The UFC is back in action, as the APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada plays host to yet another card. Headlining the event is a pair of lightweights in Islam Makhachev and Thiago Moises. While Makhachev gets all the praise, Moises is an excellent fighter and is very deserving of this main event slot. A main event with high stakes, as the winner could find themselves in a top five fight come next.
For the winner, a potential clash with someone in the top five of the division.
UFC on ESPN 26 Main Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Islam Makhachev vs. Thiago Moises – As much I think Thiago Moises is underrated, it’s insane to believe I think he gets dominated. Islam Makhachev is just a different breed, and all but seems destined to fight for the title sooner than later. With a complete skill set, and wrestling that can’t be stopped, it’s going to take better than Moises to shut down the Dagestan native. So with that, give me Makhachev to win via late TKO.
135 lbs.: Marion Reneau vs. Miesha Tate – Do I pick the active fighter who is retiring after this fight or the former UFC Bantamweight Champion who hasn’t fought since 2016? Do I side with a skill set I know or one that I’m not entirely sure has evolved with the times? If you picked the second option of each, that is where I side. So with that, in this total crapshoot of a fight, give me Tate to win via decision.
155 lbs.: Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jeremy Stephens – I’m very high on Mateusz Gamrot and I don’t see Jeremy Stephens standing in the way of his progression to the top of the division. With a well rounded skill set, Gamrot has proven that his debut, while I thought he won, might have been dimmed due to UFC jitters. I say that because outside of the UFC and in his second fight inside the octagon, the ultra talented Gamrot dominated and finished Scott Holtzman. Quite frankly, I’m expecting more or less the same here. Stephens hasn’t won a fight since 2018 and has been finished in three of his last four fights. Make it four of five, as Gamrot rings off another TKO victory.
185 lbs.: Dustin Stoltzfus vs. Rodolfo Vieira – If I have to go out on a limb here, either Rodolfo Viera gets it done early via submission or gasses so hard that Dustin Stoltzfus gets the comeback victory. While the latter is juicy, give me Viera to do what he does best, submit foes
145 lbs.: Billy Quarantillo vs. Gabriel Benitez – This is going to be a fun fight, but I’m going upset and siding with Billy Quarantillo. While his striking needs to be polished, his durability, cardio, pace and grappling all are major positives. Gabriel Benitez is definitely the better striker, especially defensive, but his takedown defense is iffy. It’s something that I’m eyeballing Quarantillo to eventually crack and aide the American to a decision victory.
UFC on ESPN 26 Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Preston Parsons vs. Daniel Rodriguez – This is a tough for debut for Preston Parsons, as he will look to do what he does best, take opponents down and submit them. In fact, all nine of his victories have come via submission. Problem is, Daniel Rodriguez has rather good takedown defense. Even better when you consider he stuffed all seven attempts by a known wrestler in Nicholas Dalby. So given I believe Rodriguez will keep the fight on the feet, I don’t see any other result than a knockout victory.
115 lbs.: Amanda Lemos vs. Montserrat Ruiz – It’s only a matter of time before Amanda Lemos enters the contender conversation, as she is just the complete package. Well rounded, with legit power and grappling. And while Montserrat Ruiz is tough, her debut basically showed only her wrestling and ability control her opponent. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the fight was Ruiz on top of Cheyanne Buys. The lack of activity in top control is concerning, especially in a fight that she undoubtedly knows isn’t easy. Rest assured though, Lemos is going to win this. When Ruiz struggles to take the Lemos down, she’s going to get starched on the feet. Perhaps not a clean knockout, but I sense a TKO victory for the Brazilian.
135 lbs.: Sergey Morozov vs. Khalid Taha – This fight either goes two ways. One, Sergey Morozov implements a heavy wrestling attack and succeeds. Two, Khalid Taha shrugs off the attempts and pieces him on the feet. Normally, I’d go with the wrestler in these instances, but I was really impressed with Taha in his last fight against Raoni Barcelos. While he ultimately loss, it was an excellent fight that earned ‘Fight of the Night Honors’. Taha was taken down a few times, but was only controlled for a little over three minutes of the fight. I would of liked to see more accuracy, but the activity and cardio were there. In my opinion, I believe we are in for a complete performance by the German. So with that, give me Taha to win via knockout.
125 lbs.: Francisco Figueredo vs. Malcolm Gordon – This fight is a crapshoot, but I’m siding with Francisco Figueredo. The brother of former UFC Flyweight Champ Deiveson Figueiredo successfully debuted in January of this year, as he defeated Jerome Rivera via unanimous decision. While Figueredo didn’t look all that well in the striking exchanges, he used four takedowns en route to a decision victory. I imagine he will look to use the same blueprint, as Malcolm Gordon hasn’t showed he does anything that well thus far. So with that, I’ll go with Figueredo to win via TKO.
265 lbs.: Alan Baudot vs. Rodrigo Nascimento – Alan Baudot’s UFC debut didn’t go as planned, as in a mere 95 seconds, he was taken down and finished. Now, the fight was on short notice and against an exceptionally talented Tom Aspinall. With a full camp, does he fare better this go around? Probably not, as Rodrigo Nascimento is a ground specialist who looks to get the fight to the mat. Unfortunately in his last fight, he was tagged and finished before he could. This time around, perhaps Nascimento shoots quickly given Baudot’s takedown defense isn’t all that good and he would be wise to avoid any striking exchanges. So with that, I’ll go with the Brazilian Nascimento to win via submission.