Tag Archives: Lauren Murphy

UFC Long Island: Ortega vs Rodriguez – Main card predictions

The UFC heads to Long Island for a fight night event with a live crowd, as two featherweight contenders go head-to-head in the main event when Brian Ortega takes on Yair Rodriguez.

A very solid card will see plenty of excellent fights, with the 145-pound eliminator bout right at the top of the card. We’ll also see the likes of Li Jingliang, Michelle Waterson, Jack Shore, Shane Burgos and Miesha Tate.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 58 we went 7/11 with two perfect picks, moving us to 656/1020 (64.31%) with 281 perfect picks (42.84%). You can check out our full picks history here.

We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims and then picking the rest of the prelims here, we move on to the main card now.


Lauren Murphy (15-5) vs Miesha Tate (19-8) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

An interesting flyweight bout that was rescheduled after a late cancellation off UFC 276. Murphy saw a five-fight win streak snapped when she challenged Valentina Shevchenko for the title in her last bout, getting dominated at UFC 266 for a KO defeat. Tate won on her UFC return against Marion Reneau, but was beaten last time out by Ketlen Vieira via decision.

Murphy is a great striker, no two ways about it. She’s a rangy fighter who looks to use her size to kick and hit strikes from distance, claiming eight wins via knockout in her career. She has just one KO win since 2016 though. Tate on the other hand is a bit of an all-rounder, but it’s her wrestling that separates her from other fighters and got her a world championship once upon a time. If she’s going to win this bout, then she’s got to work that wrestling to the best of her ability.

Tate is a dog, in the sense that she never gives in and is always persevering. Murphy is undoubtedly going to look to box and use her jab, but Tate will walk forwards until she gets her hands on her and as the naturally bigger fighter she shouldn’t struggle to get the fight down. Once it’s there, she’s in her own world and she should be able to dominate the fight. I don’t think she’ll be able to get the finish, but that advantage should be able to claim her the victory at the very least.
PICK – Miesha Tate via Decision

Shane Burgos (14-3) vs Charles Jourdain (13-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

An absolutely insane fight at featherweight between two of the division’s most exciting athletes. Burgos snapped a two-fight losing streak when he earned a decision over Billy Quarantillo at UFC 268, while Jourdain is on a two-fight win streak with a decision against Andre Ewell before submitting Lando Vannata last time out.

Burgos is a terrific boxer with superb hand speed and power as well as counter striking. He does however also get hit an awful lot and relies heavily upon his durability to get into all-out wars with his opponents. Jourdain is also someone who looks to get into wars to try and catch his opponents with his speed and power. This is going to be a war, no doubt about it.

Stylistically they’re very similar, but I do feel that Burgos is the more powerful and more technical striker. Jourdain has never been KO’d before in his career, but Burgos is the best fighter he’s ever come up against. With a big reach advantage to work with, I expect Burgos will use his jab effectively and be able to land first in the wild exchanges to be able to claim a FOTN bonus and a win on the judge’s scorecards.
PICK – Shane Burgos via Decision

Matt Schnell (15-6) vs Sudumaerji (16-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A fun flyweight scrap between two top guys in the division up next. Schnell has picked up just one win in his last four, suffering a submission defeat to Brandon Royval in the first round back at UFC 274. Sudumaerji on the other hand has won three in a row, with a decision win over Zarrukh Adashev in his most recent bout back at UFC Fight Island 8 in January 2020.

Schnell is an excellent submission artist, with eight victories by way of tap out in his career. He’s a very good wrestler and has got solid striking too, but he struggles to mix things together which often leaves him in limbo. Sudumaerji on the other hand is a powerful striker with great footwork, but he struggles against takedowns and his grappling isn’t the best. These two are essentially polar opposites when it comes to fight styles.

I expect Sudumaerji will stay on the outside and use his striking skills while trying to maintain distance, while Schnell will look to close him down against the cage to get the fight into his submission world. The fact it’s orthodox vs southpaw means Sudumaerji’s striking will be even more at an advantage because his power strikes will have more space to land. With that, I think he should be able to push on past Schnell and higher up the rankings to claim an impressive win.
PICK – Sudumaerji via Knockout, Round 2



Li Jingliang (18-7) vs Muslim Salikhov (18-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A very fun welterweight scrap up next. Li is seen as a top prospect in the weight class despite being 34, but got dominated by Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 267 before being choked out last time out. Salikhov is on a five-fight win streak, with his last three all coming via decisions.

Li is a powerful striker who has got explosive traits and also got solid grappling skills too, as proven in his five submission wins during his career. Salikhov on the other hand is one of the most skilled strikers in MMA history, although his volume and technique outweighs his power these days. This fight depends on which approach Li takes in all honesty, because he’s capable of going both ways.

Salikhov will strike no matter what. Li prefers to strike when he has the opportunity, but he will know that is a dangerous game against someone as skilled as “King of Kung Fu”. That means he could look to mix it up and use his grappling here and he will have a big advantage in that field. If he just chooses to strike he’ll probably lose, but I don’t expect that to be his game plan and he should be able to grapple enough to earn the win.
PICK – Li Jingliang via Decision

Michelle Waterson (18-9) vs Amanda Lemos (11-2-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

Considering the calibre of fight on show on this card, this co-main event is a little underwhelming. Waterson has lost three of her last four fights, with Marina Rodriguez claiming a decision against her last time out. Lemos on the other hand saw a five-fight win streak snapped last time out when she was submitted by Jessica Andrade in the first round.

Waterson’s nickname “The Karate Hottie” explains her style off the bat. She has a stand-up stance that keeps her distance and she likes to use kicks and manage distance well, but she’s also a pretty good grappler with decent wrestling skills in her back pocket. Lemos is a powerhouse striker on the feet, with seven wins in her career via KO who comes forward and knows she can end fights in an instant. This seems like quite a lopsided fight.

Lemos has a huge power advantage and will come forward with pressure plenty. Waterson will use her sidekick to try to maintain distance, but once Lemos gets past that she’s in danger. While I don’t think Waterson will be KO’d as she is pretty durable, Lemos is powerful enough to cause plenty of damage and keep the fight standing for the most part to claim a win.
PICK – Amanda Lemos via Decision

Brian Ortega (15-2) vs Yair Rodriguez (14-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

Fight of the night and one of the most exciting match ups of the year. Ortega has fought for the title in two of his last three fights and been dominated, with Alexander Volkanovski smashing him at UFC 266 in his last outing. He dominated the Korean Zombie in between those fights though at UFC Fight Island 6. Rodriguez saw a three fight unbeaten run snapped by Max Holloway last time out, in one of the best fights of 2021 at UFC Vegas 42.

Ortega is a lethal jiu-jitsu practitioner with some of the best submissions in the UFC, but his striking has improved massively in recent years and he’s now a confident boxer too. Rodriguez on the other hand is an incredible striker with some of the best kicks in the UFC, with incredible speed and power on the end of them. His grappling defence isn’t the greatest though, as Holloway showed by taking him down and controlling him in the last fight. Stylistically, this is undoubtedly an incredible close fight.

Both guys will be happy to stand and strike, and if that’s the case then Ortega will be in trouble. He has been out-struck a lot in his career but his boxing is decent and any kicks will give him the chance to catch them and take the fight to the ground. If the fight is to end via knockout then it’s more likely to be a Rodriguez win, but with Ortega’s sensational grappling skills he seems to have more paths to victory and that leans me towards him getting the fight down to the mat and finding “El Pantera”‘s neck eventually to claim an impressive win.
PICK – Brian Ortega via Submission, Round 3

UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Jonathan Pearce def Omar Morales via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:31)

Slow start to the fight for Pearce as Morales keeps the distance well in the opening minute and lands some nice low kicks. Pearce struggling to close the distance and Morales lets fly with some big strikes that just miss on the counter. Beautiful left hand from Morales followed by a big low kick but Pearce rushes him and goes for a takedown from the clinch, but Morales is able to get back up instantly and clinch up against the cage again. Pearce tries to drag him back down before a big trip gets him into top position, but Morales has the underhook and is able to sweep and get on top. Pearce holds on and then lands another big takedown, but Morales throws some big elbows and eventually gets back to the feet. More clinching against the cage as the round ends. Pearce didn’t do much damage but he controlled the ground game for the majority of the round, so 10-9 Pearce.

Fast start from Pearce this time as he ducks under a wild right hook and goes for the takedown immediately. Morales defends it well against the cage but Pearce is relentless with it and eventually gets him down and takes his back. Pearce slides off and Morales looks for a d’arce choke but he rolls and loses the grip, so Pearce gets up and gets on Morales’ back again. Morales is tired and Pearce has a body triangle, but Morales almost gives up full mount. Pearce landing some strikes on the ground and eventually sinks in a choke. Morales refuses to tap but passes out and the referee stops it! Big win for JSP!

Matthew Semelsberger def Martin Sano Jr via Knockout, Round 1 (0:15)

GOODNIGHT. Semelsberger throws out a couple of feeler shots, then lands a steaming right straight on the chin and Sano is out cold. Semelsberger lands one more while he’s down and this one is over.

