The UFC returns to the O2 Arena in London, England for a huge trilogy bout for the undisputed welterweight title as Leon Edwards defends his title for the first time against Kamaru Usman.
Edwards earned a stunning fifth round comeback win in their fight back in August, and now they run it back in a huge main event.
They’ll be anchored by 14 fights, including the co-main event between lightweight contenders Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev, as well as local stars like Jack Shore moving up to featherweight, Muhammad Mokaev, Lerone Murphy and Christian Duncan making his UFC debut.
Last time out at UFC Las Vegas we got the main event spot on to improve our percentages, and the last numbered card saw us go 12/14 with six perfect picks to move to 849/1313 (64.66%) with 348 perfect picks (40.99%). You can see our full pick history here.
Marvin Vettori (18-6-1) vs Roman Dolidze (12-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Interesting middleweight scrap between two guys looking to get into title contention at some point in 2023. Vettori has lost two of his last three fights, dropping decisions against Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker, with a dominant win over Paulo Costa in the middle of them. Dolidze has gone on a run since switching to middleweight and is on a four-fight win streak with KO’s in each of his last three against Kyle Daukaus, Phil Hawes and Jack Hermansson.
Vettori is the ultimate grinder when it comes to wrestle-boxing, with a crazy gas tank and excellent takedowns to go with great pressure and some powerful striking on the feet. Dolidze is also a grappler who has got excellent wrestling, but he’s recently discovered new power in his hands and is starting to fall in love with his striking. Realistically though, that striking is the main reason he could win this.
Dolidze has the power to put anyone out, but Vettori has got one of the better chins in the division and he’s one of the bigger middleweights in the division too. Expect pressure to force Dolidze backwards and big blitzes against the cage while mixing in takedowns and top control to earn a big decision win and keep his title aspirations alive. PICK – Marvin Vettori via Decision
Jennifer Maia (20-9-1) vs Casey O’Neill (9-0) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A fun flyweight fight up next for the women, where a new contender could be created. Maia has lost three of her last five, dropping decisions to Valentina Shevchenko, Katlyn Chookagian and Manon Fiorot while she claimed wins over Jessica Eye and most recently Maryna Moroz. O’Neill is undefeated and shining in the UFC, with a win over Roxanne Modafferi over a year ago last time out via decision which ended a four-fight finishing streak.
Maia is a a grappler, living up to the surname despite no relation to Demian, with excellent jiu-jitsu skills to go with some decent boxing. O’Neill on the other hand is a bit of a phenom with solid wrestling to go with powerful kickboxing skills and a rare finishing instinct among female fighters. If she wants to win this, her best and safest bet is to be on top controlling the position because Maia does have power.
She’ll be severely tested in this fight and this is the best opponent she has had, but O’Neill is a future champion in my eyes and I can see her overcoming this test in an impressive fashion on the scorecards. PICK – Casey O’Neill via Decision
Gunnar Nelson (18-5-1) vs Bryan Barbarena (18-9) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fan-friendly scrap next in the welterweight division. Nelson has lost two of his last three fights, but they’ve come over a span of four years, with losses to Leon Edwards and Gilbert Burns in 2019 before a return to the win column last time out against Takashi Sato in 2022. Barbarena was on a three-fight win streak including a TKO win against Robbie Lawler before he ran into Rafael Dos Anjos last time out and got submitted back in December.
Nelson is a fantastic grappler with a karate-like style when it comes to striking. His jiu-jitsu is fantastic and his wrestling to get it there is more than good enough too, while his striking is powerful and accurate. Barbarena on the other hand is an absolute brawler with fantastic power in his boxing combinations, while he is also capable of wrestling himself into dominant top positions too. If he is to be successful here though, he will want this fight on the feet.
On the ground Nelson has a huge advantage and he will be trying to get it there at all costs. As for Barbarena, if he can defend the takedown attempts and make it ugly (like he usually does) then the pick has to be “Bam Bam” to land clean enough to score a knockout win with his gas tank never letting him down either. PICK – Bryan Barbarena via Knockout, Round 2
Justin Gaethje (23-4) vs Rafael Fiziev (12-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The fight of the night and potentially the fight of the year stylistically in the co-main event. Justin Gaethje comes into this one off the back of a defeat in his title fight to Charles Oliveira, which he earned with a stunning win over Michael Chandler prior to that. Fiziev on the other hand is on a tear in the lightweight division, on a six-fight win streak including stoppage wins over Brad Riddell and Rafael Dos Anjos most recently.
Gaethje is one of the most heavy-handed brawlers in the history of the UFC, with incredible power in his boxing combinations and a willingness to take one to give one with great trust in his chin. He also has some of the most gruesome leg kicks in the business. Fiziev is a stunning striker himself, with brilliant Muay-Thai combinations and clinch work to go with nasty body kicks and brilliant power in his boxing too. This one won’t go the distance and it’s all about who can get hit the least hard. Simple, because there is no chance of Gaethje using his excellent wrestling skills as he just doesn’t care for it.
Fiziev’s quality of strikes and range management is fantastic, but Gaethje pushes a crazy pace and just beats everyone up if they don’t wrestle him to the mat. He will close the distance, land heavy punches and no doubt he will hurt Fiziev at some point. Fiziev is just as capable of countering with his great speed and accuracy, but the big-fight experience and one-punch power of Gaethje leans me to go in his favour. PICK – Justin Gaethje via Knockout, Round 2
Leon Edwards (20-3) vs Kamaru Usman (20-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An incredible main event will decide the winner of this trilogy bout and the undisputed welterweight champion of the world. Edwards is on an 11-fight undefeated streak, which culminated with a crazy head-kick knockout win over Usman to win the title. Usman was on a 19-fight win streak before that bout, and cemented himself as one of the greatest of all-time. Both of these men’s last loss was to each other.
Edwards is a really complete fighter who prefers to lead with the striking, as a world-class kickboxer with good knockout power. He’s also a solid grappler too, as he showed in their last fight against each other when he controlled the first-round on the mat. Usman is a dominant wrestler with fantastic control and technique in the grappling, but he’s also evolved his striking game to become a genuine knockout threat too. This is a crazy fight.
Usman largely controlled the fight the last time out and was 3-1 up heading into the fifth round, which he was also winning before the head-kick. But after getting stopped like that, things can change. Edwards’ confidence is sky high and he showed he is capable of hanging with Usman in the grappling as well as the striking. There is no altitude problems this time around which is what he credited to his cardio issues either, but it’s so hard to pick against Usman when it’s so evident that he can control where this fight goes with his wrestling.
I really want Edwards to get it done, but I can’t pick against Usman with the way the last fight went up until that haymaker kick with seconds to go. PICK – Kamaru Usman via Decision
Vince Morales (11-6) vs Miles Johns (12-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Bantamweight banger up next in this section of the card. Morales saw a two-fight win streak over Drako Rodriguez (UFC 265) and Louis Smolka (UFC Vegas 44) snapped last time out when Jonathan Martinez claimed a decision win. Johns on the other hand was in the same boat, KO’ing Kevin Natividad (UFC Vegas 12) and Anderson Dos Santos (UFC 265) before being submitted by Jonathan Castaneda last time out. Johns steps in on just two weeks’ notice for this bout.
Morales is a boxing-heavy fighter with a demonic right hand that can turn the lights out with ease, but his grappling game needs work and that could be a problem here. That’s because while Johns is a decent striker, he’s at his best when mixing in takedowns and wrestling to grind his opponents out and make them work.
If Johns turns up fully focused and in good condition then his ability to mix things up and make Morales think should win him the bout. There is every chance that Morales catches him and claims a big win too, but with only one knockout win since February 2018 I’ll go with Johns to outwork him and claim the win. PICK – Miles Johns via Decision
Jennifer Maia (19-9-1) vs Maryna Moroz (11-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A fight between the only other ranked fighter on the card outside the main event and a woman on a great winning streak. Maia has lost three of her last four, with a win over Jessica Eye (UFC 264) followed up with back-to-back defeats against Katlyn Chookagian (UFC Vegas 46) and Manon Fiorot most recently. Moroz has won three-in-a-row, with a second-round submission over Mariya Agapova most recently at UFC 272.
Maia, like her male namesake, is a fighter who excels in the world of jiu-jitsu but has limited striking and her takedown game needs improvement. Just like each of her most recent opponents, Moroz is a volume striker who has good distance management, decent power and a solid gas tank. Maia’s wrestling is better than anything Moroz has faced previously, but she is still physically bigger and more active.
