Makwan Amirkhani (17-7) vs Jonathan Pearce (12-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A really fun 145-pound fight up next between two great grapplers. Amirkhani snapped a three-fight losing streak last time out, submitting Mike Grundy in just 57 seconds via anaconda choke. Pearce is on a three-fight win streak KO’ing Kai Kamaka III, submitting Omar Morales (UFC 266) and then earning a decision over Christian Rodriguez most recently.
Amirkhani is a great grappler with really tight submission skills to work from, earning 12 submission wins in his career. “JSP” on the other hand is a great wrestler, but he tends to use his physicality to wear on opponents and uses his volume as a weapon to really grind on them. That means this fight goes one of two ways – a quick submission or a dominant display.
I’m leaning towards the dominant display, because Amirkhani isn’t as active from the top as he should be considering his skillset and his cardio lets him down on a regular basis. So long as Pearce doesn’t give up his back early doors, he should be able to use his activity to score points and then eventually grind his way to a wide decision of potentially even a late finish. PICK – Jonathan Pearce via Decision
Nathaniel Wood (17-5) vs Charles Rosa (14-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Finally, “The Prospect” is back in a UFC octagon! Wood suffered defeat way back at UFC 254 against Casey Kenney and has seen several fights fall out ever since. Rosa on the other hand has lost his last two, dropping decisions to Damon Jackson and then most recently TJ Brown at UFC Vegas 46.
Wood is a fine striker on the feet but he’s also got some half-decent wrestling and submission skills from the top position. Rosa meanwhile is a great striker and he has got some violent top position which opens up submission attempts, but he has never been able to sort out his God-awful takedown defence and that’s a huge problem in this match up.
His offensive wrestling isn’t good enough to take Wood down at will, and the Brit is very good at scrambling back to his feet anyway. Outside of that, Wood is the better fighter everywhere. He’s a better striker, better wrestler, more powerful and quicker. He chooses how to win this essentially barring a hail Mary submission win, so go with Wood for a W. PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Decision
Marc Diakiese (15-5) vs Damir Hadzovic (14-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Another British lightweight on the card in this match up. Diakiese suffered back-to-back defeats against Rafael Fiziev and Rafael Alves, before bouncing back with a decision win over Viacheslav Borshchev most recently. Hadzovic did the same in his last fight, beating Yancy Medeiros via unanimous decision.
Diakiese is a solid kickboxer with good power and explosiveness, while his takedown defence is strong too. Hadzovic is a brawler who relies on his heavy hands big time, and hopes to encourage his opponents to be drawn into a scrap with him. Diakiese won’t do that, because he’s got the advantage everywhere this fight goes.
“Bonecrusher” is taller, has a better reach, is the better technical striker and if he really needs it he’s by far the better wrestler too. Hadzovic’s takedown defence is pretty poor and Diakiese has shown great durability throughout his career to make a one-punch KO unlikely, so expect a dominant win for Diakiese. PICK – Marc Diakiese via Decision
Mason Jones (11-1) vs Ludovit Klein (18-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An absolute barnstormer of a fight gets the featured prelim spot, just one week after the fight got put together. Jones suffered the first defeat of his career to Mike Davis at UFC Fight Island 8, before a no contest against Alan Patrick at UFC Vegas 28. He finally got back in the win column last time out though, dominating David Onama. Klein on the other hand snapped a two fight losing-streak last time out when he grabbed a split decision over Devonte Smith at UFC 272.
Jones is a really well-rounded prospect, who has controlled the distance and pace of all his fights so far and dominated most people with his relentless pressure. Klein meanwhile is a really talented striker, with incredible kicks and striking skills but his overall game tends to let him down against people who won’t have a kickboxing match with him. Jones is almost certain to pressure Klein to death and look to land combinations and knees to the body.
Klein has the ability to knock Jones out because he’s always willing to take a shot to give three back. But if Jones is capable of eating them, in the way he’s been able to against everyone else, then he will walk through them and punish Klein with his pressure. Klein’s cardio tends to let him down later in fights, so expect Jones to really put it on him and maybe even get a finish late on. PICK – Mason Jones via Knockout, Round 3
A super highly anticipated grudge match main event at UFC 272 is finally upon us as Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal will clash in the welterweight division.
‘Chaos’ and ‘Gamebred’ will finally settle their very personal differences in the octagon after their friendship went sour several years ago, but while fans are hoping for a scrap it could actually be a bit of a mistmatch.
We’ll also see a five-round co-main event that was put together on short-notice as Rafael Dos Anjos takes on Renato Moicano at a 160-pound catchweight.
The last time we made picks was at UFC Vegas 48: Walker vs Hill a couple of weeks ago and we did pretty well, going 9/12 with three perfect picks to move to 548/852 (64.32%) with 234 perfect picks (42.7%).
Check out our full record for our predictions to date here.
Dustin Jacoby (16-5-1) vs Michal Oleksiejczuk (16-4) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A big fight to start up the card in the light heavyweight division. Jacoby is undefeated in his last seven fights, with six wins including a decision win last time out at UFC 268. Oleksiejczuk has won each of his last two, earning a split decision over Modestas Bukauskas at UFC 260 before a KO win against Shamil Gamzatov at UFC 267.
Jacoby is an excellent kickboxer with some really good footwork and heavy hands, while Oleksiejczuk is a pressure-heavy fighter with super power in his hands. While Oleksiejczuk likes to walk forward, he struggles often to cut the cage off which will allow Jacoby room to move and even piece up the legs from the outside.
Oleksiejczuk isn’t much of a kicker at all and his volume often leaves you wanting more from him, and that’s why I can’t see past Jacoby winning. He can pick him off from the outside with kicks, while also holding his own in the centre. Both have a good chin, so I expect a Jacoby decision. PICK – Dustin Jacoby via Decision
Devonte Smith (11-3) vs Ludovit Klein (17-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A short-notice banger at lightweight up next. Devonte Smith has never been to the judges in his professional career, but he has lost two of his last three with KO defeats to Khama Worthy and Jamie Mullarkey at UFC Vegas 38 coming either side of a KO win against Justin Jaynes at UFC Vegas 18. Klein on the other hand has lost his last two fights in a row, getting submitted by Nate Landwehr last time out. He steps in on one week’s notice.
