The UFC returns to the mecca of combat sports for UFC 281 when Israel Adesanya will defend his middleweight crown against long-time rival Alex Pereira at Madison Square Garden.
The two kickboxing rivals will go toe-to-toe in the octagon to see who is MMA’s best middleweight in the headline fight of the card, but is supported by one of the most stacked cards of the year.
In the co-main event we have the strawweight title on the line as Carla Esparza makes her first defence against former champion Weili Zhang, while Dustin Poirier will meet Michael Chandler in a lightweight war and Frankie Edgar has his retirement bout among other things.
Last week at UFC Vegas 64 we had a rough time with our picks going 6/11 with zero perfect picks, moving us to 766/1188 (64.48%) with 319 perfect picks (41.64%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Carlos Ulberg (7-1) vs Nicolae Negumereanu (13-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A banger at light heavyweight opens up this card this weekend. Ulberg is a world class kickboxer who has gone 2-1 in the UFC, losing his debut to Kennedy Nzechukwu (UFC 259) before bouncing back with a win over Fabio Cherant (UFC 271) and then most recently beating Tafon Nchukwi in June. Negumereanu is on a four-fight win streak, defeating Aleksa Camur (UFC Vegas 29), Isaac Villanueva, Nzechukwu and Ihor Potieria.
Ulberg is a super speedy, powerful striker with perfect technique and combinations that can put anyone in the division out. Negumereanu is a relentless pressure fighter who likes to chain wrestle to gain top control, and isn’t afraid to eat a strike to get that control. It’s an interesting clash of styles, because outside of that cardio tank Ulberg should have all the technical advantages.
He showed against Cherant that he’s capable of defending a takedown and using his size advantage to just rack up points for the judges, but Cherant doesn’t chain the wrestling together much. That is likely to wear on the gas tank of Ulberg which could affect the power and takedown defence. If he doesn’t get his jaw smoked in the opening round, I think Negumereanu takes over down the stretch and wins on the cards. PICK – Nicolae Negumereanu via Decision
Julio Arce (18-5) vs Montel Jackson (11-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Bantamweights up next. Arce has alternated wins and losses in his last five, claiming a decision win over Daniel Santos most recently at UFC 273 back in April. Jackson on the other hand has won his last two, KO’ing Jesse Strader (UFC Vegas 22) before a decision win over JP Buys back in September 2021 last time out.
Arce is a super well-rounded fighter with good technical skills, but his stand-out attribute is his heart and durability. He’ll need that all against Jackson, who is one of the bigger 135-pounders in the division and packs the power to shut your lights out early. The best way to stop Jackson is seemingly to take him down and have him on his back, where he isn’t useless but is certainly nullified and his threat diffused.
Unfortunately for Arce, wrestling isn’t his strong suit and control isn’t his game. He’ll likely try to keep on his bike and land his jab and low kicks while avoiding the power, which is possible, but Jackson is used to that type of fight and his left hand is like a piston, so I do think he could land a knockout blow in front of the MSG crowd. PICK – Montel Jackson via Knockout, Round 2
Mike Trizano (10-3) vs SeungWoo Choi (10-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Featherweights next in an interesting bout. Trizano returned from a two year hiatus to beat Ludovit Klein on short notice at UFC Vegas 26, but has since lost two in a row against Hakeem Dawodu and Lucas Almeida. Choi saw a three-fight win streak snapped by Alex Caceres, and then he dropped a split decision to Josh Culibao at UFC 275 to make it back-to-back losses coming into this one.
Both of these fighters are well-rounded with little that stands out above the rest, but Trizano has got a huge experience edge in this bout. He does often fail to pull the trigger when necessary though which is a problem, and Choi is a powerful puncher who loves his combinations. He leaves himself open defensively when throwing though, and that could leave Trizano with a window to attack.
It’s all about whether Trizano can survive the blitzes and land his own counters, or if he shells up and just gets hit. I’m going to lean on his experience and say that he won’t let the occasion get to him, meaning he lands enough counters and mixes his attack up well enough to earn a win on the cards. PICK – Mike Trizano via Decision
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (13-7) vs Silvana Gomez Juarez (11-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Interesting strawweight scrap up next. Kowalkiewicz had lost five in a row heading into her last bout, but she finally got a win over Felice Herrig via submission to get her career back on track. Juarez lost her first two UFC bouts via first-round submission, but claimed a first-round knockout last time out over Nia Lang at UFC 275.
