Tag Archives: Tafon Nchukwi

UFC Vegas 50: Santos vs Ankalaev – Early prelims predictions

After a banger of a pay-per-view card last weekend the UFC returns to their APEX in Las Vegas for a big light heavyweight headline fight card as Thiago Santos takes on Magomed Ankalaev in the main event.

The 205-pound division is wide open at the top end and a big win for either man could see them enter title contention in the very near future.

We’ll also see Marlon Moraes take on Song Yadong in a bantamweight co-main event, while the likes of Drew Dober, Terrance McKinney, Miranda Maverick and Alex Pereira competing too in a sneakily stacked card.

Last time out at UFC 272 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 557/865 (64.39%) with 238 perfect picks (42.73%) with our picks.

We’ll look to improve on that going forward, starting with the early prelims on this 14-fight card here.


Tafon Nchukwi (6-1) vs Azamat Murzakanov (10-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

An interesting light heavyweight bout opens the card up here. Nchukwi picked up a win in last fight, earning a decision over Mike Rodriguez most recently after suffering the first loss of his career prior to that against Jun Yong Park at UFC Vegas 26. Murzakanov makes his UFC debut in this one as an undefeated fighter.

Nchukwi is an explosive striker with good wrestling skills, but a real lack of speed to go with his karate background. Murzakanov on the other hand is a very quick 205-pounder, with a Sambo background to match up in the grappling and serious power in his hands and feet too. Nchukwi has a big problem with his volume and while a lack of speed isn’t usually too much of an issue in this weight class, Murzakanov is much faster than the average light heavyweight.

Technically on the feet Murzakanov is a better striker, has a serious speed advantage, is just as powerful and can match up (if not better) Nchukwi on the ground. This is all set up for a mightily impressive performance from the debutant to earn a big win.
PICK – Azamat Murzakanov via Knockout, Round 2

Kris Moutinho (9-5) vs Guido Cannetti (8-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A fan favourite returns looking to get his first win in the UFC in this one. Kris Moutinho earned a boat-load of fans for his heart and performance in defeat to Sean O’Malley on short-notice at UFC 264, while Cannetti returned after one year away to suffer a split-decision loss against Leomana Martinez at UFC Vegas 35 to make it three losses in a row.

Moutinho is a pressure fighter who has a granite chin and undeniable cardio, while Cannetti is a powerful striker with good wrestling but horrendous cardio. The question for this fight is simple; can Cannetti get him out of there in the first round? If not, he’s going to lose this fight.

Moutinho will not stop coming forward and that will wear on Cannetti. ‘Ninja’ could look to earn a takedown or two to get some control, but Moutinho has got some decent takedown defence too. If he fails, that just empties the gas tank quicker and while Moutinho isn’t the most powerful the volume could add up and see him earn a stoppage via accumulation.
PICK – Kris Moutinho via Knockout, Round 3



Dalcha Lungiambula (11-3) vs Cody Brundage (6-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

Very interesting middleweight fight up next between two relative UFC newcomers. Lungiambula is 2-2 in the company alternating his wins and losses, with the most recent win coming against Markus Perez at UFC Fight Island 8 and a defeat to Marc-Andre Barriault at UFC Vegas 36. Brundage suffered defeat in his UFC debut to Nick Maximov at UFC 266 via decision.

Lungiambula is a powerhouse who uses looping strikes and patience, while he has a good judo background and a solid leg kick too. Brundage however is a grinding wrestler, which looks to spell big trouble for the former LFA double champion. Lungiambula has a tendency to load up his strikes too much and move backwards towards the cage, which against a wrestler is a formula for trouble.

Brundage does leave his chin exposed sometimes and if he gets caught with a lazy entry then he could very well wake up staring at the ceiling, but the likelihood is that he gets to the hips, gets takedowns and just grinds his way to an impressive decision win.
PICK – Cody Brundage via Decision

Sabina Mazo (9-3) vs Miranda Maverick (11-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A very good women’s flyweight bout up next between two hot prospects at 125-pounds. Mazo went 3-1 in her first four UFC fights but has since suffered defeat in each of her last two, dropping a decision to Alexis Davis at UFC Vegas 20 and then being submitted by Mariya Agapova at UFC Vegas 39. Maverick opened her career with a 2-0 start in the UFC, but then suffered short-notice defeats to both Maycee Barber and Erin Blanchfield at UFC 269 in her most recent bouts.

Mazo is a striker but has really struggled to impress in the organisation so far, with even her victories showing her struggles more than her triumphs in the cage. Maverick on the other hand has been the opposite, dominating her opponents while her defeat to barber was controversial and Blanchfield is a stunning prospect in her own right. Stylistically, she is a strong wrestler who is very aggressive with her striking and her pace is relentless. That spells big trouble for ‘Colombian Queen’.

She has struggled badly in the past against wrestle-heavy opponents like Davis, while on the feet she lacks the volume to keep Maverick at range. Despite a big size advantage in height and reach, expect Maverick to overpower Mazo into clinch or wrestling situations to claim an impressive win.
PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision

UFC Vegas 37: Smith vs Spann – Prelims predictions

The UFC returns to our screens this weekend after a two week break with a huge 15-fight card, headlined by light heavyweights Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith and Ryan Spann.

The 205lbs division is top heavy right now, with lots of guys vying for title contention and that includes former challenger Smith. A win for Spann however in his first ever main event would be a huge deal for him and mean he has no easy fights in his future.

Elsewhere on the card there is a hotly anticipated match-up between Ariane Lipski and debutant Mandy Bohm in the women’s flyweight division, while the likes of Joaquin Buckley, Nate Maness, Raquel Pennington, Impa Kasanganay and Arman Tsarukyan all fight too.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 36, we had a decent run going 6/9 with three perfect picks. That moved us to 402/633 (63.51%) with 177 perfect picks (44.03%) since we began.

A huge card, we’ve split our picks up into three this week so we’ll start with the opening four early prelim bouts.


Montel Jackson (10-2) vs JP Buys (9-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A very interesting fight as the highly-rated Montel Jackson takes on JP Buys, who moves up from flyweight after defeat in his debut with the UFC. Jackson has got a 4-2 record in the UFC including a big KO win over Jesse Strader last time out at UFC Vegas 22. Buys was highly rated outside the UFC and joined in March on the same card and got starched by Bruno Silva.

