Tag Archives: UFC 251

UFC Vegas 51: Luque vs Muhammad 2 – Main card predictions

A huge welterweight main event is the main attraction at UFC Vegas 51 this weekend as Vicente Luque takes on Belal Muhammad in a rematch from 2016.

The two top six 170-pounders will go head-to-head looking to extend their winning streaks here, knowing that title contention won’t be far behind.

Last week at UFC 273 we saw a great card that was lacking a little bit on finishes, but we still managed to go 8/12 with four perfect picks to go to 593/915 (64.81%) with 252 perfect picks (42.5%).

You can view our complete pick history here.

We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims and finishing off our prelims picks here, we move on to the main card picks now.

Mounir Lazzez (10-2) vs Ange Loosa (8-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Short-notice welterweight banger opens up this main card. Lazzez was on a three-fight win streak before coming up against Warrley Alves at UFC Vegas 46, getting KO’d in the first-round. Loosa on the other hand makes his UFC debut with a win over John Howard just two weeks ago earning him a spot following defeat on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Lazzez is an excellent kickboxer who showed great nous in the clinch too in his debut win, and he showed great composure against the big power of Alves before getting caught. Loosa is a talented fighter too, with a granite chin allowing him to walk forward and look to harm his opponents as much as possible. He also has decent takedowns, while his scrambling off the mat is brilliant too.

Lazzez has a speed advantage in this fight, but it’s due to be exciting because Loosa won’t be going anywhere and will force this fight to be at a good pace for the entire 15 minutes. He has the experience and the skill to win, but I’m getting a gut feeling that Loosa will be able to do something special here and ensure he’s in the UFC to stay.
PICK – Ange Loosa via Decision

Pat Sabatini (16-3) vs TJ Laramie (12-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A very fun featherweight bout in this one. Sabatini is on an excellent five-fight win streak right now, including a submission of Jamall Emmers at UFC Vegas 35 and a decision win over Tucker Lutz last time out. Laramie on the other hand saw a four-fight win streak snapped by Darrick Minner at UFC Vegas 11 last time out, getting choked out in just 52 seconds.

Sabatini is an absolute wizard on the mat, with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and some improved kickboxing in recent years. Laramie is also a bit of a ground wizard in his own right, but the power in his hands and boxing is his avenue to victory in this one here. Sabatini has some top wrestling, where he chains together his takedowns and holds position before he works for submissions.

Sabatini has the advantage when it comes to the wrestling and grappling, which means he can dictate where this fight goes. Add to that the lengthy spell off that Laramie has had, I’d expect Sabatini to claim a win. He’s good enough to get a submission, but Laramie is very good too and should be able to see him off to go the distance at least.
PICK – Pat Sabatini via Decision

Mayra Bueno Silva (7-2-1) vs Wu Yanan (11-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

Women’s bantamweights back in the limelight for this one. Silva is 1-1-1 in her last three, submitting Mara Romero Borrella, before a majority draw against Montana De La Rosa and then defeat last time out to the brilliant Manon Fiorot. Yanan has lost her last two fights, with a unanimous decision loss to Joselyne Edwards at UFC Fight Island 7 over a year ago in her last bout.

Silva is a jiu-jitsu specialist with a nasty armbar that she often goes to, whether she’s in top position or working from her guard. Her kickboxing and wrestling are greatly improved over recent years too, although they still have plenty of work to be done. Yanan is a striker with great volume and good hand speed, but she really lacks in power and her defensive wrestling leaves plenty to be desired.

Yanan has a chance of victory by sprawling and brawling with one-two’s down the middle and stuffing the takedowns of Silva, but it seems unlikely judging off previous outings. Neither fighter is particularly big for the division, both previously fighting at flyweight, so expect Silva to be able to get the fight down eventually and pull off another of her trademark armbar finishes.
PICK – Mayra Bueno Silva via Submission, Round 1

Miguel Baeza (10-2) vs Andre Fialho (14-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A banger at welterweight between two very exciting 170-pounders. Baeza has lost his last two fights, dropping a decision to Santiago Ponzinibbio before getting knocked out by Khaos Williams at UFC Vegas 42 in an incredible fight. Fialho was well beaten in a short-notice UFC debut back at UFC 270, dropping a decision to Michel Pereira.

Baeza is an absolutely brilliant striker, with excellent power and crisp technique adding to his ability to turn anyone’s lights out with a single punch or kick. Fialho on the other hand is a steady Muay-Thai fighter who pushes a steady pace throughout and proved to have a pretty decent chin, although he did lack speed or explosiveness. That leads me to believe Baeza will get back in the win column.

The Brazilian has got a ferocious low kick, decent grappling and some beautiful counter striking in his arsenal. As the fight goes on and Fialho takes more damage, there is more chance of Baeza landing big and closing the show so back a finish in this one.
PICK – Miguel Baeza via Knockout, Round 2

Caio Borralho (10-1) vs Gadzhi Omargadzhiev (13-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A very peculiar co-main event in this one between two fighters making their UFC debuts after victory on Dana White’s Contender Series in their most recent bouts. Borralho has won seven in a row coming into this, while Omargadzhiev is an undefeated prospect.

