The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas once again for yet another fight night card, this time headlined by female featherweight Norma Dumont and short-notice replacement Aspen Ladd.
Ladd was pulled from UFC Vegas 38 just two weeks ago after missing the bantamweight limit by one pound, scrapping her fight with Macy Chiasson. But after Holly Holm pulled out of this card with an injury, the UFC called her in up a weight class to fill in for this main event.
Elsewhere on the card the legendary Jim Miller makes a return while two Contender Series alum in Jordan Wright and Julian Marquez meet in a fun middleweight scrap.
Last week at UFC Vegas 39, we went 6/9 with three perfect picks on a rather forgettable card to move us up to 434/679 (63.92%) with 187 perfect picks (43.09%) since June 2020.
Julian Marquez (9-2) vs Jordan Wright (12-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Potential fight of the night in this one in the middleweight division between two guys with a 100% finish rate in their careers. Marquez earned a submission win over Maki Pitolo at UFC 258 before another submission win over Sam Alvey at UFC Vegas 23. Wright on the other hand bounced back from defeat to Joaquin Buckley at UFC 255 to earn a brilliant first-round win over Jamie Pickett most recently at UFC 262.
Marquez is a very good all-round fighter but he doesn’t seem to excel in any particular path. He’s got good power, very good cardio, decent grappling skills and an ability to go with the flow in each bout. Wright on the other hand is a terrific striker, with explosive power and solid kicks in his arsenal.
This fight will either be incredible explosive with a big finish, or both fighters will be wary of their opponent’s power and scoot around the outside like Thiago Santos vs Johnny Walker did. Either way, I think Marquez has the edge and Wright has been finished before so I lean with ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 2
Manon Fiorot (7-1) vs Mayra Bueno Silva (7-1-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun flyweight bout up next on the main card as the highly rated Manon Fiorot returns to take on Mayra Bueno Silva. Fiorot is udnefeated in the UFC and on a seven-fight win streak with KO’s over Victoria Leonardo at UFC Fight Island 8 and Tabatha Ricci at UFC Vegas 28. Silva is 1-1-1 in her last three, with a submission win over Mara Romero Borella before a draw last time out against Montana De La Rosa at UFC Vegas 20.
Fiorot is a brilliant kickboxer with supreme technical quality and plenty of power in her striking, while Silva is an excellent grappler with five submission wins in her career so far. Fiorot’s ground game is relatively untested in the UFC up to this point and Silva is sure to change that statement. The issue she has however is that her takedown game is non-existent. If Silva gets the fight to the ground, she has a huge edge but she’s never had a successful takedown in her UFC career.
If she can overpower Fiorot down to the ground though, she has a real chance to secure the upset. With that said though, Fiorot has a massive edge on the feet and has the technical ability to pick her apart with combinations at range and finish the fight with elbows and knees if she gets into clinches. PICK – Manon Fiorot via Knockout, Round 3
Jim Miller (32-16) vs Erick Gonzalez (14-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight out between the grappling expert Miller as he takes on short-notice debutant Gonzalez at 155lbs. Miller has lost three of his last four, dropping decisions to Vinc Pichel at UFC 252 and Joe Solecki at UFC Vegas 23 most recently. Gonzalez is on a two-fight win streak and steps in on two-weeks notice.
Miller is a submission wizard, with 18 wins via tap-out throughout his career but he also has some decent striking to mix in with it too. Gonzalez on the other hand is a striking heavy fighter, with good technical boxing ability and some decent kicks to go with his combinations too. It’s a real clash of styles fight in this one and is also a big void in experience too.
On the ground Miller has the advantage, but Gonzalez is very good at pushing forward with blitzes and his takedown defence is decent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either guy get their hand raised at the end of this one, but the experience and grappling of Miller should see him earn a submission win. PICK – Jim Miller via Submission, Round 3
Andrei Arlovski (31-20) vs Carlos Felipe (11-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout between the past and potential future of the division. Arlovski is a former world champion who was submitted by Tom Aspinall at UFC Vegas 19, before bouncing back with a decision win over Chase Sherman at UFC Vegas 24. Felipe is on a three-fight win streak in the UFC, defeating all of Yorgan De Castro, Justin Tafa and Jake Collier by decision at UFC 263 most recently.
Arlovski is a well-rounded striker, with good boxing and some decent wrestling in his back pocket too to try and keep fights standing. Felipe on the other hand is a cardio heavy fighter who uses volume and low kicks to secure wins. Neither of these fighters are the most powerful of strikers, but at heavyweight everyone hits hard. This will likely be stand-up affair and Felipe is deceptively quick with his hands so could catch him with a big strike.
Despite that possibility though, this fight is almost sure to go the distance. Neither guy really goes for the finish too much and Arlovski isn’t fighting like a 42-year-old. But his level has dropped from where he once was and Felipe is always improving, so I think he claims the win. PICK – Carlos Felipe via Decision
Aspen Ladd (9-1) vs Norma Dumont (6-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very weird fight in the main event at featherweight here that was put together on short-notice. Aspen Ladd is moving up to featherweight after missing weight at bantamweight just two weeks ago to step in for the injury Holly Holm to face Dumont. Ladd hasn’t fought since 2019 after tearing her MCL and ACL. Dumont on the other hand has two wins in a row with decisions over Ashlee Evans-Smith and Felicia Spencer.
Ladd is a great wrestler with some excellent control and ground and pound in her arsenal, while Dumont is a very good striker with good speed and power. Ladd is very good at getting the fight down to the ground from the inside and then she just has this ability to hold her opponent in place to unleash some nasty ground strikes, leading to six KO career wins so far.
Dumont’s takedown defence isn’t amazing but on the feet she has the speed to keep range. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the power to put Ladd off coming forward to close the distance and get the takedowns needed. Once there, it’s just about how long Dumont can survive. Sucks to be her, but I don’t think it’ll be that long. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Knockout, Round 3
Great start to the fight for Kasanganay as he comes forward to close the distance early and lands a nice right hand. Palatnikov throws a kick which Kasanganay catches and then he lands another big right hand before getting a body lock and taking Palatnikov down to the ground. Kasanganay using heavy top pressure but not landing much damage and Palatnikov is able to get back to his feet. Kasanganay goes for another takedown but Palatnikov defends it well and they clinch against the cage now. Palatnikov starts teeing off against the cage but Kasanganay does well to avoid any strikes and clinch up again. Nice left hand lands from Palatnikov at the end of the round but should be 10-9 Kasanganay.
Kasanganay comes out quickly in the second round and lands a big right hand that drops Palatnikov! He forces the takedown with pure power and scrambles to take his neck. He locks in a rear-naked choke and squeezes, forcing Palatnikov to tap out! Big win for Kasanganay!
