The UFC is back in action, as the Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada plays host to an intriguing card headlined by recent Middleweight title contenders Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori. The lead up to this fight has been rather interesting, as it’s clear as day that Costa no longer can make Middleweight. During fight week, the Brazilian proposed a Catchweight at 195 pounds, but a few days later he than proposed a Light Heavyweight bout at 205 pounds. Vettori agreed to every single hurdle thrown at him, and it’s clear, the ‘Italian Dream’ is ready to fight Costa regardless of weight.
UFC Vegas 41 Main Card On ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
185 lbs.: Paulo Costa vs. Marvin Vettori – This is a fun fight, and one that I’m interested to see where both are at mentally. Paulo Costa blamed his title defeat to drinking the night before the fight. A bizarre thing to do and say, but Costa maintains that excuse. In my opinion, Costa is simply too big for Middleweight and the cut down most likely drained him to the point of diminishing returns. Then there is Marvin Vettori, who has fought Israel Adesanya twice. The first being a split decision and a fight that could have been awarded to Vettori. However, the second fight was not even close. Vettori’s coaches in the fight even told him such, but after the fight and even still, Vettori believes he was robbed again. Regardless these two make for an enticing fight. Costa is a striker who uses pressure and high output to swarm you. Having surprisingly good cardio and pretty good power, Costa has often broken opponents. Vettori however is the more well rounded fighter. Having solid striking and wrestling abilities, along with excellent durability, Vettori is stylistically a tough fight for the majority of Middleweights.
As for a prediction, I have Vettori. I believe that Costa is killing himself to get down to 185 pounds. In doing so, it leaves him extremely compromised. Throw in the fact that Vettori is well rounded and could very well neutralize the Brazilian via wrestling alone. In my opinion, I believe Costa made a huge error here. Sometimes you have to let go of things and move up. Look at Dustin Poirier. He failed at Featherweight, moved up and is one of, if not the best Lightweight on the planet. I guess we shall see, but the fact of the matter is, I have Vettori winning. Let’s say via late TKO.Embed from Getty Images
155 lbs.: Grant Dawson vs. Rick Glenn – While the co-main event spot is big for both men, I’m assuming the UFC is using it to showcase Grant Dawson. A fighter who is 5-0 in the UFC, and has shown to be specialist at taking foes down and submitting them. While Dawson’s striking needs work, he has yet to face an opponent who he hasn’t been able to take down at least once. With fifteen stoppages in his seventeen wins, Dawson isn’t exactly someone you’d want to be dealing with in top control. However, Rick Glenn is as tough as they come. Following a layoff of thirty one months, in which he had hip surgery during, Glenn came back and starched Joaquim Silva in thirty seven seconds. While impressive, the unknowns regarding his hip and evolution during being inactive still remain.
As for a prediction, I have Dawson winning. In what should be an absolute grind of a fight, I believe Dawson will succeed in taking Glenn down over and over. While Glenn has shown excellent durability, before jumping over to the UFC, he was submitted twice. Make it three times, as I believe Dawson who has eleven submission victories, will eventually lock something up in the later rounds.
135 lbs.: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Joselyne Edwards – This isn’t an easy fight for Jessica-Rose Clark to come back to, as Joselyne Edwards has proven to be a scrappy fighter. And while the Panamanian was controlled on the ground in her last fight, Clark has preferred to strike rather than wrestle more often than not. Throw in the litany of injuries to her legs, and it remains to be seen what version of Clark we may see. The one thing I do know is that Clark is durable, having never been stopped in her sixteen professional fights.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Clark. While Edwards does have a three inch height and six inch reach advantage, I believe as long as Clark mixes in a takedown, the threat alone will have Edwards fighter lower and smaller. The main concern I have in this fight for Clark is if her mobility isn’t the same due to the injuries. Watching Thiago Santos fight, it’s clear he’s lacking the same explosiveness that saw him reach a title shot. Regardless, I believe Clark is the better fighter and wins this fight via decision.
145 lbs.: Seung Woo Choi vs. Alex Caceres – Alex Caceres has been fighting in the UFC since 2011, and at 33 years old, may have finally hit his peak. Prior to this winning streak, the funky striker had been plagued by his fight IQ. Whether it was stiff competition or the bottom dwellers of the division, Caceres always seemed unable to get out of first gear. This run though seems to have partially changed some of that narrative. However, Seung Woo Choi presents stiff competition. A fighter who is better than Caceres’ previous four. With a Muay-Thai background, Choi is a dangerous striker. Should he continue to improve on his takedown defense, he has the potential to be a contender in the Featherweight division.
