The UFC returns to Las Vegas and the T-Mobile Arena for the return of the GOAT, as Jon Jones finally makes the move from light heavyweight to heavyweight to compete for the title against Ciryl Gane.
Jones is the consensus GOAT in MMA, but hasn’t fought in three years. He’ll take on Gane in the main event at heavyweight to crown the new undisputed champion, after Francis Ngannou left the company while still holding the belt.
In the co-main event we’ll also see Valentina Shevchenko defend her flyweight belt against Alexa Grasso, while household names like Shavkat Rakhmonov, Cody Garbrandt, Bo Nickal and Ian Garry also feature on the card.
Last time we predicted a whole card was UFC 284, and we went 8/12 on the night with two perfect picks (not including the draw) to move to 837/1299 (64.43%) with 342 perfect picks (40.86%). You can see our full picks history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims, and then moving on to the rest of the prelims on the card, we finish up with our main card picks here.
Bo Nickal (3-0) vs Jamie Pickett (13-8) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A hugely anticipated UFC debut up next. Nickal earned himself a UFC contract with two first-round finishes on the Contender Series, and is a three-time All-American wrestler and former Olympic hopeful. Pickett has lost his last two in a row, suffering a submission defeat to Kyle Daukaus before getting KO’d by Denis Tiuliulin at UFC 279.
Nickal is arguably the best wrestler in the UFC now that he’s got a contract, but he’s also a very good striker with excellent kicks and some very fluid jiu-jitsu skills too. Pickett is a volume striker with okay power and good cardio, but his career trajectory is on the way down and the UFC knows it. Wrestling is a big problem for Pickett, and against someone as good as Nickal he’s in trouble.
This seems like a party for the UFC to introduce the world to Nickal. Expect him to come out really aggressively in the first round, score a takedown and work for a finish to really arrive in the organisation. PICK – Bo Nickal via Submission, Round 1
Mateusz Gamrot (21-2) vs Jalin Turner (13-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Absolute banger in the lightweight division up next that was put together on short notice. Gamrot steps in for Dan Hooker who broke his hand in training, and looks to bounce back from defeat to Beneil Dariush most recently. Turner on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak, with two KO’s and three submissions in that run including a 45 second guillotine against Brad Riddell most recently.
Gamrot is a fantastic wrestler with excellent grappling skills and decent power in his hands, but it’s wrestling that is always at the forefront of his mind. Turner alternatively is a really well-rounded fighter with great power in his hands and great length to his striking, but he also has good wrestling and is trying to improve his grappling skills. This is surely too big a test for him to try and check his grappling skills.
“Gamer” has got cardio for days and has the exact style of fighting that Turner will hate coming up against. “The Tarantula” will look to use his size to stay out of grappling exchanges and use those straight punches to land damage, but Gamrot is so experienced at this level that I expect him to find a way to get this fight to the ground and dominate on the mat to claim a decision win. PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Geoff Neal (15-4) vs Shavkat Rakhmonov (16-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Hugely intriguing fight at welterweight up next. Neal is on a two-fight win streak coming into this one, having edged out Santiago Ponzinibbio in a split decision and then KO’ing Vicente Luque in a career-best performance. Rakhmonov is undefeated and making waves, with a 100% finish rate evenly split between KO’s and subs. He dominated Neil Magny most recently, submitting him with a guillotine in round 2.
Neal is a powerful boxer with good volume and excellent cardio too, as well as some decent wrestling defence for the most part. Rakhmonov is one of the most complete fighters in the MMA, with amazing wrestling and sharp, accurate and powerful striking to go with it. Rakhmonov has dominated everyone, winning every round in his career and seems able to switch up his fight style depending on his opponent.
If they go toe-to-toe on the feet, then Neal has a chance because of his power. But history tells you that when Rakhmonov comes up against a striker, he’s happy to wrestle. When you consider that Magny dominated Neal with wrestling and Rakhmonov dominated Magny, there is a clear path to victory there and I expect him to find another choke midway through the fight to keep this amazing record going. PICK – Shavkat Rakhmonov via Submission, Round 2
Valentina Shevchenko (23-3) vs Alex Grasso (15-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Women’s flyweight title fight up next. Shevchenko is one of the best women’s MMA fighters of all time, and is currently on a nine-fight win streak although her most recent performance against Taila Santos was razor close and many believed that she lost. Grasso on the other hand is on a four-fight win streak, with a decision over Viviane Araujo most recently earning her this shot.
Shevchenko is the most well-rounded women’s fighter ever. She has got elite striking, elite wrestling, elite cardio and nasty submission skills too. Grasso is a good boxer with good volume, but her wrestling isn’t great and her takedown defence is a big problem in this match up. Shevchenko has the edge everywhere, and this fight is a bit of a mismatch.
Expect “Bullet” to out-strike her on the feet before switching to her grappling mode, getting Grasso on her back before looking for that crucifix position that she loves to get another stoppage win with elbows. PICK – Valentina Shevchenko via Knockout, Round 3
Jon Jones (26-1) vs Ciryl Gane (11-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Without a doubt the most highly anticipated heavyweight fight that could be put together right now. Jones is undefeated (his only pro loss came via a ridiculous DQ) and is the consensus greatest of all-time, but he hasn’t fought for over three years since beating Dominick Reyes pre-pandemic. Gane bounced back from his title fight loss to Francia Ngannou by knocking out Tai Tuivasa most recently at UFC Paris.
Jones is capable of doing everything, with fantastic striking and power to go with world-class wrestling, great jiu-jitsu and the best fight IQ maybe ever. Gane is a new generation of heavyweight, with fantastic footwork and amazing speed in his striking to go with brutal knockout power. He does have an achilles heel though, and that’s his wrestling defence. He will have a natural size difference on Jones though, and he must use that.
But “Bones” is the greatest of all-time for a reason. Expect him to start slowly and download all the data he needs, just like normal, before blasting in for a takedown and dominating Gane on the mat as we saw Ngannou do. We don’t know how Jones’ speed and endurance will hold up with an extra 50lbs of weight, so Gane could well make him pay, but I expect Jones to get the job done and cement himself as the greatest of all-time. PICK – Jon Jones via Knockout, Round 3
Katlyn Chookagian (18-4) vs Manon Fiorot (9-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs) *Chookagian missed weight by 1.5lbs, fight will proceed as a catchweight bout*
A potential title eliminator in the flyweight division opens the main card here. Chookagian has won five of six since losing her title show to Valentina Shevchenko, winning four decisions in a row to see off Cynthia Calvillo (UFC 255), Viviane Araujo (UFC 262), Jennifer Maia and Amanda Ribas. Fiorot on the other hand in undefeated since losing her pro debut, going 4-0 in the UFC with an impressive win over Maia most recently.