Both of these guys are excellent strikers, but in different ways. Smith has good pressure and excellent power, while Klein tends to stick on the outside a little more and use his kicks and technique to break opponents down. While Smith isn’t the type of fighter to suffocate an opponent with pressure or grappling, he has got it in him. He’s a decent wrestler and has enough power to try and empty the tank early and finish the fights in the first round.
If he does that against Klein he will earn a victory, but the Slovakian is well aware of his weaknesses and surely will have worked on it. But with just one week of notice against an absolute powerhouse, I think they get into an exchange early on and Smith clips him for a big win. PICK – Devonte Smith via Knockout, Round 1
Tim Elliott (18-12-1) vs Tagir Ulanbekov (14-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The super experienced Tim Elliott welcomes a super hot prospect in this bout in the flyweight division. Elliott has lost four of his last six including his last bout where he dropped a decision to Matheus Nicolau at UFC Vegas 39, while Ulanbekov is on a five-fight win streak including two wins in the UFC against Bruno Silva at UFC Fight Island 5 and Allan Nascimento at UFC 267.
Elliott is a decent striker with some good wrestling in his pocket and good submission skills too, while Ulanbekov is a primary wrestler who has awkward and strange striking attacks on the feet. Because of that wrestling though, he has the ability to dictate where this fight goes and that should give him the edge throughout the bout.
Ulanbekov will have to be wary of the leg kicks of Elliott and any submissions while he’s on top, but his control of opponents in those positions keeps him in a favourable reckoning here. Elliott will need to sweep him or prevent the takedowns entirely, but his past suggests he’ll struggle with that so I expect the Dagestani to claim a decision win relatively routinely. PICK – Tagir Ulanbekov via Decision
Brian Kelleher (24-12) vs Umar Nurmagomedov (13-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A banger in the featherweight division closes out the early prelims section of the show. Kelleher claimed consecutive wins for the first time since 2020 with his recent victories over Domingo Pilarte and Kevin Croom at UFC Vegas 46 in the opening card of the year. Nurmagomedov on the other hand is undefeated, with a big submission win in his debut at UFC Fight Island 8 against Sergey Morozov.
Kelleher is a talented wrestler who has got excellent cardio and good power in his looping hooks, and he’ll be coming up against the brilliant Dagestani who has got excellent striking skills as well as the customary wrestling that comes with being from where he is from. ‘Boom’ has got a great chance of victory if he lands a big right hand with his pressure or manages to sneak in a guillotine when defending a takedown, but aside from that it looks like a long night.
Nurmagomedov is the better, more technical striker, the better wrestler and the bigger man in the cage. He’s got the edge everywhere so unless he’s sloppy, he should claim an impressive win here. PICK – Umar Nurmagomedov via Decision
The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas once again for yet another fight night card, this time headlined by female featherweight Norma Dumont and short-notice replacement Aspen Ladd.
Ladd was pulled from UFC Vegas 38 just two weeks ago after missing the bantamweight limit by one pound, scrapping her fight with Macy Chiasson. But after Holly Holm pulled out of this card with an injury, the UFC called her in up a weight class to fill in for this main event.
Elsewhere on the card the legendary Jim Miller makes a return while two Contender Series alum in Jordan Wright and Julian Marquez meet in a fun middleweight scrap.
Last week at UFC Vegas 39, we went 6/9 with three perfect picks on a rather forgettable card to move us up to 434/679 (63.92%) with 187 perfect picks (43.09%) since June 2020.
We’ll look to improve on that record here, starting with the early prelim bouts.
Istela Nunes (7-1) vs Ariane Carnelossi (13-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An interesting UFC strawweight bout opens up the card between debutant Nunes and the returning Carnelossi. Nunes steps in after over three years away for her debut, while Carnelossi looks to make it back-to-back wins in the UFC after KO’ing Na Liang at UFC 261.
Nunes is a tidy kickboxer with good striking from range, but three years away from the fight game after injuries and a doping suspension is never a good look. Carnelossi is a pressure fighter with cardio for days and good power in her hands, as her brilliant nine knockout career wins show.
Carnelossi has been more active than Nunes despite a serious injury herself and while her striking is quite as polished, her pressure game is a nightmare for Nunes. She’s not the best on the back foot and with good power and a fast pace coming back at her I think Carnelossi can secure a win. PICK – Ariane Carnelossi via Knockout, Round 2
Danaa Batgerel (9-2) vs Brandon Davis (14-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun bantamweight scrap next as Danaa takes on Brandon Davis who looks to kick off a second run in the UFC with a win. Batgerel has knocked out both of his latest opponents in the first-round, while Davis lost five of seven in his first UFC run but has since gone on a four-fight win streak in GCMMA.
Danaa is a super talented striker with a brilliant left hook and great power in all his limbs, while Davis is a very solid boxer who’s durability and volume is his strength. Danaa likes to stay patient and pick his shots, showing great intelligence and a methodical approach. Davis on the other hand likes to charge his opponent to force them onto the back foot and likes to take a shot to give one.
He struggled in the UFC his first time around and he hasn’t shown much different while away, but he racked up the victories. Against Danaa, I think the power and accuracy of the Mongolian could be too much. I don’t think he’ll get finished, but I do think he gets beat up and defeated. PICK – Danaa Batgerel via Decision
Nate Landwehr (14-4) vs Ludovit Klein (17-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A banger at featherweight here as Landwehr looks to get a win over the highly rated Klein. Landwehr got knocked out in stunning fashion against Julian Erosa last time out with a flying knee at UFC Vegas 19, while Klein was pipped in a brilliant fight against Mike Trizano last time UFC Vegas 26.
