The UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas after the wild ride that was UFC 279 for a huge bantamweight main event.
Former title challenger Cory Sandhagen headlines the card against hot prospect Song Yadong, in his first main event and a real step up in competition.
A stacked 14-fight card will see several fights with some good debutants and some impressive prospects a chance to make themselves a name in the UFC.
Last time out at UFC 279 we went 8/13 with three perfect picks for the night to move to 723/1119 (64.61%) with 305 perfect picks (42.19%). You can see our full picks history here.
We’ll look to improve on that and after starting with the early prelims picks, we move on to the rest of the prelims now.
Denise Gomes (6-1) vs Loma Lookboonmee (6-3) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A fun strawweight scrap up next. Gomes is making her UFC debut on short notice after a successful venture onto the Contender Series last month. Lookboonmee on the other hand is looking to get back on the winning trail after she saw a two-fight win streak snapped by Lupita Godinez back in November last year.
Gomes is a powerful 115-pounder with great aggression and an impressive gas tank, earning four of her career wins via knockout. She marches forward with great pressure and in a war, she almost exclusively manages to land the more eye-catching strikes. Lookboonmee on the other hand a technical striker with excellent wrestling and top game, which allows her to control fights at her own pace.
This one comes down to whether or not Lookboonmee can execute her wrestling when being forced backwards from the pressure of a wrecking ball. If she can’t, then Gomes will look to do as much damage as possible in that short window. If she can then she will dominate this fight on the mat with control and ground and pound. With her experience and the short-notice nature of the fight, I think Lookboonmee gets it done. PICK – Loma Lookboonmee via Decision
Trevin Giles (14-4) vs Louis Cosce (7-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A big welterweight bout comes next between two hard hitters. Giles was on a three-fight win streak before he ran into Dricus Du Plessis and got KO’d at UFC 264, before losing again last time out when Michael Morales knocked him out at UFC 270. Cosce on the other hand has been out nearly two years after getting knocked out in his last fight by Sasha Palatnikov at UFC 255.
Giles was a top prospect before heading off to the police academy. He had phenomenal boxing technique with great combinations and skills on the ground earning him 11 stoppages in his 14 wins, split 6/5 in favour of KO’s. Since returning though he’s lost a lot of that, while his urgency has decreased and his chin has left him. Cosce however is a powerhouse with great striking in his hands and an explosive nature to his style.
His big problem is his cardio though. Cosce really struggles outside of the first six or seven minutes and that’s one area where Giles hasn’t struggled. Despite that, Cosce is aware of it and tends to blitz his opponents early. With Giles being a slow starter, that’s a recipe for “The Monster” to step forward and clip him for an early finish. PICK – Louis Cosce via Knockout, Round 1
Aspen Ladd (9-3) vs Sara McMann (13-6) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A strange bantamweight scrap comes up next. Ladd has lost three of her last four after getting smoked by Germaine De Randamie, and then dropping decisions to Norma Dumont and Raquel Pennington after a KO win over Yana Kunitskaya. McMann on the other hand bounced back from a submission defeat to Julianna Pena at UFC 257 with a decision win over Karol Rosa last time out.
Ladd is a terrific wrestler with a fearsome top game and nasty ground and pound. She has struggled making weight in recent fights though, and has been blown away physically in her last two fights. McMann is also a good wrestler, who tends to push opponents against the cage and just grind her on the mat to do more damage than her opponent and get wins. Whoever gets the takedown wins this fight, it’s pretty simple.
Ladd has failed to battle back from adversity and her takedown defence is pretty poor, which will give McMann loads of confidence when engaging in wrestling exchanges and scrambles. But if Ladd ends up on top for any reason, she should be able to smash her way past McMann. It won’t be the most entertaining fight of the night, that’s for sure, but with a 14-year age swing in her favour too I think Ladd can get it done. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Decision
Damon Jackson (21-4-1) vs Pat Sabatini (17-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A super fun featherweight fight and contender for fight of the night here. Jackson is on a three-fight win streak after beating Charles Rosa, Kamuela Kirk and Dan Argueta. Sabatini is on a six-fight win streak himself, with UFC wins over Tristan Connelly (UFC 261), Jamall Emmers, Tucker Lutz and most recently TJ Laramie.
Both of these fighters are absolute geniuses in the grappling department, with fantastic wrestling and nasty submission skills earning them a combined 25 wins via tap out in their careers. Jackson is the bigger guy physically, but who the better wrestler is is definitely up in the air and we’ll find out during this fight.
Usually when two fighters who wrestle come up against each other it turns into a striking battle, but it would be a real shock if that happens here. Both will look to shoot and gain top control, with both fighters capable of finding the finish with their ability from that position. With that said, it’s a straight up hunch. Judging both on them on their UFC performances, I think Sabatini has the edge in that department and because of that he should be able to earn the nod on the scorecards in an entertaining fight. PICK – Pat Sabatini via Decision
Jasmine Jasudavicius def Kay Hansen via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Hansen shoots in for a takedown immediately as the fight starts and both women clinch against the cage fighting for position. Jasudavicius is able to defend and looks for a right hand on the break but misses. Hansen trying to box from the outside but Jasudavicius the longer fighter and able to land her jab well. Lovely slip and left hook from Hansen lands, then she changes levels looking for a takedown but Jasudavicius defends it really well. Clinch against the cage and then Hansen gets tripped and ends up on her back with Jasudavicius in her guard. Big elbow lands from Jasudavicius but Hansen is looking for something from her back. She kicks her off but Jasudavicius lands a big elbow on the ground before the round ends. 10-9 Jasudavicius.
Jasudavicius throws a kick early doors which Hansen catches and is able to trip her down. She looks to move straight into mount, but Jasudavicius sweeps her and ends up on top herself and is landing some big shots against the cage. Hansen is looking for armbars but is eating big elbows to the face. Jasudavicius controlling the position on top but not much happening and the referee stands them up. Hansen catches another kick but doesn’t get her down, then throws a big spinning elbow and then shoots in for a takedown but Jasudavicius defends it brilliantly and reverses the position against the cage. After some grinding against the cage Jasudavicius gets another takedown with 10 seconds left to take the round. 20-18.
Nice exchange of right hands between the two ladies at the start of the round as Hansen tries to close the distance. Jasudavicius fakes a takedown and lands a nice left hand, before Hansen fires back with a crisp right hook that lands clean. She’s landing well on the feet despite being smaller, but Jasudavicius lands her jab well too in return. Beautiful left hand lands from Hansen but Jasudavicius eats it and continues to come forward. Hansen having the better of the fight on the feet but she needs a finish. Final 90 seconds and they trade big strikes, before another left hook from Hansen. Jasudavicius just misses with a left high kick, then Hansen lands a big elbow and a left hand. Jasudavicius gets hold of Hansen and lands some big knees in a Thai clinch for the final ten seconds. 29-28 Jasudavicius for me.
Lots of forward movement early on from Demopoulos, but Juarez moves away relatively easily and lands a bomb of a right hand. Hard low kicks land from Demopoulos but then Juarez lands another huge overhand right that drops her! She moves in for ground and pound and lands some heavy shots but Demopoulos manages to control her posture on the ground and cover up. Demopoulos starts looking for an armbar and is threatening hard with it. She sweeps Juarez from the bottom with the arm locked up and gets the tap! What a brilliant comeback win!
Matt Frevola def Genaro Valdez via Knockout, Round 1 (3:15)
High pace to start this one as Frevola goes high with a kick that just misses before both guys start swinging from the hip. Hard low kick from Frevola lands but both guys land with big right hands. Frevola pushing forward and lands a big right hand that wobbles Valdez! He drops him and then goes for ground and pound but Valdez keeps going. They get back to the feet and Frevola lands another hard right that drops him again! Valdez goes for a left hand that lands but Frevola too powerful now and knocks him down again! Valdez trying to defend himself but Frevola starts landing big knees up the middle. Huge strikes again from Frevola and Valdez goes down again but the referee still letting it go. Frevola takes his back instead, moves into mount and starts raining down punches and forces the referee to stop the fight! Wow, what a crazy fight! Huge win for Frevola!
Tony Gravely def Saimon Oliveira via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very fast start to this fight as Oliveira throws a high kick and then a big flying knee as Gravely moves in for a takedown. Oliveira sweeps and gets on top and looks for a guillotine and it’s in deep, but Gravely is gutting it out and trying to lift the hips to ease the pressure. He pops his head out and lands some big ground strikes before controlling position from the top. Oliveira works his way back up to his feet and looks for a guillotine again, but Gravely steps behind him and takes him back down to the ground. Oliveira works his way back up again but Gravely throwing short combinations then shoots for a takedown again. Oliveira goes for another guillotine, but Gravely takes him down again and should take the round. 10-9.
Second round and Gravely immediately comes in for a takedown and gets it. Oliveira threatens with a kimura from the bottom but Gravely denies it and steps in. Good pressure again, but Oliveira lands a big left hook before Gravely goes for a takedown and denies another guillotine attempt. Gravely steps in and changes levels with an excellent takedown again and passes into half-guard immediately as Oliveira looks to throw elbows from the bottom. Gravely landing some big shots from top position but Oliveira eats them to get back to his feet, then starts throwing some hard elbows to force a break. Gravely taking Oliveira down whenever he wants now and landing heavy shots to end the round. 20-18 Gravely.
