Joaquin Buckley (13-4) vs Abdul Razak Alhassan (11-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An absolute slugfest coming up in the middleweight division here. Buckley bounced back from a head-kick KO defeat to Alessio Di Chirico at UFC Fight Island 7 by KO’ing Antonio Arroyo back in September. Alhassan on the other hand snapped a three-fight losing streak in his last fight, by KO’ing Alessio Di Chirico via head-kick in just 17 seconds. MMA, eh?
Both of these fighters are powerhouses with tremendous knockout power in their hands and legs and put their opponents’ lights out. Buckley is a good wrestler, but he never uses it, instead opting to box with good head movement and keeping a good pace throughout. Alhassan is a patient striker with real one-shot power, but he tends to struggle outside of the first round and his cardio isn’t good at all. That spells problems to me.
While this fight is anyone’s to win in the first round, the longer it goes the more it suits Buckley. He has the cardio advantage and he’s shown that his power can carry through the full 15 minutes, so I expect him to drag it out a little and then secure a big knockout later in the fight. PICK – Joaquin Buckley via Knockout, Round 2
Jim Miller (33-16) vs Nikolas Motta (12-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Legend vs prospect in this lightweight division fight. Jim Miller will extend his record as the man with the most fights in the UFC, coming in on a 2-2 run in his last four with a knockout win over Erick Gonzalez most recently. Motta on the other hand is on a three-fight win streak and makes his UFC debut in this fight following a win on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Miller is one of the best submission artists the UFC has ever seen, with great wrestling and incredible jiu-jitsu which has earned him 18 submission wins in his career. Motta on the other hand has got incredible hand speed with his boxing-heavy approach with a sprawl-and-brawl strategy usually in place for most of his fights. Miller will look to test that in order to try and land and big strike or wrap up a position on the ground, but if he can’t get it done early he could be in trouble.
Motta will likely play it relatively cautiously early on in order to allow Miller to potentially blow himself out, and then use his speed and superior striking to pile up damage in the later rounds. It could end up being a “comeback” win, but I expect Motta to never really be in too much danger and come away with a decision win. PICK – Nikolas Motta via Decision
Parker Porter (12-6) vs Alan Baudot (8-2) – Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights will be in Las Vegas for this fight card folks. Porter is on a two-fight win streak with decisions over Josh Parisian and Chase Sherman in his most recent outings, while Baudot was KO’d by Tom Aspinall in his debut at UFC Fight Island 5 before a defeat to Rodrigo Nascimento was overturned to a no contest.
Porter is a deceptively technical striker with good movement and speed, despite being 6 foot 7 and 260lbs. Baudot hasn’t shown much at all in the UFC so far, but he has got some decent power in his striking if I had to find something. This fight is likely to stay on the feet for the entirety of the bout, with Porter to use his jab and leg kicks to chip away at his defences.
Ultimately, this fight won’t be fun and I doubt there will be a finish because neither man is particularly known for being a power puncher. Porter has the cardio to go 15 minutes and I expect he will just piece him up throughout and earn a win. PICK – Parker Porter via Decision
Kyle Daukaus (10-2) vs Jamie Pickett (13-6) – (Catchweight/195lbs)
A very intriguing short-notice catchweight fight between these two middleweight fighters. Daukaus lost two of his first three UFC bouts before a clash of heads before he tapped out Kevin Holland saw his last fight end in a no contest at UFC Vegas 38. Pickett steps in on short-notice on a two-fight win streak, with a decision against Joseph Holmes at UFC Vegas 46 last month.
Daukaus is a wrestler who looks to use his looping strikes to set up takedowns and then control his opponents on the ground for victories. Pickett on the other hand is a solid kickboxer with good Muay Thai skills and excellent power in his striking. That said, Pickett has found himself wrestling a lot since joining the UFC and if he does that here then he is likely to struggle to claim a victory.
Pickett is the more technical striker of the two, but Daukaus is the more powerful of the two and is certainly the one who can dictate where this fight takes place. Add in a five-year age gap too, I expect Daukaus to be able to get this fight to the ground and eventually take the back to secure a rear-naked choke with his relentlessness. PICK – Kyle Daukaus via Submission, Round 2
Johnny Walker (18-6) vs Jamahal Hill (9-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A banger at light heavyweight in the main event, where someone is likely to go to sleep. Walker was beaten in his last fight by Thiago Santos in a very cagey fight back at UFC Vegas 38, making it three defeats in his last four. Hill on thje other hand bounced back from the first defeat of his career to Paul Craig at UFC 263 by knocking out Jimmy Crute in just 38 seconds last time out at UFC Vegas 44 in December.
Both of these fighters are hugely explosive knockout artists with legitimate one-punch power in their hands. Walker is incredibly unorthodox with the way he strikes, and he uses his kicks well from the outside. Hill however is a decent wrestler with lightning fast strikes with either hand and legitimate one-punch power. This is a fight that is similar to the Santos and Walker bout, but Hill is far more unlikely to be hesitant when it comes to pull the trigger.
Hill will walk forward and cut the cage off to Walker, which narrows down his opportunities to be wild with his attacks and opens up Hill’s window to land a big strike. It may take a round to warm-up, but I don’t think we’ll need the extra ten minutes this bout has been given a Hill earns a big knockout win. PICK – Jamahal Hill via Knockout, Round 2
The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas once again for yet another fight night card, this time headlined by female featherweight Norma Dumont and short-notice replacement Aspen Ladd.
Ladd was pulled from UFC Vegas 38 just two weeks ago after missing the bantamweight limit by one pound, scrapping her fight with Macy Chiasson. But after Holly Holm pulled out of this card with an injury, the UFC called her in up a weight class to fill in for this main event.
Elsewhere on the card the legendary Jim Miller makes a return while two Contender Series alum in Jordan Wright and Julian Marquez meet in a fun middleweight scrap.
Last week at UFC Vegas 39, we went 6/9 with three perfect picks on a rather forgettable card to move us up to 434/679 (63.92%) with 187 perfect picks (43.09%) since June 2020.
Julian Marquez (9-2) vs Jordan Wright (12-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Potential fight of the night in this one in the middleweight division between two guys with a 100% finish rate in their careers. Marquez earned a submission win over Maki Pitolo at UFC 258 before another submission win over Sam Alvey at UFC Vegas 23. Wright on the other hand bounced back from defeat to Joaquin Buckley at UFC 255 to earn a brilliant first-round win over Jamie Pickett most recently at UFC 262.
Marquez is a very good all-round fighter but he doesn’t seem to excel in any particular path. He’s got good power, very good cardio, decent grappling skills and an ability to go with the flow in each bout. Wright on the other hand is a terrific striker, with explosive power and solid kicks in his arsenal.
