The UFC returns to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for UFC 282 as they will crown a brand new undisputed light heavyweight champion when Jan Blachowicz takes on Magomed Ankalaev in the main event.
Originally a three-round co-main, former champion Jiri Prochazka was forced to withdraw from his rematch with Glover Teixeira and vacate his title after suffering a shoulder injury in training, which saw this fight bumped up to a title fight.
We’ll also see the UK’s own compete as Paddy Pimblett and Darren Till compete on the main card, while there is some deep prelim fights on the card too.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Cameron Saaiman (6-0) vs Steven Koslow (6-0) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A banger at bantamweight opens up the card between two UFC debutants. Both guys come into this with undefeated records, with Saaiman earning a UFC contract on the Contender Series most recently, while Koslow has won all six of his professional fights via first-round submission.
Saaiman is a talented striker with great power, technique and a really deep gas tank too. His takedown defence isn’t the best though, and that’s a big problem against someone like Koslow who is an absolute wizard on the ground in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu game.
With that said, Saaiman is a decent grappler on the mat and a good wrestler too. If he can get out of the first-round without being dragged down and dominated, then he has a great chance of landing his power strikes on the feet and earn a big knockout win as the fight progresses. It’s a tough fight to pick early on in the card but Saaiman is the more well-rounded guy so I’m going with him to get the win. PICK – Cameron Saaiman via Knockout, Round 2
Vinicius Salvador (14-4) vs Daniel Da Silva (11-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Flyweight fun up next. Salvador makes his UFC debut on a four-fight win streak, with a knockout win on the Contender Series back in August securing his contract with the company. Da Silva on the other hand has lost all three of his UFC bouts, getting stopped by Jeff Molina, Francisco Figueiredo and Victor Altamirano.
Salvador is a powerhouse of a striker in the flyweight division, with excellent hooks and 13 of his 14 career wins coming via knockout. Da Silva is a really well rounded fighter, but he’s struggled to bring it all together in the UFC and has been losing fights he is supposed to win. This is another fight that he is supposed to win realistically.
He’s the better fighter when it comes to skillsets, but with his recent performances it’s hard to expect him to do what he’s supposed to do. But it’s also hard to back Vinicius when I know he isn’t the better fighter. I expect a knockout to occur, and I’m going to go with Da Silva to get it done despite by gut warning me against it. PICK – Daniel Da Silva via Knockout, Round 2
TJ Brown (16-9) vs Erik Silva (9-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
More fun at featherweight up next. Brown beat Kai Kamaka III and Charles Rosa (UFC Vegas 46) via decision, but was beaten by Nuerdanbieke in June last time out. Silva makes his UFC debut on an eight-fight win streak, winning on the Contender Series last time out after a KO win in just 92 seconds.
Brown is a well-rounded fighter with some really good striking and solid grappling too, but his recent performances have seen him struggle to put it all together. Silva on the other hand is a grapple heavy fighter who likes to wrestle, control and land damage on the ground, while also having slick jiu-jitsu skills too.
Silva’s style is similar to the way that Nuerdanbieke was able to nullify and defeat Brown last time out, but he’s largely untested against the better fighters in the world. Whether he has the quality to execute his style is yet to be seen, but if he can he should be able to claim a career-defining win for himself. PICK – Erik Silva via Decision
Billy Quarantillo (16-4) vs Alexander Hernandez (13-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A banger at featherweight as Hernandez makes his debut in the division. Quarantillo is 2-2 in his last four with wins over Kyle Nelson (UFC Vegas 10) and Gabriel Benitez, while he lost to Gavin Tucker (UFC 256) and most recently Shane Burgos at UFC 268. Hernandez is 4-4 in his last eight, alternating results in each. His last two saw him beat Mike Breeden with ease (UFC Vegas 38) before getting smashed by Renato Moicano at UFC 271.
Quarantillo is a brilliantly entertaining fighter, whose best attribute is his heart and grit to go with his striking and grappling skills. Hernandez alternatively is a strong boxer with really powerful hands and a good gas tank, but this weight cut could have a big effect on how he usually fights.
Early on I expect Hernandez to use his wrestling and boxing to keep Quarantillo at bay, but without getting a finish his cardio could begin to fail him and Billy Q will almost certainly be able to take advantage and push the pace for the full fight. I expect a brilliant fight between them, and a late surge from Quarantillo could be enough to sway the judges in a really tight call on the cards. PICK – Billy Quarantillo via Decision
TJ Brown def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Brown as he lands his jab well and a hard calf kick too as he takes the centre. Rosa looking for some calf kicks of his own now, but Brown is landing his right hand really clean and crisp. Rosa lands a hard low kick that drops Brown, but Brown then catches the next kick, fires one of his own and then drags him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a guillotine but Brown scrambles back to his feet quickly and they go back to striking. Rosa’s low kicks having a big effect and forcing Brown to switch stances, but Brown’s strikes landing really well. Brown goes for a takedown again but Rosa is able to scramble with another guillotine attempt, but ends up on his back with Brown searching for a head-and-arm choke. Rosa defends well and then eats a few ground and pound shots to end the round. 10-9 Brown.
More of the same from both guys to start the second round as Brown takes the centre and applies pressure with his right hand, while Rosa throws out leg kicks and then gets taken down by Brown. Brown transitions to the back and looks to control the position but Rosa threatening with a guillotine again and then is able to scramble to top position. Rosa tries to take an arm but Brown is able to reverse and ends up on top himself again, then moves for a head-and-arm choke again. Rosa defends brilliantly then eats a big elbow from Brown after trying for a triangle. Rosa goes for an armbar and Brown manages to escape before going right back to top position. Rosa is looking for submissions constantly but Brown is a step ahead, defending and maintaining control. Brown takes the back and puts both hooks in but once again Rosa defends it and they see the round out exchanging strikes on the ground. 20-18 Brown.
Final round and Brown looking for more of the same, getting on the front foot and landing a big right hand before getting a takedown and slamming Rosa down early. Brown takes the back and starts working for a rear-naked choke but Rosa gets to his knees and gets back to his feet, before eventually being able to put Brown on his back and get top position. Brown works his way back to the feet and then forces Rosa down to the mat, before securing top position and landing some heavy elbows. Brown slides over into mount and looks for the head-and-arm choke again before Rosa gets to his knees and back to his feet. Brown goes for a takedown but Rosa works for a d’arce choke as we enter the final minute. Brown defends it well but Rosa isn’t giving up the neck. Brown gets to his feet and lands a one two before moving back into the same d’arce position to see the round out. Should be a Brown decision victory. 29-28.
