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Guide to UFC on ESPN 39: Dos Anjos vs. Fiziev

Getting prepared for UFC this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know with our Guide to UFC on ESPN 39: Dos Anjos vs. Fiziev.


UFC on ESPN 39
Date: July 9, 2022
Location: UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card
Start Time: 9 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Lightweights- #7 Rafael Dos Anjos vs. #10 Rafael Fiziev

Official Records: Dos Anjos 31-13, Fiziev 11-1
UFC Records: Dos Anjos 20-11, Fiziev 5-1
Last Fight: Dos Anjos def. Moicano–UDec–UFC 272 (3/5/22), Fiziev def. Riddell–R3 KO–UFC On ESPN 31 (12/4/21)
Last Five Fights: Dos Anjos 3-2, Fiziev 5-0
Betting Odds: Dos Anjos +180, Fiziev -210
Background: The main event is a long awaited battle between the Rafael’s as Dos Anjos and Fiziev finally square off after several false starts. The two were supposed to headline a card in February, but the fight was pushed back two weeks to UFC 272 in March due to visa issues for Fiziev. However, Fiziev then contracted COVID-19 the weekend before the fight and was unable to compete at UFC 272. Dos Anjos stayed on the card, taking on late replacement Renato Moicano, and ended up scoring a dominant unanimous decision win. It marked Dos Anjos’ second straight win and it keeps him right in the mix for a title shot, especially with the UFC Lightweight Championship being in vacant status. Fiziev comes into this fight on a five-fight win streak after scoring a third-round knockout over Brad Riddell in December in an impressive showing. He lost his UFC debut in April 2019, the lone blemish on his career record, but his subsequent wins have seen him also defeat the likes of Renato Moicano and Bobby Green, and he’s earned his spot inside the top ten of the lightweight rankings. He’s scored eight of his eleven wins via a finish, with seven of those wins coming by knockout.

How they match up: Fiziev is a high-volume striker with speed in his striking and power in his hands, but he also leaves himself vulnerable and open to getting hit quite often. Dos Anjos is a long-time veteran of the sport and has probably been in every kind of fight you can imagine. Dos Anjos has very good defense on his feet and doesn’t tend to get hit quite often and knows how to slow down opponents and let fights play into his strengths. The one area where Dos Anjos has struggled in fights is when he’s being pressured by opponents and having to work when he’s moving backwards. Dos Anjos will likely be looking to score the takedown in this fight though Fiziev has some strong takedown defense, defending 95% of takedowns attempted on him. One of the big keys in this fight will be how the gas tank of Fiziev holds up. His toughest fight inside the Octagon, thus far, saw him fight another crafty veteran in Bobby Green, and it ended up being a close fight that Fiziev was lucky to secure the win in as he faded late and Green took over, but didn’t have enough time left to truly take over. This is the first time Fiziev will be in a five-round fight, while Dos Anjos has tons of experience going 25 minutes as he’s gone a full 25 minutes eight times during his UFC career. Dos Anjos knows how to pace and handle himself, and that veteran savvy is going to be a big factor in this one. I see Fiziev having some moments early, but Dos Anjos coming on strong in the middle and late rounds to pull out a decision in a hard-fought fight.

What’s at stake: The winner of this fight will move closer to the top five at 155 lbs. and could make a strong case for fighting for the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship. Dos Anjos has held the title once before, and becoming a two-time champion when the division is as tough as ever would stamp his case for the UFC Hall Of Fame and as one of the best lightweights of all-time. A win for Dos Anjos also keeps him in the running for a potential fight against Conor McGregor when he’s ready to return.

