Krzysztof Jotko (23-5) vs Gerald Meerschaert (34-14) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very interesting middleweight scrap opens up the main card between two well known fighters. Jotko has won four of his last five fights, bouncing back from defeat to Sean Strickland at UFC Vegas 25 with a split decision win over Misha Cirkunov at UFC Vegas 38. Meerschaert on the other hand has bounced back from his super-quick KO loss to Khamzat Chimaev at UFC Vegas 17 with three straight submission wins including a late one against Dustin Stoltzfus most recently at UFC Vegas 45.
Jotko is a kickboxer who looks to fight from range using his kicks and long punches and a steady pace that he has shown he is capable of pushing for the entire 15 minutes. Meerschaert on the other hand is an amazing grappler with all of his UFC wins coming by finish, and more submission wins in his career than any other middleweight in UFC history. It’s a real battle of styles, but this one seems to favour Jotko a little bit more.
Meerschaert is by far the more dangerous of the two, but Jotko is so methodical that he tends to just nullify his opponents and win minutes of fights rather than dominate them. It’s either going to be a Meerschaert submission or Jotko decision, but the Polish fighter is all about claiming wins despite it being the most boring fight of the night and he’s likely to do that again. PICK – Krzysztof Jotko via Decision
Darren Elkins (27-10) vs Tristan Connelly (14-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
‘The Damage’ returns to the octagon in a banger of a fight at 145-pounds here. Elkins has lost five of his last seven, including his most recent outing against the returning Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 45 where he was KO’d by a spinning wheel kick. Connelly saw a near two-year layoff culminate in a defeat against Pat Sabatini in his most recent bout back at UFC 261.
These are two veterans of the sport likely on their way out of the sport sooner rather than later. Elkins is a grinder who tends to walk through flames to score a takedown and really wear down his opponent before taking over from top position, while Connelly is also a ground specialist although he prefers to use his jiu-jitsu skills when down there. That sets up a pretty exciting encounter if the fight hits the mat, and both guys will back themselves to come out on top in that scenario.
The best bet for Connelly to score a submission is to hurt him on the feet first and then latch on to something. His striking isn’t great however and with the relentless wrestling style of Elkins, I expect him to smother Connelly over the course of the 15 minutes and earn a vintage decision win. PICK – Darren Elkins via Decision
Jared Gordon (18-4) vs Grant Dawson (17-1-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Very exciting lightweight bout up next between two guys looking to burst their way into the rankings. Gordon has won three in a row since getting knocked out by the now-champion Charles Oliveira in 2019, all via decision with the most recent coming against Joe Solecki. Dawson on the other hand is nine undefeated, with a draw against Ricky Glenn most recently snapping his win streak.
Gordon is a grinder of a fighter who just doesn’t stop coming forward. He doesn’t particularly excel in any area but is decent enough to hold his own in most. Dawson on the other hand is a specialist wrestler who has looked to use his new-found kickboxing skills more often in recent bouts. He tends to use the fence to his advantage too, pinning opponents to the mat and looking to push them into submission situations. But his best times came at featherweight and now that physicality isn’t a stand-out attribute anymore.
‘Flash’ is definitely the more heavy-handed striker on the feet, but Dawson has the edge in the wrestling and should be able to keep Gordon down if he does get the fight down. Gordon’s cardio will still be there at the end of the fight regardless of how the rest of the fight has gone, while Dawson could struggle deeper into the bout. It will be close for the judges, but I think wrestling wins out and earns him a tight decision. PICK – Grant Dawson via Decision
Andre Fili (21-8) vs Joanderson Brito (12-3-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
This should be a very fun featherweight scrap between two very exciting fighters. Fili is coming off a ‘no contest’ bout against Daniel Pineda back at UFC Vegas 30, while Brito suffered a unanimous decision defeat in his UFC debut to Bill Algeo back at UFC Vegas 46 at the start of the year.
Fili is a very technical kickboxer with some reactive takedowns and good grappling skills on the mat too, while Brito is a very standard Muay Thai fighter but with excellent power in his strikes and nasty clinch work culminating in ten finishes from his 12 victories. Brito was beaten by Algeo last time out, and Fili is a better version of Algeo with more strings to his bow. Obviously, that’s a problem for the Brazilian prospect.
Brito has got huge power and has always got it in him to land one big shot and end the fight there and then. But ultimately Fili is the better fighter here. His kickboxing is sharper, his wrestling is a way for him to be able mix it up and he’s the more experienced guy too. It won’t be easy, but I think Fili takes him all the way and earns the nod from the judges. PICK – Andre Fili via Decision
Andrei Arlovski (33-20) vs Jake Collier (13-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight collision in the co-main event between two men at different ends of their UFC career. Former champion Arlovski has won five of his last six, with the only defeat coming against Tom Aspinall, including each of his last three via decision. Collier on the other hand is a former middleweight who has alternated wins and losses since 2014 going back 11 fights. His most recent was a win against Chase Sherman via submission back in January at UFC Vegas 46.
Arlovski is a traditional heavyweight with some good boxing and a lethal left high kick just like the famous Mirko Cro Cop once upon a time. He uses good movement and volume well rather than power punches, but seems to be excellent at avoiding damage and doing well. Collier is a very similar fighter, just ten years younger and he has got a good grappling background in his arsenal too.
This is a strange fight to be the co-main event in all honesty, but I can’t go against the 50-50 record over the last eight years. Arlovski looks as good as he’s looked in a long while recently and has the experience to make his momentum and moments count. Collier likes to throw leg kicks and that could leave him open to a straight right hand counter down the pipe but most likely this looks like a pretty comfortable Collier decision win. PICK – Jake Collier via Decision
Rob Font (19-5) vs Marlon Vera (18-7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger of a main event and comfortably the fight of the night on this card. Font saw a four-fight win streak snapped last time out by Jose Aldo in a great fight at UFC Vegas 44, while Vera earned a highlight reel front-kick-to-the-face knockout against Frankie Edgar in his most recent outing at UFC 268.