Oliveira comes storming out wildly but Gravely immediately goes to his wrestling to get a takedown and fight off another guillotine choke attempt. Oliveira throwing short elbows from the bottom but Gravely controlling the position well. Oliveira works his way back up to the feet, before Gravely goes for the takedown once again and successfully stops any momentum. Once again Oliveira goes for a guillotine but Gravely defends it easily and lands some solid ground and pound too. Oliveira works his way back up once more but Gravely lands a nice right hook as we enter the final minute. Exchange of strikes and Gravely lands a big uppercut that wobbles Oliveira. Spinning back elbow from Oliveira and a big knee but Gravely takes him down. Back up and a big knee from Gravely lands followed by a left hook before the round ends. 30-27 Gravely, great fight.
Jack Della Maddalena def Pete Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 1 (2:59)
Good pace to this fight early on as Maddalena applying pressure and stepping forward. Maddalena using his jab brilliantly but Rodriguez is responding with decent combinations of his own, including a nice left uppercut. Maddalena’s jab is picking Rodriguez apart and has busted his nose up bad. Maddalena lands a right hand, then follows it with a brilliant combination that rocks Rodriguez! Big left hand lands and drops Rodriguez and he follows it up with two shots on the ground to end the fight! What a performance from Maddalena.
Victor Henry def Raoni Barcelos via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very even start to the fight as both guys trade singular shots while they look for range and movement. Barcelos lands a nice left hand then follows up with a beautiful combination that lands heavy on Henry. Henry throws a body kick but Barcelos side steps and lands a nice counter right. Big uppercut from Barcelos and a quick one-two lands, then he just misses with a big right hook. Henry lands a big left hand and Barcelos shoots, but Henry stuffs it and eats two big punches. Henry stepping forward now and he’s landed some big strikes too on the chin. Barcelos takes his head off the centre line and lands a big left hand, but Henry comes forward again. Barcelos landing heavy strikes but Henry still coming and lands some big shots of his own. Barcelos trips him to get a takedown but lets him back up immediately and Henry hurts him with a left hand. He rushes forward to clinch and lands some big punches before the round ends. 10-9 Barcelos, but momentum with Henry.
Henry keeping the pace very high at the start of the second after noticing Barcelos fade. Barcelos lands a nice combination, but Henry throwing kicks and then he lands a nice left hook. Nice double jab from Barcelos and after some more soft touches, Barcelos lands a big, hard one-two. Barcelos starting to land heavy again with some nice combinations but Henry is still right there. Two big right hands from Henry land but Barcelos responds with a very good combination in close. Barcelos catches a kick and goes for a trip takedown, but Henry gets back up immediately and they go back to trading. Big head kick just misses from Barcelos as the buzzer goes. 19-19? It’s very close.
Final round and Henry is working some heavy body kicks while Barcelos looking to land big punches to counter it. Both men are landing heavy strikes but neither going anywhere. Barcelos is fading and Henry is just continuing to come forward. Henry starting to land clean strikes on the chin and Barcelos is reacting. Henry looking for a finish but Barcelos clinches and Henry looks for a takedown. Hard knees to the back of the leg from Barcelos before he explodes out and lands some huge strikes on Henry. Left hand wobbles Henry but he’s still there and fights back himself to end the round and surely claim the win. 29-28 Henry for me.
Michael Morales def Trevin Giles via Knockout, Round 1 (4:06)
Three hard low kicks from Giles to open the round and Morales hasn’t checked any of them. Morales throws one back but then Giles throws another and then drops him with a huge one two! Morales recovers quickly and clinches, but Giles uses his strength and drags him down to the mat. Giles moves towards an arm triangle submission but Morales sweeps him brilliantly to end up on top, although Giles is able to scramble back to his feet quickly. Morales throws a big counter right hand and lands clean and Giles is hurt! Morales follows up with huge strikes and follows up with heavy ground and pound to force the referee to step in and stop the fight! Big performance from Morales, what a win!
Said Nurmagomedov def Cody Stamann via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (0:47)
Nurmagomedov comes out fast and aggressive early on with strikes including a spinning back fist and spinning back side kick. Stamann shoots in for a takedown immediately because he doesn’t like that and Nurmagomedov grabs the neck quickly. He locks in a high-elbow grip, rolls through and secures the tap out! Wow! What a performance.
Michel Pereira def Andre Fialho via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Fialho as he takes the centre immediately and throws a nice combination. Fialho goes for a wheel kick but misses, before Pereira throws a big body kick and then a huge combination after kicking off the cage. Nice jab from Fialho lands and makes Pereira stumble back against the cage, then another lands flush too. Nice overhand right from Pereira lands but Fialho eats it then steps forward, feints, and lands a beautiful combo flush on the chin. Pereira responds with a couple of big shots too but Fialho has been excellent so far. Fialho coming forward and the jab is landing beautifully, before Pereira goes for a takedown and sees it stuffed. Big overhand right from Pereira lands but then he slips and Fialho ends the round on top landing some nice ground and pound. 10-9 Fialho.
Second round and Pereira has scaled back the wacky explosions and has gone back to fundamentals, and is doing well. Big left jab to the body and right overhand lands, Big combination and Fialho is rocked. Pereira goes for a flying knee but misses before landing a crazy body kick and a front flip lariat. Hard strikes land from Pereira, but Fialho responds with some big strikes himself. Big wheel kick misses again from Pereira, but then the hard front kick to the body lands. Pereira clinches and throws knees to the body, but Fialho lands some hard uppercuts at the same time. Pereira continuing to throw front kicks to the body, and mixing it up with hard right hands. Fialho counters with a right hand of his own as Pereira scores a takedown with 20 seconds to go. 19-19, great recovery.
Fialho continuing to come forward in this final round but Pereira seems to have figured him out and is now landing hard low kicks. Nice combination from Pereira, before he shoots for a takedown but doesn’t get it. Fialho forces Pereira backwards with strikes but then he replies with an explosive right hand. Pereira chopping away at the body but Fialho not going anywhere and landing his jab well. Pereira getting in and out with his strikes, but Fialho is still there and is landing really well. Pereira goes for one of those body kicks but gets it a bit low and there’s a pause in the action. Crazy exchanges to see the round out from both guys, but Pereira should claim the victory.
Deiveson Figueiredo def Brandon Moreno via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x3)
Hard low kick from Figueiredo early on, but when he goes for a second Moreno avoids it and chases him looking for a strike. Clinch against the cage forces a stalemate for about a minute, before they break and Moreno just misses with a left hook. Hard low kick from Figueiredo sits Moreno down but he bounces back up quickly. Another hard low kick from Figueiredo and then Moreno lands a hard right hand that seems to hurt Figueiredo. The Brazilian changes levels and drags Moreno down with a takedown and transitions to the back, but Moreno scrambles up to his feet quickly. Spinning low kick hurts Figueiredo’s leg but he lands a nice right hand before the buzzer ends the round. 10-9 Figueiredo, just.
Moreno coming forward well in this second round and he looks confident and calm. Figueiredo lands a right hand, then goes for a body kick but Moreno catches it and tries to drop him to the ground but they immediately scramble back up to the feet. Moreno starting to throw his own low kicks and both guys are looking to counter the other as it stands. Moreno steps in and lands a nice left hook to the body before a left to the chin, before Figueiredo changes levels and grabs a leg but misses with the big right hand. Nice combination to the body from Figueiredo, but Moreno fires back with a left hand. Figueiredo throws a big right hand that hurts Moreno, but the champ returns with a shot of his own that hurts Figueiredo. Both guys just miss with a head kick and the buzzer goes. 19-19.
Both fighters land a left hook early, before Moreno charges in with a knee but gets taken down. He gets to the cage and gets back to his feet while preventing Figueiredo from taking his back. Low kick each to add to the damage, before a left hand makes Moreno stumble! Moreno responds with a right hand that makes him wobble too, then they exchange big strikes again that make each other stumble. Hard low kick from Figueiredo but Moreno lands a few big strikes again that keep Figueiredo on the back foot. Another hard leg kick forces Moreno to the ground, before he throws a big combo that sees a left hand land on the chin of Figueiredo. Heavy left hand from Figueiredo lands but Moreno returns fire with the same strike himself. Head kick from Moreno is partially blocked. Figueiredo lands a huge right hand that drops Moreno! He sinks in a guillotine choke but the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 29-28 Fig.
Hard low kick again from Figueiredo and Moreno is hurting. Moreno throws a couple of low kicks himself and gets a reaction from Figueiredo, but Fig taking the centre. Hard low kick from Moreno puts Figueiredo down to one knee but he bounces back up immediately. Figueiredo just misses with a left hook and right cross, before a body lock and clinch against the cage as he looks for a takedown. Moreno scrambles out and starts throwing big flurries, with a left hook landing well. Hard body kick from Moreno, but Figueiredo returns it. Round ends with little action, got to give it to Moreno. 38-38.
Some good distance management early on from both guys before Moreno steps in and gets a takedown. Figueiredo uses his butterfly guard to elevate Moreno and scramble back to his feet quickly though. Nice left hand from Moreno lands, before a hook to the body too. Great slip from Moreno as he avoids Figueiredo’s strike and lands a strong left hand. Big right hand from Figueiredo lands and he drops Moreno! Moreno responds with a nice left hand, before Figueiredo lands a head kick. Both guys land a flush one-two. Final 30 seconds and both guys just start swinging for the fences, with both guys landing clean and both getting hurt. Amazing fight. 48-47 Fig for me, but no complaints if it goes the other way.