This fight will either be incredible explosive with a big finish, or both fighters will be wary of their opponent’s power and scoot around the outside like Thiago Santos vs Johnny Walker did. Either way, I think Marquez has the edge and Wright has been finished before so I lean with ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 2
Manon Fiorot (7-1) vs Mayra Bueno Silva (7-1-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun flyweight bout up next on the main card as the highly rated Manon Fiorot returns to take on Mayra Bueno Silva. Fiorot is udnefeated in the UFC and on a seven-fight win streak with KO’s over Victoria Leonardo at UFC Fight Island 8 and Tabatha Ricci at UFC Vegas 28. Silva is 1-1-1 in her last three, with a submission win over Mara Romero Borella before a draw last time out against Montana De La Rosa at UFC Vegas 20.
Fiorot is a brilliant kickboxer with supreme technical quality and plenty of power in her striking, while Silva is an excellent grappler with five submission wins in her career so far. Fiorot’s ground game is relatively untested in the UFC up to this point and Silva is sure to change that statement. The issue she has however is that her takedown game is non-existent. If Silva gets the fight to the ground, she has a huge edge but she’s never had a successful takedown in her UFC career.
If she can overpower Fiorot down to the ground though, she has a real chance to secure the upset. With that said though, Fiorot has a massive edge on the feet and has the technical ability to pick her apart with combinations at range and finish the fight with elbows and knees if she gets into clinches. PICK – Manon Fiorot via Knockout, Round 3
Jim Miller (32-16) vs Erick Gonzalez (14-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight out between the grappling expert Miller as he takes on short-notice debutant Gonzalez at 155lbs. Miller has lost three of his last four, dropping decisions to Vinc Pichel at UFC 252 and Joe Solecki at UFC Vegas 23 most recently. Gonzalez is on a two-fight win streak and steps in on two-weeks notice.
Miller is a submission wizard, with 18 wins via tap-out throughout his career but he also has some decent striking to mix in with it too. Gonzalez on the other hand is a striking heavy fighter, with good technical boxing ability and some decent kicks to go with his combinations too. It’s a real clash of styles fight in this one and is also a big void in experience too.
On the ground Miller has the advantage, but Gonzalez is very good at pushing forward with blitzes and his takedown defence is decent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either guy get their hand raised at the end of this one, but the experience and grappling of Miller should see him earn a submission win. PICK – Jim Miller via Submission, Round 3
Andrei Arlovski (31-20) vs Carlos Felipe (11-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout between the past and potential future of the division. Arlovski is a former world champion who was submitted by Tom Aspinall at UFC Vegas 19, before bouncing back with a decision win over Chase Sherman at UFC Vegas 24. Felipe is on a three-fight win streak in the UFC, defeating all of Yorgan De Castro, Justin Tafa and Jake Collier by decision at UFC 263 most recently.
Arlovski is a well-rounded striker, with good boxing and some decent wrestling in his back pocket too to try and keep fights standing. Felipe on the other hand is a cardio heavy fighter who uses volume and low kicks to secure wins. Neither of these fighters are the most powerful of strikers, but at heavyweight everyone hits hard. This will likely be stand-up affair and Felipe is deceptively quick with his hands so could catch him with a big strike.
Despite that possibility though, this fight is almost sure to go the distance. Neither guy really goes for the finish too much and Arlovski isn’t fighting like a 42-year-old. But his level has dropped from where he once was and Felipe is always improving, so I think he claims the win. PICK – Carlos Felipe via Decision
Aspen Ladd (9-1) vs Norma Dumont (6-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very weird fight in the main event at featherweight here that was put together on short-notice. Aspen Ladd is moving up to featherweight after missing weight at bantamweight just two weeks ago to step in for the injury Holly Holm to face Dumont. Ladd hasn’t fought since 2019 after tearing her MCL and ACL. Dumont on the other hand has two wins in a row with decisions over Ashlee Evans-Smith and Felicia Spencer.
Ladd is a great wrestler with some excellent control and ground and pound in her arsenal, while Dumont is a very good striker with good speed and power. Ladd is very good at getting the fight down to the ground from the inside and then she just has this ability to hold her opponent in place to unleash some nasty ground strikes, leading to six KO career wins so far.
Dumont’s takedown defence isn’t amazing but on the feet she has the speed to keep range. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the power to put Ladd off coming forward to close the distance and get the takedowns needed. Once there, it’s just about how long Dumont can survive. Sucks to be her, but I don’t think it’ll be that long. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Knockout, Round 3
Great start to the fight for Kasanganay as he comes forward to close the distance early and lands a nice right hand. Palatnikov throws a kick which Kasanganay catches and then he lands another big right hand before getting a body lock and taking Palatnikov down to the ground. Kasanganay using heavy top pressure but not landing much damage and Palatnikov is able to get back to his feet. Kasanganay goes for another takedown but Palatnikov defends it well and they clinch against the cage now. Palatnikov starts teeing off against the cage but Kasanganay does well to avoid any strikes and clinch up again. Nice left hand lands from Palatnikov at the end of the round but should be 10-9 Kasanganay.
Kasanganay comes out quickly in the second round and lands a big right hand that drops Palatnikov! He forces the takedown with pure power and scrambles to take his neck. He locks in a rear-naked choke and squeezes, forcing Palatnikov to tap out! Big win for Kasanganay!
Da-Un Jung def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Reserved start from both fighters as Knight comes out throwing low calf kicks to prevent Jung from letting his jab fly. Knight goes in for a takedown and lifts Jung but he defends it well, switches the position and is able to get a throw perfectly to end up in top position. Knight is landing some nice right hands from the bottom as he holds Jung in place, but Jung fires back with a couple of right hands of his own to shut that down. Jung passes into half guard and tries to move into side control but Knight sweeps him really well and explodes back onto his feet. Knight clinches up once again and Jung is able to get the same trip once more to get back in top position. Some decent ground and pound from Jung as Knight looks quite tired now but he’s able to explode to his feet again as the round ends. 10-9 Jung.
Knight comes out throwing lots of low kicks once again, but Jung is backing him up to the cage and looking to hunt him down. Both guys land a nice right hand each before Knight shoots in for a takedown. Jung defends it, clinches up and then lands the same outside trip once again to take top position and starts landing ground and pound against the cage. Knight tries to get to his feet but Jung stays heavy and drags him down to the mat once more, then takes his back and sinks in both hooks. Jung starts raining down punches and Knight is trying to explode out again rather than use technique. Knight is just surviving right now and Jung continues to smash him up from his back on top. Lots of damage but Knight survives the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Jung.
Jung comes forward early in the final round and Knight has abandoned the leg kicks and is throwing bombs. Jung lands a nice uppercut, then switches levels and gets a big takedown! Knight explodes to his feet again but Jung is able to drag and throw Knight back to the mat with relative ease. Jung floats through the positions and ends up in side control, landing knees to the body and just completely dominating all the exchanges in this fight. Jung stays busy from top position on the ground landing damage for the rest of the fight for a very comfortable win. 30-26 Jung.