Borralho is a black belt in jiu-jitsu but is also a solid striker, with some good karate stance kicks and some good power in his hands. Omargadzhiev on the other hand is a powerful wrestler with an excellent top game, and some steady attacks on the feet. This is a real 50-50 fight wherever the fight goes and it will be really interesting to see who has the advantages on the ground, because that’s likely where this fight will go in an ideal world for both guys.

With that said, Borralho seems to be the better guy defensively. He has good submissions defensively, is the better striker on the feet and he seems to be the physically stronger guy. This is a close fight, but I’m leaning towards the Brazilian to hand the Russian the first defeat of his career.
PICK – Caio Barralho via Decision

Vicente Luque (21-7-1) vs Belal Muhammad (20-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

The fight of the night is the main event and this should be great fun. Luque has won his last four fights in a row earning stoppages against Niko Price, Randy Brown (UFC Vegas 5), Tyron Woodley (UFC 260) and Michael Chiesa (UFC 265) most recently. Muhammad on the other hand has is unbeaten in his last seven, with a no contest against Leon Edwards stopping his streak. He has beaten Demian Maia (UFC 263) and Stephen Thompson (UFC Vegas 45) in his most recent fights.

Luque is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division, with incredible boxing and some stunning jiu-jitsu skills mixed in with crazy intensity and cardio skills. Muhammad on the other hand is a solid kickboxer with brilliant wrestling skills and excellent cardio too, but he does lack knockout power from his arsenal. Muhammad is in a great vein of form in his career, mixing everything together to be able to really shut down his opponents’ offense. But Luque has so many weapons that I find it hard to see how he’ll be able to do that here.

The Brazilian pushes an unbelievable pace with superb power and technique, but he also has an excellent submission threat in scrambles and from his back too. For me, this is Muhammad’s peak level. I don’t see him getting into the title picture because the guys above him just have more to their game, whereas Luque has game-changing skills that can turn a fight on it’s head. I expect Luque to be tested, but I think he’ll be able to continue his run of finishes to push himself into the top five.
PICK – Vicente Luque via Knockout, Round 3


UFC 251 Fallout: What Next for Holloway & Aldo?

After a fantastic card on Fight Island, the UFC has a new Bantamweight champion and a new contender in the GOAT conversation at Featherweight.

With the vacant title on the line in the 135lbs division, Russian Petr Yan lived up to ‘No Mercy’ moniker as he scored a 5th round TKO victory over Jose Aldo, while Max Holloway was controversially pipped on the scorecards once again in his rematch with Alexander Volkanovski at 145lbs.

The results mean the UFC have new chapters beginning in those divisions. Volk has beaten Aldo and now Holloway twice, meaning he will almost certainly move on to new challengers next time out. Yan’s win means Aldo has lost both of his fights in his new weight class, confirming that his best is most definitely behind him.

But where do they go from here? Holloway hasn’t fought in a non-title fight since 2016 while Aldo’s downward spiral now reads 3-6 across two divisions since his 13 second KO defeat to Conor McGregor in December 2015.

In Holloway’s case, the door isn’t completely shut. In his post-fight press conference UFC president Dana White slammed “bad judging” and made it clear he had ‘Blessed’ winning on his scorecard. When asked whether that means he could be granted a trilogy fight despite losing the first two White responded, “we’ll see what happens.” Volkanovski however was adamant he was putting this rivalry behind him and moving on to new contenders.

UFC 251: Volkanovski v Holloway : News Photo
Despite most media scoring it in his favour, Holloway lost a split decision in his rematch with Volkanovski at UFC 251

If Volkanovski does move on to new contenders, it leaves Max in limbo. #2 ranked Zabit Magomedsharipov is currently scheduled to fight #5 ranked Yair Rodriguez, while he’s already beaten #3 ranked Brian Ortega who’s expected to fight #4 ranked Chan Sung Jung a.k.a The Korean Zombie. Unless Max is willing to wait for those results to come through and fight one of those fighter to determine a new No.1 contender, it’s likely that he may have to look at fighting way down the rankings against #6 Calvin Kattar, who fights on Fight Island later this week against Dan Ige.

Another option could be a potential move to lightweight. After a move up to try and become a ‘champ-champ’ Holloway got beaten convincingly by Dustin Poirier in April 2019. While his cardio carried well his volume didn’t quite have the same effect it usually does on the bigger opponent. Poirier is of course one of the absolute best at 155lbs, so maybe Max could look to start slightly lower down against someone like Cowboy Cerrone or Al Iaquinta and work his way up against new opponents in a new weight division.

For Aldo, the decision is tougher. After dominating for so long, he has struggled in recent years to maintain that consistency in the Octagon. After dropping down to Bantamweight he lost to Marlon Moraes in a controversial decision, which led to him getting this title shot to begin with. But now after losing that too, he surely goes to the back of the queue. With 135lbs so stacked at the moment, he may never get another chance. Aljamain Sterling, Cody Stamann, Corey Sandhagen, Cody Garbrandt, Marlon Moraes, Frankie Edgar and Sean O’Malley are all looking to become challengers to the throne in the near future which means Aldo will have to go against them. He may now act as a gate-keeper for some of the younger talent, which would be a damn shame considering just how good he was and still is.

