The UFC returns to the O2 Arena in London, England for a huge trilogy bout for the undisputed welterweight title as Leon Edwards defends his title for the first time against Kamaru Usman.
Edwards earned a stunning fifth round comeback win in their fight back in August, and now they run it back in a huge main event.
They’ll be anchored by 14 fights, including the co-main event between lightweight contenders Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev, as well as local stars like Jack Shore moving up to featherweight, Muhammad Mokaev, Lerone Murphy and Christian Duncan making his UFC debut.
Last time out at UFC Las Vegas we got the main event spot on to improve our percentages, and the last numbered card saw us go 12/14 with six perfect picks to move to 849/1313 (64.66%) with 348 perfect picks (40.99%). You can see our full pick history here.
Lerone Murphy (11-0-1) vs Gabriel Santos (10-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A real banger in the featherweight division in a short-notice fight up next. Murphy is undefeated in the UFC and has won his last three in a row, KO’ing Ricardo Ramos and Makwan Amirkhani with a decision win over Douglas Silva de Andrade in the middle. Santos is an undefeated fighter with seven finishes from his ten fights and is the current LFA featherweight champion.
Murphy is an all-round demon when it comes to the fight game with terrific wrestling and super powerful striking too. In fact, he seems to be better everywhere than Santos, but the Brazilian has got plenty of pressure and heart to keep going and the confidence of having never been beaten before. The one weeks’ notice is a big issue though.
Murphy hasn’t fought for almost 18 months after he was hit by a car while cycling, and if that health scare took a lot out of him then Santos has a chance. But if this is the same Murphy we’ve all come to know in recent years, he should have enough to get a stoppage win. PICK – Lerone Murphy via Knockout, Round 2
Muhammad Mokaev (9-0) vs Jafel Filho (14-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The hottest prospect in the flyweight division is back and takes on a Contender Series graduate in this one. Mokaev is 3-0 in the UFC after submitting Cody Durden and Malcolm Gordon while dominating Charles Johnson to a decision win too. Filho makes his UFC debut on a five-fight finishing streak, including a knockout win over Roybert Echeverria back in September.
Mokaev is one of the very best grapplers we have from the UK, with unbelievable wrestling skills to go with dangerous jiu-jitsu skills and some decent striking too. Filho is a very good submission artist with some decent power too, but he’s a level or two below where Mokaev is right now to put it simply.
Filho has the ability to catch Mokaev with a sneaky submission, but “The Punisher” is very good at staying safe and controlling his opponents. Expect that for long spells before he gets more aggressive late on and lands his own submission win to make a statement again. PICK – Muhammad Mokaev via Submission, Round 3
Sam Patterson (10-1-1) vs Yanal Ashmoz (6-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very interesting lightweight scrap up next between two guys making their UFC debuts. Patterson shone on the Contender Series with a solid submission win last time out, while Ashmoz is undefeated and makes the move over from the PFL for his first fight in exactly one year.
Patterson is a fighter who relies a lot on his cardio to get him through tough moments, with some excellent submission skills and lengthy striking technique because of his size. Ashmoz is a grinder who has a bit of everything, but there are a few levels between these fighters and the way they can execute a game plan.
The likelihood here is that Ashmoz is competitive early on before Patterson starts to piece him up on the feet, then shoots for a takedown too eagerly and leaves his neck exposed for Patterson to secure one of his trademark guillotine wins. PICK – Sam Patterson via Submission, Round 2
Chris Duncan (9-1) vs Omar Morales (11-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight fight up next with yet another hometown fighter in the red corner. Duncan has won his last two in a row including a first-round KO win on the Contender Series last time out back in August, while Morales has lost three of his last four to Giga Chikadze, Jonathan Pearce and Uros Medic most recently.
Duncan is a striker with great power, but a real lack of defensive nous and a greater lack of speed leaves him with plenty to be desired. Morales steps into this fight on one month’s notice, and is an aggressive kickboxer with good power and technique too. He doesn’t have the grappling to be able to really make Duncan work, but this is an interesting fight.
On paper Duncan has the tools to win this, but Morales also has the ability to really outshine him and take a wide decision. I can’t see either man getting finished, and with a close fight expected I think Duncan will be able to do just enough to claim the win on the cards with his range, aggression and volume. PICK – Chris Duncan via Decision
Jack Shore (16-1) vs Makwan Amirkhani (17-8) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A super fun fight to close out the prelims section of the card as Jack Shore makes his featherweight debut in this one. Shore lost his undefeated record to Ricky Simon most recently and opted to move up to continue his career, while Amirkhani has lost four of his last five including a TKO loss to Jonathan Pearce at UFC London in July last year in his last fight.
Shore is one of the most complete fighters to come out of the UK, with excellent wrestling and submission skills to go with powerful and technical striking. Amirkhani is very much a grappler with great submission skills, but his striking isn’t horrendous and he’s capable of mixing it in to secure takedowns. This is a good test for Shore moving up in weight, but he should have no problems here realistically.
He’s not out-sized despite the division change, he’s a fantastic grappler who is capable of more than holding his own on the mat and he’s by far the better striker. Amirkhani is notorious for having poor cardio too, so expect Shore to drag him into deep waters before getting a ground and pound finish somewhere in the middle round. PICK – Jack Shore via Knockout, Round 2
Tagir Ulanbekov def Allan Nascimento via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
A couple of hard low kicks early from Nascimento to start the fight, but Ulanbekov taking the centre and flicking his jab out nicely. Another nice leg kick from Nascimento and then he follows that up with a nice right hand. Flying knee attempt just misses but Ulanbekov grabs a body lock and takes the fight to the ground immediately. Nascimento defending really well on the ground and threatening with an armbar, then sweeps to the top but Ulanbekov immediately gets up and tries to get the fight back down against the cage. Ulanbekov battling against submission attempts and ends up in a mounted guillotine and it’s tight! Nascimento fighting it and eventually pops his head out to survive! Amazing! Ulanbekov gets back to top position and is resting in a controlling position, with Nascimento threatening with a guillotine of his own. He now moves to a kimura trap to try and get to his feet but the round ends. Great round. 10-9 Ulanbekov for me.
Good start to the round again from Ulanbekov with his jab landing well, before he shoots in deep for a takedown. Nascimento defends it well against the cage but eventually Ulanbekov is able to change levels and get the fight down. Nascimento threatening with a kimura from the bottom, but Ulanbekov defending it well and eventually gets back into full guard without the threat. Nascimento being very active off his back, but Ulanbekov trying to stifle him from the top to control him. Nascimento tries for a triangle but Ulanbekov deals with it easily, before Nascimento lands a huge elbow from the bottom. Nascimento goes for an armbar and starts smashing him with elbows from the bottom to see out the round. Close, but I edge to Nascimento there for attacking more despite being on the bottom. 19-19.
Big knee attempt from Nascimento early on but Ulanbekov gets the fight to ground once again immediately. Nascimento went for a kimura trap immediately and swept him to get on top but once against Ulanbekov raced to the next position to maintain control. Ulanbekov in full guard just stalling and looking for a bit of ground and pound, but Nascimento seems happy enough on his back to look for submissions. Ulanbekov trying to pass guard but Nascimento is looking to make him defend as much as possible. He finally passes into half guard now and starts looking for some short elbows from the top. Big left hand lands but Nascimento still being active and trying to sweep him. Final minute and Nascimento goes for another kimura, but Ulanbekov defends it excellently again. Nascimento goes for a triangle armbar but Ulanbekov defends it and ends the round with some big ground shots to likely claim a win. 29-28 Ulanbekov.
Andre Petroski def Hu Yaozong via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 3 (4:46)
Lots of feinting early on from both guys, before Petroski flies in with a big left hand that just misses. Petroski lands two big left hands and then Yaozong goes for a head-kick that gets blocked and he ends up on his back. Petroski goes straight for the neck and jumps on a mounted guillotine but it’s not quite in yet. He lets go and takes the back, rains down some big ground and pound. He goes for the rear-naked choke and it’s tight but Yaozong explodes out and Petroski goes for a d’arce but Yaozong gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a big left hand again but Yaozong is still coming forward. Petroski throws two big strikes that lands clean but Yaozong eats it. Three huge left hooks land from Petroski but Yaozong is still standing and Petroski is exhausted. Single leg takedown from Petroski but Yaozong gets straight back up and keeps coming forward. One more left hand lands for good measure as the round ends. Crazy round. 10-9 Petroski.
