We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Tatsuro Taira (10-0) vs Carlos Candelario (8-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A fun fight between two debutants in the UFC opens up the card for us in this one. Taira is a perfect 10-0 at just 22-years-old, while Candelario was 8-0 before a defeat on Dana White’s Contender Series that the boss disagreed with and signed him because of anyway.
Taira is an excellent grappler with some solid grappling skills and excellent top pressure, where he works for submissions regularly. Candelario is an experienced fighter himself with some decent ground game too, although he looks more for ground and pound rather than submissions. On the feet Candelario is also a more active striker than Taira and technically is good enough to cause problems.
With that said though, Taira is so quick to latch on to any sort of mistake and if he gets an advantageous position on the mat he rarely lets it slip. Candelario tends to leave limbs hanging and uses his knees to get back to his feet which could allow Taira to take his back and sink in a nasty choke for a big win. PICK – Tatsuro Taira via Submission, Round 2
Gina Mazany (7-5) vs Shanna Young (8-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Two women’s flyweight veterans go toe-to-toe in this one. Mazany is on a 3-5 fun, with a knockout defeat to Priscilla Cachoeira back at UFC 262 her last outing. Young on the other hand has lost her only two UFC bouts, dropping a decision to Macy Chiasson back in 2020 before getting KO’d by Stephanie Eggar at UFC Vegas 13 in her most recent bout.
Mazany is a striker who likes to use the clinch game to take her opponents down to the mat so she can change their face with vicious ground and pound, but has had issues in the past with her cardio skills. Young alternatively is also a striker, but she lacks power in her attacks and has little-to-no takedown defence. Her fight IQ is questionable too, considering she waltzed into clinches against talented judoka Eggar last time out.
This is Mazany’s fight to lose stylistically. She has the power advantage, is the better grappler and has got a good size advantage. She is however moving down to flyweight for the fight and that’s a problem considering her cardio problems. Young needs to avoid being taken down at all costs because she can hold her own on the feet, but I expect Mazany to get this down quickly and call it a night with a statement. PICK – Gina Mazany via Knockout, Round 2
Natan Levy (6-1) vs Mike Breeden (10-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Two men looking for their first ever UFC win after defeats in their debuts last year. Levy was beaten up by Rafa Garcia en route to a unanimous decision loss at UFC Vegas 43, while Breeden got KO’d viciously by Alexander Hernandez in the first round at UFC Vegas 38.
Levy is a stand-up fighter who tends to use kicking range as his preferred distance, and has some good wrestling to lean on also. Breeden is more of a boxer who likes to pressure forward and get into the pocket before firing off powerful shots, which have earned him eight knockout wins so far in his career. With that said, Levy will be confident of being able to replicate Breeden’s defeat to Anthony Romero.
Using a karate stance he should be able to keep out of that pocket and with Breeden very heavy on his lead leg, he will allow Levy the opportunity to kick the crap out of it like Romero did on the Contender Series. If Breeden gets past that distance he certainly has the power advantage, but Levy is a dangerous counter striker and his takedown offense is a good way to mix it up and claim a decision win. PICK – Natan Levy via Decision
Interesting start to the bout as Perez comes out with a weird, bouncing stance and Eduardo lights him up with three heavy low kicks early on. Perez stops the bouncing and lands a few jabs but Eduardo responding with leg kicks again but not much volume from either guy so far. Eduardo lands a nice combination to the body and then head, but Perez responds with a heavy left hook that immediately gets the attention of Eduardo. Almost a pedestrian pace to the fight currently, with Eduardo landing another very heavy leg kick. Perez fires a right straight that grazes the chin, but Eduardo controlling the range and pace and despite the lack of action he’s ahead in the round for me. Eduardo lands a nice right hook to the chin as we enter the final 30 seconds of the round and that’s that. 10-9 Eduardo.
