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Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 47: Rozenstruik vs. Sakai

Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 47.


UFC On ESPN+ 47

Date: June 5, 2021

Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card

Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET, 4:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN+

Heavyweights: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Augusto Sakai

Official Records: Rozenstruik 11-2, Sakai 15-2-1

UFC Records: Rozenstruik 5-2, Sakai 4-1

Last Fight: Gane def. Rozenstruik, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 44 (2/27/21), Overeem def. Sakai, R5 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 34 (9/5/20)

Last Five Fights: Rozenstruik 3-2, Sakai 4-1

Rankings: Rozenstruik #6, Sakai #9

Betting Odds: Rozenstruik -125, Sakai +105

Preview: It’s not the most high-profile main event, but top-ten ranked heavyweights Rozenstruik and Sakai step into the headline spot with both looking to get back in the win column. Rozenstruik is coming off a disappointing decision loss to Ciryl Gane in February in a fight he just didn’t do a whole lot in. After starting his career 10-0, Rozenstruik has dropped two of his last three, and another loss here could drop him out of the title picture for a long time. Sakai comes into this fight looking to rebound from his first UFC loss, when he was finished by Alistair Overeem in the fifth round in September. Sakai had previously won his first four UFC bouts, with two wins by knockout and two wins by split decision. He comes into this with eleven career wins by knockout, but a loss here could keep him out of the title picture for quite some time.

Both of these guys are hard hitters, especially Rozenstruik, who has won 91% of his professional fights by knockout. It is possible both men have already hit their ceiling in UFC. Sakai is more of a volume striker, but the power edge will go to Rozenstruik. Both are equally accurate on the feet, while Sakai has better defense on the feet. We could talk about the grappling, but, to be honest, it is unlikely this one will go to the mat. Rozenstruik has yet to even attempt a takedown in UFC, while Sakai has scored just one, on two attempts, takedown inside the octagon. Both do have good takedown defense, especially Rozenstruik, should one decide to try it out. Rozenstruik needs to fight differently than he did against Gane, as he was overly cautious throughout and afraid to throw the big shot in the event Gane would land a perfectly-timed counter.

Sakai doesn’t have the natural talent that Gane does, and Rozenstruik should be on the attack right away. Sakai likes to battle inside the clinch and use some dirty boxing and short elbows, but also to grind down his opponents. Rozenstruik has the slightly better gas tank in case this becomes an ugly clinch battle. This one is even on the betting odds, but it feels like a fight that Rozenstruik should win. It’s tough to pick, and it could be a lackluster fight, though I do think Rozenstruik wins and wins big to get back on the right path.

Heavyweights: Walt Harris vs. Marcin Tybura

Official Records: Harris 13-9 1 NC, Tybura 21-6

UFC Records: Harris 6-8 1 NC, Tybura 8-5

Last Fight: Volkov def. Harris, R2 TKO, UFC 254 (10/24/20), Tybura def. Hardy, R2 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20)

Last Five Fights: Harris 2-2 1 NC, Tybura 4-1

Rankings: Harris #8, Tybura #11

Betting Odds: Harris +145, Tybura -175

Preview: The co-main event is another heavyweight bout, but this one has men on two different current paths. Harris comes into this fight after a tough 2020 that saw him lose in both of his appearances inside the Octagon. He was finished by Alistair Overeem in May, and then finished again at UFC 254 in October by Alexander Volkov. That ended a run where Harris had gone unbeaten in his prior four fights, and another loss will likely push him outside the top ten, and into that full-blown gatekeeper status. Tybura comes into this fight on the best run of his UFC career, having won his previous four fights. He got the first finish of that run in his last fight, scoring a second-round TKO over Greg Hardy in December. Prior to this streak, Tybura had gone 4-5 in his UFC career and was on the verge of being cut following a run where he lost four of five, and now he has the chance to get inside the top ten with another win here.