Nick Maximov def Cody Brundage via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Fun start from both guys as Brundage opens with a few strikes and knee, while Maximov shoots for a takedown but sees it get defended. Maximov lands two big strikes and Brundage starts throwing hard leg kicks to see him off. Maximov shoots in for a takedown and immediately transitions to the back, but Brundage defending well using a kimura grip and gets back to his feet. Maximov shoots in for another takedown and this time steps over Brundage to avoid the kimura defence and he ends up in a really positive position on top. Short strikes and Brundage just holding tight for the final 30 seconds. Maximov lands some heavy strikes and Brundage rushes back up to end the round. 10-9 Maximov.

Brundage goes in for an early takedown on Maximov but he reverses the position and ends up on top himself. Maximov takes the back and starts landing some nice ground and pound and then sinks his hooks in and takes Brundage’s back. Brundage starts working his way back up to the feet and eats a big knee, before he spins out and looks for a guillotine submission. Maximov pops his head out and is in full guard on top. He takes the back again and is looking for a choke. Brundage fights the hands and escapes but Maximov keeps his position on the back for the remainder of the round. 20-18 Maximov.

Final round and once again Maximov goes for a takedown to hold Brundage down but he defends it well. Nice right hand from Brundage changes Maximov’s balance and drops him. Maximov controlling the exchanges but Brundage now throwing big elbows from the bottom and Maximov is hurt. Some big strikes land on the ground and he ends up on top landing big strikes, but Maximov grabs a single leg and survives it. He gets back on top and holds the position for the rest of the round to hopefully secure a win. 29-28 Maximov.

Jalin Turner def Uros Medic via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 1 (4:01)

Turner starts the fight by taking the centre and flicking out a jab, then landing a nice left hand down the middle. Medic responds with two hard low kicks and then a high kick that lands, but Turner catches the leg high and takes Medic down into side control. Medic tries to sweep and roll through but Turner does well to keep full guard position. Medic pushes his way back to the feet but Turner follows him up and hurts him with a nasty body shot. Turner pouring on the pressure with strikes and body shots and he puts Medic down. He piles on more strikes, Medic turns to his knees, Turner synches up a choke and Medic taps! What a performance!

PRELIMS

Taila Santos def Roxanne Modafferi via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

Fast start to this one on the feet from Santos, who lands some big hooks clean early on in some exchanges. Santos charges with strikes, clinches up and then secures a takedown with a trip inside the first 90 seconds. Santos teeing off with elbows and body strikes on the ground but Modafferi is working for an armbar off her back. Santos lands a big elbow strike to escape and goes back into full guard before Modafferi works her way back to her feet against the cage. Modafferi switches positions and lands some nice knees to the body, before Santos trips her again and takes back to the mat. Modafferi pops back up and looks to take Santos down against the cage but she defends well and lands some heavy knees to the body to close out the round. 10-9 Santos.

Modafferi comes out swinging in the second round and both women connect with big shots early, before Santos has a kick caught and Modafferi takes her towards the cage. Santos defends well but Modafferi staying patient and consistent with the pressure. Santos lands a huge right hook that wobbles Modafferi and Santos charges into her and takes her down to the mat. Modafferi’s eye is swollen and cut bad as Santos lands another big ground and pound strike before wearing on her from top position. Santos takes the back of Modafferi but she works her way back up to the feet against the cage, but Santos takes her straight back down again. Santos controls the position for the final minute and takes this round too. 20-18.

Santos takes the centre to start the final round and is looking to counter Modafferi with strikes. Modafferi steps forward and lands a couple of strikes but Santos responds with two hard straights of her own. Santos lands two huge hooks and Modafferi sits down on her butt, before Santos launches on to her and starts controlling position again. Santos landing some big elbow strikes from the top and Modafferi looks completely outclassed right now. Santos advances to side control with a cradle, then switches to take her back. Santos going for a choke but Modafferi fighting against it before Santos lets her back up on the feet. 90 seconds left and Modafferi still coming forward but Santos is landing her jab at will. Modafferi goes for a clinch against the cage but Santos throws her over her hip to end the round on top. 30-27, dominant.

Chris Daukaus def Shamil Abdurakhimov via Knockout, Round 2 (1:23)

Feeling out process to open up this fight as Daukaus just misses with an uppercut. Abdurakhimov hits a nice body shot and then goes for a spinning body kick as Daukaus throws a big right hand and both just miss. Abdurakhimov getting comfortable now and landing shots, with two big left hands catching Daukaus. Abdurakhimov goes to spin and Daukaus throws a leg kick at the same time which drops him. He gets back to the feet and Daukaus is head-hunting a little, but Abdurakhimov doing well to counter and keep him from landing flush. Daukaus steps forward and lands a huge left hook that drops him! He jumps on him for the finish and lands huge elbows and strikes but runs out of time. 10-9 Daukaus.

Daukaus steps forward early but Abdurakhimov is using his experience to slow the fight all the way down as he tries to recover. Big combination from Daukaus lands and Abdurakhimov is hurt! Daukaus comes forward and lands a huge right hook that drops him again! He goes for the finish and lands two huge elbows before the referee steps in and ends it! Huge knockout from Daukaus!

Dan Hooker def Nasrat Haqparast via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)

Slow start to the bout as Hooker takes the centre early on and starts cutting the cage off early on as Haqparast circles the outside. Hooker looks for a few straight rights and body kicks, and Haqparast explodes with a big left hand that just misses. Hooker throwing some body kicks and still controlling the centre, with Haqparast still just circling on the outside and looking to explode. More of the same as we enter the final minute, where Haqparast just misses with a one-two before Hooker goes for a takedown against the cage. Haqparast defends it well as Hooker releases it, lands a one-two with a knee just as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Hooker.

Lots of kicks in the second round from Hooker as he pushes the pace and tries to attack more. Hooker goes for a takedown against the cage and throws some nice knees in the clinch against the cage, but Haqparast defending the takedown attempt well. Hooker lands a knee that knocks the mouthpiece out of Haqparast’s mouth but he’s not hurt. Hooker starting to clinch and throw knees a lot more now with Haqparast on the outside. Clinch against the cage and Hooker lands a nice body shot then right hand and he’s starting to land a lot more now. Big right hand from Hooker and then he clinches and slams Haqparast down to the mat. Hooker into side control and he’s landing knees to the body to close out the round. 20-18 Hooker.

Haqparast starts the third round with two big strikes that land nice on the chin but Hooker eats them and responds with an accidental low blow. Haqparast now coming forward and landed a big right hand again. Both guys exchange body kicks and then Hooker changes levels perfectly and secures a takedown. Hooker goes straight into side control and is landing some short shots on the ground while controlling the position. Hooker landing plenty of short strikes and then transitions to the back and lands some nice shots. Haqparast bursts back up but Hooker immediately level changes and gets the fight back down to the ground. Hooker controls the position for the rest of the round and lands some good ground and pound to end the fight. Impressive performance from Hooker. 30-27.

Merab Dvalishvili def Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 2 (4:25)

Very fun start as Moraes takes the centre and starts throwing strikes and kicks out early. Two hard low kicks land and Merab didn’t like those, and he throws some hard hooks and goes wild. Moraes returns fire but Merab catches his leg and takes him down. Moraes gets back up quickly and separates well then lands some heavy strikes. Moraes lands a huge left hook that rocks Merab and goes for the finish! Some huge left hooks land heavy and Merab is literally running away across the cage to get away. Moraes follows him across and throws some big strikes that makes Merab stumble! Merab manages to shoot for a takedown and clinches against the cage, gets Moraes down and survives. Now he’s controlling the top position and he’s raining down punches from top position! Moraes is in big trouble but the buzzer goes! What a crazy round. I have no idea how to score it.

Merab comes out fired up for the second round and Moraes is still struggling. Merab launches forward with an overhand right that hurts Moraes immediately and he takes him down straight away. More huge ground and pound strikes from Merab and Moraes is in absolute agony getting pummelled. Merab keeps it going with powerful elbows and strikes and Moraes is finished. This fight could be stopped at any moment. Merab keeps going with punishing strikes and the referee FINALLY steps in. What a performance from Merab!

MAIN CARD

Jessica Andrade def Cynthia Calvillo via Knockout, Round 1 (4:54)

Patient start from Andrade who takes the centre and immediately starts walking Calvillo down against the cage. Calvillo throws a few jabs out there and some kicks, then Andrade counters with a stiff right hand that wobbles Calvillo. Calvillo firing back with some jabs and nice strikes, but Andrade is eating them and answering back with powerful shots of her own and Calvillo is feeling them. Another clean right hand from Calvillo, but Andrade lands some chopping low kicks and follows up with some short right hands. Calvillo is landing good strikes but the power behind them is lacking. Andrade charges forward and lands some big right hands clean, then follows it with an uppercut that hurts Calvillo! Andrade goes for the finish and lands several strikes to the head and the referee steps in with five seconds to go in the round to end the fight! Big win from Andrade!