Da-Un Jung def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Reserved start from both fighters as Knight comes out throwing low calf kicks to prevent Jung from letting his jab fly. Knight goes in for a takedown and lifts Jung but he defends it well, switches the position and is able to get a throw perfectly to end up in top position. Knight is landing some nice right hands from the bottom as he holds Jung in place, but Jung fires back with a couple of right hands of his own to shut that down. Jung passes into half guard and tries to move into side control but Knight sweeps him really well and explodes back onto his feet. Knight clinches up once again and Jung is able to get the same trip once more to get back in top position. Some decent ground and pound from Jung as Knight looks quite tired now but he’s able to explode to his feet again as the round ends. 10-9 Jung.
Knight comes out throwing lots of low kicks once again, but Jung is backing him up to the cage and looking to hunt him down. Both guys land a nice right hand each before Knight shoots in for a takedown. Jung defends it, clinches up and then lands the same outside trip once again to take top position and starts landing ground and pound against the cage. Knight tries to get to his feet but Jung stays heavy and drags him down to the mat once more, then takes his back and sinks in both hooks. Jung starts raining down punches and Knight is trying to explode out again rather than use technique. Knight is just surviving right now and Jung continues to smash him up from his back on top. Lots of damage but Knight survives the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Jung.
Jung comes forward early in the final round and Knight has abandoned the leg kicks and is throwing bombs. Jung lands a nice uppercut, then switches levels and gets a big takedown! Knight explodes to his feet again but Jung is able to drag and throw Knight back to the mat with relative ease. Jung floats through the positions and ends up in side control, landing knees to the body and just completely dominating all the exchanges in this fight. Jung stays busy from top position on the ground landing damage for the rest of the fight for a very comfortable win. 30-26 Jung.
Luis Saldana def Jordan Griffin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Really good start to the fight for Saldana as he comes out with his hands low and is throwing quick kicks to the legs and body. Saldana throws a night three punch combo that clips Griffin, who shoots in for a takedown and gets it but Saldana gets back up very quickly. More leg kicks from Saldana take Griffin off his feet but he keeps coming forward and lands two big punches as he rushes forward and goes in for a takedown again. Saldana defends well against the cage and they break, but Griffin stays in his face and keeps throwing big punches. He keeps pouring punches and then eventually gets the takedown, but Saldana is able to roll through and escape before Griffin gets a headlock and looks for some sort of bulldog choke. Saldana is able to escape and Griffin charges once again and just misses with a big head-kick before the round ends. Very close, but I go 10-9 Griffin.
Slower start to the round from both guys as Saldana comes out again looking for low kicks and front kicks to the body, but Griffin pressures him again. Saldana slips as he throws a kick and Griffin jumps on top. Saldana looks for an armbar and then switches to a heel hook to create space which gets both guys back up. Saldana jumps on the neck of Griffin looking for a guillotine, but Griffin is calm and escapes before getting the fight back down. He starts looking for a bulldog choke again but Saldana escapes it only for Griffin to continue with his pressure and get back into a dominant position. Griffin starts floating and then takes the back and sinks in a rear naked choke deep but he runs out of time so we’re going to the final round. 20-18 Griffin.
Saldana comes out in the final round and knows he needs a finish. He’s trying to stay out of wrestling range, using punches rather than kicks to avoid being taken down but he looks exhausted. Griffin isn’t exactly fresh himself but he’s coming forward still but doing enough to stay out of range. Saldana looks to kick off the cage with a superman punch but just misses with that and the follow up hook, before Griffin shoots in for a tired takedown against the cage. Saldana defends it well and switches the position around but Griffin gets his arm under the chin and looks for a rear-naked choke! Saldana stays calm and escapes and ends up on top with 90 seconds to go. Saldana is able to take the back of Griffin for a split second, but Griffin then switches around and finishes the round on top looking for a submission. Probably a Saldana round but should be a win for Griffin. 29-28.
Jack Shore def Hunter Azure via Split Decision (30-27 x2, 28-29)
Composed start to the bout from both men as they feel each other out with jabs and low kicks before they both clinch up against the cage. Shore looking like the stronger fighter as they battle for position and he gets a body lock in nicely and picks Azure up and sweeps the legs for a takedown. Azure gets back up quickly but Shore keeps the hands locked and continues to drag Azure around. Shore tries to take the back but Azure drops to his knees and counters by turning into Shore’s guard. Shore kicks off the hips to get back to his feet quickly before Azure can do any damage and they clinch against the cage again before separating. Both men throw a simultaneous kick that makes for a big thud before a nice high kick lands from Shore. Azure looks for a takedown against the cage but Shore defends and the round ends. 10-9 Shore.
Fast start from Azure in the second round as he goes straight in for a clinch against the cage and lands some nice knees to the body and thighs. Shore is patient and eventually gets back up and catches a kick from Azure and lands a right hand that drops Azure. Azure gets back up quickly though and Shore looks for a clinch against the takedown before going for a takedown of his own. He shoots in and Azure looks for a guillotine which forces Shore to abandon and go to his back to escape, but Azure ends up on top in half guard. Shore uses his long legs and hips really well to get back up to the feet and the clinch continues against the cage once again. Accidental low blow from Azure causes a short pause in the action but they clinch again when they resume. Azure lands a nice right hand when they separate and then lands a good right hook but Shore starts landing some strikes of his own too. Azure lands a big right hand clean but Shore responds with an uppercut as the round ends. Very close round, probably in Azure’s favour. 19-19.
Azure goes straight in for a takedown at the start of the third but Shore stuffs it well and starts working off his jab from the outside. Azure changes levels to avoid a right hand and goes for a single leg, but Shore defends it brilliantly once again against the cage. Stiff low kick from Shore and then a nice left hook lands that stings Azure, who shoots for a takedown quickly after but is denied. Shore stuffs another attempt and then takes Azure down himself, landing some short punches against the cage and leaning all his weight on Azure to drag him back down. He looks to take Azure’s back and then moves into mount, switching between both positions. Azure is able to get back to his feet but Shore keeps hold of him and is able to take him down once again as we enter the final 90 seconds. Azure scrambles and rolls through to escape Shore’s grip and ends up on top and looks to land ground and pound but Shore defends brilliantly and then escapes a rear naked choke attempt to see out the round. Should be a win for Shore, 29-28.
Jarjis Danho def Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1 (3:02)
Slow start to the fight for both guys as they throw some leg kicks and circle each other. Danho throwing more and more leg kicks but not much action in the first two minutes. Danho looks to clinch up but De Castro throws him off and lands a big left hand that wobbles Danho! He comes forward with more punches but Danho avoids and goes for a takedown. The two separate and De Castro continues to come forward, then both men throw big right hands and Danho lands on the side of the head and puts De Castro’s lights out!! He lands one more on the ground but it’s all over! What a knockout!
John Makdessi def Ignacio Bahamondes via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Bahamondes using his length well very early on, with long jabs and front kicks. Bahamondes doing really well to mix up his attacks, landing leg kicks, jabs, straight rights, body shots and kicks while changing up his stance constantly. Makdessi just can’t get a read right now as Bahamondes keeps moving. Makdessi lands a big right hand that makes Bahamondes do the chicken dance and he pushes on for the finish, but Bahamondes clinches up to try and recover. Bahamondes now is trying to stay away and land from range but Makdessi continues to pour on the pressure. Bahamondes goes for a takedown against the cage but Makdessi defends it well. Bahamondes lands a couple of elbows on the break and they exchange strikes again as the round ends. That’s a really close round could go either way. I go Makdessi for the damage.