Her movement should see her avoid being back up against the cage where the takedowns will be most effective, and if she can strike consistently and stay out of danger like Chookagian and Fiorot before her then this should be a pretty comfortable win in a rather uneventful bout. PICK – Maryna Moroz via Decision
Charles Johnson (11-3) vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-7) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Featured prelim bout up next in the flyweight division. Johnson made his UFC debut last time out in London and suffered a dominant and demoralising defeat via decision to star prospect Muhammad Mokaev. Zhumagulov has lost four of his last five, including each of his last two against Manel Kape (UFC Vegas 44) and most recently Jeff Molina back in June.
Johnson is a solid wrestler who is always at his best when he can get top control and grind his opponents out with some ground and pound and submission threats, earning four finishes via each method in the past. Zhumagulov is also someone who looks to wrestle, but his takedowns tend to come against the cage while his kickboxing is wild and reckless. Bad judging has cost him in recent fights, but this bout isn’t in his favour at all.
“InnerG” has the gas tank for five rounds and is sometimes at his best in that environment, but that should allow him to really empty the tank here and push hard. He’s also bigger, stronger and the better wrestler so he should be able to claim a pretty dominant win and send Zhumagulov out of the UFC. PICK – Charles Johnson via Knockout, Round 3
The UFC returns to the USA and a full crowd for a fight night event this weekend as Curtis Blaydes fights Chris Daukaus in Columbus.
After an amazing trip to London, we have another heavyweight main event this time with two fighters battling to stay in top five conversations and enter their name into the round-robin that’s buzzing in Francis Ngannou’s absence.
We’ll also see a huge flyweight eliminator between Askar Askarov and Kai Kara-France to see who could be the next title contender in the division.
We’ll look to improve on that starting with the early prelims here.
Luis Saldana (15-7) vs Bruno Souza (10-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fun featherweight fight opens up this card. Saldana saw a five-fight win streak snapped last time out when he dropped a decision to Austin Lingo, while Souza lost his UFC debut at UFC 268 against Melsik Baghdasaryan.
Both of these guys are strikers but they have very different styles when it comes to attacking their opponents. Saldana is a more traditional striker with good jabs and low kicks, with excellent power and a real eye for a finish. Souza on the other hand is more of a point fighter, striking out of a karate stance and usually staying at distance and range while picking his opponents apart. Saldana is a good jiu-jitsu player too, but generally they are both going to look to keep this standing and trade hands.
Saldana is the more powerful striker, has really good range management and varies his attacks more and the low kicks that landed on Souza against Baghdasaryan should be part of his game plan. If they are, I expect his power and volume to be enough to earn a win, because Souza doesn’t do enough to push the pace and doesn’t have the power to threaten him with a one-and-done finish. PICK – Luis Saldana via Decision
Matheus Nicolau (17-3-1) vs David Dvorak (20-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Very fun flyweight bout between two very highly rated fighters up next. Nicolau is on a four-fight win streak including 2-0 in the UFC after decision wins against Manel Kape at UFC Vegas 21 and Tim Elliott most recently. Dvorak is on a 16-fight win streak and is undefeated in the UFC, earning a first-round submission win over Juancamilo Ronderos in his last bout.
Nicolau is a pressure fighter who likes to grind on his opponents and has solid wrestling in his back pocket too. Dvorak is a really well-rounded fighter with great takedown defence and sharp boxing skills on the feet. Dvorak has more power in his hands and is a crisper striker, while on the ground they’re pretty evenly matched up.
This fight has no business being this far down the pecking order, it should absolutely be main card or at the very least a featured prelim bout. But regardless of that, in the cage it’ll be excellent. Dvorak’s sharper striking skills and own solid wrestling should be enough to see him claim a decision victory. PICK – David Dvorak via Decision
Jennifer Maia (19-8-1) vs Manon Fiorot (8-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Another fight that has absolutely no business being this low down the fight card. Maia is a former title challenger but is 1-1 since then, with a win over Jessica Eye and then a defeat to Katlyn Chookagian last time out at UFC Vegas 46. Fiorot on the other hand is on an eight-fight win streak, going 3-0 in the UFC and earning a dominant decision win over Mayra Bueno Silva last time out at UFC Vegas 40.
Maia is a jiu-jitsu master of her craft, with five submission wins in her career but an elite grappling game. Fiorot on the other hand is a brilliant striker with great physical strength and a decent ground game. This is a huge clash of styles and the winner will undoubtedly be determined by whoever can dictate where this fight happens. Maia will be desperate to get it down to the mat and keep Fiorot from being able to pound her head in, but Fiorot’s takedown defence is decent.
The French striker can learn a lot from Maia’s most recent bout. Stay on the outside, land big power strikes from range and completely avoid letting her get this to the ground. It’s easier said than done, but she’s capable and I expect her to do it. PICK – Manon Fiorot via Decision
TJ Brown def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Brown as he lands his jab well and a hard calf kick too as he takes the centre. Rosa looking for some calf kicks of his own now, but Brown is landing his right hand really clean and crisp. Rosa lands a hard low kick that drops Brown, but Brown then catches the next kick, fires one of his own and then drags him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a guillotine but Brown scrambles back to his feet quickly and they go back to striking. Rosa’s low kicks having a big effect and forcing Brown to switch stances, but Brown’s strikes landing really well. Brown goes for a takedown again but Rosa is able to scramble with another guillotine attempt, but ends up on his back with Brown searching for a head-and-arm choke. Rosa defends well and then eats a few ground and pound shots to end the round. 10-9 Brown.
More of the same from both guys to start the second round as Brown takes the centre and applies pressure with his right hand, while Rosa throws out leg kicks and then gets taken down by Brown. Brown transitions to the back and looks to control the position but Rosa threatening with a guillotine again and then is able to scramble to top position. Rosa tries to take an arm but Brown is able to reverse and ends up on top himself again, then moves for a head-and-arm choke again. Rosa defends brilliantly then eats a big elbow from Brown after trying for a triangle. Rosa goes for an armbar and Brown manages to escape before going right back to top position. Rosa is looking for submissions constantly but Brown is a step ahead, defending and maintaining control. Brown takes the back and puts both hooks in but once again Rosa defends it and they see the round out exchanging strikes on the ground. 20-18 Brown.
Final round and Brown looking for more of the same, getting on the front foot and landing a big right hand before getting a takedown and slamming Rosa down early. Brown takes the back and starts working for a rear-naked choke but Rosa gets to his knees and gets back to his feet, before eventually being able to put Brown on his back and get top position. Brown works his way back to the feet and then forces Rosa down to the mat, before securing top position and landing some heavy elbows. Brown slides over into mount and looks for the head-and-arm choke again before Rosa gets to his knees and back to his feet. Brown goes for a takedown but Rosa works for a d’arce choke as we enter the final minute. Brown defends it well but Rosa isn’t giving up the neck. Brown gets to his feet and lands a one two before moving back into the same d’arce position to see the round out. Should be a Brown decision victory. 29-28.
Brian Kelleher def Kevin Croom via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Very fast start to the fight from Croom, with lots of forward pressure and blitzes using his size advantage to get the best of Kelleher early. Kelleher takes the centre now and Croom being very active, before a big right hook from Kelleher drops him! He gets straight back up and Kelleher goes for another, but misses and then gets hit with an accidental low blow to pause the action. Croom using his big reach advantage well for now, just pawing out the jab to create distance. Kelleher trying to mix up his attacks and goes for a takedown but Croom defends it before landing a hard low kick. Front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Croom keeps using his distance and just touching Kelleher up. Big spinning back fist lands from Kelleher before a left hook and a takedown to end the round on top. 10-9 Kelleher, just.
Croom opens up the round with a big one two that lands flush, but Kelleher eats it and keeps coming forward. Lots of volume from Croom in this round, but Kelleher is moving well and looking to counter. Nice body kick from Croom before a check-left hook from Kelleher lands too. Croom blitzes forward and gets Kelleher against the cage to clinch, using his size to wear Kelleher down. Big body shot from Kelleher, and then another, before he shoots for a takedown. Kelleher goes for a submission on the ground and looking to control the position, stopping Croom from getting back up. Big elbow lands from Kelleher, but he has a big cut above his eye after a knee landed from Croom as he went for the takedown. 19-19 for me, but could go either way.
Kelleher goes straight back to body work in the third round early on and then shoots in for a takedown to control early. Kelleher looking to take the back and secure a choke but Croom fights his way back up, only to be dragged back down immediately. Kelleher lands some ground and pound while transitioning ground positions, then lands a big knee and slams Croom back down as he tries to get back up. Kelleher completely dominating the grappling exchanges here and controlling the positions as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kelleher rolling with him and looking for a rear-naked choke but Croom fighting the hands. Heavy ground and pound from Kelleher to end the round in what could possibly be a 10-8 round, should seal him the fight. 29-28 for me.
