The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas this weekend as heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Serghei Spivac headline another card.
After their initial fight back in November fell out on fight night when “The Black Beast” suffered illness and was forced to pull out, they’re now going back to the well to finally settle their score in the Octagon.
This card will also see the finale of the Road to UFC tournament too, so there are plenty of new faces to take notice of during the card too.
Last time out at UFC 283 it was a great night of fights, where we managed to go 10/15 with our picks with three perfect picks, moving us to 823/1277 (64.45%) with 336 perfect picks (40.83%). You can see our full pick history here.
Yusaku Kinoshita (6-1) vs Adam Fugitt (8-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Main card bangers up next. Kinoshita makes his UFC debut on a two-fight win streak, including a KO on the Contender Series most recently back in August. He’ll face Fugitt, one of 3 Americans on this card, who lost his UFC debut at UFC 277 on nine days’ notice when he got KO’d in the 3rd round by Michael Morales.
Kinoshita is a super prospect being compared to Conor McGregor for his style, with fantastic counter-striking and great power and accuracy. Fugitt is a striker too with some excellent kicking and a nice left hand too. Fugitt is quite slow and stiff despite his striking pedigree, and the hand speed and activity of Kinoshita is likely to be a big advantage for him.
Fugitt has got wrestling in his back pocket too, but it’s unlikely that he goes for too many grappling attempts because it’s not his natural game plan. Kinoshita has power, speed and a great array of striking weapons, plus his age and energy should see him claim a big win on his UFC debut. PICK – Yusaku Kinoshita via Knockout, Round 2
Dooho Choi (14-4) vs Kyle Nelson (13-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Someone’s losing streak needs to end in this one. Choi has lost each of his last three fights in the UFC, dropping a decision to Cub Swanson in 2016 and then being KO’d by Jeremy Stephens and Charles Jourdain. This is his first fight since December 2019. Nelson on the other hand has lost his last two, getting stopped by Billy Quarantillo before dropping a decision to Jai Herbert most recently at UFC London in July 2022.
Choi is an excellent striker with great power and speed in his arsenal, while his grappling skills have been more than good enough to compete at the top level. Nelson is a wrestler who looks to get control of his opponents against the cage before putting them on the mat and landing damage. The problem with this fight is that Choi has been out injured for the last three years with a torn ACL, a broken arm and eye issues. He is not the fighter that he once was.
If Choi is capable of reaching even 80% of what he used to be able to, then he should win this fight. But after so long away with so many injuries, and the fact he was on the decline before that anyway, I expect Nelson should be able to grind him out and out-work Choi for a decision win. PICK – Kyle Nelson via Decision
Marcin Tybura (23-7) vs Blagoy Ivanov (19-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight banger up next. Tybura is on a run of six wins in his last seven fights, with a defeat to Alex Volkov the only blip. He bounced back with a majority decision win over Alexander Romanov most recently at UFC 278. Ivanov lost two in a row against Derrick Lewis and Augusto Sakai, but got back into the win column with a win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima at UFC 274.
Tybura is a very, very good heavyweight even if he is not the most exciting. He has got some really good leg kicks and grappling, while also having good power in his hands too. It’s the wrestling that has been the most impressive though, controlling opponents with ease. Ivanov is a decorated grappler, but he almost never uses it in the UFC and instead chooses to strike from distance hence his shaky record. He’s got good power, but lacks any urgency.
It would be a real shock to me if Ivanov wins this. Tybura is at his best when a fight is boring, meaning he is in total control of the cage and his opponent. The best way to break away from that is for Ivanov to try and grapple, but he’s never done that in the UFC and expecting him to start that at 36 years old is unlikely. Tybura will use leg kicks at distance and wrestle enough to earn a decision win in the longest 15 minutes of the night. PICK – Marcin Tybura via Decision
Da-Un Jung (15-3-1) vs Devin Clark (13-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An interesting light heavyweight scrap up next. Jung was 14-0-1 in his last 15 fights before he came up against Dustin Jacoby back in July and got KO’d in the first round to snap that streak. Clark has lost three of his last four alternatively, with a win over William Knight coming between defeats to Anthony Smith, Ion Cutelaba and Azamat Murzakanov most recently.
Jung is a very good wrestler with lots of top pressure, great cardio and some excellent elbows – just ask Kennedy Nzechukwu. He’s also a powerful striker but technically he isn’t the greatest. Clark is a wrestler, pure and simple. He’s a strong grappler with decent ground and pound skills, but his striking on the feet is very poor considering how high he’s managed to climb in the rankings previously.
Clark will look to wrestle and control from top position, but Jung has got far more avenues to win here. He’s got the better boxing, has excellent takedown defence and is capable pushing the pace for the full 15 minutes too, so it would be somewhat of a surprise if he doesn’t begin to overwhelm Clark at some point in the latter rounds. PICK – Da Un Jung via Decision
Derrick Lewis (26-10) vs Serghei Spivac (15-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights step up in the main event of this one as they look to put together a run for a potential title run in 2023. Lewis has lost three of his last four, getting KO’d by Ciryl Gane (UFC 265), Tai Tuivasa (UFC 271) and Sergei Pavlovich (UFC 277), with a KO win of his own against Chris Daukaus coming in the middle of that. Spivac on the other hand has won his last two after defeat to Tom Aspinall, KO’ing Greg Hardy at UFC 272 before a KO win against Augusto Sakai most recently in August.
Lewis is the scariest puncher in UFC history, with the record for the most knockout wins in the organisation’s history. He has also got much improved takedown defence in recent years, although his chin isn’t great and his cardio still lets him down at times. Spivac is a grappler who looks to wrestle and use his size to wear on his opponents although his striking has been improving in recent bouts, but he will almost certainly reset to default here.
The blueprint to beat Lewis has been there for years – take him down or overwhelm him with volume. Spivac is capable of doing both of those things, but he’s never fought someone who can put his lights out with one punch like Lewis can. He will know that Spivac wants to take him down and much like when he fought Curtis Blaydes, he will be loading up that uppercut. He’s never fought a five-round bout before and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spivac just wrestle and grapple for 25 minutes, I think Lewis gets back in the win column with a nasty knockout early on. PICK – Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2
The UFC heads to Utah for a huge welterweight showdown as Kamaru Usman defenders his 170-pound crown against Leon Edwards in the main event.
The two fight for a second time, with neither fighter suffering defeat since the first showing back in 2015 and are supported by an undercard including Paulo Costa, Luke Rockhold, Jose Aldo, Merab Dvalishvili, Alexandr Romanov, Miranda Maverick and more.
Last time out at UFC San Diego we went 8/13 with three perfect picks to move to 698/1082 (64.51%) with 295 perfect picks (42.26%). You can see our full picks history here.
Miranda Maverick (12-4) vs Shanna Young (9-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very intriguing women’s flyweight bout up next. Maverick suffered tough back-to-back defeats against Maycee Barber and then Erin Blanchfield (UFC 269) before finally getting back in the win column against Sabina Mazo via submission most recently. Young on the other hand lost to Macy Chiasson and then go KO’d by Stephanie Egger (UFC Vegas 13) before getting a win last time out against Gina Mazany back in April.
Maverick is a really well-rounded fighter who excels in the grappling, with some solid wrestling and good striking too. Young is a striker who struggles for power, and has been taken down by every opponent she’s faced in the UFC who has attempted to take her down. This seems like a big setup for Maverick to garner some more momentum, because I can’t see how Young wins this.
Maverick is bigger, stronger, more powerful and has the perfect skillset to become a real contender in this division. She’ll likely toy with Young on the feet to test herself before shooting for a takedown early and dominating, before eventually taking the back and sinking in a tight choke for the win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Submission, Round 2
Sean Woodson (9-1) vs Luis Saldana (16-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight scrap up next. Woodson has picked up consecutive wins in his last two fights, earning a decision over Youssef Zalal (UFC Vegas 28) before knocking out Collin Anglin at UFC Vegas 42 with nasty body shots. Saldana beat Jordan Griffin in his UFC debut back at UFC Vegas 23 and then suffered defeat to Austin Lingo, before a decision win over Bruno Souza last time out.
Woodson is a boxer, straight up. He’s a former professional who has got an incredible frame for the division at just under 6ft 3 with a 78 inch reach and tremendous boxing combinations. Saldana is a really well rounded fighter with his finishes split 8-6 with knockouts and submissions, but his cardio often lets him down big style.
That’s an issue here, especially considering Saldana likes to keep his hands low. Woodson will use his picture perfect jab to maintain the distance between the two and his takedown defence is good enough to avoid going to the mat. Expect Woodson to put on a striking clinic and earn another judges scorecard victory. PICK – Sean Woodson via Decision
Leonardo Santos (18-6-1) vs Jared Gordon (18-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight scrap up next between two veterans of the sport. Santos was KO’d with one second remaining against Grant Dawson at UFC Vegas 22, before being submitted by Clay Guida at UFC Vegas 44 most recently. Gordon on the other hand also got beaten by Grant Dawson in his last fight, getting submitted in April.
Santos is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist with amazing submission skills making up 50% of his career wins to date. His striking is pretty awful but he does have a big one-punch swing, however his cardio means it all becomes pretty obsolete after about 6 minutes of fighting. Gordon is the opposite. He’s a solid striker on the feet with good takedown defence and some decent offensive wrestling too, while his chin has been known to be fragile recently. That said though, he weaponises his cardio so well that I expect this to get one-sided quickly.
Gordon should be able to see the big punch of Santos coming early enough to avoid it, and if he can survive any grappling attempts in the first round the fight becomes his to lose. Expect him to just completely wear Santos out with his pace before claiming a late finish with ground and pound to make the referee step in. PICK – Jared Gordon via Knockout, Round 3
Marcin Tybura (22-7) vs Alexandr Romanov (16-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights collide up next in the featured prelim bout. Tybura had been on a five-fight win streak with wins over Sergei Spivak, Maxim Grishin (UFC 251), Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Island 5), Greg Hardy (UFC Vegas 17) and Walt Harris (UFC Vegas 28), before defeat to Alexander Volkov most recently. Romanov is an undefeated fighter, whose impressive run of wins has seen him earn a step up in competition here.
Tybura is a solid fighter with some really good low kicks and good strikes, while his best style comes when he looks to wrestle his opponents and control them from the top position. Romanov is a Greko-Roman wrestler with an incredible power and ability to throw opponents, as well as excellent cardio to go for the whole fight. He has shown his ability to defend against submissions too, and that leads me to think he gets it done here.
He’s the more powerful guy in terms of the grappling and while Tybura is the slightly bigger guy right now, his best chance of victory comes exactly where Tybura will likely want the fight to be. Tybura is tough and I can’t imagine he gets finished here, but Romanov should be able to get the top position regularly in each round and claim a win on the judge’s scorecards. PICK – Alexandr Romanov via Decision
The UFC returns after a two-week break with a huge pay-per-view card headlined by two massive title fights.
Alexander Volkanovski makes the third defence of his featherweight title when he takes on Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, in the main event.
In the co-main event we get the long awaited rematch at the top of the bantamweight division as Aljamain Sterling makes his first defence of the belt against Petr Yan, a little over a year after he won it via disqualification.
We’ll also see an incredible welterweight fight between Gilbert Burns and the freight-train that is Khamzat Chimaev before that, to see just how real the hype is.
Last time at UFC Columbus we went 7/12 with four perfect picks, which moves us to 585/903 (64.78%) with 248 perfect picks (42.39%).
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims picks, we move on to the rest of the prelims here.