Chookagian’s style is the same no matter the opponent and very few people have been able to do anything about it. She has a great karate style which sees her kick from a distance and use great footwork to get in, land shots, and get back out. Her takedown defence isn’t the best though and good wrestlers have had their way with her in the past. Fiorot is a world class kickboxer with incredible kicking abilities, but her wrestling has also been a big surprise as she’s been able to dominate everyone she’s come up against in the UFC so far.
This seems like a really tough fight for Chookagian to keep her momentum going. Fiorot is more than skilled enough to go toe-to-toe in a kickboxing fight with her at range, an her takedown offence should see her able to get in close too if necessary. Her greater power makes her a finishing threat too, so I think “The Beast” can secure a career-highlight win here. PICK – Manon Fiorot via Decision
Beneil Dariush (21-4-1) vs Mateusz Gamrot (21-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Absolute banger in the lightweight division up next. Dariush was all set for a title eliminator before picking up an injury a year ago, but he’s still sitting on a seven-fight win streak that saw him dominate Tony Ferguson most recently at UFC 262. Gamrot on the other hand is on a four-fight win streak, KO’ing Scott Holtzman at UFC Vegas 23 before submitting Jeremy Stephens, KO’ing Diego Ferreira and then earning a super-close call against Arman Tsarukyan last time out.
Dariush is one of the best wrestlers and jiu-jitsu fighters in the lightweight division, probably only behind the two men in the main event in both areas. But his striking has significantly improved in recent years and he’s now a real threat on the feet too. Gamrot alternatively is a supreme striker on the feet with really good wrestling too, and has taken the division by storm recently. This is a huge step up in competition for him though, that is levelled out by how long Dariush has been out for.
“Gamer” will likely look to use his cardio as a weapon and step forward to force Dariush to engage with him, which could open up takedowns. But Dariush is experienced and I think he has the edge as the better wrestler so could welcome that. I expect a real chess match between these two, but Dariush should just edge it with more power on the feet and a better grappling game. PICK – Beneil Dariush via Decision
Petr Yan (16-3) vs Sean O’Malley (15-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fight that is absolutely baffling, but must-watch television at the same time. Number one ranked Yan has lost two of his last three after losing his title to Aljamain Sterling via DQ at UFC 259, before winning the interim title against Cory Sandhagen via decision at UFC 267. He then lost the rematch via split decision to Sterling at UFC 273. O’Malley was on a three-fight win streak after KO’ing Thomas Almeida (UFC 260), Kris Moutinho (UFC 264) and Raulian Paiva (UFC 269) before a no contest against Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 due to an accidental eye poke.
Yan is arguably the most well-rounded MMA fighter in the organisation pound-for-pound, with world class boxing and a sensational ground game with his wrestling too. O’Malley alternatively is one of the most entertaining fighters in the world with incredible striking and knockout power, as well as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt that he doesn’t need to use much because he puts people out on the feet. I love O’Malley and do think he could be a future champion, but there are levels to this right now.
On the feet Yan is better, and while O’Malley absolutely has the speed and power to hurt him, he has to hit him to do that. Mix in the fact that Yan has got excellent wrestling and a stifling gas tank to march forward constantly, and enough power to hurt O’Malley himself, I think the ‘Suga Show’ takes a hit to his reputation in this one. PICK – Petr Yan via Decision
Aljamain Sterling (21-3) vs TJ Dillashaw (18-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Big time bantamweight title fight up next. Sterling is on a seven-fight win streak with an 88-second submission win over Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 setting him up for his title fight wins over Yan. Dillashaw was stopped by Henry Cejudo before popping for injectable EPO and serving a two-year ban. He returned to beat Sandhagen controversially, but tore his ACL and fights for the first time in a 15 months.
Sterling is a lengthy grappler, with an excellent gas tank that he uses as a weapon but it’s his jiu-jitsu and control on the mat that set him apart from his foes. Dillashaw on the other hand is arguably the best 135-pounder of all-time with a perfectly rounded MMA game. His wrestling is excellent, he can grapple in submission situations but also has genuine KO power in his hands. This is a super fight.
Dillashaw has been out for a while, but he looked great against Sandhagen after two years out so I don’t see rust being an issue. I did think he lost that bout, but his ability to mix everything together is a problem for Sterling. On the feet he has a clear advantage and he’s arguably a better wrestler too. I think Sterling will want to grapple and control, but it’s nigh on impossible to do that to Dillashaw and I expect a new champion to be crowned in Abu Dhabi. PICK – TJ Dillashaw via Knockout, Round 3
Charles Oliveira (33-8) vs Islam Makhachev (22-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Potentially the fight of the year in one of the most exciting divisions in the MMA world. Oliveira is on an 11-fight win streak including ten stoppages. People started taking notice when he submitted Kevin Lee, before he dominated Tony Ferguson at UFC 256. Since then he’s been on a killing streak, KO’ing Michael Chandler (UFC 262) and then submitting Dustin Poirier (UFC 269) and Justin Gaethje (UFC 274), although he missed weight in the latter bout and was stripped of the belt. Makhachev is on a ten-fight win streak, finishing Drew Dober (UFC 259), Thiago Moises, Dan Hooker (UFC 267) and Bobby Green in each of his last four fights.
Oliveira is the greatest submission artist in UFC history but has developed into one of the very best strikers in the company too, with his Muay-Thai style and power doing a lot of damage. Makhachev is the best wrestler in the division and potentially the company, with a suffocating style and solid submission game that comes from being in the Nurmagomedov camp for his entire career. This fight is absolutely wild and could go in any direction, it’s so hard to call.
With that said though, I see two potential outcomes. One is that Makhachev is able to use his wrestling early, control Oliveira on the ground and wear on him until getting a finish in the latter rounds with a dominant performance. The other is a wild start in which Oliveira marches forward just like he did against Chandler, Poirier and Gaethje and lands a huge shot to drop Makhachev and gets an early finish by taking his back or pounding him out. Both are as likely as the other, but after under-estimating Oliveira for so long I can’t do it anymore. “Do Bronx” is the best fighter Makhachev has ever fought by a distance and we don’t know if he can do it at this level. With the advantage on the feet and his amazing guard, I’ve got the Brazilian to get it done again. PICK – Charles Oliveira via Knockout, Round 2
In the co-main we’ll see welterweight contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson enter the last chance saloon for title contention when he takes on Belal Muhammad, who is looking to break into the top five of the rankings for the first time.
Last time out at UFC 269 we went 9/14 on the night in a fantastic card to move to 500/779 (64.18%) with 211 perfect picks (42.2%).
