Zubaira Tukhugov (20-5-1) vs Lucas Almeida (14-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A sneaky contender for exciting fight of the night here. Tukhugov is 2-1 in his last three, earning a KO win over Kevin Aguilar back in February 2020 before a split decision loss to Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 253. He bounced back with a decision win over Ricardo Ramos at UFC 267 in his last bout. Almeida on the other hand is also 2-1 in his last three, losing on the Contender Series before returning to the regional scene and submitting Italo Trindadfe at Jungle Fight 103, before winning his UFC debut by KO’ing Mike Trizano in the third round last time out.
Tukhugov is a well-rounded fighter, with crisp counter-striking and razor sharp takedown abilities too. Almeida is a powerhouse who has finished all of his career wins, but he tends to be open for wars and leaves himself open to getting hit flush. Almeida has a real chance of outlasting Tukhugov after an initial early blitz and then taking over the fight with his power striking, but that blitz is really hard to overcome.
Tukhugov has the ability to push the pace early and mix his takedowns in to open up his striking, but Almeida is a very durable fighter. It’s likely to be a really wild ride while it lasts, but I think Almeida could use his extra power to land clean and get the finish as Tukhugov starts to tire in the second half of the fight. PICK – Lucas Almeida via Knockout, Round 2
Volkan Oezdemir (18-6) vs Nikita Krylov (28-9) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A big scrap between two light heavyweight fighters up next, with a very real possibility of someone going to sleep. Oezdemir snapped a two fight losing streak after being knocked out by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 and dropping a decision to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 267, when he claimed a decision over the tricky Paul Craig at UFC London in July. Krylov also dropped a decision to Ankalaev at UFC Vegas 20, and was submitted by Craig via triangle choke at UFC London in March, then bounced back at UFC London in July with a first-round KO over Alexander Gustafsson.
Oezdemir is a power puncher with great durability, but his overall game is lacking and he’s starting to get on in his career after an initially promising start saw him get to a title shot with Daniel Cormier. Krylov is incredibly well-rounded with 15 submission wins and some dynamite in his hands too, but he hasn’t really found a way to mix it all together and can often get caught.
Krylov will look to start fast and hard, knowing that Oezdemir can be caught and dropped. But if he goes too hard, Oezdemir is more than capable of putting his lights out too. Both guys will go for the kill, feeling they’re the better and powerful guy, but it’s hard to see Krylov not landing flush first and with his ability to get takedowns and submissions too, I back him to claim the finish with a choke after he drops him. PICK – Nikita Krylov via Submission, Round 1
Makhmud Muradov (25-7) vs Caio Borralho (12-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Banger at middleweight up next. Muradov saw a 14 fight win streak, including a KO over Andrew Sanchez at UFC 257, snapped when Gerald Meerschaert tapped him out in August last year. Borralho on the other hand has claimed 11 wins in a row including previously mentioned decision wins over Omargadzhiev and Petrosyan in the UFC.
Muradov is a volume heavy striker with fantastic footwork and movement, while his power is not something to be overlooked with 17 wins by knockout in his career. His takedown defence is shoddy at best though, with Borralho a wizard on the ground who has great clinch work and solid combinations in close. Unless Muradov has improved his ability to get people off him when backing him towards the cage from his last bout, then he’s in trouble here.
Borralho is by far a better takedown artist than Meerschaert and he possesses far more of a threat on the feet too. As the fight goes on Borralho should be able to overwhelm him and once he gets it to the ground it’s a question of whether he goes for a choke or just pounds him out until the referee steps in. PICK – Caio Borralho via Knockout, Round 3
Belal Muhammad (21-3) vs Sean Brady (15-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A fight that could easily main event a fight night card any other week is the featured prelim of this one, such is the strength of the card. Muhammad has won seven of his last eight, defeating all of Lyman Good (UFC Vegas 3), Dhiego Lima (UFC 258), Demian Maia (UFC 263), Stephen Thompson and Vicente Luque by decision. The win streak was interrupted by a no-contest against Leon Edwards due to an accidental eye poke in round 2 (UFC Vegas 21). Brady is undefeated and 5-0 in the UFC, with a submission win over Christian Aguilera, submission over Jake Matthews (UFC 259) and Michael Chiesa most recently.
Muhammad is a good kickboxer, but his game has really excelled in recent years when he started wrestling more and using his top control to nullify opponents completely. He also has some of the best cardio in the division. Brady is a well-renowned grappler himself with excellent wrestling and submission skills, but his cardio has failed him later on in fights in the past against lesser opposition. This is a really tough fight to call.
I do feel as though Muhammad is being overlooked though. Brady is excellent but Muhammad has fought better guys and this is the biggest stage Brady has ever been on. Muhammad is also the more experienced fighter and is slightly bigger physically too. It should be a great slog, but I expect Muhammad to be able to mix things together that little bit more to get the judges to go in his favour and earn him a title eliminator in his next fight. PICK – Belal Muhammad via Decision
Paul Craig (16-4-1) vs Volkan Oezdemir (17-6) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Big time scrap between supreme grappler and powerhouse striker opens up this main card. Craig has won his last four in a row and is unbeaten in six, with all five wins coming via finish. Oezdemir has lost his last two in a row, getting slept by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 before dropping a decision to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 267 most recently.
Craig is an absolute beast when it comes to the jiu-jitsu game, with an incredible aggressive guard and unorthdox submission skills. Oezdemir is a poor grappler, but he earned his “No Time” nickname from putting people’s lights out quickly and with one punch. This honestly depends on how generous the referee is feeling, because Craig often likes to take a bunch of strikes on the ground before wrapping in a submission when his opponent gets excited.
Oezdemir is powerful enough to put him out early though, and his takedown defence is solid enough to keep this standing. But Craig tends to be incredibly aggressive with his grappling and if he gets into a position of strength on the ground then Oezdemir will be in trouble. It’ll be very exciting, but I expect Craig to have the fans behind him and grab another amazing submission win. PICK – Paul Craig via Submission, Round 1
Molly McCann (12-4) vs Hannah Goldy (6-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The owner of the knockout of the year so far is Molly McCann and that’s undisputed. McCann earned a stunning spinning back elbow to beat Luana Carolina last time out to make it back-to-back wins, while Goldy got her first UFC win with a first round armbar over Emily Whitmire last time out.
McCann is a boxer who was once a national champion and had the shortest reach in the entire UFC, meaning she had to learn to use her grappling and wrestling skills to close the distance. That was until Goldy signed, and she now is the owner of the shortest reach in the UFC. Goldy is a decent striker too but prefers to grind her opponents against the cage and try to be physical. She’s in trouble here though.
“Meatball” isn’t the biggest puncher in the world, but she’s incredibly aggressive and her pressure is relentless throughout 15 minutes. Her ability to get back to her feet will suit her here and using her reach and boxing skills she should be able to control this fight for the most part to earn yet another win, although a finish is pretty unlikely on this occasion. PICK – Molly McCann via Decision
Nikita Krylov (27-9) vs Alexander Gustafsson (18-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A big time light heavyweight scrap between two highly experienced fighters. Krylov has lost three of his last four fights but all against elite competition, with Glover Teixeira, Magomed Ankalaev and Paul Craig all beating him soundly. He did claim a win over Johnny Walker in the middle of that run though. Gustafsson was once considered one of the best 205 pounders to never win gold when he retired, but since coming back he’s not had fun. He’s lost his comeback fight at heavyweight when Fabricio Werdum submitted him at UFC Fight Island 3.