Curtis Blaydes def Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

Fun start to the fight as Blaydes takes the centre quickly and starts flicking out a jab. Rozenstruik immediately gets a left hand off to let Blaydes know he’s there, but Blaydes is showing lots of movement and bouncing around. Blaydes changes levels and gets the takedown with ease early on, and starts working for position with some good ground and pound strikes. Rozenstruik gets back to his feet slowly but then gets back to striking range. Blaydes has a speed advantage it seems so far and is dictating the pace of the fight with his jabs. Blaydes lands a hard low kick and Rozenstruik responds with a wild hook that hits Blaydes’ back as he turns away to escape. Round ends with a short exchange. 10-9 Blaydes.

Rozenstruik comes forward with a nice left hand early on but Blaydes back to using his jab and dictating the pace of the fight. Rozenstruik explodes with a combination but gets nowhere near Blaydes, who is just popping the jab and throwing out low kicks. Blaydes goes for a takedown but missed it and Rozenstruik just missed with an uppercut. Not much action in this round as we enter the final 90 seconds. Rozenstruik goes for a huge flying knee that connects and then lands a big one-two on Blaydes! Blaydes immediately changes levels and gets a takedown, then advances straight to half-guard to start opening some ground and pound and end the round. 20-18 Blaydes.

Final round and Blaydes keeping calm on the feet and dictating the range once again with his jab. A couple of low kicks and Rozenstruik comes back with a right hand that just misses. Blaydes lands two nice jabs and a left straight, then changes levels and secures the takedown once again. Rozenstruik tries to kick Blaydes off him, but Blaydes stays calm and goes straight back to the ground and lands some big ground and pound elbows. Blaydes dominating position from the top as Rozenstruik just can’t get up and the round comes to an end. Comfortable decision win for Blaydes here. 30-27.

Robbie Lawler def Nick Diaz via Knockout, Round 3 (0:44)

Fast start to the fight from Lawler as he comes forward and immediately starts throwing bombs and body shots to Diaz. Lawler much faster and looks much more physically strong, but Diaz throwing some nice combos down the middle too. Lawler still coming forward and trying to chop the legs but Diaz starting to land more strikes now. Diaz stringing together some beautiful combinations but Lawler eating them well and coming forward with some shots of his own. Some big body shots from Diaz landing but Lawler looks a lot more powerful. Could argue a 10-9 either way, but I’d go Diaz.

Fast start again from Lawler in the second round as he comes forward and looks to impose himself on Diaz. Nice elbow lands from Lawler and then a big body kick lands that hurts Diaz! Diaz steps away and Lawler throws a big leg kick, but Diaz responds again with some more beautiful boxing combinations including four left uppercuts in a row. Lawler goes back to the body and Diaz steps away again, but Lawler is right on top of him and in his face. Diaz not fading at all though and landing lots of strikes, although there isn’t much behind them. Lawler lands his left hand well and is hunting Diaz down, but eats a body kick. Diaz lands a big right hand but Lawler eats it and comes forward again with some more body work that has Diaz looking to move away as the round ends. 19-19.

Third round and Lawler coming out aggressive once again, pushing Diaz to the cage and throwing big bombs. Lawler lands a big body shot and follows it up with a big right hook that hurts Diaz! Diaz goes down to one knee, Lawler smashes him again on the chin and he falls to his back. Lawler tells him to get up and Diaz says he can’t continue so this one is over! Wow!

Valentina Shevchenko def Lauren Murphy via Knockout, Round 4 (4:00)

Tense start from both ladies in this one, with both women just feeling each other out for the opening minute. Shevchenko lands a nice body kick and then just misses with a left hand. Shevchenko goes for another kick and Murphy catches it and looks to clinch, but Shevchenko steps away and lands a right hand on the break. Shevchenko looking to land hard with her left hand but just missing, before a nice right hand and low kick combo followed by a spinning side kick to the body. Left hand followed by a low kick again by Shevchenko before a big right hand starts some swelling on Murphy’s eye. Head kick from Shevchenko lands, followed by a right hand and a takedown to close out the round. Dominant from the champ, 10-9.

More of the same to start the second round from Shevchenko as she starts to dominate the striking exchanges again. Shevchenko goes to engage in a takedown but Murphy reverses it and tries to get a takedown of her own, only for the champion to deny it and step away with a big left hand. Counter right hook from Shevchenko lands again before a solid body kick and another takedown from the champion. Shevchenko laying in half-guard and controlling the position for now, with Murphy just holding on to try and avoid too much damage. Shevchenko lands some big elbows from the top as the round comes to an end. 20-18.

Shevchenko dominant again, landing her left hand and counter right hook at will essentially. Nasty body kick again and a spinning heel kick just misses. Shevchenko controlling every aspect of the fight so far, Murphy can’t get near her at all. Superman punch lands from the champion followed by a one-two and leg-kick combination again. At this point Murphy is just surviving and Shevchenko is having her way in a very one-sided affair. Murphy goes for a strike but Shevchenko changes levels and clinches against the cage to see out the round. 30-27.

Murphy trying to come forward a bit more but Shevchenko is just completely in control. Little slip from Shevchenko gets the crowd excited but she hops up and lands a big left hand down the pipe of Murphy. More kicks from Shevchenko as she starts upping the pressure a bit, and lands a nasty front kick to the face. Shevchenko lands a check right hook that wobbles Murphy and then a big head kick followed by a street-fighter like combo of strikes to the face as she goes for the finish! Murphy is still standing somehow and Shevchenko takes her down and starts looking for ground and pound with some nasty elbows and the referee steps in and ends it! As one-sided as they come!

Alexander Volkanovski def Brian Ortega via Unanimous Decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-44)

Patient start from both guys as Volkanovski takes the centre of the cage and both guys flick out some jabs. Volkanovski lands a beautiful right hand but it’s countered by Ortega who lands one of his own. Volkanovski lands another right hand over the top which opens up a small cut above his eye. Ortega looking to step in with some jabs but Volkanovski keeping distance really well and then he landed a nice flush jab and big right hand too. Ortega lands a nice jab that opens up a small gash under Volkanovski’s eye, before slipping out of the way of two big strikes from the champion. Volkanovski stepping forward and starting to up the pace, but Ortega lands a nice counter left hand that wobbles Volkanovski. Jab from Ortega who then catches a kick and lands another left to close the round. Tough to score, but I’d go 10-9 Volk.

Very even fight so far as both men go blow for blow early in the second round. Ortega landing his jab well and the left hand behind it is landing on occasion too, while Volkanovski is closing the distance well and lands a big right hand clean himself. Volk throwing some leg kicks and Ortega fakes one in return but goes high instead and just misses. Volk steps in and throws some wild hooks and a big elbow, before looking to clinch up but Ortega immediately separates from him. Nice right hook from Ortega sends Volkanovski backwards but he responds with a heavy leg kick again. Volkanovski comes forward with a good combo but Ortega just staying at enough distance to not catch it flush. 20-18 Volkanovski.

Volkanovski starting well in this round and being a bit more aggressive with his striking and low kicks. Big right hand lands flush and Ortega eats it, then Volkanovski goes in for another but misses and they clash heads. Ortega looks unsteady and Volkanovski chopping at the leg, but Ortega fires back with a big combination that just misses. Volkanovski throws a leg kick that Ortega catches and he fires a left hand down the pipe that drops him! He jumps on a mounted guillotine and it’s tightttt but Volkanovski refuses to tap out! He pops his head out and escapes and gets back on top and starts landing bombs on an exhausted Ortega! Ortega throws up a triangle and locks it in and it’s tight again! Volkanovski once again refuses to tap and he pops out again and then gets back on top and rains down punches again but the buzzer goes! What a round!

The doctor allows Ortega to continue after a check and Volkanovski comes out hunting for him. Some big right hands land again and then Ortega goes for a takedown out of exhaustion. He trips Volkanovski and gets him down and looks for a guillotine again, but Volkanovski is safe and gets back on top to start raining down more ground and pound. Volkanovski is beating him up badly on the ground but Ortega is doing just enough to survive. Volkanovski lets him get back up but just misses with some big strikes as the round ends. 40-35 at a minimum to the champion.

Final round and Volkanovski staying patient in the centre again, but Ortega is in there giving it his all. Ortega goes for a takedown but Volkanovski defends it easy and lands a big right elbow. Ortega is coming forward with strikes and Volkanovski is backing up now, before Ortega lands a one-two and Volkanovski responds with a huge right hook. Big one-two from Ortega gets a nod of approval from Volkanovski. Both guys trading in the centre of the octagon as we enter the final minute of the fight. Ortega catches a kick and goes for a knee but misses. Final seconds and Ortega lands some huge strikes but Volkanovski is still standing as the buzzer goes and it’s all over. What a fight. Big win for the champion.