Cub Swanson (27-12) vs Darren Elkins (27-9) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight fight between two vetereans of the fight game. Swanson earned a big KO win over Daniel Pineda at UFC 256 before getting smoked by Giga Chikhadze last time out at UFC Vegas 25. Elkins on the other hand has won his last two-in-a-row with a submission against Luiz Garagorri at UFC Vegas 13 before a knockout against Darrick Minner at UFC Vegas 32.
Swanson is a fantastic jiu-jitsu fighter with great power in his hands and plenty of experience to his name with 15 stoppage wins in his career. Elkins on the other hand is a pressure fighter with plenty of strikes and great wrestling in his weaponry. This will be an interesting fight because they are both well matched up and well-rounded.
Both of these guys will come forward and continue to pressure as usual, but I think Swanson has the edge on the feet and has enough about him to see off any wrestling attacks or submission threats and ultimately earn a judges decision. PICK – Cub Swanson via Decision
Diego Ferreira (17-4) vs Mateusz Gamrot (19-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight bout here as the veteran Ferreira takes on the very hot prospect in Gamrot. Ferreira has lost his last two against Beneil Dariush via decision at UFC Vegas 18 and then Gregor Gillespie at UFC Vegas 26 when he got KO’d. Gamrot on the other hand bounced back from the first defeat of his career in his debut at UFC Fight Island 6 by earning wins over Scott Holtzmann at UFC Vegas 22 and then a submission over Jeremy Stephens at UFC Vegas 31.
Ferreira is a very good grappler, with great jiu-jitsu skills and some decent striking too earning him seven submission wins from ten stoppages in his career. Gamrot on the other hand is a machine when it comes to the wrestling, earning multiple takedowns and then using position to land solid ground-and-pound and threaten with submissions too to earn 11 stoppage wins in his career.
Gamrot is the physically bigger fighter and he seems stronger, which plays into his advantage in the grappling game. Ferreira is probably the better striker of the two, but he doesn’t really have the power to put Gamrot off coming forward. If ‘Gamer’ gets hold of him he should be able to take him down and control him, and I think his relentless pace earns him a ground and pound finish. PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Knockout, Round 2
Raphael Assuncao (27-8) vs Ricky Simon (18-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An interesting bantamweight fight between two guys on very different trajectories in their career. Assuncao has lost the last three fights he’s had, with a KO on the buzzer against Cody Garbrandt at UFC 250 in his last outing. Simon on the other hand has won three-in-a-row, earning a decision over Ray Borg before submitting Gaetano Pirrello at UFC Fight Island 8 and claiming another decision against Brian Kelleher at UFC 258.
Assuncao is a powerful striker with a great pace and some solid leg kicks, but he comes into this one aged 39 and on the decline big time. Simon on the other hand is a pure wrestling specialist who looks to secure positions on the ground and dominate from there on to usually grind out decisions. Assuncao has got great submission skills, claiming ten wins via tap-out in his career but Simon isn’t a scrub in the grappling.
Simon has got the ability to go into the octagon and wrestle for as long as is needed, whether that be 15 minutes, 25 minutes or an hour. He’s also a pretty good striker and can use that to set up his takedowns in this one, against a dangerous opponent. In the end though, Simon should be able to get the fight down and I back him to defend himself from top position to earn a victory. PICK – Ricky Simon via Decision
Amanda Lemos (10-1-1) vs Angela Hill (13-10) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An interesting strawweight clash between two wannabe contenders gets a high slot on this card. Lemos is on a four-fight win streak, including back-to-back knockout wins over Livinha Souza at UFC 259 and then Montserrat Ruiz at UFC Vegas 31. Hill on the other hand has lost three of her last four but has turned in great performances in every one, dropping decisions to Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson at UFC Vegas 10 and Tecia Torres at UFC 265 with a win against Ashley Yoder at UFC Vegas 21 pausing the rot.
Lemos is a very powerful striker, with seven knockout victories in her career and some good defensive wrestling on her side too. Hill is a pressure fighter who can mix up her game really well, using kickboxing skills to mix in takedowns and a decent ground game too. Lemos will walk forward in this fight looking to land power shots, knowing that Hill isn’t powerful at all.
Hill will likely use her speed to step away, but Lemos will likely look to throw a hard low kick to stop that movement from being so effective and use that power to earn her a judges decision. PICK – Amanda Lemos via Decision
Stephen Thompson (16-5-1) vs Belal Muhammad (19-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Ranked welterweights go head-to-head in the co-main event here. ‘Wonderboy’ saw a two-fight win streak snapped recently, after his win over Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17 was countered by a dominant decision loss against Gilbert Burns at UFC 264. Belal Muhammad is unbeaten in six, having battered Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 before his no contest against Leon Edwards. He then returned to dominate against Demian Maia at UFC 263.
Thompson is as pure a striker as you will find in the UFC, with his karate game making him an expert in movement, range control and kicking as well as his brilliant counter striking. Muhammad is a well-rounded fighter, who can mix volume and pressure with some good wrestling too to figure out his opponents. This is by far the highest level striker he has ever fought though and it’s going to be tough for Muhammad to get that wrestling going.
Muhammad will look to set up takedowns with his boxing skills, but he isn’t as good a striker as Thompson and ‘Wonderboy’ has got brilliant takedown defence regardless of Burns’ success last time out. I like Muhammad, but this is too big a step up and stylistically it stinks for him. ‘Wonderboy’ will move around for 15 minutes and land big enough shots without taking damage to earn a decision win. PICK – Stephen Thompson via Decision
Derrick Lewis (25-8) vs Chris Daukaus (12-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Main event time and it’s a banger at heavyweight. Derrick Lewis was on a four-fight win streak with KO’s against Alexei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 6 and Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19 before he was beaten by Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 in an interim title fight. Daukaus on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak with all knockouts, with his most recent one coming impressively against Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 266 after he stopped Oleinik on the Blaydes-Lewis card.
Lewis is a one-shot killer, with ridiculous power in both hands and explosive power that can shut out anyones lights in an instant. Daukaus is a super powerful striker too with tremendous hand speed, but it’s the jiu-jitsu black belt that makes this extra intriguing. If Daukaus looks to take this fight to the ground, Lewis will throw uppercuts and knees before trying to explode to his feet. If they go on the feet, Daukaus will look to use volume and speed like Gane did before going for a killshot.
This is hard to predict, because a fighter with the power of Lewis is impossible to write off. But with Daukaus’ speed advantage, solid power himself and grappling expertise he has far more routes to victory and I think that ultimately he will be able to shake up the heavyweight division by claiming a knockout win. PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 3
The lightweight division takes centre stage once again for the UFC this weekend as the highly rated Islam Makhachev headlines his first card against Tiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31.
Makhachev is hotly anticipated to make a run for the lightweight title in the future but takes on arguably his biggest test so far in this main event clash, replacing Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez which fell apart due to an injury for ‘Blessed’.
