Bryan Battle (8-1) vs Takashi Sato (16-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
TUF 29 winner vs MMA veteran in this one. Battle moves down to welterweight for this bout, having won each of his last six including a submission win over Gilbert Urbina before a decision win over Tresean Gore. Sato meanwhile has lost his last two getting submitted by Miguel Baeza before losing a dominant decision against Gunnar Nelson at UFC London back in March.
Battle is a jack of all trades with good wrestling and submission skills as well as his fast hands with boxing combinations and range management. He does lack big power in his hands however. Sato is someone who tends to rely on a big strike from the power in his hands, while he has pretty poor takedown defence and a lack of volume. With that said, this is a super tough match up for him.
“Pooh Bear” is likely to use his movement and physical strength to wear on Sato, while his volume should be more than enough to keep Sato away from him. Add to that his decent wrestling to make his opponent think about the next attack constantly, this should be a pretty comfortable win for Battle. PICK – Bryan Battle via Decision
Terrance McKinney (12-4) vs Erick Gonzalez (14-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The big lock of the card between two bangers in the lightweight division. McKinney lit the UFC up initially with a seven-second KO of Matt Frivola at UFC 263 before a first-round submission win over Fares Ziam. He was beaten last time out though as Drew Dober put him out with a knee and strikes. Gonzalez lost his UFC debut to Jim Miller back in October when he was KO’d in the second round and hasn’t fought since.
McKinney is an incredibly powerful striker with a really strong wrestling game in his back pocket to go with it, and he’ll be hungry to get himself back in the win column after his positive UFC start. Gonzalez on the other hand is not a UFC calibre fighter, with poor takedown and striking defence with his best form of defence coming via offense.
Gonzalez will look to start a brawl and hope he lands the harder, cleaner shot first but against McKinney that’s nigh on impossible. “T-Wrecks” is going to come in, put his lights out and send him home early. PICK – Terrence McKinney via Knockout, Round 1
Sam Alvey (33-17-1) vs Michal Oleksiejczuk (16-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
No idea how, but Sam Alvey is still in the UFC and he’s in the featured prelim bout this weekend. Alvey has lost 7 of his last 8 fights, getting stopped in four of them including his most recent bout when he was submitted by Brendan Allen. Oleksiejczuk saw a two-fight win streak snapped last time out when he dropped a decision to Dustin Jacoby at UFC 272.
Alvey is done, honestly. Once upon a time he had a feared big left hand, but in recent times he’s just become a punching bag and someone who is tentative and looks like he shouldn’t be in there. Oleksiejczuk is a good kickboxer with good power and counters, and usually has solid cardio to go with it. The one issue could be the weight cut with Oleksiejczuk making his 185-pound debut.
With that said, it’s also the only way that he loses this fight. He’s got the speed, power and physical attributes to dominate Alvey and unless he absolutely fluffs the weight cut and is struggling physically then he should be able to back Alvey up against the cage and finish him with nasty combinations to finally end “Smile’n”‘s UFC run. PICK – Michal Oleksiejczuk via Knockout, Round 1
The UFC featherweight division headlines a banger of a card in the APEX as Edson Barboza takes on Giga Chikadze in the main event, while The Ultimate Fighter finals take place too.
Chikadze takes on the former lightweight contender in his first main event, but before that the finale of both the bantamweight and middleweight division from the Ultimate Fighter Returns finale will take place as Ricky Turcios takes on Brady Hiestand, followed by Bryan Battle taking on late replacement Gilbert Urbina.
Kevin Lee also makes his return to the octagon against Daniel Rodriguez at welterweight in his first fight since he was submitted by Charles Oliveira back in March 2020.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 34 we went a disappointing 6/12 with two perfect picks for the night to move to 389/612 (63.56%) with 171 perfect picks (43.96%). We’ll look to improve that here, and after starting with the early prelims here are the picks for the rest of the prelims.
Dustin Jacoby (14-5-1) vs Darren Stewart (12-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Moving up to light heavyweight is an interesting decision from Stewart, because he’s not really the biggest 185lber in the land. Jacoby has good boxing skills and while his gas tank and wrestling skills aren’t the greatest, Stewart doesn’t really have any stand-out attributes himself. He’s very aggressive and is probably at his best when implementing ground-and-pound, but he may be undersized in this one.
