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Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 64: Holm vs. Vieira

Getting prepared for UFC action this Saturday? Here’s everything you need to know in our Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 64: Holm vs. Vieira.

UFC on ESPN+ 64
Date: May 21, 2022
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+

Women’s Bantamweights- #2 Holly Holm vs. #5 Ketlen Vieira

Overall Records: Holm 14-5, Vieira 12-2
UFC Records: Holm 7-5, Vieira 6-2
Last Fight: Holm def. Aldana–UDec–UFC On ESPN 16 (10/3/20), Vieira def. Tate–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 56 (11/20/21)
Last Five Fights: Holm 3-2, Vieira 3-2
Betting Odds: Holm -250, Vieira +200
Background: The main event features the long-awaited return of a former champion in a fight that could have title shot implications as Holm fights for the first time since October 2020 against Vieira. Holm is coming into this fight riding a two-fight win streak, scoring wins Irene Aldana and Raquel Pennington in 2020. She’s been out since that Aldana fight due to injuries, but a third straight win could set her up as a fresh challenger to Julianna Pena, or for a rematch against Amanda Nunes, depending on how their rematch works out. Holm is a former bantamweight champion, being the one who ended the reign of dominance of Ronda Rousey, but she has lost her last four title fights. Many don’t think she can get another shot, but she wants to prove that she can overcome those losses and win the title again. Vieira is looking to score her second straight win in her second straight main event appearance after notching a unanimous decision win over former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate in November. It got Vieira back into the win column, and she’s looking to go on a win streak for the first time since suffering her first career loss in December 2019 following a 10-0 start to her career. She’s just 2-2 over her last four outings, but her solid wins have kept her just inside the top-five of the divisional rankings.

How they match up: Holm has been out of action for quite some time and has now hit the age of 40, and, at some point, her skills are going to start diminishing. Vieira is hoping this is the fight that it happens in as there’s a lot to love for Holm in this match-up. She’s got excellent movement on her feet. She’s gone with a more low-volume attack in recent fights, but she’s very effective at what she lands, and she’s very good at avoiding being hit. She’s also added a solid wrestling game to go along with her excellence at striking. Vieira is also low-volume on the feet, and she tends to get hit more than she lands. She’s fine with that, as it allows her to keep pushing forward as she looks to grapple against the fence and on the mat. Vieira does have good takedowns and can control and bully from the top, but Holm’s improved wrestling could negate it, and Holm does defend 76% of takedowns attempted on her. This fight will depend on where the majority of it plays out. A long battle on the feet definitely favors Holm. A battle on the mat favors Vieira more, but we can’t count Holm out there. I do see this going the full 25 minutes and it will really be a chess match, and it could end up being uneventful. Still, I think there’s enough here for Holm to squeak out a decision, even perhaps a split one, but she gets the job done.

What’s at stake: A title shot could very well be on the line in this match-up. It will be dependent on what happens when current bantamweight champion Pena makes her defense against Nunes in their rematch. A Pena win there, and she likely defends next against whomever wins this fight. If Nunes wins, then it’s up in the air, as she already has a win over Holm, while Vieira would be a fresh match-up. This is a big fight in the women’s 135 lb. division, and a must-win for both if they want to fight for a title.

Pick: Holm

Welterweights- #14 Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Michel Pereira

Overall Records: Ponzinibbio 28-5, Pereira 27-11 2 NC
UFC Records: Ponzinibbio 10-4, Pereira 5-2
Last Fight: Neal def. Ponzinibbio–SpDec–UFC 269 (12/11/21), Pereira def. Fialho–UDec–UFC 270 (1/22/22)
Last Five Fights: Ponzinibbio 3-2, Pereira 4-1
Betting Odds: Ponzinibbio +115, Pereira -135
Background: The co-main event is an exciting welterweight bout that might be the most anticipated fight on the card, and one many though should actually be the main event, as Ponzinibbio and Pereira square off in an explosive match-up. Ponzinibbio is looking to get back into the win column after dropping a split decision to Geoff Neal at UFC 269 in December. Ponzinibbio finally got back to action in 2021 after injuries cost him just more than two years of action, and he returned riding a seven-fight win streak. However, he lost two of his three fights in 2021, with losses to Li Jingliang and Neal sandwiching a decision win over Miguel Baeza in June in one of the best fights of 2021. He has scored 21 of his 28 wins by finish. After a wacky start to his UFC career that included both praise and criticism of his fighting style, but was marred with losses in two of his first three fights, Pereira has gotten himself into a good groove heading into this fight. He’s riding a four-fight win streak as he’s coming off a decision win over Andre Fialho at UFC 270 in January. He’s hitting his stride heading into the biggest fight he’s had since signing his UFC deal, while also looking for his 18th stoppage win.