Krylov is a brilliantly powerful puncher, but he’s also a solid grappler with good wrestling and top control. Gustafsson on the other hand is more of a boxer with great combinations and hand speed, although he’s shown his wrestling capabilities too – becoming the first man to ever take down Jon Jones. That said though, he’s five years out since his last win in the octagon.
Granted two years of that he was out of competition, but he’s 0-3 in his last 3 and he’s been beaten handily in all of those fights. In his prime I would expect Gustafsson to be able to string everything together and probably even claim a knockout. But this version of Gustafsson is slower and less durable and Krylov has been in there for a while against the very best, so I expect him to land another big win for his record. PICK – Nikita Krylov via Decision
Paddy Pimblett (18-3) vs Jordan Leavitt (10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The people’s main event in the lightweight division as “The Baddy” makes his return the O2. Pimblett has gone 2-0 in the UFC so far, knocking out Luigi Vendramini before submitting Kazulu Vargas last time out. Leavitt is 3-1 in the UFC, winning two in a row with a submission over Matt Sayles and then a decision against Trey Ogden.
Pimblett is a fine striker with good power and speed, but it’s his grappling and jiu-jitsu skills that really set him apart for many fans. Leavitt is a terrific grappler too, with excellent wrestling and strength and great idea for positioning for safety. Against someone like Pimblett, that will come in really handy as he is constantly looking to get the finish at the earliest possible opportunity.
With that said, Leavitt has a good chance of getting control early on when Pimblett is still going through the motions with the crowd and he’ll probably win the first round. But with a few tweaks, Pimblett should be able to land powerful strikes that could drop Leavitt and then sink in a choke to claim a third win and send the crowd wild. PICK – Paddy Pimblett via Submission, Round 2
Jack Hermansson (22-7) vs Chris Curtis (29-8) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A short notice co-main event in this one, as Chris Curtis steps in for the injured Darren Till. Hermansson suffered defeats to Marvin Vettori and Sean Strickland in two of his last three fights, with a win over Edmen Shahbazyan coming in the middle of that. Curtis meanwhile has gone 3-0 in the UFC, KO’ing Phil Hawes at UFC 268 before KO’ing Brendan Allen (UFC Vegas 44) and then earning a decision over Rodolfo Vieira most recently.
Hermansson is a decent striker but his best fighting comes in the grappling on the mat, with great submissions and vicious ground and pound coming at the end of good wrestling takedowns. Curtis is a top level boxer with excellent low kicks, stunning power and really good takedown defence too. This is a real fairytale for Curtis, who has done nothing but impress in the UFC since his debut. This is a really, really tough fight to call.
Curtis is good enough to keep the fight standing and he’s got better striking without a doubt, but Hermansson is someone who uses his physicality well on his opponents as fights go on. With that said though, Curtis beat a better grappler about a month ago with his takedown defence and counter-striking so it’s hard to see how he doesn’t do it again. PICK – Chris Curtis via Decision
Curtis Blaydes (16-3) vs Tom Aspinall (12-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Huge main event with potential title implications on the line in the heavyweight division headlines this card. Blaydes bounced back from a nasty KO loss to Derrick Lewis (UFC Vegas 19) by dominating Jairzinho Rozenstruik and then sleeping Chris Daukaus most recently. Aspinall is 5-0 in the UFC and absolutely dominated Alexander Volkov last time out via a straight arm lock in the first round at UFC London in March.
Blaydes is the best wrestler the heavyweight division has ever seen. He has a huge overhand right and a decent left jab, but everything is set up to change levels and take his opponent down to dominate from top position and land vicious ground and pound. Aspinall is one of the most well-rounded heavyweights we’ve seen, with incredible boxing and hand speed to go with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt too. He really is the total package. That makes this fight super hard to call.
Nobody has been able to stop Blaydes taking them down so far, and I don’t expect Aspinall to stuff a bunch of takedowns in this one either. But on his back he’s dangerous and on the feet he has an absolutely huge advantage with his boxing skills. Blaydes often doesn’t let his opponents up once he gets them down though, but we have seen him fade in five-round fights before when he’s forced to chain takedowns together through the fight. Aspinall has never been dragged into deep waters so we don’t know how he’ll cope, but we do know Blaydes has the capability of being put to sleep when entering for takedowns and Aspinall has the power and speed to counter quickly. Its hard, and I may be a bit bias, but I think Aspinall can get it done. PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 4
Tagir Ulanbekov def Allan Nascimento via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
A couple of hard low kicks early from Nascimento to start the fight, but Ulanbekov taking the centre and flicking his jab out nicely. Another nice leg kick from Nascimento and then he follows that up with a nice right hand. Flying knee attempt just misses but Ulanbekov grabs a body lock and takes the fight to the ground immediately. Nascimento defending really well on the ground and threatening with an armbar, then sweeps to the top but Ulanbekov immediately gets up and tries to get the fight back down against the cage. Ulanbekov battling against submission attempts and ends up in a mounted guillotine and it’s tight! Nascimento fighting it and eventually pops his head out to survive! Amazing! Ulanbekov gets back to top position and is resting in a controlling position, with Nascimento threatening with a guillotine of his own. He now moves to a kimura trap to try and get to his feet but the round ends. Great round. 10-9 Ulanbekov for me.
Good start to the round again from Ulanbekov with his jab landing well, before he shoots in deep for a takedown. Nascimento defends it well against the cage but eventually Ulanbekov is able to change levels and get the fight down. Nascimento threatening with a kimura from the bottom, but Ulanbekov defending it well and eventually gets back into full guard without the threat. Nascimento being very active off his back, but Ulanbekov trying to stifle him from the top to control him. Nascimento tries for a triangle but Ulanbekov deals with it easily, before Nascimento lands a huge elbow from the bottom. Nascimento goes for an armbar and starts smashing him with elbows from the bottom to see out the round. Close, but I edge to Nascimento there for attacking more despite being on the bottom. 19-19.
Big knee attempt from Nascimento early on but Ulanbekov gets the fight to ground once again immediately. Nascimento went for a kimura trap immediately and swept him to get on top but once against Ulanbekov raced to the next position to maintain control. Ulanbekov in full guard just stalling and looking for a bit of ground and pound, but Nascimento seems happy enough on his back to look for submissions. Ulanbekov trying to pass guard but Nascimento is looking to make him defend as much as possible. He finally passes into half guard now and starts looking for some short elbows from the top. Big left hand lands but Nascimento still being active and trying to sweep him. Final minute and Nascimento goes for another kimura, but Ulanbekov defends it excellently again. Nascimento goes for a triangle armbar but Ulanbekov defends it and ends the round with some big ground shots to likely claim a win. 29-28 Ulanbekov.
Andre Petroski def Hu Yaozong via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 3 (4:46)
Lots of feinting early on from both guys, before Petroski flies in with a big left hand that just misses. Petroski lands two big left hands and then Yaozong goes for a head-kick that gets blocked and he ends up on his back. Petroski goes straight for the neck and jumps on a mounted guillotine but it’s not quite in yet. He lets go and takes the back, rains down some big ground and pound. He goes for the rear-naked choke and it’s tight but Yaozong explodes out and Petroski goes for a d’arce but Yaozong gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a big left hand again but Yaozong is still coming forward. Petroski throws two big strikes that lands clean but Yaozong eats it. Three huge left hooks land from Petroski but Yaozong is still standing and Petroski is exhausted. Single leg takedown from Petroski but Yaozong gets straight back up and keeps coming forward. One more left hand lands for good measure as the round ends. Crazy round. 10-9 Petroski.
