Misha Cirkunov (15-8) vs Alonzo Menifield (12-3) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Big boys open up the main card. Cirkunov has lost four of his last five fights, being finished in three of them. He got KO’d by Johnny Walker at UFC 235, before submitting Jimmy Crute later in 2019. Since then though he got KO’d in 71 seconds by Ryan Spann at UFC Vegas 21, before dropping a decision to Krzysztof Jotko at UFC Vegas 38 and then being submitted by Wellington Turman 89 seconds into the second round. Menifield has won three of his last four, submitting Fabio Cherant at UFC 260 and dominating Ed Herman at UFC 265 before losing to William Knight at UFC Vegas 44. He returned to the win column in June, dominating the controversial Askar Mozharov and earning a first round KO.
Cirkunov made his name as a brilliant grappler with decent striking, but his decline in recent years has been hard to watch and he’s a shell of his former self now. Menifield on the other hand looks at his physical peak and as powerful as ever with his striking, while his defensive grappling has improved somewhat too.
Cirkunov on paper has the skills to claim a win here, but his performances in recent times mean it’s hard to be sure he can still go at this level. With Menifield’s power in his hands, it’s very possible that he lands hard early on Cirkunov and completely scrambles his brain, which then allows him to land an early finish as the faster and stronger fighter. PICK – Alonzo Menifield via Knockout, Round 2
Jordan Wright (12-3) vs Dusko Todorovic (11-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Middleweight banger next and someone is going to sleep. Wright has never gone the distance in his career and has been finished in three of his last four getting KO’d by Joaquin Buckley (UFC 255), Bruno Silva (UFC 269) and most recently Marc-Andre Barriault. He did beat Jamie Pickett with a first-round KO at UFC 262. Todorovic’s last four have gone a similar way, going 1-3. He was KO’d by Punahele Soriano at UFC Fight Island 7 and then dropped a decision to Gregory Rodrigues at UFC Vegas 28. He beat Maki Pitolo at UFC Vegas 44 with a first-round KO, but was stopped by Chidi Njokuani most recently back in May.
Wright has an unorthodox karate style and charges forward with reckless abandon, knowing that if he lands flush he can put you out. But he also leaves himself wide open and isn’t the most durable. He’s kill or be killed and we love it. Todorovic is a well-rounded fighter alternatively, with good grappling and pacing but also with the power to end a fight too.
“Thunder” tends to start a little slowly and that tells me Wright could take advantage. If he steps forward and lands one of his nasty elbows or knees when Todorovic is coming in for a takedown it could end the night early. The longer it goes the more it leans in Todorovic’s favour, but I think Wright gets the upset win here with a big KO with his early blitz catching Todorovic cold. PICK – Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 1
Askar Askarov (14-1-1) vs Brandon Royval (14-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Fight of the night right here in the flyweight division. Askarov was unbeaten and set for a title match before his last fight, but he ran into Kai Kara France and couldn’t get the job done so comes into this off his first career loss. Royval lost back-to-back bouts to Brandon Moreno (UFC 255) and Alexandre Pantoja but has since bounced back with big wins over Rogerio Bontorin (UFC Vegas 46) and most recently submitted Matt Schnell at UFC 274.
Askarov is a wrestler, plain and simple. He looks to get hold of your legs, drive you to the mat and keep you there while landing some ground and pound to keep the referee happy. He’s also got some decent kickboxing in his pocket, but he’s primarily a grappler looking for control. Royval is an absolutely wild fighter who looks to do the opposite of whatever his opponent wants because he’s so well-rounded. He is a genuine submission threat on the ground but is also an excellent scrambler capable of keeping the fight standing if needs be.
Royval likely needs a finish to win here, because if it goes the distance it’s because Askarov has been able to hold him down and win rounds. If he’s able to scramble up and strike, he’s by far the bigger finishing threat in this fight. The blueprint to beat Askarov is there now, but Royval’s takedown defence isn’t as good as Kara France’s and if you keep getting taken down it doesn’t really matter how often you get up, so expect the Russian to earn another decision win. PICK – Askar Askarov via Decision
Cub Swanson (28-12) vs Jonathan Martinez (16-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger of a co-main event here. Swanson has won three of his last four, bouncing back from being KO’d by Giga Chikadze at UFC Vegas 25 to KO Darren Elkins himself at UFC Vegas 45. Martinez on the other hand has won three in a row, earning decision wins over Zviad Lazishvili, Alejandro Perez and most recently Vince Morales.
There is no doubting that Swanson is all about controlled chaos. He’s very powerful on the feet and also a very big ground threat too, while his wrestling has always been good enough to cause problems to opponents. Martinez on the other hand is a great striker with some of the most powerful kicks in the UFC, while his boxing combinations are solid and his takedown defence good enough to keep the fight where he wants it the majority of the time.
Swanson dropping down a division at this stage of his career is a weird move, and I don’t think it pans out too well for him here. Martinez is very quick and powerful, but he also has the footwork to keep opponents at distance and control range. Swanson likes to swing heavy and if he misses that is sure to affect his cardio. With Martinez whipping that vicious left body kick in constantly too, he could match Chikadze with a body kick finish, but I think an entertaining decision win is more likely for “Dragon”. PICK – Jonathan Martinez via Decision
Alexa Grasso (14-3) vs Viviane Araujo (11-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Main event in the flyweight division up next. Grasso has won each of her last three fights, claiming decision wins over Ji Yeon Kim and Maycee Barber (UFC 258), before submitting Joanne Wood back in March in the first round. Araujo has won three of her last four, defeating Montana De La Rosa and Roxanne Modafferi (UFC Fight Island 8) before losing to Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 262. She got a decision win over Andrea Lee last time out.
Grasso is a great striker with solid boxing combinations and nice low kicks. Araujo on the other hand is a specialist kickboxer and striker, with some great Muay Thai skills too but she struggles to mix in any sort of grappling with her game. She is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and has four submission wins on her record, but she very rarely is able to do anything on the ground. Grasso will be comfortable on the feet, knowing she is unlikely to need to defend anything.
