Guide to UFC on ESPN 29: Cannonier vs. Gastelum
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Getting prepared for UFC on ESPN 29 this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event.
UFC on ESPN 29
Date: August 21, 2021
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+
Middleweights: Jared Cannonier vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Overall Records: Cannonier 13-5, Gastelum 16-7 1 NC
UFC Records: Cannonier 6-5, Gastelum 11-7 1 NC
Last Fight: Whittaker def. Cannonier–UDec–UFC 254 (10/24/20), Whittaker def. Gastelum–UDec–UFC On ESPN 22 (4/17/21)
Last Five Fights: Cannonier 3-2, Gastelum 1-4
Rankings: Cannonier #3, Gastelum #9
Betting Odds: Cannonier -165, Gastelum +135
Preview: The main event of the show is an important middleweight bout between two men who are looking to break into the title picture at 185 lbs. after coming up short in recent outings when Cannonier and Gastelum square off inside the octagon. Cannonier was originally slated to fight Paulo Costa in this bout, but for whatever reason he may spew out, and there’s been a few, Costa never ended up signing the bout agreement, and Gastelum ended up replacing him. Luckily for Gastelum, that happened in the early days of June, so he’s had a fully normal training camp in preparation for this fight. Both men are coming off of losses to Robert Whittaker in their most previous bouts. Cannonier dropped a decision to Whittaker in Abu Dhabi at UFC 254 in October, a fight in which he would’ve earned a title shot had he won. Cannonier did suffer a broken arm during the fight, and this will be his return after recovering from arm surgery. Prior to that setback, he had won all three of his fights since moving down to 185 lbs., with all three coming by TKO within the first six minutes of the fight. He has scored eleven of his thirteen professional wins by stoppage, and this will be his second main event in UFC.
Gastelum is coming off a decision loss to Whittaker in April in a fight he took on just a month’s notice. He put up a good fight, but still came up short in every round, and it marked his fourth loss in his last five fights. Gastelum has fought for a title once before, battling Israel Adesanya for an interim title in 2019’s Fight Of The Year, coming up short in that one as well. Gastelum has always been a perennial top-ten fighter, with some time as a top-five fighter, but he has yet to break into that absolute elite level of being the champion or even the second-best in the division. He’s still under the age of 30 and has shown tons of improvement, and he’s still an excellent fighter in a tough division. Cannonier has fought in three different weight classes, and has scored wins as a heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight, one of only a handful of UFC fighters to score wins in three different weight classes. Even more rare, he’s one of only five fighters to score finishes in three different weight classes.
His power has translated well to 185 lbs., and he’s gone to have a very distinct six-inch reach advantage over Gastelum. He’s also going to have the physical advantage over Gastelum. Gastelum will be looking to use his solid counter-striking and wrestling to sway the fight in his direction, and Gastelum might do well if he decides to make this a heavy clinch battle. Both men land and absorb roughly the same amount of significant strikes per minute, though Cannonier is both the more accurate fighter and the better defender on the feet. Gastelum has better takedowns and better takedown defense, and a black belt in jiu-jitsu.
The biggest key is if Gastelum can get over the sort of mental block that keeps him from beating the true elite of the division, and if Cannonier is still in that elite of the division after the loss to Whittaker. This is an actual super interesting fight to pick, one that could go either way, but I see Cannonier and his reach and physicality wearing Gastelum down to either a late finish or a decision win.
Lightweights: Clay Guida vs. Mark O. Madsen
Overall Records: Guida 36-20, Madsen 10-0
UFC Records: Guida 16-14, Madsen 2-0
Last Fight: Guida def. Johnson–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 42 (2/6/21), Madsen def. Hubbard–UDec–UFC 248 (3/7/20)
Last Five Fights: Guida 2-3, Madsen 5-0
Betting Odds: Guida +140, Madsen -165
Preview: A long-time fan favorite veteran battles an Olympian in an interesting lightweight bout that serves as the co-main event as Guida takes on Madsen in what should be a competitive battle. Guida will be fighting in his 57th professional fight, and his 31st as a member of UFC’s roster. He has the second-longest current tenure with the promotion, having debuted in October 2006, but he’s shown and said that he still has this desire to compete against the young guns of the division, and has been calling to fight those types of opponents instead of other long-term veterans. Madsen, who won a silver medal in freestyle wrestling in the 2016 Summer Olympics, will be fighting for the first time since a March 2020 win over Austin Hubbard. In that fight, he suffered a broken jaw, and a combination of recovery, the pandemic and travel restrictions have kept him from returning to action until now. He is undefeated in his ten-fight career, with three wins by knockout and three wins by submission. He is one of the most-decorated wrestlers in UFC, but this will be a true test for him in his third octagon appearance against an opponent with so many more years and almost six-times the amount of fights as him.