Immediate takedown from Petroski and he goes for a guillotine again, but Yaozong scrambles out quickly and gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a huge left hand and then a couple more, before another takedown where he now looks to control the position. Another attempted guillotine from Petroski before he looks to control again. Petroski moves to side control and looks for a head-and-arm choke but Yaozong grabs his own leg to defend it. Petroski looks to move to his back but Yaozong defends it again, but Petroski is controlling him much better now. Petroski moves into full mount and then goes for the head-and-arm choke again, but once again Yaozong defends it. Yaozong gets back to his feet but Petroski keeps a body lock and takes him down once again. Petroski flows on the mat and takes Yaozong’s back again and is looking for a rear-naked choke. Petroski controls until the buzzer goes. 20-18 Petroski.
Petroski lands a big left hand as Yaozong pressures him to the cage early in the final round, but Petroski shoots for a takedown and then runs him the entire way across before getting him down. Petroski takes control and looks to move to his back, then lands a few big ground strikes before pulling Yaozong backwards onto the mat. Petroski flowing well and looks for a guillotine, before Yaozong gets back to his feet. Yaozong sprawls and slips and then Petroski lands a huge one-two Douglas Lima style. Petroski gets another takedown and ends up in full mount, landing big elbows but Yaozong refusing to give up. Another huge elbow from Petroski and he works to control again. Petroski moves to side control and locks up a head-and-arm choke once again and forces the tap with 15 seconds left! Great win from Petroski.
Lerone Murphy def Makwan Amirkhani via Knockout, Round 2 (0:14)
Early takedown in the opening round from Amirkhani as soon as Murphy switches to an orthodox stance. Amirkhani controlling him against the cage and looking to advance to three-quarter mount, but Murphy doing relatively well to defend so far. Amirkhani keeping the body lock tight and Murphy is trying hard to break the lock, but Amirkhani keeping it tight and keeping the fight as grappling heavy as possible as we enter the final minute. Amirkhani completely controlling the action through the first five minutes as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Amirkhani.
Amirkhani goes for an early takedown as soon as Murphy switches to orthodox again but Murphy blasts a HUGE knee and Amirkhani is out!!! Oh my word what a KO!!
Michal Oleksiejczuk def Shamil Gamzatov via Knockout, Round 1 (3:31)
Great first round from Oleksiejczuk who keeps the fight standing for the most part, before landing a crisp right uppercut that puts Gamzatov down. He follows it up with some big ground and pound and that’s all she wrote!
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def Benoit Saint-Denis via Unanimous Decision (29-26 x3)
Saint-Denis opens with a body kick, then Zaleski lands a nice one-two. Nice body kicks from Zaleski and some hard low kicks, but Saint-Denis coming forward still and then creates an angle for a takedown and slams Zaleski down. Zaleski gets back up relatively easily though and lands another hard low kick. Saint-Denis ripping some strong kicks to the body, but Zaleski responding with leg kicks. Big exchange of punches and Zaleski lands a hard right hand that rocks him, but Saint-Denis shoots in for a double leg to buy himself some time. Zaleski gets back up again quickly and continues to chop the lead leg. Level change from Saint-Denis but Zaleski keeps it standing, then just slips a big uppercut. Great round, 10-9 Zaleski for me.
Fast flurry of strikes between the two leads to Zaleski landing a big counter-right hand. Saint-Denis keeps coming and eats another huge right hand and then Zaleski lands a flush knee to the head. Saint-Denis is badly hurt but Zaleski keeps coming forward and landing big strikes. Saint-Denis won’t go down but Zaleski is pouring it on! Huge strikes and another big right hand and Saint-Denis is just refusing to go down. Zaleski is battering him and the entire arena is screaming for the referee to stop the fight but he won’t. Zaleski is lighting him up but he won’t go down and then he shoots for a takedown. Somehow, the round goes the full five minutes. Unreal. 20-17 at least.
Somehow they come out for the final round and Zaleski lands a hard low kick. Accidental eye poke from Zaleski causes a pause of the action. Saint-Denis tells the referee he can’t see , but the referee restarts the fight anyway without bringing in a doctor??? Zaleski lands a right hand that wobbles Saint-Denis, who shoots for a takedown that gets sprawled. Zaleski sitting on the top in full guard before they get back to the feet. Head-kick from Saint-Denis is blocked and Zaleski comes forward again with a right hand. Big left hand from Saint-Denis lands before a takedown attempt, but Zaleski is able to scramble to switch the position and then get back up. Final minute now and there’s an accidental low blow by Zaleski to cause another pause in the action. The referee takes a point away from Zaleski (???) who now steps forward with some more aggression. Round comes to an end with Zaleski chasing Saint-Denis down, but that should be that. 29-26.
Albert Duraev def Roman Kopylov via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-27 x2)
Kopylov starting off confidently in the centre, landing hard low kicks and one that even drops Duraev momentarily. Duraev explodes with a one-two and then a leg kick of his own. Duraev lands a right hand down the middle, then lands a low kick and left-hook combo that stuns Kopylov. Another hard leg kick from Duraev as he starts to pressure Kopylov back against the cage. Big elbow strike lands but Kopylov is giving as good as he’s taking so far. Duraev currently just too quick for Kopylov at the moment, but no great damage being done. Kopylov catches a high kick and lands a few uppercuts before they separate and Duraev goes for some more jabs. 10-9 Duraev at the end of the first.
Kopylov lands a big left hand early in the second and drops Duraev! Duraev manages to survive with good movement and then shoots in for a takedown against the cage. Duraev goes for a takedown and Kopylov grabs the fence to deny it! The referee stops the action, gives a hard warning and resets them which allows Duraev to get an immediate takedown. Duraev then transitions straight into full mount and starts attacking with ground and pound and threatening with a head-and-arm choke. Big ground and pound from Duraev and Kopylov is trying to fight back but getting hurt bad. Duraev landing big, heavy elbows from the top in full mount and Kopylov is getting beaten up bad. Duraev going for a head-and-arm choke but Kopylov defends it and Duraev goes straight back to the big elbow strikes from the top. Kopylov turns on to his belly and Duraev takes his back to look for a choke, before smashing in more ground and pound. Duraev goes for a rear-naked choke and it’s in deep but Kopylov is saved by the bell! 20-17 Duraev.
Nice body shot from Kopylov and a head-kick is blocked, before Duraev goes straight back for a takedown against the cage. Kopylov defends it well but Duraev keeps trying until they separate and reset in the middle of the octagon. Nice body kick from Kopylov again, but Duraev lands a big right hand and then goes back in for a takedown. Kopylov defending it excellently though and as he escapes, Duraev goes down with exhaustion. Kopylov lands a big left hand and Duraev is exhausted, but so is Kopylov. Kopylove with his hands on his knees, trying to invite Duraev towards him. Duraev just taking his time to circle as we enter the final minute but both men are just waiting for the final bell at this point. Duraev goes for a takedown but gets caught and then Kopylov goes for a big takedown of his own to end the round. 30-26 Duraev.
Zubaira Tukhugov def Ricardo Ramos via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start to this one as Ramos comes out very kick heavy, with low kicks and body attempts while Tukhugov just staying calm and patient. Nice left hand counter lands from Tukhugov that stumbles Ramos, which immediately makes the Brazilian think twice. Tukhugov forcing Ramos against the cage with his pressure and lands a big left hand. He follows it with a big right hand that opens up a huge cut! Tukhugov throws a big body shot and is pressuring Ramos hard now. Low kick from Ramos but Tukhugov counters with a nice one-two down the pipe. Big right hand swings wildly and misses but Ramos is very focused on avoiding rather than causing damage right now. Big counter-right hand from Tukhugov lands again. Tukhugov goes in for a left hook but Ramos counters with a spinning reverse elbow that opens a big cut up on Tukhugov! What a round! 10-9 Tukhugov for me.
