The UFC heads to Arizona for a huge pay-per-view card this weekend headlined by two massive title fights in the lightweight and strawweight divisions.
The main event will see Charles Oliveira defend his 155-pound title for the second time against Justin Gaethje, who looks to earn the belt at the second time of asking.
In the co-main event we’ll see Rose Namajunas defend her 115-pound title for the second time of her second stint as champion when she takes on Carla Esparza, reigniting a rivalry years in the making from the inaugural title fight in the division.
We’ll also see Michael Chandler fight against Tony Ferguson in a huge lightweight fight, as well as ‘Shogun’ Rua, Donald Cerrone, Randy Brown, Khaos Williams, Danny Roberts and more.
Blagov Ivanov (18-4) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (19-8-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight banger up next in the prelims between two vets. Ivanov has lost his last two fights via split decision to Derrick Lewis and Augusto Sakai, and this will be his first fight since May 2020. Lima on the other hand is on a two-fight win streak after claiming a decision win over Maurice Greene at UFC Vegas 26 before knocking out Ben Rothwell in just 32 seconds at UFC Vegas 42.
Ivanov is a grinding wrestler who has done excellently against power punchers in the past, despite results going against him in his last two fights. His chin is solid and he will look to take this fight down, but he must avoid an early blitz from Lima. Lima will step forward and wing absolute bombs on the feet trying to take his opponent’s head off, with low kicks to set them up and some decent defensive wrestling too.
This fight goes one of two ways. Either Lima gets an early KO win via his blitzes in the opening round, or Ivanov survives that and wrestles his way to a dominant win on the ground with control and relentless takedowns. I favour the Russian, despite his long layoff, because of the level of competition and power punchers he’s faced off with in the past. PICK – Blagoy Ivanov via Decision
Brandon Royval (13-6) vs Matt Schnell (15-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
One of the potential fights of the night in the flyweight division between two absolute killers. Royval snapped a two-fight losing streak last time out by earning a split decision win over Rogerio Bontorin at UFC Vegas 46, while Schnell saw a defeat to Bontorin at UFC 262 in his last bout overturned to a no contest.
Royval is a great all-round fighter with explosive power on the feet and excellent skill off his back and scrambles to get the fight back to the feet, but he has struggled against overpowering wrestlers in the past. Schnell on the other hand is also a well-rounded fighter who prefers the game on the ground to work for submissions, with his chin historically rather shaky in the past.
Royval will undoubtedly have the edge on the feet with his kill-or-be-killed style. He will pressure forward and has the edge on the striking, while he won’t fear the fight potentially hitting the ground. It’s a really tough fight to call, but I do slightly edge towards Royval. Both fighters are well matched everywhere, but the weight cut has affected Schnell negatively in the past and I just expect Royval to overwhelm him for a finish midway through. PICK – Brandon Royval via Knockout, Round 2
Macy Chiasson (8-2) vs Norma Dumont (7-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A woman’s featherweight fight with no title implications is rare, but we’ve got one here. Chiasson suffered a submission defeat against Raquel Pennington in her last bout after two wins in a row before that, while Dumont is on a three-fight win streak with decisions against Ashlee Evans-Smith, Felicia Spencer and most recently Aspen Ladd.
Chiasson is a solid fighter with good knockout power in her striking, good wrestling offensively but she does struggle defensively against grapplers. Dumont on the other hand is a superb grappler with great submissions, while her Muay Thai and boxing are enough to cause plenty of problems for anyone in the division. If she watched the tape on the Pennington vs Chiasson fight, Dumont will know she can essentially mirror that performance for a win.
Dumont has got a size advantage naturally in terms of this being her natural weight class, but she also has the boxing skills to work behind her jab and hurt Chiasson with her poor striking defence. Chiasson has the tools to win this fight, but she’s historically always struggled to reach her potential in fights and with Dumont on a wave of momentum and flying I expect a dominant decision win. PICK – Norma Dumont via Decision
Francisco Trinaldo (27-8) vs Danny Roberts (18-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fun one at welterweight between a veteran and a fan favourite. Trinaldo earned a split decision win over Dwight Grant last time out to make it four wins in five for the 43-year-old. Roberts on the other hand returned from a two-year layoff to earn a split decision win over Ramazan Emeev in his last bout back in October.
