Eryk Anders (14-7) vs Kyle Daukaus (11-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Middleweight scrap opens up the main card and it’s a good’n. Anders has lost his last two in a row, getting submitted by Andre Muniz at UFC 269 before dropping a split decision to Jun Yong Park back in May. Daukaus on the other hand earned a first-round submission win over Jamie Pickett in his first fight of the year, but was KO’d by Roman Dolidze in June last time out.
Anders is a stout wrestler with great upper body strength and heavy hands, but he’s never quite been able to string it all together for a run at the top end of the division. Daukaus is in a pretty similar boat, although much earlier on in his UFC career, but he has a much better ground game when it comes to submissions as his nine submission wins and nickname “The D’Arce Knight” show you.
Usually this type of fight favours Anders, because he can avoid being on the bottom with his wrestling and uses his heavy hands to flatline people. But he hasn’t got a KO win in over three years and Daukaus has the wrestling ability to stuff his advances too. He’s far more active on the feet too so the volume should be a factor, and if he does manage to get this fight down he’ll have the edge, so I lean towards Daukaus in this one. PICK – Kyle Daukaus via Decision
Jack Hermansson (23-7) vs Roman Dolidze (11-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Another fun middleweight bout next, but this one came together on short notice. Hermansson is on a 3-3 run in his last six, alternating wins and losses in that time. He suffered a split decision loss to Sean Strickland in February, but claimed a decision win over Chris Curtis at UFC London last time out. Dolidze is replacing Derek Brunson on one weeks’ notice, on a three-fight win streak, beating Laureano Staropoli via decision before KO wins over Kyle Daukaus and Phil Hawes most recently in October.
Hermansson is a terrific grappler, with some of the best submissions and ground and pound in the entire division, but his stand up game has seen him struggle on occasion and a title shot continues to evade him at this point in his career. Dolidze is a stud grappler himself, but since dropping to middleweight he has looked far more powerful and has been a huge threat in the stand up too. Hermansson is a good boxer and his cardio has never, ever been tested, while Dolidze is a bit more wild and has had issues with his gas tank in the past.
Dolidze has the ability to go in there and land one of those power shots to close the show, but against someone as good as Hermansson it seems unlikely. The Swede is capable of winning this fight wherever it goes and having had a full camp, plus his advantage in the boxing with his jab, he should edge a competitive fight. PICK – Jack Hermansson via Decision
Tai Tuivasa (15-4) vs Sergei Pavlovich (16-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big time heavyweight bangers up next. Tai Tuivasa had won five-in-a-row by knockout against Stefan Struve (UFC 254), Harry Hunsucker (UFC Vegas 22), Greg Hardy (UFC 264), Augusto Sakai (UFC 269) and Derrick Lewis (UFC 271) before losing to Ciryl Gane at UFC Paris back in September in a thrilling fight. Pavlovich has won his last four in a row, KO’ing all of Marcelo Golm, Maurice Greene, Shamil Abudrakhimov and Derrick Lewis.
Tuivasa is a straight up brawler with some decent leg kicks and other-worldly power in both hands, as well as hugely improved cardio that he showed in his last fight. Pavlovich is also a dangerous puncher with great combinations and nasty power, and at 6ft 3 he has a slight size edge here.
With that said, there isn’t much that separates these two. I went against both when they fought Lewis because I expected them to get flattened, and the opposite happened. Lewis is the best guy Pavlovich has fought, while we saw a lot of Tuivasa against Gane and he really impressed. It’s the level of competition that leads me this way, but I think Tuivasa gets it done in a war. PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 2
Matheus Nicolau (18-3-1) vs Matt Schnell (16-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Huge flyweight bout up next. Nicolau comes into this fight on a five-fight win streak, including 3-0 in the UFC with decision wins over Manel Kape (UFC Vegas 21), Tim Elliott and David Dvorak most recently. Schnell is 1-1 in his last two, losing to Brandon Royval via submission at UFC 274, before bouncing back with a submission win of his own against Sumudaerji in one of the comebacks of the year.
Nicolau is a super well-rounded threat and is destined to be in the title mix at some point in his career. His kickboxing is excellent, he has a solid wrestling game and five submission wins tell you all about his ground threat. Schnell is very similar, but far more aggressive which leaves him open to counters more but also more of a danger when it comes to securing a finish. Nicolau is unlikely to change his game for this fight, because overall he is the more polished MMA man.
With that said he will have to be careful. Schnell seems to be the more powerful guy on the feet and his submission threat is certainly more dangerous. If he tightens up defensively he could be a big problem, but based on what we’ve seen from them both it would be more of a surprise if Nicolau didn’t do enough everywhere to earn the nod from the judges. PICK – Matheus Nicolau via Decision
Bryan Barbarena (18-8) vs Rafael Dos Anjos (31-14) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An interesting welterweight bout up next between two unranked guys. Barbarena has won his last three, claiming decisions over Darian Weeks and Matt Brown, before earning a KO win over Robbie Lawler at UFC 276 most recently. Dos Anjos is returning after a stint back at lightweight, where he beat Paul Felder (UFC Vegas 14) and Renato Moicano but most recently got stopped by Rafael Fiziev.
Barbaerna is a power puncher with great boxing and counter-punching skills, while he has a decent bit of wrestling in his back pocket too. Dos Anjos is no doubt one of the best, all-round MMA fighters there is in the UFC and it’s no surprise he was a champion at one point, but age is catching him up. His striking mixed in with excellent wrestling and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu makes him a true great in the sport.
This seems like a mismatch. Barbarena is riding a wave of momentum, but he doesn’t have any real notable wins on his record and any time he’s tried to step up to face someone better he’s been handily beaten. That’s going to happen again. Expect RDA to land clean a few times and then mix in his wrestling for a dominant 30-26 win on the cards. PICK – Rafael Dos Anjos via Decision
Stephen Thompson (16-6-1) vs Kevin Holland (23-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super intriguing welterweight bout up next between two ranked contenders. “Wonderboy” has lost each of his last two, being grappled heavily by Gilbert Burns (UFC 264) and Belal Muhammad. Holland was on a great run after moving to 170-pounds with wins over Alex Oliveira and Tim Means, before the chaos of UFC 279 saw him matched up with Khamzat Chimaev on less than 24 hours notice and run over in just over two minutes at a catchweight.
Thompson remains one of the best pure strikers in the company, with his awkward karate style and footwork allowing him to control the tempo of fight and do damage for long periods of time. Holland is a very explosive and powerful striker on the feet, but he is also an underrated grappler with great jiu-jitsu skills which could be a route to victory for him here. His preference is striking though, and it seems unlikely he will have an edge there.
If Holland wants to be successful he needs to be able to cut the cage off and land big shots, and mix in the threat of the takedown and grappling. If he can’t do that, Wonderboy will do what he’s always done and just pick him apart from the outside with little threat of anything coming back at him. Wonderboy is a super tempting underdog, but I really like Holland at 170 and think this could be his statement win. PICK – Kevin Holland via Decision
Joseph Holmes (8-2) vs Junyong Park (14-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Middleweights step into the octagon next. Holmes saw a seven-fight win streak snapped in his UFC debut against Jamie Pickett back at UFC Vegas 46, but bounced back with a first-round submission win over Alen Amedovski in May last time out. Park alternatively saw a three-fight win streak in the UFC ended when Gregory Rodrigues knocked him out in October last year, but he rebounded with a split decision win over Eryk Anders in his last fight.
Holmes is an excellent wrestler who comes into this fight with a huge advantage in height and reach, while his submission game and top control are big weapons that he likes to use. Park is a bit of a wild man in the octagon, with decent striking and good grappling defence but not really excelling in any department outside of his excellent cardio.
On paper Holmes should be able to use his reach to control where this fight takes place, but Park is very durable and will pressure Holmes plenty during this fight. Expect him to overwhelm Holmes and land the more eye-catching shots while refusing to be held down to score a win on the judge’s scorecards. PICK – Junyong Park via Decision
Andrei Arlovski (34-20) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (19-9-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweight scrap up next between two veterans of the game. 43 year old Arlovski has bounced back from a submission loss to Tom Aspinall (UFC Vegas 19) with four straight wins over Chase Sherman, Carlos Felipe, Jared Vanveraa (UFC 271) and Jake Collier most recently. De Lima is 37 himself and is 2-2 in his last four, losing to Alexander Romanov (UFC Vegas 13) and Blagoy Ivanov either side of wins against Maurice Greene and Ben Rothwell.
Arlovski is one of the most complete heavyweights in history, with an excellent wrestling game to go with his expert kickboxing and good power. De Lima is a bulldozer who steps forward looking to end the fight in the first 150 seconds before slowly falling off a cliff with his cardio in the bin. This looks like another typical bout for Arlovski that he likely won’t be losing.