Jackson is a super powerful striker with brilliant submission skills on the mat too. He’s got a vicious right hand and has six knockdowns in the bantamweight division to show just how powerful he is. Buys had excellent wrestling outside the UFC and was tipped for big things, while his kickboxing is pretty decent too.

This is a weird match-up because Jackson is more powerful, a better submission threat and a far bigger man naturally. Buys needs to show some real improvements and get a bit of luck to be successful here and I just don’t see it, because Jackson is very good.
PICK – Montel Jackson via Knockout, Round 2

Nikolas Motta (12-3) vs Cameron VanCamp (15-5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A double UFC debut in this one in what should be an exciting fight in the lightweight division. ‘Iron’ Motta steps in for his first official UFC fight after a win on the Contender Series at the back end of 2020 and on a three-fight win streak. VanCamp is a short-notice replacement for the veteran Jim Miller and makes his debut on a four-fight win streak.

Motta is a Muay-Thai striker with great knees, kicks and a powerful right hand. VanCamp is more of a grappler, with nine submission wins from 13 career stoppage victories but he does like to stand and strike a fair bit. VanCamp likes to switch stances in order to get a better chance on a single leg takedown, but Motta is so incredibly powerful and is happy to throw good combinations and take chances.

Motta’s takedown defence isn’t rubbish and VanCamp’s takedown offence isn’t quite sensational. But with Jim Miller the original opponent, I’m confident in saying he’s not more dangerous on the mat and that will help Motta. Motta will be able to stay away from VanCamp’s takedown and he will land heavy shots in order to get himself a big KO win.
PICK – Nikolas Motta via Knockout, Round 1

Rong Zhu (17-4) vs Brandon Jenkins (15-7) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A super-short notice bout at 155lbs as Rongzhu takes on the incoming Brandon Jenkins from the PFL on less than a week’s notice, after Dakota Bush withdrew. Rongzhu went on a ten-fight win streak before joining the UFC, winning his promotion’s lightweight title but he was beaten in his debut by ‘Kazula’ Vargas at UFC 261. Jenkins won his most recent fight last month against Jason Kilburn via flying knee.

Rongzhu is a very powerful striker with an impressive 11 knockouts inside 15 stoppage wins. He’s so aggressive and his experience for a 21-year-old is incredibly impressive. Jenkins also has some powerful striking, with ten knockouts from 15 career wins while he has decent wrestling in his back pocket also and some decent Muay-Thai.

If this fight was set up in advance, it would be sensational. But because it’s on short-notice, it’s hard to go against someone like Rongzhu. He’s got stoppage power, great cardio and submission skills too. This could potentially be a fight of the night, but I’m backing Rongzhu to get a spectacular KO.
PICK – Rongzhu via Knockout, Round 2

Pannie Kianzad (16-5) vs Raquel Pennington (11-9) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

An interesting bantamweight bout at the top end of the 135lbs women’s division. Kianzad has won four-in-a-row, racking up victories over Jessica Rose-Clark, Bethe Correia, Sijara Eubanks and Alexis Davis most recently at UFC 263. Pennington on the other hand is 2-3 in her last five, but secured a dominant win over Marion Reneau at UFC Vegas 3.

Kianzad is a solid kickboxer with really sharp hands and good takedown defence, while Pennington will be looking to secure a clinch against the cage, slow the momentum and volume down before looking to make the fight very boring and just control positions rather than too much damage.

Kianzad will need to use her volume and power in this fight and Pennington will be keen to ensure that doesn’t happen. It’ll be a fight that won’t have many moments to look back on but in all honesty I think Kianzad has the ability to use her footwork and land enough to scrape a close decision.
PICK – Pannie Kianzad via Decision

Mike Rodriguez (11-6) vs Tafon Nchukwi (5-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

Featured prelim bout between two interestingly rated light heavyweights. Rodriguez is 1-3 and 1 no contest in his last five fights, losing his last two to Ed Herman and Danilo Marques at UFC Vegas 18 via submission. Nchukwi started well in the UFC, beating Jamie Pickett at UFC Vegas 17 before moving down to middleweight and getting absolutely dominated by Jun Yong Park at UFC Vegas 26.

Rodriguez is a good boxer with solid cardio and good power, but his striking is in keeping with his ‘Slow’ moniker. Nchukwi is an incredibly powerful kickboxer, but he has shown tremendous cardio issues whenever asked to grapple and seemingly just gets completely lost on the mat. That doesn’t really help Rodriguez in this one, who’s ideal path is in the striking realm where he is realistically outmatched here.

Nchukwi has scary one-punch power and is patient despite his lack of experience. Nchukwi will stay patient from range and land short strikes, before exploding at some point in the first round and turning Rodriguez’s lights out and likely ending his UFC tenure.
PICK – Tafon Nchukwi via Knockout, Round 1

UFC Vegas 26: Rodriguez vs Waterson – Results (Highlights)

**Ryan Benoit missed weight and wasn’t cleared medically to compete, so his fight with Zarrukh Adashev was cancelled.

Phillipe Lins fell ill before the weigh-ins and wasn’t able to get on the scales, so his fight with Ben Rothwell was cancelled.

Amanda Ribas and a member of her corner team tested positive for COVID-19 hours before the event, so her bout with Angela Hill was cancelled.

The card will proceed with nine fights.**


PRELIMS

Carlston Harris def Christian Aguilera via Submission (Anaconda Choke), Round 1 (2:52)

Positive start for Aguilera in the opening minute as he tries to close the distance with strikes but Harris grabs him and looks for the takedowns. Aguilera is able to stay on his feet though and lands a big uppercut that seems to rock Harris. Harris stays calm and starts using his range well with kicks to recover, then lands a big left hand of his own that hurts Aguilera! Harris lands a nice right hand down the middle and then Aguilera shoots for a takedown to try and recover. Harris sprawls, locks up Aguilera’s neck with an anaconda choke and puts him to sleep! What a debut win!

Jun Yong Park def Tafon Nchukwi via Majority Decision (30-25, 29-26, 28-28

Good start to the fight from both men, as they both look to take the centre and be first ahead of their opponent. Park doing well behind his jab, using his great speed advantage to land well but Nchukwi is throwing good strikes too with more power. Park establishing the jab really well and trying to get Nchukwi to throw more so he can counter back. Nchukwi goes for an inside low kick but lands on the cup of Park and causes a pause in the action. Action resumes and Park continues with the jabs, both men trade leg kicks and the round ends. 10-9 Park.

