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UFC Vegas 59 Main Card On ESPN/ESPN+:

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205 lbs.: Thiago Santos vs. Jamahal Hill – The main event comes in the Light Heavyweight division, as the old guard Thiago Santos looks to hold off the young lion in Jamahal Hill. A former title challenger, Santos has struggled to repeat the success that saw him earn a title shot. Losing four of the last five fights, Santos finds himself in a position where another loss could completely shut his chances of ever fighting again for UFC gold. Meanwhile, Hill has been excellent since touching down in the UFC. While one of his wins did get overturned due to testing positive for Marijuana, and his arm got snapped in a loss to Paul Craig, Hill has managed to win four fights since 2020. The last two being impressive, as he starched Jimmy Crute in 48 seconds and sent Johnny Walker into the shadow realm within the first three minutes of the fight. Checking in at tenth in the rankings, Hill has an opportunity to knock off a former title challenger and stamp his name among the contenders at 205 pounds.

An intriguing bout, this is your typical proving grounds fight. Santos, is a powerful striker who has recorded fifteen knockout victories over his career. Known to have debilitating leg kicks, Santos is a dangerous foe to stand in front of. Although, since having major leg surgeries following the Jon Jones bout, the Brazilian has clearly lacked the movement and explosiveness he once had. One could even say, it’s the main culprit for why Santos has lost three of the last four fights since returning from his injuries. Looking to cash in on Santos’ name, is Hill. Known for his output, Hill can absolutely rack up strikes in very little time. With excellent size and power in his hands, Hill has been stopping foes left and right. In fact, five of the last six wins by Hill have come via knockout – including three straight.

Hard to trust Santos anymore, and clearly lacking the same explosiveness he used to have, I have Hill winning. In a fight that is going to be contested on the feet, outside Santos landing some heavy leg kicks that stop Hill, I don’t foresee the Brazilian being able to keep up with the activity of the young gun. Being that this is five rounds, I also don’t believe Santos is going to be able to absorb the damage Hill is going to sling out. So with that said, I predict that Hill will win via TKO.

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170 lbs.: Vicente Luque vs. Geoff Neal – The co-main event comes in the Welterweight division, as Vicente Luque takes on Geoff Neal. Coming off a disappointing loss to Belal Muhammad, which ended a four-fight win streak, Luque returns to the octagon looking to get back on track. Still ranked 6th in the division, and being a fresh face for Kamaru Usman, Luque could realistically be a two or three wins from earning a title shot. Meanwhile, Neal comes into this fight off a big win over Santiago Ponzinibbio. One in which saw a two-fight skid come to an end, as well as earned him this opportunity to catapult himself into the top ten with a victory.

This could be an electric fight, as both men profile as strikers. Luque, is one the most dangerous Welterweight’s on the roster. Well rounded, Luque can finish a fight both on the feet and the mat. As evident by the fact that he has recorded eleven knockouts and eight submissions in his twenty-one victories. With fourteen UFC wins, thirteen of which he has won via stoppage, Luque is one more finish away from tying Matt Brown as the UFC’s all-time Welterweight leader in finishes. A truly remarkable feat, as Luque is a only 30 years old. As for Neal, he is a striker to the core. A powerful one at that, as he has won eight of his fourteen wins via knockout. With a diverse striking arsenal, Neal has proven that his hands aren’t the only thing made of steel, his legs are too. As evident by the two head kick knockouts in two of his five victories in the UFC.

Bound to be an exciting fight, I’m going to side with Luque. In what appeared to be an off performance by the Brazilian in his recent fight against Belal Muhammad, Luque should be at his best when he steps in the octagon. Not having to worry about being taken down, Luque will get back to his roots of being the high output striker he is. With power in his hands too, and having never been stopped via strikes, Luque has several factors working in his favor. In the end, I predict that the first team all-violence Luque wins via TKO.

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265 lbs.: Zac Pauga vs. Mohammad Usman — TUF 30 Finale Heavyweight Final – The Ultimate Fighter season 30 will crown a winner in the Heavyweight finale, as Zac Pauga takes on Mohammed Usman. A former competitor for LFA and Bellator, Pauga entered the house undefeated and with experience. To little surprise, Pauga stormed through the competition, as he defeated Nyle Bartling and Jordan Heiderman. Meanwhile, Usman, the brother of Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, has paved his own path to making a name for himself. Defeating Mitchell Sipe and Eduardo Perez, two tough competitors, Usman is a finale victory away from making his presence known in the Heavyweight division.

