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Guide to UFC on ABC 2: Holland vs. Vettori

Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC on ABC 2.

Date: April 10, 2021
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card
Start Time: 3:00 p.m. ET, 12:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ABC & ESPN+

Middleweights: Marvin Vettori vs. Kevin Holland

Overall Records: Vettori 16-4-1, Holland 21-6
UFC Records: Vettori 6-2-1, Holland 8-3
Last Fight: Vettori def. Hermansson, UDec, UFC On ESPN 19 (12/5/20), Brunson def. Holland, UDec, UFC On ESPN 21 (3/20/21)
Last Five Fights: Vettori 4-1, Holland 4-1
Rankings: Vettori #6, Holland #10
Betting Odds: Vettori -325, Holland +250
Preview: It wasn’t supposed to be the main event for this card, but a fight put together just ten days ahead of time headlines the card with two men who both come into this fight with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Vettori was originally scheduled to fight Darren Till in this fight, but Till had to pull out on March 30 after suffering a collarbone injury during his camp. It was tough to find a quality opponent on such short notice, but Holland officially stepped in on April 1 to save the main event. Holland is making that super quick turnaround, as he just fought on March 20, so it’ll be a 21-day gap between fights. That fight on 3/20 was a disappointment for him, dropping a decision to Derek Brunson in what was supposed to be a showcase fight for him. Holland’s showing was disappointing and it was clear what he needed to work on, but is 21 days enough to show any sort of improvement? Vettori is coming into this fight on a surge, having won four straight, including a big decision win over Jack Hermansson in December. It was Vettori’s highest-profile win to date, and even though he’s a bit of a hothead who curses a lot and likes to talk, that is something that will fit in well with Holland, who is a well-known talker.

Holland is going to need to show that he’s made some quick adjustments, as he’ll be battling another takedown heavy opponent, but one who has more power on his feet. Holland didn’t defend hardly any takedown attempts that Brunson went after, and when he was planted on his back, did virtually nothing to work his way back up. Again, that was just three weeks ago. Vettori is also a heavy striker who has some good power, but Holland will hold a seven-inch reach advantage. Vettori doesn’t have the experience that Brunson did, nor does he have the resume of high-level competition that Brunson had either. Holland is going to have to keep Vettori at a distance and work his striking, and if he can get in a groove, he then can start running his mouth, and Vettori can be a fighter that fights with a lot of emotion at times, and it can lead to mistakes.

One thing Holland will also need to do- listen to his coaches in between rounds, not worry about talking to whomever may be in attendance outside the Octagon. It is a tough assignment coming back three weeks later, especially after a disappointing showing, but with both men fighting with chips on their shoulder, it could end up being a wild fight. You have to give the edge to Vettori based on the full camp, but Holland is still hard to count out. This will likely be some kind of a brawl.

Featherweights: Arnold Allen vs. Sodiq Yusuff

Overall Records: Allen 16-1, Yusuff 11-1
UFC Records: Allen 7-0, Yusuff 4-0
Last Fight: Allen def. Lentz, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 24 (1/25/20), Yusuff def. Fili, UDec, UFC 246 (1/18/20)
Last Five Fights: Allen 5-0, Yusuff 5-0
Rankings: Allen #10, Yusuff #11
Betting Odds: Allen +115, Yusuff -140
Preview: What actually might be the best fight on the card, and really a fight that could’ve been a headliner if both were more well-known, gets a great co-main event spot with a chance to expose both Yusuff and Allen, who are looking to get themselves into the title picture at 145 lbs. with a win. Both of these guys are proven winners. They have a combined 29 professional fights between the two of them, and each has suffered just one loss. Both are also undefeated in UFC in a combined 11 appearances, and both are on solid win streaks, with Yusuff winning six straight and Allen winning nine straight. Quite frankly, these are two of the best featherweights in the world, and neither is getting a lot of credit, and the winner should be right up there in the mix in 2021 and beyond. It will be the return of both men after long absences, as neither has fought since January 2020. Both men had fights scheduled at various points throughout the year, but they all fell apart, and both men have been ducked by top-tier competition as many see them as dangerous competition. Whoever wins this fight won’t have to worry about others avoiding them afterwards.

