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UFC Vegas 18 Fallout: Volkov and Sandhagen stake claim for next title shots

The first UFC event at the APEX in 2021 lived up to the hype as both co-main events delivered with spectacular knockout finishes.

Cory Sandhagen fought Frankie Edgar in the bantamweight division while Alexander Volkov took on veteran Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC Vegas 18, with both of the elder statesmen on what is likely to be their final run at UFC gold.

The 135lbs clash was widely accepted to essentially be a number one contender bout, with champion Petr Yan set to defend his belt against Aljamain Sterling next month at UFC 259. While many were expecting a close fight between the rising star Sandhagen and legendary figure that is Edgar, that is far from what we got.

It took just 28 seconds for ‘Sandman’ to finish the fight, landing a flying knee flush on Edgar’s chin and leaving him lying unconscious with a walk-off KO.

It was the second highlight reel knockout in a row for Sandhagen, after his spinning heel kick win over Marlon Moraes back in October on Fight Island earned him this fight.

While some, including the champion Yan himself, have suggested that former champion TJ Dillashaw should get an immediate rematch following the end of his suspension, Sandhagen disagrees. In his post-fight interview he made it very clear what his plans are, calling out the winner of the upcoming title fight.

I heard Yan doing an interview, saying he wants to fight TJ [Dillashaw] after. TJ’s coming off some of the most dangerous PED’s you can do in the sport. That seems disrespectful to the sport, and I’ve been working. I’ve been working for the belt and I think I’m better than Yan, so if he wins I want Yan, same as Sterling too.

Sandhagen’s last defeat came at UFC 250, when Sterling submitted him in just 88 seconds to earn himself a title shot against the winner of the fight between Yan and Jose Aldo at UFC 251 the following month. ‘Sandman’ is confident that if they fought again for the belt, that it would be a different outcome.

You guys have seen I’m a different animal since that fight with Sterling. I’m grateful he taught me a lesson but the next time we fight I’m gonna hurt Aljamain. I want to fight the winner of that fight in July, or whenever they want really, but I’ve got to be next for the title. There’s no-one else even in the conversation, especially after a performance like that.”

In the main event, Overeem was blasted by ‘Drago’ and knocked out in the second round after a super display of power striking from the Russian.

An early jab rocked Overeem and his strikes throughout the first round ended up breaking the nose of Overeem and causing a lot of blood and problems for the Dutch fighter. He came out for the second round but Volkov was too strong physically and too accurate with his punches and put him down several times before the referee waved it off.

While it marked the end of Overeem’s final run towards UFC gold, it marked the beginning of serious conversations around Volkov’s road to the belt.

With Stipe Miocic defending the title against Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 next month, with the winner already likely to face Jon Jones in the summer, Volkov’s chances of his next bout being for the belt are incredibly slim.

Dana White won’t want him to be inactive in the hope he can get a title shot, especially while the likes of Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and co are all fighting still.

While Lewis and Blaydes will meet later this month at UFC Vegas 19 in a rescheduled bout from last year but the fight that Volkov should be keeping an eye on is March’s bout between Rozenstruik and Cyril Gane.

The two are looking to build up some momentum to join in the title picture themselves and with Lewis and Blaydes already having wins over Volkov, his best bet is a fresh opponent. If Volkov can get a quick turnaround to fight the winner of Rozenstruik and Gane before the halfway point of the year, a win could see him position himself to take on the winner of Miocic/Ngannou vs Jones at the end of the year.

The title pictures of two more UFC divisions are starting to become a little clearer, which can only lead to positive match making.

UFC Vegas 18: Overeem vs Volkov – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Ode Osbourne def Jerome Rivera via Knockout, Round 1 (0:26)

Both fighters come out and meet in the centre and Rivera throws a high left kick. Osbourne rolls the kick, catching the kick on his shoulder and lands a huge left hand straight down the pipe! Rivera is down, Osbourne lands a couple of strikes on the ground but it’s over inside 30 seconds! Wow!

Timur Valiev def Martin Day via Unanimous Decision (30-25 x2, 30-26)

Good start to the round for Valiev as he comes out and attacks the legs early with a series of kicks. Day counters another leg kick with a short combo in the pocket but Valiev steps out of the way and then goes for a single leg takedown. He takes the back against the cage and has a body lock before dragging Day down to the mat, only for Day to get back up quickly. Valiev finally gets the fight down and stops the scramble attempt to end up in top position. Some nice short elbows from Valiev but Day is defending well as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Valiev.

Valiev opens the second round with some more leg kicks, before a nice one-two and a takedown have the fight on the ground in the centre of the octagon. Valiev passes into side control and Day tries to get back to his feet but it’s prevented well with some solid ground and pound. Valiev completely dominant right now with constant pressure on the ground, staying busy and landing shots to the body and head of Day. Complete domination for the entire second round, could be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Valiev.