Francis Ngannou def Ciryl Gane via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x2, 49-46)
Ngannou takes the centre immediately and Gane bounces on the outside, before shooting in for a takedown but Ngannou defends it well. Ngannou clinches well against Gane and then Gane looks for an upwards elbow. Ngannou lands a big right hook and uppercut, but Gane avoids the big actions and steps away. Spinning kick to the body lands for Gane, and then he moves side-to-side and lands a nice jab too. Ngannou staying very calm so far and then clinching against the cage, landing a big knee to the body. Gane switches the position and lands a knee of his own, before Gane throws a nice body shot. Gane lands a push kick to the body and the round ends. 10-9 Gane.
Slow start to the round from both guys, as Gane throws a front leg side kick to the body. Nice low kicks from Gane and a jab, but the round has been very slow so far. Gane throws a big body shot and hook that lands well, but Ngannou relaxed and eats them. Ngannou misses with a big right hand but they clinch and Gane separates easily. Ngannou throws the one-two and just misses, but Gane responds with a spinning heel-kick that lands well. Gane is basically fighting at walking pace right now, in complete control while Ngannou is barely throwing. Hard body kick lands from Ngannou as we head into the final 30 seconds. Gane throws a right hand and Ngannou replies with an uppercut that lands, but not flush. Gane bounces around the outside to see out the round. 20-18.
Gane very relaxed for the opening minute as he moves around on the outside before throwing a kick that Ngannou catches and he slams him to the mat! Ngannou in side control looking to control the position but Gane does well to get out. Ngannou takes the back and lands some good shots in the ground and pound but Gane gets back up and they separate. Big spinning elbow from Gane on the break lands but Gane then steps back and steps in with a big double leg takedown. Gane goes for a kimura but Ngannou defends it well and ends the round on top. 29-28.
Gane showing his gas tank is nowhere near empty with good movement again, as Ngannou holds the centre and moves slowly. Gane walking around with his hands low, landing short leg kicks before Ngannou throws a hard body kick. He gets a body lock and spins to get Gane down to the mat. Gane trying to keep wrist control but gives it up and throws a short elbow, with Ngannou looking for ground and pound. Another takedown from Ngannou as he looks to move into full mount, but Gane manages to roll out. Ngannou gets him against the cage and lands a big knee to the chest before ending the round on top. What a combeack this is. 38-38, final round.
Gane comes out with leg kicks again and just misses with a big overhand right. Big left hand from Gane lands but Ngannou still in the centre and eats it. Gane changes levels and gets a single leg takedown, but Ngannou tries to get back up. Gane goes for a leg attack and Ngannou manages to get on top instead! Gane rolls it back through and torques for a heel hook but he can’t get it and now Ngannou gets back on top. Ngannou in half-guard and stalling the position as we enter the final minute. Gane can’t work any offense from the bottom and Ngannou is controlling the position. Ngannou looks for ground and pound to end the round and he’s surely taken the decision victory! 48-47 Ngannou.
The first pay-per-view of the year brings us two huge title fights in the smallest and biggest weights available to the men.
In the main event of the night Francis Ngannou will take on former teammate and interim champion Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title of the world, while the co-main will see the trilogy between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo for the flyweight title.
Tony Gravely (21-7) vs Saimon Oliveira (18-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Banger at bantamweight closes out the early prelims. Gravely suffered defeat in his last outing, getting knocked out by Nate Manness at UFC Vegas 37. Oliveira on the other hand is currently on a five-fight win streak with four finishes, with his last win coming via split decision on the Contender Series.
Gravely is a boxer primarily, who uses those strikes to get a takedown and then work his excellent grappling skills on the ground. Oliveira is a Muay-Thai fighter with crisp striking, but exciting submission skills with 11 tap-out wins in his career. This is the type of fight that will be won by the guy with the better gas tank and that makes it a really tough pick. Gravely struggled with his cardio in his last fight and ended up getting KO’d, something Oliveira is more than capable of doing too.
But when you look at Oliveira’s last fight, it showed that he is open to being taken down himself because he throws naked kicks and can blitz into distance relatively recklessly. Gravely will eat those takedown opportunities up and with his ability to control on the ground, he should be able to secure enough of a gap to earn a decision win. PICK – Tony Gravely via Decision
Jack Della Maddalena (10-2) vs Pete Rodriguez (4-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An intriguing bout between UFC debutants in this one. Maddalena is on a ten-fight win streak after losing his first two professional bouts, while Rodriguez is 4-0 and looking to make a big impression in the organisation after stepping in on a little over one week’s notice.
Maddalena is a seriously powerful striker with eight knockout victories in his career, with decent grappling too and an ability to get himself through deep waters and come out on the other side. Rodriguez on the other hand has got less than five minutes of professional cage time to his name, but they’ll all ended via knockout in his favour. He’s got genuine power in his hands and good boxing skills, but this seems like a big step up on such short notice.
Maddalena is a legit talent with a budding reputation, and he’s coming into this off a full camp for a fight against a much tougher opponent. Rodriguez has a real power puncher’s chance, but the likelihood of this fight going any way other than Maddalena putting on a clinic before securing a big knockout victory for himself. PICK – Jack Della Maddalena via Knockout, Round 2
Raoni Barcelos (16-2) vs Victor Henry (21-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights on the entire card here and my pick for fight of the night. Barcelos saw a nine-fight win streak snapped last time out when Timur Valiev earned a majority decision win at UFC Vegas 30, while Henry makes his UFC debut after winning nine of his last ten fights.
Barcelos is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with brilliant boxing skills, fearsome leg kicks and a brilliant Brazilian jiu-jitsu game on the mat that has earned him ten stoppage wins in his career. Henry on the other hand is a decent wrestler himself with good power in his hands and some fine grappling himself to earn 14 stoppage wins in his career. Unfortunately for him, he’s outmatched everywhere in this fight in all honesty.
Henry has been beaten up on the feet by worse fighters, taken down by worse wrestlers and dominated on the ground by lesser grapplers. Barcelos has never really had a problem with his gas tank and while Henry has never been stopped, that comes to an end this weekend. PICK – Raoni Barcelos via Knockout, Round 2
Ilia Topuria (11-0) vs Charles Jourdain (12-4-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An exciting short-notice featherweight bout headlines the prelims section of this card. Undefeated Ilia Topuria is 11-0 with a hugely impressive KO win over Ryan Hall at UFC 264 last time out. Jourdain steps in on short notice after a decision win at UFC Vegas 45 against Andre Ewell last time out.
Topuria is a supremely talented striker with excellent boxing skills and some solid kicks too, all to go with some great power. But before that, he’s a super grappler with nasty submission skills and great wrestling. Jourdain on the other hand looks to bring blood and thunder to every fight and apply pressure on his opponents. He loves to throw flurries and has some good flying knees, but ultimately if Topuria gets hold of him on the ground it’s a long day.
On the feet it’s a 50/50 fight, but because Topuria has the ability to be able to take this down relatively quickly and just dominate on the ground he is likely to get the win here. Jourdain will put up a fight for sure, but Topuria will wrap up the neck eventually and continue to move up towards a number next to his name. PICK – Ilia Topuria via Submission, Round 2
Good start to the fight from Rivera as he uses that long reach advantage to stab some kicks into the gut. Zhumagulov starts throwing some nice overhand right hands and is moving well but Rivera is putting the pace on him. Zhumagulov lands a nice left hook that drops Rivera and then synches up a nasty looking standing guillotine and forces the tap! Huge win!
Great start to the fight from Tavares as he uses his boxing well to light Akhmedov up nice and early. A nice exchange in the pocket and Tavares comes out on top of it. Nice low kick from Akhmedov but Tavares counters with a nice right hand. Akhmedov shoots in for a takedown and after a bounce on the cage gets it, but Tavares bounces straight back up. A few more takedown attempts but Tavares denies them all and lands some nice strikes in the exchanges to end the round. 10-9 Tavares.
Akhmedov steps into the second round with a nice jab and then a takedown attempt and while he gets him down he can’t hold him there and Tavares gets back up early. Tavares starts landing some heavy leg kicks and Akhmedov is feeling it. Nice jabs from Tavares but now Akhmedov is landing some heavy leg kicks of his own. Tavares steps in for a clinch and lands a big knee to the face, followed by a heavy low kick again. Akhmedov goes for another takedown but Tavares defends it well and should claim that round too. 20-18 Tavares.
Fast start to the final round from Tavares but staying patient with the volume of strikes, just pressing forward and forcing Akhmedov backwards. Tavares throws a heavy leg kick that drops Akhmedov, then lands another big one as he gets back to his feet. Great movement from Tavares and his jab is landing clean too. Akhmedov goes for a takedown but Tavares stuffs it brilliantly. Final minute and Tavares has rocked him! Big strikes just miss but Akhmedov is stumbling. Tavares lands a nice kick to end the round, great fight. 30-27 Tavares.
Jennifer Maia def Jessica Eye via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Interesting start as both women stay standing and Eye is landing really well. Nice kicks and some good hooks but Maia fires back too with a big knee up the middle. Eye lands some more short strikes and is just too fast so far. Some nice shots from Eye land and send Maia stumbling backwards and then Eye goes for a takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Eye.
Another good start from Eye as she continues to walk forward and lands short shots and apply pressure to Maia, who is being forced to fight on the back foot. Eye throwing some nice leg kicks but Maia is responding with a nice one-two up the middle that is landing well and often. Maia is pushing the pace now and landing big strikes. An accidental clash of heads opens up a massive cut on the head of Eye as the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and Maia is staying patient and not going straight for the cut. Lots of short strikes again but Eye is coming forward and landing some decent hooks and leg kicks of her own. Maia is doing really well to land the right hand and counter Eye’s pressure on the back foot. Big strikes from Maia as she applies heavy pressure herself with Eye bleeding heavily now. Great scrap, 29-28 Maia for me
Dricus Du Plessis def Trevin Giles via Knockout, Round 2 (1:41)
A very tense start to the fight for both guys as they both show lots of feints and bouncing on their feet. Du Plessis throwing some leg kicks to get some score with the judges and just misses with a flying knee. Du Plessis goes for the takedown against the cage and gets it, then passes into mount immediately. He starts targeting submissions but Giles defending fairly well and scrambling to safety. Du Plessis ends up back on top and looks for a big elbow but ends the round on top. 10-9 Du Plessis.
