The UFC returns to the mecca of combat sports for UFC 281 when Israel Adesanya will defend his middleweight crown against long-time rival Alex Pereira at Madison Square Garden.
The two kickboxing rivals will go toe-to-toe in the octagon to see who is MMA’s best middleweight in the headline fight of the card, but is supported by one of the most stacked cards of the year.
In the co-main event we have the strawweight title on the line as Carla Esparza makes her first defence against former champion Weili Zhang, while Dustin Poirier will meet Michael Chandler in a lightweight war and Frankie Edgar has his retirement bout among other things.
Last week at UFC Vegas 64 we had a rough time with our picks going 6/11 with zero perfect picks, moving us to 766/1188 (64.48%) with 319 perfect picks (41.64%). You can see our full pick history here.
Andre Petroski (8-2) vs Wellington Turman (18-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Exciting middleweight scrap up next. Petroski is 3-0 in the UFC after competing on TUF, KO’ing Michael Gillmore before submission wins over Yaozong Hu (UFC 267) and Nick Maximov most recently back in May. Turman is on a two-fight win streak, defeating Sam Alvey and then submitting Misha Cirkunov most recently in February.
Petroski has proven to be an excellent wrestler in this division with some solid submission skills, but he’s also a more technical striker than many though and has good power too. Turman is a bit of a reckless striker with some nasty low kicks, that play perfectly into his world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. The problem he has here is that he’s outmatched pretty much everywhere.
Turman’s best hope of winning is landing a big counter punch that Petroski doesn’t see coming during an exchange or tapping him from his back, and both are very unlikely. Petroski should be able to dominate this fight wherever it goes, and he should be able to claim another finish to keep his run going. PICK – Andre Petroski via Knockout, Round 2
Erin Blanchfield (9-1) vs Molly McCann (13-4) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Women’s flyweight bout up next between two ladies on a great run. Blanchfield is undefeated in the UFC with dominant wins over Sarah Alpar, Miranda Maverick (UFC 269) and most recently JJ Aldrich, while McCann has won her last three in a row, including her last two against Luana Carolina and Hannah Goldy via spinning elbow knockout.
Blanchfield is arguably the best wrestler in the division, maybe outside of Valentina Shevchenko and Taila Santos, and that is where this fight will end up if she has her way. She is decent on the feet too, but wrestling will always be her bread and butter. McCann on the other hand is a straight up brawler, with a good boxing background and incredible aggression and durability, but she’s very small for the division. This is a lopsided match up.
McCann has tried to step up her level of competition before and fallen flat on her face, and it’s likely to happen again here. Blanchfield has a six-inch reach advantage which should see her comfortable on the feet, but if it ever gets hairy she’ll get a takedown relatively easily and maul “Meatball” on the mat for a dominant decision win. PICK – Erin Blanchfield via Decision
Dominick Reyes (12-3) vs Ryan Spann (20-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
The return of “The Devastator” up next. Reyes arguably beat Jon Jones in their title fight back at UFC 247 but ultimately lost on the cards and was since KO’d by Jan Blachowicz (UFC 257) and Jiri Prochazka (UFC Vegas 25) in subsequent bouts. Spann got dominated by Anthony Smith in his first main event back in September 2021, but bounced back with a submission win of his own over Ion Cutelaba most recently back in May.
Reyes is a boxing specialist with a piston-like left hand and nasty body kicks to go with amazing durability and decent wrestling chops too. Spann is a decent wrestler himself but he has tremendous submission skills, earning 12 of his 17 finish wins via tap out. His striking however is bang average and with a lack of head movement to go with Reyes’ excellent takedown defence, this is his fight to lose.
Spann isn’t the most durable guy and he has a tendency to panic when faced with adversity. Reyes has the ability to put the pressure on early and has great accuracy with his left-hand that can put people out. He was able to keep up with Prochazka until his brains got scrambled, so if he can do that here he should be the one on the end of a big knockout win. PICK – Dominick Reyes via Knockout, Round 2
Brad Riddell (10-3) vs Renato Moicano (16-5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight banger in the featured prelims slot up next. Riddell was on a great run before getting stopped by Rafael Fiziev at UFC Vegas 44, and was since submitted by Jalin Turner at UFC 276 in just 45 seconds. Moicano stopped Alexander Hernandez at UFC 271 with a rear-naked choke but stepped in on super short notice at UFC 272 to face Rafael Dos Anjos and got dominated for 25 minutes in his last bout.
