The UFC heads to San Diego, California for a bantamweight banger in the main event between Marlon Vera and former champion Dominick Cruz.
A 13-fight card that has got plenty of fire match ups on it is headlined by the two contenders in the 135-pound division, where a win could put them firmly in title contention for early 2023.
Last week a UFC Vegas 59 we went 7/10 with one perfect pick, moving to 690/1069 (64.55%) with 292 perfect picks (42.32%). You can see our full picks history here.
We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims.
Youssef Zalal (10-5) vs Da’Mon Blackshear (12-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun bantamweight scrap opens up this card. Zalal has lost his last three fights in a row, dropping decisions to Ilia Topuria (UFC Fight Island 5), Seung Woo Choi (UFC Vegas 18) and Sean Woodson (UFC Vegas 28). Blackshear makes his UFC debut on a four-fight win streak with three submissions in that run.
Zalal’s successes in the UFC have come from solid wrestling and great movement on the feet too, and that bodes really well for him here. Blackshear is a solid submission artist from the top, with eight career tap-out wins, but he is pretty poor at keeping himself from being on the bottom and his striking is woeful at best. Zalal has shown an ability to be able to wrestle and keep opponents grounded, so that’s a clear path to the victory.
It will be really tough for the debutant to get success here, especially on just two weeks’ notice. If he manages to get top control he will be in a great position to control and execute chokes, but Zalal is good defensively and more than comfortable enough on the feet so he should be able to claim a relatively comfortable decision win. PICK – Youssef Zalal via Decision
Jason Witt (19-8) vs Josh Quinlan (5-0) – (Catchweight/180lbs)
Big time fire-fight up next in a fight that was supposed to take place last week. Witt has lost two of his last three via KO, getting stopped in 16 seconds by Matthew Semelsberger at UFC Vegas 21 and then by Phillip Rowe in February. He earned a majority decision win over Bryan Barbarena in between those fights. Quinlan is an undefeated fighter who has finished all his wins, including a 47 second KO on the Contender Series last time out that got switched to a no contest for a positive drug test.
Witt is a strong wrestler who has good takedowns and solid top control, but has a leaky chin and has been KO’d six times in his professional career to date. Quinlan is a power puncher with excellent Muay Thai skills, but has shown a difficulty in fighting when being pressured backwards in the past. That said though, this looks set up for a Quinlan victory.
“The Renegade” is powerful, fast, strong and accurate which will be way too much for Witt. Quinlan is capable of being taken down, but he’s also more than capable of getting back to his feet and any extended sequence of striking will likely end with Witt staring up at the lights. Expect a statement win from the newcomer with a violent combination. PICK – Josh Quinlan via Knockout, Round 1
Ode Osbourne (11-4) vs Tyson Nam (20-12-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very exciting flyweight bout up next. Osbourne bounced back from a flying knee KO against Manel Kape (UFC 265) with consecutive wins over CJ Vergara (UFC 268) and most recently a KO win over Zarrukh Adashev. Nam was beaten via split decision against Matt Schnell back at UFC Fight Island 8, and makes his return after 19 months out.
Osbourne is a very active striker on the feet, but one who has great wrestling and strong submission skills on the mat too. Nam on the other has barely changed over his long career, with good power and low volume often seeing his fights end in a decision that goes against him or a KO win in his favour. That’s not a good thing against someone as explosive and volume heavy as Osbourne.
“The Jamaican Sensation” is unlikely to be too successful with his wrestling in this one with Nam’s takedown defence among the best in the division, but with a five-inch reach advantage and more volume he should easily claim a decision win if he avoids getting his clock cleaned by a big punch. PICK – Ode Osbourne via Decision
Claudio Puelles def Jordan Leavitt via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Interesting start to the fight as both men trade leg kicks and body kicks before Leavitt changes levels and shoots in for a takedown. Puelles immediately rolls through to try and reverse but Leavitt holds onto the single leg and forces a scramble for the position. Neither men give anything up and eventually Leavitt is able to get into the guard but only for a few seconds before Puelles kicks him off. Leavitt doesn’t let go and tries to hold him down again but Puelles is eventually able to get back to the feet where they trade leg kicks again. Puelles shoots in for a takedown this time but Leavitt defends it pretty well before Puelles gets into his guard with about 40 seconds left. Neither fight lands any real offence as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Leavitt probably.
Second round more of the same early on from both guys with a few rangy kicks before Leavitt shoots in for a single leg takedown again. Puelles defends it well once again and manages to reverse to end up on Leavitt’s back, but he’s able to reverse into a kneebar attempt to escape and ends up with Puelles in his guard again. Puelles stands up and avoids an up-kick before landing a big left hand as Leavitt looks to get back up and they end up on the ground once again. Puelles looks to take the back and starts throwing a few strikes to free it up but Leavitt is defending faitly well. Puelles locks in a body triangle with 30 seconds to go but nothing else happens and the round ends. 19-19.
Puelles opens up the round with a takedown early on this time and he gets it easily, with Leavitt pretty content to work from his back currently. Leavitt tries to scramble back to his feet but Puelles doing really well to shut it down and starts landing some ground and pound too. Position over submission for Puelles so far but Leavitt is trying to get up again and goes for an inverted triangle but Puelles avoids it pretty easily. Puelles in the north-south position but not doing enough so the referee stands them up with 90 seconds to go, only for Puelles to score an instant takedown once they resume. A bit of ground and pound but nothing crazy and Puelles should waltz to the victory 29-28.
Sean Woodson def Youssef Zalal via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Fast paced start to this one as Woodson takes the centre and looks to pump out his jab, while Zalal is firing leg kicks and firing overhand rights to counter. Zalal starts landing some nice strikes from the middle and Woodson starting to back up a bit, so Zalal shoots for a takedown. Woodson is able to stuff it against the cage though and then lands a couple of nice kicks before a left hand wobbles Zalal! Zalal recovers well and seems to have the speed advantage so is landing first and preventing the jab of Woodson from being effective. Zalal moves in for another takedown but Woodson defends it well against the cage again before they break and Zalal goes for a double leg this time and gets it to end the round on top. 10-9 Zalal but close round.
Woodson comes out strong in the second round and lands some nice body kicks to back Zalal up, but the ‘Moroccan Devil’ avoids it and goes in for a takedown against the cage once again. Zalal breaks and lands an elbow before shooting back in again, then lands another elbow as they separate again. Woodson loading up with kicks and Zalal finding it pretty easy to avoid them, but Woodson lands a nice straight left. Zalal throws a nice left hook that lands before both guys trade leg kicks and then Woodson lands a nice left hand and jab again. Zalal shoots for a takedown against the cage with 20 seconds left but Woodson synchs up a guillotine but just runs out of time. 19-19 for me.
More of the same at the start of the final round as Zalal goes for another takedown and puts Woodson against the cage, but he is able to defend it well again and break out into the centre. Woodson takes the centre and is forcing Zalal backwards now, landing some decent strikes but then Zalal shoots in again to stop that momentum. Woodson throws a couple of nice knees to the body and is looking for a guillotine again but Zalal picks him up to escape with a minute to go. Zalal shoots in again but Woodson switches it and goes for a guillotine from the top, but Zalal explodes out and they get back to swinging to end the fight. 29-28 Woodson but close for sure.
Manon Fiorot def Tabatha Ricci via Knockout, Round 2 (3:00)
Tentative start from both ladies early on as Fiorot uses her significant size advantage to land he patented side kick and jab. Ricci circling on the outside and bursting with some flurries, but Fiorot staying calm and composed and lands a nasty body kick. She follows up with a nice left hook straight to the chin, but Ricci keeps moving and looking for an entry. Huge left straight from Fiorot down the pipe lands and easily denies a takedown attempt. Fiorot fires off a combination but Ricci just about slips it and gets away. Fiorot has the centre and lands a big left hand again but Ricci responds with a nice strike as the round ends. 10-9 Fiorot but Ricci is showing promise.
