Eryk Anders (14-7) vs Kyle Daukaus (11-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Middleweight scrap opens up the main card and it’s a good’n. Anders has lost his last two in a row, getting submitted by Andre Muniz at UFC 269 before dropping a split decision to Jun Yong Park back in May. Daukaus on the other hand earned a first-round submission win over Jamie Pickett in his first fight of the year, but was KO’d by Roman Dolidze in June last time out.
Anders is a stout wrestler with great upper body strength and heavy hands, but he’s never quite been able to string it all together for a run at the top end of the division. Daukaus is in a pretty similar boat, although much earlier on in his UFC career, but he has a much better ground game when it comes to submissions as his nine submission wins and nickname “The D’Arce Knight” show you.
Usually this type of fight favours Anders, because he can avoid being on the bottom with his wrestling and uses his heavy hands to flatline people. But he hasn’t got a KO win in over three years and Daukaus has the wrestling ability to stuff his advances too. He’s far more active on the feet too so the volume should be a factor, and if he does manage to get this fight down he’ll have the edge, so I lean towards Daukaus in this one. PICK – Kyle Daukaus via Decision
Jack Hermansson (23-7) vs Roman Dolidze (11-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Another fun middleweight bout next, but this one came together on short notice. Hermansson is on a 3-3 run in his last six, alternating wins and losses in that time. He suffered a split decision loss to Sean Strickland in February, but claimed a decision win over Chris Curtis at UFC London last time out. Dolidze is replacing Derek Brunson on one weeks’ notice, on a three-fight win streak, beating Laureano Staropoli via decision before KO wins over Kyle Daukaus and Phil Hawes most recently in October.
Hermansson is a terrific grappler, with some of the best submissions and ground and pound in the entire division, but his stand up game has seen him struggle on occasion and a title shot continues to evade him at this point in his career. Dolidze is a stud grappler himself, but since dropping to middleweight he has looked far more powerful and has been a huge threat in the stand up too. Hermansson is a good boxer and his cardio has never, ever been tested, while Dolidze is a bit more wild and has had issues with his gas tank in the past.
Dolidze has the ability to go in there and land one of those power shots to close the show, but against someone as good as Hermansson it seems unlikely. The Swede is capable of winning this fight wherever it goes and having had a full camp, plus his advantage in the boxing with his jab, he should edge a competitive fight. PICK – Jack Hermansson via Decision
Tai Tuivasa (15-4) vs Sergei Pavlovich (16-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big time heavyweight bangers up next. Tai Tuivasa had won five-in-a-row by knockout against Stefan Struve (UFC 254), Harry Hunsucker (UFC Vegas 22), Greg Hardy (UFC 264), Augusto Sakai (UFC 269) and Derrick Lewis (UFC 271) before losing to Ciryl Gane at UFC Paris back in September in a thrilling fight. Pavlovich has won his last four in a row, KO’ing all of Marcelo Golm, Maurice Greene, Shamil Abudrakhimov and Derrick Lewis.
Tuivasa is a straight up brawler with some decent leg kicks and other-worldly power in both hands, as well as hugely improved cardio that he showed in his last fight. Pavlovich is also a dangerous puncher with great combinations and nasty power, and at 6ft 3 he has a slight size edge here.
With that said, there isn’t much that separates these two. I went against both when they fought Lewis because I expected them to get flattened, and the opposite happened. Lewis is the best guy Pavlovich has fought, while we saw a lot of Tuivasa against Gane and he really impressed. It’s the level of competition that leads me this way, but I think Tuivasa gets it done in a war. PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 2
Matheus Nicolau (18-3-1) vs Matt Schnell (16-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Huge flyweight bout up next. Nicolau comes into this fight on a five-fight win streak, including 3-0 in the UFC with decision wins over Manel Kape (UFC Vegas 21), Tim Elliott and David Dvorak most recently. Schnell is 1-1 in his last two, losing to Brandon Royval via submission at UFC 274, before bouncing back with a submission win of his own against Sumudaerji in one of the comebacks of the year.
Nicolau is a super well-rounded threat and is destined to be in the title mix at some point in his career. His kickboxing is excellent, he has a solid wrestling game and five submission wins tell you all about his ground threat. Schnell is very similar, but far more aggressive which leaves him open to counters more but also more of a danger when it comes to securing a finish. Nicolau is unlikely to change his game for this fight, because overall he is the more polished MMA man.
With that said he will have to be careful. Schnell seems to be the more powerful guy on the feet and his submission threat is certainly more dangerous. If he tightens up defensively he could be a big problem, but based on what we’ve seen from them both it would be more of a surprise if Nicolau didn’t do enough everywhere to earn the nod from the judges. PICK – Matheus Nicolau via Decision
Bryan Barbarena (18-8) vs Rafael Dos Anjos (31-14) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An interesting welterweight bout up next between two unranked guys. Barbarena has won his last three, claiming decisions over Darian Weeks and Matt Brown, before earning a KO win over Robbie Lawler at UFC 276 most recently. Dos Anjos is returning after a stint back at lightweight, where he beat Paul Felder (UFC Vegas 14) and Renato Moicano but most recently got stopped by Rafael Fiziev.
Barbaerna is a power puncher with great boxing and counter-punching skills, while he has a decent bit of wrestling in his back pocket too. Dos Anjos is no doubt one of the best, all-round MMA fighters there is in the UFC and it’s no surprise he was a champion at one point, but age is catching him up. His striking mixed in with excellent wrestling and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu makes him a true great in the sport.
This seems like a mismatch. Barbarena is riding a wave of momentum, but he doesn’t have any real notable wins on his record and any time he’s tried to step up to face someone better he’s been handily beaten. That’s going to happen again. Expect RDA to land clean a few times and then mix in his wrestling for a dominant 30-26 win on the cards. PICK – Rafael Dos Anjos via Decision
Stephen Thompson (16-6-1) vs Kevin Holland (23-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super intriguing welterweight bout up next between two ranked contenders. “Wonderboy” has lost each of his last two, being grappled heavily by Gilbert Burns (UFC 264) and Belal Muhammad. Holland was on a great run after moving to 170-pounds with wins over Alex Oliveira and Tim Means, before the chaos of UFC 279 saw him matched up with Khamzat Chimaev on less than 24 hours notice and run over in just over two minutes at a catchweight.
Thompson remains one of the best pure strikers in the company, with his awkward karate style and footwork allowing him to control the tempo of fight and do damage for long periods of time. Holland is a very explosive and powerful striker on the feet, but he is also an underrated grappler with great jiu-jitsu skills which could be a route to victory for him here. His preference is striking though, and it seems unlikely he will have an edge there.
If Holland wants to be successful he needs to be able to cut the cage off and land big shots, and mix in the threat of the takedown and grappling. If he can’t do that, Wonderboy will do what he’s always done and just pick him apart from the outside with little threat of anything coming back at him. Wonderboy is a super tempting underdog, but I really like Holland at 170 and think this could be his statement win. PICK – Kevin Holland via Decision
A super highly anticipated grudge match main event at UFC 272 is finally upon us as Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal will clash in the welterweight division.
‘Chaos’ and ‘Gamebred’ will finally settle their very personal differences in the octagon after their friendship went sour several years ago, but while fans are hoping for a scrap it could actually be a bit of a mistmatch.
We’ll also see a five-round co-main event that was put together on short-notice as Rafael Dos Anjos takes on Renato Moicano at a 160-pound catchweight.
The last time we made picks was at UFC Vegas 48: Walker vs Hill a couple of weeks ago and we did pretty well, going 9/12 with three perfect picks to move to 548/852 (64.32%) with 234 perfect picks (42.7%).
Check out our full record for our predictions to date here.
Serghei Spivac (13-3) vs Greg Hardy (7-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A big heavyweight fight that got delayed a few months from UFC 270 and placed at the start of this main card. Spivac saw a three-fight win streak snapped by Tom Aspinall most recently at UFC Vegas 36, while Hardy has suffered consecutive KO defeats to Marcin Tybura at UFC Vegas 17 and then Tai Tuivasa at UFC 264 most recently.
Spivac is a fighter who looks to chain together his takedowns and uses his wrestling to get the fight to the ground and use vicious ground and pound. Hardy is a powerhouse who just brawls, but has been trying to use his kicks more as fights have gone on and his career has developed. Unfortunately for him though, his ground game is non-existent and if he ends up on his back then this fight is as good as over.