Court McGee def Ramiz Brahimaj via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Great start to the fight for McGee, who is using his superior striking to his advantage to keep distance. Brahimaj clinches against the cage but McGee seems physically stronger and is able to turn him and get the fight down. Brahimaj defending a lot against the cage, but lands a strong knee to the gut of McGee before forcing a separation. Brahimaj takes th centre now and is striking well, but McGee keeping the pace high and landing the more significant strikes. McGee lands a huge right hand that drops Brahimaj just as the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 10-9 McGee.
McGee comes out early and lands a hard low kick and right hook that drops Brahimaj again, who gets up quickly and shoots for a takedown. Brahimaj gets it and starts looking to take his back, but McGee defends it and then is able to get a takedown of his own. Brahimaj gets back to the feet but McGee is just too physically strong for him right now and is wearing him down. McGee locks his hands and gets another takedown, but Brahimaj bounces back up quickly. McGee using his strength again to control, before shooting in for a takedown. Brahimaj defends and the two engage in a striking battle, but McGee is too strong again and clinches up to end the round again with another takedown. 20-18 McGee.
McGee steps over and goes immediately for another clinch and takedown situation, but Brahimaj is looking to defend it well and throws a nice knee to the body. He then drops down for a guillotine and it looks quite tight but McGee defends it and ends up dominant in top position. Brahimaj goes for another guillotine and wraps the neck up, but McGee stays calm and is able to pop his head out and push Brahimaj against the cage. Brahimaj tries to get back to his feet but McGee grinding him out and takes the back. McGee going for a rear-naked choke now, but Brahimaj turns to his back which allows McGee to move into mount. Brahimaj tries to scramble but gives up his back again and McGee dominantly rides him from position to position until the end of the round. Great win for McGee. 30-27.
Jamie Pickett def Joseph Holmes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight as both men look to take the centre of the cage and trade strikes. Holmes starting with a bit more intent, just missing with a head kick but then landing a nice straight right. Pickett blitzes forward with an attack of his own, but Holmes clinches up and uses his strength well against the cage. Holmes lands a nice right hand and then just misses with a head kick again, but Pickett clinching well to stifle the attack. Hard low kick from Holmes but Pickett gets a takedown to end the round. 10-9 Holmes, just.
Aggressive start to the round from Pickett as he comes forward with a hard front kick to the body and then a big left hand, before looking to get a takedown. Holmes looks more tired already but gets back to his feet and lands a hard right hand, but Pickett responds with a takedown attempt again. Strong body kick from Pickett lands, and now his left hand is landing well too. Holmes goes for a single leg takedown but Pickett defends it well in a clinch position. Pickett being very aggressive and coming forward hard with Holmes looking tired, but he responds with a nice slip left hand before they clinch again. Pickett explodes again as the round ends and should take that. 19-19.
Pickett being aggressive once again in this final round as Holmes throws a hard right hand. Pickett using his better conditioning and strength right now to stop Holmes’ momentum, but eats a body kick for his troubles when they separate from the clinch. Pickett lands a nice side kick as Holmes is looking for a big shot. Another clinch situation initiated by Pickett before a nice elbow from Holmes lands. A left hand stumbles Pickett again but then he goes for another clinch and just avoids a big elbow. Big high kick from Pickett lands well and the round comes to an end, with what should be a Pickett victory. 29-28.
Bill Algeo def Joanderson Brito via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Brito as he takes the centre, moves across the octagon and gets a body lock to look for a takedown. Algeo defends it well but eventually Brito gets it and takes the back while standing. Brito transitions around and picks Algeo up, then walks around the octagon for a few seconds before slamming him down and taking his back. Brito looking for a rear-naked choke but Algeo is defending well. Brito looking for the choke but Algeo turns into Brito and ends up reversing the position on top, looking for big ground and pound strikes. Brito looks to explode out and gets back to the feet quickly and goes back for another takedown. Brito lands a nice jab but then eats a big knee up the middle from Algeo, before shooting in for another takedown that gets defended to end the round. 10-9 Brito.
Brito coming forward with a blitz and walking Algeo down with big strikes, but then he eats a big right hand from Algeo that wobbles him. Brito immediately turns and goes back for the takedown, but Algeo defends it perfectly and lands a big knee from a front headlock position. Algeo lets him back up and lands a left hand on the break but Brito is just walking forward through the storm. Big one-twos from Brito snap Algeo’s head back and he looks hurt but once again Brito goes for a takedown and Algeo is able to stuff it and reverse position to end up on top. Algeo moves into side control but Brito gets back up. Algeo lands a big knee but then Brito fires back with a big right hand. Algeo clinches up to end the round, very close. 19-19.
Algeo opens the round with a nice one two, before Brito comes forward with a big blitz of strikes that land well. Brito continues to walk forward and do damage with big shots but Algeo timing him well with counters and clinching up to slow down the Brazilian’s momentum. Brito continues to walk forward constantly and goes for a spinning elbow, but Algeo slips it and showboats. Final minute and Brito is really pushing the pace but Algeo gets a big hip throw and ends up on top landing big elbows then takes the back. Algeo ends the round on the back and should take the victory in a great back and forth fight. 29-28 Algeo.
Viacheslav Borshchev def Dakota Bush via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)
Fast start to the fight for Bush as he stays at distance and throws lots of kicks early on. Big overhand right lands but Borshchev eats it. Borshchev steps in and lands a nice little blitz with a left hook, but Bush moves in for a takedown and gets it. Borshchev defends himself well down there and is able to stand up, but gets wobbled by a strike. Bush moves in for a big finish but Borshchev avoids and lands a big left hook counter. Bush gets another takedown and tries to take the back but Borshchev escapes and goes into the guard, landing heavy body shots from top position. He gets back up and backs Bush against the cage, slips a shot and lands a huge body blow that drops him!! Borshchev lands a few follow up shots but that’s that! What a knockout!
Katlyn Chookagian def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Chookagian starts the fight well with a big slip right hand that lands flush, while Maia looking to land some low kicks. Chookagian is really sitting down on her punches right now, landing well and maintaining distance well. Maia lands a big left hand and Chookagian gets a body lock and a takedown to sit in half guard on top position. Good shoulder pressure from Chookagian and she defends the sweep well before passing to side control, before laying down some shoulder strikes from the top. Chookagian tried to pass to mount but Maia bounces back up quickly, eats a knee and the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Aggressive start to the round from Maia as she steps forward and lands a hard right hand, but Chookagian slips a second attempt and gets another body lock to look for a takedown. Maia defends it well this time though and then they break, with Chookagian looking to control distance again with her jab. Maia leading with a low kick and doing well, but Chookagian bouncing and lands a nice right hook. Maia looks for a body lock this time and rushes Chookagian against the cage, but she defends it well and reverses the position to look for a trip herself. Maia lands a couple of right hands in the pocket, before Chookagian lands a big head kick and then a nice knee too but Maia continues to be aggressive and walk forward. Maia looks for an arm drag but Chookagian defends and ends up on Maia’s back with both hooks in looking for a choke to end the round. 20-18 Chookagian.
Maia coming out strong again in this final round but Chookagian using her teep kick brilliantly to maintain distance and landing her right hand and jab. Maia lands a big right hand but she’s just a step behind right now. Nice head kick from Maia, but Chookagian responds with a low kick. Lovely overhand right from Chookagian, followed by a clean one-two but Maia is still there. Nice right from Maia on the break from a clinch lands clean but Chookagian starting to take over with counters and jabs. Big right hand from Maia lands and then they exchange right hooks. Final 30 seconds and Chookagian looks super comfortable, then lands a huge one-two and a third on her way back to claim a big win. 30-27 Chookagian.
Explosive start to this one with Royval taking the centre and using speed, but Bontorin lands a hard low kick that drops Royval early. Royval throwing a lot of kicks, but Bontorin looking to counter with his flush right hand. Royval goes for a body kick that Bontorin catches and then lands a right hand as Royval spins. Bontorin transitions to a takedown and gets side control but Royval very good with scrambles and looks to get to his feet. Bontorin holds him there briefly but Royval eventually gets back up and goes back to being very active. Slip left hand from Royval lands clean, before another takedown from Bontorin. Royval staying active from his back as he tries to roll through and starts throwing elbows, before both get back to the feet to end the round. 10-9 Royval.