At 33 he is still in his physical prime but because of all the wars he has already been through, his body seems like it may have had enough. Retirement is for sure a very real option for ‘The King of Rio’ and he would still go down as one of the best to ever do it. We often talk about how we always hope fighters don’t stick around for too long and damage their legacy for the sake of a pay-cheque and Aldo is now in that very scenario.

Despite how sad it is for long time fans of the two, it’s a positive for the UFC. They are continuing to develop and produce talent of a world class calibre and now have two new stars at the head of their respective divisions. All is not lost for the company, but two of the best ever now need to make a decision on their futures.

UFC 251 Main Card – Predictions

Fight Island is real and is happening this weekend.

UFC 251 takes place on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on July 11th with three title fights headlining the card. Before that happens though, the early prelims and prelims with host four bouts each.

Last time out for UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker, I selected 6/10 winning fighters in my predictions with one of those completely correct (winner, method, round). I’m confident I can improve on that this time around though. Following on from the early prelim predictions for UFC 251 and the prelim predictions, I make my predictions for the main card here.

Amanda Ribas (9-1) vs Paige VanZant (8-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

After three broken arms and a stint on Dancing With The Stars, Paige VanZant makes her return to the Octagon for the final fight on her UFC contract. She steps in to take on Brazilian Amanda Ribas who has won all 3 of her UFC bouts. VanZant is one of the toughest fighters in the women’s division but her technique leaves much to be desired. She likes to kick but her striking with her hands is Ronda Rousey-esque, which isn’t a compliment. Ribas has six stoppages on her record, 3 via KO and 3 via submission and has the huge edge on the feet. She’s also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Overall, she’s just got too much for VanZant who’s head isn’t in the UFC anymore. She’s already spoken about testing free agency following this fight and is expected to join her husband in Bellator eventually. I think it’s off the back of a fairly significant decision loss.
PICK – Amanda Ribas via Unanimous Decision

Jessica Andrade (20-7) vs Rose Namajunas (9-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

In a rematch from their UFC title fight last year, ‘Thug Rose’ and Jessica Andrade clash again in this strawweight clash. In the first bout, Rose completely outclassed and outstruck Andrade in the first round and for much of the second round. That was until ‘Bate Estaca’ took her name quite literally and slammed Namajunas into the ground head first, knocking her unconscious. It was clear that Rose’s camp had come up with the kimura lock as a way to discourage Andrade from slamming her but clearly it didn’t work. She’ll have to come up with a totally new method of preventing it this time around, which might just be to avoid getting into clinch situations as much as possible. Her jab was too quick and accurate the first time around and while she didn’t seem to have enough power to knock Andrade out, she caused plenty of damage with her hands. If she sticks to that plan and avoids being slammed again, her ground game is strong enough to keep up with Andrade and probably get back up. I think Rose takes her win back from Andrade in this one via a close decision.
PICK – Rose Namajunas via Unanimous Decision

Petr Yan (14-1) vs Jose Aldo (28-6) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

After Henry Cejudo’s shock retirement at UFC 249, all eyes turned to who the UFC would pit against each other for the now vacant title. Petr Yan was a shoe-in following his big KO win over Urijah Faber last time out, but Jose Aldo’s inclusion came as a shock to many considering he lost his division debut to Marlon Moraes. His record speaks for itself though and as the consensus greatest featherweight of all-time, his reputation has earned him a shot at a second belt in the UFC. A striking battle is what will ensue, with box fighters preferring to box their opponents. Aldo is one of the best counter strikers in MMA history and his leg kicks are legendary, although he’s not used them as proficiently in recent times. Yan carries so much power in his hands however and pushes a tremendous pace. Aldo these days can’t take as much punishment as he used to and a fast pace caused him problems against Max Holloway at 145lbs. The weight cut won’t help him in that sense and Yan will know he can push the pace for as long as he wants. This fight has potential for fight of the night and could probably go either way but I think the UFC gets it’s second Russian champion.
PICK – Petr Yan via Knockout, Round 4

Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) vs Max Holloway (21-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

Max Holloway v Alexander Volkanovski : News Photo
Volkanovski beat Holloway in their first fight back in December

Another rematch on the card but this one is so hard to call. Volkanovski went into the first fight as the challenger and ended up taking a decision win 48-47 x2, 50-45 to snap Holloway’s win-streak in the featherweight division. The New Zealander attacked the legs of his opponent throughout the fight and closed the range well landing good overhand rights cleanly. ‘Blessed’ was forced to fight in a Southpaw stance for much of the fight because of how badly his leg was chewed up and he’ll need to do something about that this time around. Holloway will take encouragement from the fact that he likely won the final two rounds (despite one judge’s scorecard) and in the fifth round especially we saw Volkanovski look up at the clock more. This could be a sign that he was tiring and with Holloway always fresh, he may look to push the pace harder and faster this time around. That said, ‘The Great’ carries more knockout power in his hands so in a wild exchange it’s more likely to be the Hawaiian to fall. I don’t think it will come to that though as both will be wary of the striking credentials of the other. Volkanovski did enough in the first fight to convince me that he just has too much power and toughness for Holloway to get him out of there, so I think a repeat result is likely.
PICK – Alexander Volkanovski via Unanimous Decision

Kamaru Usman (16-1) vs Jorge Masvidal (35-13) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

In one of the most hectic fight weeks in recent memory, Jorge Masvidal saved the main event of this card. Gilbert Burns dropped out after he and two corner-men contracted Covid-19 and on six days notice both fighters agreed to make the most anticipated fight in the welterweight division happen on Fight Island.