If De Lima lands flush a couple of times then Arlovski is going to sleep, but we’ve said that often in recent years and it hasn’t happened. Arlovski is still savvy enough to avoid those big shots and get his own damage in, and with De Lima’s cardio so poor, expect him to see off the initial blitz and then mix in some wrestling and clinch work to claim a decision win. PICK – Andrei Arlovski via Decision
Phil Hawes (12-3) vs Roman Dolidze (10-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Banger at middleweight in the featured prelim bout of the night. Hawes was on an absolute tear in the UFC winning his first three fights over Jacob Malkoun (UFC 254), Nassourdine Imavov and Kyle Daukaus, before a shock loss to Chris Curtis at UFC 268. He responded to that with a KO win over Deron Winn most recently. Dolidze recently made it two wins in a row, beating Kyle Daukaus via first-round KO.
Hawes is a brilliant kickboxer with legitimate knockout power and fantastic wrestling to go with it, making him a legitimate threat in the weight division. Dolidze on the other hand is a super wrestler who looks to use that to grind on his opponents and control them on the ground, handing out some decent ground and pound in the process. Big problem for him here though, he’s not as good at Hawes at anything.
“No Hype” should be able to have his way with Dolidze wherever this fight goes, but Dolidze is talented enough to make him pay if he isn’t at the top of his game. Hawes has got great power and a great array of attacks, so he should be able to land well and mix it up enough to potentially claim a finish but I do think Dolidze will be able to go the full 15. PICK – Phil Hawes via Decision
Song Yadong (17-5-1) vs Julio Arce (17-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A banger at bantamweight between two guys on the edge of a ranking. Yadong bounced back from defeat to Kyler Phillips at UFC 259 with a split decision win over Casey Kenney at UFC 265. Arce returned from a near two-year absence with a KO win over Andre Ewell at UFC Vegas 32.
Yadong is a brilliant all-round fighter with great wrestling and even better striking, with tremendous speed and power. Arce is a great boxer in his own right with good power and great volume, but he has proven to be hittable on the inside in the past. That is somewhere that Yadong excels and could be a big problem for him in this fight.
Song is so experienced for a 23-year-old and ultimately I think the fact he is so well-rounded can only help him here. He has the power and speed to catch Arce in a stand-up battle and has the wrestling skills to make him think twice and therefore leaving him open to getting caught and getting beaten. PICK – Song Yadong via Knockout, Round 2
Felicia Spencer (8-3) vs Leah Letson (5-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A women’s featherweight bout in this one, but I’m not sure why it’s on the main card. Spencer has lost her last two, losing a title fight to Amande Nunes at UFC 250 before Norma Dumont earned a split decision win at UFC Vegas 27. Letson is on a five-fight win streak but hasn’t fought since the TUF Finale back in 2018.
Spencer is a natural featherweight with decent boxing skills and a real lack of grappling skills in her weaponry. Letson is making a return after a bunch of health issues kept her out, but she is a good wrestler with decent volume on the feet too. Spencer has fought five times since Letson last did and she’s been in there with some of the best ever.
Ultimately these two have been matched up simply because the featherweight division is empty. Letson will make it competitive for the most part, but Spencer is comfortably better than her and will show it over 15 minutes to earn a victory. PICK – Felicia Spencer via Decision
Miguel Baeza (10-1) vs Khaos Williams (12-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute BANGER at welterweight in this one and my pick for fight of the night. Baeza was undefeated and brilliant before he stepped into the cage against Santiago Ponzinibbio last time out, while Khaos has won nine of his last ten bouts including a decision over Matthew Semelsberger at UFC Vegas 29 last time out.
Both of these guys are absolute powerhouses when it comes to striking. Baeza is a more technical striker on the feet with great power, while Khaos is one of the hardest hitters in the division with great speed. An issue for Baeza is that he has been hittable in the past and that is a big problem against someone like Williams, who will punish you for it.
Baeza has got brilliant leg kicks which can effect the footwork of Williams and when they get into exchanges, that could be the difference maker. Neither guy has been finished before, but I don’t see this one going the distance and I think Baeza’s greater technique serves to earn him a highlight reel KO. PICK – Miguel Baeza via Knockout, Round 2
Ben Rothwell (39-13) vs Marcos Rogerio de Lima (18-8-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A big heavyweight bout is the official co-main event for this one. Rothwell has won three of his last four, earning a submission win over Chris Barnett last time out. De Lima on the other hand has alternated wins and losses since 2014, going 6-5 in his last 11 fights with a win over Maurice Greene at UFC Vegas 26.
Rothwell is a powerful striker with great boxing and good submission skills too. De Lima on the other hand is also a super exciting striker with crazy knockout power and good Muay-Thai skills, but the elephant is the room is that he is an out-of-shape light heavyweight. That is a big problem, because he’s big by choice and Rothwell isn’t.
Both of these guys love a first-round knockout, with THIRTY-SIX (36!) between them and the likelihood is we’ll see that again. De Lima is aggressive and has good hand speed, but Rothwell has an iron chin and a granite fist too. Rothwell catches him with a hook in the exchange early and earns a KO win. PICK – Ben Rothwell via Knockout, Round 1
Max Holloway (22-6) vs Yair Rodriguez (14-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A title eliminator in the featherweight division is the main event of the night. Holloway bounced back from consecutive defeats to Alexander Volkanovski with a stunning performance at UFC Fight Island 7 in January over Calvin Kattar. Rodriguez hasn’t fought since a win over Jeremy Stephens back in 2019 but is still ranked at number three in the world.
Holloway is a sensational boxer, arguably the best in the entire UFC, with brilliant power, volume and an incredible gas tank that he uses to just annihilate opponents as the fight enters deep waters. Rodriguez is a very kick-heavy striker with good elbows and spinning attacks too, but generally using his legs to keep range and attack. These are the two best strikers in the division going toe-to-toe and it’s set to be a truly brilliant fight.
But when you look at the style of both of these fighters, it’s Holloway who stands out more. His boxing is so good with his head movement, footwork and jab and there is nobody in the UFC who closes the distance better than him. Rodriguez will have his moments, but overall Holloway is just a level above and I think his body work and boxing ultimately melts Rodriguez for a late finish. PICK – Max Holloway via Knockout, Round 4
Claudio Puelles def Jordan Leavitt via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Interesting start to the fight as both men trade leg kicks and body kicks before Leavitt changes levels and shoots in for a takedown. Puelles immediately rolls through to try and reverse but Leavitt holds onto the single leg and forces a scramble for the position. Neither men give anything up and eventually Leavitt is able to get into the guard but only for a few seconds before Puelles kicks him off. Leavitt doesn’t let go and tries to hold him down again but Puelles is eventually able to get back to the feet where they trade leg kicks again. Puelles shoots in for a takedown this time but Leavitt defends it pretty well before Puelles gets into his guard with about 40 seconds left. Neither fight lands any real offence as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Leavitt probably.
Second round more of the same early on from both guys with a few rangy kicks before Leavitt shoots in for a single leg takedown again. Puelles defends it well once again and manages to reverse to end up on Leavitt’s back, but he’s able to reverse into a kneebar attempt to escape and ends up with Puelles in his guard again. Puelles stands up and avoids an up-kick before landing a big left hand as Leavitt looks to get back up and they end up on the ground once again. Puelles looks to take the back and starts throwing a few strikes to free it up but Leavitt is defending faitly well. Puelles locks in a body triangle with 30 seconds to go but nothing else happens and the round ends. 19-19.
Puelles opens up the round with a takedown early on this time and he gets it easily, with Leavitt pretty content to work from his back currently. Leavitt tries to scramble back to his feet but Puelles doing really well to shut it down and starts landing some ground and pound too. Position over submission for Puelles so far but Leavitt is trying to get up again and goes for an inverted triangle but Puelles avoids it pretty easily. Puelles in the north-south position but not doing enough so the referee stands them up with 90 seconds to go, only for Puelles to score an instant takedown once they resume. A bit of ground and pound but nothing crazy and Puelles should waltz to the victory 29-28.
Sean Woodson def Youssef Zalal via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Fast paced start to this one as Woodson takes the centre and looks to pump out his jab, while Zalal is firing leg kicks and firing overhand rights to counter. Zalal starts landing some nice strikes from the middle and Woodson starting to back up a bit, so Zalal shoots for a takedown. Woodson is able to stuff it against the cage though and then lands a couple of nice kicks before a left hand wobbles Zalal! Zalal recovers well and seems to have the speed advantage so is landing first and preventing the jab of Woodson from being effective. Zalal moves in for another takedown but Woodson defends it well against the cage again before they break and Zalal goes for a double leg this time and gets it to end the round on top. 10-9 Zalal but close round.
Woodson comes out strong in the second round and lands some nice body kicks to back Zalal up, but the ‘Moroccan Devil’ avoids it and goes in for a takedown against the cage once again. Zalal breaks and lands an elbow before shooting back in again, then lands another elbow as they separate again. Woodson loading up with kicks and Zalal finding it pretty easy to avoid them, but Woodson lands a nice straight left. Zalal throws a nice left hook that lands before both guys trade leg kicks and then Woodson lands a nice left hand and jab again. Zalal shoots for a takedown against the cage with 20 seconds left but Woodson synchs up a guillotine but just runs out of time. 19-19 for me.