Trinaldo is a low-output striker who has good power and tends to grind out his opponents with grappling and wrestling skills. Roberts on the other hand is a good striker with dynamic and explosive power, but his grappling is essentially non-existent and that doesn’t help him against the experience of Trinaldo.
The Brazilian has all the tools to win this fight. He has got great strength and he has an ability to slow fights down to his own pace. Roberts has the speed and power edge, just, but that grappling availability makes me lean away from him. It’ll be close though. PICK – Francisco Trinaldo via Decision
Randy Brown (14-4) vs Khaos Williams (13-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute banger at welterweight in the featured prelim bout of the night. Brown has won his last two fights, submitting Oliveira with a one-armed rear-naked choke back at UFC 261 before a decision win over Jared Gooden last time out. Williams is on a two-fight win streak himself, earning a decision over Matthew Semelsberger at UFC Vegas 29 before knocking out Miguel Baeza in a banger at UFC Vegas 42.
Brown is a terrific striker who uses his length brilliantly and has nasty power, while his grappling is of a very good level too when he is able to take an opponents back especially. Williams is a very technical striker on the feet who has got one-punch KO power to put anyone in the division to sleep. This fight is incredibly close and both fighters are often underestimated, but there is an edge for Brown in this bout.
‘Rude Boy’ can use his length well and while he probably can’t match Williams for power, he can match his output and he uses his length and range really well. Williams has got power that lasts the full 15 minutes and his output stays high throughout. Both guys will want this fight standing more than on the ground which means Williams will have a chance for as long as the clock is ticking, but I do lean towards Brown using that range and output to earn a close decision win. PICK – Randy Brown via Decision
Song Yadong (17-5-1) vs Julio Arce (17-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A banger at bantamweight between two guys on the edge of a ranking. Yadong bounced back from defeat to Kyler Phillips at UFC 259 with a split decision win over Casey Kenney at UFC 265. Arce returned from a near two-year absence with a KO win over Andre Ewell at UFC Vegas 32.
Yadong is a brilliant all-round fighter with great wrestling and even better striking, with tremendous speed and power. Arce is a great boxer in his own right with good power and great volume, but he has proven to be hittable on the inside in the past. That is somewhere that Yadong excels and could be a big problem for him in this fight.
Song is so experienced for a 23-year-old and ultimately I think the fact he is so well-rounded can only help him here. He has the power and speed to catch Arce in a stand-up battle and has the wrestling skills to make him think twice and therefore leaving him open to getting caught and getting beaten. PICK – Song Yadong via Knockout, Round 2
Felicia Spencer (8-3) vs Leah Letson (5-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A women’s featherweight bout in this one, but I’m not sure why it’s on the main card. Spencer has lost her last two, losing a title fight to Amande Nunes at UFC 250 before Norma Dumont earned a split decision win at UFC Vegas 27. Letson is on a five-fight win streak but hasn’t fought since the TUF Finale back in 2018.
Spencer is a natural featherweight with decent boxing skills and a real lack of grappling skills in her weaponry. Letson is making a return after a bunch of health issues kept her out, but she is a good wrestler with decent volume on the feet too. Spencer has fought five times since Letson last did and she’s been in there with some of the best ever.
Ultimately these two have been matched up simply because the featherweight division is empty. Letson will make it competitive for the most part, but Spencer is comfortably better than her and will show it over 15 minutes to earn a victory. PICK – Felicia Spencer via Decision
Miguel Baeza (10-1) vs Khaos Williams (12-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute BANGER at welterweight in this one and my pick for fight of the night. Baeza was undefeated and brilliant before he stepped into the cage against Santiago Ponzinibbio last time out, while Khaos has won nine of his last ten bouts including a decision over Matthew Semelsberger at UFC Vegas 29 last time out.
Both of these guys are absolute powerhouses when it comes to striking. Baeza is a more technical striker on the feet with great power, while Khaos is one of the hardest hitters in the division with great speed. An issue for Baeza is that he has been hittable in the past and that is a big problem against someone like Williams, who will punish you for it.