Both fighters are far more likely to go the distance than get a finish, and with their skillsets matching up the way they do this is unlikely to be a super entertaining, back and forth bout. Someone is going to get blown away most likely. Araujo’s cardio is alarmingly bad, and Grasso’s never been in a five round fight before either but she’s never given out before the buzzer. Araujo’s power may be more eye catching early on, but the steady pressure and constant buzzing of Grasso should see her claim the decision win. PICK – Alexa Grasso via Decision
Aoriqileng (18-9) vs Cameron Else (10-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Bantamweight fun opens up this section of the card and it should be amazing. Aoriqileng is 0-2 in the UFC after defeats to Jeff Molina (UFC 261) and Cody Durden so far, while Else saw a six-fight win streak snapped by Kyler Phillips on short-notice in his last fight via knockout in the second round.
Aoriqileng’s nickname tells you everything you need to know about his fight style. ‘The Mongolian Murderer’ walks his opponents down and launches bombs at their chin, while using good footwork to slide out of range and uses low kicks well too. Else on the other hand is a solid all-round fighter with powerful striking in his hands and some decent submission skills too, even tapping out Paddy Pimblett way back in 2013 in just 35 seconds.
Aoriqileng is a violent striker whose record outside of the UFC was flawless and came with a lot of knockouts. Else’s wins have all come inside the first round too, so you’d expect lots of early action. But Else is the bigger man quite comfortably and he can at the very least match his opponent everywhere, so he should be able to eek out a decision win. PICK – Cameron Else via Decision
Tyson Pedro (7-3) vs Ike Villanueva (18-13) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A warm welcome back for Pedro who returns to the octagon for the first time in three-and-a-half years. Defeat to Shogun Rua saw him tear his ACL and meniscus, then rupture it again during training while recovering. Villanueva has lost four of his last five fights, getting KO’d by Nicolae Negumereanu in the first round back in October.
Pre-injury, Pedro was a good range fighter with an excellent jab and good front kicks but he also has unbelievable jiu-jitsu skills even from his back. Villanueva is a slugger, who stands in the pocket and trades while firing off the odd low kick too to offset his opponent’s rhythm. If both of these guys are at their best, Pedro wins with ease.
But after three years out with huge injuries, who knows what Pedro is like in the octagon now? Nobody is the answer. I’d still expect Pedro to be able to use his jab well and eventually get the fight to the ground to work his excellent submission skills, but don’t rule out a nervy performance that goes to the judges. PICK – Tyson Pedro via Submission, Round 2
Dwight Grant (11-4) vs Sergey Khandozhko (27-6-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An interesting welterweight scrap up next. Grant is 3-3 in the UFC, suffering defeat to Francisco Trinaldo in his last bout via split decision – the fourth time that’s happened in his UFC tenure. Khandozhko makes his return to the UFC for the first time since 2019 due to COVID and injury, having lost his last bout two-and-a-half years ago.
Grant’s ridiculous amounts of split decisions is not a coincidence. ‘The Body Snatcher’ is a powerful striker who mixes wild, looping shots with lethargic output and often ends up in staring matches. Khandozhko is as aggressive as they come, marching forward with lots of volume and some decent power too, but his defensive wrestling has left plenty to be desired in the past.
Grant isn’t someone who leans on wrestling much, and his lack of volume is a serious problem. If he lands one of his big, looping strikes then he’ll claim a highlight reel knockout. But if it doesn’t, which it most often doesn’t, then Khandozhko should find a judge’s decision in his favour after 15 minutes. PICK – Sergey Khandozhko via Decision
Jordan Wright (12-2) vs Marc-Andre Barriault (13-5) – (Catchweight/190lbs)
A short-notice catchweight bout headlines the prelims section of the card in an absolute banger. Wright returns to the cage following a brutal knockout loss to Bruno Silva at UFC 269, having slaughtered Jamie Pickett at UFC 262 prior to that. Barriault steps in on two-weeks notice for this bout, looking to recover from the first knockout defeat of his career against Chidi Njokuani in just 16 seconds back in February.
Wright is a karate style fighter with some brutal KO power, with all of his victories coming inside the first six minutes of the fight. He’s also found himself to be relatively easy to hit though, and has been knocked out in his two defeats too. Barriault on the other hand was seen as one of the most durable fighters around before his last bout. He walks forward and overwhelms opponents with good combinations and power and uses his excellent cardio to maintain it for a long time.
If Barriault’s chin is fully recovered then he should win this fight comfortably. His style is tailor-made for this type of fight and his durability should see him outlast Wright and score an early win. If he’s not recovered though, then Wright has a very real chance of causing an upset. That said, Wright isn’t the most durable normally and after getting slept just a few months ago himself I expect Barriault to be able to claim a win. PICK – Marc-Andre Barriault via Knockout, Round 1
Fast paced start to this fight as Robertson looks to take the centre and attempts a couple of takedowns early. Cachoeira defends them well and is starting to land some decent strikes on the feet, landing good jabs and starting to do damage. Robertson suddenly changes levels in the centre though and scores a nice takedown before looking to secure a kimura lock. She transitions into side control and then full mount and starts raining down huge elbows! Cachoeira is in danger and Robertson switches to the back and gets a choke in under the neck. Cachoeira tries to defend it by sticking her thumb in Robertson’s eye but she refuses to let it go and then gets the tap with one second left! What a performance!
Tony Kelley def Randy Costa via Knockout, Round 2 (2:15)
Very fast start from Kelley who steps forward immediately and starts chasing Costa across the cage looking to land big shots. Costa trying to weather the storm and countering with his jab, but Kelley continuing to come forward aggressively. Clinch against the cage and Kelley is trying to wear on Costa early, landing some nice knees but Costa seemingly the stronger fighter physically. Kelley switching stances as he throws his combinations and Costa is struggling to make reads, before they clinch up against the cage once again and tangle until the end of the round. 10-9 Kelley.
Another fast start from Kelley as he comes forward quickly again and starts the clinch battles again once again. Costa looks a little fatigued but he’s defending himself well and and staying in it. Costa starting to land his jabs well but Kelley closing the distance and making this fight ugly. Costa lands a nice kick and follows it up with a short right hand that hurts Kelley, but he clinches up quickly and starts defending. Kelley gets him in a Thai clinch and lands some big knees to the body and Costa drops to his knees! Kelley battering the body and thrashing elbows onto Costa who’s just trying to defend himself now. Kelley going for the finish and the referee steps in! What a performance from Kelley.