Better start to the round for Nchukwi this time as he fakes a few times and lands a nice flurry of strikes to the face of Park. Park responds with his jabs once again but Nchukwi starting to throw some powerful kicks to the body. Park catches one of those kicks and looks for a takedown against the cage with it and gets a front headlock. Nchukwi fighting the hands and throws a knee to the body but misses and hits the cup once again for another low blow. The referee deducts one point from Nchukwi. Park continues to land his jab and come forward with his speed advantage and then changes levels for a takedown. Nchukwi reverses it with pure power and ends up on top but can’t land any damage before Park is able to work his way back up to the feet and start landing the jab again. Nchukwi goes in for a takedown but Park stops him with a headlock. Nchukwi uses pure power to lift him but Park locks in a guillotine and it’s tight, but the buzzer goes to end the round and save him. 20-17 Park.

Good exchanges at the start of the final round as Park’s jab goes to work once again while Nchukwi looks to come forward with a bit more urgency. A few low kicks from Nchukwi and some big swings with his right hand, but Park rolling well and is able to jab away with ease. Park changes levels and gets a takedown against the cage and is starting to wear on Nchukwi, putting all his weight on him and dragging him to and from. Park gets into three-quarter mount and starts throwing big elbows and heavy strikes, looking for a choke and big ground-and-pound as we enter the final 90 seconds. Nchukwi is bleeding badly but Park eases up on the mauling as the round ends and that’s a very dominant win. 30-25 for me.

Mike Trizano def Ludovit Klein via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Nice, tactical start to the fight from both guys as Trizano takes the centre and forces Klein backwards immediately. Klein lands a nice one two and Trizano responds with a right hand of his own before the exchange body kicks. Trizano’s pressure is forcing Klein to fight backwards and he’s struggling to get his attack going, but Trizano not landing much of his own. Klein shoots in with a nice double-leg takedown and gets Trizano down against the cage and tries to wrap his legs up Khabib-style. Trizano works his way back to his feet and the clinch and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Klein for me but it was close.

Nice right hand lands early on in the second round that puts Klein on his heels as Trizano continues his forward pressure. Klein goes for a head kick that just misses but follows it up with a nice right hand and a big left behind it. Klein shoots for a takedown again but Trizano is wise to it and stuffs it this time. Nice inside kick from Trizano as he forces Klein backwards again, but Klein explodes forward and lands a big left hand again. Trizano landing his jab well as he continues to push Klein backwards but he keeps bursting forwards with nice flurries. Klein bursts forward once more and gets another takedown and ends the round on top, but Trizano active off his back with body shots and should take that round. 19-19 for me.

Forward pressure once again from Trizano and it pays dividends early as he lands a big right hand that rocks Klein! Klein goes for a desperate takedown to survive and Trizano stuffs it, but Klein moves and manages to shake the cobwebs for now. Klein lands a nice left hand of his own but Trizano eats it, then Klein lands a nice leg kick. Body kick from Klein lands and Trizano goes for a right straight to the body. Trizano starting to land his strikes more as he forces Klein backwards and it forces another takedown from Klein. They get back up and then Klein takes him down again, but Trizano looks to sink in a guillotine but runs out of time. 29-28 Trizano for me but could go either way.

MAIN CARD

Phil Hawes def Kyle Daukaus via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 29-27)

Big pressure early on from Hawes as he backs Daukaus against the cage, while Daukaus looks to keep him at range. A few wild exchanges from both on the feet and Hawes goes in for a takedown early. He gets him down and passes the legs, but Daukaus holds on to the neck and it looks like Hawes has a Von Flute choke in. Daukaus elevates his hips and sweeps Hawes to end up on top and starts looking for control. Hawes eventually gets back to the feet and Daukaus goes in for a takedown again immediately but Hawes defends really well and the rest of the round plays out in a stalemate. 10-9 Daukaus for controlling the grappling against the cage.

Huge start to the second round from Daukaus as he comes out swinging with short hooks and combinations. He lands six or seven big punches and Hawes looks badly hurt on the feet before Hawes is able to clinch up and stall until he has recovered. They separate and Hawes lands a few strikes of his own and Daukaus gets wobbled! Daukaus immediately clinches up too but Hawes then breaks with a big elbow. Nice right hand against from Hawes and they clinch up, then both throw a knee at the same time but Hawes hits the cup to cause a pause. Action resumes and Hawes goes back to working the body with big hooks, slowing Daukaus down as the round ends. 19-19.

Final round and Hawes lands a big right hand early before shooting in for a takedown and getting the fight down. Daukaus trying to be very active off his back, but Hawes defending everything well and landing some nice short strikes from top position. Daukaus looks to sweep again but Hawes denies it and goes back to the ground pound, going body-head. Hawes starts landing heavy shots and forces Daukaus to try and cover up and the referee is threatening to call the fight off here. He moves enough to supress that, but Hawes is working brilliantly from top position and in complete control. Final 30 seconds and Hawes continues the ground and pound to win the round and probably the fight. Great performance. 29-28 Hawes.

Gregor Gillespie def Diego Ferreira via Knockout, Round 2 (4:51)

Interesting start to the fight as Gillespie takes the centre and lets off a nice left hook. Ferreira shoots a few strikes of his own before Gillespie goes for the early takedown, but the Brazilian defends with submission attempts and eventually gets back up to the feet. Gillespie shoots for another takedown but it’s denied, then Ferreira lets off a couple of right hands that have wobbled him! Gillespie keeps going to the well for the takedown but Ferreira is scrambling brilliantly and using his jiu-jitsu to escape regularly. Ferreira scrambles and sweeps to Gillespie’s back with hooks in, going for a choke and ground and pound but the round ends. 10-9 Ferreira.

Second round and Gillespie looks tired but he’s shooting in for the takedowns still and avoiding the big swings of Ferreira. Lots of scrambling on the ground and Ferreira looks for a kimura from the bottom but Gillespie just keeps moving and floating to the next position as Ferreira is tiring. Gillespie starts landing some big strikes and threatening with chokes of his own and is really wearing on Ferreira. Gillespie takes his back, flattens him out and starts landing big elbows and strikes and the referee steps in to end the fight! Huge win for Gregor Gillespie!!

Marcos Rogerio de Lima def Maurice Greene via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)

Fast start to the heavyweight bout as de Lima starts throwing wild hooks looking to take Greene’s head off. Both men swing and miss for the most part before they clinch up and de Lima takes the fight down to the ground in Greene’s full guard. Nice ground and pound from de Lima from top position as he’s putting some big pressure on to win the round. 10-9 de Lima.