Landwehr is a brawler, with solid striking and good knockout power as his eight career knockouts show. Klein on the other hand is a brilliant kickboxer with great speed and angles, but also able to mix in some wrestling too if needed. This fight is likely to go one of two ways – either Klein starches the usually-hittable Landwehr early, or he survives and makes it a brawl to force Klein into deep water.
The likelihood for me is the former. Klein hits so hard and so clean, plus he showed against Trizano that he can go 15 minutes no problem. Don’t be surprised if he lands one of his trademark head kicks to wrap this one up early. PICK – Ludovit Klein via Knockout, Round 1
**Ryan Benoit missed weight and wasn’t cleared medically to compete, so his fight with Zarrukh Adashev was cancelled.
Phillipe Lins fell ill before the weigh-ins and wasn’t able to get on the scales, so his fight with Ben Rothwell was cancelled.
Amanda Ribas and a member of her corner team tested positive for COVID-19 hours before the event, so her bout with Angela Hill was cancelled.
The card will proceed with nine fights.**
Carlston Harris def Christian Aguilera via Submission (Anaconda Choke), Round 1 (2:52)
Positive start for Aguilera in the opening minute as he tries to close the distance with strikes but Harris grabs him and looks for the takedowns. Aguilera is able to stay on his feet though and lands a big uppercut that seems to rock Harris. Harris stays calm and starts using his range well with kicks to recover, then lands a big left hand of his own that hurts Aguilera! Harris lands a nice right hand down the middle and then Aguilera shoots for a takedown to try and recover. Harris sprawls, locks up Aguilera’s neck with an anaconda choke and puts him to sleep! What a debut win!
Jun Yong Park def Tafon Nchukwi via Majority Decision (30-25, 29-26, 28-28
Good start to the fight from both men, as they both look to take the centre and be first ahead of their opponent. Park doing well behind his jab, using his great speed advantage to land well but Nchukwi is throwing good strikes too with more power. Park establishing the jab really well and trying to get Nchukwi to throw more so he can counter back. Nchukwi goes for an inside low kick but lands on the cup of Park and causes a pause in the action. Action resumes and Park continues with the jabs, both men trade leg kicks and the round ends. 10-9 Park.
Better start to the round for Nchukwi this time as he fakes a few times and lands a nice flurry of strikes to the face of Park. Park responds with his jabs once again but Nchukwi starting to throw some powerful kicks to the body. Park catches one of those kicks and looks for a takedown against the cage with it and gets a front headlock. Nchukwi fighting the hands and throws a knee to the body but misses and hits the cup once again for another low blow. The referee deducts one point from Nchukwi. Park continues to land his jab and come forward with his speed advantage and then changes levels for a takedown. Nchukwi reverses it with pure power and ends up on top but can’t land any damage before Park is able to work his way back up to the feet and start landing the jab again. Nchukwi goes in for a takedown but Park stops him with a headlock. Nchukwi uses pure power to lift him but Park locks in a guillotine and it’s tight, but the buzzer goes to end the round and save him. 20-17 Park.
Good exchanges at the start of the final round as Park’s jab goes to work once again while Nchukwi looks to come forward with a bit more urgency. A few low kicks from Nchukwi and some big swings with his right hand, but Park rolling well and is able to jab away with ease. Park changes levels and gets a takedown against the cage and is starting to wear on Nchukwi, putting all his weight on him and dragging him to and from. Park gets into three-quarter mount and starts throwing big elbows and heavy strikes, looking for a choke and big ground-and-pound as we enter the final 90 seconds. Nchukwi is bleeding badly but Park eases up on the mauling as the round ends and that’s a very dominant win. 30-25 for me.
Mike Trizano def Ludovit Klein via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Nice, tactical start to the fight from both guys as Trizano takes the centre and forces Klein backwards immediately. Klein lands a nice one two and Trizano responds with a right hand of his own before the exchange body kicks. Trizano’s pressure is forcing Klein to fight backwards and he’s struggling to get his attack going, but Trizano not landing much of his own. Klein shoots in with a nice double-leg takedown and gets Trizano down against the cage and tries to wrap his legs up Khabib-style. Trizano works his way back to his feet and the clinch and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Klein for me but it was close.
Nice right hand lands early on in the second round that puts Klein on his heels as Trizano continues his forward pressure. Klein goes for a head kick that just misses but follows it up with a nice right hand and a big left behind it. Klein shoots for a takedown again but Trizano is wise to it and stuffs it this time. Nice inside kick from Trizano as he forces Klein backwards again, but Klein explodes forward and lands a big left hand again. Trizano landing his jab well as he continues to push Klein backwards but he keeps bursting forwards with nice flurries. Klein bursts forward once more and gets another takedown and ends the round on top, but Trizano active off his back with body shots and should take that round. 19-19 for me.
Forward pressure once again from Trizano and it pays dividends early as he lands a big right hand that rocks Klein! Klein goes for a desperate takedown to survive and Trizano stuffs it, but Klein moves and manages to shake the cobwebs for now. Klein lands a nice left hand of his own but Trizano eats it, then Klein lands a nice leg kick. Body kick from Klein lands and Trizano goes for a right straight to the body. Trizano starting to land his strikes more as he forces Klein backwards and it forces another takedown from Klein. They get back up and then Klein takes him down again, but Trizano looks to sink in a guillotine but runs out of time. 29-28 Trizano for me but could go either way.
Phil Hawes def Kyle Daukaus via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 29-27)
Big pressure early on from Hawes as he backs Daukaus against the cage, while Daukaus looks to keep him at range. A few wild exchanges from both on the feet and Hawes goes in for a takedown early. He gets him down and passes the legs, but Daukaus holds on to the neck and it looks like Hawes has a Von Flute choke in. Daukaus elevates his hips and sweeps Hawes to end up on top and starts looking for control. Hawes eventually gets back to the feet and Daukaus goes in for a takedown again immediately but Hawes defends really well and the rest of the round plays out in a stalemate. 10-9 Daukaus for controlling the grappling against the cage.