Mickey Gall (7-4) vs Mike Malott (7-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fun welterweight bout up next as Mickey Gall looks to earn a much needed win for his record. Gall has gone 3-3 in his last six after initially starting off 3-0 in the UFC, with a defeat to Alex Morono last time out at UFC Vegas 44. Malott on the other hand makes his UFC debut after a 39 second victory on Dana White’s Contender Series last time out to earn his contract.
Gall is a brilliant jiu-jitsu practitioner who has been working on his striking in recent years to try and round out his game. Malott alternatively is a powerful striker with quick hands, who has won all of his fights in under two minutes. He’s also an adept grappler himself, but the lack of in-cage experience makes it hard to pick this fight.
Based on what we’ve seen, Malott has got a great chance of getting a big name on his record. But what happens if Gall manages to survive the initial two minute burst? Does Malott have the cardio to go 15 minutes if he needs to? Nobody knows but we can only go on what we’ve already seen from these guys, so I think Gall will survive the initial burst and be able to go for the full fight and edge out a close decision. PICK – Mickey Gall via Decision
Aspen Ladd (9-2) vs Raquel Pennington (13-9) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very interesting bantamweight bout between two of the bigger names in the division. Ladd missed weight last time she was due to fight at bantamweight, but then moved up to featherweight on short notice and was beaten by Norma Dumont. Pennington on the other hand is on a three-fight win streak, with victories against Marion Reneau, Pannie Kianzad and most recently Macy Chiasson.
Ladd is an aggressive wrestler who has a very active top game, with the ability to finish bouts from that position as the six KO wins in her career show, while Pennington is an absolute grinder who has solid boxing and good clinch work. Ladd’s recent performances have been underwhelming and the weight is a big issue here. She was incredibly hesitant against Dumont and Pennington looks back to her best currently.
If Pennington is able to put the pressure on and make Ladd go backwards then she has a great chance of victory here. If Ladd makes weight easily though she has the wrestling credentials to make this a long night for Pennington. But the weight is a big problem and Pennington is quick enough and active enough to be able to earn a big win here. PICK – Raquel Pennington via Decision
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-3) vs Marcin Tybura (22-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights assemble! ‘Big Boi’ has alternated wins and losses in his last six, falling to defeats against Francis Ngannou, Ciryl Gane (UFC Vegas 20) and Curtis Blaydes in his most recent fight at UFC 266. Tybura on the other hand was on a five-fight win streak before running into Alexander Volkov most recently at UFC 267 where he dropped a decision.
Rozenstruik is a former world champion kickboxer who has got incredible one-punch knockout power and solid kicks, while Tybura is a good pressure fighters with decent boxing and a solid array of leg kicks to dip into. This will almost certainly be a striking battle and that means that Rozenstruik will have the advantage. That is, unless Tybura goes into his wrestling well and looks to just drown Rozenstruik with pressure.
There is a big opportunity for Tybura to get takedowns and work his top pressure for 15 minutes to get another big scalp on his resume, but Rozenstruik’s power makes that dangerous. Especially considering Tybura has been KO’d several times in the past. His durability has improved over recent fights, but Rozenstruik is the best striker he’s come up against in a while and the Suriname native should claim a big KO win here. PICK – Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Knockout, Round 2
Ian Garry (8-0) vs Darian Weeks (5-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Two super hot prospects get the featured prelim headline spot in this one. Garry made his UFC debut at UFC 268 and claimed a Conor McGregor-esque knockout in the first round over Jordan Williams, while Weeks suffered defeat to Bryan Barberena in his debut at UFC Vegas 44 on short notice.
Garry is a brilliant striker, with great kicks and really quick counters that have got genuine knockout power. Weeks is a good wrestler, but he really struggled against Barberena to hold him down and get any sort of control so he doesn’t stand much hope of doing that here against Garry. There’s a huge gap in skill on the feet, and Garry is also decent on the ground himself with good defence and good front chokes.
This fight, on paper, looks like a setup fight for Garry’s star to continue to rise. He had more issues against Williams than initially expected, but that was likely debut nerves. Here he has the edge pretty much everywhere, so expect a violent TKO win for the Irishman. PICK – Ian Garry via Knockout, Round 1
Tagir Ulanbekov def Allan Nascimento via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
A couple of hard low kicks early from Nascimento to start the fight, but Ulanbekov taking the centre and flicking his jab out nicely. Another nice leg kick from Nascimento and then he follows that up with a nice right hand. Flying knee attempt just misses but Ulanbekov grabs a body lock and takes the fight to the ground immediately. Nascimento defending really well on the ground and threatening with an armbar, then sweeps to the top but Ulanbekov immediately gets up and tries to get the fight back down against the cage. Ulanbekov battling against submission attempts and ends up in a mounted guillotine and it’s tight! Nascimento fighting it and eventually pops his head out to survive! Amazing! Ulanbekov gets back to top position and is resting in a controlling position, with Nascimento threatening with a guillotine of his own. He now moves to a kimura trap to try and get to his feet but the round ends. Great round. 10-9 Ulanbekov for me.
Good start to the round again from Ulanbekov with his jab landing well, before he shoots in deep for a takedown. Nascimento defends it well against the cage but eventually Ulanbekov is able to change levels and get the fight down. Nascimento threatening with a kimura from the bottom, but Ulanbekov defending it well and eventually gets back into full guard without the threat. Nascimento being very active off his back, but Ulanbekov trying to stifle him from the top to control him. Nascimento tries for a triangle but Ulanbekov deals with it easily, before Nascimento lands a huge elbow from the bottom. Nascimento goes for an armbar and starts smashing him with elbows from the bottom to see out the round. Close, but I edge to Nascimento there for attacking more despite being on the bottom. 19-19.
Big knee attempt from Nascimento early on but Ulanbekov gets the fight to ground once again immediately. Nascimento went for a kimura trap immediately and swept him to get on top but once against Ulanbekov raced to the next position to maintain control. Ulanbekov in full guard just stalling and looking for a bit of ground and pound, but Nascimento seems happy enough on his back to look for submissions. Ulanbekov trying to pass guard but Nascimento is looking to make him defend as much as possible. He finally passes into half guard now and starts looking for some short elbows from the top. Big left hand lands but Nascimento still being active and trying to sweep him. Final minute and Nascimento goes for another kimura, but Ulanbekov defends it excellently again. Nascimento goes for a triangle armbar but Ulanbekov defends it and ends the round with some big ground shots to likely claim a win. 29-28 Ulanbekov.
Andre Petroski def Hu Yaozong via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 3 (4:46)
Lots of feinting early on from both guys, before Petroski flies in with a big left hand that just misses. Petroski lands two big left hands and then Yaozong goes for a head-kick that gets blocked and he ends up on his back. Petroski goes straight for the neck and jumps on a mounted guillotine but it’s not quite in yet. He lets go and takes the back, rains down some big ground and pound. He goes for the rear-naked choke and it’s tight but Yaozong explodes out and Petroski goes for a d’arce but Yaozong gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a big left hand again but Yaozong is still coming forward. Petroski throws two big strikes that lands clean but Yaozong eats it. Three huge left hooks land from Petroski but Yaozong is still standing and Petroski is exhausted. Single leg takedown from Petroski but Yaozong gets straight back up and keeps coming forward. One more left hand lands for good measure as the round ends. Crazy round. 10-9 Petroski.
Immediate takedown from Petroski and he goes for a guillotine again, but Yaozong scrambles out quickly and gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a huge left hand and then a couple more, before another takedown where he now looks to control the position. Another attempted guillotine from Petroski before he looks to control again. Petroski moves to side control and looks for a head-and-arm choke but Yaozong grabs his own leg to defend it. Petroski looks to move to his back but Yaozong defends it again, but Petroski is controlling him much better now. Petroski moves into full mount and then goes for the head-and-arm choke again, but once again Yaozong defends it. Yaozong gets back to his feet but Petroski keeps a body lock and takes him down once again. Petroski flows on the mat and takes Yaozong’s back again and is looking for a rear-naked choke. Petroski controls until the buzzer goes. 20-18 Petroski.
Petroski lands a big left hand as Yaozong pressures him to the cage early in the final round, but Petroski shoots for a takedown and then runs him the entire way across before getting him down. Petroski takes control and looks to move to his back, then lands a few big ground strikes before pulling Yaozong backwards onto the mat. Petroski flowing well and looks for a guillotine, before Yaozong gets back to his feet. Yaozong sprawls and slips and then Petroski lands a huge one-two Douglas Lima style. Petroski gets another takedown and ends up in full mount, landing big elbows but Yaozong refusing to give up. Another huge elbow from Petroski and he works to control again. Petroski moves to side control and locks up a head-and-arm choke once again and forces the tap with 15 seconds left! Great win from Petroski.
Lerone Murphy def Makwan Amirkhani via Knockout, Round 2 (0:14)
Early takedown in the opening round from Amirkhani as soon as Murphy switches to an orthodox stance. Amirkhani controlling him against the cage and looking to advance to three-quarter mount, but Murphy doing relatively well to defend so far. Amirkhani keeping the body lock tight and Murphy is trying hard to break the lock, but Amirkhani keeping it tight and keeping the fight as grappling heavy as possible as we enter the final minute. Amirkhani completely controlling the action through the first five minutes as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Amirkhani.
Amirkhani goes for an early takedown as soon as Murphy switches to orthodox again but Murphy blasts a HUGE knee and Amirkhani is out!!! Oh my word what a KO!!
Michal Oleksiejczuk def Shamil Gamzatov via Knockout, Round 1 (3:31)
Great first round from Oleksiejczuk who keeps the fight standing for the most part, before landing a crisp right uppercut that puts Gamzatov down. He follows it up with some big ground and pound and that’s all she wrote!
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def Benoit Saint-Denis via Unanimous Decision (29-26 x3)
Saint-Denis opens with a body kick, then Zaleski lands a nice one-two. Nice body kicks from Zaleski and some hard low kicks, but Saint-Denis coming forward still and then creates an angle for a takedown and slams Zaleski down. Zaleski gets back up relatively easily though and lands another hard low kick. Saint-Denis ripping some strong kicks to the body, but Zaleski responding with leg kicks. Big exchange of punches and Zaleski lands a hard right hand that rocks him, but Saint-Denis shoots in for a double leg to buy himself some time. Zaleski gets back up again quickly and continues to chop the lead leg. Level change from Saint-Denis but Zaleski keeps it standing, then just slips a big uppercut. Great round, 10-9 Zaleski for me.
Fast flurry of strikes between the two leads to Zaleski landing a big counter-right hand. Saint-Denis keeps coming and eats another huge right hand and then Zaleski lands a flush knee to the head. Saint-Denis is badly hurt but Zaleski keeps coming forward and landing big strikes. Saint-Denis won’t go down but Zaleski is pouring it on! Huge strikes and another big right hand and Saint-Denis is just refusing to go down. Zaleski is battering him and the entire arena is screaming for the referee to stop the fight but he won’t. Zaleski is lighting him up but he won’t go down and then he shoots for a takedown. Somehow, the round goes the full five minutes. Unreal. 20-17 at least.
Somehow they come out for the final round and Zaleski lands a hard low kick. Accidental eye poke from Zaleski causes a pause of the action. Saint-Denis tells the referee he can’t see , but the referee restarts the fight anyway without bringing in a doctor??? Zaleski lands a right hand that wobbles Saint-Denis, who shoots for a takedown that gets sprawled. Zaleski sitting on the top in full guard before they get back to the feet. Head-kick from Saint-Denis is blocked and Zaleski comes forward again with a right hand. Big left hand from Saint-Denis lands before a takedown attempt, but Zaleski is able to scramble to switch the position and then get back up. Final minute now and there’s an accidental low blow by Zaleski to cause another pause in the action. The referee takes a point away from Zaleski (???) who now steps forward with some more aggression. Round comes to an end with Zaleski chasing Saint-Denis down, but that should be that. 29-26.
