Katlyn Chookagian (18-4) vs Manon Fiorot (9-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs) *Chookagian missed weight by 1.5lbs, fight will proceed as a catchweight bout*
A potential title eliminator in the flyweight division opens the main card here. Chookagian has won five of six since losing her title show to Valentina Shevchenko, winning four decisions in a row to see off Cynthia Calvillo (UFC 255), Viviane Araujo (UFC 262), Jennifer Maia and Amanda Ribas. Fiorot on the other hand in undefeated since losing her pro debut, going 4-0 in the UFC with an impressive win over Maia most recently.
Chookagian’s style is the same no matter the opponent and very few people have been able to do anything about it. She has a great karate style which sees her kick from a distance and use great footwork to get in, land shots, and get back out. Her takedown defence isn’t the best though and good wrestlers have had their way with her in the past. Fiorot is a world class kickboxer with incredible kicking abilities, but her wrestling has also been a big surprise as she’s been able to dominate everyone she’s come up against in the UFC so far.
This seems like a really tough fight for Chookagian to keep her momentum going. Fiorot is more than skilled enough to go toe-to-toe in a kickboxing fight with her at range, an her takedown offence should see her able to get in close too if necessary. Her greater power makes her a finishing threat too, so I think “The Beast” can secure a career-highlight win here. PICK – Manon Fiorot via Decision
Beneil Dariush (21-4-1) vs Mateusz Gamrot (21-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Absolute banger in the lightweight division up next. Dariush was all set for a title eliminator before picking up an injury a year ago, but he’s still sitting on a seven-fight win streak that saw him dominate Tony Ferguson most recently at UFC 262. Gamrot on the other hand is on a four-fight win streak, KO’ing Scott Holtzman at UFC Vegas 23 before submitting Jeremy Stephens, KO’ing Diego Ferreira and then earning a super-close call against Arman Tsarukyan last time out.
Dariush is one of the best wrestlers and jiu-jitsu fighters in the lightweight division, probably only behind the two men in the main event in both areas. But his striking has significantly improved in recent years and he’s now a real threat on the feet too. Gamrot alternatively is a supreme striker on the feet with really good wrestling too, and has taken the division by storm recently. This is a huge step up in competition for him though, that is levelled out by how long Dariush has been out for.
“Gamer” will likely look to use his cardio as a weapon and step forward to force Dariush to engage with him, which could open up takedowns. But Dariush is experienced and I think he has the edge as the better wrestler so could welcome that. I expect a real chess match between these two, but Dariush should just edge it with more power on the feet and a better grappling game. PICK – Beneil Dariush via Decision
Petr Yan (16-3) vs Sean O’Malley (15-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fight that is absolutely baffling, but must-watch television at the same time. Number one ranked Yan has lost two of his last three after losing his title to Aljamain Sterling via DQ at UFC 259, before winning the interim title against Cory Sandhagen via decision at UFC 267. He then lost the rematch via split decision to Sterling at UFC 273. O’Malley was on a three-fight win streak after KO’ing Thomas Almeida (UFC 260), Kris Moutinho (UFC 264) and Raulian Paiva (UFC 269) before a no contest against Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 due to an accidental eye poke.
Yan is arguably the most well-rounded MMA fighter in the organisation pound-for-pound, with world class boxing and a sensational ground game with his wrestling too. O’Malley alternatively is one of the most entertaining fighters in the world with incredible striking and knockout power, as well as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt that he doesn’t need to use much because he puts people out on the feet. I love O’Malley and do think he could be a future champion, but there are levels to this right now.
On the feet Yan is better, and while O’Malley absolutely has the speed and power to hurt him, he has to hit him to do that. Mix in the fact that Yan has got excellent wrestling and a stifling gas tank to march forward constantly, and enough power to hurt O’Malley himself, I think the ‘Suga Show’ takes a hit to his reputation in this one. PICK – Petr Yan via Decision
Aljamain Sterling (21-3) vs TJ Dillashaw (18-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Big time bantamweight title fight up next. Sterling is on a seven-fight win streak with an 88-second submission win over Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 setting him up for his title fight wins over Yan. Dillashaw was stopped by Henry Cejudo before popping for injectable EPO and serving a two-year ban. He returned to beat Sandhagen controversially, but tore his ACL and fights for the first time in a 15 months.
Sterling is a lengthy grappler, with an excellent gas tank that he uses as a weapon but it’s his jiu-jitsu and control on the mat that set him apart from his foes. Dillashaw on the other hand is arguably the best 135-pounder of all-time with a perfectly rounded MMA game. His wrestling is excellent, he can grapple in submission situations but also has genuine KO power in his hands. This is a super fight.
Dillashaw has been out for a while, but he looked great against Sandhagen after two years out so I don’t see rust being an issue. I did think he lost that bout, but his ability to mix everything together is a problem for Sterling. On the feet he has a clear advantage and he’s arguably a better wrestler too. I think Sterling will want to grapple and control, but it’s nigh on impossible to do that to Dillashaw and I expect a new champion to be crowned in Abu Dhabi. PICK – TJ Dillashaw via Knockout, Round 3
Charles Oliveira (33-8) vs Islam Makhachev (22-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Potentially the fight of the year in one of the most exciting divisions in the MMA world. Oliveira is on an 11-fight win streak including ten stoppages. People started taking notice when he submitted Kevin Lee, before he dominated Tony Ferguson at UFC 256. Since then he’s been on a killing streak, KO’ing Michael Chandler (UFC 262) and then submitting Dustin Poirier (UFC 269) and Justin Gaethje (UFC 274), although he missed weight in the latter bout and was stripped of the belt. Makhachev is on a ten-fight win streak, finishing Drew Dober (UFC 259), Thiago Moises, Dan Hooker (UFC 267) and Bobby Green in each of his last four fights.
Oliveira is the greatest submission artist in UFC history but has developed into one of the very best strikers in the company too, with his Muay-Thai style and power doing a lot of damage. Makhachev is the best wrestler in the division and potentially the company, with a suffocating style and solid submission game that comes from being in the Nurmagomedov camp for his entire career. This fight is absolutely wild and could go in any direction, it’s so hard to call.
With that said though, I see two potential outcomes. One is that Makhachev is able to use his wrestling early, control Oliveira on the ground and wear on him until getting a finish in the latter rounds with a dominant performance. The other is a wild start in which Oliveira marches forward just like he did against Chandler, Poirier and Gaethje and lands a huge shot to drop Makhachev and gets an early finish by taking his back or pounding him out. Both are as likely as the other, but after under-estimating Oliveira for so long I can’t do it anymore. “Do Bronx” is the best fighter Makhachev has ever fought by a distance and we don’t know if he can do it at this level. With the advantage on the feet and his amazing guard, I’ve got the Brazilian to get it done again. PICK – Charles Oliveira via Knockout, Round 2
A huge light heavyweight main event with title implications headlines the UFC Vegas 54 card this week after a brilliant card last week.
Former champions Jan Blachowicz returns to the octagon for the first time since losing his title to take on the highly rated Aleksandar Rakic, with the winner hoping it will take them towards a title shot.
In a sneaky good card, we’ll also see the likes of Davey Grant take on Louis Smolka and Katlyn Chookagian taking on Amanda Ribas to give you plenty to get your teeth into.
Jake Hadley (8-0) vs Allan Nascimento (18-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A grapple-heavy affair coming up to open the main card here. Hadley is an undefeated former Cage Warriors champion, who earned his UFC debut with a submission win on Dana White’s Contender Series. Nascimento on the other hand was defeated in his UFC debut back at UFC 267, dropping a split decision to Tagir Ulanbekov.
Both Hadley and Nascimento are grapplers by nature, but they’re different in their approach. Hadley is a brilliant wrestler, who looks to smother his opponents with his takedowns and work for submissions by taking the back as quickly as possible. Nascimento looks to stand and use his kicking game, unafraid to be dragged into a scrap because he knows if he’s on the ground his submission game is excellent too. This is a super evenly matched fight and very hard to call.
One advantage that Hadley has is that he’s comfortable whether he’s on top or on the bottom, while Nascimento does not look comfortable when he’s underneath someone else. They will contest takedowns against the cage without a doubt and it will be finely contested, but in these matches it’s those fine margins that make the difference and I think Hadley claims the win. PICK – Jake Hadley via Decision
Frank Camacho (22-9) vs Manuel Torres (12-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight bout between a veteran likely on his way out and an upcoming talent from Mexico. Camacho has lost four of his last five stretching back to 2018 and was KO’d in just 41 seconds by Justin Jaynes in his last fight at UFC Vegas 3. Torres is making his UFC debut here on a three-fight win streak after victory on Dana White’s Contender Series back in October last year.
Camacho is a veteran of the sport despite being only 32 years old as his record shows. ‘The Crank’ is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but he’s more known for his slugfest style where he brawls and entertains. Torres is a very physical and aggressive fighter, with great power in his hands and a killer instinct with 11 finishes in 12 fights. This is a real test to see where Camacho stands in his career.
Both men have the power to really hurt the other, but whether Camacho’s chin can still stand up after his latest knockout is a big worry. There is the fact that he has a lot more experience, and if he mixes up his attacks to include some ground game then he has a great chance of victory. With that said though, it’s not often that he leans on his grappling as his initial game plan, so I expect a hungry Torres to claim a big stoppage win. PICK – Manuel Torres via Knockout, Round 1
Katlyn Chookagian (17-4) vs Amanda Ribas (11-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Two women’s flyweights looking to get into title contention in a division dominated by one queen. Chookagian has already fought for the belt and got dominated, but she has gone 4-1 since then, including wins in each of her last three against Cynthia Calvillo (UFC 255), Viviane Araujo (UFC 262) and Jennifer Maia (UFC Vegas 46) all by decision. Ribas saw her hype reach an all-time high when she submitted Paige Van Zant at UFC 251, but she was brutally stopped by Marina Rodriguez next time out at UFC 257. She bounced back with a great decision win over Virna Jandiroba at UFC 267 in her last bout.