Riddell is a stunning kickboxer, with unbelievable technique and decent power to go with a relentless volume, but his durability has taken a downward turn in recent bouts. Moicano is a superbly well-rounded fighter too with great striking and world class jiu-jitsu skills, with wrestling skills that help him implement that submission game. This is a mixed bag and could go one of two ways.
Moicano has the ability to get this fight to the ground quickly and work his submission game, which is relentless and almost certainly too much for Riddell to handle. But if he is able to survive the early round, his pressure and power is likely to overwhelm Moicano and he should be the one getting his hand raised. It’s a tough one to call, but momentum is on the Brazilian’s side and he’s also able to hold his own on the feet, so I think Moicano gets it done early by taking the back and getting a choke. PICK – Renato Moicano via Submission, Round 1
The first pay-per-view of the year brings us two huge title fights in the smallest and biggest weights available to the men.
In the main event of the night Francis Ngannou will take on former teammate and interim champion Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title of the world, while the co-main will see the trilogy between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo for the flyweight title.
Rodolfo Vieira (8-1) vs Wellington Turman (17-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
This fight got moved up to the main card during fight week and it’s no surprise why. Rodolfo Vieira got submitted by ‘Fluffy’ Hernandez in the submission of the year at UFC 258 in one of the shocks of the year, before bouncing back and submitting Dustin Stoltzfus. Turman is one of the youngest veterans in MMA, and snapped a two-fight losing streak with a split decision win over Sam Alvey at UFC Vegas 35 last time out.
Vieira has the nickname ‘the black belt hunter’ for a reason. He is one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world, not just MMA, and has great ability to secure takedowns using his body weight as well as wrestling. Turman is also a talented grappler but who has fallen in love with his hands more recently, looking to box and use his physicality. That won’t go well here though.
Vieira is going to stand only for as long as he has to before looking to bulldoze Turman into a takedown and then working his incredible jiu-jitsu skills for a submission. He managed to conserve energy against Stoltzfus to take it into the third round last time, but he won’t need to do that here as he’ll smoke him early. PICK – Rodolfo Vieira via Submission, Round 1
Michael Morales (12-0) vs Trevin Giles (14-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very exciting welterweight bout in this one. Michael Morales comes into the UFC as an undefeated fighter having earned a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series back in September, while Giles saw a three-fight win streak snapped at UFC 264 by Dricus Du Plessis when he got knocked out.
Morales is an exciting well rounded fighter, with good speed with his hands and decent wrestling too. Giles on the other hand is making his welterweight debut having spent the vast majority of his career at middleweight. He has good power in his hands and good movement, but he isn’t the most explosive out there. Morales has great length and uses it well, but so does Giles.
It’s a very close fight on paper with different factors going in favour of different fighters. Giles is moving down in weight and we don’t know how he’ll cope, but Morales is pretty green and this is a huge step up in competition compared to the rest of his career. In what should be a decent fight, I think Giles will be able to use his boxing and size well to give Morales his first professional defeat. PICK – Trevin Giles via Decision
Cody Stamann (19-4-1) vs Said Nurmagomedov (14-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very exciting bantamweight fight between two grappling machines at 135-pounds. Stamann has lost his last two in a row, dropping decisions to Jimmie Rivera and most recently Merab Dvalishvili at UFC Vegas 25. Nurmagomedov, the cousin of Khabib, earned a KO win over Mark Striegl at UFC Fight Island 6. He hasn’t fought in 14 months since though.
Stamann is a staunch wrestler, who has his whole game based around being able to take his opponent down and control the position for 15 minutes – something that 11 decision wins from 19 proves. Nurmagomedov in the opposite corner has largely worked as a kickboxer in the UFC, but the wrestling and submission skills have been seen previously in his career unsurprisingly. Nurmagomedov is likely to try and strike with Stamann, using his scrambling ability to get off the mat if any takedowns are given up at all.
Both guys are fairly well-rounded, but Stamann is clearly far more predictable than the Dagestani. That makes him much easier to plan for and I expect that while Nurmagomedov will probably get taken down at some point, he’ll be able to land plenty on the feet and get up consistently to be able to earn a decision win. PICK – Said Nurmagomedov via Decision
Michel Pereira (26-11) vs Andre Fialho (14-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
This one has got fireworks written all over it, so expect someone to go to sleep. Pereira is on a three-fight win streak after beating ‘Khaos’ Williams at UFC Vegas 17 and Niko Price at UFC 264 most recently by decision. Fialho is stepping in on short-notice for his UFC debut, on a four-fight finishing streak in UAE Warriors.
