the likelihood is he takes it down to the mat and works him with ground and pound to secure a big debut win. PICK – Azamat Murzakanov via Knockout, Round 3
Claudio Puelles (11-2) vs Chris Gruetzemacher (15-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The lightweight division is on show in this one to close out the early prelims. Puelles has won three-in-a-row with a decision win over Jordan Leavitt at UFC Vegas 28 most recently following a two-year absence, while Gruetzemacher earned a decision win over Rafa Garcia last time out to get back on the winning trail following a 1-3 run.
Puelles’ record looks good but when you watch the fights in the UFC, they’re less than impressive. He was battered by Felipe Silva before securing a comeback submission, Mariano isn’t UFC calibre and Leavitt was dead on his feet after the first round. He’s still a good submission artist though and has a solid top game. Gruetzemacher is a power puncher with solid wrestling and terrific cardio, which makes this bout a rough time for Puelles.
On the feet Gruetzemacher has a clear edge and Puelles’ takedown game isn’t strong enough to get his top game going here. Overall, Gruetzemacher has a clear edge everywhere unless he ends up under Puelles, so I think Gruetzemacher will be able to slam an exclamation point with this win with a KO. PICK – Chris Gruetzemacher via Knockout, Round 2
Alonzo Menifield (11-2) vs William Knight (10-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Fireworks at 205lbs in this one as Menifield and Knight finally get to meet after their bout was scrapped twice earlier this year. Menifield earned consecutive wins with a submission of Fabio Cherant at UFC 260 before a decision over Ed Herman at UFC 265, while Knight KO’d Cherant at UFC Vegas 34 following a mauling against Da Un Jung at UFC Vegas 23.
Knight’s striking isn’t the cleanest and his offensive wrestling isn’t the most impressive, but he uses his brute strength in clinch situations to get the fight down to the ground and then unleash violent ground and pound. Menifield is a bit more well rounded but seems to lack some cage IQ and struggles to make in-fight adjustments. He seemed shocked by the strength of OSP and if that’s the case, then Knight could blow him out of the water.
That said it’s a 50/50 fight between these two and while Knight’s ground-game is better, Menifield has changed up his approach in recent fights and fought well from the outside in his most recent bout. It’ll be competitive, but I think Menifield lands a big right hand on a blitzing Knight to secure a KO win. PICK – Alonzo Menifield via Knockout, Round 2
The UFC returns to the Apex once again this weekend for a strawweight main event that could decide the next title contender for the division.
Mackenzie Dern looks to continue her win streak when she goes up against Marina Rodriguez in the main event, with both women aware that a win could pit them against the winner of Rose Namajunas vs Weili Zhang 2 at UFC 268 next month.
Elsewhere on the card is a fun welterweight clash between Randy Brown and Jared Gooden, while there is also an exciting flyweight fight between Tim Elliott and Matheus Nicolau as well as the return of heavyweight Alexandr Romanov.
Last week at UFC Vegas 38, we went 7/11 on picks with just one perfect pick to move us up to 428/670 (63.88%) with 184 perfect picks (42.99%).
We’ll look to improve on that here on this ten-fight card, starting with the prelims.
Steve Garcia (11-4) vs Charlie Ontiveros (11-7) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting fight to start off the card as two fighters who lost their UFC debuts clash here. Garcia made his UFC debut in February 2020 against Luis Pena, while Ontiveros is a previous welterweight who made his debut at middleweight and got slammed to defeat by Kevin Holland last year at UFC Vegas 12.
Garcia is a natural featherweight who has decided to stick around at lightweight for now, with good striking volume and decent power. Ontiveros is another with great strength in the striking department. Both have been absolutely battered on the ground in the past and that means this should be a fun, stand-up affair.
With that said though, it’s unlikely to last very long. Between them they have had 33 professional fights and only one of them has taken place at lightweight before but further to that, Ontiveros has been KO’d SEVEN times in his career. This doesn’t stand to go better for him, with Garcia powerful enough to fold him early. PICK – Steve Garcia via Knockout, Round 1
Lupita Godinez (5-1) vs Silvana Gomez Juarez (10-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A short-notice strawweight bout here as ‘Loopy’ takes on debutant Silvana Gomez Juarez. Godinez suffered a split-decision loss on her debut to Jessica Penne back in April, while Juarez is on a three-fight win streak as she makes her UFC debut.