Final round and Day starts throwing some kicks and a few strikes, knowing he needs a finish in this round. It doesn’t last long though as Valiev gets another takedown early in the round and controls the positions once again. More ground and pound strikes on the ground as Day tries to get back up, but Valiev is a nuisance and keeps a body lock and just drags him up and down as much as possible. Valiev switches between half-guard, mount and side control for the rest of the round for a dominant decision victory. 30-26 Valiev.

Seungwoo Choi def Youssef Zalal via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Tactical start to this fight from both guys as Choi takes the centre, but Zalal is happy to circle on the outside and jab while avoiding heavier shots. Choi throws a few big head kicks but Zalal slips them relatively easily. Zalal shoots for the takedown and gets in on the hips but Choi steps over the trip attempt and they end up tied up against the cage. Zalal continues to look for the takedown against the cage but they’re at a stalemate and the referee separates them. Another clinch against the cage as the round comes to an end and Choi gets a takedown right on the horn. 10-9 Zalal for me but could go either way.

Second round starts with an exchange of kicks before another clinch against the cage, as Zalal looks for the takedown again. He gets a single leg but Choi defends really well against the cage until the referee separates them again. Body kick and one-two from Choi lands clean as he starts to come forward more. He pushes forward with another combo before the clinch again against the cage, before Choi gets Zalal down to the mat before letting him straight back up. A few more exchanges before the end of the round, this one more clear cut in Choi’s favour. 19-19 or 20-18.

Choi starts the final round strong, as he looks to have Zalal beat in all areas right now. They clinch against the cage again and Zalal finally gets the fight to the ground and goes straight for a guillotine. It looks tight as he rolls through but Choi eventually turns into it and ends up on top in guard. Choi eventually works his way back up to the feet but Zalal goes for a single leg takedown again and gets Choi down against the cage. Every time Zalal gets him down in this round he pops straight back up, refusing to accept bottom position as we enter the final 40 seconds. Round comes to an end with a clinch against the cage and it will likely be a Choi decision win. 29-28 Choi.

Lara Procopio def Molly McCann via Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-28, 30-27)

Fast start to this fight as McCann comes out throwing leg kicks and punch combinations early, while Procopio looks to walk her to the cage and go for a takedown. After a battle against the cage, Procopio gets a beautiful trip and ends up in top position halfway through the round. Procopio dominating on the ground and has McCann’s neck tight to control posture, but McCann fights out of that position, although she eventually pushes into full mount. McCann gives up the back and Procopio looks for an armbar before transitioning to the back and looking for a choke but the horn goes. Dominant from Procopio, 10-9.

McCann comes out aggressively again and looks to keep Procopio with her back against the cage, but a clinch and takedown attempt ends with McCann on her back. Procopio looks to transition into different positions but McCann throws up an armbar! Procopio looks to stack her to escape but McCann rolls through and locks it in tight! She has a full extension but Procopio refuses to tap and eventually is able to escape the position! Eventually the women get back to their feet against the cage and then Procopio lands another takedown inside the final minute as both women trade shots before the horn. 19-19.

Final round and Procopio is breathing heavy, but she still engages with the clinch situation against the cage looking for a takedown. She gets the fight down to the ground in scrappy fashion and then quickly transitions looking for a heel hook. McCann rolls through twice and escapes, but Procopio immediately gets back on her and brings McCann back down to the ground a further three times just using her size advantage. 30 seconds to go and Procopio takes the back of McCann and starts throwing punches to see the round out and take a decision win. 29-28 Procopio.

PRELIMS

Karol Rosa def Joselyne Edwards via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

An immediate shot and takedown from Rosa gets the fight down to the ground and the Brazilian into a strong position. She sits in half guard comfortably, throwing some nice ground and pound and just completely controlling the fight. Rosa moves into full mount and starts teeing off before Edwards throws her legs up and rolls through to get back to the feet. Both women exchange shots on the feet with Rosa beating up the legs as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Rosa.

Rosa comes out aggressively again with some heavy leg kicks, and Edwards buckles under the power of the kicks too. Rosa steps in and clinches before the separate and Rosa throws more kicks. Edwards charges forwards with a combination of hooks that land clean but she eats them well and comes forward with some shots of her own. Edwards comes forward again with a rush but Rosa gets hold of her and the fight goes back to the ground with Rosa on top. Rosa’s mouth is bleeding heavily but she’s staying on top and landing ground and pound well as the round ends. 20-18 Rosa.