Bahamondes seems to have recovered now as he comes out popping his jab once again and circling on the outside. Makdessi taking the centre and looking to catch Bahamondes on his way in, but it’s not working too well for him just yet. Three jabs in a row land for Makdessi who returns with a big left hand of his own. Bahamondes lands a big straight left then misses with a few kicks before shooting in for a takedown, but Makdessi defends it with ease. Bahamondes starts throwing some knees against the cage before they separate and go back to trading straight punches. Both guys trading jabs and straights and landing, then Bahamondes lands a huge spinning heel kick to the head but Makdessi eats it. Makdessi responds with two body shots and a short left hook to the chin then lands a clean one two. Another super close round, I’ve got it even.
Third round following the pattern of the previous two, with Bahamondes landing from range but Makdessi standing firm in the middle and popping him back too. Bahamondes lands some nice jabs but Makdessi keeps landing the straight right and left jab in response. Bahamondes looks for a big knee that just misses and then he shoots in for a takedown to mix it up. Makdessi stuffs it and lands a nice right hand, before Bahamondes starts pouring on pressure and lands a big one-two. Bahamondes lands another nice left hand that sends Makdessi backwards but they continue to stand in a phonebox and trade for the remainder of the round in what was a brilliant fight. Another very close round, I don’t know how to call it. 29-28 either way, I lean to Bahamondes.
Mateusz Gamrot def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 2 (1:22)
Good start to the round from both guys, with Gamrot looking to land from range to set up his takedowns while Holtzman is looking to counter with heavy punches. Gamrot steps in for a takedown and grabs the leg and tries to go for a heel hook but Holtzman defends it well. Gamrot lands a nice left but Holtzman responds with a huge left hand on his way in! Gamrot responds with a couple of left hands again and then goes for single leg again and transitions to a double leg to get the takedown against the cage. Gamrot allows him back up and throws a huge elbow to the ear that wobbles Holtzman towards the end of the round. 10-9 Gamrot.
Holtzman comes out very aggressive and starts walking Gamrot down, but he’s loading up his attacks with big uppercuts and overhands. Gamrot moving side to side to stay out of the way and he throws a big one two down the middle which folds Holtzman! He jumps on and lands a couple more shots before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Gamrot!
Joe Solecki def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Very positive start from Solecki as he looks to be first in the striking exchanges between the two, but Miller just misses with his big left hand. Nice calf kick lands from Miller but Solecki is coming forward and landing nice short flurries of punches. Big right hand lands and forces Miller to think twice but then the veteran lands a nice body kick. Solecki shoots in for a takedown but Miller stuffs it and ends up on top, so Solecki goes into full guard and starts defending. Miller is landing some nice short elbows from the top position and stacking Solecki up to prevent him from being able to get back to his feet easily. Miller misses with an elbow as the rounds ends, probably a Miller round because of the top control. 10-9 Miller.
Solecki comes out aggressive in the second round and lands a nice right hand before shooting in for the takedown. Miller looks to defend it but Solecki takes the legs from under him and moves into full guard. Now it’s Solecki looking to stack Miller against the cage and throw some ground and pound, but Miller is staying busy from his back too. A few body shots from Solecki as he looks to wear Miller down heading into the final 90 seconds of the round. Not much action in this round but Solecki controlled it and takes the round. 19-19 going into the final round.
Both men see the route to victory as being on top and so immediately they both move into a clinch position. Solecki the physically stronger guy right now and gets a body lock, which Miller tries to roll through from but Solecki holds on and ends up on top once again. Solecki throwing short shots on the ground from half guard but Miller is trying to get back to his feet now rather than accepting the position. Solecki doing really well to control the position now and just doing enough damage to stop the fight from being stood back up. Solecki maintains the position for the rest of the round to secure what should be a straight forward decision win.
Daniel Rodriguez def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Tense start to this one with both men respecting the power of their opponent early on. Perry throws a few le kicks and Rodriguez is throwing his jab well and has already busted up the nose. Rodriguez throws a big one-two down the middle that staggers Perry but he continues to come forward to look for a finish. Rodriguez is landing big one-twos at will and Perry is getting pieced up, so he changes levels and powers through with a takedown. He lifts Rodriguez up and slams him down but Rodriguez holding on for a guillotine which Perry does well to defend against and avoid. Perry stays in top position and works for some ground and pound to see the round out. Perry still in it, but that’s a Rodriguez round for me. 10-9.
Second round and Rodriguez is doing really well on the feet, with his jab landing at will and the left hand following up behind it cleanly too. Perry is throwing some nice leg kicks and is just struggling to be first with the punches because of the range difference. Perry gets a body lock and looks for a takedown which he gets, then tries to transition onto Rodriguez’s back, but Rodriguez does well to stay strong and get back up pretty quickly. Rodriguez continues to land the jab and left straight at will, but Perry is still standing in front of him and throwing shots of his own. Big right hook, left hand from Rodriguez lands clean. Perry comes forward looking for a takedown with 20 seconds to go but Rodriguez defends it well to claim the round again. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Final round and the pattern continues, as Rodriguez lines up the jab and takes the centre of the cage. Perry is struggling to land anything of note because he keeps getting pummelled every time he tries to go first. Perry shoots for a takedown but Rodriguez denies it again and shrugs him off in the clinch. Rodriguez throws three huge left hands in an exchange but Perry is still taking the punishment and trying to come forward. Perry’s face is so busted up right now and at this point it’s just about not getting finished as Rodriguez shoots in for a takedown but Perry stuffs it to see the round out with a big exchange. 30-27 Rodriguez, excellent performance.
Fast start to the fight from Dern as she charges forward throwing big punches with a couple landing but Nunes responds with a couple of her own. Dern charges forward again and lands a nice left hand, but Nunes throws a good right hand to counter it too. Dern shoots in for a takedown against the cage and lifts the leg high then sweeps the standing leg and dumps her down. She immediately works to advance the position and threatens with a leg attack to pass into half guard. From half guard she quickly moves into mount and starts raining down elbows from the top. She transitions into an armbar position and despite Nunes’ best attempts to defend it, Dern extends the arm and gets the tap out.
Julian Marquez def Sam Alvey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (2:07)
Pretty tame opening to the round as Marquez takes the centre early and looks to figure out his range by flicking out his lead hand. Neither men throw anything really for the first two minutes barring a couple of missed hooks. Alvey is loading up big with his left hand and it’s allowing Marquez to avoid it well. Marquez lands a big right hook clean and Alvey is hurt. Marquez goes in again and lands two more that drops Alvey but he falls into Marquez and quickly recovers. Two more big right hands land from Marquez but Alvey just about stays standing and now throws a huge left of his own. Alvey is all the way back against the cage and just trying to hit Marquez on his way in but he’s missing wildly. 10-9 Marquez at the end of the round.
