The UFC is back in action, as the APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada plays host to yet another fun card. Headlining the event is two Middleweight contenders in Jack Hermansson and Marvin Vettori. Originally, Hermansson was set to headline against Darren Till, but an injury forced the Brit off the card. Kevin Holland stepped in, but he too was pulled after testing positive from COVID. Lastly, Marvin Vettori stepped up to the plate, finally getting the high profile fight he’s been seeking. Credit to Hermansson though, as he clearly wanted to stay on the card and move himself into the title picture. Vettori however, looks to steal Hermansson’s shine and ranking spot. This should be a fun one, and stylistically could even be an instant classic.
UFC on ESPN 19 Main Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson vs. Marvin Vettori – This is an excellent fight and I’m really up in the air about a prediction. I believe that Jack Hermansson offers the more well rounded skillset and is more dangerous should this fight hit the mat. However, Marvin Vettori is physically strong and has shown great takedown defense up until this point. On the feet, both men are good strikers, but I lean Vettori. He might not have the power necessary to finish people, but he’s excellent at dishing out punishment and avoiding it. I will say though, the later this fight goes, the more I lean Hermansson. I don’t think Vettori has five round cardio, wheras Hermansson has already proven he can go five at a hard pace. In the end, due to Vettori’s lack of power and unknown cardio in the Championship rounds, give me Hermansson to walk away with a 48-47 unanimous decision victory.
205 lbs.: Jamahal Hill vs. Ovince Saint Preux – I need to see Jamahal Hill in one more fight before siding with him against a high profile name like OSP. I believe he offers the volume necessary to outpoint OSP, but I’m curious if he can stave off OSP from taking him down. After all, Hill’s takedown defense is iffy and Darko Stosic took him down six times. OSP might just need one before locking in a fight ending submission. So with that, give me the old dog OSP to win via submission.
145 lbs.: Gabriel Benitez vs. Justin Jaynes – This fight should be fun out of the gate, as Justin Jaynes has shown us that he has five minutes of fury he can offer. After that, he’s a tired fighter waiting to be taken out. Given Gabriel Benitez has been finished in two of his nine UFC fights, it’s possible. However, both those finishes came against top fifteen talent at the division. He also looked good up until losing in both too. The other factor leaning towards Jaynes here, is that Benitez offers no wrestling whatsoever. So, this fight should take place entirely on the feet. While I do worry Jaynes could catch Benitez early, I’m not siding with him. Benítez has shown durability before and as long as he weathers the opening bombs Jaynes throws, the tide will turn in rounds two and three. So with that, my prediction is that Benitez wins this fight via late TKO.
125 lbs.: Taila Santos vs. Montana De La Rosa – As much as I want to side with Montana De La Rosa, I can’t. I believe she has shown improvements in her striking each fight out. Her grappling abilities are solid, as is her durability. However, Talia Santos turned a corner in her fight against Molly McCann. She used her obvious strength advantage to take ‘Meatball’ down five times. I see the same happening here, although De La Rosa is going offer up submission attempts and get back to standing easier than McCann did. In the end, I’m expecting a close fight here, but with Santos getting the split decision nod.
205 lbs.: John Allan vs. Roman Dolidze – This could be an epic first round, as long as Roman Dolidze obliges to stand and bang with John Allan. In my opinion, I see Dolidze entertaining it for awhile to feel out Allan. Ultimately though, he will go to his roots and get this fight to the mat. A place of comfort and one he absolutely holds a big edge in. In the end, Dolidze remains undefeated, winning via submission.
145 lbs.: Movsar Evloev vs. Nate Landwehr – Mosvar Evloev might be one of the more complete fighters outside the top fifteen who is destined to be a contender in the near future. He is also the biggest favorites on this card, rightfully so. I mean, Nate Landwehr is an excellent striker, but he lacks the wrestling to be a complete fighter. I will say though, his takedown defense looked exceptional against Darren Elkins. I’m interested to see if he can replicate that in this fight. While Evloev should win on the heels of mixing in striking and wrestling, against my better judgement, I’m calling upset. I believe that Landwehr is going to be conditioned and ready to keep this fight standing. While I worry about his striking defense, his volume should compensate for it. In close fight, give me Landwehr to eek out a split decision victory.