This is going to be an interesting bout as Guida is going to bring an energy level that Madsen has yet to see in the early stages of his UFC career. Guida also has the wrestling base that Madsen has yet to see from an opponent, and it’s a serious question as to whether Madsen will be able to dominate with his wrestling as he’s been able to in the past. Guida is also far from conventional on his feet, as he utilizes some quick footwork with quick short punches, even if he isn’t as fast as he used to be. He also has an incredible gas tank, and Madsen has shown to slow down the later fights go. Of course, Madsen has the Olympic wrestling background, and he’s averaged over eight takedowns per fifteen minutes inside the octagon.
If Guida can hold up his career 68% takedown defense, it may open the door for him wearing Madsen down and beating him on the feet. I think this fight is a lot closer than people think, and I think Guida has a good shot of negating Madsen’s wrestling advantage. I’m gonna go with Guida scoring the upset, as I do expect him to get taken down, but to pop right up and find ways to win otherwise.
Heavyweights: Parker Porter vs. Chase Sherman
Overall Records: Porter 11-6, Sherman 15-7
UFC Records: Porter 1-1, Sherman 3-6
Last Fight: Porter def. Parisian–UDec–UFC On ESPN 18 (11/28/20), Arlovski def. Sherman–UDec–UFC On ESPN 22 (4/17/21)
Last Five Fights: Porter 3-2, Sherman 4-1
Betting Odds: Porter +165, Sherman -200
Preview: A heavyweight bout between two men that aren’t afraid to get into a slugfest finds a main card slot as Porter looks for his second UFC win while Sherman looks to get back into the win column. Porter will be making his third walk to the octagon in his first fight of 2021. He debuted on short notice in August 2020, losing by first-round TKO to Chris Daukaus at UFC 252. He rebounded with a decision win over Josh Parisian in November, and is gunning for his second consecutive win. Porter has been fighting since 2007, and actually fought Jon Jones once before, and has scored nine of his eleven wins by stoppage. Sherman, in his second UFC stint, is looking to get back into the win column after dropping a decision to Andrei Arlovski in April. Coincidentally, Arlovski replaced Porter in that fight after Porter had to pull out. Prior to the loss, Sherman had won four straight, all by knockout within the first six minutes. Overall, Sherman has scored knockout wins in 14 of his 15 career wins, but also has four losses by knockout.
This one will likely end up being a brawl on the feet as both men like to stand and swing on the feet. Sherman is going to have a four-inch height and three-inch reach advantage while, if the past is any indication, Porter is going to be the heavier fighter inside the cage. Porter does have some good volume on his feet for a man of his stature, landing nearly eight significant strikes per minute. He also absorbs over seven significant strikes per minute, and Sherman will have the power edge. Porter is a better grappler as he is willing to go for the takedown and submission if needed. Sherman has the chin to withstand anything on the feet, and Sherman should look to utilize the calf kicks to keep Porter from being able to do much with the takedown game. It will likely be sloppy on the feet, but Sherman likes it sloppy standing, and the odds of a finish in this one are pretty good. I like Sherman to get the stoppage in this one.
Bantamweights: Trevin Jones vs. Said Yokub
Overall Records: Jones 13-6 1 NC, Yokub 8-2
UFC Records: Jones 1-0 1 NC, Yokub 0-0
Last Fight: Jones def. Bautista–R2 TKO–UFC 259 (3/6/21), Yokub def. Lynn–R2 KO–CFFC 92 (3/11/21)
Last Five Fights: Jones 3-1 1 NC, Yokub 3-2
Betting Odds: Jones -140, Yokub +120
Preview: Two men who were not even on the card more than a week ago fight on short notice as Jones welcomes Yokub to UFC in a bantamweight bout that has loads of potential excitement. This fight was originally going to be between Mana Martinez and Jesse Strader, but Strader had to pull out due to unknown reasons, and Jones was stepping in after having a recent scheduled fight cancelled during weigh-ins. Martinez then pulled out of the fight due to the sudden death of his head coach, and Yokub takes this fight on Tuesday of the event to make his debut. Jones has actually had a couple of fights fall apart since he was last in action, which was a second-round finish of Mario Bautista in March. Jones actually has two UFC wins, but his debut win, a major come-from-behind upset win over Timur Valiev, was overturned to a no contest due to Nevada’s old controversial marijuana rules. He is unbeaten in his last four and has seven finishes. Yokub makes his debut on the heels of two straight wins. He was last in action in March, scoring a second-round knockout of Tycen Lynn in the CFFC promotion. He’s also fought for the PFL and in the Ring Of Combat promotion, and six of his eight wins have seen him score a finish.