Usman is a dominant wrestler as he showed in his win over Tyron Woodley, but he also showed that he can give and take on the feet when he knocked out Colby Covington in his first title defence in December. Masvidal is the opposite. He is a fearsome striker with powerful legs, kicks and knees as he showed in his last three bouts knocking out Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz. He isn’t a slouch on the ground either though. ‘Gamebred’ has good wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills but he won’t want to be grounded by Usman. Masvidal has only ever been stopped 3 times in his career, and even then the KO loss came after a horrible stoppage from the referee.

Both fighters hold a grudge and will be highly motivated to finish this one but ultimately I think it goes the distance. Masvidal will land some big shots clean and early but Usman showed his chin in the Covington fight. I think he eats them and gets the takedown before laying in some ground and pound. This becomes a pattern throughout the fight and Usman gets the unanimous decision win.
PICK – Kamaru Usman via Unanimous Decision

UFC 251 Prelims – Predictions

Fight Island is real and is happening this weekend.

UFC 251 takes place on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on July 11th with three title fights headlining the card. Before that happens though, the early prelims and prelims with host four bouts each.

Last time out for UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker, I selected 6/10 winning fighters in my predictions with one of those completely correct (winner, method, round). I’m confident I can improve on that this time around though. Following on from the early prelim predictions for UFC 251, we predict the Prelim fights here.

Leonardo Santos (17-4-1) vs Roman Bogatov (10-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Santos is a 40 year old UFC veteran, having never tasted defeat in his 7 fights with the organisation so far. On a five-fight win streak since his draw with Norman Parke, Santos has beaten Kevin Lee and Steven Ray via knockout in two of his last three outings. This is however only his second fight since 2016, with his last fight coming against Ray over a year ago. Roman Bogatov is making his UFC debut after winning and defending the M-1 Lightweight championship. His wrestling-heavy style is likely to play into Santos’ hands with the Brazilian holding a fearsome jiu-jitsu game, shown by his 9 submission wins. On the feet, Santos has shown he has power in recent fights but those fights were so long ago we have no idea if he still has it. His inactivity could be a real issue in this fight with the younger Bogatov’s style. I think Bogatov gets the takedowns he wants and it’s all about whether he can avoid being submitted by Santos. I think he’ll survive a few scares to take a decision win and remain unbeaten.
PICK – Roman Bogatov via Unanimous Decision

Makwan Amirkhani (15-4) vs Danny Henry (12-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

After smashing through his first two UFC opponents in less than two minutes combined, Amirkhani went on to win 5 of his first 6 fights with the company. His last fight however ended in defeat against Shane Burgos, who’s power was just too much for ‘Mr. Finland’ to deal with in the final round. Danny Henry entered the UFC limelight with two huge upset wins, overcoming a shaky start against Daniel Teymur to take the decision in his debut before an insane submission win over Hakeem Dawodu in just 39 seconds in his next fight. He was unable to continue his winning ways in his next fight, as Dan Ige forced him to tap in just 77 seconds via rear naked choke. Henry has shown that if he can overcome the early aggression of his opponent, that he is a problem on the feet. That means he needs to survive the onslaughts though. Amirkhani will look to start hard and fast and if he can secure a takedown with his strong wrestling skills, he has enough about him to secure a choke early. If not, Henry will look to power through and out-strike Amirkhani taking encouragement from how gassed he was against Burgos.
PICK – Makwan Amirkhani via Submission, Round 1

Elizeu Dos Santos (22-6) vs Muslim Salikhov (16-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

‘Capoeira’ Dos Santos went on a tear through the welterweight division, winning 7 in a row following a loss in his debut. His streak was cut when he was knocked out by Li Jingliang last August, but bounced back with a decision win over Alexey Kunchenko in March. Salikhov is on a three-fight win streak following his own UFC debut defeat, with two stoppage wins en route to this fight. Salikhov is an extremely technical kickboxer with 12 wins by way of KO on his record. While Dos Santos got the judges decision over Kunchenko, it was a contentious call and could easily have gone the other way. It was another example of his frantic approach being picked apart by the more technical striker. Salikhov falls into that category and thus will be expected to get the win here. While ‘Capoeira’ is a decent wrestler who isn’t afraid to go for a takedown, Salikhov showed in his last fight that he’s no slouch in that department either. I think the fight stays on the feet and the ‘King of Kung-Fu’ gets a stoppage win.
PICK – Muslim Salikhov via Knockout, Round 2

Volkan Oezdemir (17-4) vs Jiri Prochazka (26-3-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

‘No Time’ entered the UFC as if he had no time to wait, earning a decision win over Ovince Saint-Preux before knocking out Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa in a combined 70 seconds. That led to a title fight where he was completely out-classed by Daniel Cormier and it led to a downward spiral that saw him lose to Anthony Smith and Dominick Reyes too. He’s since bounced back from those three losses with wins over Illir Latifi and Aleksandar Rakic as he looks to get back into contention. Prochazka makes his UFC debut after clearing out the division in Rizin. His record of 11-1 in that promotion showed that he is no joke and 23 of his 26 wins coming by way of knockout shows where his strength lies. Volkan is the favourite but that might be because Prochazka is a more unknown name. It’s a much more even fight than the odds suggest. Prochazka has a deep gas tank and carries his power later into fights, something that Oezdemir struggles with sometimes. Oezdemir carries power too but this could be the start of a new star in the UFC making a name for himself.
PICK – Jiri Prochazka via Knockout, Round 3

UFC 251 Early Prelims – Predictions

Fight Island is real and is happening this weekend.