Font is one of the best pure boxers in the UFC, with incredible hand speed and solid power in his hands as well as some good takedowns as shown against Cody Garbrandt in his most recent win. Vera on the other hand is a really tidy all-round fighter with crisp striking and great technique with his leg kicks and punches, while he also has excellent jiu-jitsu skills and grappling on the mat. Vera has never been finished in his career, but his lack of output early on in fights could see Font have a lot of early success with his boxing to the body.
It’s unlikely that Font will look to grapple at all in this fight, because that is entering Vera’s world. His boxing and speed is where he can win this fight, but Vera is good at applying pressure and forcing his opponents to fight on the back foot. It should be a terrific fight overall, but I think Font’s early work will be enough to edge him a judge’s decision for the bout. PICK – Rob Font via Decision
But we will also see the return of Khamzat Chimaev as he takes on Gilbert Burns in a bout that UFC president Dana White has admitted will serve as a title eliminator bout in the welterweight division.
The following week will see another welterweight clash serve as the main event in the Apex, as Vicente Luque takes on Belal Muhammad at UFC Vegas 51.
Down at 135-pounds at the end of April we’ll see a top contender bout between Rob Font and Marlon Vera battle in the main event of UFC Vegas 53, before UFC 274 takes place from Phoenix, Arizona.
Originally scheduled to be in Brazil, we’ll now get the 155-pound title fight between Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje in the headline slot in Gaethje’s home state, while Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza will meet in their long-anticipated rematch for the strawweight title in the co-main event.
We’ll also see an amazing lightweight bout between Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson on that card, as well as a stack of other amazing fights.
The following week the UFC is targeting the rescheduled main event from the UFC Columbus card in the light heavyweight division between Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic, as well as a fun fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Amanda Ribas.
Then at UFC 275 the delayed light heavyweight title fight between Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka will take place, while ‘Bullet’ Valentina Shevchenko will fight Taila Santos for the flyweight championship in the co-main event.
We’ll also see the return of Robert Whittaker at that event, as he is scheduled to take on Marvin Vettori in the middleweight division to get back on the title trail once again.
Dana White has also confirmed that the organisation are expecting welterweight champion Kamaru Usman to return in the summer, and he has promised the next title fight to British fighter Leon Edwards with the target aimed for international fight week in July.
It’s a great year coming up, so keep your eyes on Tap Ins & Tap Outs for coverage of all these events coming up.
It was one hell of a night in the UFC Apex in Las Vegas at UFC Vegas 44 as 13 fights all delivered in a big way in the penultimate Fight Night card of the year.
In the main event it was ‘King of Rio’ Jose Aldo who came out on top in the battle between two top five bantamweight contenders, as he earned a unanimous decision win over Rob Font.
Font started the fight at a frenetic pace, but Aldo’s power and better placement of his shots saw him steal the first round for many as he scored a knockdown in the final seconds of the round.
From that point on, Aldo seemingly found the recipe to victory as he stayed long at range and landed his powerful one-two cleanly. Every time he did, Font was clearly hurt and when he began to mix in his legendary calf kicks and even his grappling skills, it turned in to a relatively comfortable victory for the former two-time featherweight champion.
Now 35, Aldo is clearly past his prime years and best version of himself. However what the Brazilian has managed to do by reinventing himself down a weight class and overcoming some heartbreaking defeats, to turn himself back into a contender at his age is truly remarkable.
With Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling set to meet early in 2022 to unify the division in a title fight, Aldo is once again calling for a bout with TJ Dillashaw.
The former champion is recovering from knee surgery currently but once ready to compete, the likelihood is that he’ll need another victory to claim a title shot against the winner of that unification bout so why not take on the legendary Aldo to get it done?
For now, Aldo continues to build his legacy and cement himself as one of the very best of all time.
Up at light heavyweight, we may have seen the start of the Jamahal Hill appreciation era after his stunning first-round KO victory of Jimmy Crute.
Crute was the favourite heading into the bout but Hall quickly established himself as the top prospect at 205lbs with a brutal knockout after just 48 seconds.
After the bout he was quick to call out Paulo Costa, who has been linked with a move up to light heavyweight, as well as Johnny Walker for a bout that would no doubt be packed with fireworks.
He will move up the rankings after this win and now look to break into the top ten, meaning 2022 could be the start of something special for ‘Sweet Dreams’.
Vince Morales def Louis Smolka via Knockout, Round 1 (2:02)
Good early start from both guys as Smolka lands a low kick or two while Morales lands a few jabs cleanly and then goes to the body too. Smolka trying to push the pace and step forward, but Morales evading relatively easily and landing some nice strikes of his own. Smolka goes to clinch with a knee and as they separate Morales lands a huge right hand that puts Smolka out cold face first! He follows up with a couple but the referee stops it quickly and that’s that! What a KO!
Claudio Puelles def Chris Gruetzemacher via Submission (Kneebar), Round 3 (3:25)
Hard body kick to open up the fight for Puelles, but Gruetzemacher fires back with one of his own. Puelles shoots for a takedown and gets it, ending up on top and working from full guard. Gruetzemacher defending well from his back, taking very little damage. He throws up a lazy armbar which Puelles uses to pass guard and try to take the back, but Gruetzemacher gets his back to the cage and staying calm while fighting hands. Puelles steps over and moves into full mount and starts raining down elbows and strikes. Gruetzemacher avoiding most of the strikes and gets half guard back well and survives the round well. 10-9 Puelles.
Puelles opens up with kicks again and then goes for a couple of lazy takedowns again. Gruetzemacher denies it but rather than keeping the fight standing he tries to transition and ends up on top but not doing much offensively. Puelles throws up a triangle as a threat but Gruetzemacher defends well and eventually they get back to the feet. Puelles lands some big kicks and a nice left hand before another lazy takedown attempt that Gruetzemacher denies easily. Puelles trying to throw some hard head kicks but Gruetzemacher avoiding damage and lands some low kicks of his own. Clinch against the cage and Puelles lands some nice elbows and knees before switching levels for a takedown but it’s not a good attempt and the round ends. Probably 19-19 but could be 20-18 Puelles.
