Tag Archives: Juan Espino

UFC Vegas 24: Whittaker vs Gastelum – Prelims predictions

The middleweight division continues to move on at UFC Vegas 24 as Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker takes on short-notice replacement Kelvin Gastelum in the main event.

Whittaker knows a win cements his place as the number one contender for a potential rematch with Israel Adesanya, while Gastelum looks to get back to the sort of run that saw him fight Adesanya in an interim title fight two short years ago.

In the co-main event, Jeremy Stephens makes a return to the lightweight division for the first time since 2012 when he takes on heavy hitter Drakkar Klose at 155lbs.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 23 we had a pretty good night, going 9/13 with four perfect picks to take our total up to 279/439 (63.55%) with 125 perfect picks (44.8%).

In a fun 12 fight card we’ll look to improve that here. Having already predicted the early prelims, here are our picks for the rest of the prelims.


Bartosz Fabinski (15-4) vs Gerald Meerschaert (31-14 – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A middleweight bout between ‘The Butcher’ against the man who got run over in his last fight Gerald Meerschaert. Fabinski has lost two of his last three, with a decision win over Darren Stewart sandwiched between first-round submission defeats to Michel Prazeres and Andre Muniz. Meerschaert has lost five of his last seven including his last two in a row to Ian Heinisch at UFC 250 and Khamzat Chimaev at UFC Vegas 11.

Fabinski is a wrestler who will look to put you on your back and dominate from top position, while Meerschaert is a jiu-jitsu practitioner with 23 careers wins by submission. Fabinski is an okay striker on the feet and may choose to use that early on because of Meerschaert’s skill off his back. Early on when they’re dry Fabinski may be careful, but his wrestling should see him in a comfortable position for the most part and get a comfortable win here.
PICK – Bartosz Fabinski via Decision

Jessica Penne (12-6) vs Lupita Godinez (5-0) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

A very interesting bout in the strawweight division as Jessica Penne makes her return for the first time in three-and-a-half years following issues with USADA to take on debutant Lupita Godinez.

Penne is a wrestler who we’ve seen in the past get absolutely wailed on by any sort of top striker and that’s exactly what Godinez is. She has a tremendous jab, really powerful punches and solid combinations – all things that will trouble the veteran Penne. While she is likely to have improved a bit after nearly four years away, her weaknesses are likely to still be her weaknesses. At 38, she is now coming up against a more youthful, more powerful and hungrier opponent.

Godinez will likely step forward and land some heavy shots early to put Penne on the back foot and from there it’s a matter of when not if.
PICK – Lupita Godinez via Knockout, Round 1

Alexander Romanov (13-0) vs Juan Espino (11-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A super exciting heavyweight bout between two ground specialists among the biggest of big boys in the UFC. Romanov is undefeated in his career and has smashed through his two UFC opponents so far, submitting Roque Martinez at UFC Vegas 10 before choking out Marcos Rogerio de Lima in one round at UFC Vegas 13. Espino is a former Ultimate Fighter winner and won his first UFC bout against Jeff Hughes at UFC 253 with a first round submission win too.

Romanov is a powerful wrestler, who has rag dolled opponents so far throughout his career and has violent ground and pound as well as a submission game. Espino is also a wrestler but he tends to move for submissions far more than working ground and pound. Both men want to be on top to work their game and we haven’t really seen either on the bottom during their career. We haven’t seen either have to defend takedowns either because that is something their opponents try to avoid so it makes for a very interesting clash.

In the end, Romanov is a younger and fresher fighter who has been more active. If the fight stays on the feet he has the striking edge and a deeper gas tank too so I think he gets the win here but don’t be surprised if Espino gets him down early and works a submission from the top.
PICK – Alexander Romanov via Knockout, Round 1

Tracy Cortez (8-1) vs Justine Kish (7-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

In the featured prelim bout of the card the impressive Tracy Cortez makes a return to take on former Ultimate Fighter contestant Justine Kish. Cortez lost the first bout of her career but has gone unbeaten since, including decision wins in the UFC over Vanessa Melo and most recently Stephanie Egger at UFC Fight Island 5. Kish on the other hand has lost three of her last four, including most recently against Sabina Mazo at UFC Vegas 10 when she was submitted.

Cortez is an excellent wrestler with super takedowns and a well polished ground game, while Kish is anything but. Kish likes to stand and trade kickboxing techniques when she gets the chance but she once literally pooped herself trying to escape from a choke against a strong grappler. Cortez can hold her own the feet for sure but her best work is done on the ground and with Kish’s lacklustre takedown defence there is only one place this is going to end up.