More of the same in the second round as Marquez backs Alvey up and lands a nice body shot, but Alvey explodes forward and lands a nice right hand of his own. Marquez throws an overhand right that lands clean on Alvey’s chin but he’s still there throwing his own heat. Marquez lands a huge right hand that drops Alvey and he goes all in for the finish with big strikes. Alvey looks to defend with a takedown but he’s eating big shots. Marquez abandons the strikes and goes for a rear-naked choke and puts Alvey to sleep for the win. Great performance.
Arnold Allen def Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start for Allen as Yusuff comes forward and throws a body kick which he catches and immediately gets a takedown. Yusuff does well to defend well against the cage and hooks up a guillotine choke that forces Allen to roll to his back and abandon the takedown attempt. Yusuff comes forward and is chopping away at the leg of Allen, but both men are throwing heat. Allen lands a big left hand but Yusuff keeps coming and clinches up. Allen lands a big left hand that drops Yusuff and he moves in to take top position but Yusuff does well to recover and avoid further damage. Allen goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s defended well and the round comes to an end with a nice exchange in the centre. 10-9 Allen.
Yusuff continues to push the pace and pressuring forward, but Allen is threatening with the big left hand once again. Yusuff lands some nice chopping leg kicks again and Yusuff is starting to land with his jab. He’s starting to touch Allen more and more, then Allen throws a huge head-kick that rocks him! Allen slips as it lands but he jumps back up and goes to land some ground and pound, but Yusuff recovers well once again and they get back to competing in the middle. Clinch against the cage and Allen is physically stronger and able to dictate the position more, and he sees out the round in control. 20-18 Allen.
Good start from Allen as he looks to back Yusuff up to the cage with his physicality and shoot for takedowns, but Yusuff refusing to accept it and defending really well. He switches the position on the cage and lands some nice knees to the body of Allen before they separate and go back into the centre. Lots of short exchanges and clinch work against the cage for the rest of the round as Yusuff arguably takes the round but it won’t be enough for a win. 29-28 Allen for me, very competitive fight.
Marvin Vettori def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (50-44 x3)
Holland makes a fast start throwing some leg kicks and big right hands but early on he lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Vettori comes in tight for the clinch after the action resumes, but Holland is striking from range and lands a heavy right hand. Vettori finally gets a body lock and clinch against the cage to start wearing on Holland, but he defends the attempted trip well which forces Vettori to change to a double leg. Holland defends it well again and Vettori separates, but he’s right in Holland’s face and applying lots of pressure. Vettori is able to drag Holland down to the ground, but Holland starts throwing up-kicks to try and create space to get up to his feet. Vettori is able to get full guard and starts applying lots of pressure and looking to land ground and pound. Holland is able to roll through and gets back to the feet, but then eats a big left hand. Good first round from both, very close to score. 10-9 Vettori for me but could go either way.
Holland comes out fast once again and lands some sharp punches and straight kicks but Vettori is trying to close the distance earlier this time. Holland lands a big one-two but Vettori eats it, slips a shot and then shoots in for another takedown against the cage. He gets him down quickly this time and avoids the guillotine attempt to go into full guard and land big ground and pound strikes. Vettori starts stacking Holland against the cage and raining down strikes, completely dominant. Holland tries to kick out of it but Vettori controls the position well and gets right back to work with the ground and pound from the top position. More strikes from Vettori opens up a cut on Holland’s face and he tries to scramble out but Vettori just controls his position even once Holland gets back to his feet to end the round. 20-17.
Holland’s left eye is closing up but he’s battling on and Vettori comes out like a freight train and looks to go straight for the takedown again. He gets it quickly and then moves into mount almost immediately. He looks to set up an arm triangle submission and locks it in tight, but Holland doesn’t tap and is able to escape from the bottom to get back up to his feet. Vettori goes straight back for the takedown again but Holland does well to avoid it. Holland lands a couple of nice strikes standing but then once again Vettori changes levels, clinches against the cage and controls the position. Holland lands a couple of huge strikes that seem to wobble Vettori a little but the buzzer goes. 30-26 Vettori.
Big early left hand lands at the start of the fourth for Vettori, but Holland responds with a couple of big hooks of his own. Vettori shoots in for a takedown and gets it down pretty easily once again and goes straight into full guard to land some ground and pound. Vettori looks to stack Holland who rolls through to avoid it and gets back to full guard. Holland is able to get back to the feet after a short scramble but very quickly Vettori is able to drag him back down and goes straight into mount. He looks for the arm triangle submission again, but Holland stays calm and takes it back to half guard. Vettori lands some heavy strikes and then goes back into full guard before passing into half guard again. Vettori tries to stack him and Holland starts throwing up-kicks again but Vettori is just too strong and sees out the round on top. 40-35 Vettori.
Holland still looks fresh and lands a bomb of a right hand that gets Vettori’s attention, so the Italian changes levels and gets the takedown immediately and goes into full guard. Holland kicks off the cage and finds a way to get back to the feet but once again Vettori just locks his hands, finds an angle and drags him back down to the mat. Vettori steps over into half guard and starts throwing some more ground and pound with Holland fighting off his back. Vettori steps over into mount once again looking to set up the arm triangle choke, but Holland explodes back up to his feet. Vettori holds the body lock once again though and drags the fight to the mat again with 40 seconds to go and he sees the round out in control. 50-44 Vettori, pure domination.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
‘Platinum’ is a striker with powerful punches and a pretty decent wrestling game, but despite being naturally talented when it comes to fighting he just doesn’t care. He’s had issues with alcohol and dieting in the past and now he comes up against a man who hits harder and is taking this game very seriously.
Rodriguez has crazily heavy hands but Perry has an iron chin and both guys have got some deficiencies in their cardio but it’s hard to pick Perry when you don’t know which version will turn up. He hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2017 and I think Rodriguez does enough to get a decision win. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Decision
Nina Nunes (10-6) vs Mackenzie Dern (10-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A battle of the mothers in the strawweight division as Nina Nunes (formerly Ansaroff) returns from child birth to take on Mackenzie Dern.
Nunes has tremendous wrestling and cardio and throws some really good combinations with her hands, while Dern is a jiu-jitsu master who has started working on her kickboxing game. The striking still needs work and she will need to get the fight to the ground to stand a chance of winning and I back Nunes to be able to keep the fight standing for the longest period because Dern’s takedown attempts are awful. If the fight goes down it’s Dern’s to lose. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
Sam Alvey (33-14-1) vs Julian Marquez (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Alvey has good takedown defence and a good right hook counter, but other than that he tends to just wait for a chance to land it and is hilariously bad to watch in the cage. Marquez on the other hand loves absolute chaos and throws big punches in bunch with wild aggression, who has pretty decent submissions too.