Good start to the round from Giles as he steps forward looking to land big heavy strikes early on. Du Plessis staying patient and avoids a big flying knee but backs up to the cage after landing a nice left hand. He throws a left jab that misses then throws a big right hand that lands flush and puts Giles out! He lands some follow up punches but this one is all over! What a knockout!
Ilia Topuria def Ryan Hall via Knockout, Round 1 (4:27)
Very tense start to the fight with Hall backing up against the cage and Topuria pressuring him. Hall throws a big spinning back kick that lands well. He starts rolling for emenari rolls but Topuria is avoiding them all and doing really well to skip out. Several minutes pass of Hall rolling for legs but missing, and then Hall goes for another spin kick. Topuria catches it and forces Hall to the ground, then lands some heavy shots that put Hall out! Huge win for Topuria!
Michel Pereira def Niko Price via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Slow start to the fight as Pereira lands a nice jab and Price starts to go for some takedowns against the cage. Pereira defends well against the cage and starts firing off some big shots and his speed is troubling Price. Some superman punch attempts just miss but Pereira is doing well to keep attacking with volume. Rolling thunder attempt to finish the round and it’s 10-9 to the Brazilian.
Second round and Pereira is coming out strong, throwing a nice body kick that hurts Price. He goes on the attack and starts throwing some heavy strikes and gets Price down to the ground. Pereira starts looking for an americana submission but Price defends it, so Pereira starts raining down strikes instead. Price is just about surviving and Pereira moves to his back looking for a choke, but Price is able to roll out and get back to his feet before the round ends. 20-18 Pereira.
Final round and Price is pouring on the pressure nice and early as he sees Pereira is tiring. Price landing some big shots and Pereira just doesn’t have the same pop to his counters or movement in his legs anymore. Price pouring it on and landing some big strikes but Pereira is surviving. Nice left hand from Pereira but Price keeps coming forward. He goes all out before the end of the round but it’s likely not enough. 29-28 Pereira for me.
Max Griffin def Carlos Condit via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Hugely impressive start to the fight from Griffin as he lands some heavy leg kicks early that are getting big reactions from Condit. Griffin keeping a big pace and is doing lots of work on Condit who just can’t get going at all. Griffin landing some big strikes and Condit is in trouble! Griffin goes for the finish but Condit survives and the round ends. 10-9 Griffin, potentially even a 10-8.
Second round and Condit has come out and is walking forward and Griffin has slowed down considerably. Condit more willing to take the strikes as he comes forward and Griffin has so far completely stopped with the leg kicks. Condit continuing to step forward and landing some nice strikes but Griffin not getting hurt too much and is trying to counter. Condit lands a few more as the round ends, 19-19.
Griffin coming out much more aggressive in the final round and landing some nice jabs. Few big haymakers from Griffin are getting through, and Condit is being forced to back up now as he starts to tire. Condit starts firing back with some heavy body shots and a right hand, but Griffin throws a couple of leg kicks to snap the momentum immediately. Nice right hand again from Griffin and Condit backs up, so Griffin goes for the takedown and keeps the fight there until the round ends. 29-28 Griffin for me. Great fight.
Sean O’Malley def Kris Moutinho via Knockout, Round 3 (4:33)
Solid start to the fight from O’Malley. Suga is pushing the pace and landing some really nice jabs. Lots of heavy strikes landing but Moutinho stepping forward and looking for a right hook. O’Malley continues with the jabs and hooks through the guard and he is beating Moutinho up badly. Big right hook lands and drops Moutinho and then he goes for a spin kick that just misses. Lots of strikes and Moutinho is getting pieced up. O’Malley throws a pull right cross counter and drops Moutinho! He goes for the guillotine submission but time runs out. 10-8 O’Malley.
Second round and O’Malley is doing more of the same, just landing heavy strikes and really beating Moutinho up. Moutinho keeps storming forward though and is just missing with his right hooks. O’Malley smashing hooks and jabs through the guard but starting to tire. Moutinho keeps going forward and is talking to O’Malley and surviving the beating somehow. 20-17.
O’Malley comes out in the third round firing once again but Moutinho is just a zombie coming forward. O’Malley throwing knees, kicks, strikes and uppercuts but Moutinho is talking to him and smiling. O’Malley is fading but still throwing beautiful jabs and combinations. As the round comes into the final 30 seconds O’Malley lands a huge combination and Moutinho is hurt! He’s still standing but the referee waves it off after an accumulation.
Irene Aldana def Yana Kunitskaya via Knockout, Round 1 (4:35)
Good start to the fight from Kunitskaya with some kicks to counter the boxing attack of Aldana early on. Kunitskaya goes for a spinning wheel kick and then clinches up looking for a takedown, but Aldana defends it really well. Aldana slips a charge and lands a big right cross to the nose and then a jab, then lands a beautiful left hook to the body that hurts Kunitskaya. Some good jabs and slips and then she lands a big left hand again that drops Kunitskaya. Aldana rains down ground and pound but Kunitskaya tries to survive it by holding her hands for control. Aldana gets on top of her, slams big strikes into her face and the referee steps in to end it! Huge performance from Aldana!
Tai Tuivasa def Greg Hardy via Knockout, Round 1 (1:07)
Tuivasa comes out and lands some heavy leg kicks to start that Hardy immediately feels and struggles with. They start going wild with strikes and Hardy tags Tuivasa bad! He rushes in for the finish but Tuivasa counters with a crazy left-hook that puts Hardy out!!! Wow! What a knockout!!
Gilbert Burns def Stephen Thompson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Very cagey start to the fight from both guys as they look to feel each other out. Burns steps forward with some looping hooks but Thompson avoids and moves out of range once again. Burns shoots in for a takedown against the cage and after a stalemate gets the fight down. He holds top position for the remainder of the round without landing too much damage. 10-9 Burns.
Thompson comes out more on his toes and lands some good side kicks and lots of body shots to keep Burns at distance. Some nice right hands and Burns bites down on his mouthpiece to fire back but Thompson is out of the way swiftly. More kicks from Thompson and as the round comes to an end Burns gets Thompson down once again and lands some decent strikes but that’s a Thompson round. 19-19.
Final round and Burns comes out hot and heavy ready to go. Nice right hand lands and then Burns shoots for the takedown and gets it around halfway through the round. Burns sits on top of Thompson and applies pressure, with good ground and pound and just staying heavy to take what should be a decision win for him. 29-28 Burns.
Dustin Poirier def Conor McGregor via Doctor Stoppage (Broken Ankle), Round 1 (5:00)
McGregor comes out and lands two sharp spinning kicks to the body followed by his teet kick. Poirier coming forward but McGregor slams some hard leg kicks into him to slow him down. Poirier responds with a couple of his own but McGregor going for the kicks. McGregor lands a nice left hand but Poirier responds with a combination that seems to buzz McGregor. McGregor clinches and Poirier goes for the takedown, but McGregor looks to sink in a guillotine choke. Poirier avoids and starts slamming in some heavy ground and pound shots, big elbows to McGregor who’s hurt! Poirier piling on the pressure and looking for a finish but McGregor is surviving for now. Poirier lets McGregor back up and he throws a punch that misses but as he plants his back foot his leg gives way and snaps! Poirier lands some shots on McGregor while he’s down as the round ends.
McGregor tells the referee and doctor his leg is broken and the doctor waves the fight off immediately! What an anti-climax to a crazy fight and trilogy!
In the co-main event we have a huge welterweight contender fight too as former title challengers Gilbert Burns and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson go head-to-head with each other to try and climb towards another shot against Kamaru Usman in the near future.
Also on the card is the return of ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley as he opens up the main card, while the prelims are full of exciting bouts too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 30, we went 12/6 with two perfect picks for our selection for a not so good outing. That took us to 352/554 (63.54%) with 160 perfect picks (45.45%) since starting up.
We’ll look to improve that with this huge 13 fight card, and after starting with the early prelims here we move on to the rest of the prelims now.
Trevin Giles (14-2) vs Dricus Du Plessis (15-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Giles is a solid kickboxer, with a good power jab and lots of kicks and combinations. Du Plessis is also a good striker with good power but he also has a solid ground game with nine submission wins in his career and a 100% finish rate in his career. The South African always throws some heavy leg kicks and looks for some top control.
It’ll be a really close one but Giles has a tendency to start relatively slowly and make weird decisions, which will allow Du Plessis the opportunity to earn the victory in a wild back and forth bout. PICK – Dricus Du Plessis via Decision
Ryan Hall (8-1) vs Ilia Topuria (10-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very, very fun fight in the featherweight division as jiu-jitsu wizard Ryan Hall takes on the undefeated Ilia Topuria. Hall has won eight fights in a row but hasn’t fought since 2019 due to lots of people not wanting to fight him, while Topuria is 2-0 in the UFC with a decision win over Youssef Zalal at UFC Fight Island 5 and then knocking out Damon Jackson at UFC Vegas 16.