Pick: Dos Anjos

Middleweights- Caio Borralho vs. Armen Petrosyan

Official Records: Borralho 11-1 1 NC, Petrosyan 7-1
UFC Records: Borralho 1-0, Petrosyan 1-0
Last Fight: Borralho def. Omargadzhiev–TechUDec–UFC On ESPN 34 (4/16/22), Petrosyan def. Rodrigues–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 60 (2/26/22)
Last Five Fights: Borralho 5-0, Petrosyan 4-1
Betting Odds: Borralho -230, Petrosyan +195
Background: It’s rare to see fighters who are each only in their second UFC outings in a co-main event slot, even on a Fight Night card, but middleweights Borralho and Petrosyan get the spot here as they look to move themselves up the middleweight ladder. Borralho is actually in his second co-main event slot in his second UFC outing, and they have high hopes for him as a prospect. He was signed off of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021, winning two fights over the span of four weeks to earn a contract. He debuted in April, scoring a technical decision win over Gadzhi Omargadzhiev in what was a little bit of a disappointing showing, but it got his UFC run off to at least a positive start. He’s scored seven wins by stoppage. Petrosyan also earned his UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021, scoring a first-round finish of Kaloyan Kolev. He debuted in February in a tough fight, but scored a split decision win over Gregory Rodrigues, his seventh career win and his third straight. His path to title contention looks to continue here as he goes for his seventh finish.

How they match up: While Borralho is giving up some height in this fight, he will have a four-inch reach advantage, and that is going to have to be a factor in this one. Borralho typically doesn’t get hit often, but he’s never fought a striker the caliber of Petrosyan, who is going to bring high volume into this outing. He also has very good power in his hands and his win over Rodrigues was a high-paced approach where he landed more than twice the amount of strikes that his opponent did. Borralho is going to have to have success with his wrestling and slow down the striking attack of Petrosyan using it. Borralho might have more options to win this fight, especially if he is able to get Petrosyan to the mat. Petrosyan doesn’t have the best takedown defense, as he was taken down on both the Contender Series and in his fight against Rodrigues. Borralho is well-versed on the mat and could find the submission. Borralho is going to win this if he can control the grappling, while Petrosyan will win this if there’s any kinds of prolonged battles on the feet. I think this is a toss-up fight, but I favor Borralho, even if just slightly.

What’s at stake: These are two solid prospects at 185 lbs., and the winner will continue to move up the ladder at middleweight while the loser will suffer a small bump in the road. Middleweight is in need of some fresh blood to the title picture, and both men have the potential to make it into that picture some day. It’s going to take some wins, and that’s the most pivotal thing at stake here.

Pick: Borralho

Bantamweights- Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Said Nurmagomedov

Official Records: Silva de Andrade 28-4 1 NC, Nurmagomedov 15-2
UFC Records: Silva de Andrade 6-4, Nurmagomedov 4-1
Last Fight: Silva de Andrade def. Morozov–R2 SUB–UFC 271 (2/12/22), Nurmagomedov def. Stamann–R1 SUB–UFC 270 (1/22/22)
Last Five Fights: Silva de Andrade 3-2, Nurmagomedov 4-1
Betting Odds: Silva de Andrade +265, Nurmagomedov -320
Background: An interesting battle of bantamweights takes place here as Silva de Andrade looks to build a win streak against the ever tough Nurmagomedov in this main card bout. Andrade had an impressive record when his signed his UFC contract, coming into the promotion with a 22-0 with one no contest record. He had mixed results during his first eight UFC outings, going 4-4 while fighting both as a bantamweight and a featherweight. However, since moving back down to 135 lbs. in 2021, Andrade has scored two straight wins, finishing Gaetano Pirrello and Sergey Morozov. He’s looking to break into the title picture and score his 23rd win via finish here. Nurmagomedov is fighting for the second time in 2022 after missing all of 2021 due to various reasons. He comes into this on the heels of two straight wins, scoring back-to-back finishes of Mark Striegl and Cody Stamann, both of those wins coming in under a minute. Three of his four UFC wins have seen him score finishes in the first round and he’s making a quick move up the rankings despite a loss to Raoni Barcelos just three fights ago. He’s looking for his ninth finish win.

How they match up: This is one of the more exciting match-ups on the card and is going to come down to the power of Andrade against the pressure and wrestling of Nurmagomedov. However, Nurmagomedov is also crafty on the feet with solid kicks, and he’s very dangerous with a gas tank that can withstand a lot. Andrade has knockout power in his hands, is very athletic and durable, has experience against some of the elite of the division, and good takedown defense. He’s not going to break easily and has the tools to make Nurmagomedov uncomfortable either on the feet or on the ground. He’s going to test the cardio of Nurmagomedov, but his gas tank will also be a question mark. Nurmagomedov does bring high output and is very durable as well, and this fight will also be a big test to how his chin holds up. Andrade is going to crack him with some shots, but Nurmagomedov’s craftiness on his feet and him being able to rely on the wrestling, if needed, will lead him to the biggest win of his career.