The likelihood is that Alvey will land his big right hand at some point, but with 20lbs of less power behind it against a young fighter with a sturdy chin, I don’t think it gets the job done. That means Marquez can go crazy as he loves to and I think he’s able to get a stoppage win. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 1
Arnold Allen (16-1) vs Sodiq Yusuff (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger of a featherweight bout between England’s Arnold Allen and another hot prospect in Sodiq Yusuff. Allen has won nine in a row including wins over Gilbertz Melendez and Nick Lentz most recently while Yusuff is on a six-fight win streak himself. Both make their first appearances since January 2020.
Yusuff is a tremendously powerful striker, who has great calf kicks and a very solid overhand right while Allen is a really good, well-rounded fighter who has split his knockout and submission wins at 5/4. Allen is a really good pressure fighter and opts for volume over power, using those combinations to close distance and get takedowns.
Yusuff is one of the most powerful fighters in the division and he does a good job of landing accurate strikes, so if he can take Allen’s takedowns away from him he has a great chance of landing those heavy strikes and moving into the rankings with a big win. PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Knockout, Round 2
Marvin Vettori (16-4-1) vs Kevin Holland (21-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Vettori has good power in his hands but his best work comes when he gets hold of you, takes you down and lands ground and pound from top position. Holland has got genuine one-punch knockout power on the feet, or his back if you ask Jacare Souza, but he struggles against wrestlers who know how to control him from the top.
Vettori is one of those fighters, who has a good chin but is just efficient in all his movements. If Holland comes in with the same antics he did against Brunson where he plays up to the camera then he will get punished, but if he comes in focused and with a solid game plan he could land big punches on Vettori’s way in to put him out.
That seems highly unlikely to me though, because Vettori just doesn’t waste any chances and knows exactly how to get the job done. Vettori gets takedowns, beats Holland up for 25 minutes and then calls out Israel Adesanya for a rematch. PICK – Marvin Vettori via Decision
**Gillian Robertson vs Miranda Maverick was cancelled hours before the event after Robertson withdrew due to a non-covid related illness.**
**Jim Miller vs Bobby Greene was cancelled the day before the event due to Greene collapsing following his weight cut.**
Gabe Green def Phil Rowe via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Interesting start to the fight as Rowe opens with a leg kick and flicks out some long punches to use his range. Both men exchange leg kicks but Rowe lands a couple of nice right hands. Green looking to go first with his strikes but Rowe using his footwork well to step away. The two clinch up and Green gets a takedown, but Rowe quickly reverses the position and ends up in mount. Rowe looks for a few submissions but Green defends well and eventually gets back up to his feet and goes for a submission of his own. Rowe defends it well and eventually gets back up, with the two clinching against the cage to end the round. 10-9 Rowe.
Fast start to the round for Green as he comes out with a heavy low kick that drops Rowe! He gets on with some ground and pound but Rowe gets up quickly and the two start exchanging heavy strikes. Green throws a body kick but it hits Rowe in the cup and there is a short pause in the fight. The two come back and Green lands a huge right hook that wobbles Rowe! He looks for the kill with big shots against the cage but then accidentally lands another low blow that allows a pause for Rowe to recover. They come out swinging again and Green lands some nice shots before Rowe lands a flying knee and clinches up quickly. They break and meet in the middle and Rowe lands a huge right hand but Green eats it and keeps coming forward. Green throws another heavy leg kick and Rowe drops again, so Green throws some ground and pound until the end of the round. 19-19.
Green lands a big leg kick early in the round and immediately Rowe starts hobbling and limping. Green tries to throw a head kick but Rowe catches it and shoots for the takedown and gets it. Green tries to get up and transitions into a leg lock but doesn’t really know what he’s doing there and as they try to get up again, Rowe trips him and gets another takedown. Green fighting off his back and not really trying to get back to his feet weirdly, so Rowe continues riding him from mount until Green finally gets up with 90 seconds to go. Green throws a big leg kick again that drops Rowe but then he steps in for ground and pound and Rowe is able to clinch up and battle until the end of the round. I think the top control has won this for Rowe, 29-28.
Chris Gutierrez def Andre Ewell via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27)
A tactical start to this one with both men flowing between stances, with Gutierrez feinting a lot while Ewell is flicking out right hands. Ewell lands a flush left hand but Gutierrez eats it and the tactical battle continues, with some leg kicks beginning to be thrown. Not much action as we enter the final minute, with Ewell on his bike and circling. Gutierrez rushes in to close the distance and they clinch against the cage, which allows Gutierrez to land a nice knee to the body and he’s opened a cut above Ewell’s eye. We enter the final 10 seconds and Ewell dips for hook and Gutierrez counters with a big head kick that drops him! He charges for the finish but the buzzer may well have saved him. 10-9 Gutierrez.
Ewell still looks a little wobbly as they come out for the second round and Gutierrez is landing some nice leg kicks again that are taking their toll on Ewell’s movement. Ewell is trying to counter Gutierrez’s striking with his range but he’s not landing anything of note. Gutierrez’s lack of volume costing him again at the moment as Ewell continues to move and uses his left jab well to land more frequently. Ewell pushes forward and forces an exchange, catches a kick and gets a takedown with 40 seconds to go in the round. He looks for a heel hook and has it in deep but Gutierrez is able to escape as the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Gutierrez comes out strong and is throwing heavy leg kicks again and even gets Ewell to acknowledge the pain. Gutierrez starting to up the pace a little and pushes forward and lands a huge spin kick that Ewell eats. More leg kicks and Ewell is struggling to stand now, so he starts landing some big punches that have Ewell wobbling. More leg kicks from Gutierrez and Ewell is really struggling to move around, but he doesn’t have the power to put Gutierrez away. Ewell looks for a takedown late on but Gutierrez stuffs it and ends the round looking for a submission. Great round for him and that should be a win for Gutierrez.
Polyana Viana def Mallory Martin via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:18)
Quick start to the round from both women as they stand and exchange before Martin grabs for a clinch and Viana pulls guard immediately. Viana starts throwing lots of elbows on the ground and is moving constantly to prevent Martin from holding her down. She throws up a triangle and it’s in tightttt! Martin tries to escape but Viana grabs and arm and starts throwing elbows to the head with the triangle still synched in. Martin is still fighting it and stands up and tries to slam Viana, which just makes the triangle tighter. She refuses to tap and Viana starts attacking the arm, first going for an Americana and then she transitions to a full armbar before she gets the tap. What a performance from the Brazilian!
Belal Muhammad def Dhiego Lima via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Immediate pressure from Muhammad who walks straight over to Lima and starts pressuring him. He shoots for a takedown against the cage but Lima defends it will and they separate. Nice leg kicks in response from Lima land well, but Muhammad continues to come forward with big, looping hooks and some body work. Straight left hand lands from Muhammad as he fakes the level change and he’s controlling the pace of this fight. Takedown attempt from Muhammad again and he gets it in deep but Lima is able to defend it once more. Lima throws a big right hand that snaps the head back of Muhammad and gets his attention. Muhammad responds with a beautiful combination of jabs, hooks and body shots to take back control and see the round out. 10-9.