Chookagian is a karate fighter who uses her range really well and volume strikes to dominate her opponents. Her body kicks are excellent while she has good boxing too and often just completely outworks her opponent. Ribas is a pretty rubbish striker on the feet, but on the ground she is a terrifying prospect with her submission skills. The problem here is that she may not be able to get the fight to the ground.
‘Blonde fighter’ is very good when it comes to ensuring fights go the way she wants, unless it’s against Valentina Shevchenko. She dominates the range, has good takedown defence and is the better striker as well as having the size advantage. Expect her to put in a vintage performance to claim yet another decision win. PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Davey Grant (13-6) vs Louis Smolka (17-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Very fun 135-pound scrap coming up in this one. Grant has lost his last two in a row, dropping decisions to Marlon Vera and then Adrian Yanez respectively. Smolka has alternated wins and losses in his last six fights, being on the wrong end of a knockout finish to Vince Morales at UFC Vegas 44 in his most recent outing.
Grant is a terrific grappler who has completely transformed his game in recent years to start chasing knockouts with nasty combinations and wild hooks to the head. Smolka is another entertaining fighter, who uses his cardio as a weapon while throwing good combinations and threatening with chokes when the opportunity presents itself. When you match them skill for skill, Smolka seems to be in a world of trouble with this one.
The Brit is bigger, stronger, the better grappler and hits harder. His cardio is more than good enough to really go the distance at a good pace too and he is by far the more durable of the two fighters. This one will likely turn into a war, and that means Grant clips him midway through the fight for the finish. PICK – Davey Grant via Knockout, Round 2
Ryan Spann (19-7) vs Ion Cutelaba (16-6-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
The big boys take up the co-main event slot in this one as light heavyweights collide. Spann has lost two of his last three, including getting absolutely squashed by Anthony Smith in the first round in his last bout. Cutelaba overcame a three fight winless run after KO losses to Magomed Ankalaev and a draw with Dustin Jacoby at UFC Vegas 25, by earning a decision win in his last bout against Devin Clark.
Spann is a tidy grappler on the mat with 11 submission wins to his name in his career. His wrestling is decent, while his striking on the feet is okay, but anything outside of his comfort zones is a huge problem for him. Cutelaba on the other hand is a super aggressive fighter who charges forward and threatens with constant takedowns by landing huge power punches in combinations. Spann needs to be able to get this fight down with himself on top to win this, because he’s outmatched by Cutelaba.
‘Hulk’ will look to put Spann on his back foot regularly and will try for takedowns against the cage before swinging huge combinations to try and take his head off. Spann won’t be comfortable with that, and when that happens he tends to just kind of melt away. That’s not ideal against someone so aggressive, so Cutelaba could claim a violent finish early on. PICK – Ion Cutelaba via Knockout, Round 1
Jan Blachowicz (28-9) vs Aleksandar Rakic (14-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A fight that could easily have been contested for the 205lbs title at some point last year now takes place as a contender bout in the division. Blachowicz was dominated in his last outing by Glover Teixeira as he lost the belt at UFC 267, bringing to an end his five fight winning streak. Rakic on the other hand has won his last two, with just one defeat since losing his pro debut. He dominated Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos (UFC 259) in his most recent bouts.
Blachowicz is a brilliant fighter who is very well-rounded. He has got the legendary ‘Polish power’ in both hands where his boxing combinations score him knockout wins, while his wrestling is also good as he showed against Israel Adesanya back at UFC 259. Rakic’s wrestling has been shown to be brilliant too, while he also has scary power in his hands earning him nine career KO wins. This is a super hard fight to call, because both guys match up so well.
Rakic is nine years younger and the fact that Teixeira was able to take Blachowicz down so easily and control him on the mat will be of big encouragement to him. It shows that he is capable of being controlled and Rakic is very good at that. I think Blachowicz is now going to start a steady decline as age catches up to him, and Rakic is going to pile on the misery for a huge win and secure himself the next title shot. PICK – Aleksandar Rakic via Decision
But we will also see the return of Khamzat Chimaev as he takes on Gilbert Burns in a bout that UFC president Dana White has admitted will serve as a title eliminator bout in the welterweight division.
The following week will see another welterweight clash serve as the main event in the Apex, as Vicente Luque takes on Belal Muhammad at UFC Vegas 51.
Down at 135-pounds at the end of April we’ll see a top contender bout between Rob Font and Marlon Vera battle in the main event of UFC Vegas 53, before UFC 274 takes place from Phoenix, Arizona.
Originally scheduled to be in Brazil, we’ll now get the 155-pound title fight between Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje in the headline slot in Gaethje’s home state, while Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza will meet in their long-anticipated rematch for the strawweight title in the co-main event.
We’ll also see an amazing lightweight bout between Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson on that card, as well as a stack of other amazing fights.
The following week the UFC is targeting the rescheduled main event from the UFC Columbus card in the light heavyweight division between Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic, as well as a fun fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Amanda Ribas.
Then at UFC 275 the delayed light heavyweight title fight between Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka will take place, while ‘Bullet’ Valentina Shevchenko will fight Taila Santos for the flyweight championship in the co-main event.
We’ll also see the return of Robert Whittaker at that event, as he is scheduled to take on Marvin Vettori in the middleweight division to get back on the title trail once again.
Dana White has also confirmed that the organisation are expecting welterweight champion Kamaru Usman to return in the summer, and he has promised the next title fight to British fighter Leon Edwards with the target aimed for international fight week in July.
It’s a great year coming up, so keep your eyes on Tap Ins & Tap Outs for coverage of all these events coming up.
The UFC returned with a spectacular main event in a rather disappointing ten-fight card at UFC Vegas 46 as Calvin Kattar returned to the win column with a bang.
Kattar returned after a year out of the octagon to take on Giga Chikadze in a featherweight main event that had fireworks written all over it.
It delivered too, in a superb five-round war that had everything except a finish going for it to set the bar high for the fight of the night in 2022.
Chikadze started the fight exceedingly well, landing hard body kicks and sharp right hands, before he threw a kick and slipped which allowed Kattar to step in and grapple with him.
After that though, Kattar was completely dominant for the next four rounds. He applied a crazy high pace and pressure to shut the distance down, not allowing Chikadze to throw kicks.
He landed heavy strikes, which later turned to elbows to cause further damage while also mixing in takedowns to keep Chikadze honest.
The Georgian gave it everything, landing some huge shots of his own but Kattar once again showed his chin and managed to secure a huge unanimous decision victory.
The win keeps him in the top five of the division and with three of the five guys above him getting title shots recently, and the other being Yair Rodriguez who is coming off a loss, Kattar has a real chance of title contention this year.
A fight against either Rodriguez or Brian Ortega seems like the fight to make going forward, if we don’t see Ortega vs Rodriguez instead, and a win could catapult him into the title contender position.
A bit earlier on the card was a women’s flyweight contender fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia, that produced a fun, back-and-forth bout between two top five 125-pounders.
Chookagian picked up the unanimous decision win, just as she did back at UFC 244 in their first fight, but following the event she revealed in the press conference that that was the final fight of her contract.
Speaking to the media, Chookagian claimed that she wanted to renegotiate her deal with the organisation before the Maia fight but they told her that they wanted her to fight out her current deal instead before they spoke.
With the win, she tied champion Valentina Shevchenko for the most wins in the division’s history (8) and will likely move into the number one spot in the rankings, above Jessica Andrade, setting her up for a rematch against ‘Bullet’.
But the UFC don’t seem convinced that is the route they want to go in, and with Chookagian out of contract it doesn’t make sense to renew her deal if they don’t intend on giving her a title shot when she’s clearly the top contender.
It’s a dilemma, because at that weight class she is among the best there is but she’s still some way off the champion and that makes her dispensable in the organisations eyes.
TJ Brown def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Brown as he lands his jab well and a hard calf kick too as he takes the centre. Rosa looking for some calf kicks of his own now, but Brown is landing his right hand really clean and crisp. Rosa lands a hard low kick that drops Brown, but Brown then catches the next kick, fires one of his own and then drags him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a guillotine but Brown scrambles back to his feet quickly and they go back to striking. Rosa’s low kicks having a big effect and forcing Brown to switch stances, but Brown’s strikes landing really well. Brown goes for a takedown again but Rosa is able to scramble with another guillotine attempt, but ends up on his back with Brown searching for a head-and-arm choke. Rosa defends well and then eats a few ground and pound shots to end the round. 10-9 Brown.
More of the same from both guys to start the second round as Brown takes the centre and applies pressure with his right hand, while Rosa throws out leg kicks and then gets taken down by Brown. Brown transitions to the back and looks to control the position but Rosa threatening with a guillotine again and then is able to scramble to top position. Rosa tries to take an arm but Brown is able to reverse and ends up on top himself again, then moves for a head-and-arm choke again. Rosa defends brilliantly then eats a big elbow from Brown after trying for a triangle. Rosa goes for an armbar and Brown manages to escape before going right back to top position. Rosa is looking for submissions constantly but Brown is a step ahead, defending and maintaining control. Brown takes the back and puts both hooks in but once again Rosa defends it and they see the round out exchanging strikes on the ground. 20-18 Brown.
Final round and Brown looking for more of the same, getting on the front foot and landing a big right hand before getting a takedown and slamming Rosa down early. Brown takes the back and starts working for a rear-naked choke but Rosa gets to his knees and gets back to his feet, before eventually being able to put Brown on his back and get top position. Brown works his way back to the feet and then forces Rosa down to the mat, before securing top position and landing some heavy elbows. Brown slides over into mount and looks for the head-and-arm choke again before Rosa gets to his knees and back to his feet. Brown goes for a takedown but Rosa works for a d’arce choke as we enter the final minute. Brown defends it well but Rosa isn’t giving up the neck. Brown gets to his feet and lands a one two before moving back into the same d’arce position to see the round out. Should be a Brown decision victory. 29-28.