Tybura might be one of the most underrated heavyweights in the division right now. He’s had a Blachowicz-like resurgence, which has come on the strength of a well-rounded attack and a solid chin. Harris does have tons of power, and if he catches Tybura with the right punch out of the southpaw stance, it could be lights out. Harris also tends to fold easily to pressure, and Tybura has become a good pressure fighter. Tybura typically lands more than Harris does and is more accurate, and Tybura can back up his striking with a good takedown game. Tybura pressuring Harris will also use up Harris’ gas tank, which isn’t all that great to begin with.

This could be a lot like Tybura’s fight against Greg Hardy, where Hardy won the first round before fading and Tybura finishing it in the second. He knows how to weather the storm, and will do the same against Harris here. Tybura is on the rise while Harris is on the slide, and while Harris winning would be a feel-good story, I don’t think Tybura is the one he will get that win against. I like Tybura finishing it in the second round.

Middleweights: Roman Dolidze vs. Laureano Staropoli

Official Records: Dolidze 8-1, Staropoli 9-3

UFC Records: Dolidze 2-1, Staropoli 2-2

Last Fight: Giles def. Dolidze, UDec, UFC On ESPN 21 (3/20/21), Means def. Staropoli, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 32 (8/8/20)

Last Five Fights: Dolidze 4-1, Staropoli 3-2

Betting Odds: Dolidze -145, Staropoli +120

Preview: A fight put together with just a few weeks’ notice takes place here in the middleweight division when Dolidze looks to rebound from his first career loss against late-notice replacement Staropoli. Dolidze was originally slated to fight Alessio Di Chiricio here, but Di Chirico pulled out due to injury. Dolidze is fighting at 185 lbs. for the second time, as he looks to rebound from a decision loss to Trevin Giles in March. That ended a perfect 8-0 run to start his career, which saw him score seven wins by finish. Staropoli is fighting for the first time at 185 lbs. in his UFC career, and this is a do-or-die fight for him. He enters this one having lost his previous two fights, and he missed weight by 3.5 lbs. in his last bout. His losses have come to Tim Means and Muslim Salikhov, so he’s lost to tough opponents, but his immediate future likely hangs in the balance with the outcome of this fight.

Dolidze is going to have a four-and-a-half-inch reach advantage over Staropoli, and he is someone who knows how to use his length well. Staropoli does tend to land more than Dolidze, but he’s more of someone who likes to go blow-for-blow due to his durability. Dolidze has the edge in explosiveness, and he fights heavy on his lead leg, which lends to some violent knockouts. Dolidze could also rely on his wrestling and grappling, as he does have three submission wins under his belt, and Staropoli doesn’t have the best takedown defense. Dolidze will also likely be the bigger man inside the octagon, as he’s a former light heavyweight in just his second time at 185, while Staropoli is moving up to 185 for the first time. Dolidze is just a slight favorite in this one, which surprises me, as I think he is going to be the clear victor in this fight, becoming the first opponent to stop Staropoli.

Welterweights: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza

Official Records: Ponzinibbio 27-4, Baeza 10-0

UFC Records: Ponzinibbio 9-3, Baeza 3-0

Last Fight: Jingliang def. Ponzinibbio, R1 KO, UFC On ABC 1 (1/16/21), Baeza def. Sato, R2 SUB, UFC On ESPN 18 (11/28/20)

Last Five Fights: Ponzinibbio 4-1, Baeza 5-0

Betting Odds: Ponzinibbio EVEN, Baeza -120

Preview: In what could be the most exciting fight on the card, welterweight sluggers Ponzinibbio and Baeza meet in a fight that should establish where both are in the welterweight pecking order. Ponzinibbio looks to get back in the win column after suffering a first-round knockout loss to Li Jingliang in January. He had been out of action for over two years prior to that fight, and it’s always tough to spend that long away battling injuries, only to come back and lose in that fashion. Prior to that, he had won seven straight fights, was solidly ranked inside the top ten before he was removed from the rankings, and had all of the looks of a potential title challenger. Now, he’s looking to show he still has what it takes to be a potential title challenger. Standing in his way will be the undefeated Baeza, who is looking to improve on his perfect 10-0 record. He won his first six fights to get invited onto the Contender Series, then scored a win over an opponent who missed weight by seven pounds to earn a contract. Baeza has won all three of his fights since joining the roster, with all three wins by finish, and his wins over Matt Brown and Takashi Sato earning him Performance Of The Night bonuses.