Jones has shown power in his hands during his UFC tenure, though the one knock on him has been he does tend to take a good amount of shots before he’s able to find the fight-ending blows. Yokub is coming in with a lot riding against him taking the fight on just a few days’ notice, and his weight will be a concern, as he actually missed weight at bantamweight for his last bout on the regional scene. Jones also has some good takedowns, but he’ll likely want to keep this one standing. Even though both are technically taking this fight on short notice, Jones has been preparing to fight for a while and has been eager to return. I put the fight in his favor as I see him coming in more prepared to fight.
Lightweights: Vinc Pichel vs. Austin Hubbard
Overall Records: Pichel 13-2, Hubbard 13-5
UFC Records: Pichel 6-2, Hubbard 3-3
Last Fight: Pichel def. Miller–UDec–UFC 252 (8/15/20), Hubbard def. Bush–UDec–UFC On ESPN 22 (4/17/21)
Last Five Fights: Pichel 4-1, Hubbard 3-2
Betting Odds: Pichel -110, Hubbard -110
Preview: A battle of lightweights looking to work their way up the 155-pound ladder square off here as the veteran Pichel battles the youngster Hubbard in what should be an entertaining affair. Pichel is fighting for the first time in just over a year as he looks to extend a two-fight win streak. He is coming off a decision win over Jim Miller at UFC 252 in August 2020, and that gave him wins in six of his last seven fights. He’s only lost twice in his fifteen-fight career, to Rustam Khabilov and Gregor Gillespie, so he’s only lost to tough opposition. Eight of his thirteen wins have come by knockout. Hubbard is looking to start the first win streak of his UFC career, as he goes for his second straight win after scoring a decision over Dakota Bush in April. He’s rotated losses-and-wins in his six UFC outings, which means Pichel should be the one walking away with the win in this one, but Hubbard is eager to end that repetition. He also has thirteen professional wins, with seven coming via stoppage.
Pichel is a very well-rounded fighter who relies primarily on his grappling. Hubbard is solid on his feet and has some good leg kicks that he likes to use to wear down his opposition to set up a decent takedown game. Neither man is overly aggressive on the feet, but neither also tends to get hit a lot. Pichel has the better wrestling and has good conditioning, and he likes to bring the pressure and turn fights into a grind. Hubbard has some good and tricky kickboxing, but he’s struggled against skilled grapplers. Pichel will be looking to push the fight against the fence and turn it into a grind while Hubbard needs to utilize his footwork and keep his back away from the fence. I don’t see Hubbard being able to consistently keep Pichel from taking him down, which will be the biggest factor in this fight.
Flyweights: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval
Overall Records: Pantoja 23-5, Royval 12-5
UFC Records: Pantoja 7-3, Royval 2-1
Last Fight: Pantoja def. Kape–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 42 (2/6/21), Moreno def. Royval–R1 TKO–UFC 255 (11/21/20)
Last Five Fights: Pantoja 3-2, Royval 4-1
Rankings: Pantoja #3, Royval #6
Betting Odds: Pantoja -185, Royval +150
Preview: A battle of top-six flyweights goes down here with potential title implications on the line for at least one of the competitors as the third-ranked Pantoja takes on the sixth-ranked Royval. Pantoja could break his way into a title shot with an impressive win in this one, as they’re looking for a challenger for Brandon Moreno, and if they decide to go against the Deiveson Figueiredo trilogy and Askar Askarov isn’t quite recovered from injury, Pantoja could find himself in a good spot, as long as he wins. He’s coming off a decision win over Manel Kape in his last fight in February. He’s won two of his last three, with the loss coming to Askarov, and the only other fighter he’s lost to since early 2018 is Figueiredo. Pantoja is an exciting flyweight, with a 70% finish rate, and he’s never been finished in his career. Royval is fighting for the first time in 2021, as he’s coming off a busy 2020, which saw him make his UFC debut and fight three times over the span of less than six months. His first two UFC bouts were wins in fights that won Fight Of The Night, a submission over Tim Elliott in May, and a submission over Kai Kara-France in September in one of 2020’s most exciting fights. That ran his win streak to four, but he was finished by now-champion Moreno in November to end that streak, and he looks to start a new one and start a quest to avenge that loss to Moreno.