His takedown defence has been pretty good so far considering his short amount of time in the sport, but Spivac is one of the better wrestlers in the division. So long as he doesn’t get blitzed with a big shot early on, the fight begins to lean into his favour the longer it goes and eventually he will secure a takedown and then it’s a matter of when not if he gets the finish. PICK – Serghei Spivac via Submission, Round 2
Kevin Holland (21-7) vs Alex Oliveira (22-11-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A really intriguing fight for the 2020 Fighter of the Year winner as he finally makes the move into a new weight class. Holland got defeated by Derek Brunson at UFC Vegas 22 and Marvin Vettori at UFC Vegas 23 in short succession, before a no-contest against Kyle Daukaus following a clash of heads means he’s three fights without a win. ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira has lost his last three in a row, with submissions against Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 254, Randy Brown at UFC 261 and then a decision against Niko Price at UFC Vegas 38.
Holland is an excellent kickboxer with some solid grappling skills too, but his wrestling defence has let him down in fights against dominant wrestlers. Oliveira is not that, although his jiu-jitsu skills are great and he has decent power in his hands. Holland will look to stay away from the body lock of Oliveira, using his range to land kicks and long, straight strikes and he absolutely has the power to put people out in this division.
Oliveira is good and is definitely a threat in some situations, but this seems like Holland’s fight to lose. He is the bigger fighter, the more powerful striker and has a huge speed advantage. I expect Oliveira to make a go of it early on, but Holland will land big later in the first round and claim an impressive finish to get his career back on track. PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 1
Edson Barboza (22-10) vs Bryce Mitchell (14-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
This is a really exciting featherweight fight between two guys with title aspirations in their sights. Barboza saw a two-fight win streak ended when Giga Chikadze blitzed him in the main event at UFC Vegas 35, while Mitchell is undefeated in his professional career officially although he did get beaten on TUF by Brad Katona. His most recent win came via unanimous decision over Andre Fili at UFC Vegas 12.
This is as big a striker vs grappler fight as you will see in the UFC at the top level for a while. Barboza is a skillful striker who uses hard leg kicks, spinning techniques and brilliant boxing skills too, while Mitchell is all about securing a takedown and then wrapping you up in submissions. His striking isn’t horrendous, but it’s certainly his glaring weakness.
If this fight stays standing, then I expect Barboza to do a lot of damage. Mitchell’s head movement isn’t very good and he relies heavily on getting those takedowns, something that Barboza blows hot and cold on defending. If it stays standing, Barboza wins. If Mitchell gets it down, he’ll keep getting takedowns and control rounds as well as anyone. It’s tough to call, but I have to go with the pressure of Mitchell to eventually secure those takedowns and claim the win. PICK – Bryce Mitchell via Decision
Rafael Dos Anjos (30-13) vs Renato Moicano (16-4-1) – (Catchweight/160lbs)
A very short-notice five-round fight between two excellent Brazilians in the co-main event. Dos Anjos was supposed to fight Rafael Fiziev before VISA issues and then COVID put an end to that. RDA hasn’t fought in over a year, with a win over Paul Felder at UFC Vegas 14 his last bout. Moicano is ona two-fight win streak after submission wins over Jai Herbert at UFC Vegas 30 and then Alexander Hernandez just a few weeks ago at UFC 271.
Dos Anjos is a former world champion, with an incredibly well-rounded skillset that can see him strike, wrestle and grapple with the very best at 155-pounds. Moicano is a slick striker with phenomenal jiu-jitsu skills, who spent a lot of his career at featherweight. Dos Anjos is usually at his best when he secures a takedown, takes control on the ground and then starts working for submissions. If he is on the ground with Moicano though, there is danger there.
In his advantage though, this is a full camp RDA who used to fight at welterweight taking on Moicano who is coming in on five-days’ notice in a 25-minute bout. On the feet RDA should have the advantage with his size despite the height and reach disadvantage, because he’ll use hard leg kicks and his weight to lean on Moicano. Eventually he’ll get him down, wear on him and secure a late finish against a game Moicano. PICK – Rafael Dos Anjos via Submission, Round 4
Colby Covington (16-3) vs Jorge Masvidal (35-15) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
The biggest fight of the night and the one everyone will be waiting for. Covington 1-2 in his last three fights, with a win over Tyron Woodley at UFC Vegas 11 sandwiched between defeats to Kamaru Usman in title fights, the most recent coming at UFC 268 in November last year. Masvidal is on a two-fight losing streak, with both defeats coming to Usman in title fights too at UFC 251 and UFC 261. Prior to that he had won three in a row, all via knockout.
Covington is the best wrestler in the division after Usman, with incredible cardio and much improved striking in his game since leaving American Top Team. Masvidal is a brawler with excellent boxing, a great switch kick and good defensive wrestling skills. The fact these two are former best friends and teammates with a personal rivalry means we’re expecting a scrap, but Covington is unlikely to engage in a straight up war with ‘Gamebred’.
Expect the younger fighter with the better wrestling to use his pressure to force Masvidal backwards, strike from range to set up his takedowns and constantly drag him down against the fence to wear on him. Masvidal will try to get back up, but Covington will bring him down again and land dominant shots on the ground to earn a wide decision victory in a fight that won’t have the fireworks many people are hoping for. PICK – Colby Covington via Decision
Interesting start to the bout as Perez comes out with a weird, bouncing stance and Eduardo lights him up with three heavy low kicks early on. Perez stops the bouncing and lands a few jabs but Eduardo responding with leg kicks again but not much volume from either guy so far. Eduardo lands a nice combination to the body and then head, but Perez responds with a heavy left hook that immediately gets the attention of Eduardo. Almost a pedestrian pace to the fight currently, with Eduardo landing another very heavy leg kick. Perez fires a right straight that grazes the chin, but Eduardo controlling the range and pace and despite the lack of action he’s ahead in the round for me. Eduardo lands a nice right hook to the chin as we enter the final 30 seconds of the round and that’s that. 10-9 Eduardo.
Eduardo opens up the round with two more very heavy leg kicks inside the first ten seconds. Perez goes for a blitz but misses and then eats a spinning heel kick to the body. Perez goes to charge with a blitz again but Eduardo does well to avoid for the most part, clinch and secure a takedown and top position. Perez ties Eduardo up well initially before bouncing back to his feet quickly. Perez lands two big right hands and steps up the aggression to land a few more strikes himself. Eduardo throws a big left hand that lands too, before Perez shoots in for a takedown and ends up on top himself. Two big strikes from the top by Perez and as Eduardo looks to get up Perez grabs for his neck but Eduardo rolls to his back. Perez scrambles for the back and ends up in side control. He has a side headlock and takes Eduardo’s arm, slides it between his legs and secures an armbar! Eduardo can’t deal with the pressure and taps!! Big win for Perez!
Stephanie Egger def Shanna Young via Knockout, Round 2 (2:22)
Egger comes out and takes the centre early on, throwing some nice straight right hands to keep the range and pose a threat. Young goes with a blitz and puts a blind kick behind it which Egger catches, and she tries for a trip but Young defends it well. Egger lands a nice one-two but it seems to wake Young up a bit and she starts applying more forward pressure. Few strikes land and then Young goes to clinch but Egger throws her down immediately and is almost in full mount. Young defends it with a leg lock attempt and after defending it well Egger is able to stack her and start landing some big ground and pound strikes from standing and side control. Egger landing big elbows from the top but Young survives the round. 10-9 Egger.
Another good start to the round for Egger as she takes the centre and throws some big right hands again. Young starts to come forward and lands a few good strikes in a blitz but Egger grabs hold of her and immediately hip tosses Young to the ground. Big elbows and ground and pound from Egger and Young is hurt. Egger stands and the referee stops the fight!? Bit of a weird stoppage there. Great performance from Egger though.
Douglas Silva de Andrade def Gaetano Pirrello via Knockout, Round 1 (2:04)
Pirrello hanging on the outside and throws a couple of hard leg kicks early on with Andrade taking the centre and just feinting a lot. Andrade steps forward and lands a big right hand and follows it up with a couple more shots before they clinch up and separate. Andrade lands a left hand and then a jab to the body, while Pirrello looks for his range. Pirrello goes for a head kick but Andrade counters with a check left hook and puts Pirrello OUT!!! A few hammer fists before the referee gets there but what a KO that is!
Jamie Mullarkey def Devonte Smith via Knockout, Round 2 (2:51)
Nice even start to the fight for both guys as they trade feints and short jabs, with Mullarkey mixing in a low kick. Smith lands a clean one-two down the pipe and follows up with a couple of attempts but Mullarkey smiles at him. Mullarkey throws another hard leg kick but Smith fires back with two nice left hooks and then a huge right hand again that rocks him! He goes for a combination and jus misses with a big knee up the middle too. Nice jab from Smith and a big one-two behind it again before a big knee lands from Smith and rocks Mullarkey! Smith lands a head kick partially but Mullarkey is still in front of him and throwing those low kicks, then just misses with a big one-two. Smith’s speed a clear advantage as he lands a few more strikes but Mullarkey smothers him and gets a takedown late on in the round, lands some ground and pound before the buzzer goes. 10-9 Smith.