Brian Kelleher def Kevin Croom via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Very fast start to the fight from Croom, with lots of forward pressure and blitzes using his size advantage to get the best of Kelleher early. Kelleher takes the centre now and Croom being very active, before a big right hook from Kelleher drops him! He gets straight back up and Kelleher goes for another, but misses and then gets hit with an accidental low blow to pause the action. Croom using his big reach advantage well for now, just pawing out the jab to create distance. Kelleher trying to mix up his attacks and goes for a takedown but Croom defends it before landing a hard low kick. Front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Croom keeps using his distance and just touching Kelleher up. Big spinning back fist lands from Kelleher before a left hook and a takedown to end the round on top. 10-9 Kelleher, just.
Croom opens up the round with a big one two that lands flush, but Kelleher eats it and keeps coming forward. Lots of volume from Croom in this round, but Kelleher is moving well and looking to counter. Nice body kick from Croom before a check-left hook from Kelleher lands too. Croom blitzes forward and gets Kelleher against the cage to clinch, using his size to wear Kelleher down. Big body shot from Kelleher, and then another, before he shoots for a takedown. Kelleher goes for a submission on the ground and looking to control the position, stopping Croom from getting back up. Big elbow lands from Kelleher, but he has a big cut above his eye after a knee landed from Croom as he went for the takedown. 19-19 for me, but could go either way.
Kelleher goes straight back to body work in the third round early on and then shoots in for a takedown to control early. Kelleher looking to take the back and secure a choke but Croom fights his way back up, only to be dragged back down immediately. Kelleher lands some ground and pound while transitioning ground positions, then lands a big knee and slams Croom back down as he tries to get back up. Kelleher completely dominating the grappling exchanges here and controlling the positions as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kelleher rolling with him and looking for a rear-naked choke but Croom fighting the hands. Heavy ground and pound from Kelleher to end the round in what could possibly be a 10-8 round, should seal him the fight. 29-28 for me.
Court McGee def Ramiz Brahimaj via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Great start to the fight for McGee, who is using his superior striking to his advantage to keep distance. Brahimaj clinches against the cage but McGee seems physically stronger and is able to turn him and get the fight down. Brahimaj defending a lot against the cage, but lands a strong knee to the gut of McGee before forcing a separation. Brahimaj takes th centre now and is striking well, but McGee keeping the pace high and landing the more significant strikes. McGee lands a huge right hand that drops Brahimaj just as the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 10-9 McGee.
McGee comes out early and lands a hard low kick and right hook that drops Brahimaj again, who gets up quickly and shoots for a takedown. Brahimaj gets it and starts looking to take his back, but McGee defends it and then is able to get a takedown of his own. Brahimaj gets back to the feet but McGee is just too physically strong for him right now and is wearing him down. McGee locks his hands and gets another takedown, but Brahimaj bounces back up quickly. McGee using his strength again to control, before shooting in for a takedown. Brahimaj defends and the two engage in a striking battle, but McGee is too strong again and clinches up to end the round again with another takedown. 20-18 McGee.
McGee steps over and goes immediately for another clinch and takedown situation, but Brahimaj is looking to defend it well and throws a nice knee to the body. He then drops down for a guillotine and it looks quite tight but McGee defends it and ends up dominant in top position. Brahimaj goes for another guillotine and wraps the neck up, but McGee stays calm and is able to pop his head out and push Brahimaj against the cage. Brahimaj tries to get back to his feet but McGee grinding him out and takes the back. McGee going for a rear-naked choke now, but Brahimaj turns to his back which allows McGee to move into mount. Brahimaj tries to scramble but gives up his back again and McGee dominantly rides him from position to position until the end of the round. Great win for McGee. 30-27.
Jamie Pickett def Joseph Holmes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight as both men look to take the centre of the cage and trade strikes. Holmes starting with a bit more intent, just missing with a head kick but then landing a nice straight right. Pickett blitzes forward with an attack of his own, but Holmes clinches up and uses his strength well against the cage. Holmes lands a nice right hand and then just misses with a head kick again, but Pickett clinching well to stifle the attack. Hard low kick from Holmes but Pickett gets a takedown to end the round. 10-9 Holmes, just.
Aggressive start to the round from Pickett as he comes forward with a hard front kick to the body and then a big left hand, before looking to get a takedown. Holmes looks more tired already but gets back to his feet and lands a hard right hand, but Pickett responds with a takedown attempt again. Strong body kick from Pickett lands, and now his left hand is landing well too. Holmes goes for a single leg takedown but Pickett defends it well in a clinch position. Pickett being very aggressive and coming forward hard with Holmes looking tired, but he responds with a nice slip left hand before they clinch again. Pickett explodes again as the round ends and should take that. 19-19.
Pickett being aggressive once again in this final round as Holmes throws a hard right hand. Pickett using his better conditioning and strength right now to stop Holmes’ momentum, but eats a body kick for his troubles when they separate from the clinch. Pickett lands a nice side kick as Holmes is looking for a big shot. Another clinch situation initiated by Pickett before a nice elbow from Holmes lands. A left hand stumbles Pickett again but then he goes for another clinch and just avoids a big elbow. Big high kick from Pickett lands well and the round comes to an end, with what should be a Pickett victory. 29-28.
Bill Algeo def Joanderson Brito via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Brito as he takes the centre, moves across the octagon and gets a body lock to look for a takedown. Algeo defends it well but eventually Brito gets it and takes the back while standing. Brito transitions around and picks Algeo up, then walks around the octagon for a few seconds before slamming him down and taking his back. Brito looking for a rear-naked choke but Algeo is defending well. Brito looking for the choke but Algeo turns into Brito and ends up reversing the position on top, looking for big ground and pound strikes. Brito looks to explode out and gets back to the feet quickly and goes back for another takedown. Brito lands a nice jab but then eats a big knee up the middle from Algeo, before shooting in for another takedown that gets defended to end the round. 10-9 Brito.