More of the same at the start of the final round as Zalal goes for another takedown and puts Woodson against the cage, but he is able to defend it well again and break out into the centre. Woodson takes the centre and is forcing Zalal backwards now, landing some decent strikes but then Zalal shoots in again to stop that momentum. Woodson throws a couple of nice knees to the body and is looking for a guillotine again but Zalal picks him up to escape with a minute to go. Zalal shoots in again but Woodson switches it and goes for a guillotine from the top, but Zalal explodes out and they get back to swinging to end the fight. 29-28 Woodson but close for sure.
Manon Fiorot def Tabatha Ricci via Knockout, Round 2 (3:00)
Tentative start from both ladies early on as Fiorot uses her significant size advantage to land he patented side kick and jab. Ricci circling on the outside and bursting with some flurries, but Fiorot staying calm and composed and lands a nasty body kick. She follows up with a nice left hook straight to the chin, but Ricci keeps moving and looking for an entry. Huge left straight from Fiorot down the pipe lands and easily denies a takedown attempt. Fiorot fires off a combination but Ricci just about slips it and gets away. Fiorot has the centre and lands a big left hand again but Ricci responds with a nice strike as the round ends. 10-9 Fiorot but Ricci is showing promise.
Fast start to the second round for Fiorot as she starts to hunt Ricci down and throw combinations against the cage. Fiorot goes for a takedown inexplicably but Ricci denies it and eats another combination up top. Ricci trying to throw some leg kicks but Fiorot checks and keeps coming forward, clinching up and landing two big elbows. Fiorot steps forward with a big combination and drops Ricci and starts teeing off! Ricci gets back to her feet but Fiorot keeps pouring it on and eventually the referee mercifully steps in to end it. Huge knockout win!
Alan Patrick vs Mason Jones – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Absolutely wild first round to start as Jones takes the centre of the octagon and looks to counter some crazy strikes from Patrick. The Brazilian shoots for a takedown but Jones avoids it and lands a nice right hand. Patrick throws some spinning kicks and back fists but Jones is slipping then and responding with big counters. Big exchange of punches from both men as Jones lands a left hand that staggers Patrick. Jones pushes forward with more pressure and Patrick clinches up and pulls guard but Jones starts smashing him with ground and pound. Big, heavy elbows from top position and huge strikes from the top and the referee nearly waves it off but he just runs out of time. 10-9 Jones, great round.
Patrick opens the second round with some more wild techniques before Jones steps in, gets a trip and starts working from top position once again. Some nice ground and pound strikes land but Patrick is able to jump back to his feet. He eats a big left hand and then an accidental eye poke causes a stop. Patrick tells the doctor he can’t see and the fight is waved off. Tough break for Jones.
Steady start to the fight from both guys as they look to feel each other out early on. Amirkhani shoots in for two takedowns but Kirk is able to slip his leg out both times pretty easily. Kirk steps forward and looks to land a right hand but Amirkhani then steps in to close the distance with another shot. This time he gets hold around the body of Kirk and throws him over his head and refuses to let go, before securing a trip and getting heavy on top. Kirk is able to push Amirkhani off and get up relatively quickly though and with no damage before a nice left hand clips Amirkhani. A bit of pressure from Kirk but the round ends, 10-9 either way.
Good start to the second round from Kirk as he steps in with some nice body work and a few straight right hands. Attempted flying knee just misses from Kirk, who then lands a massive right hand right to the side of the head. Three big body shots in a row from Kirk and Amirkhani shoots in again for a takedown but this time gets it, with Kirks attempts at a guillotine and heel hook coming to nothing. Amirkhani now in top position, staying heavy but Kirk throws up a triangle armbar and it’s tight! He locks it out and extends but Amirkhani refuses to tap and the buzzer goes. 20-18 to Kirk for me but could be 19-19 or 20-18 the other way too to be fair.
Final round and Amirkhani lands a big left hand clean on the chin to open up. Both guys look tired and after another left hand from Amirkhani he shoots for the takedown and secures it. Amirkhani heavy on top again, but Kirk throws up another triangle that just can’t get locked up. Kirk gets him back up to the feet but Amirkhani keeps hold of him and drags him down to the mat again, but this time Kirk reverses it and ends up on top. Kirk throwing body shots from the top as Amirkhani just holding him down to stall for time. Kirk postures up and lands a big left hand and the round ends with a stalemate for position. Super close fight, honestly could go either way.
Muslim Salikhov def Francisco Trinaldo via Decision (30-27 x3)
Very tense opening to this fight as both men throw out lots of feints and feelers early on, with Trinaldo coming forward. Salikhov throws a beautiful body kick that slaps, but Trinaldo rushes forward and lands a nice left hand in response. Salikhov taking his time and trying to counter, lands a big overhand right after missing with a left hook and then throwing a big body kick again. Trinaldo coming forward in bursts again and lands a nice left hand to the chin. Salikhov throws a leg kick but it gets checked and then follows up with a big left uppercut that drops Trinaldo! He follows up with some big ground and pound but Trinaldo stays calm on his back and sees it out until the bell. Whew! 10-9 Salikhov.
Good start from Trinaldo in the second round as he comes forward again and bull-rushes Salikhov, landing a nice right hand. Salikhov looks for the uppercut again that just misses, but then follows up with a couple of right hands himself that do land. Trinaldo lands a nice left hand before Salikhov lands a huge right hook that wobbles Trinaldo again! Trinaldo swings some huge punches after he recovers but Salikhov slips them all and lands some nice right hands of his own in between to really start piecing Trinaldo up. Salikhov is seeing the punches coming now and slipping then countering as he throws Trinaldo to the ground. 20-18 Salikhov but Trinaldo is still in this fight.
Final round and Trinaldo comes out swinging once again, but Salikhov counters with a left hook and gets a big eye poke for his troubles. After a pause in the action Trinaldo comes forward and lands a big left hand to that eye that wobbles him. Salikhov responds with a body kick and leg kick, but Trinaldo continues to come forward and look for that big left hand. Salikhov lands a nice leg kick and pushes Trinaldo to the ground at the same time, then eats up some time with a few leg kicks to his grounded opponent too. The referee stands him up and Trinaldo continues to come forward again as we enter the final minute as Salikhov lands a nice straight right hand. Big left hand from Trinaldo forces Salikhov to change levels and dump Trinaldo to the mat to see out the final 30 seconds and surely claim a win. 29-28 Salikhov for me.
Boser taking the centre early on and being the aggressor with some head kick attempts. Latifi just circling on the outside as Boser bounces around and feints some strikes, before another kick attempt gets caught and Latifi puts him on the mat immediately. Latifi works from guard into side control and looks to grind, but Boser is able to swivel his hips and explode back to his feet. Boser steps in with some nice jabs and a left straight but Latifi looking to clinch up every time. Boser lands another big jab and throws another two kicks to see out the round. Tough to score to be honest but I lean to Boser.
Latifi looking to punch his way in early in the second round, stepping forward with a nice overhand right. Boser responds with good foot work and his jab, slipping Latifi’s big punches and just piecing him up rather than landing bombs of his own. Boser steps forward and lands a big right hand that makes Latifi go down holding his eye, but the referee doesn’t step in and Boser goes for the kill! Huge ground and pound strikes against the cage but Latifi defends himself well and eventually clinches up. He shoots for a takedown but Boser defends it and goes for his jabs once again to end the round. 20-18 Boser for me.
Final round and Boser steps out with his jabs again but Latifi goes for an early takedown this time and gets it. Straight into Boser’s guard and this time Latifi is throwing some ground and pound strikes with heavy top pressure, stopping Boser from doing anything significant from his back. More grinding ground and pound from Latifi for almost two minutes at the end of the round and it’s his round but I think Boser will get the nod. 29-28 Boser for me.
*TOM BREESE VS ANTONIO ARROYO CANCELLED DUE TO A MEDICAL ISSUE FOR BREESE*
Montana De La Rosa def Ariane Lipski via Knockout, Round 2 (4:27)
Very patient start to the fight from both women, as Lipski using some feints as De La Rosa keeps the distance short. A few kick attempts from Lipski but eventually De La Rosa closes the distance, secure a body lock and gets Lipski to the ground. De La Rosa stays heavy on top and works her way to full guard where she starts raining down elbows and cuts Lipski wide open to the side of her eye. Lipski not doing much to get up and De La Rosa is able to just land big strikes at will here as the round ends. 10-9 De La Rosa.
Second round and Lipski lands a big right hand immediately, but De La Rosa shoots and gets the takedown perfectly in response. De La Rosa is able to slide into side control and has Lipski against the cage, keeping her in a really tough position and landing those big elbow strikes once again. Lipski is threatening with a kimura but it doesn’t have much hope and then De La Rosa slides into full mount and starts raining down huge elbows and punches. Lipski trying to roll away but De La Rosa refuses to let her and just keeps thumping away until the referee steps in and ends it! Huge win for De La Rosa!