Kowalkiewicz is a well-rounded fighter who was one of the better kickboxers in her division before her skid, but looked back to her old ways last time out with solid knees in the clinch and a decent ground game too. Juarez alternatively is a bulldozer, with incredible power for the weight division and aggression for days. Grappling has been a big weakness of hers though, but Kowalkiewicz is unlikely to adopt a wrestle-heavy game plan.
That means they’ll likely go strike for strike, and with Koawlkiewicz’s tendency to stand up straight with her chin exposed that’s not ideal. Juarez is more than powerful enough and fast enough to land a heavy right hand in an exchange to put her out, and I expect that is exactly what will happen. PICK – Silvana Gomez Juarez via Knockout, Round 1
Matt Frevola (9-3-1) vs Ottman Azaitar (13-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very intriguing lightweight scrap closes out this portion of the show. Frevola is 3-3-1 in the UFC since 2018, going 1-2 in his most recent bouts. He was beaten by Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 257, KO’d in seven seconds by Terrance McKinney at UFC 263, but bounced back with a first-round KO win over Genaro Valdez at UFC 270. Azaitar makes his first appearance for two years, with a KO win over Khama Worthy back at UFC Vegas 10.
Frevola’s nickname is “The Steamrolla” and it fits him perfectly, with his incredible aggression and cardio allowing him to push a hard pace and push for finishes. Azaitar alternatively is a super powerful striker with nasty knockout power, but his cardio isn’t the greatest and he’s coming off a long layoff. It’s hard to ignore, especially when you figure it was enforced due to a positive drug test and Frevola is easily the best fighter he’s come up against.
Frevola will certainly want to earn his respect on the feet, but he must stay patient and grind away before really going for it as Azaitar has the ability to put him out with one shot. If he grinds away, does damage and avoids the hail Mary strike, he should be able to take over later in the fight and earn a stoppage win to really get his name out there. PICK – Matt Frevola via Knockout, Round 3
Johnny Munoz def Jamey Simmons via Submission (Rear naked choke), Round 2 (2:35)
Cagey start from both men to start out, with neither man looking to grapple early on. Simmons swings a big overhand right that Munoz ducks and goes for a takedown but Simmons avoids easily. Munoz flicking out the jab to keep the distance while Simmons has him against the cage and looks for some more power strikes. Munoz pushing forward with the jab and gets clipped by a left hand by Simmons that causes him to lose balance, but he’s not hurt and gets back to his feet immediately. Short blitz from Munoz and he just misses with a head kick as we enter the final minute of the fight. Simmons lands a nice one-two and then Munoz ducks under and lands a big takedown late in the round. Simmons battles well off his back and the round ends. Super close, I’d go 10-9 Munoz for the takedown but could really go either way.
More of the same to start the second round as Simmons comes out looking to blitz through some jabs, before Munoz ducks under and times a takedown perfectly. Munoz starts working for position and as soon as Simmons goes to his knees Munoz takes his back and puts the hooks in. He starts landing some ground and pound and looks for the rear-naked choke but Simmons fights the hands and breaks the grip. He goes back to his knees but Munoz drags him back down, locks in the choke and gets the tap! Big win for Munoz!
Melissa Gatto def Victoria Leonardo via Doctor’s Stoppage (Broken Arm), Round 2 (5:00)
Good start to the bout from Gatto as she lands a quick one two and then secures a body lock against the cage. She controls the clinch and then with an inside trip gets the takedown nice and easily before starting to search for submissions. She goes for the neck, then moves to a kimura attempt and then ends up on Leonardo’s back looking for chokes and armbars. Leonardo defending well though and eventually is able to roll through and get on top to land a bit of ground and pound herself. Gatto throws up a high guard and is being very active but Leonardo is defending well, following the hips and eventually allows the fight to get back up. Both women clinch and go for an inside trip but both fail at it and the round ends. 10-9 Gatto, but Leonardo can take some encouragement from the ground exchanges.