Godinez is a striker first with some decent grappling in her back pocket too, but lots of volume and a great gas tank. Juarez is a brilliant striker on the other hand, with a brilliant boxing stance and even a 4-0 professional boxing record. She is a cardio machine with good power and great cardio too, even though she is 37.
Juarez has the edge on the feet and Godinez really needs to make this an ugly fight to get the win. Short-notice helps her, but Juarez was due to fight next week anyway on the Contender Series so it’s not a massive factor. However the grappling is a big factor for Godinez and I think she’ll be able to control from the top to grind out a decision. PICK – Lupita Godinez via Decision
Charles Rosa (14-5) vs Damon Jackson (18-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very interesting grapple-heavy bout in the featherweight division up next. Rosa has alternated wins and losses ever since joining the UFC in 2014, beating Justin Jaynes most recently at UFC Vegas 30. Jackson is 1-1 in the UFC, beating Mirsad Bektic at UFC Vegas 11 before defeat last time out against Ilia Topuria at UFC Vegas 16.
Rosa is a solid submission artist with eight tap-out wins in his career but some really poor takedown defence. Jackson is also a brilliant grappler and one of the premiere back-takers in the UFC, with 14 submission wins in his career. His top control game is really, really good and if Rosa leaves any limbs dangling then Jackson will take them.
Jackson has been KO’d three times in his career and Rosa is a decent enough striker to land some clean shots and hurt him, but overall the defensive takedown struggles of Rosa lead me to believe that Jackson will be able to get on top and control for a win. PICK – Damon Jackson via Decision
Alexandr Romanov (14-0) vs Jared Vanderaa (12-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight banger coming up as the undefeated Romanov returns to the cage to take on Vanderaa. Romanov has run through opponents in the UFC until he came up against Juan Espino, with the fight ending in a technical decision after a low blow saw the fight ended early. Vanderaa got a win the last time out when he beat Justin Tafa back in May, taking his UFC record to 1-1.
Romanov is an absolute monster with the wrestling, who just charges forward with a takedown and dominates on the ground with pure aggression. Vanderaa is a fighter with decent striking and some good cardio, but considering he’s a heavyweight he doesn’t have the most power in the world. He is the cleaner and more technical fighter in this bout, but Vanderaa likes to clinch up and get inside on his opponent which plays into the strengths of Romanov.
Unfortunately for Vanderaa, that is just not ideal. Romanov will find a way to get the fight down to the ground early and do plenty of damage with strikes and submission attempts, before probably getting a finish. PICK – Alexandr Romanov via Submission, Round 1
Chris Gutierrez (16-3-2) vs Felipe Colares (10-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Banger in the bantamweight division steps into the place of the featured prelim bout in this one. Gutierrez is unbeaten in his last five with four wins and a draw, beating Andre Ewell at UFC 258 most recently, while Colares has alternated wins and losses in his last four with a win over Luke Sanders at UFC Vegas 25 last time out.
Gutierrez is a decent wrestler who is one of the best leg kickers in the entire company, with a large percentage of his strikes in all his fights being leg kicks. Colares on the other hand is a solid striker with some decent jiu-jitsu, but his takedown defence is lacking and often his weakness. Gutierrez is often someone who works at quite a slow pace, which could work against him in this one because Colares is quick and super durable.
That said though, Gutierrez has the advantage in the wrestling and has the advantage in the striking which means Colares will need to catch a kick to get him down. That’s unlikely and I think Gutierrez will be able to piece him up from range and do lots of damage with the leg kicks for a decision win. PICK – Chris Gutierrez via Decision
Elsewhere on the card Yan Xiaonan takes on Carla Esparza in the co-main event to potentially determine the next contender for Rose Namajunas’ strawweight title, while Jack Hermansson and Edmen Shahbazyan meet in their delayed middleweight scrap too.
Last week at UFC 262 we didn’t have the best of nights prediction wise, going 6/12 with two perfect picks to move up to 314/494 (63.56%) with 136 perfect picks (43.31%).