What’s at stake: In a very tough bantamweight division, if you want to get noticed, winning fights in impressive showing is what’s going to get you towards the title picture. Nurmagomedov is probably slightly closer to being ranked than Andrade is, though Andrade has the experience edge. Andrade is also 37-years-old, so if he’s going to make a run towards a title shot, he needs to win and he needs to win now. Nurmagomedov is closer to being thrust into that title picture, and a win here should lead to more high-profile fights. A loss would hurt him less than it would Andrade.

Pick: Nurmagomedov

Heavyweights- Jared Vanderaa vs. Chase Sherman

Official Records: Vanderaa 12-8, Sherman 15-10
UFC Records: Vanderaa 1-4, Sherman 3-9
Last Fight: Oleinik def. Vanderaa–R1 SUB–UFC 273 (4/9/22), Romanov def. Sherman–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN 35 (4/30/22)
Last Five Fights: Vanderaa 1-4, Sherman 1-4
Betting Odds: Vanderaa -200, Sherman +170
Background: It wouldn’t be a Fight Night card in the small Octagon at the Apex without a main card heavyweight bout, and we have it here between two heavyweights in desperate need of a win as Vanderaa takes on Sherman. Vanderaa comes into this fight looking to end a three-fight losing skid. He was signed off a first-round knockout win over Harry Hunsucker on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020. He lost his debut to Serghei Spivac, but then bounced back with a decision win over Justin Tafa in an exciting fight in May 2021. However, he’s since been finished by Alexandr Romanov, dropped a decision to Andrei Arlovski, and was submitted by Aleksei Oleinik to put his UFC future in jeopardy. Sherman is technically in his third UFC stint and is looking to end a four-fight losing skid. His first run came August 2016 thru September 2018, where he lost his first two fights, won his next two, but then lost three straight to see his release from the roster. He then won three straight MMA fights, all while also fighting in bare knuckle boxing, to receive an invite back to the roster during the pandemic. He won his return fight over Ike Villanueva, but then lost three straight and his contract wasn’t renewed. However, shortly after it wasn’t renewed, a need for a late replacement came up, and Sherman was signed to a new deal. However, his first fight on the new deal saw a first-round submission loss to Alexandr Romanov, and now he’s fighting to stay on the roster once again.

How they match up: With all due respect, this has no business being on a main card and is a very weak fight. Neither man has shown a whole lot of improvement over recent times, but there is a possibility we could always see a finish. Both men can be durable at times, but both can easily be finished, Sherman more so than Vanderaa. Sherman is actually a fairly decent and diverse striker who lands with high volume, but his defense on the feet is absolutely terrible, and his chin is questionable. Vanderaa does have a good mixture of striking and grappling, so his approach to this one should be to grind Sherman out. Sherman has trouble with grapplers and Vanderaa is pretty durable as well. Vanderaa can also go the distance, which Sherman can as well, but Vanderaa seems to have the better gas tank of the two. I like Vanderaa everywhere in this fight- he’ll be able to hold his own on the feet, and probably end up getting the better of Sherman there, and he’ll easily win any sort of grappling exchanges. I see this going the distance with Vanderaa winning.

What’s at stake: I don’t see the loser here having any sort of UFC future. A loss for Vanderaa would be four straight losses, while a loss for Sherman would be five straight losses. Sherman needs a win here for sure. If he loses, I don’t see him being brought back for another fight, and with this being his third actual stint on the roster, I can’t see them giving him another shot. For Vanderaa, I don’t see him being brought back on four straight losses, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they did bring him back since he’s someone willing to fight when they need a short-notice heavyweight. His odds of getting another UFC run if cut are also good. However, you can’t rely on that. You need wins, and this is a must-win fight for both.