It’s no surprise to see both men reach the finale, as they came into the competition with experience and having fought for reputable regional promotions. A former collegiate running back for Colorado State, Pauga brings forth excellent athleticism and speed. A Light Heavyweight naturally, Pauga moved up to Heavyweight to compete on the show. Which turned out to be an excellent decision, as Pauga ran through the competition. The same couldn’t be said about Usman, who narrowly edged out both his victories. Known to pack a punch, Usman has the power to turn anyone’s lights out. However, on the show, Usman effectively used his jab to piece up his foe’s from the outside. With size and strength, Usman has the advantage of being in his natural weight class.

When observing the show, Pauga, despite not being a Heavyweight, seemed to be the most skilled. Faster than the competition and with excellent footwork, Pauga was able to get off his offense with ease. With power and an ability to mix in takedowns too, Pauga has a bright future in this division. While Usman carries that stifling power, his game is very limited. Unable to match the output and speed Pauga will bring forth, I’m expecting the former Colorado State running back to crowned the season’s winner, winning via TKO.

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125 lbs.: Brogan Walker vs. Juliana Miller — TUF 30 Finale Flyweight Final – An Ultimate Fighter 30 contestant in the Women’s Flyweight division will be crowned the season’s winner, when Juliana Miller takes on Brogan Walker. Proving to be one of the best in the house, Miller overcame defeating Claire Guthrie, who previously defeated her professionally, as well as submitted the experienced Kaitlyn Neal to advance to the finals. While she only has three professional since debuting in mixed martial arts in 2019, Miller is an active competitor in grappling tournaments. Meanwhile, a favorite to come out on top, Walker outlasted both Hannah Guy and Laura Gallardo to punch her spot in the finale. A staple in Invicta FC, Walker has faced a stronger level of competition and brings forth important experience into this fight.

After watching this season of TUF, I was most impressed by Miller. Known for her grappling, Miller never really forced the action to the ground. Often a willing striker, Miller proved to be exceptionally scrappy. Not the cleanliest or technical, Miller presses forwards and is relentless with strikes. Backed by excellent cardio, she can put on a pace that is hard to keep up with. And if the fight hits the mat at any point, she is a threat to put an end to the fight. As for Walker, she is mainly a striker with quick hands. Featuring a good jab and some stinging hooks, Walker can be a frustrating foe to scrap with on the feet . Most dangerous in the pocket, Walker, while not having a single knockout on the ledger, is certainly capable of ringing some bells. Where she needs to improve, is takedown defense and overall grappling.

In what should be a good fight, I’m siding with Miller. Knowing that Walker is the more technical and experience on the feet, there could be some dicey situations. However, Miller is a scrapper and will continue to press forward. Eventually, the pace and output will aide her to getting this fight to the mat. It’s there where she will be able to lock in a submission and be crowned the Ultimate Fighter winner.

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265 lbs.: Augusto Sakai vs. Serghei Spivac – We have a clash in the Heavyweight division, as Augusto Sakai takes on Serghei Spivac. A loser of three straight fights, Sakai finds himself in a precarious position. One in which Sakai has never faced, as prior to the losing streak, he had only lost once in seventeen fights. Still ranked fourteenth despite the skid, Sakai remains in a position to warrant a ranked fighter with a victory here. Meanwhile, Spivac comes into this fight off a TKO victory over Greg Hardy. The win was the Moldovans fourth in the past four fights. Certainly earning this top fifteen opponent, Spivac has a great opportunity to re-introduce himself as one of the top Heavyweight’s with a victory.

This should be an intriguing fight, as both men have differing styles. Sakai is a striker, who brings forth a blend of volume and power. Landing 5.04 significant strikes per minute, Sakai is among the most active Heavyweight’s on the roster. With cardio to back up his work-rate, Sakai is not someone you want to battle for fifteen minutes. However, and I’ve always said Sakai had good durability, in his last three fights, he’s been finished. Perhaps the wear and tear of mixed martial arts has caught up or the fact that he fights hardest hitting division is the culprit. Either way, Spivac isn’t someone likely to test that chin. While he can strike and has some pop, Spivac has done his best work on the ground. Landing three takedowns or more in four of the past seven fights, Spivac is an imposing force on the mat. With good grappling, Spivac often puts himself in a good position to land ground-and-pound or pry for a submission. With twelve of his fourteen wins coming inside the distance, Spivac isn’t someone who let’s the judges decide his fate.