Last week at UFC 264 we had an excellent run, going 11/12 with three perfect picks to move to 363/566 (64.13%) with 163 perfect picks (44.9%) overall.
Lets see if we can improve on that run here with this 11 fight card and after starting with the early prelims and prelims here, here are the picks for the main card.
Gabriel Benitez (22-9) vs Billy Quarantillo (15-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Benitez has got some incredible body kicks and good striking technique with his hands, while also using a chopping leg kick to his advantages. Quarantillo is a good wrestler with good striking too, using his range well and some great cardio. When you match them up skill-for-skill at 145lbs it’s hard to see Benitez losing but he’s had trouble making weight in the past and with his cardio.
Benitez will land plenty of strikes and damage but if Quarantillo can close the distance and drag the fight down to use his wrestling and wear on Benitez’s cardio issues. It’s a close fight but I think the damage will be enough to earn a decision win. PICK – Gabriel Benitez via Decision
Rodolfo Vieira (7-1) vs Dustin Stoltzfus (13-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Vieira is a jiu-jitsu master with six of his seven wins coming via submission, while Stoltzfus has won five of his 13 victories via submission too. Vieira’s striking is completely non-existent but the level of his jiu-jitsu usually means if he gets you down it’s a wrap. Stoltzfus has got decent kicks in his arsenal, attacking the thigh and knee often knowing that he’s safe on his back. He isn’t against Vieira though.
Despite his last fight, Vieira is a supreme athlete with amazing jiu-jitsu and I do think he’d be able to get him down and get a submission. But Stoltzfus is good enough too to survive the opening round and capitalise on Vieira’s cardio issues to get the win himself as an underdog. PICK – Dustin Stoltzfus via Knockout, Round 3
Jeremy Stephens (28-18) vs Mateusz Gamrot (18-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Stephens is a great boxer with a bomb of a left hand, great durability and decent defensive grappling and is a veteran on the UFC roster. Gamrot on the other hand is a tremendous wrestler with decent striking to back him up which makes this fight a really interesting one. Stephens had legitimate one-punch KO power at featherweight and the move up to 155lbs will only help him in that regard but Gamrot is a very well-rounded fighter.
Gamrot is the naturally bigger man, and if he gets hit flush he’ll either go out or go straight into wrestling mode. If it’s the latter, then this could be a very long night for the veteran. PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Marion Reneau (9-7-1) vs Miesha Tate (18-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A final run against a returning champion in the women’s bantamweight division as Reneau takes on Tate. Reneau is 44 and in her final fight of her contract, coming off four defeats in a row against Cat Zingano, Yana Kunitskaya, Raquel Pennington and Macy Chiasson most recently at UFC Vegas 22. Tate retired back in 2016 after a loss to Pennington, but returns now after five years away from the cage.
Reneau is a jiu-jitsu black belt with a limited striking game, while Tate is a strong wrestler with good submission skills of her own. Reneau is awful off her back and Tate is a good enough wrestler to get her down quickly and hold her down, using her boxing well to enter range. Reneau has much more power in her hands but her technique isn’t great.
Realistically this is set up for Tate to win the fight impressively and make her comeback a moment to remember. PICK – Miesha Tate via Decision
Islam Makhachev (19-1) vs Thiago Moises (15-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Makhachev is an excellent striker with even scarier grappling, with his top position among the best in the entire sport never mind in the UFC lightweight division. Moises is a solid striker himself but he is also known for his jiu-jitsu skills, with six submission wins in his career. Makhachev’s wrestling is just such a big differential between the fighters that I can’t look past him winning.
He has his own submission skills but his positioning and pressure from the top is just as good at holding someone down and wearing them out and pounding them out. Moises has threats, but Makhachev’s cardio is likely to hold out and he’ll secure a big win. PICK – Islam Makhachev via Decision
Great start to the fight for Kasanganay as he comes forward to close the distance early and lands a nice right hand. Palatnikov throws a kick which Kasanganay catches and then he lands another big right hand before getting a body lock and taking Palatnikov down to the ground. Kasanganay using heavy top pressure but not landing much damage and Palatnikov is able to get back to his feet. Kasanganay goes for another takedown but Palatnikov defends it well and they clinch against the cage now. Palatnikov starts teeing off against the cage but Kasanganay does well to avoid any strikes and clinch up again. Nice left hand lands from Palatnikov at the end of the round but should be 10-9 Kasanganay.
Kasanganay comes out quickly in the second round and lands a big right hand that drops Palatnikov! He forces the takedown with pure power and scrambles to take his neck. He locks in a rear-naked choke and squeezes, forcing Palatnikov to tap out! Big win for Kasanganay!
Da-Un Jung def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Reserved start from both fighters as Knight comes out throwing low calf kicks to prevent Jung from letting his jab fly. Knight goes in for a takedown and lifts Jung but he defends it well, switches the position and is able to get a throw perfectly to end up in top position. Knight is landing some nice right hands from the bottom as he holds Jung in place, but Jung fires back with a couple of right hands of his own to shut that down. Jung passes into half guard and tries to move into side control but Knight sweeps him really well and explodes back onto his feet. Knight clinches up once again and Jung is able to get the same trip once more to get back in top position. Some decent ground and pound from Jung as Knight looks quite tired now but he’s able to explode to his feet again as the round ends. 10-9 Jung.
Knight comes out throwing lots of low kicks once again, but Jung is backing him up to the cage and looking to hunt him down. Both guys land a nice right hand each before Knight shoots in for a takedown. Jung defends it, clinches up and then lands the same outside trip once again to take top position and starts landing ground and pound against the cage. Knight tries to get to his feet but Jung stays heavy and drags him down to the mat once more, then takes his back and sinks in both hooks. Jung starts raining down punches and Knight is trying to explode out again rather than use technique. Knight is just surviving right now and Jung continues to smash him up from his back on top. Lots of damage but Knight survives the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Jung.
Jung comes forward early in the final round and Knight has abandoned the leg kicks and is throwing bombs. Jung lands a nice uppercut, then switches levels and gets a big takedown! Knight explodes to his feet again but Jung is able to drag and throw Knight back to the mat with relative ease. Jung floats through the positions and ends up in side control, landing knees to the body and just completely dominating all the exchanges in this fight. Jung stays busy from top position on the ground landing damage for the rest of the fight for a very comfortable win. 30-26 Jung.
Luis Saldana def Jordan Griffin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Really good start to the fight for Saldana as he comes out with his hands low and is throwing quick kicks to the legs and body. Saldana throws a night three punch combo that clips Griffin, who shoots in for a takedown and gets it but Saldana gets back up very quickly. More leg kicks from Saldana take Griffin off his feet but he keeps coming forward and lands two big punches as he rushes forward and goes in for a takedown again. Saldana defends well against the cage and they break, but Griffin stays in his face and keeps throwing big punches. He keeps pouring punches and then eventually gets the takedown, but Saldana is able to roll through and escape before Griffin gets a headlock and looks for some sort of bulldog choke. Saldana is able to escape and Griffin charges once again and just misses with a big head-kick before the round ends. Very close, but I go 10-9 Griffin.