Huge start to the second round from Daukaus as he comes out swinging with short hooks and combinations. He lands six or seven big punches and Hawes looks badly hurt on the feet before Hawes is able to clinch up and stall until he has recovered. They separate and Hawes lands a few strikes of his own and Daukaus gets wobbled! Daukaus immediately clinches up too but Hawes then breaks with a big elbow. Nice right hand against from Hawes and they clinch up, then both throw a knee at the same time but Hawes hits the cup to cause a pause. Action resumes and Hawes goes back to working the body with big hooks, slowing Daukaus down as the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Hawes lands a big right hand early before shooting in for a takedown and getting the fight down. Daukaus trying to be very active off his back, but Hawes defending everything well and landing some nice short strikes from top position. Daukaus looks to sweep again but Hawes denies it and goes back to the ground pound, going body-head. Hawes starts landing heavy shots and forces Daukaus to try and cover up and the referee is threatening to call the fight off here. He moves enough to supress that, but Hawes is working brilliantly from top position and in complete control. Final 30 seconds and Hawes continues the ground and pound to win the round and probably the fight. Great performance. 29-28 Hawes.
Gregor Gillespie def Diego Ferreira via Knockout, Round 2 (4:51)
Interesting start to the fight as Gillespie takes the centre and lets off a nice left hook. Ferreira shoots a few strikes of his own before Gillespie goes for the early takedown, but the Brazilian defends with submission attempts and eventually gets back up to the feet. Gillespie shoots for another takedown but it’s denied, then Ferreira lets off a couple of right hands that have wobbled him! Gillespie keeps going to the well for the takedown but Ferreira is scrambling brilliantly and using his jiu-jitsu to escape regularly. Ferreira scrambles and sweeps to Gillespie’s back with hooks in, going for a choke and ground and pound but the round ends. 10-9 Ferreira.
Second round and Gillespie looks tired but he’s shooting in for the takedowns still and avoiding the big swings of Ferreira. Lots of scrambling on the ground and Ferreira looks for a kimura from the bottom but Gillespie just keeps moving and floating to the next position as Ferreira is tiring. Gillespie starts landing some big strikes and threatening with chokes of his own and is really wearing on Ferreira. Gillespie takes his back, flattens him out and starts landing big elbows and strikes and the referee steps in to end the fight! Huge win for Gregor Gillespie!!
Marcos Rogerio de Lima def Maurice Greene via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Fast start to the heavyweight bout as de Lima starts throwing wild hooks looking to take Greene’s head off. Both men swing and miss for the most part before they clinch up and de Lima takes the fight down to the ground in Greene’s full guard. Nice ground and pound from de Lima from top position as he’s putting some big pressure on to win the round. 10-9 de Lima.
Second round and immediately de Lima gets the fight down to the ground and gets control. Lots of control and ground and pound from top position as Greene looks to tie him up but it’s just more and more control and ground and pound. As the buzzer goes to end the round, Lima throws a big bomb and Herb Dean gives him a very serious warning. 20-18.
Third and final round and once again de Lima gets a very early takedown into top position and controlling the fight. Plenty of ground and pound again from de Lima as Greene just continues to accept bottom position and get beaten up. This is a completely one-sided fight and relatively pointless as the round ends. 30-27 for me because of a lack of damage, but could be a 10-8 for each round in reality.
Neil Magny def Geoff Neal via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Great start to the round from Neal as he steps forward quickly and immediately puts Magny on the back foot. Nice straight shots as Magny looks to throw a kick or two, but Neal catches it and pushes him back to the cage. Nice one-two lands from Neal before they clinch up and Magny starts to throw some nice knees to the body. Magny bursts forward with a flurry of punches to get a clinch, but Neal takes him across to the cage. Magny changes levels and gets a takedown and looks to take the back, but Neal spins out and gets back to the feet once again. Another clinch against the cage as the round ends. 10-9 Neal.
Magny looking to up the pressure a bit in the second now as he starts throwing some kicks to the body and nice flurries to the head too. Neal doing well to block most of them though and firing back with some nice combinations of his own. Neal clinches and gets a nice trip before a big left hand lands, but Magny gets up and then shoots for a takedown of his own. Neal sprawls and puts Magny against the cage. Nice straight left lands from Neal before Magny goes for a single leg takedown but Neal defends it relatively well until Magny changes the angle and is able to take the back with a body lock. Magny is able to escape it again as they go back to trading in the centre. Magny just touching him with more jabs and kicks as Neal’s output is starting to slow a little. Another clinch against the cage and Neal lands a big elbow as the round ends. 19-19, great fight.
Neal looking to close the distance in the third but trying to avoid a clinch situation, as Magny continues to throw out jabs that are barely landing. Magny definitely the more active of the two, but not much damage being done by either guy at the moment. Neal stuffs a Magny takedown attempt, as he starts to walk Magny down more. Nice one-two lands against the cage but Magny immediately grabs him and clinches before separating and landing some nice jabs. Neal looking frustrated now and Magny gets hold of him and drags him down to the mat, but Neal gets back up quickly once again. Final 30 seconds and Neal lands a huge straight left but Magny sees out the round with with jabs to probably take the win. 29-28 Magny.
Alex Morono def Donald Cerrone via Knockout, Round 1 (4:40)
Fast start from Morono as he charges out into the centre, but Cerrone grabs hold of him and clinches up against the cage to drain that early start out of him. Morono swinging bombs as they separate but Cowboy avoiding it for now and landing a few shots of his own. Nice body kick from Cerrone and then Morono swings in hard again, but Cerrone changes levels and goes for a takedown that is denied. Morono gets a trip of his own but allows Cerrone up and hits him with a right hand on his way up. Morono throws a big right hand that lands clean on Cerrone and he’s backing up. Cerrone throws a left hand and Morono ducks under and a huge looping left overhand cracks Cerrone clean! He’s badly hurt and Morono goes for the finish, throwing a big body shot and knees to the head. Big right hands again from Morono and the referee steps in with Cowboy out on his feet! Wow! What a knockout win for Morono!
