We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims here.
Sergey Morozov (18-5) vs Journey Newson (10-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun scrap to open the card in the bantamweight division. Morozov is 2-2 in his last four, losing to Usman Nurmagomedov (UFC Fight Island 8) and Douglas Silva De Andrade (UFC 271) while beating Khalid Taha and Raulian Paiva most recently. Newson on the other hand was KO’d by Randy Costa at UFC Vegas 11, before taking over a year off and returning with a win over Fernando Garcia most recently.
Morozov is a solid all-rounder, with excellent striking technique and solid wrestling to go with his excellent top game with vicious ground and pound skills. Newson is on his way to becoming an all-rounder, but he’s not quite there yet although his Brazilian jiu-jitsu is very useful for him. With that said though, Morozov just seems to be better everywhere this fight goes.
He’s the better, more powerful and more aggressive striker, and his top game is far better than Newson’s bottom game is when it comes to ground-and-pound vs jiu-jitsu. I don’t see a finish because Newson is no pushover, but Morozov has the skills to win the close exchanges and take over more as the fight goes on to claim a decision on the cards. PICK – Sergey Morozov via Decision
David Dvorak (20-4) vs Manel Kape (17-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Banger at flyweight next. Dvorak saw his 16-fight win streak snapped last time out when Matheus Nicolau earned a decision over him in his last bout. Kape alternatively has won his last two in a row, KO’ing both Ode Osbourne (UFC 265) and Zhalgas Zhumagulov (UFC Vegas 44).
Dvorak is a brilliant boxer with good footwork and a lovely jab, while his defensive grappling is also excellent to keep fights standing. His biggest weakness is that he can be a slow starter. Kape on the other hand is an explosive striker with great counter-striking and good defensive wrestling too. His biggest weakness is that he tends to wait a lot to counter attack, and that lack of volume cost him in his opening two UFC fights.
That slow start for Dvorak could be a huge issue, because Kape likes to come out of the blocks quickly with his big strikes looking for a finish and he has excellent knockout power. Dvorak can get hit and hurt, but if he gets past that stage then it will be an excellent striking match. I’ll lean with Kape because it’s highly unlikely he loses the first round if he fights properly, and that’s an obvious advantage. PICK – Manel Kape via Decision
Bryan Battle (8-1) vs Rinat Fakhretdinov (19-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very interesting welterweight bout up next. Battle is on a seven-fight win streak including winning the latest series of TUF, beating Gilbert Urbina in the finale, then beating Tresean Gore and KO’ing Takashi Sato most recently via head-kick. Fakhretdinov steps in on just two-weeks’ notice on an 18-fight win streak, who won his UFC debut last time out back in June.
Battle is a really good fighter with a bit of everything in his wheelhouse, with some solid wrestling and great submission skills as well as explosive striking when he needs it and unlimited cardio. “Gladiator” is likely to try and wrestle his way to victory here, but he has got crazy power too and often relies heavily on landing one big shot.
But with Battle’s style of moving constantly and being strong everywhere, it’s hard to see how he loses this one. There is always the chance that Fakhretdinov wrestles his way to a win, but he really lacks urgency to be busy and against Battle that is a recipe for disaster. PICK – Bryan Battle via Decision
Rafa Garcia (14-3) vs Maheshate (9-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight banger up next between two prospects in the weight class. Garcia saw his two-fight win streak snapped last time out when he lost to Drakkar Klose at UFC 277, while Maheshate is on a seven-fight win streak with a first-round KO in his UFC debut against Steve Garcia most recently at UFC 275.
Garcia is a very good wrestler, who has got five round experience and fantastic cardio to be able to wrestle all night long. Maheshate is a striker, with a piston-like right hand that has the power and ability to put people out if he lands clean. Garcia is a very aggressive fighter which can leave opportunities for Maheshate to land counters, but this is a big step up in competition.
“Gifted” is likely to make this an ugly fight, because if it’s clean and technical then he is in Maheshate’s world. Garcia is likely to push him against the cage, constantly work for takedowns and use lots of dirty boxing and clinches. He’ durable and has great cardio to be relentless for 15 minutes, and I expect Garcia to put an end to the hype relatively comfortably in a fun fight. PICK – Rafa Garcia via Decision
The UFC heads to Singapore for only the fifth time ever for UFC 275 this weekend as we’re treated to two huge title fights in the main events.
Glover Teixeira will defend the light heavyweight title for the first time when he takes on Jiri Prochazka in the headline fight, while Valentina Shevchenko will defend her flyweight title for the seventh time against first-time challenger Taila Santos.
We’ll also see the hotly anticipated rematch between Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk as well as the likes of Manel Kape, Brendan Allen and Andre Fialho competing too.
We come into this card after a small break from picks. We sit at 634/987 (64.24%) with 272 perfect picks (42.9%) and you can see our total picks list here.
Jack Della Maddalena (11-2) vs Ramazan Emeev (20-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A really, really fun 170-pound scrap to open up this main card. Maddalena lost his first two professional fights but has gone unbeaten ever since, KO’ing Pete Rodriguez in his UFC debut at UFC 270 earlier this year. Emeev on the other hand is a decision machine, but was on the wrong end of a split decision against Danny Roberts last time out back in October.
Maddalena is a striking expert with a switch stance that allows him to throw power from both sides and with his hands and kicks. Emeev on the hand is a typical Dagestani fighter, with wrestling primarily and a strength that means he can hold people down and bore them into defeat. It’s a complete clash of styles and fans will be hopeful that Maddalena wins, because it means excitement.
Emeev will undoubtedly look for takedowns and use his heavy top pressure to keep the fight there for as long as possible, but he does very little damage while in that position. Maddalena will want to land heavy while standing but will know he’s still in the fight so long as the clock is ticking. Emeev’s takedown entries get worse as the fight wears on and by the time the third comes around he’s shattered, and Maddalena is the type to be able to punish him with just one opportunity. PICK – Jack Della Maddalena via Knockout, Round 3
Rogerio Bontorin (16-4) vs Manel Kape (17-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Very exciting flyweight bout on the main card heading towards the top of the rankings. Bontorin has lost three of his last four, with one no contest in the middle of that, to be winless since way back in 2019. Kape suffered defeat in his first two UFC fights due to a lack of volume, but earned a highlight reel KO over Ode Osbourne at UFC 265 before a brilliant KO over Zhalgas Zhumagulov most recently at UFC Vegas 44.
Bontorin is a well-rounded fighter who has solid striking and great wrestling to use his solid submission game which has earned him 11 wins via tap out throughout his career. Kape on the other hand is an explosive striker who uses low kicks and movement before exploding with blitzes of strikes to hurt his opponents. His wrestling defence hasn’t been great in the UFC but in a fight that could be chaotic, it could really suit him.
Kape will want to get into exchanges to use his amazing hand speed and land first, but Bontorin will be aware of that and will look to get in close and grapple. Kape is a great scrambler though and their recent fights show Kape is adjusting well while Bontorin is struggling. Expect a close fight, but Kape to land the more eye-catching shots to earn the decision. PICK – Manel Kape via Decision
Andre Fialho (16-4) vs Jake Matthews (17-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute banger at welterweight in this one. Fialho appears on his third card in three months after KO wins over Miguel Baeza and then Cameron VanCamp, while Matthews makes his first appearance in 15 months after suffering defeat to Sean Brady at UFC 259 in his most recent bout.
Fialho is a terrific boxer who uses great power and positioning to outstrike opponents and while he has good grappling defence, he tends to try and keep fights standing. Matthews on the other hand looks to take his opponents down and implement his fearsome top game with relentless pressure and good wrestling. This one boils down to who wins the battle of where the fight will take place, and usually I’d back the wrestler.
But the Portuguese fighter showed against Stefan Sekulic that he is more than capable of defending himself in those positions and he has a nasty set of hooks that could catch Matthews out if he drops his hands for a takedown. Momentum is a big thing in fighting, so I’m leaning towards the power of Fialho to claim the win. PICK – Andre Fialho via Knockout, Round 2
Zhang Weili (21-3) vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
The greatest fight in women’s MMA history gets a rematch. Zhang Weili earned a win over Jedrzejczyk in their first bout back at UFC 248, but suffered back-to-back defeats to Rose Namajunas at UFC 261 and UFC 268 most recently while Joanna hasn’t fought since their first fight.
Weili is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with tremendous power in her hands, great speed and some great wrestling too to be able to mix it up. Jedrzejczyk on the other hand is one of the finest kickboxers in WMMA history who has got very good wrestling defence too. The first fight was splitting hairs to decide a winner but I don’t expect this second bout to be as close.
Jedrzejczyk has been away for over two years enjoying the fruits of her labour, while Weili has been learning from defeats and getting better. She has the hands and striking to be able to stand with Joanna if needs be, but I expect her to be more wrestling heavy this time around and even get a finish to earn the next title shot. PICK – Weili Zhang via Knockout, Round 2
Valentina Shevchenko (22-3) vs Taila Santos (19-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
‘Bullet’ Valentina wants to make a statement but there is a Brazilian who wants to spoil the party. Shevchenko is on an eight-fight win streak and looking to defend her title for the 7th time, after a KO win over Lauren Murphy at UFC 266 most recently. Santos lost her UFC debut but has won her last four in a row, picking up a dominant submission win over Joanne Wood last time out.
Shevchenko may be the most complete MMA fighter in the world, male or female, with amazing grappling combined with next level striking skills and knockout power. Santos however has shown a tremendously complete game herself with vicious knockout power, good wrestling skills and some jiu-jitsu also. Stylistically these two are very similar, but from what we’ve seen of them both Shevchenko is simply a level or two above everyone in her weight class.
Santos has made it clear that she plans to grapple her way to victory and Jennifer Maia showed there is a path there, but this is a huge step up in competition. Shevchenko tends to dictate the tempo of fights and as good as I believe Santos is, it’s nigh on impossible to pick against Shevchenko. I think it’ll be tougher than some of her more recent defences though, and I think it goes the distance. PICK – Valentina Shevchenko via Decision
Glover Teixeira (33-7) vs Jiri Prochazka (28-3-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Light heavyweight needs a big boost and this title fight could be exactly what the division needs as the championship is on the line. Teixeira is on a six-fight win streak and fights for the first time since submitting Jan Blachowicz to win the belt at UFC 267, while Prochazka makes his third UFC appearance after separating both Volkan Oezdemir (UFC 251) and Dominick Reyes (UFC Vegas 25) from their consciousness in his first two.
The champ is a brilliant boxer who uses great combinations to open up the chance for takedowns, where he can use his incredible jiu-jitsu skills and dominate the fight on the ground. Prochazka on the other hand is a violent striker who is every bit a sibling of the Terminator, walking through shots to inflict damage and having crazy show-stopping power. He has notoriously struggled against takedown artists in his career though, and that could be a problem.
However, despite that, Teixeira is 42-years-old and a lot of his most recent wins have come after being hurt by heavy-handed punchers. Prochazka will know that every fight starts standing and will force Teixeira backwards to try and shunt any takedown threat. If he gets taken down it will be a huge problem, but I expect him to slump the champ before that happens and claim a violent finish to become champion. PICK – Jiri Prochazka via Knockout, Round 2
Vince Morales def Louis Smolka via Knockout, Round 1 (2:02)
Good early start from both guys as Smolka lands a low kick or two while Morales lands a few jabs cleanly and then goes to the body too. Smolka trying to push the pace and step forward, but Morales evading relatively easily and landing some nice strikes of his own. Smolka goes to clinch with a knee and as they separate Morales lands a huge right hand that puts Smolka out cold face first! He follows up with a couple but the referee stops it quickly and that’s that! What a KO!
