The UFC returns after a two week break for one of the most stacked Fight Night cards of the year when Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson takes on Kevin Holland in the main event.
A huge welterweight bout should see a new contender emerge for 2023 at the top of the division, with both guys looking to break into the top five soon.
This card also has the likes of former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, Tracy Cortez, Michael Johnson, Clay Guida, Niko Price and the super exciting Tai Tuivasa.
Last time at UFC Vegas 65 we went 8/11 with four perfect picks to move to 784/1213 (64.63%) with 324 perfect picks (41.33%). You can see our full pick history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims section of the card.
Yazmin Jauregui (9-0) vs Istela Nunes (6-3) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
A strawweight banger opens up the card in this one. Jauregui is an undefeated fighter, who won her UFC debut last time out back in August with a decision win over Iasmin Lucindo, while Nunes has lost three of her last four including her two UFC outings against Ariane Carnelossi and Sam Hughes.
Jauregui is a powerful striker with good wrestling in her back pocket and a fantastic set of lungs to make her a threat throughout 15 minutes. Nunes on the other hand is also a powerful striker, with great counters and skill but she has a habit of leaving herself open for counters and running out of steam as the fight goes on. That’s a problem against someone as dangerous and well-rounded as Jauregui.
Expect the Mexican to stand and trade early to see how she feels in the fight, but quickly switch to her wrestling if she gets caught. As the fight goes on she’ll be able to land more and take over in more dominant fashion, and I expect she’ll be the one to claim the decision win.
PICK – Yazmin Jauregui via Decision
Marcelo Rojo (16-9) vs Francis Marshall (6-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very exciting featherweight clash up next. Rojo has lost his two UFC outings after being stopped by Charles Jourdain at UFC Vegas 21 before suffering a submission loss to Kyler Phillips at UFC 271, but has proven to be exciting and capable of performing at this level thus far. Marshall makes his UFC debut having earned a contract on the Contender Series back in August.
Rojo is a very exciting striker with great power and tremendous cardio, allowing him to push forward and use his length well against all opposition. Marshall on the other hand is a wrestler with an excellent ground game, looking for submissions once he gets the fight to the mat. He’s also beginning to develop a decent stand up game too as he continues to improve. Rojo is a big threat, but his weakness is Marshall’s strength.
Marshall will wrestle, there’s no doubt and that will almost certainly stop Rojo kicking away at his leg as he likes to do. That could force Rojo backwards which makes the takedown easier, but if Rojo is brave and throws those kicks hard and effectively, it will open up more strikes on the feet to the head. Marshall is super talented but this isn’t an easy debut, and I get the feeling Rojo finally gets his UFC win with a big knockout after landing a sharp one-two down the middle.
PICK – Marcelo Rojo via Knockout, Round 2
Natan Levy (7-1) vs Genaro Valdez (10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Fun lightweight scrap between two relative UFC newcomers next. Levy is 1-1 in the octagon after losing to Rafa Garcia in his debut via decision, but claimed a win over Mike Breeden most recently back in April. Valdez earned a UFC contract on the Contender Series in October 2021, but lost his UFC debut in January when he got stopped by Matt Frevola at UFC 270.
Levy is a fantastic wrestler with a nasty leg kicking game to boot, and a great gas tank that allows him to drag opponents into the deep waters if necessary. Valdez alternatively is a straight up brawler, who comes into bouts looking to kill or be killed and that doesn’t bode well for him here.
Expect Levy to stay at range and use those leg kicks, before shooting for the takedowns and dominating on the mat with control and damage. He may even be successful in finding a finish after lots of wearing on Valdez, but it would come later in the fight if at all in my opinion.
PICK – Natan Levy via Decision
Tracy Cortez (10-1) vs Amanda Ribas (11-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An interesting flyweight scrap next. Cortez is on a ten-fight win streak, including a 4-0 run in the UFC with decision wins over Vanessa Melo, Stephanie Egger, Justine Kish and most recently Melissa Gatto. Ribas is 2-2 in her last four, alternating wins and losses against Paige VanZant (UFC 251), Marina Rodriguez (UFC 257), Virna Jandiroba (UFC 267) and Katlyn Chookagian most recently.
Cortez is a strong wrestler with dominant positional gains and some okay striking to open up those opportunities and a decent submission game from the mat. Ribas on the other hand likes to strike on the feet with her clinch game being strong, but her defence is poor. Her jiu-jitsu on the mat is excellent though, as her four submission wins show. This is all about who can take control of the octagon and force the other fighter backwards.
That leans me towards Cortez, because she’s the better wrestler by far and the one with the better gas tank. Ribas may think she can catch an armbar from the bottom and instead of working to get up stay there, but Cortez is very good defensively and with a mix of decent strikes, lots of takedowns and decent damage on the mat, she should do enough to get the decision win.
PICK – Tracy Cortez via Decision