Immediate takedown from Petroski and he goes for a guillotine again, but Yaozong scrambles out quickly and gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a huge left hand and then a couple more, before another takedown where he now looks to control the position. Another attempted guillotine from Petroski before he looks to control again. Petroski moves to side control and looks for a head-and-arm choke but Yaozong grabs his own leg to defend it. Petroski looks to move to his back but Yaozong defends it again, but Petroski is controlling him much better now. Petroski moves into full mount and then goes for the head-and-arm choke again, but once again Yaozong defends it. Yaozong gets back to his feet but Petroski keeps a body lock and takes him down once again. Petroski flows on the mat and takes Yaozong’s back again and is looking for a rear-naked choke. Petroski controls until the buzzer goes. 20-18 Petroski.
Petroski lands a big left hand as Yaozong pressures him to the cage early in the final round, but Petroski shoots for a takedown and then runs him the entire way across before getting him down. Petroski takes control and looks to move to his back, then lands a few big ground strikes before pulling Yaozong backwards onto the mat. Petroski flowing well and looks for a guillotine, before Yaozong gets back to his feet. Yaozong sprawls and slips and then Petroski lands a huge one-two Douglas Lima style. Petroski gets another takedown and ends up in full mount, landing big elbows but Yaozong refusing to give up. Another huge elbow from Petroski and he works to control again. Petroski moves to side control and locks up a head-and-arm choke once again and forces the tap with 15 seconds left! Great win from Petroski.
Lerone Murphy def Makwan Amirkhani via Knockout, Round 2 (0:14)
Early takedown in the opening round from Amirkhani as soon as Murphy switches to an orthodox stance. Amirkhani controlling him against the cage and looking to advance to three-quarter mount, but Murphy doing relatively well to defend so far. Amirkhani keeping the body lock tight and Murphy is trying hard to break the lock, but Amirkhani keeping it tight and keeping the fight as grappling heavy as possible as we enter the final minute. Amirkhani completely controlling the action through the first five minutes as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Amirkhani.
Amirkhani goes for an early takedown as soon as Murphy switches to orthodox again but Murphy blasts a HUGE knee and Amirkhani is out!!! Oh my word what a KO!!
Michal Oleksiejczuk def Shamil Gamzatov via Knockout, Round 1 (3:31)
Great first round from Oleksiejczuk who keeps the fight standing for the most part, before landing a crisp right uppercut that puts Gamzatov down. He follows it up with some big ground and pound and that’s all she wrote!
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def Benoit Saint-Denis via Unanimous Decision (29-26 x3)
Saint-Denis opens with a body kick, then Zaleski lands a nice one-two. Nice body kicks from Zaleski and some hard low kicks, but Saint-Denis coming forward still and then creates an angle for a takedown and slams Zaleski down. Zaleski gets back up relatively easily though and lands another hard low kick. Saint-Denis ripping some strong kicks to the body, but Zaleski responding with leg kicks. Big exchange of punches and Zaleski lands a hard right hand that rocks him, but Saint-Denis shoots in for a double leg to buy himself some time. Zaleski gets back up again quickly and continues to chop the lead leg. Level change from Saint-Denis but Zaleski keeps it standing, then just slips a big uppercut. Great round, 10-9 Zaleski for me.
Fast flurry of strikes between the two leads to Zaleski landing a big counter-right hand. Saint-Denis keeps coming and eats another huge right hand and then Zaleski lands a flush knee to the head. Saint-Denis is badly hurt but Zaleski keeps coming forward and landing big strikes. Saint-Denis won’t go down but Zaleski is pouring it on! Huge strikes and another big right hand and Saint-Denis is just refusing to go down. Zaleski is battering him and the entire arena is screaming for the referee to stop the fight but he won’t. Zaleski is lighting him up but he won’t go down and then he shoots for a takedown. Somehow, the round goes the full five minutes. Unreal. 20-17 at least.
Somehow they come out for the final round and Zaleski lands a hard low kick. Accidental eye poke from Zaleski causes a pause of the action. Saint-Denis tells the referee he can’t see , but the referee restarts the fight anyway without bringing in a doctor??? Zaleski lands a right hand that wobbles Saint-Denis, who shoots for a takedown that gets sprawled. Zaleski sitting on the top in full guard before they get back to the feet. Head-kick from Saint-Denis is blocked and Zaleski comes forward again with a right hand. Big left hand from Saint-Denis lands before a takedown attempt, but Zaleski is able to scramble to switch the position and then get back up. Final minute now and there’s an accidental low blow by Zaleski to cause another pause in the action. The referee takes a point away from Zaleski (???) who now steps forward with some more aggression. Round comes to an end with Zaleski chasing Saint-Denis down, but that should be that. 29-26.
Albert Duraev def Roman Kopylov via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-27 x2)
Kopylov starting off confidently in the centre, landing hard low kicks and one that even drops Duraev momentarily. Duraev explodes with a one-two and then a leg kick of his own. Duraev lands a right hand down the middle, then lands a low kick and left-hook combo that stuns Kopylov. Another hard leg kick from Duraev as he starts to pressure Kopylov back against the cage. Big elbow strike lands but Kopylov is giving as good as he’s taking so far. Duraev currently just too quick for Kopylov at the moment, but no great damage being done. Kopylov catches a high kick and lands a few uppercuts before they separate and Duraev goes for some more jabs. 10-9 Duraev at the end of the first.
Kopylov lands a big left hand early in the second and drops Duraev! Duraev manages to survive with good movement and then shoots in for a takedown against the cage. Duraev goes for a takedown and Kopylov grabs the fence to deny it! The referee stops the action, gives a hard warning and resets them which allows Duraev to get an immediate takedown. Duraev then transitions straight into full mount and starts attacking with ground and pound and threatening with a head-and-arm choke. Big ground and pound from Duraev and Kopylov is trying to fight back but getting hurt bad. Duraev landing big, heavy elbows from the top in full mount and Kopylov is getting beaten up bad. Duraev going for a head-and-arm choke but Kopylov defends it and Duraev goes straight back to the big elbow strikes from the top. Kopylov turns on to his belly and Duraev takes his back to look for a choke, before smashing in more ground and pound. Duraev goes for a rear-naked choke and it’s in deep but Kopylov is saved by the bell! 20-17 Duraev.
Nice body shot from Kopylov and a head-kick is blocked, before Duraev goes straight back for a takedown against the cage. Kopylov defends it well but Duraev keeps trying until they separate and reset in the middle of the octagon. Nice body kick from Kopylov again, but Duraev lands a big right hand and then goes back in for a takedown. Kopylov defending it excellently though and as he escapes, Duraev goes down with exhaustion. Kopylov lands a big left hand and Duraev is exhausted, but so is Kopylov. Kopylove with his hands on his knees, trying to invite Duraev towards him. Duraev just taking his time to circle as we enter the final minute but both men are just waiting for the final bell at this point. Duraev goes for a takedown but gets caught and then Kopylov goes for a big takedown of his own to end the round. 30-26 Duraev.
Zubaira Tukhugov def Ricardo Ramos via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start to this one as Ramos comes out very kick heavy, with low kicks and body attempts while Tukhugov just staying calm and patient. Nice left hand counter lands from Tukhugov that stumbles Ramos, which immediately makes the Brazilian think twice. Tukhugov forcing Ramos against the cage with his pressure and lands a big left hand. He follows it with a big right hand that opens up a huge cut! Tukhugov throws a big body shot and is pressuring Ramos hard now. Low kick from Ramos but Tukhugov counters with a nice one-two down the pipe. Big right hand swings wildly and misses but Ramos is very focused on avoiding rather than causing damage right now. Big counter-right hand from Tukhugov lands again. Tukhugov goes in for a left hook but Ramos counters with a spinning reverse elbow that opens a big cut up on Tukhugov! What a round! 10-9 Tukhugov for me.
Start of the second similar to the first, with Ramos trying to be first and Tukhugov trying to counter. Big right hand from the Russian lands but Ramos continuing to be on the front foot. Tukhugov slips a big combination and points at Ramos, before Ramos slips a counter one-two straight back. Nice low kick from Ramos lands and then a big one-two down the pipe. Tukhugov goes for a single leg but lets it go and lands a right hand of his own. Tukhugov starting to pressure Ramos against the cage but the Brazilian doing well to move and circle. Big right hand from Tukhugov lands and he follows up with two nice jabs. Tukhugov fires in with a blast double leg and gets a back trip to take the fight down with ten seconds left and likely take the round. 20-18 Tukhugov for me.