Claudio Puelles def Chris Gruetzemacher via Submission (Kneebar), Round 3 (3:25)
Hard body kick to open up the fight for Puelles, but Gruetzemacher fires back with one of his own. Puelles shoots for a takedown and gets it, ending up on top and working from full guard. Gruetzemacher defending well from his back, taking very little damage. He throws up a lazy armbar which Puelles uses to pass guard and try to take the back, but Gruetzemacher gets his back to the cage and staying calm while fighting hands. Puelles steps over and moves into full mount and starts raining down elbows and strikes. Gruetzemacher avoiding most of the strikes and gets half guard back well and survives the round well. 10-9 Puelles.
Puelles opens up with kicks again and then goes for a couple of lazy takedowns again. Gruetzemacher denies it but rather than keeping the fight standing he tries to transition and ends up on top but not doing much offensively. Puelles throws up a triangle as a threat but Gruetzemacher defends well and eventually they get back to the feet. Puelles lands some big kicks and a nice left hand before another lazy takedown attempt that Gruetzemacher denies easily. Puelles trying to throw some hard head kicks but Gruetzemacher avoiding damage and lands some low kicks of his own. Clinch against the cage and Puelles lands some nice elbows and knees before switching levels for a takedown but it’s not a good attempt and the round ends. Probably 19-19 but could be 20-18 Puelles.
Final round and Gruetzemacher comes forward more aggressively and looks for a knee in the clinch but accidentally lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Restarted now and Gruetzemacher coming forward again with more volume. Nice body shots and a left hand before Puelles shoots and it gets sprawled. Some nice short elbows in the clinch by Gruetzemacher force another shot but he sprawls and then spins on to the back of Puelles for a few strikes before they get back to the feet. Gruetzemacher gets a nice foot sweep to be on top but Puelles goes for a leg and tries for a heel hook but Gruetzemacher defends it and ends up on the back. Nice ground and pound but Puelles rolls for the leg again and extends a straight kneebar to get the tap! Big win for Puelles!
William Knight def Alonzo Menifield via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Knight comes out quickly and goes straight for a takedown attempt but Menifield is able to sweep him as he hits the ground and ends up in side control. Knight manages to slip out around the back and tries to get into mount quickly before moving to the back and looking to lock in a rear-naked choke. Menifield defends it well and explodes back to the feet himself before they clinch up against the fence. Knight holding on to the neck of Menifield to stay standing, but Menifield doing well to stay out of a guillotine and force Knight to continue defending. Menifield throws a right hand but Knight counters with a big left hook that drops him! He goes for the finish but the buzzer goes and he survives. 10-9 Knight. Great round.
Menifield opens with a low kick and then a big strike that sends Knight backwards and literally running away from Menifield. Menifield lands a big right hand flush that wobbles Knight, but he stays patient then throws a low kick. Nice left hook from Menifield again and Knight looks very hesitant to throw now. Knight throwing wild strikes but missing hugely and Menifield staying calm and just looking to pick Knight off a little bit now. Left hand landing well for Menifield again and Knight doesn’t really have an answer for it. Knight explodes with the right hand with 15 seconds to go and starts going wild again but doesn’t land flush and the round ends. Definitely a Menifield round. 19-19.
Both guys look more hesitant in this round as they clinch up and Menifield pushes Knight to the cage. Menifield holding Knight against the cage and not much happening as we hit the halfway point of the round. 90 seconds left and it’s just more of the same position for this round. Separation as we get into the final minute and Knight goes for a flying knee. Some wild head kicks miss and Menifield stays on the outside for the rest of the round to likely earn a victory.
Cheyanne Vlismas def Mallory Martin via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Fast start to the fight from both women as Martin takes the centre and they start throwing hands. Some beautiful combos from Vlismas land but Martin is trading back and landing some shots of her own. Vlismas defending against Martin’s strikes well and landing some excellent counter strikes from the outside. Martin in the centre and start to fake some strikes but Vlismas reading well and countering. Martin lands a beautiful short left hook and Vlismas clinches up to throw some short uppercuts and dirty boxing before stepping out of the way again. Lovely right hand lands again as the rounds closes out. 10-9 Vlismas.
Fast start again from Vlismas as she steps forward with fast combinations again and excellent lateral movement. Martin standing in the centre again but she’s being more hesitant to throw now. Nice right hand, left high kick combo from Vlismas lands sbut Martin continues to come forward and then lands a nice body shot. Vlismas lands a beautiful counter right hand. Martin clinches and starts looking to wrestle a bit, but Vlismas defends it well and keeps it standing for now. Nice knees from both ladies landing but Martin is getting the better of the exchanges. They separate and both land a right hand simultaneously before going back to the pattern of the fight. 20-18 Vlismas.
Martin moves for a takedown early on in the final round but Vlismas defends it brilliantly against the cage again before separating. Beautiful one two lands from Vlismas and Martin goes for another takedown but Vlismas defends it well again. Martin lands some knees in the clinch but Vlismas is able to separate and comes forward with some more clean strikes of her own. Big right hand lands from Vlismas in the exchange and Martin steps back slightly before changing levels and going for a takedown again, but Vlismas keeps her balance and keeps it standing again. Both women landing their jabs together but then Vlismas lands a couple of extra shots that she adds to the end of it. Vlismas’ striking has just been a level ahead and she ends the fight stepping forward with big combinations! Great fight! 30-27 Vlismas for me.
Bryan Barbarena def Darian Weeks via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Weeks coming out of the gate confidently throwing lots of kicks but nothing really landing. Barbarena launches forward and Weeks changes levels with a body lock and then secures a takedown, but Barbarena gets back to his feet quickly. Weeks looking very comfortable and throwing plenty of strikes, but Barbarena lands a big inside low kick and gets a big reaction. He throws a few more quickly after and Weeks is limping now, but fighting through it. Change of levels from Weeks as he gets it against the cage, but Barbarena reverses the position and starts chopping at the leg again. Weeks having problems with his leg but still stepping forward. Barbarena staying patient and lands a nice left hand before another heavy low kick to end the round. 10-9 Barbarena.
Weeks comes out early and secures a takedown immediately but Barbarena defends well from his back before eventually getting back to his feet. Weeks continuing to be aggressive but Barbarena using his experience well to stem the tide. Weeks throwing some wild hooks and Barbarena throwing some tired ones of his own and both are landing, but nothing doing too much damage yet it seems. Barbarena lands another hard low kick and starts to go to the body as the round ends. That’s anybody’s round but I lean towards Barbarena again. 20-18.
Barbarena turning the pace up in the final round, coming forward and throwing combinations but Weeks gets another body lock and pushes him against the cage. Nice knee from Barbarena and they trade big hooks before going back into the clinch. Barbarena throws a high kick and slips but he gets back up quickly. Weeks is tired now and Barbarena is coming forward, landing some big hooks to the body and then a left hand to the chin. Weeks lands a couple of hooks of his own but Barbarena eating them and coming forward again with the body shots. Hard low kicks again from Barbarena but Weeks is digging in and landing some big hooks of his own. A few hard strikes land well but Barbarena takes them and fires back with his own. He’s really taken over in this round and is continuing to pour the pressure on in the final minute. Weeks changes levels under a hook and secures a big takedown in the final seconds but Barbarena jumps up and lands a big strike that wobbles Weeks! He moves forward with big swinging strikes that miss as the buzzer goes! Great fight. 30-27 for me but could be 29-28 too with round two being close.
Manel Kape def Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Knockout, Round 1 (4:02)
Super fast start to this one as Kape opens with a flying knee attempt before both men trade combinations. Zhumagulov throwing hard leg kicks and hard right overhands and connecting with some, but Kape moving well and landing a few counters of his own. Zhumagulov lands a big right that sends Kape stumbling backwards, but he responds with a nice right hand too. Zhumagulov coming forward hard and fast and pushing the pace but Kape is moving well and countering effectively too. Kape lands a nice body shot and a knee and he starts picking his shots. Hard one-two lands and drops Zhumagulov! Kape steps forward and looking for the finish but staying calm, then lands a huge string of punches that puts Zhumagulov down covering up and the referee steps in! What a knockout! What a performance!
Dusko Todorovic def Maki Pitolo via Knockout, Round 1 (4:34)
Lively start from both guys looking to step in and land first with their jabs and some low kicks. Pitolo lands a low kick and then a big right hand lands flush. Another low kick gets a reaction from Todorovic but he changes levels and shoots in for a takedown. Pitolo latches on to the neck and goes for a guillotine but Todorovic stays calm, rides it out and eventually secures top position as he starts to look for ground and pound. Todorovic dominating on the ground and trying to move to a crucifix position while landing big strikes and then he moves into full mount. Todorovic flattens Pitolo out and starts raining down heavy ground and pound until the referee waves it off! Hugely impressive win.
Alex Morono def Micky Gall via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Slow start from both guys as Morono takes the centre and tries to feel his way into range before firing a strong right hand to the chin of Gall. Hard low kick from Gall lands but both fighters being very patient and not throwing much early on. Morono lands a nice right hand and then eats a body kick, before firing in another nice one-two that lands on Gall. Lots of feinting and patience and then Morono lands a jab that sits Gall down! Morono goes for the finish but Gall manages to tie him up on the ground by going for a leg lock and recovers enough to get back to his feet at the end of the round. 10-9 Morono.
Gall comes out for the second round with a jab to the body before a nice right hand lands. Morono comes back with a powerful hook himself and then he steps in with a left hook that lands well too. Gall charges forward and lands two big hooks and Morono just misses with a check-left hook counter. Gall continues to come forward with hooks and a jab and he’s fighting very well from range right now. Lovely right hook counter from Morono just clips Gall before he misses with another in the next attack. Gall trying to use his size to be first, but Morono using his technique to match him or even beat him to it. Gall changes levels and shoots for a takedown but Morono sprawls to deny it and ends the round landing a hard left hook. 20-18 Morono.
Big overhand right lands from Morono on Gall, who fires back with a body kick that just misses. Another nice right hand from Morono connects but Gall replies again with a nice double jab followed by a low kick. Morono staying out of range but stepping in quickly when he wants to throw his strikes. Gall misses with a big right hand as we enter the final two minutes. Hard right hand from Morono before both guys trade wild swings in the final minute. Spinning back fist from Morono lands and Gall starting to come forward with his hands down. Both guys swing wildly as the buzzer goes, should be comfortable for Morono.
Chris Curtis def Brendan Allen via Knockout, Round 2 (1:58)
Fast start from Allen as he comes out with a few strong strikes that just miss before a big takedown attempt sees him pick Curtis up and slam him down, before taking the back. Curtis defends well and they separate quickly though. Curtis lands a nice four-punch combo to the head of Allen but he eats it and comes back with a nice knee. Allen goes for a head kick before Curtis returns with some big strikes again. Hard body kick from Allen before they trade low kicks together. Lead elbow from Allen lands before Curtis lands a nice right hook counter and then goes to the body himself. Head kick from Curtis just misses but he follows it up with a nice one-two. Allen goes for a takedown and then transitions for a leg lock but Curtis defends it well and ends up on top to end the round. Close round, 10-9 Allen for me but only just.
Hard low kick early from Allen drops Curtis to one knee before another hard low kick lands. Both guys trade in the pocket and Allen just misses with a knee. Allen lands a hard body kick but Curtis replies with a nice one-two down the pipe. Both guys trade big right hooks and Allen is wobbled!! Curtis going for the finish and lands a strong knee and Allen goes down again and the referee waves it off! Amazing! What a KO!
Slow start to this one as Santos looks to keep his distance and use his powerful strikes from range. Santos lands a powerful body kick and Guida drops in pain! Santos goes for the kill with huge ground and pound strikes to the head and body but Guida is surviving currently. Santos blasting him with big strikes and the referee is looking closely but Guida is holding a leg and surviving! Guida gets up and manages to create separation and Santos is exhausted! Guida goes on the offensive for the final minute with his crazy pressure and wrestling! What a round! 10-9 Santos.