Luis Saldana def Jordan Griffin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Really good start to the fight for Saldana as he comes out with his hands low and is throwing quick kicks to the legs and body. Saldana throws a night three punch combo that clips Griffin, who shoots in for a takedown and gets it but Saldana gets back up very quickly. More leg kicks from Saldana take Griffin off his feet but he keeps coming forward and lands two big punches as he rushes forward and goes in for a takedown again. Saldana defends well against the cage and they break, but Griffin stays in his face and keeps throwing big punches. He keeps pouring punches and then eventually gets the takedown, but Saldana is able to roll through and escape before Griffin gets a headlock and looks for some sort of bulldog choke. Saldana is able to escape and Griffin charges once again and just misses with a big head-kick before the round ends. Very close, but I go 10-9 Griffin.
Slower start to the round from both guys as Saldana comes out again looking for low kicks and front kicks to the body, but Griffin pressures him again. Saldana slips as he throws a kick and Griffin jumps on top. Saldana looks for an armbar and then switches to a heel hook to create space which gets both guys back up. Saldana jumps on the neck of Griffin looking for a guillotine, but Griffin is calm and escapes before getting the fight back down. He starts looking for a bulldog choke again but Saldana escapes it only for Griffin to continue with his pressure and get back into a dominant position. Griffin starts floating and then takes the back and sinks in a rear naked choke deep but he runs out of time so we’re going to the final round. 20-18 Griffin.
Saldana comes out in the final round and knows he needs a finish. He’s trying to stay out of wrestling range, using punches rather than kicks to avoid being taken down but he looks exhausted. Griffin isn’t exactly fresh himself but he’s coming forward still but doing enough to stay out of range. Saldana looks to kick off the cage with a superman punch but just misses with that and the follow up hook, before Griffin shoots in for a tired takedown against the cage. Saldana defends it well and switches the position around but Griffin gets his arm under the chin and looks for a rear-naked choke! Saldana stays calm and escapes and ends up on top with 90 seconds to go. Saldana is able to take the back of Griffin for a split second, but Griffin then switches around and finishes the round on top looking for a submission. Probably a Saldana round but should be a win for Griffin. 29-28.
Jack Shore def Hunter Azure via Split Decision (30-27 x2, 28-29)
Composed start to the bout from both men as they feel each other out with jabs and low kicks before they both clinch up against the cage. Shore looking like the stronger fighter as they battle for position and he gets a body lock in nicely and picks Azure up and sweeps the legs for a takedown. Azure gets back up quickly but Shore keeps the hands locked and continues to drag Azure around. Shore tries to take the back but Azure drops to his knees and counters by turning into Shore’s guard. Shore kicks off the hips to get back to his feet quickly before Azure can do any damage and they clinch against the cage again before separating. Both men throw a simultaneous kick that makes for a big thud before a nice high kick lands from Shore. Azure looks for a takedown against the cage but Shore defends and the round ends. 10-9 Shore.
Fast start from Azure in the second round as he goes straight in for a clinch against the cage and lands some nice knees to the body and thighs. Shore is patient and eventually gets back up and catches a kick from Azure and lands a right hand that drops Azure. Azure gets back up quickly though and Shore looks for a clinch against the takedown before going for a takedown of his own. He shoots in and Azure looks for a guillotine which forces Shore to abandon and go to his back to escape, but Azure ends up on top in half guard. Shore uses his long legs and hips really well to get back up to the feet and the clinch continues against the cage once again. Accidental low blow from Azure causes a short pause in the action but they clinch again when they resume. Azure lands a nice right hand when they separate and then lands a good right hook but Shore starts landing some strikes of his own too. Azure lands a big right hand clean but Shore responds with an uppercut as the round ends. Very close round, probably in Azure’s favour. 19-19.
Azure goes straight in for a takedown at the start of the third but Shore stuffs it well and starts working off his jab from the outside. Azure changes levels to avoid a right hand and goes for a single leg, but Shore defends it brilliantly once again against the cage. Stiff low kick from Shore and then a nice left hook lands that stings Azure, who shoots for a takedown quickly after but is denied. Shore stuffs another attempt and then takes Azure down himself, landing some short punches against the cage and leaning all his weight on Azure to drag him back down. He looks to take Azure’s back and then moves into mount, switching between both positions. Azure is able to get back to his feet but Shore keeps hold of him and is able to take him down once again as we enter the final 90 seconds. Azure scrambles and rolls through to escape Shore’s grip and ends up on top and looks to land ground and pound but Shore defends brilliantly and then escapes a rear naked choke attempt to see out the round. Should be a win for Shore, 29-28.
Jarjis Danho def Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1 (3:02)
Slow start to the fight for both guys as they throw some leg kicks and circle each other. Danho throwing more and more leg kicks but not much action in the first two minutes. Danho looks to clinch up but De Castro throws him off and lands a big left hand that wobbles Danho! He comes forward with more punches but Danho avoids and goes for a takedown. The two separate and De Castro continues to come forward, then both men throw big right hands and Danho lands on the side of the head and puts De Castro’s lights out!! He lands one more on the ground but it’s all over! What a knockout!
John Makdessi def Ignacio Bahamondes via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Bahamondes using his length well very early on, with long jabs and front kicks. Bahamondes doing really well to mix up his attacks, landing leg kicks, jabs, straight rights, body shots and kicks while changing up his stance constantly. Makdessi just can’t get a read right now as Bahamondes keeps moving. Makdessi lands a big right hand that makes Bahamondes do the chicken dance and he pushes on for the finish, but Bahamondes clinches up to try and recover. Bahamondes now is trying to stay away and land from range but Makdessi continues to pour on the pressure. Bahamondes goes for a takedown against the cage but Makdessi defends it well. Bahamondes lands a couple of elbows on the break and they exchange strikes again as the round ends. That’s a really close round could go either way. I go Makdessi for the damage.
Bahamondes seems to have recovered now as he comes out popping his jab once again and circling on the outside. Makdessi taking the centre and looking to catch Bahamondes on his way in, but it’s not working too well for him just yet. Three jabs in a row land for Makdessi who returns with a big left hand of his own. Bahamondes lands a big straight left then misses with a few kicks before shooting in for a takedown, but Makdessi defends it with ease. Bahamondes starts throwing some knees against the cage before they separate and go back to trading straight punches. Both guys trading jabs and straights and landing, then Bahamondes lands a huge spinning heel kick to the head but Makdessi eats it. Makdessi responds with two body shots and a short left hook to the chin then lands a clean one two. Another super close round, I’ve got it even.
Third round following the pattern of the previous two, with Bahamondes landing from range but Makdessi standing firm in the middle and popping him back too. Bahamondes lands some nice jabs but Makdessi keeps landing the straight right and left jab in response. Bahamondes looks for a big knee that just misses and then he shoots in for a takedown to mix it up. Makdessi stuffs it and lands a nice right hand, before Bahamondes starts pouring on pressure and lands a big one-two. Bahamondes lands another nice left hand that sends Makdessi backwards but they continue to stand in a phonebox and trade for the remainder of the round in what was a brilliant fight. Another very close round, I don’t know how to call it. 29-28 either way, I lean to Bahamondes.
