The UFC is back in action, as the APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada plays host to a fun ESPN fight card. Headlining the event is a pair of Middleweight contenders in Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland. Both men enter on impressive win streaks and if anything, a win here could elevate them to a title shot. I only say that because Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya has often alluded to fighting a fresh face. With that all said, expect this fight to be a competitive one – as both men realize that better roads lay ahead.
UFC Vegas 22 Main Card on ESPN / ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Derek Brunson vs. Kevin Holland – This is an excellent fight, and while many call Derek Brunson a gatekeeper, I think he brushed aside that role when he starched the undefeated Edmen Shahbayzan. With Brunson’s newfound patience and added importance to wrestle, the now contender is riding a three fight win streak. However, he runs into a Buzzsaw here in Kevin Holland. The ‘Trailblazer’ has won five fights in a row, finishing four of them impressively. The last being a knockout victory over Jacare Souza. In this fight, if Brunson is to win – it’s because he used his wrestling early and clearly has a strength advantage. The one thing that is tough for me to gauge though, is if Brunson has the cardio to wrestle for five rounds. Even a tired Holland is still a dangerous Holland. The same can’t be said about Brunson. So with they, give me Holland to win via fourth round TKO.
170 lbs.: Max Griffin vs. Song Kenan – This fight is a contrast of records, as Song Kenan has been sort of gifted with winnable fights and Max Griffin has fought tough opponents – often finding himself on the short end of controversial decision defeats. What I’m getting at, is Kenan perhaps faces his toughest opponent here, but one that doesn’t exactly pitch a shut out. However, I still have Griffin winning. He’s well rounded and if need be, he can attack Kenan’s spotty takedown defense. In the end, Griffin gets his hand raised via decision – hopefully unanimous.
115 lbs.: Cheyanne Buys vs. Montserrat Ruiz – While Cheyanne Buys hasn’t fought anyone as good as Montserrat Ruiz, I just don’t see Buys losing this fight. It could get sloppy, as Ruiz likes to come forward with strikes, but Buys has the better technique and should win off that alone. So with that, give me Buys to win via decision.
135 lbs.: Gustavo Lopez vs. Adrian Yanez – This is a fun fight and I see it going either two ways. One, Adrian Yanez uses that vaunted speed, power and counter strikes to put down Gustavo Lopez early. Two, Lopez weathers any early troubles and uses his grappling edge to get this fight to the mat, winning via control. While Yanez is a decent sized favorite, I’m going with the latter. Lopez can also strike and has power, but would be wise not to stand with Yanez. Instead, take Yanez down – a problem that cost him three fights. So with that, give me the upset – with Lopez winning via decision.
265 lbs.: Tai Tuivasa vs. Harry Hunsucker – I commend Harry Hunsucker for stepping in on short notice, but other than a perfect punch – I don’t see this going well. With three losses, all by knockout, I’m already foreseeing this fight not going past round one. So with that, give me ‘Bam Bam’ Tai Tuivasa to win his second straight via knockout.
UFC Vegas 22 “Prelims” Card on ESPN2 / ESPN+ (7:30 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Macy Chiasson vs. Marion Reneau – While I’m sure Marion Reneau can keep this relatively competitive, I don’t see how she wins this. She has lost three straight fights, is 43 years old and is fighting some quiet frankly, better than her in Macy Chiasson. With size and better striking, I expect the former TUF 28 winner to take this fight comfortable via decision.
155 lbs.: Grant Dawson vs. Leonardo Santos – Imagine not being ranked or fighting a top ten opponent, when you have been undefeated for nearly 12 years and are 7-0-1 record in the UFC. That exactly Leonardo Santos situation, whom due to injuries have limited him to eight fights in nine years in the UFC. The now 41 year old Santos is out of his prime, and his gas tank seems to being get worse. The Brazilian will need an early finish to stay undefeated, as I expect Grant Dawson to get this fight into deep waters with his wrestling and grappling. In the end, the young gun will succeed and win via third round submission.
185 lbs.: Roman Dolidze vs. Trevin Giles – This fight is interesting in that Roman Dolidze drops down from Light Heavyweight to Middleweight. With good striking and solid grappling abilities, he’s a handful. Throw in size, and I could see Georgian being a legit problem in the Middleweight. The only issue I have is, cardio at this weight class. I can’t imagine dropping 20 extra pounds is all that easy nor helpful if the fight wanes. And while Trevin Giles has iffy cardio, I’m actually siding with him. As long as he can keep this fight upright, I favor his striking to get the better of Dolidze. So with that, give me Giles to win via decision.
135 lbs.: Montel Jackson vs. Jesse Strader – Given Jesse Strader hasn’t fought since 2019, and immediately is welcomed by an athletic, young and powerful fighter in Montel Jackson – I smell nothing short of a tough debut. One in which ends in a knockout defeat. So with that, give me Jackson to win via first round KO.
125 lbs.: J.P. Buys vs. Bruno Silva – Despite being the underdog, I like Bruno Silva here. He’s battled tested, as he’s been thrown into three tough fights in the UFC thus far. Throw in the fact that Silva showed a good account for himself in all three contest, landing several takedowns in each fight – and the Brazilian is due for a win. So with that, give me Silva to win his first UFC bout via decision.