This is a pivotal fight for Ponzinibbio, as it will show where he really stands in the division right now. He had the issues with the injuries and blood clots, and coming back after all of that and fighting someone like Jingliang, which was good matchmaking, but maybe it was a bit too much. Baeza is a great prospect, but the Ponzinibbio of old would run right through him. However, many now feel Baeza is the favorite, and it’s due to his explosiveness. Baeza fights like the Ponzinibbio of old, which makes this an interesting fight. If Ponzinibbio can find the flashes of old, his explosiveness and mixture of punches, kicks and knees could spell trouble for Baeza quickly. Another big thing Ponzinibbio had in the past was his speed, which didn’t look all that much there in his last fight. Perhaps it was a sign of ring rust, and fighting again soon will shake that off. Baeza mixes everything well and can threaten with the submission game as well. This should be a fun fight, but I tend to believe the Ponzinibbio of old will show back up and get the job done over the hot, young prospect.

Middleweights: Dusko Todorovic vs. Gregory Rodrigues

Official Records: Todorovic 10-1, Rodrigues 9-3

UFC Records: Todorovic 1-1, Rodrigues 0-0

Last Fight: Soriano def. Todorovic, R1 TKO, UFC On ABC 1 (1/16/21), Rodrigues def. Fremd, R1 KO, LFA 108 (5/21/21)

Last Five Fights: Todorovic 4-1, Rodrigues 4-1

Betting Odds: Todorovic -145, Rodrigues +120

Preview: A middleweight bout that sees a late change has Todorovic taking on the debuting Rodrigues in a main card fight. Todorovic was slated to fight Maki Pitolo, but an injury opened the door for Rodrigues to sign a contract on short-notice and slide into the opening. Todorovic is looking to rebound from his first career loss, which came at the hands of Punahele Soriano in January. It ended Todorovic’s ten-fight win streak to start his career, which included a pre-UFC win over Michel Pereira and a 90% finishing rate. Rodrigues comes in with less than two weeks’ notice, and it will be just 15 days between fights for him, as he’s coming off a first-round win at LFA 108 on May 21. He is 8-1 in his last nine fights, and eight of his nine wins have come by stoppage, though two of his three losses have been by knockout.

Todorovic is an extremely high-volume striker who is very accurate, landing nearly 70% of his significant strikes. He mixes his combinations smoothly, and he can finish you with a barrage of punches. Rodrigues has more of the one-shot finish ability, but he tends to get hit more than he lands. He is also a high-volume striker, but he doesn’t have the smoothness of Todorovic. Both men do like to come forward and aren’t afraid to get into a firefight, which could make for a fun fight. Rodrigues is coming in with the quick turnaround, so that could play a factor in his conditioning and durability. He’s going to need to be durable against a high-volume attack. Todorovic is a great prospect who had a slip-up in his last fight, but I suspect he’ll right the ship en route to either a late finish or a decision win here.

Middleweights: Tom Breese vs. Antonio Arroyo

Official Records: Breese 12-3, Arroyo 9-4

UFC Records: Breese 5-3, Arroyo 0-2

Last Fight: Akhmedov def. Breese, R2 SUB, UFC On ESPN 20 (1/20/21), Winn def. Arroyo, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20)

Last Five Fights: Breese 2-3, Arroyo 3-2

Betting Odds: Breese -265, Arroyo +210

Preview: The opening bout of the main card is the first of three middleweight fights on the main card as Breese and Arroyo both look to score a win. Breese comes into this fight off a submission loss to Omari Akhmedov in Abu Dhabi in January. He started his career 10-0, which included a 3-0 record to begin his UFC run, but he’s rotated losses-and-wins over his last five. A loss last time would mean he’s due for a win, but he’s going against a hungry opponent in Arroyo. Arroyo makes his third walk to the octagon in search of his first win, as he’s dropped back-to-back decisions to Andre Muniz and Deron Winn. Prior to that, he had a 9-2 record, with eight of his wins coming by stoppage.