Gregory Rodrigues def Dusko Todorovic via Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
A super start to the fight from the UFC newcomer as Rodrigues steps forward and is landing his power jab well. Rodrigues firing his right straight perfectly too and is catching Todorovic clean very, very often. A clinch up against the cage sees Rodrigues with a judo throw put Todorovic down, but he gets back up to his feet immediately. More crisp right hands land from Rodrigues as Todorovic just eats them, but he’s walking back with his chin high. Todorovic lands a nice right hand of his own to see out the round but that’s a Rodrigues round clearly. 10-9.
Rodrigues coming out aggressive in the second round and finding a home for that right hand over and over again. Some digs to the body from Rodrigues and another big right hand, before a power double leg secures him a takedown too. Todorovic tries to get up using the cage and eats a knee to he head but is able to get away. Rodrigues lands a big straight right hand on the chin again as Todorovic steps forward and throws a little flurry. Final minute and Rodrigues slips a punch and lands a beautiful left-hook, right hand combo. 20-18 Rodrigues, but he’s start to slow down a little.
Third and final round and Todorovic looks like he’s still trying to make reads. Good jab lands twice and forces Rodrigues backwards, but he replies with another big right hand that lands flush. Rodrigues goes for a takedown but Todorovic defends it well this time. Rodrigues steps forward again and lands some big combinations and then eats a jab for his trouble. Rodrigues lands a big right hand once more and then goes to the body, but Todorovic replies with a nice left hand of his own. Into the final 30 seconds and Todorovic lands some great body shows but eats another right hand. Todorovic goes for the takedown at the end of the round but the buzzer goes and it should be a win for the newcomer.
Santiago Ponzinibbio def Miguel Baeza via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast paced start to this one as Ponzinibbio takes the centre of the cage and looks to land some jabs and his right hand as backs Baeza up against the fence. Baeza responding with his kicks, throwing a lot of heavy leg kicks to the lead leg and throwing his right hand behind it. Baeza blasting those calf kicks and forcing Ponzinibbio backwards, and then he lands a nice left-right hand combo. Ponzinibbio comes forward again and lands a nice left hand but Baeza is throwing more and more leg kicks and they’re really totalling up now. Big flurry from Ponzinibbio at the end of the round lands a couple of strikes but ultimately that’s a Baeza round. 10-9.
Fantastic start to the round from Baeza as he targets the calf kicks once again. Baeza lands three body kicks in a row and as Ponzinibbio throws a jab he gets kicked in the calf once again. Big overhand right from Baeza wobbles Ponzinibbio but Baeza stays calm and doesn’t go straight for the kill. Ponzinibbio throws a few calf kicks of his own and a nice right hand but Baeza then goes back to work with the leg kicks. Ponzinibbio starting to land his jab a lot more now as he comes forward with a big flurry of strikes. Ponzinibbio coming forward constantly and is landing lots of strikes in the second half of this round with big combinations to end the round. 19-19.
Fast start to the final round too as Ponzinibbio steps forward again and they trade jabs. Baeza lands two leg kicks again then follows with a right hand that staggers Ponzinibbio. The Argentine continues to come forward with the lead jab and is now throwing a right hand behind it, but Baeza retaliates with a nice right hand combo to the head and body. Ponzinibbio lands a huge flurry and Baeza is hurt, but Baeza lands two right hands and hurts Ponzinibbio right back! Body kick from Baeza before a left hook lands from Ponzinibbio! Both men trade huge leg kicks and exchange wild hooks. Big uppercut from Baeza but Ponzinibbio lands a big one-two, followed by a Baeza right hand again. Both men spend the final 30 seconds going absolutely crazy with hooks and power punches, with Ponzinibbio getting the better of the exchange to end the round! What a fight! 29-28 Ponzinibbio for me.
Roman Dolidze def Laureano Starapoli via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Staropoli comes out very early and very quickly with a solid body kick, followed by two heavy leg kicks. He goes for a head kick that misses and Dolidze immediately shoots in for a takedown. Staropoli gets to his feet against the cage but Dolidze keeps a body lock and drags Staropoli down over and over again for almost the full round. A few knees to the thigh from Dolidze but otherwise a pretty dull round. 10-9 Dolidze.
Second round starts with an immediate power double leg from Dolidze who gets the fight down momentarily before they end up against the cage once again, in the same way as they did the first round. Staropoli eventually is able to spin away and get away from the grip of Dolidze and then lands a couple of kicks again. Big left uppercut from Staropoli lets Dolidze change levels and get another takedown. More clinching against the cage as Staropoli tries to escape and finally he does, before going for a takedown of his own and the same stalemate occurring again. 20-18 Dolidze.
Third and final round and we see more of the same from both fighters, with Staropoli unable to get his striking game going at all because of Dolidze’s strength whenever he gets close. Dolidze holding him against the cage throughout and any spec of danger is evaded. 30-27 Dolidze, next please.
Marcin Tybura def Walt Harris via Knockout, Round 1 (4:06)
Fast start to the round from Harris as he comes forward with intent and starts throwing bombs early. Huge rights and lefts from Harris landing clean but Tybura still standing and wobbling. Harris tries to clinch and goes for knees, then throws a flurry of hooks that drops Tybura again. He goes for a finish but Tybura drives forward for a takedown and gets it against the cage. Harris does well but then Tybura catches a kick and sweeps the leg to get on top. He transitions to the back and puts one hook in, working for a rear naked choke. He then starts landing heavy strikes that are having a big effect on Harris and eventually the referee steps in and ends the fight! Huge knockout win for Tybura!
Jairzinho Rozenstruik def Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)
Slow start to this one as Rozenstruik takes the centre and flicks out a leg kick or two, but generally both guys just feeling each other out for now. Another leg kick is matched by Sakai this time and then goes for another but Rozenstruik catches it and just misses with a counter right hand. Sakai throws a right hand that misses and Rozenstruik fires back with an overhand that whistles past Sakai. Rozenstruik backs Sakai against the cage and throws a flurry of shots but Sakai defends well. He does it again and this time lands a left hook right hand and Sakai is down! He lands a couple of follow ups just before the horn goes but it’s all over! Huge win!
Breese is a powerhouse of a striker with good takedowns and fantastic jiu-jitsu from the top, but on his back he almost seems to freeze against anyone who can get him there. Arroyo is also a grappler but he has really struggled since coming into the UFC and has completely frozen every time he’s got in the octagon.
Breese is in a bit of a rut right now but his skillset is far too well rounded to be caused problems by Arroyo and he should win this one pretty comfortably. PICK – Tom Breese via Submission, Round 2
Dusko Todorovic (10-1) vs Gregory Rodrigues (9-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A short notice middleweight clash as Dusko Todorovic looks to put the first defeat of his career behind him when he takes on replacement opponent Gregory Rodrigues. Todorovic had won ten in a row heading into UFC Fight Island 8, where he was knocked out in the first round by Punahele Soriano. Rodrigues replaed Maki Pitolo on a two-fight win streak, having won his last fight just two weeks ago.
Todorovic is a good kickboxer with some decent kicks but really good straight punches and power. An issue he has however is that he often steps out of exchanges with his hands low and chin high, which could allow for the powerful Rodrigues to cause an upset. The Brazilian is a solid striker himself but he also some good grappling skills to work with and Todorovic on the ground isn’t something we’ve seen much, if any, of.
The short notice nature of the bout makes Todorovic a wide favourite, simply because he has good combinations and hand speed and is at his best when pressuring opponents. Rodrigues could catch him with a big overhand, but the most likely option is Todorovic gets a win with a big blitz. PICK – Dusko Todorovic via Knockout, Round 1
Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-4) vs Miguel Baeza (10-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Ponzinibbio is a brilliant striker, with huge power in his legs and hands and real explosive power. He’s also a more than decent grappler, but he’s got nothing on Baeza when it comes to the ground game. Baeza is a tremendous grappler but also has exceptional power on the feet as shown by his seven knockout wins in his career. The old version of Ponzinibbio would have won this fight no question, but the version who fought Li is likely to lose.
Baeza has had trouble against guys who force him backwards, which Ponzinibbio will likely do, but he’s got such big knockout power in his hands that you have to now question ‘Gente Boa’s’ chin. It’s going to be one-sided, but it completely depends on which Ponzinibbio turns up and after so long away, I just don’t think the old version exists anymore. PICK – Miguel Baeza via Knockout, Round 2
Roman Dolidze (8-1) vs Laureano Staropoli (9-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Dolidze is a solid wrestler, who looks to get takedowns and secure top position as much as possible before landing his good ground and pound game, while Staropoli is a man who prefers to stand and strike if he has the option. It’s a real clash of styles, but there is a big size difference between the two. Dolidze was fighting at 205lbs not long ago while Staropoli has fought at 170lbs in the past and that could be a big factor here.