Slow start to the fight in this one as both women look to feel each other out early on, with Waterson throwing some hard leg kicks that are just missing. Rodriguez takes the centre as the round goes on, throwing some nice body kicks and hard punches while Waterson looks to counter with some nice spin kicks. Rodriguez trying to close the distance to nullify the kicks but Waterson moving well so far to stay out of danger. Bit of a wild clinch at the end of the round ends with a nice knee from Rodriguez, good round that could go either way. 10-9 Rodriguez for me.
Waterson unloading with kicks in this second round, looking to really keep Rodriguez at distance with a side kick counter. Rodriguez continues to come forward and throw the right hand, but Waterson keeps moving away. Waterson goes for a takedown but Rodriguez stuffs it easily and then lands two big punches. Rodriguez grabs a clinch against the cage and lands a nice knee to the body and Waterson separates. Both women trade leg kicks before Rodriguez goes for another clinch and lands some more knees. Waterson goes for a leg kick that just misses but then she lands a body kick and avoids a big right hook from Rodriguez. Big flurry of hooks from Rodriguez followed up by some big knees and an elbow to end the round. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Waterson goes for a leg kick early but misses and ends up on her butt, before Rodriguez catches her with a nice head kick on her way up. Waterson clinches against the cage but Rodriguez defends well and the separate with the Brazilian back in the centre. Rodriguez lands some huge hooks and Waterson covers up hurt, before stepping out and escaping. Two hard leg kicks by Waterson put Rodriguez down for a second, before a nice body kick too. Rodriguez swinging with a lot of power, but Waterson is absorbing it for now. Rodriguez is landing heavy punches but Waterson is still moving and countering with leg kicks and side kicks. Leg kick from Rodriguez followed up by a three-punch combo lands nicely. Rodriguez clinches and throwing big knees but Waterson replies with an uppercut to end the round. 30-27 Rodriguez.
Rodriguez staying patient in the centre as we enter the main event rounds, throwing some low kicks and searching for a home for the big right hand. Waterson keeps moving around the cage, throwing leg kicks of her own as Rodriguez lands a body kick. Waterson goes in for a takedown and gets it, straight into the guard of Rodriguez. Waterson controls the position and lands some heavy elbows on the ground with Rodriguez pinned against the cage. Rodriguez threatens a kimura to try and escape but Waterson rains down big elbows again to end the round on top. 39-37 Rodriguez.
Final round and Waterson staying calm in the centre, not shooting straight in for a takedown as many would have expected. Rodriguez just misses with a right hand and then Waterson throws back-to-back head kicks with the second one clipping Rodriguez. Side kick to the body from Waterson looks like it hurts Rodriguez, but she stays calm and then hits Waterson with a big right hand of her own. Waterson finally goes for the takedown but Rodriguez stuffs it and lands a nice body shot. Another big body shot and left hook from Rodriguez but Waterson replies with a right hand. Waterson steps forward and lands a side kick to the body again, but Rodriguez throws a jab and then looks to clinch up. Big knee and head kick from Rodriguez but Waterson keeps moving and the two women go out swinging as the round ends. 49-46 Rodriguez for me. Great fight.
Aguilera is a striker with a very heavy right hand and good pressure, but his gas tank has given him problems in the past. Against a solid grappler and cardio machine in Harris, that is a bad recipe. Aguilera has got the power to turn a fight around with just one punch but the way Harris shoots in at the hips and holds his opponents down, the opportunities to land that big punch will be few and far between.
Harris should be able to get a takedown and work his top game and search for submissions, but I think he grinds out a comfortable decision win. PICK – Carlston Harris via Decision
Jun Yong Park (12-4) vs Tafon Nchukwi (5-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Park is a very adept boxer but has shown great wrestling chops in his most recent wins, making him able to dictate where this fight takes place. Nchukwi on the other hand is still very green, with activity on the feet not the best although he does possess great power. Nchukwi has won his last five fights before he’s entered the cage, with his frame just intimidating guys into respecting him way too much.
The skillsets aren’t too indifferent but with Park’s experience and ability to switch it up, I think he’ll come in confident and stick to his game plan of working behind the jab and mixing in takedowns to get the decision. PICK – Jun Yong Park via Decision
Ryan Benoit (10-7) vs Zarrukh Adashev (3-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Benoit is an okay striker with decent best takedowns, but he has great cardio and absolutely never gives in. Adashev is a brilliant kickboxer who hasn’t had the rub of the green with opponents, who have had him outgunned in size. Adashev has good power of his own too and has won two of his three victories via knockout. Benoit has good power in his hands and has a much better ability of mixing the fight up to make it happen in different places.
It should be a high energy fight between the two but I think Benoit is able to mix it up enough to take a close decision. PICK – Ryan Benoit via Decision
Ludovit Klein (17-2) vs Mike Trizano (8-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A hugely fun fight coming up at 145lbs here as kickboxing demon Ludovit Klein takes on former Ultimate Fighter winner Mike Trizano. Klein won his UFC debut at UFC 253 with a beautiful knockout against Shane Young, while Trizano returns after almost exactly two years out following a loss to Grant Dawson.
Klein has brilliant striking and has won each of his last three fights via head kick, but also has good submissions on the mat too. Trizano is a good kickboxer on his own accord, but also has really good takedowns and is a bit more of a physical fighter. If the fight is a clean, technical bout then Klein will eat him alive but if Trizano can make it ugly and mix it up he has a path for victory.