Final round and Gruetzemacher comes forward more aggressively and looks for a knee in the clinch but accidentally lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Restarted now and Gruetzemacher coming forward again with more volume. Nice body shots and a left hand before Puelles shoots and it gets sprawled. Some nice short elbows in the clinch by Gruetzemacher force another shot but he sprawls and then spins on to the back of Puelles for a few strikes before they get back to the feet. Gruetzemacher gets a nice foot sweep to be on top but Puelles goes for a leg and tries for a heel hook but Gruetzemacher defends it and ends up on the back. Nice ground and pound but Puelles rolls for the leg again and extends a straight kneebar to get the tap! Big win for Puelles!
William Knight def Alonzo Menifield via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Knight comes out quickly and goes straight for a takedown attempt but Menifield is able to sweep him as he hits the ground and ends up in side control. Knight manages to slip out around the back and tries to get into mount quickly before moving to the back and looking to lock in a rear-naked choke. Menifield defends it well and explodes back to the feet himself before they clinch up against the fence. Knight holding on to the neck of Menifield to stay standing, but Menifield doing well to stay out of a guillotine and force Knight to continue defending. Menifield throws a right hand but Knight counters with a big left hook that drops him! He goes for the finish but the buzzer goes and he survives. 10-9 Knight. Great round.
Menifield opens with a low kick and then a big strike that sends Knight backwards and literally running away from Menifield. Menifield lands a big right hand flush that wobbles Knight, but he stays patient then throws a low kick. Nice left hook from Menifield again and Knight looks very hesitant to throw now. Knight throwing wild strikes but missing hugely and Menifield staying calm and just looking to pick Knight off a little bit now. Left hand landing well for Menifield again and Knight doesn’t really have an answer for it. Knight explodes with the right hand with 15 seconds to go and starts going wild again but doesn’t land flush and the round ends. Definitely a Menifield round. 19-19.
Both guys look more hesitant in this round as they clinch up and Menifield pushes Knight to the cage. Menifield holding Knight against the cage and not much happening as we hit the halfway point of the round. 90 seconds left and it’s just more of the same position for this round. Separation as we get into the final minute and Knight goes for a flying knee. Some wild head kicks miss and Menifield stays on the outside for the rest of the round to likely earn a victory.
Cheyanne Vlismas def Mallory Martin via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Fast start to the fight from both women as Martin takes the centre and they start throwing hands. Some beautiful combos from Vlismas land but Martin is trading back and landing some shots of her own. Vlismas defending against Martin’s strikes well and landing some excellent counter strikes from the outside. Martin in the centre and start to fake some strikes but Vlismas reading well and countering. Martin lands a beautiful short left hook and Vlismas clinches up to throw some short uppercuts and dirty boxing before stepping out of the way again. Lovely right hand lands again as the rounds closes out. 10-9 Vlismas.
Fast start again from Vlismas as she steps forward with fast combinations again and excellent lateral movement. Martin standing in the centre again but she’s being more hesitant to throw now. Nice right hand, left high kick combo from Vlismas lands sbut Martin continues to come forward and then lands a nice body shot. Vlismas lands a beautiful counter right hand. Martin clinches and starts looking to wrestle a bit, but Vlismas defends it well and keeps it standing for now. Nice knees from both ladies landing but Martin is getting the better of the exchanges. They separate and both land a right hand simultaneously before going back to the pattern of the fight. 20-18 Vlismas.
Martin moves for a takedown early on in the final round but Vlismas defends it brilliantly against the cage again before separating. Beautiful one two lands from Vlismas and Martin goes for another takedown but Vlismas defends it well again. Martin lands some knees in the clinch but Vlismas is able to separate and comes forward with some more clean strikes of her own. Big right hand lands from Vlismas in the exchange and Martin steps back slightly before changing levels and going for a takedown again, but Vlismas keeps her balance and keeps it standing again. Both women landing their jabs together but then Vlismas lands a couple of extra shots that she adds to the end of it. Vlismas’ striking has just been a level ahead and she ends the fight stepping forward with big combinations! Great fight! 30-27 Vlismas for me.
Bryan Barbarena def Darian Weeks via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Weeks coming out of the gate confidently throwing lots of kicks but nothing really landing. Barbarena launches forward and Weeks changes levels with a body lock and then secures a takedown, but Barbarena gets back to his feet quickly. Weeks looking very comfortable and throwing plenty of strikes, but Barbarena lands a big inside low kick and gets a big reaction. He throws a few more quickly after and Weeks is limping now, but fighting through it. Change of levels from Weeks as he gets it against the cage, but Barbarena reverses the position and starts chopping at the leg again. Weeks having problems with his leg but still stepping forward. Barbarena staying patient and lands a nice left hand before another heavy low kick to end the round. 10-9 Barbarena.
Weeks comes out early and secures a takedown immediately but Barbarena defends well from his back before eventually getting back to his feet. Weeks continuing to be aggressive but Barbarena using his experience well to stem the tide. Weeks throwing some wild hooks and Barbarena throwing some tired ones of his own and both are landing, but nothing doing too much damage yet it seems. Barbarena lands another hard low kick and starts to go to the body as the round ends. That’s anybody’s round but I lean towards Barbarena again. 20-18.
Barbarena turning the pace up in the final round, coming forward and throwing combinations but Weeks gets another body lock and pushes him against the cage. Nice knee from Barbarena and they trade big hooks before going back into the clinch. Barbarena throws a high kick and slips but he gets back up quickly. Weeks is tired now and Barbarena is coming forward, landing some big hooks to the body and then a left hand to the chin. Weeks lands a couple of hooks of his own but Barbarena eating them and coming forward again with the body shots. Hard low kicks again from Barbarena but Weeks is digging in and landing some big hooks of his own. A few hard strikes land well but Barbarena takes them and fires back with his own. He’s really taken over in this round and is continuing to pour the pressure on in the final minute. Weeks changes levels under a hook and secures a big takedown in the final seconds but Barbarena jumps up and lands a big strike that wobbles Weeks! He moves forward with big swinging strikes that miss as the buzzer goes! Great fight. 30-27 for me but could be 29-28 too with round two being close.