Quick start again as Bontorin throws a right hand that drops Royval and he goes straight into his guard. Royval trying to scramble with submissions but Bontorin stays calm and takes the back. Royval defends it expertly but Bontorin retains the control from top position and lands a big elbow. Royval climbs back to his feet as Bontorin goes back to striking and then drops him with a nice left hook. Royval straight back up though and looking to overwhelm Bontorin but Bontorin staying calm and looking for control. Royval trying to up the pressure but Bontorin gets a body lock and trip in the final seconds to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Royval lands a big knee and hook combo. Bontorin fires back with a huge right hand, left hook combo that lands flush but Royval’s chin is holding up. Bontorin is loading up on his punches and Royval is able to land a few softer shots. Bontorin lands a leg kick and Royval goes down, but Royval defending with his submissions and looking for a gogoplata. He transitions to an armbar and it looks like Bontorin taps (?!) but the referee doesn’t see it and then Bontorin escapes and the fight continues. Royval transitions and is able to sweep Bontorin to get on top as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hard elbows from the top for Royval but Bontorin firing back from the bottom with elbows of his own. Royval landing some huge elbows and the buzzer goes. 29-28 Royval for me but could easily go the other way too! Great fight.
Collier comes forward very aggressively in the opening minute, walking Sherman down and throwing hard right hands. Sherman looking to counter with right hooks but Collier doing well to avoid too much damage early. Collier storms forward and pushes Sherman to the mat. He moves straight into full mount and lands some big nasty elbows from the top that cut Sherman open. Sherman tries to kick off the cage but just puts himself in an awful position. Sherman rolls over to his belly and Sherman synches up a rear-naked choke and gets the tap for the victory. Impressive performance.
Two very hard low kicks from Chikadze open the fight up before a nice right hand behind them. Kattar takes the centre of the octagon trying to pressure him, but Chikadze with great footwork around the outside to stay off the cage. Chikadze lands two hard body kicks and a right hand then goes for another kick but loses his balance and Kattar charges for a takedown and secures top position. Kattar working to pass Chikadze’s guard but he’s defending well. Chikadze tries to get back up but Kattar drags him back down. A scramble sees Chikadze end up on top but Kattar reverses it to an arm triangle from the bottom and then secures the back with a body triangle to see out the round. 10-9 Kattar.
Hard body kick from Chikadze early on and he starts blitzing Kattar with hard punches and a variation of kicks again. Kattar switching stances to take the kick away from Chikadze. Kattar pressuring forward and landing hard strikes that have Chikadze looking a bit more tired. Big jab from Chikadze though and then Kattar continues to come forward and Chikadze is tired! Kattar lands a big right hand then shoots for a takedown but Chikadze defends it. Big knee from Kattar lands, followed by a left hook. Huge step-in elbow from Kattar and Chikadze is struggling. Kattar lands a big left hook and follows it with a body shot. Four big left hands from Chikadze land but Kattar responds with a huge right hand and a knee, then he secures a takedown and heavy right hands to end the round. What a round! 20-18 Kattar.
Kattar comes out with forward motion once again and is putting a pace on Chikadze, who’s trying to recover his cardio still. Elbow from Kattar lands and then a flush one-two straight down the middle lands. Kattar steps forward with his jab and is teeing off on Chikadze, who can’t get his hands up to block his head. Two low kicks from Chikadze and a left hand, before a big right cross. Kattar goes for a takedown but Chikadze just about stays up with a little help from the fence. Both guys are tired, but Kattar pushing forward still. Huge right elbow lands from Kattar and then they trade hooks to the chin. Chikadze lands a right hand that gets Kattar to cover up, but Chikadze swings wildly and misses big. Kattar continues with forward pressure to close the distance but then just misses with two big shots. Big spinning elbow from Kattar right on the buzzer. What a fight. 30-27 Kattar.
Kattar crowding Chikadze with forward pressure as he looks to stop the kicks, and he’s just picking the jab well. Chikadze is looking for kill shots now but he’s too tired to land, while Kattar continues to come forward with his jab and picking him apart. Huge elbow again from Kattar and then he shoots for a takedown, but Chikadze defends it brilliantly and lands some big strikes of his own. Chikadze lands a big right hand but Kattar comes forward with his jab and elbows. Head kick attempt from Chikadze but Kattar just keeps coming forward. Massive elbow from Kattar and the buzzer goes again. 40-36, this is a beating now.
Chikadze comes forward early throwing bombs in the final round. Kattar continues to walk forward and just jab him to death, and Chikadze just has no answer for the pressure. Two huge elbows land back-to-back from Kattar, but Chikadze’s chin holds up again! Another nasty elbow from Kattar as he starts throwing them instead of hooks. Chikadze lands a nice one-two before Kattar lands a spinning elbow. Kattar just constantly coming forward with elbows and straights. Chikadze backing up and getting pieced up as Kattar looks for a finish. Huge right hand lands on the chin but Chikadze is still standing. Chikadze throws a one-two and Kattar responds with another flush spinning elbow. Both guys swinging for the fences with 30 seconds left. Kattar starts throwing elbows and drops Chikadze right on the buzzer!! He follows up with a couple of shots, but that is an exclamation point on a stunning performance. Wow! 50-44 Kattar for me.
Bill Algeo (14-6) vs Joanderson Brito (12-2-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A potential fight of the night contender in the featherweight division. Algeo is coming off a defeat to Ricardo Ramos at UFC Vegas 27 in May, while Brito makes his UFC debut on a ten-fight win streak with the most recent coming on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August.
Algeo is the type of fighter whose sole game-plan is simply to hit you harder than you can hit him. Brito on the other hand is a huge power puncher with both hands and has great speed too, but can often be quite reckless defensively. Algeo has a big size advantage in this fight and has never been knocked out and while his record isn’t great, he has fought much better competition throughout his career. Algeo’s defensive grappling is pretty poor, which opens up a big opportunity for Brito to land his big double-leg takedowns.
For Brito, this is a big opportunity to make a name for himself in the USA and in the UFC. Algeo will do his part to make this exciting too, which likely won’t help him, and I expect Brito to close the show early and make a big impression. PICK – Joanderson Brito via Knockout, Round 2
Dakota Bush (8-3) vs Viacheslav Borshchev (5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Two exciting lightweight prospects in the UFC go head-to-head here. Bush is a stud who was beaten in his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 24 by Austin Hubbard via decision, while Borshchev makes his debut in this fight after an impressive KO win over Chris Duncan in Dana White’s Contender Series.
Bush is an athletic fighter who uses mobility and movement more than technique and power in his attacks, while Borshchev makes his debut as the head striking coach of Team Alpha Male which tells you exactly where his strengths lie. Bush is likely to try and use his four-inch reach advantage to his benefit by fighting on the outside and mixing in takedowns to test the defensive wrestling of Borshchev. That said though, ‘Slava Claus’ has worked with Team Alpha Male for long enough that I expect he’ll come good defensively.
The longer the fight goes, the harder it will be for Bush to get a takedown and even hold Borshchev down, who is very good at scrambling up to his feet. He will attack the body and eventually start to target the chin before claiming a highlight-reel knockout finish midway through the fight. PICK – Viacheslav Borshchev via Knockout, Round 2
Katlyn Chookagian (16-4) vs Jennifer Maia (19-7-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The big women’s fight for the card is a flyweight bout between two former title contenders at 125-pounds. Chookagian bounced back from a KO defeat to Jessica Andrade at UFC Fight Island 6, before decision wins over Cynthia Calvillo and Viviane Araujo most recently. Maia on the other hand bounced back from her title fight defeat with a decision win over Jessica Eye at UFC 264. These two fought previously, with Chookagian winning at UFC 244 via decision.
Chookagian is a very mobile kicker, with good karate skills and great fight IQ where she’s able to fight from range and constantly move in-and-out of distance. Maia on the other hand looks to use her Muay-Thai game to get into clinch range before looking for takedowns to work her excellent jiu-jitsu skills. Chookagian has got some underrated grappling skills, but if Maia can get this fight down then you can safely make the assumption the round or fight will end there.
Unfortunately for Maia though, her takedown ability isn’t great and she won’t get close enough to Chookagian to be able to use her clinch game. Chookagian will bounce around on the outside, using her kicks and blitzes and once again claim a decision victory to put herself back into title contention in the division. PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Brandon Royval (12-6) vs Rogerio Bontorin (17-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An absolute banger of a flyweight fight and another contender for fight of the night. Royval was on the verge of a title shot before he dislocated his shoulder and was beaten by Brandon Moreno at UFC 255, before getting submitted by Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Vegas 34 last time out too. Bontorin on the other hand bounced back from a KO defeat against Kai Kara-France at UFC 259 with a decision win over Matt Schnell last time out at UFC 262.
Royval is an excellent grappler with terrific scrambles and some lightning fast striking techniques too. Bontorin is more of a striker, who has good physical strength and some good grappling too despite his preference to trade punches. This is a very high level fight between two potential future title contenders.