Hermansson is one of the best grapplers in the division, with a sneaky submission game and fantastic top control once he gets on top, while Shahbazyan is as pure a striker as they come in the division with sensational kickboxing. Hermansson will be happy to stand if he can keep the distance short, but if he gets hold of him will almost certainly look to put him on his back.
While Shahbazyan has got great talent for all to see, his hype has made people forget he’s only 23. He’s in no rush to hit the top of the mountain right now and I think he still has holes in his game that ‘Joker’ can expose and I think he’ll get the win here. PICK – Jack Hermansson via Knockout, Round 2
David Dvorak (19-3) vs Raulian Paiva (20-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A potential fight of the night at flyweight here as two 125lbers look to break into the top ten of the rankings with a big win. Dvorak has won 15 fights in a row, including wins over Bruno Silva and then Jordan Espinosa in 2020, while Paiva bounced back from consecutive defeats to earn back-to-back wins over Mark De La Rosa and then Zhalgas Zhumagulov at UFC 251.
Dvorak is a special grappler, with good striking to set up his takedowns where he will look to control position and eventually try and get to the back and look for chokes. Paiva on the other hand is a super striker with quick hands and great kicks, who’s ground game is okay but not so much when it’s against someone like Dvorak. ‘The Undertaker’ is relentless with his pressure and can hold his own on the feet too, meaning those kicks Paiva throws leave him susceptible to getting them caught and taken down.
Paiva could win the striking battle on the feet, but Dvorak will win any grappling battles on the mat and that’s where the difference lies. For me, Dvorak gets the fight down and controls position to nullify the threat of Paiva for a wide decision win. PICK – David Dvorak via Decision
Felicia Spencer (8-2) vs Norma Dumont (5-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
The first ladies on the card get a nice spot on the main card as former title challenger Felicia Spencer looks to get back in the win column against Norma Dumont. Spencer took ‘Cyborg’ to a decision in a losing effort before beating Zarah Fairn dos Santos via KO in the first round to set up a defeat to Amanda Nunes at UFC 250. Dumont got slaughtered in her first UFC performance against Megan Anderson, before earning a win at bantamweight over Ashlee Evans-Smith.
Spencer is a natural 145lbser among the women which is a positive immediately, with great striking and decent grappling to boot. Dumont on the other hand is a grappler with jiu-jitsu skills and a decent bit of striking on the feet, but will have a huge size disadvantage that she’ll need to overcome. Spencer is the far better wrestler and has better striking and this fight just seems like a lay up for the bigger woman in a division that is limited in it’s contenders.
Spencer should be able to have her way entirely in this one for a dominant decision win. PICK – Felicia Spencer via Decision
Justin Tafa (4-2) vs Jared Vanderaa (11-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Tafa is a brawler, with tremendous power in his hands but an interesting chin and not the best boxing skills as he showed against Felipe. Vanderaa is a striker/wrestler type, who will look to step forward to close the distance with his hands and then get hold of you to put you on the ground. He has a big height and reach advantage meaning Tafa will have to take risks to step inside.
Despite that, I don’t think Vanderaa will be able to get a finish. If Tafa lands a heavy shot or two early on it could cause big problems, but Vanderra should be able to use his size and experience to see out a pretty comfortable win. PICK – Jared Vanderra via Decision
Yan Xiaonan (13-1 1NC) vs Carla Esparza (18-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Xiaonan is a great striker, with terrific speed and solid kicks to go with some brilliant takedown defence. That will be put to the test though against Esparza, who’s biggest strength is her wrestling skills. She can get you to the ground and control the top position, with decent strikes and submission skills. Xiaonan’s path to victory is clearly on the feet, with decent power although all her UFC fights thus far have gone the distance.
Ultimately it comes down to whether or not Esparza can put Xiaonan on her back and keep her there, but I’d be very shocked if that’s the case. Expect Xiaonan to piece her up on the feet and deny the takedown attempts to cruise to a huge win on the judge’s scorecards. PICK – Yan Xiaonan via Decision
Rob Font (18-4) vs Cody Garbrandt (12-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Both Font and Garbrandt are boxing heavy fighters, with terrific hand speed and legitimate one-punch power. Font is the technically cleaner fighter of the two, working behind his jab with great footwork and combinations, while Gabrandt is quicker and more powerful but a bit looser with his technique. Font’s biggest win came in his last fight and while impressive on paper, Moraes has proved to be rather chinny in recent fights and that’s definitely something to consider. Garbrandt’s three losses were all by knockout because he refused to fight smart but we’ve seen his brilliance in the past and he looked much better against Assuncao too.