Strong start to the round again from Mullarkey as he steps forward early and takes the centre. Heavy low kick from Mullarkey again and it gets a big reaction from Smith who looks hurt from it. Mullarkey throws another as Smith gets on his bike and starts moving away. Mullarkey pushing the pace like a mad man and clinches up with some big knees to the body. Mullarkey keeps throwing knees and then rips two big hooks to the body that makes Smith cover up. An uppercut and hook to the head then back to the body and Smith drops! Mullarkey hits some strikes on the ground and the referee stops it! Huge win for Mullarkey! Impressive performance!
Karol Rosa def Bethe Correia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Rosa makes a dominant start to this bout as she takes the centre, slips a jab and lands a right hand. Rosa gets a Thai clinch early and lands some big knees to the body and Correia responds with a hook that misses. Rosa staying patient in the centre before coming for more knees again. Nice one-two lands clean from Rosa before a nice body kick and another one-two. Rosa being so patient and sliding out of the way of all Correia’s attacks, then jumps in with a flying knee straight to the face that Correia just eats. Rosa pops out her jab twice and starts cutting the cage off, but Correia lands a nice right hand. Rosa shoots for a takedown against the cage but Correia defends it well and sees out the round. 10-9 Rosa.
Correia takes the centre early this time around but Rosa throwing her jab well once again and landing with ease. Nice left jab a few more times and then Correia tries to charge her and eats a massive knee to the nose! Rosa lands a nice one-two again and Correia goes back to the outside and circles, but Rosa staying patient and firing in right hands behind her jab. Rosa staying out of range until she’s ready to engage. Big knee to the body from Rosa again and she’s upping the pace now, landing some combinations to the head too and forcing Correia backwards. Correia clinches up against the cage but eats a big knee to the body and an elbow to the face twice for good measure. Rosa just misses with another big elbow as the separate, but she lands a nice right hook when they engage again. Rosa lands another flying knee and big elbow but Correia manages to survive the round. 20-18 Rosa.
Rosa coming out nice and aggressive in the final round looking for a finish, with knees to the body again and solid right hooks behind it. Correia is still there though and trading with her as she lands a nice right hand of her own. Rosa fires back with a jab followed with a low kick and yet another running knee into the body with a right hook behind it. Rosa staying patient again with her jab, low kicks and right hand at the end of combinations. Both women trade low kicks and Correia lands a right hand, but Rosa goes back to the step-in knee before they clinch against the cage with a minute to go. They separate again and Rosa lands another one of her knees to the body before they clinch up again. Correia goes for a takedown but Rosa reverses it and ends the round with ground and pound strikes. 30-27, dominant win.
Casey O’Neill def Antonina Shevchenko via Knockout, Round 2 (4:47)
Very fast and aggressive start to the fight from O’Neill who puts the pressure on immediately. O’Neill lands a nice right hand but Shevchenko replies well with a one-two after a warning about out-stretched fingers from the referee. O’Neill changes levels and looks for the takedown but Shevchenko ends up on top and gets her in a crucifix position landing big ground and pound strikes. O’Neill escapes but Shevchenko is landing nice strikes on the feet whenever she counters. O’Neill changes levels again and finally takes Shevchenko down and is in a dominant position in half guard. O’Neill landing some nice ground strikes but Shevchenko gets it back to full-guard before eventually getting back to her feet with 30 seconds left in the round. O’Neill catches a kick and gets Shevchenko back on the ground to end the round on top. Tough to call, but I’d probably lean 10-9 to O’Neill.
Even start to this round as O’Neill gets the pressure going again and Shevchenko looks to counter strike from range. Clinch against the cage and Shevchenko lands some nice knees again before they separate, then O’Neill lands a left hand and then changes levels and secures a takedown. Shevchenko rolls onto her knees but O’Neill lands some nice strikes and then rolls onto her back and drags her back down with the hooks in. O’Neill looks to pass into full mount and does, then lands a big elbow as she starts to control. Big elbows from top position from O’Neill and Shevchenko gives up her back again. O’Neill goes for a choke but can’t quite get it then continues to land some big elbows! Shevchenko is hurt but O’Neill raining down bombs with her elbows and punches and the referee steps in to end it! What a performance from O’Neill!
Jared Gordon def Joe Solecki via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Very quick start for Solecki as he gets an immediate takedown and moves straight to mount on the ground. Gordon defends well and escapes the position but Solecki landing some good strikes on the ground and controlling the position well. Gordon wall-walks into space but Solecki follows him around and takes the back while landing heavy strikes to the head. Solecki starting to look for the neck but Gordon not panicking. Solecki starting to switch grips for the choke while controlling him completely but Gordon gets back to his feet with 40 seconds to go and is able to get on top himself. Nice elbow from top position by Gordon but that’s the round. Easy 10-9 for Solecki.
Gordon lands two nice strikes early but Solecki changes levels immediately and goes for a takedown once again. Gordon defending it against the cage but Solecki pushing for the takedown again. Gordon lands a nice knee and elbow while defending but Solecki not going anywhere. Gordon throws some elbows before Solecki finally gets the trip and ends up on top. Gordon gets the reversal though and ends up on top himself halfway through and lands some short elbows. Solecki tries to sweetp to get back on top but Gordon defends it well and is landing a few shots on the ground and wearing on him. Gordon prioritising position over damage in that round but he takes it. 19-19.
Composed start to the final round from both guys as they stay standing to begin with. Gordon more comfortable and landing his jab well, but Solecki exploding well and lands a body kick. Nice one-two by Solecki followed by a jab but Gordon starting to force him backwards. Solecki changes levels and comes over the top with a right hand that just misses, before Gordon shoots in for a takedown but Solecki defends it. Both men land a jab before Gordon gets a takedown against the cage, but he allows Solecki up immediately. Clinch in the centre sees Gordon use his strength and lands a couple of knees. Big right hand lands from Solecki and the round ends. I think that’s a 29-28 Gordon but third round is tough to score.
Alexander Hernandez def Mike Breeden via Knockout, Round 1 (1:20)
Very quick start to the fight from Breeden as he steps forward with some hooks and a heavy low kick early on. Hernandez right there with him and returns fire then shoots for a takedown, but Breeden denies him. Hernandez backs up then shoots in again but again he’s denied. Hernandez puts the pressure on him and lands a big one two that hurts Breeden. Hernandez lets the combinations fly and Breeden is covering up. Hernandez blasts his mouthpiece out with a big right hand and keeps going. Breeden fires a left hand but misses and Hernandez smashes a right hand just behind the ear and puts Breeden out cold!!! What a knockout!
Krzysztof Jotko def Misha Cirkunov via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Cirkunov takes the centre early on and steps forward to force Jotko against the cage, before shooting in for a takedown early. Jotko defends it well and gets back to the feet, before another attempt from Cirkunov sees a trip get him down but bounce straight back up. Jotko defending the clinch against the cage before separating and taking the centre. Both guys trade leg kicks and then Cirkunov steps in with a jab, before Jotko lights him up with a nice combination. Cirkunov still keeping the centre but Jotko is moving well and landing his counters well. Cirkunov fakes with a takedown attempt and Jotko clinches with him immediately which allows Cirkunov to get hold of him against the cage until the end of the round. Tough to score, but I lean 10-9 Cirkunov.
Even start once again in this second round as they continue with Cirkunov in the centre and Jotko bouncing around on the outside. Cirkunov goes for a clinch and throws a knee to the body but it’s a bit low and there’s a pause in the action. Nice combination lands from Jotko that ends with a left uppercut, then Cirkunov responds with a low kick. Cirkunov keeps going for clinches and takedowns but Jotko is very easily defending and separating. Hard low kick from Cirkunov to counter a right hand from Jotko. Another clinch and denial before Jotko throws a big knee and that’s the end of the round. Tough to score again, but I’d go 19-19.
Better start to the round for Cirkunov as he finally gets a takedown after changing levels and securing a single leg. Immediate bearhug position on the back and he’s dragging Jotko around and landing big knees to the thighs and back. Jotko explodes up and gets to the feet and tries to land a big elbow, but Cirkunov ducks under it and scores another big takedown. Jotko gets back up quickly though and goes for a takedown of his own before looking to explode with strikes against the cage. Jotko explodes with a knee but accidentally gets a finger in Cirkunov’s eye and the referee pauses the fight. Jotko fired up and as they restart he fires in some hard one-twos that narrowly miss. Nice jab from Jotko with 40 seconds to go and he goes for a takedown but Cirkunov denies it easily. Both guys clinch and Jotko gets a takedown with ten seconds to go to end the fight. Tough call, could go either way, but I’d give it 29-28 Cirkunov.
