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Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 56: Vieira vs. Tate

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+ 56: Vieira vs. Tate.

UFC on ESPN+ 56

Date: November 20, 2021

Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card

Start Time: 6:00 p.m. ET, 3:00 p.m. PT

Where to watch: ESPN+

Women’s Bantamweights: Ketlen Vieira vs. Miesha Tate

Official Records: Vieira 11-2, Tate 19-7

UFC Records: Vieira 5-2, Tate 6-4

Last fight: Kunitskaya def. Vieira–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 43 (2/20/21), Tate def. Reneau–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21)

Last five fights: Vieira 3-2, Tate 3-2

Rankings: Vieira #7, Tate #8

Betting odds: Vieira -115, Tate -105

Background: The main event of this card is kind of an important bout in the women’s bantamweight division as Tate continues her comeback from retirement as she takes on Vieira. They were supposed to fight a little over a month ago, but Tate had to pull out after contracting COVID-19, so they opted to keep the match-up intact since she was going to quickly return. Vieira is looking to bounce back from a loss in her Last fight, as she dropped a decision to Yana Kunitskaya in February. After starting her career 10–0, she’s dropped two of her last three. Tate fights for the second time since her return from retirement, opting to get back to action as quickly as possible. Her return in July was a success, as she dominated Marion Reneau en route to a third-round stoppage. She showed no signs of ring rust after nearly five years on the sidelines, and her stated goal is that she wants to be a UFC champion once again.

How they match up: Tate’s strong point is her wrestling game, and she showed some renewed focus on that during the fight with Reneau, scoring three takedowns and really controlling the fight from the top. Vieira has strong takedown defense, defending 92% of takedowns attempted on her. Vieira has strong grappling and a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but she doesn’t have the pure wrestling game of Tate. Tate also knows how to pressure against the fence and wear down opponents there, something Vieira has trouble doing. Vieira does get hit more than Tate does, and Tate is a more accurate striker. More importantly, Tate has a lot of renewed focus and momentum coming into this fight, and Vieira hasn’t really looked that good since coming back from a knee injury prior to the loss to Irene Aldana. They were the first two on the scale at weigh-ins, and both made weight, which was a prior issue for Vieira.

What’s at stake: It wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea that a win would get Tate a title shot. Amanda Nunes fights Julianna Pena next month at UFC 269, and a win for Nunes would mean she needs a next challenger. Tate is the best choice, both from a business and an interest standpoint, for an opponent outside of Valentina Shevchenko. Plus, Nunes’ title reign started when she submitted Tate to the win the bantamweight title, so there would be some measure of revenge that Tate would be looking for. Vieira needs a win if she wants to keep her title shot aspirations going. She was on the cusp of getting a shot when she beat Cat Zingano to run her record to 10-0, but since suffering losses to Irene Aldana and Kunitskaya, she’s been knocked down the ladder. A third loss here would send her even further down the ladder, and potentially out of the picture without years of her working her way back up. This is a pivotal fight for both women and a sneaky big fight for the women’s bantamweight division.

Pick: Tate

Welterweights: Michael Chiesa vs. Sean Brady

Official Records: Chiesa 18-5, Brady 14-0

UFC Records: Chiesa 11-5, Brady 4-0

Last fight: Luque def. Chiesa–R1 SUB–UFC 265 (8/7/21), Brady def. Matthews–R3 SUB–UFC 259 (3/6/21)

Last five fights: Chiesa 4-1, Brady 5-0

Rankings: Chiesa #6, Brady #14

Betting odds: Chiesa +150, Brady -190

Background: A big welterweight match-up takes place here as former TUF winner Chiesa looks to get back on track after a tough outing when he welcomes the undefeated Brady into his highest-profile fight to date. Chiesa makes a quick return after suffering a tough submission loss to Vicente Luque at UFC 265 in August. It ended Chiesa’s four-fight win streak and kept him away from a potential title shot for the time being. It was also his first loss since moving up to the welterweight division. Brady comes into this fight with an excellent 14–0 record to start his career. He’s started his UFC run 4–0, with decision wins over Court McGee and Ismail Naurdiev, followed by submissions of Christian Aguilera and Jake Matthews, which vaulted him into the top-15 of the welterweight rankings. He was supposed to fight Kevin Lee during the summer, but injuries derailed that fight, and his comeback is against an arguably a much-stiffer test.