Guida comes out super aggressive and lands a big left hook then goes for a takedown again. He gets the fight down to the ground quickly and starts blasting knees to the body of Santos who is completely out of it through exhaustion. Guida goes for the neck, takes the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke and forces Santos to tap! Incredible! What a comeback.
Jamahal Hill def Jimmy Crute via Knockout, Round 1 (0:48)
Crute comes out hard with some heavy leg kicks and high kicks but Hill stepping out and avoiding too much damage. Hill fires a hard right hand down the pipe and drops Crute who immediately shoots for a takedown out of instinct. Hill gets some separation and counters with another solid right hook to the chin that puts Crute down and out! One more strike on the ground before the referee gets there and that’s that! Unbelievable from Jamahal Hill! Wow!
Rafael Fiziev def Brad Riddell via Knockout, Round 3 (2:20)
Tactical start to this one from both guys as they throw out some feelers for each other. Fiziev looks to land one of his trademark head kicks but just misses, before both guys trade hooks. Big exchange of counter strikes from Fiziev in particular as he rips the body with his lead leg. Riddell just misses with a right hand and then slips a kick from Fiziev. Riddell goes for a jab to the body and overhand right but just misses as Fiziev takes the centre and pushes him back against the cage with pressure. Both guys land a big right hook each before Fiziev fires a hard low kick at the end of it. Hard body kicks again from Fiziev before Riddell ends the round with a beautiful combination that sees two strikes land on the chin. Good round, 10-9 Fiziev.
Hard low kick from Riddell opens the round up. Riddell throwing his jab out before committing to combinations, but Fiziev lands a nice right hand counter too. Fiziev lands a jab followed with a step-in elbow that cuts Riddell badly over the eye. Nice left hand from Riddell lands though and then Fiziev lands with a short left hook. Both guys fire the same combination that ends with a left hook at the same time and both land too. Lovely right hook lands from Fiziev and then he goes for a knee but Riddell ties him up in a clinch before they separate. Back to the body kick from Fiziev and that’s the round. 20-18 Fiziev for me but could be 19-19.
Fiziev goes for a low leg kick but Riddell catches it and shoots for a takedown and briefly gets it, but Fiziev pops up to his feet quickly. They clash together again and Fiziev lands a hard right hand in the exchange, but Riddell’s right hand landed too. Big left hook from Riddell lands after a body shot as he starts to get more aggressive in this final round. Riddell changes levels and attempts a takedown but Fiziev denies it, before a big clash of strikes yet again from both guys. Riddell circles away on the outside and Fiziev throws a spinning wheel kick and catches Riddell clean in the face!! Riddell is out on his feet and Herb Dean steps in quickly before any more damage can be done!! WOW! What a KO! Amazing!
Jose Aldo def Rob Font via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x2, 49-46)
Fast start to this fight as Font comes forward and starts to use his jab immediately, following up with one-twos. Aldo lands a body kick before Font charges forward and gets a surprising takedown. Font forcing Aldo to be very defensive in the early going, landing his jab clean and following it with a right hand too. Font just misses with an uppercut but lands a glancing elbow as Aldo looks to step away. Aldo ducks under a straight right and counters with a pull right hand, but Font is putting it on him so far. Big body shot from Aldo lands and both guys trade leg kicks. Font lands his jab again and a nice right hand before Aldo rolls and blocks the follow up strike attempts. Aldo lands a one two straight down the pipe and Font goes down! Aldo goes for the finish but after a couple of shots on the ground the buzzer goes to end the round. Whew. 10-9 Font.
Font coming forward once again behind his jab with a relentless pace trying to offset Aldo’s rhythm. Nice right hand from Font lands but Aldo seems calm. Aldo lands a huge one-two again and the right hand is flush and sends Font backwards reeling, but Aldo goes for a big knee that misses and Font is able to recover. Aldo just misses with a big left uppercut and then blocks a right hook from Font. Right hand lands from Font and gets Aldo’s attention, so he fires back with another hard right hand himself. Font trying to land but he seems to be lacking in power, so Aldo returns with a big right hand again. Font goes for a takedown but Aldo denies it easily, but then eats a right hand. Huge body shot from Aldo. Round ends, what a fight. 19-19.
Aldo has returned to his old ways and lands three very hard low kicks early on that are affecting Font immediately. Nice one-two from Font and then he goes for a takedown that Aldo manages to defend and reverse to end up on top himself. Aldo into side control and lands a nice short elbow before going back into full guard. Font looking to be active from his back but Aldo doing well to control him and minimise the threat. Font gets back to his feet and looks for some combos but Aldo pushes him off. Aldo’s right eye has closed up now but he lands a hard body shot before Font comes over the top with a right hand that just misses. Hard low kick again from Aldo and it drops Font! Another hard one but Font is coming forward again and landing his jab well. Another low kick from Aldo to end the round, but he looks like he’s tiring. 29-28 Aldo.
Font comes aggressively but Aldo rolls with it and lands a huge right hand once again that drops Font! Font is wobbling badly and Aldo going for the finish but Font is scrambling and Aldo eventually settles in side control. Font trying to find a way back to his feet, but Aldo controlling him well and looking to pass. Aldo eventually passes into mount but Font quickly gets full guard back. Aldo looking to get some ground and pound off but Font is defending it well and landing some short elbows of his own off his back. Aldo continuing to control the position on the ground though as the round ends and he’ll take the round. 39-37 Aldo.
Fast start from Font as he comes out swinging hard in combinations to the body and to the head. Aldo looks hesitant and tired now but Font is coming forward much fresher. Font clinches up and Aldo is tying him up against the cage, then Font lands a big elbow. Aldo coming forward and lands a big right hand again before Font clinches again against the cage. Font throwing some strikes but Aldo fairly comfortable with where the fight is currently. Font creates space and lands a big uppercut but Aldo responds with a hard right hand and wobbles Font again! Aldo lands two more and Font goes down but Font ties up Aldo on the mat to try and recover. Aldo gets to his back and gets two hooks in and is seemingly looking for a choke, but he’s not rushing. Aldo locks in a body triangle and is looking for a rear-naked choke with 30 seconds left but Font fights out of it and survives the round to make the buzzer. What a fight. 49-46 Aldo for me.
Cheyanne Vlismas (6-2) vs Mallory Martin (7-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
The only ladies on the card step up next in the strawweight division. Vlismas (aka Buys) lost her UFC debut to Montserrat Ruiz at UFC Vegas 22 before earning a head-kick KO next time out at UFC Vegas 33. Martin on the other hand earned a win over Hannah Cifer at UFC Vegas 8 before being submitted by Polyana Vieira at UFC 258 last time out.
Vlismas is a solid striker who throws with good technique and great power, while Martin generally tends to wrestle her opponents and look to secure top control in her fights. That bodes well for Martin stylistically, but Vlismas has shown in the past that her wrestling isn’t as bad as it may have seemed on her UFC debut.
Martin has had some big problems on the feet in the past and defensively she has big flaws that Vlismas can exploit. If she is able to rediscover her wrestling defence and keep the fight standing, then she should piece up Martin on the feet for a potential stoppage win. Ultimately though, I think this goes the distance. PICK – Cheyanne Vlismas via Decision
Jake Matthews (17-5) vs Jeremiah Wells (9-2-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight between two unranked fighters in this one. Matthews saw a three-fight win streak snapped by Sean Brady back at UFC 259 last time out, while Wells secured a second-round KO win over Warlley Alves at UFC Vegas 30 in his debut last time out.
Both guys are strikers primarily, but Matthews is far more technical than the powerhouse that is Wells. The only times Matthews has looked in trouble during his UFC run has been against supreme wrestlers, and that is something Wells is not.
Wells has issues with his cardio mainly, but he does have legitimate power to end a fight early at times. Both guys are solid wrestlers in their own right too, but ultimately the technique and cardio of Matthews should see him secure a fairly comfortable decision win. PICK – Jake Matthews via Decision
Bryan Barbarena (15-8) vs Darian Weeks (5-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super short-notice welterweight bout opens the main card. Barbarena is on a 1-3 run currently with a loss to Jason Witt most recently, and he’ll take on Weeks who is 5-0 in his professional career. Weeks steps in on less than one week’s notice for Matt Brown, who tested positive for COVID-19.
Barbarena is a powerful striker with good wrestling skills and plenty of experience, fighting from southpaw with a great jab. Weeks on the other hand is a powerful right-handed striker himself, with great pressure and some decent wrestling in his back pocket too. The short-notice aspect of this fight is telling, because it could well come down to conditioning in the latter rounds.
Barbarena is capable of fighting on the outside but if Weeks is able to time the takedown attempts when Barbarena throws his one-two, then he could secure some control and manage his gas tank. Ultimately though, I think the experience of Barbarena and the fact it’s on short notice means he will be able to earn a close decision win. PICK – Bryan Barbarena via Decision
Manel Kape (16-6) vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An intriguing flyweight bout between two ranked stars looking to move towards the top of the division. Kape lost his first two UFC bouts where a lack of volume cost him on the scorecards, but he secured a highlight reel flying knee KO of Ode Osbourne last time out at UFC 265. Zhumagulov suffered defeats in his first two UFC bouts too, before earning a submission win at UFC 264 over Jerome Rivera last time out.
The former RIZIN champ has got brilliant striking techniques and legitimate knockout power for the weight class, but volume has been a big problem for him and has cost him in the past. He has decent wrestling too but it’s his flurries on the feet that are where he’s at his best. Zhumagulov is a relentless pressure fighter with good wrestling and eyecatching flurries that could catch Kape out if he is a deer in the headlights once again.
If Kape is flying though, then he should win this bout. He is the better striker, with more power and more routes to win the fight on the feet and with a reach advantage too he should be able to stay on the outside and secure a victory with a counter-strike knockout. PICK – Manel Kape via Knockout, Round 1
Maki Pitolo (13-8) vs Dusko Todorovic (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A middleweight clash is the featured prelim bout for this card. Pitolo has lost his last three in a row with a submission loss against Julian Marquez at UFC 258 last time out, while Todorovic has suffered the only defeats in his career in his last two fights with a decision loss against Gregory Rodrigues at UFC Vegas 28 in his last outing.
Pitolo is a decent boxer who has really let himself down with his showings so far in the UFC, while Todorovic is a bit of an all-rounder with no stand-out skills. This fight is in a weird spot on the card, because it shouldn’t be the featured prelim. But with that said, the match up is interesting. If he’s firing, Pitolo is more than capable of using his boxing skills to light Todorovic up who tends to block punches with his head.
The issue is that he almost never uses his skills, often trying to stop his opponent from dominating rather than trying to dominate himself. Todorovic is able to step forward and use his kickboxing, but also hold Pitolo against the cage in clinch situations and likely will secure a victory using that tactic. PICK – Dusko Todorovic via Decision
Johnny Munoz def Jamey Simmons via Submission (Rear naked choke), Round 2 (2:35)
Cagey start from both men to start out, with neither man looking to grapple early on. Simmons swings a big overhand right that Munoz ducks and goes for a takedown but Simmons avoids easily. Munoz flicking out the jab to keep the distance while Simmons has him against the cage and looks for some more power strikes. Munoz pushing forward with the jab and gets clipped by a left hand by Simmons that causes him to lose balance, but he’s not hurt and gets back to his feet immediately. Short blitz from Munoz and he just misses with a head kick as we enter the final minute of the fight. Simmons lands a nice one-two and then Munoz ducks under and lands a big takedown late in the round. Simmons battles well off his back and the round ends. Super close, I’d go 10-9 Munoz for the takedown but could really go either way.