Start of the second similar to the first, with Ramos trying to be first and Tukhugov trying to counter. Big right hand from the Russian lands but Ramos continuing to be on the front foot. Tukhugov slips a big combination and points at Ramos, before Ramos slips a counter one-two straight back. Nice low kick from Ramos lands and then a big one-two down the pipe. Tukhugov goes for a single leg but lets it go and lands a right hand of his own. Tukhugov starting to pressure Ramos against the cage but the Brazilian doing well to move and circle. Big right hand from Tukhugov lands and he follows up with two nice jabs. Tukhugov fires in with a blast double leg and gets a back trip to take the fight down with ten seconds left and likely take the round. 20-18 Tukhugov for me.
Tukhugov looking to take the initiative early on again and stepping forward with his jab. Ramos looks like he’s tiring but is landing his right hand well. Ramos lands a big knee with his back against the cage and then explodes forward with more strikes. Tukhugov stays calm though and continues to land his jab, while avoiding Ramos’ bigger strike attempts. Another stiff jab by Tukhugov but Ramos just misses with an elbow. More jabs from Tukhugov, who is pressuring Ramos backwards consistently. Ramos lands a right hand and then a low kick but Tukhugov still coming forward and then shoots for a takedown with 30 seconds to go. A few trip attempts but the buzzer goes and Tukhugov should earn the decision win.
Amanda Ribas def Virna Jandiroba via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Jandiroba shoots straight in for a takedown but Ribas sprawls and denies it immediately. Ribas fires a one-two down the pipe after slipping Jandiroba’s strike attempt, before Jandiroba sees another takedown attempt denied. Big one-two lands from Jandiroba and then she shoots for a takedown and secures it into full guard. Jandiroba goes for body-head strikes but Ribas throws her legs up and looks for a very unique submission, but Jandiroba stays calm, escapes and goes back to the ground and pound. Jandiroba scoops her over to the cage and stacks her up, looking for some strikes then launches down with a huge elbow. Jandiroba completely controlling on the ground right now with relentless pressure but then the referee stands them up. Jandiroba lands a big right hand that drops Ribas but the buzzer goes and potentially saves her! 10-9 Jandiroba.
Lots of bouncing to open the second round and then Ribas lands a big right hand straight down the pipe. Jandiroba responds with a right hand of her own before a spinning back kick from Ribas lands to the body. Nice counter right from Ribas again as both women stand toe-to-toe. Lots of big actions from both women but not much landing as of now, with Ribas pushing the action and Jandiroba on the back foot. Jandiroba goes for a single leg takedown but Ribas reverses the attempt and ends up on top, before they scramble up to their feet again. Lots of tough grappling to end the round, but Ribas takes it. 19-19.
Ribas pressuring hard in the third now with nice combinations and ending them all with a kick. Jandiroba is slowing up quite clearly and she shoots for a lazy takedown that Ribas stuffs then tries to trip her herself. Nice left hand from Jandiroba before Ribas counters the next strike with a nice left hand. Spinning kick to the body doesn’t land clean, before Jandiroba goes for another takedown but is denied. Big head kick from Ribas lands and Jandiroba is hurt! She goes for a spin kick that misses and that allows Jandiroba to recover her senses, but she’s very tired. Ribas still fresh and being first with her strikes as the fight winds down to a close. Should be a comeback 29-28 win for Ribas.
Ankalaev opening up early with some speedy strikes down the pipe, but Oezdemir staying calm in front of him. Oezdemir throws a wicked left hook that lands, then follows up with a left uppercut that wobbles Ankalaev. Oezdemir goes for a flying knee but misses and Ankalaev gets a body lock and puts him up against the cage. Oezdemir has Ankalaev backing up against the cage but both men are just missing with their strikes. Big one-two down the pipe from Ankalaev and he drops Oezdemir! He goes to finish but Oezdemir gets back up quickly and they reset. Another jab and left hand from Ankalaev lands and he’s now taking the centre. Oezdemir looks hesitant and Ankalaev’s left hand is landing at will almost. One-two followed by two more right-hands by Ankalaev as the round ends. 10-9 Ankalaev.
Oezdemir tries to rush in with his right hand but Ankalaev escapes, clinches up and then lands a big left hand on the break. Hard low kick from Oezdemir before Ankalaev throws another combination that just misses. Oezdemir steps forward with a right hand but Ankalaev counters with a hard right hook that cuts Oezdemir above the eye. Oezdemir’s only success really coming from low kicks but Ankalaev controlling the range and throwing his left hand well. Uppercut from Ankalaev lands and then he locks up a body lock against the cage, throwing hard knees to the thigh of Oezdemir. Ankalaev tries to get a takedown but Oezdemir defends well, then blocks a big left hand on the break. 20-18 Ankalaev.
Ankalaev staying very calm and jabbing well in this final round. Nice jab and a big right hand lands but Oezdemir eats it well. Oezdemir goes for a takedown but Ankalaev denies it and then lands a hard right hand. Ankalaev turning up the pressure a little now with a left head kick but Oezdemir still trying to find a moment. Big right hand lands from Oezdemir but Ankalaev eats it and steps to the side before returning to his jab. Entering the final minute now and both guys seem to have accepted the result of this one, with not much happening. Hard body kick from Ankalaev before a stiff right jab lands too. Takedown attempt from Ankalaev as the round ends, in what should be a 30-27 win for him.
Khamzat Chimaev def Jingliang Li via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1 (3:16)
Chimaev ducks under a right hand and goes straight for a takedown on Li, who defends it well before eventually getting lifted, slammed and controller. Chimaev throwing some ground strikes again but Li defending well, although Chimaev is controlling him with wrestling so far. Heavy ground and pound from Chimaev as he puts a hook in and starts searching for a choke. Chimaev goes on the back and flattens Li out and starts smashing him with ground and pound! Huge shots from Chimaev but Li is still trying to fight him! Chimaev switches to the back and goes for a choke and sinks it in! Li fighting the submission but Chimaev switches sides, readjusts the grip and puts Li to sleep! Wow!! What a performance! The hype is real!
Alexander Volkov def Marcin Tybura via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Great start from both guys as Volkov comes forward with some body shots and stiff hooks, but Tybura replies with a big left hand of his own. Volkov using his length well to land straight shots and avoid Tybura’s returns so far, before Tybura changes levels on him to no avail. Tybura gets inside and goes for a takedown, but Volkov denies him really well before breaking with an elbow attempt. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura steps forward again with pressure to close the distance. Tybura changes levels on Volkov but he turns him and ends up on top, landing a big elbow early. Tybura stalling on the ground by just holding Volkov tight to him and Volkov goes for a forearm to the throat to try and disrupt the breathing. Volkov lands a few more ground strikes to end the round in control and take it on the cards, 10-9.
Volkov using his front kick well once again and the big right hand following behind it. Tybura pressing the pace and forcing him backwards, but his takedown attempts are being denied quite comfortably. A few uppercuts in the clinch from Tybura land before another takedown attempt is denied. Volkov throws a knee that is caught and Tybura tries for another takedown, but Volkov denies him again and lands a right hand as they separate. Nice one-two from Tybura lands and Volkov is starting to tire now. Left hand misses from Tybura again and then Volkov lands a beautiful right hook. Tybura fakes a jab and goes for another takedown but Volkov denies it and sees out the round. Hard to score, but it’s probably even going into the third.