Staropoli has the striking advantage, but Dolidze will be able to get hold of him and get him down to the ground for long spells of control and a decision victory. PICK – Roman Dolidze via Decision
Walt Harris (13-9 1NC) vs Marcin Tybura (21-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A banger at heavyweight in the co-main event as ‘Big Ticket’ Walt Harris looks to get back in the win column against Marcin Tybura. Harris was knocked out by Alistair Overeem last year before Alexander Volkov outclassed him and stopped in in round two at UFC 254. Tybura is on a four-fight win streak after beating Sergey Spivak, Maxim Grishin at UFC 251, Ben Rothwell at UFC Fight Island 5 and Greg Hardy at UFC Vegas 17.
Harris is as much a first-round heavyweight that there is in the UFC. He’s got incredible power in his hands, winning all 13 of his victories via knockout, and has a relatively poor gas tank considering the level he fights at. Tybura on the other hand is a tidy striker with good techniques and some leg kicks too, but a fantastic gas tank and really good takedowns too.
This was just a weird fight to make in the first place considering their recent records, but it’s also one of those that is quite lopsided stylistically too. Tybura can piece him up on the feet or take him down and land ground and pound to get a comfortable win. PICK – Marcin Tybura via Decision
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (11-2) vs Augusto Sakai (15-2-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight main event that sets up the cushion for those in the heavyweight title picture as Jairzinho Rozenstruik takes on Augusto Sakai. Rozenstruik is 1-2 in his last three, getting starched by Francis Ngannou before a big win over Junior Dos Santos and defeat to Ciryl Gane most recently. Sakai had won six-in-a-row before his last fight, getting knocked out and dominated by Alistair Overeem.
Rozenstruik is an excellent, technical kickboxer with some legitimate one-punch knockout power in his arsenal too. Sakai is also a big, powerful striker and his biggest problems have come against guys who have grappled him and closed the distance. Rozenstruik won’t do that, but he’s without doubt the more technical striker of the two and I’d argue he has the power advantage too.
Both of these guys have big power but while I’m not totally sold on Rozenstruik as a top level guy in this division, he is better than Sakai for me and I expect him to get a spectacular knockout win here once again. PICK – Jairzinho Rozenstruik via Knockout, Round 3
** Gregor Gillespie vs Brad Riddell was cancelled on fight day due to COVID-19 protocols and will be rescheduled for a later date.**
** Julija Stoliarenko was withdrawn from her fight with Julia Avila on medical advice after fainting twice during the weigh-ins.**
THE CARD CONTINUES WITH TEN FIGHTS.
Bruno Silva def JP Buys via Knockout, Round 2 (2:56)
First shot of the fight is a kick from Silva that lands straight on the cup and the referee pauses the fight immediately. Silva throws a hard calf kick once they resume and follows it with a right hand, but Buys comes forward. Buys throws a punch and Silva tries to push him away but a thumb catches Buys in the eye and the referee pauses the fight again. Silva lands a stiff right hand once they restart again ad then Buys lands a nice left hand, before Silva hits a front kick to the body. Buys pulls guard as he closes the distance and starts working for submissions, but Silva very good from the top and lands some nice ground and pound while stifling the transitions. Buys manages to scramble back to his feet and then looks to lock in a kimura that Silva just about defends, but Buys gets himself in a more dominant position against the cage in a clinch. They separate and then Silva lands a big right uppercut that definitely gets Buys’ attention. Buys looks for a takedown as the round ends but it’s denied and Silva lands a spinning back fist that rocks him on the buzzer. 10-9 Silva.
Buys comes out more aggressive in the second round, throwing some head kicks and doubling his jab but he slips when throwing a kick and then Silva gets on top of him. Silva throws some nice strikes on the ground but Buys does well to get back to his feet well. He’s starting to hunt Silva who’s slowing down a bit, but Silva still has the power advantage. Buys lands a huge elbow as they break on the clinch and Silva is hurt. Both men start swinging and Silva lands a beautiful pull right-hand that drops Buys! He goes for the ground and pound and hurts Buys again but he’s able to get up and move away. Silva stalks him again and lands a big right hand again that drops Buys once more and the referee waves the fight off! Huge win for Silva!
Montel Jackson def Jesse Strader via Knockout, Round 1 (1:58)
Patient start from both fighters as they circle, trade jabs and feint. The two clinch up together in the centre and Strader lands some nice knees to the body but Jackson counters with a big right hand that drops Strader! He looks to land ground and pound but Strader gets back up and Jackson stays patient. Jackson continues to come forward and lands a nice left-right combo that drops Strader again and then he stands over him, lands some vicious ground and pound and the referee steps in to wave it off. Impressive win from Jackson!
Trevin Giles def Roman Dolidze via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Strong leg kicks to start the fight from Dolidze, as Giles stays calm in the middle and looks to work his way into striking range. Giles lands a nice head kick with speed, but Dolidze continues with the heavy calf kicks. Giles lands a nice, strong right hand before Dolidze throws a left and then a spinning-back fist with his right. Giles goes in for a punch but Dolidze changes levels perfectly and gets a takedown with relative ease. Giles works his way up to the feet but Dolidze keeps a body lock against the cage and throws plenty of knees to the body and to the thighs to see out the round. 10-9 Dolidze.
Giles comes out in the second round with a huge right hand to wobble Dolidze immediately, but Dolidze gets back to the low kicks. Giles is throwing heavy shots and lands a big left hook, overhand right. Big shots land from Giles again and then Dolidze changes levels and starts looking for a leg lock submission. Giles defends it by throwing some huge strikes to Dolidze’s face, but he’s still in danger. Dolidze finally lets go and they scramble back to the feet, with Dolidze getting another body lock and seeing out the round with knees to the thighs again. 19-19, all to fight for now.
Dolidze comes out in the third with some low kicks and a high kick, then a nice right hand. Giles threatening with his right hand and then thumps one down the pipe that drops Dolidze! Giles looks for a finish but Dolidze clinches up and then starts rolling for submissions and takedowns to recover and ends up on top. Giles works his way back to the feet with a minute to go and Dolidze’s nose is bleeding and causing him problems. Giles goes for a big right hand again and the two clinch against the cage, before Dolidze falls on top of him and sees out the round from top position. Very close fight, I edge it 29-28 to Dolidze.
Grant Dawson def Leonardo Santos via Knockout, Round 3 (4:59)
Nice fast paced start to the fight from both guys as Santos lands some nice low kicks and threatens with his right hand too. Dawson throws a couple of head kicks and starts faking the level change, throwing an overhand right behind it. One of those overhands lands clean and Santos’ legs go from under him, then Dawson goes straight in for a takedown against the cage. He tries to lift Santos but the Brazilian defends it well and they continue to battle against the cage. Santos with a beautiful outside trip and throw to end up on top, but Dawson works his way back to his feet quickly and gets back into a dominant position against the cage. The two continue their clinch battle until the end of the round. 10-9 Dawson for me, but only just. Could go either way.
Good start to the second round once again from both fighters, with both guys willing to stand in front of each other and exchange. Dawson lands a couple of solid right hands that get Santos’ attention, then the Brazilian throws a body kick that lands straight on the cup to cause a pause in the action. Dawson lands some nice leg kicks as the restart, but Santos backing him up against the cage and letting his hands go. Dawson changes levels and clinches up against the cage in a solid position, looking for the takedown but Santos defends well. Referee separates them for inactivity and Santos walks forward again, forcing Dawson to shoot. Santos sprawls and ends up taking the back of Dawson and landing some nice shots but Dawson gets back up to end the round. 20-18 Dawson for me but could well be 20-18 the other way or 19-19.
Final round and Dawson comes out looking for a knockout, with big hooks and trying to put some punches together. Dawson shoots in for a single-leg takedown but Santos defends it brilliantly. Dawson continues to push for a takedown in the clinch against the cage and eventually switches to the back and is able to lift and slam Santos down. Dawson sitting in half guard is firing some ground and pound out but Santos is blocking a lot of the strikes, so not much damage being done. Dawson continues to hold Santos down on the ground as we enter the final minute, landing some nice ground and pound strikes from the top. More pressure from Dawson who stands up in the final seconds and starts to thump Santos in the face and knocks him unconscious!! Oh my God what a finish!
Macy Chiasson def Marion Reneau via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Cagey start to the fight from both ladies, as Chiasson keeps her distance with Reneau looking to land some leg kicks early. Chiasson starting to come forward and lands a couple of nice jabs but still looking quite cagey. Reneau lands a nice left hand and follows that up with a quick flurry as she gets on the inside. Chiasson backs Reneau against the cage and swings a hook but Reneau using some nice footwork to escape. Nice left hand from Chiasson lands and then both ladies exchange a body kick each before they clinch up against the cage. Reneau lands a couple of nice knees then slips to the back to end the round on the attack. 10-9 Reneau.