While he hasn’t been able to find consistent success, Breese does have some heavy power in his hands and is plenty capable of finishing it on the feet. While he hasn’t shown it, he also has an excellent ground game, with a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but he has yet to even score a takedown in his UFC career. Arroyo is a great ground fighter as well, maybe not as polished as Breese, but Arroyo has been taken down 15 times in his two UFC fights. Breese should utilize the takedown threat to open up his power punches as he is the better striker. Arroyo has good range kickboxing, and he’s very accurate on his feet, but his striking defense also leaves a lot to be desired. This is a pretty big fight for both men, but the style match-up favors the power of Breese, and history should be on his side as his recent record says he’s due for a win. I like Breese to finish Arroyo with some power shots.

Preliminary Card

Start Time: 4:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN+

Women’s Flyweights: Montana De La Rosa vs. Ariane Lipski

Official Records: De La Rosa 11-6-1, Lipski 13-6

UFC Records: De La Rosa 4-2-1, Lipski 2-3

Last Fight: De La Rosa DRAW Silva, UFC On ESPN+ 44 (2/27/21), A. Shevchenko def. Lipski, R2 TKO, UFC 255 (11/21/20)

Last Five Fights: De La Rosa 2-2-1, Lipski 2-3

Betting Odds: De La Rosa -275, Lipski +220

Preview: A battle of female flyweights looking to break into the top fifteen takes place here as De La Rosa and Lipski both look to get back into the win column. De La Rosa knows what it’s like to be ranked, as she’s been there before, but she’s slipped out on the heels of just one win in her previous four fights. She’s coming off a majority draw with Mayra Bueno Silva in February, which she was lucky to get as Silva was deducted a point during the fight. She’s trying to get back to how she started her UFC career, which was three straight submission wins before her recent slump. Lipski is looking to get a new win streak going here, as her two-fight win streak was ended by Antonina Shevchenko in November. Lipski had gotten her bearings going inside the octagon after suffering losses in her first two fights, and now she’s in a position where she could be fighting for her UFC future.

If you’ve seen a De La Rosa fight, you know what she’s going to try and do, and that is grind it out and use clinch battles and takedowns to win fights. Lipski’s takedown defense has been pretty much non-existent, as she’s been taken down in four of her five UFC fights. Lipski will have the edge on the feet, as there’s a reason she’s called “The Violence Queen”, but De La Rosa knows how to take some damage on her feet. Both women tend to get hit more than they land, and De La Rosa will be willing to take shots to get the clinch and spam takedowns. De La Rosa isn’t the most accurate on her takedowns, but she’s relentless with them, and that will be a key here. Lipski could get lucky and find a submission on the mat, but De La Rosa is too skilled on the ground for that to happen, and I just see De La Rosa grinding out a decision in an ugly affair.

Heavyweights: Tanner Boser vs. Ilir Latifi

Official Records: Boser 19-7-1, Latifi 14-8 1 NC

UFC Records: Boser 3-2, Latifi 7-6

Last Fight: Arlovski def. Boser, UDec, UFC On ESPN 17 (11/7/20), Lewis def. Latifi, UDec, UFC 247 (2/8/20)

Last Five Fights: Boser 3-2, Latifi 2-3

Betting Odds: Boser -200, Latifi +160

Preview: A pair of heavyweights that have both been hardcore cult favorites in recent times square off here in a pivotal bout for both men at this stage of their careers. Boser was in the midst of having a very successful 2020, as he scored knockout wins over Philipe Lins and Raphael Pessoa just thirty days apart, and he was gaining a following for his interviews and personality. His win streak came to a halt at the hands of veteran Andrei Arlovski in November, who won by decision. Boser looks to get back to his winning ways as he guns for his 20th career win. Latifi finds himself in a must-win situation in his second heavyweight UFC bout, as he comes in having lost three straight. He’s been out of action since a decision loss to Derrick Lewis in his heavyweight debut at UFC 247 in February 2020. Latifi has also been a cult favorite in the past, but his UFC career hangs in the balance here.

