The UFC returns with a 13 fight card headlined by a five round main event in the light heavyweight division between former title challenger Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker.
The action gets started at 4pm EST and streams on ESPN+.
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Thiago Santos (-155) vs. Johnny Walker (+135)
This week’s main event between Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker should be a very violent affair.
Two years ago Santos gave then UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones all he could handle, losing a split decision while tearing all the ligaments in his knee. After undergoing surgery, Santos returned and was submitted in the third round by Glover Teixeira. Earlier this year, Santos lost a unanimous decision to Aleksandar Rakic so he’s in desperate need of a win. His last win is a third round knockout of current UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
Walker snapped a two fight losing streak in his last fight with a first round knockout of Ryan Spann. Walker is 4-2 in the UFC with all four wins coming by first round knockout. He was knocked out by Corey Anderson in the first round and then lost a unanimous decision to Nikita Krylov.
Like I mentioned earlier, these two bring the violence and I don’t expect this fight to last long. Walker is pretty much a kill or be killed fighter with five of his six UFC appearances ending in the first round. Santos is an aggressive fighter as well, but he has a little more depth to his game. His ground game is his biggest weakness, but Walker is unlikely to test him there.
Walker is the more unpredictable and orthodox striker so you never know when he’s going to land a flying knee or spinning back fist so it wouldn’t surprise me if he stopped Santos. However, I’m more confident in Santos’ overall skills and I believe he’s a little more durable than Walker. Santos will have to walk through fire early, but he gets the finish inside the first two rounds.
PREDICTION: Santos by first round knockout
Kevin Holland (-165) vs. Kyle Daukaus (+145)
In the co-main event, Kevin Holland is looking to snap a two fight losing skid as he takes on Kyle Daukaus.
Holland has lost back to back five round unanimous decisions to Marvin Vettori and Derek Brunson after rattling off five straight wins, four by finish. Holland’s wrestling has been his Achilles heel in those losses so he’s been training at American Kickboxing Academy with Daniel Cormier as well as with Johny Hendricks, who will be in his corner for this fight.
Daukaus competed on the Contender Series, defeating Michael Lombardo by decision, but didn’t earn himself a UFC contract. Instead, Daukaus made his UFC debut as a short notice replacement against Brendan Allen and lost a unanimous decision. He bounced back with a unanimous decision victory over Dustin Stoltzfus, but most recently dropped a unanimous decision to Phil Hawes. He’s 10-2 overall with eight wins by submission.
Holland will get another chance to test his takedown defense although Daukaus is not as good a wrestler as Brunson or Vettori. Holland is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu so even if Daukaus can score a few takedowns, Holland should be able to stay out of danger and work his way back to his feet where Holland is the more dangerous striker.
I expect Holland to spend some time on his back, but his advantages on the feet will be the most important moments of the fight and earn him the decision.
PREDICTION: Holland by decision
Niko Price (-170) vs. Alex Oliveira (+150)
Our next fight is another bout guaranteed to produce violence as Niko Price meets Alex Oliveira.
Price is winless in his last three fights and hasn’t won a fight in almost two years, when he knocked out James Vick in the first round with an upkick. Most recently, he dropped a unanimous decision to Michel Pereira. All six of Price’s wins in the UFC have come by finish and he’s been finished in four of his five losses.
Oliveira is on a two fight losing skid, getting submitted in the first round both times, and has lost five of his last seven fights. He’s been submitted in three of the five losses. His two wins during that stretch are a split decision over Max Griffin and a unanimous decision over Peter Sobotta. Seven of Oliveira’s eleven wins have come by finish and he’s been finished in six of his eight losses.
Price is not without his own flaws, but Oliveira is really on a steep decline. He still has the skills to threaten early, but I have no faith in him if the fight gets extended past the first round. Price will keep the pressure on and finish Oliveira inside the first two rounds.
PREDICTION: Price by second round submission
Krzysztof Jotko (-145) vs. Misha Cirkunov (+125)
Krysztof Jotko had a three fight winning streak snapped in his last fight when he lost a unanimous decision to Sean Strickland. The Polish middleweight has been a streaky fighter over the last few years. He won four straight, then lost three straight, getting knocked out in back to back fights by Uriah Hall and Brad Tavares. Then he rattled off three straight decision wins over Alan Amedovski, Marc-Andre Barriault and Eryk Anders. Eight of Jotko’s nine wins in the UFC have come by decision.
Misha Cirkunov is making the drop to middleweight after losing four of his last six fights at light heavyweight. All four losses came by first round knockout. All six of Cirkunov’s wins have come inside the distance, five by submission. Four of those finishes came in the first round.
My initial gut pick was Cirkunov, but after digging deeper I prefer Jotko in this matchup. Cirkunov is dangerous early with his grappling, but how will he look the longer the fight goes? Jotko is more durable and better equipped to grind out a win and that’s what he should do here.