Bontorin certainly has the striking edge on the feet and is a solid submission artist himself, but Royval is so active in all aspects of MMA. The issue with Royval though is that because he’s so unorthodox, it can somehow hurt him here. If Bontorin can get top position, he should use his strength to hold position. On the feet he is the more powerful, but Royval has great speed and his own grappling is great too so ultimately I think the activity of ‘Raw Dawg’ gets him a razor thin win. PICK – Brandon Royval via Decision
Jake Collier (12-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-8) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout takes the co-main event slot between relatively different big guys. Collier has alternated wins and losses since a win in 2014, with a defeat to Carlos Felipe last time out at UFC 263 via split decision. Sherman on the other hand has lost each of his last two via decision, losing to Andrei Arlovski and Parker Porter.
Collier is a former middleweight who still tries to fight like one, just with an added 80-pounds of weight. He has good leg kicks and often attempts a few spinning techniques to catch his opponents off guard. Sherman is a similar fighter but is a much more natural heavyweight. He loves a strong leg kick, but isn’t the best when it comes the checking them.
Collier is the faster fighter and technically probably the better one, but naturally Sherman is the bigger fighter so the power lands in his favour. It’s probably not going to be a very exciting fight , but Collier is due another win on his run so I’m going with him.. PICK – Jake Collier via Decision
Calvin Kattar (22-5) vs Giga Chikadze (14-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A beauty of a main event in the featherweight division, with the winner potentially entering title contention territory. Kattar had won two-in-a-row against Jeremy Stephens and Dan Ige at UFC Fight Island 1 before getting absolutely destroyed by Max Holloway at UFC Fight Island 7. Chikadze on the other hand is now 7-0 in the UFC and has won each of his last three via knockout against Jamey Simons at UFC Vegas 13, Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 25 and Edson Barboza at UFC Vegas 35.
Kattar is a terrific boxer, with a brilliant jab and brilliant power punches while trading from within a phone booth against his opponents. He likes to throw a few leg kicks here and there, but generally it’s to set up his power strikes. Chikadze on the other hand is a brilliant kickboxer with a trademark head kick and amazing power in his hands too. Both of these guys have got genuine knockout power and can hold a hard pace for a full fight. This is only Chikadze’s second five-round fight in the UFC, and he won the first in the third round.
Chikadze is riding an incredible wave of momentum right now and that is definitely affecting people’s perception of this fight. Kattar has got genuine skills and if he lands clean on Chikadze, I expect him to do a lot f damage. While his counter striking is better than Chikadze’s, he can’t get hit as much as he did by Holloway in this fight or he’s going to sleep. Chikadze is far more powerful and can use his kicks well to set everything up. This is due to be a magnificent fight of high level striking, and I lean ever so slightly towards Chikadze and I think he’ll get a stoppage. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Knockout, Round 4
Good start to the fight from Rivera as he uses that long reach advantage to stab some kicks into the gut. Zhumagulov starts throwing some nice overhand right hands and is moving well but Rivera is putting the pace on him. Zhumagulov lands a nice left hook that drops Rivera and then synches up a nasty looking standing guillotine and forces the tap! Huge win!
Great start to the fight from Tavares as he uses his boxing well to light Akhmedov up nice and early. A nice exchange in the pocket and Tavares comes out on top of it. Nice low kick from Akhmedov but Tavares counters with a nice right hand. Akhmedov shoots in for a takedown and after a bounce on the cage gets it, but Tavares bounces straight back up. A few more takedown attempts but Tavares denies them all and lands some nice strikes in the exchanges to end the round. 10-9 Tavares.
Akhmedov steps into the second round with a nice jab and then a takedown attempt and while he gets him down he can’t hold him there and Tavares gets back up early. Tavares starts landing some heavy leg kicks and Akhmedov is feeling it. Nice jabs from Tavares but now Akhmedov is landing some heavy leg kicks of his own. Tavares steps in for a clinch and lands a big knee to the face, followed by a heavy low kick again. Akhmedov goes for another takedown but Tavares defends it well and should claim that round too. 20-18 Tavares.
Fast start to the final round from Tavares but staying patient with the volume of strikes, just pressing forward and forcing Akhmedov backwards. Tavares throws a heavy leg kick that drops Akhmedov, then lands another big one as he gets back to his feet. Great movement from Tavares and his jab is landing clean too. Akhmedov goes for a takedown but Tavares stuffs it brilliantly. Final minute and Tavares has rocked him! Big strikes just miss but Akhmedov is stumbling. Tavares lands a nice kick to end the round, great fight. 30-27 Tavares.
Jennifer Maia def Jessica Eye via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Interesting start as both women stay standing and Eye is landing really well. Nice kicks and some good hooks but Maia fires back too with a big knee up the middle. Eye lands some more short strikes and is just too fast so far. Some nice shots from Eye land and send Maia stumbling backwards and then Eye goes for a takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Eye.
Another good start from Eye as she continues to walk forward and lands short shots and apply pressure to Maia, who is being forced to fight on the back foot. Eye throwing some nice leg kicks but Maia is responding with a nice one-two up the middle that is landing well and often. Maia is pushing the pace now and landing big strikes. An accidental clash of heads opens up a massive cut on the head of Eye as the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Maia is staying patient and not going straight for the cut. Lots of short strikes again but Eye is coming forward and landing some decent hooks and leg kicks of her own. Maia is doing really well to land the right hand and counter Eye’s pressure on the back foot. Big strikes from Maia as she applies heavy pressure herself with Eye bleeding heavily now. Great scrap, 29-28 Maia for me
Dricus Du Plessis def Trevin Giles via Knockout, Round 2 (1:41)
A very tense start to the fight for both guys as they both show lots of feints and bouncing on their feet. Du Plessis throwing some leg kicks to get some score with the judges and just misses with a flying knee. Du Plessis goes for the takedown against the cage and gets it, then passes into mount immediately. He starts targeting submissions but Giles defending fairly well and scrambling to safety. Du Plessis ends up back on top and looks for a big elbow but ends the round on top. 10-9 Du Plessis.
Good start to the round from Giles as he steps forward looking to land big heavy strikes early on. Du Plessis staying patient and avoids a big flying knee but backs up to the cage after landing a nice left hand. He throws a left jab that misses then throws a big right hand that lands flush and puts Giles out! He lands some follow up punches but this one is all over! What a knockout!
Ilia Topuria def Ryan Hall via Knockout, Round 1 (4:27)
Very tense start to the fight with Hall backing up against the cage and Topuria pressuring him. Hall throws a big spinning back kick that lands well. He starts rolling for emenari rolls but Topuria is avoiding them all and doing really well to skip out. Several minutes pass of Hall rolling for legs but missing, and then Hall goes for another spin kick. Topuria catches it and forces Hall to the ground, then lands some heavy shots that put Hall out! Huge win for Topuria!
Michel Pereira def Niko Price via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Slow start to the fight as Pereira lands a nice jab and Price starts to go for some takedowns against the cage. Pereira defends well against the cage and starts firing off some big shots and his speed is troubling Price. Some superman punch attempts just miss but Pereira is doing well to keep attacking with volume. Rolling thunder attempt to finish the round and it’s 10-9 to the Brazilian.
Second round and Pereira is coming out strong, throwing a nice body kick that hurts Price. He goes on the attack and starts throwing some heavy strikes and gets Price down to the ground. Pereira starts looking for an americana submission but Price defends it, so Pereira starts raining down strikes instead. Price is just about surviving and Pereira moves to his back looking for a choke, but Price is able to roll out and get back to his feet before the round ends. 20-18 Pereira.
Final round and Price is pouring on the pressure nice and early as he sees Pereira is tiring. Price landing some big shots and Pereira just doesn’t have the same pop to his counters or movement in his legs anymore. Price pouring it on and landing some big strikes but Pereira is surviving. Nice left hand from Pereira but Price keeps coming forward. He goes all out before the end of the round but it’s likely not enough. 29-28 Pereira for me.
Max Griffin def Carlos Condit via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Hugely impressive start to the fight from Griffin as he lands some heavy leg kicks early that are getting big reactions from Condit. Griffin keeping a big pace and is doing lots of work on Condit who just can’t get going at all. Griffin landing some big strikes and Condit is in trouble! Griffin goes for the finish but Condit survives and the round ends. 10-9 Griffin, potentially even a 10-8.
Second round and Condit has come out and is walking forward and Griffin has slowed down considerably. Condit more willing to take the strikes as he comes forward and Griffin has so far completely stopped with the leg kicks. Condit continuing to step forward and landing some nice strikes but Griffin not getting hurt too much and is trying to counter. Condit lands a few more as the round ends, 19-19.
Griffin coming out much more aggressive in the final round and landing some nice jabs. Few big haymakers from Griffin are getting through, and Condit is being forced to back up now as he starts to tire. Condit starts firing back with some heavy body shots and a right hand, but Griffin throws a couple of leg kicks to snap the momentum immediately. Nice right hand again from Griffin and Condit backs up, so Griffin goes for the takedown and keeps the fight there until the round ends. 29-28 Griffin for me. Great fight.
