We’ll look to further improve that record here with the main event picks for this weekend.
Recent fight history
After establishing herself as a threat to the strawweight division after a four-fight win streak, Dern has struggled in recent outings.
She suffered a unanimous decision defeat to Marina Rodriguez in a five-round main event back in October 2021, before bouncing back with a split decision win over Tecia Torres in April 2022.
Straight after that though she once again suffered defeat in a five-round main event, with Yan Xiaonan claiming a majority decision win in her last fight to move her professional record to 12-3.
Hill on the other hand has recovered from a horrible run that saw her lose five out of six, including some really controversial decision defeats.
She has since won her last two outings though, claiming unanimous decision wins against Lupita Godinez and most recently Emily Ducote back in December. Her professional record now stands at 15-12.
Dern is one of the very best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world today, male or female, and nobody wants to go to the ground with her if they don’t have to.
Despite her excellent grappling skills though, Dern has shown a tendency to be able to strike with opponents in recent fights at least to a point where she is dangerous.
Her offensive wrestling continues to give her problems though, as she can’t use traditional takedowns to get the fight where she is strongest and it gives her opponents a chance.
As for Hill, she’s a real grinder. “Overkill” is a fine striker with good boxing skills, but she is also a decent grappler with good wrestling.
Without doubt however her greatest attribute is her cardio and her grit, with a never-say-die attitude and an ability to maintain a fast pace for 25 minutes if necessary.
This fight goes one of two ways and it seems quite clear.
If the fight goes to the ground for any prolonged period of time, then Dern is going to submit Hill. If the fight stays standing for the longest period of time, then Hill is going to be victorious.
So really what we’re predicting is if Dern can get the fight down to the ground in any way shape or form and keep her there to work her submissions, and I would be surprised if she’s not capable of doing so at some point in the 25 minutes this is scheduled for.
Neither woman needs to worry about knockout power coming back at her the other way, and Dern has the option of pulling guard or using her speed and size advantage to get this where she wants it before eventually snatching up an arm or neck for the win.
Mike Davis (9-2) vs Viacheslav Borschchev (6-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight scrap up next. Davis is on a two-fight win streak currently in the UFC, defeating Thomas Gifford by KO back in 2019 before returning with a decision win over hot prospect Mason Jones at UFC Fight Island 8. Borschchev suffered the first defeat of his UFC career last time out, dropping a decision to Mark Diakiese in March.
Davis is a phenomenal striker with fantastic technique and tremendous power in his hands, while he also has some great wrestling in his back pocket too. “Slava” on the other hand is a renowned kickboxer who transitioned to MMA in 2019 and has been working on his grappling and wrestling. In a straight up striking bout, which this is likely to be, he is at home though and that’s a big advantage.
Diakiese was able to beat “Slava” by wrestling him constantly and controlling him on the mat. Davis could look to match that, but it’s not his natural game and that will exhaust him. In a striking bout, it’s hard to look past “Slava”. He’s the more powerful and more technical guy, but Davis is a brute of an athlete. It will be a great fight, but expect the fact he can mix his wrestling in with his striking to claim him a close win on the night. PICK – Mike Davis via Decision
John Castaneda (19-5) vs Daniel Santos (10-2) – (Catchweight/140lbs)
Arguably one of the best fights of the night up next. Castaneda has won each of his last two bouts, KO’ing Eddie Wineland at UFC Vegas 19 before submitting Miles Johns most recently. Santos on the other hand suffered defeat in his UFC debut, as Julio Arce edged a decision at UFC 273.
Castaneda is a fine boxer with a good jab and decent power in his hands too, while Santos is a grappler with excellent jiu-jitsu who looked totally lost on the feet in his last fight. If Santos wants to win this, he needs to get his wrestling going early and get himself into a dominant position on the ground.
The problem with that is that Castaneda is as good a wrestler as he is, and he has a big advantage on the feet. He’s more powerful with his kickboxing and has a speed advantage too, so expect Castaneda to be able to claim a win in an entertaining bout. PICK: John Castaneda via Decision
Sodiq Yusuff (12-2) vs Don Shainis (12-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An intriguing featherweight scrap in this one. Yusuff bounced back from defeat to Arnold Allen at UFC Vegas 23 when he claimed a decision over Alex Caceres earlier this year in his last fight. Shainis is making his UFC debut on a five-fight win streak, having won each of his last three via a first-round knockout.
Yusuff is a power puncher who has incredible striking skills, earning six wins via knockout throughout his career but he’s also got an excellent double-leg takedown in his arsenal too. Shainis on the other hand is a solid boxer with great knockout power too, earning eight wins via KO. Shainis is a talented fighter who earned his shot, but this is a huge step up.
There’s just two weeks’ notice for the newcomer in this fight and he’s going up against a ranked opponent. He will look to come forward and land big to end the fight early, but Yusuff is known to be patient with his striking and technically excellent. Expect him to wait out the initial blitz before blasting Dainis to sleep in the latter half of the fight. PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Knockout, Round 2
Raoni Barcelos (16-3) vs Trevin Jones (13-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A really exciting bantamweight fight up next. Barcelos was one of the most underrated 135-pounders in the division but he has lost each of his last two fights dropping decisions to Timur Valiev and then Victor Henry most recently at UFC 270. Jones has also lost his last two, getting submitted by Saidyokub Kakhramonov before a decision loss to Javid Basharat last time out.
Barcelos is one of the most complete fighters in the division with excellent Muay-Thai, super chain wrestling, and a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt but at 35 years old age may be catching up with him. Jones on the other hand is a ridiculously powerful individual who uses his reflexes to fight on the counter. Against Barcelos though, that may leave him too much catching up to do.
Jones doesn’t have a lot of output but when he lands he makes it count. A big issue he’ll have though is that Barcelos can take this to the ground pretty seamlessly and Jones’ defence is unlikely to be able to hold up against that. It will be entertaining, but I expect Barcelos to mix his kickboxing and takedowns to take the win. PICK – Raoni Barcelos via Decision
Randy Brown (15-4) vs Francisco Trinaldo (28-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
“Rude boy” makes his return in the co-main event here. Brown is on a three-fight win streak after submitting “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira with a one-arm rear-naked choke at UFC 261, before earning decisions over Jared Gooden and Khaos Williams most recently at UFC 274. Trinaldo alternatively has won his last two, with decisions over Dwight Grant and Danny Roberts. A loss to Muslim Salikhov at UFC Vegas 28 has stopped him being on a six-fight win streak.
Brown is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with all the tools to really be something special in the UFC. He has got legitimate knockout power in his hands as well as real submission skills on the mat too, as well as an incredible frame for the weight class. Trinaldo alternatively has got great durability, but his striking skillset is incredibly basic. Power jab, big overhand left. But his ability to grind means guys just can’t get him out of there.
But Brown has got great footwork, incredible power and his ability to mix it up means he’s a threat everywhere and for the full 15 minutes. Trinaldo should be able to hang early on, but at 44 years old he is likely to slow down and with the way Brown hits people don’t be shocked to see this one end inside the distance. PICK – Randy Brown via Knockout, Round 3
Mackenzie Dern (12-2) vs Yan Xiaonan (13-3) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Main event time and a fight to see who moves towards title contention for 2023. Dern bounced back from defeat to Marina Rodriguez by winning against Tecia Torres via split decision last time out at UFC 273. Xiaonan on the other hand has lost her last two in a row, getting KO’d by Carla Esparza and then going the distance with Rodriguez too at UFC 272 last time out.
Dern is a world class jiu-jitsu fighter with the best submission game in women’s MMA. Her biggest issue is that she struggles to get the fight to the ground as her wrestling is poor, but her striking on the feet has improved in recent years and her durability is good. Yan is a pure striker with excellent technique and good power too, although each of her UFC wins has gone the distance. This is a straight up clash of styles, and it’s all about who can get the fight where they want it.