More of the same to start the second round as Simmons comes out looking to blitz through some jabs, before Munoz ducks under and times a takedown perfectly. Munoz starts working for position and as soon as Simmons goes to his knees Munoz takes his back and puts the hooks in. He starts landing some ground and pound and looks for the rear-naked choke but Simmons fights the hands and breaks the grip. He goes back to his knees but Munoz drags him back down, locks in the choke and gets the tap! Big win for Munoz!
Melissa Gatto def Victoria Leonardo via Doctor’s Stoppage (Broken Arm), Round 2 (5:00)
Good start to the bout from Gatto as she lands a quick one two and then secures a body lock against the cage. She controls the clinch and then with an inside trip gets the takedown nice and easily before starting to search for submissions. She goes for the neck, then moves to a kimura attempt and then ends up on Leonardo’s back looking for chokes and armbars. Leonardo defending well though and eventually is able to roll through and get on top to land a bit of ground and pound herself. Gatto throws up a high guard and is being very active but Leonardo is defending well, following the hips and eventually allows the fight to get back up. Both women clinch and go for an inside trip but both fail at it and the round ends. 10-9 Gatto, but Leonardo can take some encouragement from the ground exchanges.
Second round and Gatto looks a lot fresher than Leonardo, landing a nice jab and forcing Leonardo backwards. Leonardo lands two nice left hands but Gatto is still there and pushing the pace with her range, landing a one-two. Then another one-two and Leonardo looks rocked there, but she comes forward again with a low kick. Gatto continuing to push the pace and lands a nice kick. Leonardo looks tired and Gatto putting the pressure on with strikes, forces Leonardo to shoot but it’s well defended. Leonardo goes for another takedown but is denied again and is stepping backwards a lot, clearly exhausted. 20-18 Gatto for me but could be 19-19.
Between rounds Leonardo says her right arm “isn’t working”. Doctor comes in, takes a look and says that it’s broken. Leonardo says she can fight through it but the referee waves the fight off. Gatto gets the win.
Miles Johns def Anderson Dos Santos via Knockout, Round 3 (1:16)
Tactical start to the fight from both men as they look to control the range, but it’s Johns who is landing the better shots early. Santos looking for clinches but Johns lands two big left hands and then two leg kicks, the last of which drops Dos Santos. Johns landing his jab with ease, but Dos Santos fires back with a right hand. Johns landing jabs at will and another leg kick is causing big problems for Dos Santos. Straight right hand just misses from Johns and Dos Santos forces his way forward but he’s in a lot of trouble with his leg. Johns lands a couple more strikes and Dos Santos is visibly limping. 10-9 Johns, Dos Santos needs to find a solution.
Johns opens up the second round by staying just out of range and using his big right hands to use the injured leg against Dos Santos. Some huge right hands land from Johns but Dos Santos is still standing and lands a nice knee himself. Johns lands a nice body shot and follows with a hook but Dos Santos shoots for a takedown. Johns denies it and lands a huge leg kick again that drops Dos Santos. Dos Santos coming forward but his leg is jacked and Johns is being patient, to the point where Dos Santos puts his hand behind his back. Johns lands a big one two and stays out of the way of any counters but Dos Santos takes it and the round ends. 20-18 Johns.
Final round starts and it’s more of the same from both men, as Johns lands a big right hand followed by a nice combination. Wild exchange from both guys as Dos Santos keeps coming forward. Johns digs a left body shot and lands a huge right hook and puts Dos Santos out cold!! What a knockout!! Wow!!
Manel Kape def Ode Osbourne via Knockout, Round 1 (4:44)
Osbourne takes the centre early on as both men are bouncing and feeling each other out. Kape lands a nice one-two and then a jab to the body, while Osbourne is looking to counter with his big left hand. Kape throws a kick but Osbourne catches it and as Kape falls Osbourne lands a big left hand. Kape and Osbourne both looking to counter each other, and Osbourne lands two excellent left hands clean on the chin. Kape responds with a left straight of his own and steps away. Kape stepping backwards switches stances and lands a huge flying knee bang on the chin that puts Osbourne down! He follows it up with some ground and pound and the referee steps in to end it! What a knockout! Wow!
Interesting start to the fight as Penne lands some quick strikes to rattle KK early. Penne throws a kick that KK catches and Penne falls backwards, which allows KK to throw some big leg kicks while she’s down. She chooses to engage on the ground and Penne is able to sweep her and take top position. She lands some decent strikes from the top and KK fights well from the bottom and attacks a kneebar, but Penne scrambles well and eventually rolls through into an armbar. KK is looking to extend the arm and is attacking the body to free up KK’s grip but she’s battling hard. Penne finally manages to extend the arm and gets the tap! Impressive performance from the veteran!
Alonzo Menifield def Ed Herman via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Menifield comes out fast with some heavy right hands but Herman just about avoids them, before Menifield lands some nice leg kicks. Herman lands a jab, but Menifield responds with one of this own before an overhand just misses again. Herman jab again but Menifield just misses with the counter right and Herman lands a check-left hook that rattles Menifield and cuts the eye. Menifield starting to throw the jab more but Herman throwing with him, so Menifield throws a hard low kick again. Menifield lands two more big leg kicks and gets some big reactions from Herman because of it. 10-9 Menifield.
Herman comes forward very aggressive out of the gate in this round looking to land his left hand, but Menifield moving well and then lands a big right hand of his own. Herman lands a jab but then eats a hard low kick and a jab himself. Menifield loses balance and falls but explodes back up to his feet and then starts throwing bombs of his right hand. Herman is hurt but still standing and Menfield stops pushing for the finish to save himself. Herman lands a big uppercut himself but Menifield eats it. A few hard leg kicks again from Menifield and some good footwork to avoid Herman who’s hunting him right now. Another hard leg kick and Herman is limping badly and forced to switch stances. Lots of jostling in the final seconds but then Herman goes for a push kick and Menifield moves away and then smashes a hard low kick again that drops Herman on the buzzer. 20-18 Menifield.
Menifield comes out hard in the final round and Herman pulls guard immediately but eats some heavy ground and pound shots. Menifield moves to side control, lands some strikes then gets up and tells Herman to get back up too. Menifield staying very patient and lands a nice left hand against the cage, but Herman is just looking to survive right now by circling and avoiding damage. Big head kick from Menifield lands but not much action in this round so far. Big right hand from Menifield lands clean but Herman is still standing somehow. Big one-two from Menifield as he stays on the outside. Big right hand misses and Herman lands a left but Menifield lands a jab and moves away to end the fight. 30-27 Menifield.
Cagey start to this fight from both men, with Morales stepping forward but not throwing much and Rodriguez just flicking out the stiff jab well. Morales throws a decent right overhand to counter Rodriguez’s jab, but the jab lands cleaner and is doing a fair bit of damage to the nose. Morales keeping Rodriguez pinned to the cage but he’s moving well and then Rodriguez lands a nice right hand to create himself some space. Right overhand and uppercut just misses from Morales before he ducks under a Rodriguez shot and secures a body lock to try and get the takedown. Rodriguez does well to get to the cage though and then separates to stay on the feet. Short exchange and Rodriguez lands a flush right hand on the buzzer. 10-9 Rodriguez for me.
Second round starts very well for Morales as he catches a low kick from Rodriguez and throws a straight right hand down the pipe that drops him! He goes to ground but Rodriguez defends and he then steps up and allows Rodriguez back to his feet. Rodriguez lands a short left hook back on the feet and then he goes for a takedown of his own, but Morales defends mostly until Rodriguez switches to a single but then he scrambles back up to his feet. Rodriguez then sweeps him back down but Morales gets back up quickly again before being dumped down and getting back up. Morales starting to land his right hands but Rodriguez responds with a low leg kick and a right hand. Short one-two lands from Rodriguez before a left hook lands again, but Morales is still in there and doing well. 20-18 Rodriguez for me.
Cagey start to the third round once again as Morales starts to come forward a bit more aggressively, but Rodriguez landing his straight right hand well. Both men throwing at a similar volume and Rodriguez goes for a takedown but it’s denied. Morales starts chasing but Rodriguez avoiding a lot of damage with good footwork. Morales goes for the takedown but Rodriguez defends it brilliantly against the cage and then misses with a head kick. Final minute of the fight now and Morales is pushing forward throwing heavy left hands, but they’re largely missing. Rodriguez lands a big counter right hand and then Morales lands a big left as the fight comes to an end. Morales round, but 29-28 Rodriguez for me. Could go either way though.
Rafael Fiziev def Bobby Green via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Cagey start from both men as Fiziev looks to land some kicks early but Green is out of the way relatively easily. Nice right hand from Green lands as Fiziev looks to throw another body kick and two hooks. Left hand from Green misses then Fiziev charges forward with a nice combination that ends with a kick, but he mostly misses. Green is landing some slick shots but Fiziev is dangerous and busy with his kicks and then just misses with an elbow. Right hand and body kick lands from Green but Fiziev responds with a nice elbow before both men make each other miss just on the buzzer. Really tough round to score, 10-9 Green probably but really could be either way.
Second round and Fiziev lands a hard low kick and a big right hook but Green eats it. Green clinches up but eats an elbow before responding with a nice right of his own, before Fiziev steps forward with two hooks. Green catches a kick and tries to force Fiziev down but he stays standing so well and steps forward again with hooks and kicks. Green is slipping strikes perfectly but he’s eating leg and body kicks more frequently now. Both men land big body kicks but Fiziev then lands a big strike that rocks Green. Fiziev throws knees and hooks but Green eats it and pushes him away, then clinches after avoiding a head kick. Fiziev’s kicks starting to take effect but Green is still there and throwing hands back well. Both guys trade leg kicks then Fiziev lands a big elbow and cuts Green. Both guys throwing hooks and jabs and really going to war. What a round. 19-19 for me.
Fire start to the final round once again as Fiziev steps forward again and lands a big right hand that rocks Green. Green stands firm and both men start throwing down in the centre of the octagon. Fiziev throws some hard leg kicks but Green throwing one-twos down the middle again. Fiziev and Green going to war with hard hooks and feints. Green lands some big hooks and two one-twos of his own down the middle. Fiziev throwing body and leg kicks but Green is still pushing forward with big punches of his own. Green looks fresher and is landing the jabs and then catches Fiziev’s body kick attempt to land a knee to the body of his own. Huge short elbow from Fiziev and then Green lands some huge bombs with the right hand as the fight ends! What a crazy fight. 29-28 Green for me, but it’s all on that first round.
Song Yadong def Casey Kenney via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Fast start to the fight as Yadong steps forward and throws fast combinations early, while Kenney looks to close the distance and pressure Yadong. Body kick from Kenney lands but Yadong catches it. Kenney taunts Yadong by laughing at him so Yadong throws a solid body kick and Kenney responds with a hard low leg kick. Yadong throwing good combinations and kicks, not allowing Kenney to settle and back him against the fence. Yadong goes for a kick but slips and Kenney jumps on him immediately, but Yadong works his way back up to the feet quickly and escapes. Both guys just miss with big hooks as the round ends. 10-9 Yadong.
Second starts off exactly the same as Yadong steps forward but Kenney looking to apply pressure. Nice body shots from Yadong and then Kenney replies with a nice left hook onto the chin. Kenney forcing Yadong backwards and throwing low kicks, but Yadong replies with his own low kicks too. Yadong circling away but Kenney is pushing and Yadong is slowing down. Not a single takedown attempt yet from Kenney is surprising. Nice left hand from Kenney but then Yadong replies with a nice right. Two left hands land from Kenney and Yadong clinches against the cage, before Kenney switches and goes for the takedown himself to end the round. Closer round, 19-19.