UFC 266: Volkanovski vs Ortega – Main card predictions

An absolutely stacked UFC card heads to Las Vegas this weekend as UFC 266 hosts two title fights and a huge return to the sport.

Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega will finally meet for the featherweight title in their rescheduled fight from UFC 260, with ‘T-City’ looking to fulfil his destiny of becoming the top dog at 145lbs.

In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko looks to continue on her path as one of the greatest mixed martial artists ever when she defends her flyweight crown for a sixth time against Lauren Murphy before the return of Nick Diaz to the UFC when he takes on Robbie Lawler and hopes to start something special with a win.

Last week at UFC Vegas 37 we went 9/13 with one perfect pick, moving us up to 411/646 (63.62%) with 178 perfect picks (43.31%). We’ll look to add to that and improve and after predicting the early prelims here and the rest of the prelims here, we move on to the main card now.


Jessica Andrade (21-9) vs Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A fight at the top end of the women’s flyweight division opens up the main card here. Andrade is coming off the back of her nasty defeat against champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 261, while Calvillo also lost her last fight against Kaitlyn Chookagian at UFC 255 last time out.

Andrade is a powerful wrestler who slams almost all her opponents at some point, and also has good striking to work her way inside too. Calvillo is a good wrestler in her own right, with some decent striking but plenty of control in the top position. Andrade seems to have found her best weight class now as has Calvillo and this is the type of fight that would usually determine a title contender.

Andrade has shown some cardio issues in the past, while Calvillo has gone a full five rounds before and still looked fresh. Her issues against Chookagian were more distance related than anything else and she won’t have those problems against the 5ft 1 Andrade. Andrade however is the more powerful fighter and when it comes to grappling I think she has the advantage too so I expect her to claim the win.
PICK – Jessica Andrade via Decision
BETTING TIP – Fight to go the distance @ 5/6 (Bet365)

Curtis Blaydes (14-3) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A huge heavyweight contender fight between two guys looking to work their way towards title contention. Blaydes was on a tear until he ran into Derrick Lewis and got flattened at UFC Vegas 19, while Rozenstruik bounced back from a beating by Ciryl Gane to earn a KO win over Augusto Sakai last time out at UFC Vegas 28.

Blaydes’ style is the same in every fight and your chances of winning against him stand on whether or not you can stop his takedowns. He shoots in with power, holds you down in position and rains down huge elbows until you can’t take it anymore. Rozenstruik on the other hand is a kickboxer with legitimate one-punch power, just like Lewis had. Rozenstruik’s wrestling defence isn’t the best, but he can learn a lot from Blaydes’ last fight of how to defend the takedowns with his striking.

It comes down to whether or not Blaydes can land the takedown without having his lights turned out again, and I think he’ll correct his issues and blast double-leg his way to a unanimous decision win.
PICK – Curtis Blaydes via Decision
BETTING TIP – Blaydes via Decision @ 11/5 (Bet365)

Nick Diaz (26-9) vs Robbie Lawler (28-15) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

Arguably the most anticipated fight on the card as Diaz makes his return after six years away to take on old rival ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler. These two met all the way back in 2004, with Diaz earning a KO win in the second round. Lawler is on a big decline right now, losing each of his last four fights with the most recent coming against Neil Magny at UFC Vegas 8.

Diaz is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with brilliant boxing and one of the deepest gas tanks in MMA, while Lawler is a powerful wrestler with a solid overhand left that can put people to sleep. This is an incredibly tough fight to call because we have no idea what Diaz has been up to in the gym for the last six years. We don’t know how he’ll react in the cage after so long away or how he’ll look in action.

The fans will be behind him, because they always are, and he has a knockout win against Lawler on his CV already. On the ground we know how talented he is, but Lawler has been far more active since and has the wrestling edge. It’s due to be a wild fight and it’s a guess either way, but I have to go with Diaz to make the perfect return.
PICK – Nick Diaz via Decision

Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) vs Lauren Murphy (15-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

The first title fight of the night sees the ever-dominant Shevchenko take on the veteran Murphy in the co-main event. ‘Bullet’ has won seven in a row, with her only UFC defeats coming in razor close decisions to Amanda Nunes. Her last fight was a violent KO over Jessica Andrade at UFC 261. Murphy on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak, with her most recent win coming against Joanne Calderwood at UFC 263.

Shevchenko is an entirely complete MMA fighter with stunning striking, grappling and submission skills to go with excellent defence and a second-to-none fight IQ. Murphy is a boxer by trade with some good kickboxing skills too and some good clinch work with good grappling skills on the ground where necessary. Unfortunately for her, she’s just not on the same level as Shevchenko.

No matter where this fight goes, Shevchenko wins. It’s that simple. Unless something absolutely crazy happens, Shevchenko can pretty much pick how she wins this fight and I think she’ll use her striking to come out on top this time.
PICK – Valentina Shevchenko via Knockout, Round 3

Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) vs Brian Ortega (15-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

When the main event has the potential to be the fight of the night, you know it’s a good one. The featherweight title is on the line as Volkanovski looks to make it 20 wins in a row and 10-0 in the UFC, after wins over Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo and Max Holloway twice in his most recent bouts. Ortega took two years out after losing to Holloway and returned with a stunning performance against Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Island 6 to earn his title shot.

Volkanovski is a brilliant all-rounder, with powerful strikes in his hands and some top-tier wrestling to allow him to decide where the fight goes. Ortega is a submission specialist with other-worldly jiu-jitsu skills but the performance against TKZ showed that he has upped his striking to a whole new level too. His jab is sharp, he has good combinations and mixes in takedowns well too. Volkanovski will have to deal with that striking threat in a different way to how he did with Holloway, because the ground is Ortega’s world.

Overall, this is a super close fight and I won’t be surprised by whoever wins this fight. Ultimately though, I back Volkanovski to retain his title. He is able to mix it up well and his game-planning has been great in the past. He has the more well-rounded skillset for me and I think he’s physically stronger, so he’ll claim the close win.
PICK – Alexander Volkanovski via Decision

UFC 266: Two title fights and major return announced for September

The UFC have announced three huge fights for UFC 266 in September, including two huge title fights and the return of Nick Diaz.

Diaz, the older brother of fan favourite Nate, hasn’t fought since January 2015 when he took on the legendary Anderson Silva in the main event at UFC 183 in the Brazilian’s first fight back after breaking his leg against Chris Weidman.

We will also see Alexander Volkanovski finally defend his UFC featherweight title against Brian Ortega after their initial bout was cancelled in March when the champion tested positive for COVID-19 the week before the fight. Valentina Shevchenko will also defend her flyweight title, taking on Lauren Murphy in the co-main event.

Diaz’s fight against Silva initially ended with the former middleweight champion earning a decision win, but both men tested positive after the fight and were hit with USADA bans with the result overturned to a no contest.

Diaz was initially banned for five years for marijuana use, but upon appeal saw that reduce to 18 months. He has also served suspensions in that time for unpaid fines to the Nevada State Athletic Commission as well as for failure to report his whereabouts.

He and Lawler fought back at UFC 47 back in 2004, with Diaz winning via second round knockout. Lawler went on to become the reigning welterweight champion during his UFC career but is currently on a four-fight losing streak after defeats to Rafael Dos Anjos, Ben Askren, Colby Covington and most recently Neil Magny.

The fight will not be a main event but will be five rounds, just like his brother Nate’s bout against Leon Edwards at UFC 263 last month.

In the main event, Volkanovski looks to continue his unbeaten run in the UFC when he takes on ‘T-City’ Ortega in a featherweight title fight.

Once their March bout collapsed, both fighters agreed to take part in the new season of The Ultimate Fighter as coaches. The series finale is currently set for some time in August.

Volkanovski is coming off back-to-back decision wins over Max Holloway where he won the belt then defended it for the first time at UFC 251, while Ortega dismantled The Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Island 6 to earn himself a title shot.

As for Shevchenko, she has cemented herself as the most dominant women’s flyweight of all time and has defended her title five times including most recently against Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 and then Jessica Andrade at UFC 261.

She will take on Lauren Murphy, who has worked her way up the rankings and put together a five-fight win streak with victories over Mara Romero Borella, Andrea Lee, Roxanne Modafferri at UFC Vegas 3, Liliya Shakirova at UFC 254 and Joanne Calderwood at UFC 263.

The card will take place on September 25th from Las Vegas, Nevada at the T-Mobile Arena.

UFC 263: Adesanya vs Vettori 2 – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Carlos Felipe def Jake Collier via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Good start to the fight from Collier as he uses his speed and volume to land early on Felipe. Felipe starts to walk forward and throws some wild hooks but Collier ducks them and throws a spinning back fist that just misses. Felipe takes the centre and starts working the body, and lands a few left hands too that stumble Collier backwards. Hard leg kicks from Collier as they throw down in the middle for the round to come to an end. 10-9 Felipe.

Second round starts and Felipe comes forward much more aggressive than the opening round, walking Collier down and testing his gas tank. Felipe landing big left hooks to the body and working Collier out, stepping forward and bobbing and weaving before throwing big one-twos. Collier’s leg kicks keep landing but Felipe doesn’t care and keeps going forward. More big punches land and he’s showboating despite a close round. 19-19.

