The UFC returns from a two week break to make history with the companies first ever card from Paris, France.
The historic card is headlined by hometown heavyweight favourite Ciryl Gane, as he takes on fan favourite and knockout artist Tai Tuivasa in the main event.
The co-main will also see two world class middleweight contenders go head-to-head too as Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori clash in a potential title eliminator.
Last time out at UFC 278 we saw an amazing card, where we landed 7/12 correct picks with three perfect picks to move to 705/1094 (64.51%) with 298 perfect picks (42.26%). You can see our full picks history here.
Charles Jourdain (13-5-1) vs Nathaniel Wood (18-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A super fun fight and potentially the fight of the night. Jourdain suffered a defeat to Shane Burgos in his last bout back in June, snapping a two fight win streak. Wood alternatively returned to the Octagon at UFC London after nearly two years out with a brilliant performance, earning him a decision win over Charles Rosa.
Jourdain and Wood are very similar fighters and that should make this a fantastic fight. Jourdain is a relentless fighter with powerful strikes and a fantastic gas tank, who is comfortable on the mat if the fight goes to the ground too. Wood is an excellent kickboxer with brilliant range management and solid wrestling techniques too, making him an all-round threat.
This will be really difficult to call. Jourdain is cutting weight for a second time in six weeks which could have an effect on his style, while Wood looked as sharp as ever last time out. He’s about the right size for the division and his range management and calf kicks could really help in keeping Jourdain at distance to maintain control. He’s also got the takedown threat, something Jourdain has struggled with and that leads me to think he can claim an entertaining win as the underdog. PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Decision
William Gomis (10-2) vs Jarno Errens (13-3-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Two UFC debutants fight each other on the main card of this card. Gomis is on an eight-fight win streak, with his most recent coming with a third-round KO back in June. Errens earned a decision win less than a month ago and steps into this fight on short notice.
Gomis is a fantastic striker with a great arsenal of attacks, mixing up boxing combinations and kicks to go with lateral movement and great knockout power. Errens has got some decent boxing techniques too, while his submission skills have earned him five tap out wins in his career to date. This bout is a question of which version of Gomis steps up in reality.
If the really good version shows up, then he should run rings around Errens with his technique and power while trying to put a show on for his home nation fans. If it’s the version who looks for highlight finishes rather than fighting properly and backs himself against the cage then he’ll have a tough night. Obviously it’s impossible to know before the fight, but logic tells you to go with the best version of both guys in this one and that means Gomis gets a dominant win and probably finishes it in style. PICK – William Gomis via Knockout, Round 2
John Makdessi (18-7) vs Nasrat Haqparast (13-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight scrap between two guys trying to make waves in the division. Makdessi has won four of his last five fights, with a win over Ignacio Bahamondes most recently at UFC Vegas 23 over a year ago. Haqparast has lost his last two against Dan Hooker (UFC 266) and Bobby Green (UFC 271) and will be keen to get back to winning ways.
Makdessi is a talented striker with unorthodox kicks and spinning attacks as part of his weaponry, but with a picture perfect jab arguably his best shot. Haqparast is also a brilliant striker, with a traditional boxing approach meaning his jab is sensational and he also packs great power to claim nine knockout wins in his career. Neither fighter is big on wrestling so this is likely to stay on the feet and that favours the younger southpaw, Haqparast.
The German knows how to smother his opponents lead hand and counter with a powerful left cross, and Makdessi’s game falls right into that trap. Both will jab a lot but when they counter each other and look for the kill-shot, it’s Haqparast who will land first and harder so I expect him to get a stoppage win midway through the fight. PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 2
Alessio Di Chirico (13-6) vs Roman Kopylov (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A weird middleweight scrap up next between two heavy hitters. Di Chirico earned a memorable head-kick win over Joaquin Buckley at UFC Fight Island 7, but has lost the other four of his last five including his most recent fight against Abdul Razak Alhassan where he got KO’d in 17 seconds. Kopylov has lost his last two fights too, getting submitted in 2019 by Karl Roberson and then losing a decision to Albert Duraev at UFC 267 most recently.
Di Chirico is a bog standard striker with some okay takedowns and wrestling to go with it, while Kopylov is a good volume striker with lots of power and variety and some decent takedown defence. There is absolutely no reason for this fight to be on the main card, but the fact it is means the UFC expect something to happen. I don’t.
There will likely be quite a lot of stalemates against the cage as Di Chirico looks to close the distance and get the fight down, while Kopylov defends it with little striking in between. In the gaps Kopylov is likely to land good combinations and that should be enough for a judge’s decision, but this will be a great time to go for snacks or something. PICK – Roman Kopylov via Decision
Robert Whittaker (24-6) vs Marvin Vettori (18-5-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A top level middleweight scrap up next. Whittaker 3-2 in his last five, with both defeats coming to Israel Adesanya in title fights (UFC 271). His wins were all via decision, where he dominated Darren Till (UFC Fight Island 3), Jared Cannonier (UFC 254) and Kelvin Gastelum. Vettori six of his last eight, with his two defeats also coming to Adesanya, with a title fight ending in defeat at UFC 263. He’s beaten Karl Roberson (UFC Vegas 2), Jack Hermansson (UFC Vegas 16), Kevin Holland (UFC Vegas 23) and most recently Paulo Costa.
Whittaker is arguably the best kickboxer in the UFC outside of Israel Adesanya, but he is also a brilliant wrestler and his dynamic movement make him a horror match up for anyone in the division. Vettori has got incredible cardio and uses that to over power his opposition with wrestling takedown attempts, and then smothering them from top position. The game plan will be clear here. Whittaker wants to stand and strike, Vettori wants the takedown.
I’m a big fan of Vettori even though he can be pretty boring to watch, but I’m a firm believer that Whittaker is the best in the world behind Adesanya and there’s a big gap between them and the rest. Whittaker’s pace, ability to mix it up and perfect technique when striking should see him do enough to claim a decision win as usual. PICK – Robert Whittaker via Decision
Ciryl Gane (10-1) vs Tai Tuivasa (15-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
An absolute banger in the heavyweight division is the main event of this card. Ciryl Gane returns to the octagon for the first time since January, where he lost a title fight against Francis Ngannou via decision at UFC 270. His last win came at UFC 265 where he knocked out Derrick Lewis. Tuivasa is on an amazing roll, winning five in a row all by knockout against Stefan Struve (UFC 254), Harry Hunsucker (UFC Vegas 21), Greg Hardy (UFC 264), Augusto Sakai (UFC 269) and Derrick Lewis (UFC 271).
Gane is a tremendous fighter who is arguably the most well-rounded heavyweight fighter in the world outside of Jon Jones (maybe). His kicks are fantastic, he has good boxing and his wrestling is good too. He also possesses great cardio and some submission skills, making him a threat wherever the fight goes. Tuivasa on the other hand is a straight up brawler. He has got excellent leg kicks and dynamite in both hands, but he hasn’t been past the second round since losing to Blagoy Ivanov in 2019. This is a very similar match up to what people believed Gane vs Ngannou was, just on a different level.
“Bon Gamin” is likely to use his reach and kicks to dominate from the outside, bouncing around to avoid the heavy hands of Tuivasa. The difference from this fight to the title fight is that Tuivasa’s cardio is less reliable and he doesn’t have the new wrestling chops that Ngannou had to overpower him to the ground. Gane will take his time and wear Tuivasa out, before pouring it on late for a stoppage in his hometown. PICK – Ciryl Gane via Knockout, Round 3
Maxim Grishin def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Slow start to this one, with Grishin attacking the body with kicks in the first minute and landing a nice low kick too. Grishin just misses with a front kick to the face, then Knight responds with a body kick attempt of his own. Grishin has a huge reach advantage and is staying on the outside, then lands a huge head kick! Knight doesn’t go down but he’s hurt, Grishin stays patient though and doesn’t go for the kill. Grishin lands a low outside kick and then goes for another head kick that misses. Knight throwing next to nothing so far, as Grishin just touches him from the outside and avoids all the damage coming his way. Grishin backs Knight against the cage but both guys are lacking with their output through the first round. 10-9 Grishin.
Similar start to this round as Grishin takes the centre and uses his kicking game to maintain distance, while Knight not doing much. Grishin lands a low inside kick and follows it with a right hand, then a hard low kick that gets a big reaction from Knight. Knight trying for a few kicks of his own but not landing anything, then Grishin lands another right hand and Knight goes in for a takedown. Grishin defends it well but Knight chain wrestling and eventually gets Grishin on his shoulders and slams him down! Knight goes for the back but Grishin fights out and ends up on top himself, landing two good elbows and taking side control. Knight powers his way back up to his feet but Grishin does well to separate and get back to his jab and kicking game from range. 20-18 Grishin.
Final round and Grishin lands a hard low kick early on, who reacts in pain but spins into a spinning back fist and gets a clinch. Knight goes for a takedown and gets the single leg to put Grishin on his backside, but he immediately switches and gets back up. He gets separation and lands a nice left hand and low kick combo, but Knight responds with a left hand too. Knight goes for another takedown and Grishin defends it well, but then he throws a kick that Knight catches and he trips Grishin to end up on top. Grishin is able to get back to his feet relatively quickly though and pushes Knight back against the cage. Knight goes for a flying knee and misses then gets another takedown, but Grishin defending well and lands a hard right hand followed by two low kicks. Knight goes for a big right hand but Grishin lands a left that drops him and he ends the round in full mount. Solid performance from Grishin. 30-27.
Wells sprints around the outside of the octagon and slips in the opening seconds, so Blood Diamond moves in quickly. Wells immediately gets a clinch and starts looking for a takedown, but Blood Diamond defending it really well so far 90 seconds in. Wells trying to use strength to get the takedown and eventually is able to lift him and puts him on the mat, then falls into mount! Wells looking for a choke but Diamond fighting the hands, so Wells starts landing heavy ground and pound. Diamond trying to get up but Wells is on his back heavy with hooks in and is throwing heavy shots on the ground. Wells slides the arm under the chin and tries to go for a choke again but Diamond looks to be defending well. Suddenly the referee stops the fight and we can see that Diamond is out cold! What a submission win!
Douglas Silva de Andrade def Sergey Morozov via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:34)
Both guys looking to take the centre early as Morozov lands a jab and Andrade lands two nice calf kicks. Morozov lands a nice right hand that wobbles Andrade and he follows it up with two hooks that drops him! Morozov goes into top position and starts working him with heavy ground and pound strikes. A huge elbow from Morotoz and he slices Andrade wide open and that is a nasty cut over the eye. Andrade tries to get back up but Morozov drops him down and then allows him up and lands a big knee to the head. Morozov lands a lovely one-two and Andrade is still hurt. Morozov lands a nice knee to the body, then Andrade explodes with a heavy left hook that lands. Spinning body kick from Morozov lands clean and then he shoots for a double leg takedown and gets it to end the round on top. Huge round for Morozov. 10-9.
Fast start from Andrade who knows he’s down a round early on. Morozov being backed up against the cage and Andrade lands a heavy strike that wobbles him! Big right hand and Andrade drops him! He goes for a finish but Morozov defends the position well and is able to grapple his way to safety. Andrade looking for haymakers and just missing. Andrade throws the same combination and drops Morozov again! Morozov in survival mode, but Andrade landing heavy strikes and a big knee connects. Andrade hurts him and moves for a choke! Morozov defending it well but Andrade changes the grip and secures it. Morozov refuses to tap but he goes out unconscious! What a comeback win!