Final round and Yadong is landing his strikes better, with Kenney slowing down a little and being less bouncy and mobile. Yadong with three hard body kicks but Kenney continues to come forward and looking to land jabs. Kenney throws a head kick and the knee connects with the head but Yadong eats it and comes forward. Good body shots from Yadong and Kenney shoots for a takedown, but Yadong sprawls and denies him. Yadong lands a jab and two body kicks but Kenney throws a nice right hook. Final minute and Kenney goes for the takedown again but Yadong sprawls once more. Kenney ducks under a strike and secures a takedown with seconds left and lands some big elbows from the top to end the round. I think that’s 29-28 Yadong but that’s a really close fight again.
Tecia Torres def Angela Hill via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Good start to the fight from Torres as she gets herself into range and lands some nice strikes and flurries. Hill looks to clinch up and then catches a kick to put Torres on the ground then looks to hold her down, but Torres does really well to get up and out of it. Hard leg kick from Torres on Hill, who comes forward with a one-two and a head kick attempt but they all miss. Torres shoots for a takedown but Hill gets immediately back up. Torres lands a body kick then just misses with a spinning back fist. Torres ducks under a strike and goes for a takedown but bails and lands some big strikes, but Hill replies with three of her own. Big kicks from Torres to end the round as Hill tries for a takedown. 10-9 Torres.
Hill pushing the pressure in the second round as Torres uses her side kicks to push her away and keep the range between them. Hill lands two nice strikes as Torres looks for a kick, but then she lands a big check-right hook and pivots away. Big side kick to the body again from Torres and then two big hooks. She goes for the kick again but Hill catches it and pulls her in for a body lock and takedown attempt, before landing some knees against the cage and a right hand on the break. Head kick from Torres and Hill grabs for the clinch. Hill throws knees but Torres avoids most of them and lands some huge hooks of her own in the clinch before they break. Wild exchange from both ladies and Hill gets the better of it with a big left hand. Big flurry ends with Torres on her back and Hill moves into mount immediately but the round ends. 20-18 Torres for me.
Final round and Hill is coming forward aggressively again and looks to clinch and trip her. Torres too quick though and is moving well, landing nice right hands well. Hill putting the pressure on and sprawls to deny a Torres takedown then lands a nice right hand. Torres goes for a kick that Hill catches again and lands a big right hand down the middle, but Torres keeps throwing strikes in return. Nice right hand from Hill and then a knee in the clinch but Torres breaks away. Big lunging right hand from Torres lands again before Hill goes in for a takedown but gets denied. Torres changes levels and gets a takedown with 20 seconds to go and lands some good ground strikes before the buzzer goes. 30-27 Torres for me, competitive but pretty straight forward.
Vicente Luque def Michael Chiesa via Submission (D’Arce Choke), Round 1 (3:25)
Very cagey start to the round with Chiesa circling on the outside and Luque holding the centre. Hard low kick lands from Luque and Chiesa fires off a big one-two that cuts Luque’s eye immediately. Luque comes forward hard and Chiesa ducks under and gets the takedown. Immediately he slides the knee over and takes the back to start searching for a rear naked choke. He has a crank in tight but Luque fights the hands and Chiesa switches to an armbar but loses it. As they go to get up to the feet Luque sinks in a d’arce choke and it’s tight! Chiesa tries to fight it but Luque tightens it and Chiesa taps! Wow!
Jose Aldo def Pedro Munhoz via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to the fight from Munhoz as he takes the centre and throws a couple of hard leg kicks. Head kick attempt misses from Munhoz and then Aldo makes him miss with the hands too. Nice one-two from Aldo and then a straight right lands nicely too. Nasty left hook to the body from Aldo and a jab, but Munhoz still has the centre and is throwing bombs with his right hand. Nice right hand from Munhoz and he’s swinging for the stands, but Aldo counters with a body shot and uppercut. 10-9 Aldo.
Munhoz coming very aggressive again with some leg kicks but Aldo is checking them and then throws one of his own. Munhoz stepping in with more leg kicks and a looping right hand but Aldo hangs in there and fires back with a big right hand before a combination to the body. Aldo’s jab is landing well and defensively he looks sound as usual, with Munhoz struggling to land anything of note so far. Aldo checks a leg kick then goes back for the body combination, but Munhoz’s leg kicks are still there and he’s still in Aldo’s face. Aldo fakes the right knee and lands a big right straight as the round ends. Another close round, but I think that’s 20-18 Aldo.
Final round and Munhoz comes out with a big blitz early on. Aldo returns fire with a beautiful combo of his own before Munhoz clinches up. Aldo working the jab again as Munhoz goes for a spinning capoeira kick and misses. Triple jab from Aldo lands and he follows it with a big combination to the chin. Hard low kick from Aldo but Munhoz responds with a hard right hand and Ado retreats a little. Big leg kick from Aldo drops Munhoz and he follows it up with two hard right hands that cut Munhoz over the eye. Aldo lands a three-punch combo and follows it with a leg kick that gets a big reaction from Munhoz again. Final 30 seconds and Munhoz goes for a big spinning wheel kick before Aldo hits him with another big combo and leg kick to see the fight out. Should be a big win for Aldo. 30-27.
Ciryl Gane def Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 3 (4:11)
Lewis opens the fight with a high kick and slips and then Gane slides a right hand in on his way back up. Gane bouncing, with some light leg kicks and pokes to the knee as Lewis starts to step forward. Lewis changes levels to load up his right hand but Gane scoots out of the way and evades before he even throws. Leg kicks from Gane once again and then Lewis throws a right hand to the body. Lewis goes for an inside leg kick but catches the cup flush and causes a pause in the action. Lewis steps forward again and Gane immediately ducks under and clinches up before they break. Lewis swings a big right hand again but Gane literally runs away from it before resetting. Big right hand from Gane before a hard low kick and then a stiff jab to the face as the round ends. 10-9 Gane.
Second round and Gane once again comes out with his jab landing flush. Lewis lands a hard leg kick and then tries a flying switch kick but Gane is too quick and is gone before he gets there. Gane with some more short kicks to the leg before Lewis explodes and tries to rush Gane, only for Gane to throw him off to the side. Flying knee attempt from Gane sees them end up in a clinch and Gane throwing big knees to the thighs and overpowering Lewis against the cage. Gane lets a big elbow and right hand fly but both just miss as the round ends. 20-18 Gane.
Some heavy leg kicks land from Gane to open the round before a right hand over the top just clips Lewis. Another hard leg kick, then another and then another as Lewis struggles to get any sort of offense going. High kick from Lewis is blocked and then Lewis goes to clinch up, but once again Gane just stuffs his attemts. Knee to the body in the clinch and then a big leg kick again and Lewis is hurt bad! Gane goes in for the finish and lands some huge strikes to the head and Lewis is covering up. Lewis throws a few haymakers but misses wildly and then Gane throws a big knee and more strikes that drop Lewis. He gets on top and lands some bombs and the referee steps in! It’s allll over! Ciryl Gane with a huge knockout win. What a performance.
The UFC heavyweight division moves a step closer to naming a solidified number one contender as Derrick Lewis takes on Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 265.
After a deal with Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones couldn’t be found, the UFC moved to keep the division moving and will see the number two and three ranked heavyweights battle it out in the main event with the winner essentially guaranteeing themselves the next shot at the belt.
In the co-main event Jose Aldo continues his push for bantamweight greatness when he takes on Pedro Munhoz, while the welterweight division looks to create a new contender too as Michael Chiesa takes on Vicente Luque.
We skipped last week’s Hall vs Strickland card, which means we remain on 374/387 correct picks (63.71%) with 165 perfect picks (44.12%).
We’ll look to improve on that now with this 13-fight card, starting with the early prelims here.
Johnny Munoz (10-1) vs Jamey Simmons (7-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Munoz is a ground fighter who looks to take the fight down and work his excellent jiu-jitsu skills, while Simmons is a solid wrestler who pushes the pace and goes for takedowns of his own. Both guys like to control their opponent and I think Simmons has the edge when it comes to that, with the better cardio and better wrestling.
When he has the fight on the ground he’ll have to be very careful of the slick submissions that Munhoz possesses. Unfortunately, his defences aren’t the best and with Munoz’s kicks to the leg and body I think he’ll be able to secure a victory here. PICK – Johnny Munoz via Submission, Round 2
Victoria Leonardo (8-4) vs Melissa Gatto (6-0-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An intriguing flyweight fight between two UFC newbies as Leonardo looks for her first win and Gatto makes her debut. Leonardo was KO’d by Manon Fiorot via head-kick back in January at UFC Fight Island 8 while Gatto is undefeated but hasn’t fought since 2018.
Leonardo is a decent striker on the feet and has very good grappling skills with a heavy wrestling offence, while Gatto was a submission specialist with four of her six wins coming via tap out. With that said I say was because it’s been so long since anyone has seen her. She’s been away for nearly three years and has likely improved a lot but if not then Leonardo has her beat and badly.
Gatto is obviously talented but the gap since we last saw her is too big to bank on what improvements she’s made, if any. Therefore I’ll go with Leonardo to grind out a decision, but don’t be surprised if Gatto looks sensational. PICK – Victoria Leonardo via Decision
Miles Johns (11-1) vs Anderson Dos Santos (21-8) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun scrap as two bantamweights look to earn themselves a two-fight win streak in the UFC with a win here. Johns was stopped by Mario Bautista before bouncing back with a stoppage win of his own against Kevin Natividad at UFC Vegas 12. Dos Santos lost his first two UFC fights via decision, but finally got a win when he submitted Martin Day.
Johns has a stiff jab that lands very often and always has his wrestling skills to fall back on whenever necessary. Dos Santos on the other hand has good power in his hands but the techniques are limited to hooks mostly, while his submission game on the ground is great and dangerous.
Johns’ wrestling is good enough to control where the fight goes and has the better striking on the feet, so as long as his cardio holds up this should be a good win for him. PICK – Miles Johns via Decision
Manel Kape (15-6) vs Ode Osbourne (9-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An absolute banger at flyweight as Manel Kape looks for his first win in the UFC against the powerful Ode Osbourne. Kape entered the UFC with high expectations but was beaten by Alexandre Pantoja and then Matheus Nicolau in his first two bouts, while Osbourne earned a KO win last time out against Jerome Rivera in just 26 seconds.
Kape is a powerful striker with good kicks, but he has struggled with his output in his two bouts so far which has cost him. Osbourne is an incredibly fast and powerful puncher, with genuine knockout power in his hands. One thing Osbourne is good at is pushing forward and forcing his opponents to fight him but that may actually work in Kape’s favour as it could force him to throw his hands more.
Kape’s got a good chin, has a good ground game if he needs it and the experience of fighting some serious top level talent. Osbourne hasn’t done that yet and while he could close the show with one shot, the longer this fight goes the more it leans in Kape’s favour and I think he takes the win. PICK – Manel Kape via Decision
Matthew Semelsberger def Jason Witt via Knockout, Round 1 (0:16)
HOLY JESUS. Matthew Semelsberger lands a bomb of a right hand after 16 seconds and puts Witt out cold. Goodnight.
Jinh Yu Frey def Gloria De Paula via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Frey comes out with a nice left hand before the two ladies clinch and Frey gets an early takedown. De Paula threatens with an armbar from the bottom but Frey defends well and lands a few nice strikes from top position before a scramble allows her to take De Paula’s back. De Paula defends it well and is able to bring it back to full guard, before landing a couple of elbows from the bottom. Frey controlling the position with ease at the moment from the top although not much action from either fighter as we head into the final 90 seconds. Frey controls the position for the remainder of the round too as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Frey.