Brito coming forward with a blitz and walking Algeo down with big strikes, but then he eats a big right hand from Algeo that wobbles him. Brito immediately turns and goes back for the takedown, but Algeo defends it perfectly and lands a big knee from a front headlock position. Algeo lets him back up and lands a left hand on the break but Brito is just walking forward through the storm. Big one-twos from Brito snap Algeo’s head back and he looks hurt but once again Brito goes for a takedown and Algeo is able to stuff it and reverse position to end up on top. Algeo moves into side control but Brito gets back up. Algeo lands a big knee but then Brito fires back with a big right hand. Algeo clinches up to end the round, very close. 19-19.
Algeo opens the round with a nice one two, before Brito comes forward with a big blitz of strikes that land well. Brito continues to walk forward and do damage with big shots but Algeo timing him well with counters and clinching up to slow down the Brazilian’s momentum. Brito continues to walk forward constantly and goes for a spinning elbow, but Algeo slips it and showboats. Final minute and Brito is really pushing the pace but Algeo gets a big hip throw and ends up on top landing big elbows then takes the back. Algeo ends the round on the back and should take the victory in a great back and forth fight. 29-28 Algeo.
Viacheslav Borshchev def Dakota Bush via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)
Fast start to the fight for Bush as he stays at distance and throws lots of kicks early on. Big overhand right lands but Borshchev eats it. Borshchev steps in and lands a nice little blitz with a left hook, but Bush moves in for a takedown and gets it. Borshchev defends himself well down there and is able to stand up, but gets wobbled by a strike. Bush moves in for a big finish but Borshchev avoids and lands a big left hook counter. Bush gets another takedown and tries to take the back but Borshchev escapes and goes into the guard, landing heavy body shots from top position. He gets back up and backs Bush against the cage, slips a shot and lands a huge body blow that drops him!! Borshchev lands a few follow up shots but that’s that! What a knockout!
Katlyn Chookagian def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Chookagian starts the fight well with a big slip right hand that lands flush, while Maia looking to land some low kicks. Chookagian is really sitting down on her punches right now, landing well and maintaining distance well. Maia lands a big left hand and Chookagian gets a body lock and a takedown to sit in half guard on top position. Good shoulder pressure from Chookagian and she defends the sweep well before passing to side control, before laying down some shoulder strikes from the top. Chookagian tried to pass to mount but Maia bounces back up quickly, eats a knee and the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Aggressive start to the round from Maia as she steps forward and lands a hard right hand, but Chookagian slips a second attempt and gets another body lock to look for a takedown. Maia defends it well this time though and then they break, with Chookagian looking to control distance again with her jab. Maia leading with a low kick and doing well, but Chookagian bouncing and lands a nice right hook. Maia looks for a body lock this time and rushes Chookagian against the cage, but she defends it well and reverses the position to look for a trip herself. Maia lands a couple of right hands in the pocket, before Chookagian lands a big head kick and then a nice knee too but Maia continues to be aggressive and walk forward. Maia looks for an arm drag but Chookagian defends and ends up on Maia’s back with both hooks in looking for a choke to end the round. 20-18 Chookagian.
Maia coming out strong again in this final round but Chookagian using her teep kick brilliantly to maintain distance and landing her right hand and jab. Maia lands a big right hand but she’s just a step behind right now. Nice head kick from Maia, but Chookagian responds with a low kick. Lovely overhand right from Chookagian, followed by a clean one-two but Maia is still there. Nice right from Maia on the break from a clinch lands clean but Chookagian starting to take over with counters and jabs. Big right hand from Maia lands and then they exchange right hooks. Final 30 seconds and Chookagian looks super comfortable, then lands a huge one-two and a third on her way back to claim a big win. 30-27 Chookagian.
Explosive start to this one with Royval taking the centre and using speed, but Bontorin lands a hard low kick that drops Royval early. Royval throwing a lot of kicks, but Bontorin looking to counter with his flush right hand. Royval goes for a body kick that Bontorin catches and then lands a right hand as Royval spins. Bontorin transitions to a takedown and gets side control but Royval very good with scrambles and looks to get to his feet. Bontorin holds him there briefly but Royval eventually gets back up and goes back to being very active. Slip left hand from Royval lands clean, before another takedown from Bontorin. Royval staying active from his back as he tries to roll through and starts throwing elbows, before both get back to the feet to end the round. 10-9 Royval.
Quick start again as Bontorin throws a right hand that drops Royval and he goes straight into his guard. Royval trying to scramble with submissions but Bontorin stays calm and takes the back. Royval defends it expertly but Bontorin retains the control from top position and lands a big elbow. Royval climbs back to his feet as Bontorin goes back to striking and then drops him with a nice left hook. Royval straight back up though and looking to overwhelm Bontorin but Bontorin staying calm and looking for control. Royval trying to up the pressure but Bontorin gets a body lock and trip in the final seconds to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Royval lands a big knee and hook combo. Bontorin fires back with a huge right hand, left hook combo that lands flush but Royval’s chin is holding up. Bontorin is loading up on his punches and Royval is able to land a few softer shots. Bontorin lands a leg kick and Royval goes down, but Royval defending with his submissions and looking for a gogoplata. He transitions to an armbar and it looks like Bontorin taps (?!) but the referee doesn’t see it and then Bontorin escapes and the fight continues. Royval transitions and is able to sweep Bontorin to get on top as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hard elbows from the top for Royval but Bontorin firing back from the bottom with elbows of his own. Royval landing some huge elbows and the buzzer goes. 29-28 Royval for me but could easily go the other way too! Great fight.
Collier comes forward very aggressively in the opening minute, walking Sherman down and throwing hard right hands. Sherman looking to counter with right hooks but Collier doing well to avoid too much damage early. Collier storms forward and pushes Sherman to the mat. He moves straight into full mount and lands some big nasty elbows from the top that cut Sherman open. Sherman tries to kick off the cage but just puts himself in an awful position. Sherman rolls over to his belly and Sherman synches up a rear-naked choke and gets the tap for the victory. Impressive performance.
Two very hard low kicks from Chikadze open the fight up before a nice right hand behind them. Kattar takes the centre of the octagon trying to pressure him, but Chikadze with great footwork around the outside to stay off the cage. Chikadze lands two hard body kicks and a right hand then goes for another kick but loses his balance and Kattar charges for a takedown and secures top position. Kattar working to pass Chikadze’s guard but he’s defending well. Chikadze tries to get back up but Kattar drags him back down. A scramble sees Chikadze end up on top but Kattar reverses it to an arm triangle from the bottom and then secures the back with a body triangle to see out the round. 10-9 Kattar.