Overall though, I think Klein’s stopping power just seems to be the biggest difference between the two. He has good takedown defence, nasty knees and elbows and is a powerful puncher so I think he could get the finish. PICK – Ludovit Klein via Knockout, Round 2
Ben Rothwell (38-13) vs Phillipe Lins (14-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
This is not going to be a great fight in all honesty. Rothwell has great power and a good chin but other than the big right hand there’s nothing special going on for him. Lins is a wrestling heavyweight who doesn’t really go for takedowns much and just tends to throw strikes that are there for the sake of being active.
This fight won’t be the most memorable, but Lins got knocked out by Boser who doesn’t hit nearly as hard as Rothwell so I think this one goes a similar way. PICK – Ben Rothwell via Knockout, Round 1
Both men step out in tentative fashion and throw feints before Marques shoots in for an immediate takedown attempt. Ibragimov defends against the cage and grabs the fence on his way down and ends up back on his feet quickly, but the referee gives a warning. Another takedown attempt and once again Ibragimov grabs the cage to avoid ending up on the bottom. They get back to the feet and nothing else happens. 10-9 Marques.
Same again in the second round as they face off in the middle with barely any action taking place. Marques goes for a takedown and ends up on the back of Ibragimov but he fights the hands well to avoid a rear naked choke. Marques gets him down and has hooks in but doesn’t look to land any strikes or advance and the buzzer goes. Really weird fight so far. 20-18 Marques.
Final round and both men look exhausted and afraid to throw any strikes whatsoever. Marques goes for the takedown again but doesn’t throw strikes once he gets it, while Ibragimov throws a random burst of hooks every now and then but gets nowhere near landing anything. Really, really bad fight. 29-28 Marques but I’m glad it’s over.
Juan Espino def Jeff Hughes via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 1 (3:48)
Fight starts with a bit more bounce than the opener, with Espino bouncing around the outside looking for an opportunity for his takedown. He throws a big overhand right that lands nicely and then engages in a takedown attempt. He eventually gets it and the two bounce between Hughes getting back up and Espino dragging him back down. Eventually Espino ends up in side control, then transitions to full mount and he jumps over with a scarf-hold super quickly, cranks hard and secures the tap. Beautiful performance from the Spaniard.
William Knight def Aleksa Camur via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27 x2)
A good first round for Camur here, as Knight opens the round with a takedown attempt that gets stuffed and the rest of the round plays out in a clinch position. Camur hanging with the physicality of Knight well against the cage and landing short knees to the thighs and body but nothing too damaging. The referee separates them with 30 seconds to go and they land some nice strikes, with Knight landing two or three big shots right as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Camur for me.
Second round begins with Camur landing some nice punches and initiating the clinch against the cage once again. A few more knees and then a lovely trip gets Knight down to the ground and he looks to take the back but Knight rolls through and ends up on top after a scramble. Camur gets back up but Knight takes him down a few more times and tries to frame off for ground and pound, but Camur defends well. Knight transitions to the back and lands some nice shots and then gets into full mount and rips a nasty kimura but the buzzer goes before Camur has to tap! 19-19 going into the final round.
Third round starts and again it goes to a clinch almost immediately but this time Knight is on top. Another short scramble sees them back to the feet and in a clinch against the cage and the referee warns them to start fighting or he’ll reset. Immediately Knight goes for another takedown and the rest of the round sees him on top controlling and landing ground and pound strikes. 29-28 Knight for me.
Ludovit Klein def Shane Young via Knockout, Round 1 (1:16)
THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE! The fight starts with some body kicks from Klein, then he follows it up with a right hand and big left high-kick that wobbles Young! He lands a beautiful three-punch combo immediately afterwards that knocks Young unconscious and this one is over! Wow. What a debut!
Jake Matthews def Diego Sanchez via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x3)
Sanchez opens the round by rushing across the cage and getting lamped twice by the right hand of Matthews, who then catches a kick and lands a couple more shots. Matthews staying on the outside and landing at will almost with a straight right hand, while Sanchez is throwing heavily landed leg kicks that are being easily avoided. Sanchez continuing to try and rush in with hooks but Matthews is countering well with his right hand. Sanchez shoots for a takedown but Matthews sprawls and then shoots for one of his own and ends the round in top position. 10-9 Matthews.
Second round and Sanchez lands a couple of nice leg kicks but Matthews staying very patient. The straight right hand is still landing pretty much at will and Sanchez now has a bloody nose to contend with too. Sanchez loading up with all his strikes way too much and Matthews dealing with them all relatively easily. Big, wild exchange against the cage as Matthews lands a nice combination then evades Sanchez’s big hooks. Inside leg kick by Sanchez is countered by a beautiful left hook from Matthews that wobbles the veteran and Matthews pouring on the pressure now. Again Sanchez rushes in and Matthews lands a right hand to counter it. 20-18 Matthews, he’s making easy work of this.
Final round and Sanchez rushes across with a crane kick attempt that misses wildly. Matthews lands a big straight right hand that drops Sanchez. He scoots back to the cage and covers up as Matthews lands bombs on the ground and cuts Sanchez open above the eye really badly. Sanchez trying to control posture from the bottom to avoid damage but Matthews throwing big bombs down. Sanchez defends and throws up an armbar but Matthews defends well and gets back into full guard to throw more hard shots on the ground to finish the round strong. 10-8 round, 30-26 for me.
Brad Riddell def Alex Da Silva via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Very competitive first round as Da Silva lands an early takedown and manages to keep the fight on the ground for the most part. Riddell defends well and tries to get back to his feet, but Da Silva seems too strong physically at this point and is able to drag him back down. Riddell get back up and breaks away then Da Silva manages to catch the neck in a clinch and goes for a guillotine but he never really gets it in and the round ends. 10-9 Da Silva.