Pick: Vanderaa

Women’s Flyweights- #10 Cynthia Calvillo vs. #7 (WSW) Nina Nunes

Official Records: Calvillo 9-4-1, Nunes 10-7
UFC Records: Calvillo 6-4-1, Nunes 4-4
Last Fight: Lee def. Calvillo–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 55 (11/13/21), Dern def. Nunes–R1 SUB–UFC On ABC 2 (4/10/21)
Last Five Fights: Calvillo 1-3-1, Nunes 3-2
Betting Odds: Calvillo -150, Nunes +130
Background: It’s a battle of ranked fighters taking place here in the women’s flyweight division as Calvillo looks to get back on track against Nunes, who is moving up a weight division while also looking to get back on track. Calvillo returns to action for the first time in 2022 after flirting with the idea of moving back down to strawweight, but she stays at 125 lbs., looking to end a three-fight losing skid. She was right in the title mix with a decision win over Jessica Eye in her flyweight debut in June 2020, but losses to Katlyn Chookagian, Jessica Andrade and Andrea Lee have not only knocked her out of the title picture, but put her UFC future in question. Nunes is returning to action for the first time in 15 months as she moves up a weight class in search of an end to her two-fight losing skid. She was in the title picture at 115 lbs. back in late 2018 on the heels of four straight wins, which included a decision over Claudia Gadelha. However, a loss to Tatiana Suarez knocked her out of contention, then Nunes took some time off to have a baby with wife, Amanda Nunes. She returned in April 2021, but was submitted by Mackenzie Dern in the first round. She hasn’t fought since then and comes in looking for her seventh stoppage win.

How they match up: Calvillo needs to get back to what made her a contender in the first place if she wants to get back in the title picture. As she moved up the ladder, it was on the heels of her fantastic grappling. She wanted to improve her striking, but she has almost completely abandoned the grappling in order to show off the improvements she’s made on her feet. Nunes is a smart and patient fighter who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Her biggest weaknesses seem to come against grappling-heavy fighters, so this makes for an interesting battle depending on what kind of Calvillo shows up to fight. Nunes is the better striker of the two, and her speed and footwork should translate well in moving up a division. Calvillo’s best shot to win is to grapple, and it’ll be interesting to see if the time off rejuvenated her, as in her last fight against Lee, she looked disinterested in fighting. This has the makings of a close and interesting fight, but I see Nunes being better on the feet and sucking Calvillo into a striking battle that she loses.

What’s at stake: I certainly think it’s possible that Calvillo parts ways with the promotion with a loss. She was clearly a promotional favorite with a huge push early on and she was in the title picture quickly, but she just hasn’t performed. If she has another bad showing, it might be enough to cut ties with her. I don’t see Nunes going anywhere until she decides to call it a day, which could always happen here. We’ve seen a number of recent retirements, especially from females in their mid-to-late-30’s, which is where Nunes falls in. I doubt either walks away with a loss, but this is a must-win for both.

Pick: Nunes

Lightweights- Michael Johnson vs. Jamie Mullarkey

Official Records: Johnson 20-17, Mullarkey 14-5
UFC Records: Johnson 12-13, Mullarkey 2-3
Last Fight: Johnson def. Patrick–R2 KO–UFC On ESPN 36 (5/14/22), Turner def. Mullarkey–R2 TKO–UFC 272 (3/5/22)
Last Five Fights: Johnson 1-4, Mullarkey 2-3
Betting Odds: Johnson +190, Mullarkey -225
Background: A lightweight battle that came together relatively quickly sees Johnson making a quick turnaround against Mullarkey in one of the better match-ups on the card. Johnson just fought in mid-May, scoring a second-round knockout over Alan Patrick to end a four-fight losing skid and earn his first win since October 2018. Johnson was impressive in that fight and said he was eager to get back to action quickly, and he looks to start some momentum in what will be his 26th appearance inside the Octagon. He’s fought some of the best the sport has to offer, including the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz, and he’s looking for his 12th win by finish. Mullarkey fights for the second time in 2022 as he looks to get back into the win column. He joined the promotion in 2019 but lost his first two fights inside the Octagon, dropping decisions to Brad Riddell and Fares Ziam. He then won two straight, scoring knockouts over Khama Worthy and Devonte Smith before being knocked out in the second round by Jalin Turner at UFC 272 in March. Mullarkey has scored 13 of his 14 professional wins by finish, with ten wins coming by knockout.