Pereira is an absolute mad man who is a specialist in capoeira, with explosive kicks and punches as well as some excellent wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills. Fialho has been dubbed ‘the knockout machine’ for his aggressive style, where he walks forward and tries to bait his opponent into a straight up brawl. Doing that against a fighter like Pereira is begging for trouble, but we’ve seen some crazy KO shocks in the past and I wouldn’t put it past him.
Ultimately though, this one looks like it may be too much of a step up for Fialho. Pereira is a legit contender at welterweight and with very little training for the fight, his gas tank isn’t guaranteed either. Pereira will trade big shots and mix in his takedowns to secure an impressive victory via choke. PICK – Michel Pereira via Submission, Round 2
Brandon Moreno (19-5-2) vs Deiveson Figueiredo (20-2-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Absolute banger of a title fight in the flyweight division next between the two best 125-pounders in the world. This is the third time in a row these two have faced off against each other after a draw at UFC 256 and then Moreno’s famous title win at UFC 263 last year.
Moreno and Figueiredo are incredibly well-rounded fighters, but both with their primary aims slightly different. Moreno is an excellent grappler with a tremendous gas tank and he is happy to strike to pressure before stepping in for takedowns. Figueiredo on the other hand is an absolute powerhouse who looks to take his opponent’s head off with strikes, but also has the ability to tap his opponent out with his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Both guys are at their peak right now and coming into this with no worries or concerns, so it really is a tough pick.
I have to go with the reigning champion to retain though. In the last bout, Moreno’s pressure was excellent and he showed that he could take the power of Figueiredo even when he got hit clean. He also managed to outscramble the Brazilian on the ground and when he got a dominant position, he held onto it and secured the submission. I don’t think he gets a finish here, but I do think he grapples and scrambles his way to a unanimous decision win. PICK – Brandon Moreno via Decision
Francis Ngannou (16-3) vs Ciryl Gane (10-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The best heavyweight title fight in the history of the UFC headlines this card. Francis Ngannou is on a five-fight knockout run, which culminated in him claiming the title at the second attempt with a second-round KO of Stipe Miocic at UFC 260. Gane is undefeated in his professional career and enjoyed some stellar victories in 2021, defeating Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Vegas 20 and Alexander Volkov at UFC Vegas 24 before knocking out Derrick Lewis at UFC 265 to become interim champion.
Ngannou is the most powerful man to ever compete in MMA, with an explosion of power and a genuine ability to knock anyone out with a single strike. Gane on the other hand is one of the most technical heavyweight fighters ever, with brilliant kickboxing and even some solid wrestling too. This is a genuine battle of power vs precision, but it’s crazier that they are former teammates and sparring partners. Ngannou showed greatly improved wrestling against Miocic which could potentially narrow one path to victory for Gane, but ultimately he has got more than one.
Gane has the speed and footwork advantage, while he is also a good clincher too. But what Ngannou has is the ability to end any fight in a split second with one punch and it’s really tough to pick against him. But I’m going to. Gane has been flawless so far in his MMA career and while Ngannou has game-changing power, Gane is no slouch himself. With all the movement, speed and the fact he will know Ngannou better than anyone else make me lean towards Gane putting on a clinic and earning a late finish to become the undisputed king of the heavyweights. PICK – Ciryl Gane via Knockout, Round 4
The UFC featherweight division headlines a banger of a card in the APEX as Edson Barboza takes on Giga Chikadze in the main event, while The Ultimate Fighter finals take place too.
Chikadze takes on the former lightweight contender in his first main event, but before that the finale of both the bantamweight and middleweight division from the Ultimate Fighter Returns finale will take place as Ricky Turcios takes on Brady Hiestand, followed by Bryan Battle taking on late replacement Gilbert Urbina.
Kevin Lee also makes his return to the octagon against Daniel Rodriguez at welterweight in his first fight since he was submitted by Charles Oliveira back in March 2020.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 34 we went a disappointing 6/12 with two perfect picks for the night to move to 389/612 (63.56%) with 171 perfect picks (43.96%). We’ll look to improve that here, and after starting with the early prelims here are the picks for the rest of the prelims.
Dustin Jacoby (14-5-1) vs Darren Stewart (12-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Moving up to light heavyweight is an interesting decision from Stewart, because he’s not really the biggest 185lber in the land. Jacoby has good boxing skills and while his gas tank and wrestling skills aren’t the greatest, Stewart doesn’t really have any stand-out attributes himself. He’s very aggressive and is probably at his best when implementing ground-and-pound, but he may be undersized in this one.