Cortez gets her down and beats her up for 15 minutes for a ninth consecutive career win.
PICK – Tracy Cortez via Decision

UFC 253: Adesanya vs Costa – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Danilo Marques def Khadis Ibragimov via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Both men step out in tentative fashion and throw feints before Marques shoots in for an immediate takedown attempt. Ibragimov defends against the cage and grabs the fence on his way down and ends up back on his feet quickly, but the referee gives a warning. Another takedown attempt and once again Ibragimov grabs the cage to avoid ending up on the bottom. They get back to the feet and nothing else happens. 10-9 Marques.

Same again in the second round as they face off in the middle with barely any action taking place. Marques goes for a takedown and ends up on the back of Ibragimov but he fights the hands well to avoid a rear naked choke. Marques gets him down and has hooks in but doesn’t look to land any strikes or advance and the buzzer goes. Really weird fight so far. 20-18 Marques.

Final round and both men look exhausted and afraid to throw any strikes whatsoever. Marques goes for the takedown again but doesn’t throw strikes once he gets it, while Ibragimov throws a random burst of hooks every now and then but gets nowhere near landing anything. Really, really bad fight. 29-28 Marques but I’m glad it’s over.

Juan Espino def Jeff Hughes via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 1 (3:48)

Fight starts with a bit more bounce than the opener, with Espino bouncing around the outside looking for an opportunity for his takedown. He throws a big overhand right that lands nicely and then engages in a takedown attempt. He eventually gets it and the two bounce between Hughes getting back up and Espino dragging him back down. Eventually Espino ends up in side control, then transitions to full mount and he jumps over with a scarf-hold super quickly, cranks hard and secures the tap. Beautiful performance from the Spaniard.

PRELIMS

William Knight def Aleksa Camur via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27 x2)

A good first round for Camur here, as Knight opens the round with a takedown attempt that gets stuffed and the rest of the round plays out in a clinch position. Camur hanging with the physicality of Knight well against the cage and landing short knees to the thighs and body but nothing too damaging. The referee separates them with 30 seconds to go and they land some nice strikes, with Knight landing two or three big shots right as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Camur for me.

Second round begins with Camur landing some nice punches and initiating the clinch against the cage once again. A few more knees and then a lovely trip gets Knight down to the ground and he looks to take the back but Knight rolls through and ends up on top after a scramble. Camur gets back up but Knight takes him down a few more times and tries to frame off for ground and pound, but Camur defends well. Knight transitions to the back and lands some nice shots and then gets into full mount and rips a nasty kimura but the buzzer goes before Camur has to tap! 19-19 going into the final round.

Third round starts and again it goes to a clinch almost immediately but this time Knight is on top. Another short scramble sees them back to the feet and in a clinch against the cage and the referee warns them to start fighting or he’ll reset. Immediately Knight goes for another takedown and the rest of the round sees him on top controlling and landing ground and pound strikes. 29-28 Knight for me.

Ludovit Klein def Shane Young via Knockout, Round 1 (1:16)

THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE! The fight starts with some body kicks from Klein, then he follows it up with a right hand and big left high-kick that wobbles Young! He lands a beautiful three-punch combo immediately afterwards that knocks Young unconscious and this one is over! Wow. What a debut!

Jake Matthews def Diego Sanchez via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x3)

Sanchez opens the round by rushing across the cage and getting lamped twice by the right hand of Matthews, who then catches a kick and lands a couple more shots. Matthews staying on the outside and landing at will almost with a straight right hand, while Sanchez is throwing heavily landed leg kicks that are being easily avoided. Sanchez continuing to try and rush in with hooks but Matthews is countering well with his right hand. Sanchez shoots for a takedown but Matthews sprawls and then shoots for one of his own and ends the round in top position. 10-9 Matthews.

Second round and Sanchez lands a couple of nice leg kicks but Matthews staying very patient. The straight right hand is still landing pretty much at will and Sanchez now has a bloody nose to contend with too. Sanchez loading up with all his strikes way too much and Matthews dealing with them all relatively easily. Big, wild exchange against the cage as Matthews lands a nice combination then evades Sanchez’s big hooks. Inside leg kick by Sanchez is countered by a beautiful left hook from Matthews that wobbles the veteran and Matthews pouring on the pressure now. Again Sanchez rushes in and Matthews lands a right hand to counter it. 20-18 Matthews, he’s making easy work of this.