Baeza has got brilliant leg kicks which can effect the footwork of Williams and when they get into exchanges, that could be the difference maker. Neither guy has been finished before, but I don’t see this one going the distance and I think Baeza’s greater technique serves to earn him a highlight reel KO. PICK – Miguel Baeza via Knockout, Round 2
Ben Rothwell (39-13) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (18-8-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A big heavyweight bout is the official co-main event for this one. Rothwell has won three of his last four, earning a submission win over Chris Barnett last time out. De Lima on the other hand has alternated wins and losses since 2014, going 6-5 in his last 11 fights with a win over Maurice Greene at UFC Vegas 26.
Rothwell is a powerful striker with great boxing and good submission skills too. De Lima on the other hand is also a super exciting striker with crazy knockout power and good Muay-Thai skills, but the elephant is the room is that he is an out-of-shape light heavyweight. That is a big problem, because he’s big by choice and Rothwell isn’t.
Both of these guys love a first-round knockout, with THIRTY-SIX (36!) between them and the likelihood is we’ll see that again. De Lima is aggressive and has good hand speed, but Rothwell has an iron chin and a granite fist too. Rothwell catches him with a hook in the exchange early and earns a KO win. PICK – Ben Rothwell via Knockout, Round 1
Max Holloway (22-6) vs Yair Rodriguez (14-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A title eliminator in the featherweight division is the main event of the night. Holloway bounced back from consecutive defeats to Alexander Volkanovski with a stunning performance at UFC Fight Island 7 in January over Calvin Kattar. Rodriguez hasn’t fought since a win over Jeremy Stephens back in 2019 but is still ranked at number three in the world.
Holloway is a sensational boxer, arguably the best in the entire UFC, with brilliant power, volume and an incredible gas tank that he uses to just annihilate opponents as the fight enters deep waters. Rodriguez is a very kick-heavy striker with good elbows and spinning attacks too, but generally using his legs to keep range and attack. These are the two best strikers in the division going toe-to-toe and it’s set to be a truly brilliant fight.
But when you look at the style of both of these fighters, it’s Holloway who stands out more. His boxing is so good with his head movement, footwork and jab and there is nobody in the UFC who closes the distance better than him. Rodriguez will have his moments, but overall Holloway is just a level above and I think his body work and boxing ultimately melts Rodriguez for a late finish. PICK – Max Holloway via Knockout, Round 4
**Ryan Benoit missed weight and wasn’t cleared medically to compete, so his fight with Zarrukh Adashev was cancelled.
Phillipe Lins fell ill before the weigh-ins and wasn’t able to get on the scales, so his fight with Ben Rothwell was cancelled.
Amanda Ribas and a member of her corner team tested positive for COVID-19 hours before the event, so her bout with Angela Hill was cancelled.
The card will proceed with nine fights.**
Carlston Harris def Christian Aguilera via Submission (Anaconda Choke), Round 1 (2:52)
Positive start for Aguilera in the opening minute as he tries to close the distance with strikes but Harris grabs him and looks for the takedowns. Aguilera is able to stay on his feet though and lands a big uppercut that seems to rock Harris. Harris stays calm and starts using his range well with kicks to recover, then lands a big left hand of his own that hurts Aguilera! Harris lands a nice right hand down the middle and then Aguilera shoots for a takedown to try and recover. Harris sprawls, locks up Aguilera’s neck with an anaconda choke and puts him to sleep! What a debut win!
Jun Yong Park def Tafon Nchukwi via Majority Decision (30-25, 29-26, 28-28
Good start to the fight from both men, as they both look to take the centre and be first ahead of their opponent. Park doing well behind his jab, using his great speed advantage to land well but Nchukwi is throwing good strikes too with more power. Park establishing the jab really well and trying to get Nchukwi to throw more so he can counter back. Nchukwi goes for an inside low kick but lands on the cup of Park and causes a pause in the action. Action resumes and Park continues with the jabs, both men trade leg kicks and the round ends. 10-9 Park.
Better start to the round for Nchukwi this time as he fakes a few times and lands a nice flurry of strikes to the face of Park. Park responds with his jabs once again but Nchukwi starting to throw some powerful kicks to the body. Park catches one of those kicks and looks for a takedown against the cage with it and gets a front headlock. Nchukwi fighting the hands and throws a knee to the body but misses and hits the cup once again for another low blow. The referee deducts one point from Nchukwi. Park continues to land his jab and come forward with his speed advantage and then changes levels for a takedown. Nchukwi reverses it with pure power and ends up on top but can’t land any damage before Park is able to work his way back up to the feet and start landing the jab again. Nchukwi goes in for a takedown but Park stops him with a headlock. Nchukwi uses pure power to lift him but Park locks in a guillotine and it’s tight, but the buzzer goes to end the round and save him. 20-17 Park.