Jacob Malkoun def AJ Dobson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Super quick punching combination from Dobson early on causes Malkoun problems. Malkoun trying to get close, but Dobson lands a nice short right hand that hurts him! Malkoun goes for a takedown to recover but he defends it well and starts looking to strike again. Malkoun changes levels again and is in deep, but once again Dobson defends it despite being lifted into the air. Dobson lands a hard knee to the body, and then both fighters exchange strikes to the chin. Malkoun catches a kick and tries for another takedown but Dobson again stays on his feet and defends it. Malkoun lands a nice right hand but Dobson responds with a lovely combo. Hard one-two from Dobson but Malkoun finally gets himself a takedown with ten seconds of the round remaining. 10-9 Dobson.
Malkoun and Dobson going after it early on in this second round. Malkoun lands a nice right hand and shoots for a takedown, but Dobson denies him and fires a knee up the middle that misses. Malkoun shoots in again and this time gets the trip and gets him down, then looks to move to his back but Dobson is able to get up quickly. Malkoun swings him down to the mat again and is landing some hard ground and pound strikes, hurting Dobson. Lots of ground strikes landing and Dobson is trying to find a way back to his feet but Malkoun controlling him well. Hard strikes and Malkoun continuing to control as he allows Dobson up for the final ten seconds to end the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 19-18 Malkoun.
Final round and Malkoun is back in with a takedown early on and gets it. Straight back to the same position on the back of Dobson, landing ground and pound strikes once again. Malkoun switches the position and gets to half guard with Dobson flat on his back and he’s controlling the position and landing good, solid ground and pound strikes. Dobson is trying to kick off the cage to get out from under Malkoun, but he blocks it and gets some big shots off again. Malkoun postures up and lands some heavy strikes. Malkoun throwing some elbows too as we enter the final 30 seconds and he’s dominated this final round again too. 29-26 Malkoun for me.
Ronnie Lawrence def Mana Martinez via Unanimous Decision (29-27 x2, 29-28)
Cagey start to this fight early on as Lawrence lands a few low kicks, while Martinez takes the centre and feints to try and set up his strikes. Lawrence steps forward and shoots with a beautiful takedown and gets it immediately, looking to control Martinez although he’s not doing much damage yet. Martinez fights the hands and is able to get back up to his feet, then lands a hard low kick of his own. Lawrence back to moving on the outside and then steps in with a low-kick, right hook combination that drops Martinez! Lawrence jumps on top for a finish and lands some good ground and pound strikes, and Martinez scrambles to survive. Lawrence in full guard looking for elbows as we enter the final 15 seconds. Good round. 10-9 Lawrence.
Martinez trying to land some strikes from range early on in this round, but Lawrence moving well and avoiding. Big right body shot and left hook to the chin from Lawrence lands and Martinez gets knocked down again! Lawrence goes back to top position and fires in some ground and pound and wrestles for control as he takes the back. Martinez gets to the cage and battles his way back up to the feet, but then Lawrence lands another huge right hook that drops him again! He misses with some ground and pound but then gets the hooks in and takes the back to look for a rear-naked choke. Martinez is able to reverse it and get up to his feet but then Lawrence shoots for a takedown again and takes control again. Lawrence gets another takedown to end the round, pure dominance. 20-17 Lawrence.
Martinez coming out in this final round knowing he needs a finish and pressing forward. Lawrence staying very calm on the feet but Martinez lands a couple of nice right hands. Hard low kick from Martinez and then Lawrence goes for a head kick. Lawrence goes for a takedown but Martinez stuffs it, then lands a nice right hook. Martinez stuffs a takedown attempt again and then lands a huge spinning back fist that drops Lawrence! He lands some huge follow up strikes but Lawrence just about survives and shoots for a takedown. Martinez goes for a triangle and then goes for an armbar but Lawrence rolls through it and defends it well, then ends the round in top position. So close to a comeback. 29-27 Lawrence for me.
Carlos Ulberg def Fabio Cherant via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Relatively slow start to the round for both guys as Ulberg takes the centre and backs Cherant up against the cage. Hard low kick from Ulberg lands and then goes for a body kick but lands low and pauses the action. Cherant is mad now and blitzes out when the action resumes, landing a big left hand and then clinching. Ulberg denies him and then gets a takedown of his own, before letting him up quickly. Cherant flies in for a big left hand but Ulberg fires a low kick that drops Cherant but then he lets him stand up again. Nice work from Ulberg but he looks quite cocky right now and Cherant is dangerous. Big left from Cherant lands just before the buzzer and drops Ulberg, but he’s not really hurt at all. 10-9 Ulberg for me, but a weird round.
Cherant more aggressive early on in this round and backing Ulberg up with his left hand. Ulberg lands a low kick and then counters Cherant’s left hand with a beautiful left hook that opens up a cut over his eye. Ulberg goes to the body with his kicks and is landing his jab well, while Cherant continues to look for that left hand explosion. Ulberg landing some nice kicks to the body and his jab getting through, plus his check-left hook is doing well. Easy round for Ulberg. 20-18.
Ulberg using nice footwork inside the opening 90 seconds of this round to stay away from Cherant, who knows he needs a finish to get anything from this fight. Very slow pace to this one with neither man really doing much to win the fight yet. Ulberg lands two nice body shots, but Cherant just standing in front of him and not throwing anything at all. Cherant steps forward and swings a big left hand but Ulberg ducks under and takes his back, then secures a takedown with a minute to go. Cherant fights his way back to the feet with ten seconds to go and this one fizzles out. 30-27 Ulberg, but not the most entertaining fight by any means.
Blistering start to this fight as Phillips throws a huge leg kick and then lands some big combinations on Rojo. Rojo steps forward and lands a nice combo to the body himself, before Phillips lands a nice straight right hand. Flying knee from Phillips and then another hard leg kick drops him. Phillips lands another lovely combination, but Rojo still coming forward and lands a nice right hand himself. Phillips lands a good right hand as the clinch, then gets a takedown and moves to the back of Rojo very quickly. He gets the hooks in and takes him down to the mat, then transitions to mount but Rojo quickly gets half-guard back. Hard knee from Phillips but Rojo gets back to his feet. Rojo continues to come forward and looking for combinations, but Phillips seems to have him beaten everywhere. A lovely trip sees Phillips end the round on top too. 10-9 Phillips.
More of the same early on in this second round as Rojo tries to take the centre, but he’s just a step behind the lightning quick Phillips. Phillips lands low kicks and his jab well, but Rojo is trying to push forward and land blitzes. Overhand right misses by Rojo, and Phillips steps in with a nice combo and flying knee attempt. Rojo keeps coming forward though and looking for combinations, but Phillips’ leg kicks are doing lots of damage now. Rojo denies a takedown attempt but Phillips eventually gets him in a clinch position against the cage and sees the round out in control. 20-18 Phillips.
FInal round now and Rojo is suffering with some severe damage on his lead leg, but he is soldiering through it. Phillips goes for a takedown but Rojo stuffs it, only for Phillips to chain wrestle and secure a different position on top. Phillips pushing for a submission and gets into full mount. He goes for an inverted mounted triangle, then synches in an armbar too. Rojo tries to get out but taps out before he rolls through to a belly down position and Phillips secures the victory! What a performance!
Modafferi coming forward with lots of pressure early on and is landing her jab well, but O’Neill countering well with her right hand. Nice left hook from O’Neill as she starts to work her own jab and force Modafferi backwards. Both women land a left hook at the same time, then Modafferi lands a right hand behind it too. Hard one-two from O’Neill lands over and over again but Modafferi continues to come forward with pressure. O’Neill comes forward and just misses with a big elbow, but she’s still landing well with her punches. O’Neill landing hard and heavy shots but Modafferi eating them all and firing back herself to end the round. 10-9 O’Neill, but it’s competitive.
Lots of forward pressure from Modafferi once again early on but O’Neill without doubt has the advantage all over in the striking battle. O’Neill landing big shots on her counters and they’re starting to take an effect on Modafferi. O’Neill starting to up the pressure now and looking for big strikes, but Modafferi responds with a forward blitz and then separates from a clinch attempt. O’Neill is landing her one-two and her overhand right at will now, and is starting to mix in some kicks to her attacks too. Modafferi still marching forwards though. Modafferi goes for a knee but just misses and O’Neill starts screaming while she’s striking. Modafferi changes levels and gets the takedown with seconds remaining to end up on top, but that’s O’Neill’s round. 20-18.
O’Neill coming out very aggressive in the final round looking for a finish, as Modafferi once again looks to blitz her way into a successful striking battle. O’Neill is very sharp though and is landing first and hardest in these exchanges. O’Neill lands a hard right but Modafferi responds with two nice knees to the body. Modafferi still stepping forward and lands a big spinning back fist, but O’Neill eats it and then lands a lovely combo of her own. Modafferi clinches up and lands some knees but O’Neill again lands her right hand freely. Modafferi goes for a takedown but O’Neill sprawls, then throws a kick and sees it caught by Modafferi who pushes her to the ground. O’Neill gets up quickly and is attacking the body lock that Modafferi has wrapped around her, while she throws knees looking to do damage. Modafferi pushing for a takedown but O’Neill defends it all the way to the buzzer and should take a dominant decision win.
Andrei Arlovski def Jared Vanderaa via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Hard low kick from Arlovski to open up the fight and then a lovely combination of strikes to the head lands on Vanderaa. Arlovski moving a lot on the outside and bursting with speed and precision to land. Vanderaa backing Arlovski against the cage, but he’s not really throwing much yet. Arlovski lands a big right cross and then Vanderaa just misses with a right uppercut. They clinch against the cage and Vanderaa looking for trips, but Arlovski is able to separate. Arlovski throws a spin kick to the body and then a hard right hand follows which rock Vanderaa. Arlovski stays patient and throws a spinning back fist that just misses and that’s the round. 10-9 Arlovski.
Vanderaa goes for a low kick and Arlovski lands a beautiful combination that sends Vanderaa backwards. They clinch against the cage and Vanderaa lands some solid knees to the body and thighs before Arlovski is able to separate and get away. Hard right hand lands again from Arlovski and he follows it up with three more clean strikes with his overhand, but Vanderaa is still there. Another hard right hand lands from Arlovski and Vanderaa is just eating them now. Vanderaa gets a body lock against the cage but Arlovski defends it easily and lands his right hand a couple more times for good measure before the round ends. 20-18.
Final round and Vanderaa is coming out with more kicks. Lots of leg kicks followed by a heavy body kick and then they clinch up, with Vanderaa throwing some knees against the cage too. Lots of stalling and then Arlovski finally steps away and then lands a nice right hand, but Vanderaa is still coming forward. Nice counter strikes from Vanderaa and a good left hook lands as Arlovski is backing up against the cage. Final 20 seconds and they clinch again, before Arlovski lands a big right hand as the round ends. 29-28 Arlovski for me.
Bobby Green def Nasrat Haqparast via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to this one from Green as he takes the centre early on and starts looking to implement his jab. Haqparast accidentally pokes him in the eye to cause a pause in the action, then he misses with two wild hooks as Green showboats. Green coming forward with his hands very low, while Haqparast has a very high guard and is trying to counter. Hard low kick from Haqparast, but then Green responds with more jabs. Green is very confident and is landing well in the centre and Haqparast is struggling to get any sort of offense going. 10-9 Green.