Brian Kelleher def Kevin Croom via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Very fast start to the fight from Croom, with lots of forward pressure and blitzes using his size advantage to get the best of Kelleher early. Kelleher takes the centre now and Croom being very active, before a big right hook from Kelleher drops him! He gets straight back up and Kelleher goes for another, but misses and then gets hit with an accidental low blow to pause the action. Croom using his big reach advantage well for now, just pawing out the jab to create distance. Kelleher trying to mix up his attacks and goes for a takedown but Croom defends it before landing a hard low kick. Front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Croom keeps using his distance and just touching Kelleher up. Big spinning back fist lands from Kelleher before a left hook and a takedown to end the round on top. 10-9 Kelleher, just.
Croom opens up the round with a big one two that lands flush, but Kelleher eats it and keeps coming forward. Lots of volume from Croom in this round, but Kelleher is moving well and looking to counter. Nice body kick from Croom before a check-left hook from Kelleher lands too. Croom blitzes forward and gets Kelleher against the cage to clinch, using his size to wear Kelleher down. Big body shot from Kelleher, and then another, before he shoots for a takedown. Kelleher goes for a submission on the ground and looking to control the position, stopping Croom from getting back up. Big elbow lands from Kelleher, but he has a big cut above his eye after a knee landed from Croom as he went for the takedown. 19-19 for me, but could go either way.
Kelleher goes straight back to body work in the third round early on and then shoots in for a takedown to control early. Kelleher looking to take the back and secure a choke but Croom fights his way back up, only to be dragged back down immediately. Kelleher lands some ground and pound while transitioning ground positions, then lands a big knee and slams Croom back down as he tries to get back up. Kelleher completely dominating the grappling exchanges here and controlling the positions as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kelleher rolling with him and looking for a rear-naked choke but Croom fighting the hands. Heavy ground and pound from Kelleher to end the round in what could possibly be a 10-8 round, should seal him the fight. 29-28 for me.
Court McGee def Ramiz Brahimaj via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Great start to the fight for McGee, who is using his superior striking to his advantage to keep distance. Brahimaj clinches against the cage but McGee seems physically stronger and is able to turn him and get the fight down. Brahimaj defending a lot against the cage, but lands a strong knee to the gut of McGee before forcing a separation. Brahimaj takes th centre now and is striking well, but McGee keeping the pace high and landing the more significant strikes. McGee lands a huge right hand that drops Brahimaj just as the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 10-9 McGee.
McGee comes out early and lands a hard low kick and right hook that drops Brahimaj again, who gets up quickly and shoots for a takedown. Brahimaj gets it and starts looking to take his back, but McGee defends it and then is able to get a takedown of his own. Brahimaj gets back to the feet but McGee is just too physically strong for him right now and is wearing him down. McGee locks his hands and gets another takedown, but Brahimaj bounces back up quickly. McGee using his strength again to control, before shooting in for a takedown. Brahimaj defends and the two engage in a striking battle, but McGee is too strong again and clinches up to end the round again with another takedown. 20-18 McGee.
McGee steps over and goes immediately for another clinch and takedown situation, but Brahimaj is looking to defend it well and throws a nice knee to the body. He then drops down for a guillotine and it looks quite tight but McGee defends it and ends up dominant in top position. Brahimaj goes for another guillotine and wraps the neck up, but McGee stays calm and is able to pop his head out and push Brahimaj against the cage. Brahimaj tries to get back to his feet but McGee grinding him out and takes the back. McGee going for a rear-naked choke now, but Brahimaj turns to his back which allows McGee to move into mount. Brahimaj tries to scramble but gives up his back again and McGee dominantly rides him from position to position until the end of the round. Great win for McGee. 30-27.
Jamie Pickett def Joseph Holmes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight as both men look to take the centre of the cage and trade strikes. Holmes starting with a bit more intent, just missing with a head kick but then landing a nice straight right. Pickett blitzes forward with an attack of his own, but Holmes clinches up and uses his strength well against the cage. Holmes lands a nice right hand and then just misses with a head kick again, but Pickett clinching well to stifle the attack. Hard low kick from Holmes but Pickett gets a takedown to end the round. 10-9 Holmes, just.
Aggressive start to the round from Pickett as he comes forward with a hard front kick to the body and then a big left hand, before looking to get a takedown. Holmes looks more tired already but gets back to his feet and lands a hard right hand, but Pickett responds with a takedown attempt again. Strong body kick from Pickett lands, and now his left hand is landing well too. Holmes goes for a single leg takedown but Pickett defends it well in a clinch position. Pickett being very aggressive and coming forward hard with Holmes looking tired, but he responds with a nice slip left hand before they clinch again. Pickett explodes again as the round ends and should take that. 19-19.
Pickett being aggressive once again in this final round as Holmes throws a hard right hand. Pickett using his better conditioning and strength right now to stop Holmes’ momentum, but eats a body kick for his troubles when they separate from the clinch. Pickett lands a nice side kick as Holmes is looking for a big shot. Another clinch situation initiated by Pickett before a nice elbow from Holmes lands. A left hand stumbles Pickett again but then he goes for another clinch and just avoids a big elbow. Big high kick from Pickett lands well and the round comes to an end, with what should be a Pickett victory. 29-28.
Bill Algeo def Joanderson Brito via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Brito as he takes the centre, moves across the octagon and gets a body lock to look for a takedown. Algeo defends it well but eventually Brito gets it and takes the back while standing. Brito transitions around and picks Algeo up, then walks around the octagon for a few seconds before slamming him down and taking his back. Brito looking for a rear-naked choke but Algeo is defending well. Brito looking for the choke but Algeo turns into Brito and ends up reversing the position on top, looking for big ground and pound strikes. Brito looks to explode out and gets back to the feet quickly and goes back for another takedown. Brito lands a nice jab but then eats a big knee up the middle from Algeo, before shooting in for another takedown that gets defended to end the round. 10-9 Brito.
Brito coming forward with a blitz and walking Algeo down with big strikes, but then he eats a big right hand from Algeo that wobbles him. Brito immediately turns and goes back for the takedown, but Algeo defends it perfectly and lands a big knee from a front headlock position. Algeo lets him back up and lands a left hand on the break but Brito is just walking forward through the storm. Big one-twos from Brito snap Algeo’s head back and he looks hurt but once again Brito goes for a takedown and Algeo is able to stuff it and reverse position to end up on top. Algeo moves into side control but Brito gets back up. Algeo lands a big knee but then Brito fires back with a big right hand. Algeo clinches up to end the round, very close. 19-19.
Algeo opens the round with a nice one two, before Brito comes forward with a big blitz of strikes that land well. Brito continues to walk forward and do damage with big shots but Algeo timing him well with counters and clinching up to slow down the Brazilian’s momentum. Brito continues to walk forward constantly and goes for a spinning elbow, but Algeo slips it and showboats. Final minute and Brito is really pushing the pace but Algeo gets a big hip throw and ends up on top landing big elbows then takes the back. Algeo ends the round on the back and should take the victory in a great back and forth fight. 29-28 Algeo.
Viacheslav Borshchev def Dakota Bush via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)
Fast start to the fight for Bush as he stays at distance and throws lots of kicks early on. Big overhand right lands but Borshchev eats it. Borshchev steps in and lands a nice little blitz with a left hook, but Bush moves in for a takedown and gets it. Borshchev defends himself well down there and is able to stand up, but gets wobbled by a strike. Bush moves in for a big finish but Borshchev avoids and lands a big left hook counter. Bush gets another takedown and tries to take the back but Borshchev escapes and goes into the guard, landing heavy body shots from top position. He gets back up and backs Bush against the cage, slips a shot and lands a huge body blow that drops him!! Borshchev lands a few follow up shots but that’s that! What a knockout!
Katlyn Chookagian def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Chookagian starts the fight well with a big slip right hand that lands flush, while Maia looking to land some low kicks. Chookagian is really sitting down on her punches right now, landing well and maintaining distance well. Maia lands a big left hand and Chookagian gets a body lock and a takedown to sit in half guard on top position. Good shoulder pressure from Chookagian and she defends the sweep well before passing to side control, before laying down some shoulder strikes from the top. Chookagian tried to pass to mount but Maia bounces back up quickly, eats a knee and the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Aggressive start to the round from Maia as she steps forward and lands a hard right hand, but Chookagian slips a second attempt and gets another body lock to look for a takedown. Maia defends it well this time though and then they break, with Chookagian looking to control distance again with her jab. Maia leading with a low kick and doing well, but Chookagian bouncing and lands a nice right hook. Maia looks for a body lock this time and rushes Chookagian against the cage, but she defends it well and reverses the position to look for a trip herself. Maia lands a couple of right hands in the pocket, before Chookagian lands a big head kick and then a nice knee too but Maia continues to be aggressive and walk forward. Maia looks for an arm drag but Chookagian defends and ends up on Maia’s back with both hooks in looking for a choke to end the round. 20-18 Chookagian.
Maia coming out strong again in this final round but Chookagian using her teep kick brilliantly to maintain distance and landing her right hand and jab. Maia lands a big right hand but she’s just a step behind right now. Nice head kick from Maia, but Chookagian responds with a low kick. Lovely overhand right from Chookagian, followed by a clean one-two but Maia is still there. Nice right from Maia on the break from a clinch lands clean but Chookagian starting to take over with counters and jabs. Big right hand from Maia lands and then they exchange right hooks. Final 30 seconds and Chookagian looks super comfortable, then lands a huge one-two and a third on her way back to claim a big win. 30-27 Chookagian.