Stewart is really hard to get a read on and while Jacoby isn’t exactly a world-beater, he has a clear path to victory here and I think his size will see him earn a win. PICK – Dustin Jacoby via Decision
Sam Alvey (33-15-1) vs Wellington Turman (16-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Alvey is a powerful striker with very heavy hands and an iron chin, but a real lack of technique and anything else. Turman on the other hand is a talented grappler who has recently tried to show off his striking and been knocked out twice. Both these guys are likely to be on their way out of the UFC sooner rather than later but one of them will earn a stay of execution here.
Ultimately, Alvey has great takedown defence and great power while Turman tries for takedowns and doesn’t have a chin either. It’s a perfect storm for chaos and I think Alvey makes it 20 career KO’s and earns his first win since 2018. PICK – Sam Alvey via Knockout, Round 1
Alessio Di Chirico (13-5) vs Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Di Chirico is a good grappler who has a chin and great strikes too, while Alhassan is as one-dimensional as they come. He has a boulder of a right hand in the opening minutes but once that fades, so does he and he tends to get dominated. Di Chirico has never been stopped by strikes despite being in there against bigger guys and hard hitters too and should he avoid the initial explosion, he has all the skills to dominate this fight.
Alhassan is moving up to middleweight so he will naturally be the smaller man and that only plays more into Di Chirico’s hands, so I think he’ll be able to score the win in this one. PICK – Alessio Di Chirico via Decision
Great start to the fight for Kasanganay as he comes forward to close the distance early and lands a nice right hand. Palatnikov throws a kick which Kasanganay catches and then he lands another big right hand before getting a body lock and taking Palatnikov down to the ground. Kasanganay using heavy top pressure but not landing much damage and Palatnikov is able to get back to his feet. Kasanganay goes for another takedown but Palatnikov defends it well and they clinch against the cage now. Palatnikov starts teeing off against the cage but Kasanganay does well to avoid any strikes and clinch up again. Nice left hand lands from Palatnikov at the end of the round but should be 10-9 Kasanganay.
Kasanganay comes out quickly in the second round and lands a big right hand that drops Palatnikov! He forces the takedown with pure power and scrambles to take his neck. He locks in a rear-naked choke and squeezes, forcing Palatnikov to tap out! Big win for Kasanganay!
Da-Un Jung def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Reserved start from both fighters as Knight comes out throwing low calf kicks to prevent Jung from letting his jab fly. Knight goes in for a takedown and lifts Jung but he defends it well, switches the position and is able to get a throw perfectly to end up in top position. Knight is landing some nice right hands from the bottom as he holds Jung in place, but Jung fires back with a couple of right hands of his own to shut that down. Jung passes into half guard and tries to move into side control but Knight sweeps him really well and explodes back onto his feet. Knight clinches up once again and Jung is able to get the same trip once more to get back in top position. Some decent ground and pound from Jung as Knight looks quite tired now but he’s able to explode to his feet again as the round ends. 10-9 Jung.
Knight comes out throwing lots of low kicks once again, but Jung is backing him up to the cage and looking to hunt him down. Both guys land a nice right hand each before Knight shoots in for a takedown. Jung defends it, clinches up and then lands the same outside trip once again to take top position and starts landing ground and pound against the cage. Knight tries to get to his feet but Jung stays heavy and drags him down to the mat once more, then takes his back and sinks in both hooks. Jung starts raining down punches and Knight is trying to explode out again rather than use technique. Knight is just surviving right now and Jung continues to smash him up from his back on top. Lots of damage but Knight survives the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Jung.
Jung comes forward early in the final round and Knight has abandoned the leg kicks and is throwing bombs. Jung lands a nice uppercut, then switches levels and gets a big takedown! Knight explodes to his feet again but Jung is able to drag and throw Knight back to the mat with relative ease. Jung floats through the positions and ends up in side control, landing knees to the body and just completely dominating all the exchanges in this fight. Jung stays busy from top position on the ground landing damage for the rest of the fight for a very comfortable win. 30-26 Jung.
Luis Saldana def Jordan Griffin via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Really good start to the fight for Saldana as he comes out with his hands low and is throwing quick kicks to the legs and body. Saldana throws a night three punch combo that clips Griffin, who shoots in for a takedown and gets it but Saldana gets back up very quickly. More leg kicks from Saldana take Griffin off his feet but he keeps coming forward and lands two big punches as he rushes forward and goes in for a takedown again. Saldana defends well against the cage and they break, but Griffin stays in his face and keeps throwing big punches. He keeps pouring punches and then eventually gets the takedown, but Saldana is able to roll through and escape before Griffin gets a headlock and looks for some sort of bulldog choke. Saldana is able to escape and Griffin charges once again and just misses with a big head-kick before the round ends. Very close, but I go 10-9 Griffin.