Albert Duraev def Roman Kopylov via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-27 x2)
Kopylov starting off confidently in the centre, landing hard low kicks and one that even drops Duraev momentarily. Duraev explodes with a one-two and then a leg kick of his own. Duraev lands a right hand down the middle, then lands a low kick and left-hook combo that stuns Kopylov. Another hard leg kick from Duraev as he starts to pressure Kopylov back against the cage. Big elbow strike lands but Kopylov is giving as good as he’s taking so far. Duraev currently just too quick for Kopylov at the moment, but no great damage being done. Kopylov catches a high kick and lands a few uppercuts before they separate and Duraev goes for some more jabs. 10-9 Duraev at the end of the first.
Kopylov lands a big left hand early in the second and drops Duraev! Duraev manages to survive with good movement and then shoots in for a takedown against the cage. Duraev goes for a takedown and Kopylov grabs the fence to deny it! The referee stops the action, gives a hard warning and resets them which allows Duraev to get an immediate takedown. Duraev then transitions straight into full mount and starts attacking with ground and pound and threatening with a head-and-arm choke. Big ground and pound from Duraev and Kopylov is trying to fight back but getting hurt bad. Duraev landing big, heavy elbows from the top in full mount and Kopylov is getting beaten up bad. Duraev going for a head-and-arm choke but Kopylov defends it and Duraev goes straight back to the big elbow strikes from the top. Kopylov turns on to his belly and Duraev takes his back to look for a choke, before smashing in more ground and pound. Duraev goes for a rear-naked choke and it’s in deep but Kopylov is saved by the bell! 20-17 Duraev.
Nice body shot from Kopylov and a head-kick is blocked, before Duraev goes straight back for a takedown against the cage. Kopylov defends it well but Duraev keeps trying until they separate and reset in the middle of the octagon. Nice body kick from Kopylov again, but Duraev lands a big right hand and then goes back in for a takedown. Kopylov defending it excellently though and as he escapes, Duraev goes down with exhaustion. Kopylov lands a big left hand and Duraev is exhausted, but so is Kopylov. Kopylove with his hands on his knees, trying to invite Duraev towards him. Duraev just taking his time to circle as we enter the final minute but both men are just waiting for the final bell at this point. Duraev goes for a takedown but gets caught and then Kopylov goes for a big takedown of his own to end the round. 30-26 Duraev.
Zubaira Tukhugov def Ricardo Ramos via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start to this one as Ramos comes out very kick heavy, with low kicks and body attempts while Tukhugov just staying calm and patient. Nice left hand counter lands from Tukhugov that stumbles Ramos, which immediately makes the Brazilian think twice. Tukhugov forcing Ramos against the cage with his pressure and lands a big left hand. He follows it with a big right hand that opens up a huge cut! Tukhugov throws a big body shot and is pressuring Ramos hard now. Low kick from Ramos but Tukhugov counters with a nice one-two down the pipe. Big right hand swings wildly and misses but Ramos is very focused on avoiding rather than causing damage right now. Big counter-right hand from Tukhugov lands again. Tukhugov goes in for a left hook but Ramos counters with a spinning reverse elbow that opens a big cut up on Tukhugov! What a round! 10-9 Tukhugov for me.
Start of the second similar to the first, with Ramos trying to be first and Tukhugov trying to counter. Big right hand from the Russian lands but Ramos continuing to be on the front foot. Tukhugov slips a big combination and points at Ramos, before Ramos slips a counter one-two straight back. Nice low kick from Ramos lands and then a big one-two down the pipe. Tukhugov goes for a single leg but lets it go and lands a right hand of his own. Tukhugov starting to pressure Ramos against the cage but the Brazilian doing well to move and circle. Big right hand from Tukhugov lands and he follows up with two nice jabs. Tukhugov fires in with a blast double leg and gets a back trip to take the fight down with ten seconds left and likely take the round. 20-18 Tukhugov for me.
Tukhugov looking to take the initiative early on again and stepping forward with his jab. Ramos looks like he’s tiring but is landing his right hand well. Ramos lands a big knee with his back against the cage and then explodes forward with more strikes. Tukhugov stays calm though and continues to land his jab, while avoiding Ramos’ bigger strike attempts. Another stiff jab by Tukhugov but Ramos just misses with an elbow. More jabs from Tukhugov, who is pressuring Ramos backwards consistently. Ramos lands a right hand and then a low kick but Tukhugov still coming forward and then shoots for a takedown with 30 seconds to go. A few trip attempts but the buzzer goes and Tukhugov should earn the decision win.
Amanda Ribas def Virna Jandiroba via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Jandiroba shoots straight in for a takedown but Ribas sprawls and denies it immediately. Ribas fires a one-two down the pipe after slipping Jandiroba’s strike attempt, before Jandiroba sees another takedown attempt denied. Big one-two lands from Jandiroba and then she shoots for a takedown and secures it into full guard. Jandiroba goes for body-head strikes but Ribas throws her legs up and looks for a very unique submission, but Jandiroba stays calm, escapes and goes back to the ground and pound. Jandiroba scoops her over to the cage and stacks her up, looking for some strikes then launches down with a huge elbow. Jandiroba completely controlling on the ground right now with relentless pressure but then the referee stands them up. Jandiroba lands a big right hand that drops Ribas but the buzzer goes and potentially saves her! 10-9 Jandiroba.
Lots of bouncing to open the second round and then Ribas lands a big right hand straight down the pipe. Jandiroba responds with a right hand of her own before a spinning back kick from Ribas lands to the body. Nice counter right from Ribas again as both women stand toe-to-toe. Lots of big actions from both women but not much landing as of now, with Ribas pushing the action and Jandiroba on the back foot. Jandiroba goes for a single leg takedown but Ribas reverses the attempt and ends up on top, before they scramble up to their feet again. Lots of tough grappling to end the round, but Ribas takes it. 19-19.
Ribas pressuring hard in the third now with nice combinations and ending them all with a kick. Jandiroba is slowing up quite clearly and she shoots for a lazy takedown that Ribas stuffs then tries to trip her herself. Nice left hand from Jandiroba before Ribas counters the next strike with a nice left hand. Spinning kick to the body doesn’t land clean, before Jandiroba goes for another takedown but is denied. Big head kick from Ribas lands and Jandiroba is hurt! She goes for a spin kick that misses and that allows Jandiroba to recover her senses, but she’s very tired. Ribas still fresh and being first with her strikes as the fight winds down to a close. Should be a comeback 29-28 win for Ribas.
Ankalaev opening up early with some speedy strikes down the pipe, but Oezdemir staying calm in front of him. Oezdemir throws a wicked left hook that lands, then follows up with a left uppercut that wobbles Ankalaev. Oezdemir goes for a flying knee but misses and Ankalaev gets a body lock and puts him up against the cage. Oezdemir has Ankalaev backing up against the cage but both men are just missing with their strikes. Big one-two down the pipe from Ankalaev and he drops Oezdemir! He goes to finish but Oezdemir gets back up quickly and they reset. Another jab and left hand from Ankalaev lands and he’s now taking the centre. Oezdemir looks hesitant and Ankalaev’s left hand is landing at will almost. One-two followed by two more right-hands by Ankalaev as the round ends. 10-9 Ankalaev.
Oezdemir tries to rush in with his right hand but Ankalaev escapes, clinches up and then lands a big left hand on the break. Hard low kick from Oezdemir before Ankalaev throws another combination that just misses. Oezdemir steps forward with a right hand but Ankalaev counters with a hard right hook that cuts Oezdemir above the eye. Oezdemir’s only success really coming from low kicks but Ankalaev controlling the range and throwing his left hand well. Uppercut from Ankalaev lands and then he locks up a body lock against the cage, throwing hard knees to the thigh of Oezdemir. Ankalaev tries to get a takedown but Oezdemir defends well, then blocks a big left hand on the break. 20-18 Ankalaev.
Ankalaev staying very calm and jabbing well in this final round. Nice jab and a big right hand lands but Oezdemir eats it well. Oezdemir goes for a takedown but Ankalaev denies it and then lands a hard right hand. Ankalaev turning up the pressure a little now with a left head kick but Oezdemir still trying to find a moment. Big right hand lands from Oezdemir but Ankalaev eats it and steps to the side before returning to his jab. Entering the final minute now and both guys seem to have accepted the result of this one, with not much happening. Hard body kick from Ankalaev before a stiff right jab lands too. Takedown attempt from Ankalaev as the round ends, in what should be a 30-27 win for him.
Khamzat Chimaev def Jingliang Li via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1 (3:16)
Chimaev ducks under a right hand and goes straight for a takedown on Li, who defends it well before eventually getting lifted, slammed and controller. Chimaev throwing some ground strikes again but Li defending well, although Chimaev is controlling him with wrestling so far. Heavy ground and pound from Chimaev as he puts a hook in and starts searching for a choke. Chimaev goes on the back and flattens Li out and starts smashing him with ground and pound! Huge shots from Chimaev but Li is still trying to fight him! Chimaev switches to the back and goes for a choke and sinks it in! Li fighting the submission but Chimaev switches sides, readjusts the grip and puts Li to sleep! Wow!! What a performance! The hype is real!
Alexander Volkov def Marcin Tybura via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Great start from both guys as Volkov comes forward with some body shots and stiff hooks, but Tybura replies with a big left hand of his own. Volkov using his length well to land straight shots and avoid Tybura’s returns so far, before Tybura changes levels on him to no avail. Tybura gets inside and goes for a takedown, but Volkov denies him really well before breaking with an elbow attempt. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura steps forward again with pressure to close the distance. Tybura changes levels on Volkov but he turns him and ends up on top, landing a big elbow early. Tybura stalling on the ground by just holding Volkov tight to him and Volkov goes for a forearm to the throat to try and disrupt the breathing. Volkov lands a few more ground strikes to end the round in control and take it on the cards, 10-9.
Volkov using his front kick well once again and the big right hand following behind it. Tybura pressing the pace and forcing him backwards, but his takedown attempts are being denied quite comfortably. A few uppercuts in the clinch from Tybura land before another takedown attempt is denied. Volkov throws a knee that is caught and Tybura tries for another takedown, but Volkov denies him again and lands a right hand as they separate. Nice one-two from Tybura lands and Volkov is starting to tire now. Left hand misses from Tybura again and then Volkov lands a beautiful right hook. Tybura fakes a jab and goes for another takedown but Volkov denies it and sees out the round. Hard to score, but it’s probably even going into the third.
Tybura on the front foot once again in this final round, almost chasing Volkov but neither doing much damage. Volkov lands a hard knee to the body before Tybura goes for another takedown that gets stuffed. Nice one-two from Volkov as they separate but it’s still Tybura pushing forward. Big left uppercut followed by a right hand from Volkov lands and then he denies yet another takedown! Short left hook from Tybura lands and then he goes in for a takedown again that Volkov defends routinely at this point. Tybura tries a hip toss but Volkov holds a body lock and has the back, landing big knees to the thigh. Big right hands from Volkov land and then some nice combinations as Tybura starts to tire. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura responds with a big left of his own. Final minute now and both guys are breathing heavy. Volkov lands a big right hand, slips Tybura’s strikes and lands a nice combination to back Tybura up. Straight right hand each as the round comes to an end, should be a Volkov decision win 29-28.
Islam Makhachev def Dan Hooker via Submission (Kimura), Round 1 (2:25)
Hooker trying to keep length nice and early here with a few low kicks as Makhachev takes the centre and just looks for his moment. Makhachev throws a nice hook then dips low and catches Hooker’s leg to get an immediate takedown and move straight to half guard in his own corner. Makhachev throws a nice elbow in tight and is now attacking a kimura! Makhachev readjusts the grip, steps over and twists the arm behind the back and secures the tap out! Unbelievable performance from Makhachev!