Haqparast trying to apply more forward pressure in this round from the off but Green slipping and countering so well to land his jabs. Green is striking through the high guard well and busting up Haqparast’s face, but he’s still coming forward. Nice left hand from Haqparast lands as Green tries to chip away at the guard. Both guys land with a stiff jab, then Haqparast lands a hard low kick to go with it. Haqparast throws another left overhand that connects, but Green rolling with the shots for the most part. Big straights and crosses from Green busting up the face of Haqparast at this point as we enter the final minute. Big overhand left again from Haqparast lands and he’s starting to land more by keeping Green backed up against the cage. Green still landing too with double jabs and straights. What a great fight. I give it to Green, but could be Haqparast’s round. 20-18 for me.
Haqparast comes out firing in the final round, but Green catches a kick and then lands some more straight shots to the nose through the high guard. Green’s boxing has been excellent, with body shots mixed in now. Haqparast trying to apply forward pressure, but Green is doing so well to land combinations at speed through the guard and mix his attacks up. Green dominating the exchanges now and he lands a couple of big strikes to end the round and claim a huge career victory. 30-27 Green.
Renato Moicano def Alexander Hernandez via Knockout, Round 2 (1:23)
Hernandez opens up with some hard low kicks, but Moicano lands the first big strike of the night with an overhand right to the chin. Hernandez landing those low kicks well, but Moicano slipping shots well and countering. Moicano looks to change levels and go for a single leg takedown, but Hernandez defends it well. They clinch against the cage and Moicano gets him down, but Hernandez scrambles back up to his feet immediately. Moicano holds on to the body lock though and eventually does throw Hernandez down and ends up in half guard after another scramble. Hernandez uses his strength to get up and goes straight back to striking, throwing jabs and hooks with a high pressure. Hernandez stalking him around the cage now, but Moicano responds with a lovely right hand down the pipe. Fun round, 10-9 Moicano, just.
Hernandez trying to weaponise his cardio in the second round, coming out very aggressively. Moicano lands a beautiful left hand, right uppercut combination to slow him right down. Hernandez goes to clinch and Moicano avoids it and lands a beautiful combination that rocks him! Moicano follows up with a knee that drops Hernandez! He goes for the finish but Hernandez gives up his back, so Moicano takes it, sinks in a choke and gets the tap! What a performance!
Jared Cannonier def Derek Brunson via Knockout, Round 2 (4:29)
Interesting start to the fight as Cannonier comes out looking for big strikes early on, while Brunson looking to stay away from those striking exchanges to wrestle. Brunson shoots in and Cannonier defends it, but Brunson switches to a single leg and lifts it high to secure the takedown, but Cannonier gets up relatively easily. Brunson looking to wear on him using clinches and takedown attempts, making Cannonier miss. Brunson shoots in again and after battling he gets the trip and ends up on top, looking for an arm triangle. Cannonier gets back up and misses with a kick, then Brunson lands a huge right hook that drops him! Brunson takes the back immediately and locks up a rear-naked choke but the buzzer goes and saves him. Close. 10-9 Brunson!
Brunson opens the round with an immediate takedown attempt in the centre of the octagon and gets it. He tries to secure position but Cannonier scrambles up to his feet and looks much fresher than Brunson. Brunson lands a couple of left hands but Cannonier is fresh and can see Brunson tiring. Brunson goes back in for a takedown but it’s denied. Big right hook from Cannonier lands and then an uppercut lands too. Hard jab from Cannonier and then a combination misses. Brunson looks very slow right now but he shoots in for a takedown anyway. Cannonier denies it easily and as they clinch he lands a huge short elbow and a back fist. Brunson is hurt badly and Cannonier drops him again. He gets on top position and lands huge elbows to put him out cold and that’s enough for the referee! What a win!
Tai Tuivasa def Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2 (1:40)
Tuivasa comes out with feints and some hard low kick attempts inside the first minute as they look to feel each other out. Lewis goes for a right hand but Tuivasa ducks under it and gets a clinch against the cage, landing knees against his thighs. Lewis goes for a head kick that gets blocked then a flying knee that misses, before a right overhand lands and they clinch up again. Lewis drops down for a single leg but Tuivasa defends it well. Lewis gets an outside trip and ends up on top then as he postures up to land big strikes Tuivasa starts to get up too. Lewis lands four or five flush shots but Tuivasa gets up and starts swinging back before they clinch up again. Lewis gets another takedown but Tuivasa gets back up too and the round ends. Wild round. 10-9 Lewis.
Tuivasa looks for a low kick once again to open the round, but Lewis just misses with a big right hand. Lewis looks to blitz him with big strikes but Tuivasa evades him and they clinch up against the cage once again. Lewis tries to blitz him again but Tuivasa swings with him and lands a few of his own! Lewis is hurt! Tuivasa swinging big shots and Lewis is in trouble. Tuivasa lands a huge elbow and Lewis faceplants! He’s out cold! Tuivasa with the biggest win of his career! Wow!
Israel Adesanya def Robert Whittaker via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x2, 49-46)
Very methodical start from both guys as they miss with several low kicks each and lots of fakes and feints. Adesanya finally lands a hard low kick and then another about halfway through the round. Whittaker lunges in for a left hook but misses and Adesanya lands a left hand that drops Whittaker! He gets back up quickly and then looks to shoot a takedown, but Adesanya sprawls well and goes back to the centre. A hard low kick again from Adesanya and then a check left hook lands, before Whittaker shoots for another takedown and misses it. Whittaker checks a low kick but then eats on to the body and that’s the round. 10-9 Adesanya.
Whittaker just misses with a head kick early in the second round but then eats a heavy low kick. He swings overhand with his right hand and Adesanya lands another hard right hand. Whittaker moving backwards a lot but then he moves forward for a double jab and Adesanya counters with a right uppercut. Whittaker lands a nice left hand that gets a reaction but Adesanya evades a high kick. Whittaker shoots in for a takedown and gets Adesanya to the ground, but the champion immediately gets his back to the cage and stands back up before separating. A hard low kick from Adesanya again, followed by a head kick that’s partially blocked and a body kick. Low kick from Whittaker lands with a minute to go, then Adesanya returns fire with one 30 seconds later before the round ends. Close round that could go either way, but I probably lean towards Whittaker there. 19-19.
Adesanya taking the centre again in the third round and doing well to close of the octagon. Whittaker trying to use double jabs to close the distance, while Adesanya is using his low kicks well. Whittaker lands a jab and Adesanya responds with a hook, but neither man is hurt by it. Whittaker shoots for a takedown but Adesanya defends it perfectly and lands a nice knee before they break. Adesanya goes for a head kick but Whittaker ducks under it and goes for a takedown. He gets a body lock but Adesanya gets back to his feet well and then uses a kimura trap to force the break. Hard low kick from Adesanya gets a big reaction, before Whittaker steps in with a jab that gets countered by a hook. Round ends, 29-28 Adesanya for me.
Whittaker opens the round with a big right hand that lands flush and stuns Adesanya. He returns with two hard low kicks before they miss with big hooks. Whittaker goes for a takedown again and gets it and ends up in the backpack position against the cage looking to get a choke in! Adesanya fights the hands and gets him off relatively quickly, and they return to the centre. Adesanya lands another low kick and then misses with a big hook. Hard low kicks again from Adesanya, and Whittaker comes forward with his jabs again. Big hook from Adesanya just misses and then Whittaker just misses with his own as the round ends. 39-37 Adesanya.
Whittaker steps in with his double jab again as Adesanya misses a right hook. Hard low kick from Adesanya again, then another jab from Whittaker. Hard body kick from Adesanya and then a stiff jab from Whittaker does get a reaction, but he sits off him again. Whittaker shoots for a takedown but Adesanya defends it well. Whittaker shoots for a takedown again and gets it, but once again Adesanya bounces back to his feet and fights the hands of the body lock to try and separate. Adesanya goes for a knee, then Whittaker throws a big left hook that lands. Final 90 seconds now and Adesanya lands a nice low kick again. Whittaker goes for another takedown but Adesanya’s defence is impeccable again. They clinch against the cage and the fight ends, it should be #AndStill.. 48-47 Adesanya.
Bobby Green (28-12-1) vs Nasrat Haqparast (13-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight banger to open up the main card between two impressive fighters. Green is a veteran in the UFC and earned his first KO victory since 2013 last time out when he beat Al Iaquinta at UFC 268. Haqparast is a hot prospect who is struggling to live up to his skillset, having been comfortably beaten by Dan Hooker at UFC 266 in his last bout.
Green is a great all-rounder who has great boxing and some decent takedowns in his weaponry too. His pressure is relentless and he makes every fight competitive, arguably putting in his best performances in during his most recent fights. Haqparast is also a terrific boxer, arguably one of the best in the UFC, but his power has seemingly deserted him since coming to the UFC. His wrestling is decent too, but he was completely undone by Hooker in his last fight who isn’t known for his grappling at all, and that is worrying.
Haqparast has got the boxing ability to win this fight, because he’s probably better technically. But Green is going to make this a dirty fight with plenty of clinching and wrestling mixed in with the striking exchanges. It’s bound to be an entertaining fight to open the card up, but I think Green’s ability to mix it up more will be able to drag him to a victory. PICK – Bobby Green via Decision
Alexander Hernandez (13-4) vs Renato Moicano (15-4-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really fun bout in the lightweight division between two experienced pros in the UFC. Hernandez is 3-2 in his last five bouts, with a KO over Mike Breeden in his last bout as expected. Moicano on the other hand is 2-3 in his last five, with a knockout loss to Rafael Fiziev at UFC 256 being followed up by a submission win over Jai Herbert at UFC Vegas 30.
Hernandez is a pressure fighter, with great striking and lots of power and volume to follow it. His body kick is solid too and he will always come forward. Moicano alternatively is a similar fighter to champion Charles Oliveira, he’s just several levels below. Moicano has got good striking and even better jiu-jitsu with eight submission wins in his career, but zero knockouts.
This is a tough fight to predict, because both guys are at different points in their careers and match up quite evenly despite having their primary strengths in different areas. The difference in their ground games though is significant and it makes me lean towards Moicano. If he’s getting outdone on the feet then he has the ability to take the fight down to turn it around, whereas Hernandez doesn’t have the option. For me, that makes it Moicano’s fight to lose. PICK – Renato Moicano via Decision
Jared Cannonier (14-5) vs Derek Brunson (23-7) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A middleweight title eliminator up next. Cannonier was on a three-fight win streak before suffering a loss to Robert Whittaker at UFC 254, but has since bounced back with a decision win over Kelvin Gastelum. Brunson on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak having stopped Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 5 and Darren Till most recently. He also dominated Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 22 in between those bouts.
Cannonier is a power puncher, full stop. He has got some of the heaviest hands in the division and knows it, so looks to walk forward and use hard low kicks to set up his overhand right. Brunson on the other hand is a heavy wrestler, who looks to use his striking just enough to close the distance and grab you. Cannonier’s wrestling isn’t the best, but defensively he will be looking to hold out being taken down so he can land the big strikes.