Hall is an absolutely brilliant jiu-jitsu practitioner but he also has great kicks and some decent striking while standing too. Topuria on the other hand is a really good wrestler and submission artist himself but he also has some really good boxing too. He’ll need to use that boxing in this fight because he does not want to go to ground against Hall.
Topuria has all the tools to counter Hall’s strengths and so long as it’s him pushing the pace of the fight and not on the defensive the whole time, he should be able to get an entertaining win. PICK – Ilia Topuria via Decision
Niko Price (14-4) vs Michel Pereira (25-11) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Potentially a fight of the night contender here in the welterweight division as two absolute entertainment machines go head-to-head. Price has alternated wins and losses in his most recent fights but saw his draw against ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC Vegas 11 overturned to a no contest after a positive marijuana test. Pereira is a showman who likes flips and dancing in the cage but has managed to win his last two-in-a-row against Zelim Imadaev and then Khaos Williams at UFC Vegas 17.
Price is a solid boxer who comes forward with reckless abandon and looks to put you out with every shot, while Pereira is a wild man who is spectacular and free-flowing with his attacks. Both guys throw with ridiculous venom and while Price has excellent cardio, Pereira’s is questionable at best.
Despite that though, Pereira has shown in his last two fights that he can tone down the crazy and be quite devastating. For that reason, I think he has the advantage. His grappling is excellent and he has genuine knockout power too so I think he’ll catch Price coming in and then get a submission to close the show. PICK – Michel Pereira via Submission, Round 2
Carlos Condit (32-13) vs Max Griffin (17-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
One of the best welterweights of all time goes head-to-head with ‘Pain’ Max Griffin in the featured prelim bout of the night. Condit snapped a five-fight win streak by beating Court McGee before earning a decision over Matt Brown at UFC Fight Island 7, while Griffin has won his last two with a KO over Ramiz Brahimaj before a knockout over Kenan Song at UFC Vegas 22 too.
Condit is great at everything, with good kickboxing skills and some excellent chokes on his record too while Griffin is a power striker but he’s also a strong wrestler now too. Condit has historically always had bad takedown defence and that isn’t good against someone who is happy to take his opponent down and stay patient on top with ground and pound to stay busy.
Griffin is fragile sometimes but there’s been a switch in mentality recently and while Condit looked better in his last two, it’s not enough to convince me he’s back. PICK – Max Griffin via Decision
** Gregor Gillespie vs Brad Riddell was cancelled on fight day due to COVID-19 protocols and will be rescheduled for a later date.**
** Julija Stoliarenko was withdrawn from her fight with Julia Avila on medical advice after fainting twice during the weigh-ins.**
THE CARD CONTINUES WITH TEN FIGHTS.
Bruno Silva def JP Buys via Knockout, Round 2 (2:56)
First shot of the fight is a kick from Silva that lands straight on the cup and the referee pauses the fight immediately. Silva throws a hard calf kick once they resume and follows it with a right hand, but Buys comes forward. Buys throws a punch and Silva tries to push him away but a thumb catches Buys in the eye and the referee pauses the fight again. Silva lands a stiff right hand once they restart again ad then Buys lands a nice left hand, before Silva hits a front kick to the body. Buys pulls guard as he closes the distance and starts working for submissions, but Silva very good from the top and lands some nice ground and pound while stifling the transitions. Buys manages to scramble back to his feet and then looks to lock in a kimura that Silva just about defends, but Buys gets himself in a more dominant position against the cage in a clinch. They separate and then Silva lands a big right uppercut that definitely gets Buys’ attention. Buys looks for a takedown as the round ends but it’s denied and Silva lands a spinning back fist that rocks him on the buzzer. 10-9 Silva.
Buys comes out more aggressive in the second round, throwing some head kicks and doubling his jab but he slips when throwing a kick and then Silva gets on top of him. Silva throws some nice strikes on the ground but Buys does well to get back to his feet well. He’s starting to hunt Silva who’s slowing down a bit, but Silva still has the power advantage. Buys lands a huge elbow as they break on the clinch and Silva is hurt. Both men start swinging and Silva lands a beautiful pull right-hand that drops Buys! He goes for the ground and pound and hurts Buys again but he’s able to get up and move away. Silva stalks him again and lands a big right hand again that drops Buys once more and the referee waves the fight off! Huge win for Silva!
Montel Jackson def Jesse Strader via Knockout, Round 1 (1:58)
Patient start from both fighters as they circle, trade jabs and feint. The two clinch up together in the centre and Strader lands some nice knees to the body but Jackson counters with a big right hand that drops Strader! He looks to land ground and pound but Strader gets back up and Jackson stays patient. Jackson continues to come forward and lands a nice left-right combo that drops Strader again and then he stands over him, lands some vicious ground and pound and the referee steps in to wave it off. Impressive win from Jackson!
Trevin Giles def Roman Dolidze via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Strong leg kicks to start the fight from Dolidze, as Giles stays calm in the middle and looks to work his way into striking range. Giles lands a nice head kick with speed, but Dolidze continues with the heavy calf kicks. Giles lands a nice, strong right hand before Dolidze throws a left and then a spinning-back fist with his right. Giles goes in for a punch but Dolidze changes levels perfectly and gets a takedown with relative ease. Giles works his way up to the feet but Dolidze keeps a body lock against the cage and throws plenty of knees to the body and to the thighs to see out the round. 10-9 Dolidze.
Giles comes out in the second round with a huge right hand to wobble Dolidze immediately, but Dolidze gets back to the low kicks. Giles is throwing heavy shots and lands a big left hook, overhand right. Big shots land from Giles again and then Dolidze changes levels and starts looking for a leg lock submission. Giles defends it by throwing some huge strikes to Dolidze’s face, but he’s still in danger. Dolidze finally lets go and they scramble back to the feet, with Dolidze getting another body lock and seeing out the round with knees to the thighs again. 19-19, all to fight for now.
Dolidze comes out in the third with some low kicks and a high kick, then a nice right hand. Giles threatening with his right hand and then thumps one down the pipe that drops Dolidze! Giles looks for a finish but Dolidze clinches up and then starts rolling for submissions and takedowns to recover and ends up on top. Giles works his way back to the feet with a minute to go and Dolidze’s nose is bleeding and causing him problems. Giles goes for a big right hand again and the two clinch against the cage, before Dolidze falls on top of him and sees out the round from top position. Very close fight, I edge it 29-28 to Dolidze.
Grant Dawson def Leonardo Santos via Knockout, Round 3 (4:59)
Nice fast paced start to the fight from both guys as Santos lands some nice low kicks and threatens with his right hand too. Dawson throws a couple of head kicks and starts faking the level change, throwing an overhand right behind it. One of those overhands lands clean and Santos’ legs go from under him, then Dawson goes straight in for a takedown against the cage. He tries to lift Santos but the Brazilian defends it well and they continue to battle against the cage. Santos with a beautiful outside trip and throw to end up on top, but Dawson works his way back to his feet quickly and gets back into a dominant position against the cage. The two continue their clinch battle until the end of the round. 10-9 Dawson for me, but only just. Could go either way.
Good start to the second round once again from both fighters, with both guys willing to stand in front of each other and exchange. Dawson lands a couple of solid right hands that get Santos’ attention, then the Brazilian throws a body kick that lands straight on the cup to cause a pause in the action. Dawson lands some nice leg kicks as the restart, but Santos backing him up against the cage and letting his hands go. Dawson changes levels and clinches up against the cage in a solid position, looking for the takedown but Santos defends well. Referee separates them for inactivity and Santos walks forward again, forcing Dawson to shoot. Santos sprawls and ends up taking the back of Dawson and landing some nice shots but Dawson gets back up to end the round. 20-18 Dawson for me but could well be 20-18 the other way or 19-19.
Final round and Dawson comes out looking for a knockout, with big hooks and trying to put some punches together. Dawson shoots in for a single-leg takedown but Santos defends it brilliantly. Dawson continues to push for a takedown in the clinch against the cage and eventually switches to the back and is able to lift and slam Santos down. Dawson sitting in half guard is firing some ground and pound out but Santos is blocking a lot of the strikes, so not much damage being done. Dawson continues to hold Santos down on the ground as we enter the final minute, landing some nice ground and pound strikes from the top. More pressure from Dawson who stands up in the final seconds and starts to thump Santos in the face and knocks him unconscious!! Oh my God what a finish!
Macy Chiasson def Marion Reneau via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Cagey start to the fight from both ladies, as Chiasson keeps her distance with Reneau looking to land some leg kicks early. Chiasson starting to come forward and lands a couple of nice jabs but still looking quite cagey. Reneau lands a nice left hand and follows that up with a quick flurry as she gets on the inside. Chiasson backs Reneau against the cage and swings a hook but Reneau using some nice footwork to escape. Nice left hand from Chiasson lands and then both ladies exchange a body kick each before they clinch up against the cage. Reneau lands a couple of nice knees then slips to the back to end the round on the attack. 10-9 Reneau.
Second round start and Chiasson being more aggressive from the jump. An exchange in the middle of the cage sees Chiasson land a big left hand that busts up Reneau’s nose immediately and forces her on the back foot. Chiasson throws a combo against the cage but Reneau does well to tie her up in a clinch to try and recover, but Chiasson starts throwing some nice shots to the face as they clinch up. Big elbow from Chiasson as they continue to battle for position in the clinch. Chiasson lands a body kick as they break from the clinch that hurts Reneau and she continues to come forward again looking for a finish. Reneau charges in but Chiasson slips and lands a nice one-two to the chin, then Reneau changes levels and shoots for the takedown. Chiasson battling off her back and attacks a leg lock, then uses it to sweep Reneau and end the round on top. 19-19, great round for Chiasson.