Mateusz Gamrot def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 2 (1:22)
Good start to the round from both guys, with Gamrot looking to land from range to set up his takedowns while Holtzman is looking to counter with heavy punches. Gamrot steps in for a takedown and grabs the leg and tries to go for a heel hook but Holtzman defends it well. Gamrot lands a nice left but Holtzman responds with a huge left hand on his way in! Gamrot responds with a couple of left hands again and then goes for single leg again and transitions to a double leg to get the takedown against the cage. Gamrot allows him back up and throws a huge elbow to the ear that wobbles Holtzman towards the end of the round. 10-9 Gamrot.
Holtzman comes out very aggressive and starts walking Gamrot down, but he’s loading up his attacks with big uppercuts and overhands. Gamrot moving side to side to stay out of the way and he throws a big one two down the middle which folds Holtzman! He jumps on and lands a couple more shots before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Gamrot!
Joe Solecki def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Very positive start from Solecki as he looks to be first in the striking exchanges between the two, but Miller just misses with his big left hand. Nice calf kick lands from Miller but Solecki is coming forward and landing nice short flurries of punches. Big right hand lands and forces Miller to think twice but then the veteran lands a nice body kick. Solecki shoots in for a takedown but Miller stuffs it and ends up on top, so Solecki goes into full guard and starts defending. Miller is landing some nice short elbows from the top position and stacking Solecki up to prevent him from being able to get back to his feet easily. Miller misses with an elbow as the rounds ends, probably a Miller round because of the top control. 10-9 Miller.
Solecki comes out aggressive in the second round and lands a nice right hand before shooting in for the takedown. Miller looks to defend it but Solecki takes the legs from under him and moves into full guard. Now it’s Solecki looking to stack Miller against the cage and throw some ground and pound, but Miller is staying busy from his back too. A few body shots from Solecki as he looks to wear Miller down heading into the final 90 seconds of the round. Not much action in this round but Solecki controlled it and takes the round. 19-19 going into the final round.
Both men see the route to victory as being on top and so immediately they both move into a clinch position. Solecki the physically stronger guy right now and gets a body lock, which Miller tries to roll through from but Solecki holds on and ends up on top once again. Solecki throwing short shots on the ground from half guard but Miller is trying to get back to his feet now rather than accepting the position. Solecki doing really well to control the position now and just doing enough damage to stop the fight from being stood back up. Solecki maintains the position for the rest of the round to secure what should be a straight forward decision win.
Daniel Rodriguez def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Tense start to this one with both men respecting the power of their opponent early on. Perry throws a few le kicks and Rodriguez is throwing his jab well and has already busted up the nose. Rodriguez throws a big one-two down the middle that staggers Perry but he continues to come forward to look for a finish. Rodriguez is landing big one-twos at will and Perry is getting pieced up, so he changes levels and powers through with a takedown. He lifts Rodriguez up and slams him down but Rodriguez holding on for a guillotine which Perry does well to defend against and avoid. Perry stays in top position and works for some ground and pound to see the round out. Perry still in it, but that’s a Rodriguez round for me. 10-9.
Second round and Rodriguez is doing really well on the feet, with his jab landing at will and the left hand following up behind it cleanly too. Perry is throwing some nice leg kicks and is just struggling to be first with the punches because of the range difference. Perry gets a body lock and looks for a takedown which he gets, then tries to transition onto Rodriguez’s back, but Rodriguez does well to stay strong and get back up pretty quickly. Rodriguez continues to land the jab and left straight at will, but Perry is still standing in front of him and throwing shots of his own. Big right hook, left hand from Rodriguez lands clean. Perry comes forward looking for a takedown with 20 seconds to go but Rodriguez defends it well to claim the round again. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Final round and the pattern continues, as Rodriguez lines up the jab and takes the centre of the cage. Perry is struggling to land anything of note because he keeps getting pummelled every time he tries to go first. Perry shoots for a takedown but Rodriguez denies it again and shrugs him off in the clinch. Rodriguez throws three huge left hands in an exchange but Perry is still taking the punishment and trying to come forward. Perry’s face is so busted up right now and at this point it’s just about not getting finished as Rodriguez shoots in for a takedown but Perry stuffs it to see the round out with a big exchange. 30-27 Rodriguez, excellent performance.
Fast start to the fight from Dern as she charges forward throwing big punches with a couple landing but Nunes responds with a couple of her own. Dern charges forward again and lands a nice left hand, but Nunes throws a good right hand to counter it too. Dern shoots in for a takedown against the cage and lifts the leg high then sweeps the standing leg and dumps her down. She immediately works to advance the position and threatens with a leg attack to pass into half guard. From half guard she quickly moves into mount and starts raining down elbows from the top. She transitions into an armbar position and despite Nunes’ best attempts to defend it, Dern extends the arm and gets the tap out.
Julian Marquez def Sam Alvey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (2:07)
Pretty tame opening to the round as Marquez takes the centre early and looks to figure out his range by flicking out his lead hand. Neither men throw anything really for the first two minutes barring a couple of missed hooks. Alvey is loading up big with his left hand and it’s allowing Marquez to avoid it well. Marquez lands a big right hook clean and Alvey is hurt. Marquez goes in again and lands two more that drops Alvey but he falls into Marquez and quickly recovers. Two more big right hands land from Marquez but Alvey just about stays standing and now throws a huge left of his own. Alvey is all the way back against the cage and just trying to hit Marquez on his way in but he’s missing wildly. 10-9 Marquez at the end of the round.
More of the same in the second round as Marquez backs Alvey up and lands a nice body shot, but Alvey explodes forward and lands a nice right hand of his own. Marquez throws an overhand right that lands clean on Alvey’s chin but he’s still there throwing his own heat. Marquez lands a huge right hand that drops Alvey and he goes all in for the finish with big strikes. Alvey looks to defend with a takedown but he’s eating big shots. Marquez abandons the strikes and goes for a rear-naked choke and puts Alvey to sleep for the win. Great performance.
Arnold Allen def Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start for Allen as Yusuff comes forward and throws a body kick which he catches and immediately gets a takedown. Yusuff does well to defend well against the cage and hooks up a guillotine choke that forces Allen to roll to his back and abandon the takedown attempt. Yusuff comes forward and is chopping away at the leg of Allen, but both men are throwing heat. Allen lands a big left hand but Yusuff keeps coming and clinches up. Allen lands a big left hand that drops Yusuff and he moves in to take top position but Yusuff does well to recover and avoid further damage. Allen goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s defended well and the round comes to an end with a nice exchange in the centre. 10-9 Allen.
Yusuff continues to push the pace and pressuring forward, but Allen is threatening with the big left hand once again. Yusuff lands some nice chopping leg kicks again and Yusuff is starting to land with his jab. He’s starting to touch Allen more and more, then Allen throws a huge head-kick that rocks him! Allen slips as it lands but he jumps back up and goes to land some ground and pound, but Yusuff recovers well once again and they get back to competing in the middle. Clinch against the cage and Allen is physically stronger and able to dictate the position more, and he sees out the round in control. 20-18 Allen.