Tukhugov looking to take the initiative early on again and stepping forward with his jab. Ramos looks like he’s tiring but is landing his right hand well. Ramos lands a big knee with his back against the cage and then explodes forward with more strikes. Tukhugov stays calm though and continues to land his jab, while avoiding Ramos’ bigger strike attempts. Another stiff jab by Tukhugov but Ramos just misses with an elbow. More jabs from Tukhugov, who is pressuring Ramos backwards consistently. Ramos lands a right hand and then a low kick but Tukhugov still coming forward and then shoots for a takedown with 30 seconds to go. A few trip attempts but the buzzer goes and Tukhugov should earn the decision win.
Amanda Ribas def Virna Jandiroba via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Jandiroba shoots straight in for a takedown but Ribas sprawls and denies it immediately. Ribas fires a one-two down the pipe after slipping Jandiroba’s strike attempt, before Jandiroba sees another takedown attempt denied. Big one-two lands from Jandiroba and then she shoots for a takedown and secures it into full guard. Jandiroba goes for body-head strikes but Ribas throws her legs up and looks for a very unique submission, but Jandiroba stays calm, escapes and goes back to the ground and pound. Jandiroba scoops her over to the cage and stacks her up, looking for some strikes then launches down with a huge elbow. Jandiroba completely controlling on the ground right now with relentless pressure but then the referee stands them up. Jandiroba lands a big right hand that drops Ribas but the buzzer goes and potentially saves her! 10-9 Jandiroba.
Lots of bouncing to open the second round and then Ribas lands a big right hand straight down the pipe. Jandiroba responds with a right hand of her own before a spinning back kick from Ribas lands to the body. Nice counter right from Ribas again as both women stand toe-to-toe. Lots of big actions from both women but not much landing as of now, with Ribas pushing the action and Jandiroba on the back foot. Jandiroba goes for a single leg takedown but Ribas reverses the attempt and ends up on top, before they scramble up to their feet again. Lots of tough grappling to end the round, but Ribas takes it. 19-19.
Ribas pressuring hard in the third now with nice combinations and ending them all with a kick. Jandiroba is slowing up quite clearly and she shoots for a lazy takedown that Ribas stuffs then tries to trip her herself. Nice left hand from Jandiroba before Ribas counters the next strike with a nice left hand. Spinning kick to the body doesn’t land clean, before Jandiroba goes for another takedown but is denied. Big head kick from Ribas lands and Jandiroba is hurt! She goes for a spin kick that misses and that allows Jandiroba to recover her senses, but she’s very tired. Ribas still fresh and being first with her strikes as the fight winds down to a close. Should be a comeback 29-28 win for Ribas.
Ankalaev opening up early with some speedy strikes down the pipe, but Oezdemir staying calm in front of him. Oezdemir throws a wicked left hook that lands, then follows up with a left uppercut that wobbles Ankalaev. Oezdemir goes for a flying knee but misses and Ankalaev gets a body lock and puts him up against the cage. Oezdemir has Ankalaev backing up against the cage but both men are just missing with their strikes. Big one-two down the pipe from Ankalaev and he drops Oezdemir! He goes to finish but Oezdemir gets back up quickly and they reset. Another jab and left hand from Ankalaev lands and he’s now taking the centre. Oezdemir looks hesitant and Ankalaev’s left hand is landing at will almost. One-two followed by two more right-hands by Ankalaev as the round ends. 10-9 Ankalaev.
Oezdemir tries to rush in with his right hand but Ankalaev escapes, clinches up and then lands a big left hand on the break. Hard low kick from Oezdemir before Ankalaev throws another combination that just misses. Oezdemir steps forward with a right hand but Ankalaev counters with a hard right hook that cuts Oezdemir above the eye. Oezdemir’s only success really coming from low kicks but Ankalaev controlling the range and throwing his left hand well. Uppercut from Ankalaev lands and then he locks up a body lock against the cage, throwing hard knees to the thigh of Oezdemir. Ankalaev tries to get a takedown but Oezdemir defends well, then blocks a big left hand on the break. 20-18 Ankalaev.
Ankalaev staying very calm and jabbing well in this final round. Nice jab and a big right hand lands but Oezdemir eats it well. Oezdemir goes for a takedown but Ankalaev denies it and then lands a hard right hand. Ankalaev turning up the pressure a little now with a left head kick but Oezdemir still trying to find a moment. Big right hand lands from Oezdemir but Ankalaev eats it and steps to the side before returning to his jab. Entering the final minute now and both guys seem to have accepted the result of this one, with not much happening. Hard body kick from Ankalaev before a stiff right jab lands too. Takedown attempt from Ankalaev as the round ends, in what should be a 30-27 win for him.
Khamzat Chimaev def Jingliang Li via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1 (3:16)
Chimaev ducks under a right hand and goes straight for a takedown on Li, who defends it well before eventually getting lifted, slammed and controller. Chimaev throwing some ground strikes again but Li defending well, although Chimaev is controlling him with wrestling so far. Heavy ground and pound from Chimaev as he puts a hook in and starts searching for a choke. Chimaev goes on the back and flattens Li out and starts smashing him with ground and pound! Huge shots from Chimaev but Li is still trying to fight him! Chimaev switches to the back and goes for a choke and sinks it in! Li fighting the submission but Chimaev switches sides, readjusts the grip and puts Li to sleep! Wow!! What a performance! The hype is real!
Alexander Volkov def Marcin Tybura via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Great start from both guys as Volkov comes forward with some body shots and stiff hooks, but Tybura replies with a big left hand of his own. Volkov using his length well to land straight shots and avoid Tybura’s returns so far, before Tybura changes levels on him to no avail. Tybura gets inside and goes for a takedown, but Volkov denies him really well before breaking with an elbow attempt. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura steps forward again with pressure to close the distance. Tybura changes levels on Volkov but he turns him and ends up on top, landing a big elbow early. Tybura stalling on the ground by just holding Volkov tight to him and Volkov goes for a forearm to the throat to try and disrupt the breathing. Volkov lands a few more ground strikes to end the round in control and take it on the cards, 10-9.
Volkov using his front kick well once again and the big right hand following behind it. Tybura pressing the pace and forcing him backwards, but his takedown attempts are being denied quite comfortably. A few uppercuts in the clinch from Tybura land before another takedown attempt is denied. Volkov throws a knee that is caught and Tybura tries for another takedown, but Volkov denies him again and lands a right hand as they separate. Nice one-two from Tybura lands and Volkov is starting to tire now. Left hand misses from Tybura again and then Volkov lands a beautiful right hook. Tybura fakes a jab and goes for another takedown but Volkov denies it and sees out the round. Hard to score, but it’s probably even going into the third.
Tybura on the front foot once again in this final round, almost chasing Volkov but neither doing much damage. Volkov lands a hard knee to the body before Tybura goes for another takedown that gets stuffed. Nice one-two from Volkov as they separate but it’s still Tybura pushing forward. Big left uppercut followed by a right hand from Volkov lands and then he denies yet another takedown! Short left hook from Tybura lands and then he goes in for a takedown again that Volkov defends routinely at this point. Tybura tries a hip toss but Volkov holds a body lock and has the back, landing big knees to the thigh. Big right hands from Volkov land and then some nice combinations as Tybura starts to tire. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura responds with a big left of his own. Final minute now and both guys are breathing heavy. Volkov lands a big right hand, slips Tybura’s strikes and lands a nice combination to back Tybura up. Straight right hand each as the round comes to an end, should be a Volkov decision win 29-28.
Islam Makhachev def Dan Hooker via Submission (Kimura), Round 1 (2:25)
Hooker trying to keep length nice and early here with a few low kicks as Makhachev takes the centre and just looks for his moment. Makhachev throws a nice hook then dips low and catches Hooker’s leg to get an immediate takedown and move straight to half guard in his own corner. Makhachev throws a nice elbow in tight and is now attacking a kimura! Makhachev readjusts the grip, steps over and twists the arm behind the back and secures the tap out! Unbelievable performance from Makhachev!
Petr Yan def Cory Sandhagen via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
An exchange of leg kicks between the two in the opening minute, as Yan takes the centre and Sandhagen looks to circle on the outside and use his length. Yan lets a left hand fly but it just misses, before a nice low kick followed by a body shot from Sandhagen. Low kick from Yan and Sandhagen counters with two nice left hands before changing levels to go for a takedown. Yan defends it well though and they go back into a close exchange of striking. Hard low kick from Yan lands before Sandhagen steps forward and just misses with a left. Sandhagen forces Yan to the cage and lands a few touching shots, before a nice kick to the body. Hard strikes from Sandhagen land but Yan returns with a big right hand of his own before Sandhagen changes levels again. Big flying knee from Sandhagen lands and the round ends. 10-9 Sandhagen.