Slower start to the round from both guys as Saldana comes out again looking for low kicks and front kicks to the body, but Griffin pressures him again. Saldana slips as he throws a kick and Griffin jumps on top. Saldana looks for an armbar and then switches to a heel hook to create space which gets both guys back up. Saldana jumps on the neck of Griffin looking for a guillotine, but Griffin is calm and escapes before getting the fight back down. He starts looking for a bulldog choke again but Saldana escapes it only for Griffin to continue with his pressure and get back into a dominant position. Griffin starts floating and then takes the back and sinks in a rear naked choke deep but he runs out of time so we’re going to the final round. 20-18 Griffin.
Saldana comes out in the final round and knows he needs a finish. He’s trying to stay out of wrestling range, using punches rather than kicks to avoid being taken down but he looks exhausted. Griffin isn’t exactly fresh himself but he’s coming forward still but doing enough to stay out of range. Saldana looks to kick off the cage with a superman punch but just misses with that and the follow up hook, before Griffin shoots in for a tired takedown against the cage. Saldana defends it well and switches the position around but Griffin gets his arm under the chin and looks for a rear-naked choke! Saldana stays calm and escapes and ends up on top with 90 seconds to go. Saldana is able to take the back of Griffin for a split second, but Griffin then switches around and finishes the round on top looking for a submission. Probably a Saldana round but should be a win for Griffin. 29-28.
Jack Shore def Hunter Azure via Split Decision (30-27 x2, 28-29)
Composed start to the bout from both men as they feel each other out with jabs and low kicks before they both clinch up against the cage. Shore looking like the stronger fighter as they battle for position and he gets a body lock in nicely and picks Azure up and sweeps the legs for a takedown. Azure gets back up quickly but Shore keeps the hands locked and continues to drag Azure around. Shore tries to take the back but Azure drops to his knees and counters by turning into Shore’s guard. Shore kicks off the hips to get back to his feet quickly before Azure can do any damage and they clinch against the cage again before separating. Both men throw a simultaneous kick that makes for a big thud before a nice high kick lands from Shore. Azure looks for a takedown against the cage but Shore defends and the round ends. 10-9 Shore.
Fast start from Azure in the second round as he goes straight in for a clinch against the cage and lands some nice knees to the body and thighs. Shore is patient and eventually gets back up and catches a kick from Azure and lands a right hand that drops Azure. Azure gets back up quickly though and Shore looks for a clinch against the takedown before going for a takedown of his own. He shoots in and Azure looks for a guillotine which forces Shore to abandon and go to his back to escape, but Azure ends up on top in half guard. Shore uses his long legs and hips really well to get back up to the feet and the clinch continues against the cage once again. Accidental low blow from Azure causes a short pause in the action but they clinch again when they resume. Azure lands a nice right hand when they separate and then lands a good right hook but Shore starts landing some strikes of his own too. Azure lands a big right hand clean but Shore responds with an uppercut as the round ends. Very close round, probably in Azure’s favour. 19-19.
Azure goes straight in for a takedown at the start of the third but Shore stuffs it well and starts working off his jab from the outside. Azure changes levels to avoid a right hand and goes for a single leg, but Shore defends it brilliantly once again against the cage. Stiff low kick from Shore and then a nice left hook lands that stings Azure, who shoots for a takedown quickly after but is denied. Shore stuffs another attempt and then takes Azure down himself, landing some short punches against the cage and leaning all his weight on Azure to drag him back down. He looks to take Azure’s back and then moves into mount, switching between both positions. Azure is able to get back to his feet but Shore keeps hold of him and is able to take him down once again as we enter the final 90 seconds. Azure scrambles and rolls through to escape Shore’s grip and ends up on top and looks to land ground and pound but Shore defends brilliantly and then escapes a rear naked choke attempt to see out the round. Should be a win for Shore, 29-28.
Jarjis Danho def Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1 (3:02)
Slow start to the fight for both guys as they throw some leg kicks and circle each other. Danho throwing more and more leg kicks but not much action in the first two minutes. Danho looks to clinch up but De Castro throws him off and lands a big left hand that wobbles Danho! He comes forward with more punches but Danho avoids and goes for a takedown. The two separate and De Castro continues to come forward, then both men throw big right hands and Danho lands on the side of the head and puts De Castro’s lights out!! He lands one more on the ground but it’s all over! What a knockout!