Final round and Felipe is pushing forward again while Collier backs up exhausted. Felipe lands some nice body shots again and then starts going upstairs with some big strikes. Felipe lands a big left hand and Collier is rocked, then gets clocked twice more. Collier shoots for a takedown but Felipe sprawls, then gets up and lands some stiff jabs. Collier keeps checking the clock but Felipe is marching him down and throwing heavy shots in the pocket with 30 seconds to go. Collier lands a nice body shot followed by a kick but Felipe should get the nod. 29-28.

Fares Ziam def Luigi Vendramini via Majority Decision (29-28 x2, 28-28)

Great start to the fight from Ziam as he takes the centre of the cage and immediately starts flicking out the jab, landing flush on the nose of Vendarmini. Vendramini goes for a takedown but Ziam keeps it standing and immediately steps back to get his distance back. Lots of feints from Ziam and the jab is landing perfectly for the whole round. 10-9 Ziam.

Second round starts with more of the same, but this time Vendramini steps forward too and clinches up looking for a takedown. Ziam completely refuses to be taken down though and just pushes him off and starts landing the jab again. Ziam throws a hard leg kick but it gets partially checked and then Vendramini goes in for a deep takedown but Ziam throws him off and carries on striking to control the fight once more. 20-18.

Third round and Vendramini comes out heavy, throwing big bombs and he drops Ziam! He pushes forward and lands big strikes and eventually gets on top with ground and pound. Ziam trying to slow Vendramini down a little but he keeps going and lands some heavy strikes. Big elbows from full mount and he does brilliantly but Ziam stays calm off his back and eventually gets back up to his feet. Vendramini keeps pushing but he can’t get it done and Ziam should take the decision.

Steven Peterson def Chase Hooper via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

Strong start from Peterson as he comes flying out of the gate looking for an early knockout and tags Hooper hard with a right hand. Hard pressure from Peterson as he pressure forward, before Hooper looks to pull guard. Peterson throws huge elbows and Hooper looks hurt but he gets back to his feet. Hooper eventually pulls guard and starts fishing for submissions, including a heel hook, but Peterson stays calm and rides it out. 10-9 Peterson.

Peterson steps forward and looks for the early power again but just misses with a big right hand. Hooper looking to bring the fight to the ground again but Peterson doing well to control the range so far and overpowering Hooper as it goes so far. Peterson eventually takes over and controls from the top position, riding out from the top and sees out the round. 20-18.

Peterson steps out strong and lands a big right hand early in the third round. He closes the distance and starts making it ugly, throwing nice kicks and then clinching and dragging Hooper to the ground. He lands a few strikes from the top then goes for a head and arm choke. Hooper denies it and takes the back with 70 seconds to go but he’s not able to get it done and Peterson should take the fight.

Terrance McKinney def Matt Frevola via Knockout, Round 1 (0:07)

McKinney comes out and lands a one-two and Frevola is out!!! OH MY GOD!! TERRANCE MCKINNEY!!!

Pannie Kianzad def Alexis Davis via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

A fun stand up battle in the first round, with both women standing in the pocket and exchanging good strikes. Kianzad standing her ground and landing well with her jab and right cross while Davis is landing her jab well. Both women have cuts but Kianzad is landing the more accurate strikes and takes the round. 10-9 Kianzad.

Second round is more of the same as Kianzad throws that right hand more and more. Both women trading in the pocket but Davis is starting to land cleaner on the nose. Kianzad follows up with some big strikes and the jab landing clean too, but Murphy starting to throw some nice leg kicks too. Pretty even round could go either way, I edge it to Kianzad.

Final round and Davis is landing her jab well and throwing the leg kicks more often too. Kianzad is backing up a lot more than she was in the first but is firing back on Davis’ jab with combinations. Davis’ jab is landing perfectly now on the nose of Kianzad but she’s getting caught with counter straights. Both women strike throughout the 15 minutes and it’s a close call regardless. 29-28 Kianzad for me but could go either way.

PRELIMS

Movsar Evloev def Hakeem Dawodu via Unanimous Decision (29-27 x3)

Evloev opens up with a big overhand right that lands, but Dawodu does well to take it. Both men trade a few jabs before Evloev decides he’s had enough of that and goes for the takedown. Dawodu defends it well but eventually Evloev just picks Dawodu up and slams him down on the mat. Evloev then takes Dawodu’s back and looks for rear naked chokes and ground and pound strikes for the remainder. 10-9.

Evloev comes out early on again, ducks a big strike and gets a beautiful takedown immediately. Transitions to the back immediately once again and starts really piling on the pressure. He starts looking for submissions again but Dawodu defending them well, so he switches to ground and pound from Dawodu’s back and is really battering him.

Dawodu and Evloev start a bit slower in this round but Dawodu is able to keep the fight standing early on. Evloev

Lauren Murphy def Joanne Calderwood via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

Murphy comes out aggressive and uses her size well, landing well out of the gate. Calderwood starts mixing up her attacks, throwing leg kicks, body kicks, body punches and head strikes well. Murphy stepping forward and using her boxing, then steps in for a clinch. She uses her strength well against the cage and lands a nice knee, but Calderwood throws the spinning back-fist and lands it well. Very close round, I lean 10-9 to Calderwood.

Strong start to the second round from Murphy as she lands the jab well early on and then shoots in for a takedown and gets it brilliantly! Murphy ties up both legs and gets wrist control, keeping Calderwood on her side with one arm to defend and starts throwing some nice ground and pound. Murphy dominates the entire round on top and could potentially have it as a 10-8. Super close fight.

Murphy comes out with a hard punch but misses and Calderwood starts picking her off from range once again using her kicks and striking again. Murphy starting to look for takedowns again but Calderwood defending them well and landing decent strikes from distance. Murphy keeps coming though and they end the round in a straight scrap. Great fight, very close.

Eryk Anders def Darren Stewart via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-27)

Slow start to this one from both guys as Stewart takes the centre but lots of feints and hesitation from both guys. Anders throws a left straight that misses and then they go against the cage, with Stewart tying him up in a clinch to a stalemate. Stewart lands a big knee to the body and then changes levels and gets a nice trip to get top position on the ground. Stewart maintains wrist control and holds the position until the end of the round. Not the best round. 10-9 Stewart.

Second round and it’s much more of the same from both guys. Anders misses a left hand and the two clinch up against the cage for about two minutes before the referee steps in and separates them. Anders goes for a takedown but Stewart defends it well and they end up back in the same position. Anders trying to up the pressure but Stewart defending well and the round ends. 19-19 maybe?

Final round and Stewart comes out light on his feet with a couple of leg kicks before changing levels and securing a takedown on Anders. Anders manages to switch the position and ends up on top almost immediately though and finds himself in side control. Anders starts throwing some ground and pound and controlling the position well. Big ground and pound shots hurt Stewart as he tries to get up against the side of the cage but he survives until the buzzer. 29-28 Anders for me but all lays on that second round.

Brad Riddell def Drew Dober via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Very quick start to this one from Riddell as he opens with a big left hand followed by a leg kick that rattles Dober’s balance. Both men swing some big hooks that just miss and then Dober lands a stiff jab and a left straight right behind it that drops him! Dober looks for a finish but Riddell shoots and stalls for long enough on the legs to recover. Riddell lands a huge right hand that sees him step backwards, then lands it flush over and over as the round ends. Great round, 10-9 either way.

Second round and Riddell is looking for that right hand early once again. Dober eats a couple but then fires back with some big straights and lands flush on the nose! Riddell shoots for a takedown to recover but Dober sprawls and steps away. Riddell lands a big right hand again and then Dober shoots in for a takedown but they scramble to a stalemate. Riddell lands a few big shots and Dober replies as the round ends. What a fight. This scorecard could be anything.

Final round and Riddell lands a huge right hand early on that rocks Dober. Riddell lands a couple more heavy strikes but Dober steps away and recovers. Some big body kicks by Riddell force Dober to look for a takedown but Riddell defends it perfectly. Riddell lands a huge right hand that staggers Dober with 30 seconds to go and he goes in for the finish! Big ground and pound as Dober dives in for a takedown. Riddell sweeps him and ends the round on top raining down punches. What a fight!

MAIN CARD

Paul Craig def Jamahal Hill via Knockout, Round 1 (1:59)

Slow start for Hill as he takes the centre before Craig grabs hold of him and pulls guard early on. Craig has an overhook on the arm while he’s on his back and he’s torquing on it badly. Craig rolls through and snaps Hill’s arm but the referee doesn’t wave it off! Craig goes for elbows to the head of a defenceless Hill and the referee finally steps in to end it. What a performance.