Petr Yan def Cory Sandhagen via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
An exchange of leg kicks between the two in the opening minute, as Yan takes the centre and Sandhagen looks to circle on the outside and use his length. Yan lets a left hand fly but it just misses, before a nice low kick followed by a body shot from Sandhagen. Low kick from Yan and Sandhagen counters with two nice left hands before changing levels to go for a takedown. Yan defends it well though and they go back into a close exchange of striking. Hard low kick from Yan lands before Sandhagen steps forward and just misses with a left. Sandhagen forces Yan to the cage and lands a few touching shots, before a nice kick to the body. Hard strikes from Sandhagen land but Yan returns with a big right hand of his own before Sandhagen changes levels again. Big flying knee from Sandhagen lands and the round ends. 10-9 Sandhagen.
Hard low kick from Sandhagen to open up the round, before both guys use their feints really well. Body kick from Yan lands but he misses with the follow up right hand and Sandhagen responds with a right hand of his own. Huge body kick from Yan lands clean and then Sandhagen responds with a nice left hook to the body himself. Head kick attempt from Yan is caught and Sandhagen throws a nice right. Yan responds with a low kick and then a big left hand to the chin. Sandhagen moving well still and touching Yan well, but Yan starting to counter with powerful strikes of his own. Yan just misses with a big left hand and both guys exchange body shots again. Sandhagen goes for a takedown but Yan defends it well and keeps the fight standing. Big knee from Sandhagen again but Yan eats it well. Yan pushing forward and putting his pace on this fight, but Sandhagen using his length well to stay out of real danger. 19-19.
Soft left hands from Sandhagen before he checks a leg kick and lands a beautiful left down the pipe to wobble Yan. Yan comes forward with a spinning kick to the body before Sandhagen lands his jab again. Huge left hook to the body from Yan lands but Sandhagen comes forward again with his jab and circles on the outside. Hard leg kick but Yan checks it and then he lands a big left uppercut. He goes for a combination but Sandhagen avoids it and lands a one-two of his own. Yan trying to turn the pressure up but Sandhagen slipping shots well and avoiding clean hits. Big one-two from Yan lands but Sandhagen staying calm and circling on the outside. Body kick from Yan but Sandhagen moves forward to trade with him. Yan throws a big hook and then a spinning back fist and drops Sandhagen! He goes for vicious ground and pound but Sandhagen stays calm and after some scrambles, they get back to the feet and the round ends. 29-28 Yan.
Yan starting to walk Sandhagen down a bit now but he isn’t going anywhere. Nice jabs again and a nice knee attempt just misses, but Yan is throwing big left hands and landing clean. Another big left from Yan lands flush but Sandhagen still standing. Body shot from Sandhagen gets a big left straight reply from Yan, but Sandhagen continuing to poke at him with jabs. Yan with a body kick and then a beautiful one two lands. Sandhagen shoots for a takedown and gets it, but both guys go for a heel hook before they scramble back to their feet. Yan ducks under a spinning back fist then lands some big combinations to the head and body. Yan continuing to march forward and the big hooks are landing, but Sandhagen responds with a big elbow. Yan steps forward and blasts Sandhagen with a huge right hand, but Sandhagen just eats it. Yan stuffs a takedown and they start scrambling again, with Yan throwing big combinations. 39-37 Yan.
Final round and Sandhagen still trying pick his shots while Yan is walking him down. Hard low kick from Yan gets a big reaction from Sandhagen, before he tries another jump knee that Yan blocks. Yan looking to close distance again but Sandhagen still fresh and moving well, flicking out his jab. Yan goes for three hooks but misses them all thanks to good movement, before Yan tries for a takedown and Sandhagen denies him. Huge head kick from Yan lands but Sandhagen shakes his head and says no, before Yan goes for more big hooks. Final 90 seconds and Yan is still coming forward. Right jab from Yan before Sandhagen makes him miss several times. Big left hand from Sandhagen lands and then he avoids the spinning back fist. Big knee from Sandhagen with ten seconds left but Yan responds with a spinning kick to the chin and they go wild with seconds remaining to end the fight. What a bout! 49-46 Yan for me.
Glover Teixeira def Jan Blachowicz via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:02)
Hard leg kick from Blachowicz opens up the fight as Teixeira looks to take the centre. Teixeira changes levels and goes for the takedown, before spinning him off the cage and securing it. Straight into full guard as Blachowicz looks to tie him up and avoid that vicious ground and pound game of Teixeira’s. Teixeira pulling the head up and making Blachowicz very uncomfortable on the bottom, grinding his elbows and head against him too. Teixeira goes for an elbow but just misses, then cranks the neck up again and then lands a short elbow. Final minute and Teixeira starting to be more active from the top position and that’s the round. 10-9 Teixeira.
Blachowicz comes out with the jab early and lands a nice left hand combination, before denying Teixeira’s takedown attempt. Big left uppercut from Blachowicz before Teixeira closes the distance and rushes Blachowicz against the cage with a clinch. Blachowicz denies another takedown attempt and is just popping his jab. Teixeira goes wild and lands a big left hand that wobbles Blachowicz! Blachowicz responds with a nice right hand combination that staggers Teixeira himself, but the Brazilian gets a takedown quickly and moves into mount immediately! Teixeira flattens him out and gets the arm under his neck and gets the tap!!! Unbelievable!! AND NEW!!
Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) vs Volkan Oezdemir (17-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight banger to open up the main card! Ankalaev is on a six-fight win streak with knockout wins over Ion Cutelaba twice including at UFC 254 and then a decision against Nikita Krylov at UFC Vegas 20. Oezdemir on the other hand saw his two fight win streak snapped by a violent knockout by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251.
Ankalaev is a violent kickboxer with stunning power and great technique on his side. Oezdemir on the other hand is a good striker too with legit one-punch knockout power and good grappling defence skills (except against Daniel Cormier). Ankalaev likely has the power and technique advantage in this fight, but Oezdemir is a slick mover and I think he has the speed edge here.
Oezdemir will need to use his calf kicks well and hope to land with one of his powerful looping hooks, but those hooks will likely be countered by the crisp, straight strikes of Ankalaev and I expect he’ll turn the lights out midway through the fight. PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 2
Li Jingliang (18-6) vs Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super exciting welterweight banger between Li Jingliang and the returning Khamzat Chimaev. Li is coming off a stunning knockout win over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Fight Island 7 where he was a huge underdog, while Chimaev is fighting for the first time since his third win in 60-odd days at UFC Vegas 11 where he KO’d Gerald Meerschaert in 17 seconds.
Li is a very powerful striker with great low kicks and crisp boxing, while Chimaev has shown great power in his hands but also a relentless ground game that just completely crumbles his opponents. Chimaev’s background is also in kickboxing and on the regional scene he was knocking guys out for fun.
If Li is to earn a victory in this one he needs to keep the fight standing and exchange on the feet. Unfortunately for him, Chimaev’s power is enough that he won’t be scared to exchange on the feet but also his wrestling game is just too good to be able to avoid for 15 minutes. Chimaev takes his time but eventually storms a takedown and pummels Li until the referee steps in. PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Knockout, Round 2
Alexander Volkov (33-9) vs Marcin Tybura (22-6) – (Heavweight/220-265lbs)
A very fun heavyweight bout between two guys looking to stay in-and-around the top five. Volkov started the year with a knockout win over Alistair Overeem at UFC Vegas 18 but then got dominated by Ciryl Gane at UFC Vegas 30. Tybura on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak currently with KO’s over Greg Hardy at UFC Vegas 17 and then Walt Harris at UFC Vegas 28.
Volkov is a power, technical boxer who stands at 6ft 8′ and is very mobile and athletic. Tybura on the other hand is a powerful striker who uses his leg kicks really well and throws good combinations with his hands. His previous toughest opponent was arguably Derrick Lewis and he got stopped in the third round, while Volkov dominated Lewis until a literal last second KO in the fifth.
With his size advantage and technical prowess, this fight seems to play into Volkov’s hands. He’s got a pretty good chin on his own, good knees to the box and enough power to end it early. In the end, I think he pieces Tybura up for 15 minutes and gets a wide decision win. PICK – Alexander Volkov via Decision
Islam Makhachev (20-1) vs Dan Hooker (21-10) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really fun fight at the top of the lightweight division as Islam Makhachev takes on Dan Hooker on short-notice. Makhachev is on an eight-fight win streak, with stoppages against Drew Dober at UFC 259 and Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31 most recently. Hooker was on a two-fight losing streak after defeats to Dustin Poirier at UFC Vegas 4 and Michael Chandler at UFC 257, but bounced back with a decision win over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266. He replaces Rafael Dos Anjos on just a few weeks notice.
Makhachev is the prodigy of former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and his style in the cage shows that. He is a terrific wrestler with brilliant pressure and a decent array of strikes too, while Hooker is a kickboxer with amazing cardio and good knockout power in his hands too. Hooker loves to throw knees up the middle and he is always game for a fight, but this seems like a stretch too far.
Makhachev is comfortable on the feet but he will look to shoot in for the takedown and grind on Hooker. ‘Hangman’ is a good scrambler, but Makhachev is by far the best wrestler he’s fought and the likelihood of him getting back up could be slim. Islam may get caught once or twice but once he gets the reads he’ll take him down and dominate him for a wide and dominant decision. PICK – Islam Makhachev via Decision
Petr Yan (15-2) vs Cory Sandhagen (14-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights of the year on paper for the interim bantamweight title. Petr Yan was unstoppable in the UFC, claiming the title with a KO win over Jose Aldo at UFC 251 before his disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 meant he lost the belt. Sandhagen was on a tear and earned a shot himself with KO’s over Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Island 5 and Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 18 before a razor close defeat to TJ Dillashaw in July.
Yan is a brilliant all-rounder, with excellent boxing, tremendous footwork and good wrestling too. He has fight-changing power on the feet but is also patient enough not to rush in and commit himself. Sandhagen is a brilliant striker with great range and length, with a decent wrestling game in his back-pocket too. Yan is the smaller guy by some way here, but he is a clean, technical fighter who is in his prime right now.
Sandhagen will no doubt look to use his length and spinning techniques to keep the fight in his world, but Yan’s forward pressure and wrestling ability means he just has a little edge. Sandhagen has struggled in later rounds in the past and I think Yan can outwork him over 25 minutes for a thrilling win. PICK – Petr Yan via Decision
Jan Blachowicz (28-8) vs Glover Teixeira (32-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight title fight between the top two ranked guys in the world. Blachowicz is coming off the back of five-fight win streak including winning the belt with a KO of Dominick Reyes at UFC 253 before a dominant win over Israel Adesanya at UFC 259. Teixeira earned himself a title shot with a five-fight win streak of his own, ending in a dominant KO win over Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 13.
Blachowicz is a really well-rounded fighter with his ‘legendary Polish power’ matched up with great wrestling and excellent cardio. Teixeira on the other hand has got crisp boxing and excellent power, while his ground game is among the nastiest in the UFC in any weight. Blachowicz and Teixeira are both veterans of the sport, but the four-year age gap does certainly help the champion.
Teixeira will likely want to use his clean technique on the feet to land his big strikes, while Blachowicz will look to close the distance and make it dirty to use his physical style before unloading his big right hand. Teixeira will also look to get this fight to the ground to use his jiu-jitsu, but if Blachowicz ends up on top he’ll have the edge there too because of his physicality. Blachowicz for me has a power and speed edge on the feet and I think he lands one of those big shots early and gets the finish with some ground and pound. PICK – Jan Blachowicz via Knockout, Round 3
The UFC heavyweight division is in the best shape it’s been in for a decade after Jairzinho Rozenstruik ensured he remained in the conversation for a future title shot.