Second round and Gatto looks a lot fresher than Leonardo, landing a nice jab and forcing Leonardo backwards. Leonardo lands two nice left hands but Gatto is still there and pushing the pace with her range, landing a one-two. Then another one-two and Leonardo looks rocked there, but she comes forward again with a low kick. Gatto continuing to push the pace and lands a nice kick. Leonardo looks tired and Gatto putting the pressure on with strikes, forces Leonardo to shoot but it’s well defended. Leonardo goes for another takedown but is denied again and is stepping backwards a lot, clearly exhausted. 20-18 Gatto for me but could be 19-19.
Between rounds Leonardo says her right arm “isn’t working”. Doctor comes in, takes a look and says that it’s broken. Leonardo says she can fight through it but the referee waves the fight off. Gatto gets the win.
Miles Johns def Anderson Dos Santos via Knockout, Round 3 (1:16)
Tactical start to the fight from both men as they look to control the range, but it’s Johns who is landing the better shots early. Santos looking for clinches but Johns lands two big left hands and then two leg kicks, the last of which drops Dos Santos. Johns landing his jab with ease, but Dos Santos fires back with a right hand. Johns landing jabs at will and another leg kick is causing big problems for Dos Santos. Straight right hand just misses from Johns and Dos Santos forces his way forward but he’s in a lot of trouble with his leg. Johns lands a couple more strikes and Dos Santos is visibly limping. 10-9 Johns, Dos Santos needs to find a solution.
Johns opens up the second round by staying just out of range and using his big right hands to use the injured leg against Dos Santos. Some huge right hands land from Johns but Dos Santos is still standing and lands a nice knee himself. Johns lands a nice body shot and follows with a hook but Dos Santos shoots for a takedown. Johns denies it and lands a huge leg kick again that drops Dos Santos. Dos Santos coming forward but his leg is jacked and Johns is being patient, to the point where Dos Santos puts his hand behind his back. Johns lands a big one two and stays out of the way of any counters but Dos Santos takes it and the round ends. 20-18 Johns.
Final round starts and it’s more of the same from both men, as Johns lands a big right hand followed by a nice combination. Wild exchange from both guys as Dos Santos keeps coming forward. Johns digs a left body shot and lands a huge right hook and puts Dos Santos out cold!! What a knockout!! Wow!!
Manel Kape def Ode Osbourne via Knockout, Round 1 (4:44)
Osbourne takes the centre early on as both men are bouncing and feeling each other out. Kape lands a nice one-two and then a jab to the body, while Osbourne is looking to counter with his big left hand. Kape throws a kick but Osbourne catches it and as Kape falls Osbourne lands a big left hand. Kape and Osbourne both looking to counter each other, and Osbourne lands two excellent left hands clean on the chin. Kape responds with a left straight of his own and steps away. Kape stepping backwards switches stances and lands a huge flying knee bang on the chin that puts Osbourne down! He follows it up with some ground and pound and the referee steps in to end it! What a knockout! Wow!
Interesting start to the fight as Penne lands some quick strikes to rattle KK early. Penne throws a kick that KK catches and Penne falls backwards, which allows KK to throw some big leg kicks while she’s down. She chooses to engage on the ground and Penne is able to sweep her and take top position. She lands some decent strikes from the top and KK fights well from the bottom and attacks a kneebar, but Penne scrambles well and eventually rolls through into an armbar. KK is looking to extend the arm and is attacking the body to free up KK’s grip but she’s battling hard. Penne finally manages to extend the arm and gets the tap! Impressive performance from the veteran!
Alonzo Menifield def Ed Herman via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Menifield comes out fast with some heavy right hands but Herman just about avoids them, before Menifield lands some nice leg kicks. Herman lands a jab, but Menifield responds with one of this own before an overhand just misses again. Herman jab again but Menifield just misses with the counter right and Herman lands a check-left hook that rattles Menifield and cuts the eye. Menifield starting to throw the jab more but Herman throwing with him, so Menifield throws a hard low kick again. Menifield lands two more big leg kicks and gets some big reactions from Herman because of it. 10-9 Menifield.