John Makdessi def Ignacio Bahamondes via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
Bahamondes using his length well very early on, with long jabs and front kicks. Bahamondes doing really well to mix up his attacks, landing leg kicks, jabs, straight rights, body shots and kicks while changing up his stance constantly. Makdessi just can’t get a read right now as Bahamondes keeps moving. Makdessi lands a big right hand that makes Bahamondes do the chicken dance and he pushes on for the finish, but Bahamondes clinches up to try and recover. Bahamondes now is trying to stay away and land from range but Makdessi continues to pour on the pressure. Bahamondes goes for a takedown against the cage but Makdessi defends it well. Bahamondes lands a couple of elbows on the break and they exchange strikes again as the round ends. That’s a really close round could go either way. I go Makdessi for the damage.
Bahamondes seems to have recovered now as he comes out popping his jab once again and circling on the outside. Makdessi taking the centre and looking to catch Bahamondes on his way in, but it’s not working too well for him just yet. Three jabs in a row land for Makdessi who returns with a big left hand of his own. Bahamondes lands a big straight left then misses with a few kicks before shooting in for a takedown, but Makdessi defends it with ease. Bahamondes starts throwing some knees against the cage before they separate and go back to trading straight punches. Both guys trading jabs and straights and landing, then Bahamondes lands a huge spinning heel kick to the head but Makdessi eats it. Makdessi responds with two body shots and a short left hook to the chin then lands a clean one two. Another super close round, I’ve got it even.
Third round following the pattern of the previous two, with Bahamondes landing from range but Makdessi standing firm in the middle and popping him back too. Bahamondes lands some nice jabs but Makdessi keeps landing the straight right and left jab in response. Bahamondes looks for a big knee that just misses and then he shoots in for a takedown to mix it up. Makdessi stuffs it and lands a nice right hand, before Bahamondes starts pouring on pressure and lands a big one-two. Bahamondes lands another nice left hand that sends Makdessi backwards but they continue to stand in a phonebox and trade for the remainder of the round in what was a brilliant fight. Another very close round, I don’t know how to call it. 29-28 either way, I lean to Bahamondes.
Mateusz Gamrot def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 2 (1:22)
Good start to the round from both guys, with Gamrot looking to land from range to set up his takedowns while Holtzman is looking to counter with heavy punches. Gamrot steps in for a takedown and grabs the leg and tries to go for a heel hook but Holtzman defends it well. Gamrot lands a nice left but Holtzman responds with a huge left hand on his way in! Gamrot responds with a couple of left hands again and then goes for single leg again and transitions to a double leg to get the takedown against the cage. Gamrot allows him back up and throws a huge elbow to the ear that wobbles Holtzman towards the end of the round. 10-9 Gamrot.
Holtzman comes out very aggressive and starts walking Gamrot down, but he’s loading up his attacks with big uppercuts and overhands. Gamrot moving side to side to stay out of the way and he throws a big one two down the middle which folds Holtzman! He jumps on and lands a couple more shots before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Gamrot!
Joe Solecki def Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Very positive start from Solecki as he looks to be first in the striking exchanges between the two, but Miller just misses with his big left hand. Nice calf kick lands from Miller but Solecki is coming forward and landing nice short flurries of punches. Big right hand lands and forces Miller to think twice but then the veteran lands a nice body kick. Solecki shoots in for a takedown but Miller stuffs it and ends up on top, so Solecki goes into full guard and starts defending. Miller is landing some nice short elbows from the top position and stacking Solecki up to prevent him from being able to get back to his feet easily. Miller misses with an elbow as the rounds ends, probably a Miller round because of the top control. 10-9 Miller.
Solecki comes out aggressive in the second round and lands a nice right hand before shooting in for the takedown. Miller looks to defend it but Solecki takes the legs from under him and moves into full guard. Now it’s Solecki looking to stack Miller against the cage and throw some ground and pound, but Miller is staying busy from his back too. A few body shots from Solecki as he looks to wear Miller down heading into the final 90 seconds of the round. Not much action in this round but Solecki controlled it and takes the round. 19-19 going into the final round.
Both men see the route to victory as being on top and so immediately they both move into a clinch position. Solecki the physically stronger guy right now and gets a body lock, which Miller tries to roll through from but Solecki holds on and ends up on top once again. Solecki throwing short shots on the ground from half guard but Miller is trying to get back to his feet now rather than accepting the position. Solecki doing really well to control the position now and just doing enough damage to stop the fight from being stood back up. Solecki maintains the position for the rest of the round to secure what should be a straight forward decision win.