Eduardo opens up the round with two more very heavy leg kicks inside the first ten seconds. Perez goes for a blitz but misses and then eats a spinning heel kick to the body. Perez goes to charge with a blitz again but Eduardo does well to avoid for the most part, clinch and secure a takedown and top position. Perez ties Eduardo up well initially before bouncing back to his feet quickly. Perez lands two big right hands and steps up the aggression to land a few more strikes himself. Eduardo throws a big left hand that lands too, before Perez shoots in for a takedown and ends up on top himself. Two big strikes from the top by Perez and as Eduardo looks to get up Perez grabs for his neck but Eduardo rolls to his back. Perez scrambles for the back and ends up in side control. He has a side headlock and takes Eduardo’s arm, slides it between his legs and secures an armbar! Eduardo can’t deal with the pressure and taps!! Big win for Perez!
Stephanie Egger def Shanna Young via Knockout, Round 2 (2:22)
Egger comes out and takes the centre early on, throwing some nice straight right hands to keep the range and pose a threat. Young goes with a blitz and puts a blind kick behind it which Egger catches, and she tries for a trip but Young defends it well. Egger lands a nice one-two but it seems to wake Young up a bit and she starts applying more forward pressure. Few strikes land and then Young goes to clinch but Egger throws her down immediately and is almost in full mount. Young defends it with a leg lock attempt and after defending it well Egger is able to stack her and start landing some big ground and pound strikes from standing and side control. Egger landing big elbows from the top but Young survives the round. 10-9 Egger.
Another good start to the round for Egger as she takes the centre and throws some big right hands again. Young starts to come forward and lands a few good strikes in a blitz but Egger grabs hold of her and immediately hip tosses Young to the ground. Big elbows and ground and pound from Egger and Young is hurt. Egger stands and the referee stops the fight!? Bit of a weird stoppage there. Great performance from Egger though.
Douglas Silva de Andrade def Gaetano Pirrello via Knockout, Round 1 (2:04)
Pirrello hanging on the outside and throws a couple of hard leg kicks early on with Andrade taking the centre and just feinting a lot. Andrade steps forward and lands a big right hand and follows it up with a couple more shots before they clinch up and separate. Andrade lands a left hand and then a jab to the body, while Pirrello looks for his range. Pirrello goes for a head kick but Andrade counters with a check left hook and puts Pirrello OUT!!! A few hammer fists before the referee gets there but what a KO that is!
Jamie Mullarkey def Devonte Smith via Knockout, Round 2 (2:51)
Nice even start to the fight for both guys as they trade feints and short jabs, with Mullarkey mixing in a low kick. Smith lands a clean one-two down the pipe and follows up with a couple of attempts but Mullarkey smiles at him. Mullarkey throws another hard leg kick but Smith fires back with two nice left hooks and then a huge right hand again that rocks him! He goes for a combination and jus misses with a big knee up the middle too. Nice jab from Smith and a big one-two behind it again before a big knee lands from Smith and rocks Mullarkey! Smith lands a head kick partially but Mullarkey is still in front of him and throwing those low kicks, then just misses with a big one-two. Smith’s speed a clear advantage as he lands a few more strikes but Mullarkey smothers him and gets a takedown late on in the round, lands some ground and pound before the buzzer goes. 10-9 Smith.
Strong start to the round again from Mullarkey as he steps forward early and takes the centre. Heavy low kick from Mullarkey again and it gets a big reaction from Smith who looks hurt from it. Mullarkey throws another as Smith gets on his bike and starts moving away. Mullarkey pushing the pace like a mad man and clinches up with some big knees to the body. Mullarkey keeps throwing knees and then rips two big hooks to the body that makes Smith cover up. An uppercut and hook to the head then back to the body and Smith drops! Mullarkey hits some strikes on the ground and the referee stops it! Huge win for Mullarkey! Impressive performance!
Karol Rosa def Bethe Correia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Rosa makes a dominant start to this bout as she takes the centre, slips a jab and lands a right hand. Rosa gets a Thai clinch early and lands some big knees to the body and Correia responds with a hook that misses. Rosa staying patient in the centre before coming for more knees again. Nice one-two lands clean from Rosa before a nice body kick and another one-two. Rosa being so patient and sliding out of the way of all Correia’s attacks, then jumps in with a flying knee straight to the face that Correia just eats. Rosa pops out her jab twice and starts cutting the cage off, but Correia lands a nice right hand. Rosa shoots for a takedown against the cage but Correia defends it well and sees out the round. 10-9 Rosa.