This is going to be an interesting battle as it’s a battle between an exciting striker and Yusuff and a grinding grappler in Allen. Yusuff lands with lots of volume, averaging more than six strikes landed per minute, and he’s scored knockdowns in three of his five UFC bouts. Allen isn’t going to scare anyone with his striking, as he doesn’t have a true knockout finish in almost seven years, despite having two knockdowns in his UFC career, but his grappling is top-notch. He scores on over half of his takedown attempts, has defended 76% of takedowns attempted on him, and if the fight goes to the mat, he is always on the prowl for submissions. He has four wins by submission, but he will mostly use his ground control to grind out fights. It’s going to be an interesting fight.

Yusuff will have the clear edge on the feet while they’re separated, but any clinch or ground battles likely heavily skew in the favor of Allen. Allen shouldn’t have to worry about Yusuff taking him down- Yusuff is 0-for-4 in takedown attempts during his UFC tenure. This has the potential to be an exciting fight, and it could’ve easily been the headliner of the show had the main event not gotten saved. I like Yusuff to win, but this really could go either way.

Middleweights: Sam Alvey vs. Julian Marquez

Overall Records: Alvey 33-14-1 1 NC, Marquez 8-2
UFC Records: Alvey 10-9-1, Marquez 2-1
Last Fight: Alvey DRAW Jung, UFC 254 (10/24/20), Marquez def. Pitolo, R3 SUB, UFC 258 (2/13/20)
Last Five Fights: Alvey 0-4-1, Marquez 4-1
Betting Odds: Alvey +160, Marquez -200
Preview: Yet another middleweight bout finds itself on the main card as Alvey looks to end his slump against Marquez. Alvey was originally scheduled to fight Zak Cummings in this bout, but Cummings had to pull out, and Marquez stepped in on short notice. Marquez is actually teammates with Cummings and was the guy who was going to replicate Alvey during Cummings’ camp, so he should be familiar already with the style Alvey is going to bring. Alvey is moving back down to middleweight after a stint fighting at 205 lbs. He had his best UFC success at 185 lbs, going 8–5, but he moved up after missing weight for his last middleweight fight. He started off good at 205, but hasn’t won in his past five fights, and is coming off a draw with Da Un Jung in October. It’s kind of a surprise Alvey is still on the roster, as he tends to have lackluster fights, those his past two have been fairly entertaining. He has to win this one, though, and he gets a tough foe in Marquez. Marquez finally got back to action two months ago after being out for a couple of years, and it was a successful return as he scored a come-from-behind submission win over Maki Pitolo at UFC 258 in February.

This fight has the potential to be either fun or really lackluster. It will likely stay on the feet as both are primarily strikers. Alvey tends to fight going backwards and with his back against the fence, and that is a position where Marquez could make him pay. Marquez isn’t a takedown artist, but he doesn’t mind fighting in the clinch and grinding away against the fence. Alvey is well-versed in dirty boxing and can do damage in the clinch if there’s openings. Alvey also isn’t much of a takedown artist, as he’s scored just one takedown in his twenty UFC fights. He does have some underrated power coming from the southpaw position, so Marquez is going to need to keep his hands up. Conditioning will play a factor in this as well, as both get tired the longer the fight goes on, and Alvey is more used to a grinding fight. Marquez does have a good submission game, and all eight of his wins have been by stoppage, and he’s yet to be finished. Alvey does have 19 wins by knockout, so don’t underestimate him on the feet.

Regardless of who wins, you know there will be an entertaining post-fight interview. As to who wins, this screams more of a toss-up fight despite Marquez being a decent-sized favorite. I do like Marquez to win, but Alvey would be a good upset pick as well.