Good exchanges at the start of the final round as Park’s jab goes to work once again while Nchukwi looks to come forward with a bit more urgency. A few low kicks from Nchukwi and some big swings with his right hand, but Park rolling well and is able to jab away with ease. Park changes levels and gets a takedown against the cage and is starting to wear on Nchukwi, putting all his weight on him and dragging him to and from. Park gets into three-quarter mount and starts throwing big elbows and heavy strikes, looking for a choke and big ground-and-pound as we enter the final 90 seconds. Nchukwi is bleeding badly but Park eases up on the mauling as the round ends and that’s a very dominant win. 30-25 for me.
Mike Trizano def Ludovit Klein via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Nice, tactical start to the fight from both guys as Trizano takes the centre and forces Klein backwards immediately. Klein lands a nice one two and Trizano responds with a right hand of his own before the exchange body kicks. Trizano’s pressure is forcing Klein to fight backwards and he’s struggling to get his attack going, but Trizano not landing much of his own. Klein shoots in with a nice double-leg takedown and gets Trizano down against the cage and tries to wrap his legs up Khabib-style. Trizano works his way back to his feet and the clinch and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Klein for me but it was close.
Nice right hand lands early on in the second round that puts Klein on his heels as Trizano continues his forward pressure. Klein goes for a head kick that just misses but follows it up with a nice right hand and a big left behind it. Klein shoots for a takedown again but Trizano is wise to it and stuffs it this time. Nice inside kick from Trizano as he forces Klein backwards again, but Klein explodes forward and lands a big left hand again. Trizano landing his jab well as he continues to push Klein backwards but he keeps bursting forwards with nice flurries. Klein bursts forward once more and gets another takedown and ends the round on top, but Trizano active off his back with body shots and should take that round. 19-19 for me.
Forward pressure once again from Trizano and it pays dividends early as he lands a big right hand that rocks Klein! Klein goes for a desperate takedown to survive and Trizano stuffs it, but Klein moves and manages to shake the cobwebs for now. Klein lands a nice left hand of his own but Trizano eats it, then Klein lands a nice leg kick. Body kick from Klein lands and Trizano goes for a right straight to the body. Trizano starting to land his strikes more as he forces Klein backwards and it forces another takedown from Klein. They get back up and then Klein takes him down again, but Trizano looks to sink in a guillotine but runs out of time. 29-28 Trizano for me but could go either way.
Phil Hawes def Kyle Daukaus via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 29-27)
Big pressure early on from Hawes as he backs Daukaus against the cage, while Daukaus looks to keep him at range. A few wild exchanges from both on the feet and Hawes goes in for a takedown early. He gets him down and passes the legs, but Daukaus holds on to the neck and it looks like Hawes has a Von Flute choke in. Daukaus elevates his hips and sweeps Hawes to end up on top and starts looking for control. Hawes eventually gets back to the feet and Daukaus goes in for a takedown again immediately but Hawes defends really well and the rest of the round plays out in a stalemate. 10-9 Daukaus for controlling the grappling against the cage.
Huge start to the second round from Daukaus as he comes out swinging with short hooks and combinations. He lands six or seven big punches and Hawes looks badly hurt on the feet before Hawes is able to clinch up and stall until he has recovered. They separate and Hawes lands a few strikes of his own and Daukaus gets wobbled! Daukaus immediately clinches up too but Hawes then breaks with a big elbow. Nice right hand against from Hawes and they clinch up, then both throw a knee at the same time but Hawes hits the cup to cause a pause. Action resumes and Hawes goes back to working the body with big hooks, slowing Daukaus down as the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Hawes lands a big right hand early before shooting in for a takedown and getting the fight down. Daukaus trying to be very active off his back, but Hawes defending everything well and landing some nice short strikes from top position. Daukaus looks to sweep again but Hawes denies it and goes back to the ground pound, going body-head. Hawes starts landing heavy shots and forces Daukaus to try and cover up and the referee is threatening to call the fight off here. He moves enough to supress that, but Hawes is working brilliantly from top position and in complete control. Final 30 seconds and Hawes continues the ground and pound to win the round and probably the fight. Great performance. 29-28 Hawes.