The Surinamese fighter had lost two of his last three fights after a stunning 10-0 start to his career. He asked for a quick turnaround after his last fight, a defeat to Ciryl Gane, in order to stay active and in the bosses thoughts and was given the opportunity against Augusto Sakai.
It was a pretty tight first round, with both fighters putting out feelers for the most part of the fight. Rozenstruik took the centre and used some leg kicks to find range but generally didn’t land anything of note until the knockout blows.
He backed Sakai up to the cage and as he circled out to escape ‘Bigi Boy’ faked with the right hand, landed a flush left hook and the finished the job with a couple of right hands too.
Sakai has now lost two in a row, but Rozenstruik has shown that he is somewhere in limbo in the division right now.
He’s beaten two former world champions in the past in Andrei Arlovski and Junior Dos Santos with vicious knockouts but both of those guys were well past their best at the time. When you look at his defeats, they’ve come against the current champion Francis Ngannou followed by Gane, who completely outclassed him without really shining himself.
Even his win over Alistair Overeem, who was on a good run before and after, came from a hail Mary strike at the end of the round in a fight he’d been dominated in for the most part.
But the win over Sakai now shows that he’s a level above those guys in the running for a top five spot, but whether he’s good enough to beat those above him is unknown now.
Blaydes now is without a fight since that knockout loss but is still ranked at number four, ahead of Rozenstruik. It would be a great fight for both men, with a big name bout likely to main event a card but also a win moving them further up in the conversation for title contention.
There is also the potential of a fight with the winner from UFC Vegas 28’s co-main event Marcin Tybura, who made it five wins in a row with a first-round knockout over Walt Harris.
Tybura is likely to move into #8 in the rankings now which would mean the only unmatched fighters ahead of him are Rozenstruik and Blaydes too. Number seven ranked Shamil Abdurakhimov is due to take on number ten ranked Chris Daukaus in July so Tybura could face the winner of that too if the timetables match up.
But with genuine contenders now filling up the rankings, the UFC is set for an exciting spell of fights in the heavyweight division and Rozenstruik is looking to be heavily involved in that.
Claudio Puelles def Jordan Leavitt via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Interesting start to the fight as both men trade leg kicks and body kicks before Leavitt changes levels and shoots in for a takedown. Puelles immediately rolls through to try and reverse but Leavitt holds onto the single leg and forces a scramble for the position. Neither men give anything up and eventually Leavitt is able to get into the guard but only for a few seconds before Puelles kicks him off. Leavitt doesn’t let go and tries to hold him down again but Puelles is eventually able to get back to the feet where they trade leg kicks again. Puelles shoots in for a takedown this time but Leavitt defends it pretty well before Puelles gets into his guard with about 40 seconds left. Neither fight lands any real offence as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Leavitt probably.
Second round more of the same early on from both guys with a few rangy kicks before Leavitt shoots in for a single leg takedown again. Puelles defends it well once again and manages to reverse to end up on Leavitt’s back, but he’s able to reverse into a kneebar attempt to escape and ends up with Puelles in his guard again. Puelles stands up and avoids an up-kick before landing a big left hand as Leavitt looks to get back up and they end up on the ground once again. Puelles looks to take the back and starts throwing a few strikes to free it up but Leavitt is defending faitly well. Puelles locks in a body triangle with 30 seconds to go but nothing else happens and the round ends. 19-19.
Puelles opens up the round with a takedown early on this time and he gets it easily, with Leavitt pretty content to work from his back currently. Leavitt tries to scramble back to his feet but Puelles doing really well to shut it down and starts landing some ground and pound too. Position over submission for Puelles so far but Leavitt is trying to get up again and goes for an inverted triangle but Puelles avoids it pretty easily. Puelles in the north-south position but not doing enough so the referee stands them up with 90 seconds to go, only for Puelles to score an instant takedown once they resume. A bit of ground and pound but nothing crazy and Puelles should waltz to the victory 29-28.
Sean Woodson def Youssef Zalal via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Fast paced start to this one as Woodson takes the centre and looks to pump out his jab, while Zalal is firing leg kicks and firing overhand rights to counter. Zalal starts landing some nice strikes from the middle and Woodson starting to back up a bit, so Zalal shoots for a takedown. Woodson is able to stuff it against the cage though and then lands a couple of nice kicks before a left hand wobbles Zalal! Zalal recovers well and seems to have the speed advantage so is landing first and preventing the jab of Woodson from being effective. Zalal moves in for another takedown but Woodson defends it well against the cage again before they break and Zalal goes for a double leg this time and gets it to end the round on top. 10-9 Zalal but close round.
Woodson comes out strong in the second round and lands some nice body kicks to back Zalal up, but the ‘Moroccan Devil’ avoids it and goes in for a takedown against the cage once again. Zalal breaks and lands an elbow before shooting back in again, then lands another elbow as they separate again. Woodson loading up with kicks and Zalal finding it pretty easy to avoid them, but Woodson lands a nice straight left. Zalal throws a nice left hook that lands before both guys trade leg kicks and then Woodson lands a nice left hand and jab again. Zalal shoots for a takedown against the cage with 20 seconds left but Woodson synchs up a guillotine but just runs out of time. 19-19 for me.
More of the same at the start of the final round as Zalal goes for another takedown and puts Woodson against the cage, but he is able to defend it well again and break out into the centre. Woodson takes the centre and is forcing Zalal backwards now, landing some decent strikes but then Zalal shoots in again to stop that momentum. Woodson throws a couple of nice knees to the body and is looking for a guillotine again but Zalal picks him up to escape with a minute to go. Zalal shoots in again but Woodson switches it and goes for a guillotine from the top, but Zalal explodes out and they get back to swinging to end the fight. 29-28 Woodson but close for sure.
Manon Fiorot def Tabatha Ricci via Knockout, Round 2 (3:00)
Tentative start from both ladies early on as Fiorot uses her significant size advantage to land he patented side kick and jab. Ricci circling on the outside and bursting with some flurries, but Fiorot staying calm and composed and lands a nasty body kick. She follows up with a nice left hook straight to the chin, but Ricci keeps moving and looking for an entry. Huge left straight from Fiorot down the pipe lands and easily denies a takedown attempt. Fiorot fires off a combination but Ricci just about slips it and gets away. Fiorot has the centre and lands a big left hand again but Ricci responds with a nice strike as the round ends. 10-9 Fiorot but Ricci is showing promise.
Fast start to the second round for Fiorot as she starts to hunt Ricci down and throw combinations against the cage. Fiorot goes for a takedown inexplicably but Ricci denies it and eats another combination up top. Ricci trying to throw some leg kicks but Fiorot checks and keeps coming forward, clinching up and landing two big elbows. Fiorot steps forward with a big combination and drops Ricci and starts teeing off! Ricci gets back to her feet but Fiorot keeps pouring it on and eventually the referee mercifully steps in to end it. Huge knockout win!
Alan Patrick vs Mason Jones – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Absolutely wild first round to start as Jones takes the centre of the octagon and looks to counter some crazy strikes from Patrick. The Brazilian shoots for a takedown but Jones avoids it and lands a nice right hand. Patrick throws some spinning kicks and back fists but Jones is slipping then and responding with big counters. Big exchange of punches from both men as Jones lands a left hand that staggers Patrick. Jones pushes forward with more pressure and Patrick clinches up and pulls guard but Jones starts smashing him with ground and pound. Big, heavy elbows from top position and huge strikes from the top and the referee nearly waves it off but he just runs out of time. 10-9 Jones, great round.
Patrick opens the second round with some more wild techniques before Jones steps in, gets a trip and starts working from top position once again. Some nice ground and pound strikes land but Patrick is able to jump back to his feet. He eats a big left hand and then an accidental eye poke causes a stop. Patrick tells the doctor he can’t see and the fight is waved off. Tough break for Jones.
Steady start to the fight from both guys as they look to feel each other out early on. Amirkhani shoots in for two takedowns but Kirk is able to slip his leg out both times pretty easily. Kirk steps forward and looks to land a right hand but Amirkhani then steps in to close the distance with another shot. This time he gets hold around the body of Kirk and throws him over his head and refuses to let go, before securing a trip and getting heavy on top. Kirk is able to push Amirkhani off and get up relatively quickly though and with no damage before a nice left hand clips Amirkhani. A bit of pressure from Kirk but the round ends, 10-9 either way.
Good start to the second round from Kirk as he steps in with some nice body work and a few straight right hands. Attempted flying knee just misses from Kirk, who then lands a massive right hand right to the side of the head. Three big body shots in a row from Kirk and Amirkhani shoots in again for a takedown but this time gets it, with Kirks attempts at a guillotine and heel hook coming to nothing. Amirkhani now in top position, staying heavy but Kirk throws up a triangle armbar and it’s tight! He locks it out and extends but Amirkhani refuses to tap and the buzzer goes. 20-18 to Kirk for me but could be 19-19 or 20-18 the other way too to be fair.
Final round and Amirkhani lands a big left hand clean on the chin to open up. Both guys look tired and after another left hand from Amirkhani he shoots for the takedown and secures it. Amirkhani heavy on top again, but Kirk throws up another triangle that just can’t get locked up. Kirk gets him back up to the feet but Amirkhani keeps hold of him and drags him down to the mat again, but this time Kirk reverses it and ends up on top. Kirk throwing body shots from the top as Amirkhani just holding him down to stall for time. Kirk postures up and lands a big left hand and the round ends with a stalemate for position. Super close fight, honestly could go either way.
Muslim Salikhov def Francisco Trinaldo via Decision (30-27 x3)
Very tense opening to this fight as both men throw out lots of feints and feelers early on, with Trinaldo coming forward. Salikhov throws a beautiful body kick that slaps, but Trinaldo rushes forward and lands a nice left hand in response. Salikhov taking his time and trying to counter, lands a big overhand right after missing with a left hook and then throwing a big body kick again. Trinaldo coming forward in bursts again and lands a nice left hand to the chin. Salikhov throws a leg kick but it gets checked and then follows up with a big left uppercut that drops Trinaldo! He follows up with some big ground and pound but Trinaldo stays calm on his back and sees it out until the bell. Whew! 10-9 Salikhov.
Good start from Trinaldo in the second round as he comes forward again and bull-rushes Salikhov, landing a nice right hand. Salikhov looks for the uppercut again that just misses, but then follows up with a couple of right hands himself that do land. Trinaldo lands a nice left hand before Salikhov lands a huge right hook that wobbles Trinaldo again! Trinaldo swings some huge punches after he recovers but Salikhov slips them all and lands some nice right hands of his own in between to really start piecing Trinaldo up. Salikhov is seeing the punches coming now and slipping then countering as he throws Trinaldo to the ground. 20-18 Salikhov but Trinaldo is still in this fight.
Final round and Trinaldo comes out swinging once again, but Salikhov counters with a left hook and gets a big eye poke for his troubles. After a pause in the action Trinaldo comes forward and lands a big left hand to that eye that wobbles him. Salikhov responds with a body kick and leg kick, but Trinaldo continues to come forward and look for that big left hand. Salikhov lands a nice leg kick and pushes Trinaldo to the ground at the same time, then eats up some time with a few leg kicks to his grounded opponent too. The referee stands him up and Trinaldo continues to come forward again as we enter the final minute as Salikhov lands a nice straight right hand. Big left hand from Trinaldo forces Salikhov to change levels and dump Trinaldo to the mat to see out the final 30 seconds and surely claim a win. 29-28 Salikhov for me.