Slower start to the round from both guys as Saldana comes out again looking for low kicks and front kicks to the body, but Griffin pressures him again. Saldana slips as he throws a kick and Griffin jumps on top. Saldana looks for an armbar and then switches to a heel hook to create space which gets both guys back up. Saldana jumps on the neck of Griffin looking for a guillotine, but Griffin is calm and escapes before getting the fight back down. He starts looking for a bulldog choke again but Saldana escapes it only for Griffin to continue with his pressure and get back into a dominant position. Griffin starts floating and then takes the back and sinks in a rear naked choke deep but he runs out of time so we’re going to the final round. 20-18 Griffin.
Saldana comes out in the final round and knows he needs a finish. He’s trying to stay out of wrestling range, using punches rather than kicks to avoid being taken down but he looks exhausted. Griffin isn’t exactly fresh himself but he’s coming forward still but doing enough to stay out of range. Saldana looks to kick off the cage with a superman punch but just misses with that and the follow up hook, before Griffin shoots in for a tired takedown against the cage. Saldana defends it well and switches the position around but Griffin gets his arm under the chin and looks for a rear-naked choke! Saldana stays calm and escapes and ends up on top with 90 seconds to go. Saldana is able to take the back of Griffin for a split second, but Griffin then switches around and finishes the round on top looking for a submission. Probably a Saldana round but should be a win for Griffin. 29-28.
Jack Shore def Hunter Azure via Split Decision (30-27 x2, 28-29)
Composed start to the bout from both men as they feel each other out with jabs and low kicks before they both clinch up against the cage. Shore looking like the stronger fighter as they battle for position and he gets a body lock in nicely and picks Azure up and sweeps the legs for a takedown. Azure gets back up quickly but Shore keeps the hands locked and continues to drag Azure around. Shore tries to take the back but Azure drops to his knees and counters by turning into Shore’s guard. Shore kicks off the hips to get back to his feet quickly before Azure can do any damage and they clinch against the cage again before separating. Both men throw a simultaneous kick that makes for a big thud before a nice high kick lands from Shore. Azure looks for a takedown against the cage but Shore defends and the round ends. 10-9 Shore.
Fast start from Azure in the second round as he goes straight in for a clinch against the cage and lands some nice knees to the body and thighs. Shore is patient and eventually gets back up and catches a kick from Azure and lands a right hand that drops Azure. Azure gets back up quickly though and Shore looks for a clinch against the takedown before going for a takedown of his own. He shoots in and Azure looks for a guillotine which forces Shore to abandon and go to his back to escape, but Azure ends up on top in half guard. Shore uses his long legs and hips really well to get back up to the feet and the clinch continues against the cage once again. Accidental low blow from Azure causes a short pause in the action but they clinch again when they resume. Azure lands a nice right hand when they separate and then lands a good right hook but Shore starts landing some strikes of his own too. Azure lands a big right hand clean but Shore responds with an uppercut as the round ends. Very close round, probably in Azure’s favour. 19-19.
Azure goes straight in for a takedown at the start of the third but Shore stuffs it well and starts working off his jab from the outside. Azure changes levels to avoid a right hand and goes for a single leg, but Shore defends it brilliantly once again against the cage. Stiff low kick from Shore and then a nice left hook lands that stings Azure, who shoots for a takedown quickly after but is denied. Shore stuffs another attempt and then takes Azure down himself, landing some short punches against the cage and leaning all his weight on Azure to drag him back down. He looks to take Azure’s back and then moves into mount, switching between both positions. Azure is able to get back to his feet but Shore keeps hold of him and is able to take him down once again as we enter the final 90 seconds. Azure scrambles and rolls through to escape Shore’s grip and ends up on top and looks to land ground and pound but Shore defends brilliantly and then escapes a rear naked choke attempt to see out the round. Should be a win for Shore, 29-28.
Jarjis Danho def Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1 (3:02)
Slow start to the fight for both guys as they throw some leg kicks and circle each other. Danho throwing more and more leg kicks but not much action in the first two minutes. Danho looks to clinch up but De Castro throws him off and lands a big left hand that wobbles Danho! He comes forward with more punches but Danho avoids and goes for a takedown. The two separate and De Castro continues to come forward, then both men throw big right hands and Danho lands on the side of the head and puts De Castro’s lights out!! He lands one more on the ground but it’s all over! What a knockout!
John Makdessi def Ignacio Bahamondes via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Bahamondes using his length well very early on, with long jabs and front kicks. Bahamondes doing really well to mix up his attacks, landing leg kicks, jabs, straight rights, body shots and kicks while changing up his stance constantly. Makdessi just can’t get a read right now as Bahamondes keeps moving. Makdessi lands a big right hand that makes Bahamondes do the chicken dance and he pushes on for the finish, but Bahamondes clinches up to try and recover. Bahamondes now is trying to stay away and land from range but Makdessi continues to pour on the pressure. Bahamondes goes for a takedown against the cage but Makdessi defends it well. Bahamondes lands a couple of elbows on the break and they exchange strikes again as the round ends. That’s a really close round could go either way. I go Makdessi for the damage.
Bahamondes seems to have recovered now as he comes out popping his jab once again and circling on the outside. Makdessi taking the centre and looking to catch Bahamondes on his way in, but it’s not working too well for him just yet. Three jabs in a row land for Makdessi who returns with a big left hand of his own. Bahamondes lands a big straight left then misses with a few kicks before shooting in for a takedown, but Makdessi defends it with ease. Bahamondes starts throwing some knees against the cage before they separate and go back to trading straight punches. Both guys trading jabs and straights and landing, then Bahamondes lands a huge spinning heel kick to the head but Makdessi eats it. Makdessi responds with two body shots and a short left hook to the chin then lands a clean one two. Another super close round, I’ve got it even.
Third round following the pattern of the previous two, with Bahamondes landing from range but Makdessi standing firm in the middle and popping him back too. Bahamondes lands some nice jabs but Makdessi keeps landing the straight right and left jab in response. Bahamondes looks for a big knee that just misses and then he shoots in for a takedown to mix it up. Makdessi stuffs it and lands a nice right hand, before Bahamondes starts pouring on pressure and lands a big one-two. Bahamondes lands another nice left hand that sends Makdessi backwards but they continue to stand in a phonebox and trade for the remainder of the round in what was a brilliant fight. Another very close round, I don’t know how to call it. 29-28 either way, I lean to Bahamondes.