*TRIGGER WARNING*

Belal Muhammad def Demian Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

Interesting start to the round as Muhammad looks to take the centre of the octagon but stay out of range of Maia’s takedown attempts. Maia shoots in for a takedown and gets the single leg but Muhammad gets himself against the cage and defends it brilliantly for around one minute before escaping. Maia goes in for three more takedown shots during the rest of the round but Muhammad defends them all perfectly, but will likely lose the round. 10-9 Maia.

Second round and Muhammad is closing the distance better and landing some nice jabs on the feet. He’s gained confidence from stopping all the takedowns in the first and is stepping forward, landing his right hand cleaner as Maia starts to tire. Nice jabs and he defends another takedown to see out the round. 19-19.

Maia starts the final round with another single leg takedown attempt but Muhammad denies him once again and then staggers him with a nice right hand. Maia continues to look for a single leg takedown but Muhammad just denies it once more and lands a few jabs to seal the round for himself.

Leon Edwards def Nate Diaz via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)

Slow start to the fight from both guys as they both feel each other out early on. Edwards throws some hard leg kicks that land while Diaz starts showboating and teasing his opponent. Edwards closes the distance and they clinch up, before he dumps Diaz down and transitions to his back to threaten a submission. Diaz defends the position and they see out the round squaring off on the feet. 10-9 Edwards.

Second round and Edwards staying composed, pushing a good pace landing some leg kicks. Diaz playing some mind games but Edwards clinches up and gets him down again. Edwards controlling Diaz totally and landing elbows and strikes at will so far. Dominant round, 20-18.

Edwards dominant again during the third as he steps forward and lands the jab well. Edwards gets another takedown from the clinch and starts to control from the top. Huge elbow gets through and opens up a big cut, then he starts looking for the finish but Diaz survives it. 30-27.

Fourth round and Edwards is just too big and strong at this point. Hard leg kicks have forced Diaz to switch stances but Edwards pouring on the pressure. Diaz is tiring and getting caught with big wild hooks as Edwards starts going for the finish. Diaz tries to come forward with strikes of his own but he’s not hitting many. 40-36 Edwards.

Final round and it’s more of the same. Edwards closing the distance and landing hard leg kicks with elbows following in behind. Diaz is getting hit but still standing and still coming forward. Diaz throws a Stockton slap and follows with a left hand that wobbles Edwards! Diaz points instead of going for the kill, then steps in and starts swinging wildly. Edwards survives, just, and takes the win.

Brandon Moreno def Deiveson Figueiredo via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3 (2:26)

Tense start to the fight from Figueiredo as Moreno steps in nice and sharp with jabs and a heavy leg kick. Moreno is stiffing the jab right down Figueiredo’s throat, not allowing him to close the distance. Lots of hard jabs and Figueiredo struggling to get going so far. Moreno lands a big left hook that drops Figueiredo! He goes for the kill but Figueiredo stalls on the ground for long enough and the buzzer goes. 10-9 Moreno.

Second round and Figueiredo comes out harder than the first and just misses with a huge hook. Moreno transitions with some good strikes and then takes the back of Figueiredo. Figueiredo manages to turn to his back but the rest of the round is spent with Moreno on top dominating. 20-18.

Third round and Figueiredo still looks gun shy still. Moreno steps forward again and manages to secure a trip to put the fight on the ground. Moreno quickly transitions to the back, gets both hooks in and then locks in a body triangle. Figueiredo starts fighting the hands as Moreno moves to sink in a rear-naked choke. He switches grips, tightens it and Figueiredo taps! NEW CHAMPION!!

Israel Adesanya def Marvin Vettori via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x3)

Lots of nervous energy at the start of this fight. Low kicks from Adesanya and one immediately gets caught by Vettori who takes him down. Adesanya backs himself up against the cage and gets back to the feet very quickly. Adesanya presses the action and starts landing some big low kicks again, before defending another takedown attempt. Nice strikes and some good kicks. 10-9 Izzy.

Second round and Adesanya is very confident now. Still throwing lots of kicks and damaging the legs of Vettori and not being hesitant. Vettori steps forward but can’t get close enough and the kicks are really adding up now. Adesanya dominating on the feet, 20-18.

Third round and Vettori charges across the octagon and gets a big takedown. He transitions to the back and goes for the rear naked choke, and almost locks it up but Adesanya is able to spin into his guard and lands a nice elbow. He stands back up and spends the rest of the round piecing Vettori up with the leg attacks and right uppercut.

Fourth round and it’s more of the same from Adesanya, who is staying at distance and just completely dominant. Plenty of leg kicks again and some big right hands landing, while Vettori looks for a double jab into a takedown. Adesanya denies everything and keeps landing. Easy work so far. 40-36.

Final round and Vettori wants the takedown but he can’t get it. Adesanya is too strong and quick, landing heavy leg kicks and still looking for the uppercut. Vettori pushing for the takedown again but just stalling against the cage as Adesanya holds him up and denies it. Lots of tussling but more stalling and eventually they separate. Adesanya lands a head kick and some more right hands and this one is over. 50-45 Izzy, dominant performance.

UFC 263: Adesanya vs Vettori 2 – Prelims predictions

Another blockbuster pay-per-view card is upon us as UFC 263 finally lands on our TV screens from Arizona as Israel Adesanya returns to the octagon to defend his middleweight championship against Marvin Vettori.

It’s a highly anticipated rematch at 185lbs after the two previously met in 2018, with Adesanya getting the nod in a split decision. But after defeat last time out at light heavyweight, Vettori now has the blueprint to victory and will look to execute it to become the new champion.

In the co-main event the flyweight title will be on the line as Deiveson Figueiredo takes on Brandon Moreno in their rematch from UFC 256. After the first fight ended in a draw, Figueiredo will be targeting an early finish in this one to put a stamp on his title reign.

We also have a historic fight on the main card, as Leon Edwards gets a chance to become a household name against Nate Diaz in the first ever non-title, five-round bout not headlining the card.

Last week at UFC Vegas 28 we went 7/11 with three perfect picks to move to 328/516 (63.57%) with 142 perfect picks (43.29%).

We’ll look to improve on that with these 14 fights, and after predicting the early prelims here lets move on to the rest of the prelims now.


Movsar Evloev (14-0) vs Hakeem Dawodu (12-1-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A very fun featherweight fight between the undefeated Evloev against the impressive Dawodu. Evloev got wins at UFC Fight Island 3 over Mike Grundy and UFC 257 against Nick Lentz via decision, while Dawodu is on a five-fight win streak himself including a split decision over Zubaira Tukhugov at UFC 253.

Evloev is among the elite wrestlers in the UFC, who will take you down and hold you down for as long as he wants to beat you up on your back. Dawodu on the other hand is a striker with good power, but he has a mean leg kick and a tight front guillotine too. While those kicks will be key to his path to victory, they also give Evloev a constant chance to catch them and take him down and that’s a big problem.

Overall, Evloev’s wrestling is just too good for Dawodu and he should be able to beat him up for 15 minutes for a wide win.
PICK – Movsar Evloev via Decision

Lauren Murphy (14-4) vs Joanne Calderwood (15-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

Two UFC veterans go head-to-head in the women’s flyweight division here to break into the title conversation once again. Murphy has won four-in-a-row, with a decision over Roxanne Modafferi at UFC Vegas 3 before a submission win over Lillya Shakirova at UFC 254. Calderwood went 1-1 in 2020, losing to Jennifer Maia at UFC Vegas 5 before beating Jessica Eye at UFC 257.

Murphy is a terrific striker, with her clinch game among the best of the rest in the division outside of the champion. She uses her long limbs well and loves to land an elbow, while Calderwood is a decent striker in her own right but she has wrestling to fall on too. Calderwood is arguably the better striker, but Murphy has more tools in her belt to push for a win.

She’s got striking, grappling and size and I think this win sets her up for a title fight.
PICK – Lauren Murphy via Decision

Eryk Anders (13-5 1NC) vs Darren Stewart (12-6 1NC) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

The UK’s Darren Stewart makes a return to the octagon after a mixed 2020 when he takes on Eryk Anders looking to get back on track. Stewart went 1-2 last year losing to Bartosz Fabinski on a Cage Warriors card after UFC London got cancelled, beforeΒ submitting Maki Pitolo in the first round at UFC Vegas 6Β and losing aΒ split decision to Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 11. Anders has lost four of his last six, most recently to Krzysztof Jotko in May before missing weight in November. These two fought each other in March at UFC Vegas 21, but it was a no contest after an illegal knee from Anders.

Both guys are quite well rounded all over the mixed martial arts world, but Anders seems to struggle under pressure. Stewart seems super confident in his chin and that means he’s happy to walk forward and he’s certainly more active. I think he has the physicality advantage too and with good submission skills and good power he will be confident. Anders showed that he has the power to hurt Stewart though in their first bout and that could lead to a more wrestle heavy approach from Stewart.

Ultimately, ‘The Dentist’ runs it back and snaps a two-fight winless run.
PICK – Darren Stewart via Decision

Drew Dober (23-10) vs Brad Riddell (9-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A truly brilliant fight for the feature prelim bout as Dober and Riddell meet in a striker’s paradise type fight here. Dober was on a three-fight win streak before taking a short-notice fight with Islam Makhachev and getting choked out at UFC 259, while Riddell got a win over Alex da Silva Coelho at UFC 253 before a fight with Gregor GIllespie fell through in March.