How they match up: This should be exciting, and I’ll be disappointed if it isn’t. These two are predominantly strikers, but they’re different kinds of strikers. The injury layoff Ponzinibbio went through resulted in a little loss of speed and durability, but he’s still dangerous in close range with his punches. He prefers to exchange inside the pocket and doesn’t have much of a kicking game. Meanwhile, Pereira is a long-range kickboxer, mixing his kicks and punches well, and he has tons of flashiness to where you might not know exactly what is coming next. He could throw a crazy spin kick, a punch using a push off the fence, or rush in with a flying knee. His diversity on the feet is going to be tough Ponzinibbio being mostly a puncher. Ponzinibbio is going to have to use kicks and cut off the cage as Pereira also has excellent and quick movement on the feet. Pereira will likely be looking to carve up the calf of Ponzinibbio with kicks, and then use his feints to keep Ponzinibbio from being able to hit him. If the fight goes to the mat, which I don’t think it will, Pereira is the better fighter there. There’s way too many ways for Pereira to win this, and I think Ponzinibbio has just diminished too much to where he’ll have trouble in this one. I see Pereira finishing Ponzinibbio in an exciting fight.

What’s at stake: Ponzinibbio’s ranking at welterweight is very much on the line in this one. He’s ranked 14th despite losing two of his last three, but that is due to his long win streak and the quality of competition he beat during that run. A win here would keep him inside of those rankings and would get him back on track towards title contention. For Pereira, a win would not only be five straight for him, but he would likely take Ponzinibbio’s spot inside the rankings, and it would put him on the path towards title contention, and, possibly, his first UFC main event slot. This is a pretty pivotal fight for both.

Pick: Pereira

Middleweights- Chidi Njokuani vs. Dusko Todorovic

Overall Records: Njokuani 21-7 1 NC, Todorovic 11-2
UFC Records: Njokuani 1-0, Todorovic 2-2
Last Fight: Njokuani def. Barriault–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 58 (2/5/22), Todorovic def. Pitolo–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 31 (12/4/21)
Last Five Fights: Njokuani 3-2, Todorovic 3-2
Betting Odds: Njokuani -240, Todorovic +195
Background: A middleweight match-up featuring two fighters who have the knack of finding finishes takes place here as Njokuani battles Todorovic in an interesting clash. Njokuani is making his second appearance inside the Octagon after earning a long-awaited UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in September. He made his debut in February, scoring a 16-second knockout of Marc-Andre Barriault. It was the culmination of a long journey to the biggest promotion in the world, and it also marked the third straight win for Njokuani. He has scored 13 of his 21 wins by knockout. Todorovic is looking to start some momentum after getting back into the win column in his last fight. He started his career with a perfect 10-0 record, which included a second-round knockout of Dequan Townsend in his UFC debut in October 2020 in Abu Dhabi. However, he dropped his next two fights, losing to Punahele Soriano and Gregory Rodrigues, putting him in a must-win fight. He got the job done, finishing Maki Pitolo in the first round, to secure an extended UFC contract. Ten of his eleven wins have been via a finish, with seven coming by way of knockout.

How they match up: Njokuani is going to have a solid size advantage inside the Octagon, as he’s two inches taller than Todorovic, and will have a six-inch reach edge. Njokuani is the more talented fighter of the two as he has devastating power, both at range and on the inside of the clinch. He’s also more explosive early, and if Todorovic can drag the fight out, Njokuani’s gas tank becomes a problem. That’s not to say Njokuani can’t go the distance, because he can, but it becomes ugly. Todorovic does have some decent power in his hands, but he won’t be able to match Njokuani punch-for-punch. He’s going to want to drag the fight into deep waters, and probably look to rely on his grappling game. Todorovic, though, has only been the distance twice in his career, so his cardio might not be top-notch, either. Todorovic does have a solid chin and should be able to withstand the power of Njokuani, but I just don’t think he has the skills to win this. My pick is Njokuani to win either with a late stoppage or on the scorecards.