Final round and after one exchange on the feet Rosa goes straight for the takedown and secures it. After some ground and pound and some grappling on the ground Rosa gets back to the feet herself and lets Edwards up, before they clinch up against the cage again. Edwards battling to stay on her feet as Rosa looks to wear on her with her physical advantage. Rosa drags Edwards down to the ground with under 90 seconds remaining and controls the position for the remainder of the round before ending with a big flurry of punches to take a decision win. 30-27 Rosa.

Devonte Smith def Justin Jaynes via Knockout (Doctor Stoppage), Round 2 (3:38)

Cagey start to the fight as both men look to feel each other out before committing to any big shots early on. Smith lands some nice jabs that rock Jaynes a little, but Jaynes is throwing tight left hook counters that are just missing too. Smith’s jab is working well to keep Jayne’s away from him but then Jaynes lands a nice right hand that wobbles Smith. Jaynes is covering up from the jab and then Smith lands a nice left followed by a kick that Jaynes catches. Smith lands some big shots while his leg is still in the air and Jaynes is rocked! Smith throws some knees and a right hand but Jaynes weathers the storm and the round ends. 10-9 Smith.

Jaynes comes out in the second round and goes straight for a takedown and they clinch up against the cage. Jaynes goes to sweep him but Smith explodes and reverses the position to end up on top in side control. He throws some nice knees to the body and some short punches to cause Jaynes some problems. Smith passes into full mount with ease and starts raining down punches before taking the back and looks for the rear naked choke but Jaynes reverses and escapes. Smith explodes back to his feet quickly and tells the referee he wants it back on the feet. Referee pauses the fight with Jaynes’ eye swelled shut and the doctor waves it off. TKO win for Smith!

MAIN CARD

Danilo Marques def Mike Rodriguez via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (4:51)

Immediate takedown from Marques as he shoots in for a single leg and uses lots of movement before eventually tripping him down. Rodriguez fighting hard to get back to his feet against the cage, but Marques keeping his hands locked up and eventually gets him back down once again. Marques working hard to keep Rodriguez down and he’s tying up the legs to do so. Rodriguez gets back to the feet but once again Marques drags him back down. Rodriguez gets back to the feet with 15 seconds to go and throws a few knees and body shots but he looks exhausted. 10-9 Marques.

Second round starts with the two exchanging feints on the feet, with Rodriguez landing a nice low kick. Marques fakes a couple of takedown attempts before landing an overhand right and then finally getting the big takedown. Marques passes into full mount against the cage and he starts raining down big ground and pound punches. Both men look exhausted as Rodriguez gets back to a knee, but Marques keeps landing big punches and then takes the back with both hooks in. He rolls to the back and sinks in a rear naked choke and puts Rodriguez to sleep. Wonderful performance from Marques.

Beneil Dariush def Diego Ferreira via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

A crazy pace to start this fight as Dariush comes out firing with strikes before shooting for a takedown. Ferreira defends it by pulling guard with an omoplata before exploding out back to his feet, but Dariush looks for a takedown again against the cage. When he can’t get it he separates and the two start trading bombs! Both men land huge shots on each other but Dariush keeps coming forward. Big knee to the body and Ferreira goes down! Dariush looks for ground and pound but Ferreira ties him up on the ground and is able to ride it out. Final 30 seconds and they get back to the feet, and Ferreira lands a big right hand clean. Dariush returns with a right of his own before a front kick to the face from Ferreira lands flush. What a round! 10-9 Dariush.

Second round starts as the first ended with both men throwing big strikes once again. Dariush looking a bit more tired than Ferreira, so he shoots for a takedown and then gets a trip against the cage and lands on top. Ferreira gets back up but Dariush puts him straight back down and starts to control on top. Ferreira defending but the pressure of Dariush is causing him a big problem and Dariush ends the round controlling position from the top. 20-18.

An insane pace continues into the third round as Ferreira starts to use his footwork more to avoid a brawl and keep out of the way of the takedown attempts. Dariush lands a couple of punches himself and misses a takedown before a kick lands on the cup of Ferreira and causes a short pause. Halfway through the round and we haven’t hit the ground yet but Dariush lands a beautiful one-two to the chin. Ferreira catches a kick and looks to put Dariush on the ground but a great scramble means they both get back to the feet and start swinging for the fences. Dariush shoots for a takedown with a minute remaining and gets it, and takes the back with a body lock as he sinks the hooks in but Ferreira shakes him off and the two scramble to the horn. Great fight, 30-27 Dariush for me though.