Fast start from both ladies to the final round as they both look for a potential finish. Chiasson doing well to maintain her distance and range on the feet, landing her straight punches but Reneau is doing her best to continue to be a threat. Reneau shoots in for a takedown against the cage and switches to the back, but Chiasson is able to fight it off and keep it on the feet. Reneau comes forward with punches as Chiasson uses her footwork to avoid damage, but Reneau battles for a clinch position against the cage. Reneau gets the fight down but Chiasson is able to get guard quickly and then get back to her feet well. They clinch up again and Chiasson is then able to get a takedown fo her own and starts looking for ground and pound to end the fight on top. 29-28 Chiasson for me.
Tai Tuivasa def Harry Hunsucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:49)
Fast start as Tuivasa comes out with some heavy low kicks that immediately make Hunsucker uncomfortable. Hunsucker lands a big right hand, then Tuivasa responds with a leg kick that makes him grimace in pain. Tuivasa lands a big right hook on the chin that drops him, follows it up with some ground and pound and that’s all she wrote. Big first round KO!
Adrian Yanez def Gustavo Lopez via Knockout, Round 3 (0:27)
Slow start from both guys as they throw out lots of feints and feelers early on to get their range. Lopez wings a wild overhand that just misses, as Yanez throws a calf kick while he looks to find his range. Yanez lands a lovely right hand as Lopez looks to close the distance, then snaps a straight right out there again that lands. Lopez throws a double jab that misses but then throws another one of those wild swings but this time it clips Yanez. Nice left straight and short right hook lands clean on Lopez that forces him backwards. Yanez starting to counter now and rocks Lopez with a lovely one-two down the pipe. Another lands and Lopez is hurt but Yanez stays patient and the round ends. 10-9 Yanez.
Yanez has taken control of the fight now as he stands in the centre and allows Lopez to circle on the outside, showing great patience. Yanez still looking for that one-two and it’s landing well once again. Yanez feinting then rips a beautiful shot that drops Yanez! He goes for the finish but Lopez looks to shoot to recover, but Yanez defends it perfectly. He goes for a flying knee that just misses then exchanges in the pocket with Lopez before easing back up once again. Great head kick from Yanez lands, before Lopez responds with a calf kick. Excellent round for Yanez. 20-18.
Lopez comes out in the third knowing he needs a finish and looks for a big swing. Yanez counters a jab with a pull right-hook that knocks Lopez out cold! What a knockout! Yanez is a star.
Very quick start to the fight as Buys and Ruiz meet in the middle, exchange a wild flurry before Ruiz gets hold of Buys against the cage. She uses her physicality to drag Buys to the ground in a scarf hold like grip and starts to throw rabbit punches from the top. Buys tries to escape with different transitions but the entire round plays out with Ruiz holding that position and throwing those short punches. Buys escapes with seconds remaining and tries to take the back, but too late. 10-9 Ruiz.
Second round and Buys comes out hard once again, landing a big flurry of punches and a head kick too. Ruiz threatening with a left-hand but Buys doing well to avoid, until Ruiz closes in for a clinch and looks for a takedown. She goes for the same position again, but Buys defends it for a second until Ruiz grabs the head and takes her down once more. Ruiz continues with the short rabbit punches and looks to isolate Buys’ arm between her legs but Buys is able to escape momentarily only to get thrown once again into the same position. Buys escapes quicker this time and ends the round in full mount raining down punches. 20-18 Ruiz.
Big right hand from Buys lands hard on Ruiz, who looks much slower and more tired in this final round. Buys is standing in the centre and trying to pick her shots, but not quite enough urgency yet from her considering she’s comfortably down in the fight. Buys throws a flurry of punches then a knee as Ruiz looks to clinch her. Big straight right hand from Buys lands and then Ruiz goes immediately for the head and arm throw and gets it first time. Buys is able to escape and take the back, then looks like she’s going for a calf slicer submission but Ruiz reverses the position and ends up on top to see out the round. 29-28, but it’s a clear Ruiz decision.
Max Griffin def Song Kenan via Knockout, Round 1 (2:20)
A few feelers to start the bout as they trade leg kicks and jabs before Griffin lands a right hook and then shoots in for a takedown. Song defends it well and is able to step away from the cage and throws a head kick that just misses. Griffin lands another strong calf kick that gets a reaction from Song, but he responds with a couple of heavy body kicks. Griffin steps forward with a right straight that wobbles him and knocks him off balance, then follows it up with a one-two that face plants Song! He lands one more shot before the referee gets in and waves it off. Huge win for Griffin, big knockout!
Derek Brunson def Kevin Holland via Unanimous Decision (49-45, 49-46 x2)
Confident start from Holland as he comes out throwing kicks and trying to check his range and distance. Holland slips as he throws another kick though and Brunson launches onto him and takes top position immediately. Brunson landing big strikes from the top while Holland looks to swing round on his hips for a potential submission, but Brunson defends well and rains down more punches. Brunson is throwing elbows from the top but Holland is blocking the impact for the most part. Brunson goes for some more ground and pound and Holland escapes back up to his feet as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Brunson.
Brunson comes out meaning business and closes the distance quickly and early but Holland throws kicks and long strikes once again. Brunson goes for a trip but Holland denies the attempt and lands some huge punches that have got Brunson rocked! Holland goes for the kill but Brunson clinches up and then gets a trip to take the fight down to the mat and he controls the round from there, attempting a head and arm choke and landing some ground and pound. 20-18 Brunson.
Third round starts in a similar way, with Holland striking well and landing clean but Brunson’s wrestling is too good for him and he’s getting takedowns at will. He gets hold of him again and gets the trip to sit in the full guard, with Holland seemingly accepting bottom position and looking for strikes from his back. Brunson looks absolutely exhausted on top but Holland not really taking advantage of that as the clock winds down. Brunson throws some ground and pound but it’s really laboured and he remains on top for the remainder of the round. 30-27 Brunson.
Holland comes out a bit more serious than the previous three rounds and looks to land straight shots against a tired Brunson. A couple of straight rights land well from Holland, but Brunson keeps trying to grab hold of him to get the fight to the ground again. Holland falls into the clinch after landing a right hand and Brunson now gets a body lock and takes Holland down into top position. Ground and pound from Brunson as we enter the final minute but Holland tries to get up and Brunson does well to grab hold of him again against the cage and see out the round. 40-36 Brunson.
Final round and Holland knows he needs a finish. Holland goes for an axe-kick that just misses and lands some nice right hands before Brunson clinches up again. Holland throws a couple of knees in the clinch and then trips Brunson to end up on top! Holland throws some decent elbow strikes and some punches before Brunson kicks him off and then shoots in for an immediate takedown of his own which he gets. Short elbows and ground and pound from Brunson as he ends the round standing.
Elsewhere on the card, Gregor Gillespie makes his return to the cage for the first time since the vicious head-kick knockout against Kevin Lee back in 2019 at UFC 244, to take on the kickboxing mastermind in Brad Riddell in the co-main event.
Last week at UFC Vegas 21, it was a strange card that saw two no decisions meaning our picks got cut down to just 11. We went 6/11 on the night with four perfect picks, to take our total to 256/406 (63.05%) with 115 perfect picks (44.92%).
On a 12 fight card this week, lets see if we can improve that starting with the prelims here.
Julia Avila (8-2) vs Julija Stoliarenko (9-5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two women looking to get back into the win column in the women’s bantamweight division as ‘Raging Panda’ Julia Avila takes on former Invicta fighter Julija Stoliarenko. Avila started her UFC career with two wins against Pannie Kianzad and Gina Mazany in just 22 seconds, before losing to Sijara Eubanks at UFC Vegas 10. Stoliarenko was on a five fight win streak coming into her debut against Yana Kunitskaya at UFC Vegas 5, but lost a decision.
Avila is a wonderful stand-up fighter, who has good power in her hands and good takedown defence. With that said, Stoliarenko has a fantastic ground game which includes eight armbar submission wins in her career. If Stoliarenko is able to get the fight down to the ground then it’s highly unlikely the fight sees an end, despite Avila’s skills. While the fight is standing, Avila has the advantage and I think he’s overall skillset will help her to avoid the takedowns and outland Stoliarenko on the feet – but she will be a threat for the entire three rounds. PICK – Julia Avila via Decision
Bruno Silva (10-5-2) vs JP Buys (9-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An exciting UFC debut for South African prospect JP Buys as he takes on Bruno Silva, who looks to earn his first win in the organisation at the fourth attempt. Silva lost his first fight to Khalid Taha, but it was overturned to a no contest after a positive drug test, before losing to David Dvorak and Tagir Ulanbekov on Fight Island most recently. Buys is on a five-fight win streak coming into the UFC, including a submission win on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Both these guys are very solid wrestlers, with Buys arguably having the advantage there. With that said, Buys has struggled in the past with adversity and Silva loves to throw a calf kick. With his own strengths in wrestling Silva could provide good resistance to his takedowns and start to drain the cardio of the ‘Young Savage’. Despite that though, Buys does have the wrestling advantage and those kicks that Silva throws will open the takedown up for him and I expect he’ll be able to get the takedown and control for long stretches on top for a win. PICK – JP Buys via Decision
Montel Jackson (9-2) vs Jesse Strader (5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A banger at bantamweight as Jesse Strader makes his UFC debut against Montel Jackson. Strader comes into the company on a two-fight win streak having won four of his five fights by knockout and his only defeat coming to Marcelo Rojo who debuted last week. Jackson has five UFC bouts under his belt and a positive 3-2 record but lost his last scrap to Brett Johns on Fight Island back in July.