Brunson has shown, even in his most recent wins, that he doesn’t take punches very well. Holland and Till both hurt him, but then he used his wrestling to stifle their attacks. Cannonier hits much harder than them, so it’s unlikely he’ll get that chance if he eats a big shot. That said, Cannonier isn’t as quick so I think Brunson will be able to get his takedowns in early in the rounds and control the fight on the ground for 15 minutes for a victory. PICK – Derek Brunson via Decision
Derrick Lewis (26-8) vs Tai Tuivasa (14-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight smasher that is highly unlikely to go the full 15 minutes here. Lewis has won five of his last six fights, bouncing back from a KO defeat to Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 for the interim title by knocking out Chris Daukaus at UFC Vegas 45. Tuivasa has won four in a row, all by knockout, with the most recent coming against Augusto Sakai at UFC 269 via second-round knockout.
Both of these fighters are brawlers who look to land a clean punch, because it will put you to sleep. Whoever you are, if you get caught clean, you’re going to sleep. Unfortunately for Tai Tuivasa though, Lewis hits far harder and has the better chin of the two. He is also a good leg kicker, has flying knees and has been at the highest level for a long time.
Tuivasa got rocked and hurt by Greg Hardy, but recovered to hurt him back and win by knockout. Lewis will stay patient and know that when Tuivasa rushes in to blitz with his strikes, he will leave himself open to land a huge strike and end this one early doors. PICK – Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 1
Israel Adesanya (21-1) vs Robert Whittaker (24-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
The two best middleweight fighters in the world, and two of the best ever, go head-to-head for the world title once again. Adesanya is undefeated in the middleweight division, with a win over Marvin Vettori at UFC 263 most recently following the first-and-only defeat of his career to Jan Blachowicz up at light heavyweight. Whittaker has gone 3-0 since losing to Adesanya, with decision wins against Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and most recently Kelvin Gastelum.
Adesanya is a world-class kickboxer, with the best striking in the entire UFC in his weaponry. He’s also shown incredibly improved wrestling takedown defence in recent fights, while his range and distance management remain at the top of the division. Whittaker is a top level Muay Thai fighter, with brilliant wrestling and top level striking too. Neither man is particularly known for their power and finishing ability, but they usually just outclass their opponents throughout.
Whittaker has made his game plan clear, stating that Blachowicz gave him the blueprint for victory, meaning he’s going to look to wrestle more and mix in his takedowns. Adesanya will likely perform in a similar way; defend takedowns, land kicks and counter with hooks to do damage. While Whittaker is better since the first fight, so is Adesanya. I don’t think this one ends in a finish like the first did, but Adesanya has all the skills to nullify Whittaker’s new game plan, as he has done with everyone else, and earns an exciting decision win. PICK – Israel Adesanya via Decision
Jonathan Pearce def Omar Morales via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:31)
Slow start to the fight for Pearce as Morales keeps the distance well in the opening minute and lands some nice low kicks. Pearce struggling to close the distance and Morales lets fly with some big strikes that just miss on the counter. Beautiful left hand from Morales followed by a big low kick but Pearce rushes him and goes for a takedown from the clinch, but Morales is able to get back up instantly and clinch up against the cage again. Pearce tries to drag him back down before a big trip gets him into top position, but Morales has the underhook and is able to sweep and get on top. Pearce holds on and then lands another big takedown, but Morales throws some big elbows and eventually gets back to the feet. More clinching against the cage as the round ends. Pearce didn’t do much damage but he controlled the ground game for the majority of the round, so 10-9 Pearce.
Fast start from Pearce this time as he ducks under a wild right hook and goes for the takedown immediately. Morales defends it well against the cage but Pearce is relentless with it and eventually gets him down and takes his back. Pearce slides off and Morales looks for a d’arce choke but he rolls and loses the grip, so Pearce gets up and gets on Morales’ back again. Morales is tired and Pearce has a body triangle, but Morales almost gives up full mount. Pearce landing some strikes on the ground and eventually sinks in a choke. Morales refuses to tap but passes out and the referee stops it! Big win for JSP!
Matthew Semelsberger def Martin Sano Jr via Knockout, Round 1 (0:15)
GOODNIGHT. Semelsberger throws out a couple of feeler shots, then lands a steaming right straight on the chin and Sano is out cold. Semelsberger lands one more while he’s down and this one is over.
Nick Maximov def Cody Brundage via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fun start from both guys as Brundage opens with a few strikes and knee, while Maximov shoots for a takedown but sees it get defended. Maximov lands two big strikes and Brundage starts throwing hard leg kicks to see him off. Maximov shoots in for a takedown and immediately transitions to the back, but Brundage defending well using a kimura grip and gets back to his feet. Maximov shoots in for another takedown and this time steps over Brundage to avoid the kimura defence and he ends up in a really positive position on top. Short strikes and Brundage just holding tight for the final 30 seconds. Maximov lands some heavy strikes and Brundage rushes back up to end the round. 10-9 Maximov.
Brundage goes in for an early takedown on Maximov but he reverses the position and ends up on top himself. Maximov takes the back and starts landing some nice ground and pound and then sinks his hooks in and takes Brundage’s back. Brundage starts working his way back up to the feet and eats a big knee, before he spins out and looks for a guillotine submission. Maximov pops his head out and is in full guard on top. He takes the back again and is looking for a choke. Brundage fights the hands and escapes but Maximov keeps his position on the back for the remainder of the round. 20-18 Maximov.
Final round and once again Maximov goes for a takedown to hold Brundage down but he defends it well. Nice right hand from Brundage changes Maximov’s balance and drops him. Maximov controlling the exchanges but Brundage now throwing big elbows from the bottom and Maximov is hurt. Some big strikes land on the ground and he ends up on top landing big strikes, but Maximov grabs a single leg and survives it. He gets back on top and holds the position for the rest of the round to hopefully secure a win. 29-28 Maximov.
Turner starts the fight by taking the centre and flicking out a jab, then landing a nice left hand down the middle. Medic responds with two hard low kicks and then a high kick that lands, but Turner catches the leg high and takes Medic down into side control. Medic tries to sweep and roll through but Turner does well to keep full guard position. Medic pushes his way back to the feet but Turner follows him up and hurts him with a nasty body shot. Turner pouring on the pressure with strikes and body shots and he puts Medic down. He piles on more strikes, Medic turns to his knees, Turner synches up a choke and Medic taps! What a performance!
Taila Santos def Roxanne Modafferi via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Fast start to this one on the feet from Santos, who lands some big hooks clean early on in some exchanges. Santos charges with strikes, clinches up and then secures a takedown with a trip inside the first 90 seconds. Santos teeing off with elbows and body strikes on the ground but Modafferi is working for an armbar off her back. Santos lands a big elbow strike to escape and goes back into full guard before Modafferi works her way back to her feet against the cage. Modafferi switches positions and lands some nice knees to the body, before Santos trips her again and takes back to the mat. Modafferi pops back up and looks to take Santos down against the cage but she defends well and lands some heavy knees to the body to close out the round. 10-9 Santos.
Modafferi comes out swinging in the second round and both women connect with big shots early, before Santos has a kick caught and Modafferi takes her towards the cage. Santos defends well but Modafferi staying patient and consistent with the pressure. Santos lands a huge right hook that wobbles Modafferi and Santos charges into her and takes her down to the mat. Modafferi’s eye is swollen and cut bad as Santos lands another big ground and pound strike before wearing on her from top position. Santos takes the back of Modafferi but she works her way back up to the feet against the cage, but Santos takes her straight back down again. Santos controls the position for the final minute and takes this round too. 20-18.
Santos takes the centre to start the final round and is looking to counter Modafferi with strikes. Modafferi steps forward and lands a couple of strikes but Santos responds with two hard straights of her own. Santos lands two huge hooks and Modafferi sits down on her butt, before Santos launches on to her and starts controlling position again. Santos landing some big elbow strikes from the top and Modafferi looks completely outclassed right now. Santos advances to side control with a cradle, then switches to take her back. Santos going for a choke but Modafferi fighting against it before Santos lets her back up on the feet. 90 seconds left and Modafferi still coming forward but Santos is landing her jab at will. Modafferi goes for a clinch against the cage but Santos throws her over her hip to end the round on top. 30-27, dominant.
Chris Daukaus def Shamil Abdurakhimov via Knockout, Round 2 (1:23)
Feeling out process to open up this fight as Daukaus just misses with an uppercut. Abdurakhimov hits a nice body shot and then goes for a spinning body kick as Daukaus throws a big right hand and both just miss. Abdurakhimov getting comfortable now and landing shots, with two big left hands catching Daukaus. Abdurakhimov goes to spin and Daukaus throws a leg kick at the same time which drops him. He gets back to the feet and Daukaus is head-hunting a little, but Abdurakhimov doing well to counter and keep him from landing flush. Daukaus steps forward and lands a huge left hook that drops him! He jumps on him for the finish and lands huge elbows and strikes but runs out of time. 10-9 Daukaus.
Daukaus steps forward early but Abdurakhimov is using his experience to slow the fight all the way down as he tries to recover. Big combination from Daukaus lands and Abdurakhimov is hurt! Daukaus comes forward and lands a huge right hook that drops him again! He goes for the finish and lands two huge elbows before the referee steps in and ends it! Huge knockout from Daukaus!
Dan Hooker def Nasrat Haqparast via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Slow start to the bout as Hooker takes the centre early on and starts cutting the cage off early on as Haqparast circles the outside. Hooker looks for a few straight rights and body kicks, and Haqparast explodes with a big left hand that just misses. Hooker throwing some body kicks and still controlling the centre, with Haqparast still just circling on the outside and looking to explode. More of the same as we enter the final minute, where Haqparast just misses with a one-two before Hooker goes for a takedown against the cage. Haqparast defends it well as Hooker releases it, lands a one-two with a knee just as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Hooker.
Lots of kicks in the second round from Hooker as he pushes the pace and tries to attack more. Hooker goes for a takedown against the cage and throws some nice knees in the clinch against the cage, but Haqparast defending the takedown attempt well. Hooker lands a knee that knocks the mouthpiece out of Haqparast’s mouth but he’s not hurt. Hooker starting to clinch and throw knees a lot more now with Haqparast on the outside. Clinch against the cage and Hooker lands a nice body shot then right hand and he’s starting to land a lot more now. Big right hand from Hooker and then he clinches and slams Haqparast down to the mat. Hooker into side control and he’s landing knees to the body to close out the round. 20-18 Hooker.
Haqparast starts the third round with two big strikes that land nice on the chin but Hooker eats them and responds with an accidental low blow. Haqparast now coming forward and landed a big right hand again. Both guys exchange body kicks and then Hooker changes levels perfectly and secures a takedown. Hooker goes straight into side control and is landing some short shots on the ground while controlling the position. Hooker landing plenty of short strikes and then transitions to the back and lands some nice shots. Haqparast bursts back up but Hooker immediately level changes and gets the fight back down to the ground. Hooker controls the position for the rest of the round and lands some good ground and pound to end the fight. Impressive performance from Hooker. 30-27.