Women’s Strawweights: Nina Ansaroff vs. Mackenzie Dern

Overall Records: Ansaroff 10-6, Dern 10-1
UFC Records: Ansaroff 4-3, Dern 5-1
Last Fight: Suarez def. Ansaroff, UDec, UFC 238 (6/8/19), Dern def. Jandiroba, UDec, UFC 256 (12/12/20)
Last Five Fights: Ansaroff 4-1, Dern 4-1
Rankings: Ansaroff #5, Dern #11
Betting Odds: Ansaroff -130, Dern +110
Preview: When you look at the card, this is one of the more important fights on the card as it will be the battle of mothers. Ansaroff is returning for the first time since giving birth to her and Amanda Nunes’ daughter in September. It will be her first fight since a loss to Tatiana Suarez at UFC 238 in June 2019, which ended her four-fight win streak that had put her right into the title picture. Despite not fighting in nearly two years, Ansaroff is still ranked inside the top five at 115 lbs., which says a lot about the rankings, so a win would put her right back into the mix. Standing in her way is another mother in Dern, who gets her biggest test to date. Dern knows what it’s like to come back after giving birth, though she came back quicker than Ansaroff did. That didn’t work out for Dern so much, as she lost in her return bout, but she has since won three straight to get her on the cusp of being in the top ten, and a win here would vault her near the top five at 115 lbs.

She’s arguably the most dangerous ground fighter in the strawweight division, but Dern showed in her last fight that her striking is getting much better under the tutelage of Jason Perillo, and she’s going to need it against Ansaroff, who is good on her feet. Ansaroff is a volume striker with some good accuracy, and while Dern has improved on the feet, she still gets hit more than she lands, and Ansaroff is talented enough to exploit that. As great as Dern is on the ground, and you don’t want to go to the mat with her, and she’s had some opponents who’ve made that mistake and paid for it. Ansaroff is too smart to play that game, and if Dern tries for takedowns, Ansaroff has very good takedown defense.

This is going to come down to how it plays out on the feet. Has Dern made even more significant improvement on the feet to tangle with Ansaroff? How will the layoff affect Ansaroff? Those are the two big questions coming into the fight. It is a toss-up on the betting odds, but I like Dern to score the biggest win of her career and continue her charge up the rankings.

Welterweights: Mike Perry vs. Daniel Rodriguez

Overall Records: Perry 14-7, Rodriguez 13-2
UFC Records: Perry 7-7, Rodriguez 3-1
Last Fight: Means def. Perry, UDec, UFC 255 (11/21/20), Dalby def. Rodriguez, UDec, UFC 255 (11/21/20)
Last Five Fights: Perry 2-3, Rodriguez 4-1
Betting Odds: Perry +140, Rodriguez -170
Preview: A battle between welterweight brawlers kicks off the main card as Perry gets another chance in UFC despite recent struggles both in and out of the Octagon, while Rodriguez looks to bounce back from a recent setback. Perry comes into this fight having lost six of his last nine fights, and he will be looking to avoid his third losing streak in UFC here. The Perry who fought last in November had no business even fighting, as he came into his fight against Tim Means almost five pounds over the limit, and followed that with a disappointing showing in a loss. He had outside struggles both before and since that fight, and many thought he’d be cut after that, but he’s getting one more chance. Rodriguez started his UFC career just last year as a late-notice replacement against the aforementioned Means, scoring a win over him in February 2020. He followed that with two more wins during the summer months before dropping a close decision to Nicolas Dalby in November. He looks to get back in the win column against an opponent that suits his style.

One of the big questions surrounding the fight is already being closely looked at, and it’s whether Perry will make weight. He’s been openly talking for weeks about how this will be his last fight at 170 lbs., something he said last time, and he missed weight badly that time. There is a chance that we could be in for a repeat here, and that wouldn’t be good for him at all. He’s not doing the dumb stuff he was doing last time like eating hamburgers and desserts when he’s supposed to be cutting weight like he did last time, or if he his, he certainly isn’t posting videos showing it. If he misses weight again even after talking about how he’s afraid he will, it’s just more unprofessionalism from him. He has the money to pay for a nutritionist, but yet he still doesn’t. He did actually get a proper training camp for this fight, though, training at MMA Masters in Florida, which is also where Colby Covington trains. Rodriguez is going to come in fully prepared for this, and he has the striking fundamentals to give Perry a lot of trouble.