Strader is sure to be a fan-favourite, because he loves to walk forward and force opponents to stand and trade with him. He rips the body so well, is always in your face and just wears his opponents down with firrepower. Jackson on the other hand is a powerful striker too but has great wrestling and that is arguably his best path to victory. Jackson will look to put you on the ground and wear you out but he’s more than comfortable landing strikes too and considering Strader hasn’t fought since 2019 he should get a comfortable win. PICK – Montel Jackson via Decision
Trevin Giles (13-2) vs Roman Dolidze (8-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Dolidze is moving down to middleweight for this fight on short notice, which makes this all the more intriguing. He is a tremendous grappler, with super submission skills and really good control while also having some power in his hands with wild striking technique. Giles on the other hand is a bit of an all-rounder, but he doesn’t really stand out in any department. He’s struggled with good grapplers in the past and if Dolidze decides to go with a judo-heavy attack he will win this comfortably. If he doesn’t, Giles should have a striking advantage and a speed advantage but with such a hole in his grappling, the path to victory is right there for Dolidze. PICK – Roman Dolidze via Decision
Leonardo Santos (18-4-1) vs Grant Dawson (16-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very intriguing lightweight fight between the veteran Leonardo Santos as the hot prospect Grant Dawson. Santos hasn’t lost a fight since 2009 and is 7-0-1 in the UFC including a KO win over Kevin Lee back in 2015 and a decision win over Roman Bogatov at UFC 251. Dawson is Khabib-esque in his gameplan with grinding ground and pound and phenomenal wrestling. Dawson has won seven in a row, including four in the UFC with a decision win over Nad Narimani on Fight Island last year.
Santos is a power puncher with stunning submission skills, winning half of his fights by tap-out. Dawson is a violent wrestler who looks to pound you out after he gets the takedown, but he does sometimes get a little carried away with shooting straight in for takedowns. Santos has a huge right hand that can put Dawson’s lights out but at 41-years-old, his cardio isn’t what it used to be and if Dawson survives the early KO threat then it should be a walk in the park for ‘KGD’. PICK – Grant Dawson via Knockout, Round 3
Marion Reneau (9-6-1) vs Macy Chiasson (7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two women at the complete opposite ends of their career meet in the bantamweight division a couple of weeks later than originally scheduled. Reneau has lost her last three fights in a row, being well beaten by all of Cat Zingano, Yana Kunitskaya and Raquel Pennington at UFC Vegas 3. Chiasson is 4-1 in the UFC after winning the Ultimate Fighter then beating Gina Mazany, Sarah Moras and Shanna Young, with a loss to Lina Lansberg in the middle too.
Reneau is a jiu-jitsu murderer, but her wrestling is absolutely pants. She’s not the best striker in the world by any stretch but she can hold her own and will look to get the fight down quickly to work her submission game. Chiasson is a striker with very good clinch work and good wrestling and should be comfortable enough on the feet to out-land Reneau. With that said, she could go for the takedown to work from top position and so long as she doesn’t go wild and get caught, I expect her to win pretty easily. PICK – Macy Chiasson via Decision
Note – Ian Heinisch vs Brendan Allen was cancelled a few hours prior to the card starting due to a positive COVID-19 test. The card will proceed with 10 fights, with Giga Chikadze vs Jamey Simmons moving to the main card.
Gustavo Lopez def Anthony Birchak via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 1 (2:43)
Quick start to the round by Lopez, who comes out and lands two big left hooks and drops Birchak! He has Birchak wobbled against the cage and changes levels quickly to take the fight to the ground. He swarms Birchak, who is defending but can’t quite do anything to keep Lopez off him. Lopez gets his back and starts landing ground and pound, which opens up a rear naked choke opportunity which he sinks in and gets the tap. Very impressive performance.
Max Griffin def Ramiz Brahimaj via Knockout (Injury), Round 3 (2:03)
Slow start to this fight as both men circle each other and throw pot shots as they try to figure each other out. Both fighters landing the odd jab but nothing significant as we enter the final 90 seconds of the round. Brahimaj lands a right hook and then Griffin throws a nice left hand as the two engage in a clinch to end the round. Could be scored either way in honesty. 10-9 Griffin.
Second round begins with Brahimaj coming out with a nice one two before Griffin goes for a body kick but lands flush on the cup so there’s a pause in the action. Griffin starting to throw body shots and combos to open up the guard of Brahimaj. Nice one-two by Brahimaj lands clean but Griffin returns with a straight right through the guard. Griffin is piecing Brahimaj up on the feet and has opened up a cut in this round. Once again the round ends with a clinch between the two but that was much more of a Griffin round. 20-18 for me, could be 19-19.
Faster start to the round for Brahimaj as he looks to press forward but another accidental groin strike pauses his momentum. Griffin has been cut over his right eye now, but he lands a nice combo which wobbles Brahimaj. The two clinch up against the cage as Griffin tries to go for a finish and he lands a huge elbow that essentially rips the ear off Brahimaj’s head. The two continue fighting for a few seconds before the referee spots the injury and stops the fight! TKO win for Griffin but that is nasty!
Darren Elkins def Eduardo Garagorri via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3 (2:22)
Immediate takedown from Darren Elkins opens the fight up as he looks to take it to the ground immediately. A bit of ground and pound before Garagorri gets up before being put straight back down several times over. Elkins really wearing Garagorri out with these constant takedown attempts, not allowing him any space to breathe. They finally break with a minute to go and Garagorri lands a head kick but Elkins eats it, then catches a second attempt and ends up in full guard to end the round. 10-9 Elkins.
Elkins comes out and the two look to exchange strikes this time and Garagorri gets the better of it with some nice left hands. At that point Elkins decides enough is enough and puts him on the mat with another takedown, this time holding him down and landing some ground and pound. Garagorri gets back to his feet and breaks away this time, landing a nice spin kick to the body before missing with a big uppercut and allowing Elkins to hold onto him again. Garagorri landing with the left hand a lot more in this round and he’s hurting Elkins, so Elkins goes straight back to the takedown and slams him down onto the mat. The round ends with both guys exchanging strikes on the ground but should be another Elkins round. 20-18.
Both guys showing they’re tired in this round, with Garagorri landing some nice shots once again. A big left hand snaps Elkins’ head back and hurts him but he goes for a flying knee and ends up getting his back taken instead. Elkins locks in a body triangle and makes Garagorri carry all of his weight, while landing big shots and then sinking in a rear naked choke for the tap. Great performance.
Alexander Romanov def Marcos R. de Lima via Submission (Arm Choke), Round 1 (4:48)
Very interesting start to the fight as de Lima throws two big leg kicks to open before a power double leg from Romanov puts him on his back. Romanov looks to pass to a head and arm choke but de Lima explodes back to his feet and lands some heavy punches. More leg kicks from de Lima causing Romanov problems and then he lands some big combos that look to hurt Romanov! Another two takedown attempts against the cage but de Lima defends really well until Romanov explodes and trips him to end up on top. Big ground and pound strikes and then Romanov thrusts his forearm into the throat of de Lima and chokes him out! First forearm choke in UFC history! de Lima is OUT! Hugely impressive win.
Trevin Giles def Bevon Lewis via Knockout, Round 3 (1:26)
Fun start to the round as Giles comes straight out for a takedown and the two clinch against the cage, testing each other’s physical strength early. Giles gets the better of the exchange mostly before they separate and he connects with a couple of nice shots. Another clinch and once again they break, with both guys firing in big shots and Giles landing harder. Big elbow attempt by Lewis against the cage but he doesn’t land and the clinch continues into the final minute. The fighters break and Giles lands a beautiful jab that drops Lewis! Giles gets on top and controls position for the final 30 seconds. 10-9 Giles.
Slower second round as both guys try to feel each other out a bit more on the feet here. Giles trying to work his way into boxing range to use his jab more, but Lewis using his size to stay out of range mostly. Giles’ speed advantage is the difference at the moment as he’s landing first and able to slip out of the way too. Giles lands a big right hand against the cage and Lewis is struggling to find an answer or throw any real volume to trouble him. 20-18 Giles.
Lewis comes out looking for the knockout with heavy strikes being thrown. Giles avoiding them all though and forces Lewis to shoot for a takedown, which he stuffs with a perfect sprawl. A scramble ensues and they get back to the feet. Giles throws a huge one two which rattles Lewis’ brain, then he follows it up with two more strikes that knock Lewis down and the referee steps in to end the fight. Big win and very impressive from Giles.
Yan Xiaonan def Claudia Gadelha via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good opening to the round for both women, as Gadelha comes out and exchanges in the pocket with Yan before securing a clinch and a takedown. Yan gets back to the feet as Gadelha clinches against the cage once again looking for another takedown, but Yan defends really well until the referee breaks them up. Yan throws a low kick that Gadelha catches and she does get the fight down to the ground again and starts landing some big ground and pound. Big elbow lands and lots of body shots as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Gadelha.
Yan keeping her hopes alive in this round, landing lots of stiff shots and staying out of the range for Gadelha’s takedown hopes. Lots of quick jabs that are being followed with a right cross and she’s marking up the face of Gadelha. Gadelha looks very slow and laboured in this round and Yan continues to press forward with pressure but Gadelha ends an exchange with a nice hook. Yan throws a beautiful right hand straight down the middle that lands flush and she’ll take this round. 19-19.