UFC 251 takes place on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on July 11th with three title fights headlining the card. Before that happens though, the early prelims and prelims with host four bouts each.

Last time out for UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker, I selected 6/10 winning fighters in my predictions with one of those completely correct (winner, method, round). I’m confident I can improve on that this time round so lets start it off with the early prelims

Martin Day (8-3) vs Davey Grant (10-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

Following his defeat on Dana White’s Contender Series, Martin Day went on a three-fight win streak to get into the UFC the hard way. In his debut he was defeated by Pingyuan Liu via a unanimous decision and he hasn’t fought since. His key weakness in that fight was his grappling, which ironically is his opponent’s strength at UFC 251. Davey ‘Dangerous’ Grant has 8 wins via submission in his career although none of those have come in the UFC. He won his last fight via split decision against Grigory Popov in November 2019. He comes into this fight as the underdog thanks to Day’s striking skills and good takedown defence but I think he could be successful. His conditioning was an issue in his last fight as he looked completely exhausted by the end of the third round, but should he secure one he should be able to get a submission victory.
PICK – Davey Grant via Submission, Round 2

Karol Rosa (12-3) vs Vanessa Melo (10-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

After two straight 3rd round stoppage wins, Karol Rosa made her UFC debut against Lara Procopio back in August 2019. She completely outclassed the Brazilian in that fight, out-striking her and landing over 170 significant strikes over three round. Vanessa Melo on the other hand has lost both of her UFC bouts, although both were short-notice fights and lost on the scorecards. Rosa is a training partner to Jessica Andrade and it’s clear to see why with her striking skills as they are. She carries more power and her output is phenomenal, as she landed 11.4 strikes per minute against Procopio. Melo is a good counter-striker but can be hit-and-miss with her accuracy which means the judges will see enough from Rosa to give her the win.
PICK – Karol Rosa via Unanimous Decision

Raulian Paiva (19-3) vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A 12-fight win streak for Raulian Paiva, including a show-stealing decision win in Dana White’s Contender Series saw the Brazilian native enter the UFC with a good reputation behind him. He lost his first fight via a split-decision to Kai Kara France before a strange fight against Rogerio Bontorin was called off in the first-round for a bad cut over his eye. He bounced back though with a win in his last scrap, defeating Mark De La Rosa with a beautiful knockout. Zhumagulov is making his UFC debut following a win over former UFC title challenger Ali Bagautinov in his last bout. He’s won his last four fights by decision and will be entering this fight looking to make a name for himself. Paiva will be a tough first fight for him however, with both fighters preferring to strike and Paiva having the slight edge. There is a big height discrepancy in this clash and Zhumagulov usually rushes in with volume to close the distance. This is something that Paiva is used to and will likely counter well. Paiva is more accurate and crisp striker but Zhumagulov loves a leg-kick and always swings haymakers that can catch the judges eye. It’ll likely be a close fight but Paiva’s greater accuracy should secure him the decision.
PICK – Raulian Paiva via Unanimous Decision

Marcin Tybura (18-6) vs Maxim Grishin (30-7-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A clash of of two veterans of the MMA world sees light heavyweight Maxim Grishin step up a weight division on one week’s notice against former heavyweight contender Marcin Tybura. Originally due to face Alexander Romanov, Tybura will have to have a complete change of game-plan for Grishin. Romanov is a power wrestler who works for the ground and pound while Grishin is a strong kicker with a solid right hand. While Tybura is a solid kickboxer himself, Grishin will have a speed advantage for sure. Tybura though will of course have a size and power advantage and I think it will prove too much for the Russian to withstand. While a decision is possible, I’m going to go with some excitement and pick the KO win for the Pole.
PICK – Marcin Tybura via TKO, 2nd Round

Rose Namajunas and Paige VanZant On Same Card But Different Paths At UFC 251

In December 2015 the UFC held a Fight Night card in Las Vegas headlined by two up and coming female fighters.

#3 ranked strawweight Rose Namajunas was main eventing against #7 ranked strawweight Paige VanZant. ‘Thug’ Rose was coming off a win over Angela Hill after losing the TUF finale, while VanZant was undefeated in the UFC and being pushed for big things.

The difference in skill level that night was clear. Rose was more technical, hit harder and more well rounded than the tough ’12 Gauge’ and after dominating for four-and-a-half rounds, eventually got the rear-naked choke submission win. VanZant came away from the fight with everyone’s respect though, having battled through a bad cut in the first round and escaped several deep submission attempts by Namajunas by simply refusing to tap.

From there, their careers took completely different paths.

Namajunas went on to defeat reigning 115lb champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk back-to-back to become world champion, while VanZant went 2-2 in her next four fights and gained notoriety for her modelling career and appearances on Dancing With The Stars.