Niko Price def Alex Oliveira via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Action packed start to this one as both guys look to take the centre and start trading heavy blows straight away. Nice exchange of strikes and Oliveira goes for a knee which Price catches and charges him up against the cage. Oliveira manages to reverse it and push Price down to the mat but Price holds on to the neck and rolls through to end up on top. Price looking to create space for ground and pound but Oliveira defending well. Price trying to move to side control but Oliveira defending well. Hard body shots from Price and then some elbows from the top to see out the round. 10-9 Price.
Good start to the round again from both guys with lots of feinting and some leg kicks just to touch each other. Oliveira lands a nice left hand before both men narrowly miss with big hooks. Price misses a head kick but lands a right hand hammer fist instead. Oliveira lands a right hand after catching a kick and Price falls backwards, so Oliveira looks to jump on top. Lots of scrambling for position but Oliveira manages to retain top position throughout. Some nice ground and pound and transitions from Oliveira but Price defending relatively well from the bottom and the round ends. 19-19 even.
Final round and both guys are going for it early. Hard low kicks from Oliveira and then a big right hand lands but Price not moving away at all and continues to threaten. Big body shot from Oliveira then a right hand. Price goes for the right hook but Oliveira responds with one of his own. Price lands two big shots and a right hook wobbles Oliveira, but he side steps and avoids. Both guys throwing big strikes and just missing, before Price throws a big right hand that stumbles Oliveira. Price going for a takedown against the cage but Oliveira defends it and they separate. Side kick from Oliveira to the body but Price continues to walk forward and Oliveira is exhausted. Price goes for a big superman punch but Oliveira ducks it and clinches him, looking to drag Price down to the mat. Price manages to throw Oliveira down and ends up on top and he’s hammering ground and pound to end the round. That should win it for Price. 29-28.
Kevin Holland vs Kyle Daukaus – No Contest (Accidental headbutt led to fight ending sequence)
Good start to the round for Daukaus as he comes forward with two hooks and goes straight for a takedown. Holland defends it well against the cage and shows excellent balance to stay on his feet before he looks to break away in a clinch. Daukaus then puts him back in a full nelson and the referee breaks up the position. Daukaus lands a nice one-two, and then as Holland throws a right hand they clash heads and Holland goes out cold! Daukaus goes on to continue to look for a finish and eventually gets a rear-naked choke locked in and Holland is forced to tap out despite fighting hard to stay in the fight.
After the fight, a significant review takes place over the footage and the referee deems the fight a no contest due to an accidental clash of heads leading to the fight-ending sequence.
Thiago Santos def Johnny Walker via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x3)
First strike of the fight comes 30 seconds in as Walker throws a low kick, and the second comes 30 seconds later when Walker blocks a high kick from Santos. Walker takes the centre and is backing Santos up against the cage, but neither man throwing anything as we approach the halfway point of the round. Walker continues with a couple of low kicks and Santos goes to throw a high kick, but lots of feinting from both guys and not much action at all. Teep kick from Walker lands. More jockeying from both guys as the round ends. That’s an impossible round to score because nothing happened. 10-10.
Second round starts quicker as Santos takes the centre and shoots for a takedown with a single leg. Walker defends it well but both guys swing big hooks on their way out of the clinch and Santos lands the left hand grazing him. Santos throws a head kick but Walker blocks it and replies with a low kick. The round has gone timid again and Walker misses with a big overhand right, then lands another low kick. Nice left body kick from Santos lands and then he lands two more too with a left hand behind it. Walker eats them though and comes forward. More touching and feinting as the round ends. Round 2 goes to Santos for me, 20-19.
Lots of feints again in the third round as Walker looks to go back to the teep kicks and leg kicks from the first round. Santos grazes him with a head kick and then misses with a wild left hand. Walker throws more kicks but Santos side steps it and lands a left cross on the chin. Walker still there and doing lots of feinting again but Santos looks comfortable. Big exchange from both guys but they both miss and the fight is starting to open up a little bit now. Santos parries a body kick and lands a strong left hand again but Walker is still standing and moving. Walker throws a leg kick again and Santos replies with a left hook. Big spinning wheel kick misses from Santos but then he throws a head kick that is partially blocked. 30-28 Santos.
Santos comes out aggressive in the fourth and lands a nice body shot. Walker coming forward but not really throwing anything of note. Head kick attempt from Santos misses again, then Walker throws one and just misses. Santos throws a jump knee that misses and then Santos goes for his left hand again. Hard leg kick from Santos but Walker doesn’t look too affected by them. Walker’s kick gets caught but he lands two big right hands of his own before eating one from Santos. Big one-two lands from Santos again but Walker eats it well and threatens with a reverse elbow. Another hard left hand from Santos just misses, before he lands a body kick to end the round. Close round that one, 40-37 Santos for me.
This has not been the type of fight we all expected, but we go into the fifth round anyway. Slow start again with lots of feints and a slow pace. Santos comes forward and lands a left hand to the side of the head but Walker is still looking to chop the legs. Santos lands a HUGE left hand clean but Walker eats it and calls him on for more. Body kick from Santos lands twice before Walker slides forward to close distance. Santos staying out of danger for the most part and both men faking a lot again. Left hand lands from Santos and Walker lands a right hand at the same time. Big head kick from Santos lands but again Walker just eats it. Capoeira kick from Walker misses and that’s the round. 50-36 Santos for me, maybe 49-47 but very weird fight to score.
A fun light heavyweight card at the UFC Apex this weekend as former title challenger Thiago Santos takes on hot prospect Johnny Walker in the main event of UFC Vegas 38.
Santos previously fought Jon Jones for the 205lbs title and many thought he won, before ultimately falling to a decision defeat. He blew out both knees in that fight and has since returned to face Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic, where he was dominated and now looks to get back to winning ways. Walker went on a tear before suffering a small skid himself, but after getting back in the win column he is hoping to make a push for the top five.
Elsewhere on the card two hot prospects at women’s bantamweight clash as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson, while Antonina Shevchenko takes on the undefeated Casey O’Neill and Kevin Holland takes on Kyle Daukaus in the co-main event.
Last week at UFC 266 we went 10/13 with five perfect picks on the night to move us up to 421/659 (63.88%) with 183 perfect picks (43.47%). We’ll look to improve that here and after starting with the early prelims and the rest of the prelims here, we move on to the main card.
Alexander Hernandez (12-4) vs Mike Breeden (10-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A short-notice bout at lightweight to open the main card as ‘The Great’ Hernandez takes on Mike Breeden. Hernandez has alternated wins and losses in his last five, with a defeat against Thiago Moises last time out at UFC Vegas 20. Breeden has won his last two outside the UFC, beating Ken Beverley and Nick Compton most recently back in May.
Hernandez is a pressure fighter with good power in his hands, solid kicks and a good, durable chin. Breeden is a good boxer who has great combinations but also with a solid calf kick and someone who is always game to fight. Hernandez is really well-rounded, with his best performances coming when he mixes up clinches and takedowns with his powerful striking.
Breeden is a good fighter in his own merit, but this is a huge step up in competition for him and even moreso on just a week’s notice. He’ll come forward and be game, no doubt, but Hernandez will push the pace and eventually his body work will pay dividends to get him a stoppage win. PICK – Alexander Hernandez via Knockout, Round 3
Aspen Ladd (9-1) vs Macy Chiasson (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing fight at the top of the women’s bantamweight division as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson. Ladd is a great striker, who’s only defeat came in just 16 seconds against Germaine De Randamie. She bounced back from that with an impressive KO win over Yana Kunitskaya back in 2019 but hasn’t fought since. Chiasson won TUF 28 and has since gone 4-1 in the UFC proper, with her most recent win coming against Marion Reneau at UFC Vegas 22.
Ladd is a brilliant wrestler who has some violent ground and pound and vicious striking on the feet to go with it, while Chiasson is a super well-rounded fighter herself too with an even split of finishes via knockout and submission. Ladd is returning from a torn ACL/MCL injury but while Chiasson has got some good names on her resumé she’s not fought anyone of the calibre of Ladd before.
Ladd is powerful, quick, a great striker and has the advantage with the wrestling too which means she can dictate where this fight goes. Because of that, she’ll only need one takedown per round to control and land some vicious shots and therefore I think she’ll get the win. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Decision
Misha Cirkunov (15-6) vs Krzysztof Jotko (22-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A fun middleweight clash between two Europeans in this one. Cirkunov has lost four of his last six bouts, getting KO’d by Ryan Spann in just 71 seconds last time out at UFC Vegas 21. Jotko on the other hand had won three-in-a-row before coming up against Sean Strickland at UFC Vegas 25 and getting dominated on the feet.