How they match up: This is a risky fight for Chiesa to take as Brady is a strong grappler with some decent stand-up skills. Chiesa is the more-skilled wrestler, especially as it translates to MMA grappling. Chiesa has scored takedowns in all of his UFC fights except one, including taking Rafael Dos Anjos down six times and Neil Magny down four times when they fought. He’s a huge step up in competition for Brady. Brady has also scored takedowns in all of his UFC fights, albeit the sample size is smaller. Chiesa’s striking isn’t going to scare most opponents, while Brady has a solid game on the feet. However, the pressure of Chiesa is hard to match, and while Brady has a 100% takedown defense rate, he’s never fought someone with the wrestling of Chiesa. This should be an interesting battle on the mat.

What’s at stake: Chiesa is right on the cusp of being inside the top five at 170 lbs., where he was prior to the loss to Luque. He was also talked about as getting a title shot had he defeated Luque, and a win here would get him right back into that mix as the welterweight division is crowded at the top. He’s also been itching to fight Colby Covington, so a win might make that fight a little more enticing for Covington to consider. Brady is approaching his 29th birthday in just over a week after this show, and he’d like to celebrate by still being an undefeated fighter and having a top-ten ranking. He’d accomplish both with a win, and he’s got tons of future potential to be a title contender. This is more of a must-win fight at this stage for Chiesa, so the stakes are higher for him in this solid match-up.

Pick: Chiesa

Bantamweights: Rani Yahya vs. Kyung Ho Kang

Official Records: Yahya 27-10-1 1 NC, Kang 17-8 1 NC

UFC Records: Yahya 12-4-1 1 NC, Kang 6-2 1 NC

Last fight: Yahya def. Rodriguez–R2 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21), Kang def. Pingyuan–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 23 (12/21/19)

Last five fights: Yahya 3-1-1, Kang 4-1

Betting odds: Yahya -115, Kang -105

Background: A fight that was supposed to take place in July sees it re-scheduled for this event as a solid bantamweight match-up between Yahya and Kang graces the main card. They were going to fight on the 7/31 card, but the bout was cancelled hours before the show as Yahya tested positive for COVID-19 the day of the event. Yahya comes into this fight looking to score his second straight win after scoring a submission win over Ray Rodriguez in March. It was the 21st submission win of his career, and he’s won eight of his last eleven fights overall. Kang is fighting for the first time in nearly two years. He comes in riding a three-fight win streak, and wins in six of his last seven fights. It’ll be interesting to see if he has any ring rust since his Last fight took place in December 2019, and this is the highest-profile bout of his career thus far.

How they match up: This should be a very fun grappling battle. Kang is a solid wrestler who has some good scrambles, which creates openings for his sneaky submission game. Yahya is pretty straight-forward when it comes to his gameplan, as he looks for the takedown and to suffocate his opponents from the top. He’s got an outstanding top game, and 21 submissions under his belt is nothing to stuff your nose at. However, he has only defended 24% of takedowns attempted on him, and Kang is going to bring a wrestling attack. Kang is also better on the feet. Throughout his long UFC and WEC career, Yahya only lands 1.57 significant strikes per minute, with his career high in a fight only being 59 significant strikes landed. He also has no knockout wins in his 27 career wins, so he’s not going to scare anyone on the feet. His best path to winning is to make Kang engage with him on the mat, while Kang’s best path is too focus more on the striking.

What’s at stake: Both men are strong bantamweights right outside of the rankings, which is a tough division to break into the top 15. Both are nearly on the wrong side of age 30, so if either wants to fight for a title, they need to start a run now. Kang has more upside with his three straight wins, and a fourth straight could get him a ranked opponent. Yahya’s chances of potentially fighting for a title are likely in the days past, but he is still a tough out for any fighter on the roster. This should be a very high quality fight between two solid grapplers.