It’s a super even fight, between two guys who will feel they can beat the other at what they do best. For Font, he’s never been knocked out in the past but also never had to go five rounds. Despite that, I think Garbrandt’s past of being knocked out viciously could play against him in this one. Font hits hard and clean and with his speed to counter, I think he gets the biggest win of his career. PICK – Rob Font via Knockout, Round 3
*Drakkar Klose vs Luis Pena was cancelled a few hours before the event after one of Klose’s cornermen tested positive for COVID-19.*
*Rafael Alves vs Pat Sabatini was cancelled after the weigh-ins, after Alves weighed in a 157.5lbs for their featherweight (146lbs limit) fight.*
Serghei Spivac def Jared Vanderra via Knockout, Round 2 (4:32)
Good start to the fight for Spivac as he responds to being back up against the cage with some nice overhand rights, before catching a leg kick and charging forward to get a takedown. Vanderra is able to get back to his feet and clinch before Spivac sweeps him and ends up on top in half guard. Spivac looks to advance into side control but Vanderra does well to get him back into half guard, while Spivac looks to touch him with ground and pound. Lots of top control from Spivac but not much damage from him as Vanderra seems content to see out the round from the bottom – and that’s what he does. 10-9 Spivac.
Another quick start for Spivacas he ducks a head kick attempt from Vanderra and gets the fight back to the ground early to dominate from the top once again. Spivac content to stay in half guard and rain down short elbows and short punches, while Vanderra isn’t active enough at all to try and get out of the position. Vanderra is busted up bad with Spivac blasting him. The referee taking a close look as Spivac moves into full mount and continues to blast him with strikes, with Vanderra barely defending himself and the referee finally calls it off. Impressive from Spivac.
Aiemann Zahabi def Drako Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 1 (3:05)
Interesting start to this one as Rodriguez takes the centre of the cage but both men seem to be waiting for the other to throw. Rodriguez throws a nice uppercut down the middle and Zahabi fires back with some strikes of his own, before a short clinch. Nice calf kick from Rodriguez and he seems to be loosening up a little now. Both men go for a right hand and Zahabi starches him! Rodriguez goes down and Zahabi lands one more shot before the referee steps in and ends it. Wow what a punch!
Chas Skelly vs Jamall Emmers – CANCELLED
Unbelievable. Skelly makes the walk to the octagon and before Emmers comes out, the broadcast team tells us that he is suffering from back spasms backstage and can’t make the walk. The fight is cancelled. Crazy scenes.
Casey O’Neill def Shana Dobson via Knockout, Round 2 (3:41)
Very fast start to this fight as O’Neill comes out quickly, they both exchange strikes and O’Neill goes for the takedown with a single leg. Dobson defends it well and O’Neill lets go, before another exchange and finally getting the takedown she craved. Dobson rolls through and ends up on top but O’Neill scrambles and they get back up. Dobson throwing some powerful strikes but O’Neill isn’t fazed at all and after a clinch she dumps Dobson back to the ground and goes into side control. O’Neill landing some nice elbows from the top but Dobson defending well and forces a scramble, which O’Neill wins by coming out on top before getting another takedown. Lots of ground and pound but Dobson doing well to not take too much damage, as the round comes to an end with O’Neill trying to lock in a heel hook. 10-9 O’Neill.
Fast start to the second round again, with Dobson throwing a nice body kick but O’Neill catches it and takes the fight to the ground. She tries to take the back of Dobson but it’s defended well despite two hooks being in. O’Neill gets into full mount and starts raining down crazy levels of ground and pound and Dobson tries to escape by kicking off the cage, but O’Neill maintains the position and keeps landing damage. Dobson tries to escape by O’Neill just stays tight to her and continues to stay in dominant positions landing elbows and punches and forces the referee to step in and end it. What a performance from the debutant!