Cirkunov is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who is the most grapple heavy fighter on this card. He is a brilliant submission artist, with eight of his 15 wins coming via tap out. Jotko on the other hand is a great kickboxer with a terrific amount of power in his strikes, although his ground game is next to non-existent.
It’s a true grappler vs striker bout and I’d be surprised to see it come out of the first round in all honesty. If Cirkunov gets a takedown, he gets a submission win. If Jotko keeps it standing, he blasts the chin and gets a KO. As it goes, I think Cirkunov does get the takedown and locks up a head-and-arm choke for the win. PICK – Misha Cirkunov via Submission, Round 1
Alex Oliveira (22-10-1) vs Niko Price (14-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Potentially the fight of the night in the welterweight division here. ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira is a veteran of the sport who doesn’t know how to have a boring fight, having lost five of his last seven including his last two against Shavkat Rakhmonov and Randy Brown at UFC 261 most recently. Niko Price is in the same boat in terms of entertainment value, and has also lost two of his last three (the third a draw overturned to a NC) against Vicente Luque and Michel Pereira at UFC 264.
Oliveira is a good boxer with solid wrestling and nasty body kicks, but he’s seen his durability wane in recent years and that will harm him. Price is a powerful puncher who pushes a relentless pace and just straight up loves a war in the cage, willing to give it his all no matter where it goes.
On the feet Price has him outpowered and on the ground Oliveira has the edge, but realistically they’re going to brawl at some point and Price is far more durable which means he’s likely to slam him with a big right hand that puts him into orbit and close the night early. PICK – Niko Price via Knockout, Round 2
Kevin Holland (21-7) vs Kyle Daukaus (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very intriguing fight in the middleweight co-main event here. Holland was the 2020 Fighter of the Year racking up five wins in a row, but 2021 hasn’t been kind to him as he’s been dominated by both Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori most recently at UFC Vegas 23. Daukaus hasn’t had a great UFC run so far, especially in comparison to his brother Chris, with a decision win against Dustin Stoltzfus sandwiched between defeats to Brendan Allen and Phil Hawes most recently at UFC Vegas 26.
Holland is a very powerful striker with great kickboxing and Muay Thai, but he’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt on the mat. Daukaus is a grappling heavy fighter who is very heavy handed himself, but he looks to rain those punches down from top control. Daukaus is a good grappler but being unranked, this is a huge step up in competition for him. If he gets a takedown and gets on top then he’ll have success, but on the feet Holland has a huge edge.
Ultimately it’s a stylistically fun match up, but the level between the two fighters should see Holland able to keep the fight standing and slam punches down the pipe to earn himself a way back into the win column. PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 3
Thiago Santos (21-9) vs Johnny Walker (18-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An absolutely wild fight in the 205lbs division makes the main event here. Santos is on a three-fight losing skid after earning his way to a title shot, losing to Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic most recently at UFC 259. Walker on the other hand halted a two-fight losing streak by bouncing back with a brilliant knockout win over Ryan Spann at UFC Vegas 11.
Santos is one of the most terrifying strikers in MMA, with ridiculous power in his hands and really powerful calf kicks and body kicks too. Walker is one of the most erratic fighters on the roster, with scary one-punch knockout power too and some really good clinch techniques too. Santos ripped his knees to shreds against Jones which has seen him stop kicking since his return, with limited movement.
That doesn’t bode well for Santos realistically because of how explosive Walker can be, but I think Santos is slightly more durable and has the faster hands which means he could land first and end the fight early. It could very realistically go the other way, but I lean towards Santos. PICK – Thiago Santos via Knockout, Round 1
Holland started the fight well, with fast hands and an aggressive striking approach, but once Vettori was able to get hold of him he used his physicality and technique to drag the fight to the ground and dominate.
It was an approach we saw just three weeks prior when Holland was last in the cage against Brunson, and the result was exactly the same as he was dominated for five rounds and lost every one of them.
Despite that though, it was an improved performance. Holland’s striking was fast and accurate and on the ground he showed far more ambition to get back to his feet than he did in the Brunson fight. Vettori just happened to be too good and there wasn’t enough time between the fights for him to work on his weaknesses between bouts.
He’ll come back in the future and be stronger off the back of these two defeats, but for Vettori all he sees in his future is a world title shot.
The victory made it five wins in a row for the 27-year-old and means he hasn’t tasted defeat since the split decision loss to current champion Israel Adesanya back in 2016. It’s a fight that most people agree he lost, but he believes he won and says that meeting with the champ has convinced him that he is the better fighter.
After the result, Vettori made it clear that he feels he deserves the next title shot and called Adesanya out for a bout in October.
“I want Adesanya next. October, I want to fight him. I think I deserve it. I have the longest win streak right now. I put on winning performances. Dominant performances. I want this title.”
His claims are certainly true but the state of the division is up in the air. Adesanya has beaten the top contenders already, including Vettori, and opted to go up to light heavyweight rather than fight Robert Whittaker once more recently.
Defeat to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 means Adesanya has to return to 185lbs to defend his throne and the options are limited. He had told Till that a win over Vettori would earn him a title shot, despite him currently being 1-1 in the middleweight division and losing his last fight.
If that were to happen it could see Vettori paired up with Paulo Costa, who was originally supposed to be fighting Whittaker but withdrew after complications with COVID-19.
The champ will ultimately get the final say in who his opponent is going to be, but Vettori is adamant he deserves the chance to not only avenge his 2016 defeat but also become the middleweight champion of the world.
Great start to the fight for Kasanganay as he comes forward to close the distance early and lands a nice right hand. Palatnikov throws a kick which Kasanganay catches and then he lands another big right hand before getting a body lock and taking Palatnikov down to the ground. Kasanganay using heavy top pressure but not landing much damage and Palatnikov is able to get back to his feet. Kasanganay goes for another takedown but Palatnikov defends it well and they clinch against the cage now. Palatnikov starts teeing off against the cage but Kasanganay does well to avoid any strikes and clinch up again. Nice left hand lands from Palatnikov at the end of the round but should be 10-9 Kasanganay.
Kasanganay comes out quickly in the second round and lands a big right hand that drops Palatnikov! He forces the takedown with pure power and scrambles to take his neck. He locks in a rear-naked choke and squeezes, forcing Palatnikov to tap out! Big win for Kasanganay!
Da-Un Jung def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Reserved start from both fighters as Knight comes out throwing low calf kicks to prevent Jung from letting his jab fly. Knight goes in for a takedown and lifts Jung but he defends it well, switches the position and is able to get a throw perfectly to end up in top position. Knight is landing some nice right hands from the bottom as he holds Jung in place, but Jung fires back with a couple of right hands of his own to shut that down. Jung passes into half guard and tries to move into side control but Knight sweeps him really well and explodes back onto his feet. Knight clinches up once again and Jung is able to get the same trip once more to get back in top position. Some decent ground and pound from Jung as Knight looks quite tired now but he’s able to explode to his feet again as the round ends. 10-9 Jung.
Knight comes out throwing lots of low kicks once again, but Jung is backing him up to the cage and looking to hunt him down. Both guys land a nice right hand each before Knight shoots in for a takedown. Jung defends it, clinches up and then lands the same outside trip once again to take top position and starts landing ground and pound against the cage. Knight tries to get to his feet but Jung stays heavy and drags him down to the mat once more, then takes his back and sinks in both hooks. Jung starts raining down punches and Knight is trying to explode out again rather than use technique. Knight is just surviving right now and Jung continues to smash him up from his back on top. Lots of damage but Knight survives the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Jung.
Jung comes forward early in the final round and Knight has abandoned the leg kicks and is throwing bombs. Jung lands a nice uppercut, then switches levels and gets a big takedown! Knight explodes to his feet again but Jung is able to drag and throw Knight back to the mat with relative ease. Jung floats through the positions and ends up in side control, landing knees to the body and just completely dominating all the exchanges in this fight. Jung stays busy from top position on the ground landing damage for the rest of the fight for a very comfortable win. 30-26 Jung.
Luis Saldana def Jordan Griffin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Really good start to the fight for Saldana as he comes out with his hands low and is throwing quick kicks to the legs and body. Saldana throws a night three punch combo that clips Griffin, who shoots in for a takedown and gets it but Saldana gets back up very quickly. More leg kicks from Saldana take Griffin off his feet but he keeps coming forward and lands two big punches as he rushes forward and goes in for a takedown again. Saldana defends well against the cage and they break, but Griffin stays in his face and keeps throwing big punches. He keeps pouring punches and then eventually gets the takedown, but Saldana is able to roll through and escape before Griffin gets a headlock and looks for some sort of bulldog choke. Saldana is able to escape and Griffin charges once again and just misses with a big head-kick before the round ends. Very close, but I go 10-9 Griffin.