Fast start to the second round for Fiorot as she starts to hunt Ricci down and throw combinations against the cage. Fiorot goes for a takedown inexplicably but Ricci denies it and eats another combination up top. Ricci trying to throw some leg kicks but Fiorot checks and keeps coming forward, clinching up and landing two big elbows. Fiorot steps forward with a big combination and drops Ricci and starts teeing off! Ricci gets back to her feet but Fiorot keeps pouring it on and eventually the referee mercifully steps in to end it. Huge knockout win!
Alan Patrick vs Mason Jones – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Absolutely wild first round to start as Jones takes the centre of the octagon and looks to counter some crazy strikes from Patrick. The Brazilian shoots for a takedown but Jones avoids it and lands a nice right hand. Patrick throws some spinning kicks and back fists but Jones is slipping then and responding with big counters. Big exchange of punches from both men as Jones lands a left hand that staggers Patrick. Jones pushes forward with more pressure and Patrick clinches up and pulls guard but Jones starts smashing him with ground and pound. Big, heavy elbows from top position and huge strikes from the top and the referee nearly waves it off but he just runs out of time. 10-9 Jones, great round.
Patrick opens the second round with some more wild techniques before Jones steps in, gets a trip and starts working from top position once again. Some nice ground and pound strikes land but Patrick is able to jump back to his feet. He eats a big left hand and then an accidental eye poke causes a stop. Patrick tells the doctor he can’t see and the fight is waved off. Tough break for Jones.
Steady start to the fight from both guys as they look to feel each other out early on. Amirkhani shoots in for two takedowns but Kirk is able to slip his leg out both times pretty easily. Kirk steps forward and looks to land a right hand but Amirkhani then steps in to close the distance with another shot. This time he gets hold around the body of Kirk and throws him over his head and refuses to let go, before securing a trip and getting heavy on top. Kirk is able to push Amirkhani off and get up relatively quickly though and with no damage before a nice left hand clips Amirkhani. A bit of pressure from Kirk but the round ends, 10-9 either way.
Good start to the second round from Kirk as he steps in with some nice body work and a few straight right hands. Attempted flying knee just misses from Kirk, who then lands a massive right hand right to the side of the head. Three big body shots in a row from Kirk and Amirkhani shoots in again for a takedown but this time gets it, with Kirks attempts at a guillotine and heel hook coming to nothing. Amirkhani now in top position, staying heavy but Kirk throws up a triangle armbar and it’s tight! He locks it out and extends but Amirkhani refuses to tap and the buzzer goes. 20-18 to Kirk for me but could be 19-19 or 20-18 the other way too to be fair.
Final round and Amirkhani lands a big left hand clean on the chin to open up. Both guys look tired and after another left hand from Amirkhani he shoots for the takedown and secures it. Amirkhani heavy on top again, but Kirk throws up another triangle that just can’t get locked up. Kirk gets him back up to the feet but Amirkhani keeps hold of him and drags him down to the mat again, but this time Kirk reverses it and ends up on top. Kirk throwing body shots from the top as Amirkhani just holding him down to stall for time. Kirk postures up and lands a big left hand and the round ends with a stalemate for position. Super close fight, honestly could go either way.
Muslim Salikhov def Francisco Trinaldo via Decision (30-27 x3)
Very tense opening to this fight as both men throw out lots of feints and feelers early on, with Trinaldo coming forward. Salikhov throws a beautiful body kick that slaps, but Trinaldo rushes forward and lands a nice left hand in response. Salikhov taking his time and trying to counter, lands a big overhand right after missing with a left hook and then throwing a big body kick again. Trinaldo coming forward in bursts again and lands a nice left hand to the chin. Salikhov throws a leg kick but it gets checked and then follows up with a big left uppercut that drops Trinaldo! He follows up with some big ground and pound but Trinaldo stays calm on his back and sees it out until the bell. Whew! 10-9 Salikhov.
Good start from Trinaldo in the second round as he comes forward again and bull-rushes Salikhov, landing a nice right hand. Salikhov looks for the uppercut again that just misses, but then follows up with a couple of right hands himself that do land. Trinaldo lands a nice left hand before Salikhov lands a huge right hook that wobbles Trinaldo again! Trinaldo swings some huge punches after he recovers but Salikhov slips them all and lands some nice right hands of his own in between to really start piecing Trinaldo up. Salikhov is seeing the punches coming now and slipping then countering as he throws Trinaldo to the ground. 20-18 Salikhov but Trinaldo is still in this fight.
Final round and Trinaldo comes out swinging once again, but Salikhov counters with a left hook and gets a big eye poke for his troubles. After a pause in the action Trinaldo comes forward and lands a big left hand to that eye that wobbles him. Salikhov responds with a body kick and leg kick, but Trinaldo continues to come forward and look for that big left hand. Salikhov lands a nice leg kick and pushes Trinaldo to the ground at the same time, then eats up some time with a few leg kicks to his grounded opponent too. The referee stands him up and Trinaldo continues to come forward again as we enter the final minute as Salikhov lands a nice straight right hand. Big left hand from Trinaldo forces Salikhov to change levels and dump Trinaldo to the mat to see out the final 30 seconds and surely claim a win. 29-28 Salikhov for me.
Boser taking the centre early on and being the aggressor with some head kick attempts. Latifi just circling on the outside as Boser bounces around and feints some strikes, before another kick attempt gets caught and Latifi puts him on the mat immediately. Latifi works from guard into side control and looks to grind, but Boser is able to swivel his hips and explode back to his feet. Boser steps in with some nice jabs and a left straight but Latifi looking to clinch up every time. Boser lands another big jab and throws another two kicks to see out the round. Tough to score to be honest but I lean to Boser.
Latifi looking to punch his way in early in the second round, stepping forward with a nice overhand right. Boser responds with good foot work and his jab, slipping Latifi’s big punches and just piecing him up rather than landing bombs of his own. Boser steps forward and lands a big right hand that makes Latifi go down holding his eye, but the referee doesn’t step in and Boser goes for the kill! Huge ground and pound strikes against the cage but Latifi defends himself well and eventually clinches up. He shoots for a takedown but Boser defends it and goes for his jabs once again to end the round. 20-18 Boser for me.
Final round and Boser steps out with his jabs again but Latifi goes for an early takedown this time and gets it. Straight into Boser’s guard and this time Latifi is throwing some ground and pound strikes with heavy top pressure, stopping Boser from doing anything significant from his back. More grinding ground and pound from Latifi for almost two minutes at the end of the round and it’s his round but I think Boser will get the nod. 29-28 Boser for me.
*TOM BREESE VS ANTONIO ARROYO CANCELLED DUE TO A MEDICAL ISSUE FOR BREESE*
Montana De La Rosa def Ariane Lipski via Knockout, Round 2 (4:27)
Very patient start to the fight from both women, as Lipski using some feints as De La Rosa keeps the distance short. A few kick attempts from Lipski but eventually De La Rosa closes the distance, secure a body lock and gets Lipski to the ground. De La Rosa stays heavy on top and works her way to full guard where she starts raining down elbows and cuts Lipski wide open to the side of her eye. Lipski not doing much to get up and De La Rosa is able to just land big strikes at will here as the round ends. 10-9 De La Rosa.
Second round and Lipski lands a big right hand immediately, but De La Rosa shoots and gets the takedown perfectly in response. De La Rosa is able to slide into side control and has Lipski against the cage, keeping her in a really tough position and landing those big elbow strikes once again. Lipski is threatening with a kimura but it doesn’t have much hope and then De La Rosa slides into full mount and starts raining down huge elbows and punches. Lipski trying to roll away but De La Rosa refuses to let her and just keeps thumping away until the referee steps in and ends it! Huge win for De La Rosa!
