The UFC heads to Arizona for a huge pay-per-view card this weekend headlined by two massive title fights in the lightweight and strawweight divisions.
The main event will see Charles Oliveira defend his 155-pound title for the second time against Justin Gaethje, who looks to earn the belt at the second time of asking.
In the co-main event we’ll see Rose Namajunas defend her 115-pound title for the second time of her second stint as champion when she takes on Carla Esparza, reigniting a rivalry years in the making from the inaugural title fight in the division.
We’ll also see Michael Chandler fight against Tony Ferguson in a huge lightweight fight, as well as ‘Shogun’ Rua, Donald Cerrone, Randy Brown, Khaos Williams, Danny Roberts and more.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 53 we had a poor night with our picks, going 5/11 with four perfect picks. That moves us up to 613/951 (64.46%) with 259 perfect picks (42.25%).
We’ll look to improve on that here with this massive 15-fight card, starting with the early prelims.
Journey Newson (9-3) vs Fernie Garcia (10-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun bantamweight fight opens up the card between two interesting fighters. Newson is on a three fight winless streak, after dropping losses to Ricardo Ramos and Randy Costa (UFC Vegas 11) most recently. He did KO Domingo Pilarte in between those, but it was overturned to a no contest for a failed drug test. Garcia on the other hand makes his UFC debut after a successful appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Newson is a steady boxer with a decent wrestling game, but it’s hard to get a read on someone who has fought for less than 90 seconds in the last three years and is coming off a near two-year layoff. Garcia on the other hand is a volume striker with good speed and good wrestling defence to keep the fight in his wheelhouse. Neither guy has got great power, with just four KO’s across their combined 19 wins so it’s all about winning the 50/50 battles.
Newson will likely look to strike early on but when he realises that he’s not got the speed to match Garcia in the exchanges he’ll look to tie him up against the cage and wear on him. Garcia must be able to escape and get back to his boxing, which I think he will, to be able to claim a decision win.
PICK – Fernie Garcia via Decision
Ariane Carnelossi (14-2) vs Lupita Godinez (7-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An interesting strawweight bout up next between two women coming off wins. Carnelossi has won her last two by finish, knocking out Na Liang at UFC 261 before submitting Istela Nunes in her most recent outing. Godinez had three fights in six weeks at the back end of 2021, going 2-1 in that run with a defeat to Luana Carolina sandwiched between wins over Silvana Gomez Juarez and Loma Lookboonmee all by decision.
Carnelossi is a powerful striker with a good jab, good low kicks and a decent wrestling game when on the attack. Godinez on the other hand is a sharp boxer too, but she has excellent wrestling both offensively and defensively and that would surely give her the edge here. On the feet Carnelossi’s power is a game changer. She swings big hooks and has the ability to turn the lights out as her nine career KO’s show. but if she ends up on her back she is in trouble.
Godinez is a relentless grappler when she knows she can secure a takedown and from top position she should be able to keep Carnelossi exactly where she wants her. If she avoids the big contact in the early rounds, I expect Godinez to be able to wrestle her way to a relatively one-sided decision win.
PICK – Lupita Godinez via Decision
Kleydson Rodrigues (7-1) vs CJ Vergara (9-3-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Flyweight banger up next between two exciting prospects at 125-pounds. Rodrigues has won his last six in a row, including his last fight on Dana White’s Contender Series where he dominated Santo Curatolo. Vergara on the other hand saw a five-fight win streak snapped when he lost his UFC debut to Ode Osbourne via decision back at UFC 268 in November.
Rodrigues is a striker who likes to use his length well and kicking game to set up range and straight strikes and has got a huge technique advantage in this bout. Vergara is a bit more of a brawler than that, but he has got a great clinch game that looks to wear his opponents down with hard knees and elbows. Unfortunately for Vergara though, he seems to be outmatched on this occasion.
‘K.R.’ has got the power to land well and early, while stylistically he is similar to Osbourne who gave Vergara lots of trouble last time out. Vergara will have to try and close the distance with his boxing and that should open him up to a big counter from Rodrigues, who’ll claim the statement KO win.
PICK – Kleydson Rodrigues via Knockout, Round 2
Tracy Cortez (9-1) vs Melissa Gatto (8-0-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun flyweight fight between two prospects in the division up next. Cortez is on a nine-fight win streak and is unbeaten in the UFC, claiming a split decision win over Justine Kish in her most recent outing. Gatto on the other hand has won each of her last three bouts, including finishes in her UFC debut against Victoria Leonardo at UFC 265 and then a KO win over Sijara Eubanks at UFC Vegas 45 last time out.
Cortez is a grinding wrestler who has surely been working on her jiu-jitsu game in recent times since starting a relationship with Brian Ortega. She tends to get takedowns and control opponents on the ground, while her striking is good enough to hold her own in the exchanges. Gatto on the other hand is a solid striker with decent power and kicks, while she showed her ground game is of more than adequate level when she went toe-to-toe with Eubanks.
If Gatto keeps the fight standing then it’s her bout to lose. She has a small reach advantage but also she has got some nasty jiu-jitsu off her back and that could be a problem for Cortez. With that said though, Cortez will do some big wrestling movements and will look to grind her way to a win, but she must stay very aware of the submission threat that is posed against her. Overall, there are more paths to victory for the Brazilian, so I expect her to edge out a tough fight.
PICK – Melissa Gatto via Decision
Andre Fialho (15-4) vs Cameron VanCamp (15-5-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger in the welterweight division that was put together on super short notice. Andre Fialho returns to the octagon just three weeks after a huge win over Miguel Baeza last time out, having been beaten in his UFC debut by Michel Pereira at UFC 270 at the start of the year. VanCamp makes his organisation debut on the back of a four-fight win streak with three submissions in a row.
Fialho is a powerhouse who constantly walks forward and throws heavy strikes as he closes the distance, with good defensive wrestling too. VanCamp on the other hand is a solid grappler with excellent submission skills, but his striking leaves plenty to be desired and that puts him in a world of trouble here. He’s a technical boxer with a nasty left hook and so long as the quick turnaround doesn’t negatively impact him this is his fight to lose.
VanCamp needs to get the fight to the ground and control the grappling exchanges to win this fight, but he’ll need to eat a host of strikes to get it there and I don’t see him being able to cope. Fialho lands big and early to hurt VanCamp and earn a nasty KO win.
PICK – Andre Fialho via Knockout, Round 1