Perry struggles against southpaws, which is what Rodriguez is. Perry also struggles against high-volume strikers, which Rodriguez is. Rodriguez does tend to get hit often and he should be aware that Perry has power, though Rodriguez has never been finished. Perry might try and take the fight down, but Rodriguez has some good grappling and strong takedown defense. This could wind up being a very entertaining brawl, and a very fun and fan-friendly fight, which is why it kicks off the ABC portion of the card. I think Rodriguez will get the win, but Perry does have tons to prove and is plenty capable of pulling off the win.

Preliminary Card
Start Time: 12:00 p.m. ET, 9:00 a.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Lightweights: Jim Miller vs. Joe Solecki

Overall Records: Miller 32-15 1 NC, Solecki 10-2
UFC Records: Miller 21-14 1 NC, Solecki 2-0
Last Fight: Pichel def. Miller, UDec, UFC 252 (8/15/20), Solecki def. Hubbard, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN 15 (8/22/20)
Last Five Fights: Miller 3-2, Solecki 5-0
Betting Odds: Miller +190, Solecki -240
Preview: The man with the most fights in UFC history and third-most wins in UFC history looks to add to his legendary career as veteran Miller soldiers on against the up-and-coming talent, taking on talented prospect Solecki in this bout. This will be Miller’s 37th UFC fight, and despite being around since 2008, he’s shown he still has plenty of fight left as he’s won three of his past five fights. Miller has the third-most wins by submission in UFC, scoring ten, and he has 18 submission wins overall. Solecki comes into the biggest fight of his career riding a five-fight win streak, and he has put together a nice submission base for himself, as seven of his ten professional wins have come by submission. Miller is that hard-nosed veteran who has seen it all, and he has proven that he is still dangerous on the mat, and that he still has some solid skills on the feet despite all of the years and battles he’s been in.

Even though Solecki has good submission skills, he may want to avoid going to the mat with Miller, especially early in the fight. Miller doesn’t seem to have the stamina he had in the past to go the full distance, as his recent losses have come by decision in fights where he started off good. Solecki should look to drag the fight into deep waters, but that means avoid an early onslaught from Miller. Solecki doesn’t get hit a lot and is an accurate striker. This could be the tale of two fights. If it ends early, it’s likely with Miller’s hand getting raised. If it goes the distance, Solecki will be the likely winner. This has potential to be a very good fight, and it will show whether the veteran has plenty still in the tank, or if the prospect is ready to move up the ladder.

Lightweights: Scott Holtzman vs. Mateusz Gamrot

Overall Records: Holtzman 14-4, Gamrot 17-1 1 NC
UFC Records: Holtzman 7-4, Gamrot 0-1
Last Fight: Dariush def. Holtzman, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 32 (8/8/20), Kutateladze def. Gamrot, SpDec, UFC On ESPN+ 38 (10/17/20)
Last Five Fights: Holtzman 3-2, Gamrot 4-1
Betting Odds: Holtzman +190, Gamrot -240
Preview: An exciting lightweight match-up here as Holtzman looks to get back into the win column while Gamrot is looking to rebound from his first professional loss. Holtzman has been in some exciting fights in his recent UFC fights, but was on the receiving end of a brutal spinning backfist knockout at the hands of Beneil Dariush in his last fight. Losing to Dariush isn’t something to look down on, as he’s become one of the top lightweights in the world, but Holtzman felt he had the tools to win that fight. He gets a very tough foe in this one as Gamrot makes his second Octagon appearance. He came to UFC undefeated in his first 18 fights, but lost a close split decision to Guram Kutateladze in October on Fight Island. Gamrot is an exciting fighter with nine finishes, and he was one of the best non-UFC fighters in the world when he was signed, so he will have something to prove in this fight.