Gregory Rodrigues def Dusko Todorovic via Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
A super start to the fight from the UFC newcomer as Rodrigues steps forward and is landing his power jab well. Rodrigues firing his right straight perfectly too and is catching Todorovic clean very, very often. A clinch up against the cage sees Rodrigues with a judo throw put Todorovic down, but he gets back up to his feet immediately. More crisp right hands land from Rodrigues as Todorovic just eats them, but he’s walking back with his chin high. Todorovic lands a nice right hand of his own to see out the round but that’s a Rodrigues round clearly. 10-9.
Rodrigues coming out aggressive in the second round and finding a home for that right hand over and over again. Some digs to the body from Rodrigues and another big right hand, before a power double leg secures him a takedown too. Todorovic tries to get up using the cage and eats a knee to he head but is able to get away. Rodrigues lands a big straight right hand on the chin again as Todorovic steps forward and throws a little flurry. Final minute and Rodrigues slips a punch and lands a beautiful left-hook, right hand combo. 20-18 Rodrigues, but he’s start to slow down a little.
Third and final round and Todorovic looks like he’s still trying to make reads. Good jab lands twice and forces Rodrigues backwards, but he replies with another big right hand that lands flush. Rodrigues goes for a takedown but Todorovic defends it well this time. Rodrigues steps forward again and lands some big combinations and then eats a jab for his trouble. Rodrigues lands a big right hand once more and then goes to the body, but Todorovic replies with a nice left hand of his own. Into the final 30 seconds and Todorovic lands some great body shows but eats another right hand. Todorovic goes for the takedown at the end of the round but the buzzer goes and it should be a win for the newcomer.
Santiago Ponzinibbio def Miguel Baeza via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast paced start to this one as Ponzinibbio takes the centre of the cage and looks to land some jabs and his right hand as backs Baeza up against the fence. Baeza responding with his kicks, throwing a lot of heavy leg kicks to the lead leg and throwing his right hand behind it. Baeza blasting those calf kicks and forcing Ponzinibbio backwards, and then he lands a nice left-right hand combo. Ponzinibbio comes forward again and lands a nice left hand but Baeza is throwing more and more leg kicks and they’re really totalling up now. Big flurry from Ponzinibbio at the end of the round lands a couple of strikes but ultimately that’s a Baeza round. 10-9.
Fantastic start to the round from Baeza as he targets the calf kicks once again. Baeza lands three body kicks in a row and as Ponzinibbio throws a jab he gets kicked in the calf once again. Big overhand right from Baeza wobbles Ponzinibbio but Baeza stays calm and doesn’t go straight for the kill. Ponzinibbio throws a few calf kicks of his own and a nice right hand but Baeza then goes back to work with the leg kicks. Ponzinibbio starting to land his jab a lot more now as he comes forward with a big flurry of strikes. Ponzinibbio coming forward constantly and is landing lots of strikes in the second half of this round with big combinations to end the round. 19-19.
Fast start to the final round too as Ponzinibbio steps forward again and they trade jabs. Baeza lands two leg kicks again then follows with a right hand that staggers Ponzinibbio. The Argentine continues to come forward with the lead jab and is now throwing a right hand behind it, but Baeza retaliates with a nice right hand combo to the head and body. Ponzinibbio lands a huge flurry and Baeza is hurt, but Baeza lands two right hands and hurts Ponzinibbio right back! Body kick from Baeza before a left hook lands from Ponzinibbio! Both men trade huge leg kicks and exchange wild hooks. Big uppercut from Baeza but Ponzinibbio lands a big one-two, followed by a Baeza right hand again. Both men spend the final 30 seconds going absolutely crazy with hooks and power punches, with Ponzinibbio getting the better of the exchange to end the round! What a fight! 29-28 Ponzinibbio for me.
Roman Dolidze def Laureano Starapoli via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Staropoli comes out very early and very quickly with a solid body kick, followed by two heavy leg kicks. He goes for a head kick that misses and Dolidze immediately shoots in for a takedown. Staropoli gets to his feet against the cage but Dolidze keeps a body lock and drags Staropoli down over and over again for almost the full round. A few knees to the thigh from Dolidze but otherwise a pretty dull round. 10-9 Dolidze.
Second round starts with an immediate power double leg from Dolidze who gets the fight down momentarily before they end up against the cage once again, in the same way as they did the first round. Staropoli eventually is able to spin away and get away from the grip of Dolidze and then lands a couple of kicks again. Big left uppercut from Staropoli lets Dolidze change levels and get another takedown. More clinching against the cage as Staropoli tries to escape and finally he does, before going for a takedown of his own and the same stalemate occurring again. 20-18 Dolidze.
Third and final round and we see more of the same from both fighters, with Staropoli unable to get his striking game going at all because of Dolidze’s strength whenever he gets close. Dolidze holding him against the cage throughout and any spec of danger is evaded. 30-27 Dolidze, next please.
Marcin Tybura def Walt Harris via Knockout, Round 1 (4:06)
Fast start to the round from Harris as he comes forward with intent and starts throwing bombs early. Huge rights and lefts from Harris landing clean but Tybura still standing and wobbling. Harris tries to clinch and goes for knees, then throws a flurry of hooks that drops Tybura again. He goes for a finish but Tybura drives forward for a takedown and gets it against the cage. Harris does well but then Tybura catches a kick and sweeps the leg to get on top. He transitions to the back and puts one hook in, working for a rear naked choke. He then starts landing heavy strikes that are having a big effect on Harris and eventually the referee steps in and ends the fight! Huge knockout win for Tybura!
Jairzinho Rozenstruik def Augusto Sakai via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)
Slow start to this one as Rozenstruik takes the centre and flicks out a leg kick or two, but generally both guys just feeling each other out for now. Another leg kick is matched by Sakai this time and then goes for another but Rozenstruik catches it and just misses with a counter right hand. Sakai throws a right hand that misses and Rozenstruik fires back with an overhand that whistles past Sakai. Rozenstruik backs Sakai against the cage and throws a flurry of shots but Sakai defends well. He does it again and this time lands a left hook right hand and Sakai is down! He lands a couple of follow ups just before the horn goes but it’s all over! Huge win!
Last time out at UFC Vegas 27 we went 7/11 with three perfect picks to go up to 321/505 (63.56%) with 139 perfect picks (43.3%).
We’ll look to improve that here on this huge 14 fight card, starting with the early prelims.
Claudio Puelles (10-2) vs Jordan Leavitt (8-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight fight should open the card as ‘El Nino’ returns after 21 months away to take on the undefeated ‘Monkey King’. Puelles hasn’t fought since September 2019 when he beat Marcos Mariano, while Leavitt won his UFC debut in just 22 seconds by KO’ing Matt Wiman via a violent slam at UFC Vegas 16.
Puelles’ last two wins weren’t the most impressive, considering he got absolutely battered and pulled out a hail Mary kneebar in the third round before beating one of the least impressive lightweights ever in Mariano. On the other hand Leavitt has got excellent wrestling and grappling skills while also having some exciting striking skills too, despite his only knockout being the slam last time out.
Realistically, Leavitt should absolutely dominate wherever this fight goes and if he can’t get a finish it’ll be a very lopsided decision win. PICK – Jordan Leavitt via Decision
Sean Woodson (7-1) vs Youssef Zalal (10-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Two highly rated featherweights go head-to-head next when ‘The Sniper’ takes on ‘The Moroccan Devil’ at 145lbs.
Zalal is a good wrestler by nature with a decent array of strikes in his arsenal, but against Choi he really struggled to get either of those attacks going. Woodson is a boxing-heavy fighter who has great takedown defence, but he has shown that he’s been able to be ground down before. Zalal will need to push the pace, but unfortunately for him that isn’t really in his style and Woodson is likely to be able to out-volume him and keep the fight standing for long enough to secure a win. PICK – Sean Woodson via Decision
Manon Fiorot (6-1) vs Maryna Moroz (10-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Two highly-rated flyweight prospects go head to head in this one as Fiorot looks to continue her fledgling career against ‘The Iron Lady’.