Daniel Rodriguez def Mike Perry via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Tense start to this one with both men respecting the power of their opponent early on. Perry throws a few le kicks and Rodriguez is throwing his jab well and has already busted up the nose. Rodriguez throws a big one-two down the middle that staggers Perry but he continues to come forward to look for a finish. Rodriguez is landing big one-twos at will and Perry is getting pieced up, so he changes levels and powers through with a takedown. He lifts Rodriguez up and slams him down but Rodriguez holding on for a guillotine which Perry does well to defend against and avoid. Perry stays in top position and works for some ground and pound to see the round out. Perry still in it, but that’s a Rodriguez round for me. 10-9.
Second round and Rodriguez is doing really well on the feet, with his jab landing at will and the left hand following up behind it cleanly too. Perry is throwing some nice leg kicks and is just struggling to be first with the punches because of the range difference. Perry gets a body lock and looks for a takedown which he gets, then tries to transition onto Rodriguez’s back, but Rodriguez does well to stay strong and get back up pretty quickly. Rodriguez continues to land the jab and left straight at will, but Perry is still standing in front of him and throwing shots of his own. Big right hook, left hand from Rodriguez lands clean. Perry comes forward looking for a takedown with 20 seconds to go but Rodriguez defends it well to claim the round again. 20-18 Rodriguez.
Final round and the pattern continues, as Rodriguez lines up the jab and takes the centre of the cage. Perry is struggling to land anything of note because he keeps getting pummelled every time he tries to go first. Perry shoots for a takedown but Rodriguez denies it again and shrugs him off in the clinch. Rodriguez throws three huge left hands in an exchange but Perry is still taking the punishment and trying to come forward. Perry’s face is so busted up right now and at this point it’s just about not getting finished as Rodriguez shoots in for a takedown but Perry stuffs it to see the round out with a big exchange. 30-27 Rodriguez, excellent performance.
Fast start to the fight from Dern as she charges forward throwing big punches with a couple landing but Nunes responds with a couple of her own. Dern charges forward again and lands a nice left hand, but Nunes throws a good right hand to counter it too. Dern shoots in for a takedown against the cage and lifts the leg high then sweeps the standing leg and dumps her down. She immediately works to advance the position and threatens with a leg attack to pass into half guard. From half guard she quickly moves into mount and starts raining down elbows from the top. She transitions into an armbar position and despite Nunes’ best attempts to defend it, Dern extends the arm and gets the tap out.
Julian Marquez def Sam Alvey via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (2:07)
Pretty tame opening to the round as Marquez takes the centre early and looks to figure out his range by flicking out his lead hand. Neither men throw anything really for the first two minutes barring a couple of missed hooks. Alvey is loading up big with his left hand and it’s allowing Marquez to avoid it well. Marquez lands a big right hook clean and Alvey is hurt. Marquez goes in again and lands two more that drops Alvey but he falls into Marquez and quickly recovers. Two more big right hands land from Marquez but Alvey just about stays standing and now throws a huge left of his own. Alvey is all the way back against the cage and just trying to hit Marquez on his way in but he’s missing wildly. 10-9 Marquez at the end of the round.
More of the same in the second round as Marquez backs Alvey up and lands a nice body shot, but Alvey explodes forward and lands a nice right hand of his own. Marquez throws an overhand right that lands clean on Alvey’s chin but he’s still there throwing his own heat. Marquez lands a huge right hand that drops Alvey and he goes all in for the finish with big strikes. Alvey looks to defend with a takedown but he’s eating big shots. Marquez abandons the strikes and goes for a rear-naked choke and puts Alvey to sleep for the win. Great performance.
Arnold Allen def Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start for Allen as Yusuff comes forward and throws a body kick which he catches and immediately gets a takedown. Yusuff does well to defend well against the cage and hooks up a guillotine choke that forces Allen to roll to his back and abandon the takedown attempt. Yusuff comes forward and is chopping away at the leg of Allen, but both men are throwing heat. Allen lands a big left hand but Yusuff keeps coming and clinches up. Allen lands a big left hand that drops Yusuff and he moves in to take top position but Yusuff does well to recover and avoid further damage. Allen goes for a takedown against the cage but it’s defended well and the round comes to an end with a nice exchange in the centre. 10-9 Allen.