Herman comes forward very aggressive out of the gate in this round looking to land his left hand, but Menifield moving well and then lands a big right hand of his own. Herman lands a jab but then eats a hard low kick and a jab himself. Menifield loses balance and falls but explodes back up to his feet and then starts throwing bombs of his right hand. Herman is hurt but still standing and Menfield stops pushing for the finish to save himself. Herman lands a big uppercut himself but Menifield eats it. A few hard leg kicks again from Menifield and some good footwork to avoid Herman who’s hunting him right now. Another hard leg kick and Herman is limping badly and forced to switch stances. Lots of jostling in the final seconds but then Herman goes for a push kick and Menifield moves away and then smashes a hard low kick again that drops Herman on the buzzer. 20-18 Menifield.
Menifield comes out hard in the final round and Herman pulls guard immediately but eats some heavy ground and pound shots. Menifield moves to side control, lands some strikes then gets up and tells Herman to get back up too. Menifield staying very patient and lands a nice left hand against the cage, but Herman is just looking to survive right now by circling and avoiding damage. Big head kick from Menifield lands but not much action in this round so far. Big right hand from Menifield lands clean but Herman is still standing somehow. Big one-two from Menifield as he stays on the outside. Big right hand misses and Herman lands a left but Menifield lands a jab and moves away to end the fight. 30-27 Menifield.
Cagey start to this fight from both men, with Morales stepping forward but not throwing much and Rodriguez just flicking out the stiff jab well. Morales throws a decent right overhand to counter Rodriguez’s jab, but the jab lands cleaner and is doing a fair bit of damage to the nose. Morales keeping Rodriguez pinned to the cage but he’s moving well and then Rodriguez lands a nice right hand to create himself some space. Right overhand and uppercut just misses from Morales before he ducks under a Rodriguez shot and secures a body lock to try and get the takedown. Rodriguez does well to get to the cage though and then separates to stay on the feet. Short exchange and Rodriguez lands a flush right hand on the buzzer. 10-9 Rodriguez for me.
Second round starts very well for Morales as he catches a low kick from Rodriguez and throws a straight right hand down the pipe that drops him! He goes to ground but Rodriguez defends and he then steps up and allows Rodriguez back to his feet. Rodriguez lands a short left hook back on the feet and then he goes for a takedown of his own, but Morales defends mostly until Rodriguez switches to a single but then he scrambles back up to his feet. Rodriguez then sweeps him back down but Morales gets back up quickly again before being dumped down and getting back up. Morales starting to land his right hands but Rodriguez responds with a low leg kick and a right hand. Short one-two lands from Rodriguez before a left hook lands again, but Morales is still in there and doing well. 20-18 Rodriguez for me.
Cagey start to the third round once again as Morales starts to come forward a bit more aggressively, but Rodriguez landing his straight right hand well. Both men throwing at a similar volume and Rodriguez goes for a takedown but it’s denied. Morales starts chasing but Rodriguez avoiding a lot of damage with good footwork. Morales goes for the takedown but Rodriguez defends it brilliantly against the cage and then misses with a head kick. Final minute of the fight now and Morales is pushing forward throwing heavy left hands, but they’re largely missing. Rodriguez lands a big counter right hand and then Morales lands a big left as the fight comes to an end. Morales round, but 29-28 Rodriguez for me. Could go either way though.
Rafael Fiziev def Bobby Green via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Cagey start from both men as Fiziev looks to land some kicks early but Green is out of the way relatively easily. Nice right hand from Green lands as Fiziev looks to throw another body kick and two hooks. Left hand from Green misses then Fiziev charges forward with a nice combination that ends with a kick, but he mostly misses. Green is landing some slick shots but Fiziev is dangerous and busy with his kicks and then just misses with an elbow. Right hand and body kick lands from Green but Fiziev responds with a nice elbow before both men make each other miss just on the buzzer. Really tough round to score, 10-9 Green probably but really could be either way.
Second round and Fiziev lands a hard low kick and a big right hook but Green eats it. Green clinches up but eats an elbow before responding with a nice right of his own, before Fiziev steps forward with two hooks. Green catches a kick and tries to force Fiziev down but he stays standing so well and steps forward again with hooks and kicks. Green is slipping strikes perfectly but he’s eating leg and body kicks more frequently now. Both men land big body kicks but Fiziev then lands a big strike that rocks Green. Fiziev throws knees and hooks but Green eats it and pushes him away, then clinches after avoiding a head kick. Fiziev’s kicks starting to take effect but Green is still there and throwing hands back well. Both guys trade leg kicks then Fiziev lands a big elbow and cuts Green. Both guys throwing hooks and jabs and really going to war. What a round. 19-19 for me.