Tybura on the front foot once again in this final round, almost chasing Volkov but neither doing much damage. Volkov lands a hard knee to the body before Tybura goes for another takedown that gets stuffed. Nice one-two from Volkov as they separate but it’s still Tybura pushing forward. Big left uppercut followed by a right hand from Volkov lands and then he denies yet another takedown! Short left hook from Tybura lands and then he goes in for a takedown again that Volkov defends routinely at this point. Tybura tries a hip toss but Volkov holds a body lock and has the back, landing big knees to the thigh. Big right hands from Volkov land and then some nice combinations as Tybura starts to tire. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura responds with a big left of his own. Final minute now and both guys are breathing heavy. Volkov lands a big right hand, slips Tybura’s strikes and lands a nice combination to back Tybura up. Straight right hand each as the round comes to an end, should be a Volkov decision win 29-28.
Islam Makhachev def Dan Hooker via Submission (Kimura), Round 1 (2:25)
Hooker trying to keep length nice and early here with a few low kicks as Makhachev takes the centre and just looks for his moment. Makhachev throws a nice hook then dips low and catches Hooker’s leg to get an immediate takedown and move straight to half guard in his own corner. Makhachev throws a nice elbow in tight and is now attacking a kimura! Makhachev readjusts the grip, steps over and twists the arm behind the back and secures the tap out! Unbelievable performance from Makhachev!
Petr Yan def Cory Sandhagen via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
An exchange of leg kicks between the two in the opening minute, as Yan takes the centre and Sandhagen looks to circle on the outside and use his length. Yan lets a left hand fly but it just misses, before a nice low kick followed by a body shot from Sandhagen. Low kick from Yan and Sandhagen counters with two nice left hands before changing levels to go for a takedown. Yan defends it well though and they go back into a close exchange of striking. Hard low kick from Yan lands before Sandhagen steps forward and just misses with a left. Sandhagen forces Yan to the cage and lands a few touching shots, before a nice kick to the body. Hard strikes from Sandhagen land but Yan returns with a big right hand of his own before Sandhagen changes levels again. Big flying knee from Sandhagen lands and the round ends. 10-9 Sandhagen.
Hard low kick from Sandhagen to open up the round, before both guys use their feints really well. Body kick from Yan lands but he misses with the follow up right hand and Sandhagen responds with a right hand of his own. Huge body kick from Yan lands clean and then Sandhagen responds with a nice left hook to the body himself. Head kick attempt from Yan is caught and Sandhagen throws a nice right. Yan responds with a low kick and then a big left hand to the chin. Sandhagen moving well still and touching Yan well, but Yan starting to counter with powerful strikes of his own. Yan just misses with a big left hand and both guys exchange body shots again. Sandhagen goes for a takedown but Yan defends it well and keeps the fight standing. Big knee from Sandhagen again but Yan eats it well. Yan pushing forward and putting his pace on this fight, but Sandhagen using his length well to stay out of real danger. 19-19.
Soft left hands from Sandhagen before he checks a leg kick and lands a beautiful left down the pipe to wobble Yan. Yan comes forward with a spinning kick to the body before Sandhagen lands his jab again. Huge left hook to the body from Yan lands but Sandhagen comes forward again with his jab and circles on the outside. Hard leg kick but Yan checks it and then he lands a big left uppercut. He goes for a combination but Sandhagen avoids it and lands a one-two of his own. Yan trying to turn the pressure up but Sandhagen slipping shots well and avoiding clean hits. Big one-two from Yan lands but Sandhagen staying calm and circling on the outside. Body kick from Yan but Sandhagen moves forward to trade with him. Yan throws a big hook and then a spinning back fist and drops Sandhagen! He goes for vicious ground and pound but Sandhagen stays calm and after some scrambles, they get back to the feet and the round ends. 29-28 Yan.
Yan starting to walk Sandhagen down a bit now but he isn’t going anywhere. Nice jabs again and a nice knee attempt just misses, but Yan is throwing big left hands and landing clean. Another big left from Yan lands flush but Sandhagen still standing. Body shot from Sandhagen gets a big left straight reply from Yan, but Sandhagen continuing to poke at him with jabs. Yan with a body kick and then a beautiful one two lands. Sandhagen shoots for a takedown and gets it, but both guys go for a heel hook before they scramble back to their feet. Yan ducks under a spinning back fist then lands some big combinations to the head and body. Yan continuing to march forward and the big hooks are landing, but Sandhagen responds with a big elbow. Yan steps forward and blasts Sandhagen with a huge right hand, but Sandhagen just eats it. Yan stuffs a takedown and they start scrambling again, with Yan throwing big combinations. 39-37 Yan.
Final round and Sandhagen still trying pick his shots while Yan is walking him down. Hard low kick from Yan gets a big reaction from Sandhagen, before he tries another jump knee that Yan blocks. Yan looking to close distance again but Sandhagen still fresh and moving well, flicking out his jab. Yan goes for three hooks but misses them all thanks to good movement, before Yan tries for a takedown and Sandhagen denies him. Huge head kick from Yan lands but Sandhagen shakes his head and says no, before Yan goes for more big hooks. Final 90 seconds and Yan is still coming forward. Right jab from Yan before Sandhagen makes him miss several times. Big left hand from Sandhagen lands and then he avoids the spinning back fist. Big knee from Sandhagen with ten seconds left but Yan responds with a spinning kick to the chin and they go wild with seconds remaining to end the fight. What a bout! 49-46 Yan for me.
Glover Teixeira def Jan Blachowicz via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:02)
Hard leg kick from Blachowicz opens up the fight as Teixeira looks to take the centre. Teixeira changes levels and goes for the takedown, before spinning him off the cage and securing it. Straight into full guard as Blachowicz looks to tie him up and avoid that vicious ground and pound game of Teixeira’s. Teixeira pulling the head up and making Blachowicz very uncomfortable on the bottom, grinding his elbows and head against him too. Teixeira goes for an elbow but just misses, then cranks the neck up again and then lands a short elbow. Final minute and Teixeira starting to be more active from the top position and that’s the round. 10-9 Teixeira.
Blachowicz comes out with the jab early and lands a nice left hand combination, before denying Teixeira’s takedown attempt. Big left uppercut from Blachowicz before Teixeira closes the distance and rushes Blachowicz against the cage with a clinch. Blachowicz denies another takedown attempt and is just popping his jab. Teixeira goes wild and lands a big left hand that wobbles Blachowicz! Blachowicz responds with a nice right hand combination that staggers Teixeira himself, but the Brazilian gets a takedown quickly and moves into mount immediately! Teixeira flattens him out and gets the arm under his neck and gets the tap!!! Unbelievable!! AND NEW!!
Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) vs Volkan Oezdemir (17-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight banger to open up the main card! Ankalaev is on a six-fight win streak with knockout wins over Ion Cutelaba twice including at UFC 254 and then a decision against Nikita Krylov at UFC Vegas 20. Oezdemir on the other hand saw his two fight win streak snapped by a violent knockout by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251.
Ankalaev is a violent kickboxer with stunning power and great technique on his side. Oezdemir on the other hand is a good striker too with legit one-punch knockout power and good grappling defence skills (except against Daniel Cormier). Ankalaev likely has the power and technique advantage in this fight, but Oezdemir is a slick mover and I think he has the speed edge here.