Second round and immediately de Lima gets the fight down to the ground and gets control. Lots of control and ground and pound from top position as Greene looks to tie him up but it’s just more and more control and ground and pound. As the buzzer goes to end the round, Lima throws a big bomb and Herb Dean gives him a very serious warning. 20-18.

Third and final round and once again de Lima gets a very early takedown into top position and controlling the fight. Plenty of ground and pound again from de Lima as Greene just continues to accept bottom position and get beaten up. This is a completely one-sided fight and relatively pointless as the round ends. 30-27 for me because of a lack of damage, but could be a 10-8 for each round in reality.

Neil Magny def Geoff Neal via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Great start to the round from Neal as he steps forward quickly and immediately puts Magny on the back foot. Nice straight shots as Magny looks to throw a kick or two, but Neal catches it and pushes him back to the cage. Nice one-two lands from Neal before they clinch up and Magny starts to throw some nice knees to the body. Magny bursts forward with a flurry of punches to get a clinch, but Neal takes him across to the cage. Magny changes levels and gets a takedown and looks to take the back, but Neal spins out and gets back to the feet once again. Another clinch against the cage as the round ends. 10-9 Neal.

Magny looking to up the pressure a bit in the second now as he starts throwing some kicks to the body and nice flurries to the head too. Neal doing well to block most of them though and firing back with some nice combinations of his own. Neal clinches and gets a nice trip before a big left hand lands, but Magny gets up and then shoots for a takedown of his own. Neal sprawls and puts Magny against the cage. Nice straight left lands from Neal before Magny goes for a single leg takedown but Neal defends it relatively well until Magny changes the angle and is able to take the back with a body lock. Magny is able to escape it again as they go back to trading in the centre. Magny just touching him with more jabs and kicks as Neal’s output is starting to slow a little. Another clinch against the cage and Neal lands a big elbow as the round ends. 19-19, great fight.

Neal looking to close the distance in the third but trying to avoid a clinch situation, as Magny continues to throw out jabs that are barely landing. Magny definitely the more active of the two, but not much damage being done by either guy at the moment. Neal stuffs a Magny takedown attempt, as he starts to walk Magny down more. Nice one-two lands against the cage but Magny immediately grabs him and clinches before separating and landing some nice jabs. Neal looking frustrated now and Magny gets hold of him and drags him down to the mat, but Neal gets back up quickly once again. Final 30 seconds and Neal lands a huge straight left but Magny sees out the round with with jabs to probably take the win. 29-28 Magny.

Alex Morono def Donald Cerrone via Knockout, Round 1 (4:40)

Fast start from Morono as he charges out into the centre, but Cerrone grabs hold of him and clinches up against the cage to drain that early start out of him. Morono swinging bombs as they separate but Cowboy avoiding it for now and landing a few shots of his own. Nice body kick from Cerrone and then Morono swings in hard again, but Cerrone changes levels and goes for a takedown that is denied. Morono gets a trip of his own but allows Cerrone up and hits him with a right hand on his way up. Morono throws a big right hand that lands clean on Cerrone and he’s backing up. Cerrone throws a left hand and Morono ducks under and a huge looping left overhand cracks Cerrone clean! He’s badly hurt and Morono goes for the finish, throwing a big body shot and knees to the head. Big right hands again from Morono and the referee steps in with Cowboy out on his feet! Wow! What a knockout win for Morono!

Marina Rodriguez def Michelle Waterson via Unanimous Decision (48-47, 49-46 x2)

Slow start to the fight in this one as both women look to feel each other out early on, with Waterson throwing some hard leg kicks that are just missing. Rodriguez takes the centre as the round goes on, throwing some nice body kicks and hard punches while Waterson looks to counter with some nice spin kicks. Rodriguez trying to close the distance to nullify the kicks but Waterson moving well so far to stay out of danger. Bit of a wild clinch at the end of the round ends with a nice knee from Rodriguez, good round that could go either way. 10-9 Rodriguez for me.

Waterson unloading with kicks in this second round, looking to really keep Rodriguez at distance with a side kick counter. Rodriguez continues to come forward and throw the right hand, but Waterson keeps moving away. Waterson goes for a takedown but Rodriguez stuffs it easily and then lands two big punches. Rodriguez grabs a clinch against the cage and lands a nice knee to the body and Waterson separates. Both women trade leg kicks before Rodriguez goes for another clinch and lands some more knees. Waterson goes for a leg kick that just misses but then she lands a body kick and avoids a big right hook from Rodriguez. Big flurry of hooks from Rodriguez followed up by some big knees and an elbow to end the round. 20-18 Rodriguez.

Waterson goes for a leg kick early but misses and ends up on her butt, before Rodriguez catches her with a nice head kick on her way up. Waterson clinches against the cage but Rodriguez defends well and the separate with the Brazilian back in the centre. Rodriguez lands some huge hooks and Waterson covers up hurt, before stepping out and escaping. Two hard leg kicks by Waterson put Rodriguez down for a second, before a nice body kick too. Rodriguez swinging with a lot of power, but Waterson is absorbing it for now. Rodriguez is landing heavy punches but Waterson is still moving and countering with leg kicks and side kicks. Leg kick from Rodriguez followed up by a three-punch combo lands nicely. Rodriguez clinches and throwing big knees but Waterson replies with an uppercut to end the round. 30-27 Rodriguez.

Rodriguez staying patient in the centre as we enter the main event rounds, throwing some low kicks and searching for a home for the big right hand. Waterson keeps moving around the cage, throwing leg kicks of her own as Rodriguez lands a body kick. Waterson goes in for a takedown and gets it, straight into the guard of Rodriguez. Waterson controls the position and lands some heavy elbows on the ground with Rodriguez pinned against the cage. Rodriguez threatens a kimura to try and escape but Waterson rains down big elbows again to end the round on top. 39-37 Rodriguez.

Final round and Waterson staying calm in the centre, not shooting straight in for a takedown as many would have expected. Rodriguez just misses with a right hand and then Waterson throws back-to-back head kicks with the second one clipping Rodriguez. Side kick to the body from Waterson looks like it hurts Rodriguez, but she stays calm and then hits Waterson with a big right hand of her own. Waterson finally goes for the takedown but Rodriguez stuffs it and lands a nice body shot. Another big body shot and left hook from Rodriguez but Waterson replies with a right hand. Waterson steps forward and lands a side kick to the body again, but Rodriguez throws a jab and then looks to clinch up. Big knee and head kick from Rodriguez but Waterson keeps moving and the two women go out swinging as the round ends. 49-46 Rodriguez for me. Great fight.