Final round and Sanchez rushes across with a crane kick attempt that misses wildly. Matthews lands a big straight right hand that drops Sanchez. He scoots back to the cage and covers up as Matthews lands bombs on the ground and cuts Sanchez open above the eye really badly. Sanchez trying to control posture from the bottom to avoid damage but Matthews throwing big bombs down. Sanchez defends and throws up an armbar but Matthews defends well and gets back into full guard to throw more hard shots on the ground to finish the round strong. 10-8 round, 30-26 for me.

Brad Riddell def Alex Da Silva via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Very competitive first round as Da Silva lands an early takedown and manages to keep the fight on the ground for the most part. Riddell defends well and tries to get back to his feet, but Da Silva seems too strong physically at this point and is able to drag him back down. Riddell get back up and breaks away then Da Silva manages to catch the neck in a clinch and goes for a guillotine but he never really gets it in and the round ends. 10-9 Da Silva.

Riddell comes out very aggressive in the second round and lands some nice strikes but then once again Da Silva gets hold of him and takes him to the cage with a single leg. Riddell defends superbly well and manages to stay up and then lands some nice shots on the feet. Da Silva looks for another takedown but doesn’t get it and eats a straight right hand. Riddell drops down for a takedown of his own but lets it go and lands a nice right hand. Riddell has the clear advantage on the feet and Da Silva is starting to slow down a bit, so Riddell shoots for a takedown of his own but Da Silva gets back up almost immediately. Da Silva fires in for a takedown again but Riddell sprawls perfectly and keeps the fight on the feet for the final 20 seconds of the round. Much better round for Riddell, 19-19.

Third round and Riddell is landing some nice strikes to start as Da Silva comes out a little slower than the previous two rounds. Riddell sprawls to stuff a takedown once again to keep the fight on the feet and he’s landing his right hook well. Da Silva moves in for a takedown against the cage and is looking to clinch but Riddell separates and goes back to striking in the pocket. The referee pauses the fight after an apparent eye-poke by Riddell but the replays show it was a clean punch. Fight restarts and Da Silva goes for a takedown again but Riddell defends well and scrambles back to his feet. More punches to that damaged eye with a minute to go but Da Silva is fighting through it. Riddell goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s stuffed and the fight ends. Should be a Riddell decision win 29-28.

MAIN CARD

Hakeem Dawodu def Zubaira Tukhugov via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)

Tentative round to open the main card as both guys try to feel each other out for the most part. Lots of feints, jabs and leg kicks to start with but Tukhugov landing a bit more often and a bit cleaner. Tukhugov more aggressive, advancing more and being first but neither fighter lands anything of much significance in the opening round. 10-9 Tukhugov.

Dawodu comes out in the second round and lands a nice body kick followed up by a spinning heel kick to the body too. Tukhugov is avoiding the leg kicks well but Dawodu lands a nice right hook to the chin. Both men starting to throw a little bit more freely in this round as Tukhugov lands a big left hand that is returned with a right hand from Dawodu. Right hook by Tukhugov lands but Dawodu counters with a left kick. Both men landing shots simultaneously ad Tukhugov shoots for a takedown but Dawodu defends well against the cage. Dawodu lands a nice body shot but Tukhugov shoots for a takedown and gets it and ends up on the back of Dawodu landing some light ground and pound to end the round. The takedown may have stolen the round for Tukhugov but could easily be level going into round 3.

Dawodu comes out in the final round and goes straight for some leg kicks. Tukhugov moving well but Dawodu lands more leg kicks and body shots. Tukhugov not really engaging at all and instead just circling around the cage, but Dawodu just following him instead. Dawodu erupts in anger screaming at Tukhugov to fight him but he continues to just circle. Round ends with nothing happening. 29-28 Tukhugov for me but it all comes down to the second round for me.

Ketlen Vieira def Sijara Eubanks via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

A tentative opening round between the two ladies of the card. Vieira comes out immediately looking to clinch but Eubanks defends well and manages to break. Both women landing singular shots, with Vieira using her reach advantage well and landing the jab frequently. Eubanks employing the ‘punches in bunches’ style and doing well, before she stuffs another takedown attempt from Vieira. The Brazilian lands a beautiful combo of punches before shooting for a takedown and securing it at the end of the round. 10-9 Vieira.

Vieira comes out in the second ground aggressive once again and gets another takedown. Up against the cage and Vieira is looking for ground and pound strikes but Eubanks doing well to tie her up and control her arms to not allow her to throw any strikes. The referee stands them back up and they stand toe-to-toe in a striking match now, with Vieira using her long limbs to land first and hard as the round comes to an end. 20-18 Vieira.