Xiaonan will want the fight standing and she is talented enough to dominate in that area. Dern will want it on the ground and if she gets it there, Xiaonan will really struggle to survive if she finds herself for extended periods of time. Over the course of 25 minutes it’s hard to imagine that Dern won’t be able to get into a dominant position at least once. For that reason I have to pick her, but don’t be surprised to see Xiaonan control distance and keep the fight standing throughout for a decision win. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
The UFC returns after a two-week break with a huge pay-per-view card headlined by two massive title fights.
Alexander Volkanovski makes the third defence of his featherweight title when he takes on Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, in the main event.
In the co-main event we get the long awaited rematch at the top of the bantamweight division as Aljamain Sterling makes his first defence of the belt against Petr Yan, a little over a year after he won it via disqualification.
We’ll also see an incredible welterweight fight between Gilbert Burns and the freight-train that is Khamzat Chimaev before that, to see just how real the hype is.
Last time at UFC Columbus we went 7/12 with four perfect picks, which moves us to 585/903 (64.78%) with 248 perfect picks (42.39%).
Vinc Pichel (14-2) vs Mark O Madsen (11-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really interesting lightweight fight opens up the main card here. Pichel has won seven of his last eight including his last three in a row against Roosevelt Roberts, Jim Miller and Austin Hubbard all via decision. Madsen is an undefeated fighter, going 3-0 in the UFC including a split decision win over Clay Guida last time out.
Pichel is a well-rounded fighter, with some crisp striking and good power that has earned him eight knockout wins in his career. Madsen is an Olympic wrestler, who tends to fight behind his jab and walk forward. While the takedown will be there all day for Madsen, Pichel is very good at getting up and tends to get stronger as the fight goes on.
Madsen has had a problem with his cardio in the past and if he tries to fight like he did against Guida here, it won’t be enough to earn a win because he has more power and a far better gas tank. Madsen will likely start well and could even win the first round, but eventually Pichel should be able to turn the tide and land enough on the feet while tiring Madsen out to earn a tight decision win. PICK – Vinc Pichel via Decision
Mackenzie Dern (11-2) vs Tecia Torres (13-5) – (Strawweight/125lbs)
A really fun women’s strawweight fight up next. Dern was on a four-fight win streak before stepping into a main event against Marina Rodriguez, who out-struck her to earn a decision win. Torres on the other hand snapped a four-fight losing streak and is now on a run of three wins in a row, defeating Angela Hill at UFC 265 most recently.
Dern is one of the very best Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters on the planet, male or female, and looks to get fights down to the ground as quickly as possible to work that submission game. She does struggle with takedowns, but her striking has improved in recent fights too. Torres on the other hand is a bulldog who uses great forward pressure and boxing skills, while her defensive wrestling is pretty good too. This is a battle entirely about whether or not Dern can get the fight down, and her size advantage leans me to think she can.
Torres is only 5ft 1 tall and while Dern isn’t the biggest at 5ft 4, she’s got a two inch reach advantage. Dern will likely kick from distance and try to clinch to be able drag Torres down, who will need to get in and out with her boxing. I just can’t see her doing that for 15 minutes, so I expect Dern to be able to get her down, find her way to an arm or the back and sink in a submission to get back on the winning trail. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
Gilbert Burns (20-4) vs Khamzat Chimaev (10-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
One of the most highly anticipated fights of the year so far takes place in the welterweight division. Burns went on a huge six-fight win streak before falling to Kamaru Usman in a title fight at UFC 258 last year. He returned to the win column by dominating Stephen Thompson at UFC 264 in his last fight. Chimaev is the most exciting fighter in the UFC right now, winning all four of his bouts while absorbing a combined total of just one strike. His most recent win against Li Jingliang at UFC 267 saw him choke him unconscious in the first round while talking to Dana White.
Burns is a wrestle-boxer who has got legitimate world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills too, with good knockout power and some brilliant cardio too. Chimaev is an absolute man mountain, who either knocks your lights out early or just launches in for a takedown and dominates you until the referee pulls him off. This is such a hard fight to call, because it’s by far the toughest fight of Chimaev’s career but you cannot ignore what he’s done so far in the octagon.
It’s highly unlikely that Chimaev will dominate Burns in the same way he has won all his previous fights in the UFC, but I do think he will win. He has got a huge size advantage, having fought at middleweight in the past too and his wrestling was good enough to dominant Jack Hermansson in a wrestling match not too long ago. He has great power in his hands, amazing control and while Burns could definitely cause an upset, I can’t look past Chimaev to earn the victory. PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Decision
Aljamain Sterling (20-3) vs Petr Yan (16-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The rematch we’ve all been waiting for, is finally upon us. Aljamain Sterling hasn’t fought since the first bout back at UFC 259, where Yan kneed him in the head illegally and was disqualified which put Sterling on a six-fight win streak. Yan bounced back from that disappointment to defeat Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267 to become the interim champion and means he’s now won 11 of his last 12.
Sterling is a fantastic wrestler and jiu-jitsu fighter, with unorthodox striking on the feet and a very rangy style. Yan is the most well-rounded fighter in MMA right now, with no real weaknesses and some of the best boxing and defensive wrestling in the world. In the original fight I picked Sterling to score a submission win, but after watching the fight it’s pretty clear that Yan has his number.
The Russian was able to stuff takedowns regularly, box him up from the inside and outside and his cardio held up much better than Sterling’s too. With the added bad blood now involved, expect Yan to really turn it up in the later rounds and pour on the pressure to score a late finish and reclaim his championship. PICK – Petr Yan via Knockout, Round 4
Alexander Volkanovski (23-1) vs Korean Zombie (17-6) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
The featherweight king returns against a new opponent and has a chance to further cement himself as the best in the world here. Volkanovski has won 20 fights in a row, including consecutive bouts over Max Holloway and then most recently Brian Ortega at UFC 266. Korean Zombie has won three of his last four, getting dominated by Ortega at UFC Fight Island 6 but bouncing back with a dominant win over Dan Ige at UFC Vegas 29 last time out. He gets this fight after Holloway withdrew due to injury.
Volkanovski runs Yan close for being the most complete fighter in the world right now. He has got unbelievable cardio, is an accomplished striker with good power and also some excellent wrestling skills to go with it. Zombie earned his nickname because of his ability to take damage and keep coming forward, but Ortega really showed the holes in his game in their fight.
The champion has got plenty of avenues to victory, because he has the edge everywhere. Jung definitely has the power to land clean and hurt Volkanovski, but I’ll be incredibly surprised if that happens. Volkanovski is cerebral enough to take a decision win if he needs too, but I expect him to lay claim to some big ground and pound after landing a takedown and earn his first finish since beating Chad Mendes back in 2018. PICK – Alexander Volkanovski via Knockout, Round 3
The UFC Vegas 39 main event didn’t quite go the way many expected as Marina Rodriguez survived a grappling onslaught from Mackenzie Dern to earn a brilliant decision win after a striking clinic.
The two Brazilian’s met in the strawweight division ranked as the number four and number six respectively, with a win for either woman opening up title contention in the near future.
Dern, who was on a five-fight win streak going into the bout, was the pre-fight favourite with the bookies and after an even first round she seemed to get the fight in the perfect place early in the second.
Dern got a takedown and immediately worked for a submission to end the bout early, with the fight finally where she wanted it to take place.
Rodriguez seemed to attempt a d’arce choke from the bottom in her defence and while Dern took a 10-8 round in many people’s eyes, Rodriguez survived the onslaught. That was the turning point in the fight.
Barring the final 30 seconds in the fourth round where Dern was once again able to get the fight to the ground, Rodriguez dominated on the feet.
She used her sharp jab, piercing right straight and an oblique kick to perfection as she pieced up Dern on the feet for the vast majority of the fight.
It was a rare occasion that the pure striker came out on top over the pure grappler in a mixed martial arts bout and showed that Rodriguez is a true contender in the weight class, proving she can go toe to toe with the best around and keep the fight in her world.