Riddell comes out very aggressive in the second round and lands some nice strikes but then once again Da Silva gets hold of him and takes him to the cage with a single leg. Riddell defends superbly well and manages to stay up and then lands some nice shots on the feet. Da Silva looks for another takedown but doesn’t get it and eats a straight right hand. Riddell drops down for a takedown of his own but lets it go and lands a nice right hand. Riddell has the clear advantage on the feet and Da Silva is starting to slow down a bit, so Riddell shoots for a takedown of his own but Da Silva gets back up almost immediately. Da Silva fires in for a takedown again but Riddell sprawls perfectly and keeps the fight on the feet for the final 20 seconds of the round. Much better round for Riddell, 19-19.
Third round and Riddell is landing some nice strikes to start as Da Silva comes out a little slower than the previous two rounds. Riddell sprawls to stuff a takedown once again to keep the fight on the feet and he’s landing his right hook well. Da Silva moves in for a takedown against the cage and is looking to clinch but Riddell separates and goes back to striking in the pocket. The referee pauses the fight after an apparent eye-poke by Riddell but the replays show it was a clean punch. Fight restarts and Da Silva goes for a takedown again but Riddell defends well and scrambles back to his feet. More punches to that damaged eye with a minute to go but Da Silva is fighting through it. Riddell goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s stuffed and the fight ends. Should be a Riddell decision win 29-28.
Tentative round to open the main card as both guys try to feel each other out for the most part. Lots of feints, jabs and leg kicks to start with but Tukhugov landing a bit more often and a bit cleaner. Tukhugov more aggressive, advancing more and being first but neither fighter lands anything of much significance in the opening round. 10-9 Tukhugov.
Dawodu comes out in the second round and lands a nice body kick followed up by a spinning heel kick to the body too. Tukhugov is avoiding the leg kicks well but Dawodu lands a nice right hook to the chin. Both men starting to throw a little bit more freely in this round as Tukhugov lands a big left hand that is returned with a right hand from Dawodu. Right hook by Tukhugov lands but Dawodu counters with a left kick. Both men landing shots simultaneously ad Tukhugov shoots for a takedown but Dawodu defends well against the cage. Dawodu lands a nice body shot but Tukhugov shoots for a takedown and gets it and ends up on the back of Dawodu landing some light ground and pound to end the round. The takedown may have stolen the round for Tukhugov but could easily be level going into round 3.
Dawodu comes out in the final round and goes straight for some leg kicks. Tukhugov moving well but Dawodu lands more leg kicks and body shots. Tukhugov not really engaging at all and instead just circling around the cage, but Dawodu just following him instead. Dawodu erupts in anger screaming at Tukhugov to fight him but he continues to just circle. Round ends with nothing happening. 29-28 Tukhugov for me but it all comes down to the second round for me.
Ketlen Vieira def Sijara Eubanks via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
A tentative opening round between the two ladies of the card. Vieira comes out immediately looking to clinch but Eubanks defends well and manages to break. Both women landing singular shots, with Vieira using her reach advantage well and landing the jab frequently. Eubanks employing the ‘punches in bunches’ style and doing well, before she stuffs another takedown attempt from Vieira. The Brazilian lands a beautiful combo of punches before shooting for a takedown and securing it at the end of the round. 10-9 Vieira.
Vieira comes out in the second ground aggressive once again and gets another takedown. Up against the cage and Vieira is looking for ground and pound strikes but Eubanks doing well to tie her up and control her arms to not allow her to throw any strikes. The referee stands them back up and they stand toe-to-toe in a striking match now, with Vieira using her long limbs to land first and hard as the round comes to an end. 20-18 Vieira.
Final round and Eubanks knows she needs the finish. She comes out throwing combinations but Vieira is using her length really well to land first or counter when Eubanks hits her. More punches from both women land as they exchange wildly but Vieira making sure she avoids any serious damage. The women end up on the ground in the final seconds as Vieira looks for a leg lock submission but the buzzer goes with Eubanks landing some ground and pound. 29-28 Vieira for me.
Brandon Royval def Kai Kara France via Submission (Guillotine), Round 2 (0:38)
Brandon Royval comes flying out of the traps and eats a leg kick from Kara France that sits him down. He gets back up and walks towards Kara France and eats a huge right overhand on the chin that drops him! He stands back and throws a spinning elbow that catches Kara-France flush and knocks him down! He tries to lock up an omoplata submission but Kara France comes back around and manages to fight his way out of it. They get back to their feet and start throwing hell for leather. Royval lands a knee against the cage that drops Kara France again but he survives the round. What a fight! 10-9 Royval.
Second round starts and Kara France goes in for a takedown and lifts Royval, but he locks up the neck and sinks in a standing guillotine! Kara France drops down to the mat, Royval makes an adjustment with his legs to tighten it and gets the tap! What a performance!
Jan Blachowicz def Dominick Reyes via Knockout, Round 2 (4:36)
A very cagey opening round for this fight as both men look to feel each other out early on. Both men throwing leg kicks and counter straights but nothing significant landing early. Blachowicz lands a beautiful body kick below the elbow that visibly marks Reyes up but other than that a pretty slow round. 10-9 Blachowicz.
A slow start once again to this second round as both guys are feeling each other out still, making reads and feinting. Reyes lands a body kick nicely but Blachowicz returns with one of his own. Blachowicz charges forward with big combos and shatters the nose of Reyes! Reyes tries to slug it out looking for a knockout but Blachowicz lands another big left hand that drops him! The Pole jumps on top and lands some ground and pound before the referee steps in. New champion!
Israel Adesanya def Paulo Costa via Knockout, Round 2 (3:59)
Cagey start to this title fight too as Adesanya attacks the legs of Costa early with teep kicks and calf kicks. Costa taking the centre but Adesanya staying light on his feet and evading Costa’s kick attempts. Both fighters taunting each other but it’s Adesanya doing damage. 10-9 to the champ.