UFC Vegas 26: Rodriguez vs Waterson – Prelims predictions

A rather short-notice card finally comes together this weekend when Marina Rodriguez takes on Michelle Waterson in the main event.

After the original main event between Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw fell through due to an injury to the former champion, the UFC were left scrambling and managed to throw together two strawweights competing at flyweight to headline the card.

In the co-main event, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone will now also face off against a short-notice opponent when Alex Morono replaces Diego Sanchez in the welterweight division. There’s also a big welterweight bout on the card between Geoff Neal and Neil Magny, with both men looking to get back on the winning trail and among the contenders of the division.

Last week at UFC Vegas 25, we went 8/11 with four perfect picks to improve to 302/473 (63.85%) with 133 perfect picks (44.04%).

With a fun 12 fight card ahead of us this weekend, lets look to improve that record starting with the prelims here.


EARLY PRELIMS

Christian Aguilera (14-7) vs Carlston Harris (15-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A fun welterweight bout to open up the card as Christian Aguilera looks to get back on the winning trail against UFC debutant Carlston Harris. Aguilera beat Anthony Ivy on his debut at UFC Vegas 2 via knockout, before being submitted by Sean Brady at UFC Vegas 8 in August, while Harris won his last three including most recently in January via submission.

Aguilera is a striker with a very heavy right hand and good pressure, but his gas tank has given him problems in the past. Against a solid grappler and cardio machine in Harris, that is a bad recipe. Aguilera has got the power to turn a fight around with just one punch but the way Harris shoots in at the hips and holds his opponents down, the opportunities to land that big punch will be few and far between.

Harris should be able to get a takedown and work his top game and search for submissions, but I think he grinds out a comfortable decision win.
PICK – Carlston Harris via Decision

Jun Yong Park (12-4) vs Tafon Nchukwi (5-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A middleweight bout between two relative newcomers to the UFC is next. Park is on a two-fight win streak, with a win over John Phillips on Fight Island 6 most recently while Nchukwi is an undefeated prospect who went the distance for the first time in his UFC debut win over Jamie Pickett at UFC Vegas 17.

Park is a very adept boxer but has shown great wrestling chops in his most recent wins, making him able to dictate where this fight takes place. Nchukwi on the other hand is still very green, with activity on the feet not the best although he does possess great power. Nchukwi has won his last five fights before he’s entered the cage, with his frame just intimidating guys into respecting him way too much.

The skillsets aren’t too indifferent but with Park’s experience and ability to switch it up, I think he’ll come in confident and stick to his game plan of working behind the jab and mixing in takedowns to get the decision.
PICK – Jun Yong Park via Decision

PRELIMS

Ryan Benoit (10-7) vs Zarrukh Adashev (3-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

An interesting flyweight bout between two guys who have lost their last two in a row. Benoit has fought a bunch of top level competition in the UFC, but his most recent defeats came against Heili Alateng and Tim Elliott at Fight Island 1 last summer. Adashev on the other hand is a weird one, currently 0-2 in the UFC, losing to Tyson Nam in 32 seconds at UFC Vegas 2 and Su Madaerji at Fight Island 8 in January.

Benoit is an okay striker with decent best takedowns, but he has great cardio and absolutely never gives in. Adashev is a brilliant kickboxer who hasn’t had the rub of the green with opponents, who have had him outgunned in size. Adashev has good power of his own too and has won two of his three victories via knockout. Benoit has good power in his hands and has a much better ability of mixing the fight up to make it happen in different places.

It should be a high energy fight between the two but I think Benoit is able to mix it up enough to take a close decision.
PICK – Ryan Benoit via Decision

Ludovit Klein (17-2) vs Mike Trizano (8-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A hugely fun fight coming up at 145lbs here as kickboxing demon Ludovit Klein takes on former Ultimate Fighter winner Mike Trizano. Klein won his UFC debut at UFC 253 with a beautiful knockout against Shane Young, while Trizano returns after almost exactly two years out following a loss to Grant Dawson.

Klein has brilliant striking and has won each of his last three fights via head kick, but also has good submissions on the mat too. Trizano is a good kickboxer on his own accord, but also has really good takedowns and is a bit more of a physical fighter. If the fight is a clean, technical bout then Klein will eat him alive but if Trizano can make it ugly and mix it up he has a path for victory.

Overall though, I think Klein’s stopping power just seems to be the biggest difference between the two. He has good takedown defence, nasty knees and elbows and is a powerful puncher so I think he could get the finish.
PICK – Ludovit Klein via Knockout, Round 2

Ben Rothwell (38-13) vs Phillipe Lins (14-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A heavyweight banger in the featured prelim slot as the veteran Ben Rothwell takes on Phillipe Lins. Rothwell has lost four of his last six including his most recent bout against Marcin Tybura at UFC Fight Island 5, while Lins has lost his last two to Andrei Arlovski and Tanner Boser at UFC Vegas 4.

This is not going to be a great fight in all honesty. Rothwell has great power and a good chin but other than the big right hand there’s nothing special going on for him. Lins is a wrestling heavyweight who doesn’t really go for takedowns much and just tends to throw strikes that are there for the sake of being active.

This fight won’t be the most memorable, but Lins got knocked out by Boser who doesn’t hit nearly as hard as Rothwell so I think this one goes a similar way.
PICK – Ben Rothwell via Knockout, Round 1

UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs Neal – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Christos Giagos def Carlton Minus via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-28)

Fast start to the round from Christos Giagos here as he comes out with a big overhand right hand that goes straight into a level change for a takedown. Minus immediately tries to scramble out but gives up his back and Giagos goes straight into full mount. He’s floating well and landing some good ground and pound, while also threatening with a rear-naked choke relentlessly. Minus gets back up but Giagos is more than comfortable on the feet and gets it back down again as the round ends. Potentially a 10-8 for Giagos.

Second round is essentially the exact same thing as first. Complete domination on the ground from Giagos with plenty of attempts at head and arm chokes, rear naked chokes and ground and pound. Minus is being totally controlled but doing just enough to avoid being finished. Potentially 20-16 after two rounds in favour of Giagos.

Third and final round starts in the same way as the previous two, with Giagos circling before eventually securing a takedown that Minus just can’t defend. Minus gets back up this time though as Giagos is clearly fatigued and starts landing some nice jabs and one-twos. Minus lands a stiff uppercut as the fight draws to a close, with Giagos just circling to survive the final 60 seconds. Easy win in the end for Giagos, 30-25 on my scorecard.