Ryan Hall def Darrick Minner via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-27)
Tactical start to the fight from both guys here as Minner lands a couple of leg kicks and misses wildly with some big strikes. Hall very patient and lands a nice body kick and then Hall shoots for the legs. Lots of transitions and rolling for submissions but Minner defending against the kneebars and heel hook attempts well. Minner gets back to the feet and lands a big right hand that cracks Hall who starts to retreat. Hall starts to go for a takedown again and ends up in top position landing some decent ground and pound to end the round. 10-9 either way, but I lean to Hall just.
Hall coming out more aggressive now as he starts swinging kicks, before Minner lands a nice right hand and gets a takedown as Hall goes for a leg. Minner in Hall’s full guard and looking for ground and pound, but Hall is looking to throw up an armbar or triangle submission. Minner stands up and slams Hall down to escape it and goes back for ground and pound. Hall throws up another triangle and it’s tight and he starts throwing big elbows from his back but Minner surviving. Hall looks to advance to a straight armbar but Minner denies it and then he rolls to an omoplata attempt and ends the round with ground and pound. 20-18 Hall.
Final round and Hall rolls under a punch and secures a triangle attempt immediately from his back. Minner defends it well but Hall then switches and is able to get on top. He advances to full mount and is in complete control here, looking for an arm triangle.
Erin Blanchfield def Miranda Maverick via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to the bout for Maverick as she steps forward aggressively and throws a few strong strikes. Maverick looks to step in with a right hand but Blanchfield ducks under and immediately has a body lock from the back. She maintains the lock and continuously forces Maverick to the ground with excellent wrestling. She moves to full guard and maintains position again, dragging Maverick to the mat every time she tries to get back to the feet. 10-9 Blanchfield.
Maverick starts up well with a little blitz but immediately Blanchfield is able to hip throw her and end up on top. Blanchfield quickly transitions to a crucifix position and starts blasting elbows down on Maverick, but she manages to just about escape as Blanchfield switches to an armbar attempt. Maverick just about defends but Blanchfield then goes for a kimura, but Maverick defends it well. Blanchfield switches to another armbar attempt but Maverick defends it by scissoring the head of her and the buzzer goes. 20-18.
Final round and Maverick is trying to go for a finish because she knows she needs it, but Blanchfield is landing well too. Clinch up against the cage and then Blanchfield catches a leg and moves straight into a takedown. She moves into top control and looks to dominate again and starts landing some big shots from mount. She controls the rest of the round from the top and claims a dominant decision win.
Andre Muniz def Eryk Anders via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:13)
Good start to the fight for Anders as he takes the centre and starts to throw powerful strikes early. Muniz does well and throws a nice calf kick before throwing a short left hook. Anders goes for a right hand again and Muniz ducks under and changes levels with a big takedown. Muniz looks to pass from side control straight into mount but Anders defends it well. Anders gets to his feet but Muniz has a body lock and drags him back down after a bit of back and forth and takes the back. He threatens with a choke and then switches to an armbar attempt and forces the tap from Anders. What a performance.
Bruno Silva def Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 1 (1:28)
Crazy start to this fight as Wright charges forward and looks to engage quickly with hard strikes. Wright continues to come forward and attack and he hurts Silva! They clinch up and Wright lands some big knees but Silva lands some big strikes too. They separate and Silva lands two huge blows and Wright is wobbled! Silva goes for the finish and drops him! Some huge shots and the referee steps in! What a KO by Silva!
Tai Tuivasa def Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 2 (0:26)
Slow and steady start so far with Tuivasa in the centre stalking Sakai, who’s throwing leg kicks and circling on the outside. Tuivasa goes for a nice combination and Sakai retreats, before they clinch up and Sakai lands a nice knee to the body. More knees to the body from Sakai as he holds Tuivasa close to him, before they separate and Tuivasa just misses with a big uppercut. Sakai landing heavy knees and hurting Tuivasa, but he then retaliates with a big right hand and forces Sakai to cover up before they clinch again to end the round. 10-9 Sakai, but Tuivasa looking dangerous too.
Second round and Tuivasa lands a huge left hook early and Sakai is rocked! Tuivasa steps forward and goes for the kill, landing huge hooks as Sakai tries to cover up. Another huge strike and Sakai is out coldddd! What a KO!
Dominick Cruz def Pedro Munhoz via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to this fight as both guys look to take the centre and trade leg kicks and movement. Munhoz throwing hard low kicks but Cruz making him miss big. Munhoz throwing bombs but only just missing and Cruz is doing well to land blitzes and flurries of strikes. Cruz goes for a big right hand and Munhoz lands first with a big left hand that drops him! Munhoz lands a huge left hook and goes for the finish but Cruz grabs a leg and somehow survives. He gets up and continues the pattern of the earlier fight. 10-9 Munhoz.
Second round and Munhoz coming forward again and looking for his big bombs. Cruz using his excellent footwork well again though and is using his speed brilliantly. Cruz throwing great combinations on the feet and Munhoz is eating shots, but there isn’t enough power in them to hurt him. Cruz throws a hard low kick that hurts Munhoz and continues to throw his strikes brilliantly. 19-19.
Final round and Cruz has definitely taken over now with his speed and footwork. Cruz has made his reads now and is landing his combinations well, but Munhoz is throwing powerful strikes back and just barely missing. Cruz lands a big one-two clean down the pipe and Munhoz is starting to back up a little. Munhoz lands some nice jabs but Cruz is too slick and is moving so well, throwing leg kicks and left hands. Cruz lands a big combo in the centre as the round comes to an end and that should be the comeback victory for him. 29-28 Cruz.
Josh Emmett def Dan Ige via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Nothing happens between these two in the opening minute and them Emmett explodes with a massive overhand right that drops Ige! Emmett goes down for a finish but Ige recovers quickly and starts to wrestle. Both guys scramble well and end up back to their feet where they separate. Ige taking the centre now and using his jab well and sees out the round relatively comfortably. 10-9 Emmett most likely for the knockdown, but could go either way in honesty.
Emmett comes out with a big right hand early once again but Ige takes it and continues to come forward. Good exchanges on the feet and Ige landing his jab well with movement and power. Emmett looking for one big shot but he keeps missing it. Ige replies with a big strikes and wobbles Emmett with a big left hook. He stays patient and Emmett eventually recovers. Ige staying so calm though and using that jab well again, circling on the outside and threatening then ending the round with a big right straight. 19-19, Ige round.