Julian Erosa def Nate Landwehr via Knockout, Round 1 (0:56)
HOLY!! What a fight!!! Both men come out all guns blazing, Erosa sends Landwehr flying backwards with a right hand, Landewehr drops Erosa with strikes in the clinch, Erosa rattles the brain of Landwehr with some uppercuts in the clinch and then knocks him out with a flying knee! Landwehr protests to the referee but I think it was the right call. What a knockout for Julian Erosa! Wow!
John Castaneda def Eddie Wineland via Knockout, Round 1 (4:44
Tactical start to the fight early on as Wineland takes the centre of the cage and looks to pressure forward, with Castaneda circling on the outside. Wineland with lots of head movement and feints, with his rapid right hand landing hard a couple of times. Leg kick from Castaneda as he continues to circle, before an exchange of strikes sees Wineland get caught with a counter left hand. Lead right hand lands from Castaneda and wobbles Wineland and Castaneda charges for the finish. He lands four or five shots clean that drop Wineland and pours on the pressure with ground and pound to force the referee to stop the fight. Huge knockout for Castaneda!
Jared Gordon def Danny Chavez via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Cagey start to this bout as both men look to feel each other out with feints and movements. Gordon backs Chavez up against the cage but misses with some big strikes before they exchange calf kicks. Big one-two from Chavez backs Gordon up momentarily before he comes forward again with some leg kicks. Chavez throws a kick that hits Gordon right on the cup and there’s a brief pause in the action. Fight restarts and Gordon lands two nice leg kicks that Chavez tries to check, before he throws a beautiful spinning wheel kick that Gordon just avoids. Gordon backs Chavez up against the cage again and the two play with throwing heavy strikes but they’re both tentative about it and keep missing. Heavy leg kick from Chavez and Gordon goes for a takedown but it’s stuffed quite easily. Good round, very close. 10-9 Gordon for me but could go either way really.
Quicker start to this round from Chavez, as he comes out quickly for a takedown and gets it only for Gordon to pop back up to his feet quickly. Chavez trying to take the centre now but his leg is definitely hurting him and Gordon shoots for a takedown and gets it. He takes him against the cage and starts applying good top pressure from the guard position. Chavez tries to get back up to his feet but Gordon defends the position really well and is able to stay on top. More ground and pound as he goes body-head and Gordon is completely dominating on the ground right now. Chavez kicks Gordon away and tries to get back up but Gordon is able to recover and push him back down before he gets back up. Gordon passes guard with seconds remaining and takes the second round clearly. 20-18 Gordon.
A more tentative final round as Chavez takes the centre and starts walking Gordon down now. Some good shots from Chavez land but his leg is definitely compromised, and Gordon goes for a takedown which is denied. Chavez lands a couple more right hands and Gordon lands a few more of his own before shooting for the single leg and getting the takedown. Chavez looks exhausted on the bottom as Gordon keeps busy from top position and looks to pass guard while throwing lots of ground and pound. Chavez gets back to the feet and goes for a flying knee but once again Gordon gets hold of him and clinches to force the grappling exchange to see out the round. 30-27 Gordon.
Tom Aspinall def Andrei Arlovski via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (1:09)
Very positive start to the fight for you Brit as Aspinall takes the centre and is using excellent footwork to step in and out of range. A few leg kicks from both and some nice blitzes but Aspinall staying very calm. Aspinall slips a shot and lands a big right hand that rocks Arlovski! He throws a barrage of strikes with tremendous hand speed and Arlovski looks hurt, then he keeps going to the body to try and get Arlovski to stop covering up before the veteran clinches up with him. Arlovski slowing this fight all the way down with a clinch as we enter the final 30 seconds and the clinch is broken. Both guys connect with a big right hand simultaneously just as the round ends. 10-9 Aspinall, good round.
Arlovski opens the round with a nice leg kick before landing a beautiful right hand that pushes Aspinall back. A bit more feinting and moving from Aspinall before he shoots in for a big power double leg takedown and gets it. He immediately wraps his arm around the neck of Arlovski and sinks in a rear naked choke which Arlovski taps too! Beautifully done! We have a new contender at heavyweight!