Pick: Kang

Women’s Flyweights: Joanne Wood vs. Taila Santos

Official Records: Wood 15-6, Santos 18-1

UFC Records: Wood 7-6, Santos 3-1

Last fight: Murphy def. Wood–SpDec–UFC 263 (6/12/21), Santos def. Modafferi–UDec–UFC 266 (9/25/21)

Last five fights: Wood 2-3, Santos 4-1

Rankings: Wood #5, Santos #10

Betting odds: Wood +290, Santos -375

Background: A flyweight bout with a newly-married (don’t call her Calder) Wood looking to get back into the win column as she takes on a late replacement in Santos. Wood is looking to get back into the win column after dropping a decision to Lauren Murphy at UFC 263 in June. That win propelled Murphy to a title shot, and it likely would’ve done the same for Wood. However, with Valentina Shevchenko having run through a lot of challengers in the division, including all four ranked ahead of Wood, a win could get her into that title fight. Santos makes a quick turnaround, replacing Alexa Grasso in this bout. She was in action at UFC 266 in September, where she scored a unanimous decision over Roxanne Modafferi. It was Santos’ third straight win, and she’s won 18 of her 19 career fights overall.

How they match up: This should be a really solid fight. Wood is a high-volume striker, landing nearly seven significant strikes per minute, and she’s very accurate on the feet as well. She also has good defense on the feet, but so does Santos, who doesn’t get hit very much. Santos does have some power in her hands, and she also has powerful takedowns. She’s going to have a three-inch reach advantage over Wood. Wood can wrestle, though, and has a sneaky submission game. It wouldn’t surprise anyone for a submission win to occur here, though it’s likely to be decided on the feet. Wood tends to lose close fights, so she’s going to need to mix all of her arsenal well, throwing in leg kicks and knees in the clinch. This is also a step up in competition for Santos, not to mention the short training camp. Wood does tend to keep fights too close, and it’s cost her some fights that she might’ve otherwise won. If she does that here, Santos can pull this one out.

What’s at stake: A title shot could be on the line for Wood if she wins. It would likely come down to either her or Andrea Lee as Shevchenko’s next challenger, and an impressive win might give her the slight edge over Lee. Santos wants to break into the top five and put her name into the mix as a potential next challenger for Shevchenko, and scoring the win over Wood would do exactly that. She’s still in search of her first UFC stoppage, so a finish of Wood would be even more impressive for her. It’s a sneaky big fight with title shot implications on the line for both, so this is a pretty important fight.

Pick: Wood

Bantamweights: Davey Grant vs. Adrian Yanez

Official Records: Grant 13-5, Yanez 14-3

UFC Records: Grant 4-4, Yanez 3-0

Last fight: Vera def. Grant–UDec–UFC On ESPN 25 (6/19/21), Yanez def. Costa–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 27 (7/24/21)

Last five fights: Grant 3-2, Yanez 5-0

Betting odds: Grant +260, Yanez -350

Background: A bantamweight bout that could bring fireworks to the main card opens it as Grant and Yanez have the potential to have the Fight Of The Night. Grant is looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss in his Last fight, where he dropped a decision to Marlon Vera in June. That loss snapped Grant’s three-fight win streak, which included two knockouts that got him Performance Of The Night bonuses. Yanez comes into this fight with a brand new UFC contract and a seven-fight win streak, including three to start his UFC career. All three UFC wins have come by knockout, as well as the bonus for Performance Of The Night. He’s coming in off a second-round finish of Randy Costa in July in a fight that Yanez was actually being dominated in during the first round before making the comeback.