Explosive start to this one with Royval taking the centre and using speed, but Bontorin lands a hard low kick that drops Royval early. Royval throwing a lot of kicks, but Bontorin looking to counter with his flush right hand. Royval goes for a body kick that Bontorin catches and then lands a right hand as Royval spins. Bontorin transitions to a takedown and gets side control but Royval very good with scrambles and looks to get to his feet. Bontorin holds him there briefly but Royval eventually gets back up and goes back to being very active. Slip left hand from Royval lands clean, before another takedown from Bontorin. Royval staying active from his back as he tries to roll through and starts throwing elbows, before both get back to the feet to end the round. 10-9 Royval.
Quick start again as Bontorin throws a right hand that drops Royval and he goes straight into his guard. Royval trying to scramble with submissions but Bontorin stays calm and takes the back. Royval defends it expertly but Bontorin retains the control from top position and lands a big elbow. Royval climbs back to his feet as Bontorin goes back to striking and then drops him with a nice left hook. Royval straight back up though and looking to overwhelm Bontorin but Bontorin staying calm and looking for control. Royval trying to up the pressure but Bontorin gets a body lock and trip in the final seconds to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Royval lands a big knee and hook combo. Bontorin fires back with a huge right hand, left hook combo that lands flush but Royval’s chin is holding up. Bontorin is loading up on his punches and Royval is able to land a few softer shots. Bontorin lands a leg kick and Royval goes down, but Royval defending with his submissions and looking for a gogoplata. He transitions to an armbar and it looks like Bontorin taps (?!) but the referee doesn’t see it and then Bontorin escapes and the fight continues. Royval transitions and is able to sweep Bontorin to get on top as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hard elbows from the top for Royval but Bontorin firing back from the bottom with elbows of his own. Royval landing some huge elbows and the buzzer goes. 29-28 Royval for me but could easily go the other way too! Great fight.
Collier comes forward very aggressively in the opening minute, walking Sherman down and throwing hard right hands. Sherman looking to counter with right hooks but Collier doing well to avoid too much damage early. Collier storms forward and pushes Sherman to the mat. He moves straight into full mount and lands some big nasty elbows from the top that cut Sherman open. Sherman tries to kick off the cage but just puts himself in an awful position. Sherman rolls over to his belly and Sherman synches up a rear-naked choke and gets the tap for the victory. Impressive performance.
Two very hard low kicks from Chikadze open the fight up before a nice right hand behind them. Kattar takes the centre of the octagon trying to pressure him, but Chikadze with great footwork around the outside to stay off the cage. Chikadze lands two hard body kicks and a right hand then goes for another kick but loses his balance and Kattar charges for a takedown and secures top position. Kattar working to pass Chikadze’s guard but he’s defending well. Chikadze tries to get back up but Kattar drags him back down. A scramble sees Chikadze end up on top but Kattar reverses it to an arm triangle from the bottom and then secures the back with a body triangle to see out the round. 10-9 Kattar.
Hard body kick from Chikadze early on and he starts blitzing Kattar with hard punches and a variation of kicks again. Kattar switching stances to take the kick away from Chikadze. Kattar pressuring forward and landing hard strikes that have Chikadze looking a bit more tired. Big jab from Chikadze though and then Kattar continues to come forward and Chikadze is tired! Kattar lands a big right hand then shoots for a takedown but Chikadze defends it. Big knee from Kattar lands, followed by a left hook. Huge step-in elbow from Kattar and Chikadze is struggling. Kattar lands a big left hook and follows it with a body shot. Four big left hands from Chikadze land but Kattar responds with a huge right hand and a knee, then he secures a takedown and heavy right hands to end the round. What a round! 20-18 Kattar.
Kattar comes out with forward motion once again and is putting a pace on Chikadze, who’s trying to recover his cardio still. Elbow from Kattar lands and then a flush one-two straight down the middle lands. Kattar steps forward with his jab and is teeing off on Chikadze, who can’t get his hands up to block his head. Two low kicks from Chikadze and a left hand, before a big right cross. Kattar goes for a takedown but Chikadze just about stays up with a little help from the fence. Both guys are tired, but Kattar pushing forward still. Huge right elbow lands from Kattar and then they trade hooks to the chin. Chikadze lands a right hand that gets Kattar to cover up, but Chikadze swings wildly and misses big. Kattar continues with forward pressure to close the distance but then just misses with two big shots. Big spinning elbow from Kattar right on the buzzer. What a fight. 30-27 Kattar.
Kattar crowding Chikadze with forward pressure as he looks to stop the kicks, and he’s just picking the jab well. Chikadze is looking for kill shots now but he’s too tired to land, while Kattar continues to come forward with his jab and picking him apart. Huge elbow again from Kattar and then he shoots for a takedown, but Chikadze defends it brilliantly and lands some big strikes of his own. Chikadze lands a big right hand but Kattar comes forward with his jab and elbows. Head kick attempt from Chikadze but Kattar just keeps coming forward. Massive elbow from Kattar and the buzzer goes again. 40-36, this is a beating now.
Chikadze comes forward early throwing bombs in the final round. Kattar continues to walk forward and just jab him to death, and Chikadze just has no answer for the pressure. Two huge elbows land back-to-back from Kattar, but Chikadze’s chin holds up again! Another nasty elbow from Kattar as he starts throwing them instead of hooks. Chikadze lands a nice one-two before Kattar lands a spinning elbow. Kattar just constantly coming forward with elbows and straights. Chikadze backing up and getting pieced up as Kattar looks for a finish. Huge right hand lands on the chin but Chikadze is still standing. Chikadze throws a one-two and Kattar responds with another flush spinning elbow. Both guys swinging for the fences with 30 seconds left. Kattar starts throwing elbows and drops Chikadze right on the buzzer!! He follows up with a couple of shots, but that is an exclamation point on a stunning performance. Wow! 50-44 Kattar for me.
Bill Algeo (14-6) vs Joanderson Brito (12-2-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A potential fight of the night contender in the featherweight division. Algeo is coming off a defeat to Ricardo Ramos at UFC Vegas 27 in May, while Brito makes his UFC debut on a ten-fight win streak with the most recent coming on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August.
Algeo is the type of fighter whose sole game-plan is simply to hit you harder than you can hit him. Brito on the other hand is a huge power puncher with both hands and has great speed too, but can often be quite reckless defensively. Algeo has a big size advantage in this fight and has never been knocked out and while his record isn’t great, he has fought much better competition throughout his career. Algeo’s defensive grappling is pretty poor, which opens up a big opportunity for Brito to land his big double-leg takedowns.
For Brito, this is a big opportunity to make a name for himself in the USA and in the UFC. Algeo will do his part to make this exciting too, which likely won’t help him, and I expect Brito to close the show early and make a big impression. PICK – Joanderson Brito via Knockout, Round 2
Dakota Bush (8-3) vs Viacheslav Borshchev (5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Two exciting lightweight prospects in the UFC go head-to-head here. Bush is a stud who was beaten in his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 24 by Austin Hubbard via decision, while Borshchev makes his debut in this fight after an impressive KO win over Chris Duncan in Dana White’s Contender Series.
Bush is an athletic fighter who uses mobility and movement more than technique and power in his attacks, while Borshchev makes his debut as the head striking coach of Team Alpha Male which tells you exactly where his strengths lie. Bush is likely to try and use his four-inch reach advantage to his benefit by fighting on the outside and mixing in takedowns to test the defensive wrestling of Borshchev. That said though, ‘Slava Claus’ has worked with Team Alpha Male for long enough that I expect he’ll come good defensively.
The longer the fight goes, the harder it will be for Bush to get a takedown and even hold Borshchev down, who is very good at scrambling up to his feet. He will attack the body and eventually start to target the chin before claiming a highlight-reel knockout finish midway through the fight. PICK – Viacheslav Borshchev via Knockout, Round 2
Katlyn Chookagian (16-4) vs Jennifer Maia (19-7-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The big women’s fight for the card is a flyweight bout between two former title contenders at 125-pounds. Chookagian bounced back from a KO defeat to Jessica Andrade at UFC Fight Island 6, before decision wins over Cynthia Calvillo and Viviane Araujo most recently. Maia on the other hand bounced back from her title fight defeat with a decision win over Jessica Eye at UFC 264. These two fought previously, with Chookagian winning at UFC 244 via decision.
Chookagian is a very mobile kicker, with good karate skills and great fight IQ where she’s able to fight from range and constantly move in-and-out of distance. Maia on the other hand looks to use her Muay-Thai game to get into clinch range before looking for takedowns to work her excellent jiu-jitsu skills. Chookagian has got some underrated grappling skills, but if Maia can get this fight down then you can safely make the assumption the round or fight will end there.
Unfortunately for Maia though, her takedown ability isn’t great and she won’t get close enough to Chookagian to be able to use her clinch game. Chookagian will bounce around on the outside, using her kicks and blitzes and once again claim a decision victory to put herself back into title contention in the division. PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Brandon Royval (12-6) vs Rogerio Bontorin (17-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An absolute banger of a flyweight fight and another contender for fight of the night. Royval was on the verge of a title shot before he dislocated his shoulder and was beaten by Brandon Moreno at UFC 255, before getting submitted by Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Vegas 34 last time out too. Bontorin on the other hand bounced back from a KO defeat against Kai Kara-France at UFC 259 with a decision win over Matt Schnell last time out at UFC 262.
Royval is an excellent grappler with terrific scrambles and some lightning fast striking techniques too. Bontorin is more of a striker, who has good physical strength and some good grappling too despite his preference to trade punches. This is a very high level fight between two potential future title contenders.