Second round start and Chiasson being more aggressive from the jump. An exchange in the middle of the cage sees Chiasson land a big left hand that busts up Reneau’s nose immediately and forces her on the back foot. Chiasson throws a combo against the cage but Reneau does well to tie her up in a clinch to try and recover, but Chiasson starts throwing some nice shots to the face as they clinch up. Big elbow from Chiasson as they continue to battle for position in the clinch. Chiasson lands a body kick as they break from the clinch that hurts Reneau and she continues to come forward again looking for a finish. Reneau charges in but Chiasson slips and lands a nice one-two to the chin, then Reneau changes levels and shoots for the takedown. Chiasson battling off her back and attacks a leg lock, then uses it to sweep Reneau and end the round on top. 19-19, great round for Chiasson.
Fast start from both ladies to the final round as they both look for a potential finish. Chiasson doing well to maintain her distance and range on the feet, landing her straight punches but Reneau is doing her best to continue to be a threat. Reneau shoots in for a takedown against the cage and switches to the back, but Chiasson is able to fight it off and keep it on the feet. Reneau comes forward with punches as Chiasson uses her footwork to avoid damage, but Reneau battles for a clinch position against the cage. Reneau gets the fight down but Chiasson is able to get guard quickly and then get back to her feet well. They clinch up again and Chiasson is then able to get a takedown fo her own and starts looking for ground and pound to end the fight on top. 29-28 Chiasson for me.
Tai Tuivasa def Harry Hunsucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:49)
Fast start as Tuivasa comes out with some heavy low kicks that immediately make Hunsucker uncomfortable. Hunsucker lands a big right hand, then Tuivasa responds with a leg kick that makes him grimace in pain. Tuivasa lands a big right hook on the chin that drops him, follows it up with some ground and pound and that’s all she wrote. Big first round KO!
Adrian Yanez def Gustavo Lopez via Knockout, Round 3 (0:27)
Slow start from both guys as they throw out lots of feints and feelers early on to get their range. Lopez wings a wild overhand that just misses, as Yanez throws a calf kick while he looks to find his range. Yanez lands a lovely right hand as Lopez looks to close the distance, then snaps a straight right out there again that lands. Lopez throws a double jab that misses but then throws another one of those wild swings but this time it clips Yanez. Nice left straight and short right hook lands clean on Lopez that forces him backwards. Yanez starting to counter now and rocks Lopez with a lovely one-two down the pipe. Another lands and Lopez is hurt but Yanez stays patient and the round ends. 10-9 Yanez.
Yanez has taken control of the fight now as he stands in the centre and allows Lopez to circle on the outside, showing great patience. Yanez still looking for that one-two and it’s landing well once again. Yanez feinting then rips a beautiful shot that drops Yanez! He goes for the finish but Lopez looks to shoot to recover, but Yanez defends it perfectly. He goes for a flying knee that just misses then exchanges in the pocket with Lopez before easing back up once again. Great head kick from Yanez lands, before Lopez responds with a calf kick. Excellent round for Yanez. 20-18.
Lopez comes out in the third knowing he needs a finish and looks for a big swing. Yanez counters a jab with a pull right-hook that knocks Lopez out cold! What a knockout! Yanez is a star.
Very quick start to the fight as Buys and Ruiz meet in the middle, exchange a wild flurry before Ruiz gets hold of Buys against the cage. She uses her physicality to drag Buys to the ground in a scarf hold like grip and starts to throw rabbit punches from the top. Buys tries to escape with different transitions but the entire round plays out with Ruiz holding that position and throwing those short punches. Buys escapes with seconds remaining and tries to take the back, but too late. 10-9 Ruiz.
Second round and Buys comes out hard once again, landing a big flurry of punches and a head kick too. Ruiz threatening with a left-hand but Buys doing well to avoid, until Ruiz closes in for a clinch and looks for a takedown. She goes for the same position again, but Buys defends it for a second until Ruiz grabs the head and takes her down once more. Ruiz continues with the short rabbit punches and looks to isolate Buys’ arm between her legs but Buys is able to escape momentarily only to get thrown once again into the same position. Buys escapes quicker this time and ends the round in full mount raining down punches. 20-18 Ruiz.
Big right hand from Buys lands hard on Ruiz, who looks much slower and more tired in this final round. Buys is standing in the centre and trying to pick her shots, but not quite enough urgency yet from her considering she’s comfortably down in the fight. Buys throws a flurry of punches then a knee as Ruiz looks to clinch her. Big straight right hand from Buys lands and then Ruiz goes immediately for the head and arm throw and gets it first time. Buys is able to escape and take the back, then looks like she’s going for a calf slicer submission but Ruiz reverses the position and ends up on top to see out the round. 29-28, but it’s a clear Ruiz decision.
Max Griffin def Song Kenan via Knockout, Round 1 (2:20)
A few feelers to start the bout as they trade leg kicks and jabs before Griffin lands a right hook and then shoots in for a takedown. Song defends it well and is able to step away from the cage and throws a head kick that just misses. Griffin lands another strong calf kick that gets a reaction from Song, but he responds with a couple of heavy body kicks. Griffin steps forward with a right straight that wobbles him and knocks him off balance, then follows it up with a one-two that face plants Song! He lands one more shot before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Griffin, big knockout!
Derek Brunson def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (49-45, 49-46 x2)
Confident start from Holland as he comes out throwing kicks and trying to check his range and distance. Holland slips as he throws another kick though and Brunson launches onto him and takes top position immediately. Brunson landing big strikes from the top while Holland looks to swing round on his hips for a potential submission, but Brunson defends well and rains down more punches. Brunson is throwing elbows from the top but Holland is blocking the impact for the most part. Brunson goes for some more ground and pound and Holland escapes back up to his feet as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Brunson.
Brunson comes out meaning business and closes the distance quickly and early but Holland throws kicks and long strikes once again. Brunson goes for a trip but Holland denies the attempt and lands some huge punches that have got Brunson rocked! Holland goes for the kill but Brunson clinches up and then gets a trip to take the fight down to the mat and he controls the round from there, attempting a head and arm choke and landing some ground and pound. 20-18 Brunson.
Third round starts in a similar way, with Holland striking well and landing clean but Brunson’s wrestling is too good for him and he’s getting takedowns at will. He gets hold of him again and gets the trip to sit in the full guard, with Holland seemingly accepting bottom position and looking for strikes from his back. Brunson looks absolutely exhausted on top but Holland not really taking advantage of that as the clock winds down. Brunson throws some ground and pound but it’s really laboured and he remains on top for the remainder of the round. 30-27 Brunson.
Holland comes out a bit more serious than the previous three rounds and looks to land straight shots against a tired Brunson. A couple of straight rights land well from Holland, but Brunson keeps trying to grab hold of him to get the fight to the ground again. Holland falls into the clinch after landing a right hand and Brunson now gets a body lock and takes Holland down into top position. Ground and pound from Brunson as we enter the final minute but Holland tries to get up and Brunson does well to grab hold of him again against the cage and see out the round. 40-36 Brunson.
Final round and Holland knows he needs a finish. Holland goes for an axe-kick that just misses and lands some nice right hands before Brunson clinches up again. Holland throws a couple of knees in the clinch and then trips Brunson to end up on top! Holland throws some decent elbow strikes and some punches before Brunson kicks him off and then shoots in for an immediate takedown of his own which he gets. Short elbows and ground and pound from Brunson as he ends the round standing.
Elsewhere on the card, Gregor Gillespie makes his return to the cage for the first time since the vicious head-kick knockout against Kevin Lee back in 2019 at UFC 244, to take on the kickboxing mastermind in Brad Riddell in the co-main event.
Last week at UFC Vegas 21, it was a strange card that saw two no decisions meaning our picks got cut down to just 11. We went 6/11 on the night with four perfect picks, to take our total to 256/406 (63.05%) with 115 perfect picks (44.92%).
On a 12 fight card this week, lets see if we can improve that starting with the prelims here.
Julia Avila (8-2) vs Julija Stoliarenko (9-5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two women looking to get back into the win column in the women’s bantamweight division as ‘Raging Panda’ Julia Avila takes on former Invicta fighter Julija Stoliarenko. Avila started her UFC career with two wins against Pannie Kianzad and Gina Mazany in just 22 seconds, before losing to Sijara Eubanks at UFC Vegas 10. Stoliarenko was on a five fight win streak coming into her debut against Yana Kunitskaya at UFC Vegas 5, but lost a decision.