Second round shows more of Adesanya’s kickboxing class as he stays at range and continues to chew up the leg of Costa. Costa is struggling with his movement and Adesanya is starting to land punches to the head. Big head kick from Adesanya cuts Costa open above the eye. Costa charges forward now looking to be aggressive, but Adesanya evades and lands a big right hand to the temple that drops Costa! Adesanya goes knee on belly and lands huge shots to the head and the referee steps in! AAAAND STILL!! What a masterclass.
I’ll look to see if I can do better this time around, starting with the prelims here.
Khadis Ibragimov (8-3) vs Danilo Marques (9-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A fight that deserves the opening spot on the card as Khadis Ibragimov looks to end a three-fight losing streak against Danilo Marques, making his UFC debut after almost 3 years without a fight. Ibragimov hasn’t won in the UFC yet, being choked out by Da Un Jung, held to a decision loss by Ed Herman and knocked out by Roman Dolidze in his three outings so far. Marques’ time away from the cage makes it hard to know what he’ll do but in previous fights he has shown some okay wrestling and not much else. His 8 stoppage wins are evenly split between knockouts and submissions but it’s no surprise he hadn’t made it to the UFC before now. Ibragimov has the advantage everywhere in this fight so as long as he doesn’t do anything ridiculous he should be able to get his first taste of victory in the octagon. PICK – Khadis Ibragimov via Unanimous Decision
Juan Espino (10-1) vs Jeff Hughes (10-3 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The most recent Ultimate Fighter winner Juan Espino takes on Jeff Hughes with both men looking to earn a first UFC win for their record. Espino came through the TUF house in 2018, winning the UFC contract with a straight armbar submission win over Justin Frazier, while Jeff Hughes has tasted defeat to Maurice Greene (who Espino beat in the TUF house) and Raphael Pessoa either side of a no contest against Todd Duffee. Espino is an excellent wrestler and has a similar style to Curtis Blaydes, in that he insists on takedowns followed by damage except he goes for tap-outs over knockouts. Hughes is a capable boxer but he just isn’t of the level of his peers in the UFC and it’s shown. He was demolished by Pessoa in a fight he really had no reason for losing, so I can’t see past Espino getting a takedown and locking in a choke early doors. PICK – Juan Espino via Submission, Round 1
William Knight (8-1) vs Aleksa Kamur (6-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
After earning a UFC developmental contract on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August last year, Knight has won three out of four fights since then to earn a full contract. His most recent win came just three weeks ago when he knocked out Cody Brundage. Aleksa Kamur is a training partner to UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and has shown similar boxing skills to that of the GOAT big-man. Kamur has five knockout wins from six fights, with the only flaw being his UFC debut against Justin Ledet where he won a unanimous decision. Knight’s best attribute is undoubtedly his top game, but his wrestling defence and takedowns aren’t great. He seems to hope for a sweep on the ground before blasting off his patented ground and pound but Kamur has good takedown defence and is a much better stand-up fighter. If he can stay composed and avoid the takedown, Kamur should be able to get a knockout win on the feet. PICK – Aleksa Kamur via Knockout, Round 2
Shane Young (13-4) vs Ludovit Klein (16-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
After almost 18 months away from the octagon, Shane Young returns to take on UFC debutant Ludovit Klein in the featherweight division. After a five fight win streak, Young was matched up with now-champion Alex Volkanovski in his UFC debut and was beaten by decision but has since gone on to win two in a row including a performance of the night against Rolando Dy. Klein comes into the organisation on a seven-fight win streak having finished six of those opponents. If the card didn’t have Adesanya vs Costa on it, this would be a contender for fight of the night. Both guys are explosive, with good kickboxing skills and are comfortable if it gets to the ground. Klein has the advantage on the ground with his 8 submission wins over his career but it’s on the feet where he prefers to do his work. He has a bit more snap and power to his shots and he kicks really well, especially to the head. Klein is coming in on relatively short notice but he seems to always stay ready and with Young looking to return with a win, both guys could come with power. Ultimately, I think Klein just has the slight edge everywhere and if both fight to their best Klein should be able to edge it. PICK – Ludovit Klein via Unanimous Decision
Diego Sanchez (30-12) vs Jake Matthews (16-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
The wild man veteran of the welterweight division makes his return as Diego Sanchez stops off on Fight Island during his farewell tour to take on the ‘Celtic Kid’ Jake Matthews. Sanchez KO’d Mickey Gall with ground and pound before being dominated by Michael Chiesa in his next bout. His last fight however ended up as a disqualification win after he was smashed by Michel Pereira who landed an illegal knee. Sanchez took the result over more punishment. Matthews has won his last two, defeating Rostem Akman and Emil Meek via unanimous decision. Sanchez’s crazy pace and takedown heavy style wears many an opponent out and he has power in his hands during a wild exchange but his issue here will be that Matthews is just as dangerous. A very well rounded fighter, Matthews can hang regardless of where the fight goes and he’s a bigger, stronger man. He will likely use his natural power to avoid the takedowns and dominate the fight, landing enough to earn a comfortable decision win. PICK – Jake Matthews via Unanimous Decision
Brad Riddell (8-1) vs Alex Da Silva (21-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The lead striking coach of Tiger Muay Thai continues his transition over to MMA as Brad Riddell looks to make it 3 wins in a row in the UFC against youngster Alex Da Silva. Despite his impressive 23 professional fights, with 20 finishes from 21 wins, Silva is still only 24 years old. Despite a mixed bag of talent among those opponents, the performances he’s churned out have been impressive. Riddell though is one of the best kickboxers on the planet. Now training MMA with Alexander Volkanovski and co, he is taking his game to the next level. He showed in his decision win over Magomed Mustafaev that he is improving his ground game but that he is also on a whole different level on the feet. Da Silva has a decent ground game but he prefers to kickbox too, which will see him in a world of trouble. He could try to score takedowns but he’s not the ultimate wrestler so there is no guarantee he gets the fight down. Overall, I think Riddell keeps the fight standing and eventually lands a flurry of punches and kicks to end the fight. PICK – Brad Riddell via Knockout, Round 2