Muhammad comes out and once again looks to control the range by backing Lima up against the cage and throwing nice combinations. Lima throwing out some jabs of his own but Muhammad really dominating the striking exchanges early on. Another takedown attempt from Muhammad but easily defended by Lima to keep the fight on the feet. Big overhand right from Muhammad lands but Lima responds with a calf kick that wobbles him! Lima throws two more in the exchanges that follow but Muhammad is trying to grit his teeth and keep going, pushing the pace still. Muhammad’s pace starting to take it’s toll on Lima, who’s breathing heavy, and he shoots in for a takedown which Lima defends again. Round ends with the two clinching against the cage, in what should go Muhammad’s way. 20-18.
Lima opens the round with a leg kick and then a head kick, but Muhammad comes back with some big shots of his own. Muhammad shoots in for a takedown again and manages to take the back while standing, but Lima defends really well against the cage. Muhammad pouring on the pressure now and landing some solid strikes against the cage before shooting for another takedown that gets stuffed. Lima breathing really heavy now and eats a huge right hand but Muhammad just keeps coming forward, landing jabs and one-twos to the face. Lima goes for a single leg takedown but he’s exhausted and Muhammad easily stuffs it and starts pouring on more shots. Muhammad shoots for a takedown again and finally gets it with a minute to go in the fight. Muhammad takes the back but Lima stands with him on top of him still as Muhammad reigns down punches until the end of the round. 30-27, great performance.
Anthony Hernandez def Rodolfo Vieira via Submission (Guillotine), Round 2 (1:53)
An immediate takedown shot from Vieira allows him in deep and he picks Hernandez up and slams him down immediately. He ends up on top and starts pressuring for an arm triangle immediately, then switches to take the back. He looks to crank the neck, but Hernandez turns and allows him into mount before defending an armbar attempt and getting back to the feet. Hernandez pours the pressure on and starts landing bombs and Vieira is hurt! Hernandez is landing huge strikes and now he’s going for a choke but the buzzer goes and saves him! What a round! 10-9 Hernandez.
Second round starts and Hernandez knows that Vieira is out on his feet already. He’s completely exhausted and Vieira is throwing kicks, elbows and hooks looking to take his head off. A huge elbow lands from Hernandez and opens up a massive cut on his face! Vieira is out on his feet and shoots for a takedown but it’s easily defended by Hernandez, who syncs in a guillotine choke and forces Vieira to tap out! Unbelievable!
No feeling out process in this one as Pitolo comes out and immediately throws a calf kick, a head kick and then a combination of strikes that ends with an uppercut. They clinch up against the cage and Pitolo seems like the stronger man off the bat and eventually gets a takedown. Pitolo completely dominating on the ground and landing some heavy ground and pound as Marquez works his way back up to his knees, before Pitolo looks to drag him back down again. He gets up again and Pitolo just starts grinding him against the cage but Marquez throws him off and then sinks in a guillotine! Pitolo stays standing and is able to fight the hands to break the grip before Marquez lands a heavy right hand to end the round. 10-9 Pitolo.
Second round starts out on the feet and Marquez looking to take the centre and establish a striking battle. He gets the better of the first couple of exchanges and then a kick from Marquez grazes the cup and the fight is paused for a short while. Fight resumes and Marquez comes marching forward again and slips, which allows Pitolo to grab onto his body and start wrestling again. He rag dolls Marquez for a few seconds before a striking exchange and change of levels allows Marquez to go for that guillotine again! It looks like it’s in really tight but Pitolo rolls through and escapes. Some good ground and pound from Marquez but Pitolo explodes up and is able to get on top himself once again. The rest of the round has Pitolo landing solid ground and pound and searching for submissions, 20-18 Pitolo.
Marquez comes out hard in the final round knowing he needs the finish. Lots of heavy strikes from Marquez land hard and Pitolo is looking tired. Body kick lands and Marquez lands big against the cage with a spinning elbow! Pitolo moves away but he’s rocked and shoots for a takedown, which Marquez defends with a guillotine again. Pitolo eventually gets the takedown and moves for a submission but Marquez escapes and starts landing huge strikes again. Big three punch combo rocks Pitolo and then he lands a big knee to the head. Pitolo shoots again but Marquez stuffs it and sinks in a d’arce choke for the win! What a round! Unbelievable!
Ricky Simon def Brian Kelleher via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Fast start to this fight as both fighters meet in the middle of the octagon and exchange before Simon shoots and scores a takedown. He immediately starts throwing big ground and pound strikes and as Kelleher looks to escape he jumps back on him and takes the back. Kelleher has a big cut above his eye as Simon squeezes him and looks to grind him. More ground and pound before Kelleher eventually gets to his feet, with the cut really bothering him. More pressure from Simon, who gets another takedown before Kelleher fights his way back up before the end of the round. 10-9 Simon.
Another fast start for Simon as he comes in quickly with some jabs and lovely uppercut to the body. Kelleher responds with a front kick to the face that snaps Simon’s head back, but he continues to come forward and lands another body shot. Another big front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Simon eats it and walks forward for a takedown, but Keller is able to get back to his feet quickly. Both fighters exchange leg kicks and check them well, before Simon shoots in for a takedown and gets it – avoiding the guillotine attempt from Kelleher. They clinch against the cage and Simon throws a big spinning elbow on the break that just misses. Fun round, 20-18 Simon.
Bit of a slower start to this one, with Simon happy to circle on the outside as Kelleher comes forward. Some nice upwards elbows from Simon look good before he ducks under an attempted elbow from Kelleher and clinches up. Simon changes levels against the cage and takes him down, with Kelleher looking for a guillotine but Simon gets out easily and starts landing nice ground and pound to the face. Kelleher goes for a kimura from the bottom but Simon defends it by reversing the position and going for his own kimura, which allows Kelleher to scramble back to his feet. Simon keeps him against the cage and takes the back, landing big knees and just dominating the position and then holding his own in the striking for what should be a comfortable win. 30-27 Simon.
Kelvin Gastelum def Ian Heinisch via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Heinisch comes out early and quickly and lands a leg kick followed by shooting for a takedown, which he gets. Gastelum quickly gets to his feet and rolls through to end up on top, so Heinisch attacks a kimura. He’s got the arm extended but Gastelum stays calm and is able to escape it. He takes Heinisch down again and ends up in mount, but another kimura attempt allows him to get towards the cage and kick off it to escape. Clinch against the cage and Gastelum changes levels to score takedowns, although he is unable to keep Heinisch down. Both men miss a head kick as the round ends. 10-9 Gastelum.
Heinisch looking to land heavy shots early in this second round with wild hooks and cracks Gastelum twice, but he just eats it and walks forward. Flying knee lands clean from Heinisch, but Gastelum catches the leg too and ends up with a takedown. Heinisch gets back to his feet and Gastelum lands a leg kick, then clinches against the cage again. Another shot from Gastelum as he gets a body lock and pushes Heinisch all the way back to the cage. Nice one-two lands from Gastelum, but Heinisch trying to make it a dirty fight with more wild exchanges. Wild hook misses and Gastelum shoots and drives to the cage again to end the round, 20-18 Kelvin.
