Darren Elkins (28-10) vs Jonathan Pearce (13-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight fight next between the past and potentially future of this division. Elkins has won three of his last four, losing to Cub Swanson and beating Tristan Connelly in his last two bouts. Pearce on the other hand has won his last four in a row with three finishes, beating Kai Kamaka III, Omar Morales (UFC 266), Christian Rodriguez and most recently Makwan Amirkhani at UFC London in July.
Elkins is a fighter with a bit of everything in his arsenal, but nothing to an outstanding level outside of his heart and durability. He pushes and pushes when others wouldn’t to grind out the win, using a rushing style and excellent cardio to his advantage. Pearce alternatively though is a sensational wrestler with a suffocating ground game as well as some technical standup on the feet, with a gas tank that seemingly never waivers.
Considering Elkins’ best chance of winning is turning this into a war of attrition, something that JSP thrives in, him winning this would be a miracle. Pearce should be able to overwhelm him everywhere and while he could get the finish to make a statement, I think Elkins should be able to survive that much at least. PICK – Jonathan Pearce via Decision
Michael Johnson (21-18) vs Marc Diakiese (16-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting lightweight fight between two guys who have had solid UFC careers. Johnson snapped a four-fight losing streak when he KO’d Alan Patrick back in May, but he lose a split decision against Jamie Mullarkey back in July most recently. Diakiese on the other hand bounced back from defeats to Rafael Fiziev (UFC Fight Island 2) and Rafael Alves to beat Viacheslav Borshchev and Damir Hadzovic in his two most recent bouts.
Johnson is a solid boxer with legitimately scary power in his hands and a decent wrestling background too but he really struggles if he ends up on the bottom. Diakiese is an excellent, technical kickboxer on the feet but has always been willing to wrestle if he needs too, which may be his best route to victory here.
Diakiese will feel he has the edge wherever this fight goes and when his confidence is flowing he’s at his best. Johnson will know he likely needs to land one of those detonators to win this bout which could see him chase it, but eventually he’ll be on his back and Diakiese will cruise to the win. PICK – Marc Diakiese via Decision
Clay Guida (37-19) vs Scott Holtzman (14-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight scrap up next. Guida is one of the legends of the sport but he’s struggled in recent outings, losing a decision to Mark O. Madsen, before a knee bar submission loss to Claudio Puelles most recently. He earned a submission win over Leonardo Santos between those fights at UFC Vegas 44. Holtzman has lost his last two outings, but both came against elite opposition in Beneil Dariush (UFC Vegas 6) and Mateusz Gamrot (UFC Vegas 23).
Guida is a wrestler. That’s it. He will rush forward with great energy and bounce and look to take you down or push you against the cage and take you down. As for Holtzman, he has struggled in the past against persistent takedown offences, but his striking game is excellent and his takedown defence isn’t horrible. Add to that Guida’s takedown accuracy leaves plenty to be desired, Holtzman has a great shot here.
Guida won’t get tired and will be relentless with his shots for the takedown, but Holtzman can light him up like a Christmas tree on the feet with his punches and nasty knees. I don’t anticipate a finish on either side, but I think Holtzman lands enough killer shots to catch the judge’s eyes and claim a close decision. PICK – Scott Holtzman
Angela Hill (14-12) vs Emily Ducote (12-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Strawweights up next looking to break into the rankings. Hill has lost five of her last seven officially but there are some dodgy decisions involved. Last time out though it went her way, claiming a decision win over Lupita Godinez to snap a three-fight losing streak. Ducote on the other hand has won her last four in a row, including a decision win over Jessica Penne in her UFC debut back in July.
Hill is a Muay-Thai fighter with good striking and a relentless work rate, constantly scrambling on the mat and pushing forward when on the feet to get her opponent moving backwards. Ducote is a decent boxer on the feet with good combinations and footwork, and she’s also got some good wrestling in her back pocket too.
Ducote will know that if she’s at her best then she should have too much for Hill, but Hill’s specialty is making people not be able to perform at their best. That should see Ducote even more tuned in and more focused, and with a deeper toolbox to delve into over the course of 15 minutes she should get the win. PICK – Emily Ducote via Decision
Niko Price (15-5) vs Phil Rowe (9-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Absolute banger at welterweight as our featured prelim bout next. Price is 1-2-1 in his last four, losing to Vicente Luque and drawing with Donald Cerrone at UFC Vegas 11 (later overturned to a NC for cannabis), and losing to Michel Pereira (UFC 264). He bounced back with a big decision win over Alex Oliveira most recently though. Rowe recovered from defeat in his UFC debut at UFC 258 to Gabriel Green by knocking out Orion Cosce and Jason Witt in each of his last two bouts.