Gamrot is a small lightweight, and he honestly could probably fight at featherweight in UFC, while Holtzman is a big lightweight, so there will be a size difference inside the Octagon. What Gamrot may give up in size, he’ll make up in skill. Gamrot is a strong takedown fighter, something that Holtzman struggles with at times. Holtzman is going to want to keep the fight on the feet, but Gamrot is also talented there. Holtzman is more of a boxer and comes forward, while Gamrot is a more well-rounded striker. This has the potential to be the most exciting fight on the card. Gamrot is a pretty decent favorite in the betting odds, and I like him to pick up his first UFC win in this bout.

Women’s Bantamweights: Norma Dumont vs. Erin Blanchfield

Overall Records: Dumont 5-1, Blanchfield 6-1
UFC Records: Dumont 1-1, Blanchfield 0-0
Last Fight: Dumont def. Evans-Smith, UDec, UFC On ESPN 18 (11/28/20), Blanchfield def. Walker-Sanchez, UDec, Invicta FC 41 (7/30/20)
Last Five Fights: Dumont 4-1, Blanchfield 4-1
Betting Odds: Dumont -250, Blanchfield +200
Preview: One of the best new young signings to UFC, Blanchfield is making her debut on short notice against Dumont. Blanchfield replaces Bea Malecki on less than two weeks’ notice, and she comes into UFC as one of the youngest fighters on the roster at just 21-years-old. She will be moving up a weight class to make her debut, as her seven career fights have been at 125 lbs., while this will be at 135 lbs. Dumont will be fight at bantamweight for the second time, but that comes with an asterisk as she did miss weight for her last fight, missing the bantamweight limit by three-and-a-half pounds. She is going to have the size advantage over Blanchfield, but Blanchfield, despite being nine years younger, is actually going to have the experience edge, and is the more talented fighter of the two.

Dumont is a good striker who has good defense on the feet, and she’s shown some good ground skills. Blanchfield has been doing submission tournaments since she was a young kid. She does hold wins over current UFC fighters Kay Hansen and Victoria Leonardo, and her lone loss came to Tracy Cortez in a fight that many thought she won. Dumont just doesn’t have the strength of opponents that Blanchfield has had. Blanchfield will have the clear edge on the ground, and she may even have a slight edge on the feet, though it will likely be more even or in the favor of Dumont there. If Blanchfield can get the fight to the mat, it is her fight to lose. There will be a big question of whether Dumont can make weight, and she will need to utilize her size advantage to get past the pure talent. Blanchfield is the betting underdog in this fight, and I see her having tremendous value. Despite the short notice and the likelihood that it may be a fight or two early, her talent will make up for it in this one. I like Blanchfield all day in this fight.

Lightweights: John Makdessi vs. Ignacio Bahamondes

Overall Records: Makdessi 17-7, Bahamondes 11-3
UFC Records: Makdessi 10-7, Bahamondes 0-0
Last Fight: Trinaldo def. Makdessi, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 28 (3/14/20), Bahamondes def. Gomez, R2 KO, Dana White’s Contender Series 34 (11/4/20)
Last Five Fights: Makdessi 3-2, Bahamondes 4-1
Betting Odds: Makdessi +155, Bahamondes -190
Preview: Another veteran against newcomer match-up finds itself on the prelims here as Makdessi fights for the first time in over a year against the debut Bahamondes. Makdessi is looking to be a little more active, as he has just one fight in each of the last four years, and is coming off a March 2020 loss to Francisco Trinaldo, which ended a three-fight win streak. He’s another guy who has been in UFC for quite some time, debuting in December 2010, but has always been dangerous on his feet, with nine knockout wins in his career. Bahamondes makes his debut as a signee from the recent season of the Contender Series, where he had arguably the most memorable finish of the season, knocking out Edson Gomez with a front kick. He enters UFC having won seven of his last eight fights, and in his eleven professional wins, eight have come by knockout.