Stewart is really hard to get a read on and while Jacoby isn’t exactly a world-beater, he has a clear path to victory here and I think his size will see him earn a win. PICK – Dustin Jacoby via Decision
Sam Alvey (33-15-1) vs Wellington Turman (16-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Alvey is a powerful striker with very heavy hands and an iron chin, but a real lack of technique and anything else. Turman on the other hand is a talented grappler who has recently tried to show off his striking and been knocked out twice. Both these guys are likely to be on their way out of the UFC sooner rather than later but one of them will earn a stay of execution here.
Ultimately, Alvey has great takedown defence and great power while Turman tries for takedowns and doesn’t have a chin either. It’s a perfect storm for chaos and I think Alvey makes it 20 career KO’s and earns his first win since 2018. PICK – Sam Alvey via Knockout, Round 1
Alessio Di Chirico (13-5) vs Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Di Chirico is a good grappler who has a chin and great strikes too, while Alhassan is as one-dimensional as they come. He has a boulder of a right hand in the opening minutes but once that fades, so does he and he tends to get dominated. Di Chirico has never been stopped by strikes despite being in there against bigger guys and hard hitters too and should he avoid the initial explosion, he has all the skills to dominate this fight.
Alhassan is moving up to middleweight so he will naturally be the smaller man and that only plays more into Di Chirico’s hands, so I think he’ll be able to score the win in this one. PICK – Alessio Di Chirico via Decision
Fast start to the fight from Procopio as she comes forward with some nice strikes before clinching up and using he strength and knees. O’Neill fires back with some fine combinations of her own, kneeing back in the clinch too and using her jab well. Procopio fires off some hard leg kicks and big right hands before clinching up again and pushing O’Neill against the cage. Lovely takedown from Procopio sees her on top with 90 seconds left but O’Neill is able to bounce back up very quickly and they start trading strikes again. Procopio using her strength to her advantage and pushing O’Neill against the cage again and the round ends with a scramble. 10-9 Procopio.
Another fast start to the second round but this time from O’Neill, as she marches forward with some good strikes and a knee before Procopio catches it and takes her down. Procopio tries to control position but O’Neill fires off some big elbows from the bottom which forces her to move and allows O’Neill to kick her off and get back up. O’Neill has picked up the pace well and Procopio struggling to cope. O’Neill takes Procopio down and lands some big elbows on the ground from side control, before grinding her elbow across the face of Procopio. Procopio tries to set up a submission from the bottom before a scramble sets up a heel hook attempt, but O’Neill stays heavy on top to defend and sees out the round with ground and pound. 19-19.
O’Neill comes out quickly again and lands some decent strikes before tripping Procopio and immediately transitioning to a crucifix position. O’Neill landing lots of ground and pound strikes but not much damage being done, although Procopio struggling to escape. She finally gets her arm free and O’Neill switches to take her back, then goes full mount and then takes her back again looking for a rear-naked choke. Procopio stands with O’Neill on her back but she locks up the choke and squeezes until Procopio drops unconscious! What a win for O’Neill!
Rick Glenn def Joaquim Silva via Knockout, Round 1 (0:37)
RICKY GLENN!! FIRST LEFT HAND OF THE FIGHT LANDS AND DROPS SILVA! He follows it up with some ground and pound and then drops Silva again and the referee ends it! What a knockout!
Interesting start in this one as Martinez steps forward straight into the pocket to close the distance and starts roughing Parisian up with some clinches and dirty boxing. Some big punches from Martinez against the cage and he lands a huge slicing elbow that cuts Parisian. Parisian fires back with a knee and then two big hooks, but Martinez closes the distance again and just misses with a one-two. Martinez landing some heavy punches, with three nice uppercuts in a clinch and Parisian is struggling.Parisian trying to fight behind a jab but Martinez slips it and counters with a huge overhand right that wobbles Parisian! They clinch up again and Martinez doing plenty of damage as the round ends. 10-9 Martinez.
Parisian takes a dominant position early in the second round, getting hold of Martinez and pushing him against the cage but Martinez is landing lots of strikes to the head to try and get him off. Parisian being very heavy and leaning on Martinez, throwing some nice knees to the body and then a big elbow to the head. More short strikes but Parisian lands an inadvertant knee to the groin to cause a pause in the action. Martinez takes the centre and puts Parisian against the cage now but he gets away and then lands a flush right hand to the chin. Another clinch and Parisian lands three big elbows in a row before they clinch again. Martinez tries to sink in a guillotine but Parisian rolls through and avoids as the round ends. 19-19, big final round incoming.