Merab Dvalishvili def Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 2 (4:25)
Very fun start as Moraes takes the centre and starts throwing strikes and kicks out early. Two hard low kicks land and Merab didn’t like those, and he throws some hard hooks and goes wild. Moraes returns fire but Merab catches his leg and takes him down. Moraes gets back up quickly and separates well then lands some heavy strikes. Moraes lands a huge left hook that rocks Merab and goes for the finish! Some huge left hooks land heavy and Merab is literally running away across the cage to get away. Moraes follows him across and throws some big strikes that makes Merab stumble! Merab manages to shoot for a takedown and clinches against the cage, gets Moraes down and survives. Now he’s controlling the top position and he’s raining down punches from top position! Moraes is in big trouble but the buzzer goes! What a crazy round. I have no idea how to score it.
Merab comes out fired up for the second round and Moraes is still struggling. Merab launches forward with an overhand right that hurts Moraes immediately and he takes him down straight away. More huge ground and pound strikes from Merab and Moraes is in absolute agony getting pummelled. Merab keeps it going with powerful elbows and strikes and Moraes is finished. This fight could be stopped at any moment. Merab keeps going with punishing strikes and the referee FINALLY steps in. What a performance from Merab!
Jessica Andrade def Cynthia Calvillo via Knockout, Round 1 (4:54)
Patient start from Andrade who takes the centre and immediately starts walking Calvillo down against the cage. Calvillo throws a few jabs out there and some kicks, then Andrade counters with a stiff right hand that wobbles Calvillo. Calvillo firing back with some jabs and nice strikes, but Andrade is eating them and answering back with powerful shots of her own and Calvillo is feeling them. Another clean right hand from Calvillo, but Andrade lands some chopping low kicks and follows up with some short right hands. Calvillo is landing good strikes but the power behind them is lacking. Andrade charges forward and lands some big right hands clean, then follows it with an uppercut that hurts Calvillo! Andrade goes for the finish and lands several strikes to the head and the referee steps in with five seconds to go in the round to end the fight! Big win from Andrade!
Curtis Blaydes def Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Fun start to the fight as Blaydes takes the centre quickly and starts flicking out a jab. Rozenstruik immediately gets a left hand off to let Blaydes know he’s there, but Blaydes is showing lots of movement and bouncing around. Blaydes changes levels and gets the takedown with ease early on, and starts working for position with some good ground and pound strikes. Rozenstruik gets back to his feet slowly but then gets back to striking range. Blaydes has a speed advantage it seems so far and is dictating the pace of the fight with his jabs. Blaydes lands a hard low kick and Rozenstruik responds with a wild hook that hits Blaydes’ back as he turns away to escape. Round ends with a short exchange. 10-9 Blaydes.
Rozenstruik comes forward with a nice left hand early on but Blaydes back to using his jab and dictating the pace of the fight. Rozenstruik explodes with a combination but gets nowhere near Blaydes, who is just popping the jab and throwing out low kicks. Blaydes goes for a takedown but missed it and Rozenstruik just missed with an uppercut. Not much action in this round as we enter the final 90 seconds. Rozenstruik goes for a huge flying knee that connects and then lands a big one-two on Blaydes! Blaydes immediately changes levels and gets a takedown, then advances straight to half-guard to start opening some ground and pound and end the round. 20-18 Blaydes.
Final round and Blaydes keeping calm on the feet and dictating the range once again with his jab. A couple of low kicks and Rozenstruik comes back with a right hand that just misses. Blaydes lands two nice jabs and a left straight, then changes levels and secures the takedown once again. Rozenstruik tries to kick Blaydes off him, but Blaydes stays calm and goes straight back to the ground and lands some big ground and pound elbows. Blaydes dominating position from the top as Rozenstruik just can’t get up and the round comes to an end. Comfortable decision win for Blaydes here. 30-27.
Robbie Lawler def Nick Diaz via Knockout, Round 3 (0:44)
Fast start to the fight from Lawler as he comes forward and immediately starts throwing bombs and body shots to Diaz. Lawler much faster and looks much more physically strong, but Diaz throwing some nice combos down the middle too. Lawler still coming forward and trying to chop the legs but Diaz starting to land more strikes now. Diaz stringing together some beautiful combinations but Lawler eating them well and coming forward with some shots of his own. Some big body shots from Diaz landing but Lawler looks a lot more powerful. Could argue a 10-9 either way, but I’d go Diaz.
Fast start again from Lawler in the second round as he comes forward and looks to impose himself on Diaz. Nice elbow lands from Lawler and then a big body kick lands that hurts Diaz! Diaz steps away and Lawler throws a big leg kick, but Diaz responds again with some more beautiful boxing combinations including four left uppercuts in a row. Lawler goes back to the body and Diaz steps away again, but Lawler is right on top of him and in his face. Diaz not fading at all though and landing lots of strikes, although there isn’t much behind them. Lawler lands his left hand well and is hunting Diaz down, but eats a body kick. Diaz lands a big right hand but Lawler eats it and comes forward again with some more body work that has Diaz looking to move away as the round ends. 19-19.
Third round and Lawler coming out aggressive once again, pushing Diaz to the cage and throwing big bombs. Lawler lands a big body shot and follows it up with a big right hook that hurts Diaz! Diaz goes down to one knee, Lawler smashes him again on the chin and he falls to his back. Lawler tells him to get up and Diaz says he can’t continue so this one is over! Wow!
Valentina Shevchenko def Lauren Murphy via Knockout, Round 4 (4:00)
Tense start from both ladies in this one, with both women just feeling each other out for the opening minute. Shevchenko lands a nice body kick and then just misses with a left hand. Shevchenko goes for another kick and Murphy catches it and looks to clinch, but Shevchenko steps away and lands a right hand on the break. Shevchenko looking to land hard with her left hand but just missing, before a nice right hand and low kick combo followed by a spinning side kick to the body. Left hand followed by a low kick again by Shevchenko before a big right hand starts some swelling on Murphy’s eye. Head kick from Shevchenko lands, followed by a right hand and a takedown to close out the round. Dominant from the champ, 10-9.
More of the same to start the second round from Shevchenko as she starts to dominate the striking exchanges again. Shevchenko goes to engage in a takedown but Murphy reverses it and tries to get a takedown of her own, only for the champion to deny it and step away with a big left hand. Counter right hook from Shevchenko lands again before a solid body kick and another takedown from the champion. Shevchenko laying in half-guard and controlling the position for now, with Murphy just holding on to try and avoid too much damage. Shevchenko lands some big elbows from the top as the round comes to an end. 20-18.
Shevchenko dominant again, landing her left hand and counter right hook at will essentially. Nasty body kick again and a spinning heel kick just misses. Shevchenko controlling every aspect of the fight so far, Murphy can’t get near her at all. Superman punch lands from the champion followed by a one-two and leg-kick combination again. At this point Murphy is just surviving and Shevchenko is having her way in a very one-sided affair. Murphy goes for a strike but Shevchenko changes levels and clinches against the cage to see out the round. 30-27.
Murphy trying to come forward a bit more but Shevchenko is just completely in control. Little slip from Shevchenko gets the crowd excited but she hops up and lands a big left hand down the pipe of Murphy. More kicks from Shevchenko as she starts upping the pressure a bit, and lands a nasty front kick to the face. Shevchenko lands a check right hook that wobbles Murphy and then a big head kick followed by a street-fighter like combo of strikes to the face as she goes for the finish! Murphy is still standing somehow and Shevchenko takes her down and starts looking for ground and pound with some nasty elbows and the referee steps in and ends it! As one-sided as they come!
Alexander Volkanovski def Brian Ortega via Unanimous Decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-44)
Patient start from both guys as Volkanovski takes the centre of the cage and both guys flick out some jabs. Volkanovski lands a beautiful right hand but it’s countered by Ortega who lands one of his own. Volkanovski lands another right hand over the top which opens up a small cut above his eye. Ortega looking to step in with some jabs but Volkanovski keeping distance really well and then he landed a nice flush jab and big right hand too. Ortega lands a nice jab that opens up a small gash under Volkanovski’s eye, before slipping out of the way of two big strikes from the champion. Volkanovski stepping forward and starting to up the pace, but Ortega lands a nice counter left hand that wobbles Volkanovski. Jab from Ortega who then catches a kick and lands another left to close the round. Tough to score, but I’d go 10-9 Volk.
Very even fight so far as both men go blow for blow early in the second round. Ortega landing his jab well and the left hand behind it is landing on occasion too, while Volkanovski is closing the distance well and lands a big right hand clean himself. Volk throwing some leg kicks and Ortega fakes one in return but goes high instead and just misses. Volk steps in and throws some wild hooks and a big elbow, before looking to clinch up but Ortega immediately separates from him. Nice right hook from Ortega sends Volkanovski backwards but he responds with a heavy leg kick again. Volkanovski comes forward with a good combo but Ortega just staying at enough distance to not catch it flush. 20-18 Volkanovski.
Volkanovski starting well in this round and being a bit more aggressive with his striking and low kicks. Big right hand lands flush and Ortega eats it, then Volkanovski goes in for another but misses and they clash heads. Ortega looks unsteady and Volkanovski chopping at the leg, but Ortega fires back with a big combination that just misses. Volkanovski throws a leg kick that Ortega catches and he fires a left hand down the pipe that drops him! He jumps on a mounted guillotine and it’s tightttt but Volkanovski refuses to tap out! He pops his head out and escapes and gets back on top and starts landing bombs on an exhausted Ortega! Ortega throws up a triangle and locks it in and it’s tight again! Volkanovski once again refuses to tap and he pops out again and then gets back on top and rains down punches again but the buzzer goes! What a round!
The doctor allows Ortega to continue after a check and Volkanovski comes out hunting for him. Some big right hands land again and then Ortega goes for a takedown out of exhaustion. He trips Volkanovski and gets him down and looks for a guillotine again, but Volkanovski is safe and gets back on top to start raining down more ground and pound. Volkanovski is beating him up badly on the ground but Ortega is doing just enough to survive. Volkanovski lets him get back up but just misses with some big strikes as the round ends. 40-35 at a minimum to the champion.
Final round and Volkanovski staying patient in the centre again, but Ortega is in there giving it his all. Ortega goes for a takedown but Volkanovski defends it easy and lands a big right elbow. Ortega is coming forward with strikes and Volkanovski is backing up now, before Ortega lands a one-two and Volkanovski responds with a huge right hook. Big one-two from Ortega gets a nod of approval from Volkanovski. Both guys trading in the centre of the octagon as we enter the final minute of the fight. Ortega catches a kick and goes for a knee but misses. Final seconds and Ortega lands some huge strikes but Volkanovski is still standing as the buzzer goes and it’s all over. What a fight. Big win for the champion.
In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko looks to continue on her path as one of the greatest mixed martial artists ever when she defends her flyweight crown for a sixth time against Lauren Murphy before the return of Nick Diaz to the UFC when he takes on Robbie Lawler and hopes to start something special with a win.
Last week at UFC Vegas 37 we went 9/13 with one perfect pick, moving us up to 411/646 (63.62%) with 178 perfect picks (43.31%). We’ll look to add to that and improve and after starting with the early prelims here, we’ll make our picks for the rest of the prelims now.
Roxanne Modafferi (25-19) vs Taila Santos (17-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A fun flyweight fight to open the prelims here as the experienced Modafferi takes on the mightily impressive Santos. Modafferi is often seen as as litmus test in the UFC, alternating wins and losses all the way through her UFC career since December 2017. She lost most recently against Viviane Araujo at UFC Fight Island 8 via unanimous decision. Taila Santos on the other hand has been on a tear in the UFC dominating Molly McCann and Gillian Robertson most recently at UFC Vegas 17.