Fiorot has overcome a debut defeat to win six-in-a-row, including her last four via knockout. Her UFC debut ended with a head-kick knockout win over Victoria Leonardo at UFC Fight Island 8 in January, while Moroz is 5-3 in the UFC including decision wins over Sabina Mazo and Mayra Bueno Silva in her last two.
Fiorot is an excellent kickboxer who uses her kicks well to keep a distance before landing power strikes, while Moroz is a combination boxer with terrific speed and technique. The problem she’ll have however is that Fiorot has a big power and defensive edge and on top of that has a ground game she can fall back on too.
Moroz is durable but she’s never been hit the way Fiorot can hit her and I think think the French ‘Beast’ keeps her knockout streak going. PICK – Manon Fiorot via Knockout, Round 2
Ode Osbourne def Jerome Rivera via Knockout, Round 1 (0:26)
Both fighters come out and meet in the centre and Rivera throws a high left kick. Osbourne rolls the kick, catching the kick on his shoulder and lands a huge left hand straight down the pipe! Rivera is down, Osbourne lands a couple of strikes on the ground but it’s over inside 30 seconds! Wow!
Timur Valiev def Martin Day via Unanimous Decision (30-25 x2, 30-26)
Good start to the round for Valiev as he comes out and attacks the legs early with a series of kicks. Day counters another leg kick with a short combo in the pocket but Valiev steps out of the way and then goes for a single leg takedown. He takes the back against the cage and has a body lock before dragging Day down to the mat, only for Day to get back up quickly. Valiev finally gets the fight down and stops the scramble attempt to end up in top position. Some nice short elbows from Valiev but Day is defending well as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Valiev.
Valiev opens the second round with some more leg kicks, before a nice one-two and a takedown have the fight on the ground in the centre of the octagon. Valiev passes into side control and Day tries to get back to his feet but it’s prevented well with some solid ground and pound. Valiev completely dominant right now with constant pressure on the ground, staying busy and landing shots to the body and head of Day. Complete domination for the entire second round, could be a 10-8 round. 20-17 Valiev.
Final round and Day starts throwing some kicks and a few strikes, knowing he needs a finish in this round. It doesn’t last long though as Valiev gets another takedown early in the round and controls the positions once again. More ground and pound strikes on the ground as Day tries to get back up, but Valiev is a nuisance and keeps a body lock and just drags him up and down as much as possible. Valiev switches between half-guard, mount and side control for the rest of the round for a dominant decision victory. 30-26 Valiev.
Tactical start to this fight from both guys as Choi takes the centre, but Zalal is happy to circle on the outside and jab while avoiding heavier shots. Choi throws a few big head kicks but Zalal slips them relatively easily. Zalal shoots for the takedown and gets in on the hips but Choi steps over the trip attempt and they end up tied up against the cage. Zalal continues to look for the takedown against the cage but they’re at a stalemate and the referee separates them. Another clinch against the cage as the round comes to an end and Choi gets a takedown right on the horn. 10-9 Zalal for me but could go either way.
Second round starts with an exchange of kicks before another clinch against the cage, as Zalal looks for the takedown again. He gets a single leg but Choi defends really well against the cage until the referee separates them again. Body kick and one-two from Choi lands clean as he starts to come forward more. He pushes forward with another combo before the clinch again against the cage, before Choi gets Zalal down to the mat before letting him straight back up. A few more exchanges before the end of the round, this one more clear cut in Choi’s favour. 19-19 or 20-18.
Choi starts the final round strong, as he looks to have Zalal beat in all areas right now. They clinch against the cage again and Zalal finally gets the fight to the ground and goes straight for a guillotine. It looks tight as he rolls through but Choi eventually turns into it and ends up on top in guard. Choi eventually works his way back up to the feet but Zalal goes for a single leg takedown again and gets Choi down against the cage. Every time Zalal gets him down in this round he pops straight back up, refusing to accept bottom position as we enter the final 40 seconds. Round comes to an end with a clinch against the cage and it will likely be a Choi decision win. 29-28 Choi.
Fast start to this fight as McCann comes out throwing leg kicks and punch combinations early, while Procopio looks to walk her to the cage and go for a takedown. After a battle against the cage, Procopio gets a beautiful trip and ends up in top position halfway through the round. Procopio dominating on the ground and has McCann’s neck tight to control posture, but McCann fights out of that position, although she eventually pushes into full mount. McCann gives up the back and Procopio looks for an armbar before transitioning to the back and looking for a choke but the horn goes. Dominant from Procopio, 10-9.
McCann comes out aggressively again and looks to keep Procopio with her back against the cage, but a clinch and takedown attempt ends with McCann on her back. Procopio looks to transition into different positions but McCann throws up an armbar! Procopio looks to stack her to escape but McCann rolls through and locks it in tight! She has a full extension but Procopio refuses to tap and eventually is able to escape the position! Eventually the women get back to their feet against the cage and then Procopio lands another takedown inside the final minute as both women trade shots before the horn. 19-19.
Final round and Procopio is breathing heavy, but she still engages with the clinch situation against the cage looking for a takedown. She gets the fight down to the ground in scrappy fashion and then quickly transitions looking for a heel hook. McCann rolls through twice and escapes, but Procopio immediately gets back on her and brings McCann back down to the ground a further three times just using her size advantage. 30 seconds to go and Procopio takes the back of McCann and starts throwing punches to see the round out and take a decision win. 29-28 Procopio.
Karol Rosa def Joselyne Edwards via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
An immediate shot and takedown from Rosa gets the fight down to the ground and the Brazilian into a strong position. She sits in half guard comfortably, throwing some nice ground and pound and just completely controlling the fight. Rosa moves into full mount and starts teeing off before Edwards throws her legs up and rolls through to get back to the feet. Both women exchange shots on the feet with Rosa beating up the legs as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Rosa.
Rosa comes out aggressively again with some heavy leg kicks, and Edwards buckles under the power of the kicks too. Rosa steps in and clinches before the separate and Rosa throws more kicks. Edwards charges forwards with a combination of hooks that land clean but she eats them well and comes forward with some shots of her own. Edwards comes forward again with a rush but Rosa gets hold of her and the fight goes back to the ground with Rosa on top. Rosa’s mouth is bleeding heavily but she’s staying on top and landing ground and pound well as the round ends. 20-18 Rosa.
Final round and after one exchange on the feet Rosa goes straight for the takedown and secures it. After some ground and pound and some grappling on the ground Rosa gets back to the feet herself and lets Edwards up, before they clinch up against the cage again. Edwards battling to stay on her feet as Rosa looks to wear on her with her physical advantage. Rosa drags Edwards down to the ground with under 90 seconds remaining and controls the position for the remainder of the round before ending with a big flurry of punches to take a decision win. 30-27 Rosa.
Devonte Smith def Justin Jaynes via Knockout (Doctor Stoppage), Round 2 (3:38)
Cagey start to the fight as both men look to feel each other out before committing to any big shots early on. Smith lands some nice jabs that rock Jaynes a little, but Jaynes is throwing tight left hook counters that are just missing too. Smith’s jab is working well to keep Jayne’s away from him but then Jaynes lands a nice right hand that wobbles Smith. Jaynes is covering up from the jab and then Smith lands a nice left followed by a kick that Jaynes catches. Smith lands some big shots while his leg is still in the air and Jaynes is rocked! Smith throws some knees and a right hand but Jaynes weathers the storm and the round ends. 10-9 Smith.
Jaynes comes out in the second round and goes straight for a takedown and they clinch up against the cage. Jaynes goes to sweep him but Smith explodes and reverses the position to end up on top in side control. He throws some nice knees to the body and some short punches to cause Jaynes some problems. Smith passes into full mount with ease and starts raining down punches before taking the back and looks for the rear naked choke but Jaynes reverses and escapes. Smith explodes back to his feet quickly and tells the referee he wants it back on the feet. Referee pauses the fight with Jaynes’ eye swelled shut and the doctor waves it off. TKO win for Smith!