Yan comes out popping that jab once again but this time Gadelha closes the distance with a clinch against the cage. Yan defends it really well and lands some nice strikes of her own before breaking away. Another laboured attempt from Gadelha but Yan defends again and continues to land strikes from distance. Gadelha is exhausted but goes in for another clinch against the cage but Yan is fresh and strong enough to defend while also attacking from the cage. Big flurry of punches ends the round and should be a win for Yan Xiaonan. 29-28.
Giga Chikadze def Jamey Simmons via Knockout, Round 1 (3:51)
Interesting start to the round as Chikadze shows patience to try and feel out Simmons early on. A few jabs and body kicks but nothing too significant, as Simmons looks for a takedown but is stuffed twice by the Georgian. Big body kick from Chikadze hurts Simmons and then he follows it up with a big head kick that drops Simmons! He jumps on him with ground and pound and the referee calls it off! Comfortable win for Chikadze.
Raoni Barcelos def Khalid Taha via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Fun start to the fight as both men come out swinging hell for leather early on. Barcelos chops at the leg of Taha and drops him with it before landing a nice jab. Taha fires back but another leg kick drops him again. Barcelos keeping a relentless pace and lands some huge punches, then throws some big Muay-Thai knees to the head. Taha fires back with some big punches of his own and Barcelos goes in for a takedown. Dominant on the floor, he’s transitioning from position to position and tries to sink in a rear naked choke but Taha is able to defend it and eventually reverses the position. Barcelos throws up an armbar but again Taha is able to defend before they get back to the feet and the round ends. 10-9 Barcelos, great round.
A blistering pace to this fight so far as both men look to push the other to their limit. Barcelos firing in low kicks but Taha reading well and returning with hooks. Both men exchange in the pocket and Barcelos fires in a beautiful flying knee that lands clean but Taha just eats it. Accidental groin strike from Barcelos causes a pause in the action halfway through the round. Barcelos countering Taha’s strikes beautifully but he’s sticking around and proving why he’s in there to begin with. Head kick attempt from Barcelos followed up by hooks, and straights from Barcelos. Final 10 seconds and Barcelos lands a big left hand that hurts him! He’s looking for the finish and lands a big combo but Taha is saved by the buzzer! 20-18 Barcelos.
Final round and Barcelos is looking to start where he left off with big shots. Leg kicks are really hurting Taha and he’s following it up with huge combinations that are rocking Taha. Barcelos picks the leg and takes the fight to the ground as he takes his back and looks for a rear naked choke. Taha defends it well but Barcelos goes into half guard and starts rattling off ground and pound. The fight gets back to the feet and Taha lands two big hooks as Barcelos starts showing some signs of slowing down. Stiff right hand from Barcelos rocks Taha again but he refuses to go down. Leg kick again as Taha walks forward in the final minute before another leg kick drops Taha again! Taha shoots for a takedown with 20 seconds left but Barcelos stuffs it and then they start swinging wild hooks at each other as the round comes to an end. What a fight. 30-27 Barcelos.
Andrei Arlovski def Tanner Boser via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Standard slow start for the big boys as both guys look to feel each other out early on. Boser throws a couple of leg kicks that Arlovski tries to check, before fainting with the jab. More leg kicks before Arlovski throws a jab and leg kick of his own. Arlovski flies in with a head kick attempt but Boser steps out of the way unfazed. Big overhand right lands from Arlovski right at the end of the round but still a Boser round for me. 10-9.
Another slow start to this round as Boser once again comes out with leg kicks, while Arlovski seems to be hanging back looking for counter striking opportunities. Arlovski lands a big overhand right that Boser eats, before landing another straight right moments later. Boser continuing to try and throw leg kicks and then lands with a nice left hand. Neither fighter really committing to offence but Boser is throwing leg kicks a lot. Pretty dull round overall. 19-19.
Final round and both guys come out a little quicker this time around but Boser is continuing with the attack on the legs. Nice jab from Boser is followed by a big right cross by Arlovski but once again he just eats it. Boser still doing lots of fainting but Arlovski isn’t biting. Nice right hand lands again from Arlovski as we enter the final minute of the fight. Fight ends with nothing significant happening. Scorecard could be anything.
Quick start to the round as Santos comes out early and establishes himself with some body kicks. Suddenly he explodes with a huge right hook and lands a big combination that drops Teixeira! He goes for the kill but Glover looks for a takedown, Santos continues striking hard but Glover eats them and eventually stalls the attack. Glover moves to the back and slams Santos down to the mat and moves straight into mount. Glover spends the rest of the round dominating position from the top and landing some nice ground and pound. Somehow, its a Glover round. 10-9.
Strong start to the second round from Glover as he gets an early takedown and moves straight back into top control again. Big elbows from the half guard by Glover and hammer fists land hard as he looks to progress into full mount. Santos doing next to nothing to get back to his feet and Glover is having his way with him on the mat. Glover moves into side control and lands big elbows again in the final minute of the round but that’s a dominant round from the 41 year old. 20-17 for me.
Third round starts with a bang! Santos stuffs the immediate takedown attempt from Glover and lands a massive left hand that drops him! He jumps on him for the finish again but Glover defends well from the bottom but Santos unloading with ground and pound. Glover eats the shots and somehow reverses the position, ends up on Santos’ back, sinks in a rear naked choke and gets the tap. What a fight! Unbelievable performance from Glover Teixeira.
There are currently scheduled to be 11 fights on this card, with six prelim bouts followed up by a five-fight main card.
Last time out I secured a great round of predictions with 10/11 correct picks, including four perfect picks. Lets see if I can’t improve that this time around, starting with the prelims picks here.
Gustavo Lopez (11-5) vs Anthony Birchak (15-6) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A short notice fight put together to open the card sees a return to the UFC for Birchak against Lopez, who looks to get the first win of his UFC career. Lopez was completely dominated by Merab Dvalishvili in his debut back in June, while Birchak is on a three fight winning streak with three first-round finishes although he hasn’t fought in over a year. It’s a tough fight to call, with Birchak’s ground game significantly improved from his previous run in the company but with a big break in competition and the short notice influence I think Gomez could get a win here. His kicking game is good and he’s the powerful striker on the outside, so I think he is able to stuff the takedowns and control the fight on the feet for a decision win. PICK – Gustavo Lopez via Decision
Max Griffin (15-8) vs Ramiz Brahimaj (8-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Max Griffin is a UFC vet, but one who hasn’t been super successful during his tenure. He is 3-6 in the company and has lost four of his last five fights, including his last two via decision. Brahimaj on the other hand is making his UFC debut finally, after his original debut in June was scrapped following one of his cornermen testing positive for COVID-19. Brahimaj is a stud grappler, with 8 submission wins from 8 career wins but his wrestling is just average. If the fight goes to ground he’s dangerous but Griffin has a big edge on the feet in this one and a three inch reach advantage to boot. Griffin is also a strong wrestler if he needs to take the fight down for top control but with good cardio and a solid game-plan, ‘Pain’ should be able to take a fairly comfortable decision on the feet. PICK – Max Griffin via Decision
Darren Elkins (25-9) vs Eduardo Garagorri (13-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very strange match-up in this one, as Darren Elkins looks to snap a four-fight losing streak against Uruguayan fighter Eduardo Garagorri. Garagorri won his UFC debut by comfortably out-striking Humberto Bandenay, before being choked out by Ricardo Ramos in November last year. Elkins has lost his last four in a row against some top quality opposition, although his most recent bout against Nate Landwehr. This match up however is perfectly set up for him. ‘The Damage’ usually has a game plan of walking through his opponents attacks to get a takedown and dominate from there. Garagorri showed how much he struggled against strong wrestlers in the Ramos fight and this could go a similar route. Elkins will take some shots to get the takedown but once he’s there, he grinds out a win. PICK – Darren Elkins via Decision
Alexander Romanov (12-0) vs Marcos Rogerio De Lima (17-7-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Another match up that one paper seems pretty one-sided. Romanov made his debut in September with a stunning demolition of Roque Martinez inside two rounds, while Marcos Rogerio De Lima has alternated wins and losses since December 2014. De Lima has stunning power, but he prefers to fight at light heavyweight but can’t cut anymore. He’s hopeless on the mat, despite a decent jiu-jitsu background and Romanov is going to eat him alive. The Moldovan will trap him against the cage, grab him, literally throw him into the air and just dominate until he gets a stoppage or a submission. It won’t last too long for my money. PICK – Alexander Romanov via Submission, Round 1
Giga Chikadze (11-2) vs Jamey Simmons (7-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Yet another mismatch on the UFC card as the highly impressive Chikadze takes on debutant Jamey Simmons. The Georgian fighter outclassed Omar Morales last month to make it six wins in a row, while Simmons has been thrown to the lion’s den in a three-fight win streak. Simmons has decent wrestling skills but his stand-up isn’t great and he’s coming up against a truly top class kickboxer. Chikadze has good counter wrestling these days too so that’s Simmons’ only path to victory firmly shut off. ‘Ninja’ Chikadze will use his huge striking and height/reach advantage and get his first stoppage victory in the UFC. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Knockout, Round 1
Trevin Giles (12-2) vs Bevon Lewis (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A clash between two perennial underachievers in the UFC as both Giles and Lewis look to make it back-to-back wins. It’s an uninspiring match up in all honesty, but Giles is the more complete and well rounded fighter. Lewis is a striker who’s output is very low and he has zero takedown threat, although his takedown defence is at 100% so far in the UFC. Giles has shown a wider skillset during his tenure and despite the reach disadvantage, I think his experience will come into effect and he should be able to to just out-grind Lewis for a decision. PICK – Trevin Giles via Decision