The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 61 this weekend with a strawweight contender main event headlining.
Brazilian bombshell Mackenzie Dern looks to bounce back from defeat when she takes on Yan Xiaonan in a five-round bout at the top of the card, with some decent support acts too.
The likes of Randy Brown, Randy Costa, Sodiq Yusuff and Raoni Barcelos are all on the card too, so it should be a sneakily good card.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 60 we went 8/13 with three perfect picks to move to 731/1132 (64.58%) with 308 perfect picks (42.13%). You can see our full picks history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims, we move on to the rest of our prelims picks here.
Krzysztof Jotko (24-5) vs Brendan Allen (19-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A really fun middleweight scrap up next. Jotko has won five of his last six including each of his last two, claiming decisions over Misha Cirkunov (UFC Vegas 38) and Gerald Meerschaert most recently. Allen has won four of his last five including his last two, submitting Sam Alvey in February before a decision win over Jacob Malkoun at UFC 275.
Jotko is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division, with an ability to wrestle and strike to a very high level depending on the opponent. Allen is in a very similar boat however, with more of a killer instinct to finish fights and that gives him a slight advantage here.
On the feet he is the more active and powerful striker with his kickboxing, while the wrestling looks pretty even when comparing their style and size. That additional output on the feet should be enough to claim a big shout on the scorecards, but he’ll have to be alert in a fight that is likely to lack big moments throughout.
PICK – Brendan Allen via Decision
Joaquim Silva (11-4) vs Jesse Ronson (21-11) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Two lightweights clash looking to get back in the win column here. Silva has lost his last two, getting KO’d by Nasrat Haqparast back in 2019 before his comeback fight ended in 37 seconds when Ricky Glenn KO’d him at UFC Vegas 29. Ronson also suffered defeat in his last bout, getting submitted by Rafa Garcia back in April.
Neto’s nickname is “Netto BJJ” but he is a straight up brawler when it comes to fight style, stepping forward and either killing or being killed. Ronson on the other hand is a power puncher too, with great durability and skill on the feet but he has real trouble when it comes to being taken down. This fight is really down to how Silva chooses to fight.
Should he opt to use his wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills then he should realistically be able to control him and potentially lock up a submission on the mat. But if he goes in as he has done throughout his UFC career and just goes for a brawl, he’ll get knocked out in the first round. I can’t pick someone off the basis of a ground duel when they’ve only attempted two takedowns in seven fights, so Ronson takes his head off early.
PICK – Jesse Ronson via Knockout, Round 1
Jessica Penne (14-7) vs Tabatha Ricci (7-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs) Baby shark returns to the cage to take on a veteran in this one. Penne saw a two-fight win streak, including an armbar win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 265, snapped last time out against Emily Ducote. Ricci on the other hand has won her last two in a row, beating Maria Oliveira and then Polyana Viana most recently. Both these women are at their best when grappling on the inside, with Penne using her wrestling and Ricci trying to use her judo to win fights. Ricci is also a decent striker from range, using her reach and length to jab before looking to instigate the grappling. Penne will certainly try to grind her way to a win, but I think Ricci’s volume could be the difference. Ricci has multiple avenues to takedowns and she’s more than capable of being able to grind out control on the ground and beginning to threaten with submissions. Penne has a size advantage which could help with her takedown attempts, but I’m going with youth on the scorecards on this occasion.
PICK – Tabatha Ricci via Decision
Ilir Latifi (16-8) vs Aleksei Oleinik (60-16-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Featured prelim bout of the night has the heavyweights going at it. Latifi snapped a three-fight losing streak last time out when he claimed a split decision win over Tanner Boser at UFC Vegas 28. Oleinik on the other hand snapped his own three-fight losing streak after being KO’d by Derrick Lewis (UFC Vegas 6) and Chris Daukaus (UFC Vegas 19) before dropping a decision to Sergei Spivak when he submitted Jared Vanderaa at UFC 273.
Latifi is a serial wrestler, who looks to step forward and use double legs or single legs to get the fight to the ground where he can grind on top and control his opponent. He loves to loop his right hand over the top too and it does carry power. Oleinik on the other hand throws absolute bombs while he marches forward to get his hands on you and drag you to the mat to strangle you. Oleinik has a big size advantage and while Latifi has the wrestling advantage there is a huge submission threat even if Oleinik is on the bottom.
Expect Latifi to try to get on top with wrestling and be relatively successful with that, but eventually he’ll tire and Oleinik will be able to wrap him up with some kind of choke to earn the win.
PICK – Aleksei Oleinik via Submission, Round 2