Boser is going to have a four-inch height advantage, a two-inch reach edge, and will be the bigger fighter inside the Octagon when the fight begins. He also brings a different kind of style that should stifle Latifi’s tendency to land short-range bombs, as Boser mixes in some strong footwork to go along with some good combinations. Boser is an accurate striker who lands nearly five significant strikes a minute, and Latifi isn’t even close to being as accurate. Latifi throws bombs and has some impressive physical strength, but he’s going to have to really work in the clinch and use his physicality if he’s going to have a shot against Boser. I don’t expect Latifi to be able to do that, as Boser is just too good with his footwork and movement. I see Boser rebounding nicely and getting the win here, which would be unfortunate for Latifi in his current stretch.

Welterweights: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Muslim Salikhov

Official Records: Trinaldo 26-7, Salikhov 16-2

UFC Records: Trinaldo 16-6, Salikhov 4-1

Last Fight: Trinaldo def. Herbert, R3 TKO, UFC On ESPN 14 (7/25/20), Salikhov def. Zaleski dos Santos, SpDec, UFC 251 (7/11/20)

Last Five Fights: Trinaldo 4-1, Salikhov 4-1

Betting Odds: Trinaldo +200, Salikhov -250

Preview: A rare fight on this card featuring two fighters on decent win streaks takes place here in a welterweight contest between Trinaldo and Salikhov. Trinaldo makes the move to the welterweight division at the ripe old age of 42, marking just the second time in UFC he’s fought at a weight other than 155 lbs. He did miss weight for his last fight, so combine all of his time cutting weight and his age, and moving up is probably the best choice for him. He comes into this fight riding a three-fight win streak after finishing Jai Herbert in July, and he also has wins over Bobby Green and John Makdessi during his current streak. Salikhov comes into this fight on a four-fight win streak, and is looking to improve on a close decision win over Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in July. Salikhov has been impressive in his career, with wins in 15 of his last 16, and twelve wins by knockout in his career.

It’s impressive that Trinaldo is still able to compete at a high-level at his age, as he’s 42 but looks 62, yet he can still hang with the best of them. One thing that has been going away from him is his gas tank, though not having to cut down to lightweight could help that out a little. He’s going to need to have his conditioning at top-notch levels, because Salikhov is a fast and crisp striker who uses a lot of movement. Trinaldo, though he has power, is more of a flat-footed southpaw. Trinaldo might decide to turn this fight into a grind, but Salikhov has shown improvement in his takedown defense. As Salikhov is able to keep the fight upright and Trinaldo starts to fade, Salikhov should catch him with some heavy shots. Trinaldo was almost finished by Herbert, and Salikhov is a bigger fighter with more power. Salikhov is on quite a run, and I see it continuing in this one.

Featherweights: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Kamuela Kirk

Official Records: Amirkhani 16-5, Kirk 11-4

UFC Records: Amirkhani 6-3, Kirk 0-0

Last Fight: Barboza def. Amirkhani, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 37 (10/10/20), Kirk def. Swain, R2 TKO, LFA 107 (5/14/21)

Last Five Fights: Amirkhani 3-2, Kirk 3-2

Betting Odds: Amirkhani -230, Kirk +185

Preview: A featherweight bout highlights the prelims as Amirkhani looks to get back into the win column against a short-notice replacement making his UFC debut in Kirk. Amirkhani is looking to bounce back from a decision loss to Edson Barboza in October. He’s looking to gain some consistency after going 3-3 in his last six fights, though the losses have come to Barboza, Shane Burgos and Arnold Allen, all of whom are ranked inside the top ten. Kirk debuts as a replacement for Nate Landwehr, who was forced out due to injury. He also recently fought, having fought at LFA 107 on 5/14, where he scored a TKO win at the end of the second round. He was set to be on the Contender Series, but when the call came to take a fight, he answered, and he’s looking to improve on a record that’s seen him score finishes in all eleven of his wins.