Good start from Allen as he looks to back Yusuff up to the cage with his physicality and shoot for takedowns, but Yusuff refusing to accept it and defending really well. He switches the position on the cage and lands some nice knees to the body of Allen before they separate and go back into the centre. Lots of short exchanges and clinch work against the cage for the rest of the round as Yusuff arguably takes the round but it won’t be enough for a win. 29-28 Allen for me, very competitive fight.
Marvin Vettori def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (50-44 x3)
Holland makes a fast start throwing some leg kicks and big right hands but early on he lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Vettori comes in tight for the clinch after the action resumes, but Holland is striking from range and lands a heavy right hand. Vettori finally gets a body lock and clinch against the cage to start wearing on Holland, but he defends the attempted trip well which forces Vettori to change to a double leg. Holland defends it well again and Vettori separates, but he’s right in Holland’s face and applying lots of pressure. Vettori is able to drag Holland down to the ground, but Holland starts throwing up-kicks to try and create space to get up to his feet. Vettori is able to get full guard and starts applying lots of pressure and looking to land ground and pound. Holland is able to roll through and gets back to the feet, but then eats a big left hand. Good first round from both, very close to score. 10-9 Vettori for me but could go either way.
Holland comes out fast once again and lands some sharp punches and straight kicks but Vettori is trying to close the distance earlier this time. Holland lands a big one-two but Vettori eats it, slips a shot and then shoots in for another takedown against the cage. He gets him down quickly this time and avoids the guillotine attempt to go into full guard and land big ground and pound strikes. Vettori starts stacking Holland against the cage and raining down strikes, completely dominant. Holland tries to kick out of it but Vettori controls the position well and gets right back to work with the ground and pound from the top position. More strikes from Vettori opens up a cut on Holland’s face and he tries to scramble out but Vettori just controls his position even once Holland gets back to his feet to end the round. 20-17.
Holland’s left eye is closing up but he’s battling on and Vettori comes out like a freight train and looks to go straight for the takedown again. He gets it quickly and then moves into mount almost immediately. He looks to set up an arm triangle submission and locks it in tight, but Holland doesn’t tap and is able to escape from the bottom to get back up to his feet. Vettori goes straight back for the takedown again but Holland does well to avoid it. Holland lands a couple of nice strikes standing but then once again Vettori changes levels, clinches against the cage and controls the position. Holland lands a couple of huge strikes that seem to wobble Vettori a little but the buzzer goes. 30-26 Vettori.
Big early left hand lands at the start of the fourth for Vettori, but Holland responds with a couple of big hooks of his own. Vettori shoots in for a takedown and gets it down pretty easily once again and goes straight into full guard to land some ground and pound. Vettori looks to stack Holland who rolls through to avoid it and gets back to full guard. Holland is able to get back to the feet after a short scramble but very quickly Vettori is able to drag him back down and goes straight into mount. He looks for the arm triangle submission again, but Holland stays calm and takes it back to half guard. Vettori lands some heavy strikes and then goes back into full guard before passing into half guard again. Vettori tries to stack him and Holland starts throwing up-kicks again but Vettori is just too strong and sees out the round on top. 40-35 Vettori.
Holland still looks fresh and lands a bomb of a right hand that gets Vettori’s attention, so the Italian changes levels and gets the takedown immediately and goes into full guard. Holland kicks off the cage and finds a way to get back to the feet but once again Vettori just locks his hands, finds an angle and drags him back down to the mat. Vettori steps over into half guard and starts throwing some more ground and pound with Holland fighting off his back. Vettori steps over into mount once again looking to set up the arm triangle choke, but Holland explodes back up to his feet. Vettori holds the body lock once again though and drags the fight to the mat again with 40 seconds to go and he sees the round out in control. 50-44 Vettori, pure domination.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
With a belting 14 fights on the card, we’ve split it up into three sections and having already predicted the early prelims here we move onto the rest of the prelims now.
Yorgan De Castro (6-2) vs Jarjis Danho (6-1-1 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big boys are in action on this card as Yorgan De Castro looks to snap a two-fight losing streak against Jarjis Danho, who makes his first appearance in a cage fight in almost five years.
Castro dropped consecutive decision defeats to Greg Hardy and Carlos Felipe, while Danho lost and drew his last two fights but hasn’t fought since September 2016 for no reason in particular. Both guys are heavy punchers who have a sledgehammer of a right hand and are completely one dimensional when it comes to a game plan.
Neither man has ever been finished before but combined they have got ten wins by stoppage, with nine knockouts and a single submission in Danho’s favour. Both guys are going to trade swinging their right hand and whoever’s chin holds up the most will get the win but this will not be the most exciting fight the longer it goes. PICK – Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1
John Makdessi (17-7) vs Ignacio Bahamondes (11-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Striking technique meets striking power in this lightweight bout as John Makdessi takes on debutant Ignacio Bahamondes. Makdessi lost his last bout to Francisco Trinaldo and then tore his ACL, making this his first fight in just over a year while Bahamondes has won his last two fights coming into this debut.
Makdessi is as pure a striker as they come in the UFC, landing ZERO takedowns in his 17 previous UFC fights while Bahamondes is a powerful striker who stands at 6ft 3 and has a tremendous reach advantage. He has a few defensive lapses still, which Makdessi can absolutely take advantage of, but with a 12 year age gap and a 7.5 inch reach advantage it’s hard to see this going the Canadian’s way.
Bahamondes has the power advantage with hands and even legs, so I think Bahamondes can use the reach and power to get a win in a fun back-and-forth fight. PICK – Ignacio Bahamondes via Knockout, Round 2
Norma Dumont (5-1) vs Erin Blanchfield (6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An exciting debut for Erin Blanchfield as one of the biggest prospects in women’s MMA enters the UFC to take on Norma Dumont in the bantamweight division.
Dumont has gone 1-1 in her two-fight UFC career so far, losing at featherweight to Megan Anderson before winning a decision against Ashlee Evans-Smith at UFC Vegas 15 and will fight Blanchfield in a short-notice fight. Blanchfield is a natural flyweight fighting up a division in her debut due to the short notice.
Dumont will have a considerable size advantage, but Blanchfield is a really exciting jiu-jitsu practitioner. Her ground game is stunning and her striking is only improving as her last knockout win via head-kick showed, but Dumont is a good wrestler on her own accord. While Blanchfield is brilliant, it’s hard to overlook the size disparity especially considering ‘Cold Blooded’ uses her physicality so well at flyweight. It will be a tough debut for her, I think Dumont gets the win. PICK – Norma Dumont via Decision
Scott Holtzman (14-4) vs Mateusz Gamrot (17-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Gamrot is a very wrestling heavy fighter, whose bread and butter is to close distance and get the takedown to dominate from top position. Holtzman is more of a striker with good boxing skills and while his takedown defence is horrible, I can’t see him being able to hold off Gamrot’s attacks for long periods.