At UFC 251, both women will be on the card together for the first time since that night in 2015 but in very different places in their careers.

UFC 237: Namajunas v Andrade : News Photo
‘Thug’ Rose hasn’t fought since her defeat to Jessica Andrade at UFC 237

Namajunas takes on Jessica Andrade, the woman who dethroned her as champion a little over a year ago. It was her second defence of the belt and she took on Andrade in her home country of Brazil. She absolutely dominated the first round too. Landing punch combos for fun, Andrade looked almost out of her depth. Then in the second round, Andrade showed why she was in a title fight to begin with. In a clinch against the cage Andrade went for a takedown and Namajunas countered with a kimura to try and keep her opponent from slamming her. It didn’t work. Andrade lifted Rose above her head and slammed her into the mat head first, knocking Rose unconscious. She hasn’t fought since.

VanZant hasn’t fought since 2018, when after being beaten up for the entire first round by Rachel Ostovich she secured an armbar victory in the second round. Since then, she’s broken her arm three times and is now heading into the final fight of her UFC contract.

She’ll fight Amanda Ribas, a 9-1 fighter who’s already toppled the likes of Mackenzie Dern and Randa Markos during her short tenure in the UFC. VanZant will be a huge underdog going into the bout and win, lose or draw is expected to leave the company after this event. It’s believed she’ll likely go to Bellator, the promotion where her husband currently fights.

ABC's "Dancing With the Stars": Season 22 - Finale : News Photo
VanZant is more widely known for her appearances on DWTS than her UFC fighting career

While there are top fighters at Bellator, it’s not by accident that it’s known as the secondary promotion at best behind the UFC. Her contractual issues have spilled over into the public, with her comments that she could have earned the same money doing a regular job, or that she earned more money for Dancing With The Stars than she did for all her UFC fights combined.

A win will be vital for her though. In testing free agency, going in off a loss won’t help her negotiations for better pay and her dream of being taken seriously as a fighter won’t be helped. She’s a good prospect and still only 26 years old, not even in her prime yet really. A win, especially against someone as highly rated as Ribas, will do wonders for her career and maybe even consider getting the UFC to renew her deal.

If the fight back in 2015 had gone differently, we could be seeing two very different career paths. Instead, Fight Island will likely see the end of VanZant’s UFC career and the resurrection of Namajunas’.

Max Holloway Fighting For His Legacy At UFC 251

Back in December 2019, the Featherweight world revolved around Max Holloway.

‘Blessed’ was on a 14-fight win streak in the division, interrupted only by a decision defeat to Dustin Poirier in a fight for the interim Lightweight championship. The run stretched across six years, when he was defeated by Conor McGregor in the early part of both of their careers.

After beating a plethora of talent including Andre Fili, Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens and Anthony Pettis, Holloway went on to defeat Jose Aldo for the Featherweight crown and then defeat him again in the rematch.

Both wins came via knockout, with the second even more decisive than the first. He followed that with arguably one of the most impressive title defences in UFC history when he despatched of undefeated contender Brian Ortega. Holloway put on a masterful boxing clinic in that fight, beating Ortega to a pulp to the point where the doctor pulled him out of the fight between rounds.

After his brief step-up to Lightweight, he came back to Featherweight to defend his crown against the legendary Frankie Edgar. ‘Blessed’ outboxed and outclassed ‘The Answer’ en route to a decision win before he was matched up with Alexander Volkanovski.

Volkanovski himself had just beaten Jose Aldo, in Brazil no less, and had established himself as the new No.1 contender for Holloway’s title, repeatedly stating that he had been training for this fight for years knowing that Holloway was the man he’d have to beat to get to the top of the mountain. The two met at UFC 245 and in a closely fought encounter, the New Zealander beat Holloway to claim his first title and snap Holloway’s run.

UFC 245: Holloway v Volkanovski : News Photo

Throughout the build-up to that fight, Volkanovski said that he expected to have to beat Holloway twice – once for the title and then again in the inevitable rematch. He has been proven right as they will square off at UFC 251 on Fight Island.

Holloway is now in a position where he is the underdog in the Featherweight division for the first time in a long time. The first fight saw Holloway get his legs chewed up by calf kicks and he allowed his opponent to close the distance on him way too easily to land big right hands. Not only that, but Volkanovski survived the endurance test that night too.

Normally, ‘Blessed’ can turn it up a notch if needs be and start pouring on the volume – usually wearing his opponents out. With ‘The Great’ though, his legs were so badly swollen from the kicks that he couldn’t turn it up when he needed too and even then – Volkanovski was fresh. So fresh in fact, that the microphones picked up a conversation mid-fight where he told Holloway, “we’re both still fresh! Lets go!”

Holloway asked for this rematch according to Volkanovski and he was rightly granted it. According to commentators Jon Anik and Joe Rogan, ‘Blessed’ is the greatest 145lber to ever live. He must win this fight if that notion is to continue to be the consensus rather than an opinion that got shown to be wrong early in it’s existence.

Jose Aldo Could Be About To Secure G.O.A.T Status

At UFC 251 on July 11th Jose Aldo Jr could be about to stake a claim as the greatest fighter of all-time.