Slower start to the round from both guys as Saldana comes out again looking for low kicks and front kicks to the body, but Griffin pressures him again. Saldana slips as he throws a kick and Griffin jumps on top. Saldana looks for an armbar and then switches to a heel hook to create space which gets both guys back up. Saldana jumps on the neck of Griffin looking for a guillotine, but Griffin is calm and escapes before getting the fight back down. He starts looking for a bulldog choke again but Saldana escapes it only for Griffin to continue with his pressure and get back into a dominant position. Griffin starts floating and then takes the back and sinks in a rear naked choke deep but he runs out of time so we’re going to the final round. 20-18 Griffin.
Saldana comes out in the final round and knows he needs a finish. He’s trying to stay out of wrestling range, using punches rather than kicks to avoid being taken down but he looks exhausted. Griffin isn’t exactly fresh himself but he’s coming forward still but doing enough to stay out of range. Saldana looks to kick off the cage with a superman punch but just misses with that and the follow up hook, before Griffin shoots in for a tired takedown against the cage. Saldana defends it well and switches the position around but Griffin gets his arm under the chin and looks for a rear-naked choke! Saldana stays calm and escapes and ends up on top with 90 seconds to go. Saldana is able to take the back of Griffin for a split second, but Griffin then switches around and finishes the round on top looking for a submission. Probably a Saldana round but should be a win for Griffin. 29-28.
Jack Shore def Hunter Azure via Split Decision (30-27 x2, 28-29)
Composed start to the bout from both men as they feel each other out with jabs and low kicks before they both clinch up against the cage. Shore looking like the stronger fighter as they battle for position and he gets a body lock in nicely and picks Azure up and sweeps the legs for a takedown. Azure gets back up quickly but Shore keeps the hands locked and continues to drag Azure around. Shore tries to take the back but Azure drops to his knees and counters by turning into Shore’s guard. Shore kicks off the hips to get back to his feet quickly before Azure can do any damage and they clinch against the cage again before separating. Both men throw a simultaneous kick that makes for a big thud before a nice high kick lands from Shore. Azure looks for a takedown against the cage but Shore defends and the round ends. 10-9 Shore.
Fast start from Azure in the second round as he goes straight in for a clinch against the cage and lands some nice knees to the body and thighs. Shore is patient and eventually gets back up and catches a kick from Azure and lands a right hand that drops Azure. Azure gets back up quickly though and Shore looks for a clinch against the takedown before going for a takedown of his own. He shoots in and Azure looks for a guillotine which forces Shore to abandon and go to his back to escape, but Azure ends up on top in half guard. Shore uses his long legs and hips really well to get back up to the feet and the clinch continues against the cage once again. Accidental low blow from Azure causes a short pause in the action but they clinch again when they resume. Azure lands a nice right hand when they separate and then lands a good right hook but Shore starts landing some strikes of his own too. Azure lands a big right hand clean but Shore responds with an uppercut as the round ends. Very close round, probably in Azure’s favour. 19-19.
Azure goes straight in for a takedown at the start of the third but Shore stuffs it well and starts working off his jab from the outside. Azure changes levels to avoid a right hand and goes for a single leg, but Shore defends it brilliantly once again against the cage. Stiff low kick from Shore and then a nice left hook lands that stings Azure, who shoots for a takedown quickly after but is denied. Shore stuffs another attempt and then takes Azure down himself, landing some short punches against the cage and leaning all his weight on Azure to drag him back down. He looks to take Azure’s back and then moves into mount, switching between both positions. Azure is able to get back to his feet but Shore keeps hold of him and is able to take him down once again as we enter the final 90 seconds. Azure scrambles and rolls through to escape Shore’s grip and ends up on top and looks to land ground and pound but Shore defends brilliantly and then escapes a rear naked choke attempt to see out the round. Should be a win for Shore, 29-28.
Jarjis Danho def Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1 (3:02)
Slow start to the fight for both guys as they throw some leg kicks and circle each other. Danho throwing more and more leg kicks but not much action in the first two minutes. Danho looks to clinch up but De Castro throws him off and lands a big left hand that wobbles Danho! He comes forward with more punches but Danho avoids and goes for a takedown. The two separate and De Castro continues to come forward, then both men throw big right hands and Danho lands on the side of the head and puts De Castro’s lights out!! He lands one more on the ground but it’s all over! What a knockout!
John Makdessi def Ignacio Bahamondes via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Bahamondes using his length well very early on, with long jabs and front kicks. Bahamondes doing really well to mix up his attacks, landing leg kicks, jabs, straight rights, body shots and kicks while changing up his stance constantly. Makdessi just can’t get a read right now as Bahamondes keeps moving. Makdessi lands a big right hand that makes Bahamondes do the chicken dance and he pushes on for the finish, but Bahamondes clinches up to try and recover. Bahamondes now is trying to stay away and land from range but Makdessi continues to pour on the pressure. Bahamondes goes for a takedown against the cage but Makdessi defends it well. Bahamondes lands a couple of elbows on the break and they exchange strikes again as the round ends. That’s a really close round could go either way. I go Makdessi for the damage.
Bahamondes seems to have recovered now as he comes out popping his jab once again and circling on the outside. Makdessi taking the centre and looking to catch Bahamondes on his way in, but it’s not working too well for him just yet. Three jabs in a row land for Makdessi who returns with a big left hand of his own. Bahamondes lands a big straight left then misses with a few kicks before shooting in for a takedown, but Makdessi defends it with ease. Bahamondes starts throwing some knees against the cage before they separate and go back to trading straight punches. Both guys trading jabs and straights and landing, then Bahamondes lands a huge spinning heel kick to the head but Makdessi eats it. Makdessi responds with two body shots and a short left hook to the chin then lands a clean one two. Another super close round, I’ve got it even.
Third round following the pattern of the previous two, with Bahamondes landing from range but Makdessi standing firm in the middle and popping him back too. Bahamondes lands some nice jabs but Makdessi keeps landing the straight right and left jab in response. Bahamondes looks for a big knee that just misses and then he shoots in for a takedown to mix it up. Makdessi stuffs it and lands a nice right hand, before Bahamondes starts pouring on pressure and lands a big one-two. Bahamondes lands another nice left hand that sends Makdessi backwards but they continue to stand in a phonebox and trade for the remainder of the round in what was a brilliant fight. Another very close round, I don’t know how to call it. 29-28 either way, I lean to Bahamondes.
Mateusz Gamrot def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 2 (1:22)
Good start to the round from both guys, with Gamrot looking to land from range to set up his takedowns while Holtzman is looking to counter with heavy punches. Gamrot steps in for a takedown and grabs the leg and tries to go for a heel hook but Holtzman defends it well. Gamrot lands a nice left but Holtzman responds with a huge left hand on his way in! Gamrot responds with a couple of left hands again and then goes for single leg again and transitions to a double leg to get the takedown against the cage. Gamrot allows him back up and throws a huge elbow to the ear that wobbles Holtzman towards the end of the round. 10-9 Gamrot.
Holtzman comes out very aggressive and starts walking Gamrot down, but he’s loading up his attacks with big uppercuts and overhands. Gamrot moving side to side to stay out of the way and he throws a big one two down the middle which folds Holtzman! He jumps on and lands a couple more shots before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Gamrot!
Joe Solecki def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Very positive start from Solecki as he looks to be first in the striking exchanges between the two, but Miller just misses with his big left hand. Nice calf kick lands from Miller but Solecki is coming forward and landing nice short flurries of punches. Big right hand lands and forces Miller to think twice but then the veteran lands a nice body kick. Solecki shoots in for a takedown but Miller stuffs it and ends up on top, so Solecki goes into full guard and starts defending. Miller is landing some nice short elbows from the top position and stacking Solecki up to prevent him from being able to get back to his feet easily. Miller misses with an elbow as the rounds ends, probably a Miller round because of the top control. 10-9 Miller.
Solecki comes out aggressive in the second round and lands a nice right hand before shooting in for the takedown. Miller looks to defend it but Solecki takes the legs from under him and moves into full guard. Now it’s Solecki looking to stack Miller against the cage and throw some ground and pound, but Miller is staying busy from his back too. A few body shots from Solecki as he looks to wear Miller down heading into the final 90 seconds of the round. Not much action in this round but Solecki controlled it and takes the round. 19-19 going into the final round.