While Dern must go back to earning herself title contention, Rodriguez now looks ahead to a potential title eliminator bout.
Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang will meet in the co-main event at UFC 268 next month with the 115lbs strawweight title on the line. The winner of that is likely to face Carla Esparza, who is on a five-fight win streak herself.
The UFC could potentially pair Rodriguez with Esparza in a rematch, with Rodriguez’s only professional defeat coming in a split decision loss to the former champion.
If not, it could lead to a blockbuster match-up between Rodriguez and Jedrzejczyk who hasn’t fought since her stunning defeat to Zhang back in March 2020.
A striker’s paradise, the winner of that could then potentially claim a title shot too but it would also keep the top of the division moving in one of the most stacked weight classes on the roster.
With the likes of Yan Xiaonan also in the mix at the top end that’s important too, but Rodriguez is now in the drivers seat and has proven she is a legitimate threat to anyone in the division.
The UFC returns to the Apex once again this weekend for a strawweight main event that could decide the next title contender for the division.
Mackenzie Dern looks to continue her win streak when she goes up against Marina Rodriguez in the main event, with both women aware that a win could pit them against the winner of Rose Namajunas vs Weili Zhang 2 at UFC 268 next month.
Elsewhere on the card is a fun welterweight clash between Randy Brown and Jared Gooden, while there is also an exciting flyweight fight between Tim Elliott and Matheus Nicolau as well as the return of heavyweight Alexandr Romanov.
Last week at UFC Vegas 38, we went 7/11 on picks with just one perfect pick to move us up to 428/670 (63.88%) with 184 perfect picks (42.99%).
We’ll look to improve on that here on this ten-fight card and after starting with the prelims picks, we move on to the main card picks now.
Phil Hawes (11-2) vs Deron Winn (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very fun middleweight fight opens up the main card in the middleweight division. Hawes is on a seven-fight win streak, beating Kyle Daukaus last time out at UFC Vegas 26 via decision while Winn is coming off the back of a win over Antonio Arroyo at UFC Vegas 17 following back-to-back losses.
Hawes is a power puncher with legitimate one-punch KO power, while Winn is a wrestler before everything with some okay boxing too. Winn is only 5ft 6′ so he tends to struggle when it comes to engaging in his strengths, and with Hawes having such a big advantage in the striking and the range this is a weird match-up.
Most likely, Hawes keeps his distance and just picks Winn apart from range before landing one of his really big punches and securing a stoppage win. PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 2
Sabina Mazo (9-2) vs Mariya Agapova (9-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun women’s flyweight bout between two up and coming prospects in the division. Mazo lost her last fight to Alexis Davis last time out at UFC Vegas 20, while Agapova was beaten by Shana Dobson last time out at UFC Vegas 7 over a year ago.
Both of these women are excellent kickboxers who look at their best from range, but seem to struggle whenever their opponent looks to close the distance and starts grinding in style with dirty boxing and grappling. Luckily for them both, neither will do that here. Agapova has had trouble with her cardio in the past and Mazo is the bigger woman naturally, having previously fought at bantamweight.
This is a close fight but I think Mazo’s size, reach and cardio will edge her over the line to earn a decision win. PICK – Sabina Mazo via Decision
Tim Elliott (18-11-1) vs Matheus Nicolau (16-3-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
My pick for the fight of the night in the flyweight division next. Elliott has won each of his last two, with decisions over Ryan Benoit and most recently Jordan Espinosa at UFC 259. Nicolau won his second UFC debut against former RIZIN champion Manel Kape in a controversial split-decision at UFC Vegas 21.
Elliott is a great wrestler who gets his takedowns using his cardio as a weapon and making every fight a straight up war. Nicolau on the other hand is a power puncher with some decent wrestling defence too and some good kicks in his arsenal. Elliott is a veteran who has never even been dropped in the UFC but it’s his relentless pace that often breaks opponents.
Nicolau’s best chance of a win is a big knockout and with Elliott’s durability it seems unlikely. Elliott will keep the pace high, perform his wrestling duties well and be able to just overwhelm Nicolau for a decision win. PICK – Tim Elliott via Decision
Randy Brown (13-4) vs Jared Gooden (18-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight in the co-main event between ‘Rudeboy’ and ‘Nite Train’. Brown bounced back from defeat against Vicente Luque with a one-arm rear-naked choke win over ‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira last time out at UFC 261, while Gooden starched Niklas Stolze last time out at UFC Vegas 33 to bounce back from two consecutive losses.
Brown is a great striker with terrific length and some very good submission skills, with his 11 stoppage wins split 6-5 in KO’s and taps. Gooden on the other hand is an explosive puncher with some good wrestling skills, but it’s still hard to know where he stands at the UFC level. He got dominated in his first two fights, but then earned a win with a flash knockout early so it’s hard to see if he made many improvements.
That said, he has the power advantage in this fight if he and Brown were to go strike for strike. I don’t think Brown will do that though and he’ll look to mix in his grappling and use his length well to earn himself a close decision win. PICK – Randy Brown via Decision
Mackenzie Dern (11-1) vs Marina Rodriguez (14-1-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
The main event is a super fun strawweight battle between grappler and striker as they look to make themselves title contenders with a win. Dern has won each of her last four, with three by submission including her most recent against Nina Nunes at UFC Vegas 23, while Rodriguez made it two in a row with wins over Amanda Ribas at UFC 257 and Michelle Waterson at UFC Vegas 26.
Dern is one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners on the roster, with seven submission wins in her career but she has shown a marked improvement in her striking in recent fights too. Rodriguez on the other hand is a boxer first with some decent kicking too, with six knockout wins in her career. It’s a classic striker vs grappler bout and my mind tends to almost always go with the grappler, because they can dictate where the fight goes.
Rodriguez will look to keep the distance and use her slight reach advantage to land strikes, but Dern will be aggressive and likely pull guard because her takedowns are pretty rubbish. If she does, she’ll lock up a submission in no time but if Rodriguez keeps it standing she’ll win easily. That said, I don’t see Rodriguez keeping it standing for five rounds, so I’m backing Dern to earn yet another submission win. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
It’s not often that you get two contenders in the upper end of the UFC rankings fighting and there’s zero talk around a title shot for their fight.
That seems to be the case currently with the UFC Vegas 39 main event, as Mackenzie Dern looks to make it five wins in a row in the women’s strawweight division when she takes on Marina Rodriguez who has won her last two.
Both women are currently ranked at number four and six respectively at 115lbs, with a title fight scheduled for next month and two inactive fighters ahead of them. A win for either really gives them a chance to stake a claim for a title fight.
As they meet in their contender fight, the landscape of the division is currently uncertain.
Rose Namajunas makes her first title defence since winning the belt from Weili Zhang at UFC 261, when she takes on the Chinese fighter in an immediate rematch at UFC 268 in November.
Number two ranked Joanna Jedrzejczyk hasn’t fought since her defeat to Zhang back at UFC 248 in March 2020 in arguably the greatest women’s mixed martial arts fight of all-time. That was however her fourth defeat in six fights, with all four coming in title fights.
It begs the question of whether she can compete at the very highest level anymore, considering she dominated the strawweight division for years before defeat to Namajunas. With no fight close to being scheduled at the time of writing and the Pole stating she’s only interested in title fights at this time, it’s probably fair to discount her from the race.
Below her is Carla Esparza, who has won five in a row and most recently earned a knockout win over Xiaonan Yan at UFC Vegas 27. She’s got the biggest claim to a title shot next, but her star power is lacking and after three of those five wins came via decisions that weren’t unanimous there is a case to make her earn the shot once more against a top five opponent.
That opens the door for Dern or Rodriguez to claim a spot against the winner of Namajunas and Zhang at some point in early 2022.
The winner will have beaten someone currently in contention, unlike the two ranked fighters above them currently, and would provide very different match ups for whoever the champion is compared to what they have fought previously in their UFC careers.