Jimmy Flick def Cody Durden via Submission (Triangle choke), Round 1 (3:18)

Great start to the fight from Durden as both fighters exchange strikes before he grabs a takedown and moves quickly to take the back. He lands some decent punches on the ground but Flick gets back to his feet relatively quickly and they separate. Durden looks explosive and lands some big punches, as Flick covers up well and keeps his guard high. Flick goes for a head kick that Durden catches, but Flick turns it into a flying triangle choke! He pulls him into his guard, tightens the choke and gets the tap! Unbelievable! Wow!

PRELIMS

Tafon Nchukwi def Jamie Pickett via Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-26 x2)

Nchukwi makes a fast start and comes across the cage throwing heavy strikes but Pickett tries to avoid using his speed and mobility. Nchukwi throwing combinations and ending with a head kick a lot, but not landing them. Pickett scores a nice takedown against the cage, but Nchukwi does well to get back to the feet without taking too much damage. Nchukwi gets the fight down to the ground himself and shows good control but Pickett gets back up. Spinning elbow lands from Nchukwi as his cardio seems to be holding up well, with lots of knees to the body landing in clinches too. 10-9 Nchukwi.

Fast start against from Nchukwi as he powers out of the traps with a big overhand right hand. Nchukwi is still pressuring Pickett against the cage and whenever they clinch he starts dirty boxing with lots of body strikes and knees to the body too. Left hand landing a lot from Nchukwi but it’s lacking the big power now, although still doing damage. Pickett lands a nice one-two that snaps Nchukwi’s head back, but then he returns with a right hand of his own. Pickett lands a big four or five punch combination that sends Nchukwi backwards. Pickett comes forward and there’s a big clash of heads as the buzzer goes. 20-18 Nchukwi but he’s slowing a little.

Before the third round starts with the doctor checking out Pickett after the clash of heads but the fight goes on. Nchukwi lands a big left hand out of the gate as the round begins and Pickett looks dazed still. Nchukwi is starting to land more flush now and Pickett is hurt. Big knees to the body against the cage again followed by a big left elbow and Pickett is down! Big ground and pound from Nchukwi but Pickett is covering up well and surviving. Nchukwi lets him back up to his feet into the final minute and continues to walk him down looking for a finish. Great fight, but that’s a 10-8 for Nchukwi and a big win. 30-26 for me.

Taila Santos def Gillian Robertson via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 29-28)

A quick start to the fight for Robertson as the two end up in a clinch against the cage and she goes for a flying armbar quickly! Santos is in danger but she stays calm and eventually gets out of the position and ends up in full guard, controlling the position and landing some nice ground and pound. Robertson throwing elbows from her back to create space and damage but Santos is doing well to nullify her. Robertson tries to scramble back up to her feet but once agains Santos is able to over-power her and land strikes on the ground to see the round out. 10-9 Santos.

Second round begins and once again a clinch against the cage ends up with Taila Santos on top and landing some nice short shots to the face. Santos ties her up and ends up on top with a reverse triangle choke with the legs, but Robertson defends really well and escapes into top position. Santos slides out of the back and ends up back on top once again, landing strikes and making Robertson very uncomfortable. Impressive round from Santos. 20-18.

Santos comes out in the third round and lands two nice punches, showing her striking chops, before Robertson throws a head kick and goes for a takedown. She ends up catching Santos in a guillotine, but the Brazilian stays patient and escapes, ending up back against the cage in top position. More short strikes from Santos as Robertson keeps working for a submission but nothing is working. Robertson finally manages to isolate an arm and rolls through for an armbar but Santos fights out of it once again and ends the round taking the back of Robertson. Dominant performance from the Brazilian. 30-27 Santos.

Deron Winn def Antonio Arroyo via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Explosive start from Arroyo as he comes in with some powerful strikes before Winn hits an early takedown. Arroyo scrambles back to his feet but then Winn gets another takedown early. A third and fourth takedown follow as the pattern of this fight continues as we pass the halfway point. Arroyo throws up an armbar attempt and then gets back to his feet once Winn escapes. He lands a big knee to the face and then a combo that hurts Winn, but he steps back and recovers. Arroyo starts stalking with hands low, but Winn looks for another takeodwn. Again Arroyo gets to the feet and lands a nasty front kick to the face but Winn eats it and gets another takedown as the round ends. 10-9 Winn but Arroyo looks more likely to win it at this rate.

Winn opens up the round with a wheel kick attempt that misses before landing a takedown, which he sees keep Arroyo down a little longer this time but Arroyo eventually gets back up to his feet. The round continues with the same pattern of Winn landing lots of takedowns and Arroyo getting back to his feet and landing nice strikes before going down again. Arroyo is exhausted at this point, throwing lazy kicks and accepting the position on his back while Winn lays on top to take a breather also.

Third round and once again Winn continues to blast takedown after takedown, taking him into double figures officially for the fight. Arroyo is exhausted and is accepting the position, being lazy off his back throwing up-kicks before Winn lets him back up. A nice head kick lands but Winn just goes straight back in for another takedown as we enter the final 30 seconds of the fight. They get back to the feet and Arroyo lands a body kick as the round comes to an end. Should be a win for Deron Winn.

Pannie Kianzad def Sijara Eubanks via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

A strong start for Eubanks as she lands a flurry of punches before getting the takedown at the first attempt. Lots of floating position and some good strikes from top control as Kianzad is clearly at a disadvantage in these instances. Eubanks controls the entire round with top control and ends the round taking the back of Kianzad, but she runs out of time before she can sink in a choke. 10-9 Eubanks.

Kianzad starts the second round well, landing some good strikes and then defend against the takedown attempt from Eubanks. Kianzad lands some nice knees to the body in the clinch and some good body shots that are doing some damage. Eubanks blasts a takedown and gets it but Kianzad immediately throws up her guard and defends. She looks to sink in an armbar from her back but Eubanks escapes well and Kianzad manages to get back to her feet. A few more body shots land and the round ends with Kianzad throwing elbows to the side of the head as she defends a takedown. 19-19, big round incoming.