Hard body kick from Chikadze early on and he starts blitzing Kattar with hard punches and a variation of kicks again. Kattar switching stances to take the kick away from Chikadze. Kattar pressuring forward and landing hard strikes that have Chikadze looking a bit more tired. Big jab from Chikadze though and then Kattar continues to come forward and Chikadze is tired! Kattar lands a big right hand then shoots for a takedown but Chikadze defends it. Big knee from Kattar lands, followed by a left hook. Huge step-in elbow from Kattar and Chikadze is struggling. Kattar lands a big left hook and follows it with a body shot. Four big left hands from Chikadze land but Kattar responds with a huge right hand and a knee, then he secures a takedown and heavy right hands to end the round. What a round! 20-18 Kattar.
Kattar comes out with forward motion once again and is putting a pace on Chikadze, who’s trying to recover his cardio still. Elbow from Kattar lands and then a flush one-two straight down the middle lands. Kattar steps forward with his jab and is teeing off on Chikadze, who can’t get his hands up to block his head. Two low kicks from Chikadze and a left hand, before a big right cross. Kattar goes for a takedown but Chikadze just about stays up with a little help from the fence. Both guys are tired, but Kattar pushing forward still. Huge right elbow lands from Kattar and then they trade hooks to the chin. Chikadze lands a right hand that gets Kattar to cover up, but Chikadze swings wildly and misses big. Kattar continues with forward pressure to close the distance but then just misses with two big shots. Big spinning elbow from Kattar right on the buzzer. What a fight. 30-27 Kattar.
Kattar crowding Chikadze with forward pressure as he looks to stop the kicks, and he’s just picking the jab well. Chikadze is looking for kill shots now but he’s too tired to land, while Kattar continues to come forward with his jab and picking him apart. Huge elbow again from Kattar and then he shoots for a takedown, but Chikadze defends it brilliantly and lands some big strikes of his own. Chikadze lands a big right hand but Kattar comes forward with his jab and elbows. Head kick attempt from Chikadze but Kattar just keeps coming forward. Massive elbow from Kattar and the buzzer goes again. 40-36, this is a beating now.
Chikadze comes forward early throwing bombs in the final round. Kattar continues to walk forward and just jab him to death, and Chikadze just has no answer for the pressure. Two huge elbows land back-to-back from Kattar, but Chikadze’s chin holds up again! Another nasty elbow from Kattar as he starts throwing them instead of hooks. Chikadze lands a nice one-two before Kattar lands a spinning elbow. Kattar just constantly coming forward with elbows and straights. Chikadze backing up and getting pieced up as Kattar looks for a finish. Huge right hand lands on the chin but Chikadze is still standing. Chikadze throws a one-two and Kattar responds with another flush spinning elbow. Both guys swinging for the fences with 30 seconds left. Kattar starts throwing elbows and drops Chikadze right on the buzzer!! He follows up with a couple of shots, but that is an exclamation point on a stunning performance. Wow! 50-44 Kattar for me.
We ended 2021 with a decent 8/13 return with three perfect picks at UFC Vegas 45 to move to 508/792 (64.14%) with 214 perfect picks (42.13%).
We’ll look to improve that here, starting with the prelims of this 10-fight card.
Silvana Gomez Juarez (10-3) vs Vanessa Demopoulos (6-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs) FIGHT MOVED TO UFC 270 DUE TO COVID-19 PROTOCOLS
An interesting women’s fight to kick off the year in the strawweight division. Juarez got smoked in her UFC debut against Lupita Godinez, getting submitted via armbar in round one at UFC Vegas 39. Demopoulos also suffered defeat in her UFC defeat, losing a unanimous decision to JJ Aldrich at UFC Vegas 35.
Juarez is a crisp, fast and powerful striker on the feet, with some decent grappling skills that are usually enough for her to at least try and keep a fight standing. Demopoulos on the other hand is a terrific grappler, but outside of that she tends to struggle big time in her opponents wheelhouse because her wrestling is pretty average at best. If she can’t get the fight down, she leaves herself open to problems which explains her pretty poor record.
As mentioned already, Juarez has the ability to generally keep the fight standing against non-wrestlers and if she can do that here she should be able to strike her way to a comfortable decision win. If Demopoulos is able to get her down though, this could end quickly. Unfortunately, I see Juarez standing firm and earning the victory. PICK – Silvana Gomez Juarez via Decision
Charles Rosa (14-6) vs TJ Brown (15-8) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fight put together on short notice after a drop-out on fight week, Charles Rosa steps in by chance to take a fight now at lightweight. Rosa has alternated wins and losses since 2014, claiming a defeat to Damon Jackson at UFC Vegas 39 most recently. Brown on the other hand earned a split decision win over Kai Kamaka at UFC Vegas 25 in his last bout to snap a two-fight losing streak.
Both of these fighters are primary grapplers and have amassed 17 submission victories combined in their careers. Rosa is a karate striker, but his black belt in jiu-jitsu is where he looks to take fights towards at all times. Brown on the other hand is a very fast striker who also likes to use his blitzes to try and score takedowns and secure submissions. For the most part, Brown has the advantage in the striking department and with his own decent ground game he will likely be quite comfortable here.
Brown will look to keep this fight standing for as long as possible and use his speed to close distance and land big strikes. If Rosa gets the fight down he’ll have the advantage but Brown is no slouch himself in the grappling so I expect ‘Downtown’ to be able to navigate his way to a victory. PICK – TJ Brown via Decision
Brian Kelleher (23-12) vs Kevin Croom (21-13)- (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fight that was made on Wednesday night as Kevin Croom steps in on mega-short notice to fight Brian Kelleher, who moves up to featherweight for this one. Kelleher bounced back from defeat to Ricky Simon at UFC 258 to earn a decision win over Domingo Pilarte most recently at UFC Vegas 34, while Croom was beaten by Alex Caceres last time out at UFC Vegas 20.
Kelleher is a relentless pressure fighter with some good power in his strikes and a good wrestling base to fight from. Croom on the other hand is a well-rounded fighter who also has a good wrestling base with some decent power in his strikes. Kelleher is going to be at a big size disadvantage in this one, moving up a division and being shorter with less reach too. But against Pilarte that was the same (without the weight) and he dominated that fight from start to finish.