Aldo will fight Petr Yan for the recently vacated UFC Bantamweight title on Fight Island, knowing that a win will see him become only the eighth fighter to hold UFC gold in two weight classes.

Before running into Conor McGregor back in 2015, Aldo was the only Featherweight champion in UFC history with seven defences of his title. He had beaten everyone in his way in the division and was even expected to dispatch of McGregor before the shocking 13 second KO that shook the world.

Since then, we’ve seen Aldo’s record spiral. He beat Frankie Edgar in his next fight to reclaim the now vacant title before he was knocked-out twice by Max Holloway as he lost the belt again. He then beat Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano before losing to Alexander Volkanovski.

Following that defeat to the now Featherweight champion Volkanovski, Aldo made the decision to drop down in weight and go to the 135lbs Bantamweight division. Many were surprised by this as he was always seen as a relatively big 145lber and the weight cut had never been particularly easy for him.

Aldo made the cut to fight at 135lbs in just 7 months. Photo credit: @Oddschanger

He took 7 months between fights to work on a new diet to make the drop and was rewarded with a fight against fellow Brazilian Marlos Moraes, who was fresh off a defeat to Henry Cejudo for the previously vacant Bantamweight title.

In that first 135lbs fight, Aldo was sharp. He looked strong, he kicked well and he maintained his power with sharp boxing. His combinations were good and his conditioning held up well. He looked like he’d made a good decision. Then the judges returned a controversial split decision, which saw him given yet another loss on his record.

Fans and media didn’t agree with the decision, while UFC President Dana White also said he’d scored the bout to Aldo. It was because of this, plus his reputation, that he was offered the next title shot against Henry Cejudo. The two were due to meet in May, but Covid-19 meant there were severe travel issues and Aldo was forced to withdraw from the fight. Dominick Cruz stepped into his place and was beaten by Cejudo, who then retired immediately in his post-fight interview.

It threw Aldo’s title contention into doubt, especially considering Aljamain Sterling continues to win. But Dana White stuck by his man, and announced that Aldo will fight Petr Yan for the vacant title. It’s now booked for UFC 251 and Aldo is an underdog again.

Yan KO’d the legendary Urijah Faber in his last fight and has long been tipped to be at the top of the division sooner or later. Surprisingly many are look at this fight as an almost foregone conclusion, already matching up Yan with ‘The Funkmaster’ Aljamain Sterling for his first defence of the title.

But Jose Aldo will have other ideas. The Brazilian is looking to make history despite his recent record. If he can upset the odds and get a win at UFC 251, he may just have an argument to go down as the GOAT.

Jorge Masvidal Set To Save UFC 251 Main Event

News broke overnight on Friday July 3rd that UFC 251’s main event between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns was cancelled, due to Burns and his two cornermen all testing positive for Covid-19. It now seems that Street Jesus is ready to step in and save the day for the UFC.

According to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, the UFC and Jorge Masvidal are currently in active negotiations for ‘Gamebred’ to step in as a late replacement for Burns and take the title fight he believes he is owed.

Masvidal and Usman were originally slated to meet at this event before pay disputes between the challenger and the UFC saw them walk away from negotiations and instead offer the fight to Usman’s team-mate Burns, who had just beaten former champion Tyron Woodley.

‘Gamebred’ refused to budge though, becoming vocal on social media about the issues he has with fighter pay and he got a lot of support for his thoughts – including from Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

It seems now though that the UFC may be willing to cave to his demands as they look to keep the biggest card of the year alive for Fight Island.

While there are many hurdles to overcome, Masvidal posted to his Instagram story overnight pictures of himself being tested for Covid-19. This is a sure-fire sign that talks are ongoing and a flight to Abu Dhabi would be relatively easy for the UFC to sort out if they can get a deal done quickly.

Champ Kamaru Usman has already commented, signalling his intention to take the fight if it is indeed offered to him on short notice.

It’s a fight that has long been spoken about, with Masvidal earning a title shot following his three huge KO wins in 2019 over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz. While Usman has defended the title just once since dethroning Tyron Woodley, his performance in his win against Colby Covington earned him rave reviews and has seen him widely accepted as one of the most dominant champions in the company.

Usman won that fight by KO after a gruelling striking match but he won’t want to get involved in a brawl with Street Jesus Masvidal. He’ll be likely to go back to his wrestling game, which saw him dominate the likes of Rafel Dos Anjos, Demian Maia and Woodley.

The last time someone came into the Octagon againt Masvidal with the game-plan of taking him down and out-wrestling him though, he caved Ben Askren’s skull in with a flying knee inside 5 seconds.

Regardless of your thoughts on how the fight will go down, it’s a fight that is super necessary.

Interview: Nathan Jones

With the world in lockdown and sport brought to a halt, it was MMA that kept everything ticking over.

In March, both the UFC and Cage Warriors held events behind closed doors as the world was locked down due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, leading the way in what would now become the new normal.

At that Cage Warriors event in London, Nathan ‘Mr Bag and Tag’ Jones fought David Bear in a Welterweight bout and was pipped via judges decision. To Jones the event happening behind closed doors isn’t ideal, but he believes it’s the right way to go in the current climate.