PREDICTION: Jotko by decision
Aspen Ladd (-280) vs. Macy Chiasson (+225)
Aspen Ladd and Macy Chiasson were originally supposed to fight earlier this year in July, but Chiasson had to withdraw due to injury just days before the fight.
This will be Ladd’s first fight since tearing both her ACL and MCL training for a fight with Sara McMann. It’s been nearly two years since Ladd finished Yana Kunitskaya in the third round with ground and pound. Ladd is 4-1 in the UFC and 9-1 overall with her lone being a 16 second knockout to Germaine de Randamie.
Chiasson is 5-1 in the UFC and 7-1 overall. She won season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter” at featherweight, but has been competing at bantamweight ever since. She has finished three opponents in the UFC, two by knockout. Her lone loss is a unanimous decision to Lina Lansberg.
Ladd and Chiasson are both physical and like to pressure their oppinents, but Ladd is the better wrestler and grappler. When Ladd gets on top, she is aggressive with her ground and pound and Chiasson has struggled off her back. The layoff for Ladd is a bit of a concern, but if there’s no rust she’s a matchup nightmare for Chiasson. The pick will be Ladd by decision, but her aggressive ground and pound and how vocal she is might force the referee to stop the fight.
PREDICTION: Ladd by decision
Alexander Hernandez (-550) vs. Mike Breeden (+400)
Alexander Hernandez was supposed to face Leonardo Santos, but after Santos was forced to withdraw, he’ll now face UFC debutante Mike Breeden.
After bursting onto the scene with a big upset of Beneil Dariush, Hernandez is just 3-3 since and could honestly be 2-4. His unanimous decision over Francisco Trinaldo is very debatable. Hernandez has finished two of his UFC opponents with strikes and has been knocked out by Donald Cerrone and Drew Dober.
Breeden has competed on the Contender Series, but lost by unanimous decision to Anthony Romero. Since then he’s picked up two straight wins and improved his record to 10-3 with eight wins coming by knockout. He trains out of Glory MMA & Fitness with James Krause and company so he comes from a solid camp.
Hernandez is the biggest favorite on the card and I expect him to dominate and likely finish Breeden. Breeden likes to strike, but Hernandez is more powerful and a better wrestler. Hernandez should overwhelm him and stop him inside the first two rounds.
PREDICTION: Hernandez by first round knockout
Joe Solecki (-145) vs. Jared Gordon (+125)
Joe Solecki earned his UFC contract with a first round submission of James Wallace via guillotine choke. Since then, he’s picked up three straight wins, unanimous decisions over Matt Wiman and Jim Miller and a first round submission of Austin Hubbard. Solecki is 13-2 overall with eight wins coming inside the distance, seven by submission.
After a rough stretch where he lost three of four and was finished all three times, Jared Gordon has won two straight fights, both by unanimous decision over Chris Fishgold and Danny Chavez. Four of Gordon’s five wins in the UFC have come by decision.
Solecki is a strong grappler and a solid wrestler, but two of his wins in the UFC have come over faded veterans in Wiman and Miller. Solecki also lost the first round to Miller, which is a bit of a concern. Gordon is a solid all around fighter. Good striker, good grappler and great cardio. He’s very active with strikes in the clinch and with his ground and pound.
Solecki wants to get this fight to the ground, but Gordon has never been submitted in his career and I don’t expect Solecki to dominate even if he can secure some takedowns. On the feet, I have to favor Gordon until I see more from Solecki. Gordon does have some durability concerns, but I don’t envision Solecki hurting him on the feet. I’m more confident in Gordon’s overall game and he’s the pick by decision.
PREDICTION: Gordon by decision
Casey O’Neill (-225) vs. Antonina Shevchenko (+185)
Casey O’Neill has won both her fights in the UFC, finishing Shana Dobson in the second round in her UFC debut with ground and pound and then submitting Lara Procopio in the third round via rear naked choke. O’Neill is 7-0 overall with four finishes, split evenly between knockout and submission.
Antonina Shevchenko, the older sister of Valentina, is coming off a second round submission loss to Andrea Lee and is just 3-3 in the UFC. Five of her career nine wins are by decision.
O’Neill has garnered a lot of hype after her first two wins, but let’s not forget she was losing early to Procopio. Then Procopio gassed badly due to apparent menstrual issues and O’Neill took over the fight. She definitely has grappling skills and good cardio, but she’s still very green as far as prospects go. Shevchenko is a good Muay Thai striker, but struggles in the grappling department. She has the ability to dominate in top control like she did against Ariane Lipski, but she looked bad against Katlyn Chookagian and Lee.