In what should be a good fight, I’m going to side with Spivac. While Sakai may have the edge on the feet, Spivac should be able to get this fight to the mat at some point. Especially considering Sakai has only been able to thwart off two of the six takedown attempts against him. In other words, a 33% takedown defense isn’t going to cut it in this fight. So with that said, I predict that Spivac will get this fight to the mat and win via TKO.

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125 lbs.: Ariane Lipski vs. Priscila Cachoeira – We have a Women’s Flyweight bout to kick off the main card, as Ariane Lipski takes on Priscila Cachoeira. Halting a two-fight skid in her most recent outing, Lipski returns to the octagon seeking a winning streak. Having not yet competed in eleven months due to an injury, this will be Lipski’s first fight in 2022. Meanwhile, Cachoeira is coming off a wild victory. One in which she managed to absorb 170 significant strikes and still get the decision nod. The victory was the Brazilian’s third in the last four fights.

Whenever Cachoeira fights, expect chaos. Primarily a striker, Cachoeira features a blend of power and volume. With zombie-like durability and excellent cardio, Cachoeira looks to outlast her opponents and eventually take them out. Something in which the Brazilian has done, as six of her last eight wins have come via knockout. Looking to not add on to that statistic is Lipski. A former KSW Flyweight champion and dubbed the “Queen of Violence”, Lipski hasn’t had quite the UFC tenure many were expecting. A striker, with Muay Thai background, Lipski is most dangerous on the feet. Often looking to pressure opponents, Lipski does a good job of mixing up her attack and doing damage in the clinch. Offering sneaky power, Lipski has won six of her fourteen victories via knockout. However, it’s not all good with Lipski. Not the most accurate on the feet, nor great at keeping the fight upright, Lipski can be exploited.

Looking at the odds, I didn’t expect Lipski to be the favorite. Obviously Cachoeira is a wild card, but she always brings it. Boasting a higher significant strike total per minute, accuracy and with knockout receipts in the UFC, Cachoeira is the more dangerous of the two on the feet. The only aspect going against Cachoeira, is her striking defense, which is abysmal to say the least. However, in a fight that should mainly take place on the feet, Cachoeira brings forth volume and violence that can sway the judges. Also, Cachoeira has landed 69 or more strikes in three fights in the UFC. Lipski has only hit that number once, which came in her recent victory over Mandy Bohm. So with that said, I predict that Cachoeira will score a late TKO victory.

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UFC Vegas 59 Preliminary Card On ESPN/ESPN+:

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185 lbs.: Sam Alvey vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk – The preliminary card headliner comes in the Middleweight division, as Michal Oleksiejczuk takes on Sam Alvey. Coming off a loss to Dustin Jacoby, which ended a two-fight win streak, Oleksiejczuk returns to the octagon for the second time in 2022. Hovering around the division’s top fifteen, Oleksiejczuk has strung together two winning streaks during his time in the UFC. Yet, has not been able to win the big one to get over the hump. Meanwhile, Alvey will look to put an end to a spiraling nightmare that has spanned over four years and across eight fights. Given yet another opportunity to end said nightmare, Alvey will look to win his first fight since June of 2018.

It’s hard to make the UFC, it’s even harder to stay with the promotion. Somehow though, Alvey has managed to go on a historic 0-7-1 in the last eight fights, and sticky around. Perhaps bad luck has been involved though too, as Alvey has seen three split decisions go against him and one turn into a draw. Known as a striker, who has solid counter-punching and sneaky power, Alvey isn’t by any means an easy out on the feet. With stout takedown too, it’s hard to believe that he’s been this bad. However, with fifty-one professional fights and at times, questionable durability, Alvey may be wearing down from the accumulation of damage over his career. Looking to cash in on that, is Oleksiejczuk. A striker too, Oleksiejczuk does a good job pressuring his opponents and getting off his offense. Landing 4.75 significant strikes per minute, Oleksiejczuk is very active on the feet. Powerful as well, as he won eleven of his sixteen victories via knockout.