Final round and Martinez trying to push the pace again, landing a nice four punch flurry while forcing Parisian backwards. Parisian lands a nice left hook but Martinez fires back with a right overhand that connects and Parisian is wobbled! He lands three more strikes but Parisian ties him up and pushes him against the cage. Martinez forces himself off the cage and lands some more strikes but Parisian using his size to try and wear Martinez down again. Parisian looking for a takedown but Martinez denying it well against the cage and forces the break. Martinez comes forward again but Parisian throws a lazy kick to the groin and causes a break with a minute to go. Another clinch once we restart sees both guys throwing short strikes as the round ends. Close third round but I think Martinez should get the nod.
Khaos Williams def Matthew Semelsberger via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Very fast start to the fight as Williams explodes with a big punch that cracks Semelsberger right on the nose and wobbles him! Lots of blood coming from the nose as he looks to tie Williams up and recover. They eventually separate and both trade big right hooks, with Semelsberger landing nicely himself. Williams goes for a big combo after catching a kick but Semelsberger steps to the side then lands a big right hand himself to counter. Williams firing first but Semelsberger countering well, good round. 10-9 Khaos.
Early exchange from both guys as they trade powerful hooks but both miss narrowly. Semelsberger lands a flush one-two that stuns Williams but he’s okay. He comes forward again and lands a nice right hook of his own that sends Semelsberger backwards but Semelsberger now is starting to back Williams up more. Williams lands some nice leg kicks and then lands a nice counter right hook of his own as Semelsberger tries to shoot in first himself. Nice one-two again from Semelsberger and his own leg kicks are having an effect on Williams. Good charge across the cage with some wild hooks from Williams to end the round. 19-19 for me but could easily be 20-18 too.
Khaos takes the centre early on in this one and lands a few tight hooks, but Semelsberger is coming forward to try and be first now. Another leg kick gets a reaction, but Williams returns with two of his own. Beautiful combination lands from Williams that ends with a heavy left hook cutting Semelsberger over the eye, but he’s walking gingerly on his front leg now from the leg kicks. Semelsberger not throwing enough volume in this round as Williams lands two more big hooks, but Semelsberger counters with a right hook that just misses. Big right hand from Semelsberger then Williams responds with one of his own before they clinch and end the round. 29-28 Williams for me.
Virna Jandiroba def Kanako Murata via Doctor Stoppage (Arm Injury), Round 2 (5:00)
Fast start to the round from Jandiroba as she comes forward with some decent striking and catches Murata with some big one-twos. Jandiroba lands three big right hands and Murata is wobbled but she evades well and steps back. Murata closes the distance and clinches up and then Jandiroba looks to pull guard from against the cage. Murata slams her down and lands some heavy ground and pound strikes, but Jandiroba eats it and then throws up an armbar! It looks tight but Murata doesn’t tap and is able to step over and eventually get out of it, ending the round on top trying to land ground and pound. 10-9 Jandiroba.
Another good start to the round from Jandiroba as she starts throwing her big right hand early on once again. Murata is eating strikes and her left arm is clearly injured from the armbar in the first round, with Jandiroba landing a huge head kick. She follows it up with some big right hands too and Murata is defenceless at this point but still looking to fight back. 20-18.
The doctor looks at the arm between rounds and tells the referee immediately to wave it off, this one is over. Big win for Virna Jandiroba!
Nicolae Negumereanu def Aleksa Camur via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Good start early on for Camu as he lands a nice jab and is showing feints that Negumereanu is struggling to read. Two more jabs and a power right hand land too and Camur is doing well, then slips a left hand. Negumereanu finally lands a big left hand and Camur is staggered immediately, then starts turning up the pressure and lands big shots. Camur slowing down and getting hit a lot more and Negumereanu is growing into the fight. 10-9 Nicolae.
Second round and Negumereanu does really well with forward pressure and lands another nice left hand early. They clinch up against the cage and Negumereanu has the controlling position, but Camur defending himself well to keep the fight standing. Both fighters start trading hooks in the centre that land, then Negumereanu lands a big left hook before the round ends. 20-18 Nicolae but it’s close and Camur is still in it.
Final round and Negumereanu comes forward with good pressure and heavy strike attempts early on. Camur countering well but Negumereanu keeps coming forward and is really turning the pressure up. Nice jabs and Camur lands some shots of his own but Negumereanu’s chin is unreal right now. Camur goes for a takedown but it’s denied easily and then Negumereanu lands a big elbow and two left hands. Negumereanu puts Camur against the cage and holds him with strikes but gets an incredibly stern warning for holding the fence, when really he should have a point deducted at this point (he’s been warned countless times already). Final 30 seconds and they strike it out to the buzzer. Great fight but should be 30-27 Nicolae.