Bontorin certainly has the striking edge on the feet and is a solid submission artist himself, but Royval is so active in all aspects of MMA. The issue with Royval though is that because he’s so unorthodox, it can somehow hurt him here. If Bontorin can get top position, he should use his strength to hold position. On the feet he is the more powerful, but Royval has great speed and his own grappling is great too so ultimately I think the activity of ‘Raw Dawg’ gets him a razor thin win. PICK – Brandon Royval via Decision
Jake Collier (12-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-8) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout takes the co-main event slot between relatively different big guys. Collier has alternated wins and losses since a win in 2014, with a defeat to Carlos Felipe last time out at UFC 263 via split decision. Sherman on the other hand has lost each of his last two via decision, losing to Andrei Arlovski and Parker Porter.
Collier is a former middleweight who still tries to fight like one, just with an added 80-pounds of weight. He has good leg kicks and often attempts a few spinning techniques to catch his opponents off guard. Sherman is a similar fighter but is a much more natural heavyweight. He loves a strong leg kick, but isn’t the best when it comes the checking them.
Collier is the faster fighter and technically probably the better one, but naturally Sherman is the bigger fighter so the power lands in his favour. It’s probably not going to be a very exciting fight , but Collier is due another win on his run so I’m going with him.. PICK – Jake Collier via Decision
Calvin Kattar (22-5) vs Giga Chikadze (14-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A beauty of a main event in the featherweight division, with the winner potentially entering title contention territory. Kattar had won two-in-a-row against Jeremy Stephens and Dan Ige at UFC Fight Island 1 before getting absolutely destroyed by Max Holloway at UFC Fight Island 7. Chikadze on the other hand is now 7-0 in the UFC and has won each of his last three via knockout against Jamey Simons at UFC Vegas 13, Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 25 and Edson Barboza at UFC Vegas 35.
Kattar is a terrific boxer, with a brilliant jab and brilliant power punches while trading from within a phone booth against his opponents. He likes to throw a few leg kicks here and there, but generally it’s to set up his power strikes. Chikadze on the other hand is a brilliant kickboxer with a trademark head kick and amazing power in his hands too. Both of these guys have got genuine knockout power and can hold a hard pace for a full fight. This is only Chikadze’s second five-round fight in the UFC, and he won the first in the third round.
Chikadze is riding an incredible wave of momentum right now and that is definitely affecting people’s perception of this fight. Kattar has got genuine skills and if he lands clean on Chikadze, I expect him to do a lot f damage. While his counter striking is better than Chikadze’s, he can’t get hit as much as he did by Holloway in this fight or he’s going to sleep. Chikadze is far more powerful and can use his kicks well to set everything up. This is due to be a magnificent fight of high level striking, and I lean ever so slightly towards Chikadze and I think he’ll get a stoppage. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Knockout, Round 4
Christos Giagos def Sean Soriano via Submission (D’arce Choke), Round 2 (0:59)
Big start to the fight for both guys as Giagos lands a nice right hand to open that wobbles Soriano, who responds with a nice low kick that puts Giagos down to one knee. Giagos shoots for a takedown and pushes the fight against the cage before switching to take the back, before letting it go before they separate. Soriano lands a nice one-two down the middle and Giagos is wobbling again, but he responds with a combo of his own. Soriano’s speed is causing Giagos big problems and he’s landing clean. Giagos goes for a takedown but Soriano sprawls well and denies it. Both guys head hunting with the punches right now, but Soriano mixing in some leg kicks too and it’s serving its purpose so far. Head kick from Soriano lands partially as he slips, before Giagos shoots for a takedown and dumps him down as the round ends. 10-9 Soriano.
Soriano comes out heavy once again and lands a big right hand but Giagos goes for a takedown much earlier this time and gets top position quickly. He flows through the position and Soriano tries to get back up, but Giagos locks up a d’arce choke and sits down on it! It’s super tight and Soriano stops fighting it and goes to sleep! Huge win for Giagos!
Tucker Lutz def Kevin Aguilar via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Fast start from Aguilar as he presses forward and applies pressure early looking to throw big strikes to the head. Lutz looking to slow him down a little with leg kicks and then a clinch, but Aguilar doing well to separate and lands a nice left hook. Lutz now starting to come forward more and he lands a nice left hook of his own clean, before a head kick lands partially too. Aguilar is doing well to be dangerous in the pocket and make Lutz think first, then Lutz lands a huge uppercut. Big takedown from Lutz, with perfect timing and minimal effort, before shifting Aguilar over to the cage and starts landing some decent ground and pound to control the position. Aguilar trying to get back up but Lutz does well to keep him down and end the round on top. 10-9 Lutz.
Aguilar charges forward early once again at the start of the round but Lutz times him well and lands a decent left hook counter once again. Good little flurry while moving forward from Lutz again, but Aguilar looking to counter with a hard right hand. Aguilar looks to grapple against the cage but Lutz is able to stop him in his tracks easily then separates with a knee to the head. Aguilar comes forward and lands a nice body shot, but Lutz is timing everything perfectly so far and shoots in for a takedown to get it with ease again. This time though Aguilar is able to battle back to his feet quickly with his legs, before Lutz starts up on the leg kicks and left hooks once again. A more even round certainly, but still Lutz’s for me. 20-18.
Big left hand lands early from Aguilar and gets the crowd on their feet, before another left hand lands and sends Lutz backwards. Lutz replies with a big uppercut and hook combo that rocks Aguilar, but he keeps coming forward and lands more shots making this ugly and hurting Lutz. Aguilar goes for a one-two but Lutz ducks under it and gets the takedown, shuffling him over to the cage and stacking him. Aguilar explodes back to his feet and eats a couple of punches and a knee for his troubles, but he continues to come forward looking to be aggressive. Aguilar shoots for a takedown of his own but Lutz denies him and they go back to trading. Lutz keeping distance with leg kicks and clinching whenever Aguilar gets close as we enter the final 30 seconds. Big left hand from Aguilar snaps Lutz’s neck back but he keeps calm, keeps moving and should take the win. 29-28 Lutz.
Priscilla Cachoeira def Gina Mazany via Knockout, Round 2 (4:51)
Cachoeira comes out of the blocks very aggressive, right hand loaded looking for a power strike but Mazany nice and busy early with her jab and a small flurry. Mazany clinches up and is able to trip Cachoeira down to the top position and while Cachoeira gets up quickly, she’s immediately brought back down to the mat. Mazany starts landing some nice ground and pound as she controls the position, before Cachoeira eventually gets back up and starts landing some nice right hands. Mazany ducks under and gets another takedown to control the rest of the round from top position with ground and pound. 10-9 Mazany, easily.
Immediate takedown at the start of the round for Mazany has them in exactly the same position that they ended the first round in, with top control and suffocating pressure. Cachoeira looks to get back to her feet but Mazany transitions and takes the back, before Cachoeira rolls back onto her back to go into full guard again. More control from Mazany on top as she lands a couple of big elbows. The referee pauses the fight after she fails to advance position and stands them up and now Cachoeira is walking Mazany down and has thrown some big punches. Huge right hands landing from Cachoeira and Mazany is exhausted and hurt! Mazany looking for the takedowns but can’t get it and Cachoeira is beating her up and the referee steps in! Huge win for Cachoeira!
Andrea Lee def Antonina Shevchenko via Submission (Triangle Armbar), Round 2 (4:52)
Busy start to the fight from Lee early on, looking to land some kicks and a jab early on while Shevchenko is getting her reads and looking to counter. Lee clinches up against the cage and looks for some knees but she gets overpowered by Shevchenko who lands some of her own before the separate. Shevchenko engages in a clinch this time and lands several knees to the body before Lee is able to get away from it. Shevchenko goes for a spinning back first but Lee lands a big head kick and wobbles her, then goes for a takedown and eventually is able to trip her. Lee looks for a big hammer fist that just misses but she’s controlling the top position and sees the round out on top. Close round that Lee probably takes because of the takedown. 10-9.
Lee opens up the round with a huge spinning back elbow that lands flush and rocks Shevchenko! She goes for a finish and Shevchenko grabs her but Lee hip tosses her and ends up in a very dominant position. Big elbows to the head of Shevchenko and she transitions into a mounted triangle and rolls through. She starts throwing elbows off her back with the triangle on and she’s looking for an armbar too but Shevchenko is just about surviving. Huge elbows from Lee with the triangle still synched in and she finally is able to extend the arm of Shevchenko and gets the tap right at the end of the round! Huge win!
Jordan Wright def Jamie Pickett via Knockout, Round 1 (1:04)
Pickett opens the round with a big body kick and charges in for a takedown. Wright stays standing and starts throwing some big elbows to the side of the head and Pickett is hurt! Wright lands some big knees and sends Pickett stumbling as he swings a big right hand. Wright holds on to Pickett in a clinch and throws a big knee up the middle that drops him! He starts landing some huge ground and pound and the referee steps in to end if mercifully! Huge win for Wright! What a performance.
Lando Vannata def Mike Grundy via Split Decision (29-28, 27-30, 30-27)
A very tactical start from both guys as Vannata bounces around on the outside throwing feints and leg kicks while Grundy is switching stances and staying out of range. Grundy charges in for a takedown but Vannata holds up and both men throw a knee and land in the groin to cause a pause. They resume action and Vannata lands a couple of nice strikes before Grundy gets a single leg takedown. Lots of scrambling as Grundy looks to keep the grip but eventually Vannata is able to escape. Vannata lands a nice knee and then a right hand behind it, before Grundy goes for another takedown but he gets back up to his feet very quickly. Vannata doing well to defend all these takedown attempts and get back up and separated quickly, but not enough action from him so that’s likely a Grundy round. 10-9.
Vannata looks very fluid and relaxed in the second round here as he fakes a knee up the middle, but Grundy fires forward with a takedown attempt once again. Vannata stays standing once again before both men exchange nice, tight right hooks. Vannata pushing forward with pressure and lands a nice kick, before Grundy explodes forward with a big right hand that lands clean. Vannata lands a nice combo that ends with a leg kick before Grundy shoots for yet another takedown. Head kick from Vannata lands and then as he starts faking uppercuts Grundy replies with a big overhand right. Vannata having more success in this round as it ends, 19-19 heading into the third.