Gastelum starts the round with a lazy shot that is easily defended by Heinisch, who then shoots for his own takedown and gets it before Gastelum scrambles back to his feet quickly. Gastelum using his jab and straight left hand more in this round, as Heinisch goes for a flying knee that gets caught once again and ends up with Gastelum on top of him. Beautiful roll through from Heinisch sees him reverse the position and take Gastelum’s back. He lands some nice ground and pound as he searches for a submission but Gastelum is able to reverse and ends up on top before they get back to the feet and clinch. Looping left hook by Gastelum misses and and Heinisch shoots and gets one last takedown, although Gastelum reverses the position and gets a takedown of his own to end on top. 30-27, he’s back in the win column.
Alexa Grasso def Maycee Barber via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight from Grasso as both women throw out a few feeler strikes before clinching up against the cage and coming to a stalemate before separating. Sharp one-two from Grasso lands flush on the chin of Barber and forces her to move in for another clinch position. Nice elbow lands in the clinch from Grasso before Barber throws some nice knees in the clinch. Big elbow and left hand on the break from Barber lands clean but Grasso eats it. Both girls lands huge shots that land clean on each other before they clinch up and see the round out. 10-9 Grasso, but it’s close.
Barber throwing a lot of feints from way out of range that are serving little to no purpose other than wasting energy right now. Short exchange leads to a clinch before a quick separation before both women lands huge right hands at the same time. Barber seems to be rocked a little more than Grasso from it and they clinch up again. Barber lands an elbow on the break before they clinch up once again. Barber separates and throws a straight left hand that lands clean before a right hook follows it up. Grasso ends up on her back and Barber goes hunting for ground and pound, but Grasso transitions with an armbar attempt then switches to a head-and-arm choke before taking the back and ending the round in dominant fashion. 20-18 Grasso.
Barber comes out in the third throwing wild strikes with no real end goal to them as Grasso keeps out of range and looks calm. Grasso eats a right hand and then they clinch against the cage, with Grasso landing big knees to the body. Nice trip by Barber gets her into top position and she lands a huge elbow on the ground. A few more shots and Grasso gets back to her feet. Barber lands a knee in the clinch and keeps throwing big hooks and power punches that have got Grasso wobbling. Another clinch as Barber fails with a takedown attempt, with Barber throwing big elbows from the clinch too. Final 30 seconds and Barber going hell for leather but I don’t think it’ll be enough for the win. 29-28 Grasso.
Kamaru Usman def Gilbert Burns via Knockout, Round 3 (0:34)
Crazy start to the fight as Burns comes out early and lands a huge right hand that rocks Usman! Burns pours on the pressure early but Usman defends himself with a jab and some composure. Burns goes for a head kick but Usman catches it and sends him to the mat, but then doesn’t follow him down. The next two minutes are spent with Burns on his back tempting Usman to come to the ground, but instead he just kicks the legs and throws body shots. They get back to the feet and Usman lands a stiff jab several times and stuffs a Burns takedown attempt to end the round. Fun stuff! 10-9 either way, but to Usman for me. Just.
Slower start to this round from both fighters, as Burns takes the centre of the octagon again. Usman’s jab still landing nicely, but Burns coming forward with an overhand right that seems to stun Usman whenever it lands. The jab is having a big effect, and Usman throws a big overhand right that lands flush and hurts Burns! He follows up with more hooks and jabs and Burns is wobbling bad. Burns shoots for the takedown but Usman stuffs it and lads another jab that drops Burns. Burns tries to tempt Usman down to the floor again but Usman makes him stand again and sees the round out with his jab. Huge round for Usman! 20-18 Usman.
Third round starts and Usman comes to take the centre early. Big left jab lands clean and drops Burns once again! He lands a huge overhand right that puts Burns’ lights out on the ground and keeps punching as Burns tries to stand up. A few more shots and Herb Dean waves the fight off! Huge knockout win for the Nigerian Nightmare! Wow!
In the co-main event, Maycee Barber makes a return to the flyweight division after a serious knee injury saw her miss over a year of action. She will take on Alexa Grasso with the two strikers looking to make a name for themselves inside the top ten.
Last week at UFC Vegas 18 we went 8/12 with our picks, with five perfect selections to go with it. That moves us to 224/349 (64.18%) with 101 (45.09%) perfect picks since beginning our predictions back in June 2020.
Maki Pitolo (13-7) vs Julian Marquez (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting middleweight bout between Pitolo and the returning Marquez, who makes his first appearance in the octagon since July 2018.
Pitolo is 1-3 in the UFC, including losses in his last two against Darren Stewart and Impa Kasanganay, while Marquez lost a split decision to Alessio Di Chirico before tearing his latissimum dorsi muscle and being told he’d never fight again.
Pitolo is a good grappler and good striker, pretty well rounded all over while Marquez was a relatively hittable striker back in the day. The fact he hasn’t fought for so long is worrying but he has a power advantage from what he had in the past and with Pitolo happy to take a punch to give a punch, that could land him in trouble. It’s tough to call, but I’ll lean with the power of Marquez. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 2
Ricky Simon (17-3) vs Brian Kelleher (22-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A quick turnaround for Simon as he takes on ‘Bam Bam’ Kelleher in the featherweight division.
Simon got a win on Fight Island last month with a fantastic performance and submission win against Gaetano Pirrello, while Kelleher went 3-1 in 2020 including a 39 second submission win over Ray Rodriguez back in October.
Simon is a fantastic wrestler, who applies phenomenal pressure and looks to work his submission game once he gets down there while Kelleher is a powerful striker who has a violent guillotine in his locker too. Kelleher’s wrestling isn’t awful, but Simon has a huge advantage in that area. He has shown a wobbly chin before and Kelleher has finished all but one of his wins in the UFC. With that said, Simon’s wrestling is so good I do expect he’ll get the takedowns in a safe way to avoid the guillotine chokes and dominate from top position for a decision win. PICK – Ricky Simon via Decision
Jim Miller (32-15) vs Bobby Green (27-11-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Miller is a submission monster, with 18 wins coming by way of tap-out in his career. He’s excellent on the mat but he comes up against Green who has been excellent on the feet in his most recent fights but has also shown fantastic grappling defence and solid wrestling.
Green has power to hurt Miller and a speed advantage, so I expect Green should be able to out land Miller on the feet an keep the fight standing with his takedown defence so I expect a decision win. PICK – Bobby Green via Decision
Kelvin Gastelum (15-6 1NC) vs Ian Heinisch (14-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A middleweight clash that will see two men battling to get back on track to work their way up the rankings in the 185lbs division. Gastelum put together a decent run at middleweight before losing to Israel Adesanya in the interim title fight, before losing to Darren Till and then getting ankle-picked by Jack Hermansson in July in just 78 seconds. Heinisch lost two in a row at the back end of 2019 before bouncing back with a win over Gerald Meerschaert in June.