Manel Kape def Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Knockout, Round 1 (4:02)
Super fast start to this one as Kape opens with a flying knee attempt before both men trade combinations. Zhumagulov throwing hard leg kicks and hard right overhands and connecting with some, but Kape moving well and landing a few counters of his own. Zhumagulov lands a big right that sends Kape stumbling backwards, but he responds with a nice right hand too. Zhumagulov coming forward hard and fast and pushing the pace but Kape is moving well and countering effectively too. Kape lands a nice body shot and a knee and he starts picking his shots. Hard one-two lands and drops Zhumagulov! Kape steps forward and looking for the finish but staying calm, then lands a huge string of punches that puts Zhumagulov down covering up and the referee steps in! What a knockout! What a performance!
Dusko Todorovic def Maki Pitolo via Knockout, Round 1 (4:34)
Lively start from both guys looking to step in and land first with their jabs and some low kicks. Pitolo lands a low kick and then a big right hand lands flush. Another low kick gets a reaction from Todorovic but he changes levels and shoots in for a takedown. Pitolo latches on to the neck and goes for a guillotine but Todorovic stays calm, rides it out and eventually secures top position as he starts to look for ground and pound. Todorovic dominating on the ground and trying to move to a crucifix position while landing big strikes and then he moves into full mount. Todorovic flattens Pitolo out and starts raining down heavy ground and pound until the referee waves it off! Hugely impressive win.
Alex Morono def Micky Gall via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Slow start from both guys as Morono takes the centre and tries to feel his way into range before firing a strong right hand to the chin of Gall. Hard low kick from Gall lands but both fighters being very patient and not throwing much early on. Morono lands a nice right hand and then eats a body kick, before firing in another nice one-two that lands on Gall. Lots of feinting and patience and then Morono lands a jab that sits Gall down! Morono goes for the finish but Gall manages to tie him up on the ground by going for a leg lock and recovers enough to get back to his feet at the end of the round. 10-9 Morono.
Gall comes out for the second round with a jab to the body before a nice right hand lands. Morono comes back with a powerful hook himself and then he steps in with a left hook that lands well too. Gall charges forward and lands two big hooks and Morono just misses with a check-left hook counter. Gall continues to come forward with hooks and a jab and he’s fighting very well from range right now. Lovely right hook counter from Morono just clips Gall before he misses with another in the next attack. Gall trying to use his size to be first, but Morono using his technique to match him or even beat him to it. Gall changes levels and shoots for a takedown but Morono sprawls to deny it and ends the round landing a hard left hook. 20-18 Morono.
Big overhand right lands from Morono on Gall, who fires back with a body kick that just misses. Another nice right hand from Morono connects but Gall replies again with a nice double jab followed by a low kick. Morono staying out of range but stepping in quickly when he wants to throw his strikes. Gall misses with a big right hand as we enter the final two minutes. Hard right hand from Morono before both guys trade wild swings in the final minute. Spinning back fist from Morono lands and Gall starting to come forward with his hands down. Both guys swing wildly as the buzzer goes, should be comfortable for Morono.
Chris Curtis def Brendan Allen via Knockout, Round 2 (1:58)
Fast start from Allen as he comes out with a few strong strikes that just miss before a big takedown attempt sees him pick Curtis up and slam him down, before taking the back. Curtis defends well and they separate quickly though. Curtis lands a nice four-punch combo to the head of Allen but he eats it and comes back with a nice knee. Allen goes for a head kick before Curtis returns with some big strikes again. Hard body kick from Allen before they trade low kicks together. Lead elbow from Allen lands before Curtis lands a nice right hook counter and then goes to the body himself. Head kick from Curtis just misses but he follows it up with a nice one-two. Allen goes for a takedown and then transitions for a leg lock but Curtis defends it well and ends up on top to end the round. Close round, 10-9 Allen for me but only just.
Hard low kick early from Allen drops Curtis to one knee before another hard low kick lands. Both guys trade in the pocket and Allen just misses with a knee. Allen lands a hard body kick but Curtis replies with a nice one-two down the pipe. Both guys trade big right hooks and Allen is wobbled!! Curtis going for the finish and lands a strong knee and Allen goes down again and the referee waves it off! Amazing! What a KO!
Slow start to this one as Santos looks to keep his distance and use his powerful strikes from range. Santos lands a powerful body kick and Guida drops in pain! Santos goes for the kill with huge ground and pound strikes to the head and body but Guida is surviving currently. Santos blasting him with big strikes and the referee is looking closely but Guida is holding a leg and surviving! Guida gets up and manages to create separation and Santos is exhausted! Guida goes on the offensive for the final minute with his crazy pressure and wrestling! What a round! 10-9 Santos.
Guida comes out super aggressive and lands a big left hook then goes for a takedown again. He gets the fight down to the ground quickly and starts blasting knees to the body of Santos who is completely out of it through exhaustion. Guida goes for the neck, takes the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke and forces Santos to tap! Incredible! What a comeback.
Jamahal Hill def Jimmy Crute via Knockout, Round 1 (0:48)
Crute comes out hard with some heavy leg kicks and high kicks but Hill stepping out and avoiding too much damage. Hill fires a hard right hand down the pipe and drops Crute who immediately shoots for a takedown out of instinct. Hill gets some separation and counters with another solid right hook to the chin that puts Crute down and out! One more strike on the ground before the referee gets there and that’s that! Unbelievable from Jamahal Hill! Wow!
Rafael Fiziev def Brad Riddell via Knockout, Round 3 (2:20)
Tactical start to this one from both guys as they throw out some feelers for each other. Fiziev looks to land one of his trademark head kicks but just misses, before both guys trade hooks. Big exchange of counter strikes from Fiziev in particular as he rips the body with his lead leg. Riddell just misses with a right hand and then slips a kick from Fiziev. Riddell goes for a jab to the body and overhand right but just misses as Fiziev takes the centre and pushes him back against the cage with pressure. Both guys land a big right hook each before Fiziev fires a hard low kick at the end of it. Hard body kicks again from Fiziev before Riddell ends the round with a beautiful combination that sees two strikes land on the chin. Good round, 10-9 Fiziev.
Hard low kick from Riddell opens the round up. Riddell throwing his jab out before committing to combinations, but Fiziev lands a nice right hand counter too. Fiziev lands a jab followed with a step-in elbow that cuts Riddell badly over the eye. Nice left hand from Riddell lands though and then Fiziev lands with a short left hook. Both guys fire the same combination that ends with a left hook at the same time and both land too. Lovely right hook lands from Fiziev and then he goes for a knee but Riddell ties him up in a clinch before they separate. Back to the body kick from Fiziev and that’s the round. 20-18 Fiziev for me but could be 19-19.