Danilo Marques def Mike Rodriguez via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (4:51)
Immediate takedown from Marques as he shoots in for a single leg and uses lots of movement before eventually tripping him down. Rodriguez fighting hard to get back to his feet against the cage, but Marques keeping his hands locked up and eventually gets him back down once again. Marques working hard to keep Rodriguez down and he’s tying up the legs to do so. Rodriguez gets back to the feet but once again Marques drags him back down. Rodriguez gets back to the feet with 15 seconds to go and throws a few knees and body shots but he looks exhausted. 10-9 Marques.
Second round starts with the two exchanging feints on the feet, with Rodriguez landing a nice low kick. Marques fakes a couple of takedown attempts before landing an overhand right and then finally getting the big takedown. Marques passes into full mount against the cage and he starts raining down big ground and pound punches. Both men look exhausted as Rodriguez gets back to a knee, but Marques keeps landing big punches and then takes the back with both hooks in. He rolls to the back and sinks in a rear naked choke and puts Rodriguez to sleep. Wonderful performance from Marques.
Beneil Dariush def Diego Ferreira via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
A crazy pace to start this fight as Dariush comes out firing with strikes before shooting for a takedown. Ferreira defends it by pulling guard with an omoplata before exploding out back to his feet, but Dariush looks for a takedown again against the cage. When he can’t get it he separates and the two start trading bombs! Both men land huge shots on each other but Dariush keeps coming forward. Big knee to the body and Ferreira goes down! Dariush looks for ground and pound but Ferreira ties him up on the ground and is able to ride it out. Final 30 seconds and they get back to the feet, and Ferreira lands a big right hand clean. Dariush returns with a right of his own before a front kick to the face from Ferreira lands flush. What a round! 10-9 Dariush.
Second round starts as the first ended with both men throwing big strikes once again. Dariush looking a bit more tired than Ferreira, so he shoots for a takedown and then gets a trip against the cage and lands on top. Ferreira gets back up but Dariush puts him straight back down and starts to control on top. Ferreira defending but the pressure of Dariush is causing him a big problem and Dariush ends the round controlling position from the top. 20-18.
An insane pace continues into the third round as Ferreira starts to use his footwork more to avoid a brawl and keep out of the way of the takedown attempts. Dariush lands a couple of punches himself and misses a takedown before a kick lands on the cup of Ferreira and causes a short pause. Halfway through the round and we haven’t hit the ground yet but Dariush lands a beautiful one-two to the chin. Ferreira catches a kick and looks to put Dariush on the ground but a great scramble means they both get back to the feet and start swinging for the fences. Dariush shoots for a takedown with a minute remaining and gets it, and takes the back with a body lock as he sinks the hooks in but Ferreira shakes him off and the two scramble to the horn. Great fight, 30-27 Dariush for me though.
Fun start to the fight as Pantoja looks to get right in Kape’s face early but ‘Starboy’ showing his amazing speed and slipping all attacks with his hands low. Kape making Pantoja miss a lot but barely throwing any strikes of his own as we move through the round, while Pantoja is trying to make reads and can’t. Kape’s jab is landing nicely when he throws it but just not enough volume. Pantoja lands a nice body kick and then Kape goes for a cartwheel kick that misses and Pantoja ends up on top. A couple of big strikes land while Kape is on the ground but he gets back up and ends the round with a takedown attempt of his own. 10-9 Pantoja.
Pantoja comes forward in the second round and throwing lots of kicks, and while Kape isn’t getting hurt or the sheer activity is giving Pantoja the rounds. Kape lands a nice one-two but Pantoja returns with some body kicks. Right hand lands from Pantoja but Kape returns fire with a nice one-two of his own. Kape trying to up the pace a little but still not throwing enough to trouble his opponent as we enter the final minute. Kape throws a head kick, follows it up with a left hand and then a takedown, but Pantoja rolls through and gets back to the feet quickly. Better round for Kape and it’s hard to score so could go either way. 19-19 for me.
Slower start to the round by both men in this one as Kape continues to feint and bounce, while Pantoja is almost waiting so he can counter. Nice left hook from Kape lands but Pantoja returns fire with a body kick. Leg kick from Pantoja misses and Kape lands a nice left hand in return before Pantoja lands a head kick. Kape not showing much urgency as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kape lands a left hand that troubles Pantoja and he follows it up with a nice combo. Kape shoots for a takedown and gets it but Pantoja rolls out again and the fight comes to an end. 29-28 either way for me.
Clay Guida def Michael Johnson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
A super fun start to this fight as Johnson and Guida meet in the middle of the cage and start trading bombs! Johnson lands a few nice shots before Guida responds with a right hand that lands on the eye and causes Johnson big problems. Guida keeps marching forward and lands more shots with the right hand before he shoots for the takedown and eventually gets him down. Johnson manages to get back to the feet and they clinch against the cage and exchange knees. Guida’s right hook is causing Johnson problems but he’s firing back with nice hooks of his own. Fun round, 10-9 Guida.
Second round continues at a frantic pace as Guida goes straight for a takedown this time against the cage. Johnson battles really well to stay up on his feet before breaking away and landing a nice knee, but Guida is relentless with his pressure and is forcing Johnson to grind. Several attempts are denied by Johnson between now and the end of the round as Johnson looks very tired when the horn goes. 20-18 Guida.
Third round and Guida comes firing out once again with crazy pressure. Johnson circles and looks to land a jab but Guida is throwing hooks and uppercuts, then lands a big knee before shooting for a takedown. They clinch up against the cage before Guida gets him down before taking his back. He locks up a body triangle and rolls him over, then looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Johnson fights the hands and breaks the grip on the hands but can’t break the body triangle and the horn sounds for the end of the fight. Clay Guida should take the win here, 30-27.
Cory Sandhagen def Frankie Edgar via Knockout, Round 1 (0:28)
Edgar comes out into the centre with Sandhagen and throws a leg kick as ‘Sandman’ circles on the outside. Edgar steps in with a looping left and SANDHAGEN WITH A FLYING KNEE!!!! EDGAR IS OUT COLD!!! OH MY GOD!!
Alexander Volkov def Alistair Overeem via Knockout, Round 2 (2:06)
Odd start to the round as Volkov throws a leg kick and Overeem seems to freeze and shell up against the cage, allowing Volkov to land some shots. Volkov continues to step forward with leg kicks and Overeem looks tense, but he explodes with two heavy left hands that land clean. Both men trade shots at the same time but as Volkov lands Overeem loses his balance and falls. Volkov jumps on him to land ground and pound but Overeem gets back to his feet quickly and they break. Volkov walking Overeem down against the cage and unloads a big combo as he covers up before the round comes to an end. 10-9 Volkov.
Volkov starts landing some nice jabs and Overeem is struggling to cope with the length and power. Volkov’s strikes landing through the guard of Overeem and he is busting him up bad. Overeem looks for a takedown but Volkov stops it easily and starts landing more shots. Overeem is badly hurt but he’s trying to fight back. Volkov lands a big left hand and Overeem falls to his knees and the referee waves it off to prevent further damage. What a performance from Volkov!
The UFC returns to the APEX in Las Vegas for the first time in 2021 after a successful trip to Fight Island kicked the year off.
Alistair Overeem looks to continue his final run en route to UFC gold when he takes on Alexander Volkov in the heavyweight division in the main event, with both men knowing they need a win to enter the top five conversations.
Osbourne was supposed to fight Denys Bondar at flyweight, but due to the short notice this fight will take place at featherweight. Osbourne is a great striker with lots of power, but is also capable of holding his own on the ground. Rivera is the opposite, always looking to get the fight down to the mat but throws good volume on the feet. If Rivera can’t get the fight down to the ground, Osbourne’s power should come up trumps and he could get the knockout win. PICK – Ode Osbourne via Knockout, Round 2
Timur Valiev (16-2) vs Martin Day (8-5) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Day lost twice in 2020, being stopped by both Davey Grant at UFC 251 and then by Anderson dos Santos in November by submission. Valiev has the advantage anywhere this fight goes in reality, with really sharp boxing skills and far superior wrestling skills. Day throws good knees that could catch Valiev if he looks for takedowns but overall I think the Russian gets him down and dominates for a wide decision win. PICK – Timur Valiev via Decision
Seungwoo Choi (8-3) vs Youssef Zalal (10-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An interesting fight in the featherweight division between these two prospects. Choi is coming off an impressive decision win against Suman Mokhtarian way back in December 2019, while Zalal went 3-1 in the UFC in 2020 beating Austin Lingo in February, Jordan Griffin in June and Peter Barrett in August before losing to Ilia Topuria in October.