What’s at stake: These are both middleweights looking to rise up the ladder at 185 lbs., and a win here would do that for both. Todorovic saved his UFC career with a win in his last fight, but a loss here would put him at 1-3 over four fights and back into a must-win situation. Njokuani has been fighting for years to make it here, and he’s going to get more fights, especially if he backs up his debut win with another solid showing here. This is a solid fight for both, but more riding on the line for the future for Todorovic.

Pick: Njokuani

Women’s Strawweights- Polyana Viana vs. Tabatha Ricci

Overall Records: Viana 12-4, Ricci 6-1
UFC Records: Viana 3-3, Ricci 1-1
Last Fight: Viana def. Martin–R1 SUB–UFC 258 (2/13/21), Ricci def. Oliveira–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 54 (10/23/21)
Last Five Fights: Viana 2-3, Ricci 4-1
Betting Odds: Viana +115, Ricci -135
Background: A pair of strawweights both looking to remain in the win column square off her in this main card bout as Viana takes on Ricci. Viana was a highly-touted Brazilian prospect when she joined the UFC ranks as the Jungle Fight Strawweight Champion with a solid 9-1 record. She debuted with a solid first-round submission of Maia Stevenson in February 2018, and looked to be a threat in the division. However, she went through a rough patch, losing her next three fights, putting her UFC future in jeopardy. She has rebounded with two straight wins, both by submission in the first round, over Emily Whitmire and Mallory Martin, as she returns to action for the first time since February 2021. Viana has scored all 12 of her wins by stoppage, with eight by submission, and eleven of those coming inside the first round. Ricci is still young in her career as she’ll be fighting for just the eighth time since becoming a professional. She debuted inside the Octagon early, taking a short-notice opportunity, but suffered her first career loss in her UFC debut, a decision to Manon Fiorot. She bounced back with a solid showing in her second outing, scoring a decision win over Maria Oliveira in October. She has scored half of her wins by finish.

How they match up: Viana is dangerous on the ground, and while she went through her struggles, she showed renewed focus and improved striking in the early stages of her last two outings, that being before she got her foes down and submitted them. She’s going to have size over Ricci, who is very small, even for 115 lbs., as Viana will have a four-inch height edge and a six-inch reach advantage. Ricci does have a solid judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu background, and she does tend to lean on her wrestling in her fights. She likely doesn’t want to get into a ground battle with Viana and her submission game. Viana’s improved striking will likely keep Ricci at a distance and out of the takedown range. I could also see Viana pulling guard. Ricci’s strong wrestling game could see her negate the submission attack of Viana if it hits the mat. I see this as a real toss-up and I’m leaning towards Viana being able to find that submission.

What’s at stake: Both are looking to get inside of the strawweight rankings, and a win would go a long way towards reaching that. The winner won’t be ranked after this, but could find themselves against a ranked opponent next. Neither are in danger of being cut with a loss, but both would love to stay inside the win column.

Pick: Viana

Middleweights- Eryk Anders vs. Jun Yong Park

Overall Records: Anders 14-6 1 NC, Park 13-5
UFC Records: Anders 6-6 1 NC, Park 3-2
Last Fight: Muniz def. Anders–R1 SUB–UFC 269 (12/11/21), Rodrigues def. Park–R2 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 54 (10/23/21)
Last Five Fights: Anders 2-2 1 NC, Park 3-2
Betting Odds: Anders +160, Park -205
Background: Another middleweight match-up takes place as Anders looks to get back to his winning ways against Park, who is looking to do the same, in the opening fight on the main card. Both men are fighting for the first time in 2022, and both are coming off a loss. Anders is looking to rebound from a first-round submission loss to Andre Muniz at UFC 269 in December. He’s had such a roller coaster of a UFC career. He started his UFC run off with two straight wins, moving to 10-0 in his career. He then lost four of his next five, and looked to be on the chopping block. He then won two straight, but has since scored just one win over his last four outings. Nine of his 14 wins have been by stoppage. Park debuted inside the Octagon in August 2019 on the heels of a 10-3 record. He was submitted by Anthony Hernandez in the second round of his UFC debut, but then bounced back to score three straight wins over Marc-Andre Barriault, John Phillips and Tafon Nchukwi. He was then finished by Gregory Rodrigues in his last outing in October. Eight of his 13 wins have seen Park score a finish.