How they match up: Momentum is a big thing in the fight game, and that definitely is on the side of Johnson coming into this one. He’s back just eight weeks after his last fight, where he took no damage, so his confidence level should be high. Mullarkey is coming in off a loss, though it came to Turner, who just scored a big win, so it isn’t a bad loss. However, he was knocked out and Johnson does have some knockout power in his hands. Mullarkey doesn’t mind getting into brawls, but he does get hit more than he lands and his defense isn’t the best on the feet. His ability to get hit is certainly going to be problematic against Johnson with the power in his hands. Mullarkey should look to utilize his wrestling as he’s good at mixing in takedowns with his offense. Johnson does defend 78% of takedowns attempted on him, so his defensive wrestling is very good. This does have the makings of what should be an exciting fight and I do feel like a finish is in order. It could go either way, but I like Johnson to keep the momentum going in scoring another win.

What’s at stake: Johnson saved his UFC career with the win in his last fight, but he doesn’t want to find himself with his back against the wall once again a mere eight weeks later. A win would be his first win streak in years and would solidify that he’s here to stay for a while longer. A loss could put him right back to where he’s fighting for his future. Mullarkey is just 2-3 during his UFC tenure, and a loss would be two straight, but he’s been in entertaining fights, and if this is another one, it’s hard to see him going anywhere with a loss. A win also solidifies his future. I think both guys are here to stay, but I don’t see a title run in the future of either without a little bit of luck.

Pick: Johnson


Preliminary Card
Start Time: 6 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Bantamweights- Aiemann Zahabi vs. Ricky Turcios

Official Records: Zahabi 8-2, Turcios 11-2
UFC Records: Zahabi 2-2, Turcios 1-0
Last Fight: Zahabi def. Rodriguez–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 43 (2/20/21), Turcios def. Hiestand–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 30 (8/28/21)
Last Five Fights: Zahabi 3-2, Turcios 3-2
Betting Odds: Zahabi +160, Turcios -190
Background: A pair of bantamweights who haven’t fought in some time square off in the featured prelim as Zahabi battles recent TUF winner Turcios. Zahabi is fighting for the first time since February 2021, when he got back into the win column with a first-round knockout of Drako Rodriguez. Zahabi started his career out with a 7-0 record, including a UFC debut win over Reginaldo Vieira. However, he lost his next two fights, putting him in a must-win situation going into the Rodriguez fight. With the win, Zahabi got a fresh, new UFC contract. Turcios was the bantamweight winner on season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter, scoring a split decision win over Brady Hiestand in August to get the six-figure UFC contract. It was his second straight win on his official record, but he has four straight wins if you include the wins on the show over Dan Argueta and Liudvik Sholinian. Turcios is a member of the Team Alpha Male camp, and is looking to score his fifth career win via a finish.

How they match up: Zahabi has fought a grand total of three minutes inside the Octagon over the last three years, but it was an impressive three minutes. Still, it’s hard to get a read on him and whether he’s improved since his losses. He’s shown that he has knockout power and he also has shown a solid submission game in the past. Turcios is a high-volume striker who fights at a good pace and has a good chin. His pressure is pretty good and he should look to use it to zap the gas tank of Zahabi, as Zahabi’s conditioning is a question mark for him. If the fight goes to the ground, Turcios has very good scrambling skills and is always in motion on the mat, which would make it hard for Zahabi to even find a chance for a submission. Look for Turcios to set the pace and utilize a high-volume approach to wear Zahabi down and win it in the eyes of the judges.

What’s at stake: Turcios is a TUF winner, so he’s going to have a long leash regardless of whether he wins or loses. He doesn’t strike me as someone who will contend for the title anytime soon, but he’s only in his second UFC outing and there’s tons of room for improvement. He’ll have plenty of time to develop. Zahabi is on a new contract, but with his lack of activity, a loss here could see him getting released after just one fight on the new deal. I doubt that would happen, but he needs a win to keep him away from the danger zone.