We can expect this fight to be all action on the feet. Makdessi has 17 UFC fights under his belt, and he has yet to score a takedown in any fight. He has only even attempted only three takedowns during that time, so we know where he wants the fight. He can also keep it standing, as despite not being a proficient takedown artist, he has defended 88% of takedowns attempted on him. When you look at these two next to each other, you will see the huge height and reach edge that Bahamondes will have- seven inches in each. Makdessi is going to need to use his creative striking to get on the inside of Bahamondes, and his karate style will come in handy. Bahamondes will have the power edge in this one, but he also has shown defensive lapses in his pre-UFC fights, and Makdessi is a big-time veteran with fights against far more polished strikers like Donald Cerrone, Lando Vannata and Yancy Medeiros.

Bahamondes is going to need to use his length to keep Makdessi at bay, and he could use that front kick to do damage. This is another interesting match-up that could yield an exciting fight, and also another fight with a live underdog. I like Bahamondes based on upside and activity, but I can’t count Makdessi out of this fight. This should be a fun one.

Heavyweights: Yorgan De Castro vs. Jarjis Danho

Overall Records: De Castro 6-2, Danho 5-1-1
UFC Records: De Castro 1-2, Danho 0-1-1
Last Fight: Felipe def. De Castro, UDec, UFC On ESPN 16 (10/3/20), Danho DRAW Colombo, UFC Fight Night 93 (9/3/16)
Last Five Fights: De Castro 3-2, Danho 3-1-1
Betting Odds: De Castro -300, Danho +235
Preview: A heavyweight bout featuring two men in desperate need of a win takes place here as De Castro looks to end his two-fight losing skid while Danho is still in search of his first UFC win. De Castro started his UFC career off strong, finishing Justin Tafa in the first round to run his professional record to 6–0, and he looked like someone who might break through at heavyweight. Since then, things haven’t gone well, dropping decisions to Greg Hardy and Carlos Felipe in completely lackluster fights, and this will be the last fight on his contract, which means a loss could mean not being re-signed. Danho returns after not being seen inside the Octagon since September 2016, when he fought to a majority draw against Christian Colombo. No one really knows where he’s been since then, as he’s had three fights cancelled since, and many people, myself included, forgot he was even on UFC’s roster. It’s a make-or-break fight for him as well, which makes this an interesting fight.

When he was last seen, Danho was far from the most impressive heavyweight on the roster, being at the bottom end and looking more like a guy you put against someone you want to build. He has good size, but he doesn’t use it. He was impressive before coming to UFC, scoring all of his wins by a finish, but both his UFC bouts have gone the distance, and not been pretty views. De Castro should win this one on skill alone, but he doesn’t fight up to his abilities. He had a strong first round against Hardy, but then didn’t really show up for the other two rounds. The same happened in the Felipe fight. He just doesn’t throw enough to be a true threat, though he does have power. Both men get hit more than they land, so it may come down to a knockout blow. This could either be very quick, or it could be a long and ugly heavyweight fight. I think De Castro gets the job done, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it ends up being the worst fight on the show.

Bantamweights: Hunter Azure vs. Jack Shore

Overall Records: Azure 9-1, Shore 13-0
UFC Records: Azure 2-1, Shore 2-0
Last Fight: Azure def. Smith, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 34 (9/5/20), Shore def. Phillips, R2 SUB, UFC On ESPN 13 (7/15/20)
Last Five Fights: Azure 4-1, Shore 5-0
Betting Odds: Azure +135, Shore -165
Preview: One of the best fights on the card, one that could’ve easily been on the main card and definitely deserves some attention, takes place here as prospects Azure and Shore both looking to break into that contender spot in a crowded bantamweight division. Azure was a popular signing off the Contender Series in 2019, and he started his career off at 8–0, including a win over Brad Katona in his UFC debut. He then had a setback against Brian Kelleher, but rebounded to get a decision win over Cole Smith in his last fight. Meanwhile, all Shore has done in his career is win. He is 13–0 in his professional career, went 11–0 in his amateur career, and his pro wins have seen him score four wins by knockout and eight wins by submission. He is arguably the best prospect that has come out of England in the last couple of years, which is saying a lot as that country has produced many quality UFC fighters. He’s 2–0 in UFC, with submission wins over Noehlin Hernandez and Aaron Phillips, and Azure is a natural progression for him as he climbs up the ladder.