A first main event slot for Dern means she has the opportunity to make a statement of intent and show the world that she really is ready to challenge for the throne. She just has to win first.
Great start to the fight for Kasanganay as he comes forward to close the distance early and lands a nice right hand. Palatnikov throws a kick which Kasanganay catches and then he lands another big right hand before getting a body lock and taking Palatnikov down to the ground. Kasanganay using heavy top pressure but not landing much damage and Palatnikov is able to get back to his feet. Kasanganay goes for another takedown but Palatnikov defends it well and they clinch against the cage now. Palatnikov starts teeing off against the cage but Kasanganay does well to avoid any strikes and clinch up again. Nice left hand lands from Palatnikov at the end of the round but should be 10-9 Kasanganay.
Kasanganay comes out quickly in the second round and lands a big right hand that drops Palatnikov! He forces the takedown with pure power and scrambles to take his neck. He locks in a rear-naked choke and squeezes, forcing Palatnikov to tap out! Big win for Kasanganay!
Da-Un Jung def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Reserved start from both fighters as Knight comes out throwing low calf kicks to prevent Jung from letting his jab fly. Knight goes in for a takedown and lifts Jung but he defends it well, switches the position and is able to get a throw perfectly to end up in top position. Knight is landing some nice right hands from the bottom as he holds Jung in place, but Jung fires back with a couple of right hands of his own to shut that down. Jung passes into half guard and tries to move into side control but Knight sweeps him really well and explodes back onto his feet. Knight clinches up once again and Jung is able to get the same trip once more to get back in top position. Some decent ground and pound from Jung as Knight looks quite tired now but he’s able to explode to his feet again as the round ends. 10-9 Jung.
Knight comes out throwing lots of low kicks once again, but Jung is backing him up to the cage and looking to hunt him down. Both guys land a nice right hand each before Knight shoots in for a takedown. Jung defends it, clinches up and then lands the same outside trip once again to take top position and starts landing ground and pound against the cage. Knight tries to get to his feet but Jung stays heavy and drags him down to the mat once more, then takes his back and sinks in both hooks. Jung starts raining down punches and Knight is trying to explode out again rather than use technique. Knight is just surviving right now and Jung continues to smash him up from his back on top. Lots of damage but Knight survives the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Jung.
Jung comes forward early in the final round and Knight has abandoned the leg kicks and is throwing bombs. Jung lands a nice uppercut, then switches levels and gets a big takedown! Knight explodes to his feet again but Jung is able to drag and throw Knight back to the mat with relative ease. Jung floats through the positions and ends up in side control, landing knees to the body and just completely dominating all the exchanges in this fight. Jung stays busy from top position on the ground landing damage for the rest of the fight for a very comfortable win. 30-26 Jung.
Luis Saldana def Jordan Griffin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Really good start to the fight for Saldana as he comes out with his hands low and is throwing quick kicks to the legs and body. Saldana throws a night three punch combo that clips Griffin, who shoots in for a takedown and gets it but Saldana gets back up very quickly. More leg kicks from Saldana take Griffin off his feet but he keeps coming forward and lands two big punches as he rushes forward and goes in for a takedown again. Saldana defends well against the cage and they break, but Griffin stays in his face and keeps throwing big punches. He keeps pouring punches and then eventually gets the takedown, but Saldana is able to roll through and escape before Griffin gets a headlock and looks for some sort of bulldog choke. Saldana is able to escape and Griffin charges once again and just misses with a big head-kick before the round ends. Very close, but I go 10-9 Griffin.
Slower start to the round from both guys as Saldana comes out again looking for low kicks and front kicks to the body, but Griffin pressures him again. Saldana slips as he throws a kick and Griffin jumps on top. Saldana looks for an armbar and then switches to a heel hook to create space which gets both guys back up. Saldana jumps on the neck of Griffin looking for a guillotine, but Griffin is calm and escapes before getting the fight back down. He starts looking for a bulldog choke again but Saldana escapes it only for Griffin to continue with his pressure and get back into a dominant position. Griffin starts floating and then takes the back and sinks in a rear naked choke deep but he runs out of time so we’re going to the final round. 20-18 Griffin.
Saldana comes out in the final round and knows he needs a finish. He’s trying to stay out of wrestling range, using punches rather than kicks to avoid being taken down but he looks exhausted. Griffin isn’t exactly fresh himself but he’s coming forward still but doing enough to stay out of range. Saldana looks to kick off the cage with a superman punch but just misses with that and the follow up hook, before Griffin shoots in for a tired takedown against the cage. Saldana defends it well and switches the position around but Griffin gets his arm under the chin and looks for a rear-naked choke! Saldana stays calm and escapes and ends up on top with 90 seconds to go. Saldana is able to take the back of Griffin for a split second, but Griffin then switches around and finishes the round on top looking for a submission. Probably a Saldana round but should be a win for Griffin. 29-28.
Jack Shore def Hunter Azure via Split Decision (30-27 x2, 28-29)
Composed start to the bout from both men as they feel each other out with jabs and low kicks before they both clinch up against the cage. Shore looking like the stronger fighter as they battle for position and he gets a body lock in nicely and picks Azure up and sweeps the legs for a takedown. Azure gets back up quickly but Shore keeps the hands locked and continues to drag Azure around. Shore tries to take the back but Azure drops to his knees and counters by turning into Shore’s guard. Shore kicks off the hips to get back to his feet quickly before Azure can do any damage and they clinch against the cage again before separating. Both men throw a simultaneous kick that makes for a big thud before a nice high kick lands from Shore. Azure looks for a takedown against the cage but Shore defends and the round ends. 10-9 Shore.
Fast start from Azure in the second round as he goes straight in for a clinch against the cage and lands some nice knees to the body and thighs. Shore is patient and eventually gets back up and catches a kick from Azure and lands a right hand that drops Azure. Azure gets back up quickly though and Shore looks for a clinch against the takedown before going for a takedown of his own. He shoots in and Azure looks for a guillotine which forces Shore to abandon and go to his back to escape, but Azure ends up on top in half guard. Shore uses his long legs and hips really well to get back up to the feet and the clinch continues against the cage once again. Accidental low blow from Azure causes a short pause in the action but they clinch again when they resume. Azure lands a nice right hand when they separate and then lands a good right hook but Shore starts landing some strikes of his own too. Azure lands a big right hand clean but Shore responds with an uppercut as the round ends. Very close round, probably in Azure’s favour. 19-19.
Azure goes straight in for a takedown at the start of the third but Shore stuffs it well and starts working off his jab from the outside. Azure changes levels to avoid a right hand and goes for a single leg, but Shore defends it brilliantly once again against the cage. Stiff low kick from Shore and then a nice left hook lands that stings Azure, who shoots for a takedown quickly after but is denied. Shore stuffs another attempt and then takes Azure down himself, landing some short punches against the cage and leaning all his weight on Azure to drag him back down. He looks to take Azure’s back and then moves into mount, switching between both positions. Azure is able to get back to his feet but Shore keeps hold of him and is able to take him down once again as we enter the final 90 seconds. Azure scrambles and rolls through to escape Shore’s grip and ends up on top and looks to land ground and pound but Shore defends brilliantly and then escapes a rear naked choke attempt to see out the round. Should be a win for Shore, 29-28.
Jarjis Danho def Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1 (3:02)
Slow start to the fight for both guys as they throw some leg kicks and circle each other. Danho throwing more and more leg kicks but not much action in the first two minutes. Danho looks to clinch up but De Castro throws him off and lands a big left hand that wobbles Danho! He comes forward with more punches but Danho avoids and goes for a takedown. The two separate and De Castro continues to come forward, then both men throw big right hands and Danho lands on the side of the head and puts De Castro’s lights out!! He lands one more on the ground but it’s all over! What a knockout!