Pantoja is one of the most well-rounded flyweights in the world. He has some great kickboxing, and is a very skilled black belt on the ground. Royval is a very flashy fighter who mixes everything well, and can trick you both on the feet and on the mat. This fight is going to have moments of awesomeness everywhere. Pantoja lands some hard body kicks, and I mean hard, and they could hurt Royval early if he isn’t defending them. Both men scramble like crazy on the mat and can find submissions from anywhere, and Royval in particular is very active on the ground. Pantoja will have the power edge on the feet, but Royval can surprise you. Pantoja traditionally lands more but also eats more strikes on the feet, but his defense is very good.
Royval getting wild on the ground may be a detriment to him in this one, as Pantoja can find a submission from anywhere. This is going to be fun while it lasts, but I see Pantoja putting the stamp on this one and making a strong case that he should be next for a title shot.
Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET, 4:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN2 & ESPN+
Featherweights: Austin Lingo vs. Luis Saldana
Overall Records: Lingo 8-1, Saldana 15-6
UFC Records: Lingo 1-1, Saldana 1-0
Last Fight: Lingo def. Kilburn–UDec–UFC On ABC 1 (1/16/21), Saldana def. Griffin–UDec–UFC On ABC 2 (4/10/21)
Last Five Fights: Lingo 4-1, Saldana 5-0
Betting Odds: Lingo +105, Saldana -125
Preview: A pair of featherweight prospects square off in the featured prelim as Lingo and Saldana both look to score their second UFC victory. Lingo came into UFC undefeated in 2020, but dropped his first fight inside the octagon to Youssef Zalal at UFC 247 in February 2020. It took him nearly a year to return to action, but he had a successful return, scoring a decision over Jacob Kilburn on Fight Island in January. He has scored five of his eight professional wins by stoppage, and he goes for his first UFC finish in this one. Saldana makes his second walk to the octagon as he guns for his second win and to extend his five-fight win streak. He was lucky to score a win in his first fight, as many thought he lost the decision to Jordan Griffin, but it was a win nonetheless. Saldana’s recent run has turned his career around, because prior to the win streak, he had gone 3-5 over eight bouts, and there was thought he might never make it to the world’s biggest fight promotion. Saldana has a 93% finish rate in his career, with the Griffin win being his only win that went the distance.
On the feet, Longo has more power and is better when it comes purely to boxing. However, Saldana is more versatile and quicker on the feet, and he mixes in lots of kicks to go along with his punches. He doesn’t have the power of Lingo, but utilizing his footwork and movement will be the key for him. Lingo should look to pressure and utilize a grappling strategy, but he should be on the lookout for the sneaky submission game of Saldana. This will likely go the distance and be close on the feet and will come down to if Saldana can do a good job of avoiding being hit. It’s pretty much a toss-up in the betting odds, but I lean towards Saldana getting the win.
Bantamweights: Brian Kelleher vs. Domingo Pilarte
Overall Records: Kelleher 22-12, Pilarte 8-2 1 NC
UFC Records: Kelleher 6-5, Pilarte 0-1 1 NC
Last Fight: Simon def. Kelleher–UDec–UFC 258 (2/13/21), Newson NC Pilarte–UFC 247 (2/8/20)
Last Five Fights: Kelleher 3-2, Pilarte 3-1 1 NC
Betting Odds: Kelleher -175, Pilarte +145
Preview: A bantamweight bout featuring one of the more under-appreciated 135-pound fighters sees Kelleher looking to get back in the win column while Pilarte remains in search of his first UFC triumph. Kelleher will be making the return to 135 lbs. after spending the pandemic fighting as a featherweight, as it gave him more opportunities to fight on short notice. With almost all of UFC’s roster seemingly back to a more normal fight schedule, Kelleher included, he goes back to the division where he’s had some decent success. While his 6-5 UFC record doesn’t stand out, if you look at those he’s lost to- Marlon Vera, John Lineker, Montel Jackson, Cody Stamann and Ricky Simon- he’s lost to tough competition. He has UFC wins over former champion Renan Barao, Hunter Azure and Ode Osbourne, with five of his UFC wins by stoppage, and 18 career finishes overall. Pilarte is fighting for the first time since February 2020. He has yet to score a UFC win, losing his first two fights, though his last loss was overturned to a no contest due to shoddy marijuana rules in the state of Texas. Prior to those setbacks, he had won eight of his first nine professional bouts, with six of those wins coming via a finish. He’s in a must-win situation here as he battles the tough Kelleher.