Slower start to the round from both women in this one as Frey lands a couple of nice left hands in exchanges. De Paula lands a few leg kicks from distance then goes up top with a nice head kick that lands clean. Frey continues to come forward to close the distance but De Paula doing well to get in and out quickly. De Paula in control of the exchanges on the feet halfway through the round and being first in the exchanges every time. Frey closes the distance and gets a clinch against the cage, but De Paula lands some nasty knees to the body and they separate. De Paula takes the centre now and is landing clean and fast into the final minute. Frey catches a kick but De Paula keeps her balance excellently to deny the takedown and should win the round. 19-19 going into the third.
De Paula comes out and throws her hands quickly once again, then has a kick caught and Frey sweeps her other foot away and gets an early takedown once again. Frey passes into half guard but De Paula threatens with a kimura grip, which allows Frey to pass into mount. De Paula tries to explode out but Frey takes the back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Frey staying composed on the back of De Paula who isn’t looking to get back to her feet at all as we enter the final minute. Frey gets the arm under the chin and tries for a one-armed choke but De Paula does really well to defend it and see the round out. Clear 29-28 win for Frey.
Aldrich takes the centre of the cage early on and has Casey circling the outside for the first 40-odd seconds before she engages in a clinch against the cage. Casey is able to stay strong and Aldrich separates, a big boost for Casey. Aldrich landing lots of leg kicks early on but Casey retaliates with some nice knees and a right hook as they clinch up once again. Casey charges forward once again with a flurry but Aldrich shoots and gets the takedown. Casey tries to threaten with a triangle and while Aldrich defends it will and lands a bit of ground and pound, Casey gets back to her feet. Aldrich gets it down again with a guillotine attempt in the final 30 seconds but Casey defends well and sees out the round. 10-9 Casey for me.
Casey looks stronger on the feet so far and she lands a big right hand that wobbles Aldrich! Casey follows it up with a head kick attempt that Aldrich catches and then Casey tries to jump on the back but ends up on the ground with Aldrich on top of her. Casey landing some nice strikes from the bottom but Aldrich now has wrist control after eating those shots and starts landing some huge ground and pound strikes with her left hand. Casey works her way back up to her feet against the cage with 90 seconds to go and throws two big right hooks that are blocked. Aldrich throws a right hook and then shoots in for another takedown with 20 seconds to go and gets it to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Aldrich comes forward again to get Casey backing up and she lands a nice one-two. Aldrich continues to push forward but Casey lands a couple of jabs nicely too. Big right hook and left straight from Casey lands and rocks Aldrich’s head back. A big exchange from the two sees them both landing well as we hit the halfway point. Aldrich lands a jab and then Casey turns away to move and Aldrich throws a big left straight down the pipe. Casey throws a hook that just misses and then Aldrich changes levels with a beautiful takedown. Casey gets back to her feet against the cage but Aldrich maintains a body lock until Casey is able to break the grip and separate. Casey comes forward with flurries again and is landing hard shots. Spinning back kick from Aldrich lands in Casey’s nether-regions and the referee pauses the fight with three seconds to go. Super close round, I’ve got it 29-28 Aldrich just.
Good start to the round for the debutant as Garcia takes the centre of the octagon and starts looking to land strikes through the guard of Haqparast. Lots of feelers and blocked strikes from both as Haqparast throws a very heavy left hand that that is partially blocked too. Garcia shoots in for a takedown against the cage but Haqparast denies him, but Garcia lands a nice knee to the body on the break. Garcia fakes a takedown and throws a huge overhand right that lands flush and wobbles Haqparast, but he recovers quickly and keeps going. Great rip to the body from Haqparast but Garcia backs him against the cage and throws a nice elbow that just misses too. Garcia goes for two more takedowns against the cage but they get stuffed well too as the round ends. 10-9 Garcia but it’s a close round.
Garcia comes out quickly in the second round once again and puts the pressure on against the cage well. Garcia lands a couple of nice hooks but Haqparast stays composed and starts digging to the body with some great punches. Nice elbow from Haqparast lands and Garcia comes forward with a right hand of his own. Haqparast lands two nice left hands and Garcia charges forward again with jabs and front kicks to the body. Haqparast denies a takedown attempt and then lands a left hand, before throwing Garcia to the floor with a judo throw. Great uppercut lands from Haqparast but Garcia continues to walk forward with jabs, before Haqparast lands a big body kick too. Big front kick to the body again from Haqparast who denies another takedown on the buzzer. 19-19 for me, but could be 20-18 Haqparast.
Garcia looks a bit slower in this final round but is still coming forward with intensity. Haqparast has started finding his timing now though and lands a great elbow followed by an uppercut and hook that land clean. Another elbow and uppercut from Haqparast lands as Garcia continues to come forward, but Haqparast throwing body kicks hard that are slowing Garcia down more and more. Straight left lands against for Haqparast as Garcia is bleeding now and getting picked apart on the feet. Garcia lands a nice right hand as we enter the final minute of the round and they exchange kicks. Big head kick from Haqparast twice lands but he doesn’t get the finish as the round ends. 29-27 for me.
Rani Yahya def Ray Rodriguez via Submission (Head and Arm Choke), Round 2 (3:09)
Fast start as Rodriguez goes for a head kick off the bat and then lands a straight right in an exchange, but Yahya goes straight for a body lock looking for a takedown and eventually gets it. Yahya with heavy top pressure, landing some nice ground and pound but really just trying to maintain position from half guard. Yahya looking to move into side control with great shoulder pressure but abandons it after decent defence from Rodriguez. Final minute now and Rodriguez manages to get into full guard for a few seconds before Yahya looks to lock up a head and arm choke with 20 seconds left but Rodriguez defends well and survives the round. 10-9 Yahya, easily.
Rodriguez opens the second round with some nice boxing once again, keeping a distance and doing well but he backs up to the cage and Yahya gets another takedown at the first attempt once again. Straight back into half guard once again and Yahya starts threatening with the head and arm choke early on. Rodriguez tries to explode up with the butterfly guard but Yahya jumps over it, gets back into half guard and passes to the other side. He sinks in the head and arm choke and forces Rodriguez to tap. Beautiful performance from Yahya.
Charles Jourdain def Marcelo Rojo via Knockout, Round 3 (4:31)
Fun start to the first round as both men trade hard kicks to begin, with Jourdain throwing lots of head kicks. Rojo throws a right hook that misses and then they clinch, with both men landing nice knees before Jourdain separates. Nice left hand from Rojo looking to counter but just misses, then Jourdain lands a nice uppercut in the clinch. Rojo throwing lots of knees in the clinch towards the face, but they’re not quite landing yet. Rojo lands a leg kick that drops Jourdain, then lands a one-two as Jourdain gets back to his feet. Very even round as we head into the final 90 seconds and Rojo throws a nice flurry that lands nicely before looking to rip Jourdain’s body with a left hook. Jourdain retaliates with nice body shots in the clinch before the round ends. 10-9 Rojo for me but genuinely could go either way.
Rojo comes out hard in the second round and throwing some hard shots and combinations that either graze or just miss Jourdain. Strong leg kick is responded to by Jourdain with a great jab, who then lands a big right hook. A close exchange sees Jourdain accidentally eye-poke Rojo which forces a pause in the action but they get back to it quickly with flurries. Jourdain catches a kick and lands a big body shot and right hook, before Rojo charges forward and lands a big three-punch combo to the head, followed by a knee and body shot. Clinch against the cage is a stalemate and Rojo looks for a spinning elbow on the break. Snappy jab from Jourdain lands flush but Rojo continues to come forward and just misses with that big knee again. Jourdain eats some big leg kicks and responds with a huge flying knee that lands! He lands a couple of big hooks too with Rojo rocked but he survives the round. Another close one, 19-19 for me.
Fast start for Jourdain in this final round as he comes forward and puts the pressure on Rojo immediately, landing his left hand a lot. Rojo is considerably slower now and Jourdain is picking him apart, then lands a huge left hand down the middle that drops him! Jourdain jumps on him and looks for the ground and pound finish, then runs and jumps off the cage to continue the strikes. Heavy shots on the ground but Rojo is tiring and Jourdain is landing big. Jourdain lets Rojo back up and they start throwing haymakers against each other looking for a finish. Jourdain keeps pounding away and lands another left hand that drops Rojo and the referee ends it! What a performance!
Angela Hill def Ashley Yoder via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Competitive start to the fight with Hill looking to land straight rights and Yoder landing some nice kicks so far. Hill has the centre of the cage and is feinting the body shots, then shoots in against the cage for a clinch. Hill lands some nice knees before Yoder looks for a head and arm throw but it’s well defended by Hill. Hill responds with a huge elbow and then goes back to the clinch before they separate with about 90 seconds to go in the round. Hill controlling the range right now and landing shots freely and has a big speed advantage to get in and out, avoiding the attacks of Yoder. Hill steps in with a front kick to the body then lands three huge overhand rights that rock Yoder! She goes for a finish and takes Yoder down but she recovers enough to see out the round. 10-9 Hill.
More of the same in this second round as Hill takes the centre and looks to land body kicks and overhand rights. Yoder can’t get close enough for the takedown and is getting picked apart on the feet. Hill lands a big straight right hand once again that snaps Yoder’s head back and she’s in total control right now. Hill goes for a clinch and lands some nice knees to the body, with Yoder starting to slow down a bit. Hill lands more right hands and now is chopping down the legs of Yoder. Big knee to the body followed by a kick and Yoder is hurting. Flurry of punches to the head and Yoder is surviving right now, then Hill goes for a knee to the body and Yoder catches it and secures a takedown to end the round on top. 20-18 Hill.
Yoder comes out like a bull in a china shop looking to close the distance and get a takedown but Hill immediately out-muscles her, clinches up and starts landing big knees to the body against the cage. Hill just too strong physically for Yoder and completely dominating the position and pace of the fight. Big punch to the body again from Hill before another clinch and some more nasty Muay Thai knees to the body allow Yoder to overpower her onto the floor. Yoder controls the position from the top and is fighting Hill well, but Hill is too strong and gets back to the feet and lands more knees again. Round comes to an end with Hill landing two big right hands to take a wide decision. Great performance. 30-27 Hill.
Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart – NO CONTEST (Illegal knee)
Lots of feelers being put out by both guys early on with feints and flicks before Stewart lands a nice left hand. A good exchange between the two and it’s Stewart who comes out on top once again, as he starts showboating a little. Anders shoots in for a takedown but Stewart does well to defend it and the battle in the clinch. Stewart lands some good knees but then Anders lands a huge left hand that rocks him! Anders lands some huge punches and drops Stewart but the Brit continues to fight back. Anders throws an illegal knee (d’oh!) against the cage and the referee stops the fight. Stewart tries to continue but the doctor calls the fight off. No contest called.
Fun start to the fight as both men look to feint early. Nicolau lands an immediate leg kick that hurts Kape but he continues to come forward with jabs and leg kicks of his own. Nicolau being more explosive and faster right now and Kape falling into the same trap as his first fight by being not active enough. Nicolau gets a takedown and Kape is able to work his way back to the feet and slip out of a guillotine attempt. Nicolau gets another takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Nicolau.
Second round and Kape comes out with more urgency this time. Big left uppercut lands and rocks Nicolau early! He follows it up with a couple of other shots and when he’s landing he’s hurting Nicolau. He stuffs a takedown attempt and comes forward again, but this time Nicolau lands a big hook of his own. Kape lands a leg kick and then a knee followed by a right hand that lands flush. Kape walking Nicolau down against the cage and letting strikes flow but Nicolau shoots for a power double across the cage and gets him down, but Kape bounces straight back up. Nicolau tries to launch forward with a left hand but misses and Kape counters with a right hook. 19-19, much better.