Third round continues from where the second left off, as Kianzad keeps the fight standing and starts landing some nice jabs. Eubanks looks laboured now but then lands a big right hand on Kianzad that gets her attention. Kianzad throwing knees to the body again and her jab is landing but Eubanks is walking forward. Both women exchange jabs in the centre before a wild left hook misses the target completely. Final minute now as Eubanks lands a right hand before Kianzad steps in and out landing a nice one-two. Big left hook from Eubanks lands but Kianzad responds with a hook of her own. Fight comes to an end with the women exchanging blows in the centre. 29-28 Kianzad for me but that’s a great fight.

Anthony Pettis def Alex Morono via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

A blistering start to this fight as Morono charges across the cage and gets an immediate takedown with a hook in to take the back. He starts raining down huge punches and busts the nose of Pettis early. Body lock tightens as Morono looks for a rear naked choke, but Pettis rotates into him and reverses the position well before getting back up to his feet. Pettis starts flicking out strikes, looking for his big left hand but Morono countering well and forcing Pettis to move backwards. Big spinning kick from Pettis lands clean to the chest but Morono eats it and continues to come forward. Morono goes for another takedown and drags Pettis down to the mat but Pettis reverses it perfectly and ends the round on top. 10-9 Morono but great fight so far.

Fast paced start for the second round as Pettis comes out looking for jabs and kicks but Morono still coming forward. He’s beginning to slow down now a bit though as Pettis looks for a huge spinning elbow but hits fresh air. Pettis throwing some nice leg kicks and a straight left that is causing Morono some trouble, as Pettis throws an axe-kick that grazes the face of Morono. Body kick from Morono as he continues to come forward, but Pettis is landing shots and avoiding any big damage coming back his way. Body kick lands and then a jab from Pettis as both men look for spinning attacks at the end of the round. 19-19, Pettis looking good right now.

Morono lands a nice strike to open the round, before Pettis throws another axe kick that grazes the head. Pettis turns his back after a strike attempt and Morono charges for a takedown, but Pettis rolls through and ends up on top in control. Pettis doing brilliant work to remain on top, stacking Morono against the cage and landing short shots to stay busy. Morono battles back to his feet but Pettis controlling head position and landing knees to the body as we enter the final minute. Separation from the clinch and Morono charges forward with a flurry, but Pettis responds with a clean uppercut. Spinning wheel kick lands to the top of the head by Pettis and Morono is wobbled! Pettis charges for the finish and drops him, but then goes for a guillotine which he doesn’t quite get and ends the round on top raining down punches.

MAIN CARD

Marcin Tybura def Greg Hardy via Knockout, Round 2 (4:31)

An interesting start to this fight as both guys looking to fight from range using jabs, while Tybura looking to add a few kicks too. Hardy lands a nice right hand but Tybura eats it and throws a nice body kick. Hardy lands three big right hands in a row and Tybura is wobbled! Hardy slows it down again and Tybura goes for a single leg takedown but it’s defended well. Hardy then lands SEVEN heavy right hands in a row that really hurts Tybura but the round comes to an end. Best we’ve seen Hardy. 10-9.

Better start to the round for Tybura this time as he starts to time the shots of Hardy and countering well. He’s walking Hardy down and throwing kicks and jabs, feinting takedowns constantly too. Tybura shoots in for a takedown this time against the cage and Hardy defends it well at first before ending up flat on his back. Tybura flattens Hardy out onto his back and starts throwing bombs down! Hardy starts covering up and Tybura keeps punching until the referee stops the fight! Big comeback win for the Polish fighter!

Rob Font def Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)

Explosive start to the fight from Font as he comes out with two big hooks, which makes Moraes change levels and get a takedown quickly. Font manages to reverse the position and lands some nice knees to the body, but then Moraes picks him up and slams him down and takes control from top position. Font gets back to his feet and Moraes lands a nice head kick that sends Font backwards. Font then throws some bombs that rock Moraes and he drops him with a beautiful uppercut. He jumps on him for the ground and pound and the referee stops it! Wow! What a knockout!

Michel Pereira def Khaos Williams via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

A very tactical start to the fight with both guys throwing feints and just testing their range for the opening minute. Pereira throws a big one-two and a front kick to the body that connects hard, but Khaos doesn’t flinch. Halfway through the round, Khaos throws some leg kicks as the two clinch and separate quickly. Body kick from Pereira is caught by Khaos and the throws a big one-two that wobbles Pereira. Another front kick by Pereira is caught and another big right hook lands flush, but Pereira eats it and continues to come forward. Right hand lands by Pereira now and he follows it up with a knee up the middle. Flying knee attempt at the end from Pereira but it’s a tight round. 10-9 Khaos.

Another slow start to this round, but it bursts into life as Pereira counters a low kick with a straight right hand flush on the chin. Khaos comes forward and launches a flurry, that leads to a clinch in the centre that ends in a stalemate. Some nice leg kicks land from Khaos and then he starts attacking the body. Pereira responds with a body kick of his own and Khaos charges across the cage throwing punches, landing three in a row to the chin. Clinch against the cage and Pereira throws big knees to the body before they separate. Seconds to go and Pereira jumps on the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke, but runs out of time. Super close round, 20-18 Khaos for me though.

Fancy footwork from Pereira as he looks to get in and out with powerful strikes, but Khaos is throwing hooks that are landing too. Pereira goes for a weird mule-kick but misses completely and then Khaos throws a flurry of shots to the body and head. Pereira throws a body kick again and then changes levels to secure a takedown. Pereira tries to pass into mount but Khaos defends well and gets back to his feet as we enter the final minute. Khaos eats a kick to the head and then Pereira changes levels again and gets another takedown, ending the round with lots of ground and pound strikes. 29-28 Khaos at the end for me but could go either way.

Jose Aldo def Marlon Vera via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Tense start to the fight as Vera and Aldo stand in boxing range and exchange leg kicks early before Vera initiates a clinch against the cage. Aldo eats some knees to the thigh before reversing the position and separating. Big left hook to the body from Aldo gets a reaction from Vera and he throws it again shortly after. Straight right and a big leg kick from Aldo followed by a third body shot, as Vera throws straight kicks to the lead leg of Aldo. Vera throws a head kick which Aldo avoids then throws a big body shot and right hook combo. 10-9 Aldo as the round ends.

Aldo starts the second round with another big left body shot followed by a right hand to the head. Vera still throwing that stabbing leg kick to Aldo’s lead leg, but Aldo is countering with good head shots. Aldo catches a body kick and Vera spins and lands a back fist, moving out of range of Aldo’s counter at the same time. Clinch against the cage as Vera throws knees to the thigh, then looks for a trip. Aldo stays on the feet and throws a knee to the body before they clinch up again against the cage. Better round for Vera there, could well be even.