Dober is a terrific boxer with good leg kicks and a great gas tank, with plenty of power in his right cross. Riddell on the other hand is a world class kickboxer with power in all his limbs and joints, while his footwork often opens up new angles for him to strike. Both guys are durable and skilled with power too.

Riddell sometimes starts slowly, but his experience in a purely stand-up battle tells me he has the edge here. Neither guy will need to prepare for takedowns and when it comes to just pure striking, there aren’t many 155lbers better at it than Riddell.
PICK – Brad Riddell via Knockout, Round 3

UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Joel Alvarez def Alexander Yavkolev via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:00)

Fight starts with Alvarez throwing lots of leg kicks to stop Yavkolev’s forward motion. Yavkolev finds a moment to change levels and shoot for a takedown and falls straight into a guillotine. Alvarez squeezing tight but Yakvolev not panicking and eventually pops his head out into full guard. He starts with ground and pound, targeting the body but Alvarez attacking from the bottom with elbows to the head. Yavkolev not looking to pass and Alvarez throws up an armbar out of nowhere. Yavkolev tries to fight it but Alvarez is too good and secures the tap. Huge win for the Spaniard.

Miranda Maverick def Liana Jojua via Knockout, Round 1 (5:00)

A good start to the fight for both fighters as they start throwing early. Jojua counters Maverick’s attempted entries with solid right hands to the jaw. Maverick adapts the entry and starts landing a lot of power shots with the southpaw stance. Jojua is coming forward again now but Maverick throws a huge slicing elbow with her left arm and cuts Jojua open bad. She keeps throwing power shots and busts Jojua up bad as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Maverick.

Between rounds the referee has checked in on Jojua and deemed that she in unable to continue fighting due to the cut! It’s all over! Huge win for Miranda Maverick!

PRELIMS

Da Un Jung vs Sam Alvey – SPLIT DRAW (29-28 Alvey, 29-28 Jung, 28-28)

Slow start to this fight as Jung rushes to the centre to start but Alvey stays against the cage. Jung throwing lots of kicks and Alvey looking to counter with a big right hook but hitting air for the most part. Jung pressuring Alvey against the cage and throwing combinations down the middle, but Alvey throws a big left counter hook that wobbles Jung! Jung clinches up and recovers then breaks with a big elbow. Looks like an accidental eye poke by Jung but the referee doesn’t see it and Jung lands a big combo straight to the chin of Alvey. 10-9 Alvey but it’s a close round.

Another good round that follows the pattern of the first. Jung keeping Alvey pressed against the cage and firing off shots but Alvey is replying with heavy shots of his own. Alvey throwing nice leg kicks too to try and slow down the movement. Jung not throwing enough shots to trouble him and the fight is getting away from him at the moment. 20-18 Alvey.

What a start to the round! The two come together much like in previous rounds but then as Alvey moves in to throw, Jung lands a huge right elbow that drops him! He lands a big shot on the ground too on the follow up but Alvey gets back to his feet. Jung takes his back and throws some big shots but Alvey breaks and then lands a big uppercut of his own. Jung looks hurt as Alvey starts swinging, then Jung throws another massive elbow that connects again! Alvey is wobbling but the two fighters clinch up as Jung looks for a takedown. A minute to go, Jung is looking for a takedown to get a finish but Alvey defending well. Jung breaks from the clinch with another massive elbow and Alvey is battling to survive as the round comes to an end. 29-28 Alvey for me but a great fight.

Shavkat Rakhmonov def Alex Oliveira via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (4:40)

Competitive start to the round as ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira comes out and lands a big right hand right off the bat. Both fighters exchange leg kicks and jabs before Rakhmonov lands a big body shot with the knee that backs Oliviera up. A barrage of strikes and knees look like they’re hurting Oliveira but then ‘Cowboy’ throws a massive check-left hook which forces a clinch. The remainder of the round looks like it will play out against the cage but out of nowhere Rakhmonov grabs the neck and sinks in a guillotine to force the tap out! Huge debut win for Rakhmonov!

Casey Kenney def Nathaniel Wood via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

A very fast paced start to the round as both men look to establish some dominance early on. Wood throwing lots of leg kicks and jabs while Kenney is replying with a mixture of kicks and big hooks. Both guys trading fast shots and slipping out of the way too, but Kenney is landing the bigger shots as this round goes on. Kenney is landing bombs with his left hand but Wood showing he has a chin as we enter the final minute of the round. Super fun round, Kenney edges it. 10-9.

Second round and Kenney comes out more aggressive and looks a bit fresher, landing more shots as he comes forward once again. Wood is throwing more leg kicks and that is troubling Kenney’s movement, but he is still landing his left hand often. Kenney is now looking more tired than Wood, who continues to throw kicks and follow them up with a jab, left hook. Kenney starting to try and work the body, but Wood is taking it well and throwing leg kicks still. Kenney goes for a takedown but Wood defends very easily before Kenney lands a huge left hand that snaps his head back! Kenney clinches and throws a knee but Wood breaks away and lands a nice one-two. Kenney is tiring but still landing the left hand. 19-19 for me going into the final round.

Final round and Wood comes out fresher, throwing leg kicks once again. Kenney is throwing a right jab, left straight combo that is landing flush but Wood is doing well to counter with his own right hand and more leg kicks. Kenney changes levels and shoots for a takedown and ends up against the cage taking Wood’s back. Wood defending well to try not to end up on the ground but Kenney is winning this round simply through position. Wood tries to explode out but Kenney holds on, and they end up back in the same position. Wood defends brilliantly and they break with a little over 90 seconds to go. Wood throws a big elbow on the break and follows it up with a barrage of punches, but Kenney clinches and trips Wood to no avail. Another takedown attempt but Wood sprawls out and avoids superbly, then fires in another kick. Big right hand by Wood followed by a left hook stumbles Casey and the round ends with the two slugging it out. What a fight. 29-28 Wood for me.

Tai Tuivasa def Stefan Struve via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)

Slow start to this one as Tuivasa looks to get close enough to land his heavy shots but Struve tries to keep the distance. Tuivasa moves in and Struve clinches up and uses those long limbs to control posture, as Tuivasa starts blasting body shots and trying to break away. Tuivasa does break away and then lands a nice short elbow on the break that wobbles Struve but he stays standing. Lots of leg kicks from Tuivasa now too have Struve shaking on his feet. Struve tries to clinch again but Tuivasa throws him to the ground and starts throwing bombs! He drops Struve and then throws more shots and the referee waves it off with a second to go! What a win Tai Tuivasa!

MAIN CARD

Magomed Ankalaev def Ion Cutelaba via Knockout, Round 1 (4:19)

Much slower start to this fight than their original bout, as time elapses past the previous duration with barely a strike thrown. Ankalaev having the better of all the striking exchanges in this round as he throws a straight left beautifully down the pipe but Cutelaba is stepping forward well, although he’s following Ankalaev instead of cutting him off. Cutelaba tries to spin but Ankalaev throws a straight left that drops him but he recovers. Cutelaba throws a big strike that Ankalaev counters with a right hook, left straight that knocks Cutelaba down! He follows up with huge ground and pound and knocks Cutelaba unconscious! What a knockout!

Lauren Murphy def Liliya Shakirova via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:31)

A competitive opening round as Murphy takes the centre of the octagon and forces Shakirova against the cage. The entire round is spent circling the cage with Shakirova too far away to land any strikes, so Murphy is reading everything and landing plenty. Shakirova shoots for a takedown and gets it but Murphy gets straight back to her feet and the pattern continues. Shakirova shoots in again but Murphy fights it really well and lands some nice elbows against the cage that forces Shakirova to break away and abandon the attempt. Slow round but interesting. 10-9 Murphy for me.

A slightly quicker start as Murphy steps forward more aggressively with combinations. Shakirova still moving and bouncing around avoiding big damage but not really throwing anything herself. A clinch against the cage allows Murphy to show her physical advantage and she gets the takedown and ends up in guard, throwing elbows. Shakirova attempts to hip escape but Murphy transitions to the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke. It’s tight and Shakirova fights it but it’s too much and she taps out. Big, impressive win for Lauren Murphy!

Phil Hawes def Jacob Malkoun via Knockout, Round 1 (0:18)

Hawes comes across the octagon, backs Malkoun up against the cage and throws a HUGE right hand that drops Malkoun. Two follow up right hands knock Malkoun unconscious and that’s the end of that. Goodnight.

Alexander Volkov def Walt Harris via Knockout, Round 2 (1:15)

A fun first round between these two heavyweights as Harris starts well, using his speed advantage. Lots of jabs and inside leg kicks but Volkov backs up and uses his range well to counter. Nice right hand from Harris is met with a low left kick by Volkov that stumbles him. Volkov throws a short right-hand followed by a left that stumbles Harris and hurts him! Volkov marches to the cage and starts throwing to finish. Harris covers up then throws two big looping hooks to defend himself as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Volkov.