Price is one of the most exciting fighters on the roster, constantly pushing forward to land heavy strikes and knock opponents out, while also being willing to eat a few shots to give them back. Rowe tends to start quite slowly, but has got incredible punching power and good combinations once he starts going, as well as some okay wrestling to fall back on.
The problem he faces is that while he starts slowly, Price rushes out of the gate and against someone who can finish you in an instant that is dangerous. Price will respect the power coming back at him so it may take a few minutes to really start flying, but expect Price to up the pressure early and land a few big shots to close the show before Rowe gets the chance to really wake up. PICK – Niko Price via Knockout, Round 1
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%).
With a belting 14 fights on the card, we’ve split it up into three sections and having already predicted the early prelims here we move onto the rest of the prelims now.
Yorgan De Castro (6-2) vs Jarjis Danho (6-1-1 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big boys are in action on this card as Yorgan De Castro looks to snap a two-fight losing streak against Jarjis Danho, who makes his first appearance in a cage fight in almost five years.
Castro dropped consecutive decision defeats to Greg Hardy and Carlos Felipe, while Danho lost and drew his last two fights but hasn’t fought since September 2016 for no reason in particular. Both guys are heavy punchers who have a sledgehammer of a right hand and are completely one dimensional when it comes to a game plan.
Neither man has ever been finished before but combined they have got ten wins by stoppage, with nine knockouts and a single submission in Danho’s favour. Both guys are going to trade swinging their right hand and whoever’s chin holds up the most will get the win but this will not be the most exciting fight the longer it goes. PICK – Yorgan De Castro via Knockout, Round 1
John Makdessi (17-7) vs Ignacio Bahamondes (11-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Striking technique meets striking power in this lightweight bout as John Makdessi takes on debutant Ignacio Bahamondes. Makdessi lost his last bout to Francisco Trinaldo and then tore his ACL, making this his first fight in just over a year while Bahamondes has won his last two fights coming into this debut.
Makdessi is as pure a striker as they come in the UFC, landing ZERO takedowns in his 17 previous UFC fights while Bahamondes is a powerful striker who stands at 6ft 3 and has a tremendous reach advantage. He has a few defensive lapses still, which Makdessi can absolutely take advantage of, but with a 12 year age gap and a 7.5 inch reach advantage it’s hard to see this going the Canadian’s way.
Bahamondes has the power advantage with hands and even legs, so I think Bahamondes can use the reach and power to get a win in a fun back-and-forth fight. PICK – Ignacio Bahamondes via Knockout, Round 2
Norma Dumont (5-1) vs Erin Blanchfield (6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An exciting debut for Erin Blanchfield as one of the biggest prospects in women’s MMA enters the UFC to take on Norma Dumont in the bantamweight division.
Dumont has gone 1-1 in her two-fight UFC career so far, losing at featherweight to Megan Anderson before winning a decision against Ashlee Evans-Smith at UFC Vegas 15 and will fight Blanchfield in a short-notice fight. Blanchfield is a natural flyweight fighting up a division in her debut due to the short notice.
Dumont will have a considerable size advantage, but Blanchfield is a really exciting jiu-jitsu practitioner. Her ground game is stunning and her striking is only improving as her last knockout win via head-kick showed, but Dumont is a good wrestler on her own accord. While Blanchfield is brilliant, it’s hard to overlook the size disparity especially considering ‘Cold Blooded’ uses her physicality so well at flyweight. It will be a tough debut for her, I think Dumont gets the win. PICK – Norma Dumont via Decision
Scott Holtzman (14-4) vs Mateusz Gamrot (17-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Gamrot is a very wrestling heavy fighter, whose bread and butter is to close distance and get the takedown to dominate from top position. Holtzman is more of a striker with good boxing skills and while his takedown defence is horrible, I can’t see him being able to hold off Gamrot’s attacks for long periods.
Holtzman has had wars in the past so his cardio isn’t really in question here, but those wars came against sub-par opposition which just adds to the concerns around the 37-year-old. Gamrot gets him down and grinds him out for a wide decision win. PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Jim Miller (32-15) vs Joe Solecki (10-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The featured prelim bout plays host to some history this weekend as Jim Miller becomes the fighter with the most octagon appearances when he takes on Joe Solecki in the lightweight division.
Miller is now 37 and his explosiveness has depleted, which gives Solecki a big advantage if they get to the ground. The issue for both is that usually when two grapplers meet the fight will stay on the feet, where Miller probably has a slight edge. But with his cardio problems, the longer the fight goes the more it swings in the younger man’s favour and while Miller is probably good enough to avoid getting tapped out, Solecki is likely to dominate the majority of the bout for a decision win. PICK – Joe Solecki via Decision