Fire start to the final round once again as Fiziev steps forward again and lands a big right hand that rocks Green. Green stands firm and both men start throwing down in the centre of the octagon. Fiziev throws some hard leg kicks but Green throwing one-twos down the middle again. Fiziev and Green going to war with hard hooks and feints. Green lands some big hooks and two one-twos of his own down the middle. Fiziev throwing body and leg kicks but Green is still pushing forward with big punches of his own. Green looks fresher and is landing the jabs and then catches Fiziev’s body kick attempt to land a knee to the body of his own. Huge short elbow from Fiziev and then Green lands some huge bombs with the right hand as the fight ends! What a crazy fight. 29-28 Green for me, but it’s all on that first round.
Song Yadong def Casey Kenney via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Fast start to the fight as Yadong steps forward and throws fast combinations early, while Kenney looks to close the distance and pressure Yadong. Body kick from Kenney lands but Yadong catches it. Kenney taunts Yadong by laughing at him so Yadong throws a solid body kick and Kenney responds with a hard low leg kick. Yadong throwing good combinations and kicks, not allowing Kenney to settle and back him against the fence. Yadong goes for a kick but slips and Kenney jumps on him immediately, but Yadong works his way back up to the feet quickly and escapes. Both guys just miss with big hooks as the round ends. 10-9 Yadong.
Second starts off exactly the same as Yadong steps forward but Kenney looking to apply pressure. Nice body shots from Yadong and then Kenney replies with a nice left hook onto the chin. Kenney forcing Yadong backwards and throwing low kicks, but Yadong replies with his own low kicks too. Yadong circling away but Kenney is pushing and Yadong is slowing down. Not a single takedown attempt yet from Kenney is surprising. Nice left hand from Kenney but then Yadong replies with a nice right. Two left hands land from Kenney and Yadong clinches against the cage, before Kenney switches and goes for the takedown himself to end the round. Closer round, 19-19.
Final round and Yadong is landing his strikes better, with Kenney slowing down a little and being less bouncy and mobile. Yadong with three hard body kicks but Kenney continues to come forward and looking to land jabs. Kenney throws a head kick and the knee connects with the head but Yadong eats it and comes forward. Good body shots from Yadong and Kenney shoots for a takedown, but Yadong sprawls and denies him. Yadong lands a jab and two body kicks but Kenney throws a nice right hook. Final minute and Kenney goes for the takedown again but Yadong sprawls once more. Kenney ducks under a strike and secures a takedown with seconds left and lands some big elbows from the top to end the round. I think that’s 29-28 Yadong but that’s a really close fight again.
Tecia Torres def Angela Hill via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Good start to the fight from Torres as she gets herself into range and lands some nice strikes and flurries. Hill looks to clinch up and then catches a kick to put Torres on the ground then looks to hold her down, but Torres does really well to get up and out of it. Hard leg kick from Torres on Hill, who comes forward with a one-two and a head kick attempt but they all miss. Torres shoots for a takedown but Hill gets immediately back up. Torres lands a body kick then just misses with a spinning back fist. Torres ducks under a strike and goes for a takedown but bails and lands some big strikes, but Hill replies with three of her own. Big kicks from Torres to end the round as Hill tries for a takedown. 10-9 Torres.
Hill pushing the pressure in the second round as Torres uses her side kicks to push her away and keep the range between them. Hill lands two nice strikes as Torres looks for a kick, but then she lands a big check-right hook and pivots away. Big side kick to the body again from Torres and then two big hooks. She goes for the kick again but Hill catches it and pulls her in for a body lock and takedown attempt, before landing some knees against the cage and a right hand on the break. Head kick from Torres and Hill grabs for the clinch. Hill throws knees but Torres avoids most of them and lands some huge hooks of her own in the clinch before they break. Wild exchange from both ladies and Hill gets the better of it with a big left hand. Big flurry ends with Torres on her back and Hill moves into mount immediately but the round ends. 20-18 Torres for me.