Pick: Turcios

Women’s Flyweights- Antonina Shevchenko vs. Cortney Casey

Official Records: Shevchenko 9-4, Casey 10-9
UFC Records: Shevchenko 3-4, Casey 6-8
Last Fight: O’Neill def. Shevchenko–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 51 (10/2/21), Casey def. Jojua–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 55 (11/13/21)
Last Five Fights: Shevchenko 2-3, Casey 2-3
Betting Odds: Shevchenko -170, Casey +145
Background: A pair of women’s flyweights who have been scheduled to fight for a bit now, but have seen their bout pushed back due to injuries, finally square off as Shevchenko battles Casey in each other’s first outing of 2022. Shevchenko had a nice start to her career, starting with a perfect 7-0 record, which included a UFC debut win over Ji Yeon Kim in November 2018. She’s struggled since then, going 2-4 over her last six fights, including back-to-back finishes at the hands of Andrea Lee and Casey O’Neill. She has scored four finishes in her nine career wins. Much like Shevchenko, Casey has had a roller coaster UFC career. She entered the promotion with a 4-1 record, but has gone just 6-8 during her UFC tenure. She’s never won more than two straight, and would win a fight, then lose one or two, and that has summed up her career. She is coming off a win in her last outing, a decision win over Liana Jojua in November. Casey has scored seven of her ten wins by stoppage.

How they match up: Shevchenko fights a lot like her sister in style, but with far less talent. That’s not a knock on Antonina, but Valentina is arguably the best female fighter in the world, if not of all-time. She’s like her sister in that she likes to control, whether it be at range on the feet or by controlling in the clinch or on the mat. She’s going to have the technical edge in the striking, and it also helps that Casey someone tends to lose fights that are close. Casey does tend to keep a higher pace and lands more with her strikes, though her accuracy isn’t all that great. She should look to keep Shevchenko from utilizing any kind of control, but this fight likely ends up in a clinch battle like both of these women’s fights often do. Casey doesn’t have the best takedown defense, which should open the door for Shevchenko to score a few takedowns, and I think Shevchenko is strong enough on the mat to keep it there for prolonged periods of time. This might turn into an ugly fight, but Shevchenko’s technical edge everywhere favors her to win on the scorecards.

What’s at stake: I don’t see either going anywhere with a loss, and neither look to have any kind of chance to get into the title picture in the flyweight division. At best, they’re both lower-level gatekeepers who do enough to keep their spot on the roster. It feels like more of a must-win for Shevchenko, especially since she’s trying to end a losing skid.

Pick: Shevchenko

Middleweights- Cody Brundage vs. Tresean Gore

Official Records: Brundage 7-2, Gore 3-1
UFC Records: Brundage 1-1, Gore 0-1
Last Fight: Brundage def. Lungiambula–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 61 (3/12/22), Battle def. Gore–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 58 (2/5/22)
Last Five Fights: Brundage 3-2, Gore 3-1
Betting Odds: Brundage +120, Gore -140
Background: A middleweight battle that wasn’t the original match-up in this fight takes place as Brundage steps in to fight Gore in this battle of prospects. Brundage replaces Josh Fremd in this one, as Fremd was forced out due to injury, and he gets almost a full and proper training camp to prepare. Brundage is making his third appearance inside the Octagon as he looks to score his second straight win. He submitted Dalcha Lungiambula in the first round in March to notch his first UFC win. It marked his sixth finish in his seven career wins, with three each coming by knockout. Gore is one of the more inexperienced fighters on the roster, in terms of career fights, as he’ll be in only his fifth official career fight. He was originally a finalist in the middleweight tournament on season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter, but a knee injury put him out. He did end up fighting winner Bryan Battle in his UFC debut in February, but dropped a decision to him for the lone loss on his career record. Gore showed plenty of potential and he’ll be going for his third stoppage win here.

How they match up: Gore is with the UFC too early in his career, but they’re matching him up rightly as he gains experience. He’s not ready, but it is also hard to say that Brundage is completely ready for UFC competition as well. Gore does have the potential and he has a three-inch reach advantage, but he struggled with the ground control of Battle, and Brundage is a better wrestler than Battle is. However, Gore is a threat on the feet and has knockout power, even if he was unable to get into a groove against Battle until late in the fight. Gore does have good takedowns himself and solid takedown defense, so Brundage taking him down isn’t a guarantee. Gore needs to avoid getting off to a slow start as he did against Battle, as losing the first round put him in a hole he couldn’t fully get out of. Both men are raw fighters who are still crafting their skills and technique, and the result could be something that goes either way. I see Gore cracking Brundage with a big shot early and getting an early finish.