Boser taking the centre early on and being the aggressor with some head kick attempts. Latifi just circling on the outside as Boser bounces around and feints some strikes, before another kick attempt gets caught and Latifi puts him on the mat immediately. Latifi works from guard into side control and looks to grind, but Boser is able to swivel his hips and explode back to his feet. Boser steps in with some nice jabs and a left straight but Latifi looking to clinch up every time. Boser lands another big jab and throws another two kicks to see out the round. Tough to score to be honest but I lean to Boser.
Latifi looking to punch his way in early in the second round, stepping forward with a nice overhand right. Boser responds with good foot work and his jab, slipping Latifi’s big punches and just piecing him up rather than landing bombs of his own. Boser steps forward and lands a big right hand that makes Latifi go down holding his eye, but the referee doesn’t step in and Boser goes for the kill! Huge ground and pound strikes against the cage but Latifi defends himself well and eventually clinches up. He shoots for a takedown but Boser defends it and goes for his jabs once again to end the round. 20-18 Boser for me.
Final round and Boser steps out with his jabs again but Latifi goes for an early takedown this time and gets it. Straight into Boser’s guard and this time Latifi is throwing some ground and pound strikes with heavy top pressure, stopping Boser from doing anything significant from his back. More grinding ground and pound from Latifi for almost two minutes at the end of the round and it’s his round but I think Boser will get the nod. 29-28 Boser for me.
*TOM BREESE VS ANTONIO ARROYO CANCELLED DUE TO A MEDICAL ISSUE FOR BREESE*
Montana De La Rosa def Ariane Lipski via Knockout, Round 2 (4:27)
Very patient start to the fight from both women, as Lipski using some feints as De La Rosa keeps the distance short. A few kick attempts from Lipski but eventually De La Rosa closes the distance, secure a body lock and gets Lipski to the ground. De La Rosa stays heavy on top and works her way to full guard where she starts raining down elbows and cuts Lipski wide open to the side of her eye. Lipski not doing much to get up and De La Rosa is able to just land big strikes at will here as the round ends. 10-9 De La Rosa.
Second round and Lipski lands a big right hand immediately, but De La Rosa shoots and gets the takedown perfectly in response. De La Rosa is able to slide into side control and has Lipski against the cage, keeping her in a really tough position and landing those big elbow strikes once again. Lipski is threatening with a kimura but it doesn’t have much hope and then De La Rosa slides into full mount and starts raining down huge elbows and punches. Lipski trying to roll away but De La Rosa refuses to let her and just keeps thumping away until the referee steps in and ends it! Huge win for De La Rosa!
Gregory Rodrigues def Dusko Todorovic via Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
A super start to the fight from the UFC newcomer as Rodrigues steps forward and is landing his power jab well. Rodrigues firing his right straight perfectly too and is catching Todorovic clean very, very often. A clinch up against the cage sees Rodrigues with a judo throw put Todorovic down, but he gets back up to his feet immediately. More crisp right hands land from Rodrigues as Todorovic just eats them, but he’s walking back with his chin high. Todorovic lands a nice right hand of his own to see out the round but that’s a Rodrigues round clearly. 10-9.
Rodrigues coming out aggressive in the second round and finding a home for that right hand over and over again. Some digs to the body from Rodrigues and another big right hand, before a power double leg secures him a takedown too. Todorovic tries to get up using the cage and eats a knee to he head but is able to get away. Rodrigues lands a big straight right hand on the chin again as Todorovic steps forward and throws a little flurry. Final minute and Rodrigues slips a punch and lands a beautiful left-hook, right hand combo. 20-18 Rodrigues, but he’s start to slow down a little.
Third and final round and Todorovic looks like he’s still trying to make reads. Good jab lands twice and forces Rodrigues backwards, but he replies with another big right hand that lands flush. Rodrigues goes for a takedown but Todorovic defends it well this time. Rodrigues steps forward again and lands some big combinations and then eats a jab for his trouble. Rodrigues lands a big right hand once more and then goes to the body, but Todorovic replies with a nice left hand of his own. Into the final 30 seconds and Todorovic lands some great body shows but eats another right hand. Todorovic goes for the takedown at the end of the round but the buzzer goes and it should be a win for the newcomer.
Santiago Ponzinibbio def Miguel Baeza via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast paced start to this one as Ponzinibbio takes the centre of the cage and looks to land some jabs and his right hand as backs Baeza up against the fence. Baeza responding with his kicks, throwing a lot of heavy leg kicks to the lead leg and throwing his right hand behind it. Baeza blasting those calf kicks and forcing Ponzinibbio backwards, and then he lands a nice left-right hand combo. Ponzinibbio comes forward again and lands a nice left hand but Baeza is throwing more and more leg kicks and they’re really totalling up now. Big flurry from Ponzinibbio at the end of the round lands a couple of strikes but ultimately that’s a Baeza round. 10-9.
Fantastic start to the round from Baeza as he targets the calf kicks once again. Baeza lands three body kicks in a row and as Ponzinibbio throws a jab he gets kicked in the calf once again. Big overhand right from Baeza wobbles Ponzinibbio but Baeza stays calm and doesn’t go straight for the kill. Ponzinibbio throws a few calf kicks of his own and a nice right hand but Baeza then goes back to work with the leg kicks. Ponzinibbio starting to land his jab a lot more now as he comes forward with a big flurry of strikes. Ponzinibbio coming forward constantly and is landing lots of strikes in the second half of this round with big combinations to end the round. 19-19.
Fast start to the final round too as Ponzinibbio steps forward again and they trade jabs. Baeza lands two leg kicks again then follows with a right hand that staggers Ponzinibbio. The Argentine continues to come forward with the lead jab and is now throwing a right hand behind it, but Baeza retaliates with a nice right hand combo to the head and body. Ponzinibbio lands a huge flurry and Baeza is hurt, but Baeza lands two right hands and hurts Ponzinibbio right back! Body kick from Baeza before a left hook lands from Ponzinibbio! Both men trade huge leg kicks and exchange wild hooks. Big uppercut from Baeza but Ponzinibbio lands a big one-two, followed by a Baeza right hand again. Both men spend the final 30 seconds going absolutely crazy with hooks and power punches, with Ponzinibbio getting the better of the exchange to end the round! What a fight! 29-28 Ponzinibbio for me.
Roman Dolidze def Laureano Starapoli via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Staropoli comes out very early and very quickly with a solid body kick, followed by two heavy leg kicks. He goes for a head kick that misses and Dolidze immediately shoots in for a takedown. Staropoli gets to his feet against the cage but Dolidze keeps a body lock and drags Staropoli down over and over again for almost the full round. A few knees to the thigh from Dolidze but otherwise a pretty dull round. 10-9 Dolidze.
Second round starts with an immediate power double leg from Dolidze who gets the fight down momentarily before they end up against the cage once again, in the same way as they did the first round. Staropoli eventually is able to spin away and get away from the grip of Dolidze and then lands a couple of kicks again. Big left uppercut from Staropoli lets Dolidze change levels and get another takedown. More clinching against the cage as Staropoli tries to escape and finally he does, before going for a takedown of his own and the same stalemate occurring again. 20-18 Dolidze.
Third and final round and we see more of the same from both fighters, with Staropoli unable to get his striking game going at all because of Dolidze’s strength whenever he gets close. Dolidze holding him against the cage throughout and any spec of danger is evaded. 30-27 Dolidze, next please.
Marcin Tybura def Walt Harris via Knockout, Round 1 (4:06)
Fast start to the round from Harris as he comes forward with intent and starts throwing bombs early. Huge rights and lefts from Harris landing clean but Tybura still standing and wobbling. Harris tries to clinch and goes for knees, then throws a flurry of hooks that drops Tybura again. He goes for a finish but Tybura drives forward for a takedown and gets it against the cage. Harris does well but then Tybura catches a kick and sweeps the leg to get on top. He transitions to the back and puts one hook in, working for a rear naked choke. He then starts landing heavy strikes that are having a big effect on Harris and eventually the referee steps in and ends the fight! Huge knockout win for Tybura!
Jairzinho Rozenstruik def Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)
Slow start to this one as Rozenstruik takes the centre and flicks out a leg kick or two, but generally both guys just feeling each other out for now. Another leg kick is matched by Sakai this time and then goes for another but Rozenstruik catches it and just misses with a counter right hand. Sakai throws a right hand that misses and Rozenstruik fires back with an overhand that whistles past Sakai. Rozenstruik backs Sakai against the cage and throws a flurry of shots but Sakai defends well. He does it again and this time lands a left hook right hand and Sakai is down! He lands a couple of follow ups just before the horn goes but it’s all over! Huge win!
Breese is a powerhouse of a striker with good takedowns and fantastic jiu-jitsu from the top, but on his back he almost seems to freeze against anyone who can get him there. Arroyo is also a grappler but he has really struggled since coming into the UFC and has completely frozen every time he’s got in the octagon.
Breese is in a bit of a rut right now but his skillset is far too well rounded to be caused problems by Arroyo and he should win this one pretty comfortably. PICK – Tom Breese via Submission, Round 2
Dusko Todorovic (10-1) vs Gregory Rodrigues (9-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A short notice middleweight clash as Dusko Todorovic looks to put the first defeat of his career behind him when he takes on replacement opponent Gregory Rodrigues. Todorovic had won ten in a row heading into UFC Fight Island 8, where he was knocked out in the first round by Punahele Soriano. Rodrigues replaed Maki Pitolo on a two-fight win streak, having won his last fight just two weeks ago.
Todorovic is a good kickboxer with some decent kicks but really good straight punches and power. An issue he has however is that he often steps out of exchanges with his hands low and chin high, which could allow for the powerful Rodrigues to cause an upset. The Brazilian is a solid striker himself but he also some good grappling skills to work with and Todorovic on the ground isn’t something we’ve seen much, if any, of.
The short notice nature of the bout makes Todorovic a wide favourite, simply because he has good combinations and hand speed and is at his best when pressuring opponents. Rodrigues could catch him with a big overhand, but the most likely option is Todorovic gets a win with a big blitz. PICK – Dusko Todorovic via Knockout, Round 1
Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-4) vs Miguel Baeza (10-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Ponzinibbio is a brilliant striker, with huge power in his legs and hands and real explosive power. He’s also a more than decent grappler, but he’s got nothing on Baeza when it comes to the ground game. Baeza is a tremendous grappler but also has exceptional power on the feet as shown by his seven knockout wins in his career. The old version of Ponzinibbio would have won this fight no question, but the version who fought Li is likely to lose.
Baeza has had trouble against guys who force him backwards, which Ponzinibbio will likely do, but he’s got such big knockout power in his hands that you have to now question ‘Gente Boa’s’ chin. It’s going to be one-sided, but it completely depends on which Ponzinibbio turns up and after so long away, I just don’t think the old version exists anymore. PICK – Miguel Baeza via Knockout, Round 2
Roman Dolidze (8-1) vs Laureano Staropoli (9-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Dolidze is a solid wrestler, who looks to get takedowns and secure top position as much as possible before landing his good ground and pound game, while Staropoli is a man who prefers to stand and strike if he has the option. It’s a real clash of styles, but there is a big size difference between the two. Dolidze was fighting at 205lbs not long ago while Staropoli has fought at 170lbs in the past and that could be a big factor here.