John Makdessi def Ignacio Bahamondes via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Bahamondes using his length well very early on, with long jabs and front kicks. Bahamondes doing really well to mix up his attacks, landing leg kicks, jabs, straight rights, body shots and kicks while changing up his stance constantly. Makdessi just can’t get a read right now as Bahamondes keeps moving. Makdessi lands a big right hand that makes Bahamondes do the chicken dance and he pushes on for the finish, but Bahamondes clinches up to try and recover. Bahamondes now is trying to stay away and land from range but Makdessi continues to pour on the pressure. Bahamondes goes for a takedown against the cage but Makdessi defends it well. Bahamondes lands a couple of elbows on the break and they exchange strikes again as the round ends. That’s a really close round could go either way. I go Makdessi for the damage.
Bahamondes seems to have recovered now as he comes out popping his jab once again and circling on the outside. Makdessi taking the centre and looking to catch Bahamondes on his way in, but it’s not working too well for him just yet. Three jabs in a row land for Makdessi who returns with a big left hand of his own. Bahamondes lands a big straight left then misses with a few kicks before shooting in for a takedown, but Makdessi defends it with ease. Bahamondes starts throwing some knees against the cage before they separate and go back to trading straight punches. Both guys trading jabs and straights and landing, then Bahamondes lands a huge spinning heel kick to the head but Makdessi eats it. Makdessi responds with two body shots and a short left hook to the chin then lands a clean one two. Another super close round, I’ve got it even.
Third round following the pattern of the previous two, with Bahamondes landing from range but Makdessi standing firm in the middle and popping him back too. Bahamondes lands some nice jabs but Makdessi keeps landing the straight right and left jab in response. Bahamondes looks for a big knee that just misses and then he shoots in for a takedown to mix it up. Makdessi stuffs it and lands a nice right hand, before Bahamondes starts pouring on pressure and lands a big one-two. Bahamondes lands another nice left hand that sends Makdessi backwards but they continue to stand in a phonebox and trade for the remainder of the round in what was a brilliant fight. Another very close round, I don’t know how to call it. 29-28 either way, I lean to Bahamondes.
Mateusz Gamrot def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 2 (1:22)
Good start to the round from both guys, with Gamrot looking to land from range to set up his takedowns while Holtzman is looking to counter with heavy punches. Gamrot steps in for a takedown and grabs the leg and tries to go for a heel hook but Holtzman defends it well. Gamrot lands a nice left but Holtzman responds with a huge left hand on his way in! Gamrot responds with a couple of left hands again and then goes for single leg again and transitions to a double leg to get the takedown against the cage. Gamrot allows him back up and throws a huge elbow to the ear that wobbles Holtzman towards the end of the round. 10-9 Gamrot.
Holtzman comes out very aggressive and starts walking Gamrot down, but he’s loading up his attacks with big uppercuts and overhands. Gamrot moving side to side to stay out of the way and he throws a big one two down the middle which folds Holtzman! He jumps on and lands a couple more shots before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Gamrot!
Joe Solecki def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Very positive start from Solecki as he looks to be first in the striking exchanges between the two, but Miller just misses with his big left hand. Nice calf kick lands from Miller but Solecki is coming forward and landing nice short flurries of punches. Big right hand lands and forces Miller to think twice but then the veteran lands a nice body kick. Solecki shoots in for a takedown but Miller stuffs it and ends up on top, so Solecki goes into full guard and starts defending. Miller is landing some nice short elbows from the top position and stacking Solecki up to prevent him from being able to get back to his feet easily. Miller misses with an elbow as the rounds ends, probably a Miller round because of the top control. 10-9 Miller.
Solecki comes out aggressive in the second round and lands a nice right hand before shooting in for the takedown. Miller looks to defend it but Solecki takes the legs from under him and moves into full guard. Now it’s Solecki looking to stack Miller against the cage and throw some ground and pound, but Miller is staying busy from his back too. A few body shots from Solecki as he looks to wear Miller down heading into the final 90 seconds of the round. Not much action in this round but Solecki controlled it and takes the round. 19-19 going into the final round.
Both men see the route to victory as being on top and so immediately they both move into a clinch position. Solecki the physically stronger guy right now and gets a body lock, which Miller tries to roll through from but Solecki holds on and ends up on top once again. Solecki throwing short shots on the ground from half guard but Miller is trying to get back to his feet now rather than accepting the position. Solecki doing really well to control the position now and just doing enough damage to stop the fight from being stood back up. Solecki maintains the position for the rest of the round to secure what should be a straight forward decision win.
Daniel Rodriguez def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Tense start to this one with both men respecting the power of their opponent early on. Perry throws a few le kicks and Rodriguez is throwing his jab well and has already busted up the nose. Rodriguez throws a big one-two down the middle that staggers Perry but he continues to come forward to look for a finish. Rodriguez is landing big one-twos at will and Perry is getting pieced up, so he changes levels and powers through with a takedown. He lifts Rodriguez up and slams him down but Rodriguez holding on for a guillotine which Perry does well to defend against and avoid. Perry stays in top position and works for some ground and pound to see the round out. Perry still in it, but that’s a Rodriguez round for me. 10-9.
Second round and Rodriguez is doing really well on the feet, with his jab landing at will and the left hand following up behind it cleanly too. Perry is throwing some nice leg kicks and is just struggling to be first with the punches because of the range difference. Perry gets a body lock and looks for a takedown which he gets, then tries to transition onto Rodriguez’s back, but Rodriguez does well to stay strong and get back up pretty quickly. Rodriguez continues to land the jab and left straight at will, but Perry is still standing in front of him and throwing shots of his own. Big right hook, left hand from Rodriguez lands clean. Perry comes forward looking for a takedown with 20 seconds to go but Rodriguez defends it well to claim the round again. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Final round and the pattern continues, as Rodriguez lines up the jab and takes the centre of the cage. Perry is struggling to land anything of note because he keeps getting pummelled every time he tries to go first. Perry shoots for a takedown but Rodriguez denies it again and shrugs him off in the clinch. Rodriguez throws three huge left hands in an exchange but Perry is still taking the punishment and trying to come forward. Perry’s face is so busted up right now and at this point it’s just about not getting finished as Rodriguez shoots in for a takedown but Perry stuffs it to see the round out with a big exchange. 30-27 Rodriguez, excellent performance.
Fast start to the fight from Dern as she charges forward throwing big punches with a couple landing but Nunes responds with a couple of her own. Dern charges forward again and lands a nice left hand, but Nunes throws a good right hand to counter it too. Dern shoots in for a takedown against the cage and lifts the leg high then sweeps the standing leg and dumps her down. She immediately works to advance the position and threatens with a leg attack to pass into half guard. From half guard she quickly moves into mount and starts raining down elbows from the top. She transitions into an armbar position and despite Nunes’ best attempts to defend it, Dern extends the arm and gets the tap out.
Julian Marquez def Sam Alvey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (2:07)
Pretty tame opening to the round as Marquez takes the centre early and looks to figure out his range by flicking out his lead hand. Neither men throw anything really for the first two minutes barring a couple of missed hooks. Alvey is loading up big with his left hand and it’s allowing Marquez to avoid it well. Marquez lands a big right hook clean and Alvey is hurt. Marquez goes in again and lands two more that drops Alvey but he falls into Marquez and quickly recovers. Two more big right hands land from Marquez but Alvey just about stays standing and now throws a huge left of his own. Alvey is all the way back against the cage and just trying to hit Marquez on his way in but he’s missing wildly. 10-9 Marquez at the end of the round.
More of the same in the second round as Marquez backs Alvey up and lands a nice body shot, but Alvey explodes forward and lands a nice right hand of his own. Marquez throws an overhand right that lands clean on Alvey’s chin but he’s still there throwing his own heat. Marquez lands a huge right hand that drops Alvey and he goes all in for the finish with big strikes. Alvey looks to defend with a takedown but he’s eating big shots. Marquez abandons the strikes and goes for a rear-naked choke and puts Alvey to sleep for the win. Great performance.