Vera charges across the cage to start strong but misses a strike and Aldo latches on to the back and locks in a body triangle. He jumps up to the back and eventually flattens Vera out, before eventually rolling through as he looks for a rear-naked choke. Vera is battling the position but Aldo controlling from the back. Vera manages to stand up with Aldo still on his back and walks him over to his corner, slamming him down, but Aldo keeps the body triangle synched up. Aldo keeps the back for the rest of the round and threatens the choke but the buzzer goes and that’s that. Should be an Aldo win.

Stephen Thompson def Geoff Neal via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x3)

Competitive start to the fight from both men as Wonderboy manages the distance expertly as usual, using kicks and jabs. Neal marching him down, looking to close distance to then explode with flurries of strikes but Wonderboy landing combos and then evading. Wonderboy looks very sharp, landing good strikes. Both men go for an exchange of strikes but clash heads, opening up a cut on both men just above their eyes. Fight is paused for a short while but only lasts for another 5 seconds before the end of the round. 10-9 Wonderboy.

Neal comes out in the second round and looks to engage in a clinch, but Wonderboy defends well and they separate quickly. Wonderboy then lands a stiff one-two down the middle, followed by some clean body kicks. Neal responds with a body kick of his own but Wonderboy counters with short strikes and stabbing body kicks. Straight right lands from Wonderboy as he continues to evade Neal’s attacks with excellent footwork. Neal traps Wonderboy against the cage and finally lands a big left hand, but Wonderboy eats it and responds with a strike of his own to end the round. 20-18 Wonderboy.

Wonderboy continues in the third as he has gone in the first and second so far with good kicking and nice one-twos before moving out of the way. Neal closes the distance and gets a clinch position against the cage, throwing knees to the thigh. Wonderboy swivels and separates well and goes back to landing strikes from range. Both throwing jabs, with Neal landing a couple of nice ones in particular before another clinch against the cage with Neal leaning on Wonderboy, but the veteran separates well then lands a lovely combination. Big straight right hand from Wonderboy lands twice before Neal lands a big left hand just before the buzzer. 30-27 Wonderboy.

More of the same in this fourth round, with Wonderboy using his jab perfectly. Big right hand lands flush and Neal looks like he’s hurt, so Wonderboy lands three more. Nice body kick lands on Neal, that causes an audible burp in the octagon, but Neal is just being outclassed right now. Clinch situation against the cage at the end of the round, Wonderboy is cleaning up right now. He ends the round with what looks like a knee injury though… 40-36.

Final round and Neal comes out aggressive, throwing his big left hand and Wonderboy is clearly compromised by that injured leg. Big exchange against the cage and both men land some big bombs but nobody flinches yet. Body shots from Wonderboy as Neal gets a clinch against the cage. Big body shots from Neal with 70 seconds left as they separate in the clinch, Wonderboy steps forward with a couple of right hands of his own. Neal lands two clean shots but Wonderboy returns with shots of his own as they trade in the centre of the cage to end the round. Great fight, vintage Wonderboy performance. 50-45 for me.

UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs Neal – Early Prelims Predictions

The final UFC card of the year looks to end 2020 with a bang with a welterweight main event that could decide on a new contender for the belt.

Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Geoff Neal step into the headline slot following the collapse of the fight between Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev. Neal is looking to extend his win streak against the highest level of competition he has faced, knowing a win puts him into the top five conversation.

Elsewhere on the card Jose Aldo looks for his first win at bantamweight against Marlon Vera in the co-main, on a card that has an insane 14 fights on the night.

Last week at UFC 256, we had a poor showing as we scored just 4/10 on the night on a night of incredible fights. That moved us to 185/292 (63.36%) with 80 perfect picks (43.24%) since starting predictions back in June.

With so many fights the predictions will be split into three parts this week, starting with the early prelims here.

EARLY PRELIMS

Jimmy Flick (15-5) vs Cody Durden (11-2-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

This fight was originally scheduled to take place at UFC Vegas 16, but was scrapped due to a non-COVID related illness on fight night. Here is the prediction from that event.

Cody Durden saw a seven-fight win streak end withΒ a draw in his UFC debut against Chris Gutierrez back in AugustΒ and will look for a win against the mightily impressive debutant in Jimmy Flick. Flick has 13 submission wins from 15 professional wins and is currently on a three fight win streak coming from Dana White’s Contender Series in September. Durden is pretty well rounded and has a physicality edge for sure, so if he ends up in a dominant position on the ground then don’t be shocked to see him hold his own. The problem would be if Flick gets a dominant position, he fishes constantly for submissions and always always ends up finding one to end the fight. I think Flick is able to do that here with an impressive rear-naked choke in the first round, but it won’t look as easy as it sounds.
PICK – Jimmy Flick via Submission, Round 1

Tafon Nchukwi (4-0) vs Jamie Pickett (11-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A UFC debut for Cameroonian fighter Nchukwi as he steps in to take on another Contender Series graduate in Jamie Pickett. Nchukwi has won all four of his professional fights by knockout, beating Al Matavao with a vicious head kick back in September. Pickett has won his last two-in-a-row including his own KO win on the Contender Series, his third appearance on the show following two defeats previously. Nchukwi is a skilled striker but is still very green. He has usually fought at 205lbs and looked quite slow, although powerful, so a move down to 185lbs is interesting. With that said, Pickett’s defence isn’t great and he has a habit of being backed up against the cage. That spells danger against someone as powerful as ‘Da Don’ so I expect a big knockout win.
PICK – Tafon Nchukwi via Knockout, Round 1

Aiemann Zahabi (7-2) vs Drako Rodriguez (7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

The brother of the legendary trainer Firas, Aiemann Zahabi entered the UFC with six first round knockouts under his belt, then won his company debut in 2017. Since then though, he’s suffered back-to-back defeats against Ricardo Ramos and Vince Morales. This will be his first fight since May 2019. Drako makes his UFC main roster debut in this one, following a successful win on Dana White’s Contender Series in September, thanks to a first-round triangle choke submission. Zahabi is a technical striker but Rodriguez has shown in the past that he has a real killer instinct and is more than happy wherever the fight goes. Rodriguez isn’t completely outclassed on the feet and has good wrestling to go with his submissions. It’s a close fight, but I’m going with the more well-rounded fighter in Rodriguez.
PICK – Drako Rodriguez via Decision