Staropoli has the striking advantage, but Dolidze will be able to get hold of him and get him down to the ground for long spells of control and a decision victory. PICK – Roman Dolidze via Decision
Walt Harris (13-9 1NC) vs Marcin Tybura (21-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A banger at heavyweight in the co-main event as ‘Big Ticket’ Walt Harris looks to get back in the win column against Marcin Tybura. Harris was knocked out by Alistair Overeem last year before Alexander Volkov outclassed him and stopped in in round two at UFC 254. Tybura is on a four-fight win streak after beating Sergey Spivak, Maxim Grishin at UFC 251, Ben Rothwell at UFC Fight Island 5 and Greg Hardy at UFC Vegas 17.
Harris is as much a first-round heavyweight that there is in the UFC. He’s got incredible power in his hands, winning all 13 of his victories via knockout, and has a relatively poor gas tank considering the level he fights at. Tybura on the other hand is a tidy striker with good techniques and some leg kicks too, but a fantastic gas tank and really good takedowns too.
This was just a weird fight to make in the first place considering their recent records, but it’s also one of those that is quite lopsided stylistically too. Tybura can piece him up on the feet or take him down and land ground and pound to get a comfortable win. PICK – Marcin Tybura via Decision
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (11-2) vs Augusto Sakai (15-2-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight main event that sets up the cushion for those in the heavyweight title picture as Jairzinho Rozenstruik takes on Augusto Sakai. Rozenstruik is 1-2 in his last three, getting starched by Francis Ngannou before a big win over Junior Dos Santos and defeat to Ciryl Gane most recently. Sakai had won six-in-a-row before his last fight, getting knocked out and dominated by Alistair Overeem.
Rozenstruik is an excellent, technical kickboxer with some legitimate one-punch knockout power in his arsenal too. Sakai is also a big, powerful striker and his biggest problems have come against guys who have grappled him and closed the distance. Rozenstruik won’t do that, but he’s without doubt the more technical striker of the two and I’d argue he has the power advantage too.
Both of these guys have big power but while I’m not totally sold on Rozenstruik as a top level guy in this division, he is better than Sakai for me and I expect him to get a spectacular knockout win here once again. PICK – Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Knockout, Round 3
Christos Giagos def Carlton Minus via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-28)
Fast start to the round from Christos Giagos here as he comes out with a big overhand right hand that goes straight into a level change for a takedown. Minus immediately tries to scramble out but gives up his back and Giagos goes straight into full mount. He’s floating well and landing some good ground and pound, while also threatening with a rear-naked choke relentlessly. Minus gets back up but Giagos is more than comfortable on the feet and gets it back down again as the round ends. Potentially a 10-8 for Giagos.
Second round is essentially the exact same thing as first. Complete domination on the ground from Giagos with plenty of attempts at head and arm chokes, rear naked chokes and ground and pound. Minus is being totally controlled but doing just enough to avoid being finished. Potentially 20-16 after two rounds in favour of Giagos.
Third and final round starts in the same way as the previous two, with Giagos circling before eventually securing a takedown that Minus just can’t defend. Minus gets back up this time though as Giagos is clearly fatigued and starts landing some nice jabs and one-twos. Minus lands a stiff uppercut as the fight draws to a close, with Giagos just circling to survive the final 60 seconds. Easy win in the end for Giagos, 30-25 on my scorecard.
Jimmy Flick def Cody Durden via Submission (Triangle choke), Round 1 (3:18)
Great start to the fight from Durden as both fighters exchange strikes before he grabs a takedown and moves quickly to take the back. He lands some decent punches on the ground but Flick gets back to his feet relatively quickly and they separate. Durden looks explosive and lands some big punches, as Flick covers up well and keeps his guard high. Flick goes for a head kick that Durden catches, but Flick turns it into a flying triangle choke! He pulls him into his guard, tightens the choke and gets the tap! Unbelievable! Wow!
Nchukwi makes a fast start and comes across the cage throwing heavy strikes but Pickett tries to avoid using his speed and mobility. Nchukwi throwing combinations and ending with a head kick a lot, but not landing them. Pickett scores a nice takedown against the cage, but Nchukwi does well to get back to the feet without taking too much damage. Nchukwi gets the fight down to the ground himself and shows good control but Pickett gets back up. Spinning elbow lands from Nchukwi as his cardio seems to be holding up well, with lots of knees to the body landing in clinches too. 10-9 Nchukwi.
Fast start against from Nchukwi as he powers out of the traps with a big overhand right hand. Nchukwi is still pressuring Pickett against the cage and whenever they clinch he starts dirty boxing with lots of body strikes and knees to the body too. Left hand landing a lot from Nchukwi but it’s lacking the big power now, although still doing damage. Pickett lands a nice one-two that snaps Nchukwi’s head back, but then he returns with a right hand of his own. Pickett lands a big four or five punch combination that sends Nchukwi backwards. Pickett comes forward and there’s a big clash of heads as the buzzer goes. 20-18 Nchukwi but he’s slowing a little.
Before the third round starts with the doctor checking out Pickett after the clash of heads but the fight goes on. Nchukwi lands a big left hand out of the gate as the round begins and Pickett looks dazed still. Nchukwi is starting to land more flush now and Pickett is hurt. Big knees to the body against the cage again followed by a big left elbow and Pickett is down! Big ground and pound from Nchukwi but Pickett is covering up well and surviving. Nchukwi lets him back up to his feet into the final minute and continues to walk him down looking for a finish. Great fight, but that’s a 10-8 for Nchukwi and a big win. 30-26 for me.
A quick start to the fight for Robertson as the two end up in a clinch against the cage and she goes for a flying armbar quickly! Santos is in danger but she stays calm and eventually gets out of the position and ends up in full guard, controlling the position and landing some nice ground and pound. Robertson throwing elbows from her back to create space and damage but Santos is doing well to nullify her. Robertson tries to scramble back up to her feet but once agains Santos is able to over-power her and land strikes on the ground to see the round out. 10-9 Santos.
Second round begins and once again a clinch against the cage ends up with Taila Santos on top and landing some nice short shots to the face. Santos ties her up and ends up on top with a reverse triangle choke with the legs, but Robertson defends really well and escapes into top position. Santos slides out of the back and ends up back on top once again, landing strikes and making Robertson very uncomfortable. Impressive round from Santos. 20-18.
Santos comes out in the third round and lands two nice punches, showing her striking chops, before Robertson throws a head kick and goes for a takedown. She ends up catching Santos in a guillotine, but the Brazilian stays patient and escapes, ending up back against the cage in top position. More short strikes from Santos as Robertson keeps working for a submission but nothing is working. Robertson finally manages to isolate an arm and rolls through for an armbar but Santos fights out of it once again and ends the round taking the back of Robertson. Dominant performance from the Brazilian. 30-27 Santos.
Deron Winn def Antonio Arroyo via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Explosive start from Arroyo as he comes in with some powerful strikes before Winn hits an early takedown. Arroyo scrambles back to his feet but then Winn gets another takedown early. A third and fourth takedown follow as the pattern of this fight continues as we pass the halfway point. Arroyo throws up an armbar attempt and then gets back to his feet once Winn escapes. He lands a big knee to the face and then a combo that hurts Winn, but he steps back and recovers. Arroyo starts stalking with hands low, but Winn looks for another takeodwn. Again Arroyo gets to the feet and lands a nasty front kick to the face but Winn eats it and gets another takedown as the round ends. 10-9 Winn but Arroyo looks more likely to win it at this rate.
Winn opens up the round with a wheel kick attempt that misses before landing a takedown, which he sees keep Arroyo down a little longer this time but Arroyo eventually gets back up to his feet. The round continues with the same pattern of Winn landing lots of takedowns and Arroyo getting back to his feet and landing nice strikes before going down again. Arroyo is exhausted at this point, throwing lazy kicks and accepting the position on his back while Winn lays on top to take a breather also.
Third round and once again Winn continues to blast takedown after takedown, taking him into double figures officially for the fight. Arroyo is exhausted and is accepting the position, being lazy off his back throwing up-kicks before Winn lets him back up. A nice head kick lands but Winn just goes straight back in for another takedown as we enter the final 30 seconds of the fight. They get back to the feet and Arroyo lands a body kick as the round comes to an end. Should be a win for Deron Winn.
Pannie Kianzad def Sijara Eubanks via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
A strong start for Eubanks as she lands a flurry of punches before getting the takedown at the first attempt. Lots of floating position and some good strikes from top control as Kianzad is clearly at a disadvantage in these instances. Eubanks controls the entire round with top control and ends the round taking the back of Kianzad, but she runs out of time before she can sink in a choke. 10-9 Eubanks.
Kianzad starts the second round well, landing some good strikes and then defend against the takedown attempt from Eubanks. Kianzad lands some nice knees to the body in the clinch and some good body shots that are doing some damage. Eubanks blasts a takedown and gets it but Kianzad immediately throws up her guard and defends. She looks to sink in an armbar from her back but Eubanks escapes well and Kianzad manages to get back to her feet. A few more body shots land and the round ends with Kianzad throwing elbows to the side of the head as she defends a takedown. 19-19, big round incoming.
Third round continues from where the second left off, as Kianzad keeps the fight standing and starts landing some nice jabs. Eubanks looks laboured now but then lands a big right hand on Kianzad that gets her attention. Kianzad throwing knees to the body again and her jab is landing but Eubanks is walking forward. Both women exchange jabs in the centre before a wild left hook misses the target completely. Final minute now as Eubanks lands a right hand before Kianzad steps in and out landing a nice one-two. Big left hook from Eubanks lands but Kianzad responds with a hook of her own. Fight comes to an end with the women exchanging blows in the centre. 29-28 Kianzad for me but that’s a great fight.
Anthony Pettis def Alex Morono via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
A blistering start to this fight as Morono charges across the cage and gets an immediate takedown with a hook in to take the back. He starts raining down huge punches and busts the nose of Pettis early. Body lock tightens as Morono looks for a rear naked choke, but Pettis rotates into him and reverses the position well before getting back up to his feet. Pettis starts flicking out strikes, looking for his big left hand but Morono countering well and forcing Pettis to move backwards. Big spinning kick from Pettis lands clean to the chest but Morono eats it and continues to come forward. Morono goes for another takedown and drags Pettis down to the mat but Pettis reverses it perfectly and ends the round on top. 10-9 Morono but great fight so far.
Fast paced start for the second round as Pettis comes out looking for jabs and kicks but Morono still coming forward. He’s beginning to slow down now a bit though as Pettis looks for a huge spinning elbow but hits fresh air. Pettis throwing some nice leg kicks and a straight left that is causing Morono some trouble, as Pettis throws an axe-kick that grazes the face of Morono. Body kick from Morono as he continues to come forward, but Pettis is landing shots and avoiding any big damage coming back his way. Body kick lands and then a jab from Pettis as both men look for spinning attacks at the end of the round. 19-19, Pettis looking good right now.
Morono lands a nice strike to open the round, before Pettis throws another axe kick that grazes the head. Pettis turns his back after a strike attempt and Morono charges for a takedown, but Pettis rolls through and ends up on top in control. Pettis doing brilliant work to remain on top, stacking Morono against the cage and landing short shots to stay busy. Morono battles back to his feet but Pettis controlling head position and landing knees to the body as we enter the final minute. Separation from the clinch and Morono charges forward with a flurry, but Pettis responds with a clean uppercut. Spinning wheel kick lands to the top of the head by Pettis and Morono is wobbled! Pettis charges for the finish and drops him, but then goes for a guillotine which he doesn’t quite get and ends the round on top raining down punches.
Marcin Tybura def Greg Hardy via Knockout, Round 2 (4:31)
An interesting start to this fight as both guys looking to fight from range using jabs, while Tybura looking to add a few kicks too. Hardy lands a nice right hand but Tybura eats it and throws a nice body kick. Hardy lands three big right hands in a row and Tybura is wobbled! Hardy slows it down again and Tybura goes for a single leg takedown but it’s defended well. Hardy then lands SEVEN heavy right hands in a row that really hurts Tybura but the round comes to an end. Best we’ve seen Hardy. 10-9.