Correia takes the centre early this time around but Rosa throwing her jab well once again and landing with ease. Nice left jab a few more times and then Correia tries to charge her and eats a massive knee to the nose! Rosa lands a nice one-two again and Correia goes back to the outside and circles, but Rosa staying patient and firing in right hands behind her jab. Rosa staying out of range until she’s ready to engage. Big knee to the body from Rosa again and she’s upping the pace now, landing some combinations to the head too and forcing Correia backwards. Correia clinches up against the cage but eats a big knee to the body and an elbow to the face twice for good measure. Rosa just misses with another big elbow as the separate, but she lands a nice right hook when they engage again. Rosa lands another flying knee and big elbow but Correia manages to survive the round. 20-18 Rosa.
Rosa coming out nice and aggressive in the final round looking for a finish, with knees to the body again and solid right hooks behind it. Correia is still there though and trading with her as she lands a nice right hand of her own. Rosa fires back with a jab followed with a low kick and yet another running knee into the body with a right hook behind it. Rosa staying patient again with her jab, low kicks and right hand at the end of combinations. Both women trade low kicks and Correia lands a right hand, but Rosa goes back to the step-in knee before they clinch against the cage with a minute to go. They separate again and Rosa lands another one of her knees to the body before they clinch up again. Correia goes for a takedown but Rosa reverses it and ends the round with ground and pound strikes. 30-27, dominant win.
Casey O’Neill def Antonina Shevchenko via Knockout, Round 2 (4:47)
Very fast and aggressive start to the fight from O’Neill who puts the pressure on immediately. O’Neill lands a nice right hand but Shevchenko replies well with a one-two after a warning about out-stretched fingers from the referee. O’Neill changes levels and looks for the takedown but Shevchenko ends up on top and gets her in a crucifix position landing big ground and pound strikes. O’Neill escapes but Shevchenko is landing nice strikes on the feet whenever she counters. O’Neill changes levels again and finally takes Shevchenko down and is in a dominant position in half guard. O’Neill landing some nice ground strikes but Shevchenko gets it back to full-guard before eventually getting back to her feet with 30 seconds left in the round. O’Neill catches a kick and gets Shevchenko back on the ground to end the round on top. Tough to call, but I’d probably lean 10-9 to O’Neill.
Even start to this round as O’Neill gets the pressure going again and Shevchenko looks to counter strike from range. Clinch against the cage and Shevchenko lands some nice knees again before they separate, then O’Neill lands a left hand and then changes levels and secures a takedown. Shevchenko rolls onto her knees but O’Neill lands some nice strikes and then rolls onto her back and drags her back down with the hooks in. O’Neill looks to pass into full mount and does, then lands a big elbow as she starts to control. Big elbows from top position from O’Neill and Shevchenko gives up her back again. O’Neill goes for a choke but can’t quite get it then continues to land some big elbows! Shevchenko is hurt but O’Neill raining down bombs with her elbows and punches and the referee steps in to end it! What a performance from O’Neill!
Jared Gordon def Joe Solecki via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Very quick start for Solecki as he gets an immediate takedown and moves straight to mount on the ground. Gordon defends well and escapes the position but Solecki landing some good strikes on the ground and controlling the position well. Gordon wall-walks into space but Solecki follows him around and takes the back while landing heavy strikes to the head. Solecki starting to look for the neck but Gordon not panicking. Solecki starting to switch grips for the choke while controlling him completely but Gordon gets back to his feet with 40 seconds to go and is able to get on top himself. Nice elbow from top position by Gordon but that’s the round. Easy 10-9 for Solecki.