What’s at stake: This is kind of an important fight for Gore, at least more than it is for Brundage. A second straight loss could see Gore sent back to the regional scene for more seasoning before being brought back. He’s here before he’s ready, but hopefully they don’t see him as a lost cause should be lose and they cut bait. A win would be big for him. Brundage is going to end up getting all four of his UFC fights, but a win could net him an extentsion to his contract. A loss, though, and Brundage would be fighting for his future next.

Pick: Gore

Featherweights- David Onama vs. Garrett Armfield

Official Records: Onama 9-1, Armfield 8-2
UFC Records: Onama 1-1, Armfield 0-0
Last Fight: Onama def. Benitez–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 59 (2/19/22), Armfield def. Graham–R1 KO–FAC 13 (5/6/22)
Last Five Fights: Onama 4-1, Armfield 4-1
Betting Odds: Onama -750, Armfield +550
Background: A fight that wasn’t even on the card until Tuesday of this week takes place here as Onama takes on late replacement Armfield in this featherweight battle of prospects. Onama was originally slated to fight Austin Lingo in this fight, but Lingo pulled out due to undisclosed reasons. It looked like Onama was going to be taken off the card, and he was at one point, but Armfield stepped up on just a few days’ notice to get a UFC deal. Onama will be walking into the Octagon for the third time. He started his career with an 8-0 record before getting a short-notice call for his debut against Mason Jones in October 2021. Those two had a battle, one in which Jones took the decision for the lone blemish on Onama’s record. He bounced back in February with a first-round finish of Gabriel Benitez. Onama is a proven finisher with a 100% finish rate. Armfield makes his debut on the heels of three straight wins and wins in six of his last seven. He scored a first-round knockout of Steven Graham in his last fight in early May. Armfield has scored seven of his eight wins by stoppage, with five knockouts and two submissions.

How they match up: These two fought once before when both were amateurs looking to make their mark before moving up to the professional ranks. It was a fight won by decision by Onama in February 2018, which was the last fight in the amateur ranks for both men. Onama is going to have a four-inch reach advantage and he’s a high-volume striker who also leaves himself open to getting hit as well. The potential he’s shown is incredible, but Armfield is going to be a tough fight for him, even on the short notice. Armfield has turned into a solid striker from a wrestling base, but he’ll also be giving up some size as he generally fights as a bantamweight. Onama is no small featherweight, either, so it’ll be a big difference when they step inside the cage. Onama has such good striking that it’ll be hard to pick Armfield for this fight. Armfield could take it down, but Onama is decent enough on the ground to get it right back up. Armfield will put in a valiant effort, but Onama should get an early finish here.

What’s at stake: Onama has lots of potential at 145 lbs., and this fight will show where he truly stands in the division. A win would be his second straight and it would put him on a solid path towards the title picture. For Armfield, it’s not the worst idea to take a fight on short notice in order to take the easy path to the roster. He’s going to get better opportunities afterwards in his normal weight class, and he could always pull of the upset. However, Onama has title contender potential, and this will further his path towards there.

Pick: Onama

Light Heavyweights- Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Karl Roberson

Official Records: Nzechukwu 9-3, Roberson 9-5
UFC Records: Nzechukwu 3-3, Roberson 4-5
Last Fight: Negumereanu def. Nzechukwu–SpDec–UFC 272 (3/5/22), Rountree def. Roberson–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 61 (3/12/22)
Last Five Fights: Nzechukwu 3-2, Roberson 2-3
Betting Odds: Nzechukwu -135, Roberson +115
Background: A light heavyweight battle between two men who need a win to remain not only relevant at 205 lbs., but also to keep their roster spot, takes place here as Nzechukwu battles Roberson in this one. Nzechukwu is coming into this fight having lost his last two fights, a first-round finish by Da Un Jung in November and a decision loss to Nicolae Negumereanu in March. It was disappointing showings for him, as Nzechukwu was looking like he was ready to break into the rankings following three straight wins. He has scored six of his nine wins by knockout. Roberson’s early UFC career looked like he was going to also find himself ranked one day. He split his first two UFC outings, then won three of his next four, with the only loss coming to Glover Teixeira. It put him at a solid 4-2 inside the Octagon, but he’s since lost three straight fights to put him in the danger zone. Worse off, all three losses have seen him get finished at the hands of Marvin Vettori, Brendan Allen and Khalil Rountree. Rountree has also scored six finishes in his nine career wins.