Final round and Ige takes the centre once again, looking to use that jab and counter with his left hook. Emmett still looking for the power right hand but Ige seems to have him scouted now. Emmett steps forward and throws a straight right down the middle and wobbles Ige but he recovers very quickly and circles out. Ige lands his jab over and over, but Emmett is being more aggressive and coming forward. Both guys are missing with big shots as we enter the final minute. Emmett ducks under a big head kick but then eats a big uppercut. Both guys throw a final flurry, but that’s a super tough fight to call. Great fight.
Sean O’Malley def Raulian Paiva via Knockout, Round 1 (4:42)
Composed start to this fight from both guys as Paiva looks for an early takedown attempt but O’Malley sidesteps him into the cage. Body kick grazes the cup of Paiva and causes a short pause in the action. Paiva throws a hard low kick that gets a reaction, before O’Malley steps in with a hard straight left hand. Paiva trying to apply pressure but O’Malley moving well and avoids a leg kick then lands two left jabs and a big right hand behind it. O’Malley steps well to his right and lands a huge right hand that wobbles Paiva! He stays composed and lands a beautiful combination that hurts him badly! Huge body shot and hook combo drops Paiva and the referee steps in, huge win for O’Malley! Amazing!
Kai Kara-France def Cody Garbrandt via Knockout, Round 1 (3:21)
Lots of range finding in the opening minute of this fight as Garbrandt finds himself with his back against the cage circling, throwing some loose kicks. Kara-France just misses with a big overhand right and then just avoids a big right-hook from Garbrandt. Kara-France lands a big right hand that flattens Garbrandt! A big follow up shot drops him again but Garbrandt retreats and eggs him on, but he’s clearly hurt! Kara-France staying patient and then he lands a stunning combination that ends with a massive uppercut and Garbrandt is out! Kara-France lands a couple of strikes before Herb Dean steps in, but that’s that! What a KO!
Geoff Neal def Santiago Ponzinibbio via Split Decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Steady start to the fight for Neal with plenty of bouncing on his toes and throwing his jab and some leg kicks, forcing Ponzinibbio backwards. Both guys trade leg kicks and are starting to try and hold their ground in the centre. Neal lands a nice high kick and the referee warns both fighters about having their fingers out. A few short strikes each but not much damage so far. Neal using his jab well and both guys exchange before an accidental low kick from Neal causes a pause. They get back to it and Ponzinibbio lands a huge one-two right on the buzzer to end the round. 10-9 Neal for me.
More active start to the round as Ponzinibbio comes forward with a hard low kick and some straight right hands. Big one-two from Ponzinibbio down the middle to counter Neal’s leg kick and then a short right hand from Neal lands too. Ponzinibbio changes levels and blasts a takedown before Neal sweeps him to get back to his feet nearly immediately. Hard left hand lands from Neal, but Ponzinibbio lands a nice left jab-right hand. Neal lands a hard right hand but then eats a big leg kick in return, before a one-two of his own down the middle into the final minute of the round. Neal lands a big shot and Ponzinibbio claims it was a finger but the referee says no. They stare at each other and then trade a couple of strikes before the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Ponzinibbio lands a right hand before Neal lands a left. More exchanges in the centre and Neal lands a hard right hook that wobbles Ponzinibbio but he recovers quickly and lands a hard low kick. Neal starting to come forward and throws his left hand before a left high kick that just misses. Right hand gets a reaction from Ponzinibbio again, but then he lands a hard low kick to get Neal to back up. Hard left hand from Neal lands but Ponzinibbio replies with a solid right hook himself. Hard low kick and Neal steps backwards, but then he counters another attempt with a right hand. Neal coming on strong with jabs but Ponzinibbio continues to come forward too. Neal lands a big three-punch combo with the left hand and Ponzinibbio is wobbled! Final 30 seconds and Ponzinibbio just misses with a right hand to end the fight. Good fight. 29-28 Neal for me.
Nunes opens up with a hard low kick that drops Pena immediately. Nunes lets her up and kicks the leg again, before Pena tries to throw a small flurry. Nunes throws a right hand that drops Pena and then she eventually drops on top of her looking to control on the ground. Nunes looks to transition to the back for a rear-naked choke but Pena just about defends it, before Nunes gets back to top position. Pena threatens with a kimura from the bottom but Nunes stays patient, defends it and sees the round out on top. 10-9 champ.
Nunes takes the centre and she starts looking for huge strikes early doors but Pena isn’t going anywhere. Pena is landing her jab at will and Nunes is getting hurt! Nunes trying to slug it out but she’s slow and looks exhausted already. Pena keeps coming and is smashing Nunes up! Big strikes from Pena and Nunes is rocked! Pena goes for a takedown and immediately goes to the back and locks up a choke! NUNES TAPS! NUNES TAPS! AND NEWWWW!!!
Charles Oliveira def Dustin Poirier via Submission (Rear-naked choke), Round 3 (1:02)
Fast paced start to the fight as Oliveira looks to take the centre and land body shots and his jab, but Poirier lands a right hand that knocks Oliveira off balance. Oliveira lands a big strike of his own and backs Poirier up and then he clinches looking for knees. Poirier getting kicked in the body and firing back with big combinations and drops Oliveira again. He lands a huge shot on the ground but Oliveira ties him up and then Poirier stands them up again immediately. Body work from Oliveira again is affecting Poirier and the rounds ends. Wow. 10-9 Poirier.
Huge start to the second round again as the frantic pace starts again and Oliveira immediately goes in for a takedown against the cage. He drags Poirier to the ground but as he tries to escape Oliveira takes the back. Poirier tries to escape but Oliveira holds his arm in place and illegally holds the glove before rolling into full guard. He lands some huge, thudding elbows as Poirier looks to defend off his back. Oliveira absolutely dominant with pressure and elbows but Poirier survives. 19-19.
Oliveira comes out fast once again and shoots in for a takedown and immediately transitions to a body lock from behind. He drags Poirier down and then jumps on to his back, sinking in hooks and looking for a standing rear-naked choke. Poirier defending the hands but Oliveira continues to switch the grips, sinks in the choke and forces the tap! Amazing!! What a fight!