Final round and Hill is coming forward aggressively again and looks to clinch and trip her. Torres too quick though and is moving well, landing nice right hands well. Hill putting the pressure on and sprawls to deny a Torres takedown then lands a nice right hand. Torres goes for a kick that Hill catches again and lands a big right hand down the middle, but Torres keeps throwing strikes in return. Nice right hand from Hill and then a knee in the clinch but Torres breaks away. Big lunging right hand from Torres lands again before Hill goes in for a takedown but gets denied. Torres changes levels and gets a takedown with 20 seconds to go and lands some good ground strikes before the buzzer goes. 30-27 Torres for me, competitive but pretty straight forward.
Vicente Luque def Michael Chiesa via Submission (D’Arce Choke), Round 1 (3:25)
Very cagey start to the round with Chiesa circling on the outside and Luque holding the centre. Hard low kick lands from Luque and Chiesa fires off a big one-two that cuts Luque’s eye immediately. Luque comes forward hard and Chiesa ducks under and gets the takedown. Immediately he slides the knee over and takes the back to start searching for a rear naked choke. He has a crank in tight but Luque fights the hands and Chiesa switches to an armbar but loses it. As they go to get up to the feet Luque sinks in a d’arce choke and it’s tight! Chiesa tries to fight it but Luque tightens it and Chiesa taps! Wow!
Jose Aldo def Pedro Munhoz via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to the fight from Munhoz as he takes the centre and throws a couple of hard leg kicks. Head kick attempt misses from Munhoz and then Aldo makes him miss with the hands too. Nice one-two from Aldo and then a straight right lands nicely too. Nasty left hook to the body from Aldo and a jab, but Munhoz still has the centre and is throwing bombs with his right hand. Nice right hand from Munhoz and he’s swinging for the stands, but Aldo counters with a body shot and uppercut. 10-9 Aldo.
Munhoz coming very aggressive again with some leg kicks but Aldo is checking them and then throws one of his own. Munhoz stepping in with more leg kicks and a looping right hand but Aldo hangs in there and fires back with a big right hand before a combination to the body. Aldo’s jab is landing well and defensively he looks sound as usual, with Munhoz struggling to land anything of note so far. Aldo checks a leg kick then goes back for the body combination, but Munhoz’s leg kicks are still there and he’s still in Aldo’s face. Aldo fakes the right knee and lands a big right straight as the round ends. Another close round, but I think that’s 20-18 Aldo.
Final round and Munhoz comes out with a big blitz early on. Aldo returns fire with a beautiful combo of his own before Munhoz clinches up. Aldo working the jab again as Munhoz goes for a spinning capoeira kick and misses. Triple jab from Aldo lands and he follows it with a big combination to the chin. Hard low kick from Aldo but Munhoz responds with a hard right hand and Ado retreats a little. Big leg kick from Aldo drops Munhoz and he follows it up with two hard right hands that cut Munhoz over the eye. Aldo lands a three-punch combo and follows it with a leg kick that gets a big reaction from Munhoz again. Final 30 seconds and Munhoz goes for a big spinning wheel kick before Aldo hits him with another big combo and leg kick to see the fight out. Should be a big win for Aldo. 30-27.
Ciryl Gane def Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 3 (4:11)
Lewis opens the fight with a high kick and slips and then Gane slides a right hand in on his way back up. Gane bouncing, with some light leg kicks and pokes to the knee as Lewis starts to step forward. Lewis changes levels to load up his right hand but Gane scoots out of the way and evades before he even throws. Leg kicks from Gane once again and then Lewis throws a right hand to the body. Lewis goes for an inside leg kick but catches the cup flush and causes a pause in the action. Lewis steps forward again and Gane immediately ducks under and clinches up before they break. Lewis swings a big right hand again but Gane literally runs away from it before resetting. Big right hand from Gane before a hard low kick and then a stiff jab to the face as the round ends. 10-9 Gane.
Second round and Gane once again comes out with his jab landing flush. Lewis lands a hard leg kick and then tries a flying switch kick but Gane is too quick and is gone before he gets there. Gane with some more short kicks to the leg before Lewis explodes and tries to rush Gane, only for Gane to throw him off to the side. Flying knee attempt from Gane sees them end up in a clinch and Gane throwing big knees to the thighs and overpowering Lewis against the cage. Gane lets a big elbow and right hand fly but both just miss as the round ends. 20-18 Gane.