Looking at their skillset, Croom and Kelleher are very similar but Croom definitely looks to wrestle a lot more and keep volume high. That plays well into the favour of Kelleher, who is styled towards that type of fight. He has been in camp so the pace shouldn’t be an issue, and he has the power to land a counter and end this early. PICK – Brian Kelleher via Knockout, Round 3
Court McGee (21-10) vs Ramiz Brahimaj (9-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight between two exciting fighters at 170-pounds. McGee is a grizzly veteran who snapped a three-fight win streak last time out with a decision win over Claudio Silva at UFC Vegas 27, while Brahimaj claimed a first-round submission win over Sasha Palatnikov at UFC Vegas 34.
‘The Crusher’ is a relentless pressure fighter with a bottomless gas tank and excellent wrestling skills, while Brahimaj is a super talented grappler with all nine victories in his career coming via submission and eight of those coming in the first round. McGee’s best chance of victory comes if he is able to wear Brahimaj out over the course of the fight, which is possible if he can continuously stuff takedown attempts.
McGee has never been submitted in his career, so it would be some achievement if Brahimaj was able to do that. Ultimately though I do expect the younger fighter to be able to use his wrestling to neutralize the cardio and grapple his way to a victory, but probably by decision. PICK – Ramiz Brahimaj via Decision
Jamie Pickett (12-6) vs Joseph Holmes (7-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A short-notice bout is the featured prelim bout for this card in the middleweight division. Pickett bounced back from a first-round KO defeat to Jordan Wright at UFC 262 by earning a decision win over Laureano Staropoli at UFC Vegas 41, while Holmes steps in on less than one week’s notice for his UFC debut on a seven-fight win streak.
Pickett and Holmes are both rangy strikers, with a long reach for the division among both of their weaponries. The issue Pickett has despite the fact it’s a short-notice fight, is that Holmes uses his range in a far better way and is far more consistent. He’s faster, seems to have more power and is a much better grappler too.
Neither fighter is particularly keen on throwing tonnes of volume, so I wouldn’t expect a barn burner by any stretch of the imagination. But ultimately, Holmes is a better version of Pickett and considering they’re matching up against each other, I expect Holmes to claim a career-best win. PICK – Joseph Holmes via Decision
Felipe Colares def Luke Sanders via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Colares opens up with a big body kick that Sanders half catches and slams home a nice flurry of strikes to counter it. Colares continues to throw those huge kicks but Sanders avoiding damage for the most part and then charges in with a flurry and lands a big left hand that drops Colares! Sanders goes for the finish and lands some huge elbows in the clinch and a big knee that puts Colares down again! Big ground and pound from Sanders but Colares still moving and trying to survive. They eventually get back to the feet and Sanders steps back to separate, then starts throwing that heavy left hand once again. Sanders is landing clean right straights with left uppercuts and Colares is hurt, but he’s surviving again. Sanders now slowing down a bit and Colares coming forward and throws a big right hand that wobbles Sanders! Both men exchange body kicks as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Sanders.
Great start to the round as Sanders comes forward with big left hands once again and lands them well. Both men much slower in this round but Sanders still landing with good power, then he changes levels and gets himself a takedown. Colares defends well on the ground and eventually they get back to the feet. Sanders much, much slower now and Colares starting to pressure more and lands a nice body kick again. Colares is able to get Sanders against the cage and locks his hands and picks Sanders up. He walks him across the cage and slams him down, then takes his back and flattens him out. Colares starts pounding away looking for a finish and the referee is looking at stopping it, but Sanders just about survives as the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and both guys are exhausted already, but Sanders is keeping some distance and landing his heavy hands well. Colares coming forward working the body well with kicks, but Sanders is controlling the pace and landing more cleanly. Colares throws another kick but Sanders catches it and tries to take him down with a trip, but Colares gets back up quickly. Both men are basically out on their feet and Colares gets a judo throw to end up on top of Sanders with 30 seconds left. He looks for ground and pound but Sanders gets back up and they see the round out. Great fight, 29-28 Sanders for me.
Andreas Michailidis def KB Bhullar via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Tentative start from both fighters as Bhullar flicks out a few kicks while circling on the outside, as Michailidis looks to step forward and get inside. Nice little flurry of punches lands from Michailidis but Bhullar moving away and avoiding getting hit flush with the strikes before the clinch up against the cage to a stalemate. Bhullar starting to throw those kicks again to the head and body, then Michailidis throws a wild head kick that lands and follows up with another flurry of hooks. Michailidis changes levels and gets the takedown and starts controlling on the ground in the final minute, taking the back and floating threatening with a choke but Bhullar sees out the round. 10-9 Michailidis.
Good start again from Michailidis as he comes forward and throws those flurries once again, then Bhullar lands an accidental low blow to pause the action. Fight resumes and Michailidis comes forward again, with Bhullar trying to use his kicks to keep range but not really doing any sort of damage or making Michailidis think about coming forward. Huge one two lands from Michailidis but Bhullar eats it, but he’s not throwing with any sort of intent at all. Little low kicks from Bhullar and then he misses with a big spin kick as Michailidis continues to march him down. Big swing and a miss once against from Michailidis as the round ends. 20-18.
Slow start to the final round as Michailidis is recharging for a flurry, while Bhullar is just prodding small kicks with zero intent or aggression. Michailidis starting to try and egg Bhullar on with taunts but not much really landing from either fighter. A few more flurrys from Michailidis that don’t really land too clean while Bhullar is throwing nothing back to make him think about it. Another low blow from Bhullar causes a pause in the fight as we enter the final minute but it’s Michailidis who is showing more intent to get a finish. 30-27 Michailidis in a less than memorable fight.
Loma Lookboonmee def Sam Hughes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight for Lookboonmee as she lands a few kicks from range and a couple of nice right hands. Hughes looks to close the distance to look for a takedown but Lookboonmee defends it well and unleashes some huge knees in the clinch before tripping her and dumping her to the mat. Lookboonmee works top position well and lands some big elbows on the ground before getting back up and allowing Hughes back to her feet. Hughes goes for the takedown again but Lookboonmee defends it really well again and is able to reverse the position and take her down again, landing some more elbows on the ground before letting Hughes up again. Hughes lands a nice low kick and follows it up with a good right hand as Lookboonmee looks to counter but just misses. Hughes closes the distance and goes for a takedown again but Lookboonmee defends well against the cage and sees the round out in top position as she falls onto Hughes.. 10-9 Lookboonmee.