This has all the makings of an exciting fight. Azure is a very good wrestler, winning state titles in high school and competing in college, and it’s translated well so far into his MMA career. He isn’t the most flashy fighter, as the majority of his wins have come by decision, but he gets the job done and has a very effective style. As good of a wrestler as Azure is, Shore is every bit the wrestler he is, and is a better ground fighter. When it comes to the feet, Shore is much more crisp striker, as he is very accurate and very good at avoiding being hit. Azure is going to need to attempt to take Shore down and grind it out from the top, but that is easier said than done, and playing with Shore on the ground for too long has the potential to be disaster for him. I’m very high on Shore, and Azure has talent as well, but Shore is someone who could fight for the title in the future, and I don’t see that in Azure. I like Shore to win this one impressively and to get a big fight for his next appearance.

Featherweights: Luis Saldana vs. Jordan Griffin

Overall Records: Saldana 14-6, Griffin 18-8
UFC Records: Saldana 0-0, Griffin 1-3
Last Fight: Saldana def. Murdock, R3 TKO, Dana White’s Contender Series 34 (11/4/20), Zalal def. Griffin, UDec, UFC On ESPN 12 (6/27/20)
Last Five Fights: Saldana 4-1, Griffin 2-3
Betting Odds: Saldana -140, Griffin +115
Preview: Another fighter from the recent season of Contender Series makes his debut here as Saldana battles veteran Griffin in a featherweight contest. Saldana enters the UFC riding a four-fight win streak, and his impressive win over Vince Murdock on the show earned him the UFC contract. It’s been a good turnaround in his career, as prior to the recent win streak, he had a run where he went just 3–5 over the span of eight fights. His 14 career wins have seen him with a 100% finishing rate, with six wins by knockout and eight wins by submission. Griffin is another Contender Series alum, but he’s struggled for consistency as a UFC roster member, going just 1–3 over his first four fights. However, those losses have come to Dan Ige, Chas Skelly and Youssef Zalal, so he hasn’t had the easiest road, and Saldana might be someone who is either on his level or just slightly below. Either way, Griffin finds himself in need of a win. He’s also a guy with a good finishing rate, as 14 of his 18 wins have been by stoppage.

Saldana is a crisp boxer and very solid on the feet, and Griffin has struggled with strikers in his career. Griffin isn’t bad on the feet, but he’s not an overwhelming striker, preferring to utilize short blitzes over a high-volume approach. Saldana brings a high-volume approach, so Griffin may look to mix it up and bring grappling into this fight. Saldana’s takedown defense is shaky at times, and he’s been submitted twice in his career. Griffin isn’t the best at takedowns, with only a 23% accuracy rate on his attempts, but he will grind for them if needed, and Saldana should be prepared for that to happen. If Saldana can keep it at a distance, he should win this. If he isn’t prepared for a 15-minute grind, this might be Griffin’s fight to lose. I think, in the end, Saldana gets the job done, but this is close enough on the betting odds that Griffin is a live dog who has a good shot at winning.