Some heavy leg kicks land from Gane to open the round before a right hand over the top just clips Lewis. Another hard leg kick, then another and then another as Lewis struggles to get any sort of offense going. High kick from Lewis is blocked and then Lewis goes to clinch up, but once again Gane just stuffs his attemts. Knee to the body in the clinch and then a big leg kick again and Lewis is hurt bad! Gane goes in for the finish and lands some huge strikes to the head and Lewis is covering up. Lewis throws a few haymakers but misses wildly and then Gane throws a big knee and more strikes that drop Lewis. He gets on top and lands some bombs and the referee steps in! It’s allll over! Ciryl Gane with a huge knockout win. What a performance.
The UFC heavyweight division moves a step closer to naming a solidified number one contender as Derrick Lewis takes on Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 265.
After a deal with Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones couldn’t be found, the UFC moved to keep the division moving and will see the number two and three ranked heavyweights battle it out in the main event with the winner essentially guaranteeing themselves the next shot at the belt.
In the co-main event Jose Aldo continues his push for bantamweight greatness when he takes on Pedro Munhoz, while the welterweight division looks to create a new contender too as Michael Chiesa takes on Vicente Luque.
We skipped last week’s Hall vs Strickland card, which means we remain on 374/387 correct picks (63.71%) with 165 perfect picks (44.12%).
We’ll look to improve on that now with this 13-fight card and after starting with the early prelims here, we move onto the rest of the prelims here.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-6) vs Jessica Penne (13-6) – (Strawweight/125lbs)
An intriguing strawweight fight to open the prelims here as Kowalkiewicz looks to snap a four-fight losing streak against the veteran Penne. KK hasn’t won a fight since a split decision over Felice Herrig in 2018 while Penne earned herself a win last time out against Lupita Godinez back in April.
KK is a good kickboxer with her kicks really excellent, and her takedown defence has improved greatly even in defeat. Penne is a grappler who moves to control her opponent on the ground, pound them out a bit until she can find the submission opportunity.
Penne is on an upwards wave of momentum while KK has flirted with the idea of retirement already and that doesn’t bode well. While KK’s takedown defence has improved, it hasn’t improved enough and Penne will win this via a decision after racking up some top control. PICK – Jessica Penne via Decision
Alonzo Menifield (10-2) vs Ed Herman (27-14) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Menifield is an absolute powerhouse with genuine knockout power who has good wrestling too and showed a new submission game last time out. Herman is a great wrestler himself but his striking leaves plenty to be desired and if he’s going to close the distance to try and claim takedowns he’s putting himself into the danger zone.
Menifield has good cardio but his power means this likely won’t go that far and he should claim an impressive knockout. PICK – Alonzo Menifield via Knockout, Round 1
Vince Morales (9-5) vs Drako Rodriguez (7-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Yet another top bantamweight bout on the card as both these fighters look to get back in the win column. Morales has lost his last two, last losing to Chris Gutierrez in May 2020 via leg kicks, while Rodriguez suffered defeat last time out via knockout to Aiemann Zahabi at UFC Vegas 19.
Morales is a good boxer with a very solid right hand, while Rodriguez has shown his ability on the feet but also on the ground too with plenty of skills in the submission realm of fights. Rodriguez has solid kicks and with Morales’ problems with low kicks that could be a serious problem too. That said, Morales’ right hand has the ability to end the night early, especially if Rodriguez makes the same mistakes he did against Zahabi.
Despite that though, Rodriguez has shown in the past that he’s pretty tight defensively and has a very well-rounded game. That gives me confidence that he can avoid the heavy right hand and just mix it up enough to earn a comfortable decision win to get back on the horse. PICK – Drako Rodriguez via Decision
Bobby Green (27-11-1) vs Rafael Fiziev (9-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Green is a really exciting fighter who is well rounded throughout. He has good striking with excellent volume and some excellent wrestling defence as he showed in his win over Clay Guida. Fiziev on the other hand is a stunning striker, who uses kicks brilliantly but also is a powerful puncher with heavy low kicks. His feints are excellent and he’s so fast that his countering is an easy path to victory in this one.
Green is game and 12 of his last 13 fights, including the last nine in a row, have gone to decision. With that said, I can’t see Fiziev getting ground out on the ground and on the feet it’s a no contest, so I think Fiziev takes the decision. PICK – Rafael Fiziev via Decision