Gordon lands two nice strikes early but Solecki changes levels immediately and goes for a takedown once again. Gordon defending it against the cage but Solecki pushing for the takedown again. Gordon lands a nice knee and elbow while defending but Solecki not going anywhere. Gordon throws some elbows before Solecki finally gets the trip and ends up on top. Gordon gets the reversal though and ends up on top himself halfway through and lands some short elbows. Solecki tries to sweetp to get back on top but Gordon defends it well and is landing a few shots on the ground and wearing on him. Gordon prioritising position over damage in that round but he takes it. 19-19.
Composed start to the final round from both guys as they stay standing to begin with. Gordon more comfortable and landing his jab well, but Solecki exploding well and lands a body kick. Nice one-two by Solecki followed by a jab but Gordon starting to force him backwards. Solecki changes levels and comes over the top with a right hand that just misses, before Gordon shoots in for a takedown but Solecki defends it. Both men land a jab before Gordon gets a takedown against the cage, but he allows Solecki up immediately. Clinch in the centre sees Gordon use his strength and lands a couple of knees. Big right hand lands from Solecki and the round ends. I think that’s a 29-28 Gordon but third round is tough to score.
Alexander Hernandez def Mike Breeden via Knockout, Round 1 (1:20)
Very quick start to the fight from Breeden as he steps forward with some hooks and a heavy low kick early on. Hernandez right there with him and returns fire then shoots for a takedown, but Breeden denies him. Hernandez backs up then shoots in again but again he’s denied. Hernandez puts the pressure on him and lands a big one two that hurts Breeden. Hernandez lets the combinations fly and Breeden is covering up. Hernandez blasts his mouthpiece out with a big right hand and keeps going. Breeden fires a left hand but misses and Hernandez smashes a right hand just behind the ear and puts Breeden out cold!!! What a knockout!
Krzysztof Jotko def Misha Cirkunov via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Cirkunov takes the centre early on and steps forward to force Jotko against the cage, before shooting in for a takedown early. Jotko defends it well and gets back to the feet, before another attempt from Cirkunov sees a trip get him down but bounce straight back up. Jotko defending the clinch against the cage before separating and taking the centre. Both guys trade leg kicks and then Cirkunov steps in with a jab, before Jotko lights him up with a nice combination. Cirkunov still keeping the centre but Jotko is moving well and landing his counters well. Cirkunov fakes with a takedown attempt and Jotko clinches with him immediately which allows Cirkunov to get hold of him against the cage until the end of the round. Tough to score, but I lean 10-9 Cirkunov.
Even start once again in this second round as they continue with Cirkunov in the centre and Jotko bouncing around on the outside. Cirkunov goes for a clinch and throws a knee to the body but it’s a bit low and there’s a pause in the action. Nice combination lands from Jotko that ends with a left uppercut, then Cirkunov responds with a low kick. Cirkunov keeps going for clinches and takedowns but Jotko is very easily defending and separating. Hard low kick from Cirkunov to counter a right hand from Jotko. Another clinch and denial before Jotko throws a big knee and that’s the end of the round. Tough to score again, but I’d go 19-19.
Better start to the round for Cirkunov as he finally gets a takedown after changing levels and securing a single leg. Immediate bearhug position on the back and he’s dragging Jotko around and landing big knees to the thighs and back. Jotko explodes up and gets to the feet and tries to land a big elbow, but Cirkunov ducks under it and scores another big takedown. Jotko gets back up quickly though and goes for a takedown of his own before looking to explode with strikes against the cage. Jotko explodes with a knee but accidentally gets a finger in Cirkunov’s eye and the referee pauses the fight. Jotko fired up and as they restart he fires in some hard one-twos that narrowly miss. Nice jab from Jotko with 40 seconds to go and he goes for a takedown but Cirkunov denies it easily. Both guys clinch and Jotko gets a takedown with ten seconds to go to end the fight. Tough call, could go either way, but I’d give it 29-28 Cirkunov.
Niko Price def Alex Oliveira via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Action packed start to this one as both guys look to take the centre and start trading heavy blows straight away. Nice exchange of strikes and Oliveira goes for a knee which Price catches and charges him up against the cage. Oliveira manages to reverse it and push Price down to the mat but Price holds on to the neck and rolls through to end up on top. Price looking to create space for ground and pound but Oliveira defending well. Price trying to move to side control but Oliveira defending well. Hard body shots from Price and then some elbows from the top to see out the round. 10-9 Price.