Gastelum is a heavy handed striker with a good wrestling background, while Heinisch is very similar in style. In a very even match up, the difference between the two is generally in the cardio department where Gastelum rarely gasses out. Heinisch is the crisper striker of the two but Gastelum has a speed advantage and is coming back with a point to prove after three losses in a row.
It’s a really close fight and there’s not much in it either way, but I think Gastelum’s power and speed could be enough to get him a close decision win once the fight gets into the later rounds. PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision
Maycee Barber (8-1) vs Alexa Grasso (12-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The return of Maycee Barber is the co-main event of this event as she takes on Alexa Grasso in the women’s flyweight division. Barber was 8-0 before losing her last fight to Roxanne Modafferi, where she tore her ACL in the second round and got dominated on the ground. Grasso has alternated wins and losses since 2016, with a win in her last bout against Ji Yeon Kim in August last year.
Both women are great strikers with Barber having a big power advantage, but Grasso’s boxing is arguably more polished. Barber is bigger physically, stronger, faster and just has a lot of advantages in this bout. While Grasso is a good talent in her own right, she’s been set up to fail in this one.
Barber should return to the octagon with a statement win here, and I expect a one-sided display for ‘The Future’. PICK – Maycee Barber via Knockout, Round 2
Kamaru Usman (17-1) vs Gilbert Burns (19-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
The welterweight division can finally move on from this match up after this weekend as ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ takes on his long-time teammate Gilbert Burns for the title. Usman is undefeated in the UFC and has won 16 fights in a row in total, defeating Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington before dominating Jorge Masvidal last time out. Burns is on a six-fight win streak of his own, with wins over Demian Maia and Woodley himself in his last two fights to set this bout up.
The two trained together for many years under Henry Hooft but when this fight was made, Usman went to work with Justin Gaethje and Trevor Wittman which means his striking will almost certainly have improved while he’s been away. Burns is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion who has started leaning on his knockout power more in recent times, because he’s so confident on the ground.
He’s going to need that grappling more than ever in this one, with Usman’s style always to back his opponent up to the cage then use his incredible physicality to get a takedown and dominate on the ground. He showed in his fight with Covington that he has a great chin and knockout power too and while Burns will cause him problems from the bottom, Usman is a level above any welterweight in the world and should win this one. PICK – Kamaru Usman via Decision
A wild week surrounding this fight card will finally come to a head at the UFC Apex when former lightweight champions Rafael Dos Anjos takes on Paul Felder, who steps in on five days notice for this main event.
After Islam Makachev withdrew from the fight with injury, Felder stepped in from the commentary booth to put his gloves on once again with the hope that a big win on short notice can get him a top five opponent in the near future.
The fight will have 11 other fights on the card too, including Brendan Allen taking on Sean Strickland in a short-notice fight following his fight against Ian Heinisch falling through on fight night last week.
Antonio Arroyo (9-3) vs Eryk Anders (13-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Eryk Anders comes into a fight as an explosive athlete who just near enough refuses to use his athletic gifts, while Antonio Arroyo looks to bounce back from his UFC debut defeat to Andre Muniz almost exactly a year ago. Anders has lost four of his last six since abandoning raw power and trying to become more well rounded. It means he has started throwing less shots and timing takedowns badly, despite his wrestling prowess in his past. Arroyo is a specimen himself but his cardio really let him down in his bout against Muniz, although he showed impressive kicking skills and has proven he has the ability to end fights inside the distance having only won via decision once. I have to go with Anders in this one, simply because if he turns up and executes a game plan his skillset is better suited to this fight. He can get takedowns and has power in his hands which should keep Arroyo tentative enough for a decision win and a more dominant end of fight period when the Brazilian’s cardio starts to fail him again. PICK – Eryk Anders via Decision
Kay Hansen (7-3) vs Cory McKenna (5-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A fun fight between two up and comers in the women’s strawweight division where matchmakers have done a great job. Both 21 years old, Hansen is looking to make it back to back wins in the UFC following her win over Jinh Yu Frey in June while McKenna makes her UFC debut following a decision win on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August. Hansen has the better wrestling but often puts herself in dangerous positions with poor striking, which is where McKenna excels. She’s got slick striking and is capable of sinking in submissions quickly in a scramble but her wrestling is completely unproven. It should be a really good fight to watch but I think Hansen’s ability to get the fight to the ground should be enough to win her the fight. PICK – Kay Hansen via Decision
Julian Marquez (7-2) vs Saparbek Safarov (9-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
This is a fight that doesn’t really deserve it’s place on the card, as two middleweights not in the upper echelons of talent on the roster take each other on. Julian Marquez is a straight up brawler. He comes out from the opening bell looking to take your head off, even after he gasses himself out and his technique leaves him behind. Safarov on the other hand has nothing particularly stand out about his game and also has cardio issues of his own. It’s a weird fight that is essentially on just to build Marquez up again after two years off and give them a reason to release Safarov. Marquez lands a big punch early in the first and wraps this one up quickly. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 1
Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-2) vs Kalinn Williams (10-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A welterweight bout between two power punchers is the penultimate fight of this card. Alhassan has ten wins in his career and all have come via knockout but his last fight saw him unable to put away debutant Mounir Lazzez for his first defeat since 2017. ‘Khaos’ Williams has won seven fights in a row with four stoppages (two KO’s, two submissions) including his last fight against Alex Morono where he won in just 27 seconds. With that said, all paths lead to an Alhassan win in this one. He’s more powerful and a better wrestler if it gets to that but Williams would need to survive the opening round without getting his head taken off. The likelihood is that they both get into a phone box and exchange hooks, with Alhassan putting ‘Khaos’ to sleep. PICK – Abdul Razak Alhassan via Knockout, Round 1
Paul Felder (17-5) vs Rafael Dos Anjos (29-13) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Former lightweight world champion Rafael Dos Anjos returns to the division for the first time since 2016 to take on fighter turned commentator turned cornerman turned fighter again Paul Felder on just five days notice. Felder’s last appearance in the octagon came in defeat to Dan Hooker back in February, where he teased retirement. Dos Anjos moved up to welterweight and did well initially but as he got to the top of the division the better fighters chewed him up. A win over Kevin Lee sits between defeats to Colby Covington, Kamaru Usman, Leon Edwards and Michael Chiesa meaning he is 1-4 in his last five. Felder is a tremendous kickboxer with good power and speed and great durability. Dos Anjos was one of the best pressure fighters around during his peak with excellent boxing and solid grappling skills too but he has regressed in recent years and is unlikely to get back to where he once was. If this was the originally scheduled fight and both fighters had a full camp, I’d go with Felder. But with five days’ notice at such a high level it’s hard not to go with RDA due to the fact he’s had a full camp and will be in fight mode. It’s a true 50/50 fight though and should be an absolute banger. PICK – Rafael Dos Anjos via Decision