Matt Brown def Dhiego Lima via Knockout, Round 2 (3:02)
Slow start to this fight from both guys, with Brown taking the centre of the cage and faking for his shots while Lima throws some heavy calf kicks as usual. Nice body kick from Brown before a jab to the body as Lima throws another big calf kick. Lima slips Brown’s jab and hits two hard leg kicks before looking for a takedown, but Brown stuffs it. More hard leg kicks from Lima and while Brown looks for the jab neither guy really taking control. 10-9 Lima but this one is up in the air in reality.
Another close start to the round as Lima comes out early with leg kicks, while Brown moving gingerly already. Lima throws two leg kicks in a row and gets a reaction from Brown, but then he goes for a takedown and Brown stuffs it well. Lima using his strength advantage to get a clinch situation against the cage but Brown is stuffing them well. Lima goes for a right hand but Brown slips it and lands his own right hand straight down the middle and Lima faceplants!!! Oh my what a knockout!!! Matt Brown!!
Bruno Silva def Wellington Turman via Knockout, Round 1 (4:45)
Fast start from Turman who steps forward and goes straight for a takedown against the cage. After some back and forth, Turman is able to lift him and slam him down to the mat but Silva reverses the position and looks to control Turman against the cage. Turman uses a kimura grip to escape and he reverses and goes back to takedowns against the cage. Turman takes the back of Silva who’s standing and is looking for a rear-naked choke. Silva is able to shake him off and ends up in Turman’s guard, firing off big ground and pound strikes from top position. Silva lands a right hand then a left to the temple and Turman is out cold! Silva lands one more as the referee waves it off!! Huge win for Bruno Silva!
Seeungwoo Choi def Julian Erosa via Knockout, Round 1 (1:37)
Powerful start to the fight from Choi as he lands his big right hand on three separate occasions, but Erosa stays standing. Erosa fires back with a left hook but Choi lands another big strike and Erosa looks taken aback by his power. Choi slips, throws a right hand that just misses but follows with a big left hook that drops Erosa!! Choi jumps on with ground and pound and the referee waves it off! Huge win for Choi! Wow!
Marlon Vera def Davey Grant via Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-28, 30-26)
Nice start from both guys with lots of feelers and leg kicks getting thrown in the octagon early. Grant throwing plenty of volume, with high kicks, wheel kicks and some overhand rights but Vera blocking almost everything and taking the centre. Big leg kick misses from Vera and then Grant lands a nice left hook. Grant throws a body kick but Vera catches it and puts him on his back, but Grant makes his way back up to the feet but has a cut on his forehead. Nice leg kick from Grant again but Vera responds with one of his own. Nice right hand from Vera but then he follows that with some heavy leg kicks again and Grant is switching stance. Good round, could be 10-9 either way.
Vera takes the centre in the second round and starts throwing teep kicks to the body as well as leg kicks. Vera upping the pace a little and lands a nice left hook but Grant comes back with some hooks of his own. Thai clinch from Vera and he throws four big elbow to the face that open up a big cut on Grant’s head. Head kick from Grant before another elbow from Vera and a knee to the body. Clinch and Grant manages to throw Vera onto his back and ends up in top position. Vera looks for a triangle then tries to escape but Grant keeps him down and takes side control. Nice elbows from Grant but Vera rolls out of a guillotine attempt to end up on top and start raining down ground and pound to end the round. Another close one, I think that could be Vera’s though. 19-19.
Great start to the third round from Vera again as he presses forward, gets a takedown and locks up the back. He goes for a rear-naked choke but Grant escapes, then Vera moves into full mount with an arm-triangle. Again he escapes and they end up back on the feet, when Grant lands a huge left hook that staggers Vera! Vera blocks the next one and lands a lovely straight elbow to the head and starts attacking the body of Grant and he’s hurt. Vera trips him and gets on top again and lands another big elbow that hurts Grant, then a big body shot as Grant tries to get back to his feet. One minute to go and Grant looks for a kimura but Vera defending it very well and is able to escape it and get into full mount. Grant surviving and gives up his back but Vera sinks in a rear-naked choke! Grant refuses to tap and sees out the fight! What a fight, should be a Vera win.
Serghei Spivac def Aleksei Oleinik via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Encouraging start from Spivac as he is able to escape from an immediate clinch attempt from Oleinik before landing a really nice left hook. Spivac keeping his distance and lands a nice right hand again on his break, but Oleinik fires off a hard leg kick. Oleinik goes for a single leg takedown but Spivac defends it well and currently looks too strong for Oleinik. Nice overhand right lands from Oleinik but Spivac counters with a big uppercut too. Spivac right hook misses by inches and Oleinik goes to clinch again, but Spivac clinches and finally manages to get his back and drags him down to the ground. Less than a minute to go and Oleinik is looking for a head and arm choke but then he moves into full mount and goes for a scarf hold but the buzzer goes. 10-9 Oleinik.