While the odds are heavily favoring Oleksiejczuk, I’m going with the heavy underdog Alvey. Knowing this pick may comeback to backfire, my reasoning comes down to a few things. For one, Oleksiejczuk will be dropping down to Middleweight for the first time since he started his career in 2014. Knowing that in one of his few bouts contested at Middleweight, he missed weight, I’m not certain this is going to be an easy cut. Two, Oleksiejczuk is known for his speed. Dropping down, and as we just saw with Miesha Tate’s Flyweight debut, speed doesn’t often translate. Especially given fighters in lower weight classes generally move quicker. Not saying that Alvey is explosive and athletic, but he’s more up to speed at Middleweight. A division in which he has made his career in and will aide him in ending this losing streak. With that said, I predict Alvey to win via decision.

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155 lbs.: Erick Gonzalez vs. Terrance McKinney – An exciting clash takes place in the Lightweight division, as Terrance McKinney takes on Erick Gonzalez. Coming off a tough loss to Drew Dober, which halted a five-fight win streak, McKinney will look to rebound. Giving a good account for himself in that fight though, McKinney is still a bright prospect worth keeping an eye on. Meanwhile, Gonzalez will look to put his UFC debut in the past. One in which was unsuccessful, as he was stopped by Jim Miller. Prior to the defeat, Gonzalez had won four straight.

A fight bound to end inside the distance, I see a bonus in store for the victor. McKinney is a buzz-saw. Wasting no time inside the octagon, McKinney looks to put it on opponents early. With heavy hands and excellent speed, McKinney has starched four of his last six opponents in 72 seconds or less . While he did falter in his recent fight, McKinney is the only one to knockdown Drew Dober in his nineteen UFC fights. A collegiate wrestler, McKinney is also very capable of mixing in takedowns. Ready for whatever McKinney brings is Gonzalez. Not necessarily strong in any one area, Gonzalez is more focused on finishing the fight. While he can get sloppy at times, he’s proven to be dangerous when coming forward on the feet or when reigning down ground-and-pound in top control. Outside of that, it can be a mixed bag for the Mexican warrior.

Knowing very well this fight is going to deliver, I’m going to side with McKinney. If you take a peek at Gonzalez’s highlights, you’ll notice that he is a very entertaining fighter. However, he fights with his hands down and is not very defensively sound. Absorbing 6.11 significant strikes per minute and being hit on 66% percent of the significant strikes thrown, Gonzalez is in for a rough night against McKinney. Knowing how fast “T.Wrecks” starts, I envision this one ending via knockout within round one.

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170 lbs.: Bryan Battle vs. Takashi Sato – We have a scrap in the Welterweight division, as Takashi Sato takes on Bryan Battle. A loser of two straight and three of the last four, Sato is in urgent need of a victory. Known for his power coming into the UFC, the Japan native has largely found himself neutralized by grapplers during his tenure with the promotion. Yet with another opportunity to prove himself, Sato will have get by a young lion in Battle. An ultimate fighter winner in season 29, Battle has made good on his first two appearances inside the octagon. Moving down to the Welterweight division for the first time in his career, after fighting as high as a Heavyweight as an amateur, it will be interesting to see Battle’s size in this new weight class.

If there is anything certain, Sato has been used as fodder in three of his last four fights. With the exception of Jason Witt, Sato has faced Belal Muhammad, Miguel Baeza and Gunnar Nelson. Now tasked with facing a young talent in Battle, who is moving down to 170 pounds, I don’t see this fight going well for Sato. Being as powerful as he is on the feet, the lack of activity and accuracy are concerning. Against Battle, who has exceptional cardio and is landing 7.10 significant strikes at a 56% accuracy, I can’t see how Sato can keep pace. With a two inch height and four inch reach advantage to boot, Battle should have no issues getting off his offense. If for whatever reason Battle finds himself in danger on the feet, he has the wrestling to mix in a takedown or two. So with all that said, I predict that Battle wins via submission.

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170 lbs.: Josh Quinlan vs. Jason Witt – We have a clash in the Welterweight division, as Jason Witt takes on promotional newcomer Josh Quinlan. Trading wins and losses for the past six fights, with five of those fights coming in the UFC, Witt has had trouble finding his footing inside the octagon. Nearing thirty-six years old, Witt needs to start stringing together wins. Otherwise, he’s going to continue getting booked in stepping stone fights like this. Meanwhile, after a lengthy suspension due to a positive drug test, Quinlan finally will make his long awaited debut. Undefeated and coming off a 47-second knockout over Logan Urban on Dana White’s Contender Series, which later was reversed to a no contest after the positive drug test, Quinlan bring about a violence to the octagon that will make him a fan favorite in no time.