How they match up: This should be a fun battle on the feet with a high probability of a knockout. Yanez is all-action on the feet and can never be counted out, as proven in his win over Costa. He’s cleaner as a boxer and mixes everything well, and is high-volume as well. Grant has suddenly turned from strictly a wrestler to a potent striker who likes to throw hooks. Yanez might have to take a little bit of punishment in this one, as he’s at his best when he’s landing counter shots, but he doesn’t need to under-estimate the power of Grant. We could talk about who is better on the ground, but this likely stays on the feet. Grant would have the edge on the mat. This will come down to whoever lands the cleanest shot, and it could go quick, or it could turn into quite the war.

What’s at stake: Yanez looks to be quickly rising up the bantamweight ladder, and his penchant for knocking opponents out has gotten him some attention and well-deserved hype. He’s been training with Aljamain Sterling, so even top fighters see his talent. A win could set him up for a big fight next. Grant had gotten his footing inside the Octagon going with his win streak before the loss to Vera, but Vera is a ranked fighter who has beaten a lot of recent opponents. Grant isn’t going anywhere if he loses, but a win would be a solid upset and put himself in that mix to fight another ranked opponent next.

Pick: Yanez

Preliminary Card

Start Time: 3:00 p.m. ET, 12:00 p.m. PT

Where to watch: ESPN+

Featherweights: Pat Sabatini vs. Tucker Lutz

Official Records: Sabatini 15-3, Lutz 12-1

UFC Records: Sabatini 2-0, Lutz 1-0

Last fight: Sabatini def. Emmers–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN 30 (8/28/21), Lutz def. Aguilar–UDec–UFC 262 (5/15/21)

Last five fights: Sabatini 4-1, Lutz 5-0

Betting odds: Sabatini -135, Lutz +110

Background: A featherweight tilt is the featured prelim, and it’s a battle between two young and solid prospects in the division, with both on solid win streaks. Sabatini comes into this fight riding a four-fight win streak. That includes two wins since his UFC signing, as he’s scored wins over Tristan Connelly and Jamaal Emmers. He’s gotten 12 of his 15 career wins by a finish, with eleven coming by submission. Lutz enters this fight having won 12 straight following a loss to kick off his career. This will be his second UFC appearance after having earned a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series after two wins in two appearances in 2020. He scored a decision win over Kevin Aguilar at UFC 262 in May. Lutz has scored eight of his 12 career wins by stoppage.

How they match up: Sabatini is a solid wrestler who looks to get it to the ground, where he has solid submissions. Lutz is the better fighter on the feet and lands just over five significant strikes per minute. He also has a decent wrestling game, though Sabatini will have the advantage there. Lutz is very smart inside the cage, and he’ll be prepared to wrestle when it will be needed. He might not have the skills to play with Sabatini on the mat, though. Both have shown some conditioning issues in their prior UFC bouts, as both have faded late against opponents. I still think Sabatini being better on the mat gives him the slight overall edge in this one.

What’s at stake: This is a battle of prospects that could compete for a UFC title one day. They both have a long way to go in that respect, but a win here would provide some solid ground work on their way up. Neither man wants their win streak to end, especially Lutz, who has built that up over the course of five-plus years. Sabatini might have slightly more upside with a better record, plus his level of competition has been slightly tougher.

Pick: Sabatini

Lightweights: Rafa Garcia vs. Natan Levy

Official Records: Garcia 12-2, Levy 6-0

UFC Records: Garcia 0-2, Levy 0-0

Last fight: Gruetzemacher def. Garcia–UDec–UFC On ESPN 28 (7/31/21), Levy def. Santana–R3 SUB–Dana White’s Contender Series 35 (11/10/20)

Last five fights: Garcia 3-2, Levy 5-0

Betting odds: Garcia -125, Levy +105

Background: A lightweight bout featuring a fighter in search of his first UFC win against a debuting opponent takes place here as Garcia welcomes Levy to the Octagon. Garcia is looking to bounce back from losing his first two UFC bouts, which were decisions to Nasrat Haqparast and Chris Gruetzemacher. Prior to that, he had started his career 12–0 with eight wins by stoppage. Levy knows the feeling of being undefeated as he enters his UFC career with a perfect 6–0 record. He hasn’t fought in a year since competing on Dana White’s Contender Series, where he submitted Shaheen Santana to earn his contract. He’s been a career featherweight, and this will be his first official lightweight fight.