Light Heavyweights: Da Un Jung vs. William Knight

Overall Records: Jung 13-2-1, Knight 9-1
UFC Records: Jung 2-0-1, Knight 1-0
Last Fight: Jung DRAW Alvey, UFC 254 (10/24/20), Knight def. Camur, UDec, UFC 253 (9/26/20)
Last Five Fights: Jung 4-0-1, Knight 4-1
Betting Odds: Jung -140, Knight +115
Preview: An interesting light heavyweight battle between prospects is the second fight on the show, and this is such a good match-up that it shows the depth of this card that this is the second fight when it could be much higher on the card. Jung comes into this fight on a 13-fight unbeaten streak. He started his UFC career off with back-to-back finishes of Khadis Ibragimov and Mike Rodriguez, but went the distance with Sam Alvey in his last fight, which ended in a split draw. The overwhelming majority thought Alvey won that fight, and the only reason it ended in a draw is due to one judge giving Jung a 10–8 score in the third, which was a very controversial scorecard. Had he scored it 10–9, it would’ve been a loss for Jung. Knight makes his second appearance in the Octagon, coming in off a decision win over Aleksa Camur in his debut. It was the first time he went the distance in his career, as his previous eight wins had come by stoppage, with seven wins by knockout. He is a physically imposing 205-pound fighter, with a big frame that produces a lot of power. Despite Knight being a physical specimen, he is going to give up some length to Jung, who will have a six-inch height advantage and a five-and-a-half inch reach advantage.

Knight is going to have to make up for that by bringing the fight to Jung, who does get hit quite often. Jung was outstruck by Alvey, but he did knock Alvey down and has ten wins by knockout. Jung is the more rangy striker, and Knight, despite his frame and knockout wins, isn’t a sharp striker, but he can land counters that put the lights out on his opponents. Knight has this weird ability to force his opponents into a grappling battle, which he exploits to land some vicious ground strikes. Knight would be best-served to work in calf kicks and keep Jung from utilizing his boxing advantage. This fight likely plays out on the feet, and we could be in store for a big finish. Jung is the slight favorite, and again, Knight is a live underdog, and this is a fight that could go either way. It has the potential to be an exciting bout, especially if they decide to just let their hands go.

Welterweights: Impa Kasanganay vs. Sasha Palatnikov

Overall Records: Kasanganay 8-1, Palatnikov 6-2
UFC Records: Kasanganay 1-1, Palatnikov 1-0
Last Fight: Buckley def. Kasanganay, R2 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 37 (10/10/20), Palatnikov def. Cosce, R3 TKO, UFC 255 (11/21/20)
Last Five Fights: Kasanganay 4-1, Palatnikov 4-1
Betting Odds: Kasanganay -300, Palatnikov +235
Preview: It appears that Kasanganay has finally awoken after being on the receiving end of the Knockout of the Year in 2020 at the hands of Joaquin Buckley, the incredible spin kick knockout that went viral. He returns from that and moves down a weight class, moving to the welterweight division, where he’ll take on Palatnikov in the opening bout of the card on Saturday. Palatnikov is making his second UFC appearance, and is coming off a win over Louis Cosce in one of the most entertaining fights of 2020, where he survived a hard first round to comeback and score a third-round finish. It was a good showing for Palatnikov, but he’ll have his hands full with Kasanganay here. The loss to Buckley was the first time Kasanganay has tasted defeat, as his previous eight fights had all been wins.

This should be an interesting fight, but Kasanganay looks to be the better fighter in each aspect. The big question will be if his conditioning will hold up as he makes the cut to 170 lbs. for the first time. Traditionally, his cardio has been the least of his worries, as he’s gone the distance plenty of times and always looked fresh even in the final moments of a fight. He isn’t an imposing striker, and Palatnikov has some power, but Palatnikov will likely be giving up some size here. While Kasanganay has no knockout finishes, he does have power in his hands, and he uses it well to mix in a very good takedown game, and he can be stifling from the top. Palatnikov isn’t that great when planted on the mat, but he does have some good takedowns of his own. Palatnikov needs to hope that the weight cut takes some out of Kasanganay, because I don’t see this going well for him any other way. Kasanganay should get the win here, as he has more tools to win and is just better all around. This does have the potential to be a very entertaining opener.

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