Yusuff continues to push the pace and pressuring forward, but Allen is threatening with the big left hand once again. Yusuff lands some nice chopping leg kicks again and Yusuff is starting to land with his jab. He’s starting to touch Allen more and more, then Allen throws a huge head-kick that rocks him! Allen slips as it lands but he jumps back up and goes to land some ground and pound, but Yusuff recovers well once again and they get back to competing in the middle. Clinch against the cage and Allen is physically stronger and able to dictate the position more, and he sees out the round in control. 20-18 Allen.
Good start from Allen as he looks to back Yusuff up to the cage with his physicality and shoot for takedowns, but Yusuff refusing to accept it and defending really well. He switches the position on the cage and lands some nice knees to the body of Allen before they separate and go back into the centre. Lots of short exchanges and clinch work against the cage for the rest of the round as Yusuff arguably takes the round but it won’t be enough for a win. 29-28 Allen for me, very competitive fight.
Marvin Vettori def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (50-44 x3)
Holland makes a fast start throwing some leg kicks and big right hands but early on he lands a low blow to cause a pause in the action. Vettori comes in tight for the clinch after the action resumes, but Holland is striking from range and lands a heavy right hand. Vettori finally gets a body lock and clinch against the cage to start wearing on Holland, but he defends the attempted trip well which forces Vettori to change to a double leg. Holland defends it well again and Vettori separates, but he’s right in Holland’s face and applying lots of pressure. Vettori is able to drag Holland down to the ground, but Holland starts throwing up-kicks to try and create space to get up to his feet. Vettori is able to get full guard and starts applying lots of pressure and looking to land ground and pound. Holland is able to roll through and gets back to the feet, but then eats a big left hand. Good first round from both, very close to score. 10-9 Vettori for me but could go either way.
Holland comes out fast once again and lands some sharp punches and straight kicks but Vettori is trying to close the distance earlier this time. Holland lands a big one-two but Vettori eats it, slips a shot and then shoots in for another takedown against the cage. He gets him down quickly this time and avoids the guillotine attempt to go into full guard and land big ground and pound strikes. Vettori starts stacking Holland against the cage and raining down strikes, completely dominant. Holland tries to kick out of it but Vettori controls the position well and gets right back to work with the ground and pound from the top position. More strikes from Vettori opens up a cut on Holland’s face and he tries to scramble out but Vettori just controls his position even once Holland gets back to his feet to end the round. 20-17.
Holland’s left eye is closing up but he’s battling on and Vettori comes out like a freight train and looks to go straight for the takedown again. He gets it quickly and then moves into mount almost immediately. He looks to set up an arm triangle submission and locks it in tight, but Holland doesn’t tap and is able to escape from the bottom to get back up to his feet. Vettori goes straight back for the takedown again but Holland does well to avoid it. Holland lands a couple of nice strikes standing but then once again Vettori changes levels, clinches against the cage and controls the position. Holland lands a couple of huge strikes that seem to wobble Vettori a little but the buzzer goes. 30-26 Vettori.
Big early left hand lands at the start of the fourth for Vettori, but Holland responds with a couple of big hooks of his own. Vettori shoots in for a takedown and gets it down pretty easily once again and goes straight into full guard to land some ground and pound. Vettori looks to stack Holland who rolls through to avoid it and gets back to full guard. Holland is able to get back to the feet after a short scramble but very quickly Vettori is able to drag him back down and goes straight into mount. He looks for the arm triangle submission again, but Holland stays calm and takes it back to half guard. Vettori lands some heavy strikes and then goes back into full guard before passing into half guard again. Vettori tries to stack him and Holland starts throwing up-kicks again but Vettori is just too strong and sees out the round on top. 40-35 Vettori.
Holland still looks fresh and lands a bomb of a right hand that gets Vettori’s attention, so the Italian changes levels and gets the takedown immediately and goes into full guard. Holland kicks off the cage and finds a way to get back to the feet but once again Vettori just locks his hands, finds an angle and drags him back down to the mat. Vettori steps over into half guard and starts throwing some more ground and pound with Holland fighting off his back. Vettori steps over into mount once again looking to set up the arm triangle choke, but Holland explodes back up to his feet. Vettori holds the body lock once again though and drags the fight to the mat again with 40 seconds to go and he sees the round out in control. 50-44 Vettori, pure domination.
Elsewhere on the card, Nina Nunes (formerly known as Ansaroff) makes her return to the octagon after giving birth last year when she takes on another new mother in Mackenzie Dern in a fight high up on the strawweight rankings too.
Last time out at UFC 260, we went 8/10 on the night to improve our record to 270/426 (63.38%) with 121 perfect picks (44.81%).