How they match up: Garcia has more experience, but Levy has raw, natural talent. Levy has definite potential, but he’s still in the prospect stage. He is a strong wrestler and grappler who constantly hunts for submissions on the mat. Garcia is better on the feet, but that is not saying much as he’s been consistently out-worked by both of his foes inside the Octagon. He should be the one pushing the pace and applying pressure, as Levy hasn’t shown a good response to being pressured. Garcia does have some gas tank issues, as he faded badly against Gruetzemacher. Levy could look to drag this fight into deep waters, but he also has had gas tank issues in the past. This should be a quality fight.

What’s at stake: Levy is the undefeated fighter and would love to move to 7–0. He’s also thought of as a potential title challenger one day, but he needs to win here and not get ahead of himself. Garcia wants to avoid moving to 0–3 in UFC, which could signify the end of someone’s UFC career. This is a favorable match-up for Levy, and the expectations for him are very high.

Pick: Levy

Women’s Strawweights: Loma Lookboonmee vs. Lupita Godinez

Official Records: Lookboonmee 6-2, Godinez 6-2

UFC Records: Lookboonmee 3-1, Godinez 1-2

Last fight: Lookboonmee def. Hughes–UDec–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21), Carolina def. Godinez–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 53 (10/16/21)

Last five fights: Lookboonmee 4-1, Godinez 3-2

Betting odds: Lookboonmee +135, Godinez -165

Background: A fight that came together on late notice sees Lookboonmee take on late-notice replacement Godinez in a strawweight bout. Lookboonmee was slated to fight Cheyanne Buys, but she tested positive for COVID-19, so in steps Godinez. For Godinez, it’ll be her third fight in the span of 43 days, which is a UFC record. She’s fought twice since Lookboonmee was last in action. Lookboonmee comes in having scored two consecutive wins, with a decision win over Sam Hughes in her Last fight in May. Godinez comes into this fight trying to get back into the win column after dropping a decision to Luana Carolina on October 16. That was her second straight week of fighting, and she went up a weight class, and it showed as she wasn’t quite the same after a nice first round.

How they match up: Lookboonmee is going to have the advantage on the feet as she’s a high-volume striker who causes a lot of damage. Godinez is a better wrestler than she is striker and has solid submissions. Lookboonmee is going to give up some size, as she’s more suited to fight in the atomweight division, but her striking has kept her alive in fights with lower-level competition. It is hard to get a great read on how skilled Godinez is due to her constant fighting and jumping around weight classes, as we probably don’t see her full arsenal. Godinez is going to have to overpower Lookboonmee and get the takedown, as any extended period on the feet or in the clinch will go Lookboonmee’s way.

What’s at stake: Both women want to move up the strawweight ladder. Lookboonmee has shown some solid potential with a 3-1 UFC record thus far, and she could fight a ranked opponent with a win. Godinez is looking to avoid going 1-3 since her UFC signing. She wouldn’t be cut with a loss as her willingness to fight at any moment will help her, but she does need to rack up wins. There is far more at stake in this one for Godinez.

Pick: Lookboonmee

Lightweights: Terrance McKinney vs. Fares Ziam

Official Records: McKinney 11-3, Ziam 12-3

UFC Records: McKinney 1-0, Ziam 2-1

Last fight: McKinney def. Frevola–R1 KO–UFC 263 (6/12/21), Ziam def. Vendramini–MajDec–UFC 263 (6/12/21)

Last five fights: McKinney 4-1, Ziam 4-1

Betting odds: McKinney -110, Ziam -110

Background: Exciting lightweight McKinney makes his second UFC appearance in this one as he battles Ziam in this 155 lbs. affair. McKinney is coming into this fight off a seven-second knockout win over Matt Frevola in his UFC debut at UFC 263 in June. It was McKinney’s fourth straight win, with all four wins coming in 72 seconds or less, and three have come in 17 seconds or less. He’s scored all eleven of his wins by a finish, with ten coming in the first round, but he’s also been finished in all three of his losses. Ziam makes his fourth appearance inside the Octagon, and all three of his past fights have gone the distance. He’s won two straight and is coming off a win over Luigi Vendramini at that same UFC 263 event in June. He did score nine of his ten wins by stoppage in his pre-UFC days.