Pilarte is going to have a clear size advantage here, as he will have six inches in height and seven inches in reach over Kelleher. Despite that edge, and despite having that edge in many other fights, he’s often unable to dictate the range of fights, and I fully expect Kelleher to be able to get inside the pocket and catch his jaw with some punches. Kelleher is aggressive on the feet and not afraid to get hit, as he often eats more shots than he lands, but he’ll keep coming forward and he’s tough to finish, as the only person to finish him was Lineker, who is a vicious puncher and it still took him nearly the full distance to do it. Kelleher does have a good ground game as well. Pilarte may be able to get him down, but Kelleher can find submissions from all spots on the ground. Pilarte is going to have to shake off the ring rust, but this feels like a great opportunity for Kelleher to bounce back, and I see him finishing Pilarte and returning to the win column.
Women’s Bantamweights: Bea Malecki vs. Josiane Nunes
Overall Records: Malecki 4-0, Nunes 7-1
UFC Records: Malecki 2-0, Nunes 0-0
Last Fight: Malecki def. Macedo–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 28 (3/14/20), Nunes def. Zbonik–R2 TKO–Forze FC 1 (11/28/20)
Last Five Fights: Malecki 4-0, Nunes 5-0
Betting Odds: Malecki -155, Nunes +130
Preview: A bantamweight battle between an undefeated female and a UFC debutant goes down here as Malecki looks to remain unbeaten in the early stages of her career as she welcomes Nunes to UFC. Malecki returns to action for the first time since before UFC took a pandemic break, as she fought on that last show in Brazil in March 2020, scoring a decision win over Veronica Macedo, moving her to 4-0 in her career. She was booked for a couple of different fights in between, but was forced out each time. She’s looking to make it a perfect five-for-five as she welcomes Nunes to the octagon. Nunes makes her debut on the heels of six straight wins. She was last in action in November, scoring a second-round TKO win over Quesia Zbonik. Of her seven career wins, six have come by knockout, and she looks to be a potentially dangerous addition to the women’s bantamweight roster.
This is another fight where the size difference will be noticeable. Malecki is going to have seven inches in height and reach advantage, and she’ll have the size over Nunes as well with Malecki being a former featherweight. However, she doesn’t use her reach well and has been more of an arm puncher in her career. She does land nearly seven significant strikes per minute, but also eats more than six significant strikes per minute, despite have a good defensive percentage, which just shows she doesn’t use that reach to the best of her ability. She is still young in her career and has shown there’s plenty of room for improvement, though. Nunes does have the impressive knockout percentage in her finishes, but she doesn’t necessarily have a ton of power. Malecki will likely use leg kicks to keep the fight at range, and she figures to have the edge in the clinch. I’m not expecting much from this fight, but I do like Malecki to win this as she continues to improve, and hopefully she is able to stay more active going forward.
Light Heavyweights: William Knight vs. Fabio Cherant
Overall Records: Knight 9-2, Cherant 7-2
UFC Records: Knight 1-1, Cherant 0-1
Last Fight: Jung def. Knight–UDec–UFC On ABC 2 (4/10/21), Menifield def. Cherant–R1 SUB–UFC 260 (3/27/21)
Last Five Fights: Knight 3-2, Cherant 3-2
Betting Odds: Knight -185, Cherant +150
Preview: A light heavyweight battle between two men looking to work their way up the 205-pound ladder takes place here as both Knight and Cherant look to get back into the win column. Knight is looking to bounce back from a decision loss to Da Un Jung in April. It ended Knight’s three-fight win streak, and Knight had won nine of his first ten professional bouts heading into that fight. Knight has scored eight of his nine wins by stoppage, with seven coming by knockout. Cherant gets a full training camp after debuting on just a few days’ notice for his UFC debut against Alonzo Menifield in March, coincidentally as a replacement for Knight. Cherant was submitted in just 71 seconds by Menifield, ending his three-fight win streak. Cherant has yet to knock out an opponent, but has scored five of his seven wins by submission.