Both men see the route to victory as being on top and so immediately they both move into a clinch position. Solecki the physically stronger guy right now and gets a body lock, which Miller tries to roll through from but Solecki holds on and ends up on top once again. Solecki throwing short shots on the ground from half guard but Miller is trying to get back to his feet now rather than accepting the position. Solecki doing really well to control the position now and just doing enough damage to stop the fight from being stood back up. Solecki maintains the position for the rest of the round to secure what should be a straight forward decision win.
Daniel Rodriguez def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Tense start to this one with both men respecting the power of their opponent early on. Perry throws a few le kicks and Rodriguez is throwing his jab well and has already busted up the nose. Rodriguez throws a big one-two down the middle that staggers Perry but he continues to come forward to look for a finish. Rodriguez is landing big one-twos at will and Perry is getting pieced up, so he changes levels and powers through with a takedown. He lifts Rodriguez up and slams him down but Rodriguez holding on for a guillotine which Perry does well to defend against and avoid. Perry stays in top position and works for some ground and pound to see the round out. Perry still in it, but that’s a Rodriguez round for me. 10-9.
Second round and Rodriguez is doing really well on the feet, with his jab landing at will and the left hand following up behind it cleanly too. Perry is throwing some nice leg kicks and is just struggling to be first with the punches because of the range difference. Perry gets a body lock and looks for a takedown which he gets, then tries to transition onto Rodriguez’s back, but Rodriguez does well to stay strong and get back up pretty quickly. Rodriguez continues to land the jab and left straight at will, but Perry is still standing in front of him and throwing shots of his own. Big right hook, left hand from Rodriguez lands clean. Perry comes forward looking for a takedown with 20 seconds to go but Rodriguez defends it well to claim the round again. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Final round and the pattern continues, as Rodriguez lines up the jab and takes the centre of the cage. Perry is struggling to land anything of note because he keeps getting pummelled every time he tries to go first. Perry shoots for a takedown but Rodriguez denies it again and shrugs him off in the clinch. Rodriguez throws three huge left hands in an exchange but Perry is still taking the punishment and trying to come forward. Perry’s face is so busted up right now and at this point it’s just about not getting finished as Rodriguez shoots in for a takedown but Perry stuffs it to see the round out with a big exchange. 30-27 Rodriguez, excellent performance.
Fast start to the fight from Dern as she charges forward throwing big punches with a couple landing but Nunes responds with a couple of her own. Dern charges forward again and lands a nice left hand, but Nunes throws a good right hand to counter it too. Dern shoots in for a takedown against the cage and lifts the leg high then sweeps the standing leg and dumps her down. She immediately works to advance the position and threatens with a leg attack to pass into half guard. From half guard she quickly moves into mount and starts raining down elbows from the top. She transitions into an armbar position and despite Nunes’ best attempts to defend it, Dern extends the arm and gets the tap out.
Julian Marquez def Sam Alvey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (2:07)
Pretty tame opening to the round as Marquez takes the centre early and looks to figure out his range by flicking out his lead hand. Neither men throw anything really for the first two minutes barring a couple of missed hooks. Alvey is loading up big with his left hand and it’s allowing Marquez to avoid it well. Marquez lands a big right hook clean and Alvey is hurt. Marquez goes in again and lands two more that drops Alvey but he falls into Marquez and quickly recovers. Two more big right hands land from Marquez but Alvey just about stays standing and now throws a huge left of his own. Alvey is all the way back against the cage and just trying to hit Marquez on his way in but he’s missing wildly. 10-9 Marquez at the end of the round.
More of the same in the second round as Marquez backs Alvey up and lands a nice body shot, but Alvey explodes forward and lands a nice right hand of his own. Marquez throws an overhand right that lands clean on Alvey’s chin but he’s still there throwing his own heat. Marquez lands a huge right hand that drops Alvey and he goes all in for the finish with big strikes. Alvey looks to defend with a takedown but he’s eating big shots. Marquez abandons the strikes and goes for a rear-naked choke and puts Alvey to sleep for the win. Great performance.
Arnold Allen def Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start for Allen as Yusuff comes forward and throws a body kick which he catches and immediately gets a takedown. Yusuff does well to defend well against the cage and hooks up a guillotine choke that forces Allen to roll to his back and abandon the takedown attempt. Yusuff comes forward and is chopping away at the leg of Allen, but both men are throwing heat. Allen lands a big left hand but Yusuff keeps coming and clinches up. Allen lands a big left hand that drops Yusuff and he moves in to take top position but Yusuff does well to recover and avoid further damage. Allen goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s defended well and the round comes to an end with a nice exchange in the centre. 10-9 Allen.
Yusuff continues to push the pace and pressuring forward, but Allen is threatening with the big left hand once again. Yusuff lands some nice chopping leg kicks again and Yusuff is starting to land with his jab. He’s starting to touch Allen more and more, then Allen throws a huge head-kick that rocks him! Allen slips as it lands but he jumps back up and goes to land some ground and pound, but Yusuff recovers well once again and they get back to competing in the middle. Clinch against the cage and Allen is physically stronger and able to dictate the position more, and he sees out the round in control. 20-18 Allen.
Good start from Allen as he looks to back Yusuff up to the cage with his physicality and shoot for takedowns, but Yusuff refusing to accept it and defending really well. He switches the position on the cage and lands some nice knees to the body of Allen before they separate and go back into the centre. Lots of short exchanges and clinch work against the cage for the rest of the round as Yusuff arguably takes the round but it won’t be enough for a win. 29-28 Allen for me, very competitive fight.
Marvin Vettori def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (50-44 x3)
Holland makes a fast start throwing some leg kicks and big right hands but early on he lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Vettori comes in tight for the clinch after the action resumes, but Holland is striking from range and lands a heavy right hand. Vettori finally gets a body lock and clinch against the cage to start wearing on Holland, but he defends the attempted trip well which forces Vettori to change to a double leg. Holland defends it well again and Vettori separates, but he’s right in Holland’s face and applying lots of pressure. Vettori is able to drag Holland down to the ground, but Holland starts throwing up-kicks to try and create space to get up to his feet. Vettori is able to get full guard and starts applying lots of pressure and looking to land ground and pound. Holland is able to roll through and gets back to the feet, but then eats a big left hand. Good first round from both, very close to score. 10-9 Vettori for me but could go either way.
Holland comes out fast once again and lands some sharp punches and straight kicks but Vettori is trying to close the distance earlier this time. Holland lands a big one-two but Vettori eats it, slips a shot and then shoots in for another takedown against the cage. He gets him down quickly this time and avoids the guillotine attempt to go into full guard and land big ground and pound strikes. Vettori starts stacking Holland against the cage and raining down strikes, completely dominant. Holland tries to kick out of it but Vettori controls the position well and gets right back to work with the ground and pound from the top position. More strikes from Vettori opens up a cut on Holland’s face and he tries to scramble out but Vettori just controls his position even once Holland gets back to his feet to end the round. 20-17.
Holland’s left eye is closing up but he’s battling on and Vettori comes out like a freight train and looks to go straight for the takedown again. He gets it quickly and then moves into mount almost immediately. He looks to set up an arm triangle submission and locks it in tight, but Holland doesn’t tap and is able to escape from the bottom to get back up to his feet. Vettori goes straight back for the takedown again but Holland does well to avoid it. Holland lands a couple of nice strikes standing but then once again Vettori changes levels, clinches against the cage and controls the position. Holland lands a couple of huge strikes that seem to wobble Vettori a little but the buzzer goes. 30-26 Vettori.
Big early left hand lands at the start of the fourth for Vettori, but Holland responds with a couple of big hooks of his own. Vettori shoots in for a takedown and gets it down pretty easily once again and goes straight into full guard to land some ground and pound. Vettori looks to stack Holland who rolls through to avoid it and gets back to full guard. Holland is able to get back to the feet after a short scramble but very quickly Vettori is able to drag him back down and goes straight into mount. He looks for the arm triangle submission again, but Holland stays calm and takes it back to half guard. Vettori lands some heavy strikes and then goes back into full guard before passing into half guard again. Vettori tries to stack him and Holland starts throwing up-kicks again but Vettori is just too strong and sees out the round on top. 40-35 Vettori.
Holland still looks fresh and lands a bomb of a right hand that gets Vettori’s attention, so the Italian changes levels and gets the takedown immediately and goes into full guard. Holland kicks off the cage and finds a way to get back to the feet but once again Vettori just locks his hands, finds an angle and drags him back down to the mat. Vettori steps over into half guard and starts throwing some more ground and pound with Holland fighting off his back. Vettori steps over into mount once again looking to set up the arm triangle choke, but Holland explodes back up to his feet. Vettori holds the body lock once again though and drags the fight to the mat again with 40 seconds to go and he sees the round out in control. 50-44 Vettori, pure domination.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
‘Platinum’ is a striker with powerful punches and a pretty decent wrestling game, but despite being naturally talented when it comes to fighting he just doesn’t care. He’s had issues with alcohol and dieting in the past and now he comes up against a man who hits harder and is taking this game very seriously.