Harris starts the second round with a fake takedown attempt and when Volkov defends he goes up top with a big punch. Volkov steps forward again and throws some more punches that force Harris to cover up. Front kick to the body by Volkov brings a shout of pain from Harris and Volkov moves in with the big follow up punches for the end of the fight! Big win for Volkov!

Robert Whittaker def Jared Cannonier via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Fight starts with a massive leg kick from Cannonier that shakes Whittaker immediately. Whittaker bouncing in and out now but every time he throws a jab Cannonier launches the leg attack. A second kick drops Whittaker but he bounces back up immediately. Whittaker’s leg is bruising already but it is Whittaker landing more with the hands. Big counter striker from Whittaker lands and wobbles Cannonier but he comes back well. Very tentative end to the round with both men respecting the striking technique of the other. Head kick by Whittaker lands but Cannonier walks through it and the round ends. 10-9 Whittaker.

A tense round once again as Cannonier continues to attack the lead leg and Whittaker throwing jabs to score points. Whittaker throws a nice right overhand that connects and then goes back to his jab. The jab is landing enough to cause a good amount of swelling around Cannonier’s right eye. Cannonier throws another leg kick but so far it’s not effecting Whittaker’s movement much. First clinch of the fight and Whittaker secures a trip and takedown but Cannonier uses the cage to bounce immediately and escape. Straight right from Whittaker down the middle lands flush as the second round comes to an end. 20-18 Whittaker.

Final round and once again Whittaker using his jab to control the distance. Nice one-two lands nicely by Whittaker as Cannonier misses with a wild right hand. Whittaker lands a one-two and follows it with a head-kick that drops Cannonier! Whittaker charges across the octagon looking for the finish and lands huge ground and pound but Cannonier survives. Whittaker moves into full guard on the ground but Cannonier explodes out and gets back to the feet. Final 30 seconds and Cannonier lands a big jab that wobbles Whittaker! He goes for the finish but Whittaker has enough about him to change levels and clinch until the buzzer. 30-27 Whittaker, what a performance!

Khabib Nurmagomedov def Justin Gaethje via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 2 (1:34)

Super first round for the champion Khabib. The fight started slowly with both fighters feeling each other out but then Khabib turned it up a level and started stalking him around the cage. Gaethje’s leg kicks causing plenty of damage but Khabib walking through them and landing his jab. Flying knee lands for Khabib too. Gaethje lands a big left hook but Khabib eats it and keeps moving. Big takedown landed by Khabib as we enter the final minute and he passes into full mount very quickly. He attempts to transition into an armbar but time goes out on him. 10-9 Khabib.

Second round starts and Gaethje lands a big leg kick that looks like it hurts Khabib again. He continues to march forwards though and lands one-twos and jabs. A double leg attempt sees him end up on the back of Gaethje and then he instantly transitions into full mount. Khabib locks in a triangle choke from mount, falls back and forces the tap out from Justin Gaethje who goes unconscious. What a performance. What a fighter. 29-0.

UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje – Main Card Predictions

After a month-long stay on UFC Fight Island, the grand finale is upon us as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight championship against interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

A stacked card, with a six-fight main card, has been put together for the fans’ viewing pleasure and should be one of the best events we’ve seen since the pandemic started back in March.

With 12 fights scheduled to take place, I will break down each fight and give my prediction as to the winner, method of victory and round while giving my analysis on both fighters too.

Last weekend I got a very respectable 8/11 correct predictions with three perfect picks, so lets see if I can better that on this 12 fight card. I’ve already predicted the prelims, which you can check out here.

MAIN CARD

Magomed Ankalaev (13-1) vs Ion Cutelaba (15-5 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

This fight has been booked three times before UFC 254 during the pandemic and fallen through every time. My prediction remains the same though. The first time these two fought each other was one of the strangest fights in UFC history. Cutelaba came out super aggressive and nearly came to blows in the octagon with Ankalaev before the fight even started, before employing a β€œdrunken master” strategy where he acted hurt when getting hit to egg Ankalaev on. It backfired though when the referee stepped in insanely early and handed Ankalaev a TKO win. Realistically, Ankalaev is the better fighter. Both are strong wrestlers with powerful strikes but the Russian mixes his strikes up better with kicks too and his defence is much better. Cutelaba’s best chance is to hang in there until Ankalaev gets tired, or he lands a big punch.
PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 1

Lauren Murphy (13-4) vs Liliya Shakirova (8-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

‘Lucky’ Lauren Murphy steps into the octagon on the back of a three fight win streak when she takes on short-notice step in Liliya Shakirova making her UFC debut. Shakirova has also won three in a row coming into this fight, with a knockout win in her last bout over a year ago. Murphy is one of the pioneers of women’s MMA and at 37 year old, she was due to take on Cynthia Calvillo in a title eliminator in the flyweight division. Calvillo is out but Murphy wants to fight and she should be able to win this pretty comfortably. Shakirova is no pushover. She throws great front kicks and spinning kicks and has good striking but she will have a reach disadvantage and Murphy is just so experienced and in arguably the best moment of her career that she should see this one through.
PICK – Lauren Murphy via Unanimous Decision

Phil Hawes (8-2) vs Jacob Malkoun (4-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

After a stunning debut victory on Dana White’s Contender Series, Phil Hawes re-enters the octagon just 6 weeks later to take on UFC debutant Jacob Malkoun. Malkoun is a grappler who trains with Robert Whittaker in Australia who is undefeated with two knockouts from four career wins. Hawes has won his last four in a row via first round stoppage and I’d be surprised if he didn’t make it five in this one. His leg kicks are fantastic and he has real one punch power and hand speed. Against someone as green as Malkoun who’s strengths lie elsewhere, it should be a short night.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 1

Alexander Volkov (31-8) vs Walt Harris (13-8 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

The heavyweights make their mark on this card as two big men square off in this one. Volkov’s last fight saw him defeated by Curtis Blaydes in their main event back in June, while Walt Harris got dominated and knocked out in an emotionally charged performance against Alistair Overeem in May. Both men are power strikers with genuine knockout power, but Volkov for me is comfortably the more well rounded mixed martial artist. All of Harris’ wins have come by knockout, with 11 of them coming in the first round. If Volkov can withstand the initial burst that Harris will come out with, I expect that he will control the fight using his length and clinch to come away with a convincing decision win.
PICK – Alexander Volkov via Unanimous Decision

Robert Whittaker (21-5) vs Jared Cannonier (13-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

I’ve kind of gone over this fight already earlier this week, when I explained why I’m all in on Robert Whittaker to beat Jared Cannonier, but I’ll do it again here in a snappier way. Whittaker is one of the best middleweights of all-time and despite his chin showing him up on occasion in recent fights, he’s lost just once in his last 12 and that was to lose the title to Israel Adesanya. His level of technical kickboxing is among the best ever in the UFC and his leg kicks and explosiveness have seen him beat some of the best the company has to offer, including Darren Till last time out. Cannonier is on a streak right now that has seen him win three in a row all by knockout and he absolutely has the power to put Whittaker away. He has to hit him cleanly first though and while Whittaker has been dropped in each of his last four fights, only Adesanya was able to finish him. He is durable, explosive, fast and powerful himself. Cannonier, for me, is a wrecking machine but when it comes to technical aspects he is a level below ‘The Reaper’ and should the Aussie mix in his takedowns too he should win this fight pretty comfortably. Cannonier absolutely has the knockout power but Whittaker avoids it for the most part and takes a one-sided decision win.
PICK – Robert Whittaker via Unanimous Decision

Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) vs Justin Gaethje (22-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

The biggest fight of 2020 by a country mile as the undisputed lightweight champion takes on the interim lightweight champion looking to unify the belts once again. Khabib Nurmagomedov is 28-0 having destroyed the entire lightweight division. He has arguably never lost a round in his UFC career and has started to search for finishes even more aggressively than he used to. Gaethje is a tank who has powered through the UFC since entering as an undefeated fighter. He dismantled Michael Johnson in his debut before incredible performances against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier ended in knockout defeats. He bounced back from that with first round knockout wins over Edson Barboza, James Vick and Donald Cerrone before destroying the divisions boogeyman Tony Ferguson over five rounds for a TKO win. While he’s never shown it in his MMA career, Gaethje is a world class wrestler and will be the toughest challenge Khabib has ever faced in the cage. Khabib has almost been over-looking Gaethje during the build-up to this bout, constantly talking up a potential bout with Georges St-Pierre to move to 30-0. Despite that, it’s so hard to bet against him. He’s so dominant, so good and so consistent. He only needs one takedown per round to keep the fight there because his top control is so good and I can’t see how anyone stops him getting it. I think Khabib does exactly what he said he would; takes him down, tires him out chokes him out in the later rounds.
PICK – Khabib Nurmagomedov via Submission, Round 4