Final round and Eubanks knows she needs the finish. She comes out throwing combinations but Vieira is using her length really well to land first or counter when Eubanks hits her. More punches from both women land as they exchange wildly but Vieira making sure she avoids any serious damage. The women end up on the ground in the final seconds as Vieira looks for a leg lock submission but the buzzer goes with Eubanks landing some ground and pound. 29-28 Vieira for me.

Brandon Royval def Kai Kara France via Submission (Guillotine), Round 2 (0:38)

Brandon Royval comes flying out of the traps and eats a leg kick from Kara France that sits him down. He gets back up and walks towards Kara France and eats a huge right overhand on the chin that drops him! He stands back and throws a spinning elbow that catches Kara-France flush and knocks him down! He tries to lock up an omoplata submission but Kara France comes back around and manages to fight his way out of it. They get back to their feet and start throwing hell for leather. Royval lands a knee against the cage that drops Kara France again but he survives the round. What a fight! 10-9 Royval.

Second round starts and Kara France goes in for a takedown and lifts Royval, but he locks up the neck and sinks in a standing guillotine! Kara France drops down to the mat, Royval makes an adjustment with his legs to tighten it and gets the tap! What a performance!

Jan Blachowicz def Dominick Reyes via Knockout, Round 2 (4:36)

A very cagey opening round for this fight as both men look to feel each other out early on. Both men throwing leg kicks and counter straights but nothing significant landing early. Blachowicz lands a beautiful body kick below the elbow that visibly marks Reyes up but other than that a pretty slow round. 10-9 Blachowicz.

A slow start once again to this second round as both guys are feeling each other out still, making reads and feinting. Reyes lands a body kick nicely but Blachowicz returns with one of his own. Blachowicz charges forward with big combos and shatters the nose of Reyes! Reyes tries to slug it out looking for a knockout but Blachowicz lands another big left hand that drops him! The Pole jumps on top and lands some ground and pound before the referee steps in. New champion!

Israel Adesanya def Paulo Costa via Knockout, Round 2 (3:59)

Cagey start to this title fight too as Adesanya attacks the legs of Costa early with teep kicks and calf kicks. Costa taking the centre but Adesanya staying light on his feet and evading Costa’s kick attempts. Both fighters taunting each other but it’s Adesanya doing damage. 10-9 to the champ.

Second round shows more of Adesanya’s kickboxing class as he stays at range and continues to chew up the leg of Costa. Costa is struggling with his movement and Adesanya is starting to land punches to the head. Big head kick from Adesanya cuts Costa open above the eye. Costa charges forward now looking to be aggressive, but Adesanya evades and lands a big right hand to the temple that drops Costa! Adesanya goes knee on belly and lands huge shots to the head and the referee steps in! AAAAND STILL!! What a masterclass.

UFC 253: Adesanya vs Costa – Prelims Predictions

The UFC makes their long awaited return to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi this weekend as they prepare for double title fight at UFC 253.

Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz will square off in the octagon for the vacant light heavyweight championship in the co-main event, while the card is headlined by Israel Adesanya’s second defence of his middleweight title against rival Paulo Costa.

With 11 fights scheduled, we’re back to a standard sized fight card after last weekend’s stacked 14 fight card. For my predictions last time out, I managed to get a respectable 10/14 with four perfect picks (winner, method, round).

I’ll look to see if I can do better this time around, starting with the prelims here.

EARLY PRELIMS

Khadis Ibragimov (8-3) vs Danilo Marques (9-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

A fight that deserves the opening spot on the card as Khadis Ibragimov looks to end a three-fight losing streak against Danilo Marques, making his UFC debut after almost 3 years without a fight. Ibragimov hasn’t won in the UFC yet, being choked out by Da Un Jung, held to a decision loss by Ed Herman and knocked out by Roman Dolidze in his three outings so far. Marques’ time away from the cage makes it hard to know what he’ll do but in previous fights he has shown some okay wrestling and not much else. His 8 stoppage wins are evenly split between knockouts and submissions but it’s no surprise he hadn’t made it to the UFC before now. Ibragimov has the advantage everywhere in this fight so as long as he doesn’t do anything ridiculous he should be able to get his first taste of victory in the octagon.
PICK – Khadis Ibragimov via Unanimous Decision

Juan Espino (10-1) vs Jeff Hughes (10-3 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