As for a prediction, I have Choi. While Caceres has excellent durability and is game regardless of the opponent, I have to point out that the current win-streak features several lower tier fighters. That’s not a knock on Caceres, but I do believe Choi is heads above anyone he has fought in that stretch. In my opinion, Choi is the better all around fighter. Having evolved each time out there and even showing off some improved offensive wrestling recently, Choi is going to be a handful for Caceres. So with all that said, I predict Choi will win this fight via decision.Embed from Getty Images
170 lbs.: Dwight Grant vs. Francisco Trinaldo – I’m not sure what to make of this fight, as Francisco Trinaldo just can never be counted out. At his age, you’d think father time would have paid him a visit. However, father time has taken a back seat, as he continues to beat up those younger than him. Dwight Grant though will look buck that trend. The American is a striker who while hesitant to throw his hands, has legitimate knockout power. With seven of his eleven wins coming via knockout, Trinaldo will have to be wary of getting caught clean. The Brazilian is not afraid to trade on the feet though, as two of his last four wins have come via knockout. Obviously though, Trinaldo would prefer to get the fight to the mat, where he has shown to have excellent top control.
As for a prediction, I’m going to go with Trinaldo by the slightest of margins. While I believe Grant is the better striker, I do worry that he gets taken down. Trinaldo may not be a brute on the ground, but his ability to smother opponents and grab control time, has led him to several wins. Now, I could be totally off on this. Grant could shrug off the grappling, keep this standing and use his reach and power edge to outpoint Trinaldo. However, Trinaldo has a tendency to surprise and I certainly want to be on the side of him yet again defying the odds. So with all that said, I predict that Trinaldo wins via decision.
205 lbs.: Nick Negumereanu vs. Ike Villanueva – This is the battle of chins, as both men have some of the worst striking defense in the division. Nick Negumereanu checks in at 26% striking defense, absorbing nearly six strikes per minute. Ike Villanueva is a little better, checking in at a 36% striking defense. However, the veteran is absorbing nearly eight strikes per minute. Negumereanu is the more well rounded of the two, as he has shown wrestling abilities. Villunueva is purely a striker, who has won fifteen of his eighteen wins via knockout. The only issue with the veteran however, is that he has been stopped in eleven of his twelve losses.
As for a prediction, I have Negumereanu winning. Between being well rounded and having never been stopped in his career, Negumereanu is the more trustable fighter. Especially in a fight where defense is completely out the window. While this fight could end on the feet, I do believe that Negumereanu will mix in a takedown. From there, he will lock in a submission victory.
UFC Vegas 41 Prelims Card On ESPN+ (1 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
185 lbs.: Jun Yong Park vs. Gregory Rodrigues – This is an intriguing fight, as Jun Yong Park has used his wrestling to aid him in this three-fight winning streak. However, not only does Gregory Rodrigues boast solid takedown defense, but he is an excellent grappler. This creates a conflict of interest for Park, who does have a solid jab, but has very much relied on taking his foes down since dropping his UFC debut. Rodrigues though will be a tall task. The Brazilian is a physical specimen who is big for the weight class. With legitimate knockout power and physical strength, Rodrigues has a bright future should he be able to continue to make 185 pounds.
As for a prediction, I have Rodrigues. I think a combination of the Brazilian’s size and skills is going to make it hard for Park to implement his game. I foresee Rodrigues keeping the fight upright, outpointing Park on the feet. Even a takedown or two could be in the works for Rodrigues, whose physical strength may be unmatched in the Middleweight division. So with all that said, I’m going to predict that Rodrigues wins this fight via decision.
155 lbs.: Mason Jones vs. David Onama – If Alan Patrick had stayed in this fight, it wouldn’t have been pretty. Mason Jones is a two-division Cage Warriors Champion and an excellent fighter. With a well rounded skill set, Jones has shown to be a high output striker who mixes in timely takedowns. While his UFC tenure has gotten off to a less than thrilling start, Jones remains a prospect to watch in the Lightweight division. This fight won’t be easy though, as David Onama looks octagon ready. From the tape I’ve seen, Onama is a powerful striker who has an excellent grasp in the grappling department. As an amateur Onama went 10-0. As a pro, he is 8-0. In other words, Onama is experienced and has a winning pedigree heading into his UFC debut.
As for a prediction, I’m going on a whim and picking Onama. It’s a tough prediction, as I believe Jones is a talented fighter who has a bright future in the UFC. I just believe that Onama is coming into this fight as the perfect storm. On short notice and under the radar, his skills will shine bright under the big lights. So with all that said, I predict that Onama will win in a back-and-forth fight via decision.Embed from Getty Images
115 lbs.: Maria Oliveira vs. Tabatha Ricci – This fight is interesting, in which Maria Oliveira holds a distinctive size advantage and Tabatha Ricci holds a massive grappling edge. Oliveira is a striker, who likes to pressure opponents while maintaining enough range to get off her leg kicks and straight punches. With a five inch height and seven inch reach advantage, Oliveira would appear to have the upper hand on the feet. However, Ricci is a submission specialist. Dealt a raw hand in her UFC debut, the second time around should bring out the best Ricci. After all, the UFC saw something in Ricci after only five fights.
As for a prediction, I have Ricci. From the tape I’ve seen on Oliveira, she is susceptible to being taken down. While on the mat, Oliveira has little to no abilities off her back. Against a submission specialist like that of Ricci, I see a salivating fight for Baby Shark. So with that said, I predict that Ricci will win this fight via submission.