Modafferi is a terrible striker but is a good grappler and has so much heart that she almost never gets finished, while Santos is a super powerful striker and grappler herself who will be a very tough test for the veteran. Santos has really powerful hands and has dominated her last two opponents with wrestling and jiu-jitsu, but she’ll likely look to keep this on the feet as much as possible.
Unfortunately for Modafferi, it’s tough to see her getting a win here. She’s out-gunned everywhere and while she might not get finished, Santos should dominate once again. PICK – Taila Santos via Decision
Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-5) vs Chris Daukaus (11-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Two top ten heavyweights go head-to-head in this one as the big boys come out to play. Abdurakhminov hasn’t fought since a defeat in 2019 to Curtis Blaydes but is still ranked at number 7, while Daukaus has three first-round finish wins in a row in the UFC with a KO over Alexei Oleinik last time out at UFC Vegas 19.
Daukaus is a slightly smaller heavyweight with lightning quick hands, great power and brilliant jiu-jitsu on the ground that he hasn’t had to show so far. Abdurakhminov is a talented wrestler with great ground and pound, but he’s also a good striker in his own right too. Daukaus for me has the speed advantage and the grappling advantage though, which makes this tough for Abdurakhimov.
Better hand speed, better submission skills and better cardio, it’s hard to look past Daukaus earning the W. PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 1 BETTING TIP – Daukaus win via Sub/KO/DQ @ 11/10 (Bet365)
Dan Hooker (20-10) vs Nasrat Haqparast (13-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Potentially the fight of the night in the lightweight division here between two guys who have had crazy fight weeks. Visa issues nearly called this one off, but the fight is on and Hooker is looking to snap a two-fight skid after defeats to Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler most recently at UFC 257. Haqparast has won his last two, including most recently against Rafa Garcia at UFC Vegas 21.
Hooker is a great striker with brilliant body work, a nasty jab and great knees up the middle, while Haqparast is an excellent boxer with great jabs and some silky hooks too. Hooker’s style generally relied upon his iron chin, but he got slept last time out so that makes this a super tough fight to pick. Haqparast is a fighter who tends to put technique over power which could help Hooker, but he has got the power to put someone down.
With that said though, Hooker is a big step up in competition for Haqparast. He throws hell for leather with every strike and he has the gas tank to go all night, so I think he bounces back with a big win in one of the best fights on the card. PICK – Dan Hooker via Knockout, Round 2
Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) vs Merab Dvalishvili (13-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The featured prelim bout sees a striking demon with good submission skills take on a wrestling machine. Moraes has lost his last two, getting knocked out by both Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font in violent fashion last time out at UFC Vegas 17. Merab on the other hand is on a hot streak, winning six-in-a-row via unanimous decision with the most recent coming against Cody Stamann at UFC Vegas 25.
Moraes is a brilliant kickboxer with genuine knockout power in all eight of his limbs, but he has shown in the past some severe cardio issues and his durability is lacking. He comes up against a guy who has taken the wrestling crown from Khabib Nurmagomedov in the UFC and genuinely has the best cardio in the company. He links takedowns together brilliantly, scrambles for fun and just never tires and that will be his game plan here.
Merab will shoot for takedowns over and over again and so long as he doesn’t get caught with something big on his way in or get carried away on the ground and caught in a submission while on top, he mauls his way to another decision win. PICK – Merab Dvalishvili via Decision BETTING TIP – Merab Dvalishvili via Decision @ 11/10 (Bet365)
Matthew Semelsberger def Jason Witt via Knockout, Round 1 (0:16)
HOLY JESUS. Matthew Semelsberger lands a bomb of a right hand after 16 seconds and puts Witt out cold. Goodnight.
Jinh Yu Frey def Gloria De Paula via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Frey comes out with a nice left hand before the two ladies clinch and Frey gets an early takedown. De Paula threatens with an armbar from the bottom but Frey defends well and lands a few nice strikes from top position before a scramble allows her to take De Paula’s back. De Paula defends it well and is able to bring it back to full guard, before landing a couple of elbows from the bottom. Frey controlling the position with ease at the moment from the top although not much action from either fighter as we head into the final 90 seconds. Frey controls the position for the remainder of the round too as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Frey.
Slower start to the round from both women in this one as Frey lands a couple of nice left hands in exchanges. De Paula lands a few leg kicks from distance then goes up top with a nice head kick that lands clean. Frey continues to come forward to close the distance but De Paula doing well to get in and out quickly. De Paula in control of the exchanges on the feet halfway through the round and being first in the exchanges every time. Frey closes the distance and gets a clinch against the cage, but De Paula lands some nasty knees to the body and they separate. De Paula takes the centre now and is landing clean and fast into the final minute. Frey catches a kick but De Paula keeps her balance excellently to deny the takedown and should win the round. 19-19 going into the third.
De Paula comes out and throws her hands quickly once again, then has a kick caught and Frey sweeps her other foot away and gets an early takedown once again. Frey passes into half guard but De Paula threatens with a kimura grip, which allows Frey to pass into mount. De Paula tries to explode out but Frey takes the back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Frey staying composed on the back of De Paula who isn’t looking to get back to her feet at all as we enter the final minute. Frey gets the arm under the chin and tries for a one-armed choke but De Paula does really well to defend it and see the round out. Clear 29-28 win for Frey.
Aldrich takes the centre of the cage early on and has Casey circling the outside for the first 40-odd seconds before she engages in a clinch against the cage. Casey is able to stay strong and Aldrich separates, a big boost for Casey. Aldrich landing lots of leg kicks early on but Casey retaliates with some nice knees and a right hook as they clinch up once again. Casey charges forward once again with a flurry but Aldrich shoots and gets the takedown. Casey tries to threaten with a triangle and while Aldrich defends it will and lands a bit of ground and pound, Casey gets back to her feet. Aldrich gets it down again with a guillotine attempt in the final 30 seconds but Casey defends well and sees out the round. 10-9 Casey for me.
Casey looks stronger on the feet so far and she lands a big right hand that wobbles Aldrich! Casey follows it up with a head kick attempt that Aldrich catches and then Casey tries to jump on the back but ends up on the ground with Aldrich on top of her. Casey landing some nice strikes from the bottom but Aldrich now has wrist control after eating those shots and starts landing some huge ground and pound strikes with her left hand. Casey works her way back up to her feet against the cage with 90 seconds to go and throws two big right hooks that are blocked. Aldrich throws a right hook and then shoots in for another takedown with 20 seconds to go and gets it to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Aldrich comes forward again to get Casey backing up and she lands a nice one-two. Aldrich continues to push forward but Casey lands a couple of jabs nicely too. Big right hook and left straight from Casey lands and rocks Aldrich’s head back. A big exchange from the two sees them both landing well as we hit the halfway point. Aldrich lands a jab and then Casey turns away to move and Aldrich throws a big left straight down the pipe. Casey throws a hook that just misses and then Aldrich changes levels with a beautiful takedown. Casey gets back to her feet against the cage but Aldrich maintains a body lock until Casey is able to break the grip and separate. Casey comes forward with flurries again and is landing hard shots. Spinning back kick from Aldrich lands in Casey’s nether-regions and the referee pauses the fight with three seconds to go. Super close round, I’ve got it 29-28 Aldrich just.
Good start to the round for the debutant as Garcia takes the centre of the octagon and starts looking to land strikes through the guard of Haqparast. Lots of feelers and blocked strikes from both as Haqparast throws a very heavy left hand that that is partially blocked too. Garcia shoots in for a takedown against the cage but Haqparast denies him, but Garcia lands a nice knee to the body on the break. Garcia fakes a takedown and throws a huge overhand right that lands flush and wobbles Haqparast, but he recovers quickly and keeps going. Great rip to the body from Haqparast but Garcia backs him against the cage and throws a nice elbow that just misses too. Garcia goes for two more takedowns against the cage but they get stuffed well too as the round ends. 10-9 Garcia but it’s a close round.
Garcia comes out quickly in the second round once again and puts the pressure on against the cage well. Garcia lands a couple of nice hooks but Haqparast stays composed and starts digging to the body with some great punches. Nice elbow from Haqparast lands and Garcia comes forward with a right hand of his own. Haqparast lands two nice left hands and Garcia charges forward again with jabs and front kicks to the body. Haqparast denies a takedown attempt and then lands a left hand, before throwing Garcia to the floor with a judo throw. Great uppercut lands from Haqparast but Garcia continues to walk forward with jabs, before Haqparast lands a big body kick too. Big front kick to the body again from Haqparast who denies another takedown on the buzzer. 19-19 for me, but could be 20-18 Haqparast.
Garcia looks a bit slower in this final round but is still coming forward with intensity. Haqparast has started finding his timing now though and lands a great elbow followed by an uppercut and hook that land clean. Another elbow and uppercut from Haqparast lands as Garcia continues to come forward, but Haqparast throwing body kicks hard that are slowing Garcia down more and more. Straight left lands against for Haqparast as Garcia is bleeding now and getting picked apart on the feet. Garcia lands a nice right hand as we enter the final minute of the round and they exchange kicks. Big head kick from Haqparast twice lands but he doesn’t get the finish as the round ends. 29-27 for me.
Rani Yahya def Ray Rodriguez via Submission (Head and Arm Choke), Round 2 (3:09)
Fast start as Rodriguez goes for a head kick off the bat and then lands a straight right in an exchange, but Yahya goes straight for a body lock looking for a takedown and eventually gets it. Yahya with heavy top pressure, landing some nice ground and pound but really just trying to maintain position from half guard. Yahya looking to move into side control with great shoulder pressure but abandons it after decent defence from Rodriguez. Final minute now and Rodriguez manages to get into full guard for a few seconds before Yahya looks to lock up a head and arm choke with 20 seconds left but Rodriguez defends well and survives the round. 10-9 Yahya, easily.
Rodriguez opens the second round with some nice boxing once again, keeping a distance and doing well but he backs up to the cage and Yahya gets another takedown at the first attempt once again. Straight back into half guard once again and Yahya starts threatening with the head and arm choke early on. Rodriguez tries to explode up with the butterfly guard but Yahya jumps over it, gets back into half guard and passes to the other side. He sinks in the head and arm choke and forces Rodriguez to tap. Beautiful performance from Yahya.
Charles Jourdain def Marcelo Rojo via Knockout, Round 3 (4:31)
Fun start to the first round as both men trade hard kicks to begin, with Jourdain throwing lots of head kicks. Rojo throws a right hook that misses and then they clinch, with both men landing nice knees before Jourdain separates. Nice left hand from Rojo looking to counter but just misses, then Jourdain lands a nice uppercut in the clinch. Rojo throwing lots of knees in the clinch towards the face, but they’re not quite landing yet. Rojo lands a leg kick that drops Jourdain, then lands a one-two as Jourdain gets back to his feet. Very even round as we head into the final 90 seconds and Rojo throws a nice flurry that lands nicely before looking to rip Jourdain’s body with a left hook. Jourdain retaliates with nice body shots in the clinch before the round ends. 10-9 Rojo for me but genuinely could go either way.