Oezdemir will need to use his calf kicks well and hope to land with one of his powerful looping hooks, but those hooks will likely be countered by the crisp, straight strikes of Ankalaev and I expect he’ll turn the lights out midway through the fight. PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 2
Li Jingliang (18-6) vs Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super exciting welterweight banger between Li Jingliang and the returning Khamzat Chimaev. Li is coming off a stunning knockout win over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Fight Island 7 where he was a huge underdog, while Chimaev is fighting for the first time since his third win in 60-odd days at UFC Vegas 11 where he KO’d Gerald Meerschaert in 17 seconds.
Li is a very powerful striker with great low kicks and crisp boxing, while Chimaev has shown great power in his hands but also a relentless ground game that just completely crumbles his opponents. Chimaev’s background is also in kickboxing and on the regional scene he was knocking guys out for fun.
If Li is to earn a victory in this one he needs to keep the fight standing and exchange on the feet. Unfortunately for him, Chimaev’s power is enough that he won’t be scared to exchange on the feet but also his wrestling game is just too good to be able to avoid for 15 minutes. Chimaev takes his time but eventually storms a takedown and pummels Li until the referee steps in. PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Knockout, Round 2
Alexander Volkov (33-9) vs Marcin Tybura (22-6) – (Heavweight/220-265lbs)
A very fun heavyweight bout between two guys looking to stay in-and-around the top five. Volkov started the year with a knockout win over Alistair Overeem at UFC Vegas 18 but then got dominated by Ciryl Gane at UFC Vegas 30. Tybura on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak currently with KO’s over Greg Hardy at UFC Vegas 17 and then Walt Harris at UFC Vegas 28.
Volkov is a power, technical boxer who stands at 6ft 8′ and is very mobile and athletic. Tybura on the other hand is a powerful striker who uses his leg kicks really well and throws good combinations with his hands. His previous toughest opponent was arguably Derrick Lewis and he got stopped in the third round, while Volkov dominated Lewis until a literal last second KO in the fifth.
With his size advantage and technical prowess, this fight seems to play into Volkov’s hands. He’s got a pretty good chin on his own, good knees to the box and enough power to end it early. In the end, I think he pieces Tybura up for 15 minutes and gets a wide decision win. PICK – Alexander Volkov via Decision
Islam Makhachev (20-1) vs Dan Hooker (21-10) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really fun fight at the top of the lightweight division as Islam Makhachev takes on Dan Hooker on short-notice. Makhachev is on an eight-fight win streak, with stoppages against Drew Dober at UFC 259 and Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31 most recently. Hooker was on a two-fight losing streak after defeats to Dustin Poirier at UFC Vegas 4 and Michael Chandler at UFC 257, but bounced back with a decision win over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266. He replaces Rafael Dos Anjos on just a few weeks notice.
Makhachev is the prodigy of former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and his style in the cage shows that. He is a terrific wrestler with brilliant pressure and a decent array of strikes too, while Hooker is a kickboxer with amazing cardio and good knockout power in his hands too. Hooker loves to throw knees up the middle and he is always game for a fight, but this seems like a stretch too far.
Makhachev is comfortable on the feet but he will look to shoot in for the takedown and grind on Hooker. ‘Hangman’ is a good scrambler, but Makhachev is by far the best wrestler he’s fought and the likelihood of him getting back up could be slim. Islam may get caught once or twice but once he gets the reads he’ll take him down and dominate him for a wide and dominant decision. PICK – Islam Makhachev via Decision
Petr Yan (15-2) vs Cory Sandhagen (14-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights of the year on paper for the interim bantamweight title. Petr Yan was unstoppable in the UFC, claiming the title with a KO win over Jose Aldo at UFC 251 before his disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 meant he lost the belt. Sandhagen was on a tear and earned a shot himself with KO’s over Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Island 5 and Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 18 before a razor close defeat to TJ Dillashaw in July.
Yan is a brilliant all-rounder, with excellent boxing, tremendous footwork and good wrestling too. He has fight-changing power on the feet but is also patient enough not to rush in and commit himself. Sandhagen is a brilliant striker with great range and length, with a decent wrestling game in his back-pocket too. Yan is the smaller guy by some way here, but he is a clean, technical fighter who is in his prime right now.
Sandhagen will no doubt look to use his length and spinning techniques to keep the fight in his world, but Yan’s forward pressure and wrestling ability means he just has a little edge. Sandhagen has struggled in later rounds in the past and I think Yan can outwork him over 25 minutes for a thrilling win. PICK – Petr Yan via Decision
Jan Blachowicz (28-8) vs Glover Teixeira (32-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight title fight between the top two ranked guys in the world. Blachowicz is coming off the back of five-fight win streak including winning the belt with a KO of Dominick Reyes at UFC 253 before a dominant win over Israel Adesanya at UFC 259. Teixeira earned himself a title shot with a five-fight win streak of his own, ending in a dominant KO win over Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 13.
Blachowicz is a really well-rounded fighter with his ‘legendary Polish power’ matched up with great wrestling and excellent cardio. Teixeira on the other hand has got crisp boxing and excellent power, while his ground game is among the nastiest in the UFC in any weight. Blachowicz and Teixeira are both veterans of the sport, but the four-year age gap does certainly help the champion.
Teixeira will likely want to use his clean technique on the feet to land his big strikes, while Blachowicz will look to close the distance and make it dirty to use his physical style before unloading his big right hand. Teixeira will also look to get this fight to the ground to use his jiu-jitsu, but if Blachowicz ends up on top he’ll have the edge there too because of his physicality. Blachowicz for me has a power and speed edge on the feet and I think he lands one of those big shots early and gets the finish with some ground and pound. PICK – Jan Blachowicz via Knockout, Round 3
Davey Grant def Martin Day via KO – (Round 3, 2:38)
A fun first round on Fight Island as the two Bantamweights both striking well with each other and landing. Day lands a big right hand that cracks the chin of Grant and drops him, but the Scotsman survives and gets back to his feet. The knockdown the biggest influencer of the first round and it goes to Day. 10-9.
Second round and Grant is being very aggressive. He’s looking to end it early but Day is evading well. Some big shots land but nothing significant really lands. Grant takes the round based purely off his aggression. 19-19.
Third round and Grant is being aggressive again. Day is begin to get tired and is evading less and less. He’s throwing wildly and Grant is doing well to keep the pace up. Both fighters go for a big shot and Day hits nothing but air. Grant hits a nice body shot and follows up with a vicious left hook that flattens Day and knocks him unconscious! Unbelievable punch and a brutal knockout win!
Grant tells Dana White after the fight that he broke his jaw in the first round. I’m assuming it was the knockdown punch, so kudos to him for fighting through it and getting a knockout of his own.
Karol Rosa def Vanessa Melo via Unanimous Decision(30-26 x2, 30-27)
Two Brazilian women competing in a catchweight bout after Melo missed weight by 5lbs. Rosa starts strong and fast, landing big volume of strikes while Melo tries to feel her out. Both fighters landing shots and Rosa loses balance a few times but generally is getting the better of the standing exchanges. She ends the round with a takedown and some ground and pound.
Second and third round are much more of the same. Rosa completely dominant on the feet and landing takedowns at will. Melo has been completely outclassed and while there are no significant highlights from this fights, it’s as dominant as you’re likely to see on the card tonight.
Raulian Paivia def Zhalgas Zhumagulov via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
The classic striker vs grappler battle sees a very even first round. Paivia is taking the centre of the Octagon well and Zhumagulov is attacking the legs as expected. Lots of takedown attempts but Paivia does very well to stuff them and land counters, but they don’t look particularly powerful. Zhumagulov lands a takedown very late that could have stolen him the opening round. 10-9 Zhumagulov.