Hard low kick from Sandhagen to open up the round, before both guys use their feints really well. Body kick from Yan lands but he misses with the follow up right hand and Sandhagen responds with a right hand of his own. Huge body kick from Yan lands clean and then Sandhagen responds with a nice left hook to the body himself. Head kick attempt from Yan is caught and Sandhagen throws a nice right. Yan responds with a low kick and then a big left hand to the chin. Sandhagen moving well still and touching Yan well, but Yan starting to counter with powerful strikes of his own. Yan just misses with a big left hand and both guys exchange body shots again. Sandhagen goes for a takedown but Yan defends it well and keeps the fight standing. Big knee from Sandhagen again but Yan eats it well. Yan pushing forward and putting his pace on this fight, but Sandhagen using his length well to stay out of real danger. 19-19.
Soft left hands from Sandhagen before he checks a leg kick and lands a beautiful left down the pipe to wobble Yan. Yan comes forward with a spinning kick to the body before Sandhagen lands his jab again. Huge left hook to the body from Yan lands but Sandhagen comes forward again with his jab and circles on the outside. Hard leg kick but Yan checks it and then he lands a big left uppercut. He goes for a combination but Sandhagen avoids it and lands a one-two of his own. Yan trying to turn the pressure up but Sandhagen slipping shots well and avoiding clean hits. Big one-two from Yan lands but Sandhagen staying calm and circling on the outside. Body kick from Yan but Sandhagen moves forward to trade with him. Yan throws a big hook and then a spinning back fist and drops Sandhagen! He goes for vicious ground and pound but Sandhagen stays calm and after some scrambles, they get back to the feet and the round ends. 29-28 Yan.
Yan starting to walk Sandhagen down a bit now but he isn’t going anywhere. Nice jabs again and a nice knee attempt just misses, but Yan is throwing big left hands and landing clean. Another big left from Yan lands flush but Sandhagen still standing. Body shot from Sandhagen gets a big left straight reply from Yan, but Sandhagen continuing to poke at him with jabs. Yan with a body kick and then a beautiful one two lands. Sandhagen shoots for a takedown and gets it, but both guys go for a heel hook before they scramble back to their feet. Yan ducks under a spinning back fist then lands some big combinations to the head and body. Yan continuing to march forward and the big hooks are landing, but Sandhagen responds with a big elbow. Yan steps forward and blasts Sandhagen with a huge right hand, but Sandhagen just eats it. Yan stuffs a takedown and they start scrambling again, with Yan throwing big combinations. 39-37 Yan.
Final round and Sandhagen still trying pick his shots while Yan is walking him down. Hard low kick from Yan gets a big reaction from Sandhagen, before he tries another jump knee that Yan blocks. Yan looking to close distance again but Sandhagen still fresh and moving well, flicking out his jab. Yan goes for three hooks but misses them all thanks to good movement, before Yan tries for a takedown and Sandhagen denies him. Huge head kick from Yan lands but Sandhagen shakes his head and says no, before Yan goes for more big hooks. Final 90 seconds and Yan is still coming forward. Right jab from Yan before Sandhagen makes him miss several times. Big left hand from Sandhagen lands and then he avoids the spinning back fist. Big knee from Sandhagen with ten seconds left but Yan responds with a spinning kick to the chin and they go wild with seconds remaining to end the fight. What a bout! 49-46 Yan for me.
Glover Teixeira def Jan Blachowicz via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:02)
Hard leg kick from Blachowicz opens up the fight as Teixeira looks to take the centre. Teixeira changes levels and goes for the takedown, before spinning him off the cage and securing it. Straight into full guard as Blachowicz looks to tie him up and avoid that vicious ground and pound game of Teixeira’s. Teixeira pulling the head up and making Blachowicz very uncomfortable on the bottom, grinding his elbows and head against him too. Teixeira goes for an elbow but just misses, then cranks the neck up again and then lands a short elbow. Final minute and Teixeira starting to be more active from the top position and that’s the round. 10-9 Teixeira.
Blachowicz comes out with the jab early and lands a nice left hand combination, before denying Teixeira’s takedown attempt. Big left uppercut from Blachowicz before Teixeira closes the distance and rushes Blachowicz against the cage with a clinch. Blachowicz denies another takedown attempt and is just popping his jab. Teixeira goes wild and lands a big left hand that wobbles Blachowicz! Blachowicz responds with a nice right hand combination that staggers Teixeira himself, but the Brazilian gets a takedown quickly and moves into mount immediately! Teixeira flattens him out and gets the arm under his neck and gets the tap!!! Unbelievable!! AND NEW!!
Last week at UFC Vegas 41 we had a rough time with our picks, landing just 7/13 correct with three perfect picks to move us up to 446/702 (63.53%) with 190 perfect picks (42.6%) since June 2020.
We’ll look to improve on that with this huge 15-fight card, starting with the early prelims.
Tagir Ulanbekov (13-1) vs Allan Nascimento (17-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun flyweight bout opens up the card on Fight Island. Ulanbekov has won his last four-in-a-row, including his UFC debut against Bruno Silva at UFC Fight Island 5 last year. Nascimento was beaten on Dana White’s Contender Series but then returned to Brazil with a victory to earn this UFC debut.
Ulanbekov is a brilliant wrestler, who uses his top game and ground and pound strikes to control his opponent and win fights. Nascimento is more of an all-rounder, with explosive striking and good scrambles on the mat to go with 13 submission wins in his career. This fight is always certain to go to the ground, but it’s all about who ends up on top.
The likelihood in my opinion is that guy will be Ulanbekov. Nascimento has struggled with worse wrestlers in the past and while the Russian will have to be careful of potential submission attempts, I expect him to rack up plenty of top control to earn a decision win. PICK – Tagir Ulanbekov via Decision
Magomed Mustafaev (14-4) vs Damir Ismagulov (23-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An absolute banger at lightweight in a potential fight of the night contender next. Mustafaev has lost two of his last three in the UFC, with defeat to Brad Riddell most recently in February 2020 while Ismagulov has won 18-in-a-row including all four of his UFC bouts, with victory over Rafael Alves at UFC Vegas 27 most recently.
This is a super exciting fight. Mustafaev is a vicious kickboxer with super heavy kicks and brilliant punching power too. Something he doesn’t have though is brilliant wrestling, something Ismagulov has and is able to mix in with his own excellent striking. Mustafaev’s kicks could become nullified if Ismagulov looks to catch them, with the Kazakhstan fighter using his jab and low kicks of his own to earn victories.
Both men have the ability to end the fight in range, but neither have ever been knocked out before in their career. That leads me to think control could be key and with Ismagulov having the wrestling edge, he’ll claim the victory. PICK – Damir Ismagulov via Decision
Hu Yaozong (3-2) vs Andre Petroski (6-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A weird fight in the middleweight division between two relative novices in the UFC. Yaozong has lost both of his UFC appearances and hasn’t fought since way back in 2018, while Petroski was part of the contenders in the most recent Ultimate Fighter series who earned his first win against Michael Gillmore at UFC Vegas 35.
Yaozong is a decent kickboxer on the feet, but he really struggled in all his UFC bouts prior to get that going. Petroski on the other hand has shown great wrestling skills with a good mix of ground and pound and submissions on the mat too, but when the takedown isn’t available he tends to look a little lost. Lucky for him, the version of Yaozong we all know can’t defend takedowns for love nor money.
Three years away is a long time, plus the fact he is fighting in a new weight class and he’s never really looked impressive means I have to go with Petroski to blast a takedown early and eventually secure a finish from the top. PICK – Andre Petroski via Submission, Round 1
Makwan Amirkhani (16-6) vs Lerone Murphy (10-0-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
One of my personal favourite fights on the card is a banger between two European featherweights. ‘Mr Finland’ Amirkhani has lost each of his last two, dropping decisions to Edson Barboza and Kamuela Kirk most recently at UFC Vegas 28. Murphy on the other hand has earned successive wins in the UFC against Ricardo Ramos at UFC Fight Island 2 before a decision win over Douglas Silva de Andrade at UFC Fight Island 8.
Amirkhani is a very technical and fun kickboxer, with good volume, great cardio and unbelievable wrestling. Murphy on the other hand is a very well rounded fighter too, with great one-punch power and excellent wrestling of his own too to control opponents. Amirkhani has been able to take down everyone he’s ever fought in the UFC and while I don’t expect this to be different, Murphy is good enough to get back up and be more physical.