Rojo comes out hard in the second round and throwing some hard shots and combinations that either graze or just miss Jourdain. Strong leg kick is responded to by Jourdain with a great jab, who then lands a big right hook. A close exchange sees Jourdain accidentally eye-poke Rojo which forces a pause in the action but they get back to it quickly with flurries. Jourdain catches a kick and lands a big body shot and right hook, before Rojo charges forward and lands a big three-punch combo to the head, followed by a knee and body shot. Clinch against the cage is a stalemate and Rojo looks for a spinning elbow on the break. Snappy jab from Jourdain lands flush but Rojo continues to come forward and just misses with that big knee again. Jourdain eats some big leg kicks and responds with a huge flying knee that lands! He lands a couple of big hooks too with Rojo rocked but he survives the round. Another close one, 19-19 for me.
Fast start for Jourdain in this final round as he comes forward and puts the pressure on Rojo immediately, landing his left hand a lot. Rojo is considerably slower now and Jourdain is picking him apart, then lands a huge left hand down the middle that drops him! Jourdain jumps on him and looks for the ground and pound finish, then runs and jumps off the cage to continue the strikes. Heavy shots on the ground but Rojo is tiring and Jourdain is landing big. Jourdain lets Rojo back up and they start throwing haymakers against each other looking for a finish. Jourdain keeps pounding away and lands another left hand that drops Rojo and the referee ends it! What a performance!
Angela Hill def Ashley Yoder via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Competitive start to the fight with Hill looking to land straight rights and Yoder landing some nice kicks so far. Hill has the centre of the cage and is feinting the body shots, then shoots in against the cage for a clinch. Hill lands some nice knees before Yoder looks for a head and arm throw but it’s well defended by Hill. Hill responds with a huge elbow and then goes back to the clinch before they separate with about 90 seconds to go in the round. Hill controlling the range right now and landing shots freely and has a big speed advantage to get in and out, avoiding the attacks of Yoder. Hill steps in with a front kick to the body then lands three huge overhand rights that rock Yoder! She goes for a finish and takes Yoder down but she recovers enough to see out the round. 10-9 Hill.
More of the same in this second round as Hill takes the centre and looks to land body kicks and overhand rights. Yoder can’t get close enough for the takedown and is getting picked apart on the feet. Hill lands a big straight right hand once again that snaps Yoder’s head back and she’s in total control right now. Hill goes for a clinch and lands some nice knees to the body, with Yoder starting to slow down a bit. Hill lands more right hands and now is chopping down the legs of Yoder. Big knee to the body followed by a kick and Yoder is hurting. Flurry of punches to the head and Yoder is surviving right now, then Hill goes for a knee to the body and Yoder catches it and secures a takedown to end the round on top. 20-18 Hill.
Yoder comes out like a bull in a china shop looking to close the distance and get a takedown but Hill immediately out-muscles her, clinches up and starts landing big knees to the body against the cage. Hill just too strong physically for Yoder and completely dominating the position and pace of the fight. Big punch to the body again from Hill before another clinch and some more nasty Muay Thai knees to the body allow Yoder to overpower her onto the floor. Yoder controls the position from the top and is fighting Hill well, but Hill is too strong and gets back to the feet and lands more knees again. Round comes to an end with Hill landing two big right hands to take a wide decision. Great performance. 30-27 Hill.
Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart – NO CONTEST (Illegal knee)
Lots of feelers being put out by both guys early on with feints and flicks before Stewart lands a nice left hand. A good exchange between the two and it’s Stewart who comes out on top once again, as he starts showboating a little. Anders shoots in for a takedown but Stewart does well to defend it and the battle in the clinch. Stewart lands some good knees but then Anders lands a huge left hand that rocks him! Anders lands some huge punches and drops Stewart but the Brit continues to fight back. Anders throws an illegal knee (d’oh!) against the cage and the referee stops the fight. Stewart tries to continue but the doctor calls the fight off. No contest called.
Fun start to the fight as both men look to feint early. Nicolau lands an immediate leg kick that hurts Kape but he continues to come forward with jabs and leg kicks of his own. Nicolau being more explosive and faster right now and Kape falling into the same trap as his first fight by being not active enough. Nicolau gets a takedown and Kape is able to work his way back to the feet and slip out of a guillotine attempt. Nicolau gets another takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Nicolau.
Second round and Kape comes out with more urgency this time. Big left uppercut lands and rocks Nicolau early! He follows it up with a couple of other shots and when he’s landing he’s hurting Nicolau. He stuffs a takedown attempt and comes forward again, but this time Nicolau lands a big hook of his own. Kape lands a leg kick and then a knee followed by a right hand that lands flush. Kape walking Nicolau down against the cage and letting strikes flow but Nicolau shoots for a power double across the cage and gets him down, but Kape bounces straight back up. Nicolau tries to launch forward with a left hand but misses and Kape counters with a right hook. 19-19, much better.
Kape takes the centre in the third round and is letting his hands go again. Kape throws a nice leg kick but Nicolau throws a nice left hand that lands on the forehead. Kape stings him with a nice jab and then lands a nice counter right hook again. Nicolau goes for a takedown but Kape stuffs it brilliantly and stands back up immediately. Nicolau gets back up and drops Kape with a leg kick and starts landing with a lot of volume. Big hooks and straight land but Kape replies with a right hook well. Final minute and Kape throws a head kick then follows it up with a left hook. He stuffs two takedown attempts brilliantly and is throwing big combinations too. Huge flying knee lands from Kape and then he follows it up with another to the body! Nicolau lands a spinning back elbow as the round ends! Super close round but I think Kape edges it. 29-28.
Davey Grant def Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2 (3:03)
Good start to the round from Grant as he comes forward well and applies pressure with lots of strikes and kicks. Martinez happy to stand and trade with him and throws an excellent leg kick to hurt Grant. Grant continues with spinning kick attacks and high kicks but Martinez is countering really well with his fast hands. Grant with a switch step and a big right hook but it’s well blocked by Martinez. Big leg kick from Martinez again but Grant keeping the pressure on with kicks from range and heavy hooks. Huge left hook from Martinez lands on the chin and Grant gets dropped! Martinez looks to land some ground and pound but the round ends and allows Grant a chance to recover. 10-9 Martinez.
Grant comes out nice and aggressive in the second round and continues to chop away at the leg, before Grant lands a right hand on the chin. Grant continues to come forward with flurries and then shoots in for a takedown but Martinez defends it brilliantly. Grant lands another right hand and is throwing combinations now just to touch him and is stopping Martinez from throwing anything significant because of the pace. Grant throws a body shot and left hook and Martinez is OUT!! Grant follows it up with an extra shot but it’s all over! Wow!
Dan Ige def Gavin Tucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:22)
DAN IGE!!! ONE PUNCH KNOCKOUT!! HOLY COW!
Ryan Spann def Misha Cirkunov via Knockout, Round 1 (1:11)
Fast start to the round from both fighters as they exchange jabs and kicks, as Cirkunov lands a low blow by accident after 30 seconds. A short pause and they get to it again and Spann lands a straight right hand that drops Cirkunov! He goes for the ground and pound but Cirkunov kicks him off and so Spann makes him get back to the feet. Spann stays calm and then lands a big punch on the side of the head that drops him again and after some ground and pound the referee waves it off! Huge KO for Ryan Spann!
Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Tentative start to the fight as Edwards takes the centre of the cage and forces Muhammad backwards immediately, landing a body kick and following up with a big one two. Edwards goes for a takedown against the cage but Muhammad clinches up and reverses the position well before they separate. Edwards throws a head kick and wobbles Muhammad! Edwards throws some wild hooks but Muhammad blocks them all and then Edwards shoots for a takedown but once again it’s denied well by Belal. Body kick from Muhammad lands nicely but it’s Edwards pushing the pace and pressuring forwards. Big one-two from Edwards lands again and wobbles Muhammad before the buzzer goes to end the round. 10-9 Edwards.
Second round starts and both guys are aggressive early on. Edwards goes to throw a head kick and his hand accidentally pokes Muhammad in the eye as it lands. Muhammad goes down screaming and crying, saying he can’t see anything. Herb Dean waves the fight off almost immediately and it’s another no contest.
It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.
Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.
Last weekend at UFC 259 we managed to go 10/15 on our predictions with four perfect picks to take our total up to 250/395 (63.29%) with 112 perfect picks (44.8%).
We will look to improve that further with this 13 fight card and having already predicted the early prelims here, lets move on to the rest of the preliminary bouts.
Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs Rafa Garcia (12-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A truly exciting lightweight fight between ‘Baby Gastelum’ Nasrat Haqparast against undefeated debutant Rafa Garcia in a short-notice fight. Haqparast won his last fight against Alex Munoz at UFC Vegas 6 and was scheduled to fight Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 257 before failing to weigh in. Rafa Garcia makes his UFC debut after over a year away from the cage, coming in as a highly rated grappler.
Haqparast has great hand speed and fantastic footwork and while his takedown defence isn’t phenomenal, his ability to get back to his feet after being taken down is. He has good power in his hands too with nine knockout wins in his career. Garcia is a fighter who pushes a crazy pace and hunts his opponents down for a takedown so he can work his tremendous submission game, as his seven wins by tap-out show. He has decent striking too and much like Kamaru Usman, uses his strikes to back you up to the cage and put you on the mat.
It’s a really good match up where both men’s strengths compliment their opponents but the stand up skills of Haqparast and the fact he was in a full camp already mean I lean his way. He’s got great boxing and a power advantage and as the fight goes on, the cardio will have a big say. PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 3
Rani Yahya (26-10-1) vs Ray Rodriguez (16-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing bantamweight bout between two MMA veterans at completely different ends of their UFC career. Yahya has been with the UFC since 2011 but hasn’t won either of his last two fights going back to 2018 after losing to Ricky Simon and then fighting to a draw with Enrique Barzola in March 2020. Rodriguez made his UFC debut on short notice back in September and was submitted in just 39 seconds by Brian Kelleher.
That doesn’t bode well for Rodriguez, who comes up against a jiu-jitsu master in Yahya in this one. Yahya has won 20 of his fights via submission with 12 of those coming in the first round. His game plan is always the same, ambush his opponent with multiple takedown attempts and use technique to get an early submission until he’s too tired – and then just don’t get KO’d in the hope he doesn’t lose a third round 10-8. Against Rodriguez, that should work considering his not-so-great takedown defence and poor submission defence. PICK – Rani Yahya via Submission, Round 1
Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger at featherweight as a short-notice bout comes together for ‘Air’ Jourdain and debutant Marcelo Rojo. Jourdain’s UFC tenure has been more than interesting, going 1-2-1 in his four bouts, with a defeat to Andre Fili at UFC Vegas 2 before a draw against Joshua Culibao back in October. Rojo originally stepped in to face Raoni Barcelos on short-notice, only for Barcelos to drop out and this fight to be made and he will finally return to the cage for the first time since September 2019.
Both guys like to come out and fight fire with fire, throwing bombs and looking to knock their opponent out with power. Both hit hard and have skills on the ground with 24 finishes in their career but prefer to keep the bout on the feet. Jourdain seemingly has the power advantage and has fought in the UFC before although his run hasn’t been good. Neither will look to wrestle but the cardio is also in Jourdain’s favour so with Rojo stepping up a weight-class to fight a bigger and better fighter than he has before, I think Jourdain edges it in a fight of the night contender. PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 3
Angela Hill (12-9) vs Ashley Yoder (8-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Despite their close fight the first time around, I can’t see this one being as competitive. Hill is the better striker by a distance and has improved her ground game to a point where she can stuff the takedowns of some of the better wrestlers in the division and fight off her back and get back to her feet well. Yoder will try to get this fight to the ground to add to her four submission wins, but Hill is just too advanced now and should get a pretty comfortable win. PICK – Angela Hill via Decision
A swift return to action for the UFC as the final instalment of their Fight Island triple header is upon us, with Dustin Poirier taking on Conor McGregor in a lightweight eliminator.