Mateusz Gamrot def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 2 (1:22)
Good start to the round from both guys, with Gamrot looking to land from range to set up his takedowns while Holtzman is looking to counter with heavy punches. Gamrot steps in for a takedown and grabs the leg and tries to go for a heel hook but Holtzman defends it well. Gamrot lands a nice left but Holtzman responds with a huge left hand on his way in! Gamrot responds with a couple of left hands again and then goes for single leg again and transitions to a double leg to get the takedown against the cage. Gamrot allows him back up and throws a huge elbow to the ear that wobbles Holtzman towards the end of the round. 10-9 Gamrot.
Holtzman comes out very aggressive and starts walking Gamrot down, but he’s loading up his attacks with big uppercuts and overhands. Gamrot moving side to side to stay out of the way and he throws a big one two down the middle which folds Holtzman! He jumps on and lands a couple more shots before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Gamrot!
Joe Solecki def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Very positive start from Solecki as he looks to be first in the striking exchanges between the two, but Miller just misses with his big left hand. Nice calf kick lands from Miller but Solecki is coming forward and landing nice short flurries of punches. Big right hand lands and forces Miller to think twice but then the veteran lands a nice body kick. Solecki shoots in for a takedown but Miller stuffs it and ends up on top, so Solecki goes into full guard and starts defending. Miller is landing some nice short elbows from the top position and stacking Solecki up to prevent him from being able to get back to his feet easily. Miller misses with an elbow as the rounds ends, probably a Miller round because of the top control. 10-9 Miller.
Solecki comes out aggressive in the second round and lands a nice right hand before shooting in for the takedown. Miller looks to defend it but Solecki takes the legs from under him and moves into full guard. Now it’s Solecki looking to stack Miller against the cage and throw some ground and pound, but Miller is staying busy from his back too. A few body shots from Solecki as he looks to wear Miller down heading into the final 90 seconds of the round. Not much action in this round but Solecki controlled it and takes the round. 19-19 going into the final round.
Both men see the route to victory as being on top and so immediately they both move into a clinch position. Solecki the physically stronger guy right now and gets a body lock, which Miller tries to roll through from but Solecki holds on and ends up on top once again. Solecki throwing short shots on the ground from half guard but Miller is trying to get back to his feet now rather than accepting the position. Solecki doing really well to control the position now and just doing enough damage to stop the fight from being stood back up. Solecki maintains the position for the rest of the round to secure what should be a straight forward decision win.
Daniel Rodriguez def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Tense start to this one with both men respecting the power of their opponent early on. Perry throws a few le kicks and Rodriguez is throwing his jab well and has already busted up the nose. Rodriguez throws a big one-two down the middle that staggers Perry but he continues to come forward to look for a finish. Rodriguez is landing big one-twos at will and Perry is getting pieced up, so he changes levels and powers through with a takedown. He lifts Rodriguez up and slams him down but Rodriguez holding on for a guillotine which Perry does well to defend against and avoid. Perry stays in top position and works for some ground and pound to see the round out. Perry still in it, but that’s a Rodriguez round for me. 10-9.
Second round and Rodriguez is doing really well on the feet, with his jab landing at will and the left hand following up behind it cleanly too. Perry is throwing some nice leg kicks and is just struggling to be first with the punches because of the range difference. Perry gets a body lock and looks for a takedown which he gets, then tries to transition onto Rodriguez’s back, but Rodriguez does well to stay strong and get back up pretty quickly. Rodriguez continues to land the jab and left straight at will, but Perry is still standing in front of him and throwing shots of his own. Big right hook, left hand from Rodriguez lands clean. Perry comes forward looking for a takedown with 20 seconds to go but Rodriguez defends it well to claim the round again. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Final round and the pattern continues, as Rodriguez lines up the jab and takes the centre of the cage. Perry is struggling to land anything of note because he keeps getting pummelled every time he tries to go first. Perry shoots for a takedown but Rodriguez denies it again and shrugs him off in the clinch. Rodriguez throws three huge left hands in an exchange but Perry is still taking the punishment and trying to come forward. Perry’s face is so busted up right now and at this point it’s just about not getting finished as Rodriguez shoots in for a takedown but Perry stuffs it to see the round out with a big exchange. 30-27 Rodriguez, excellent performance.
Fast start to the fight from Dern as she charges forward throwing big punches with a couple landing but Nunes responds with a couple of her own. Dern charges forward again and lands a nice left hand, but Nunes throws a good right hand to counter it too. Dern shoots in for a takedown against the cage and lifts the leg high then sweeps the standing leg and dumps her down. She immediately works to advance the position and threatens with a leg attack to pass into half guard. From half guard she quickly moves into mount and starts raining down elbows from the top. She transitions into an armbar position and despite Nunes’ best attempts to defend it, Dern extends the arm and gets the tap out.
Julian Marquez def Sam Alvey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (2:07)
Pretty tame opening to the round as Marquez takes the centre early and looks to figure out his range by flicking out his lead hand. Neither men throw anything really for the first two minutes barring a couple of missed hooks. Alvey is loading up big with his left hand and it’s allowing Marquez to avoid it well. Marquez lands a big right hook clean and Alvey is hurt. Marquez goes in again and lands two more that drops Alvey but he falls into Marquez and quickly recovers. Two more big right hands land from Marquez but Alvey just about stays standing and now throws a huge left of his own. Alvey is all the way back against the cage and just trying to hit Marquez on his way in but he’s missing wildly. 10-9 Marquez at the end of the round.
More of the same in the second round as Marquez backs Alvey up and lands a nice body shot, but Alvey explodes forward and lands a nice right hand of his own. Marquez throws an overhand right that lands clean on Alvey’s chin but he’s still there throwing his own heat. Marquez lands a huge right hand that drops Alvey and he goes all in for the finish with big strikes. Alvey looks to defend with a takedown but he’s eating big shots. Marquez abandons the strikes and goes for a rear-naked choke and puts Alvey to sleep for the win. Great performance.
Arnold Allen def Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start for Allen as Yusuff comes forward and throws a body kick which he catches and immediately gets a takedown. Yusuff does well to defend well against the cage and hooks up a guillotine choke that forces Allen to roll to his back and abandon the takedown attempt. Yusuff comes forward and is chopping away at the leg of Allen, but both men are throwing heat. Allen lands a big left hand but Yusuff keeps coming and clinches up. Allen lands a big left hand that drops Yusuff and he moves in to take top position but Yusuff does well to recover and avoid further damage. Allen goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s defended well and the round comes to an end with a nice exchange in the centre. 10-9 Allen.
Yusuff continues to push the pace and pressuring forward, but Allen is threatening with the big left hand once again. Yusuff lands some nice chopping leg kicks again and Yusuff is starting to land with his jab. He’s starting to touch Allen more and more, then Allen throws a huge head-kick that rocks him! Allen slips as it lands but he jumps back up and goes to land some ground and pound, but Yusuff recovers well once again and they get back to competing in the middle. Clinch against the cage and Allen is physically stronger and able to dictate the position more, and he sees out the round in control. 20-18 Allen.