Better start to the round for Tybura this time as he starts to time the shots of Hardy and countering well. He’s walking Hardy down and throwing kicks and jabs, feinting takedowns constantly too. Tybura shoots in for a takedown this time against the cage and Hardy defends it well at first before ending up flat on his back. Tybura flattens Hardy out onto his back and starts throwing bombs down! Hardy starts covering up and Tybura keeps punching until the referee stops the fight! Big comeback win for the Polish fighter!
Rob Font def Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)
Explosive start to the fight from Font as he comes out with two big hooks, which makes Moraes change levels and get a takedown quickly. Font manages to reverse the position and lands some nice knees to the body, but then Moraes picks him up and slams him down and takes control from top position. Font gets back to his feet and Moraes lands a nice head kick that sends Font backwards. Font then throws some bombs that rock Moraes and he drops him with a beautiful uppercut. He jumps on him for the ground and pound and the referee stops it! Wow! What a knockout!
Michel Pereira def Khaos Williams via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
A very tactical start to the fight with both guys throwing feints and just testing their range for the opening minute. Pereira throws a big one-two and a front kick to the body that connects hard, but Khaos doesn’t flinch. Halfway through the round, Khaos throws some leg kicks as the two clinch and separate quickly. Body kick from Pereira is caught by Khaos and the throws a big one-two that wobbles Pereira. Another front kick by Pereira is caught and another big right hook lands flush, but Pereira eats it and continues to come forward. Right hand lands by Pereira now and he follows it up with a knee up the middle. Flying knee attempt at the end from Pereira but it’s a tight round. 10-9 Khaos.
Another slow start to this round, but it bursts into life as Pereira counters a low kick with a straight right hand flush on the chin. Khaos comes forward and launches a flurry, that leads to a clinch in the centre that ends in a stalemate. Some nice leg kicks land from Khaos and then he starts attacking the body. Pereira responds with a body kick of his own and Khaos charges across the cage throwing punches, landing three in a row to the chin. Clinch against the cage and Pereira throws big knees to the body before they separate. Seconds to go and Pereira jumps on the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke, but runs out of time. Super close round, 20-18 Khaos for me though.
Fancy footwork from Pereira as he looks to get in and out with powerful strikes, but Khaos is throwing hooks that are landing too. Pereira goes for a weird mule-kick but misses completely and then Khaos throws a flurry of shots to the body and head. Pereira throws a body kick again and then changes levels to secure a takedown. Pereira tries to pass into mount but Khaos defends well and gets back to his feet as we enter the final minute. Khaos eats a kick to the head and then Pereira changes levels again and gets another takedown, ending the round with lots of ground and pound strikes. 29-28 Khaos at the end for me but could go either way.
Jose Aldo def Marlon Vera via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Tense start to the fight as Vera and Aldo stand in boxing range and exchange leg kicks early before Vera initiates a clinch against the cage. Aldo eats some knees to the thigh before reversing the position and separating. Big left hook to the body from Aldo gets a reaction from Vera and he throws it again shortly after. Straight right and a big leg kick from Aldo followed by a third body shot, as Vera throws straight kicks to the lead leg of Aldo. Vera throws a head kick which Aldo avoids then throws a big body shot and right hook combo. 10-9 Aldo as the round ends.
Aldo starts the second round with another big left body shot followed by a right hand to the head. Vera still throwing that stabbing leg kick to Aldo’s lead leg, but Aldo is countering with good head shots. Aldo catches a body kick and Vera spins and lands a back fist, moving out of range of Aldo’s counter at the same time. Clinch against the cage as Vera throws knees to the thigh, then looks for a trip. Aldo stays on the feet and throws a knee to the body before they clinch up again against the cage. Better round for Vera there, could well be even.
Vera charges across the cage to start strong but misses a strike and Aldo latches on to the back and locks in a body triangle. He jumps up to the back and eventually flattens Vera out, before eventually rolling through as he looks for a rear-naked choke. Vera is battling the position but Aldo controlling from the back. Vera manages to stand up with Aldo still on his back and walks him over to his corner, slamming him down, but Aldo keeps the body triangle synched up. Aldo keeps the back for the rest of the round and threatens the choke but the buzzer goes and that’s that. Should be an Aldo win.
Stephen Thompson def Geoff Neal via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x3)
Competitive start to the fight from both men as Wonderboy manages the distance expertly as usual, using kicks and jabs. Neal marching him down, looking to close distance to then explode with flurries of strikes but Wonderboy landing combos and then evading. Wonderboy looks very sharp, landing good strikes. Both men go for an exchange of strikes but clash heads, opening up a cut on both men just above their eyes. Fight is paused for a short while but only lasts for another 5 seconds before the end of the round. 10-9 Wonderboy.
Neal comes out in the second round and looks to engage in a clinch, but Wonderboy defends well and they separate quickly. Wonderboy then lands a stiff one-two down the middle, followed by some clean body kicks. Neal responds with a body kick of his own but Wonderboy counters with short strikes and stabbing body kicks. Straight right lands from Wonderboy as he continues to evade Neal’s attacks with excellent footwork. Neal traps Wonderboy against the cage and finally lands a big left hand, but Wonderboy eats it and responds with a strike of his own to end the round. 20-18 Wonderboy.
Wonderboy continues in the third as he has gone in the first and second so far with good kicking and nice one-twos before moving out of the way. Neal closes the distance and gets a clinch position against the cage, throwing knees to the thigh. Wonderboy swivels and separates well and goes back to landing strikes from range. Both throwing jabs, with Neal landing a couple of nice ones in particular before another clinch against the cage with Neal leaning on Wonderboy, but the veteran separates well then lands a lovely combination. Big straight right hand from Wonderboy lands twice before Neal lands a big left hand just before the buzzer. 30-27 Wonderboy.
More of the same in this fourth round, with Wonderboy using his jab perfectly. Big right hand lands flush and Neal looks like he’s hurt, so Wonderboy lands three more. Nice body kick lands on Neal, that causes an audible burp in the octagon, but Neal is just being outclassed right now. Clinch situation against the cage at the end of the round, Wonderboy is cleaning up right now. He ends the round with what looks like a knee injury though… 40-36.
Final round and Neal comes out aggressive, throwing his big left hand and Wonderboy is clearly compromised by that injured leg. Big exchange against the cage and both men land some big bombs but nobody flinches yet. Body shots from Wonderboy as Neal gets a clinch against the cage. Big body shots from Neal with 70 seconds left as they separate in the clinch, Wonderboy steps forward with a couple of right hands of his own. Neal lands two clean shots but Wonderboy returns with shots of his own as they trade in the centre of the cage to end the round. Great fight, vintage Wonderboy performance. 50-45 for me.
Elsewhere on the card Jose Aldo looks for his first win at bantamweight against Marlon Vera in the co-main, on a card that has an insane 14 fights on the night.
Last week at UFC 256, we had a poor showing as we scored just 4/10 on the night on a night of incredible fights. That moved us to 185/292 (63.36%) with 80 perfect picks (43.24%) since starting predictions back in June.
Marcin Tybura (20-6) vs Greg Hardy (7-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight clash between the Polish fighter looking to go 4-0 in 2020, against the former NFL star who looks to make it three wins in a row. Tybura is coming off wins over Sergey Spivak, Maxim Grishin and most recently Ben Rothwell, while Hardy got the TKO win over Maurice Greene in October. Tybura is a well rounded fighter who carries power and has submission skills, although he hasn’t won via tap-out since 2014. Hardy is a powerhouse, who uses boxing to get in close and tries to take your head off quite simply. Tybura has been KO’d in each of his last three defeats, so Hardy will take encouragement from knowing that if he lands clean he can put Tybura away. Should this one get out of the first round, Hardy will start to gas and the Pole can then take over and using his good range striking and grinding takedowns against the cage. For that reason, Tybura takes a decision win after surviving the early pressure of Hardy. PICK – Marcin Tybura via Decision
Marlon Moraes (23-7-1) vs Rob Font (17-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
‘Magic’ Marlon Moraes returns to the UFC after his defeat to Cory Sandhagen back in October where he was dominated and knocked out in the second round. Rob Font makes his first appearance in over a year but is coming off a two-fight win streak having beaten Sergio Pettis and Ricky Simon. Moraes is a phenomenal striker in the Muay-Thai discipline and carries scary speed with his punches and kicks. Font is a kickboxer who has a great jab and is more than durable enough to have an all-out war. Font is a pretty standard striker style-wise, who tends to step forward and is very traditional with his footwork. Moraes is world-class when it comes to a kickboxing match and should be able to read Font’s attacks and counter with heavy hands to earn himself a knockout win. PICK – Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 2
Michel Pereira (24-11) vs Khaos Williams (11-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
The human highlight reel that is Michel Pereira looks to make it back-to-back wins following a beautiful submission win against Zelim Imadaev back in September. Khaos Williams has won his last eight fights in a row, including his two UFC fights so far. He smashed through Alex Morono in 27 seconds back in February, before annihilating Abdul Razak Alhassan in just 30 seconds with a violent one-punch knockout in November. This fight is highly unlikely to see the judges scorecards, with both guys carrying insane power in their hands and happy to engage in a war for the fans. Pereira has great submission and jiu-jitsu skills, but his go-to is always to strike with venom in his heart. He’s got great kicks and really good head movement, but he doesn’t have the one-punch power of Khaos. If Williams can land, there is every chance it ends there and then but if Pereira can use his movement and avoid using his wild antics to encourage a slug-fest then he should win. I just don’t think he does that and therefore gets chinned into unconsciousness. PICK – Khaos Williams via Knockout, Round 1
Jose Aldo (28-7) vs Marlon Vera (16-6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the greatest pound for pound fighters in UFC history, Jose Aldo has had a rough time recently. He’s lost five of his last seven, including his last three in a row including a knockout loss to Petr Yan in their vacant title fight on Fight Island. Marlon Vera though is on an upwards trajectory, having won six of his last seven including a shocking knockout win over Sean O’Malley back at UFC 252. Aldo is one of the best boxers the UFC has ever seen, with phenomenal counter-striking and dangerous leg kicks and speed. Vera has a good kicking game himself and has a great ground game but everywhere he excels, he’s just a level below Aldo. While Vera is super talented in his own right, this is just a step too far for the Ecuadorian. Aldo completely outclasses him on the feet and eventually gets a TKO win. PICK – Jose Aldo via Knockout, Round 2
Stephen Thompson (15-4-1) vs Geoff Neal (13-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
‘Wonderboy’ makes his first appearance in the octagon in over a year following his big win over Vicente Luque in November 2019. Geoff Neal saw a fight with Neil Magny fall through earlier this year and steps into the cage for the first time since KO’ing Mike Perry in December last year. ‘Wonderboy’ is an excellent striker, using his karate style to stay out of range and use his kicks phenomenally well. He’s also a tremendous counter striker which could come in handy against ‘Handz of Steel’. Neal is one of the best finishers in the UFC and has legitimate one-punch power, but is also a very composed and accurate striker too. He throws great volume and has shown the ability to maintain a good pace throughout three rounds, although this is his first five round bout. Thompson is without a doubt the best striker Neal has ever fought and his range management is phenomenal. It’s a really close fight because Neal has never had a step up in competition like this, but he is clearly good enough to be at this level. With that said, I think ‘Wonderboy’ has a style so hard to beat. He was dominating Pettis before a shock knockout and most people had him beating Darren Till in that decision loss. For that reason, I think Thompson stops the Neal train in it’s tracks with a clinic. PICK – Stephen Thompson via Decision