Phil Hawes def Nassourdine Imavov via Majority Decision (28-28, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Hawes as he comes out and lands lots of calf kicks early on to chop away at Imavov. Big combination of strikes land too but Imavov covers up well, before Hawes kicks at the leg again and drops Imavov. Hawes misses a looping right hook and Imavov clinches up with him, which allows Hawes to go for a takedown but it’s good defending from Imavov to keep it standing. Imavov throws and lands a big elbow but Hawes responds with an immediate takedown and then slams him down too to end up in side control. A couple of nice shots on the ground from Hawes land as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Hawes.
Couple of kicks each start the round before Hawes ducks a straight right from Imavov and goes for the takedown against the cage once again. The clinch battle continues before Imavov is able to separate after a few minutes against the cage. Imavov lands a straight right and then another that wobbles Hawes! He comes forward with a big right hand again but Hawes ducks it and blasts a takedown against the cage. Hawes is able to get the back and drag him down to the mat back into side control and starts throwing ground and pound strikes once again. Imavov doing a good job of defending from the bottom but Hawes ends the round on top. 20-18 but Imavov is still in this.
Imavov comes out quickly and heavy, but Hawes ducks immediately and gets a takedown once again. Imavov is able to get back to the feet but Hawes continues to hold him against the cage and throws knees before they break. Imavov tries to walk forward and throws an uppercut but Hawes avoids it and clinches up against the cage once again. Imavov frames off and lands two big elbows and then breaks away and lands some big right hooks that have Hawes wobbling! Hawes steps away and Imavov goes for a Thai clinch, which allows Hawes to clinch up against the cage again. Imavov breaks away and lands more shots but Hawes clinches up again and survives to the buzzer. 29-28 Hawes in the end for me. Great fight.
Chris Daukaus def Aleksei Oleinik via Knockout, Round 1 (1:55)
Very quick start to the fight as Daukaus comes out and throws a big right hand but Oleinik grabs hold of him and clinches up. He starts looking for a key lock but Daukaus does well and then he tries to pull guard for that famed Ezekiel choke but Daukaus stays standing. Huge shots land from Daukaus and they rock Oleinik, who comes forward again and throws a big overhand right that misses. Daukaus stays patient, fires of some big shots that are all landing flush including knees to the head and the referee steps in and waves it off! Hugely impressive win for Chris Daukaus!
Darrick Minner def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27)
Minner comes out with a fast pace to start the fight, closing the distance quickly and clinching up. Rosa goes for a guillotine immediately but Minner pops out and the two separate. Minner pushes forward and throws some heavy shots but only a couple land and Rosa eats them well. Minner gets the fight down to the ground with a nice takedown and then starts riding the positions. Both men transition really well throughout the round and Minner takes the top position for the most part to take the round. 10-9 Minner.
Second round and Minner lands a beautiful leg kick and follows it up with a big right hand that drops Rosa! Minner pounces for a finish and takes the back looking for a choke. Rosa defends it well and Minner continues to land some ground and pound while fishing for the submission but Rosa continues to defend it well. Minner controls the position and Rosa explodes back up to his feet, but Minner takes the back, and drags him back down and ends up in full mount. Minner threatening with a head and arm choke and it looks tight but Rosa transitions to an armbar attempt to escape! Minner lets it go and sees the round out on top. Potentially a 10-8 round. 20-17 Minner.
Minner opens the final round with a big right hook that wobbles Rosa and he ends up taking the top position once again after dragging him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a kimura but it’s perfectly defended by Minner who gets back into top position and stacks Rosa against the cage looking for ground and pound. Rosa looking to attack an armbar and transitions to an omoplata but he’s cut open bad and Minner is able to defend it very well. Minner goes into north south position and controls the neck and Rosa looks to cage walk to roll out but Minner stops him again and just takes the back. Minner stretches Rosa out as we enter the final 30 seconds. Rosa starts throwing elbows and punches from the bottom but Minner eats the shots and rides it out until the buzzer. Big win for Darrick Minner.