UFC on ESPN 19 Prelims Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Jose Quinonez vs. Louis Smolka – While I believe Louis Smolka is the stronger fighter in certain area’s like grappling, I don’t liken him in this fight. I think he’s lost a lot of the luster he had in his first run in the UFC. Perhaps the weight cut to Flyweight all these years have caught up to him, especially considering the fact that he pulled out of this fight three weeks ago due to weight cut complications. I will add, he weighed in at 139 pounds. However, I don’t think he get washed here. I see a competitive fight, but one in which Jose Quinonez pulls away in the later rounds. I believe ‘El Teco’ isn’t strong in any on area of mixed martial, but he’s well rounded enough and is a dog the later the fight goes. So with that, give me Quinonez to win via decision.
155 lbs.: Jordan Leavitt vs. Matt Wiman – I’m not even sure Matt Wiman can compete against lower-tier Lightweight’s at this stage in his career. Not that Jordan Leavitt is one, but by default he is given this will be his UFC debut. I mean, Wiman took nearly five years off and returned into a different evolution of mixed martial arts. It’s showing, as he has done nothing in his first two fights back. I don’t expect any dramatic change there, especially against a grappling wizard like Leavitt. So with that, give me Leavitt to win via decision.
125 lbs.: Cody Durden vs. Jimmy Flick – The odds on this fight seem a little high, but give me Jimmy Flick. While I believe Cody Durden could very well come out of the gate and use his strength advantage to completely dominate and perhaps finish Flick early, I worry about the aftermath should he fail to. After all, his UFC debut was a draw. One in which he dominated round one and faded in the the last two rounds. Throw in the fact that even if Durden gets Flick to the mat, he is going to have to work for his money to avoid the constant submission threats Flick throws up. That in itself is going to be exhausting. The extra ten pounds Durden cut to debut at Flyweight is something to watch too cardio-wise. So with that, give me Flick to win via decision.
145 lbs.: Damon Jackson vs. Ilia Topuria – This fight all comes down to cardio in my opinion. Damon Jackson has shown that he can be dominated early, but if you fade, he will catch you in a submission. The problem there is, other than that one trick, Jackson doesn’t offer anything else. Ilia Topuria is a solid grappler himself, but if he chooses to, he could keep this on the feet and just outpoint Jackson to a decision victory. Topuria could also take Jackson down and will and hunt for a submission. While he certainly faded in his UFC debut by round three, it’s important to note that he took the fight on eight days notice. With a full training camp for this fight, expect the undefeated Featherweight upstart to dominate this fight from start to finish with better conditioning this time around. So with that, give me Topuria to win via decision.
265 lbs.: Jake Collier vs. Gian Villante – This fight is an odd one to say the least. Jake Collier has gone through one of the most interesting transformations in the UFC. Entering the UFC as the RFA Middleweight Champion, Collier seemed to be a prospect to watch. However, Collier would trade wins and losses, which in turned prompted him to move up to Light Heavyweight. After two fights at Light Heavyweight with mixed results and a layoff of nearly three years, Collier returned as a Heavyweight. One whom is weighing in near the limit of 266 pounds. Crazy.
As for the fight, give me Gian Villante. While he is perhaps one of the most inconsistent fighters, I trust his striking to get the job done here. The word trust relating to Gian Villante is a scary thought in any fight though. After all, the way he physically looked in his Heavyweight debut matched the way he ultimately lost the fight. It wasn’t a guy who bulked up to Heavyweight and worked on his conditioning. It was a guy just stepping into the Octagon after a Thanksgiving feast and losing in top control due to exhaustion. At the weigh-ins, he looked better and I assume he’s taking this more serious. So with that, give me Villante to win via TKO.