Second round starts and Oleinik is walking Spivac down, but the pace is slow and the power is waivering on his punches. Spivac keeps moving and then Oleinik clinches and pulls guard, which allows Spivac to throw a few strikes on the ground. Oleinik looking to sweep from the bottom but Spivac starts throwing elbows. Oleinik starts looking for submission but Spivac is controlling the position with power and landing some nice elbows and ground strikes. Spivac goes for an anaconda choke but Oleinik escapes and rolls into full mount. He switches to the scarf hold again but once more, the buzzer goes. 19-19.
Oleinik is absolutely exhausted going into the final round and Spivac opens up with a big right hook that opens a cut on Oleinik’s head. He goes for a takedown again but Spivac denies it and then lands some big shots while Oleinik is on his knees, forcing him to get up quickly. Oleinik still walking forward and throwing his big overhand right before he goes for another takedown against the cage. Spivac ends up on top and starts throwing some short elbows. Less than a minute to go and Oleinik starts throwing strikes off his back but Spivac fires back from a more dominant position and sees the round out that way. 29-28 Spivac for me.
Korean Zombie def Dan Ige via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x2, 48-47)
Nice, competitive start as Jung takes the centre and throws a nice leg kick early, then follows up with a left straight. Ige throws a few leg kicks of his own then smashes a big body shot in range and then steps out. Ige goes for another big looping hook but Jung times it and shoots under it for a takedown. Zombie on top but Ige explodes out from under him and they both get back to the feet. Zombie lands a big right hand and smells blood but Ige retreats and seems okay now. Zombie lands some nice jabs and sees out the round. Close, but 10-9 Zombie.
Both guys trade leg kicks early in the second round, with Zombie using his reach to land first as it stands. Zombie landing jabs nicely and disguising the calf kicks well too, but Ige still trying to come forward too. Nice right hand from Zombie lands and Ige shoots for a takedown, but his defence is too good and he denies it. Heavy leg kick again from Zombie but Ige shows no reaction. Ige goes for another takedown but Zombie defends it and in a scramble ends up on Ige’s back looking for a rear-naked choke but the buzzer goes. 20-18 Zombie.
Ige comes out aggressive in the third but Zombie immediately flicks out the jab and ends up in top position after getting a takedown. Ige throwing big elbows from the bottom but the Zombie lands a big slicing elbow of his own. Zombie stacks him and lands a nice shot then takes the back of Ige and goes for a rear-naked choke but Ige fighting the hands and just about surviving. Zombie has a body triangle locked up and he’s throwing some good strikes but Ige looking to tie him up and prevent the submission. Zombie goes for a crank with ten seconds to go but no chance of getting it and the buzzer goes. 30-27 Zombie, dominant so far.
Tight fourth round now as Zombie is pumping out the jab and Ige is being far more aggressive. Zombie trying to counter strike while Ige looks for an opening and he lands a big right hand. He moves for a double jab then clinches up but Zombie just moves him away and resets. Big right hand from Ige again but Zombie eats it and lands a nice counter left-hook. Ige having a much better round this time but then throws a body kick and Zombie catches it, throws a straight right hand and then gets taken down with a minute left in the round. Zombie stacks Ige and lands a bit of ground and pound before the round ends. 39-37 Zombie.
Ige knows he needs a finish and comes forward aggressively early on, but Zombie looks very composed and calm just staying behind his jab. Ige throws a nice shot to the body and follows it with a left hook and it hits hard. Zombie didn’t like it so Ige does it twice more, then stuffs a Zombie takedown! Zombie lands a nice right hand counter but Ige goes to the body again. Another takedown attempt that Ige denies but Zombie lets the jab go again. Both guys trade body shots then Zombie lands a knee that hurts Ige and he’s able to drag him down and take his back with a body triangle again. Zombie just riding out the clock as Ige tries to escape but Zombie just too strong on the ground and sees out the clock for a big win. 49-46 Zombie.
The UFC returns to the APEX this weekend for a featherweight banger of a main event as ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chang Sung Jung takes on Dan Ige.
Both men have earned a reputation as one of the better guys at 145lbs but having previously lost to the best of the best, they want to prove they’re not nearly men by getting a win in this main event.
In this 12 fight card, you also have two heavyweights in the co-main event as Aleksei Oleinik takes on Serghei Spivac while Davey Grant takes a step up in competition to take on Marlon Vera at bantamweight.