Sean O’Malley def Kris Moutinho via Knockout, Round 3 (4:33)
Solid start to the fight from O’Malley. Suga is pushing the pace and landing some really nice jabs. Lots of heavy strikes landing but Moutinho stepping forward and looking for a right hook. O’Malley continues with the jabs and hooks through the guard and he is beating Moutinho up badly. Big right hook lands and drops Moutinho and then he goes for a spin kick that just misses. Lots of strikes and Moutinho is getting pieced up. O’Malley throws a pull right cross counter and drops Moutinho! He goes for the guillotine submission but time runs out. 10-8 O’Malley.
Second round and O’Malley is doing more of the same, just landing heavy strikes and really beating Moutinho up. Moutinho keeps storming forward though and is just missing with his right hooks. O’Malley smashing hooks and jabs through the guard but starting to tire. Moutinho keeps going forward and is talking to O’Malley and surviving the beating somehow. 20-17.
O’Malley comes out in the third round firing once again but Moutinho is just a zombie coming forward. O’Malley throwing knees, kicks, strikes and uppercuts but Moutinho is talking to him and smiling. O’Malley is fading but still throwing beautiful jabs and combinations. As the round comes into the final 30 seconds O’Malley lands a huge combination and Moutinho is hurt! He’s still standing but the referee waves it off after an accumulation.
Irene Aldana def Yana Kunitskaya via Knockout, Round 1 (4:35)
Good start to the fight from Kunitskaya with some kicks to counter the boxing attack of Aldana early on. Kunitskaya goes for a spinning wheel kick and then clinches up looking for a takedown, but Aldana defends it really well. Aldana slips a charge and lands a big right cross to the nose and then a jab, then lands a beautiful left hook to the body that hurts Kunitskaya. Some good jabs and slips and then she lands a big left hand again that drops Kunitskaya. Aldana rains down ground and pound but Kunitskaya tries to survive it by holding her hands for control. Aldana gets on top of her, slams big strikes into her face and the referee steps in to end it! Huge performance from Aldana!
Tai Tuivasa def Greg Hardy via Knockout, Round 1 (1:07)
Tuivasa comes out and lands some heavy leg kicks to start that Hardy immediately feels and struggles with. They start going wild with strikes and Hardy tags Tuivasa bad! He rushes in for the finish but Tuivasa counters with a crazy left-hook that puts Hardy out!!! Wow! What a knockout!!
Gilbert Burns def Stephen Thompson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Very cagey start to the fight from both guys as they look to feel each other out. Burns steps forward with some looping hooks but Thompson avoids and moves out of range once again. Burns shoots in for a takedown against the cage and after a stalemate gets the fight down. He holds top position for the remainder of the round without landing too much damage. 10-9 Burns.
Thompson comes out more on his toes and lands some good side kicks and lots of body shots to keep Burns at distance. Some nice right hands and Burns bites down on his mouthpiece to fire back but Thompson is out of the way swiftly. More kicks from Thompson and as the round comes to an end Burns gets Thompson down once again and lands some decent strikes but that’s a Thompson round. 19-19.
Final round and Burns comes out hot and heavy ready to go. Nice right hand lands and then Burns shoots for the takedown and gets it around halfway through the round. Burns sits on top of Thompson and applies pressure, with good ground and pound and just staying heavy to take what should be a decision win for him. 29-28 Burns.
Dustin Poirier def Conor McGregor via Doctor Stoppage (Broken Ankle), Round 1 (5:00)
McGregor comes out and lands two sharp spinning kicks to the body followed by his teet kick. Poirier coming forward but McGregor slams some hard leg kicks into him to slow him down. Poirier responds with a couple of his own but McGregor going for the kicks. McGregor lands a nice left hand but Poirier responds with a combination that seems to buzz McGregor. McGregor clinches and Poirier goes for the takedown, but McGregor looks to sink in a guillotine choke. Poirier avoids and starts slamming in some heavy ground and pound shots, big elbows to McGregor who’s hurt! Poirier piling on the pressure and looking for a finish but McGregor is surviving for now. Poirier lets McGregor back up and he throws a punch that misses but as he plants his back foot his leg gives way and snaps! Poirier lands some shots on McGregor while he’s down as the round ends.
McGregor tells the referee and doctor his leg is broken and the doctor waves the fight off immediately! What an anti-climax to a crazy fight and trilogy!
In the co-main event we have a huge welterweight contender fight too as former title challengers Gilbert Burns and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson go head-to-head with each other to try and climb towards another shot against Kamaru Usman in the near future.
Also on the card is the return of ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley as he opens up the main card, while the prelims are full of exciting bouts too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 30, we went 12/6 with two perfect picks for our selection for a not so good outing. That took us to 352/554 (63.54%) with 160 perfect picks (45.45%) since starting up.
We’ll look to improve that with this huge 13 fight card, starting with the early prelims here.
Hu Yaozong (3-2) vs Alen Amedovski (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting fight to open up the card in the middleweight division as Hu looks to earn his first UFC win against the knockout machine Amedovski. Hu made his UFC debut in 2017 and has lost his two fights, with his last bout coming in November 2018, while Amedovski went 8-0 with eight knockouts before losing his first two UFC bouts too back in 2019.
Hu has been severely beaten in both his bouts so far in the UFC, showing some poor striking defence and some okay wrestling mixed in with it. Amedovski’s UFC career is shocking so far but he can genuinely bang with his hands. He has legit KO power and while his grappling isn’t great, it’s not the worst I’ve seen.
Hu will be without his coaching team due to visa issues and will be dealing with a big time difference issue since he is only arriving in Vegas just five days before the fight. All of this adds up to Amedovski starching him into oblivion and likely out of the UFC – but this fight won’t be super high level. PICK – Alen Amedovski via Knockout, Round 1
Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-5) vs Jerome Rivera (10-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Zhumagulov is a solid striker on the feet who switches stances well and throws great combinations, while Rivera is a grappler who looks to gain top control and work for a submission – something he’s done to win seven fights. It’s a real clash of styles in this one but Zhumagulov’s record in the UFC reflects badly on his talent.
The Kazakhstani fighter is supremely talented, has great scrambling to prevent Rivera’s top control from gaining momentum and he has good knockout power too. I expect he’ll be able to get the win using his superior striking and scrambling skills. PICK – Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Decision
Omari Akhmedov (21-5-1) vs Brad Tavares (18-7) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very intriguing middleweight bout between two veterans in the UFC in what should be a very fun fight. Akhmedov has won four of his last five fights, losing to Chris Weidman at UFC Vegas 6 before bouncing back with a submission win over Tom Breese in January. Tavares on the other hand bounced back from a two-fight losing skid to get a win over Antonio Carlos Jr at UFC 257 via decision.
Akhmedov is a fighter who is very keen on getting the fight down to the ground quickly. He steps forward looking to clinch and then starts to try for trips and lifts, meaning Tavares’ striking game will be front and centre as his defence whenever Akhmedov comes forward. His takedown defence is excellent and his cardio always holds up, so it will be tough for Akhmedov to get his preferred game plan going.
Tavares is the crisper striker, better athlete and overall more well-rounded martial artist so I expect he’ll come away with a win here. PICK – Brad Tavares via Decision
Jennifer Maia (18-7-1) vs Jessica Eye (15-9) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Maia, like her name-sake Demian, is a jiu-jitsu master and is at her best when she gets the fight to the ground and works for submissions, even winning a round against Shevchenko from that position. Eye on the other hand prefers to stand and box, with a decent jab and a good right hook in the back pocket too. Despite that though, Maia’s grappling is most likely to come out on top here.
Maia can hold her own on the feet and will be able to close the distance to bring the fight to her world and likely control position for long enough to earn a judge’s decision. PICK – Jennifer Maia via Decision
Sasha Palatnikov def Louis Cosce via Knockout, Round 3 (2:47)
What a round! Cosce comes out super aggressive but Palatnikov does well to use his kicks and attempt to slow him down. Palatnikov shoots for a takedown and Cosce defends well with a guillotine attack. Both men get to their feet and start swinging haymakers and Cosce catches a body kick attempt and starts throwing big punches. Palatnikov attempts a forward roll to escape but Cosce holds on and starts throwing haymakers again and he’s hurt him! Big punches go close to ending the fight but Palatnikov recovers and starts hurting Cosce back! Wild exchanges have both men hurt but Cosce is now exhausted! Spinning back first by Palatnikov lands flush as the round ends. 10-9 Palatnikov for me but could be either way.