How they match up: Anders’ UFC career has been frustrating to watch. He’s got tons of athleticism, and he fights in a way that has shown that his record should be better than it is. He’s got lots of durability, but he often throws that away since he likes to fight at a slow pace. He’s not the most high-volume striker, landing slightly over three significant strikes per minute. Park is more of a high-volume striker, and he came into the Octagon as more of a counter-striker on the feet, but has since become a solid wrestler who likes to grind out fights, especially against dangerous strikers. Anders should try and get Park out of his comfort zone and turn this into a striking battle. Park is still willing to blast it on the feet with his opponents, and that backfired for him against Rodrigues. Anders doesn’t need to keep this one at a slow pace. He should look to up the pressure and land with lots of volume. He can also win with the wrestling should he choose to do that as Park doesn’t have the best wrestling defense. This feels like a toss-up fight for me, but I think Anders shows off the potential he still has and gets away with a win here.

What’s at stake: This is a must-win fight for both. I don’t see either being cut from the roster with a loss, though it’s a possibility for Anders if he does lose. He’s in more of a must-win situation, but that doesn’t make it any less of one for Park, either, as he doesn’t want to fall to a 3-3 UFC record. A win for Anders would get him back above the .500 mark and would secure his future, and time is running out for him to be a contender. This is a big fight for both.

Pick: Anders

Preliminary Card
Start Time: 4:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN+

Middleweights- Joseph Holmes vs. Alen Amedovski

Overall Records: Holmes 7-2, Amedovski 8-2
UFC Records: Holmes 0-1, Amedovski 0-2
Last Fight: Pickett def. Holmes–UDec–UFC On ESPN 32 (1/15/22), Phillips def. Amedovski–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 18 (9/28/19)
Last Five Fights: Holmes 4-1, Amedovski 3-2
Betting Odds: Holmes -195, Amedovski +165
Background: A middleweight bout serves as the featured prelim, and it involves a pair of 185 lb. fighters both in search of their first UFC wins as Holmes battles Amedovski. Holmes is making his second appearance inside the Octagon as he fights for the second time in 2022. He debuted in January, taking a short-notice opportunity, and came up short in dropping a decision to Jamie Pickett. That ended a seven-fight win streak Holmes was on, which came after he lost his professional debut, but he’s hoping a full training camp turns things around here. He has scored finishes in all seven of his wins. Amedovski comes into this bout on a long layoff as he hasn’t fought since September 2019, and he’s looking for his first UFC win in his third appearance. He started his career with a perfect 8-0 record leading to his signing, with all eight wins coming by knockout. He debuted in April 2019, losing a decision to Krzysztof Jotko, and then suffered a 14-second knockout loss to John Phillips in his last outing in September 2019. He’s had multiple fights booked since then, but all have fallen by the wayside, but he finally gets the chance to return here.

How they match up: Holmes is going to have quite the size advantage in this one, as he’ll have six inches both in height and reach on Amedovski. He’s also fought seven times since the last time Amedovski was in action, and that could play a huge factor. Despite all of his knockouts before his time as a UFC fighter, Amedovski hasn’t been impressive during his two outings. He’s landed a combined eight significant strikes in those fights in a total of 15:14 inside the Octagon. Holmes works best inside the clinch and if he is able to get it to the mat, and Amedovski isn’t going to be able to hang with him in either position. It’s hard to know whether or not Amedovski has improved in his time off, but if he’s the same low-volume striker who just likes to trade but pay the price, it doesn’t feel like a winnable fight for him. I see Holmes taking it down quick and with ease, and then smothering Amedovski into submission.

