Joanderson Brito (13-3-1) vs Lucas Alexander (7-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Another fun fight up next, this time in the featherweight division. Brito has won 11 of his last 12 fights, with his only loss coming in his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 46 against Bill Algeo on the first card of 2022. He since bounced back with a huge 41 second KO over Andre Fili last time out. Alexander has won his last five fights in a row and makes his UFC debut in this bout, stepping in less than one week’s notice.
Brito is a real all-round threat in the UFC featherweight division and has the qualities to potentially be a title contender in the future. The Brazilian is a legitimate jiu-jitsu black belt who is aggressive with his powerful striking because he’s not afraid of going to the ground. Alexander is a boxer with a great check-left hook, but he tends to keep his hands low and has been backed up against the cage several times so far in his young career.
If any of that happens here, then expect Brito to eat him alive. It’s a chance for “Tubarao” to make a statement, so expect him to land a heavy shot early doors and then follow him to the mat before strangling him for an easy night’s work. PICK – Joanderson Brito via Submission, Round 1
Nick Maximov (8-1) vs Jacob Malkoun (6-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Nick Diaz Army stand up! Maximov returns to the UFC octagon after suffering the first defeat of his career last time out, when he got caught in an anaconda choke by Andre Petroski and tapped in just 76 seconds. Malkoun on the other hand saw a two-fight win streak snapped after wins over Abdul Razak Alhassan and AJ Dobson (UFC 271) when he got dominated by Brendan Allen at UFC 275 most recently.
This one won’t be the most entertaining fights of all time, because both fighters tend to wrestle and prioritise position over submission meaning whoever is on top tends to stay there. Malkoun is the better boxer of the two, but both have found success with takedowns and safe ground and pound and whoever the stronger wrestler is will go back to the well as often as they need to.
I lean towards Malkoun in this instance. He’s got more experience in the octagon under the bright lights and has fought a better level of competition, while Maximov has shown far more issues against credentialed wrestlers too. Expect Malkoun to land jabs and low kicks before shooting and staying on top for 15 minutes. PICK – Jacob Malkoun via Decision
Raphael Assuncao (27-9) vs Victor Henry (22-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very fun fight in the bantamweight division between two veterans at the opposite end of their UFC careers. Assuncao is on a four-fight skid, getting submitted by Marlon Moraes in 2019 and then getting dominated by Cory Sandhagen at UFC 241. A KO of the year contender saw him lose to Cody Garbrandt at UFC 250, before Ricky Simon stopped him at UFC Vegas 45 at the end of 2021 in his last fight. Henry on the other hand made his UFC debut on short notice at UFC 270 against Raoni Barcelos and earned a surprise decision win.
Assuncao’s best days saw him as a counter striking machine who was a constant threat, who is also more than capable of holding his own on the ground too. Henry is a volume heavy striker who steps forward constantly and has his own decent counter striking skills. A prime Assuncao probably beats Henry quite comfortably, but he’s 40 now and it has been a long time since he showed any hint of that former glory.
Henry had the ability to shut down Barcelos almost entirely in their bout, and Barcelos would likely dominate this version of Assuncao, so it’s hard to see Henry not doing the same. His pressure will be constant and he can mix in his wrestling takedowns too to earn another big win on the scorecards. PICK – Victor Henry via Decision
Mana Martinez (9-3) vs Brandon Davis (14-9) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Featured prelim bout comes from the bantamweight division once again. Martinez was on a three-fight win streak heading into his last fight, winning his UFC debut with a split decision against Guido Cannetti, but was beaten handily by Ronnie Lawrence last time out. Davis on the other hand was on a four-fight win streak himself in GCMMA before his UFC debut saw him KO’d by Batgerel Danaa in the first round almost exactly a year to the day of this bout.
Martinez has been hugely underwhelming in his two octagon appearances so far, but his one-punch power is absolutely not in question. He’s got a crazy hard left hand and his explosiveness means he can land it at any moment, but his wrestling is fairly poor. That’s where Davis’ window opens, because he’s never been the best technical fighter but his durability had been second to none prior to his last fight. That’s a big problem.
We don’t know how that knockout affected him, but if Martinez lands flush it’s highly unlikely he just eats it. If Davis can wrestle and keep Martinez defensive or on his back, then he has a good chance. But with that said, it seems unlikely that the left hook doesn’t land clean at least once, so I have to side with the power of “Manaboi” on this one. PICK – Mana Martinez via Knockout, Round 2
Krzysztof Jotko (23-5) vs Gerald Meerschaert (34-14) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very interesting middleweight scrap opens up the main card between two well known fighters. Jotko has won four of his last five fights, bouncing back from defeat to Sean Strickland at UFC Vegas 25 with a split decision win over Misha Cirkunov at UFC Vegas 38. Meerschaert on the other hand has bounced back from his super-quick KO loss to Khamzat Chimaev at UFC Vegas 17 with three straight submission wins including a late one against Dustin Stoltzfus most recently at UFC Vegas 45.
Jotko is a kickboxer who looks to fight from range using his kicks and long punches and a steady pace that he has shown he is capable of pushing for the entire 15 minutes. Meerschaert on the other hand is an amazing grappler with all of his UFC wins coming by finish, and more submission wins in his career than any other middleweight in UFC history. It’s a real battle of styles, but this one seems to favour Jotko a little bit more.