A rematch from six years prior, both men look to put their stamp to a claim to be the next challenger for the 155lbs championship while in the co-main event, two other lightweight contenders scrap to do the same thing. Michael Chandler makes his UFC debut after signing from Bellator to take on Dan Hooker, with both men knowing that a win puts them firmly in the conversation for the next title shot.
A fun 11 fight card is on the horizon here, with plenty of good fights on the undercard to come before the two big bouts of the night.
Last time out at UFC Fight Island 8, we went 12/14 with our picks with four perfect picks to boost us up to 212/327 (64.83%) with 93 perfect picks (43.87%) since starting our picks back in June 2020.
We’ll look to improve that record here, starting with the six prelim bouts.
Amir Albazi (13-1) vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Both these men had differing debut experiences in the UFC on Fight Island last year and now meet together in the card opener.
It’s a well contested fight with two relatively evenly-matched fighters. On the feet they’re almost identical in technique and execution and on the ground I give the edge to Albazi so I think he’ll be able to take a tight decision win. PICK – Amir Albazi via Decision
Nik Lentz (30-11-2) vs Movsar Evloev (13-0) – (Catchweight/150lbs)
UFC Veteran Nik Lentz returns to the octagon for the first time in a year to take on an undefeated Russian in Movsar Evloev, who steps in on short notice to take this.
Lentz has lost his last two, being knocked out by Charles Oliveira in 2019 before dropping a decision to Arnold Allen in January 2020. Evloev is undefeated and 3-0 in the UFC, with wins over Seung Woo Choi, Enrique Barzola and Mike Grundy on Fight Island last year. Lentz is a solid grappler who has some striking power, but Evloev is a well-rounded stud who holds the advantage everywhere in this fight.
This should be a pretty one-sided fight, with Evloev just a level above Lentz. His wrestling will see him take the top position at some point and control for 15 minutes for a lopsided win. PICK – Movsar Evloev via Decision
Khalil Rountree Jr (9-4) vs Marcin Prachnio (13-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A return to the octagon after over a year away for Khalil Rountree as he takes on ‘Polish power V2’ in Marcin Prachnio.
Rountree turned in a fantastic performance to beat Eryk Anders in April 2019, before dropping a first round KO to Ion Cutelaba last time out. Prachnio came into the UFC in great nick, but has been knocked out in the first round of all three of his UFC fights so far including most recently against Mike Rodriguez in August 2020.
Rountree’s trip to Thailand has turned his style on it’s head, and he’s a great power puncher with speed and accuracy. Prachnio comes forward looking for the knockout but it just doesn’t seem to work in the UFC. His karate style likes to see him stay at range but Rountree’s speed and power should be enough to see him get another win. PICK – Khalil Rountree Jr via Knockout, Round 1
Juliana Pena (10-4) vs Sara McMann (12-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Juliana Pena returns to the octagon having lost two of her last three fights to take on 40-year-old Sara McMann in the women’s bantamweight division.
Pena’s last win came against Nicco Montano in July 2019, but that was sandwiched between losses to Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine De Randamie. McMann has also lost two of her last three, but she returned after almost two years out to get a decision win over Lina Lansberg last time out.
Both these women will look to take the fight to the ground with striking neither of their strong suits, with McMann a strong wrestler while Pena is a black-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It’s all about who ends up on the top in this one and the wrestling advantage gives McMann the edge in that, so she has the best chance of winning. PICK – Sara McMann via Decision
Brad Tavares (17-7) vs Antonio Carlos Junior (11-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An interesting middleweight scrap between two prospects at 185lbs. Tavares has lost his last two fights, losing to champion Israel Adesanya back in 2018 before losing to Edmen Shahbazyan in November 2019 via first round knockout. ‘Shoeface’ is in the same boat too, losing his last two to Ian Heinisch and Uriah Hall in September 2019.
Both men have not looked good in their most recent fights but have taken a long time away from the sport recently. Tavares has a good striking background while Shoeface has some of the strangest striking techniques you’ll ever see, but is a very good grappler. He has a huge jiu-jitsu advantage and with the grappling advantage too, I think Tavares taps out for the first time in his career. PICK – Antonio Carlos Junior via Submission, Round 2
Arman Tsarukyan (15-2) vs Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A sleeper for fight of the night after the top two fights on the card, these two lightweights look to steal the show on a card where their division is in the limelight.
Haqparasr is a really good boxer with good footwork and a great jab, but also strong takedown defence too with over 80% success rate in his UFC career. Tsarukyan is another good striker but he has tremendous takedowns and chain wrestling. He’s also a tidy striker on his own, but his game plan is almost always to strike until the opportunity presents itself to get the takedown. It all hangs on whether Haqparast can keep it standing and I’m not so confident he will this time around. PICK – Arman Tsarukyan via Decision
A bizarre UFC card last weekend saw just 8 fights take place after a number of withdrawals in the build-up, including one on the night.
We’ll be looking for a more action-packed card this time around when Derrick Lewis meets Alexei Oleinik in the main event in the heavyweight division. Prior to the headliner though, there are 11 other fights scheduled for the card including seven on the prelims and five on the main card.
I got 5/8 picks right last weekend with 2/5 being completely correct (winner, round, method). Not the best but in a card that got chopped up so much in the build-up I’m not too worried overall. Hopefully I can do better this time around though.
Irwin Rivera (9-5) vs Ali Al-Qaisi (8-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
After a debut loss in the UFC to Giga Chikadze, Irwin Rivera comes back down to his natural weight looking for his first win in the company against debutant Ali Al-Qaisi. ‘The Royal Fighter’ comes in on a five-fight win streak including three first round submission wins. Rivera is a good offensive fighter with good power in his hands but still raw defensively, especially when facing takedowns, while Al-Qaisi is pretty one dimensional in that he wants to take you down and submit you. On paper it seems like a good match up for Al-Qaisi, but the problem here is that his level is not the highest. Rivera is a very good scrambler and while he’s not the best at stopping the takedown, he’s good at getting back to his feet. Rivera may get taken down but any time he’s on his feet he’s dangerous enough to stop Al-Qaisi and I think that’s what happens here. PICK – Irwin Rivera via Knockout, Round 3
Youssef Zalal (9-2) vs Peter Barrett (11-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A short-notice favourite is rare, but Youssef Zalal has every right to be in that category for this fight. He’s currently 2-0 in the Octagon following wins over Austin Lingo and Jordan Griffin, while ‘Slippery Pete’ makes his UFC debut following a win on Dana White’s Contender Series almost a year ago. Zalal has a complete advantage in every aspect of MMA in this bout and should be able to dominate wherever it ends up. Barrett is a hittable target with dodgy takedown defence but he has got power to put people away as his 7 knockout wins show. In this instance though, I don’t think he’ll be able to get near enough to ‘The Moroccan Devil’ to land that big punch. Zalal should be able to maintain distance and control the fight for a win. PICK – Youssef Zalal via Unanimous Decision
Justin Jaynes (16-4) vs Gavin Tucker (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Five fight win streak vs 1 loss ever, this fight could be the fight of the night. Gavin Tucker destroyed Sam Sicilia in his UFC debut back in 2017 before being destroyed himself in his next fight against Rick Glenn. He took two years out before his submission win over Seung Woo Choo and now returns after a year out. Jaynes made his UFC just over a month ago when he KO’d UFC vetera Frank Camacho after just 41 seconds. Jaynes isn’t naturally a 145lber and was fighting at 165lbs for that Camacho fight so I expect the weight cut will have some kind of effect on him. Add to that Tucker is very capable on the feet and a solid wrestler himself, so I think he’ll have the tools to keep Jaynes’ power at bay to secure a decision win. PICK – Gavin Tucker via Unanimous Decision
Andrew Sanchez (11-5) vs Wellington Turman (16-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A former Ultimate Fighter winner against a big prospect at middleweight in what is an interesting bout. Sanchez has heavy hands and a great wrestling game, tools that should see him having a much better career than he’s had so far. He’s lost 3 of his last 5 in the UFC. Turman on the other hand is 1-1 in the UFC but has done nothing but impress. He stepped in on short notice and took Karl Roberson to a split decision that he lost, before controlling a win over Markus Perez. Turman is a grapple heavy fighter who looks for submissions to win the fight. Sanchez though has never been taken down in the UFC and the only issues he’s had in his defeats have come against volume strikers who outlast his poor cardio. He shouldn’t have that problem in this fight and should be able to overcome the young Turman for a win. PICK – Andrew Sanchez vs Unanimous Decision
Nasrat Haqparast (11-3) vs Alex Munoz (6-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Baby Gastelum makes his return following a first-round knockout defeat back in January to Drew Dober. Prior to that, Haqparast had won his last three in impressive performances and was slowly moving up towards being ranked. Munoz is making his UFC debut in this fight but is highly thought of as the match up shows. He was scheduled to fight Luis Pena in February but pulled out with injury. This one could be a step too far for the Team Alpha Male fighter though. Haqparast has lethal striking and a steady wrestling game, while his conditioning has never caused him a problem. His defeat to Dober is no reason to write him off considering what Dober has done since too. Munoz will need to get an early takedown and grind through his opponent to be able to stay in the fight, but overall I think Haqparast will be able to outland Munoz and eventually be able to power through for the knockout win. PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 3
Kevin Holland (17-5) vs Joaquin Buckley (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A late addition to the card as the UFC get Kevin Holland on a UFC card once again following his cancellation last weekend. He was supposed to fight Trevin Giles but he passed out moments before the walk-out, leaving the ‘Trailblazer’ without an opponent. His opponent makes his UFC debut in this one, but he fought just last weekend himself avenging one of his only two losses via a second round knockout. Holland has a huge height and reach advantage which will definitely help him in keeping Buckley’s power away from him and I think he’ll score the knockout win. PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 2
Tim Means (29-12-1) vs Laureano Staropoli (9-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An interesting fight headlines the prelims of this card as veteran Tim Means takes on ‘El Matador’. Means has lost 5 of his last 8 fights, being finished 3 times in that period. His two most recent wins came via stoppage in the first round but neither of those fighters are with the UFC anymore. Staropoli won his first two fights in the UFC with comfortable decisions before losing to Muslim Salikhov back in October 2019. Despite being the more all-round fighter, Means’ last defeat was to a man that, on paper, he was much better than too. Staropoli’s takedown defence is somewhat of a weakness as he allowed Salikhov to take him down three times, so Means may look to use some wrestling in addition to his Muay-Thai. If he can use his reach advantage well he should get the win, while Staropoli will know that if he lands clean a few times he will hurt Means. PICK – Laureano Staropoli via Knockout, Round 2
You can watch the early prelims of this card exclusively on UFC Fight Pass while UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Oleinik will air live on BT Sport this Saturday night, starting at midnight. The main card will start at 2am.
Do you agree with my picks for the prelims? Let me know.