Holtzman has had wars in the past so his cardio isn’t really in question here, but those wars came against sub-par opposition which just adds to the concerns around the 37-year-old. Gamrot gets him down and grinds him out for a wide decision win. PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Jim Miller (32-15) vs Joe Solecki (10-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The featured prelim bout plays host to some history this weekend as Jim Miller becomes the fighter with the most octagon appearances when he takes on Joe Solecki in the lightweight division.
Miller is now 37 and his explosiveness has depleted, which gives Solecki a big advantage if they get to the ground. The issue for both is that usually when two grapplers meet the fight will stay on the feet, where Miller probably has a slight edge. But with his cardio problems, the longer the fight goes the more it swings in the younger man’s favour and while Miller is probably good enough to avoid getting tapped out, Solecki is likely to dominate the majority of the bout for a decision win. PICK – Joe Solecki via Decision
In the co-main event, Maycee Barber makes a return to the flyweight division after a serious knee injury saw her miss over a year of action. She will take on Alexa Grasso with the two strikers looking to make a name for themselves inside the top ten.
Last week at UFC Vegas 18 we went 8/12 with our picks, with five perfect selections to go with it. That moves us to 224/349 (64.18%) with 101 (45.09%) perfect picks since beginning our predictions back in June 2020.
Maki Pitolo (13-7) vs Julian Marquez (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting middleweight bout between Pitolo and the returning Marquez, who makes his first appearance in the octagon since July 2018.
Pitolo is 1-3 in the UFC, including losses in his last two against Darren Stewart and Impa Kasanganay, while Marquez lost a split decision to Alessio Di Chirico before tearing his latissimum dorsi muscle and being told he’d never fight again.
Pitolo is a good grappler and good striker, pretty well rounded all over while Marquez was a relatively hittable striker back in the day. The fact he hasn’t fought for so long is worrying but he has a power advantage from what he had in the past and with Pitolo happy to take a punch to give a punch, that could land him in trouble. It’s tough to call, but I’ll lean with the power of Marquez. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 2
Ricky Simon (17-3) vs Brian Kelleher (22-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A quick turnaround for Simon as he takes on ‘Bam Bam’ Kelleher in the featherweight division.
Simon got a win on Fight Island last month with a fantastic performance and submission win against Gaetano Pirrello, while Kelleher went 3-1 in 2020 including a 39 second submission win over Ray Rodriguez back in October.
Simon is a fantastic wrestler, who applies phenomenal pressure and looks to work his submission game once he gets down there while Kelleher is a powerful striker who has a violent guillotine in his locker too. Kelleher’s wrestling isn’t awful, but Simon has a huge advantage in that area. He has shown a wobbly chin before and Kelleher has finished all but one of his wins in the UFC. With that said, Simon’s wrestling is so good I do expect he’ll get the takedowns in a safe way to avoid the guillotine chokes and dominate from top position for a decision win. PICK – Ricky Simon via Decision
Jim Miller (32-15) vs Bobby Green (27-11-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Miller is a submission monster, with 18 wins coming by way of tap-out in his career. He’s excellent on the mat but he comes up against Green who has been excellent on the feet in his most recent fights but has also shown fantastic grappling defence and solid wrestling.
Green has power to hurt Miller and a speed advantage, so I expect Green should be able to out land Miller on the feet an keep the fight standing with his takedown defence so I expect a decision win. PICK – Bobby Green via Decision
Kelvin Gastelum (15-6 1NC) vs Ian Heinisch (14-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A middleweight clash that will see two men battling to get back on track to work their way up the rankings in the 185lbs division. Gastelum put together a decent run at middleweight before losing to Israel Adesanya in the interim title fight, before losing to Darren Till and then getting ankle-picked by Jack Hermansson in July in just 78 seconds. Heinisch lost two in a row at the back end of 2019 before bouncing back with a win over Gerald Meerschaert in June.
Gastelum is a heavy handed striker with a good wrestling background, while Heinisch is very similar in style. In a very even match up, the difference between the two is generally in the cardio department where Gastelum rarely gasses out. Heinisch is the crisper striker of the two but Gastelum has a speed advantage and is coming back with a point to prove after three losses in a row.
It’s a really close fight and there’s not much in it either way, but I think Gastelum’s power and speed could be enough to get him a close decision win once the fight gets into the later rounds. PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision
Maycee Barber (8-1) vs Alexa Grasso (12-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The return of Maycee Barber is the co-main event of this event as she takes on Alexa Grasso in the women’s flyweight division. Barber was 8-0 before losing her last fight to Roxanne Modafferi, where she tore her ACL in the second round and got dominated on the ground. Grasso has alternated wins and losses since 2016, with a win in her last bout against Ji Yeon Kim in August last year.
Both women are great strikers with Barber having a big power advantage, but Grasso’s boxing is arguably more polished. Barber is bigger physically, stronger, faster and just has a lot of advantages in this bout. While Grasso is a good talent in her own right, she’s been set up to fail in this one.
Barber should return to the octagon with a statement win here, and I expect a one-sided display for ‘The Future’. PICK – Maycee Barber via Knockout, Round 2
Kamaru Usman (17-1) vs Gilbert Burns (19-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
The welterweight division can finally move on from this match up after this weekend as ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ takes on his long-time teammate Gilbert Burns for the title. Usman is undefeated in the UFC and has won 16 fights in a row in total, defeating Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington before dominating Jorge Masvidal last time out. Burns is on a six-fight win streak of his own, with wins over Demian Maia and Woodley himself in his last two fights to set this bout up.
The two trained together for many years under Henry Hooft but when this fight was made, Usman went to work with Justin Gaethje and Trevor Wittman which means his striking will almost certainly have improved while he’s been away. Burns is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion who has started leaning on his knockout power more in recent times, because he’s so confident on the ground.
He’s going to need that grappling more than ever in this one, with Usman’s style always to back his opponent up to the cage then use his incredible physicality to get a takedown and dominate on the ground. He showed in his fight with Covington that he has a great chin and knockout power too and while Burns will cause him problems from the bottom, Usman is a level above any welterweight in the world and should win this one. PICK – Kamaru Usman via Decision
Kai Kamaka III def Tony Kelley via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
A fantastic first round of the night as Kai Kamaka applies a ferocious pace and lands some beautiful punches to take the round comfortably. His left hook is landing perfectly and he’s throwing it to the head and body, while using excellent footwork to avoid Kelley’s attacks. His wrestling is stronger and he’s countering Kelley’s jab perfectly. Great round. 10-9 Kamaka.
A much more competitive second round in the APEX as Kamaka comes out and continues to try and throw bombs away at Kelley’s body. Every shot is hurting him but Kelley is fighting back hard and starts to land some shots of his own with Kamaka’s footwork slowing down and a lack of head movement. Strong end to the round from Kelley but I’d still give the round to Kamaka. 20-18.
The third round begins with Kelley coming out extra aggressively and throws a big left hook that lands flush. Kelley engages in a clinch and drops down for a guillotine but Kamaka escapes immediately and starts landing some vicious ground and pound. The fight gets back to the feet and Kelley is landing big knees in the clinch to the body, but he catches Kamaka below the belt and the fight is paused. After the restart both men exchange jabs and hooks but the fight fizzles out. 29-28 Kamaka for me.