Gregor Gillespie def Diego Ferreira via Knockout, Round 2 (4:51)
Interesting start to the fight as Gillespie takes the centre and lets off a nice left hook. Ferreira shoots a few strikes of his own before Gillespie goes for the early takedown, but the Brazilian defends with submission attempts and eventually gets back up to the feet. Gillespie shoots for another takedown but it’s denied, then Ferreira lets off a couple of right hands that have wobbled him! Gillespie keeps going to the well for the takedown but Ferreira is scrambling brilliantly and using his jiu-jitsu to escape regularly. Ferreira scrambles and sweeps to Gillespie’s back with hooks in, going for a choke and ground and pound but the round ends. 10-9 Ferreira.
Second round and Gillespie looks tired but he’s shooting in for the takedowns still and avoiding the big swings of Ferreira. Lots of scrambling on the ground and Ferreira looks for a kimura from the bottom but Gillespie just keeps moving and floating to the next position as Ferreira is tiring. Gillespie starts landing some big strikes and threatening with chokes of his own and is really wearing on Ferreira. Gillespie takes his back, flattens him out and starts landing big elbows and strikes and the referee steps in to end the fight! Huge win for Gregor Gillespie!!
Marcos Rogerio de Lima def Maurice Greene via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Fast start to the heavyweight bout as de Lima starts throwing wild hooks looking to take Greene’s head off. Both men swing and miss for the most part before they clinch up and de Lima takes the fight down to the ground in Greene’s full guard. Nice ground and pound from de Lima from top position as he’s putting some big pressure on to win the round. 10-9 de Lima.
Second round and immediately de Lima gets the fight down to the ground and gets control. Lots of control and ground and pound from top position as Greene looks to tie him up but it’s just more and more control and ground and pound. As the buzzer goes to end the round, Lima throws a big bomb and Herb Dean gives him a very serious warning. 20-18.
Third and final round and once again de Lima gets a very early takedown into top position and controlling the fight. Plenty of ground and pound again from de Lima as Greene just continues to accept bottom position and get beaten up. This is a completely one-sided fight and relatively pointless as the round ends. 30-27 for me because of a lack of damage, but could be a 10-8 for each round in reality.
Neil Magny def Geoff Neal via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Great start to the round from Neal as he steps forward quickly and immediately puts Magny on the back foot. Nice straight shots as Magny looks to throw a kick or two, but Neal catches it and pushes him back to the cage. Nice one-two lands from Neal before they clinch up and Magny starts to throw some nice knees to the body. Magny bursts forward with a flurry of punches to get a clinch, but Neal takes him across to the cage. Magny changes levels and gets a takedown and looks to take the back, but Neal spins out and gets back to the feet once again. Another clinch against the cage as the round ends. 10-9 Neal.
Magny looking to up the pressure a bit in the second now as he starts throwing some kicks to the body and nice flurries to the head too. Neal doing well to block most of them though and firing back with some nice combinations of his own. Neal clinches and gets a nice trip before a big left hand lands, but Magny gets up and then shoots for a takedown of his own. Neal sprawls and puts Magny against the cage. Nice straight left lands from Neal before Magny goes for a single leg takedown but Neal defends it relatively well until Magny changes the angle and is able to take the back with a body lock. Magny is able to escape it again as they go back to trading in the centre. Magny just touching him with more jabs and kicks as Neal’s output is starting to slow a little. Another clinch against the cage and Neal lands a big elbow as the round ends. 19-19, great fight.
Neal looking to close the distance in the third but trying to avoid a clinch situation, as Magny continues to throw out jabs that are barely landing. Magny definitely the more active of the two, but not much damage being done by either guy at the moment. Neal stuffs a Magny takedown attempt, as he starts to walk Magny down more. Nice one-two lands against the cage but Magny immediately grabs him and clinches before separating and landing some nice jabs. Neal looking frustrated now and Magny gets hold of him and drags him down to the mat, but Neal gets back up quickly once again. Final 30 seconds and Neal lands a huge straight left but Magny sees out the round with with jabs to probably take the win. 29-28 Magny.