‘Platinum’ is a striker with powerful punches and a pretty decent wrestling game, but despite being naturally talented when it comes to fighting he just doesn’t care. He’s had issues with alcohol and dieting in the past and now he comes up against a man who hits harder and is taking this game very seriously.
Rodriguez has crazily heavy hands but Perry has an iron chin and both guys have got some deficiencies in their cardio but it’s hard to pick Perry when you don’t know which version will turn up. He hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2017 and I think Rodriguez does enough to get a decision win. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Decision
Nina Nunes (10-6) vs Mackenzie Dern (10-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A battle of the mothers in the strawweight division as Nina Nunes (formerly Ansaroff) returns from child birth to take on Mackenzie Dern.
Nunes has tremendous wrestling and cardio and throws some really good combinations with her hands, while Dern is a jiu-jitsu master who has started working on her kickboxing game. The striking still needs work and she will need to get the fight to the ground to stand a chance of winning and I back Nunes to be able to keep the fight standing for the longest period because Dern’s takedown attempts are awful. If the fight goes down it’s Dern’s to lose. PICK – Mackenzie Dern via Submission, Round 2
Sam Alvey (33-14-1) vs Julian Marquez (8-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Alvey has good takedown defence and a good right hook counter, but other than that he tends to just wait for a chance to land it and is hilariously bad to watch in the cage. Marquez on the other hand loves absolute chaos and throws big punches in bunch with wild aggression, who has pretty decent submissions too.
The likelihood is that Alvey will land his big right hand at some point, but with 20lbs of less power behind it against a young fighter with a sturdy chin, I don’t think it gets the job done. That means Marquez can go crazy as he loves to and I think he’s able to get a stoppage win. PICK – Julian Marquez via Knockout, Round 1
Arnold Allen (16-1) vs Sodiq Yusuff (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger of a featherweight bout between England’s Arnold Allen and another hot prospect in Sodiq Yusuff. Allen has won nine in a row including wins over Gilbertz Melendez and Nick Lentz most recently while Yusuff is on a six-fight win streak himself. Both make their first appearances since January 2020.
Yusuff is a tremendously powerful striker, who has great calf kicks and a very solid overhand right while Allen is a really good, well-rounded fighter who has split his knockout and submission wins at 5/4. Allen is a really good pressure fighter and opts for volume over power, using those combinations to close distance and get takedowns.
Yusuff is one of the most powerful fighters in the division and he does a good job of landing accurate strikes, so if he can take Allen’s takedowns away from him he has a great chance of landing those heavy strikes and moving into the rankings with a big win. PICK – Sodiq Yusuff via Knockout, Round 2
Marvin Vettori (16-4-1) vs Kevin Holland (21-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Vettori has good power in his hands but his best work comes when he gets hold of you, takes you down and lands ground and pound from top position. Holland has got genuine one-punch knockout power on the feet, or his back if you ask Jacare Souza, but he struggles against wrestlers who know how to control him from the top.
Vettori is one of those fighters, who has a good chin but is just efficient in all his movements. If Holland comes in with the same antics he did against Brunson where he plays up to the camera then he will get punished, but if he comes in focused and with a solid game plan he could land big punches on Vettori’s way in to put him out.
That seems highly unlikely to me though, because Vettori just doesn’t waste any chances and knows exactly how to get the job done. Vettori gets takedowns, beats Holland up for 25 minutes and then calls out Israel Adesanya for a rematch. PICK – Marvin Vettori via Decision
After a month-long stay on UFC Fight Island, the grand finale is upon us as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight championship against interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
A stacked card, with a six-fight main card, has been put together for the fans’ viewing pleasure and should be one of the best events we’ve seen since the pandemic started back in March.
With 12 fights scheduled to take place, I will break down each fight and give my prediction as to the winner, method of victory and round while giving my analysis on both fighters too.
Last weekend I got a very respectable 8/11 correct predictions with three perfect picks, so lets see if I can better that on this 12 fight card.