Fiziev goes for a low leg kick but Riddell catches it and shoots for a takedown and briefly gets it, but Fiziev pops up to his feet quickly. They clash together again and Fiziev lands a hard right hand in the exchange, but Riddell’s right hand landed too. Big left hook from Riddell lands after a body shot as he starts to get more aggressive in this final round. Riddell changes levels and attempts a takedown but Fiziev denies it, before a big clash of strikes yet again from both guys. Riddell circles away on the outside and Fiziev throws a spinning wheel kick and catches Riddell clean in the face!! Riddell is out on his feet and Herb Dean steps in quickly before any more damage can be done!! WOW! What a KO! Amazing!
Jose Aldo def Rob Font via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x2, 49-46)
Fast start to this fight as Font comes forward and starts to use his jab immediately, following up with one-twos. Aldo lands a body kick before Font charges forward and gets a surprising takedown. Font forcing Aldo to be very defensive in the early going, landing his jab clean and following it with a right hand too. Font just misses with an uppercut but lands a glancing elbow as Aldo looks to step away. Aldo ducks under a straight right and counters with a pull right hand, but Font is putting it on him so far. Big body shot from Aldo lands and both guys trade leg kicks. Font lands his jab again and a nice right hand before Aldo rolls and blocks the follow up strike attempts. Aldo lands a one two straight down the pipe and Font goes down! Aldo goes for the finish but after a couple of shots on the ground the buzzer goes to end the round. Whew. 10-9 Font.
Font coming forward once again behind his jab with a relentless pace trying to offset Aldo’s rhythm. Nice right hand from Font lands but Aldo seems calm. Aldo lands a huge one-two again and the right hand is flush and sends Font backwards reeling, but Aldo goes for a big knee that misses and Font is able to recover. Aldo just misses with a big left uppercut and then blocks a right hook from Font. Right hand lands from Font and gets Aldo’s attention, so he fires back with another hard right hand himself. Font trying to land but he seems to be lacking in power, so Aldo returns with a big right hand again. Font goes for a takedown but Aldo denies it easily, but then eats a right hand. Huge body shot from Aldo. Round ends, what a fight. 19-19.
Aldo has returned to his old ways and lands three very hard low kicks early on that are affecting Font immediately. Nice one-two from Font and then he goes for a takedown that Aldo manages to defend and reverse to end up on top himself. Aldo into side control and lands a nice short elbow before going back into full guard. Font looking to be active from his back but Aldo doing well to control him and minimise the threat. Font gets back to his feet and looks for some combos but Aldo pushes him off. Aldo’s right eye has closed up now but he lands a hard body shot before Font comes over the top with a right hand that just misses. Hard low kick again from Aldo and it drops Font! Another hard one but Font is coming forward again and landing his jab well. Another low kick from Aldo to end the round, but he looks like he’s tiring. 29-28 Aldo.
Font comes aggressively but Aldo rolls with it and lands a huge right hand once again that drops Font! Font is wobbling badly and Aldo going for the finish but Font is scrambling and Aldo eventually settles in side control. Font trying to find a way back to his feet, but Aldo controlling him well and looking to pass. Aldo eventually passes into mount but Font quickly gets full guard back. Aldo looking to get some ground and pound off but Font is defending it well and landing some short elbows of his own off his back. Aldo continuing to control the position on the ground though as the round ends and he’ll take the round. 39-37 Aldo.
Fast start from Font as he comes out swinging hard in combinations to the body and to the head. Aldo looks hesitant and tired now but Font is coming forward much fresher. Font clinches up and Aldo is tying him up against the cage, then Font lands a big elbow. Aldo coming forward and lands a big right hand again before Font clinches again against the cage. Font throwing some strikes but Aldo fairly comfortable with where the fight is currently. Font creates space and lands a big uppercut but Aldo responds with a hard right hand and wobbles Font again! Aldo lands two more and Font goes down but Font ties up Aldo on the mat to try and recover. Aldo gets to his back and gets two hooks in and is seemingly looking for a choke, but he’s not rushing. Aldo locks in a body triangle and is looking for a rear-naked choke with 30 seconds left but Font fights out of it and survives the round to make the buzzer. What a fight. 49-46 Aldo for me.
Alex Morono (20-7) vs Micky Gall (7-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very interesting welterweight fight between two guys still looking to make a big impression in the UFC. Morono is on a two-fight win streak after KO’ing Donald Cerrone at UFC Vegas 26 before a decision win over David Zawada in September. Gall on the other hand has alternated wins and losses since 2016, going 4-3 with a first-round submission win over Jordan Williams in his most recent outing.
Morono is a powerful striker with looping hooks and good timing with his counter strikes, while Gall is a supreme jiu-jitsu grappler with decent wrestling in his back pocket too. Gall has however shown more of a willingness to strike in recent fights, and that is a recipe for trouble in the one. Morono has the power to stop him, but if Gall chooses to wrestle and use his jiu-jitsu then he will likely have much more success.
Morono isn’t hard to take down but he is hard to keep down, so that will be an interesting battle. Ultimately however, Morono’s ability to get back to his feet and keep pushing will likely wear Gall down over the 15 minutes and be able to earn a decision win. PICK – Alex Morono via Decision
Brendan Allen (17-4) vs Chris Curtis (27-8) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An absolute banger at middleweight as Brendan Allen takes on the short-notice replacement Chris Curtis in this one. Allen is on a two-fight win streak after submitting Karl Roberson at UFC 261 before a decision win over Punahele Soriano last time out. Curtis on the other hand made his debut at UFC 268 against Phil Hawes and after overcoming a tough first-round, he landed a nasty right hand a KO’d him for a huge upset win.
Allen is a primary grappler with terrific wrestling, while he has also improved his striking in recent fights to be able to mix it up well. Curtis on the other hand is a very well-rounded fighter with tremendous power in his hands to go with his high level wrestling. He was a UFC calibre fighter way before his debut, and he proved it on the night. In this one though, it could be a rough night. Allen is relentless with his pressure and his takedowns, then once he gets it down he possesses a very real submission threat.