I don’t think Amirkhani gets the credit he deserves for being a good fighter. I mean, look at who he has lost to- it’s a who’s who of featherweight contenders. He’s scored finishes in four of his six UFC wins, both by knockout and submission. He has really good wrestling and a great submission game, and his striking, while not the greatest, is good enough to win this one. Kirk is a high-volume striker, but he is also on a quick turnaround, having fought not that long ago, and Amirkhani is a tough first assignment. If the fight stays on the feet, Kirk will have the edge, even with the short notice. However, I see Amirkhani taking him down at will, due to lack of preparation time, and finding a submission in the first half of the fight to take the win.

Lightweights: Alan Patrick vs. Mason Jones

Official Records: Patrick 15-3, Jones 10-1

UFC Records: Patrick 5-3, Jones 0-1

Last Fight: Green def. Patrick, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20), Davis def. Jones, UDec, UFC On ESPN 20 (1/20/21)

Last Five Fights: Patrick 3-2, Jones 4-1

Betting Odds: Patrick +240, Jones -310

Preview: Much like the rest of the card, this lightweight bout features two men trying to get back into the win column. Patrick is looking to end a two-fight skid. He’s fought only twice in the last 39 months, with those losses coming to Scott Holtzman and Bobby Green. Prior to the slide, Patrick had won five of his six UFC appearances, but at 37, a loss here could signal the end of his time in the promotion. Jones, one of the best prospects to come out of England in recent time, makes his second UFC appearance, and is looking to bounce back from his first career loss. He debuted in January, suffering a decision loss to Mike Davis in Abu Dhabi. However, that was one of the best fights of the year so far, and it was one of those fights where the losing fighter doesn’t lose much in a loss. Jones still has tons of potential, backed up by a 70% finishing rate.

This could be a very tough fight for Patrick to get something going. Jones is the clear better fighter on the feet, as he has lots of power and a high-volume attack, though he is willing to let himself get hit. Patrick isn’t going to scare anyone on the feet any longer, so he has to rely on his wrestling. However, even that isn’t a strong point for him any longer. He used to score lots of takedowns, but only has one over his last two fights. Jones is physically strong and young and durable, so the odds of Patrick taking him down are very low. That leaves it on the feet, where a punishing attack from Jones will overwhelm Patrick, as Jones is just a savage on the feet. Jones is a big betting favorite, and for good reason, as I see him getting a finish to pick up his first UFC win.

Women’s Flyweights: Manon Fiorot vs. Tabatha Ricci

Official Records: Fiorot 6-1, Ricci 5-0

UFC Records: Fiorot 1-0, Ricci 0-0

Last Fight: Fiorot def. Leonardo, R2 TKO, UFC On ESPN 20 (1/20/21), Ricci def. Ormsby, R2 TKO, LFA 105 (4/23/21)

Last Five Fights: Fiorot 5-0, Ricci 5-0

Betting Odds: Fiorot -460, Ricci +365

Preview: A flyweight bout that sees a late change to it has Fiorot welcoming a newcomer in Ricci to UFC in this one. Fiorot was originally scheduled to fight Maryna Moroz, but Moroz was forced out on Wednesday, so Ricci steps in on just a few days’ notice to make her debut. Fiorot is fighting in the Octagon for the second time as she comes in off a second-round TKO over Victoria Leonardo in Abu Dhabi in January. She has won six straight fights, with her last four wins coming via a stoppage. Ricci enters UFC riding a perfect 5–0 record to start her career. She fought in April, scoring a finish in the second round in LFA, and instead of heading back to her native Brazil, she stayed in the United States in case an opportunity came up for a short-notice UFC debut.