What’s at stake: A first UFC win is at stake for both men, as well as their potential future on the roster. This is just Holmes’ second UFC outing, and his first with a full training camp, so even if he falls to 0-2, I see him getting at least another fight. Amedovski is almost assuredly going to be released from his deal with a loss, as that would be 0-3, and even more so if he gets finished inside the first round again. This is a must-win for Amedovski, and while it pretty much is for Holmes as well, it’s not as pivotal.

Pick: Holmes

Heavyweights- Jailton Almeida vs. Parker Porter

Overall Records: Almeida 15-2, Porter 13-6
UFC Records: Almeida 1-0, Porter 3-1
Last Fight: Almeida def. Marques–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 58 (2/5/22), Porter def. Baudot–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 59 (2/19/22)
Last Five Fights: Almeida 5-0, Porter 4-1
Betting Odds: Almeida -600, Porter +435
Background: A somewhat strange booking takes place here as a short-notice match-up between Almeida and Porter goes down in the heavyweight division. Almeida typically fights at 205 lbs. and was booked for a fight against Maxim Grishin on this card. However, Grishin had to pull out, and the best opportunity was to accept a fight against Porter at heavyweight, and Porter is taking this fight on a month’s notice. Almeida is making his second UFC appearance after scoring an impressive first-round knockout of Danilo Marques in February. He’s won ten straight fights, not having lost since January 2018, and all 15 of his wins have been via a finish, with six by knockout and nine by submission. After dropping his UFC debut to Chris Daukaus in August 2020 in a short-notice fight, Porter has quietly put together an impressive three-fight win streak in the heavyweight division. They’ve all been by decision, coming over Josh Parisian, Chase Sherman and Alan Baudot, but he does have eight finishes in his career. Porter’s biggest claim to fame is that he was an early opponent of Jon Jones, who finished him in 36 seconds.

How they match up: Despite the move up to heavyweight, Almeida won’t be giving up too much size. He’ll give up some weight, but will have three inches in height and four inches in reach over Porter. While Porter has won three straight, they’ve all been ugly fights in which he’s done enough to just win on the scorecards. While Porter is a high-volume striker, he also gets hit quite a bit and Almeida does have some power. Almeida’s strong suit, though, is his takedown game and his wanting to dominate on the mat. Porter has yet to have to worry about defending the takedown during his UFC career, as no opponent has attempted one on him, but he is said to be a solid wrestler. However, he’ll likely have trouble defending the takedown attempts of Almeida, and if Almeida gets it to the mat, it’s pretty much game over. Porter is going to have to gas Almeida out quickly, somehow, but I don’t see it really happening. I see Almeida getting it down quickly, and it just being a matter of whether he ends it via submission or ground-and-pound.

What’s at stake: Almeida has looked to be a solid addition and some solid fresh blood for the light heavyweight division. Even though this fight is at heavyweight, his future is at 205 lbs., and a win here with be two straight since his UFC signing and eleven straight overall, and would set him up for a solid match-up in his next outing. Porter’s solid UFC run thus far has gotten him a second deal and he’s going to be around for at least a few more fights. If he can pull out the upset here, it would be a massive win for him and could see him fighting a ranked opponent in his next outing.

Pick: Almeida

Lightweights- Omar Morales vs. Uros Medic

Overall Records: Morales 11-2, Medic 7-1
UFC Records: Morales 3-2, Medic 1-1
Last Fight: Pearce def. Morales–R2 SUB–UFC 266 (9/25/21), Turner def. Medic–R1 SUB–UFC 266 (9/25/21)
Last Five Fights: Morales 3-2, Medic 4-1
Betting Odds: Morales -140, Medic +120
Background: A pair of exciting lightweights square off in prelim action as Morales and Medic both return to action looking to rebound from a loss. Both were last in action at UFC 266 in September, and both were victims of a submission loss via a rear-naked choke. Morales was finished in the second round by Jonathan Pearce, while Medic was finished in the first round by Jalin Turner. For Morales, that was his second loss in his last three fights, as he also suffered a loss to Giga Chikadze, and those losses sandwiched a win over Shane Young in March 2021. Morales did start his career with a 10-0 record, including two straight wins to start his UFC career, and he’s scored nine wins by stoppage in his career. For Medic, the loss to Turner was the first loss of his career. He started off with seven straight wins, including a first-round knockout of Aalon Cruz in his UFC debut in March 2021. Medic has scored all seven of his professional wins via a stoppage, with six of those coming inside the first round. He’s only been past the first round twice in his career.