Good start to the round again from both guys with lots of feinting and some leg kicks just to touch each other. Oliveira lands a nice left hand before both men narrowly miss with big hooks. Price misses a head kick but lands a right hand hammer fist instead. Oliveira lands a right hand after catching a kick and Price falls backwards, so Oliveira looks to jump on top. Lots of scrambling for position but Oliveira manages to retain top position throughout. Some nice ground and pound and transitions from Oliveira but Price defending relatively well from the bottom and the round ends. 19-19 even.
Final round and both guys are going for it early. Hard low kicks from Oliveira and then a big right hand lands but Price not moving away at all and continues to threaten. Big body shot from Oliveira then a right hand. Price goes for the right hook but Oliveira responds with one of his own. Price lands two big shots and a right hook wobbles Oliveira, but he side steps and avoids. Both guys throwing big strikes and just missing, before Price throws a big right hand that stumbles Oliveira. Price going for a takedown against the cage but Oliveira defends it and they separate. Side kick from Oliveira to the body but Price continues to walk forward and Oliveira is exhausted. Price goes for a big superman punch but Oliveira ducks it and clinches him, looking to drag Price down to the mat. Price manages to throw Oliveira down and ends up on top and he’s hammering ground and pound to end the round. That should win it for Price. 29-28.
Kevin Holland vs Kyle Daukaus – No Contest (Accidental headbutt led to fight ending sequence)
Good start to the round for Daukaus as he comes forward with two hooks and goes straight for a takedown. Holland defends it well against the cage and shows excellent balance to stay on his feet before he looks to break away in a clinch. Daukaus then puts him back in a full nelson and the referee breaks up the position. Daukaus lands a nice one-two, and then as Holland throws a right hand they clash heads and Holland goes out cold! Daukaus goes on to continue to look for a finish and eventually gets a rear-naked choke locked in and Holland is forced to tap out despite fighting hard to stay in the fight.
After the fight, a significant review takes place over the footage and the referee deems the fight a no contest due to an accidental clash of heads leading to the fight-ending sequence.
Thiago Santos def Johnny Walker via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x3)
First strike of the fight comes 30 seconds in as Walker throws a low kick, and the second comes 30 seconds later when Walker blocks a high kick from Santos. Walker takes the centre and is backing Santos up against the cage, but neither man throwing anything as we approach the halfway point of the round. Walker continues with a couple of low kicks and Santos goes to throw a high kick, but lots of feinting from both guys and not much action at all. Teep kick from Walker lands. More jockeying from both guys as the round ends. That’s an impossible round to score because nothing happened. 10-10.
Second round starts quicker as Santos takes the centre and shoots for a takedown with a single leg. Walker defends it well but both guys swing big hooks on their way out of the clinch and Santos lands the left hand grazing him. Santos throws a head kick but Walker blocks it and replies with a low kick. The round has gone timid again and Walker misses with a big overhand right, then lands another low kick. Nice left body kick from Santos lands and then he lands two more too with a left hand behind it. Walker eats them though and comes forward. More touching and feinting as the round ends. Round 2 goes to Santos for me, 20-19.
Lots of feints again in the third round as Walker looks to go back to the teep kicks and leg kicks from the first round. Santos grazes him with a head kick and then misses with a wild left hand. Walker throws more kicks but Santos side steps it and lands a left cross on the chin. Walker still there and doing lots of feinting again but Santos looks comfortable. Big exchange from both guys but they both miss and the fight is starting to open up a little bit now. Santos parries a body kick and lands a strong left hand again but Walker is still standing and moving. Walker throws a leg kick again and Santos replies with a left hook. Big spinning wheel kick misses from Santos but then he throws a head kick that is partially blocked. 30-28 Santos.