Choi is a good striker with a really nice straight right hand and good takedown defence, while Zalal is an okay striker with excellent takedowns. His footwork is good enough to avoid the power shots of Choi and with his takedown chops, he should be able to get top position relatively easily and work his way to a decision win. PICK – Youssef Zalal via Decision
Molly McCann (10-3) vs Lara Procopio (6-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
McCann is a brawler who has worked on her wrestling game a lot in the last two years, with takedowns playing a big part in her three-fight win streak prior to her most recent loss. Procopio is a very good all rounder, who stood toe to toe with Rosa in her defeat and has shown a great ground game in the past too. She has the big advantage on the ground and McCann’s improvements aren’t quite enough to keep up with it, while on the feet they’re pretty even. Procopio will be able to stand with McCann without fear of getting knocked out and with her takedown advantage she should get the win in a close fight. PICK – Lara Procopio via Decision
Last weekend we secured 7/11 correct picks with four perfect picks (winner, method, round) so we’ll look to carry on the good run with this card.
Youssef Zalal (10-2) vs Illia Topuria (8-0) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Youssef Zalal makes his fourth appearance of 2020 and looks to go 4-0 against the undefeated debutant in Illia Topuria. Zalal is a great kickboxer and show his well-rounded skills in his wins over Austin Lingo, Jordan Griffin and Peter Barrett. Topuria on the other hand is a grapple heavy fighter who is all about the choke as his record shows. Seven wins from his eight have come via submission showing that if the fight goes to the ground he is in his element. His trouble will be that Zalal has proven he manages distance so well so far throughout his UFC career and his striking is on another level to that of Topuria. He hasn’t got the knockout power to end the fight with one punch which will give the Spaniard hope but overall I think Zalal keeps the fight standing to outscore his opponent with the judges. PICK – Youssef Zalal via Unanimous Decision
Alan Baudot (8-1) vs Tom Aspinall (8-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A big heavyweight clash between two up and comers in the UFC as debutant Alan Baudot takes on the UK’s Tom Aspinall looking for his second win in a row. Aspinall fought back in July on Fight Island and knocked out Jake Collier in just 45 seconds. He is an ex-professional boxer with crazy power in his hands and big things are expected of him in the UFC. Alan Baudot is making the step up to heavyweight for this one, with his entire career prior to this taking place at 205lbs. Neither man have ever seen the judges scorecards in a fight and I think it’s safe to say that continues here. Baudot is a fast and accurate striker but defensively he’s questionable. Against guys his own size he can get away with it but in the UFC against a striker as lethal as Aspinall, it only goes one way. PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 1
Markus Perez (12-3) vs Dricus Du Plessis (14-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An clash between a veteran and a true blue-chip prospect at middleweight as Markus Perez looks to bounce back from a defeat in his last outing against short-notice step in Dricus Du Plessis. Perez is an explosive striker on the feet but also a very ample technician on the mat, as his six submission wins show. Du Plessis though is one of the best middleweights outside of the UFC prior to this fight and has held the KSW middleweight title. The South African is aggressive, athletic and capable wherever the fight may go. More to the point, he is a finisher. He’s never seen the judges scorecards in a fight before and is always a threat. Neither fighter has fought this year but I think Du Plessis has a big chance to make a name for himself here. He has the power, the athleticism and the fight IQ to cause Perez problems and potentially even score the finish. PICK – Dricus Du Plessis via Submission, Round 2
Ben Rothwell (38-12) vs Marcin Tybura (19-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big boys are back in action on Fight Island as two UFC veterans face off in the heavyweight division. Rothwell is coming off two wins in a row, knocking out Stefan Struve before taking a decision win over Ovince St. Preux in May. Marcin Tybura is also coming off back-to-back wins, beating both Sergey Spivak and Maxim Grishin via unanimous decision. Rothwell is 50 fights and 21 years deep into his career at this point so we know what to expect. He is a powerful puncher with deceptively fast hands and has a great choke game, while Tybura is a fighter who looks to take his opponent down and grind out wins from top position. Rothwell is the bigger puncher in this fight and if Tybura mistimes a takedown, Rothwell is more than capable of taking his neck and wrapping this fight up quickly. PICK – Ben Rothwell via Knockout, Round 2
Makwan Amirkhani (16-4) vs Edson Barboza (20-9) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
This will be one hell of a fight. ‘Mr. Finland’ has won four of his last six fights including his last bout against Danny Henry back in July, while somehow Edson Barboza has lost five of his last six. That includes his move down to featherweight, where he lost a razor close decision to Dan Ige last time out. Amirkhani is a submission specialist, with 11 of his career wins coming via tap-out. Barboza on the other hand is one of the best strikers the sport has ever seen. If you’re in any way a fan of MMA, you’ve probably seen his spinning wheel kick knockout win over Terry Etim. His wrestling defence is sublime but in recent fights he’s been overpowered. The Paul Felder fight could have gone either way as could the Dan Ige fight, so the record looks much worse than it actually is. This will be Amirkhani’s toughest test yet, and on short notice, is a big ask. Barboza knocked out Beneil Dariush in 2017 who has a similar submission heavy style, so with short notice and power on his side, I think Barboza gets back in the win column in this fight. PICK – Edson Barboza via Knockout, Round 2
Marlon Moraes (23-6-1) vs Cory Sandhagen (12-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The main event is one of the best match-ups in the bantamweight division and could have title implications. Marlon Moraes was in title contention and even took on Henry Cejudo for the vacant title after TJ Dillashsaw vacated, and dominated the opening round. He gassed out after the first round though looking for a finish and Cejudo turned it around and got the knockout win himself. He then took on Jose Aldo and while many believed he lost the fight, the judges gave him the win. Cory Sandhagen was on the title hunt too before his fight with Aljamain Sterling went as badly as possible when he was choked unconscious back in June at UFC 250 in under 90 seconds. He is a stud wrestler with good hands and submission skills and will be looking to get back into the win column. Moraes is a Muay Thai black belt who loves to throw leg kicks, head kicks and can switch stances. It’s a tough fight in general because Sandhagen definitely has the advantage on the ground, but he has to get it there. Moraes has a good wrestling defence and the experience of a five round fight. While he struggled with the pace agains Cejudo and Aldo, if he can iron that out I expect him to get the win here. PICK – Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 3
Irwin Rivera def Ali Al-Qaisi via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Fight pass issues mean I didn’t get to see this one in it’s entirety. The final minute of the second round and whole third round however were razor close and the commentators weren’t even sure about who won. Both fighters landed heavy punches, big kicks and were able to secure takedowns but it was ‘The Beast’ who got the nod from the judges.
Youssef Zalal def Peter Barrett via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 30-27)
Fun first round in the books as the Moroccan opens the fight with a low calf kick and follows it up with a huge spinning back kick that catches Barrett flush in the face and knocks him down. Zalal sprints over and lands a barrage of ground and pound trying to put him away. Barrett recovers though and uses his wrestling well, but Zalal is staying out of range and enjoying the striking exchanges. 10-9 Zalal.
A second round that is majority grappling as Zalal shows his skill level is just a notch above Barrett’s. A lovely throw from Zalal takes the fight to the ground and he immediately takes the back. The rest of the round is Zalal looking for a rear-naked choke but Barrett is very tough and avoids it throughout to get through to a third round. 20-18 Zalal.
Third round is excellent fight management from Zalal. He gets the fight back down to the ground and controls it once again staying out of danger and looking for chokes throughout. A comfortable win for the Moroccan Devil.