Alexandre Pantoja def Manel Kape via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Fun start to the fight as Pantoja looks to get right in Kape’s face early but ‘Starboy’ showing his amazing speed and slipping all attacks with his hands low. Kape making Pantoja miss a lot but barely throwing any strikes of his own as we move through the round, while Pantoja is trying to make reads and can’t. Kape’s jab is landing nicely when he throws it but just not enough volume. Pantoja lands a nice body kick and then Kape goes for a cartwheel kick that misses and Pantoja ends up on top. A couple of big strikes land while Kape is on the ground but he gets back up and ends the round with a takedown attempt of his own. 10-9 Pantoja.

Pantoja comes forward in the second round and throwing lots of kicks, and while Kape isn’t getting hurt or the sheer activity is giving Pantoja the rounds. Kape lands a nice one-two but Pantoja returns with some body kicks. Right hand lands from Pantoja but Kape returns fire with a nice one-two of his own. Kape trying to up the pace a little but still not throwing enough to trouble his opponent as we enter the final minute. Kape throws a head kick, follows it up with a left hand and then a takedown, but Pantoja rolls through and gets back to the feet quickly. Better round for Kape and it’s hard to score so could go either way. 19-19 for me.

Slower start to the round by both men in this one as Kape continues to feint and bounce, while Pantoja is almost waiting so he can counter. Nice left hook from Kape lands but Pantoja returns fire with a body kick. Leg kick from Pantoja misses and Kape lands a nice left hand in return before Pantoja lands a head kick. Kape not showing much urgency as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kape lands a left hand that troubles Pantoja and he follows it up with a nice combo. Kape shoots for a takedown and gets it but Pantoja rolls out again and the fight comes to an end. 29-28 either way for me.

Clay Guida def Michael Johnson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

A super fun start to this fight as Johnson and Guida meet in the middle of the cage and start trading bombs! Johnson lands a few nice shots before Guida responds with a right hand that lands on the eye and causes Johnson big problems. Guida keeps marching forward and lands more shots with the right hand before he shoots for the takedown and eventually gets him down. Johnson manages to get back to the feet and they clinch against the cage and exchange knees. Guida’s right hook is causing Johnson problems but he’s firing back with nice hooks of his own. Fun round, 10-9 Guida.

Second round continues at a frantic pace as Guida goes straight for a takedown this time against the cage. Johnson battles really well to stay up on his feet before breaking away and landing a nice knee, but Guida is relentless with his pressure and is forcing Johnson to grind. Several attempts are denied by Johnson between now and the end of the round as Johnson looks very tired when the horn goes. 20-18 Guida.

Third round and Guida comes firing out once again with crazy pressure. Johnson circles and looks to land a jab but Guida is throwing hooks and uppercuts, then lands a big knee before shooting for a takedown. They clinch up against the cage before Guida gets him down before taking his back. He locks up a body triangle and rolls him over, then looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Johnson fights the hands and breaks the grip on the hands but can’t break the body triangle and the horn sounds for the end of the fight. Clay Guida should take the win here, 30-27.

Cory Sandhagen def Frankie Edgar via Knockout, Round 1 (0:28)

Edgar comes out into the centre with Sandhagen and throws a leg kick as ‘Sandman’ circles on the outside. Edgar steps in with a looping left and SANDHAGEN WITH A FLYING KNEE!!!! EDGAR IS OUT COLD!!! OH MY GOD!!

Alexander Volkov def Alistair Overeem via Knockout, Round 2 (2:06)

Odd start to the round as Volkov throws a leg kick and Overeem seems to freeze and shell up against the cage, allowing Volkov to land some shots. Volkov continues to step forward with leg kicks and Overeem looks tense, but he explodes with two heavy left hands that land clean. Both men trade shots at the same time but as Volkov lands Overeem loses his balance and falls. Volkov jumps on him to land ground and pound but Overeem gets back to his feet quickly and they break. Volkov walking Overeem down against the cage and unloads a big combo as he covers up before the round comes to an end. 10-9 Volkov.

Volkov starts landing some nice jabs and Overeem is struggling to cope with the length and power. Volkov’s strikes landing through the guard of Overeem and he is busting him up bad. Overeem looks for a takedown but Volkov stops it easily and starts landing more shots. Overeem is badly hurt but he’s trying to fight back. Volkov lands a big left hand and Overeem falls to his knees and the referee waves it off to prevent further damage. What a performance from Volkov!

UFC Vegas 18: Overeem vs Volkov – Main Card Predictions

The UFC returns to the APEX in Las Vegas for the first time in 2021 after a successful trip to Fight Island kicked the year off.

Alistair Overeem looks to continue his final run en route to UFC gold when he takes on Alexander Volkov in the heavyweight division in the main event, with both men knowing they need a win to enter the top five conversations.

In the co-main, Cory Sandhagen takes on the legendary Frankie Edgar in the bantamweight division with both guys believing a win could set them up with a title shot against the winner of UFC 259’s title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling.