Chris Daukaus def Parker Porter via Knockout, Round 1 (4:28)
What a great performance by Chris Daukaus! Both fighters come out and exchange nice punches and clinch work, with Parker opening up a cut on the head of Daukaus. Daukaus though is just that bit quicker and lands a huge right hand that drops Parker, who grabs a single leg and survives back to his feet. Daukaus stays patient for a short while before landing a huge combination that ends with a knee to a hurt Parker for the knockout win. Superb performance.
Fight starts slowly and Yoder immediately tries to scramble onto the back of Souza, but she’s too high up and ends up under Souza who lands some nasty ground and pound before letting her back up. Not much happens between that and the end of the round, although Souza landed a few nice looping hooks. 10-9 Souza.
A more grapple heavy second round but again pretty uneventful. Yoder was better defensively and they had lots of exchanges against the cage to take each other down but nothing of any significance landed. 20-18 Souza for me, but this round could go either way with the judges.
Yoder doing well in this round to fight at range and use her longer limbs to land strikes first. Souza seems to be trying to box more than anything but is also throwing a lovely inside leg-kick that is causing Yoder some problems. A rather uneventful fight ends with a scramble to the ground and Souza in top position with a front headlock on, which should be enough to win her the fight. 30-27 Souza.
Danny Chavez def T.J Brown via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
A fun opening round as both guys come with power and speed in their punches, with Chavez throwing huge leg kicks to great effect. Brown trying to out-wrestle Chavez but he is defending very well and landing those big leg kicks to counter it. Good round for Chavez. 10-9.
Second round begins with more heavy leg kicks from Chavez, who’s speed is seriously impressive here. More leg kicks force Brown to change to a southpaw stance and Chavez throws a big right hand that drops him! He goes for the ground and pound but Brown uses his wrestling skills to scramble out and survive. Great round for Chavez again, Brown needs a finish in the final round. 20-18 Chavez.
Final round and Brown comes out very aggressively to shoot for the takedown. Once again Chavez defends it well, so Brown starts swinging wildly against the cage and lands some nice shots but Chavez eats them well. Once again Brown tries to get the fight to the ground but Chavez manages to reverse the position and be dominant on the ground, allowing Brown to get up before suplexing back down to the ground until the horn goes. Big win for the Chavez.
An immediate takedown by Jandiroba starts this fight off, with a very tight top pressure for the entire first minute. Jandiroba transitions to the back and then to full mount and lands some big elbows forcing Herrig to roll over onto her back. Jandiroba then spins out and quickly transitions to a straight armbar and forces Herrig to tap immediately. Hugely impressive win from the Brazilian.
Vinc Pichel def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 29-27)
A fun, tactical first round in this prelim main event. Pichel used his reach advantage to strike from range to begin with and defended against the clinch perfectly. Eventually however, Miller is able to secure the takedown and takes the back very quickly. He works for a rear-naked choke, before going for an arm-in guillotine and then a calf slicer before the buzzer. Takedown and submission attempts make it a Miller round for me. 10-9.
Pichel goes for a big head kick to open the round but Miller runs through it and gets a quick takedown. Pichel rains down elbows from the bottom but Miller eventually starts to control. A burst from Pichel sees him get back to his feet and he enters a clinch before then getting his own takedown. He lands some good ground & pound and also controls the top position for the remainder of the round. Excellent round, level going into the final round.
Immediate takedown in the final round for Pichel as he shows his big physical strength advantage to hold Miller down and dominate. Pichel transitions around Miller, passing his guard and eventually taking his back but Miller spins out and ends up on top. Both fighters exchange positions on the ground before eventually separating. Pichel lands a few strikes before Miller goes in for a big guillotine submission and it’s in tight. Pichel manages to squeeze his head out though and the round ends with him on top once again. 29-28 Pichel for me.
Merab Dvalishvili def John Dodson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
First round is a tentative affair to begin with, with Dodson looking to counter any attacks and Merab faking to get a read on his takedowns. Eventually he charges forward after a barrage of strikes and into a takedown attempt but Dodson does well not to go down. Merab throws big knees to the thighs of Dodson in an attempt to soften him up but he doesn’t get the takedown but he’ll take the round. 10-9.
More of the same in this second round as Merab pushes the pace well and Dodson is more worried about stopping his output than putting together any of his own attacks. Big right hands into takedown attempts for Merab but Dodson keeps bouncing straight back up to his feet. Clear size advantage in this bout and it’s showing. 20-18 Merab.
Third round and it’s a familiar pattern but with Dodson struggling a bit with the pace of the fight. Merab is landing his right hand a bit more frequently now but still cant hold Dodson down anytime he gets the takedown. It’s a carbon copy of the first two rounds and should be a comfortable decision win for the Georgian. 30-27.
Daniel Pineda def Herbert Burns via Knockout, Round 2 (4:37)
A round that showed why this fight was initially supposed to be on the undercard. Burns went in for a wild takedown that had no real intent behind it and Pineda lands a big right hand. Burns then secures the back position in a scramble but Pineda spins and ends up in the Brazilian’s guard. He lands some vicious ground and pound from the top position while avoiding submission attempts from Burns as he controls for over half the round. 10-9 Pineda.
Straight into the second round and Burns lands a right straight and then goes straight into a takedown with a trip. Keeping heavy on top, Burns takes the back and Pineda starts landing big elbows to the leg of Burns, which forces him to move to a different position and allows Pineda to scramble up. Burns somehow keeps hold of the back control but then once again Pineda spins and ends up on top with a dominant ground and pound performance. Pineda transitions into a crucifix position and starts raining down heavy elbows on Burns. Herbert trying very hard to escape but he can’t and the referee is forced to stop the fight. Huge win for Pineda, amazing performance.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik def Junior Dos Santos via Knockout, Round 3 (3:47)
A stalemate of a first round. Both men spend the majority of the round sending out feelers for each other and trying to make reads. Into the final minute of the round, Dos Santos throws a body kick but Rozenstruik catches it and charges forward with several punches of his own that land. Rozenstruik throws a jab followed by a low kick but catches Dos Santos below the belt. Fight resumes and Dos Santos throws a spin kick as the round ends. Tight one, but I’ll give it JDS. 10-9 Dos Santos.
More feelers and feints in the second round but it’s Dos Santos who’s getting the better of any exchanges so far. He’s got a bit of a speed advantage and his overhand right is landing well, plus his jab and kicks seem to be putting Rozenstruik on the back foot. Jairzinho starts stepping forward now and applying pressure and he forces Dos Santos back to the cage. He lets his hands fly and fakes a left before landing two big right hands that drop Dos Santos. He pounces and lands big strikes to force the referee to stop the fight. Big win for Rozenstruik.