This is the opportunity for both men to show they are better than they’ve appeared to be in their recent outings. Knight was impressive during his two fights on the Contender Series and while he was under a UFC developmental deal, but he hasn’t been overly impressive during his two UFC bouts. His striking has been underwhelming, and his wrestling hasn’t been as good as it had been. Cherant is far from the most talented 205-pounder on the roster, but he has some crisp combinations on the feet to go with fast hands. Knight may try to wrestle and work from the top, and Cherant is the weaker fighter on the mat of the two. If it stays on the feet for an extended period of time, Cherant could be the one to wear Knight down, as Knight hasn’t shown power in his hands and hasn’t fully developed on his feet. I’m not expecting a contender for a bonus here, and the loser could find themselves scratching and clawing for a roster spot. I do think Knight will be able to grind out a decision here as Cherant will find trouble keeping his back away from the fence.
Lightweights: Roosevelt Roberts vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
Overall Records: Roberts 10-2 1 NC, Bahamondes 11-4
UFC Records: Roberts 4-2 1 NC, Bahamondes 0-1
Last Fight: Croom NC Roberts:-UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20), Makdessi def. Bahamondes–SpDec–UFC On ABC 2 (4/10/21)
Last Five Fights: Roberts 2-2 1 NC, Bahamondes 3-2
Betting Odds: Roberts -145, Bahamondes +120
Preview: A lightweight bout between two men looking to get back into the win column goes down here as Roberts enters the octagon for the eighth time while Bahamondes makes his second UFC appearance. Roberts is looking to bounce back from losses in his last two fights, though his last loss was overturned to a no contest due to Kevin Croom failing a marijuana test. Roberts had started his career 8-0, with his last two wins in UFC, but has won just two of his five bouts since then, and finds himself in a must-win battle here. Bahamondes is looking to rebound from a disappointing outing in his UFC debut, as he dropped a decision to John Makdessi in April. Prior to that win, he had won six of his last seven, including a win on the Contender Series to earn his UFC deal. Bahamondes has scored eight of his eleven career wins by knockout.
Despite having clear advantages against Makdessi, Bahamondes really struggled with the overall striking attack in his last fight. Roberts is more of a boxer as opposed to the kickboxing of Makdessi, but Bahamondes won’t have the overwhelming reach advantage he did last time. Bahamondes does get hit a lot, and that should be a concern. Roberts likes to use his striking to set up the takedown and a submission game, but Bahamondes is difficult to take down. I think Roberts is the more physically gifted fighter of the two, and both men have the ability to hurt the other, while they also both can get hurt by opponents, as shown in recent fights. Roberts has the slight experience edge overall, and plenty of more time inside the octagon against a strong level of competition. It’s a toss-up fight to me, but I think Roberts has enough tools to get the job done on Saturday.
Welterweights: Sasha Palatnikov vs. Ramiz Brahimaj
Overall Records: Palatnikov 6-3, Brahimaj 8-3
UFC Records: Palatnikov 1-1, Brahimaj 0-1
Last Fight: Kasanganay def. Palatnikov–R2 SUB–UFC On ABC 2 (4/10/21), Griffin def. Brahimaj–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN 17 (11/7/20)
Last Five Fights: Palatnikov 3-2, Brahimaj 2-3
Betting Odds: Palatnikov +115, Brahimaj -140
Preview: A welterweight bout pitting two men looking to rebound from a loss in their most previous bouts opens the card as Palatnikov and Brahimaj look to set an early tone for action on the night. Palatnikov is looking to rebound from a submission loss to Impa Kasanganay in his last fight in April. That ended a run where Palatnikov had won six of seven, including a third-round stoppage of Louis Cosce in his UFC debut in November in one of 2020’s more entertaining fights. Brahimaj gets back to action after a tough 2020. He saw himself signed by UFC to debut on short notice, only for that debut to fall apart after a cornerman tested positive for COVID-19. He would later debut in November, but was stopped in the third round by Max Griffin after his ear started to fall apart. Now fully recovered, Brahimaj is looking to get back to his winning ways, which saw him start his career 6-0 before dropping three of his last five fights. All eight of Brahimaj’s professional wins have come by submission.
Palatnikov is not afraid to stand and trade on the feet, and he’s willing to engage in a firefight and bring an exciting fight. He averages nearly eight significant strikes landed per minute during his UFC career, but also eats just over six strikes per minute. Brahimaj is someone who will be willing to engage but should do the smart thing and use his wrestling. Palatnikov has struggled when pressured with his opponents trying to take him down. If Brahimaj decides to bring the wrestling into it, he needs to avoid letting Palatnikov get on top, as Palatnikov does have a strong top control game. Palatnikov has been finished in all three of his losses, including by submission in his last fight, but you know exactly what we’re going to get out of him. These two will set a pace for the night early, and this is a fight where literally anything could happen. I like Palatnikov as the slight underdog, I just think his striking is better and that will be the biggest factor here.