In a 13 fight card, we’ve split it up into three to break down and predict. We’ve already predicted half the prelims here and the second half here, so now we move onto the main card.

Last time out we went 4/10 at UFC 257 with three perfect picks for a bad night, to take us to 216/337 (64.09%) with 96 (44.44%) perfect picks. We look to improve that record with this card.

Diego Ferreira (17-2) vs Beneil Dariush (19-4-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A really fun fight in the lightweight division between two of the dark horses in the 155lbs division. Diego Ferreira has won his last six, defeating Anthony Pettis by submission last time out in January 2020, while Dariush has won his last five in a row including a spinning back fist against Scott Holtzman last time out in August.

These two met seven years ago, with Dariush coming out on tap in a grappling match essentially for a decision win. Since then, Ferreira has become a top pressure fighter with good punching power too. Dariush’s striking has improved too in that time, but not like Ferreira’s. That said, he still maintains the grappling advantage so Ferreira will look to keep the fight standing. It should be a fantastic fight between these two and a contender for fight of the night, and I’m backing another win for Dariush.
PICK – Beneil Dariush via Decision

Cody Stamann (19-3-1) vs Askar Askar (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A short notice fight between two bantamweights fighting at featherweight, as Cody Stamann takes on highly rated UFC debutant against Askar Askar.

Stamann went 1-1 in 2020, beating Brian Kelleher in June at UFC 250 before losing on Fight Island against Jimmie Rivera, while Askar won his last fight in the LFA with a decision victory over Kevin Wirth in October. Stamann is a straight up wrestler, who looks to get the fight down to the ground early and control from the top position for decision wins while Askar is a striker who has great leg kicks and good power punches, but is also a fantastic wrestler looking for top control.

It’s really going to be a battle of who can cope better with the pressure and it’s hard to go against Stamann considering the level of competition he has beaten previously in comparison. I think it’ll go the distance and will be well contested, but Stamann will take the win.
PICK – Cody Stamann via Decision

Alexandre Pantoja (22-5) vs Manel Kape (15-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

An incredibly fun fight in the flyweight division between two fighters looking to get into the title conversation at 125lbs at some point in 2021. Pantoja was expected to be one of the lead contenders in 2020 but two defeats in his last three have pushed him down the pecking order, including his decision loss to Askar Askarov on Fight Island in July. Manel Kape was the Rizin champion before moving to the UFC and served as the back up for the UFC 256 title fight and is tipped for a huge 2021.

Pantoja is a really good kickboxer but an even better submission grappler, while Kape is a fantastic boxer with incredible footwork. They have a a common opponent, where Kape was beaten and Pantoja strangled him within a round but Kape has improved immensely since then. Kape has a speed and power advantage in this fight and if he can deny Pantoja’s takedowns he should be able to get the win on the feet in a potential fight of the night.
PICK – Manel Kape via Decision

Michael Johnson (20-16) vs Clay Guida (35-17) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Two veterans of the UFC octagon meet in the lightweight division as Michael Johnson looks to return to the win column after losing six of his last eight and each of his last three. He’ll take on the legendary Clay Guida who has lost three of his last four including both of his last two, including against Bobby Greene back in June 2020.

Johnson has struggled in the past against pressure fighters but has had incredible knockout power in his hands throughout his career. That said, his last knockout win came all the way back in 2016 when he stopped Dustin Poirier. Guida is a grinder who loves to use his volume punches to apply pressure and get takedowns with his wrestling. Guida has the wrestling advantage while Johnson’s power is greater, but stylistically it’s not a fun fight for Johnson. He doesn’t like being forced to fight at a pace and without a knockout in nearly five years, I don’t know if he has that one punch power anymore. Guida will overwhelm him with volume and score takedowns to take a decision win.
PICK – Clay Guida via Decision

Cory Sandhagen (13-2) vs Frankie Edgar (23-8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

This fight could easily be a main event in it’s own right, as two bantamweight contenders face off looking for title contention with a win. Sandhagen bounced back from an embarrassing 88 second defeat to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 250 with a spinning heel kick knockout over Marlon Moraes. Edgar bounced back from defeat in the featherweight title fight with a win in his bantamweight debut over Pedro Munhoz in a close fought fight.

Sandhagen is a lengthy striker, with fantastic jabs and a great kicking game while Edgar is a wrestler by trade who can more than hold his own in the striking realm too. He’s finally fighting in his natural weight class too, after being a champion at 155lbs before becoming a contender at 145lbs. It’s a really interesting fight, because Sandhagen has shown a flaw in his game by being taken down in the past but Edgar has been wobbled before by clean strikes and isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore.