What a round! Both guys come out with a similar game plan to throw straight punches, high kicks and to control the octagon. It’s a razor close round and Jaynes lands a huge uppercut that drops Tucker. Jaynes runs in for some ground and pound but Tucker does well to survive before turning it around and getting back to his feet. A few more punches land from Jaynes before Tucker shoots for a single leg that Jaynes turns into a guillotine attempt. Tucker escapes, losing his shorts in the process, and manages to reverse the position to an arm-triangle choke! Jaynes survives the round still in the choke. 10-9 Tucker for me, despite the knockdown.
Second round seems like Tucker was woken up and angered by the knockdown in the first. He’s hunting Jaynes down and stalking him across the octagon, landing heavy punches and kicks. He’s mixing up strikes from head to body to legs and Jaynes is visibly tiring as the round goes on. A super round for Tucker that is unquestionably his. 20-18 for me.
Jaynes comes out swinging for the fences in the third but Tucker lands a beautiful knee that would have dropped Jaynes if not for the fence holding him up. Jaynes is wobbling and shoots for the takedown but Tucker sprawls well and turns a tired and hurt Jaynes over and takes his back. He locks in a body triangle, finds the rear-naked choke and secures the tap. Big win for Tucker.
Andrew Sanchez def Wellington Turman via Knockout, Round 1 (3:46)
Turman comes out aggressive in the first and looks to take Sanchez down immediately, tying him up in a clinch but ‘El Dirte’ defends well and keeps it on the feet. Both men start striking and landing some heavy blows, but Sanchez seems to be landing cleaner and harder shots. Turman goes for a head kick but Sanchez evades the kick and lands a lovely right cross counter that stuns Turman. He steps forward and lands a jab followed by another heavy right hand that drops Turman out cold. He follows up with two more hammer fists but the referee stops it immediately. Huge win for Andrew Sanchez.
Nasrat Haqparast def Alex Munoz via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
A tense first round between these two lightweights that starts off with an immediate takedown from Munoz. Haqparast gets back up quickly and Munhoz lands a low blow against the cage as they clinch which causes a pause in the action. Following that though, Haqparast seems to go up a level with his striking. He starts landing a nice uppercut and hooks, while reading Munoz’s level changes well. Towards the end of the round Munoz starts to mix it up a bit more but Haqparast is comfortable and takes the round. 10-9.
Haqparast is turning up the heat in this second round. Heavy shots land and more stuffing of Munoz’s takedowns have him in complete control of this fight. There’s a clear speed and power advantage for Haqparast and he shows it with a big one-two that staggers Munoz! He presses forward for more shots but Munoz avoids flush strikes for a while and recovers. More damage lands and cuts open Munoz below his right eye and a clash of heads opens up a cut on Haqparast’s head too but it’s another round for Baby Gastelum. 20-18.
Final round and it’s more of the same. Haqparast out-boxing Munoz and allowing absolutely nothing in terms of takedowns from Munoz. He’s landing at will and cutting up the face of Munoz and not taking much damage himself. Round ends with Haqparast on the attack yet again and Munoz well and truly beaten. 30-27.
Kevin Holland def Joaquin Buckley via Knockout, Round 3 (0:32)
Fireworks! Buckley has come to take Holland’s head off with huge hooks and Holland is looking for something spectacular too. Buckley is throwing big, powerful combinations to the body but Holland is looking to throw elbows whenever he gets inside. Buckley is loading up way too much and Holland is reading the shots easily now and lands a crisp right straight that drops Buckley! The debutant recovers quickly and gets back to his feet and the round ends. Holland’s round but Buckley is in this fight. 10-9.
An interesting second round, where Buckley was the aggressor but the reach disadvantage really stopped him landing anything significant. Holland wasn’t as active but ensured he countered successfully and probably landed the bigger shots of the round. 20-18 Holland but could go the other way.
Well…. that close round didn’t matter. Holland comes out in the third round and lands two body kicks, avoids a looping hook from Buckley, readjusts and then lands a sniper-like right straight that knocks the mouthpiece out of Buckley’s mouth and lands him a walk off knockout. What a punch, oh my goodness.
Tim Means def Laureano Staropoli via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Fight starts off with a fast pace and Means gets an early takedown. Staropoli jumps up to his feet quickly and the two start exchanging body shots as Means looks for the clinch and knees. Both fighters throwing similar shots and landing at a similar rate. A thumb to the eye from Means causes a short pause in the action but following that both guys get right back to it. Close round but I’m giving it to Means. 10-9.
Second round starts with a huge spinning elbow by Staropoli as Means runs in for a takedown. Means eats it though and holds on to a body lock to recover. More exchanges from both guys and Means lands a huge kick that drops Staropoli! He rushes in for the ground and pound to finish the fight but Staropoli defends well and recovers. Lots of body shots from Means as Staropoli is visibly beginning to tire now. Means closes the round out looking for a takedown against the cage before landing a heavy elbow. 20-18 Means for me.
Third round is excellent wrestling from Tim Means. The veteran used his wrestling well to keep the fight at a safe distance and had him up against the cage for a large portion of the round. The referee separated them at one point due to a fence grab but Means did well to land punches and then take it straight back. Excellent fight management. 30-27 Means for me.
Beneil Dariush def Scott Holtzman via Knockout, Round 1 (4:38)
Big body kick by Dariush opens the fight but almost immediately after Holtzman accidentally puts a thumb in his eye. They get back to it and Dariush lands a glancing low blow and then Holtzman with another eye poke, all within the first 60 seconds. Dariush now goes for a takedown against the cage but Holtzman reverses against puts Dariush against the cage. They engage in a clinch and Dariush lands a huge knee to the face. Dariush pushes forward looking for a finish but Holtzman recovers well. Dariush continues to push forward, throws a nice body kick then fakes the jab and lands a huge spinning back fist! Walk off knockout! Oh my God! Wow!
Yana Kunitskaya def Julija Stoliarenko via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-26)
Aggressive start from Stoliarenko but Kunitskaya turns it around and gets a clinch against the cage. She lands some nice knees to the body and is showing that he’s physically stronger right now. Stoliarenko attempts to pull guard with a guillotine but Kunitskaya defends well and gets the fight back into the previous position for the remainder of the round, landing knees and the odd punch. 10-9 Kunitskaya.
Second round starts off exactly as the last round ended, with Kunitskaya overpowering Stoliarenko and getting the fight to the cage in a clinch and landing knees. Stoliarenko is desperate to get this fight to the ground but Kunitskaya defending it perfectly and keeping the fight exactly where she wants it. Countless body shots with the knees really taking their toll on Stoliarenko and she pulls guard again. This time Kunitskaya stays there and lands a big elbow but Stoliarenko eats it and throws up her patented armbar. It’s closing to getting locked in but the cage position saves Kunitskaya and she manages to hold out for the end of the round. 20-18.
Third round goes straight back to the clinch exchange against the cage to open the round, but Stoliarenko manages to get it down to the mat much quicker this time around. She attempts to throw up a rubber guard but there’s just not enough space to do anything with it. Referee stands them up and it’s more of the same before the round and fight comes to an end. 30-27 Kunitskaya but it’s not a fight anyone will remember.
Darren Stewart def Maki Pitolo via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (3:41)
A tense start to the fight sees both men circling the octagon throwing out short combination punches but nobody really landing anything. Pitolo lands a nice right hand that seems to stun Stewart but he shakes it off and continues to come forward himself. Pitolo shoots for a single leg takedown but Stewart slides an arm under the chin and locks in a guillotine choke. He adjusts the grip to tighten it up and secures the tap. Huge win for The Dentist!
Chris Weidman def Omari Akhmedov via Unanimous Decision (29-27 x2, 29-28)
Weidman comes out bouncing on his toes before shooting immediately for a takedown. Akhmedov avoids the first few attempts but Weidman relenteless in his search. Akhmedov lands a nice right straight that stuns Weidman, but he recovers well and goes back to his search for the takedowns. Akhmedov shoots for his own takedown but Weidman holds him down and eventually ends up in top position, controlling but not landing much damage. 10-9 Weidman.