Santos comes out aggressive in the fourth and lands a nice body shot. Walker coming forward but not really throwing anything of note. Head kick attempt from Santos misses again, then Walker throws one and just misses. Santos throws a jump knee that misses and then Santos goes for his left hand again. Hard leg kick from Santos but Walker doesn’t look too affected by them. Walker’s kick gets caught but he lands two big right hands of his own before eating one from Santos. Big one-two lands from Santos again but Walker eats it well and threatens with a reverse elbow. Another hard left hand from Santos just misses, before he lands a body kick to end the round. Close round that one, 40-37 Santos for me.
This has not been the type of fight we all expected, but we go into the fifth round anyway. Slow start again with lots of feints and a slow pace. Santos comes forward and lands a left hand to the side of the head but Walker is still looking to chop the legs. Santos lands a HUGE left hand clean but Walker eats it and calls him on for more. Body kick from Santos lands twice before Walker slides forward to close distance. Santos staying out of danger for the most part and both men faking a lot again. Left hand lands from Santos and Walker lands a right hand at the same time. Big head kick from Santos lands but again Walker just eats it. Capoeira kick from Walker misses and that’s the round. 50-36 Santos for me, maybe 49-47 but very weird fight to score.
A fun light heavyweight card at the UFC Apex this weekend as former title challenger Thiago Santos takes on hot prospect Johnny Walker in the main event of UFC Vegas 38.
Santos previously fought Jon Jones for the 205lbs title and many thought he won, before ultimately falling to a decision defeat. He blew out both knees in that fight and has since returned to face Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic, where he was dominated and now looks to get back to winning ways. Walker went on a tear before suffering a small skid himself, but after getting back in the win column he is hoping to make a push for the top five.
Elsewhere on the card two hot prospects at women’s bantamweight clash as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson, while Antonina Shevchenko takes on the undefeated Casey O’Neill and Kevin Holland takes on Kyle Daukaus in the co-main event.
Last week at UFC 266 we went 10/13 with five perfect picks on the night to move us up to 421/659 (63.88%) with 183 perfect picks (43.47%). We’ll look to improve that here and after starting with the early prelims and the rest of the prelims here, we move on to the main card.
Alexander Hernandez (12-4) vs Mike Breeden (10-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A short-notice bout at lightweight to open the main card as ‘The Great’ Hernandez takes on Mike Breeden. Hernandez has alternated wins and losses in his last five, with a defeat against Thiago Moises last time out at UFC Vegas 20. Breeden has won his last two outside the UFC, beating Ken Beverley and Nick Compton most recently back in May.
Hernandez is a pressure fighter with good power in his hands, solid kicks and a good, durable chin. Breeden is a good boxer who has great combinations but also with a solid calf kick and someone who is always game to fight. Hernandez is really well-rounded, with his best performances coming when he mixes up clinches and takedowns with his powerful striking.
Breeden is a good fighter in his own merit, but this is a huge step up in competition for him and even moreso on just a week’s notice. He’ll come forward and be game, no doubt, but Hernandez will push the pace and eventually his body work will pay dividends to get him a stoppage win. PICK – Alexander Hernandez via Knockout, Round 3
Aspen Ladd (9-1) vs Macy Chiasson (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing fight at the top of the women’s bantamweight division as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson. Ladd is a great striker, who’s only defeat came in just 16 seconds against Germaine De Randamie. She bounced back from that with an impressive KO win over Yana Kunitskaya back in 2019 but hasn’t fought since. Chiasson won TUF 28 and has since gone 4-1 in the UFC proper, with her most recent win coming against Marion Reneau at UFC Vegas 22.
Ladd is a brilliant wrestler who has some violent ground and pound and vicious striking on the feet to go with it, while Chiasson is a super well-rounded fighter herself too with an even split of finishes via knockout and submission. Ladd is returning from a torn ACL/MCL injury but while Chiasson has got some good names on her resumé she’s not fought anyone of the calibre of Ladd before.