Second round is much more composed by both fighters as Cosce is still trying to recover from an energy sapping opening round. Palatnikov throwing lots of combinations and landing big strikes, trying to put Cosce out but he’s showing real heart and determination to stick it out. A low blow from Cosce puts a pause in the action and allows Cosce a chance to recover but Palatnikov’s striking is giving him a big edge here. 20-18 Palatnikov.
Final round and Palatnikov comes out more calm and considered this time around, trying to stay away from the inevitable onslaught. Nice body kicks and a snapping jab while he continues to dominate the clinch with knees to the body. Another low blow from Cosce causes a pause in the action once again. Palatnikov comes out after the restart with a quick pace against the tired Cosce with more body attacks. A lazy takedown attempt from Cosce is defended well and then Palatnikov gets up to his feet and starts landing bombs on a downed Cosce! Cosce moving his head but not defending well and the referee steps in and ends it! What a win for Palatnikov!
Very tactical start to the fight between both guys with Daukaus looking to use his big frame to use his range well. A big left hand lands by Daukaus and the two end up clinching against the cage trying to apply their grappling game. Daukaus eventually gets a takedown after lots of 50/50 positions and a scramble sees them in an interesting position with their legs tangled on the ground at the end of the round. 10-9 Daukaus but interesting nonetheless.
Second round is much more of the same, with Daukaus dominating the striking exchanges but Stoltzfus holding his own in the grappling realm of the fight. An accidental low blow from Daukaus causes a brief pause in the fight. Daukaus using his jab and a big left hand well as the action resumes but they tie each other up against the cage and battle it out there for the remainder of the round. 20-18 Daukaus.
Final round and the pattern continues at the start of it as Daukaus goes for the big left hand before a clinch ensues against the cage. Daukaus stuffs the takedown attempt from Stoltzfus and lands some big shots while he’s down! He throws a few bombs and then stands up to force Stoltzfus back to his feet. More big shots with the left hand and he continues to deny the takedown attempts to completely dominate the round. He threatens with a guillotine and ends up trying to lock up a d’arce choke with 30 seconds to go but Stoltzfus survives until the bell. Impressive performance.
Alan Jouban def Jared Gooden via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very fun opening round between these two as Gooden looks to take Jouban’s head off with big hooks and Jouban responds with heavy left body kicks and some nice right check-hooks of his own. Jouban showing great head movement and footwork, mostly avoiding the big shots of Gooden. Gooden lands a big right hand and follows with an accidental headbutt that the referee misses and has caused Jouban’s eye to swell up. 10-9 Jouban.
Jouban comes out in the second round continuing to be aggressive and goes for the body kicks early but Gooden is throwing less haymakers and more pop shots. A nice right hand lands and wobbles Jouban but he stays calm and composed. Jouban starts to make a comeback with some big punches of his own and wobbles Gooden with a big right hook! Jouban goes for the kill but Gooden survives well as we head into the final round. 20-18 Jouban.
Final round and Gooden knows he is down on the scorecards, so he comes out very aggressively. He takes the centre of the cage and starts head hunting, landing left hooks on the closed eye of Jouban. Jouban still throwing big body kicks and doing well to avoid too much damage but Gooden continues to come forward. A big exchange of punches leads to Gooden shooting for a takedown and Jouban sinks in a guillotine as he hits the mat. 30 seconds to go and he hold the position but isn’t squeezing yet and then with 15 seconds to go, ramps up the pressure. A big squeeze almost puts Gooden out cold but the buzzer goes to save him a stoppage and it’ll go to the cards.
Nicolas Dalby def Daniel Rodriguez via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
A very intriguing opening round between these two fighters as Dalby takes a traditional wide-base stance and bounces around a lot early on. Rodriguez is looking to move in and land big punches but Dalby is switching stances and using his front leg well to keep distance. Dalby throws a big one-two that lands flush on Rodriguez and wobbles him but ‘D-Rod’ recovers very quickly. Head kick by Dalby lands too and he is doing really well to stay out of range. Rodriguez lands a nice left hand and starts chasing for the punches and ends the round well. 10-9 Dalby.
Much more aggressive start to the round for Rodriguez as he comes out, takes the centre and forces Dalby against the cage. Some nice jabs and straight lefts before a takedown attempt is defended well by Dalby. Dalby then shoots for a takedown of his own but Rodriguez defends well this time. Dalby misses with a few head kick attempts but starts landing some nice inside leg kicks. Another takedown attempt from Dalby forces Rodriguez against the cage but he defends well and the buzzer ends the round. 19-19 but very close round.
Slower final round as both guys come out clearly quite tired. Rodriguez is throwing single punches and leg kicks while Dalby is continuing with the game plan to dart in and out using kicks and jabs. There’s not much action other than that, but it’s Dalby who has the upper hand and probably wins the round. 29-28 overall to Dalby for me but it could go either way.
Antonina Shevchenko def Ariane Lipski via Knockout, Round 2 (4:33)
Both ladies come out and swing big punches early before clinching up. Lipski looks to block a throw attempt from Shevchenko and they end up against the cage once again. Both women throwing knees and elbows before Shevchenko lands a nice takedown against the fence. Lipski tries to sweep to take the back but Shevchenko does well to control the position and land some nice shots before the round ends. 10-9 Shevchenko.
Second round and Lipski looks to stand and strike and lands a big right hook to the eye that troubles Shevchenko immediately. Shevchenko forces a clinch and a trip and immediately ends up in top position where she remains for the remainder of the round. She lands ground and pound and passes guard with complete ease constantly. Lipski in real trouble as Shevchenko moves into full mount and starts absolutely smashing ground and pound strikes until the referee stops. What a performance.
Joaquin Buckley def Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 2 (0:18)
Buckley rushes across the octagon early and engages in a clinch as Wright does well to hold his own. Some big looping strikes land from Buckley but Wright is doing well to move his head off the centre line for the most part. Some nice kicks land and he’s popping his jab well. Buckley explodes with a big hook and lands! He drops Wright and Wright is in big trouble! Some big ground and pound shots but the bell saves him! Very, very lucky to see a second round. 10-9 Buckley.
Second round starts and Wright still looks rocked. Buckley lands two big left hands down the middle and then a big hook that knocks Wright out cold! What a performance and another highlight reel knockout.
Brandon Moreno def Brandon Royval via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)
What a round! Both guys come flying out of the traps with fast exchanges and strong strikes. Royval goes for a spinning elbow attack but Moreno avoids it and takes the back of Royval. He gets the fight down to the ground and looks to sink in a rear-naked choke but it turns into a nasty neck crank. It’s in tight but Royval refuses to tap and breaks the grip before escaping into full guard. A big scramble on the ground leads to a yell of pain from Royval and Moreno gets heavy on top and starts blasting him with ground and pound which forces the referee to stop the fight with a second to go in the round.
After the fight it’s spotted that Royval’s shoulder dislocated during the scramble, hence the lack of defence from the ground and pound.
Paul Craig def Mauricio Rua via Knockout, Round 2 (3:36)
Fast pace start to the fight as Shogun comes out with big shots and Craig looks to manage distance with a Muay-Thai stance and throws some nice kicks. Craig shoots for a takedown and gets it fairly easily to get the fight to the ground and proceeds to control with his excellent grappling. Shogun eventually reverses the position and ends up on top and the round ends with Craig looking to reverse. 10-9 Craig.
Second round and Craig is coming with a very wrestle-heavy approach. Shogun landing a few shots but Craig ducks and takes the fight down to the ground once again. Craig gets in double hooks as he takes the back and looks for submissions. Shogun defends the submission well but gets flattened out and Craig starts smashing him with big punches that forces the legend to tap to strikes. Great performance.
Katlyn Chookagian def Cynthia Calvillo via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
A very tactical start to this round as Chookagian looks to stay at range and use her jab and kicking game. Calvillo catches a kick and gets a takedown early but Chookagian gets right up to her feet. The rest of the round is a jab and kick test and while there isn’t much action everything happens in Chookagian’s comfort zone. 10-9 Chookagian.
Second round is more of the same as Chookagian is using her length well to just pop jabs off at Calvillo’s face. Calvillo lands a nice left hook twice that lands clean but she has a cut on her nose and some swelling under her eye from the jab. Excellent footwork from Chookagian who is just moving in and out of range at will and picking her shots. 20-18 Chookagian.
Final round and it’s more of the same from both fighters for the final five minutes. Chookagian continuing to just pick her off at will with superior striking and kickboxing skills. Calvillo goes for a clinch but Chookagian pushes her away with ease, showing a clear physical advantage. Not much action throughout the bout but should be a comfortable decision win for Chookagian.
Tim Means def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
A very intriguing opening round as Mike Perry shows off his grappling skills early on. Means lands a few nice jabs and Perry opts to shoot for the takedown against the cage. A nice body lock gets the fight down and Perry passes his guard and then eventually takes his back. Perry nice and calm on Means’ back and looks to sink in a rear-naked choke but Means fights it well and ends up on top before getting back to the feet. Means spends the rest of the round landing his jab at will but it’s a Perry round. 10-9.