Murphy has shown an ability to rally if a fight isn’t going his way, while Amirkhani has shown that he finds it hard to turn things around. With Murphy’s power and wrestling ability too, I expect he’ll be able to control the fight the longer it goes and earn a win in an entertaining fight. PICK – Lerone Murphy via Decision
Opportunities have arisen and the current roster is ready to take them. Here are ten fighters who have big years ahead of them. Whether it’s new comers charging up the rankings or seasoned professionals putting themselves into the hall of fame, keep your eye on them all.
Many fans’ Fighter of the Year for 2020 and it is hard to argue against it. Five fights and five wins, which was a joint record in the UFC for victories in a calendar year, has seen ‘The Trailblazer’ race up the middleweight rankings into 10th place.
Displaying a wide range of abilities throughout his run has made people stand up & take notice. He now needs to build on that and this year could see Holland be involved in some big nights. But first he must deal with number seven ranked Derek Brunson.
Being knocked off the pound-for-pound top spot by Khabib Nurmagomedov didn’t go down well in the Jones household. He immediately took to Twitter to vent his frustrations and it was clear to see he wants and feels he deserves that spot back.
Already considered by many as the greatest of all time, moving up and becoming the heavyweight champion sets that accolade in stone. A legacy defining year ahead for Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones.
2020 was a big year for the Chechen but 2021 could be even bigger. After his debut on Fight Island he set a turnaround record of 10 days to get his second UFC victory and became a fan favourite instantly.
Now 3-0 in the UFC he will face Leon Edwards on March 13th, where a win will propel him into the top half of the welterweight division. He’s ready to fight anyone at anytime so expect him to be active. Only his potential opponents will stop that.
By the time arenas are full to capacity with fans, could the new star already have gold around his waist?
Another man moving up in weight class, the middleweight champion has dealt with the contenders put his way so far and is looking to test himself at 205lbs in the light heavyweight division.
An immediate title fight with newly crowned champion Jan Błachowicz at UFC 259 would put ‘Stylebender’ in the small company of multi-weight champions. It would also set up a potential super fight with former champion Jon Jones.
Is this the year people start mentioning Adesanya in the G.O.A.T debate?
The Englishman likes to get his opponents out of the octagon quickly, however showed patience to win a unanimous decision on Fight Island.
He has a story to go along side his skills too, a survivor of being shot in the face twice earns him the nickname ‘The Miracle’. Opportunities will certainly come his way this year and he’ll be ready to take them.
The only man flying the flag for England in the heavyweight division, the all action scouser can start moving into the rankings in 2020.
His first outing of the year is scheduled for UFC Vegas 19 next month against Andrei Arlovski and gives Aspinall a chance to test himself against an experienced veteran, who has been in the cage with the likes of Miocic, Overeem & Rozenstruik.
Fighting early in the year allows him to get another two or three more fights in and this knockout artist will surely give us some highlights in 2021 in return.
The number three ranked strawweight is on an incredible 11 fight streak in MMA, six in the UFC, and is right in line for a title shot in 2021.
By her own admission one more fight will be needed before that opportunity is earned, and a possible match up with the number two ranked Joanna Jędrzejczyk is one Dana White should be looking to make.
Whichever opponent comes her way, a win will see the possibility of a historic event. If China carries on their successful fight against COVID-19, imagine an all-Chinese title fight with current champion Zhang Weili in Asia, with fans in attendance. What a night that would be.
Kape is scheduled to make his debut in the UFC at flyweight on the main card of UFC Vegas 18 and comes into the company after leaving Rizin as the champion. He also served as the back up to the UFC 256 main event between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno.
Another exciting young fighter who doesn’t like to leave his fate to the judges, he’s got 15 wins on his record with 14 coming via TKO or submission. An impressive win can introduce him to fans and set him up for a huge 2021.
Nicknamed ‘Kungfu Monkey’, Yadong is on an impressive eight fight unbeaten run.
His first fight of the year is scheduled to come on the prelims card at UFC 259 against another young fighter, Kyler Phillips. With a wide range of finishes on his record, Yadong is someone who will excite people this year and can start moving up the featherweight division and will be keen to make up for inactivity last year.
He’s now on course to get himself into title contention with a successful 2021. The 11th ranked light heavyweight is scheduled to face number eight ranked Nikita Krylov in his biggest test yet at UFC Vegas 20 next month.
A win there and if the Dagestanian can be active and add to his 9 finishes, he can end the year knowing a fight for the belt won’t be far away.
Manon Fiorot def Victoria Leonardo via Knockout, Round 2 (4:08)
Fiorot starts the fight with her standard side kick to maintain distance, while Leonardo is trying to throw punches in bunches early. Fiorot lands two more side kicks to the body and then lands a big head kick! Fiorot pushes forward and lands a big one-two that snaps Leonardo’s head back, but she eats it and continues to come forward. Clinch attempt but Fiorot is physically stronger and using knees well. Fiorot explodes with a big one-two again and rocks Leonardo! Fiorot charges forward looking to finish and lands two more shots but Leonardo moves away and avoids the big wheel kick attempt. Clinch against the cage and Fiorot lands a big elbow on the break. Big round for Fiorot. 10-9.
Better second round start from Leonardo, as she avoids the big strikes early but she’s throwing her own strikes from way too far out. Fiorot lands a nice body kick before Leonardo shoots for a takedown, but good defence from Fiorot to keep it standing. A few more clashes between the two before Fiorot gets Leonardo against the cage and gets a takedown of her own. She lands a couple of strikes on the ground before getting back up and making the referee stand them up. Fiorot lands a big head kick and Leonardo is hurt! She turns up the pressure and lands big punches as Leonardo covers up and the referee steps in and stops it! Hugely impressive performance.
Umar Nurmagomedov def Sergey Morozov via Submission (Rear naked choke), Round 2 (3:39)
A cagey start to this fight as Nurmagomedov comes out bouncing and throwing kicks, while Morozov looks to land a big overhand right. Bit of a stalemate on the feet so Umar shoots for a takedown and gets him down to the ground. He looks to take the back and stabs his hooks in, but Morozov scrambles and keeps rolling around before eventually breaking free. Back on the feet again and Umar lands a nice question mark kick before ducking an overhand right and getting another takedown. He takes Morozov’s back quickly but the buzzer goes to end the round. 10-9 Nurmagomedov.
Second round starts and Umar lands a huge head kick immediately that wobbles Morozov! Umar goes for the finish against the cage with big shots, but Morozov comes away and eventually shakes the cobwebs away. Another head kick attempt is blocked but then a big body kick lands from Umar. Umar throws a jab and shoots straight behind it with a perfect takedown, before transitioning to the back again. He finally is able to hold the position at the second time of asking and eventually lands a few shots before sinking in a lovely rear naked choke and putting Morozov to sleep! What a performance.
Mike Davis def Mason Jones via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Great start to the fight for both men as Davis shows his kicking game, while Jones is looking to land combos early. Davis lands a big body shot and a strong leg kick, while Jones continues to come forward. Blind kick from Jones and Davis makes him pay with a takedown. A couple of strikes on the ground before Jones gets back to the feet. Jones starts landing some nice punches to the body and head, which makes Davis look twice and shoot for another takedown to slow it down. Jones gets back up again quickly and lands a nice left hand but Davis retaliates with a strike of his own. Jones turning the pace up on Davis with combos and knees but then Davis takes him down again. Jones gets back up and eats a huge flying knee right on the buzzer! 10-9 Jones but very close round.
Davis lands a big leg kick early in the second round that drops Jones, but again he gets back up to his feet quickly. Nice combinations from Jones are landing as Davis drops his hands but then Davis returns fire with a big straight right hand. Both men throw elbows that just miss, before a big calf kick again from Jones. Jones’ pace is excellent and Davis’ cardio is starting to let him down here. Big body shot from Jones again but Davis is significantly tiring now. Final minute and Jones throws a big leg kick again as Davis looks to avoid. Big right hand from Davis lands and knocks the mouth piece out of Jones’ mouth, then lands another big one two and a head kick but Jones catches it and ends the round on top. 20-18 Jones.
Final round and still a strong pace to this fight. Davis lands a big right hand but Jones eats it again and continues to come forward. Davis landing shots at a cleaner rate right now but Jones continues to come forward and attack the body and legs. Jones shoots in for a takedown against the cage but defended well by Davis and then he lands a big right hand on the break. Big knee from Davis lands again as we enter the final minute, but Jones is still coming forward with power and aggression. Takedown attempt from Davis but Jones defends well as the two exchange shots against the cage for the buzzer. What a fight. 29-28 Jones but could well be the other way around too.