Second round starts with Akhmedov landing a takedown of his own. He hits some nice ground and pound but Weidman gets back to his feet and now it’s almost a complete reverse of the first round. Akhmedov is getting more and more aggressive and persistent with his takedown attempts and Weidman is exhausted. Akhmedov lands more takedowns but Weidman is getting up pretty quickly. 19-19 going into the third in a stalemate of a fight.
Round 3 and Weidman flies out for the takedown to open the round. He drives Akhmedov against the cage, before a beautiful trip gets Weidman into a dominant position. Weidman attempts for a variation of a ‘Suliev Stretch’ but it’s not quite working so he transitions himself to the back and then into full mount. He attempts for an arm triangle but doesn’t quite have the squeeze so starts dropping big elbows to close out the round. 29-28 Weidman for me.
Derrick Lewis def Alexei Oleinik via Knockout, Round 2 (0:21)
Lewis starts the fight with a high kick and starts throwing bombs. Oleinik weathers the storm and engages the clinch, but Lewis literally throws him to the ground and goes for ground and pound strikes. Oleinik does well to ride it out and takes control on the ground, reversing positions and dominating the grappling. Oleinik attempts to go for a scarf-hold but while he’s not close to securing a tap he’s definitely making Lewis uncomfortable. The round ends with Oleinik very close to securing a key-lock submission. 10-9 Oleinik.
Second round starts and Lewis charges out with a flying knee to the chest and huge right hand! Oleinik falls and Lewis pounces with the ground and pound for the finish. 3 wins in a row for The Black Beast.
A bizarre UFC card last weekend saw just 8 fights take place after a number of withdrawals in the build-up, including one on the night.
We’ll be looking for a more action-packed card this time around when Derrick Lewis meets Alexei Oleinik in the main event in the heavyweight division. Prior to the headliner though, there are 11 other fights scheduled for the card including seven on the prelims and five on the main card.
I got 5/8 picks right last weekend with 2/5 being completely correct (winner, round, method). Not the best but in a card that got chopped up so much in the build-up I’m not too worried overall. Hopefully I can do better this time around though.
Irwin Rivera (9-5) vs Ali Al-Qaisi (8-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
After a debut loss in the UFC to Giga Chikadze, Irwin Rivera comes back down to his natural weight looking for his first win in the company against debutant Ali Al-Qaisi. ‘The Royal Fighter’ comes in on a five-fight win streak including three first round submission wins. Rivera is a good offensive fighter with good power in his hands but still raw defensively, especially when facing takedowns, while Al-Qaisi is pretty one dimensional in that he wants to take you down and submit you. On paper it seems like a good match up for Al-Qaisi, but the problem here is that his level is not the highest. Rivera is a very good scrambler and while he’s not the best at stopping the takedown, he’s good at getting back to his feet. Rivera may get taken down but any time he’s on his feet he’s dangerous enough to stop Al-Qaisi and I think that’s what happens here. PICK – Irwin Rivera via Knockout, Round 3
Youssef Zalal (9-2) vs Peter Barrett (11-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A short-notice favourite is rare, but Youssef Zalal has every right to be in that category for this fight. He’s currently 2-0 in the Octagon following wins over Austin Lingo and Jordan Griffin, while ‘Slippery Pete’ makes his UFC debut following a win on Dana White’s Contender Series almost a year ago. Zalal has a complete advantage in every aspect of MMA in this bout and should be able to dominate wherever it ends up. Barrett is a hittable target with dodgy takedown defence but he has got power to put people away as his 7 knockout wins show. In this instance though, I don’t think he’ll be able to get near enough to ‘The Moroccan Devil’ to land that big punch. Zalal should be able to maintain distance and control the fight for a win. PICK – Youssef Zalal via Unanimous Decision
Justin Jaynes (16-4) vs Gavin Tucker (11-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Five fight win streak vs 1 loss ever, this fight could be the fight of the night. Gavin Tucker destroyed Sam Sicilia in his UFC debut back in 2017 before being destroyed himself in his next fight against Rick Glenn. He took two years out before his submission win over Seung Woo Choo and now returns after a year out. Jaynes made his UFC just over a month ago when he KO’d UFC vetera Frank Camacho after just 41 seconds. Jaynes isn’t naturally a 145lber and was fighting at 165lbs for that Camacho fight so I expect the weight cut will have some kind of effect on him. Add to that Tucker is very capable on the feet and a solid wrestler himself, so I think he’ll have the tools to keep Jaynes’ power at bay to secure a decision win. PICK – Gavin Tucker via Unanimous Decision
Andrew Sanchez (11-5) vs Wellington Turman (16-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A former Ultimate Fighter winner against a big prospect at middleweight in what is an interesting bout. Sanchez has heavy hands and a great wrestling game, tools that should see him having a much better career than he’s had so far. He’s lost 3 of his last 5 in the UFC. Turman on the other hand is 1-1 in the UFC but has done nothing but impress. He stepped in on short notice and took Karl Roberson to a split decision that he lost, before controlling a win over Markus Perez. Turman is a grapple heavy fighter who looks for submissions to win the fight. Sanchez though has never been taken down in the UFC and the only issues he’s had in his defeats have come against volume strikers who outlast his poor cardio. He shouldn’t have that problem in this fight and should be able to overcome the young Turman for a win. PICK – Andrew Sanchez vs Unanimous Decision
Nasrat Haqparast (11-3) vs Alex Munoz (6-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Baby Gastelum makes his return following a first-round knockout defeat back in January to Drew Dober. Prior to that, Haqparast had won his last three in impressive performances and was slowly moving up towards being ranked. Munoz is making his UFC debut in this fight but is highly thought of as the match up shows. He was scheduled to fight Luis Pena in February but pulled out with injury. This one could be a step too far for the Team Alpha Male fighter though. Haqparast has lethal striking and a steady wrestling game, while his conditioning has never caused him a problem. His defeat to Dober is no reason to write him off considering what Dober has done since too. Munoz will need to get an early takedown and grind through his opponent to be able to stay in the fight, but overall I think Haqparast will be able to outland Munoz and eventually be able to power through for the knockout win. PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 3
Kevin Holland (17-5) vs Joaquin Buckley (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A late addition to the card as the UFC get Kevin Holland on a UFC card once again following his cancellation last weekend. He was supposed to fight Trevin Giles but he passed out moments before the walk-out, leaving the ‘Trailblazer’ without an opponent. His opponent makes his UFC debut in this one, but he fought just last weekend himself avenging one of his only two losses via a second round knockout. Holland has a huge height and reach advantage which will definitely help him in keeping Buckley’s power away from him and I think he’ll score the knockout win. PICK – Kevin Holland via Knockout, Round 2
Tim Means (29-12-1) vs Laureano Staropoli (9-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An interesting fight headlines the prelims of this card as veteran Tim Means takes on ‘El Matador’. Means has lost 5 of his last 8 fights, being finished 3 times in that period. His two most recent wins came via stoppage in the first round but neither of those fighters are with the UFC anymore. Staropoli won his first two fights in the UFC with comfortable decisions before losing to Muslim Salikhov back in October 2019. Despite being the more all-round fighter, Means’ last defeat was to a man that, on paper, he was much better than too. Staropoli’s takedown defence is somewhat of a weakness as he allowed Salikhov to take him down three times, so Means may look to use some wrestling in addition to his Muay-Thai. If he can use his reach advantage well he should get the win, while Staropoli will know that if he lands clean a few times he will hurt Means. PICK – Laureano Staropoli via Knockout, Round 2
You can watch the early prelims of this card exclusively on UFC Fight Pass while UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Oleinik will air live on BT Sport this Saturday night, starting at midnight. The main card will start at 2am.
Do you agree with my picks for the prelims? Let me know.