Good start from Allen as he looks to back Yusuff up to the cage with his physicality and shoot for takedowns, but Yusuff refusing to accept it and defending really well. He switches the position on the cage and lands some nice knees to the body of Allen before they separate and go back into the centre. Lots of short exchanges and clinch work against the cage for the rest of the round as Yusuff arguably takes the round but it won’t be enough for a win. 29-28 Allen for me, very competitive fight.
Marvin Vettori def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (50-44 x3)
Holland makes a fast start throwing some leg kicks and big right hands but early on he lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Vettori comes in tight for the clinch after the action resumes, but Holland is striking from range and lands a heavy right hand. Vettori finally gets a body lock and clinch against the cage to start wearing on Holland, but he defends the attempted trip well which forces Vettori to change to a double leg. Holland defends it well again and Vettori separates, but he’s right in Holland’s face and applying lots of pressure. Vettori is able to drag Holland down to the ground, but Holland starts throwing up-kicks to try and create space to get up to his feet. Vettori is able to get full guard and starts applying lots of pressure and looking to land ground and pound. Holland is able to roll through and gets back to the feet, but then eats a big left hand. Good first round from both, very close to score. 10-9 Vettori for me but could go either way.
Holland comes out fast once again and lands some sharp punches and straight kicks but Vettori is trying to close the distance earlier this time. Holland lands a big one-two but Vettori eats it, slips a shot and then shoots in for another takedown against the cage. He gets him down quickly this time and avoids the guillotine attempt to go into full guard and land big ground and pound strikes. Vettori starts stacking Holland against the cage and raining down strikes, completely dominant. Holland tries to kick out of it but Vettori controls the position well and gets right back to work with the ground and pound from the top position. More strikes from Vettori opens up a cut on Holland’s face and he tries to scramble out but Vettori just controls his position even once Holland gets back to his feet to end the round. 20-17.
Holland’s left eye is closing up but he’s battling on and Vettori comes out like a freight train and looks to go straight for the takedown again. He gets it quickly and then moves into mount almost immediately. He looks to set up an arm triangle submission and locks it in tight, but Holland doesn’t tap and is able to escape from the bottom to get back up to his feet. Vettori goes straight back for the takedown again but Holland does well to avoid it. Holland lands a couple of nice strikes standing but then once again Vettori changes levels, clinches against the cage and controls the position. Holland lands a couple of huge strikes that seem to wobble Vettori a little but the buzzer goes. 30-26 Vettori.
Big early left hand lands at the start of the fourth for Vettori, but Holland responds with a couple of big hooks of his own. Vettori shoots in for a takedown and gets it down pretty easily once again and goes straight into full guard to land some ground and pound. Vettori looks to stack Holland who rolls through to avoid it and gets back to full guard. Holland is able to get back to the feet after a short scramble but very quickly Vettori is able to drag him back down and goes straight into mount. He looks for the arm triangle submission again, but Holland stays calm and takes it back to half guard. Vettori lands some heavy strikes and then goes back into full guard before passing into half guard again. Vettori tries to stack him and Holland starts throwing up-kicks again but Vettori is just too strong and sees out the round on top. 40-35 Vettori.
Holland still looks fresh and lands a bomb of a right hand that gets Vettori’s attention, so the Italian changes levels and gets the takedown immediately and goes into full guard. Holland kicks off the cage and finds a way to get back to the feet but once again Vettori just locks his hands, finds an angle and drags him back down to the mat. Vettori steps over into half guard and starts throwing some more ground and pound with Holland fighting off his back. Vettori steps over into mount once again looking to set up the arm triangle choke, but Holland explodes back up to his feet. Vettori holds the body lock once again though and drags the fight to the mat again with 40 seconds to go and he sees the round out in control. 50-44 Vettori, pure domination.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
With a belting 14 fights on the card, we’ve split it up into three sections and having already predicted the early prelims here we move onto the rest of the prelims now.
Yorgan De Castro (6-2) vs Jarjis Danho (6-1-1 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big boys are in action on this card as Yorgan De Castro looks to snap a two-fight losing streak against Jarjis Danho, who makes his first appearance in a cage fight in almost five years.
Castro dropped consecutive decision defeats to Greg Hardy and Carlos Felipe, while Danho lost and drew his last two fights but hasn’t fought since September 2016 for no reason in particular. Both guys are heavy punchers who have a sledgehammer of a right hand and are completely one dimensional when it comes to a game plan.
Neither man has ever been finished before but combined they have got ten wins by stoppage, with nine knockouts and a single submission in Danho’s favour. Both guys are going to trade swinging their right hand and whoever’s chin holds up the most will get the win but this will not be the most exciting fight the longer it goes. PICK – Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1
John Makdessi (17-7) vs Ignacio Bahamondes (11-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Striking technique meets striking power in this lightweight bout as John Makdessi takes on debutant Ignacio Bahamondes. Makdessi lost his last bout to Francisco Trinaldo and then tore his ACL, making this his first fight in just over a year while Bahamondes has won his last two fights coming into this debut.
Makdessi is as pure a striker as they come in the UFC, landing ZERO takedowns in his 17 previous UFC fights while Bahamondes is a powerful striker who stands at 6ft 3 and has a tremendous reach advantage. He has a few defensive lapses still, which Makdessi can absolutely take advantage of, but with a 12 year age gap and a 7.5 inch reach advantage it’s hard to see this going the Canadian’s way.
Bahamondes has the power advantage with hands and even legs, so I think Bahamondes can use the reach and power to get a win in a fun back-and-forth fight. PICK – Ignacio Bahamondes via Knockout, Round 2
Norma Dumont (5-1) vs Erin Blanchfield (6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An exciting debut for Erin Blanchfield as one of the biggest prospects in women’s MMA enters the UFC to take on Norma Dumont in the bantamweight division.
Dumont has gone 1-1 in her two-fight UFC career so far, losing at featherweight to Megan Anderson before winning a decision against Ashlee Evans-Smith at UFC Vegas 15 and will fight Blanchfield in a short-notice fight. Blanchfield is a natural flyweight fighting up a division in her debut due to the short notice.
Dumont will have a considerable size advantage, but Blanchfield is a really exciting jiu-jitsu practitioner. Her ground game is stunning and her striking is only improving as her last knockout win via head-kick showed, but Dumont is a good wrestler on her own accord. While Blanchfield is brilliant, it’s hard to overlook the size disparity especially considering ‘Cold Blooded’ uses her physicality so well at flyweight. It will be a tough debut for her, I think Dumont gets the win. PICK – Norma Dumont via Decision
Scott Holtzman (14-4) vs Mateusz Gamrot (17-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Gamrot is a very wrestling heavy fighter, whose bread and butter is to close distance and get the takedown to dominate from top position. Holtzman is more of a striker with good boxing skills and while his takedown defence is horrible, I can’t see him being able to hold off Gamrot’s attacks for long periods.