Curtis has the ability to knock anyone in the division out, without a doubt, but Allen just seems to be a bit too much of a level up on this occasion. Curtis is a natural welterweight too and Allen is as big a middleweight as there is. He’s going to pressure him, use his size and eventually grind his way to a relatively comfortable decision win. PICK – Brendan Allen via Decision
Clay Guida (36-18) vs Leonardo Santos (18-5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The grizzly veterans go head-to-head in the lightweight division here. Guida is 1-3 in his last four, with a split decision defeat to Mark O Madsen last time out. Santos on the other hand saw a 13-fight unbeaten run snapped last time out when Grant Dawson knocked him out in the final second of their bout at UFC Vegas 22.
Guida is a grinder, who steps forward with reckless abandon and then shoots for a double leg takedown to try and earn top control. Santos uses his jiu-jitsu and Muay-Thai skills generally to damage his opponents, but at 41-years-old now he is certainly slowing down. He seems to fatigue earlier and earlier in bouts, but he is still super dangerous in the first round.
With that said, Guida’s chin hasn’t started letting him down yet and with his amazing cardio and volume-heavy style the likelihood is that he grinds his way to another career win. PICK – Clay Guida via Decision
Jimmy Crute (12-2) vs Jamahal Hill (8-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A very fun light heavyweight bout in this one as two prospects look to bounce back from unfortunate defeats last time out. Crute was beaten by Anthony Smith at UFC 261 when a leg kick caused his leg to completely give way, forcing the doctor to stop the fight after the first round. For Hill, he took on Paul Craig at UFC 263 and saw his arm disturbingly dislocated and then was elbowed into oblivion for defeat.
Beyond those defeats though, both of these guys are excellent prospects. Crute is a decent striker with a good job and winging hooks, but it’s his amazing wrestling and ground game that separates him from the pack. Hill on the other hand is a power striker with unbelievable knockout power and good speed on the feet. He probably has a slight edge in a striking battle, but Crute has a huge edge when it comes to the ground game.
Crute will likely stand on the feet for just long enough to time a takedown and secure top control, where he will work his way to the back via ground and pound and then secure a rear-naked choke at some point in the middle round. PICK – Jimmy Crute via Submission, Round 2
Brad Riddell (10-1) vs Rafael Fiziev (10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
This one is a genuine contender for fight of the night. Riddell is on a seven-fight win streak with four coming in the UFC, including a decision over Drew Dober at UFC 263. Fiziev is on a four-fight win streak, with a decision over Bobby Green at UFC 265 in his last outing.
Both guys are amazing strikers, with brilliant kickboxing technique and knockout power as well as some decent wrestling defence on both sides too. Both have kick heavy attacks, with Fiziev’s body kick a trademark weapon of his while Riddell is arguably more comfortable with his hands in the striking department.
Both will throw leg kicks but Fiziev’s preference to fight at range is likely to be a difference maker here. He’s had some cardio issues in the past which Riddell could look to target in the latter rounds, but I do think that Fiziev’s kicking game and edge in power will see him claim a hugely entertaining victory. PICK – Rafael Fiziev via Decision
Rob Font (19-4) vs Jose Aldo (30-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A truly brilliant main event to headline this card between two top five bantamweights. Font is on a four-fight win streak, after stopping Marlon Moraes at UFC Vegas 17 and dominating Cody Garbrandt most recently. Aldo on the other hand has picked up consecutive wins for the first time since February 2019 when he earned decisions over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz most recently at UFC 265.
Both of these guys could easily have turned professional when it comes to their boxing skills, with brilliant jabbing skills and excellent combinations. They both also have solid leg kicks, while Aldo is also a jiu-jitsu black belt although he very rarely uses it at all. Font has a slight reach advantage in this one which will undoubtedly play a part in the striking battle that will ensue.
Font’s combinations are truly great and if he can work the body of Aldo then it could pay dividends in the latter rounds, with the Brazilian fading in his most recent fights. However Aldo has got his own combinations, throws super-hard leg kicks and his own body work is great too. The grappling is something we could end up seeing out of Aldo which would lean it towards him, but it’s the low kicks and combinations to the head that have me edging the victory in Aldo’s favour. PICK – Jose Aldo via Decision
There is an argument to be made that Jose Aldo is one of the very best of all-time and has had the storied, fairytale career that many fighters dream of.
After being crowned featherweight champion during the WEC days back in 2009, he was promoted to UFC’s featherweight champion when the organisation completed a buyout in 2010.
As the UFC’s crown jewel at 145lbs, Aldo dominated the division for the best part of four years. He beat everyone there was to beat at the time, until he ran into Conor McGregor’s violent left hand.
It seemed that knockout at UFC 194 in 2015 was the start of a downward spiral that every great fighter seems to have these days.
It marked the start of a run of six losses in nine fights, which was remarkable considering he didn’t taste defeat for over ten years prior to that fight.
It was a defeat to now featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski that sparked a change for Aldo though, who decided to drop down in weight to 135lbs to try and challenge for the bantamweight title.
In a back and forth battle with Marlon Moraes, it started with a defeat that many disputed. Ultimately though, it was yet another loss on his record as part of that run.
The performance was enough to convince the UFC to give him a title shot for the vacant belt though after TJ Dillashaw was suspended for using banned substances and stripped of his reign.
He went up against Petr Yan and ultimately fell short at UFC 251, with the Russian using superior boxing skills to eventually wear the older Aldo down and earn a TKO victory in the fifth and final round.
Since then though, the Aldo we have seen at 135lbs has been nothing short of excellent. Another fun scrap between himself Marlon Vera got him back on the winning trail at UFC Vegas 17, before facing off with Pedro Munhoz at UFC 265 and coming out on top in a three-round war.
Now ranked at number four once again, Aldo takes on Rob Font for a chance at possible redemption against Yan in yet another title fight.
But more than that, a win over Font could set up a dream fight between Aldo and Dillashaw that many wanted to see years prior.
While both men reigned supreme at the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, neither seemed keen to switch into the other’s path.