How they match up: Nzechukwu is a physically imposing light heavyweight and he’s going to have four inches in height and nine inches in reach over Roberson. Roberson has also bounced between 185 and 205 lbs., while Nzechukwu is a massive light heavyweight. Nzechukwu has a high-volume striking attack and can brutalize opponents inside the clinch. Roberson is very good on the feet, though, and he has the ability and footwork to get inside the reach of Nzechukwu. Roberson does have power in his hands and some good takedowns as well, though Nzechukwu has defended 80% of takedowns attempted on him. Nzechukwu tends to fight not up to his ability, and it has cost him winnable fights. He’s got to fight with a sense of urgency in this one and not come out flat. Roberson will make him pay if he fights flat, though Roberson does fight down to the level of his opponents at times. It’s hard to get a good read on who wins this one, as Nzechukwu likely has the more pure talent. However, Roberson has paths to winning with his power shots and mixing in the wrestling. I like Roberson scoring a decision here.

What’s at stake: I really feel like this is a loser leaves town fight. A loss for Nzechukwu would be three straight and a loss for Roberson would be four straight. Nzechukwu should be better than he is at this stage given his physical tools, but he may never live up to his potential. Roberson has also failed to live up to his potential, and he’s seemed to get more opportunities to try and get back in the win column than a lot of people have. He’s got to win this one, though, or else his UFC future is likely toast. This is a must win for both.

Pick: Roberson

Bantamweights- Ronnie Lawrence vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov

Official Records: Lawrence 8-1, Kakhramonov 9-2
UFC Records: Lawrence 2-0, Kakhramonov 1-0
Last Fight: Lawrence def. Martinez–UDec–UFC 271 (2/12/22), Kakhramonov def. Jones–R3 SUB–UFC On ESPN 29 (8/21/21)
Last Five Fights: Lawrence 5-0, Kakhramonov 4-1
Betting Odds: Lawrence -130, Kakhramonov +110
Background: A battle of bantamweight prospects kicks off the card in Las Vegas as Lawrence looks to keep a win streak going against Kakhramonov, who will be making his second appearance inside the Octagon. Lawrence earned his UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in September 2020, and has backed it up with wins in his first two UFC outings. He scored a third-round finish of Vince Cachero in February 2021, and then came back after a year-long layoff to score a decision win over Mana Martinez at UFC 271 in February. Lawrence has scored five straight wins overall. Kakhramonov returns to action for the first time in nearly a year as he looks to make it two-for-two during his UFC tenure after a third-round submission win over Trevin Jones in August. He has won three straight fights overall, and has scored seven of his nine wins by stoppage.
How they match up: Lawrence is going to look to take you down as early and as often as possible, so Kakhramonov better have his takedown defense on point. If you include the Contender Series fight with his two other UFC fights, Lawrence has scored 26 takedowns over those three fights at a 78% success rate. Lawrence also is prone to having wild exchanges on the feet, as he scored three knockdowns against Martinez, though Martinez scored two knockdowns of his own. Even if Lawrence gets Kakhramonov down, Kakhramonov is very active on the mat as he had four submission attempts against Jones. Lawrence does leave himself open defensively on the feet to get tagged despite his solid footwork, though Kakhramonov doesn’t have tons of power. Lawrence should look to pressure with his takedowns and work against the fence and this fight favors so much in his offensive attack. I see him scoring the decision in an entertaining fight.
What’s at stake: Both of these men are solid prospects at 135 lbs., and neither is going anywhere as far as maintaining a roster spot. The winner will continue a climb up the tough bantamweight ladder, while the loser will suffer their first UFC defeat but will be back for more. This is one of the more intriguing fights on the card and is a really solid opener.
Pick: Lawrence

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