How they match up: McKinney is a fast starter who has explosive striking and solid wrestling. He was actually coached by Michael Chiesa when he was in high school, and it comes full circle with the two competing on the same UFC card here. He also empties his gas tank fairly quickly, which means if he doesn’t finish you quickly, he could be finished early. Ziam seems like an opponent that is going to accommodate McKinney, as he’s a very low-volume striker. He’s only landed just slightly over two significant strikes per minute during his three UFC bouts, and he gets overwhelmed by pressure and explosiveness. McKinney should be firing punches right away and pushing Ziam against the fence to look for takedowns. Ziam needs to weather an early storm and take advantage against a tired opponent as his paths to winning aren’t very clear.

What’s at stake: McKinney has plenty of potential to be a threat in the lightweight division. He was one of the most-talked about stories coming out of UFC 263, and he has a great life story in general. If he can score impressive wins, he’ll get a following and could be a highlighted fighter for quite some time. Ziam hasn’t shown to be as good as his record indicates, and he’s far from an exciting fighter. His style has prelims written all over him, and he may never advance to main cards unless he starts to rack up finishes. A win here keeps his UFC career going, while a loss could see a non-renewal of his contract.

Pick: McKinney

Flyweights: Cody Durden vs. Aori Qileng

Official Records: Durden 11-3-1, Qileng 18-7

UFC Records: Durden 0-1-1, Qileng 0-1

Last fight: Flick def. Durden–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20), Molina def. Qileng–UDec–UFC 261 (4/24/21)

Last five fights: Durden 3-1-1, Qileng 4-1

Betting odds: Durden -165, Qileng +135

Background: A flyweight bout takes place here as both Durden and Qileng look to score their first wins inside the Octagon. Durden is fighting for the first time in 2021 as he hasn’t been in action since a submission loss to Jimmy Flick in December. His UFC debut proceeded that in August, where he went to a draw against the tough Chris Gutierrez, which was up a weight class at bantamweight. Prior to those setbacks, he’d won seven straight, and ten of his eleven career wins have come by a finish. Qileng is coming off an exciting UFC debut, where he had a war with Jeff Molina at UFC 261 in April. He came up on the short end, which ended a six-fight win streak, but he impressed a lot of people. Qileng will be looking for his eighth career finish in this one and to start a new win streak.

How they match up: Both men are quick starters and Qileng is definitely aggressive in the early stages. Qileng likes to land a lot but will also take a lot of punishment to dish out his own. Durden had strong early starts in his first two UFC bouts and he has to do the same here. Durden is the better wrestler and striker of the two and he should be looking to land the low calf kicks and turn them into takedowns early. He’s the best wrestler Qileng has ever fought, though Qileng got three takedowns of his own against Molina. He was also dropped twice by Molina, and Durden has underrated power. The longer the fight goes, the more it favors Qileng, so it’s imperative for Durden to end it early.

What’s at stake: Both men want to score their first UFC wins, so that’s the primary thing at stake here. Durden definitely doesn’t want to be winless over three UFC appearances, so he’s in more of a must-win position as Qileng will get more chances being a Chinese prospect. Outside of that, a potential bout against a ranked opponent awaits the winner.