Hughes comes out aggressive in the second round and goes straight for a takedown, but Lookboonmee defends well and goes for a couple of trips of her own. Hughes relentless though and finally gets her down as Lookboonmee looks to defend with a guillotine. Hughes defends and gets a body lock to try and drain her against the cage, but Lookboonmee finally gets back up, breaks the lock and separates. Hughes lands a couple of nice right hands clean but Lookboonmee comes forward with kicks again. They clinch up again and battle for position with Lookboonmee landing some big knees to the body while angling away from Hughes. Hughes goes for a single leg takedown but Lookboonmee defends it really well and then lands a big knee again. Hughes switching from single leg to double leg constantly but Lookboonmee defending brilliantly and keeps the fight standing, then ends the round on top as they clinch at the end and she falls on Hughes once again. 20-18 for me.
Tentative start to the final round as Hughes looks to keep it standing early on, landing some nice early strikes that are making Lookboonmee a bit uncomfortable. She goes for a Thai clinch but Hughes defends it well and pushes her against the cage looking for a takedown once again. Lookboonmee defends it well once again with more knees and then they separate, as both women exchange a big right hand each. The women clinch up again against the cage and exchange knees before the separate and Hughes lands a big right hand. Lookboonmee fires back with some push kicks to the body as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hughes clinches up again and the fight comes to an end with the two women against the cage. 29-28 Lookboonmee for me.
Interesting start to the fight as Botelho comes out a bit more aggressive, throwing some nice body kicks and leg kicks while also leading with her jab. Carolina struggling to get anything going just yet, trying to reply to kicks and a jab of her own but looking very nervous and backing up. Botelho steps forward with a four-hit combo that doesn’t land clean but then she clinches up and gets a takedown into Carolina’s guard. Botelho using great shoulder pressure to control Carolina’s posture on the ground and working to pass into mount which she does after a few big strikes to the head. 30 seconds left in the round and she looks to transition to an armbar but Carolina survives and the round ends. 10-9, could even argue a 10-8 for Botelho.
Better start to this round from Carolina as she comes out more aggressive and goes straight for a clinch after a head kick attempt. She uses strength to hold Botelho in position and starts throwing some nice knees to the body that sees Botelho looking a bit uncomfortable. Botelho looks to switch position and goes for a trip but Carolina defends it excellently and ends up in a dominant position of her own on the ground. She goes for a submission but Botelho gets back to the feet well and the rest of the round plays out against the cage in a clinch position with both women exchanging knees to the body. 19-19.
Slower third round as both women look to exchange body shots and kicks but Carolina being a bit more aggressive so far. Nice flurry from Botelho but Carolina replies with a kick and Botelho goes for a takedown. A scramble on the ground sees Carolina end up on top in the closed guard of Botelho and after a bit of a stalemate she works her way to Botelho’s back. Carolina starts working for a rear-naked choke but Botelho defending well against the cage and both women trade shots on the ground as the round comes to an end. Carolina’s round, 29-28 Carolina for me but could be a draw if the first round was a 10-8.
TJ Brown def Kai Kamaka III via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 27-30)
Fun start early on as Brown comes forward and lands good jobs and front kicks before Kamaka responds with a flush right hand to the chin. Brown keeps coming though, moving a lot and looking to mix it up but Kamaka is investing in his calf kicks well. Both men throw body kicks at the same time before Brown lands a good one-two in response that sends Kamaka backwards. Kamaka lands a punch as Brown goes for a kick and knocks him off balance, but Brown very active off his back to not allow any sort of advantage to be gained before he works back up to his feet quickly. Kamaka fires off another nice low kick but Brown is still coming forward and after a few more exchanges the round ends. Could go either way but I edge 10-9 to Brown.
Much faster start to this round as Kamaka lands a nice shot that sends Brown backwards early. Brown just flowing with the strikes but Kamaka landing some nice combinations and throws a huge head kick that lands flush! Brown keeps coming forward and lands a big right hand that rocks Kamaka! He starts looking for the finish but Kamaka is still there and then Kamaka lands a huge strike that drops Brown! Kamaka goes for the ground and pound finish but Brown surviving and then he gets a kimura synched up! Kamaka survives it but they get back to the feet and the round ends with Brown on top after a successful shot. 19-19 for me, great fight.
Final round and both men come out with a sense of urgency. Brown shoots in for a takedown early but Kamaka stuffs it and manages to reverse it to get into top position. Kamaka trying to push Brown against the cage to control the position but Brown fighting to get back up to the feet and eventually does. Nice combinations from Brown land and Kamaka blocks a body kick before he pushes him down to the mat once again and looks to move into full mount, but Brown denies it. Brown eventually gets back to the feet again and throws a big right hand that drops Kamaka. He goes for an ankle lock finish but gives up position, then goes for a kimura again but the round ends. 29-28 Kamaka, great fight.
Brilliant start to this fight from Pinheiro as Markos rushes forward with a flurry of strikes but gets caught with a huge right hook counter. Markos goes to clinch but Pinheiro dumps her on her head with a beautiful judo throw and then starts raining down some heavy ground and pound. She manages to judo throw Markos several times and strike hard and Markos looks rattled. Accidental eye poke causes a stop in the fight as Markos needs to recover and blinks out the issue. Fight resumes and Markos comes out with heavy and hard but Pinheiro countering brilliantly again and then throws Markos down on her head yet again. They separate before another clinch and Pinheiro goes for another judo throw and ends up on top again! Markos tries to kick Pinheiro off and upkicks her in the face while she’s down. Pinheiro flops to the floor and is struggling and the doctor waves this one off. Disqualification incoming.
Great start to this fight between two predominant wrestlers, with Stamann taking the centre but Merab doing well to move on the outside and lands a beautiful left uppercut. A few more strikes from Merab before he catches a kick and takes the fight to the ground for the first time. Stamann eats a few punches but gets back up, then goes for a few takedowns of his own but they get stuffed. Merab is landing some great right hands, but Stamann sticks a stiff jab that wobbles Merab. Merab goes for a single leg and gets it but Stamann pops right back up every time as the round ends in a stalemate. 10-9 Merab but could argue it went Stamann’s way too.