Joel Alvarez (17-2) vs Alexander Yakovlev (25-10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Joel Alvarez makes his return to Fight Island on the card opener in this one where he takes on veteran lightweight Alexander Yakovlev. Alvarez has won 12 of his last 13 fights, including his last two in a row and has never won a fight via the judges scorecards. Yakovlev on the other hand has lost three of his last four and this will be only his fourth fight since losing to Kamaru Usman in 2016. Alvarez has stunning submission skills but his striking isn’t his strong suit, while Yakovlev is a wrestler who uses his striking to open up the takedown. The issue with that is that if he takes it to the ground, it opens him up to all of Alvarez’s submission game and that will be his downfall. Alvarez takes the neck for a guillotine submission win. PICK – Joel Alvarez via Submission, Round 1
Liana Jojua (8-3) vs Miranda Maverick (7-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
In the women’s flyweight division, it’s a debut for Invicta’s Miranda Maverick where she takes on Liana Jojua. Jojua is a submission artist who has five of her career wins come by armbar, including her last win over Diana Belbita on Fight Island back in July. Maverick is a strong striker and wrestler who also the majority of her career wins via submission. Jojua’s best chance of winning the fight is by getting a takedown and working her submissions, but Maverick has a huge edge when it comes to takedown defence and offence so if anyone is getting taken down in this fight it’s Jojua. With her top control and striking to set it up, I can’t see past Maverick dominating for a comfortable decision win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Unanimous Decision
Nathaniel Wood (17-4) vs Casey Kenney (15-2-1) – (Catchweight/140lbs)
A fight that was put together at short notice sees Brit Nathaniel Wood look to make it back-to-back wins in the UFC when he takes on highly rated Casey Kenney at a catchweight. Both fighters come into this one 4-1 in their five UFC appearances and that’s only the start of where their similarities begin. Both are solid strikers that rely on wrestling and scrambles in the octagon while they also have great cardio, hand speed and decent power in their hands. Wood is two years younger than Kenney but he has more professional bouts so he has the ever so slight experience edge. It’s a fight that will likely be decided by who can establish their wrestling game more and I believe that Kenney may have the advantage in that aspect. With that said, Wood is a natural finisher in the cage with only three decisions in his career while Kenney has gone the distance ten times. Wood has the skillset to hurt Kenney and if he does, I back him to finish it. It’s a real coin flip of a fight but I’m going to be slightly biased and go with the Brit. PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Unanimous Decision
Da Un Jung (13-2) vs Sam Alvey (33-14 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
In what will be his fifth UFC bout, Sam Alvey comes into this fight on a four-fight losing streak to take on Korean power-puncher Da Un Jung. Jung is undefeated in the octagon, submitting Khadis Ibragimov before knocking out Mike Rodriguez in under a minute in his first two UFC fights. Alvey has been knocked out twice during this four-fight streak and despite being known as a power puncher himself, he has won a fight via that method just once in his last 11 bouts – stretching back to 2016. His chin looks like it’s cracking and Jung hits so hard that I think this will be the last time we see Alvey in the UFC as a fifth loss in a row will likely see him released. PICK – Da Un Jung via Knockout, Round 2
Alex Oliveira (22-8-1) vs Shavkat Rakhmonov (12-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Another contender for potential fight of the night in this one as ‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira steps up on short notice to take on undefeated Kazakhstani Shavkat Rakhmonov. Rakhmonov has 12 wins and 12 finishes, never seeing a professional fight going beyond the second round before. Alex Oliveira is a veteran of the UFC and is currently on a two-fight winning streak, defeating Peter Sobotta last time out on Fight Island via decision. Oliveira is a tricky welterweight with solid but unorthodox striking as well as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, while Rakhmonov is a very talented striker with a good top control game. This is another coin flip of a fight in all honesty. Rakhmonov’s power has seen him starch guys early on, but we’ve seen Oliveira ride out the storm before and even knock guys out himself. I’m going to go with my gut on this one and say the step-up in level of competition for Rakhmonov might be a little too much here and Oliveira can ride out a close decision win. PICK – Alex Oliveira via Unanimous Decision
Stefan Struve (29-12) vs Tai Tuivasa (10-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Two heavyweights who are arguably fighting for their UFC careers in this bout as Stefan Struve looks to bounce back from a defeat to Ben Rothwell against Tai Tuivasa who is looking to snap a three-fight losing streak. Struve is a submission specialist who stands at 7 foot tall, while Tuivasa is a knockout machine who’s recently been found out in the octagon. It led to his UFC release earlier this year but he is back for a Fight Island card and looking to make the most of his second chance. Struve himself left the UFC for a retirement stint before realising he couldn’t stay away and is since 1-1 in the company. It really is a fight that is determined by where it goes. If it stays on the feet then Tuivasa has more than enough power and striking credentials to put Struve to sleep, but if it goes to the ground then Tuivasa is like a fish out of water and Struve will tap him out. As I see it going though, Tuivasa will walk forward and back Struve against the cage before crashing heavy punches in for a knockout win. PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 1