Holtzman has had wars in the past so his cardio isn’t really in question here, but those wars came against sub-par opposition which just adds to the concerns around the 37-year-old. Gamrot gets him down and grinds him out for a wide decision win. PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Jim Miller (32-15) vs Joe Solecki (10-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The featured prelim bout plays host to some history this weekend as Jim Miller becomes the fighter with the most octagon appearances when he takes on Joe Solecki in the lightweight division.
Miller is now 37 and his explosiveness has depleted, which gives Solecki a big advantage if they get to the ground. The issue for both is that usually when two grapplers meet the fight will stay on the feet, where Miller probably has a slight edge. But with his cardio problems, the longer the fight goes the more it swings in the younger man’s favour and while Miller is probably good enough to avoid getting tapped out, Solecki is likely to dominate the majority of the bout for a decision win. PICK – Joe Solecki via Decision
The two men will face off in a clash described as a No.1 contender fight by UFC president Dana White, with personal pride as well as a future title shot on the line.
In an 11 fight card that will also see Jessica Andrade move up to strawweight for the first time to take on Katlyn Chookagian, I will break down every fight and give my predictions.
Last week I correctly predicted 8/13 overall with five perfect picks (winner, method, round) although I was wronged by arguably the greatest knockout of all-time for one of them.
Said Nurmagomedov (13-2) vs Mark Striegl (18-2 1NC) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An interesting fight to open the card as the brother of UFC lightweight champion Khabib takes on a UFC debutant at bantamweight. Nurmagomedov is a very good striker who is super active with great takedown defence, while Striegl is a Sambo fighter with good wrestling credentials and a really solid submission game. Striegl is undefeated in his last five fights, winning four in a row before a a no contest last time out due to a low blow. Nurmagomedov however lost his last fight via decision to Raoni Barcelos. This fight depends entirely on whether or not Striegl can get it to the ground. Nurmagomedov leaves himself open for takedowns with his vast array of spinning attacks but his defence is very good. He hasn’t fought anyone with a takedown game as good as Striegl’s in the UFC though and has been beaten already after allowing a late takedown last time out. If he can keep it standing, I think he should be able to light Striegl up on the feet to earn himself a decision win. PICK – Said Nurmagomedov via Unanimous Decision
Gadzhimurad Antigulov (20-7) vs Maxim Grishin (30-8-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
After a great run between 2011 and July 2020, Maxim Grishin came into the UFC in the heavyweight division to take on Marcin Tybura on short notice and was handily beaten when he couldn’t cope with the sheer size of his opponent. He returns to his natural weight class of 205lbs when he takes on Gadzhimurad Antigulov who looks to snap a three fight losing streak. Antigulov won his first two UFC fights via submission, but was then knocked out in the first round by Ion Cutelaba and Michal Oleksiejczuk before being tapped out in the first round by Paul Craig last time out. Grishin is a pretty well rounded fighter, with good grappling defence and much better striking than Antigulov who will simply look to drag this fight to the ground. If Grishin can avoid the initial burst of energy and takedown attempts from Antigulov then he will see him zap all his energy and he’ll become target practice before a stoppage win. PICK – Maxim Grishin via Knockout, Round 2
Jamie Mullarkey (12-3) vs Fares Ziam (10-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fight between two fairly young fighters looking to bounce back from a defeat last time out in this bout. Mullarkey made his debut in the organisation back in October 2019 at UFC 243, where he was outclassed by Brad Riddell on the night. Fares Ziam’s debut was on short notice back in September 2019 where he took on Don Madge at UFC 242 and was also just bettered by the better man on the night. Both men have all their wins bar one (11 for Mullarkey and 9 for Ziam) via stoppage so both are capable of finishing the fight but I believe Mullarkey has the edge. He’s a better striker and a more experienced grappler who has fought against better level opposition. For that reason, I expect he’ll be able to catch Ziam with a nice shot and then lay on the ground and pound for the win. PICK – Jamie Mullarkey via Knockout, Round 1
Jun Yong Park (11-4) vs John Phillips (22-10 1NC) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
This one seems a bit of a mismatch on paper, until you remember that John Phillips has got a stupid amount of knockouts on his record. The Welshman has a staggering 19 KO wins in his career, but that meant nothing in his last bout when he was handsomely destroyed by Khamzat Chimaev. Park himself is a decent boxer but has more than enough wrestling acumen to cause Phillips a lot of issues. He’s 1-1 in the UFC following a defeat to Anthony Hernandez before a win over Marc-Andre Barriault last time out. If Park is silly enough to go to war with Phillips and exchange punches in a phone booth then he’ll get knocked out. If anything else happens, then he should win this comfortably. My bet is he takes the fight down early like Chimaev did and works the Welshman over before sinking in a choke for the win. PICK – Jun Yong Park via Submission, Round 1
Gillian Robertson (8-4) vs Poliana Botelho (8-2) – (Strawweight/125lbs)
A strawweight bout between two prospects in the division as 25 year old Gillian Robertson looks to make it two wins on the bounce when she takes on Poliana Botelho. Her last fight was a submission win over Courtney Casey back in June. Robertson is a member of the American Top Team and has a fantastic wrestling game that opens up her superb jiu-jitsu. Botelho is a good boxer and has good power in her hands as her six knockout wins show, but she hasn’t fought in over 18 months. She has a very wide stance which could make the takedown hard for Robertson to get and she also has a height and reach advantage. The issue is she prefers for a big punch rather than to pop her jab and throw combinations, so I think Robertson should be able to slip the power shots and secure a takedown on an off-balance Botelho before putting her ground work in and securing a submission win. PICK – Gillian Robertson via Submission, Round 1
Mateusz Gamrot (17-0 1NC) vs Guram Kutateladze (11-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
After watching his teammate Khamzat Chimaev take the UFC by storm on Fight Island back in July, Guram Kutateladze steps in on a little over a week’s notice to take on undefeated Pole and former KSW featherweight and lightweight double champ Mateusz Gamrot. Gamrot is a very intelligent fighter who has power in his hands but tends to lean more on his wrestling and submission skills to finish fights, while Kutateladze is a Muay-Thai fighter with exceptional striking skills. The Georgian has the speed and power advantage on the feet but his grappling leaves plenty to be desired. Unless he has developed some new wrestling defence techniques, I expect Gamrot to take him down and control him against the fence for a comfortable decision win in his UFC debut. PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Unanimous Decision