After his last win though, Aldo called Dillashaw out for his return bout only for him to instead fight Cory Sandhagen and win. That seemed to set him up for the next title shot, only for knee surgery to set him back a few places.
With Aljamain Sterling set to defend against Yan in their highly anticipated rematch early in 2022, Dillashaw may need another bout to keep himself active before potentially getting that shot again.
If Aldo can earn the victory at UFC Vegas 44 over Rob Font, he will be perfectly placed to finally get that fight that he has wanted for a long time.
Should he manage to get that fight and get the win that he is so sure he can deliver, then the only logical next step from that would be another shot at UFC gold.
It would mark yet another chapter in the fairytale of Aldo’s career to date and whether he was successful or not, it would cement his legacy and add even more certainty to the argument surrounding his G.O.A.T status.
The UFC returns from a two week break to close out the year with some heavy main events, starting off with bantamweights Rob Font and Jose Aldo going head-to-head.
The two top five ranked 135-pounders will meet at UFC Vegas 44 this weekend in a bout that will decide whether it’s time to usher in a new generation of title contenders, or whether one of the best ever is still good enough to compete at the highest level.
For Font though, it stands as much more than just beating one of the best champions in the history of the UFC.
After making his debut with the company way back in 2014, Font’s boxing skills were always on show for all to see.
His first fight with the organisation ended in a brutal first-round knockout win and performance of the night bonus, but he then missed over a year of action following injuries that forced two separate bouts to be scrapped.
He finally returned in January 2016 and KO’d another opponent, before a decision loss to John Lineker. That would be the first of just three losses to date in the UFC, with the others coming against Pedro Munhoz and Raphael Assuncao.
Despite 12 fights in the organisation, Font has never lost consecutive fights in his UFC career. He has a 9-3 record against elite opposition and a 19-4 record overall throughout his career.
Yet only now, after four wins in a row against Sergio Pettis, Ricky Simon, Marlon Moraes and Cody Garbandt is he being recognised as a potential threat to the throne currently occupied by Aljamain Sterling.
But at UFC Vegas 44 he will step into the cage against one of the true greats of the mixed martial arts world. This is his chance to become a household name and break through that glass ceiling that has been silently holding him back throughout his career.
At 34-years-old, it isn’t quite now or never for Font. Aldo is 35-years-old but his career has seen much higher highs and much lower lows, while also going on for much longer.
Despite being ranked number four in the world, Font doesn’t have that marquee name on his resumé as of now. He’s beaten good guys, including former champion Garbrandt, but it was a ‘No Love’ who had one foot in the flyweight division as hasn’t been himself since losing the title.
A win over this Aldo, who is past his best and yet still has managed to climb his way back up the title ladder by beating some solid guys and recovering from losses, would be the top layer of the cake for Font.
He has a great chance to cement himself as one of the very best 135-pounders in the world currently with a win. With Cory Sandhagen suffering back-to-back losses and TJ Dillashaw recovering from knee surgery, a statement victory could put Font right in line.
Sterling will fight Petr Yan early in 2022 to unify the division, but after that the next contender is up for grabs. If Font can secure a stellar performance and victory, it will be very hard for the UFC to deny him his chance to claim gold for the first time.
The top of two of the most exciting divisions in the UFC have got themselves a new contender after UFC Vegas 27.
In the men’s bantamweight division, number three ranked Rob Font took on number four ranked Cody Garbrandt in the main event and put together a striking clinic to completely dominate the former champion en route to a unanimous decision win.
It was a fight billed to see whether Garbrandt had really evolved into a more mature fighter after getting back on the win trail last time out following three knockout losses in a row, or whether Font could establish himself as one of the best in the world and worthy of being in the title picture.
In the end though, both proved to be true. Garbrandt was able to stick to a game plan for the majority of the fight and not lose his mind, then entering a brawl at the detriment of his chin. However, Font’s game plan and ability to jab and use a six-inch reach advantage just proved too much to overcome on this occasion for the 29-year-old.
Losing to a top fighter isn’t something to be ashamed of and Font has now proven he is among the best in the world.
With the title being held up currently with the champion Aljamain Sterling recovering from neck surgery, Font is aware that he is unlikely to get the next shot. Following the fight he called to get the winner of the fight between Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw, whose cancelled bout has been rearranged for July 24th.
While that’s unlikely to be the deal considering Sandhagen in particular feels he deserves a shot already, never mind with a win over Dillashaw, he’s earned himself the right to make such call outs and give UFC president Dana White a headache.
In the co-main event, we saw an old contender re-emerge as the inaugral champion of the division Carla Esparza ended the unbeaten run of Yan Xiaonan in the UFC with a second-round TKO win.
Esparza dominated the fight, using her excellent wrestling to secure top position and win the positional battle before progressing into a crucifix position and raining down strikes on her bloodied opponent until the referee stepped in to stop it.
After the fight she called for White and the UFC to make a rematch of the first ever fight for the belt between herself and newly crowned champion Rose Namajunas.
White isn’t as convinced, telling the post-fight press conference that he needed to decide between Esparza or giving Weili Zhang an immediate rematch.
Esparza is now on a five-fight win streak and after losing the title back in 2015 to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, she never got another opportunity at the belt. She’s the best placed 115lbs fighter to challenge for it now and it would be more than deserved.
Elsewhere on the card Yan Xiaonan takes on Carla Esparza in the co-main event to potentially determine the next contender for Rose Namajunas’ strawweight title, while Jack Hermansson and Edmen Shahbazyan meet in their delayed middleweight scrap too.
Last week at UFC 262 we didn’t have the best of nights prediction wise, going 6/12 with two perfect picks to move up to 314/494 (63.56%) with 136 perfect picks (43.31%).
Hermansson is one of the best grapplers in the division, with a sneaky submission game and fantastic top control once he gets on top, while Shahbazyan is as pure a striker as they come in the division with sensational kickboxing. Hermansson will be happy to stand if he can keep the distance short, but if he gets hold of him will almost certainly look to put him on his back.