Fast start for Stamann to round two as he comes out with a deep double leg takedown early and gets it against the cage. Merab relentless from the bottom though with elbows and punches before working his way back up and rushing Stamann to get a takedown of his own. Merab holds him down for a few seconds before they stand back up and Stamann goes back to work with his jab. Merab changes levels and gets another takedown and looks to sink in a guillotine, but Stamann pops his head out and they work back to the feet again. Merab’s pace starting to wear on Stamann a bit as he keeps marching forward, landing combinations and shooting for takedowns as he lifts Stamann this time and slams him down. Stamann trying to keep Merab with his back to the cage but Merab steps forward, clinches and judo throws Stamann to the mat but a scramble sees him end the round under him. 20-18 Merab.
Competitive opening to the final round as Stamann takes the centre again looking to land jabs to set up a haymaker, but Merab staying light on his feet and moving in and out with strikes. Stamann looks for a big right hand that misses wildly and Merab continues to push forward and land little flurries, always touching Stamann. Merab shoots for a single leg but Stamann reverses the attempt and ends up on top with a little more than a minute to go. Merab battles up to his feet and goes for a takedown of his own but Stamann scrambles as they end up in a stalemate on the ground. They get back and swing for the final few seconds but should be a win for Merab, 30-27.
Sean Strickland def Krzysztof Jotko via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Nice left hand from Jotko to open up the fight as Strickland takes the centre and looks incredibly calm as he steps forward. Jotko more lively, bouncing on his toes and throwing a couple of kicks too, then lands another nice left hand. Strickland coming forward again with intent now and lands a stiff jab down the middle, then a right cross that wobbles Jotko. Strickland lands a nice left hand and uppercut and Jotko is hurt, so Strickland goes in for the kill and Jotko shoots for a takedown. Strickland denies it but Jotko moving his head well and recovers without taking more damage. Jotko lands a reverse elbow Yair style right on the chin but Strickland eats it and continues to come forward. Strickland throws a flying knee that just misses but lands a nice right hand before he lands and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Strickland.
Strickland comes out very controlled in the second round and he starts landing the jab well. Jotko still circling on the outside and Strickland is starting to cut him off now as per the advice of his corner, but eats a big left hand as he does so. Strickland with a stiff jab again and then a nice body kick. Jotko goes for a spin kick and misses but it allows Strickland to move and launch a big power strike that whistles past the chin of Jotko. Jotko slowing down now as Strickland marches him down, then eats another stiff jab. Strickland catches a kick and goes for a big right overhand but Jotko avoids it and fires back with one of his own. Strickland’s calf kicks starting to have an effect as the round comes to an end. 20-18 Strickland.
Jotko becoming very predictable looking for the big left hand as Strickland just in cruise control in this fight at the moment. Flying knee attempt from Strickland misses and Jotko goes for a big right hand that doesn’t come anywhere near landing. Stiff straight right hand from Strickland lands but Jotko trying to come forward more now as we hit the halfway point of the round. Strickland takes back control of the centre now, landing a big front kick to the body and then another low kick. Strickland goes for a body kick and then follows up with a big right hand before a flying knee lands too. Bit of a wild exchange as the fight comes to an end, but it’s a comfortable 30-27 for Strickland here.
Ion Cutelaba vs Dustin Jacoby – Split Draw – (29-28, 28-29, 28-28)
Nice start to the fight from Jacoby as he uses his length well to land some nice jabs and two heavy leg kicks too. Cutelaba sticks a jab and misses with a hammer of a right hand, before landing two big right hands and shooting for a takedown. Cutelaba locks his arms around the body and starts dragging Jacoby to the ground over and over again while landing some big ground and pound strikes too. Cutelaba starts landing some huge short ebows to the head and Jacoby is getting pieced up and just about surviving as Cutelaba drags him down again and continues pounding him out. Cutelaba goes for a judo throw but Jacoby grabs the cage to prevent it and the referee warns him but does nothing else as the round ends. 10-8 Cutelaba.
Jacoby opens the round with a body kick attempt and immediately gets taken down by Cutelaba. He lands a nice knee and right hand as they break, but Jacoby comes forward with his jab now. Cutelaba goes for another takedown but Jacoby stuffs it this time and Cutelaba is slowing down already. Another attempt denied by Jacoby as he lands a nice uppercut, but Cutelaba keeps going despite him clearly being tired now. Jacoby doing so well to land at range and Cutelaba isn’t even shooting anymore. Jacoby lands a big right hand and Cutelaba is rocked! Cutelaba shoots but it’s denied and the round ends. 19-18 Cutelaba going into the third.
Good start again from Jacoby in this final round as he opens with a leg kick and then lands a heavy body kick. Cutelaba standing and trading in the centre, nice jabs and uppercuts while Jacoby trying to evade and counter. Nice left hook from Jacoby as Cutelaba threw a jab and then Jacoby lands a huge right hand again. Cutelaba is still there throwing bombs though, but Jacoby staying behind his jab and landing. Cutelaba goes for a huge elbow that just misses and both men land a nice left hook, before a double jab-cross combo from Cutelaba lands on the chin. Jacoby goes for a knee and Cutelaba catches it and goes for the takedown but Jacoby defends well and reverses the position to put Cutelaba against the cage. Final minute and Jacoby goes for a single leg but Cutelaba avoids it then throws a nice right hook as they clinch up again. Jacoby gets a takedown right at the end to finish up on top, this could be a draw. 28-28.
Giga Chikadze def Cub Swanson via Knockout, Round 1 (1:03)
Chikadze opens up early with some kicks to the body and a straight right, while Swanson tries to jump in and close the distance. Chikadze throws his trademark left kick to the body and Swanson is down! Chikadze hits some ground and pound as Swanson curls up and this one is over! First round knockout for Chikadze! Wow!
Jiri Prochazka def Dominick Reyes via Knockout, Round 2 (4:29)
Both men looking to claim the centre of the octagon as this one starts with a heavy low kick from Reyes and a body kick from Prochazka. Prochazka keeping his hands low and bouncing around as usual, with Reyes more traditional with his hands high looking for his straight left hand. Prochazka just misses with a three hit combination and Reyes lands a nice left hand down the middle. Prochazka responds with a big right hand of his own that wobbles Reyes and sends him backwards. Reyes shoots in for a takedown and gets it, but Prochazka is able to just power out and get back to his feet. Prochazka continues to just come forward and Reyes is landing straight punches but he’s just walking through them. Big combination lands from Prochazka and Reyes is hurt! Prochazka going for the kill but Reyes continues to circle and fire back. Prochazka lands a flurry of strikes again but Reyes sees out the round. 10-9 Prochazka.