Pick: Durden

Featherweights: Shayilan Nuerdanbieke vs. Sean Soriano

Official Records: Nuerdanbieke 19-7, Soriano 14-7

UFC Records: Nuerdanbieke 0-1, Soriano 0-4

Last fight: Culibao def. Nuerdanbieke–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 46 (5/22/21), Giagos def. Soriano–R2 SUB–UFC 262 (5/15/21)

Last five fights: Nuerdanbieke 3-2, Soriano 3-2

Betting odds: Nuerdanbieke +220, Soriano -275

Background: A featherweight bout featuring two men in search of their first UFC wins goes down here as Nuerdanbieke takes on Soriano. Nuerdanbieke enters the Octagon for the second time as he looks to rebound from a decision loss to Josh Culibao in May. Prior to that, he had won seven of his previous eight bouts before his UFC signing. Soriano is in his second UFC stint. He started his career 8-0 before his first UFC signing, but went 0-3 during that first UFC stint, leading to a cut. He struggled in his initial post-UFC run, only going 3-3 in his first six fights, but then scored three straight wins to earn his way back to a late-notice UFC fight. He was finished by Christos Giagos in his return at UFC 262 in May, so he remains in search of his first UFC win in his fifth UFC bout.

How they match up: Soriano is a well-rounded fighter, but he has a clear advantage on the feet here against Nuerdanbieke. Nuerdanbieke is not a gifted striker by any means, and he had only a 26% accuracy rate against Culibao. Nuerdanbieke is going to constantly spam takedowns, but he can be stuffed there, as he only scored on 2-of-14 takedown attempts against Culibao. Soriano has a 53% takedown defense rate. Soriano does have a lot of technique on his feet and power behind his strikes, and as long as he keeps it on the feet, this fight will be his. Nuerdanbieke has to get the takedown, as he has nothing to offer outside of that.

What’s at stake: The loser of this fight could very well find themselves outside UFC when they next fight. Soriano definitely doesn’t want to go 0–5 as a UFC fighter, and if he loses and is cut, he likely never gets another shot. Nuerdanbieke was lucky to get UFC’s call in the first place as he didn’t seem ready for it, but dropping a second straight fight wouldn’t be good news for his future. This is really a fight both need to win.

Pick: Soriano

Women’s Strawweights: Luana Pinheiro vs. Sam Hughes

Official Records: Pinheiro 9-1, Hughes 5-3

UFC Records: Pinheiro 1-0, Hughes 0-2

Last fight: Pinheiro def. Markos–R1 DQ–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21), Lookboonmee def. Hughes–UDec–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21)

Last five fights: Pinheiro 5-0, Hughes 2-3

Betting odds: Pinheiro -450, Hughes +340

Background: A pair of strawweights kick off the card on Saturday as Pinheiro looks for her second UFC win while Hughes looks for her first. This is a short-notice fight for Hughes, as she steps in on about ten days’ notice to replace Jessica Penne in this one. Pinheiro scored a win in her UFC debut in May, a rare disqualification win over Randa Markos after Markos landed an illegal upkick and Pinheiro was unable to continue. She’s won seven straight fights overall, and has scored finishes in seven of her nine wins. Hughes competes for the third time inside the Octagon, and the second time on short notice. She debuted in December, but was finished in the first by title contender Tecia Torres. Her second fight saw her drop a decision to Loma Lookboonmee in May. She has five career wins, four of which have come via a stoppage.

How they match up: Pinheiro is a strong wrestler, as she scored five takedowns against Markos in just the first four minutes of their fight before it ended. She also has power in her hands, as she won by knockout on Dana White’s Contender Series to earn a UFC contract. All of her finishes have come inside the first round, so we haven’t seen much of her outside of that. Hughes does have some potential, but she’s in UFC earlier than she needs to be and taking short notice fights may not benefit her. She might be the better actual striker of the two, but she doesn’t have the power of Pinheiro, and Pinheiro has the better wrestling. Pinheiro is also the stronger of the two, and she’ll likely use that strength to bully Hughes to the mat and on the ground.

What’s at stake: Pinheiro does have some solid potential at 115 lbs. and she gets the chance to showcase more of her skills here. A win would move her closer to fighting a ranked opponent. Hughes doesn’t want to fall to 0–3 during her first UFC deal, so she needs a win here. Luckily for her, a loss might not signal a cut since she’s taken two short-notice fights, but a win would be far more beneficial for her UFC future.

Pick: Pinheiro


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