While Shahbazyan has got great talent for all to see, his hype has made people forget he’s only 23. He’s in no rush to hit the top of the mountain right now and I think he still has holes in his game that ‘Joker’ can expose and I think he’ll get the win here. PICK – Jack Hermansson via Knockout, Round 2
David Dvorak (19-3) vs Raulian Paiva (20-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A potential fight of the night at flyweight here as two 125lbers look to break into the top ten of the rankings with a big win. Dvorak has won 15 fights in a row, including wins over Bruno Silva and then Jordan Espinosa in 2020, while Paiva bounced back from consecutive defeats to earn back-to-back wins over Mark De La Rosa and then Zhalgas Zhumagulov at UFC 251.
Dvorak is a special grappler, with good striking to set up his takedowns where he will look to control position and eventually try and get to the back and look for chokes. Paiva on the other hand is a super striker with quick hands and great kicks, who’s ground game is okay but not so much when it’s against someone like Dvorak. ‘The Undertaker’ is relentless with his pressure and can hold his own on the feet too, meaning those kicks Paiva throws leave him susceptible to getting them caught and taken down.
Paiva could win the striking battle on the feet, but Dvorak will win any grappling battles on the mat and that’s where the difference lies. For me, Dvorak gets the fight down and controls position to nullify the threat of Paiva for a wide decision win. PICK – David Dvorak via Decision
Felicia Spencer (8-2) vs Norma Dumont (5-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
The first ladies on the card get a nice spot on the main card as former title challenger Felicia Spencer looks to get back in the win column against Norma Dumont. Spencer took ‘Cyborg’ to a decision in a losing effort before beating Zarah Fairn dos Santos via KO in the first round to set up a defeat to Amanda Nunes at UFC 250. Dumont got slaughtered in her first UFC performance against Megan Anderson, before earning a win at bantamweight over Ashlee Evans-Smith.
Spencer is a natural 145lbser among the women which is a positive immediately, with great striking and decent grappling to boot. Dumont on the other hand is a grappler with jiu-jitsu skills and a decent bit of striking on the feet, but will have a huge size disadvantage that she’ll need to overcome. Spencer is the far better wrestler and has better striking and this fight just seems like a lay up for the bigger woman in a division that is limited in it’s contenders.
Spencer should be able to have her way entirely in this one for a dominant decision win. PICK – Felicia Spencer via Decision
Justin Tafa (4-2) vs Jared Vanderaa (11-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Tafa is a brawler, with tremendous power in his hands but an interesting chin and not the best boxing skills as he showed against Felipe. Vanderaa is a striker/wrestler type, who will look to step forward to close the distance with his hands and then get hold of you to put you on the ground. He has a big height and reach advantage meaning Tafa will have to take risks to step inside.
Despite that, I don’t think Vanderaa will be able to get a finish. If Tafa lands a heavy shot or two early on it could cause big problems, but Vanderra should be able to use his size and experience to see out a pretty comfortable win. PICK – Jared Vanderra via Decision
Yan Xiaonan (13-1 1NC) vs Carla Esparza (18-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Xiaonan is a great striker, with terrific speed and solid kicks to go with some brilliant takedown defence. That will be put to the test though against Esparza, who’s biggest strength is her wrestling skills. She can get you to the ground and control the top position, with decent strikes and submission skills. Xiaonan’s path to victory is clearly on the feet, with decent power although all her UFC fights thus far have gone the distance.
Ultimately it comes down to whether or not Esparza can put Xiaonan on her back and keep her there, but I’d be very shocked if that’s the case. Expect Xiaonan to piece her up on the feet and deny the takedown attempts to cruise to a huge win on the judge’s scorecards. PICK – Yan Xiaonan via Decision
Rob Font (18-4) vs Cody Garbrandt (12-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Both Font and Garbrandt are boxing heavy fighters, with terrific hand speed and legitimate one-punch power. Font is the technically cleaner fighter of the two, working behind his jab with great footwork and combinations, while Gabrandt is quicker and more powerful but a bit looser with his technique. Font’s biggest win came in his last fight and while impressive on paper, Moraes has proved to be rather chinny in recent fights and that’s definitely something to consider. Garbrandt’s three losses were all by knockout because he refused to fight smart but we’ve seen his brilliance in the past and he looked much better against Assuncao too.
It’s a super even fight, between two guys who will feel they can beat the other at what they do best. For Font, he’s never been knocked out in the past but also never had to go five rounds. Despite that, I think Garbrandt’s past of being knocked out viciously could play against him in this one. Font hits hard and clean and with his speed to counter, I think he gets the biggest win of his career. PICK – Rob Font via Knockout, Round 3
Instead he’s hung around at his more natural weight class and taken a fight against one of the most lethal strikers in the division, where a win will give Dana White a real headache when it comes to what to do next.
It was a fantastic performance from ‘No Love’ last time out, as he bobbed and weaved through Assuncao’s power with an excellent jab and great footwork before ducking down and landing a huge haymaker to end the fight on the buzzer.
That came after three consecutive knockout defeats, where Dillashaw turned his lights out twice before Pedro Munhoz poured the pressure on and won in a firefight. It was a more mature performance from Garbrandt as he was patient behind his strikes and looked to avoid getting his head taken off, rather than trying to walk through it.
But when he comes up against Font it will be a whole new ball game. The 33-year-old has earned a reputation as one of the best boxers in the entire UFC, never mind the bantamweight division, and when he throws it comes with venom and accuracy.
That’s a recipe for disaster for Garbrandt, who has been prone to going down against power punchers and leaving his chin in the air. But considering the new maturity of performance he showed against Assuncao, this is a great chance for him to show if he really is back or if the criticism he received for “handpicking an opponent” was justified.
If he’s able to survive the test that a game Font will put on for him, then he’ll be deserving of all the praise that will undoubtedly come his way. If he gets iced by Font however, it will show that he has a huge issue against the elite of the division and that his title win may have just been a timing thing rather than him ever being the top dog.
For Font, a win shows he belongs at the top of the division and that is ranking isn’t a false position and his next fight could well be against one of Yan, Sandhagen or Dillashaw before a potential title fight himself.
He could either fall flat on his face against a former champion, which is no shame, or beat one and do himself no harm.
It’s without a doubt going to be a banger of a fight and one that will have huge repercussions at the top of the division for both men. Don’t miss it.