Grundy opens up the round with two immediate takedown attempts but Vannata denies them both and fires back with a hard calf kick. Grundy shoots in again but Vannata throws a hard knee that lands flush on the chin but Grundy powers through it and gets Vannata down finally. He starts working to the back but Vannata gets back up, avoiding a submission attempt from Grundy, before picking up and slamming Grundy down to the mat. Grundy explodes back up to his feet and Vannata starts pressuring forward once again as both fighters exchange head kicks. Final minute and both guys still look sharp as Vannata denies yet another takedown attempt to end the round. Great fight, I’ve got it 29-28 Vannata.
Andre Muniz def Jacare Souza via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:59)
Good start to the fight for Jacare as he comes forward landing some nice kicks to the body with a few flurries of strikes before shooting in for a takedown against the cage. Jacare lifts and sweeps the legs to complete the takedown, immediately stepping over and throwing some good ground and pound strikes. Muniz is able to kick his way up and then shoots in for a takedown of his own and lands it. Jacare is able to work his way back up to the feet but Muniz gets him down again and Jacare jumps up again quickly. Muniz jumps on the back and tries to roll over the top, but holds on to Jacare’s arm and sinks in a deep armbar. Jacare’s arm visibly snaps and the referee waves the fight off! Insanity! What a submission win!
Edson Barboza def Shane Burgos via Knockout, Round 3 (1:16)
Big start to the fight from Barboza as he steps forward and lands four huge calf kicks to Burgos that immediately causes problems. Burgos starts firing out his jabs but Barboza is looking to counter them with a heavy leg kick every time. Jab starts to land for Burgos and opens up a cut over the eye of Barboza, who then throws a spinning back kick to the body. Burgos starting to land more and then rips the body big and follows up with a nice left hook too. Barboza throws the uppercut and Burgos replies with a right hand. Barboza spins with a wheel kick and rocks Burgos, then follows up with two or three big right hands! Burgos keeps coming forward though and gets wobbled off a jab. Barboza continues to land the right hook and leg kicks as the round ends. 10-9 Barboza.
Burgos comes forward to apply pressure early in this round but Barboza continues to throw the leg kicks. Burgos goes body, body head while standing and lands nicely. Barboza throws another heavy leg kick and follows it up with a huge left hook, but Burgos keeps coming. Burgos throwing a nice front kick to the body, then follows up with a left hook to the body too. Burgos lands two leg kicks of his own now, before a spinning back kick to the body from Barboza. Burgos throws another calf kick but Barboza responds with a big left hook combo to the body and then the head. Three big body shots from Burgos and then Barboza goes for the wheel kick that just misses as the round ends. What a fight this is. 20-18 Barboza for me, but could be 19-19.
Final round and Burgos is pouring on the pressure now, but Barboza standing with him and throwing those leg kicks once again. Burgos comes forward with the body shots again, and Barboza lands a great body shot before a left hook and overhand right land flush. Both men reset but suddenly Burgos starts to stagger backwards and just falls against the cage! Barboza goes for the finish and the referee ends it quickly! What a fight.
Fast start to the fight for Araujo as she steps forward looking to land hard shots and closing the distance to prevent Chookagian’s kicking game from getting going. A nice left hook from Araujo leaves a mark on the cheek of Chookagian, but she fires back with a nice front kick to the body. Araujo throwing a lot of power into all of her shots and missing wildly so far and Chookagian is starting to get her kicks and jab working. Araujo starting to slow down a bit already and Chookagian lands two nice kicks to the body before Araujo shoots in for a takedown. They clinch up against the cage as Chookagian stuffs it and both ladies trade knees to the body as the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Good start to the round from Chookagian as she seems to have figured out her range now, slipping a couple of Araujo strikes before landing a push kick to the chest that sits Araujo down. Chookagian moving well and throws a body kick but Araujo catches it and puts her on the ground. Araujo gets on top and looks to move into full mount. She looks to synch up a guillotine but Chookagian survives it and eventually is able to get back up to her feet. Chookagian now starts throwing big strikes to an exhausted Araujo as the round starts coming to an end. 19-19. Big final round incoming.
Araujo comes out aggressive in the third, looking for nice hooks but Chookagian showing her range once again and landing nice jabs and body kicks. Araujo still coming forward and looking to cause damage with her hands, but Chookagian’s footwork has been great throughout this fight and she is sticking and moving well. Side kick to the body of Araujo, then she counters Araujo’s right overhand with a left high kick. Araujo goes for a takedown but Chookagian does brilliantly to defend it then lands a huge knee up the middle as they separate. Big right hand lands from Araujo in the final 10 seconds but Chookagian fires back with a flurry of punches and kicks to end the round strong. 29-28 Chookagian for me, but it’s all on how the first round was scored.
Rogerio Bontorin def Matt Schnell via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Pretty slow start to this one as both guys look to go make their reads early on. Schnell takes the centre of the cage and cuts off the centre as Bontorin circles on the outside, with the odd jab and low kick each. Schnell finally strings together a flurry of strikes but Bontorin does well to avoid damage, before landing a big right cross. Left hook and then a jab follows it, before a calf kick puts Schnell down on one knee. Bontorin lands a left hand but Schnell replies with a beautiful right hand then a pull left-hook counter that wobbles Bontorin. Bontorin lands a hard calf kick and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Bontorin.
Right high kick from Schnell opens up the round and lands flush on the nose, before following it up with a nice right hand too. Schnell lands a nice jab, low kick combo but Bontorin replies with another strong leg kick of his own. Bontorin is landing his left hook cleanly at will, but Schnell is still coming and landing some good strikes of his own. Schnell throws a nice four-punch combination before Bontorin replies with a low kick and left hook. Bontorin lunges forward and lands a big left hand that wobbles Schnell and he lands two or three more before missing with a big knee as they separate. Another short flurry from Schnell as the round ends, very close round but it’s probably Bontorin’s again for the more eye-catching strikes.
Both men look fearful of making a mistake to lose this fight as we start the third round. Schnell looking to get his combinations off but Bontorin landing the bigger strikes once again. Bontorin moves forward with a big left, right, left combination that rocks Schnell! He changes levels as Schnell is hurt and gets a takedown and starts landing some big elbows on the ground. Schnell tries his best to get out but Bontorin controls the position and sees the round out on top. 30-27 for me.
Beneil Dariush def Tony Ferguson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very aggressive start to the fight from Dariush as he takes the centre and throws a big left hand early. Ferguson not really throwing anything yet and Dariush closes the distance quickly and shoots in for a takedown against the cage. He locks the hands and dumps him down on the mat and Ferguson immediately starts throwing elbows from the bottom. Dariush starts swinging some heavy ground and pound but nothing really landing. Dariush controlling the position from the top and while there’s not much damage being handed out, he’ll take that round. 10-9 Dariush.
Second round starts in a similar way and Dariush rushes him for a takedown and immediately gets it against the cage. Ferguson looks to synch up a d’arce choke but Dariush stays so calm and eventually pops his head out with no danger. Dariush starts raining down ground and pound again and Ferguson eventually tries to sweep him, but they end up entangled on the ground. Dariush synches in a heel hook super deep and Ferguson is grimacing with pain but he refuses to tap out! Dariush lets it go then moves to control top position for the rest of the round again. 20-18 Dariush.
Third round and Fergusons leg is in bits after the heel hook. Dariush lands a nasty body kick and then shoots in for a takedown once again and gets Ferguson down with a slam. Dariush goes into side control and is just completely controlling the positions. Ferguson is looking for some type of offence from his back but Dariush dominating him from top position into the final 30 seconds. Dariush rains down some ground and pound to end the fight but that is as one-sided a fight as you’ll see. Huge win. 30-27 Dariush.
Charles Oliveira def Michael Chandler via Knockout, Round 2 (0:19)
Fast start to the fight as Oliveira comes out and drops Chandler with a calf kick early. Chandler comes forward and throws a flurry of strikes, with a left hook busting open the eye of Oliveira. Oliveira shoots in for a takedown and Chandler sinks in a deep guillotine! Oliveira manages to escape and then Chandler gives up his back trying to get back up. Oliveira sinks in both hooks and starts working for the rear-naked choke but Chandler works back to his feet with Oliveira on his back and just drops backwards. He explodes out of the body triangle and gets back to his feet, then rocks Oliveira with a huge punch. He starts teeing off on Oliveira and cuts him up but Oliveira survives the round. Crazy! 10-9 Chandler.
Chandler comes out hard in the second round and Oliveira slips a big shot then lands a picture perfect left hook that drops Chandler! Oliveira charges over and starts blitzing Chandler who is in trouble! Oliveira lands another left hook that crumbles Chandler and it’s all over!!! AND NEWWWW!
In the co-main event both Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush will bring the chaos as both men enter a crossroads phase of their career, trying to get to the top but having to cross a top guy on their path.
Last week at UFC Vegas 26 we went 6/9 on an interesting card with one perfect pick to move to 308/482 (63.9%) with 134 perfect picks (43.51%).
Both of these guys are expert strikers, with Burgos coming with a fairly heavy boxing approach while Barboza is as good a kickboxer as there is in the UFC. Both guys use great pressure to overwhelm their opponents and are happy to hold their ground in the centre of the cage rather than back up. Both guys have genuine KO power, but one thing about Burgos is that he is hittable.