Francisco Figueiredo def Jerome Rivera via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Very interesting start to this fight as both men stand at range and exchange body kicks and leg kicks before clinching up against the cage. Nice exchange in the centre before a sweep and takedown from Figueiredo sees him end up on top. Some nice ground and pound from the top by Figueiredo before he gets back to his feet and lets Rivera back up. A few exchanges but nothing big and the round ends with a takedown attempt from Rivera being stuffed. 10-9 Figueiredo.
Second round starts with a takedown from Figueiredo again as he ends up on top, but Rivera is very active from his back throwing elbows, short strikes and trying to use his length to create distance. Figueiredo doing really well to stay square on the hips though and is keeping position to great effect. Rivera using his long legs really well to stop Figueiredo passing guard and not taking too much damage before getting back up to his feet. Figueiredo too strong in a clinch and breaks away before landing a really nice pull left straight counter. Round ends with another clinch, but Figueiredo looks good right now. 20-18.
Final round and once again Figueiredo is getting on the inside and able to secure a takedown, although Rivera gets back to his feet well this time. Good combination of strikes from Rivera land at a distance but then he steps in again and Figueiredo is able to clinch up against the cage. Rivera switches the position and looks for a takedown but Figueiredo defends it really well before they eventually break away. Rivera starting to up the pace and throw more strikes and he’s starting to land. Big takedown from Rivera at the end of the round but Figueiredo gets back up quickly and gets a takedown of his own on the buzzer to seal what should be a win.
Dalcha Lungiambula def Markus Perez via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast paced start to this fight as Perez looks to work the body of Lungiambula, who explodes with a combination that forces Perez all the way across the cage. Dalcha shoots for a takedown and lifts Perez into the air before slamming him down and ending in half guard. Perez threatens with a guillotine but Lungiambula stays patient, get out of it and look to land big shots. Perez threatens with submissions off his back and eventually gets back to his feet for the end of the round. 10-9 Dalcha but tough to score.
Perez looking to land body shots early in the second, but Dalcha lands a big body shot and charges to get the fight to the ground again. He ends up behind Perez, landing nice ground and pound strikes but Perez takes a kimura grip to threaten. The fight goes back down and Perez is so close to locking up the kimura but Dalcha uses brute strength to defend and end up back on top in a controlling position. Nice ground and pound strikes from Lungiambula have opened up a huge cut on Perez’s head and that’s his round. 20-18 Dalcha.
Fast start to round three as Perez comes out with kicks while Dalcha looks to counter by just taking his head off with wild hooks. Perez engages in a clinch against the cage but Dalcha is too strong and controls the position, before the two break. Dalcha throws a nice combination that just misses but Perez lands a straight left clean on the chin that staggers Dalcha. Perez keeps trying to get the fight down against the cage but Dalcha is too strong and is able to stay standing into the final minute. Both men throw knees against the cage and an accidental low blow causes a pause with 15 seconds to go and Perez lands a big spin kick with seconds to go but it’s not going to be enough. 29-28 Dalcha for me.
Su Mudaerji def Zarrukh Adashev via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Fun start to this one as Adashev looks to start fast with big looping strikes, but Su using his range well to stay away. Nice leg kicks land from Su and quickly force Adashev to switch stance. Nice head kick from Su lands but is partially blocked from Adashev, who returns first with a big one-two that misses. Jab from Su lands but Adashev lands a bit left hook counter, although he barely flinches at it. 10-9 Su but Adashev is active.
Adashev comes out quick again in the second round and lands a nice double-jab right hand clean. Su continues to use the inside leg kick and his range well, with a double jab of his own too. Spin kick attempt from Su misses and Adashev takes the back, landing some big shots to the face before they break. Su lands a big leg kick and just avoids the left hook coming back at him before a straight right while taking the centre of the octagon. Adashev lands a right hand that wobbles Su but he recovers quickly and shakes his head to say it didn’t hurt. Adashev charges forward and Su steps back and lands a big check hook that drops him! He follows it with a jab that drops him again but Adashev avoids any more significant damage before the end of the round. 20-18 Su.
Head kick lands for Su to open the final round but Adashev seems to have shaken off the cobwebs. Adashev eating leg kicks and can’t get into the rang of Su now, who seems to have figured out the way to victory now. Su keeping his hands low and throws a big wheel kick but hits fresh air. Nice one-two from Adashev but Su maintains the centre and throws a nice side kick to the body. Final 90 seconds of the fight and Su continues to stay out of range while just picking jabs and landing nice kicks. Adashev pushing forward into the final minute but Su avoidig all strikes with great footwork to take a decision win.
Ricky Simon def Gaetano Pirrello via Submission (Arm triangle choke), Round 2 (4:00)
Good start to the fight by Simon, who feints changing levels and lands nice strikes before eventually shooting for the takedown and getting the fight to the ground. Pirrello scrambles back to his feet but Simon keeps a body lock and engages in the clinch against the cage. Change of levels and Simon lifts Pirrello before slamming him down to the mat. Pirrello tries to get back up but Simon consistently dragging him back down and taking the back. Pirrello escapes but again Simon drops levels for another takedown. Dominant opening round. 10-9.
Second round and Pirrello tries to strike from distance, but Simon changes levels and shoots. Pirrello throws a huge knee that lands flush but Simon eats it and eventually finishes the takedown. More top control from Simon, with every time Pirrello gets up to his feet Simon just puts him back on his back. It’s a vintage Simon performance as he gets another takedown against the cage and lands straight into mount. Simon immediately sinks up an arm-triangle choke and gets the tap-out win. Beautiful performance.
Omari Akhmedov def Tom Breese via Submission (Arm triangle choke), Round 2 (1:41)
Fast start to this one with Akhmedov throwing bombs early with Breese looking to counter, before Akhmedov shoots in with a takedown early. Breese catches him in a guillotine on the way down though and it looks tight, but the Russian gets his head out and starts landing good shots from top position. Huge bombs from Akhmedov from the guard have Breese in big trouble as he attempts an armbar to escape, but he’s just eating shots from Akhmedov. Breese manages to scramble back to his feet with a heel hook attempt and then takes Akhmedov’s back and almost gets the choke, but Akhmedov defends well before the buzzer goes. 10-9 Akhmedov.
Second round and Akhmedov goes straight for the takedown again, but Breese is able to tilt him and ends up on the bottom but with a calf slicer submission. Akhmedov remains calm and eventually gets out, putting himself into mount. He immediately attacks for an arm triangle submission and after a bit of a wait, Breese has no choice but to tap out. Excellent performance from Akhmedov.
Lerone Murphy def Douglas Silva de Andrade via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Good start to this one for Murphy as he takes the centre of the cage and uses his range to land nice calf kicks. He’s throwing in straight lines and connecting out of range, attacking the body well. Andrade trying to fire back with leg kicks of his own but Murphy checks it and fires back with a big right hand of his own. Two more right hands land for Murphy but Andrade fires back with a nice body kick. Andrade comes forward with a combo that ends in a high kick, but Murphy blocks it all and moves away. Andrade looks for a takedown but Murphy defends well and responds with a knee before a leg kick as the round ends. 10-9 Murphy.
Murphy opens the round throwing a leg kick and Andrade is hurt bad. Murphy throws a head kick but Andrade catches it and forces him down to the ground and quickly transitions to the back, but Murphy scrambles up to his feet very quickly. Another big leg kick from Murphy and the two end up clinching against the cage. Andrade gets it down and ends up in mount but again Murphy escapes and lands a nasty body shot on Andrade. Andrade comes forward and lands a big body shot of his own, while Murphy continues to attack the leg and throw long one-twos. Murphy catches a kick and lands a big right hand flush on the chin but Andrade eats it. Another huge leg kick and Andrade is in trouble as the round ends. 20-18 Murphy.
Murphy nice and aggressive in this final round, attacking the leg again. Andrade knows he needs the knockout and comes forward with a big right-left hook combo that lands hard and wobbles Murphy! Spinning back kick to the body but Murphy clinches up, before a low blow causes a pause in the action. Andrade lands two big hooks again and Murphy looks hurt, but he’s using footwork well to move away. Big right straight lands for Murphy and Andrade comes forward again, but Murphy changes levels and looks for a takedown as we enter the final minute. Murphy gets it down and scrambles to end up on top and looks to just control for the final 30 seconds for a big decision win. 29-28.
Matt Schnell def Tyson Nam via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Cagey start from both fighters in this one as Schnell looks to stand with Nam, who is throwing low kicks with his right hand behind it as usual. Good head movement from Schnell to avoid any damage early on, as both guys doing a lot of feinting but nothing heavy landing. Nam lands a big counter right hand out of nowhere but Schnell eats it and continues to stand and trade in the centre as the round ends. 10-9 Schnell.