Last week at UFC 263 we had an incredible night of picks, going 10/14 with NINE perfect picks to take us up to 338/530 (63.77%) with 151 perfect picks (44.67%). We’ll look to improve that record here and having started with the six prelim bouts here, here’s our main card picks.
Matt Brown (24-18) vs Dhiego Lima (17-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Brown is a top level wrestler but is now 40-years-old and his durability has really started to waiver as he’s got older. Lima on the other hand is a competent striker and grappler himself, but he’s just not a top level guy in any aspect. Brown will look to take Lima down, control from top position and land ground and pound but Lima has got good takedown defence and a range advantage too.
Lima has been rocked in the past but I think he’s big enough to take the strikes of Brown who isn’t close to what he once was and get himself a win. PICK – Dhiego Lima via Decision
Wellington Turman (16-4) vs Bruno Silva (19-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger of a fight in the middleweight division between the experienced youngster Wellington Turman and Bruno Silva. Turman has lost two of his last three, including a KO loss to Andrew Sanchez at UFC Vegas 6 while Silva returns from a two-year USADA suspension to make his long-awaited UFC debut on a four-fight win streak.
Silva is an absolute monster on the feet, with incredible power in his hands as his 16 knockout wins in his career show you. He has good cardio and steps forward with tremendous pressure to just suffocate opponents, forcing them into a war and eventually knocking them out. Turman is a jiu-jitsu expert with some okay striking to set up his takedowns, but fighting backwards is not something he is good at.
Silva will walk him backwards against the cage and swing his chin into oblivion to land a knockout win and a bonus for the night. PICK – Bruno Silva via Knockout, Round 1
Julian Erosa (25-9) vs Seungwoo Choi (9-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Erosa is a striker who can take plenty of damage and has good submission skills, while Choi is a really well-rounded fighter who switches up his attacks based on whatever his opponents weaknesses are. The problem is, Erosa doesn’t have many weaknesses. Yes he gets hit too much, but he has power himself and wild technique to catch opponents off guard. Choi is patient and able to mix it up well, but his best bet in this one will be on the feet.
Overall, I think Choi is too well-rounded for Erosa to exploit. His jab is good and he’ll be able to pick Erosa off over the course of 15 minutes while also mixing in his own takedowns and preventing Erosa’s. PICK – Seungwoo Choi via Decision
Marlon Vera (16-7-1) vs Davey Grant (13-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Vera is a good wrestler with some excellent striking in his repertoire, with heavy leg kicks a big part of his arsenal. Grant is a grappler naturally but has found out recently that he has dynamite in his left hook to earn back-to-back KO wins. Despite that though, there are levels between these two fighters. Vera has solid grappling himself and is definitely the better striker on the feet and I think the leg kicks will have a big say in the fight.
‘Chito’ will use his kicks and takedown defence to empty the gas tank of Grant and use some takedowns of his own to secure a fairly comfortable win for himself. PICK – Marlon Vera via Decision
Aleksei Oleinik (59-15-1) vs Serghei Spivak (12-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight clash of styles in the co-main event as the veteran Aleksei Oleinik takes on the up and coming Serghei Spivak. Oleinik has lost his last two-in-a-row, getting knocked out by Derrick Lewis at UFC Vegas 8 before getting knocked out by Chris Daukaus at UFC Vegas 19 earlier this year. Spivak has won his last two, earning a decision over Carlos Felipe before knocking out Jared Vanderaa.
Oleinik is a submission specialist, with 46 submission wins in his career. He is not a good striker and looks to close the distance to get hold of his opponent and take them to the ground to work his unorthodox submission game while Spivak likes to take his opponents down to beat them up and earn a submission of his own. But the striking gap between the two is very, very wide.
Spivak is good enough as a grappler to avoid submissions from Oleinik and with a size and strength advantage, Spivak should earn himself a stoppage as Oleinik’s gas tank empties out. PICK – Serghei Spivak via Knockout, Round 2
Korean Zombie (16-6) vs Dan Ige (15-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Zombie is a pressure fighter with crazy power in his strikes and some solid grappling skills on the mat, while Ige is more of a volume puncher with good wrestling to fall back on too. Ige’s got good boxing and skills but only four KO wins in his career tell you that Jung can walk forward to land his shots. Jung is physically stronger and also the bigger man and I feel that he has the speed and power edge too.
Overall, TKZ is still just better than Ige is. He has the edge everywhere and unless the beating that Ortega put on him has sent him into a shell of himself, Jung should pop him into oblivion to earn a wide decision win much like Kattar did. PICK – Korean Zombie via Decision