Arnold Allen def Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start for Allen as Yusuff comes forward and throws a body kick which he catches and immediately gets a takedown. Yusuff does well to defend well against the cage and hooks up a guillotine choke that forces Allen to roll to his back and abandon the takedown attempt. Yusuff comes forward and is chopping away at the leg of Allen, but both men are throwing heat. Allen lands a big left hand but Yusuff keeps coming and clinches up. Allen lands a big left hand that drops Yusuff and he moves in to take top position but Yusuff does well to recover and avoid further damage. Allen goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s defended well and the round comes to an end with a nice exchange in the centre. 10-9 Allen.
Yusuff continues to push the pace and pressuring forward, but Allen is threatening with the big left hand once again. Yusuff lands some nice chopping leg kicks again and Yusuff is starting to land with his jab. He’s starting to touch Allen more and more, then Allen throws a huge head-kick that rocks him! Allen slips as it lands but he jumps back up and goes to land some ground and pound, but Yusuff recovers well once again and they get back to competing in the middle. Clinch against the cage and Allen is physically stronger and able to dictate the position more, and he sees out the round in control. 20-18 Allen.
Good start from Allen as he looks to back Yusuff up to the cage with his physicality and shoot for takedowns, but Yusuff refusing to accept it and defending really well. He switches the position on the cage and lands some nice knees to the body of Allen before they separate and go back into the centre. Lots of short exchanges and clinch work against the cage for the rest of the round as Yusuff arguably takes the round but it won’t be enough for a win. 29-28 Allen for me, very competitive fight.
Marvin Vettori def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (50-44 x3)
Holland makes a fast start throwing some leg kicks and big right hands but early on he lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Vettori comes in tight for the clinch after the action resumes, but Holland is striking from range and lands a heavy right hand. Vettori finally gets a body lock and clinch against the cage to start wearing on Holland, but he defends the attempted trip well which forces Vettori to change to a double leg. Holland defends it well again and Vettori separates, but he’s right in Holland’s face and applying lots of pressure. Vettori is able to drag Holland down to the ground, but Holland starts throwing up-kicks to try and create space to get up to his feet. Vettori is able to get full guard and starts applying lots of pressure and looking to land ground and pound. Holland is able to roll through and gets back to the feet, but then eats a big left hand. Good first round from both, very close to score. 10-9 Vettori for me but could go either way.
Holland comes out fast once again and lands some sharp punches and straight kicks but Vettori is trying to close the distance earlier this time. Holland lands a big one-two but Vettori eats it, slips a shot and then shoots in for another takedown against the cage. He gets him down quickly this time and avoids the guillotine attempt to go into full guard and land big ground and pound strikes. Vettori starts stacking Holland against the cage and raining down strikes, completely dominant. Holland tries to kick out of it but Vettori controls the position well and gets right back to work with the ground and pound from the top position. More strikes from Vettori opens up a cut on Holland’s face and he tries to scramble out but Vettori just controls his position even once Holland gets back to his feet to end the round. 20-17.
Holland’s left eye is closing up but he’s battling on and Vettori comes out like a freight train and looks to go straight for the takedown again. He gets it quickly and then moves into mount almost immediately. He looks to set up an arm triangle submission and locks it in tight, but Holland doesn’t tap and is able to escape from the bottom to get back up to his feet. Vettori goes straight back for the takedown again but Holland does well to avoid it. Holland lands a couple of nice strikes standing but then once again Vettori changes levels, clinches against the cage and controls the position. Holland lands a couple of huge strikes that seem to wobble Vettori a little but the buzzer goes. 30-26 Vettori.
Big early left hand lands at the start of the fourth for Vettori, but Holland responds with a couple of big hooks of his own. Vettori shoots in for a takedown and gets it down pretty easily once again and goes straight into full guard to land some ground and pound. Vettori looks to stack Holland who rolls through to avoid it and gets back to full guard. Holland is able to get back to the feet after a short scramble but very quickly Vettori is able to drag him back down and goes straight into mount. He looks for the arm triangle submission again, but Holland stays calm and takes it back to half guard. Vettori lands some heavy strikes and then goes back into full guard before passing into half guard again. Vettori tries to stack him and Holland starts throwing up-kicks again but Vettori is just too strong and sees out the round on top. 40-35 Vettori.
Holland still looks fresh and lands a bomb of a right hand that gets Vettori’s attention, so the Italian changes levels and gets the takedown immediately and goes into full guard. Holland kicks off the cage and finds a way to get back to the feet but once again Vettori just locks his hands, finds an angle and drags him back down to the mat. Vettori steps over into half guard and starts throwing some more ground and pound with Holland fighting off his back. Vettori steps over into mount once again looking to set up the arm triangle choke, but Holland explodes back up to his feet. Vettori holds the body lock once again though and drags the fight to the mat again with 40 seconds to go and he sees the round out in control. 50-44 Vettori, pure domination.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
‘Platinum’ is a striker with powerful punches and a pretty decent wrestling game, but despite being naturally talented when it comes to fighting he just doesn’t care. He’s had issues with alcohol and dieting in the past and now he comes up against a man who hits harder and is taking this game very seriously.
Rodriguez has crazily heavy hands but Perry has an iron chin and both guys have got some deficiencies in their cardio but it’s hard to pick Perry when you don’t know which version will turn up. He hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2017 and I think Rodriguez does enough to get a decision win. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Decision
Nina Nunes (10-6) vs Mackenzie Dern (10-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A battle of the mothers in the strawweight division as Nina Nunes (formerly Ansaroff) returns from child birth to take on Mackenzie Dern.
Nunes has tremendous wrestling and cardio and throws some really good combinations with her hands, while Dern is a jiu-jitsu master who has started working on her kickboxing game. The striking still needs work and she will need to get the fight to the ground to stand a chance of winning and I back Nunes to be able to keep the fight standing for the longest period because Dern’s takedown attempts are awful. If the fight goes down it’s Dern’s to lose. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
Sam Alvey (33-14-1) vs Julian Marquez (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Alvey has good takedown defence and a good right hook counter, but other than that he tends to just wait for a chance to land it and is hilariously bad to watch in the cage. Marquez on the other hand loves absolute chaos and throws big punches in bunch with wild aggression, who has pretty decent submissions too.
The likelihood is that Alvey will land his big right hand at some point, but with 20lbs of less power behind it against a young fighter with a sturdy chin, I don’t think it gets the job done. That means Marquez can go crazy as he loves to and I think he’s able to get a stoppage win. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 1
Arnold Allen (16-1) vs Sodiq Yusuff (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger of a featherweight bout between England’s Arnold Allen and another hot prospect in Sodiq Yusuff. Allen has won nine in a row including wins over Gilbertz Melendez and Nick Lentz most recently while Yusuff is on a six-fight win streak himself. Both make their first appearances since January 2020.
Yusuff is a tremendously powerful striker, who has great calf kicks and a very solid overhand right while Allen is a really good, well-rounded fighter who has split his knockout and submission wins at 5/4. Allen is a really good pressure fighter and opts for volume over power, using those combinations to close distance and get takedowns.
Yusuff is one of the most powerful fighters in the division and he does a good job of landing accurate strikes, so if he can take Allen’s takedowns away from him he has a great chance of landing those heavy strikes and moving into the rankings with a big win. PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Knockout, Round 2
Marvin Vettori (16-4-1) vs Kevin Holland (21-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Vettori has good power in his hands but his best work comes when he gets hold of you, takes you down and lands ground and pound from top position. Holland has got genuine one-punch knockout power on the feet, or his back if you ask Jacare Souza, but he struggles against wrestlers who know how to control him from the top.
Vettori is one of those fighters, who has a good chin but is just efficient in all his movements. If Holland comes in with the same antics he did against Brunson where he plays up to the camera then he will get punished, but if he comes in focused and with a solid game plan he could land big punches on Vettori’s way in to put him out.