Rodriguez has crazily heavy hands but Perry has an iron chin and both guys have got some deficiencies in their cardio but it’s hard to pick Perry when you don’t know which version will turn up. He hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2017 and I think Rodriguez does enough to get a decision win. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Decision
Nina Nunes (10-6) vs Mackenzie Dern (10-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A battle of the mothers in the strawweight division as Nina Nunes (formerly Ansaroff) returns from child birth to take on Mackenzie Dern.
Nunes has tremendous wrestling and cardio and throws some really good combinations with her hands, while Dern is a jiu-jitsu master who has started working on her kickboxing game. The striking still needs work and she will need to get the fight to the ground to stand a chance of winning and I back Nunes to be able to keep the fight standing for the longest period because Dern’s takedown attempts are awful. If the fight goes down it’s Dern’s to lose. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
Sam Alvey (33-14-1) vs Julian Marquez (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Alvey has good takedown defence and a good right hook counter, but other than that he tends to just wait for a chance to land it and is hilariously bad to watch in the cage. Marquez on the other hand loves absolute chaos and throws big punches in bunch with wild aggression, who has pretty decent submissions too.
The likelihood is that Alvey will land his big right hand at some point, but with 20lbs of less power behind it against a young fighter with a sturdy chin, I don’t think it gets the job done. That means Marquez can go crazy as he loves to and I think he’s able to get a stoppage win. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 1
Arnold Allen (16-1) vs Sodiq Yusuff (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger of a featherweight bout between England’s Arnold Allen and another hot prospect in Sodiq Yusuff. Allen has won nine in a row including wins over Gilbertz Melendez and Nick Lentz most recently while Yusuff is on a six-fight win streak himself. Both make their first appearances since January 2020.
Yusuff is a tremendously powerful striker, who has great calf kicks and a very solid overhand right while Allen is a really good, well-rounded fighter who has split his knockout and submission wins at 5/4. Allen is a really good pressure fighter and opts for volume over power, using those combinations to close distance and get takedowns.
Yusuff is one of the most powerful fighters in the division and he does a good job of landing accurate strikes, so if he can take Allen’s takedowns away from him he has a great chance of landing those heavy strikes and moving into the rankings with a big win. PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Knockout, Round 2
Marvin Vettori (16-4-1) vs Kevin Holland (21-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Vettori has good power in his hands but his best work comes when he gets hold of you, takes you down and lands ground and pound from top position. Holland has got genuine one-punch knockout power on the feet, or his back if you ask Jacare Souza, but he struggles against wrestlers who know how to control him from the top.
Vettori is one of those fighters, who has a good chin but is just efficient in all his movements. If Holland comes in with the same antics he did against Brunson where he plays up to the camera then he will get punished, but if he comes in focused and with a solid game plan he could land big punches on Vettori’s way in to put him out.
That seems highly unlikely to me though, because Vettori just doesn’t waste any chances and knows exactly how to get the job done. Vettori gets takedowns, beats Holland up for 25 minutes and then calls out Israel Adesanya for a rematch. PICK – Marvin Vettori via Decision
Three weeks ago the Kevin Holland express came to a quick and sharp halt and his main event status imploded as he let the lights get to him.
He stepped into the octagon at UFC Vegas 22 to take on Derek Brunson after a record equalling 5-0 run in 2020, with all eyes on him. A win would’ve seen him elevated into the top five discussion with a potential title fight looming with another big win, but instead he let his ‘big mouth’ gimmick run amok and he was easily beaten.
The first was supposed to see him prove whether or not he was a legit threat to the division but he never really did. The first round against Brunson saw him slip almost immediately and then get beaten up on the ground, while in the second he managed to hurt his opponent and then failed to put him away.
The rest of the fight saw Holland looking more for viral moments via talking to Brunson and even Khabib outside the cage. He let the biggest opportunity of his career pass him by to keep up an image that he had created to garner attention on his come up.
But he’s now been given a second chance to make that impression, something that the UFC wouldn’t usually give up so easily.
With Darren Till’s broken collarbone injury opening up a spot in the main event of a middleweight bout in the top of the division, it couldn’t have gone any better for ‘Trailblazer’. Now he must take it.
No more of letting the nerves get to him and acting weirdly in the middle of a fight, no more giving himself excuses for if he is beaten. He has serious skills too as he’s shown in the past, with great hand speed and knockout power as well as a jiu-jitsu black belt.
Against Brunson, his footwork let him down and he let takedowns happen far too easily. Against Vettori he has a chance to correct that and quickly, because the Italian will undoubtedly look to close distance and secure takedowns also in order to use his smothering top game.
It’s a chance to show Dana White and fans across the world that he is serious about his craft and making it to the top of the 185lbs weight class.
A win will allow him to put the past behind him and prove that it was just the lights and the occasion that got to him last time out. Another defeat though will only solidify claims from many that he’s not serious enough to be at the top end despite his talents, especially if it comes in a similar manner.
He claimed after the fight that he never said anything about becoming champion and just wants to enjoy himself. That’s not enough to warrant a place in main event positions in the UFC, especially if that enjoyment gets in the way of victory or even putting up a valiant effort.
Losing at the top end of the division is never a bad thing in the UFC because the quality level is that high. But if you never even give it your all then why should anyone including fans, media, match-makers or even fighters take you seriously?
This main event is make or break for the man with the big right hand and the even bigger mouth. He needs to make this one count, but he’s got a trojan in front of him who won’t make it easy.
Lets go back to April 14th 2018 at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Gaethje in Glendale, Arizona. The lightweight division took a step forward as ‘The Diamond’ sent ‘The Highlight’ to a second consecutive defeat in his career with a fantastic main event fight.
However earlier in the night, the middleweight division had a similar moment in it’s rankings as the undefeated Israel Adesanya fought against the Italian stallion that is Marvin Vettori.
It was a very closely contested fight and one that took the now middleweight champion of the world Adesanya to the judges scorecards for the first time in his entire career. It was the first time too that ‘The Last Stylebender’ had been seen to have lost a round, with one judge even scoring the fight in Vettori’s favour.
That night Vettori left the octagon in disgust at the decision, believing he had done enough to claim a win. He then took a year away from the cage following a positive drug test, although it was proven that it wasn’t intentional and instead came from a contaminated supplement.
Vettori stepped in and dominated Hermansson in all facets of the fight, winning grappling exchanges and landing the much firmer strikes en route to a unanimous decision win. He proved he can go all five rounds, showing a vast improvement from his cardio issues in his earlier UFC career and seemed physically strong enough to go with one of the best in the middleweight division.
The game plan for Vettori will be similar to what it would’ve been against Till, push forward to close the distance and look to get the fight down to use his suffocating top game. He has excellent grappling, with nine submission wins in his career and his chin is unblemished with all his defeats only coming via the judge’s scorecards.
Currently ranked at number six, a win will surely shoot him into the top five at least and that would see him just one win away from the promised land. Whittaker will surely earn himself a rematch with a win against Gastelum which would leave Till, Vettori, Brunson and Paulo Costa to battle it out in a mini-tournament for the next fight.
If Vettori wants to prove to everyone what he has been saying for a while, that he is better than Adesanya, then a win over Holland at UFC Vegas 23 will take him one step closer to being able to prove it once and for all.
That plan is now on the back-burner as England’s Till has been forced to withdraw from the bout, according to Vettori himself and ESPN’s Ariel Helwani who broke the news.
According to Helwani, Till was forced to withdraw from the bout after suffering an injury in training. The Brit released a statement on Instagram revealing he had broken his collarbone. Unfortunately this is not the first time he has withdrawn from a bout in recent times.
As it goes in the world of MMA, Ariel Helwani is reporting that Kevin Holland has accepted an offer to step in on short notice once more and is just waiting on the bout being signed off by all relevant parties.
Holland main evented UFC Vegas 22 against Derek Brunson on March 20th and was well beaten in a five-round decision where he failed to take advantage of the position he put himself in following a 5-0 run in 2020. A quick turnaround in another main event could potentially put him right back in the hunt for a higher ranking, although Dana White’s criticism of him after that bout could make the road a longer one than usual.
Vettori commented on the withdrawal of Till via Twitter, calling the Liverpool fighter out for pulling out of the fight. Holland was quick to respond on Twitter also, before the Italian seemingly agreed to the bout online.