Kape takes the centre in the third round and is letting his hands go again. Kape throws a nice leg kick but Nicolau throws a nice left hand that lands on the forehead. Kape stings him with a nice jab and then lands a nice counter right hook again. Nicolau goes for a takedown but Kape stuffs it brilliantly and stands back up immediately. Nicolau gets back up and drops Kape with a leg kick and starts landing with a lot of volume. Big hooks and straight land but Kape replies with a right hook well. Final minute and Kape throws a head kick then follows it up with a left hook. He stuffs two takedown attempts brilliantly and is throwing big combinations too. Huge flying knee lands from Kape and then he follows it up with another to the body! Nicolau lands a spinning back elbow as the round ends! Super close round but I think Kape edges it. 29-28.
Davey Grant def Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2 (3:03)
Good start to the round from Grant as he comes forward well and applies pressure with lots of strikes and kicks. Martinez happy to stand and trade with him and throws an excellent leg kick to hurt Grant. Grant continues with spinning kick attacks and high kicks but Martinez is countering really well with his fast hands. Grant with a switch step and a big right hook but it’s well blocked by Martinez. Big leg kick from Martinez again but Grant keeping the pressure on with kicks from range and heavy hooks. Huge left hook from Martinez lands on the chin and Grant gets dropped! Martinez looks to land some ground and pound but the round ends and allows Grant a chance to recover. 10-9 Martinez.
Grant comes out nice and aggressive in the second round and continues to chop away at the leg, before Grant lands a right hand on the chin. Grant continues to come forward with flurries and then shoots in for a takedown but Martinez defends it brilliantly. Grant lands another right hand and is throwing combinations now just to touch him and is stopping Martinez from throwing anything significant because of the pace. Grant throws a body shot and left hook and Martinez is OUT!! Grant follows it up with an extra shot but it’s all over! Wow!
Dan Ige def Gavin Tucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:22)
DAN IGE!!! ONE PUNCH KNOCKOUT!! HOLY COW!
Ryan Spann def Misha Cirkunov via Knockout, Round 1 (1:11)
Fast start to the round from both fighters as they exchange jabs and kicks, as Cirkunov lands a low blow by accident after 30 seconds. A short pause and they get to it again and Spann lands a straight right hand that drops Cirkunov! He goes for the ground and pound but Cirkunov kicks him off and so Spann makes him get back to the feet. Spann stays calm and then lands a big punch on the side of the head that drops him again and after some ground and pound the referee waves it off! Huge KO for Ryan Spann!
Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Tentative start to the fight as Edwards takes the centre of the cage and forces Muhammad backwards immediately, landing a body kick and following up with a big one two. Edwards goes for a takedown against the cage but Muhammad clinches up and reverses the position well before they separate. Edwards throws a head kick and wobbles Muhammad! Edwards throws some wild hooks but Muhammad blocks them all and then Edwards shoots for a takedown but once again it’s denied well by Belal. Body kick from Muhammad lands nicely but it’s Edwards pushing the pace and pressuring forwards. Big one-two from Edwards lands again and wobbles Muhammad before the buzzer goes to end the round. 10-9 Edwards.
Second round starts and both guys are aggressive early on. Edwards goes to throw a head kick and his hand accidentally pokes Muhammad in the eye as it lands. Muhammad goes down screaming and crying, saying he can’t see anything. Herb Dean waves the fight off almost immediately and it’s another no contest.
It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.
Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.
Both guys are quite well rounded all over the mixed martial arts world, but Anders seems to struggle under pressure. Stewart seems super confident in his chin and that means he’s happy to walk forward and he’s certainly more active. I think he has the physicality advantage too and with good submission skills and a power advantage, I think Stewart does enough to start 2021 off the right way. PICK – Darren Stewart via Decision
Manel Kape (15-5) vs Matheus Nicolau (15-3-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
After a disappointing UFC debut, Manel Kape makes the quick turnaround to take on Matheus Nicolau in the flyweight division on short notice. Kape fought Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Vegas 18 but hesitancy to throw shots saw him miss out on a decision that was there for the taking, while Nicolau has won his last two and makes his UFC return after two fights away from the promotion.
Kape is an explosive fighter with great power and tremendous speed, who has pretty good takedown defence too. Nicolau loves to push the pace and come forward with pressure, throwing leg kicks really well. He’s a fairly hittable fighter though, which doesn’t stand him in good stead against the power of Kape. While offensively he’s solid, defensively he has plenty of lapses and Kape is the better overall fighter in this bout. Without having too much wrestling to worry about, Kape should be able to be more free-flowing in his attacks and I think he could get the stoppage win. PICK – Manel Kape via Knockout, Round 2
Jonathan Martinez (13-3) vs Davey Grant (12-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Grant has a fantastic ground game as his eight submission wins show, but he’s recently started backing that up with a wild-brawling style to set those takedowns up to get it down. Martinez however is a better, more powerful striker than Grant and has supplemented his striking style with some really improved takedown defence. Grant is 35 now and his durability won’t last forever against younger, stronger, more powerful strikers and this is one of those fights. While I don’t think Martinez quite has the power to put Grant’s lights out, he should clinically out-strike him for a wide decision win. PICK – Jonathan Martinez via Decision
Dan Ige (14-3) vs Gavin Tucker (13-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Ige is a pressure fighter who loves to box and throw excellent combinations, although his power isn’t among the top of his attributes. Tucker on the other hand is also a good boxer but he relies more on his wrestling and top position in fights. Both guys are pretty well rounded and while Ige is definitely beatable and has clear flaws to his game, he is a better version of Tucker. He’s the better wrestler, better striker and neither have great knockout power so I expect Ige to use his experience to grind out a decision win. PICK – Dan Ige via Decision
Misha Cirkunov (15-5) vs Ryan Spann (18-6) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
The big boys of the card square off in the co-main event in the light heavyweight division. Cirkunov has lost three of his last five and hasn’t fought since a win over Jimmy Crute back in 2019, while Spann was on an eight-fight win streak before getting KO’d by Johnny Walker at UFC Vegas 11.
Cirkunov is one of the best grapplers in the division, with eight submission wins in his career including each of his last five wins. Spann is also a grappler with great submission skills with 11 wins via tap-out in his career but there are levels to this ground game in MMA. Cirkunov is the smaller fighter in this fight but he’s so powerful and knows exactly how to place his weight to keep you wherever he wants you. Neither are the best strikers so I expect Cirkunov to show his skill in the ground game and dominate from start to finish with top control. PICK – Misha Cirkunov via Decision
Leon Edwards (18-3) vs Belal Muhammad (18-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A welterweight main event as Leon Edwards finally returns to the octagon to take on a short-notice opponent in ‘Bully’ Belal Muhammad. Edwards is on an eight-fight win streak but hasn’t fought since beating Rafael Dos Anjos in July 2019 after fights with Tyron Woodley and Khamzat Chimaev x3 fell through. Muhammad is now on a four-fight win streak after a win over Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 just a few weeks ago.
Edwards is a super-fit and well rounded fighter, with great boxing to set up his fantastic wrestling and top control game. Muhammad is a very similar fighter in that sense, but he’s never been able to show it against the calibre of fighter that Edwards has done in the past. Muhammad had some problems with the leg kicks that Lima gave him in those fights and it’s a path that Edwards could look to expose to make takedowns a bit easier as both fighters will look to take the centre and control positions. Edwards will throw elbows in the clinch and as Muhammad tries to close the distance which will give Edwards the edge and he should win this one pretty comfortably, although a finish is unlikely on either side. PICK – Leon Edwards via Decision
Just five weeks after his less than spectacular debut, Manel Kape is back in the Octagon on short notice to fight Matheus Nicolau this Saturday at UFC Vegas 21.
Many people were very eager to see Kape coming in to compete at the elite level of MMA when his signing was announced last year, but were left pretty deflated and disappointed by his performance against Alexandre Pantoja.
The former Rizin champion was all movement and no action for almost the entire 15 minutes. The volume of strikes from Pantoja were far greater than Kape’s, which swayed the judges to give the decision to the Brazilian as neither fighter looked like they wanted to commit to a finish.
A let down in his debut, however Kape has got fans excited to see him again after taking this fight with under two weeks notice and showing he wants to right the wrongs from that debut loss. It’s the exact sort of attitude that we love to see in fighters.
His opponent Nicolau was due to fight Tagir Ulanbekov until he pulled out for unconfirmed reasons which is the second time this has happened. The Brazilian is another up and coming fighter and they have similar records, both winning 15 fights with five losses for Kape and three for Nicolau.
After being released following a knockout defeat by Dustin Ortiz back in 2018, Nicolau will make his return to the organisation following consecutive wins outside the company.
This fight is a much better stylistic match up for Kape than his debut was against Pantoja. Despite being a champion at Rizin, putting him straight in against the UFC’s number five ranked flyweight in hindsight may have been too early. He can take some confidence from the fact he did stay the distance and wasn’t ever in too much danger and the fact that the UFC thought highly enough of him to put him in there in the first place.
Both fighters have a lot to prove and will want to show Dana White he wasn’t wrong in giving them a UFC contract. Kape will need to show a huge improvement in his activity in the cage as well as the urgency he shows in fights. Waiting around for opportunities won’t go well for him when he gets to the top end of the division, so he should use these moments and fights to get into the right habits.
Kape was on the list of fighters who are expected to have a good year in 2021, so the fact he’s getting back in as soon as the opportunity has arose give him ample opportunity to make that true. A win this weekend will put the debut loss at a distant memory and he can look forward to fighting a ranked opponent again in the summer.
‘Starboy’ has shown he has the right attitude for the UFC, now he needs to show he has the skills.
Ode Osbourne def Jerome Rivera via Knockout, Round 1 (0:26)
Both fighters come out and meet in the centre and Rivera throws a high left kick. Osbourne rolls the kick, catching the kick on his shoulder and lands a huge left hand straight down the pipe! Rivera is down, Osbourne lands a couple of strikes on the ground but it’s over inside 30 seconds! Wow!
Timur Valiev def Martin Day via Unanimous Decision (30-25 x2, 30-26)
Good start to the round for Valiev as he comes out and attacks the legs early with a series of kicks. Day counters another leg kick with a short combo in the pocket but Valiev steps out of the way and then goes for a single leg takedown. He takes the back against the cage and has a body lock before dragging Day down to the mat, only for Day to get back up quickly. Valiev finally gets the fight down and stops the scramble attempt to end up in top position. Some nice short elbows from Valiev but Day is defending well as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Valiev.
Valiev opens the second round with some more leg kicks, before a nice one-two and a takedown have the fight on the ground in the centre of the octagon. Valiev passes into side control and Day tries to get back to his feet but it’s prevented well with some solid ground and pound. Valiev completely dominant right now with constant pressure on the ground, staying busy and landing shots to the body and head of Day. Complete domination for the entire second round, could be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Valiev.
Final round and Day starts throwing some kicks and a few strikes, knowing he needs a finish in this round. It doesn’t last long though as Valiev gets another takedown early in the round and controls the positions once again. More ground and pound strikes on the ground as Day tries to get back up, but Valiev is a nuisance and keeps a body lock and just drags him up and down as much as possible. Valiev switches between half-guard, mount and side control for the rest of the round for a dominant decision victory. 30-26 Valiev.
Tactical start to this fight from both guys as Choi takes the centre, but Zalal is happy to circle on the outside and jab while avoiding heavier shots. Choi throws a few big head kicks but Zalal slips them relatively easily. Zalal shoots for the takedown and gets in on the hips but Choi steps over the trip attempt and they end up tied up against the cage. Zalal continues to look for the takedown against the cage but they’re at a stalemate and the referee separates them. Another clinch against the cage as the round comes to an end and Choi gets a takedown right on the horn. 10-9 Zalal for me but could go either way.
Second round starts with an exchange of kicks before another clinch against the cage, as Zalal looks for the takedown again. He gets a single leg but Choi defends really well against the cage until the referee separates them again. Body kick and one-two from Choi lands clean as he starts to come forward more. He pushes forward with another combo before the clinch again against the cage, before Choi gets Zalal down to the mat before letting him straight back up. A few more exchanges before the end of the round, this one more clear cut in Choi’s favour. 19-19 or 20-18.