Second round and Reyes taking a more measured approach, keeping his distance and looking to land counter strikes as Prochazka comes forward. Prochazka applying so much pressure and Reyes is just not wilting, firing back with huge strikes of his own. Prochazka chasing Reyes around the octagon with combinations and kicks to the body and Reyes’ face is absolutely battered and bloody. Reyes lands a nasty left that wobbles Prochazka and forces him to shoot for a takedown. The stand again and trade against the cage. Prochazka goes for an elbow and just misses, then spins and lands a huge spinning elbow that knocks Reyes unconscious! Oh my God! What a knockout!
The big boys are back on show in the main event at UFC Vegas 25 as Dominick Reyes takes on Jiri Prochazka in the light heavyweight division.
After back-to-back title fight defeats, Reyes looks to get back to winning ways to show he is still a contender at light-heavyweight. Elsewhere on the card, Cub Swanson makes a return to the octagon too as he takes on Giga Chikadze in the co-main event in what should be an absolute banger in the featherweight division.
Last time out at UFC 261 we had a great night, going 10/13 in our predictions with two perfect picks to move to 294/462 (63.64%) with 129 perfect picks (43.88%). Lets see if we can improve on that here, starting with the prelims of this 12 fight card.
Luke Sanders (13-4) vs Felipe Colares (9-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An interesting fight in the featherweight division as both men look to get back into the winning column after defeats last time out. Sanders was submitted by Nate Manness at UFC Vegas 15 last time out, while Colares was on the wrong end of a war against Montel Jackson and suffered a decision loss in January 2020.
Sanders is an okay grappler with good jiu-jitsu skills, but in recent fights has looked to use his power punching more. He rocked Manness in their fight before eventually getting rocked himself, while Colares is a striker himself with good durability and speed. Neither man are any good fighting on their back foot and defensively they both have gaping holes in their game, with Sanders’ defensive wrestling in particular woeful.
It’s a fight in the perfect spot on the card as they’re two of the not-so-good fighters performing on the night, but I trust Sanders’ power to come through and get a stoppage as they both go for it on the feet. PICK – Luke Sanders via Knockout, Round 2
Andreas Michailidis (12-4) vs KB Bhullar (8-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Michailidis is a decent wrestler who throws great kicks and has good powerful hands too, while Bhullar tends to throw fancy kicks but doesn’t really land and can sometimes blow his load too early. Bhullar tends to keep his hands quite low because of the way he throws kicks, but Michailidis just seems to be the better martial artist.
Good grappling skills, great kicking game and good cardio, Michailidis should be able to start fast and put it on Bhullar enough for an early win. PICK – Andreas Michailidis via Knockout, Round 1
Loma Lookboonmee (5-2) vs Sam Hughes (5-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Lookboonmee is a tremendous striker with great kicks and clinch work, with her grappling defence improving with every fight. Hughes is a classic wrestler style fighter who works for submissions once she gets the fight down to the ground. Hughes has a decent size advantage physically, but she is more than hittable on her feet and that’s dangerous against Lookboonmee.
Ideally both women want to be marching forward and forcing their opponent backwards, and I think Lookboonmee is able to use her kicks better to keep distance and earn a decision win. PICK – Lona Lookboonmee via Decision
Poliana Botelho (8-3) vs Luana Carolina (6-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Both women are preferential strikers with decent ground game to back themselves up, but you’d expect the fight to go the way of a kickboxing match. Both women have better offensive takedowns than defensive and if they find themselves getting pieced up on the feet, they may shoot. If that happens, Botelho seems like the more physical of the two and I’d back her to be able to keep Carolina down.
It’s a close fight but I think Botelho has slightly more paths to victory and therefore she gets the nod. PICK – Poliana Botelho via Decision
Kai Kamaka III (8-3) vs TJ Brown (14-8) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fun featherweight bout again on this card as Kai Kamaka III looks to bounce back from defeat when he takes on TJ Brown, who has lost his last two in a row. Kamaka defeated Tony Kelley at UFC 252 in his UFC debut but was knocked out against Jonathan Pearce at UFC Vegas 15. Brown is yet to win in the UFC, being submitted by Jordan Griffin in February 2020 before a decision defeat against Dany Chavez at UFC 252 too.
Kamaka is a great striker who looks like he hits with a lot of power, but he has just one knockout win in his career so far with the rest coming via decision. Brown is a good wrestler with great scrambles and decent power of his own, but he also has some very good cardio too. Kamaka’s cardio has been a huge issue in his career and if Brown can push the pace you could see Kamaka wilt as the fight goes on.
Brown is at a disadvantage on the feet but only just, while the gap in cardio and wrestling is much bigger, so I think the underdog takes the win here. PICK – TJ Brown via Decision
Gabriel Benitez (22-9) vs Jonathan Pearce (10-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Benitez is a remarkably powerful kicker, using distance well and throwing them in combination with his punches too. Pearce is a good wrestler with good power in his hands as eight knockouts from his ten career victories show. Benitez will undoubtedly look to stay at range and use his leg kicks and body kicks to stop Pearce from trying to close the distance to use his wrestling to get this fight to the ground.
Benitez is very good at getting back up to his feet when he does get taken down and with Pearce’s lead leg an obvious target, I think he should be able to earn a competitive decision win. PICK – Gabriel Benitez via Decision
Randa Markos (10-10-1) vs Luana Pinheiro (8-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Markos is a wrestler who likes to lay in top position and look for openings either through strikes or submissions, but is entering the twilight of her career now. Pinheiro though is a beast of a prospect. She is a black belt in judo and a purple belt in jiu-jitsu and is so aggressive when looking for a finish in her fights. Markos isn’t a bad fighter, lets be clear, all her recent defeats have been against top fighters, but Pinheiro is better right now.
Despite a slight disadvantage in size, I think Pinheiro can use her massively improved striking to hurt Markos before eventually grabbing hold of her neck and earning a huge submission win. PICK – Luana Pinheiro via Submission, Round 2