Meerschaert is by far the more dangerous of the two, but Jotko is so methodical that he tends to just nullify his opponents and win minutes of fights rather than dominate them. It’s either going to be a Meerschaert submission or Jotko decision, but the Polish fighter is all about claiming wins despite it being the most boring fight of the night and he’s likely to do that again. PICK – Krzysztof Jotko via Decision
Darren Elkins (27-10) vs Tristan Connelly (14-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
‘The Damage’ returns to the octagon in a banger of a fight at 145-pounds here. Elkins has lost five of his last seven, including his most recent outing against the returning Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 45 where he was KO’d by a spinning wheel kick. Connelly saw a near two-year layoff culminate in a defeat against Pat Sabatini in his most recent bout back at UFC 261.
These are two veterans of the sport likely on their way out of the sport sooner rather than later. Elkins is a grinder who tends to walk through flames to score a takedown and really wear down his opponent before taking over from top position, while Connelly is also a ground specialist although he prefers to use his jiu-jitsu skills when down there. That sets up a pretty exciting encounter if the fight hits the mat, and both guys will back themselves to come out on top in that scenario.
The best bet for Connelly to score a submission is to hurt him on the feet first and then latch on to something. His striking isn’t great however and with the relentless wrestling style of Elkins, I expect him to smother Connelly over the course of the 15 minutes and earn a vintage decision win. PICK – Darren Elkins via Decision
Jared Gordon (18-4) vs Grant Dawson (17-1-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Very exciting lightweight bout up next between two guys looking to burst their way into the rankings. Gordon has won three in a row since getting knocked out by the now-champion Charles Oliveira in 2019, all via decision with the most recent coming against Joe Solecki. Dawson on the other hand is nine undefeated, with a draw against Ricky Glenn most recently snapping his win streak.
Gordon is a grinder of a fighter who just doesn’t stop coming forward. He doesn’t particularly excel in any area but is decent enough to hold his own in most. Dawson on the other hand is a specialist wrestler who has looked to use his new-found kickboxing skills more often in recent bouts. He tends to use the fence to his advantage too, pinning opponents to the mat and looking to push them into submission situations. But his best times came at featherweight and now that physicality isn’t a stand-out attribute anymore.
‘Flash’ is definitely the more heavy-handed striker on the feet, but Dawson has the edge in the wrestling and should be able to keep Gordon down if he does get the fight down. Gordon’s cardio will still be there at the end of the fight regardless of how the rest of the fight has gone, while Dawson could struggle deeper into the bout. It will be close for the judges, but I think wrestling wins out and earns him a tight decision. PICK – Grant Dawson via Decision
Andre Fili (21-8) vs Joanderson Brito (12-3-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
This should be a very fun featherweight scrap between two very exciting fighters. Fili is coming off a ‘no contest’ bout against Daniel Pineda back at UFC Vegas 30, while Brito suffered a unanimous decision defeat in his UFC debut to Bill Algeo back at UFC Vegas 46 at the start of the year.
Fili is a very technical kickboxer with some reactive takedowns and good grappling skills on the mat too, while Brito is a very standard Muay Thai fighter but with excellent power in his strikes and nasty clinch work culminating in ten finishes from his 12 victories. Brito was beaten by Algeo last time out, and Fili is a better version of Algeo with more strings to his bow. Obviously, that’s a problem for the Brazilian prospect.
Brito has got huge power and has always got it in him to land one big shot and end the fight there and then. But ultimately Fili is the better fighter here. His kickboxing is sharper, his wrestling is a way for him to be able mix it up and he’s the more experienced guy too. It won’t be easy, but I think Fili takes him all the way and earns the nod from the judges. PICK – Andre Fili via Decision
Andrei Arlovski (33-20) vs Jake Collier (13-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight collision in the co-main event between two men at different ends of their UFC career. Former champion Arlovski has won five of his last six, with the only defeat coming against Tom Aspinall, including each of his last three via decision. Collier on the other hand is a former middleweight who has alternated wins and losses since 2014 going back 11 fights. His most recent was a win against Chase Sherman via submission back in January at UFC Vegas 46.
Arlovski is a traditional heavyweight with some good boxing and a lethal left high kick just like the famous Mirko Cro Cop once upon a time. He uses good movement and volume well rather than power punches, but seems to be excellent at avoiding damage and doing well. Collier is a very similar fighter, just ten years younger and he has got a good grappling background in his arsenal too.
This is a strange fight to be the co-main event in all honesty, but I can’t go against the 50-50 record over the last eight years. Arlovski looks as good as he’s looked in a long while recently and has the experience to make his momentum and moments count. Collier likes to throw leg kicks and that could leave him open to a straight right hand counter down the pipe but most likely this looks like a pretty comfortable Collier decision win. PICK – Jake Collier via Decision
Rob Font (19-5) vs Marlon Vera (18-7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger of a main event and comfortably the fight of the night on this card. Font saw a four-fight win streak snapped last time out by Jose Aldo in a great fight at UFC Vegas 44, while Vera earned a highlight reel front-kick-to-the-face knockout against Frankie Edgar in his most recent outing at UFC 268.
Font is one of the best pure boxers in the UFC, with incredible hand speed and solid power in his hands as well as some good takedowns as shown against Cody Garbrandt in his most recent win. Vera on the other hand is a really tidy all-round fighter with crisp striking and great technique with his leg kicks and punches, while he also has excellent jiu-jitsu skills and grappling on the mat. Vera has never been finished in his career, but his lack of output early on in fights could see Font have a lot of early success with his boxing to the body.
It’s unlikely that Font will look to grapple at all in this fight, because that is entering Vera’s world. His boxing and speed is where he can win this fight, but Vera is good at applying pressure and forcing his opponents to fight on the back foot. It should be a terrific fight overall, but I think Font’s early work will be enough to edge him a judge’s decision for the bout. PICK – Rob Font 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