185 lbs.: Jamie Pickett vs. Laureano Staropoli – In a fight that is likely to see the loser cut from the organization, I expect both men to muster up their best efforts to avoid losing at all cost. Laureano Staropoli is a striker who came into the UFC with a knack of knocking opponents out. While Staropoli has failed to record a knockout victory in the UFC, he has a notable win over Thiago Alves. In the Argentinian’s defense, he has fought several opponents who elected to take him down. A problem that Jamie Pickett has dealt with in his career. However, the striker should have little issues with Staropoli, who has landed only four takedowns in five UFC fights.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Jamie Pickett. While I believe that Staropoli is the better striker, I’m concerned that the move up to the Middleweight division was the right choice for the Argentinian. Already being exploited for his lack of takedown defense, moving up in weight seems like a death sentence against a wrestler. Now, Pickett isn’t a wrestler, but he has shown a propensity to mix it in his attack. Another reason I lean Pickett is that he will have a whopping 8.5’ reach advantage. For someone who already likes to pump a jab, I see Pickett finding lots of success. In the end, I believe this is a close fight. One in which Pickett edges out via split decision.Embed from Getty Images
155 lbs.: Jai Herbert vs. Khama Worthy – This fight almost guarantees to result in a stoppage, as both men profile as finish or be finished fighters. In a combined 37 professional fights, they have five decisions among them. Khama Worthy is a striker, who throws defense out the window to get in his offense. Given Worthy has seven of his eight losses coming via knockout, one would think tightening up his defense would be a concern. Jai Herbert too is a striker, who has eight of his ten wins coming via knockout. While Herbert has yet to taste UFC victory, the promising thing in this fight is that he won’t have to worry about his weakness of grappling.
As for a prediction, I have Herbert. When Worthy came into the UFC, he was already known to have durability concerns. While Worthy surprised many with some upset victories, the last two fights reminded us that his chin just isn’t durable. Herbert, despite being stopped via strikes in two of his three fights, has less mileage on him than Worthy. So with all that said, in what should be fireworks early, I predict Herbert wins via knockout.
145 lbs.: Daniel Lacerda vs. Jeff Molina – This is a must watch fight, as both men’s skills clash in what could potentially be an instant classic. Jeff Molina is a workhorse. In his UFC debut, he landed 189 significant strikes. Even crazier, 127 of those significant strikes came in round three. An absolutely absurd amount of production so late into a fight. Daniel Lacerda doesn’t know anything about fighting in the later rounds though, as he has won ten of eleven wins in the first round. With a well rounded skill set, Lacerda has been just as dangerous on the ground as he is on the feet. The Brazilian is a legitimate prospect in the Flyweight division.
As for a prediction, I’m going to side with Molina. While the fight itself should be a close one, the nod to Molina ultimately comes from the unknown of Lacerda’s cardio. Having seen a round two only once just isn’t a good indicator of how Lacerda can handle a high paced fifteen minute fight. Throw in the fact that Molina has the ability to turn it up in the later rounds and I just have a hard time seeing the Brazilian prospect keep up. So with that said, I believe Molina weathers the early storm and takes home a close decision victory.Embed from Getty Images
115 lbs.: Randa Markos vs. Livinha Souza – This should be an interesting scrap, as we have two fighters in difficult spots. Livinha Souza was once regarded as the best Strawweight in the world. Since joining the UFC, the Brazilian has been far from that. With a fairly well rounded skill set, Souza has struggled to implement her abilities inside the octagon. Perhaps this will be the fight that Souza taps into the potential we saw when she fought in Invicta FC. For Randa Markos, this is a must win. The former Ultimate Fighter 20 competitor has never truly found her footing within the promotion. While Markos has had some solid wins over Carla Esparza and Angela Hill, in her seventeen UFC fights, she has never won two consecutive fights.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Markos. Despite the struggles and clear lack of fight IQ, Markos brings a scrappiness that I believe will help her win this fight. Souza has the skills and grappling to neutralize Markos, however the Brazilian has yet to dominate an opponent since submitting Alex Chambers in her UFC debut. If Markos can keep this fight upright, I’m confident she will outpoint Souza. So with that said, on whim, I predict that Markos wins via decision.
135 lbs.: Jonathan Martinez vs. Zviad Lazishvili – I’ve flipped flopped on this fight because both men have contrasting styles. Jonathan Martinez is a striker who features power and an array of leg attacks. In fact, Martinez is morphing into Alistair Overeem, as he’s beginning to build a reputation for his knee strikes. In five UFC victories, Martinez has finished two opponents due to knee strikes. He’s going to need those knee strikes, as Zviad Lazishvili is going to look for takedowns early and often. An excellent wrestler with submission chops, Lazashvili has proven to be a handful thus far in mixed martial arts.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Martinez. While his takedown defense checks in at 63%, he’s been much better at fending off takedowns in his past three fights. In fact, Martinez has shrugged off nine of the ten attempts in that span. Another reason why I side with Martinez is not only for the reason that Lazashvili is coming into this on short notice, but the fact that it wasn’t until his eleventh fight that he fought someone other than a debuting fighter. In other words, he crushed a lot of cans before facing actual competition. So with all that said, I predict that Martinez wins this fight via late TKO.