Second round is more of the same but Zhumagulov seems to have warmed up a bit. He’s more aggressive coming forward and landing with shots a bit more but Paivia doing his best to keep his distance. More back and forth action with each Paivia using his length well to land jabs and keep away. Zhumagulov ends the round with another takedown very late but this round is likely his anyway.
Third round starts with a bit more urgency from Paivia as he starts throwing combinations. Zhumagulov doesn’t change tact though and continues with haymakers and takedown attempts. Paivia though stuffs them all but then lands an accidental groin strike to cause a pause in the action. The fight resumes and Paivia stuffs three big takedown attempts before the round comes to an end. I scored it 29-28 to Zhumagulov, but the judges go the other way.
Marcin Tybura def Maxim Grishin via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
A very, very slow fight this one with not a lot of action.
Tybura pushed forward for the first two rounds and landed late takedowns with neither fighter landing anything significant whatsoever. In the third, Tybura got the takedown earlier and in the end did more than enough to secure a dominant win.
The less said about this fight though, the better.
Leonardo Santos def Roman Bogatov via Unanimous Decision (29-26 x3)
Opening round is a fun one, with Santos landing some nice strikes and Bogatov showing unrelenting pressure and he looks for the takedown. Lots of unorthodox movement from the Russian and spinning attacks to go with it but nothing significant lands from either fighter. 10-9 Bogatov for the pressure.
Second round starts with Bogatov a bit more aggressive than the first. Actively shooting for takedowns now but Santos is calm and composed. Santos lands a huge straight right hand, then another, then another to rock Bogatov. Santos is looking for the finish but Bogatov is still standing. A huge head kick drops Bogatov and Santos goes for the ground and pound but Bogatov is responding to referee Marc Goddard’s calls for him to fight back. Santos has punched himself out now and Bogatov ends up on top against the cage. The round somehow ends with Bogatov landing bombs of his own on top of Santos. 19-19 for me but Bogatov saved himself a potential 10-8 round there.
Probably the craziest round you’re likely to see, ever. The round begins with both men completely exhausted. A takedown attempt by Bogatov against the cage ends with a knee to the groin and Santos is in agony. After taking the full five minutes to recover they get back into it and Bogatov once again is attacking the body and going for takedowns. He lands ANOTHER groin strike and Goddard gives him a stern warning, that he’ll take points from him if there are any other fouls in this fight. Santos is still absolutely exhausted and Bogatov gets him against the cage looking for a takedown. Inexplicably though, Bogatov lands a huge knee flush to the face of Santos while he has a knee on the ground causing Goddard to pause the bout again with a minute to go. The referee deducts TWO points from Bogatov and that’s enough to give Santos the decision win.
Makwan Amirkhani def Danny Henry via Submission (Anaconda choke) – (Round 1, 3:15)
A sleeper for fight of the night here as these two lock horns in the centre of the Octagon. Henry looking to feel his way into range with his boxing but Amirkhani looks razor sharp. A flying knee lands clean for Mr. Finland and he follows it up with a takedown. He takes the back and has a hook in immediately before switching to a modified Anaconda choke. Henry is fighting the choke but Amirkhani has it locked in strong. Referee checks the arm of Henry and it’s completely limp. He’s out cold! Impressive victory for Makwan Amirkhani.
Muslim Salikhov def Elizeu Dos Santos via Split Decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)
A very touchy, feely first round between two top strikers. Both fighters feeling their way into this one and it takes a few minutes before we see them opening up. Salikhov lands a nice spinning back kick and Dos Santos replies with a spin kick of his own. Dos Santos lands a heavy right hand that hurts Salikhov and he goes for the finish. Salikhov ducks the next punch and lands a takedown, but Dos Santos ends up on top landing ground and pound as the round ends. 10-9 Dos Santos.
Second round more of the same again. Dos Santos happy to stand and strike with Salikhov interestingly, despite his advantage on the ground. Spin attempt from ‘Capoeira’ sees Salikhov throw him to the floor but he waits for him to get back up. Seconds later, Dos Santos lands another big right hand that rocks Salikhov but once again the Russian lands a takedown to recover. Both fighters attempt some spinning attacks and land some good strikes to see out the round, but the big right that rocked Salikhov has likely won Dos Santos this round too. 20-18.
Broadcast tells us that between rounds both corners told their respective fighter that they believed they were 2-0 up. Predictably then, the third round starts with a bit more conservative energy. Dos Santos using his reach well and landing jabs but Salikhov is throwing kicks freely. Neither fighter looks like they want to commit to trying to get a finish, likely working off the advice from their corners. Not a lot of output from either fighter as we enter the final minute, with both happy to see this go to the judges. Salikhov’s round for the extra pressure but nothing in it. 29-28 Dos Santos for me.
An interesting first round begins with Prochazka almost talking to himself to hype up. Oezdemir throwing his left hand but Prochazka looking to walk through it. Lots of feints and Oezdemir lands a big left hook that wobbles the debutant! Prochazka fights through it though and continues to swing with his own punches but his hands are so low and he’s very open to counters. First round ends but it was very, very entertaining. 10-9 Volkan.
Second round begins with more of the same strange movements from Prochazka. Oezdemir lands a nice left hand but Prochazka follows it up with a low kick and then a head kick that lands clean. Oezdemir is wobbled and Prochazka marches forward. He fakes the flying knee to back Oezdemir against the cage, then lands a flush one-two down the pipe to knock Volkan out cold. What a knockout. What a debut!
VanZant steps out in the first round already emotional from her walk out. Ribas lands a leg kick and they engage in a clinch. Ribas clearly much physically stronger and she gets a head and arm throw against the cage. RIbas lands some nice strikes before transitioning to take the back. Ribas locks in an armbar, goes belly down and despite VanZant’s attempts to escape she’s forced to tap. That’s a wrap for VanZant’s UFC career.
Rose Namajunasdef Jessica Andrade via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
A fun first round starts off with Rose taking the centre and using her huge reach advantage to land jabs, much like their first bout. Andrade is bouncing around a lot, moving her head off the centre line and not charging forward nearly as much as before. Rose isn’t afraid of the wild exchanges and her precise techniques landing her clean shots but she’s not completely avoiding damage. Andrade engages in a clinch but Rose throws a lovely knee into the chin as the round comes to a close. 10-9 Namajunas.
More of the same in the second round and Rose is looking comfortable. Andrade throwing leg kicks as Rose goes for a big flying knee but misses. Huge body shot lands by Andrade but then Rose lands a big hook of her own. Andrade starting to throw wild hooks but Rose is moving away well. Namajunas goes for a flying knee again and misses, ending up on her back but she pops up again well. Nice one-twos landing from Rose as Andrade engages in a clinch, but Rose throws an elbow on the break to get away unscathed. Fight ends with both exchanging in the pocket. 20-18 Rose.
Final round and both fighters believe they’re up on the scorecards. Andrade throwing a lot of left hooks but Rose using her jab well and staying at distance to avoid damage. Andrade lands a right hand to draw blood from Namajunas’ nose and she’s starting to get hit more than the previous rounds. Andrade lands a left hook that rocks Rose and then she grabs a takedown. Rose threatens with an armbar and a triangle choke before pushing Andrade off and bouncing back up without taking any more damage. Both women landing power shots as we enter the final minute as Andrade presses forward with powerful strikes again. Rose shoots in for the takedown and gets it but Andrade reverses the position immediately before popping back up to her feet. Both women land one more big shot each before the buzzer goes. Andrade round but Rose should get the decision. 29-28.