Last time at UFC Vegas 44 we had a pretty good night with our picks, as we went 9/13 with five perfect picks to move to 491/765 (64.18%) with 207 perfect picks (42.16%).
We’ll look to improve on that here on this massive 15-fight card and after starting with the early prelims we move on to the rest of the prelims here.
Andre Muniz (21-4) vs Eryk Anders (14-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger at middleweight in this one as the jiu-jitsu master takes on the powerhouse. Muniz is on a seven-fight win streak, culminating with a nasty submission win over Jacare Souza at UFC 262 where he broke the legendary Brazilian’s arm. Anders earned a victory in his last outing with a decision over Darren Stewart at UFC 263, which saw him then leave the UFC.
Muniz is one of the most dangerous jiu-jitsu artists in the game and he will look to get this fight down to the mat to use it. He’s a half-decent striker too, which helps him set those takedowns up. Anders on the other hand is a good Muay-Thai fighter with good clinch work and power on the feet, while he also has a big edge in speed. Unfortunately for Anders, there is such a huge gap on the ground that it’s hard to see how he wins this.
Anders has good takedown defence, but it only takes one to give Muniz a huge window to victory. Anders’ cardio isn’t amazing and ultimately, Muniz should be able to drag him down and take the back before securing the submission once again. PICK – Andre Muniz via Submission, Round 2
Jordan Wright (12-1) vs Bruno Silva (21-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A kill or be killed bout at 185-pounds between two relative prospects. Wright has never seen the judge’s scorecards and after suffering the first defeat of his career to Joaquin Buckley at UFC 255, he bounced back against Jamie Pickett at UFC 262 with a first-round KO. Silva on the other hand is on a six-fight win streak with six finishes, including a big KO over Andrew Sanchez at UFC Vegas 40.
Wright is a talented kickboxer with excellent technique and good power too, while Silva is just a terrifying bulldozer of a striker who puts people out cold with 18 KO’s in 21 career wins. Wright has a decent wrestling background, but almost never uses it in the cage and getting into 50/50 exchanges with Silva is a recipe to go to sleep early.
Silva is likely to walk forward with pressure and with a huge advantage in power, cardio and experience this seems like a bit of a mismatch. Wright will try and likely land a couple of clean strikes, but eventually he gets clipped and finished off with some follow-ups to hand Silva yet another KO victory. PICK – Bruno Silva via Knockout, Round 2
Augusto Sakai (15-3-1) vs Tai Tuivasa (13-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The only heavyweight fight on the card up next between a ranked opponent and an unranked fan favourite. Sakai has been defeated in each of his last two fights, which were main events, against Alistair Overeem and then Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Vegas 28. Tuivasa returned from a slump to earn three knockout wins in a row, with the most recent coming against Greg Hardy at UFC 264.
Sakai is a good striker on the feet but he is also a decent wrestler with violent ground and pound attacks in his weaponary. Tuivasa is a straight up brawler with one-punch knockout power, more down the route of your traditional heavyweight fighter.
This won’t be the highest quality fight of the night, but there’s likely to be an early finish. The two will stand at range and trade leg kicks for a while before Tuivasa gets frustrated and looks to blitz him. If he lands a big shot after pushing Sakai against the cage, then this one is over. If Sakai goes against the grain and counters, he has the potential to end it early too. I lean towards Tuivasa simply because I expect him to be the guy on the front foot, meaning he’s more likely to land the big shot first. PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 1
Pedro Munhoz (19-6) vs Dominick Cruz (23-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Bantamweight banger up next as 135-pound royalty go head-to-head. Munhoz has lost three of his last four against elite competition, with decision losses to Aljamain Sterling, Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 7 and Jose Aldo at UFC 265 surrounding a win over Jimmie Rivera at UFC Vegas 20. Cruz on the other hand seems to have finally overcome his injury issues to secure a victory over Casey Kenney last time out at UFC 259.
Munhoz is one of the strongest leg kickers in the game with good striking power and very sharp grappling skills, while Cruz is a very good wrestler who uses his excellent footwork to dart in-and-out of range and land his strikes. This is a very intriguing match-up because technically Cruz is a superior fighter, but his lack of power means Munhoz is likely to be willing to walk him down and chop his legs with those trademark kicks.
Cruz has the technical advantages and stylistically should win, but Munhoz’s power with the leg kicks could be a huge game-changer. With that said, Cruz was able to keep his footwork going when Kenney attacked the legs and I think he’s fast enough to make Munhoz miss a lot to claim a decision win. PICK – Dominick Cruz via Decision
Josh Emmett (16-2) vs Dan Ige (15-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A banger at featherweight is the featured prelim bout. Emmett is on a three-fight win streak with his most recent coming in a fight of the year contender against Shane Burgos at UFC Vegas 3, while Ige is 1-2 in his last three with defeats against Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 1 and Korean Zombie at UFC Vegas 29 coming either side of a 22-second KO win over Gavin Tucker at UFC Vegas 21.
Emmett is a solid boxer with big one-punch power that is almost always the main part of his game plan to a fight. Ige is a very well-rounded fighter with solid wrestling and good punching power to go with his boxing skills. It’s that well-roundedness that leads me to think Ige has a big edge here. Emmett’s persistence in landing that big bomb could let him down, as Ige will look to change levels and secure top position.
With that said, Ige has struggled to land takedowns against top level opposition in the past so Emmett will find comfort in his takedown defence. Emmett is coming off a long lay-off though and unless he is at 100% then Ige is good enough to box-wrestle his way to a judge’s decision. PICK – Dan Ige via Decision
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
Christos Giagos def Sean Soriano via Submission (D’arce Choke), Round 2 (0:59)
Big start to the fight for both guys as Giagos lands a nice right hand to open that wobbles Soriano, who responds with a nice low kick that puts Giagos down to one knee. Giagos shoots for a takedown and pushes the fight against the cage before switching to take the back, before letting it go before they separate. Soriano lands a nice one-two down the middle and Giagos is wobbling again, but he responds with a combo of his own. Soriano’s speed is causing Giagos big problems and he’s landing clean. Giagos goes for a takedown but Soriano sprawls well and denies it. Both guys head hunting with the punches right now, but Soriano mixing in some leg kicks too and it’s serving its purpose so far. Head kick from Soriano lands partially as he slips, before Giagos shoots for a takedown and dumps him down as the round ends. 10-9 Soriano.