Much better second round from Nam so far as he starts landing his left jab a bit more, but Schnell is firing back with good boxing. Nam’s face is bloody and red from the strikes he’s taking, but Schnell’s power isn’t causing him too much of a problem. Nam coming forward and lands a big left hook but Schnell is still there and doing well with his left jab too. Schnell goes for a kick but Nam counters with a right overhand. Nam throws a big windmill right that Schnell side-steps that sums up the fight so far as the round ends. 20-18 Schnell.
Nam looking more aggressive in the final round, knowing he needs a finish to win this fight. Schnell continuing with his volume, winning him the fight right now with the jab and short combinations. Nam forcing the fight right now with his big punches, but Schnell is either avoiding them or eating the shots. He’s landing first almost every time too, making Nam’s striking game look basic. Nam more active in this round and landing more but Schnell should take the decision win.
Great start to the fight for Araujo as she uses her range excellently and picks Modafferi off with her jab. Nice one-two down the pipe lands and immediately causes swelling under the eye of Modafferi. Modafferi continues to come forward but hasn’t looked for a level change once and is getting picked off. She charges forward and Araujo steps back and lands a big right hand that drops her. Big right hook again wobbles Modafferi but she keeps coming forward before finally clinching and pushing her to the cage looking for a takedown, but Araujo reverses the position, takes her back and sinks in a rear-naked choke but the buzzer saves her. 10-9 Araujo.
More great striking from Araujo once again, picking Modafferi off at will with her jab and right straight. Modafferi shoots in for a takedown attempt but again Araujo defends it easily and transitions to the back before breaking to start striking again. Big right hand from Araujo lands but then Modafferi lands a right hand of her own that wobbles Araujo! She charges forward but Araujo recovers quickly and avoids. Araujo ducks a strike and shoots for a takedown to end the round on top, landing elbows and cuts Modafferi open. 20-18 Araujo.
Final round and Araujo starts flowing with her striking, with big combinations landing clean. Modafferi trying to come forward for a takedown but Araujo reverses the position and ends up in side control. Modafferi gets back to her feet and lands some big puches while Araujo moves backwards to avoid, but Araujo fires back with shots of her own. Araujo breaks away and shoots for a takedown to see out the remainder of the round in top control. 30-27 Araujo, pretty easy night’s work.
Ike Villanueva def Vinicius Moreira via Knockout, Round 2 (0:39)
Villanueva comes out throwing flurries to the head, but Moreira covers upwell with a high guard and throws back with a leg kick. Villanueva goes to the head a few more times but once his shots get blocked again, he starts attacking the body well. Villanueva goes for another flurry against the high guard and lands a couple of flush right hands around the guard. Another body shot from Villanueva before Moreira throws a big superman punch that lands. Body kick from Moreira gets caught and a straight right follows behind it for Villanueva as the round ends. 10-9 Ike.
Second round is more of the same early on, with Moreira covering up to not get hit. He swings a punch of his own and Villanueva counters with a huge right hook that lands on the chin and puts him out cold. One punch KO!! Goodnight!
Warlley Alves def Mounir Lazzez via Knockout, Round 1 (2:35)
Alves comes flying out of the blocks and lands some big shots before clinching up against the cage early. Alves very aggressive throwing short elbows, before a spinning back fist lands clean. They clinch again and Alves throws Lazzez onto the ground with a beautiful judo throw but Lazzez gets back to his feet quickly. Lazzez throws a spinning elbow of his own, before Alves breaks and throws three huge body kicks in a row and drops Lazzez! He gets on top and rains down punches and the referee stops the fight! What a win for Warlley Alves!
Michael Chiesa def Neil Magny via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
Fast start to the round from Magny as he takes the centre and looks to use his range early. A few strike exchanges before a clinch in the centre allows Chiesa to trip Magny in the centre of the cage and work from top position. Chiesa tries to pass half guard and attack a kimura but Magny defends well and the rest of the round passes with Chiesa on top. 10-9 Maverick.
Chiesa starts the second round and immediately goes for the body lock and trip again, but Magny defends well and they clinch against the cage again. After a war of attrition Chiesa eventually drags him down, but Magny is able to get back to his feet quickly. Magny goes for his own takedown but falls backwards and ends up on the bottom once again. Chiesa lands some big elbows on the ground and looks to pass half guard again. More elbows from Chiesa as Magny is trying to prevent the pass, but another dominant round from Chiesa. 20-18.
Faster start in round three for Magny as he comes out with flurries of strikes and looks to get the fight to the ground. He eventually drags Chiesa down and looks to take the back, but Chiesa is able to defend well, stand and they break apart. Chiesa lands a nice left straight and shoots for the takedown again, but Magny defends, reverses and clinches against the cage well. They scramble to the ground and Chiesa ends up in full mount, and sees the round out on top. Tough to score that one. 29-28 Chiesa.
Fourth round and Chiesa comes out with a big strike and then an immediate takedown early on in the centre. Lots of attempts to pass the half guard but Magny defending well and Chiesa maintaining top position. Chiesa looks to move to a kimura, but Magny scrambles and gets an inverted triangle but Chiesa remains patient and eventually gets out of it before riding out the round on top once again. 39-37, maybe 40-36. Easy for Chiesa.
Final round and it’s more of the same. An absolute clinic from Chiesa in the grappling to waltz to a dominant, one sided victory. Very impressive.
Lerone Murphy (9-0-1) vs Douglas Silva de Andrade (26-3 1NC) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
England’s own Lerone Murphy returns to Fight Island to take on UFC veteran Douglas Silva de Andrade in the featherweight division.
Murphy got a very impressive knockout win against Ricardo Ramos last time out, while Andrade’s last fight saw him beat Renan Barao in November 2019. Murphy has power in his hands but is a very good wrestler too, which is the kryptonite to Andrade if there ever was one. He was well beaten on the ground by Petr Yan of all people in his last defeat.
Murphy has the power advantage on the feet and the advantage on the ground if he chooses to take it there, so he should get a pretty comfortable win here. PICK – Lerone Murphy via Knockout, Round 2
Matt Schnell (14-5) vs Tyson Nam (20-11-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A fun clash in the flyweight division as high level grappler Matt Schnell takes on Tyson Nam.
Schnell was on a four-fight win streak before losing his last fight to Alexandre Pantoja via first round knockout, while Nam was close to being cut before two big knockout wins brought him back from the brink against Zarrukh Adashev in June and Jerome Rivera in September.
Nam is a great counter striker with solid power, while Schnell is a fantastic jiu-jitsu practitioner. His issue though is that he likes to stand and bang sometimes, which is just asking for trouble. If he can stay at range and use his grappling game, plus having a good weigh-in, Schnell should get the win. PICK – Matt Schnell via Decision
Roxanne Modafferi (25-17) vs Viviane Araujo (9-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Arguably the most un-aesthetically please fighter of all time in Roxanne Modafferi returns to take on Viviane Araujo in the women’s flyweight division.
‘The Happy Warrior’ loves a dirty boxing fight, punching her way into range before looking to get the fight to the ground with her good top control. Araujo on the other hand is a powerful one punch fighter with good kicks and submission skills. On paper, it should be Araujo all the way but Modafferi has a habit of upsetting the odds. I’m still going to back the favourite, but don’t be shocked if it goes the other way. PICK – Viviane Araujo via Decision
Ike Villanueva (17-11) vs Vinicius Moreira (9-4) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
This fight really doesn’t have any business taking place in the UFC in 2021, as Ike Villanueva takes on Vinicius Moreira.
Villaneueva is a striker with power in his hands but rubbish on his back. Vinicius Moreira is a “submission specialist” who is pretty rubbish on his feet. Villanueva has lost his last two in a row and Moreira has lost his last three.
If it stays on the feet, Villanueva gets a knockout win. If it goes to the ground, Moreira wins by submission. My guess is Villanueva clips him and keeps his spot on the UFC roster. PICK – Ike Villanueva via Knockout, Round 1
Warlley Alves (14-4) vs Mounir Lazzez (10-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fight that probably should never be the co-main event of any UFC card, but a chance nonetheless for the UFC to show off prospect Mounir Lazzez to the world.
Warlley Alves is an all-rounder, with tidy striking and a great jiu-jitsu game who hasn’t fought since a 2019 defeat to Randy Brown. Lazzez won his debut on Fight Island in July with a really impressive decision win over Abdul Razak Alhassan, where he showed tremendous striking but also a really good chin. He’s got a good wrestling game if needs be to and he should be able to get a highlight knockout in this one for me. PICK – Mounir Lazzez via Knockout, Round 2
Michael Chiesa (17-4) vs Neil Magny (24-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A wonderful main event tops off what is a bit of a meh card as welterweight contenders Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny meet.