How they match up: Medic is going to have to pressure in this fight as Morales is a slow-paced fighter who never seems to get out of first gear. Morales has the type of offense that is simple but also effective, but he can get caught off-guard with some pressure from his foes. Morales is very durable, while the jury is out on Medic as to whether he can go the distance. He’s only been outside of the first round twice in his career, so he doesn’t really know about being dragged into deep waters. Medic does have speed and finishing power, and he is a high-volume striker, but he gets hit a lot and his stand-up game is largely unproven. I think Morales gets the better of this one via pressure and the threat of the takedown, and it could be far from exciting.

What’s at stake: Both men are looking to get back into the win column and avoid losing for a second straight time. I don’t see the loser being cut from the roster, but, at the same time, you don’t want to go 0-2 to start your UFC career. This is far from the most exciting match-up in the world, but with neither being in danger of being cut after this with a loss, it could end up being an ugly fight.

Pick: Morales

Bantamweights- Jonathan Martinez vs. Vince Morales

Overall Records: Martinez 15-4, Morales 11-5
UFC Records: Martinez 6-3, Morales 3-3
Last Fight: Martinez def. Perez–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 60 (2/26/22), Morales def. Smolka–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN 31 (12/4/21)
Last Five Fights: Martinez 4-1, Morales 3-2
Betting Odds: Martinez -225, Morales +185
Background: An interesting battle in the bantamweight division takes place here, and this should really be higher on the card as Martinez looks to improve his impressive run against another Morales in this one. Martinez has been active and impressive since the pandemic began, winning four of his five fights that have happened since August 2020. He’s riding a two-fight win streak after scoring wins over Zviad Lazishvili and Alejandro Perez, and he’s dabbled in both the featherweight and bantamweight divisions in that time, but wants to establish himself at 135 lbs. in this one. Morales is also looking to extend his two-fight win streak as he comes into this fight off a very successful 2021. He won both of his outings during the year, scoring a decision over Drako Rodriguez in August and a knockout of Louis Smolka in December. It’s a nice turnaround for him, as he had started his UFC career with a 1-3 mark over his first four outings. Morales has eight wins by stoppage in his career.

How they match up: While Morales has looked good in his last two fights, one of his early UFC losses came to Chris Gutierrez, who Martinez fights very similarly to. That makes sense as Gutierrez and Martinez come from the same training camp, so the blueprint for a win is there with that coaching staff. Morales has some power in his hands, but it’s going to be up to him to show that he can withstand the kicking attack of Martinez. Martinez is going to be looking to utilize that calf kick and tear up the lead leg of Morales early-and-often. Martinez does tend to have some defensive lapses, and his chin is a little bit of a question mark as he’s been rocked and finished by previous opponents. If he gets too comfortable mixing it up inside the pocket, I could see Morales knocking him out. However, I see Martinez taking a smart approach and eating the lead leg of Morales up with the calf kicks, and it leading to a decision win.

What’s at stake: Both men are looking to rise up the bantamweight ladder, and a third straight win for both would do just that. I don’t see either being cut with a loss, so their futures are secure. It’s all a matter of winning fights, getting bonuses and leading to bigger fights. This should be a fairly solid and competitive fight.