He’s as durable as they come though and while he has the ability to get the knockout, Barboza’s ability to use kicks to keep range and some decent grappling in his arsenal too I think he takes a super close fight. PICK – Edson Barboza via Decision
Katlyn Chookagian (15-4) vs Viviane Araujo (10-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Chookagian is a great kicker from distance, but showed in her last fight that she’s capable of mixing in some wrestling to her game too. Araujo on the other hand walks her opponents down and uses good striking and clinches to wear her opponent down for two rounds before slowly fading in the third.
This is a really close fight on paper and in the octagon, but I think Chookagian is able to mix it up that little bit more and has no issues with her gas tank so she should be able to outlast Araujo and get the win. PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Matt Schnell (15-5) vs Rogerio Bontorin (16-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Schnell is a brilliant grappler, but he’s shown in recent fights that he has got great power on his feet too and solid technique. Bontorin is a very similar fighter, with good skills on the ground backing up his powerful striking technique. On the feet Schnell has a slight power advantage and in the grappling both have the ability to control from the top but not get submitted from the bottom.
Schnell has a great cardio advantage though and in a scrap I expect to be quite scramble-heavy, I think he can keep the pressure up late to get a stoppage. PICK – Matt Schnell via Knockout, Round 3
Tony Ferguson (26-5) vs Beneil Dariush (20-4-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Ferguson is elite at absolutely everything. He brings total chaos to fights with unrivalled forward pressure, heavy hands with his unorthodox striking and great jiu-jitsu skills from top position or off his back. Dariush is similar, with stunning jiu-jitsu skills now being paired with heavy hands and improved striking of his own. This fight will undoubtedly be wild for as long as it lasts, but Ferguson is still by far the best fighter Dariush has ever fought. The question is which Ferguson turns up; the savage or the new version who can’t take the punishment anymore?
My bets are on the old Ferguson, simply because Dariush isn’t even close to being as good and dangerous as Gaethje and Oliveira are. Dariush will however take encouragement from the fact that Oliveira was able to dominate Ferguson on the mat. Despite that though, I think Ferguson comes through the other side and gets a highlight reel KO win to get back on track. PICK – Tony Ferguson via Knockout, Round 1
Charles Oliveira (30-8 1NC) vs Michael Chandler (22-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Oliveira is a third-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, with heavy hands and great volume on the feet too. Chandler on the other hand is a world class wrestler with great power in both his hands to set up those grinding takedowns. Oliveira is a scary proposition for anyone right now, with the most submission wins in UFC history but enough power and range to really cause Chandler problems. Chandler will undoubtedly be looking to put Oliveira on his back foot in a similar way that he did against Hooker but he will need the fight to stay on the feet to have his best chance of winning.
It’s going to be a crazy fight regardless of how it goes, but Oliveira just has so many paths to victory. The one thing we haven’t see from him is if his cardio can hold up for 25 minutes since he’s never gone past a third round before. Despite that, I think he gets it done with a knockdown followed by a submission to become the new champion. PICK – Charles Oliveira via Submission, Round 2
Sasha Palatnikov def Louis Cosce via Knockout, Round 3 (2:47)
What a round! Cosce comes out super aggressive but Palatnikov does well to use his kicks and attempt to slow him down. Palatnikov shoots for a takedown and Cosce defends well with a guillotine attack. Both men get to their feet and start swinging haymakers and Cosce catches a body kick attempt and starts throwing big punches. Palatnikov attempts a forward roll to escape but Cosce holds on and starts throwing haymakers again and he’s hurt him! Big punches go close to ending the fight but Palatnikov recovers and starts hurting Cosce back! Wild exchanges have both men hurt but Cosce is now exhausted! Spinning back first by Palatnikov lands flush as the round ends. 10-9 Palatnikov for me but could be either way.
Second round is much more composed by both fighters as Cosce is still trying to recover from an energy sapping opening round. Palatnikov throwing lots of combinations and landing big strikes, trying to put Cosce out but he’s showing real heart and determination to stick it out. A low blow from Cosce puts a pause in the action and allows Cosce a chance to recover but Palatnikov’s striking is giving him a big edge here. 20-18 Palatnikov.
Final round and Palatnikov comes out more calm and considered this time around, trying to stay away from the inevitable onslaught. Nice body kicks and a snapping jab while he continues to dominate the clinch with knees to the body. Another low blow from Cosce causes a pause in the action once again. Palatnikov comes out after the restart with a quick pace against the tired Cosce with more body attacks. A lazy takedown attempt from Cosce is defended well and then Palatnikov gets up to his feet and starts landing bombs on a downed Cosce! Cosce moving his head but not defending well and the referee steps in and ends it! What a win for Palatnikov!
Very tactical start to the fight between both guys with Daukaus looking to use his big frame to use his range well. A big left hand lands by Daukaus and the two end up clinching against the cage trying to apply their grappling game. Daukaus eventually gets a takedown after lots of 50/50 positions and a scramble sees them in an interesting position with their legs tangled on the ground at the end of the round. 10-9 Daukaus but interesting nonetheless.
Second round is much more of the same, with Daukaus dominating the striking exchanges but Stoltzfus holding his own in the grappling realm of the fight. An accidental low blow from Daukaus causes a brief pause in the fight. Daukaus using his jab and a big left hand well as the action resumes but they tie each other up against the cage and battle it out there for the remainder of the round. 20-18 Daukaus.
Final round and the pattern continues at the start of it as Daukaus goes for the big left hand before a clinch ensues against the cage. Daukaus stuffs the takedown attempt from Stoltzfus and lands some big shots while he’s down! He throws a few bombs and then stands up to force Stoltzfus back to his feet. More big shots with the left hand and he continues to deny the takedown attempts to completely dominate the round. He threatens with a guillotine and ends up trying to lock up a d’arce choke with 30 seconds to go but Stoltzfus survives until the bell. Impressive performance.
Alan Jouban def Jared Gooden via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very fun opening round between these two as Gooden looks to take Jouban’s head off with big hooks and Jouban responds with heavy left body kicks and some nice right check-hooks of his own. Jouban showing great head movement and footwork, mostly avoiding the big shots of Gooden. Gooden lands a big right hand and follows with an accidental headbutt that the referee misses and has caused Jouban’s eye to swell up. 10-9 Jouban.
Jouban comes out in the second round continuing to be aggressive and goes for the body kicks early but Gooden is throwing less haymakers and more pop shots. A nice right hand lands and wobbles Jouban but he stays calm and composed. Jouban starts to make a comeback with some big punches of his own and wobbles Gooden with a big right hook! Jouban goes for the kill but Gooden survives well as we head into the final round. 20-18 Jouban.
Final round and Gooden knows he is down on the scorecards, so he comes out very aggressively. He takes the centre of the cage and starts head hunting, landing left hooks on the closed eye of Jouban. Jouban still throwing big body kicks and doing well to avoid too much damage but Gooden continues to come forward. A big exchange of punches leads to Gooden shooting for a takedown and Jouban sinks in a guillotine as he hits the mat. 30 seconds to go and he hold the position but isn’t squeezing yet and then with 15 seconds to go, ramps up the pressure. A big squeeze almost puts Gooden out cold but the buzzer goes to save him a stoppage and it’ll go to the cards.
Nicolas Dalby def Daniel Rodriguez via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
A very intriguing opening round between these two fighters as Dalby takes a traditional wide-base stance and bounces around a lot early on. Rodriguez is looking to move in and land big punches but Dalby is switching stances and using his front leg well to keep distance. Dalby throws a big one-two that lands flush on Rodriguez and wobbles him but ‘D-Rod’ recovers very quickly. Head kick by Dalby lands too and he is doing really well to stay out of range. Rodriguez lands a nice left hand and starts chasing for the punches and ends the round well. 10-9 Dalby.
Much more aggressive start to the round for Rodriguez as he comes out, takes the centre and forces Dalby against the cage. Some nice jabs and straight lefts before a takedown attempt is defended well by Dalby. Dalby then shoots for a takedown of his own but Rodriguez defends well this time. Dalby misses with a few head kick attempts but starts landing some nice inside leg kicks. Another takedown attempt from Dalby forces Rodriguez against the cage but he defends well and the buzzer ends the round. 19-19 but very close round.
Slower final round as both guys come out clearly quite tired. Rodriguez is throwing single punches and leg kicks while Dalby is continuing with the game plan to dart in and out using kicks and jabs. There’s not much action other than that, but it’s Dalby who has the upper hand and probably wins the round. 29-28 overall to Dalby for me but it could go either way.
Antonina Shevchenko def Ariane Lipski via Knockout, Round 2 (4:33)
Both ladies come out and swing big punches early before clinching up. Lipski looks to block a throw attempt from Shevchenko and they end up against the cage once again. Both women throwing knees and elbows before Shevchenko lands a nice takedown against the fence. Lipski tries to sweep to take the back but Shevchenko does well to control the position and land some nice shots before the round ends. 10-9 Shevchenko.
Second round and Lipski looks to stand and strike and lands a big right hook to the eye that troubles Shevchenko immediately. Shevchenko forces a clinch and a trip and immediately ends up in top position where she remains for the remainder of the round. She lands ground and pound and passes guard with complete ease constantly. Lipski in real trouble as Shevchenko moves into full mount and starts absolutely smashing ground and pound strikes until the referee stops. What a performance.
Joaquin Buckley def Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 2 (0:18)
Buckley rushes across the octagon early and engages in a clinch as Wright does well to hold his own. Some big looping strikes land from Buckley but Wright is doing well to move his head off the centre line for the most part. Some nice kicks land and he’s popping his jab well. Buckley explodes with a big hook and lands! He drops Wright and Wright is in big trouble! Some big ground and pound shots but the bell saves him! Very, very lucky to see a second round. 10-9 Buckley.
Second round starts and Wright still looks rocked. Buckley lands two big left hands down the middle and then a big hook that knocks Wright out cold! What a performance and another highlight reel knockout.