It’s a really fun fight and one that I don’t see ending early, but I think Sandhagen can use his length and strikes to outland Edgar and keep off the mat for a decision win.
PICK – Cory Sandhagen via Decision

Alistair Overeem (47-18) vs Alexander Volkov (32-8) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Main event time and it’s a fight that will shape up the heavyweight division going forward. Alistair Overeem has been open in saying this is his final run in the UFC, and he is currently on a run of four wins in his last five with the defeat pretty controversial. Volkov is in a similar boat, having won three of his last five with one of those defeats being a knockout to Derrick Lewis with 11 seconds left after dominating the entire fight.

Overeem beat Walt Harris and Augusto Sakai most recently, while Volkov was beaten by Curtis Blaydes back in June before beating Walt Harris with a knockout at UFC 254. Both men are excellent kickboxers with power in their hands and feet. Volkov has struggled with takedowns in the past, something Overeem will likely try to exploit but Volkov has shown an ability to get back up to his feet. Both are great strikers and they match up really, really well.

‘Demolition Man’ has got great ground and pound but also legit submission skills and I think the takedown ability and change in style over recent years will lead him to getting a win once again, potentially via stoppage with that ground and pound.
PICK – Alistair Overeem via Decision

UFC Vegas 18: Overeem vs Volkov – Prelims Predictions

The UFC returns to the APEX in Las Vegas for the first time in 2021 after a successful trip to Fight Island kicked the year off.

Alistair Overeem looks to continue his final run en route to UFC gold when he takes on Alexander Volkov in the heavyweight division in the main event, with both men knowing they need a win to enter the top five conversations.

In the co-main, Cory Sandhagen takes on the legendary Frankie Edgar in the bantamweight division with both guys believing a win could set them up with a title shot against the winner of UFC 259’s title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling.

In a 13 fight card, we’ve split it up into three to break down and predict. We’ve already predicted half the prelims here and now move onto the second half.

Last time out we went 4/10 at UFC 257 with three perfect picks for a bad night, to take us to 216/337 (64.09%) with 96 (44.44%) perfect picks. We look to improve that record with this card.

Karol Rosa (13-3) vs Joselyne Edwards (10-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A quick return to the octagon for Edwards, after a win on her UFC debut on Fight Island two weeks ago against Wu Yanan, where she will take a big step up in competition to fight Karol Rosa. Rosa’s last fight came on the first Fight Island event back in July, winning against Vanessa Melo to make it four wins in a row.

Edwards is a good Muay-Thai fighter, who’s takedown defence and offence is hot and cold at best. Rosa on the other hand is also a very good striker, but showed some great takedown chops in her last fight. Rosa has great volume and a really good pressure game, which could put the pace on Edwards and I’m not sure she’d be able to match it. With more volume, crisper striking and a wrestling advantage I think Rosa should be able to keep her winning streak going.
PICK – Karol Rosa via Decision

Devonte Smith (10-2) vs Justin Jaynes (16-6) – (Catchweight/160lbs)

A return to the octagon after over a year out for Devonte Smith, as he takes on short-notice opponent against Justin Jaynes. Smith lost his last fight, getting knocked out by Khama Worthy before picking up a serious achilles injury, while Jaynes won a crazy debut against Frank Camacho in June before losing his next two against Gavin Tucker and Gabriel Benitez.

Smith is a powerful striker and his defeat to Worthy was interesting since they were training partners and he fought a weird fight. All ten of his wins have come via stoppage, with nine knockouts. Jaynes is a heavy handed striker too but his flaws have shown in his two most recent fights. He’s quite one dimensional and has a huge nine inch reach disadvantage and Jaynes literally never uses his wrestling base to score takedowns. In short, Smith picks up where he left off before the Worthy fight with a spectacular first round KO.
PICK – Devonte Smith via Knockout, Round 1

Mike Rodriguez (11-5) vs Danilo Marques (10-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

After a controversial defeat last time out, Rodriguez returns to take on Marques in the 205lbs division. Rodriguez seemingly won his last bout via a second round knockout, only for the referee to deem a body shot as a low blow, restart the fight and Rodriguez to get submitted by Ed Herman. Marques on the other hand has won three in a row, including his UFC debut against Khadis Ibragimov at UFC 253.

Marques has some decent wrestling behind him and was able to use those takedowns and to get his win over Ibragimov. The issue for Rodriguez is that he seems to get taken down far too easily by anyone, including striking specialist John Allan. Rodriguez has much superior striking to Marques but the takedowns are an issue. If he can stay on the feet, he will crack the fairly hittable Marques and could finish him early. But if Marques comes forward and implements the wrestling it could be a long night. I’m backing the power of Rodriguez though.
PICK – Mike Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 1

UFC Vegas 18: Overeem vs Volkov – Early Prelims Predictions

The UFC returns to the APEX in Las Vegas for the first time in 2021 after a successful trip to Fight Island kicked the year off.