That seems highly unlikely to me though, because Vettori just doesn’t waste any chances and knows exactly how to get the job done. Vettori gets takedowns, beats Holland up for 25 minutes and then calls out Israel Adesanya for a rematch. PICK – Marvin Vettori via Decision
The UFC have finally completed their set of fights for the year of 2020 and what a crazy year it was.
456 fights total in a year that saw a global pandemic bring a close to all live sports for almost two months at least before Dana White and co. became the leaders of getting the show back on the road.
Among those 456 fights we saw some incredible fights, some incredible knockouts and some incredible submission wins across the weight divisions. But which ones were the best?
We’re going to rank our personal top five of the year, before handing out the award for each of the following categories:
Submission of the year
Knockout of the year
Fight of the year
Breakthrough fighter of the year
Fighter of the year
SUBMISSION OF THE YEAR
5. DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO vs Alex Perez (UFC 255, November 2020)
The first title defence of the scariest flyweight in the world, Deiveson Figueiredo stepped into the cage with bad intentions. Many expected him to strike with the wrestle heavy Perez and use his grappling if needed and what happened was something a little different.
Both men traded blows in the centre before Figueiredo started to have the timing figured out and started walking him down. Perez went for a takedown, Figueiredo defended and then rolled through which led to a scramble. From there Figueiredo synched in a deep guillotine and refused to let go, even as Perez tried to get back to his feet to force the tap. That made it three finishes from three fights in 2020, before his UFC 256 bout, and it was a stunning submission.
4. MACKENZIE DERN vs Hannah Cifers (UFC Vegas 1, May 2020)
When you hear the name Mackenzie Dern, the first thing that should come to mind is Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Of her ten professional wins, six of them are by submission and this was one of her best.
After a bit of a striking battle, Dern was able to throw Cifers down and land on top but a scramble saw Cifers able to get back on her feet. Dern stayed on her back and grabbed a leg and while Cifers looked to land a strike, she managed to hook in a leg-lock. She locked on, sealed the technique perfectly and secured a brilliant knee-bar submission. It was the first leg-lock submission in women’s UFC history too.
A UFC debut for the ages, as Jimmy ‘The Brick’ Flick made sure to be remembered going into 2021. In the first half of the first round, Flick was outmanoeuvred by Durden who used his superior wrestling to score an early takedown and land some decent strikes.
As Flick got back to his feet, Durden began showing his kickboxing skills and out-struck Flick in what looked like it was going to be a long night for the Contender Series graduate. Then Flick threw a head kick which connected but instead of bringing his leg back down, he threw up his other leg and locked in a triangle. He fell to his back, tightened it up and after a few adjustments got the tap. Beautifully done and a great way to ensure we all remember his name.
2. KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV vs Justin Gaethje (UFC 254, October 2020)
Arguably the most high profile fight of the year, ended with a new contender for the GOAT conversation as Khabib Nurmagomedov notched his third straight submission win in a title fight.
The Russian champion was expected to face his toughest challenge in the octagon against Justin Gaethje, but the opening round saw ‘The Eagle’ land plenty of strikes on the feet before getting the fight to the ground late in the first round. He couldn’t get the armbar in time but when the second round started he wasted no time whatsoever. He got the fight down early, wrapped his legs around the head of Gaethje and choked him unconscious with a triangle choke to retain the title and move to 29-0. Simply stunning.
1. ALJAMAIN STERLING vs Cory Sandhagen (UFC 250, June 2020)
Back in June the bantamweight title was vacant following the retirement of Henry Cejudo, and Aljamain Sterling had been overlooked for the title fight at UFC 251.
‘The Funkmaster’ felt like he had a point to prove against another contender in Cory Sandhagen, and boy did he make it. He came out immediately at the start of the round and pressured his opponent against the cage before engaging in a clinch. From there he took Sandhagen’s back, locked up a body triangle and took the fight to the ground. After about a minute of hand-fighting, Sterling managed to get the arm under the chin and squeezed until Sandhagen tapped, moments before he passed out. Sterling celebrated the win, and will see himself fight for that title early in 2021 if all goes to plan. Submission of the year.
Chase Hooper def Peter Barrett via Submission, Round 3 (3:02)
Good start to the round for Barrett as the two meet in the middle and he immediately sprawls to deny a takedown attempt. Hooper throwing some kicks to keep his opponent at range, but Barrett is landing nice, powerful strikes. Hooper looks uncomfortable in the striking exchanges, but suffers a low blow as both men throw a kick at the same time. A second low blow soon after causes another pause and the referee gives Barrett a warning. Barrett defends a takedown attempt but Hooper rolls through and attacks the leg, looking to sink in a heel hook. He looks like he’s synching it up as the buzzer goes! Close. 10-9 Hooper.
Second round and Barrett throws some heavy leg kicks that have a visible effect on the youngster. Hooper limping heavy and shoots for a takedown but Barrett stuffs it and stands back up immediately. Hooper dives in for an imanari roll and the two battle for position before eventually getting back to the feet. Barrett lands some nice punches and takes the round. 19-19.
Third round now and Hooper switches to southpaw and keeps throwing kicks and strikes to avoid more damage to his leg. Hooper dives in with another imanari roll and this time Barrett is in danger. Hooper throws some strikes to the head, which Barrett keeps headbutting to avoid losing his two-on-one grip. Hooper manages to break the grip, switches the heel hook to the opposite side and torques it beautifully for the submission win. Beautifully done and a great win.
Tecia Torres def Sam Hughes via Knockout (Doctor stoppage), Round 1 (5:00)
A quick start to this fight by Torres who uses her experience early on and is landing some big shots despite the reach disadvantage. Torres lands a big flurry and backs Hughes up against the cage and she looks hurt, but Hughes clinches up to protect herself. Torres gets out of it and starts landing more big shots, causing Hughes’ nose to bleed. Big superman punch lands and she’s throwing combos, while slipping out of the way of Hughes’ attacks. Dominant opening round from the veteran.
The doctor waves the fight off between rounds as Sam Hughes says she cannot see out of her left eye. Hugely impressive win for Torres.
Gavin Tucker def Billy Quarantillo via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Fast pace to start the round as Tucker comes out and lands some big straight shots early. Nice body kick lands too but Quarantillo lands a looping right hand followed by a body kick that looks like it may have hurt Tucker. Clinch against the cage and both men battle for position before they separate. Tucker landing jabs and then a big head kick! Straight right hand again and it forces Quarantillo to shoot for a takedown which Tucker defends well against the cage, before getting a trip of his own and ending the round on top. 10-9 Tucker.
Second round and Tucker’s body work is starting to take over in this fight. Lots of jabs landing with ease and the straight line shots are landing while Quarantillo is looping shots and missing. Every time they clinch together, Tucker is landing big knees to the body and it’s slowing Quarantillo down. Clinch against the cage now and Tucker manages to hold him down before landing a trip as they get back up. Tucker transitions onto his back and looks for a choke but Quarantillo reverses the position and gets back to his feet. More strikes on the feet from both guys as the round ends. Another Tucker round for me. 20-18.
Tucker comes out aggressively once again, stick and moving with punches and securing takedowns again. Tucker looks to get onto his back for a choke but Quarantillo defends it well and eventually gets back to the feet. More strikes from Tucker as he just is dominating this round. Quarantillo looking to get wild and lands a big knee but once again Tucker gets the takedown. He dominates the round, and the fight in total, for a big win.
Rafael Fiziev def Renato Moicano via Knockout, Round 1 (4:05)
A tactical start to this fight as both men start the feeling out process with feints before Fiziev lands a hard leg kick. Some nice body kicks from Fiziev land too but Moicano fires back with a straight right hand and some head kicks too. Moicano lands a big overhand right hand that lands flush and then shoots for a takedown but Fiziev stuffs it well then comes forward with a right hand of his own. Fiziev throws a big left hook to the body, followed by a right hand flush to the jaw and a left hand that drops Moicano stiff!! He jumps on him for the ground and pound but the referee jumps in (maybe a bit early!?) but a hugely impressive win for Fiziev.