Ladd is powerful, quick, a great striker and has the advantage with the wrestling too which means she can dictate where this fight goes. Because of that, she’ll only need one takedown per round to control and land some vicious shots and therefore I think she’ll get the win. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Decision
Misha Cirkunov (15-6) vs Krzysztof Jotko (22-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A fun middleweight clash between two Europeans in this one. Cirkunov has lost four of his last six bouts, getting KO’d by Ryan Spann in just 71 seconds last time out at UFC Vegas 21. Jotko on the other hand had won three-in-a-row before coming up against Sean Strickland at UFC Vegas 25 and getting dominated on the feet.
Cirkunov is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who is the most grapple heavy fighter on this card. He is a brilliant submission artist, with eight of his 15 wins coming via tap out. Jotko on the other hand is a great kickboxer with a terrific amount of power in his strikes, although his ground game is next to non-existent.
It’s a true grappler vs striker bout and I’d be surprised to see it come out of the first round in all honesty. If Cirkunov gets a takedown, he gets a submission win. If Jotko keeps it standing, he blasts the chin and gets a KO. As it goes, I think Cirkunov does get the takedown and locks up a head-and-arm choke for the win. PICK – Misha Cirkunov via Submission, Round 1
Alex Oliveira (22-10-1) vs Niko Price (14-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Potentially the fight of the night in the welterweight division here. ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira is a veteran of the sport who doesn’t know how to have a boring fight, having lost five of his last seven including his last two against Shavkat Rakhmonov and Randy Brown at UFC 261 most recently. Niko Price is in the same boat in terms of entertainment value, and has also lost two of his last three (the third a draw overturned to a NC) against Vicente Luque and Michel Pereira at UFC 264.
Oliveira is a good boxer with solid wrestling and nasty body kicks, but he’s seen his durability wane in recent years and that will harm him. Price is a powerful puncher who pushes a relentless pace and just straight up loves a war in the cage, willing to give it his all no matter where it goes.
On the feet Price has him outpowered and on the ground Oliveira has the edge, but realistically they’re going to brawl at some point and Price is far more durable which means he’s likely to slam him with a big right hand that puts him into orbit and close the night early. PICK – Niko Price via Knockout, Round 2
Kevin Holland (21-7) vs Kyle Daukaus (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very intriguing fight in the middleweight co-main event here. Holland was the 2020 Fighter of the Year racking up five wins in a row, but 2021 hasn’t been kind to him as he’s been dominated by both Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori most recently at UFC Vegas 23. Daukaus hasn’t had a great UFC run so far, especially in comparison to his brother Chris, with a decision win against Dustin Stoltzfus sandwiched between defeats to Brendan Allen and Phil Hawes most recently at UFC Vegas 26.
Holland is a very powerful striker with great kickboxing and Muay Thai, but he’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt on the mat. Daukaus is a grappling heavy fighter who is very heavy handed himself, but he looks to rain those punches down from top control. Daukaus is a good grappler but being unranked, this is a huge step up in competition for him. If he gets a takedown and gets on top then he’ll have success, but on the feet Holland has a huge edge.
Ultimately it’s a stylistically fun match up, but the level between the two fighters should see Holland able to keep the fight standing and slam punches down the pipe to earn himself a way back into the win column. PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 3
Thiago Santos (21-9) vs Johnny Walker (18-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An absolutely wild fight in the 205lbs division makes the main event here. Santos is on a three-fight losing skid after earning his way to a title shot, losing to Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic most recently at UFC 259. Walker on the other hand halted a two-fight losing streak by bouncing back with a brilliant knockout win over Ryan Spann at UFC Vegas 11.
Santos is one of the most terrifying strikers in MMA, with ridiculous power in his hands and really powerful calf kicks and body kicks too. Walker is one of the most erratic fighters on the roster, with scary one-punch knockout power too and some really good clinch techniques too. Santos ripped his knees to shreds against Jones which has seen him stop kicking since his return, with limited movement.
That doesn’t bode well for Santos realistically because of how explosive Walker can be, but I think Santos is slightly more durable and has the faster hands which means he could land first and end the fight early. It could very realistically go the other way, but I lean towards Santos. PICK – Thiago Santos via Knockout, Round 1