Second round is more tactical from Means, who is using his jab well and much more aware of the takedown threat now. He’s starting to work the body more too but Perry is landing his right hook well too. Perry lands a huge right hand that wobbles Means but he looks to go for the takedown instead of more strikes and allows Means to recover. Big lead elbow by Means cracks Perry in the nose and they exchange more punches and elbows as the round comes to an end. 19-19, great fight.
Final round and Perry comes out looking to use his physical advantage to get another takedown. Means defends well against the cage and breaks away to land some nice punches. Calm approach from both suddenly disappears as the two start exchanging haymakers in the centre of the cage, both landing big hooks and crosses flush to the chin. Means shoots for a takedown to move the fight against the cage and break it up a bit. Final minute and Perry lands a big right hand before Means responds with an elbow. Both men end the round with another crazy exchange in the pocket. What a great fight!
Valentina Shevchenko def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
Interesting start to the round as both women exchange short flurries of strikes before Shevchenko gets hold of Maia and throws her to the mat, ending up in full guard. Maia ties up the guard as Shevchenko stays patient and lands some short shots and some elbows in ground and pound. Pretty chill round, 10-9 Shevchenko.
A very, very interesting second round as Maia controls the round. Another clinch but this time it’s Maia who controls the position against the cage and eventually she gets the takedown. She controls the position entirely for the round and gets in some offence too to take the second round for herself. 19-19.
Third round and Shevchenko opens up with two big left hands that land flush on Maia’s chin. Maia fires back with a right hand of her own and clinches against the cage. Shevchenko breaks away and then lands two more big shots that wobble Maia! They clinch up again and Shevchenko lands a heavy takedown and ends up in side control. Maia gets back up to her feet before one more takedown by Shevchenko as the round ends with ‘Bullet’ in top position. 29-28 Shevchenko.
Into the championship rounds and Shevchenko lands some big left hands once again. She throws a right hook, wraps in a body lock and takes the fight down to the ground again. She spends the entire round in top position landing strikes from the top, mainly to the body to take this round too. 39-37 Shevchenko.
Final round and Maia charges across the cage looking for a clinch early on to try and get a takedown. Shevchenko defends excellently and then lands a flurry of strikes that bust up the nose of the challenger. Maia tries again for a clinch but Shevchenko is defending perfectly now and landing big, heavy shots on the break. Into the final minute now and Maia lands a front kick to the face but Shevchenko eats it. Spinning back fist misses as the Maia goes for a final takedown attempt but the buzzer goes. 49-46 Shevchenko for me, pretty straight forward win.
Deiveson Figueiredo def Alex Perez via Submission, Round 1 (1:57)
A fast start to the fight as both men meet in the middle and throw big body kicks but miss. Perez moves in quickly and throws some nice shots but they all miss, then Figueiredo lands a body kick. Two big kicks from Perez and then he shoots for a single leg takedown, but Figueiredo keeps it standing. Perez tries to get the back but Figueiredo spirals around the leg and looks for a knee bar which leads to a scramble. Figueiredo turns on the ground mid-scramble and sinks in a deep guillotine and secures the tap! Wow! Figueiredo is the real deal.
Mauricio Rua (27-11-1) vs Paul Craig (13-4-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
The rematch nobody wanted or needed to see, but it’s happening. These two met back in November 2019 and fought to a draw. Since then Craig has submitted Gadzhimurad Antigulov on Fight Island in July, while ‘Shogun’ got a win over Antonio Nogueira on the same card. Craig will almost certainly look to get this fight to the ground, with 12 submissions wins from 13 career victories. ‘Shogun’ Rua is a black belt in jiu-jitsu but he isn’t active off his back and prefers to just crack jaws if he can help it. It’s a tough one to call considering how the first fight went but I think Craig can get it done this time. He dominated the first round in that fight and if he can do it again this time, I think he gets the finish. PICK – Paul Craig via Submission, Round 1
Katlyn Chookagian (14-4) vs Cynthia Calvillo (9-1-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A good fight between two top contenders in the women’s flyweight division. Chookagian fought for the title and was beaten to a pulp before bouncing back with a win over her sister, Antonina Shevchenko. Last month though, she was beaten thanks to a nasty body shot by Jessica Andrade as she looked to climb back up the rankings. Calvillo made her debut in the division back in June with a big win over then ranked #1 Jessica Eye. Chookagian is a kickboxer by trade, who can clinch if she needs to as she showed against Andrade. She’s going to need her grappling skills in this one as Calvillo will look to get the fight to the ground and dominate with her excellent top game and chokes. Chookagian will look to use her kicks to stop Calvillo getting into range but she is capable of boxing her way into that range to get the clinch and takedown. It will be close with not many highlights but I think Calvillo takes the decision. PICK – Cynthia Calvillo via Decision
Mike Perry (14-6) vs Tim Means (30-12-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
This was supposed to be a wild battle between Mike Perry and Robbie Lawler, but when ‘Ruthless’ dropped out it fell to the veteran Tim Means to step up to the plate. Perry won his last bout with a dominant decision over Mickey Gall in June while Means got a decision win over Laureano Staropoli in August. Perry is essentially a street fighter, with looping hooks and big kicks his main forté. Means is primarily a Muay-Thai fighter who throws nice combinations, including elbows and knees. His issue is that he is very open to having his lights turned out with one punch, and Perry has the power to do that. He’s also got a fantastic chin, but has a four inch reach disadvantage. I think it goes the distance and it could honestly go either way, but I’m going with my gut with Means. PICK – Tim Means via Decision
Valentina Shevchenko (19-3) vs Jennifer Maia (18-6-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
This is the lock of the night. Shevchenko is the greatest female flyweight fighter of all time and has a complete skillset when it comes to mixed martial arts. Her expert kickboxing technique keeps her at range from her opponents, while her wrestling skills mean she can mix it up whenever she needs too. Maia is a jiu-jitsu fiend, who got a big win in her last outing against Joanne Calderwood back in August to get this bout with a first round submission win. For her to get a win here, she needs a takedown into a dominant position then enough time to sink something in. The chances of that are incredibly slim though and I think Shevchenko beats her up on the feet for a couple of rounds before landing one of her trademark head kicks to end it early. PICK – Valentina Shevchenko via Knockout, Round 3
Deiveson Figueiredo (19-1) vs Alex Perez (24-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The most powerful striker in the division’s history, Figueiredo will be throwing bombs early in this one. Alex Perez is a very impressive grappler with fantastic cardio and submission skills, winning his last three in row including his last bout against Jussier Formiga in June. His only loss in the UFC came against Joseph Benavidez, when he was KO’d back in November 2018. His style is eerily similar to that of Benavidez, which doesn’t bode well against Figueiredo. Figueiredo destroyed Benavidez in both of his last bouts. ‘God of War’ is a vicious striker who is also very good on the ground himself. The power is scary enough but Perez’s way out is blocked by the fact he’s matched on the ground too. Perez’s best chance of a win is if Figueiredo makes a mistake which I don’t see happening. Figueiredo lands a huge hook or two and ends this one early and violently. PICK – Deiveson Figueiredo via Knockout, Round 1
‘Bullet’ is among the best technical fighters in the UFC, male or female, and has made a name for herself as the best flyweight in the company.
Since making her UFC debut in December 2015, Shevchenko has beaten everyone placed in her path except for two razor close decision losses to Amanda Nunes. Her wins include decisions over Sarah Kauffman, Holly Holm, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Liz Carmouche while she has finished Juliana Pena, Priscilla Cachoeira, Jessica Eye and Katlyn Chookagian.
A master of distance management and range control, Shevchenko has cleaned out a division that was essentially made just for her to shine.
She’s too big for the strawweight division and despite her wins, she struggled against the elite of the elite in the bantamweight division. But she’s so good, the UFC made a division in between the two just to show it.
She comes into UFC 255 to take on Maia as a 1/14 favourite (-1400) and despite her opponent being as talented as she is, the odds are reflective of her chances here.
Maia needs a takedown, to end up in top position and secure a submission or to land a big lucky punch while they stand. If that doesn’t happen, ‘Bullet’ will dominate and likely finish the fight pretty much whenever she wants.
In an ideal world, she takes this win and goes back for a third bite of the cherry against Amanda Nunes in a clash that would crown the greatest female fighter of all time. The likelihood is she continues in her weight class and takes on Cynthia Calvillo next, if she can topple Chookagian at UFC 255 herself.
A win doesn’t do much for Shevchenko other than cement the fact that she’s the best 125lber in women’s MMA history. But that’s already the case.