This fight should be fun for as long as it last. Witt, is primarily a wrestler. A good one at that, as he is landing 6.89 takedown’s per fifteen minutes at a 48% accuracy. Having landed twelve takedown’s over the past two fights, Witt hasn’t been met with too much resistance. What has been problematic though for Witt, is maintaining control and avoiding being hit when on the feet. With an iffy chin, which has been the crux of all three UFC losses, Witt can’t afford to strike. Especially in this fight, as Quinlan brings the heat. Known to not mince words inside the octagon, the always violent Quinlan looks to put away opponents as quick as possible. With a tendency to start fast and having heavy hands, it’s no surprise that Quinlan has a 100% finishing rate.

In a fight bound to end early, I have Quinlan making a splash in his debut. While Witt has the wrestling chops and could see some success early, his failure to control fighters on the ground and lack of durability make him very untrustworthy. Throw in the fact that Quinlan starts fast and throws bombs and I believe this fight ends inside the opening round. So with that said, I predict that Quinlan wins via knockout.

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115 lbs.: Miranda Granger vs. Cory McKenna – We have a showdown in the Women’s Strawweight division, as Cory McKenna takes on Miranda Granger. Coming of her first loss since 2018, McKenna steps back into the octagon looking to get back on track. Only 23-years old, McKenna has a bright future ahead of her. Meanwhile, Granger comes into this fight with some pressure. Having lost two straight fights and being on the shelf for twenty months, Granger finds herself in a must win situation. Otherwise, her tenure in the UFC may come to an end.

An important fight in both women’s career, I expect this fight to close. However, I’m siding with McKenna. After faltering in her most recent bout, the Wales native has a key advantage in this fight. She is primarily a wrestler. Knowing obviously that Granger is dangerous on the mat, boasting good grappling and submissions, there is some concern. Then again, Granger has often had issues with wrestlers. Known to have porous takedown defense, Granger has offered little resistance. McKenna, having good grappling herself and having never been stopped, gives me confidence that she has the ability to rack up important control time on the ground. On the feet, neither are particularly great, but McKenna has been steadily evolving. In the end, wherever this fight takes place, I’m comfortable in believing that McKenna will have the edge. With that said, I predict McKenna to win this fight via decision.

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135 lbs.: Stephanie Egger vs. Mayra Bueno Silva – The curtain jerker comes in the Women’s Bantamweight division, as Mayra Bueno Silva takes on Stephanie Egger. Coming off a decision victory over Yanan Wu, Silva comes into this fight looking to pick up her first UFC win-streak. Having gone 3-2-1 in six fights with the promotion, the Brazilian has shown talent, but very little consistency. If there was ever a time to turn things around though, it would be now. Meanwhile, Egger strolls into this fight off back-to-back stoppage victories. Looking impressive as ever, the Judo black belt finds herself in a fight where she could really cement her presence within the division. Perhaps even crack the division’s top fifteen.

An important fight for both, this should be an intriguing battle. Silva is a dangerous submission artist, who has keyed on being a striker. Attempting only one takedown in her six UFC fights, the Brazilian has made it clear, that she wants the fight on the feet. As precarious as that may be, Silva has boasted solid output and impressive accuracy striking. While she incorporates antics that do not necessarily aide her in winning, she does it to egg her opponents into a brawl. Absorbing nearly five significant strikes per minute, it would be wise if Silva maybe worked on her defense instead. Unlikely to attack those vulnerabilities though is Egger. A Judo gold medalist in the 2010 U23 European Championships, Egger has utilized her craft in getting the fight to the ground. With solid grappling and good submission abilities, Egger has proven that even her guard is a dangerous position to be in with her. However, if an opponent can keep the fight vertical, Egger isn’t much of a striker. An area where clearly she needs to work on if she has aspirations of being a champion.

In what should be a fun fight to kick off the card, I’m going to side with Egger. Knowing that Silva is a dangerous submission artist, things could get dicey. Then again, in three fights where Silva was taken down at least two times, she was controlled for four minutes or more. Her record in those fights, is 0-2-1. Knowing Egger is going to look to get the fight to mat, I believe that she has the grappling to rack up control time. A blueprint that has neutralized the Brazilian. With that said, I predict that Egger will win via decision.

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