Marlon Vera def Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 1 (4:40)
Lots of feeling each other out in this first round as O’Malley throws lots of fakes and some heavy low kicks. O’Malley seems to slip twice in the centre of the octagon and may have injured himself. He’s seriously struggling with movement and now goes for a big right hand, misses and loses balance and falls over. Chito gets on top and lands a HUGE elbow to the head, then two more punches and the referee ends it prematurely. The injury significantly played into that stoppage because the ground and pound wasn’t that bad. Probably a good decision though, O’Malley was done.
Stipe Miocic def Daniel Cormier via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x2, 48-47)
Slow start to this title fight as both guys circle and try to figure out the range and feints of their opponent. Miocic lands a jab followed by a left hook to the body, just like the second fight, which makes Cormier shoot for the takedown immediately. Miocic scrambles well and ends up in a front face lock but then he powers out and avoids. Time gets paused as DC pokes Miocic in the eye (again) but once we’re back in it Miocic lands the cleaner strikes. As the round closes, Cormier rushes in and lands a big overhand right that wobbles Miocic but the horn goes. 10-9 Stipe for me but it’s close.
A very tactical fight this one. Both fighters throwing nothing leg-kicks when out of range but DC more aggressive in this round than the first. Any sort of clinch attempt sees Cormier throw big combinations that end with a right hook or overhand, the same punch that won him the first fight. Stipe comes forward and lands two big right hands and Cormier goes down! Miocic gets on top and lands strikes but DC is holding on to him and the round ends. 20-18 Miocic, DC is still very hurt.
Cormier comes out in the third round but he’s still a bit wobbly. Miocic comes forward but with patience. The two meet in the middle and clinch, and Stipe pushes him back to the cage and uses his size to control the position and land a few body shots. They separate and DC lands two big right hands. Miocic throws a one-two that misses and Cormier complains of an eye-poke, but the referee says it didn’t happen as the round ends. 30-27. Replays show that Miocic DID eye-poke Cormier, and badly too.
A great fourth round sees both guys really going for it and throwing bombs. Surprisingly Cormier has barely wrestled so far but he’s landing some heavy shots, Miocic is just eating them and throwing his own. Miocic engages in the clinch again and uses his power advantage to push Cormier back to the cage. DC’s round, but I think he needs the finish. 38-36 Miocic.
Final round and Cormier is looking to wrestle, but Miocic is just too strong and fresh this late on. Clinching against the cage again and Miocic using his power to keep him held there and as they separate, Cormier lands a jab and two big hooks. Miocic throws his own combo and then looks for a takedown that DC stuffs. A stalemate of a final round that I give to DC for landing the bigger shots, but I think Stipe takes the win. 48-47.
The biggest fight in heavyweight history is finally here as UFC 252 pulls into the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this weekend.
With Daniel Cormier making the final walk of his career as he looks to reclaim the heavyweight gold against Stipe Miocic, the UFC has filled the undercard with prospects and build-em-up fights rather than stacking the card. There are plenty of good fights on the night and I’ll break them down now, starting with the prelims.
Last time out, I got 11/12 picks right with 4/11 being perfect picks (winner, round, method) to have a great night. You can see those picks here (main card/prelims). I’ll look to improve on that this time around with this round of predictions.
Kai Kamaka III (7-2) vs Tony Kelley (5-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fight put together on just three days notice, two fighters making their UFC debuts will open the card. Kai Kamaka has won his last five in a row all by decision, including his most recent fight just two weeks ago. Kelley hasn’t fought in over a year, when he secured a first round submission win. This is a fight between two relative unknowns and there isn’t much tape on either of them. From the small bit I’ve seen, Kamaka likes to exchange in the pocket but doesn’t have any real power in his hands which explains why six of his seven wins have come via decision. Kamaka is in guaranteed fight shape and I think he’ll be able to get it done. PICK – Kai Kamaka III via Unanimous Decision
Chris Daukaus (8-3) vs Parker Porter (9-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Another fight where two UFC debutants meet for the first time in the octagon, but this time in the heavyweight division. Daukaus makes his first appearance in just under a full year, where he knocked out Danny Holmes in just 90 seconds. Porter has fought two of the best big-men ever in Jon Jones and Gabriel Gonzaga (he lost both inside the distance) and is also making his first walk of 2020. Daukaus has smoother, crisper hands and while Porter is a clinch fighter. Daukaus has excellent knees that will negate that point of attack for Porter and and should be able to land enough blows to end this one inside the distance. PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 2
Livinha Souza (13-2) vs Ashley Yoder (7-5) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Two ladies take the limelight in this one as both women look to bounce back from a loss in their last fight in the strawweight division. Livinha Souza has 8 submission wins on her record, with her top-notch judo game getting the fight down to the ground effectively. Yoder is an all-rounder but doesn’t do anything in particular exceptionally well. She’s 2-4 since coming to the UFC and Souza is likely to make that record worse. Souza has the advantage everywhere in this fight so as long as she turns up and performs well, she should win. PICK – Livinha Souza via Unanimous Decision
T.J Brown (14-7) vs Danny Chavez (10-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
‘Downtown’ Brown makes his return to the UFC following a submission defeat to Jordan Griffin in his debut after a successful appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. He takes on Danny Chavez, who makes his organisation debut following three first-round stoppage wins in a row. There’s not much footage of Chavez around so a lot of this is guess-work, but Brown seems to be the more complete fighter. He is more comfortable on the ground and it’s not often that he doesn’t end a fight inside the distance. I think he should be able to secure an early takedown in this fight and land some flush ground and pound before sinking in a rear-naked choke. PICK – T.J Brown via Submission, Round 2
Felice Herrig (14-8) vs Virna Jandiroba (15-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
‘Lil Bulldog’ Felice Herrig returns from a two-year layoff following an ACL injury to take on her kryptonite in Virna Jandiroba’s wrestling and submission game. Jandiroba is an exceptional wrestler, which is usually where Herrig wins most of her fights and ‘Carcara’ has a highly skilled submission game, seeing 12 of her 15 wins come via tapout. Herrig has an advantage on the feet but it isn’t her greatest strength anyway, but with two years out to battle through too I can’t see this going any other way. Jandiroba should be more than good enough to stop this inside the distance for back-to-back UFC wins. PICK – Virna Jandiroba via Submission, Round 2
Jim Miller (32-14) vs Vinc Pichel (12-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The featured bout of the prelims showcases Jim Miller’s second fight in two months as he takes on Vinc Pichel. Both fighters beat Roosevelt Roberts in their last bout, with Miller landing the submission win in the first round and Pichel going the distance with him. Miller is a dangerous submission artist and has heavier hands, but he also has considerably more miles on the clock. Pichel is the superior wrestler and has a good gas tank too, plus he has the size and strength advantage in this fight. While Miller is the better finisher of the two, he’d need to catch Pichel with a wild punch or hope to at least knock Pichel off balance to get into a dominant position on the ground. ‘In Hell’ Pichel will be able to take the fight down almost at will if the striking game gets a bit too much for him to handle, and he is competent enough to avoid submission attempts to grind out a decision win. PICK – Vinc Pichel via Unanimous Decision