Yana Kunitskaya def Ketlen Vieira via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Vieira opens the fight up with a couple of right hands before going straight in for a takedown. After some battling against the cage she gets Kunitskaya down, but the Russian battles her way back up and they re-engage in the clinch. Lots of knees to the body from Kunitskaya in the clinch which Vieira is not enjoying at all. Vieira goes for a throw, Kunitskaya throws a knee which lands but Vieira follows through with a takedown and gets it. Vieira steps over into mount pretty quickly but Kunitskaya does well to get back to half guard before Vieira steps into mount again and starts looking for submissions. Kunitskaya battles for half guard again and Vieira spends the last 90 seconds trying to get back into mount while they exchange ground and pound strikes. 10-9 Vieira.
Kunitskaya comes out fast in the second round and applies pressure from the off with strikes before clinching up against the cage. More of those uncomfortable knees to the body and as Vieira tries to get a takedown, Kunitskaya reverses it and gets herself on top as they fall to the ground. Vieira looking for submissions from the bottom while Kunitskaya defends well and throws lots of good ground and pound. Vieira transitions for an armbar but loses it and then goes for a knee bar which is close, but Kunitskaya kicks off and gets back to her feet. Vieira tries to drag the fight to the ground again but Kunitskaya defends it well and starts throwing those knees again. Vieira goes for a kimura but Kunitskaya defends it well and starts throwing big knees to the body on the ground followed by solid elbows too to end the round. 19-19.
Calf kicks for Kunitskaya to start the third round before Vieira changes levels and gets the takedown within the first minute. Vieira ends up in half guard on top and throws some nice ground and pound and is trying to pass into guard but Kunitskaya is defending well and the cage isn’t helping her either. She goes chest to chest and finally passes into mount and starts looking for a head and arm choke. Kunitskaya trying to escape but Vieira’s level is so high and she takes the back now. Kunitskaya starts fighting the hands and legs to break the locks but Vieira is still controlling the position well as she searches for an opening for a rear-naked choke. Kunitskaya throwing punches from the top with Vieira on her back and she reverses the position with 10 seconds and starts raining down huge ground and pound to end the round. Should be a Vieira round though which would give her the fight. 29-28 Vieira.
Derrick Lewis def Curtis Blaydes via Knockout, Round 2 (1:26)
A very static start to this fight as Lewis stands pretty much still in the centre and invites Blaydes to come towards him. Blaydes moves in to close the distance and Lewis cracks him with a big right hand that sends Blaydes retreating. He comes back in and lands a nice jab, but Lewis loops a big right hand again and misses. High kick attempt from Lewis misses and Blaydes is staying very patient, and then lands a big right hand. He slips Lewis’ counter and lands two more right hands that rock Lewis a little, then follows that up with some leg kicks. Blaydes is controlling the striking with his speed and movement and is throwing lots of leg kicks to destabilise Lewis. Lovely jab from Blaydes followed by another leg kick and Lewis is hurting on that leg. 10-9 Blaydes.
Second round and Blaydes comes out quickly with some nice right hands once again. He shoots for the takedown and Lewis denies it brilliantly. They meet in the middle again and Blaydes shoots for another takedown and Lewis throws an uppercut and Blaydes is out cold!! Lewis lands two more huge shots while Blaydes is unconscious and the referee ends it! Holy wow! What a knockout!
Last week at UFC 258 we went 6/10 with our predictions, with three perfect picks to take us up to 230/359 (64.07%) with 104 (45.22%) perfect picks since we started out back in June 2020.
We have a monster 15 fight card this weekend, so the predictions will be split into three parts rather than the usual two, starting with the first five fights of the night here.
Serghey Spivak (11-2) vs Jared Vanderaa (13-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A fight originally scheduled for UFC 256 back in December, two heavyweights go at it on the prelims. Spivak is 2-2 in the UFC, alternating losses and wins against Walt Harris,Tai Tuivasa, Marcin Tybura and Carlos Felipe most recently. Vanderaa is on a two-fight win streak and makes his UFC debut after a KO win on the Contender Series back in November.
Spivak is a talented kickboxer who has a massive striking advantage on the feet in this fight, but he has won six of his 11 fights by submission. He isn’t afraid to initiate the grappling because of that, which could see him open himself up to the strengths of Vanderaa who has phenomenal ground and pound. Vanderaa will look to get this fight down and as the considerably bigger man, he is likely to only need one takedown and Spivak will struggle to get back up.