Choi starts the final round strong, as he looks to have Zalal beat in all areas right now. They clinch against the cage again and Zalal finally gets the fight to the ground and goes straight for a guillotine. It looks tight as he rolls through but Choi eventually turns into it and ends up on top in guard. Choi eventually works his way back up to the feet but Zalal goes for a single leg takedown again and gets Choi down against the cage. Every time Zalal gets him down in this round he pops straight back up, refusing to accept bottom position as we enter the final 40 seconds. Round comes to an end with a clinch against the cage and it will likely be a Choi decision win. 29-28 Choi.
Fast start to this fight as McCann comes out throwing leg kicks and punch combinations early, while Procopio looks to walk her to the cage and go for a takedown. After a battle against the cage, Procopio gets a beautiful trip and ends up in top position halfway through the round. Procopio dominating on the ground and has McCann’s neck tight to control posture, but McCann fights out of that position, although she eventually pushes into full mount. McCann gives up the back and Procopio looks for an armbar before transitioning to the back and looking for a choke but the horn goes. Dominant from Procopio, 10-9.
McCann comes out aggressively again and looks to keep Procopio with her back against the cage, but a clinch and takedown attempt ends with McCann on her back. Procopio looks to transition into different positions but McCann throws up an armbar! Procopio looks to stack her to escape but McCann rolls through and locks it in tight! She has a full extension but Procopio refuses to tap and eventually is able to escape the position! Eventually the women get back to their feet against the cage and then Procopio lands another takedown inside the final minute as both women trade shots before the horn. 19-19.
Final round and Procopio is breathing heavy, but she still engages with the clinch situation against the cage looking for a takedown. She gets the fight down to the ground in scrappy fashion and then quickly transitions looking for a heel hook. McCann rolls through twice and escapes, but Procopio immediately gets back on her and brings McCann back down to the ground a further three times just using her size advantage. 30 seconds to go and Procopio takes the back of McCann and starts throwing punches to see the round out and take a decision win. 29-28 Procopio.
Karol Rosa def Joselyne Edwards via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
An immediate shot and takedown from Rosa gets the fight down to the ground and the Brazilian into a strong position. She sits in half guard comfortably, throwing some nice ground and pound and just completely controlling the fight. Rosa moves into full mount and starts teeing off before Edwards throws her legs up and rolls through to get back to the feet. Both women exchange shots on the feet with Rosa beating up the legs as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Rosa.
Rosa comes out aggressively again with some heavy leg kicks, and Edwards buckles under the power of the kicks too. Rosa steps in and clinches before the separate and Rosa throws more kicks. Edwards charges forwards with a combination of hooks that land clean but she eats them well and comes forward with some shots of her own. Edwards comes forward again with a rush but Rosa gets hold of her and the fight goes back to the ground with Rosa on top. Rosa’s mouth is bleeding heavily but she’s staying on top and landing ground and pound well as the round ends. 20-18 Rosa.
Final round and after one exchange on the feet Rosa goes straight for the takedown and secures it. After some ground and pound and some grappling on the ground Rosa gets back to the feet herself and lets Edwards up, before they clinch up against the cage again. Edwards battling to stay on her feet as Rosa looks to wear on her with her physical advantage. Rosa drags Edwards down to the ground with under 90 seconds remaining and controls the position for the remainder of the round before ending with a big flurry of punches to take a decision win. 30-27 Rosa.
Devonte Smith def Justin Jaynes via Knockout (Doctor Stoppage), Round 2 (3:38)
Cagey start to the fight as both men look to feel each other out before committing to any big shots early on. Smith lands some nice jabs that rock Jaynes a little, but Jaynes is throwing tight left hook counters that are just missing too. Smith’s jab is working well to keep Jayne’s away from him but then Jaynes lands a nice right hand that wobbles Smith. Jaynes is covering up from the jab and then Smith lands a nice left followed by a kick that Jaynes catches. Smith lands some big shots while his leg is still in the air and Jaynes is rocked! Smith throws some knees and a right hand but Jaynes weathers the storm and the round ends. 10-9 Smith.
Jaynes comes out in the second round and goes straight for a takedown and they clinch up against the cage. Jaynes goes to sweep him but Smith explodes and reverses the position to end up on top in side control. He throws some nice knees to the body and some short punches to cause Jaynes some problems. Smith passes into full mount with ease and starts raining down punches before taking the back and looks for the rear naked choke but Jaynes reverses and escapes. Smith explodes back to his feet quickly and tells the referee he wants it back on the feet. Referee pauses the fight with Jaynes’ eye swelled shut and the doctor waves it off. TKO win for Smith!
Danilo Marques def Mike Rodriguez via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (4:51)
Immediate takedown from Marques as he shoots in for a single leg and uses lots of movement before eventually tripping him down. Rodriguez fighting hard to get back to his feet against the cage, but Marques keeping his hands locked up and eventually gets him back down once again. Marques working hard to keep Rodriguez down and he’s tying up the legs to do so. Rodriguez gets back to the feet but once again Marques drags him back down. Rodriguez gets back to the feet with 15 seconds to go and throws a few knees and body shots but he looks exhausted. 10-9 Marques.
Second round starts with the two exchanging feints on the feet, with Rodriguez landing a nice low kick. Marques fakes a couple of takedown attempts before landing an overhand right and then finally getting the big takedown. Marques passes into full mount against the cage and he starts raining down big ground and pound punches. Both men look exhausted as Rodriguez gets back to a knee, but Marques keeps landing big punches and then takes the back with both hooks in. He rolls to the back and sinks in a rear naked choke and puts Rodriguez to sleep. Wonderful performance from Marques.
Beneil Dariush def Diego Ferreira via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
A crazy pace to start this fight as Dariush comes out firing with strikes before shooting for a takedown. Ferreira defends it by pulling guard with an omoplata before exploding out back to his feet, but Dariush looks for a takedown again against the cage. When he can’t get it he separates and the two start trading bombs! Both men land huge shots on each other but Dariush keeps coming forward. Big knee to the body and Ferreira goes down! Dariush looks for ground and pound but Ferreira ties him up on the ground and is able to ride it out. Final 30 seconds and they get back to the feet, and Ferreira lands a big right hand clean. Dariush returns with a right of his own before a front kick to the face from Ferreira lands flush. What a round! 10-9 Dariush.
Second round starts as the first ended with both men throwing big strikes once again. Dariush looking a bit more tired than Ferreira, so he shoots for a takedown and then gets a trip against the cage and lands on top. Ferreira gets back up but Dariush puts him straight back down and starts to control on top. Ferreira defending but the pressure of Dariush is causing him a big problem and Dariush ends the round controlling position from the top. 20-18.
An insane pace continues into the third round as Ferreira starts to use his footwork more to avoid a brawl and keep out of the way of the takedown attempts. Dariush lands a couple of punches himself and misses a takedown before a kick lands on the cup of Ferreira and causes a short pause. Halfway through the round and we haven’t hit the ground yet but Dariush lands a beautiful one-two to the chin. Ferreira catches a kick and looks to put Dariush on the ground but a great scramble means they both get back to the feet and start swinging for the fences. Dariush shoots for a takedown with a minute remaining and gets it, and takes the back with a body lock as he sinks the hooks in but Ferreira shakes him off and the two scramble to the horn. Great fight, 30-27 Dariush for me though.
Fun start to the fight as Pantoja looks to get right in Kape’s face early but ‘Starboy’ showing his amazing speed and slipping all attacks with his hands low. Kape making Pantoja miss a lot but barely throwing any strikes of his own as we move through the round, while Pantoja is trying to make reads and can’t. Kape’s jab is landing nicely when he throws it but just not enough volume. Pantoja lands a nice body kick and then Kape goes for a cartwheel kick that misses and Pantoja ends up on top. A couple of big strikes land while Kape is on the ground but he gets back up and ends the round with a takedown attempt of his own. 10-9 Pantoja.
Pantoja comes forward in the second round and throwing lots of kicks, and while Kape isn’t getting hurt or the sheer activity is giving Pantoja the rounds. Kape lands a nice one-two but Pantoja returns with some body kicks. Right hand lands from Pantoja but Kape returns fire with a nice one-two of his own. Kape trying to up the pace a little but still not throwing enough to trouble his opponent as we enter the final minute. Kape throws a head kick, follows it up with a left hand and then a takedown, but Pantoja rolls through and gets back to the feet quickly. Better round for Kape and it’s hard to score so could go either way. 19-19 for me.
Slower start to the round by both men in this one as Kape continues to feint and bounce, while Pantoja is almost waiting so he can counter. Nice left hook from Kape lands but Pantoja returns fire with a body kick. Leg kick from Pantoja misses and Kape lands a nice left hand in return before Pantoja lands a head kick. Kape not showing much urgency as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kape lands a left hand that troubles Pantoja and he follows it up with a nice combo. Kape shoots for a takedown and gets it but Pantoja rolls out again and the fight comes to an end. 29-28 either way for me.
Clay Guida def Michael Johnson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
A super fun start to this fight as Johnson and Guida meet in the middle of the cage and start trading bombs! Johnson lands a few nice shots before Guida responds with a right hand that lands on the eye and causes Johnson big problems. Guida keeps marching forward and lands more shots with the right hand before he shoots for the takedown and eventually gets him down. Johnson manages to get back to the feet and they clinch against the cage and exchange knees. Guida’s right hook is causing Johnson problems but he’s firing back with nice hooks of his own. Fun round, 10-9 Guida.
Second round continues at a frantic pace as Guida goes straight for a takedown this time against the cage. Johnson battles really well to stay up on his feet before breaking away and landing a nice knee, but Guida is relentless with his pressure and is forcing Johnson to grind. Several attempts are denied by Johnson between now and the end of the round as Johnson looks very tired when the horn goes. 20-18 Guida.
Third round and Guida comes firing out once again with crazy pressure. Johnson circles and looks to land a jab but Guida is throwing hooks and uppercuts, then lands a big knee before shooting for a takedown. They clinch up against the cage before Guida gets him down before taking his back. He locks up a body triangle and rolls him over, then looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Johnson fights the hands and breaks the grip on the hands but can’t break the body triangle and the horn sounds for the end of the fight. Clay Guida should take the win here, 30-27.
Cory Sandhagen def Frankie Edgar via Knockout, Round 1 (0:28)
Edgar comes out into the centre with Sandhagen and throws a leg kick as ‘Sandman’ circles on the outside. Edgar steps in with a looping left and SANDHAGEN WITH A FLYING KNEE!!!! EDGAR IS OUT COLD!!! OH MY GOD!!
Alexander Volkov def Alistair Overeem via Knockout, Round 2 (2:06)
Odd start to the round as Volkov throws a leg kick and Overeem seems to freeze and shell up against the cage, allowing Volkov to land some shots. Volkov continues to step forward with leg kicks and Overeem looks tense, but he explodes with two heavy left hands that land clean. Both men trade shots at the same time but as Volkov lands Overeem loses his balance and falls. Volkov jumps on him to land ground and pound but Overeem gets back to his feet quickly and they break. Volkov walking Overeem down against the cage and unloads a big combo as he covers up before the round comes to an end. 10-9 Volkov.
Volkov starts landing some nice jabs and Overeem is struggling to cope with the length and power. Volkov’s strikes landing through the guard of Overeem and he is busting him up bad. Overeem looks for a takedown but Volkov stops it easily and starts landing more shots. Overeem is badly hurt but he’s trying to fight back. Volkov lands a big left hand and Overeem falls to his knees and the referee waves it off to prevent further damage. What a performance from Volkov!