Pick: Martinez

Featherweights- Chase Hooper vs. Felipe Colares

Overall Records: Hooper 10-2-1, Colares 10-3
UFC Records: Hooper 2-2, Colares 2-3
Last Fight: Peterson def. Hooper–UDec–UFC 263 (6/12/21), Gutierrez def. Colares–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 52 (10/9/21)
Last Five Fights: Hooper 3-2, Colares 2-3
Betting Odds: Hooper +155, Colares -180
Background: A featherweight tilt featuring two prospects both looking to get back inside the win column takes place here as Hooper and Colares square off. Hooper remains one of the youngest fighters on the roster, as he’s just 22-years-old, and he’s looking to show off some improvement in his first fight in eleven months. Hooper came into the promotion with a decent amount of hype and an undefeated record. His debut in December 2019 saw him score a first-round stoppage of Daniel Teymur. However, Hooper was over-matched in his next fight, suffering a decision loss to Alex Caceres. He bounced back with a win over Peter Barrett, but dropped a decision to Steven Peterson in his last fight in June. The jury remains out as to whether he’s UFC ready, but this is another chance for Hooper to show he is. After starting his career 8-0 with seven finishes, Colares finds himself in search of getting back into the win column after an up-and-down UFC career thru five fights. He’s rotated losses-and-wins and is coming off a decision loss to Chris Gutierrez in October, which says he’s due for a win in this one as he searches for his first finish inside the Octagon.

How they match up: Hooper is going to have a size advantage, as he’ll have five inches in height and reach over Colares. He’s also bigger, having fought at lightweight, while Colares has bounced back between featherweight and bantamweight. Hooper is a talented grappler when he can get it to the ground, but his striking leaves tons to be desired. He still needs work there, and his offensive wrestling may need some more work as well. Colares is very durable and comes forward a lot in fights, but his takedown defense is suspect. Hooper does only score on 18% of his takedown attempts, so Colares could easily keep this standing. Colares likes to take fights the distance, as he generally starts off slow but gets stronger in the last two rounds. It is up to Hooper to end it quick and he has the skills to do so. I think this is a toss-up fight, but I sense Hooper getting the fight to the mat early and submitting Colares before he’s able to get anything going.

What’s at stake: Colares is really in a must-win situation, as a loss would drop him to 2-4 during his UFC career, and it would be two straight losses. I can’t see him being on the chopping block, but you never know. Hooper is an interesting case. He’s shown that he’s still not quite ready for UFC competition, but if he turns that narrative around here, it’ll be great for his future. They aren’t going to get rid of him if he loses, but I could see a situation where he stays under UFC contract but is loaned out to a regional promotion for a fight or two with a loss. This is an interesting bout for both.

Pick: Hooper

Women’s Strawweights- Elise Reed vs. Sam Hughes

Overall Records: Reed 5-1, Hughes 6-4
UFC Records: Reed 1-1, Hughes 1-3
Last Fight: Reed def. McKenna–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 62 (3/19/22), Hughes def. Nunes–MajDec–UFC On ESPN 34 (4/16/22)
Last Five Fights: Reed 4-1, Hughes 2-3
Betting Odds: Reed -155, Hughes +135
Background: A pair of strawweight fighters making quick turnarounds battle in the opening fight as Reed and Hughes both look for their second straight wins. Reed competes for the seventh time in her professional career. She started 4-0, which led to a short-notice UFC debut. She came up short in that one, losing to Sijara Eubanks in July, but she bounced back to score a split decision over Cory McKenna in March. Hughes is returning to action just over a month after her last fight, and she’s looking to gain some momentum after a decision win over Istela Nunes in April. That was her first UFC win, which came after three losses to start her UFC career, and she’s got a lot of confidence headed into this outing.
How they match up: Both women like to land with a good amount of volume, but they also get hit more often than they land. Reed is similar to Hughes’ last opponent, Nunes, but with better footwork and less power. Hughes has some strong wrestling, but she hasn’t been super impressive with her takedowns, only landing at a 25% rate. Reed does only defend 55% of takedowns attempted on her, so Hughes can definitely get her down. Hughes should be looking to pressure Reed against the fence and wear her down to a grind both in the clinch and with takedown attempts and takedowns. Reed needs to keep this at a distance and have this be a striking battle, but she is also well-rounded. This is another toss-up fight, but it should be filled with action.

What’s at stake: These are two low-level strawweights, but the winner will move up the ladder and find themselves in a higher-profile bout. I don’t see the loser being cut, but Hughes doesn’t want to fall to 1-4 during her UFC career. Reed also doesn’t want to fall to 1-2, though that is better than 1-4. It’s far from the biggest fight, but is the biggest fight for both women in their careers.

Pick: Hughes

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