Cub Swanson def Daniel Pineda via Knockout, Round 2 (1:52)
A fun start to the fight as Swanson moves forward to start throwing straight right hands down the pipe. Pineda responds with a few of his own and a big leg kick. The leg kicks keep coming and Swanson’s leg gives out under him. Pineda looks for a submission but Swanson defends well. They get back to the feet and Swanson begins landing more and more power punches, Pineda is hurt! Swanson looking to finish it but he’s taking his time with it and eventually the round ends with Pineda still hurt. 10-9 Swanson.
Swanson comes out in the second round in a very karate-based style to protect that left leg and Pineda still looks a bit woozy. Swanson starts throwing combinations with speed and avoiding the wild swings of Pineda. Swanson lands an uppercut, left hook, uppercut, left hook, right cross combination that puts Pineda out!! What a knockout! What a performance from Cub Swanson.
Ciryl Gane def Junior Dos Santos via Knockout, Round 2 (2:34)
A feeling out process opens this fight up as Gane takes the centre and fires in some leg kicks while Dos Santos looks to jab to the body. Gane using his kicks to keep Dos Santos away at range, mixing up the speed of the kicks to rest JDS’ reaction time and blocks. A low blow from Gane lands accidentally and causes a brief pause in the action but Gane is bouncing around the octagon and landing from range, while avoiding Dos Santos’ power strikes. Big, wild swings from Dos Santos graze Gane to end the round, but it’s the Frenchman who takes this round. 10-9.
Second round is more of the same as Gane continues to throw these leg kicks from range while Dos Santos is throwing wild hooks. JDS is struggling to close the distance and Gane looks very comfortable so far. Big leg kick hurts Dos Santos and he’s visibly hurting. Gane lands a jab that stuns Dos Santos and he follows it up with two big elbows that drop the former champion before the referee steps in to end the fight. Huge win for Gane and he remains undefeated. Super impressive.
Kevin Holland def Jacare Souza via Knockout, Round 1 (1:45)
The two men meet in the middle and Jacare shoots for a double leg straight off the bat. Holland throws up a triangle immediately and rains down elbows that hurt Jacare! They scramble back up to the feet and Jacare looks for another takedown but Holland defends brilliantly. He ends up on his back but is still throwing big shots off his back. He throws an elbow that stuns Jacare, creates space with his legs and lands two vicious right hooks that rock Jacare and then he stands up and pummels him until the referee steps in. What an incredible win. What a knockout!
Mackenzie Dern def Virna Jandiroba via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast paced start to this fight as the two ladies seem keen to keep this one standing, knowing their opponent excels on the ground. Dern throwing big hooks and flurries with speed to force Jandiroba backwards, but nothing significant landing just yet. Big overhand right from Jandiroba cracks Dern square above the eye but Dern eats it. Dern goes for a takedown finally but Janidroba defends it well against the cage to keep the bout standing. Nice on two lands for Jandiroba before they meet and clinch as the buzzer goes. That round could go either way, but I give it to Dern for coming forward more. 10-9.
Quick pace to the second round too as Dern’s speed continues to see her land some nice strikes. Dern starting to loop her strikes and Jandiroba is reading them well and countering with shots of her own. Jandiroba countering with nice knees to the body and a straight right before Dern lands an accidental eye poke that causes a pause in the action. Following the pause both women come out very aggressive and Dern looks for a takedown but eats a big knee that breaks her nose and causes a lot of blood. Jandiroba gets the takedown and blood is flowing into the eyes but both women battling for position. Dern looks to roll through into a leg lock but the buzzer goes. 19-19 going into the third. What a fight.
Third round and it’s more of the same as both women know it’s pretty even now. Jandiroba lands some clean right hands and Dern giving it back too! Jandiroba pushes forward with the jab but Dern returns it with a big one-two that rocks Jandiroba. She shoots for a takedown against the cage but Jandiroba stuffs it and looks to work some more damage. Clinch against the cage as we enter the final 30 seconds and Jandiroba pulls guard (?!) looking for a submission but Dern is alert, stays on top and ends the round landing ground and pound. Super close fight, I lean towards Jandiroba but could go either way.
Charles Oliveira def Tony Ferguson via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x3)
Quick start to the round as Oliveira comes forward looking to land straight punches and then lands a heavy leg kick. Ferguson spins and lands some nice punches himself before they clinch together against the cage. Oliveira immediately lifts Ferguson and slams him down to the mat then controls Ferguson on the ground for the remainder of the round. He locks in a deep armbar with seconds to go but Ferguson completely refuses to tap and the buzzer goes. Wow. 10-8 Oliveira.
Second round starts and Ferguson can’t move his left arm at all. Oliveira throws a few kicks to the body to test it, gets no reaction and then takes the fight back down to the ground. Ferguson throws some elbows off his back and cuts Oliveira above the eye but then lands an up-kick to a downed opponent, causing a pause in the action. Upon the restart, Oliveira is able to stack Ferguson against the cage and is just dominating him on the ground for the entire round. 20-17 Oliveira.
Oliveira comes out in the third and throws an uppercut and pops his jab. Ferguson goes for a big hook but Oliveira goes for the takedown and once again lifts and slams him down. Immediately passes into full mount and starts moving Ferguson wherever he likes. Total domination from Oliveira as he transitions into a triangle attempt, then moves off into top control again. He ends the round on top once again, but that was absolute domination from start to finish. 30-25 for me.
Aggressive start from the champion as he opens with a spinning back kick to the body before a clinch attempt from Moreno ends up with a scramble on the ground. Figueiredo manages to get back up to the feet and lands a couple of stiff jabs, but Moreno returns with a few of his own. Head kick lands from Moreno but then Figueiredo lands one back. A very fun round, but the champ edges it. 10-9.
Second round and the pace is still so quick. Moreno lands a nice overhand right before the champ lands a spinning back kick to the body once again. Nice leg kick from Figueiredo before both men end up in a scramble on the mat again. As the champ looks to push off he accidentally lands a finger in the eye and the action is paused. Fight is restarted on the ground and Figueiredo gets back to the feet with both guys throwing bombs! Figueiredo lands a big combo to the body and head and hurts Moreno! The Mexican is in clear pain with his eye swelling but he lands a takedown to end the round. 20-18 Figueiredo but it’s close.
Third round and Figueiredo is swinging haymakers but Moreno is game and very much in this! Figueiredo lands a nasty body shot combo with a left hook but Moreno is still there and fires back with a head kick and left hook of his own. Figueiredo is throwing huge, wild hooks and missing big. He throws a front kick that lands flush on the cup and Moreno is hurt bad. The referee takes a point off Figueiredo and the two fighters push forward again. Figueiredo goes for a takedown but Moreno gets back to the feet and lands a big right hook before the buzzer to take the round. With the deduction that makes it 28-28 on my card.
Into the championship rounds and Brandon Moreno is flying! Big strikes from Moreno as he lands hooks, jabs and kicks before Figueiredo looks for a takedown. Moreno reverses the position and ends up on top against the cage. Figueiredo gets back to his feet and both men start throwing bombs and they’re both wobbling! Figueiredo looks dazed and Moreno is landing first when they exchange but the champ is still standing and banging. Big left jab from Moreno lands but then Figueiredo returns fire with two big hooks and a body shot that force Moreno to shoot for the takedown! Moreno lands on top but Figueiredo gets back up to his feet and Moreno lands three big shots to end the round. 38-37 Moreno going into the final round for me.
Final round and Figueiredo throws three beautiful body kicks and follows it up with some big punches. The commentary team point out that Moreno may have broken his left forearm at some point blocking kicks in this round. Moreno isn’t throwing much because of it, but Figueiredo landing good shots. Big right hand from Figueiredo snaps the head back but Moreno still coming forward. Clinch against the cage inside the final minute, Figueiredo switches the position and ends up putting Moreno on the ground landing ground and pound to end the fight. 47-47 for me, I’ve got it as a draw. What a fight.