The likelihood of a stoppage in this fight is high, with both fighters seeing the judges only once each in their careers so far. Vanderaa’s wrestling chops and size mean he should get the takedown he craves and if he ends up on top he should be able to pound Spivak to a stoppage win. PICK – Jared Vanderaa via Knockout, Round 2
Aiemann Zahabi (7-2) vs Drako Rodriguez (7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun bantamweight fight that has been rescheduled from the December UFC Vegas 17 card as Zahabi makes his first appearance in nearly two years when he takes on Drako Rodriguez. Zahabi, brother of the legendary coach Firas, is a fantastic striker who lacks the elite ground game to call him a well-rounded fighter. Rodriguez on the other hand is well-rounded, with great grappling to go with his decent level of striking.
Zahabi has lost his last two fights and is potentially fighting for his future on the roster, having been beaten by Ricardo Ramos and Vince Morales. Rodriguez has won his last three and is so, so aggressive when it comes to his style. He will press forward, throw volume with strikes and attack for submissions if the fight goes to the ground.
With Zahabi’s weaknesses on the ground and Rodriguez’s aggressiveness and submission skills make me believe that the debutant gets the win and ends Zahabi’s run in the UFC. PICK – Drako Rodriguez via Submission, Round 2
Chas Skelly (18-3 1NC) vs Jamall Emmers (18-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A return to the cage for the first time since September 2019 for Chas Skelly as he takes on Jamall Emmers in the featherweight division. Skelly is 1-1 1NC in his last three fights, losing to Jason Knight and beating Jordan Griffin with a no contest against Bobby Moffett sandwiched in the middle. Emmers himself is 1-1 in the UFC after losing his debut to Giga Chikadze in March 2020, before securing a decision win over Vince Cachero in August.
Skelly is an awkward fighter, with odd technique but it clearly seems to work for him considering his impressive record. With that said, he’s been known to burn himself out quickly and struggle in the third rounds. Emmers is a great wrestler who will look to get this fight to the ground and use his physicality to keep him down. Skelly has a decent submission game, but Emmers is solid enough in his own right to avoid those and has the advantage on the feet too with speed.
It’s a closer fight than it looks and I think Emmers’ style and activity in recent years should see him get the nod here. PICK – Jamal Emmers via Decision
Shana Dobson (4-4) vs Casey O’Neill (5-0) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
After three defeats in a row, the UFC served up Shana Dobson to Mariya Agapova back in August. She shocked the world after surviving the blitz and then coming back to get a TKO finish in the second round and save her spot on the roster. O’Neill on the other hand is an undefeated fighter who makes her UFC debut after a 5-0 run to begin her career.
Dobson was on her way out of the company because she simply isn’t that good. Her two wins in the UFC have come from her opponents kind of giving in, rather than her stopping them. She doesn’t have a great skillset in reality, while O’Neill’s grappling game is very strong. With that said, her quality of competition hasn’t been that high so it’s hard to compare.
From what has been seen though, O’Neill can manage her gas tank more and should have enough about her to control the fight for the most part and get the win in her debut. PICK – Casey O’Neill via Decision
Rafael Alves (19-9) vs Patrick Sabatini (13-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fun fight in the featherweight division between two prospects making their UFC debut. Alves is a power puncher who presses forward and looks for finishes, with 14 finishes from 19 wins split evenly at seven wins by submission and knockout. Sabatini is also a good striker, who has a bit more technique to his game and throws really nice straight shots down the middle.
Alves has won his last six fights in a row, culminating with a guillotine choke win on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August. Sabatini won his last two under the Cafe Fury banner, with a knockout and submission added to his record. Sabatini has fantastic submission skills and a great ground game, while Alves is also a beast on the ground and a bit like Gilbert Burns isn’t afraid to throw strikes because of how confident he is on the ground.
That means it’s likely to stay on the feet and while Sabatini has a slight power advantage and better technique, he is taking this fight on just eight days notice. It’s a pretty evenly matched bout but that short notice should play into the favour of the Brazilian. PICK – Rafael Alves via Decision