Brandon Moreno def Brandon Royval via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)
What a round! Both guys come flying out of the traps with fast exchanges and strong strikes. Royval goes for a spinning elbow attack but Moreno avoids it and takes the back of Royval. He gets the fight down to the ground and looks to sink in a rear-naked choke but it turns into a nasty neck crank. It’s in tight but Royval refuses to tap and breaks the grip before escaping into full guard. A big scramble on the ground leads to a yell of pain from Royval and Moreno gets heavy on top and starts blasting him with ground and pound which forces the referee to stop the fight with a second to go in the round.
After the fight it’s spotted that Royval’s shoulder dislocated during the scramble, hence the lack of defence from the ground and pound.
Paul Craig def Mauricio Rua via Knockout, Round 2 (3:36)
Fast pace start to the fight as Shogun comes out with big shots and Craig looks to manage distance with a Muay-Thai stance and throws some nice kicks. Craig shoots for a takedown and gets it fairly easily to get the fight to the ground and proceeds to control with his excellent grappling. Shogun eventually reverses the position and ends up on top and the round ends with Craig looking to reverse. 10-9 Craig.
Second round and Craig is coming with a very wrestle-heavy approach. Shogun landing a few shots but Craig ducks and takes the fight down to the ground once again. Craig gets in double hooks as he takes the back and looks for submissions. Shogun defends the submission well but gets flattened out and Craig starts smashing him with big punches that forces the legend to tap to strikes. Great performance.
Katlyn Chookagian def Cynthia Calvillo via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
A very tactical start to this round as Chookagian looks to stay at range and use her jab and kicking game. Calvillo catches a kick and gets a takedown early but Chookagian gets right up to her feet. The rest of the round is a jab and kick test and while there isn’t much action everything happens in Chookagian’s comfort zone. 10-9 Chookagian.
Second round is more of the same as Chookagian is using her length well to just pop jabs off at Calvillo’s face. Calvillo lands a nice left hook twice that lands clean but she has a cut on her nose and some swelling under her eye from the jab. Excellent footwork from Chookagian who is just moving in and out of range at will and picking her shots. 20-18 Chookagian.
Final round and it’s more of the same from both fighters for the final five minutes. Chookagian continuing to just pick her off at will with superior striking and kickboxing skills. Calvillo goes for a clinch but Chookagian pushes her away with ease, showing a clear physical advantage. Not much action throughout the bout but should be a comfortable decision win for Chookagian.
Tim Means def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
A very intriguing opening round as Mike Perry shows off his grappling skills early on. Means lands a few nice jabs and Perry opts to shoot for the takedown against the cage. A nice body lock gets the fight down and Perry passes his guard and then eventually takes his back. Perry nice and calm on Means’ back and looks to sink in a rear-naked choke but Means fights it well and ends up on top before getting back to the feet. Means spends the rest of the round landing his jab at will but it’s a Perry round. 10-9.
Second round is more tactical from Means, who is using his jab well and much more aware of the takedown threat now. He’s starting to work the body more too but Perry is landing his right hook well too. Perry lands a huge right hand that wobbles Means but he looks to go for the takedown instead of more strikes and allows Means to recover. Big lead elbow by Means cracks Perry in the nose and they exchange more punches and elbows as the round comes to an end. 19-19, great fight.
Final round and Perry comes out looking to use his physical advantage to get another takedown. Means defends well against the cage and breaks away to land some nice punches. Calm approach from both suddenly disappears as the two start exchanging haymakers in the centre of the cage, both landing big hooks and crosses flush to the chin. Means shoots for a takedown to move the fight against the cage and break it up a bit. Final minute and Perry lands a big right hand before Means responds with an elbow. Both men end the round with another crazy exchange in the pocket. What a great fight!
Valentina Shevchenko def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
Interesting start to the round as both women exchange short flurries of strikes before Shevchenko gets hold of Maia and throws her to the mat, ending up in full guard. Maia ties up the guard as Shevchenko stays patient and lands some short shots and some elbows in ground and pound. Pretty chill round, 10-9 Shevchenko.
A very, very interesting second round as Maia controls the round. Another clinch but this time it’s Maia who controls the position against the cage and eventually she gets the takedown. She controls the position entirely for the round and gets in some offence too to take the second round for herself. 19-19.
Third round and Shevchenko opens up with two big left hands that land flush on Maia’s chin. Maia fires back with a right hand of her own and clinches against the cage. Shevchenko breaks away and then lands two more big shots that wobble Maia! They clinch up again and Shevchenko lands a heavy takedown and ends up in side control. Maia gets back up to her feet before one more takedown by Shevchenko as the round ends with ‘Bullet’ in top position. 29-28 Shevchenko.
Into the championship rounds and Shevchenko lands some big left hands once again. She throws a right hook, wraps in a body lock and takes the fight down to the ground again. She spends the entire round in top position landing strikes from the top, mainly to the body to take this round too. 39-37 Shevchenko.
Final round and Maia charges across the cage looking for a clinch early on to try and get a takedown. Shevchenko defends excellently and then lands a flurry of strikes that bust up the nose of the challenger. Maia tries again for a clinch but Shevchenko is defending perfectly now and landing big, heavy shots on the break. Into the final minute now and Maia lands a front kick to the face but Shevchenko eats it. Spinning back fist misses as the Maia goes for a final takedown attempt but the buzzer goes. 49-46 Shevchenko for me, pretty straight forward win.
Deiveson Figueiredo def Alex Perez via Submission, Round 1 (1:57)
A fast start to the fight as both men meet in the middle and throw big body kicks but miss. Perez moves in quickly and throws some nice shots but they all miss, then Figueiredo lands a body kick. Two big kicks from Perez and then he shoots for a single leg takedown, but Figueiredo keeps it standing. Perez tries to get the back but Figueiredo spirals around the leg and looks for a knee bar which leads to a scramble. Figueiredo turns on the ground mid-scramble and sinks in a deep guillotine and secures the tap! Wow! Figueiredo is the real deal.
Mauricio Rua (27-11-1) vs Paul Craig (13-4-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
The rematch nobody wanted or needed to see, but it’s happening. These two met back in November 2019 and fought to a draw. Since then Craig has submitted Gadzhimurad Antigulov on Fight Island in July, while ‘Shogun’ got a win over Antonio Nogueira on the same card. Craig will almost certainly look to get this fight to the ground, with 12 submissions wins from 13 career victories. ‘Shogun’ Rua is a black belt in jiu-jitsu but he isn’t active off his back and prefers to just crack jaws if he can help it. It’s a tough one to call considering how the first fight went but I think Craig can get it done this time. He dominated the first round in that fight and if he can do it again this time, I think he gets the finish. PICK – Paul Craig via Submission, Round 1
Katlyn Chookagian (14-4) vs Cynthia Calvillo (9-1-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A good fight between two top contenders in the women’s flyweight division. Chookagian fought for the title and was beaten to a pulp before bouncing back with a win over her sister, Antonina Shevchenko. Last month though, she was beaten thanks to a nasty body shot by Jessica Andrade as she looked to climb back up the rankings. Calvillo made her debut in the division back in June with a big win over then ranked #1 Jessica Eye. Chookagian is a kickboxer by trade, who can clinch if she needs to as she showed against Andrade. She’s going to need her grappling skills in this one as Calvillo will look to get the fight to the ground and dominate with her excellent top game and chokes. Chookagian will look to use her kicks to stop Calvillo getting into range but she is capable of boxing her way into that range to get the clinch and takedown. It will be close with not many highlights but I think Calvillo takes the decision. PICK – Cynthia Calvillo via Decision
Mike Perry (14-6) vs Tim Means (30-12-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
This was supposed to be a wild battle between Mike Perry and Robbie Lawler, but when ‘Ruthless’ dropped out it fell to the veteran Tim Means to step up to the plate. Perry won his last bout with a dominant decision over Mickey Gall in June while Means got a decision win over Laureano Staropoli in August. Perry is essentially a street fighter, with looping hooks and big kicks his main forté. Means is primarily a Muay-Thai fighter who throws nice combinations, including elbows and knees. His issue is that he is very open to having his lights turned out with one punch, and Perry has the power to do that. He’s also got a fantastic chin, but has a four inch reach disadvantage. I think it goes the distance and it could honestly go either way, but I’m going with my gut with Means. PICK – Tim Means via Decision
Valentina Shevchenko (19-3) vs Jennifer Maia (18-6-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
This is the lock of the night. Shevchenko is the greatest female flyweight fighter of all time and has a complete skillset when it comes to mixed martial arts. Her expert kickboxing technique keeps her at range from her opponents, while her wrestling skills mean she can mix it up whenever she needs too. Maia is a jiu-jitsu fiend, who got a big win in her last outing against Joanne Calderwood back in August to get this bout with a first round submission win. For her to get a win here, she needs a takedown into a dominant position then enough time to sink something in. The chances of that are incredibly slim though and I think Shevchenko beats her up on the feet for a couple of rounds before landing one of her trademark head kicks to end it early. PICK – Valentina Shevchenko via Knockout, Round 3
Deiveson Figueiredo (19-1) vs Alex Perez (24-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The most powerful striker in the division’s history, Figueiredo will be throwing bombs early in this one. Alex Perez is a very impressive grappler with fantastic cardio and submission skills, winning his last three in row including his last bout against Jussier Formiga in June. His only loss in the UFC came against Joseph Benavidez, when he was KO’d back in November 2018. His style is eerily similar to that of Benavidez, which doesn’t bode well against Figueiredo. Figueiredo destroyed Benavidez in both of his last bouts. ‘God of War’ is a vicious striker who is also very good on the ground himself. The power is scary enough but Perez’s way out is blocked by the fact he’s matched on the ground too. Perez’s best chance of a win is if Figueiredo makes a mistake which I don’t see happening. Figueiredo lands a huge hook or two and ends this one early and violently. PICK – Deiveson Figueiredo via Knockout, Round 1