Speaking exclusively to Tap Ins & Tap Outs, Jones said:

My last fight was on CW113 and it was a closed event. It was on 20th March, just 2 days later – UK went into lockdown. Closed events, although not ideal is the way to mitigate risk. In this current climate, it is the only way that the sport can continue with live events.

Jones is an MMA veteran, boasting a professional record of 13-10 with fights under the Bellator and Cage Warriors banner among others. When asked whether he’d take a UFC fight behind closed doors, his answer was emphatic.

Er, Yes! To get that call is every aspiring fighter’s dream!

Aged 33 now, Jones is in the prime of his career but unlike others, he started training relatively late in life.

It all started in 2010 at age 23, what got me into martial arts was, I was at a low point in my life, so in an attempt to find happiness I was living my life by the ‘YES MAN’ philosophy.

I had a friend that went for a free trial at the gym, so I said I’d tag along. I enjoyed the session except being covered in other people’s sweat – but I kept an open mind. When asked if I wanted to join I said yes, when asked if I wanted to compete I said yes, when asked if I wanted to fight… I said when?!

I used martial arts to harness my energy and focus. From being bullied at school and attacked on the street – I promised that i would not be a victim again for anybody. I became quicker, stronger and have overcome many obstacles, the main one of overcoming fear by stepping into the cage!

After two years of training and two amateur fights, ‘Mr Bag and Tag’ made the decision to turn professional and turn a hobby into a career. His turning point was simple – he was already living a professional’s lifestyle but wasn’t being paid for it.

For me, it got to a stage where I was putting all my time into training, I was improving and fighting better guys and on bigger stages. So turning professional was the next logical step. Although, I turned professional after 2 years of training – which is relatively quick, especially for the pedigree of today’s amateur circuit, I made the decision quite easily.

Firstly – my coaches and teammates believed in me. Secondly I was 25 – prime age! I wanted to make the most of my opportunity of competing whilst I could, so I thought f*** it. My rational was that I was training and doing well with the pros in the gym, and as a non professional I was doing the same amount of training, facing the same amount of risk and sustaining the same amount of injuries… so why not get paid for it? I have not looked back since.

In his first professional fight, Jones fought a fighter with a legendary name. The aptly named Mohammed Ali took on a debuting Jones under the Ultimate Challenge MMA banner, defeating Jones via submission in the second round. His first professional loss didn’t affect him too much though and he went on to win his next four fights in a row.

I coped very well, obviously I was upset. But it was my first one so it could only get better. Win or lose, life goes on. One of coaches, Ash Grimshaw messaged me the day after, ‘Chin up bro, a lot of fighters lost their first pro fight and went on to be amazing’. That gave me some reassurance and I knew I just had to harness that energy of disappointment to ensure that I won the next one, and the next one. 

My mindset changed. I started to think of the fight as ‘my’ fight and not ‘a’ fight. Basically making it all about me. I improved my preparation. I joined Titan Fighter and upped my training and sparring. I set myself goals of where I wanted to be and I guess, I just made it happen!

‘Mr Bag and Tag’ has 10 submission wins in his career, with 6 rear-naked chokes.
Photo Credit: Mr Bag and Tag – Nathan Jones official Facebook account

Throughout his career ‘Mr Bag and Tag’ has made a name for himself with his submissions, securing 10 of his 13 wins via tap-out. Six of those ten submissions have been rear-naked chokes but Jones says that’s just coincidence and not something he plans for.

No, it tends to just happen to be honest. It is a move with a very high success rate and has a high ratio of positional safety and dominance. I love jiu jitsu, so if I see the neck – its tap-out or blackout.

The world has obviously seen the growth of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement over the last month or so, with plenty of high profile sportsmen and women also showing their feelings on the matter. The Premier League in England put the phrase on the back of every player’s shirts for the first weekend back, replacing player names while other athletes such as LeBron James have been vocal on social media about the issues. UFC President Dana White recently said that he wouldn’t dare stop anyone from voicing their beliefs for the movement either, something Jones says is shared across the wider MMA community.

Yes, we are standing together, as we all believe in the movement and what is stands for. Recent events have brought the systemic racial issues to the fore which otherwise were not known or addressed by the wider community. The movement is picking up momentum and we are seeing positive change. I hope it continues.

With UFC 251 around the corner and the UFC Welterweight title on the line in that event, Jones is as excited as the rest of us and is keeping a special eye on the fight since it’s in his weight division.

That is a great fight. I honestly cant call it, I have changed my mind several times, but that is the great thing about the fight game. Anything can happen. I am going to chill on my sofa with a beer and just enjoy the fight, and the rest of the cards on Fight Island.

As for himself, Jones is waiting for this to all be over before he gets himself back into a scrap, but he’s looking forward to when it eventually happens.

Everyone is itching for the pandemic to be over so business can resume. And as soon as it does expect to see me out competing. I am unsure where, but whether it is the mat, the ring, or the cage… I will be ready to put it on the line.


Nathan ‘Bag and Tag’ Jones is an MMA fighter for Cage Warriors.

He wishes to put on record his thanks to his team Elevate Martial Arts, Titan Fighter, Elite MMA Agency, Barefoot Movement, Rolls and Rehab, King Kickboxing, Truth Naturals and Scramble.

You can follow Nathan’s fighting career on Twitter at @MrBagAndTag and his coaching career on Twitter at @InTheBagPTC.