Soriano comes out heavy once again and lands a big right hand but Giagos goes for a takedown much earlier this time and gets top position quickly. He flows through the position and Soriano tries to get back up, but Giagos locks up a d’arce choke and sits down on it! It’s super tight and Soriano stops fighting it and goes to sleep! Huge win for Giagos!
Tucker Lutz def Kevin Aguilar via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Fast start from Aguilar as he presses forward and applies pressure early looking to throw big strikes to the head. Lutz looking to slow him down a little with leg kicks and then a clinch, but Aguilar doing well to separate and lands a nice left hook. Lutz now starting to come forward more and he lands a nice left hook of his own clean, before a head kick lands partially too. Aguilar is doing well to be dangerous in the pocket and make Lutz think first, then Lutz lands a huge uppercut. Big takedown from Lutz, with perfect timing and minimal effort, before shifting Aguilar over to the cage and starts landing some decent ground and pound to control the position. Aguilar trying to get back up but Lutz does well to keep him down and end the round on top. 10-9 Lutz.
Aguilar charges forward early once again at the start of the round but Lutz times him well and lands a decent left hook counter once again. Good little flurry while moving forward from Lutz again, but Aguilar looking to counter with a hard right hand. Aguilar looks to grapple against the cage but Lutz is able to stop him in his tracks easily then separates with a knee to the head. Aguilar comes forward and lands a nice body shot, but Lutz is timing everything perfectly so far and shoots in for a takedown to get it with ease again. This time though Aguilar is able to battle back to his feet quickly with his legs, before Lutz starts up on the leg kicks and left hooks once again. A more even round certainly, but still Lutz’s for me. 20-18.
Big left hand lands early from Aguilar and gets the crowd on their feet, before another left hand lands and sends Lutz backwards. Lutz replies with a big uppercut and hook combo that rocks Aguilar, but he keeps coming forward and lands more shots making this ugly and hurting Lutz. Aguilar goes for a one-two but Lutz ducks under it and gets the takedown, shuffling him over to the cage and stacking him. Aguilar explodes back to his feet and eats a couple of punches and a knee for his troubles, but he continues to come forward looking to be aggressive. Aguilar shoots for a takedown of his own but Lutz denies him and they go back to trading. Lutz keeping distance with leg kicks and clinching whenever Aguilar gets close as we enter the final 30 seconds. Big left hand from Aguilar snaps Lutz’s neck back but he keeps calm, keeps moving and should take the win. 29-28 Lutz.
Priscilla Cachoeira def Gina Mazany via Knockout, Round 2 (4:51)
Cachoeira comes out of the blocks very aggressive, right hand loaded looking for a power strike but Mazany nice and busy early with her jab and a small flurry. Mazany clinches up and is able to trip Cachoeira down to the top position and while Cachoeira gets up quickly, she’s immediately brought back down to the mat. Mazany starts landing some nice ground and pound as she controls the position, before Cachoeira eventually gets back up and starts landing some nice right hands. Mazany ducks under and gets another takedown to control the rest of the round from top position with ground and pound. 10-9 Mazany, easily.
Immediate takedown at the start of the round for Mazany has them in exactly the same position that they ended the first round in, with top control and suffocating pressure. Cachoeira looks to get back to her feet but Mazany transitions and takes the back, before Cachoeira rolls back onto her back to go into full guard again. More control from Mazany on top as she lands a couple of big elbows. The referee pauses the fight after she fails to advance position and stands them up and now Cachoeira is walking Mazany down and has thrown some big punches. Huge right hands landing from Cachoeira and Mazany is exhausted and hurt! Mazany looking for the takedowns but can’t get it and Cachoeira is beating her up and the referee steps in! Huge win for Cachoeira!
Andrea Lee def Antonina Shevchenko via Submission (Triangle Armbar), Round 2 (4:52)
Busy start to the fight from Lee early on, looking to land some kicks and a jab early on while Shevchenko is getting her reads and looking to counter. Lee clinches up against the cage and looks for some knees but she gets overpowered by Shevchenko who lands some of her own before the separate. Shevchenko engages in a clinch this time and lands several knees to the body before Lee is able to get away from it. Shevchenko goes for a spinning back first but Lee lands a big head kick and wobbles her, then goes for a takedown and eventually is able to trip her. Lee looks for a big hammer fist that just misses but she’s controlling the top position and sees the round out on top. Close round that Lee probably takes because of the takedown. 10-9.
Lee opens up the round with a huge spinning back elbow that lands flush and rocks Shevchenko! She goes for a finish and Shevchenko grabs her but Lee hip tosses her and ends up in a very dominant position. Big elbows to the head of Shevchenko and she transitions into a mounted triangle and rolls through. She starts throwing elbows off her back with the triangle on and she’s looking for an armbar too but Shevchenko is just about surviving. Huge elbows from Lee with the triangle still synched in and she finally is able to extend the arm of Shevchenko and gets the tap right at the end of the round! Huge win!
Jordan Wright def Jamie Pickett via Knockout, Round 1 (1:04)
Pickett opens the round with a big body kick and charges in for a takedown. Wright stays standing and starts throwing some big elbows to the side of the head and Pickett is hurt! Wright lands some big knees and sends Pickett stumbling as he swings a big right hand. Wright holds on to Pickett in a clinch and throws a big knee up the middle that drops him! He starts landing some huge ground and pound and the referee steps in to end if mercifully! Huge win for Wright! What a performance.
Lando Vannata def Mike Grundy via Split Decision (29-28, 27-30, 30-27)
A very tactical start from both guys as Vannata bounces around on the outside throwing feints and leg kicks while Grundy is switching stances and staying out of range. Grundy charges in for a takedown but Vannata holds up and both men throw a knee and land in the groin to cause a pause. They resume action and Vannata lands a couple of nice strikes before Grundy gets a single leg takedown. Lots of scrambling as Grundy looks to keep the grip but eventually Vannata is able to escape. Vannata lands a nice knee and then a right hand behind it, before Grundy goes for another takedown but he gets back up to his feet very quickly. Vannata doing well to defend all these takedown attempts and get back up and separated quickly, but not enough action from him so that’s likely a Grundy round. 10-9.