Chiesa is a grappling wizard with three wins in a row at 170lbs since moving up from lightweight, submitting Carlos Condit before earning decision wins over Diego Sanchez and Rafael Dos Anjos. Magny is a wrestling machine with powerful striking, who has beaten all of Jingliang Li, Anthony Rocco Martin and most recently Robbie Lawler by decision in his last three.
Magny’s cardio is his greatest strength in this fight but he also has the striking advantage in this one too. Chiesa will know that when the fight hits the ground, whether he’s on top or on the bottom he is a threat but he’d rather be on top. His wrestling isn’t good enough to get Magny down though so he’ll need sweeps to get there, but Magny’s top game is very good. It should be a great, evenly contested match up but I think Magny’s cardio pulls him towards a decision win. PICK – Neil Magny via Decision
A strong card on Fight Island threw up some new names for future contenders, while a few old names kept their name in the tombola too.
Debutants Modestas Bukauskas, Khamzat Chimaev and Mounir Lazzez scored impressive wins, while Lerone Murphy, Taila Santos and Liana Jojua all scored their first wins in the UFC on a night of tactical fights.
Jack Shore continued his phenomenal record to go 13-0 with a dominant display against Aaron Phillips. It was his second win in the company and he will begin looking towards a Top 15 opponent now after securing another submission win for his record.
Diana Belbita and Liana Jojua both went into their fight with each other having lost their debuts with the company. As Belbita took the fight to the ground, she entered Jojua’s world and the 25 year old took complete advantage with a first-round armbar. She showed great ability in the grappling exchange and will now look to build on that with her next fight.
In the featherweight division, Lerone Murphy put all the ranked 145lbers on notice with a huge knockout win of Ricardo Ramos. The British fighter did well to avoid striking with Ramos before securing a big takedown and landing brutal ground and pound to finish the bout early. It was his 6th first round KO win and he’s been incredibly impressive in his two UFC bouts to date. A fight with a low ranked fighter should be next up for him as he looks to push on against top level opposition.
Modestas Bukauskas continued his fine form with a big knockout win at the end of the first round. After exchanging well in the pockets, the former Cage Warriors light heavyweight champion fought off a late takedown attempt before delivery big elbows to the head for a TKO win between rounds. The Lithuanian-Brit spoke afterwards about how he plans to progress through the division, and it’s too early for him to take on ranked opponents. He looked calm and composed though and clearly has the power to put people away at this level.
The most impressive fighters on the card though were Mounir Lazzez and Khamzat Chimaev. Both guys came in against experienced pros with crazy knockout power but showed brilliant skill and ability of their own to counteract it.
Lazzez ate big shots early on from Alhassan but always looked composed with his back to the cage. He showed great courage to stand in the pocket and exchange with a man who has knocked out everyone he’s beaten, and showed fantastic fight IQ to land big knees in the clinch. He attacked the body of Alhassan throughout the fight and then showed his all-round game with takedowns to control the fight on the ground too. After the fight, Lazzez moved to call out “that idiot” Mike Perry but with Platinum’s recent public spat it’s unlikely we’ll see that fight any time soon.
Khamzat Chimaev moved up to middleweight to be able to make his UFC debut and obliterated John Phillips. An immediate takedown followed by 5 minutes of torturous ground and pound brought comparisons of Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Dagestani handcuff was prominent too as he outstruck his opponent 167-3 over one-and-a-half rounds they fought for, showing he’s a serious threat. Following the fight he told Jon Anik he will become champion at 77kg (170lbs) and that he believes he is already at the same level as champions Kamaru Usman and recent challenger Jorge Masvidal. A stunning performance and certainly one to keep an eye on for the future.
Plenty of new names to keep your eyes on for the rest of the year across multiple divisions and a fun card. Roll on Fight Island part 3 this weekend!
Jack Shore (12-0) vs Aaron Phillips (12-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Welshman Jack Shore returns to the UFC after his winning debut over Nohelin Hernandez in September last year. Phillips is making his UFC debut after amassing a five-fight win streak in the WFC, including four finishes. Shore has 7 submission wins on his record but also has power in his hands with four KO’s and will be looking to take this fight to the ground. Phillips loves a head kick and that could open the door for ‘The Tank’ to secure the takedown to work for his submissions. At just 25 years old Shore is one to watch, but Phillips is no pushover himself. I think Shore will get the fight down and threaten with submissions, before ultimately getting a decision win. PICK – Jack Shore via Unanimous Decision
Liana Jojua (7-3) vs Diana Belbita (13-5)– (Flyweight/125lbs)
Two women looking for their first wins in the UFC square off on Fight Island following defeats on their debut. Jojua was stopped by punches by Sarah Moras back in September, while Belbita was beaten on the judges scorecards by Molly McCann the following month. While Jojua had won four of her last 5 wins via submission, Belbita is no slouch on the ground. She herself has 4 submission wins on her record including 2 of her last 4 wins. The difference in this fight is the stirking. Belbita is a more well rounded fighter and has a nasty right hook. I expect her to be able to avoid any takedown attempts to outstrike ‘She Wolf’ for the decision win. PICK – Diana Belbita via Unanimous Decision
Jared Gordon (15-4) vs Chris Fishgold (18-3-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Jared Gordon will have to overcome an abundance of obstacles if he’s to be successful in this fight. ‘The Flash’ had both his cornermen test positive for Covid-19, meaning they couldn’t make the trip to Fight Island. His team-mate Paul Felder will step up from the commentary table to corner Gordon in this fight. Fishgold has lost two of his last three fights and is making his first appearance in over a year. The UK fighter is a submission specialist with 13 of his 18 wins coming via tap out. Gordon has lost 3 of his last 4 fights, being KO’d each time. The fact he’s against a grappler might be a welcome rest for his chin and his stand up game will be an advantage to him. That said, Fishgold has the physical advantage in this fight and if he can get the fight down to the ground then he may be able to keep him there for a submission. PICK – Chris Fishgold via Unanimous Decision
Modestas Bukauskas (10-2) vs Andreas Michailidis (12-3) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
The reigning Cage Warriors Light Heavyweight champion makes his UFC debut against Greek debutant in an interesting clash. Bukauskas has dominated in his three Cage Warriors fights, winning them all including stopping former champ Marthin Hamlet late in the fourth round of their title fight. 7 of his 10 wins have come by way of knockout. Michailidis has won his last three fights in the first round by knockout, having also won 7 of his fights by KO. This should be a fun stand-up fight. Bukauskas is a good kickboxer and will have a reach advantage over his opponent. Michailidis has fought a few bums on his way to the UFC and this will be a big step up in competition for him. I think Bukauskas makes a victorious debut in the UFC. PICK – Modestas Bukauskas vs Knockout, Round 1
Ricardo Ramos (14-2) vs Lerone Murphy (8-0-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A sleeper for fight of the night here. Ricardo Ramos bounced back from his highlight reel knockout loss to Said Nurmagomedov with back-to-back wins over Journey Newson and Luiz Garaggori, while Lerone Murphy’s UFC debut saw a split draw at UFC 242. Ramos is a silky BJJ fighter who has good wrestling, while Murphy is a solid wrestler but a very good striker. He has a great double jab which gets used a lot but he’s also great off his back and in the scramble. Against Zubaira Tukhagov he showed his ability to get back to his feet against a better pure wrestler than Ramos, so he will take confidence in that. Both fighters also have no issue with attacking submissions. Ramos has an array of spinning attacks in his arsenal but I think this fight will end up being a battle on the ground with plenty of scrambles. In what should be an entertaining, energetic fight, I’m going with a decision win for Ramos. PICK – Ricardo Ramos via Unanimous Decision
John Phillips (22-9) vs Khamzat Chimaev (6-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
UFC veteran John Phillips is yet another UK fighter on the card and he takes on Swede Khamzat Chimaev who takes this fight on short notice. Phillips is a powerful middleweight who swings for the fences with every punch, while Chimaev is moving up from welterweight to take this bout. Chimaev is a very good striker but uses that technique to close the distance and get the fight to the ground. If that happens in this, you’ll see Phillips at his absolute worst as he is like a fish out of water on his back. The longer the fight goes, you’ll see Phillips’ power deplete and he’ll become even easier to take down so I expect the short-notice debutant Chimaev to win this one. PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Submission, Round 2