Avila is a wonderful stand-up fighter, who has good power in her hands and good takedown defence. With that said, Stoliarenko has a fantastic ground game which includes eight armbar submission wins in her career. If Stoliarenko is able to get the fight down to the ground then it’s highly unlikely the fight sees an end, despite Avila’s skills. While the fight is standing, Avila has the advantage and I think he’s overall skillset will help her to avoid the takedowns and outland Stoliarenko on the feet – but she will be a threat for the entire three rounds. PICK – Julia Avila via Decision
Bruno Silva (10-5-2) vs JP Buys (9-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An exciting UFC debut for South African prospect JP Buys as he takes on Bruno Silva, who looks to earn his first win in the organisation at the fourth attempt. Silva lost his first fight to Khalid Taha, but it was overturned to a no contest after a positive drug test, before losing to David Dvorak and Tagir Ulanbekov on Fight Island most recently. Buys is on a five-fight win streak coming into the UFC, including a submission win on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Both these guys are very solid wrestlers, with Buys arguably having the advantage there. With that said, Buys has struggled in the past with adversity and Silva loves to throw a calf kick. With his own strengths in wrestling Silva could provide good resistance to his takedowns and start to drain the cardio of the ‘Young Savage’. Despite that though, Buys does have the wrestling advantage and those kicks that Silva throws will open the takedown up for him and I expect he’ll be able to get the takedown and control for long stretches on top for a win. PICK – JP Buys via Decision
Montel Jackson (9-2) vs Jesse Strader (5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A banger at bantamweight as Jesse Strader makes his UFC debut against Montel Jackson. Strader comes into the company on a two-fight win streak having won four of his five fights by knockout and his only defeat coming to Marcelo Rojo who debuted last week. Jackson has five UFC bouts under his belt and a positive 3-2 record but lost his last scrap to Brett Johns on Fight Island back in July.
Strader is sure to be a fan-favourite, because he loves to walk forward and force opponents to stand and trade with him. He rips the body so well, is always in your face and just wears his opponents down with firrepower. Jackson on the other hand is a powerful striker too but has great wrestling and that is arguably his best path to victory. Jackson will look to put you on the ground and wear you out but he’s more than comfortable landing strikes too and considering Strader hasn’t fought since 2019 he should get a comfortable win. PICK – Montel Jackson via Decision
Trevin Giles (13-2) vs Roman Dolidze (8-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Dolidze is moving down to middleweight for this fight on short notice, which makes this all the more intriguing. He is a tremendous grappler, with super submission skills and really good control while also having some power in his hands with wild striking technique. Giles on the other hand is a bit of an all-rounder, but he doesn’t really stand out in any department. He’s struggled with good grapplers in the past and if Dolidze decides to go with a judo-heavy attack he will win this comfortably. If he doesn’t, Giles should have a striking advantage and a speed advantage but with such a hole in his grappling, the path to victory is right there for Dolidze. PICK – Roman Dolidze via Decision
Leonardo Santos (18-4-1) vs Grant Dawson (16-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very intriguing lightweight fight between the veteran Leonardo Santos as the hot prospect Grant Dawson. Santos hasn’t lost a fight since 2009 and is 7-0-1 in the UFC including a KO win over Kevin Lee back in 2015 and a decision win over Roman Bogatov at UFC 251. Dawson is Khabib-esque in his gameplan with grinding ground and pound and phenomenal wrestling. Dawson has won seven in a row, including four in the UFC with a decision win over Nad Narimani on Fight Island last year.
Santos is a power puncher with stunning submission skills, winning half of his fights by tap-out. Dawson is a violent wrestler who looks to pound you out after he gets the takedown, but he does sometimes get a little carried away with shooting straight in for takedowns. Santos has a huge right hand that can put Dawson’s lights out but at 41-years-old, his cardio isn’t what it used to be and if Dawson survives the early KO threat then it should be a walk in the park for ‘KGD’. PICK – Grant Dawson via Knockout, Round 3
Marion Reneau (9-6-1) vs Macy Chiasson (7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two women at the complete opposite ends of their career meet in the bantamweight division a couple of weeks later than originally scheduled. Reneau has lost her last three fights in a row, being well beaten by all of Cat Zingano, Yana Kunitskaya and Raquel Pennington at UFC Vegas 3. Chiasson is 4-1 in the UFC after winning the Ultimate Fighter then beating Gina Mazany, Sarah Moras and Shanna Young, with a loss to Lina Lansberg in the middle too.
Reneau is a jiu-jitsu murderer, but her wrestling is absolutely pants. She’s not the best striker in the world by any stretch but she can hold her own and will look to get the fight down quickly to work her submission game. Chiasson is a striker with very good clinch work and good wrestling and should be comfortable enough on the feet to out-land Reneau. With that said, she could go for the takedown to work from top position and so long as she doesn’t go wild and get caught, I expect her to win pretty easily. PICK – Macy Chiasson via Decision
Originally scheduled for 11 fights on the night there are only eight fights taking place on this card now after the following fights fell through on fight night:
– Taila Santos vs Montana De La Rosa (positive COVID-19 test, Santos re-booked vs Gillian Robertson for Dec 19th) – Roman Evloev vs Nate Landwehr (positive COVID-19 test) – Jimmy Flick vs Cody Durden (undisclosed injury, fight re-booked for December 19th)
Jake Collier def Gian Villante via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to the fight for both guys as Collier comes out with jabs and leg kicks, while Villante looks to counter it with big right hands. Villante coming forward and is cracking Collier, busting his nose open in the process. Collier lands a big knee and a big left hand to the body that lands clean. Collier lands a big left hand that rocks Villante and he goes for the kill but he doesn’t quite land with any of his follow up punches. Both guys exchange big punches as the buzzer goes, great round. 10-9 Collier for me.
A slower round this time as Collier comes out leading with the jab and Villante looks for an answer to counter it. Collier looks for a left hook but Villante avoids it and then throws an uppercut-hook combo that lands flush to the chin. Both fighters landing big hooks but neither seemingly with the power to put the other away as we enter the final minute of the round. Collier visibly starting to tire as the round comes to a close. 19-19.
Final round and Collier looking to be very active with push kicks and jabs early on while Villante continues to look for the one big shot. Collier landing a big left hook pretty much at will and looks light on his feet, landing nice body kicks and keeping Villante away. Round comes to an end with Collier pushing the pace and it should be enough for the win. 29-28 Collier.
Ilia Topuria def Damon Jackson via Knockout, Round 1 (2:38)
Very fast, active start to the fight from Topuria as he comes out landing big hooks to the body and beautiful jabs. Jackson swinging back for his own attack but Topuria quite clearly the more comfortable of the two on the feet. Big body shots again from Topuria as Jackson looks to clinch against the cage, but they break quickly. Topuria comes forward again and lands a big uppercut followed by a vicious body shot tha hurts Jackson! Topuria lands a big one two that drops Jackson and then one more violent strike as he’s down and the referee steps in to end it! Masterful performance from the Georgian, who moves to 10-0.
Louis Smolka def Jose Quinonez via Knockout, Round 2 (2:15)
Positive start to the round for Quinonez as he lands a nice low kick and follows it up with a heavy takedown early on. Smolka gets back to his feet quickly and lands a nice kick to the body but Quinonez seems much quicker and more accurate so far. Quinonez landing lots of short shots and adding low kicks on to the end of his combos but Smolka’s right hand is finding a home too. Smolka eats a knee which opens up a cut but he gets the takedown and searches for a submission but Quinonez gets up to end the round. 10-9 Quinonez.
Another quick start to the round for Quinonez as he comes out landing jabs well before landing a takedown inside the opening minute. Smolka gets up very quickly once again though and they continue to throw big shots at each other. Smolka lands a big judo throw and ends up in full mount immediately landing big ground and pound! Quinonez looks to escape but Smolka just floats, gets back into full mount and starts throwing bombs. Quinonez gives up his back and Smolka flattens him out and continues the big ground and pound until the referee steps in. Huge win for Smolka.
Jordan Leavitt def Matt Wiman via Knockout, Round 1 (0:22)
The two meet in the centre, Leavitt shoots in for a double leg and lifts Wiman. He walks him over to his corner and slams him to the mat and Wiman is out COLD! What a win!
Roman Dolidze def John Allan via Split Decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
A very intriguing start to this fight as Dolidze lands an early takedown and has to avoid some armbar attempts from Allan before talking to his corner, almost taunting him, before attempting a heel hook submission. Allan manages to escape and they get back to their feet, with Dolidze landing some straight lefts. Allan lands some body kicks and his jab is much quicker than Dolidze’s but not much damage being done. A clash of heads sees Allan go down and Dolidze goes for a leg lock submission again instead of ground and pound as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Dolidze.
A more tactical second round as the pace naturally slows a little and Dolidze is able to land an excellent takedown into a dominant top position. Lots of ground and pound from Dolidze as Allan is looking for sweeps to reverse the position from half guard, but he’s not allowing it and is controlling on the ground well. Dolidze goes for another leg lock submission with 20 seconds to go in the round and doesn’t get it, but a dominant round for the Georgian. 20-18.
Dolidze playing it safe in the final round as he is moving his feet well and landing his jab well. Allan is stepping forward looking to land big shots because he knows he needs the finish. Dolidze shoots for a tired takedown which is easily defended and Allan lands a big punch that wobbles him! Allan trips him and ends up on top, but Dolidze defends excellently and gets back to his feet straight into a double leg takedown of his own. He sees out the rest of the round landing ground and pound from top position for a dominant decision win. 30-27.