Alex Morono def Donald Cerrone via Knockout, Round 1 (4:40)
Fast start from Morono as he charges out into the centre, but Cerrone grabs hold of him and clinches up against the cage to drain that early start out of him. Morono swinging bombs as they separate but Cowboy avoiding it for now and landing a few shots of his own. Nice body kick from Cerrone and then Morono swings in hard again, but Cerrone changes levels and goes for a takedown that is denied. Morono gets a trip of his own but allows Cerrone up and hits him with a right hand on his way up. Morono throws a big right hand that lands clean on Cerrone and he’s backing up. Cerrone throws a left hand and Morono ducks under and a huge looping left overhand cracks Cerrone clean! He’s badly hurt and Morono goes for the finish, throwing a big body shot and knees to the head. Big right hands again from Morono and the referee steps in with Cowboy out on his feet! Wow! What a knockout win for Morono!
Slow start to the fight in this one as both women look to feel each other out early on, with Waterson throwing some hard leg kicks that are just missing. Rodriguez takes the centre as the round goes on, throwing some nice body kicks and hard punches while Waterson looks to counter with some nice spin kicks. Rodriguez trying to close the distance to nullify the kicks but Waterson moving well so far to stay out of danger. Bit of a wild clinch at the end of the round ends with a nice knee from Rodriguez, good round that could go either way. 10-9 Rodriguez for me.
Waterson unloading with kicks in this second round, looking to really keep Rodriguez at distance with a side kick counter. Rodriguez continues to come forward and throw the right hand, but Waterson keeps moving away. Waterson goes for a takedown but Rodriguez stuffs it easily and then lands two big punches. Rodriguez grabs a clinch against the cage and lands a nice knee to the body and Waterson separates. Both women trade leg kicks before Rodriguez goes for another clinch and lands some more knees. Waterson goes for a leg kick that just misses but then she lands a body kick and avoids a big right hook from Rodriguez. Big flurry of hooks from Rodriguez followed up by some big knees and an elbow to end the round. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Waterson goes for a leg kick early but misses and ends up on her butt, before Rodriguez catches her with a nice head kick on her way up. Waterson clinches against the cage but Rodriguez defends well and the separate with the Brazilian back in the centre. Rodriguez lands some huge hooks and Waterson covers up hurt, before stepping out and escaping. Two hard leg kicks by Waterson put Rodriguez down for a second, before a nice body kick too. Rodriguez swinging with a lot of power, but Waterson is absorbing it for now. Rodriguez is landing heavy punches but Waterson is still moving and countering with leg kicks and side kicks. Leg kick from Rodriguez followed up by a three-punch combo lands nicely. Rodriguez clinches and throwing big knees but Waterson replies with an uppercut to end the round. 30-27 Rodriguez.
Rodriguez staying patient in the centre as we enter the main event rounds, throwing some low kicks and searching for a home for the big right hand. Waterson keeps moving around the cage, throwing leg kicks of her own as Rodriguez lands a body kick. Waterson goes in for a takedown and gets it, straight into the guard of Rodriguez. Waterson controls the position and lands some heavy elbows on the ground with Rodriguez pinned against the cage. Rodriguez threatens a kimura to try and escape but Waterson rains down big elbows again to end the round on top. 39-37 Rodriguez.
Final round and Waterson staying calm in the centre, not shooting straight in for a takedown as many would have expected. Rodriguez just misses with a right hand and then Waterson throws back-to-back head kicks with the second one clipping Rodriguez. Side kick to the body from Waterson looks like it hurts Rodriguez, but she stays calm and then hits Waterson with a big right hand of her own. Waterson finally goes for the takedown but Rodriguez stuffs it and lands a nice body shot. Another big body shot and left hook from Rodriguez but Waterson replies with a right hand. Waterson steps forward and lands a side kick to the body again, but Rodriguez throws a jab and then looks to clinch up. Big knee and head kick from Rodriguez but Waterson keeps moving and the two women go out swinging as the round ends. 49-46 Rodriguez for me. Great fight.
Hawes is an incredibly powerful striker with legit one-punch knockout power, but he showed his wrestling chops in his last fight too. Daukaus on the other hand is a brilliant grappler, who has good height and reach against most opponents. He’s taller than Hawes, but not longer and that’s an issue for him. Hawes will know that and will look to stand and strike with him, using his wrestling only defensively to keep this fight standing.