Whoever is able to impose their will on the ground will win this fight and I’m more confident that it will be O’Neill. I just can’t pick Shevchenko against a strong grappler. O’Neill is aggressive on the ground so a stoppage wouldn’t surprise me, but the pick is O’Neill by decision.
PREDICTION: O’Neill by decision
Karol Rosa (-525) vs. Bethe Correia (+385)
Karol Rosa has won three straight since joining the UFC with all wins coming by decision, most recently defeating Joselyn Edwards. She’s 14-3 overall with eight wins by decision.
Bethe Correia has lost three of her last four fights and has been flirting with retirement. She’s 5-5 overall in the UFC with four of her five wins by decision. In her five losses, she’s been knocked out twice and submitted once.
Rosa is a massive favorite here and justifiably so especially with Correia’s retirement concerns. Very rarely will I pick a fighter when I know they are contemplating calling it quits. Rosa has Correia outmatched in all facets of the game. She’s younger, a more active striker and a better grappler. Rosa outworks her on the feet or the ground on her way to a decision.
PREDICTION: Rosa by decision
Devonte Smith (-150) vs. Jamie Mullarkey (+130)
After earning a UFC ciontract on the Contender Series, Devonte Smith knocked out both Julian Erosa and Dong Hyun Ma in the first round. In his next fight, he was on the wrong side of one of the biggest upsets in UFC history when he was knocked out in the first round by Khama Worthy. Smith bounced back in his last fight with a second round TKO by doctor stoppage of Justin Jaynes. Smith is 11-2 overall with all wins by finish, ten by knockout.
Jamie Mullarkey lost his first two fights inside the Octagon, but bounced back in a big way with a 46 second knockout of Worthy. You can make the argument that he should have gotten the nod over Fares Ziam as well. Mullarkey is 13-4 with 12 wins by finish, 9 by knockout.
Smith has big power and Mullarkey doesn’t have the greatest striking defense so he should be looking to take Smith down and expose his grappling which looked weak on the regional scene. Maybe Smith starches Mullarkey early, but I’m going to side with Mullarkey and his ability on the ground.
PREDICTION: Mullarkey by decision
Douglas Silva de Andrade (-250) vs. Gaetano Pirrello (+200)
Douglas Silva de Andrade has lost two of his last three fights and three of his last five. He’s been finished in two of the three losses. His two wins in that stretch are over Renan Barao and Marlon Vera, which is an impressive win now. He’s 26-4 overall with 20 wins by finish, 19 by knockout.
Gaetano Pirrello stepped up on short notice in his UFC debut, but he was dominated by Ricky Simon and submitted with an atm triangle choke in the second round. He’s 15-6-1 overall with 14 wins by finish, 11 by knockout. He’s been finished in five of his six losses, four by submission.
This should be a fun striking battle between de Andrade and Pirrello. De Andrade is a bit more technical on the feet, while Pirrello likes to brawl. If de Andrade decided to wrestle here, he’ll probably have some success as Pirrello is a pretty weak grappler. De Andrade is pretty durable and has faced far stiffer competition than Pirrello and should get the nod here.
PREDICTION: De Andrade by decision
Stephanie Egger (-130) vs. Shanna Young (+110)
Both Stephanie Egger and Shanna Young are looking for their first wins inside the Octagon.
Egger lost a unanimous decision to Tracy Cortez in her UFC debut and is now 5-2. Four of her wins are by finish, split evenly between knockout and submission.
Young lost a unanimous decision to Macy Chiasson in her UFC debut, dropping her record to 7-3. Four of her seven wins are by finish, split evenly between knockout and submission as well.
This is a low level women’s MMA fight. Young has a wrestling background, but I’d classify this as a striker versus grappler match. It’s a toss up, but I’m slightly more confident in Egger’s ability to dominate this fight on the ground so she’ll be the pick.
PREDICTION: Egger by decision
Alejandro Perez (-235) vs. Johnny Eduardo (+190)
Kicking off the card is a bantamweight bout between Alejandro Perez and Johnny Eduardo.
Perez had a good start to his UFC run going 7-1-1 in his first nine fights, but has now lost two in a row. He lost a unanimous decision to Cody Stamman and then was knocked out in the first round by Song Yadong. Perez hasn’t fought in over two years.
Eduardo is 41, hasn’t fought in over three years and has lost three of his last four fights. He’s been finished in all three losses, twice by submission. He’s 3-4 in the UFC with finishes of Manny Gamburyan and Eddie Wineland.
Eduardo is a dangerous striker early on, but I can’t pick a 41 year old fighter who hasn’t won a fight since 2016. Perez will have to navigate through danger early, but he’ll be the stronger fighter the longer the fight goes. If he pushes the pace, he can probably get Eduardo out of there, but a decision is most likely.
PREDICTION: Perez by decision
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Last Event: UFC 266 (11-2)
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