Gabriel Benitez def Justin Jaynes via Knockout, Round 1 (4:06)
Aggressive start to the fight from Benitez as he comes out with heavy kicks and some big punches. Jaynes looks to counter it by closing the distance and throwing big shots to the head. He lands a left hand that causes Benitez’s eye to begin swelling almost instantly. Jaynes steps forward again and Benitez lands a big uppercut that forces Jaynes to take a step back. More solid leg kicks from Benitez and then he fires a HUGE knee that drops Jaynes! Some quick ground and pound and the referee steps in to wave it off! Hugely impressive win from Benitez!
Jamahal Hill def Ovince Saint-Preux via Knockout, Round 2 (3:37)
A measured start to this fight from both fighters as OSP maintains his usual calmness as Hill looks to attack the body. OSP throwing lots of side kicks and push kicks but Hill throws a beautiful right hand right to the chin. OSP switches to southpaw and starts landing some nice calf kicks as Hill tries to get back into power striking range. Wild exchange at the end of the round, pretty even fight but I give the round to Hill. 10-9.
Hill looks much more lively and aggressive in this second round as he starts landing big shots early in the round. OSP doing well whenever he’s in a southpaw stance but in his orthodox stance he’s getting lit up. Hill lands a big right hand against the cage and forces OSP to clinch up because he’s hurt. Hill gets separation and goes on the offence again, landing big combinations to the head. OSP is out on his feet and Hill keeps pouring it on until the referee pulls him off! Huge win for Hill!
Marvin Vettori def Jack Hermansson via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x2, 49-45)
Vettori comes straight out and takes the centre of the octagon, throwing big left hands straight down the middle. Hermansson lands a nice leg kick as there two stand and trade. Vettori throws a straight left once again and drops Hermansson! He drops down for the ground and pound attack but Hermansson covers up and manages to defend himself by getting himself into half guard. Vettori stacks Hermansson against the cage and looks for ground and pound again, trying to open up an opportunity for a submission but it’s not quite working out for him as the round ends. 10-9 Vettori.
Hermansson comes out very aggressive in the second round with some wild swings before shooting for a takedown. Great defence from Vettori stuffs it several times before he is able to reverse the attempt and ends up on top himself. Vettori looking to just control Hermansson so far as both fighters fight to a stalemate on the ground, so they get back to their feet. Hermansson looks to take the fight down again and lands a big knee to the body as they round comes to an end. 19-19.
Hermansson growing into this fight now as Vettori looks like he’s starting to slow down. ‘Joker’ throwing lots of takedown attempts but isn’t being successful with them as Vettori defends expertly. High kick attempt from Hermansson looks like it’s blocked but Vettori keeps touching his arm, potentially hurt? Hermansson comes forward and lands a nice right hand but Vettori fires back with a left of his own and then a body kick. Nice jabs from Hermansson land as the round comes to an end. Hermansson round. Could be 29-28 either way.
Vettori seemingly has a second wind as he comes out for the fourth round and starts popping shots off with real venom. Hermansson ducks a left and counters with a nice right hook as the pace has considerably slowed since the first round. Both guys fighting in a phone box now, standing toe to toe and just exchanging shots. Another two straight lefts from Vettori land clean as we enter the final 90 seconds of the round. Hermansson comes forward and lands a beautiful combination that forces Vettori to step back but then he replies with a combo of his own. Another straight left lands from Vettori on the buzzer. What a fight this is. 38-38 going into the final round for me.
Vettori comes out in the fifth essentially looking like he wants a finish, landing big combinations but Hermansson refusing to give in. He responds with some combos of his own. Vettori landing his left hand at will but Hermansson staying in range and hitting uppercuts too. Big three punch combo ends with a right hook from Hermansson but Vettori eats it and comes forward with an uppercut of his own. Final minute and Vettori grabs a clinch and pushes the fight against the cage to try and grind out the end of the fight. Hermansson rolls through for a leg lock with 10 seconds to go but Vettori gets out as the buzzer goes. What a fight. 48-47 Vettori for me.
A sneaky good card takes centre stage this weekend as the UFC look to end the year strong with a middleweight clash between number four ranked Jack Hermansson against short-term replacement Marvin Vettori.
Ovince Saint-Preux makes his return to the octagon too in his light heavyweight clash against Jamahal Hill in the co-main event in this eleven fight card.
Last weekend was a nightmare card in terms of picks, as we racked up a career-worst 1/10 correct picks for the night. The poor results sees our overall picks drop to 176/274 (64.23%) with 80 perfect picks (45.45%) from those too. We will look to improve that now with a strong showing on this card, starting with the prelims here.
Movsar Evloev (13-0) vs Nate Landwehr (14-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A super fun fight to open up the main card as two former M1-Challenge champions face off in the featherweight division. Nate Landwehr is 1-1 in the UFC, being knocked out by Herbert Burns in January before bouncing back with a great decision win over Darren Elkins in May. Evloev is an undefeated all-rounder, who made his name as the bantamweight champion in M1. He currently sits a 3-0 in the UFC with wins over Seung Woo Choi, Enrique Barzola and Mike Grundy on Fight Island. Landwehr is chaos personified, he walks through hell-fire to land his powerful punches until they fall down while Evloev is much more efficient and tends to look for takedowns. Evloev is very mobile and accurate with his striking and against the onrushing Landwehr he’ll likely be able to secure takedowns and dominate from the top for a comfortable decision win. PICK – Movsar Evloev via Decision
Roman Dolidze (7-0) vs John Allan (13-5 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Roman Dolidze introduced himself to the UFC fan-base with a big knockout win on his debut against Khadis Ibragimov in the first round back in July. He will take on John Allan, who beat Mike Rodriguez in his UFC debut in July 2019 before that was overturned to a no contest due to a failed drugs test. Dolidze is a fantastic kickboxer and trains with the likes of Tyrone Spong in his camp, while Allan is a solid wrestler who fights with high pressure and looks to turn it into brawls. Dolidze is a great grappler in his own right though and will have the edge in most places in this fight, so his power is something I expect to come into play. A big right hand rocks Allan in the second and he finishes it with a flurry. PICK – Roman Dolidze via Knockout, Round 2
Taila Santos (16-1) vs Montana De La Rosa (11-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The last time Santos fought in the UFC, I called her the lock of the night to lose to Molly McCann. Instead she absolutely dominated her and waltzed to a unanimous decision win on Fight Island. Montana De La Rosa beat Mara Romero Barella, who beat Taila Santos, but was then comfortably beaten by Viviane Araujo in September. De La Rosa is a wrestler who looks to land takedowns and search for submissions, but Santos has a physicality advantage that could see her overpower her opponent to defend. On the feet, Santos’ Muay-Thai game is exceptional and the gap in quality on the feet could see Santos land some power strikes to put De La Rosa off the takedown attempts. If De La Rosa can’t get the takedown, she is way out of her depth on the feet and Santos should be able to get the decision win. PICK – Taila Santos via Decision
Ovince Saint-Preux (25-14) vs Jamahal Hill (7-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A fight that sees two fighters very similar in style going up against each other at opposite ends of their career. ‘OSP’ is a submission master who won his last fight by knockout, stopping Alonzo Menifield back in September. Hill on the other hand is undefeated and currently at 1-0 (1NC) in the UFC after defeating Darko Stosic in his debut before seeing a first round win against Klidson Abreu overturned to a no contest after testing positive for marijuana. ‘OSP’ has a shocking record against southpaw fighters, which Hill is. He’s not the strongest offensive wrestler but if the fight hits the ground somehow, ‘OSP’ has nine submission wins and even had the Von-Flute choke renamed in his honour because of well he does it. Hill’s ground game isn’t great and while he’s been hard to hold down he hasn’t fought anyone as good as Saint-Preux. This could go one of two ways, either OSP gets it down and taps him out, or Hill keeps it standing and picks him off on the feet. I’m going with OSP to use his experience and get it to where he has the big advantage and to get another submission win. PICK – Ovince Saint-Preux via Submission, Round 2
Jack Hermansson (21-5) vs Marvin Vettori (15-4-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
‘Joker’ Jack Hermansson is on his third opponent for this fight and he will be looking to continue his push towards the top of the pile in the middleweight division against Marvin Vettori. Hermansson has won five of his last six, including submitting Kelvin Gastelum in the first round on Fight Island in July. Vettori is currently on a three-fight win streak, with his last defeat coming to reigning champion Israel Adesanya back in April 2018 via a split decision. Vettori got a win back in June with an impressive submission win over Karl Roberson and both these fighters will believe they are the better grapplers. In reality, Hermansson is quite comfortably the better grappler. On the feet, the fight is pretty 50/50 because both guys do carry power and bad intention when they throw but ‘Joker’ should be quite comfortable here. He’s had a full camp of training for two guys who are arguably better and while Vettori has also been in camp there’s a reason he’s way down in the rankings in comparison. Overall, Hermansson should have the skills and the experience to see this fight out in a pretty convincing manner. PICK – Jack Hermansson via Submission, Round 3