Alistair Overeem looks to continue his final run en route to UFC gold when he takes on Alexander Volkov in the heavyweight division in the main event, with both men knowing they need a win to enter the top five conversations.

In the co-main, Cory Sandhagen takes on the legendary Frankie Edgar in the bantamweight division with both guys believing a win could set them up with a title shot against the winner of UFC 259’s title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling.

In a 13 fight card, we’ve split it up into three to break down and predict; starting with the early prelims here.

Last time out we went 4/10 at UFC 257 with three perfect picks for a bad night, to take us to 216/337 (64.09%) with 96 (44.44%) perfect picks. We look to improve that record with this card.


Ode Osbourne (8-3) vs Jerome Rivera (10-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

An interesting fight to open the card as Ode Osbourne returns after over a year away to take on Jerome Rivera, less than two weeks from a defeat on Fight Island. Osbourne was submitted by Brian Kelleher at UFC 246 in January 2020, while Rivera was beaten by Francisco Figueiredo in a unanimous decision.

Osbourne was supposed to fight Denys Bondar at flyweight, but due to the short notice this fight will take place at featherweight. Osbourne is a great striker with lots of power, but is also capable of holding his own on the ground. Rivera is the opposite, always looking to get the fight down to the mat but throws good volume on the feet. If Rivera can’t get the fight down to the ground, Osbourne’s power should come up trumps and he could get the knockout win.
PICK – Ode Osbourne via Knockout, Round 2

Timur Valiev (16-2) vs Martin Day (8-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

After being stopped in his UFC debut but seeing it overturned to a no contest, Valiev steps into the octagon to take on Martin Day on a three fight losing streak.

Day lost twice in 2020, being stopped by both Davey Grant at UFC 251 and then by Anderson dos Santos in November by submission. Valiev has the advantage anywhere this fight goes in reality, with really sharp boxing skills and far superior wrestling skills. Day throws good knees that could catch Valiev if he looks for takedowns but overall I think the Russian gets him down and dominates for a wide decision win.
PICK – Timur Valiev via Decision

Seungwoo Choi (8-3) vs Youssef Zalal (10-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

An interesting fight in the featherweight division between these two prospects. Choi is coming off an impressive decision win against Suman Mokhtarian way back in December 2019, while Zalal went 3-1 in the UFC in 2020 beating Austin Lingo in February, Jordan Griffin in June and Peter Barrett in August before losing to Ilia Topuria in October.

Choi is a good striker with a really nice straight right hand and good takedown defence, while Zalal is an okay striker with excellent takedowns. His footwork is good enough to avoid the power shots of Choi and with his takedown chops, he should be able to get top position relatively easily and work his way to a decision win.
PICK – Youssef Zalal via Decision

Molly McCann (10-3) vs Lara Procopio (6-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

This should be a good scrap between England’s ‘Meatball’ Molly and Brazil’s Lara Procopio in the flyweight division. McCann lost her last fight against Taila Santos on Fight Island in July, while Procopio lost her last fight to Karol Rosa in August 2019.

McCann is a brawler who has worked on her wrestling game a lot in the last two years, with takedowns playing a big part in her three-fight win streak prior to her most recent loss. Procopio is a very good all rounder, who stood toe to toe with Rosa in her defeat and has shown a great ground game in the past too. She has the big advantage on the ground and McCann’s improvements aren’t quite enough to keep up with it, while on the feet they’re pretty even. Procopio will be able to stand with McCann without fear of getting knocked out and with her takedown advantage she should get the win in a close fight.
PICK – Lara Procopio via Decision

Alistair Overeem looking for one final run at heavyweight

My time is running out,” were the words from Alistair Overeem himself in a recent interview, as he prepares to do battle with Alexander Volkov at UFC Vegas 18.

It almost certainly is too, as the 40-year-old prepares for his 67th professional MMA fight. A UFC veteran and a fan favourite, you’ll struggle to find someone who doesn’t want to see Overeem with gold around his waist before he lay the gloves down.

He already knows how it feels to be a champion though, having won heavyweight titles under two previous promotions, however it’s the UFC belt that he so badly craves.

Overeem has been doing this since he was 15 years of age and dedicated his life to the sport of MMA. Reaching the top of the UFC heavyweight division would be the most satisfying reward of his career.

Having lost his only title fight in his UFC career so far against Stipe Miocic in 2016, he is desperate to get one more crack at it. He doesn’t care that only one fighter has won a championship belt beyond 40 years of age in the UFC.