She’s lucky that it did, but fight on just a few days’ notice against an opponent like Fiorot is going to be tough. Fiorot is a good kickboxer and has some power in her hands, as well as a decent ground game. Ricci does have a solid ground game as well, but she likely won’t be as prepared for this one, just due to the late notice. She also typically fights at 115 lbs., so Fiorot will have the size advantage in this one. You have to give props to Ricci for taking this fight, but it will be a major upset if she pulls out the win over Fiorot.

Featherweights: Sean Woodson vs. Youssef Zalal

Official Records: Woodson 7-1, Zalal 10-4

UFC Records: Woodson 1-1, Zalal 3-2

Last Fight: Erosa def. Woodson, R3 TKO, UFC On ESPN 12 (6/27/20), Choi def. Zalal, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 42 (2/6/21)

Last Five Fights: Woodson 4-1, Zalal 3-2

Betting Odds: Woodson -185, Zalal +150

Preview: In the theme of this show, this featherweight fight features two young fighters coming off of losses looking to rebound. Woodson is coming off his first loss as he steps into action for the first time in nearly a year. He was submitted in the third round by Julian Erosa, in a fight he was winning, to end the perfect 7–0 start he had to his career. Zalal has been one of the more active fighters on UFC’s roster, fighting five times since joining the promotion in early 2020. He debuted in February 2020 and rattled off three straight wins, but has lost back-to-back fights to Ilia Topuria and Seung Woo Choi to put him in a must-win position in this one.

Woodson is going to have a six-inch reach advantage in this one, which is good news for him, as he’ll be able to use his reach to keep Zalal on the outside. Zalal prefers to wrestle, as he’s not all that great on the feet, and Woodson can use the reach to establish the jab and keep him at bay. Woodson is also a very good boxer with a high-volume output, and Zalal isn’t much of a pressure fighter. Zalal could hope that Woodson gets tired from hitting him so much, but unless Woodson decides to clinch, which would be a bad idea, Zalal will have trouble getting him to the mat. Zalal is going to have to commit to his striking if he’s going to have a shot to win this. Woodson is the betting favorite in this one, and I see him wearing down Zalal with lots of volume on his way to getting a decision win.

Lightweights: Claudio Puelles vs. Jordan Leavitt

Official Records: Puelles 9-2, Leavitt 8-0

UFC Records: Puelles 2-1, Leavitt 1-0

Last Fight: Puelles def. Mariano, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 17 (9/21/19), Leavitt def. Wiman, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN 19 (12/5/20)

Last Five Fights: Puelles 4-1, Leavitt 5-0

Betting Odds: Puelles +170, Leavitt -210

Preview: The opening bout of the card is one of only two fights on the card where both fighters are coming in off wins, as prospects Puelles and Leavitt look to move up the ladder with another win here. Puelles fights for the first time since September 2019 as he looks to extend his two-fight win streak. He’s coming off UFC wins over Felipe Silva and Marcos Mariano, and has scored seven of his nine wins by stoppage. Leavitt is a perfect 8-0 coming into his second UFC bout. He earned his contract through the Contender Series, then scored a big win in his debut, slamming Matt Wiman in a brutal finish in December. Leavitt has scored six of his eight wins by stoppage coming into this fight.

With not having fought in 20 months, Puelles is going to need to shake off the cobwebs in this one. He was losing to Silva before getting a late kneebar, and Mariano was probably the worst lightweight to have a UFC roster spot in the last ten years, so Leavitt is a definite step-up from that. Leavitt didn’t get to show much against Wiman, but that is because he slammed him to near death, and that’s not an exaggeration. Leavitt is a strong wrestler who will look to wear Puelles down with the grappling. Neither man is going to scare anyone on the feet right now, so it’s going to be all about Leavitt draining the gas tank of Puelles. This could be a good fight, but both are still trying to show room for improvement and gain experience. I see Leavitt winning a decision in this one.

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