The most recent Ultimate Fighter winner Juan Espino takes on Jeff Hughes with both men looking to earn a first UFC win for their record. Espino came through the TUF house in 2018, winning the UFC contract with a straight armbar submission win over Justin Frazier, while Jeff Hughes has tasted defeat to Maurice Greene (who Espino beat in the TUF house) and Raphael Pessoa either side of a no contest against Todd Duffee. Espino is an excellent wrestler and has a similar style to Curtis Blaydes, in that he insists on takedowns followed by damage except he goes for tap-outs over knockouts. Hughes is a capable boxer but he just isn’t of the level of his peers in the UFC and it’s shown. He was demolished by Pessoa in a fight he really had no reason for losing, so I can’t see past Espino getting a takedown and locking in a choke early doors.
PICK – Juan Espino via Submission, Round 1

PRELIMS

William Knight (8-1) vs Aleksa Kamur (6-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

After earning a UFC developmental contract on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August last year, Knight has won three out of four fights since then to earn a full contract. His most recent win came just three weeks ago when he knocked out Cody Brundage. Aleksa Kamur is a training partner to UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and has shown similar boxing skills to that of the GOAT big-man. Kamur has five knockout wins from six fights, with the only flaw being his UFC debut against Justin Ledet where he won a unanimous decision. Knight’s best attribute is undoubtedly his top game, but his wrestling defence and takedowns aren’t great. He seems to hope for a sweep on the ground before blasting off his patented ground and pound but Kamur has good takedown defence and is a much better stand-up fighter. If he can stay composed and avoid the takedown, Kamur should be able to get a knockout win on the feet.
PICK – Aleksa Kamur via Knockout, Round 2

Shane Young (13-4) vs Ludovit Klein (16-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

After almost 18 months away from the octagon, Shane Young returns to take on UFC debutant Ludovit Klein in the featherweight division. After a five fight win streak, Young was matched up with now-champion Alex Volkanovski in his UFC debut and was beaten by decision but has since gone on to win two in a row including a performance of the night against Rolando Dy. Klein comes into the organisation on a seven-fight win streak having finished six of those opponents. If the card didn’t have Adesanya vs Costa on it, this would be a contender for fight of the night. Both guys are explosive, with good kickboxing skills and are comfortable if it gets to the ground. Klein has the advantage on the ground with his 8 submission wins over his career but it’s on the feet where he prefers to do his work. He has a bit more snap and power to his shots and he kicks really well, especially to the head. Klein is coming in on relatively short notice but he seems to always stay ready and with Young looking to return with a win, both guys could come with power. Ultimately, I think Klein just has the slight edge everywhere and if both fight to their best Klein should be able to edge it.
PICK – Ludovit Klein via Unanimous Decision

Diego Sanchez (30-12) vs Jake Matthews (16-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

The wild man veteran of the welterweight division makes his return as Diego Sanchez stops off on Fight Island during his farewell tour to take on the ‘Celtic Kid’ Jake Matthews. Sanchez KO’d Mickey Gall with ground and pound before being dominated by Michael Chiesa in his next bout. His last fight however ended up as a disqualification win after he was smashed by Michel Pereira who landed an illegal knee. Sanchez took the result over more punishment. Matthews has won his last two, defeating Rostem Akman and Emil Meek via unanimous decision. Sanchez’s crazy pace and takedown heavy style wears many an opponent out and he has power in his hands during a wild exchange but his issue here will be that Matthews is just as dangerous. A very well rounded fighter, Matthews can hang regardless of where the fight goes and he’s a bigger, stronger man. He will likely use his natural power to avoid the takedowns and dominate the fight, landing enough to earn a comfortable decision win.
PICK – Jake Matthews via Unanimous Decision

Brad Riddell (8-1) vs Alex Da Silva (21-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

The lead striking coach of Tiger Muay Thai continues his transition over to MMA as Brad Riddell looks to make it 3 wins in a row in the UFC against youngster Alex Da Silva. Despite his impressive 23 professional fights, with 20 finishes from 21 wins, Silva is still only 24 years old. Despite a mixed bag of talent among those opponents, the performances he’s churned out have been impressive. Riddell though is one of the best kickboxers on the planet. Now training MMA with Alexander Volkanovski and co, he is taking his game to the next level. He showed in his decision win over Magomed Mustafaev that he is improving his ground game but that he is also on a whole different level on the feet. Da Silva has a decent ground game but he prefers to kickbox too, which will see him in a world of trouble. He could try to score takedowns but he’s not the ultimate wrestler so there is no guarantee he gets the fight down. Overall, I think Riddell keeps the fight standing and eventually lands a flurry of punches and kicks to end the fight.
PICK – Brad Riddell via Knockout, Round 2