Vannata looks very fluid and relaxed in the second round here as he fakes a knee up the middle, but Grundy fires forward with a takedown attempt once again. Vannata stays standing once again before both men exchange nice, tight right hooks. Vannata pushing forward with pressure and lands a nice kick, before Grundy explodes forward with a big right hand that lands clean. Vannata lands a nice combo that ends with a leg kick before Grundy shoots for yet another takedown. Head kick from Vannata lands and then as he starts faking uppercuts Grundy replies with a big overhand right. Vannata having more success in this round as it ends, 19-19 heading into the third.
Grundy opens up the round with two immediate takedown attempts but Vannata denies them both and fires back with a hard calf kick. Grundy shoots in again but Vannata throws a hard knee that lands flush on the chin but Grundy powers through it and gets Vannata down finally. He starts working to the back but Vannata gets back up, avoiding a submission attempt from Grundy, before picking up and slamming Grundy down to the mat. Grundy explodes back up to his feet and Vannata starts pressuring forward once again as both fighters exchange head kicks. Final minute and both guys still look sharp as Vannata denies yet another takedown attempt to end the round. Great fight, I’ve got it 29-28 Vannata.
Andre Muniz def Jacare Souza via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:59)
Good start to the fight for Jacare as he comes forward landing some nice kicks to the body with a few flurries of strikes before shooting in for a takedown against the cage. Jacare lifts and sweeps the legs to complete the takedown, immediately stepping over and throwing some good ground and pound strikes. Muniz is able to kick his way up and then shoots in for a takedown of his own and lands it. Jacare is able to work his way back up to the feet but Muniz gets him down again and Jacare jumps up again quickly. Muniz jumps on the back and tries to roll over the top, but holds on to Jacare’s arm and sinks in a deep armbar. Jacare’s arm visibly snaps and the referee waves the fight off! Insanity! What a submission win!
Edson Barboza def Shane Burgos via Knockout, Round 3 (1:16)
Big start to the fight from Barboza as he steps forward and lands four huge calf kicks to Burgos that immediately causes problems. Burgos starts firing out his jabs but Barboza is looking to counter them with a heavy leg kick every time. Jab starts to land for Burgos and opens up a cut over the eye of Barboza, who then throws a spinning back kick to the body. Burgos starting to land more and then rips the body big and follows up with a nice left hook too. Barboza throws the uppercut and Burgos replies with a right hand. Barboza spins with a wheel kick and rocks Burgos, then follows up with two or three big right hands! Burgos keeps coming forward though and gets wobbled off a jab. Barboza continues to land the right hook and leg kicks as the round ends. 10-9 Barboza.
Burgos comes forward to apply pressure early in this round but Barboza continues to throw the leg kicks. Burgos goes body, body head while standing and lands nicely. Barboza throws another heavy leg kick and follows it up with a huge left hook, but Burgos keeps coming. Burgos throwing a nice front kick to the body, then follows up with a left hook to the body too. Burgos lands two leg kicks of his own now, before a spinning back kick to the body from Barboza. Burgos throws another calf kick but Barboza responds with a big left hook combo to the body and then the head. Three big body shots from Burgos and then Barboza goes for the wheel kick that just misses as the round ends. What a fight this is. 20-18 Barboza for me, but could be 19-19.
Final round and Burgos is pouring on the pressure now, but Barboza standing with him and throwing those leg kicks once again. Burgos comes forward with the body shots again, and Barboza lands a great body shot before a left hook and overhand right land flush. Both men reset but suddenly Burgos starts to stagger backwards and just falls against the cage! Barboza goes for the finish and the referee ends it quickly! What a fight.
Fast start to the fight for Araujo as she steps forward looking to land hard shots and closing the distance to prevent Chookagian’s kicking game from getting going. A nice left hook from Araujo leaves a mark on the cheek of Chookagian, but she fires back with a nice front kick to the body. Araujo throwing a lot of power into all of her shots and missing wildly so far and Chookagian is starting to get her kicks and jab working. Araujo starting to slow down a bit already and Chookagian lands two nice kicks to the body before Araujo shoots in for a takedown. They clinch up against the cage as Chookagian stuffs it and both ladies trade knees to the body as the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Good start to the round from Chookagian as she seems to have figured out her range now, slipping a couple of Araujo strikes before landing a push kick to the chest that sits Araujo down. Chookagian moving well and throws a body kick but Araujo catches it and puts her on the ground. Araujo gets on top and looks to move into full mount. She looks to synch up a guillotine but Chookagian survives it and eventually is able to get back up to her feet. Chookagian now starts throwing big strikes to an exhausted Araujo as the round starts coming to an end. 19-19. Big final round incoming.
Araujo comes out aggressive in the third, looking for nice hooks but Chookagian showing her range once again and landing nice jabs and body kicks. Araujo still coming forward and looking to cause damage with her hands, but Chookagian’s footwork has been great throughout this fight and she is sticking and moving well. Side kick to the body of Araujo, then she counters Araujo’s right overhand with a left high kick. Araujo goes for a takedown but Chookagian does brilliantly to defend it then lands a huge knee up the middle as they separate. Big right hand lands from Araujo in the final 10 seconds but Chookagian fires back with a flurry of punches and kicks to end the round strong. 29-28 Chookagian for me, but it’s all on how the first round was scored.
Rogerio Bontorin def Matt Schnell via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Pretty slow start to this one as both guys look to go make their reads early on. Schnell takes the centre of the cage and cuts off the centre as Bontorin circles on the outside, with the odd jab and low kick each. Schnell finally strings together a flurry of strikes but Bontorin does well to avoid damage, before landing a big right cross. Left hook and then a jab follows it, before a calf kick puts Schnell down on one knee. Bontorin lands a left hand but Schnell replies with a beautiful right hand then a pull left-hook counter that wobbles Bontorin. Bontorin lands a hard calf kick and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Bontorin.
Right high kick from Schnell opens up the round and lands flush on the nose, before following it up with a nice right hand too. Schnell lands a nice jab, low kick combo but Bontorin replies with another strong leg kick of his own. Bontorin is landing his left hook cleanly at will, but Schnell is still coming and landing some good strikes of his own. Schnell throws a nice four-punch combination before Bontorin replies with a low kick and left hook. Bontorin lunges forward and lands a big left hand that wobbles Schnell and he lands two or three more before missing with a big knee as they separate. Another short flurry from Schnell as the round ends, very close round but it’s probably Bontorin’s again for the more eye-catching strikes.