Petr Yan def Jose Aldo via Knockout – (Round 5, 3:24)
Both fighters showing respect to each other in the first round as they try to claim control of the centre of the Octagon. Both guys throwing out jabs but the first big punch is landed by Yan, who throws a right overhand that lands flush on Aldo’s chin. The Brazilian returns with a heavy calf kick that sends the Russian to the ground but he bounces back up immediately. Aldo shoots for a takedown towards the end of the round but Yan scrambles and earns top position, then lands big ground and pound. Aldo looks hurt and shells up as Yan lands some bombs but he survives the round. 10-9 Yan.
Aldo throwing a lot more leg kicks in the second round, troubling Yan. The Russian isn’t scared to stand in the pocket with Aldo though and is landing some nice punches in the exchanges. Aldo landing more jabs now and starting to make Yan miss but not much action in the second round. 19-19.
Jose Aldo working the body really well in this third round. Ripping left hooks into body constantly, Yan is struggling to make anything land. Aldo lands a nice knee to the head but Yan walks straight through it without any problems. Yan being forced to fight southpaw because of the damage his leg has taken but the strikes are beginning to land now. Yan lands a nice combo and a big elbow on Aldo as the Brazilian starts to fade into the final minute of the round. Round ends with a big land by Yan in a very close round. Despite that, I’m giving the round to Aldo but it could have gone either way. 29-28 Aldo.
Yan looks fresher coming into this round and he lands a nice body kick early in the round. Aldo lands a big body shot but Yan responds immediately with a one-two on the chin of the Brazilian. Clinch in the centre and both fighters throw out knees and body strikes before Yan attempts a sweep to take Aldo down, but he manages to keep his balance. Yan starting to hunt Aldo down across the Octagon, with Aldo constantly retreating and covering up. Big shots from Yan and he sweeps the legs of Aldo and gets him down. Yan standing over a grounded Aldo and just landing big shots but the round comes to an end before he can finish it. Without doubt a Yan round. 38-38.
Fifth round starts and Yan lands a huge one-two immediately that drops Aldo! More ground and pound and Aldo is hurt. Yan has a crucifix position against the cage and is landing big punches and elbows on Aldo. Amazing ground and pound from Yan, Aldo is in huge trouble. Heavy, heavy shots to the head going unanswered but the referee is giving him every chance to fight back. Yan continues to land, Aldo is done but the referee won’t call it. More big elbows and punches and the referee finally steps in to call it. Petr Yan is the world champion!
Alexander Volkanovski def Max Holloway via Split Decision (48-47 x2, 47-48)
Very, very cagey first round from both competitors in this rematch. Volkanovski has landed a few leg kicks but Max is moving well and avoiding most punches. Holloway lands a nice one-two and Volkanovski gets wobbled and instead of jumping on it, Blessed mocks him instead! A flying knee attempt from Holloway missed before a head kick lands right at the end of the round and drops Volkanovski. He pushes the pressure but the horn goes. 10-9 Holloway.
Second round starts calmly, with Holloway using kicks very well in this fight. Max lands a big combo to the body and head that forces Volkanovski to acknowledge it with a nod. Volkanovski pushing forward but he’s swinging wildly and being outclassed at the moment. End of the round approaching and Holloway steps in and lands a big uppercut that drops Volkanovski once again. Big punch from Max and it gives him the round once again. 20-18 Blessed.
Third round opens up with more of the same as Holloway is controlling the range brilliantly with his kicks. Some nice punches from both and then Volkanovski shoots in deep for a takedown. Holloway defends it well and it leads to a clinch against the cage. Holloway shows his strength to stave off any attempts before letting off a knee on the break. Volkanovski leads with a strong left hook but Max looks totally composed in this fight. Alexander lands some jabs and leg kicks but as the round comes to an end it’s hard to see him winning this on the scorecards. 30-27 Holloway.
Volkanovski landing a lot of leg kicks in the fourth and the bruising on Holloway’s thigh is very obvious. Alexander using jabs and left hooks to close the distance but Holloway just returns fire every single time. Clinch in the centre and Volk trips Max and gets the fight to the floor. He steps over the guard of his opponent but Holloway gets his back against the cage and manages to get back to his feet very quickly. Volkanovski landing more shots now and he has Max thinking about the leg kicks again. End of the round, Max gets on the board. 39-37 Holloway.
Final round but it could easily be 2-2 on the scorecards and the fighters know it. Holloway lands a nice left hook that Volkanovski acknowledges but then he comes back with some shots of his own. Volk clinches and pushes Max against the cage but once again ‘Blessed’ gets away relatively easily. Halfway through and both fighters still look good for cardio. Both fighters exchanging strikes and eating heavy punches, then Volkanovski shoots in for a takedown and secures it. Once again, Holloway gets his back to the cage and gets back to his feet almost immediately. Volk lands a nice left hand as we enter the final round and then he shoots for a takedown again, but Holloway stuffs it. Final seconds of the fight and Volk finally gets a takedown and lands a strike on the ground before the buzzer goes. I have it 3-2 to Holloway, 48-47. What a fight.
First round starts with Masvidal landing lots of kicks to the leg of Usman, who swings a wild right hand and misses. Masvidal throws a body kick that Usman catches and sends him to the floor and gets on top. Usman lands a big elbow but Masvidal smiles and eventually gets back to his feet without any more damage. Masvidal is winning the striking exchanges on the feet with his speed advantage. 10-9 Masvidal after Round 1.
Second round starts with Usman going straight for the leg of Masvidal looking for a takedown. Masvidal stuffs it yet again. Usman lands a nice right hand as they break, which sees Gamebred respond with a hook but Usman ducks and initiates another clinch. Lots of body work from both fighters in the clinch, but it seems like Usman is just simply trying to wear Masvidal out. 19-19 after 2.
Third round is more of that same, with Usman clinching but not able to get the takedowns. Masvidal is defending superbly against the cage though, forcing Usman to just really use foot stomps. More body work from both and Usman hits Masvidal a bit too low for the referees liking and there’s a pause in the action. On the restart there is some jostling and Masvidal goes for that switch-stance punch that KO’d Darren Till, however Usman reads it and shoots for the takedown. ‘Gamebred’ gets back up but Usman shows his strength advantage and drags him back down. Usman gets into Masvidal’s guard and starts landing big elbows as the round comes to a close. 29-28 Usman.
Start of the fourth and Usman lands a big body kick before shooting for another takedown. Masvidal stuffs it against the cage again and the clinch ensues, with Usman landing foot stomps and shoulder strikes. They separate briefly but Usman goes back in for the takedown, forcing Masvidal to give up his back as they get back to their feet. ‘Gamebred’ spins back into a clinch and it’s more of the same offence. Masvidal explodes with strikes and forces the separation, but Usman goes straight back in for a clinch. Usman lands a big right hand on the chin before engaging in yet another clinch with foot stomps and shoulder strikes. Masvidal is visibly tired now but still looks dangerous when they engage, it’s just not often enough.
Round 5 starts with both men squaring off and Usman lands a nice jab. Usman goes for the takedown once again and manages to turn the corner to complete it this time. Usman sitting on top of Masvidal as he tries to get out but ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is just too strong. Usman tries to advance to mount but ‘Gamebred’ explodes out. Usman holds him in a front face lock as we enter the final minute. Masvidal manages to get back to his feet but Usman too strong in the clinch and lands more body blows. Masvidal giving it everything in the last 30 seconds, moves for the flying knee but Usman avoids it. The klaxon goes and the two exchange words at the end but it should be nothing but an Usman unanimous decision win.
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