He has four wins in his last five fights, all coming via knockout against ranked heavyweights trying to break through into the high end of the rankings. This has kept Overeem in the top six and shown he won’t just be a gatekeeper for this division yet.

You could say Overeem can count himself unlucky that he’s not on a five fight win streak too. Overeem was up on the cards against Jairzinho Rozenstruik two fights ago, before being on the wrong end of a wicked right hand late in the fifth round and a controversial stoppage. He would have certainly survived the last four seconds of that fight if his lip hadn’t almost fallen from his face.

UFC Fight Night: Overeem v Rozenstruik : News Photo

In his last outing though he defeated the young and tough Brazilian, Augusto Sakai who was on a six fight win streak before running into Overeem. ‘The Demolition Man’ wore down the number nine ranked heavyweight in the championship rounds and forced Herb Dean to stop the fight in the fifth after some brutal ground and pound.

Overeem is arguably in his best form since joining the UFC back in 2011. Talking to MMA Junkie, the Dutchman said; “I think I’m the most dangerous to fight right now. I’m in the most peak performance I’ve ever been.

He’ll need that to be true at UFC Vegas 18 at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

Alexander Volkov is another very experienced fighter and will be a tougher opponent than his recent victims. The seventh ranked heavyweight also has championship ambitions in the UFC, having held the belt under former promotions Bellator and M1.

When he came into the UFC he charged up to number three in the rankings after just four fights, including a notable win over Fabrício Werdum.

So this will be yet another tough night in the octagon for Overeem and although he may be tempted to be smart, patient and use his elite clinch and ground game to wear down the durable Russian for a points victory, an emphatic finish would be some statement.

UFC Fight Night: Werdum v Volkov : News Photo

This is make or break for Overeem though in terms of ever being in potential title contention again. A loss will see him drop at least one ranking place immediately and possibly more if Ciryl Gane defeats Rozenstruik at the end of the month.

If that happens then it will be too difficult and long a road ahead from there for a fighter of his age to come back from. Dana White would also likely look to other fighters to push into his limelight.

A win however sets up a run of rematches on the last stretch to the top. Four of the five men above him in the rankings, including the champion, have beaten him before, so it would truly be something special should he do so.

Overeem has admitted that if he ever does lift the UFC belt he will retire there and then, despite saying he feels he can fight on on for another five years.

A perfect sign off to his career is one I’d love to see and I’ll certainly be rooting for him on Saturday, as I’m sure a lot of others will be.

Cory Sandhagen looking to end Frankie Edgar’s final run at UFC gold

It’s a common consensus among MMA fans that when Frankie Edgar finally decides to hang up his gloves and retire, he will go down as one of the all-time greats.

A former lightweight champion and a serious contender at featherweight, Edgar is now finally fighting at his most “natural” weight class according to many, at 135lbs at bantamweight.

After a long awaited debut against Pedro Munhoz saw him fight well to a split decision win, he will now take on ‘Sandman’ Cory Sandhagen as both men look to put their name in the hate for title contention.

Sandhagen was in the mix previously, having racked up five wins in a row after making his debut with the company back in January 2018, before falling to the now number one contender Aljamain Sterling in humiliating fashion.

The two met at UFC 250 knowing the winner would get to face the winner of Petr Yan and Jose Aldo in a title shot, and Sterling swarmed Sandhagen immediately and secured a submission victory in just 88 seconds.

He bounced back on Fight Island in October though, with a vicious knockout win over Marlon Moraes in round two of their main event clash. But a fight against Edgar is arguably the biggest of his career so far.

Having come so far to get the Sterling fight and then failing miserably, he did better than many expected when he stopped Moraes the way he did. He looked light on his feet, aggressive in the striking exchanges and never needed to use his excellent grappling skills either.

He seems to have rounded his game out well, but Edgar has made a career off beating guys that people believed he had no right beating. When you stand them together side by side, this is another of those fights.

But Sandhagen is keen to not only get back in the title picture, but make some noise while he’s there. Wins and losses are part of MMA, but at 28-years-old he will feel there is no time like the present to be challenging for the top honour in the 135lbs weight class in the sport.

Edgar wants another crack at UFC glory having failed three times to become the featherweight champion, but he’s walked himself into the most stacked division in the company. Everyone in the top ten has genuine championship credentials and could all beat each other on different days with the style match ups.

This is one of the better match ups in terms of style for Sandhagen and he knows it. He’s bigger, stronger, faster, hits harder and as good of a grappler against the more experienced Edgar.

A win for ‘Sandman’ cements his spot as the number two ranked fighter and almost guarantees that he gets the next shot at the title – unless TJ Dillashaw gets granted an immediate rematch.

But not only does it help him, it likely ends any chance of Edgar wearing gold in the UFC ever again.