Both men look fearful of making a mistake to lose this fight as we start the third round. Schnell looking to get his combinations off but Bontorin landing the bigger strikes once again. Bontorin moves forward with a big left, right, left combination that rocks Schnell! He changes levels as Schnell is hurt and gets a takedown and starts landing some big elbows on the ground. Schnell tries his best to get out but Bontorin controls the position and sees the round out on top. 30-27 for me.
Beneil Dariush def Tony Ferguson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very aggressive start to the fight from Dariush as he takes the centre and throws a big left hand early. Ferguson not really throwing anything yet and Dariush closes the distance quickly and shoots in for a takedown against the cage. He locks the hands and dumps him down on the mat and Ferguson immediately starts throwing elbows from the bottom. Dariush starts swinging some heavy ground and pound but nothing really landing. Dariush controlling the position from the top and while there’s not much damage being handed out, he’ll take that round. 10-9 Dariush.
Second round starts in a similar way and Dariush rushes him for a takedown and immediately gets it against the cage. Ferguson looks to synch up a d’arce choke but Dariush stays so calm and eventually pops his head out with no danger. Dariush starts raining down ground and pound again and Ferguson eventually tries to sweep him, but they end up entangled on the ground. Dariush synches in a heel hook super deep and Ferguson is grimacing with pain but he refuses to tap out! Dariush lets it go then moves to control top position for the rest of the round again. 20-18 Dariush.
Third round and Fergusons leg is in bits after the heel hook. Dariush lands a nasty body kick and then shoots in for a takedown once again and gets Ferguson down with a slam. Dariush goes into side control and is just completely controlling the positions. Ferguson is looking for some type of offence from his back but Dariush dominating him from top position into the final 30 seconds. Dariush rains down some ground and pound to end the fight but that is as one-sided a fight as you’ll see. Huge win. 30-27 Dariush.
Charles Oliveira def Michael Chandler via Knockout, Round 2 (0:19)
Fast start to the fight as Oliveira comes out and drops Chandler with a calf kick early. Chandler comes forward and throws a flurry of strikes, with a left hook busting open the eye of Oliveira. Oliveira shoots in for a takedown and Chandler sinks in a deep guillotine! Oliveira manages to escape and then Chandler gives up his back trying to get back up. Oliveira sinks in both hooks and starts working for the rear-naked choke but Chandler works back to his feet with Oliveira on his back and just drops backwards. He explodes out of the body triangle and gets back to his feet, then rocks Oliveira with a huge punch. He starts teeing off on Oliveira and cuts him up but Oliveira survives the round. Crazy! 10-9 Chandler.
Chandler comes out hard in the second round and Oliveira slips a big shot then lands a picture perfect left hook that drops Chandler! Oliveira charges over and starts blitzing Chandler who is in trouble! Oliveira lands another left hook that crumbles Chandler and it’s all over!!! AND NEWWWW!
In the co-main event both Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush will bring the chaos as both men enter a crossroads phase of their career, trying to get to the top but having to cross a top guy on their path.
Last week at UFC Vegas 26 we went 6/9 on an interesting card with one perfect pick to move to 308/482 (63.9%) with 134 perfect picks (43.51%).
We’ll look to improve that record with this 12 fight card and after starting with the early prelims here, we move on to the rest of the prelims here.
Andrea Lee (11-5) vs Antonina Shevchenko (9-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Both Lee and Shevchenko are good strikers on the feet but Lee is also a very competent wrestler when it’s needed too. Shevchenko’s biggest struggles have come whenever a fighter puts her on her back, with next to zero bottom game in her arsenal. This issue Lee has is that she definitely prefers to stand and trade, but her lack of real power encourages her opponents to come forward through those strikes.
Shevchenko does have a decent top game of her own though and this is a pretty even fight on paper, but because Shevchenko is likely to push forward more the takedown should be there for her moreso and she can grab a decision win. PICK – Antonina Shevchenko via Decision
Jordan Wright (11-1) vs Jamie Pickett (11-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Wright is a great striker, with great kicks and good footwork around the cage while Pickett is a good striker of his own. The problem for Pickett is that he struggles to lead the fight, with not enough volume and pressure going forward and too easily backed up to the cage. Wright will pressure forward and get those kicks going looking to land his big right hand.
Pickett is a pretty durable opponent and will throw back with heat, but Wright has the power advantage and stylistically this bout suits him more. He should be able to back Pickett up against the cage and I think he could land hard and clean to get a stoppage. PICK – Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 2
Lando Vannata (11-5-2) vs Mike Grundy (12-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Vannata is a striker with decent power on his hands, once dropping Tony Ferguson in a fight, but over the years his level has plateaued while everyone else has continued evolving. Grundy is the polar opposite, with takedowns the sole intention in his mind to then get control from top position and dominate fights. Vannata’s only path to victory is to KO Grundy early or avoid takedowns for the entire fight.
With Grundy’s high level of wrestling and good durability on the feet, it’s highly unlikely that happens and Grundy should cruise to a pretty one-sided decision win. PICK – Mike Grundy via Decision
Jacare Souza (26-9) vs Andre Muniz (20-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An absolute banger at middleweight as the veteran Jacare Souza steps back into the octagon to take on the hot prospect Andre Muniz. Souza has lost five of his last seven fights, including his last three in a row which ended in a a KO defeat by Kevin Holland at UFC 256, while Muniz has won six-in-a-row including wins over Antonio Arroyo before a submission win over Bartosz Fabinski.
Jacare is a highly-skilled all-rounder with great striking and brilliant jiu-jitsu, while Muniz is a great judo fighter with brilliant submission skills off his back. Souza was able to hold his own in the grappling with Yoel Romero and Chris Weidman in the past and while he’s not the same fighter anymore he’s still not a pushover. He has a clear power advantage on the feet and if Muniz was able to out-grapple him to get a submission it would be the upset of the year.
Muniz’s only path really is to win the grappling exchanges and control on top, but Souza should be able to use his experience, power and solid grappling to get the win via ground and pound. PICK – Jacare Souza via Knockout, Round 2