Daukaus is pretty hittable and has shown a good chin in the past, but he’s never been hit by someone like Hawes. If Hawes lands clean as Daukaus tries to close the distance for a takedown, this will be a short night. PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 1
Amanda Ribas (10-2) vs Angela Hill (13-9) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Ribas is a brilliant jiu-jitsu grappler and decent striking on the feet, while Hill is a great all-round mixed martial artists. Hill loves an active fight, where she keeps pushing forward with kicks and Muay-Thai clinches using knees. Her issue with going for those clinches could be that Ribas will try and get her to the ground which is a whole world of trouble for her.
On the feet Hill has the advantage but Ribas can hold her own and won’t get overpowered, and I can’t imagine Hill keeps the fight standing for the full 15 minutes and Ribas is skilled enough to finish it quickly down there. PICK – Amanda Ribas via Submission, Round 3
Diego Ferreira (17-3) vs Gregor Gillespie (13-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An especially fun fight in the lightweight division here as Diego Ferreira takes on the returning Gregor Gillespie. Ferreira lost his last fight via decision against Beneil Dariush at UFC Vegas 18, while Gillespie hasn’t fought since getting knocked out by Kevin Lee at UFC 244 in November 2019.
Ferreira is a solid technical striker with good jiu-jitsu skills on the ground, while Gillespie is arguably the best wrestler in the division now that Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired. Ferreira will use his kicks and speed to avoid the wrestling, but if Gillespie gets hold of him it could be a long night for the Brazilian. He’s a good scrambler and if he ends up on top the level of jiu-jitsu he has is far superior to Gillespie’s, but ‘The Gift’ is likely to get that top position and look to hold it throughout.
From the top, Gillespie will land ground and pound and control the position en route to a good decision win. PICK – Gregor Gillespie via Decision
Maurice Greene (9-6) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (17-8-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Greene is a power striker with a solid chin and in his last fight showed some decent kicking too. de Lima is a good striker too, with good Muay-Thai and some good takedown defence to back it up also. He has alternated wins and losses in every fight since 2015 but he has got skills. Fast hands (for the division), good power and despite a size advantage Greene doesn’t really know how to use it.
Greene has the advantage of the ground but he rarely looks for takedowns and doesn’t have a wide enough advantage to work a submission, so I think de Lima lands one of his big overhand rights and ends the night early. PICK – Marcos Rogerio de Lima via Knockout, Round 2
Neil Magny (24-9) vs Geoff Neal (13-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Magny is an excellent wrestler who has used that to beat some top level opposition in the past, but he also has some really good striking too. Neal on the other hand is a powerhouse with a nasty left-hand, who stays very technical and tight at all times. Neal has some good leg kicks too and is without a doubt the more powerful of the two, but if Magny is able to get the fight to the ground he has the ability to grind his opponents out and land good ground and pound.
With that said, Neal seems to have all the tools to get the win here. His takedown defence is decent and the power and accuracy with which he lands his left hand should cause Magny enough problems to earn ‘Handz of Steel’ the win. PICK – Geoff Neal via Decision
Donald Cerrone (36-15) vs Alex Morono (18-7) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Cerrone is a great kickboxer with so much experience, but also has terrific wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills if he needs it. Morono on the other hand is a solid wrestler who uses his striking to get close enough to clinch up and get it down for a grind. Cerrone has got a brilliant head kick in his arsenal and if Morono keeps his hands relatively low to look for takedowns he could quite easily get caught with it, but Morono’s submission skills are really good and dangerous enough to make Cerrone be wary.
‘Cowboy’ is notorious for being a slow starter and Morono could look to take advantage, but if he performs as he did against Pettis then he could get lit up at kickboxing range. It’ll be close, but the short-notice nature of the bout takes me in Cerrone’s direction. PICK – Donald Cerrone via Decision
Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) vs Michelle Waterson (18-8) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Rodriguez is a power puncher with great range and kicks, while Waterson is a karate fighter who uses her kicks a lot to maintain distance and look to work the body a lot. Rodriguez is without a doubt one of the better strikers in the division and that doesn’t bode well for Waterson. She has got nine wins via submission in her career and her takedowns are decent, but Rodriguez has a lot of size on her and with them both moving up a division for this short-notice clash she’ll be at even more of a disadvantage.
I don’t think Waterson will have enough to get the fight down to the ground and Rodriguez’s power is excellent so I think she could get the stoppage win pretty early on. PICK – Marina Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 2