After another two-week hiatus, the UFC returns to the Apex in Las Vegas with a Fight Night headlined by top 10 Women’s Flyweight Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo. Here, I will take a deeper look into each fight. I’m giving you my prediction on who will win every matchup on this card; let’s get started with the prelims!
Fight One: Mike Jackson (1-1) vs. Pete Rodriguez (4-1)
Winner: Pete Rodriguez by KO/TKO
Leading off the night is a matchup between Welterweights Mike Jackson, known for his fight against CM Punk, and Pete Rodriguez. Jackson comes into this with a very odd career thus far with only three professional fights, a loss to Mickey Gall, a no-contest against CM Punk, and a disqualification win over Dean Barry. Now he is looking to defeat the young Rodriguez for his second win inside the octagon. Rodriguez made his debut eight months ago and was knocked out by Jack Della Maddalena. Rodriguez looks to rebound with a win over Jackson this Saturday night. I don’t think Mike Jackson is a UFC-caliber fighter, and Rodriguez will prove that in this fight. Rodriguez is almost 12 years younger than his opponent in this fight and will be able to throw and land many more strikes than Jackson. Eventually, this volume of strikes will catch up to Jackson and tire him enough to where Rodriguez can land the strike that puts his opponent down and gets him his first UFC win.
Fight Two: CJ Vergara (10-3-1) vs Tatsuro Taira (11-0)
Winner: Tatsuro Taira by Submission
Next is a Flyweight matchup between UFC up-and-comers CJ Vergara and the undefeated Tatsuro Taira. Vergara is 1-1 in his UFC career, with a loss in his debut to Ode Osbourne and a split-decision win in his next fight against Kleydson Rodrigues. Now, Vergara looks for his second win in a row and to put the first blemish on Taira’s record. As mentioned earlier, Taira comes into this fight with a perfect 11-0 record, winning his UFC debut earlier this year over Carlos Candelario, and looks to make Vergara his next victim. Honestly, I haven’t been impressed with Vergara in his UFC career thus far, and I think this should be a fairly dominant win for Taira. Early on, I see Taira using his length and speed advantage to pick apart Vergara on the feet before mixing in the takedown to dominate the fight on the ground. Once Taira can control Vergara on the ground, he will use his excellent grappling to find a home for one of his submissions and stay undefeated.
Fight Three: Piera Rodriguez (8-0) vs. Sam Hughes (7-4)
Winner: Piera Rodriguez by Decision
In the next matchup, another undefeated fighter, Piera Rodriguez, takes on the UFC veteran Sam Hughes in a Strawweight clash. Rodriguez made her UFC debut five and a half months ago, defeated Kay Hansen by way of decision, and is looking to do the same to Hughes. However, Hughes won’t go down quickly, as she has rebounded nicely from three straight losses to start her UFC career. After those losses, she defeated her last two opponents, Istela Nunes, by decision and a TKO win over Elise Reed. Unfortunately for Hughes, I do think her win streak ends in this fight. This is a fight that I see primarily striking, and I give Rodriguez the advantage in that department. Rodriguez is a strong enough wrestler in her own right to defend against the takedowns of Hughes and will look to keep the fight standing where she will be able to land more shots than Hughes. These strikes, especially quick ones like her jabs and leg kicks, she will use to counter Hughes, and keep Hughes from taking her down. This will allow Rodriguez to win via decision over Hughes and stay undefeated while earning her first UFC win.
Fight Four: Joanderson Brito (13-3-1) vs. Lucas Alexander (7-2)
Winner: Joanderson Brito by KO/TKO
Newcomer Lucas Alexander has stepped up to take on Joanderson Brito in a Featherweight bout on this Saturday’s card. Brito, who was initially supposed to face Melsik Baghdasaryan, who had to pull out of the bout due to a broken hand, now faces a new challenge coming off his win over Andre Fili back in May. Alexander enters his UFC debut on a five-fight win streak and looks to keep it alive with a massive first win in the UFC. This is a perfect fight to set Brito up for his second straight win, and I think he does it here by TKO. Brito has shown power in his hands, as he finished two of his last five fights by first-round TKO. When facing an inexperienced, primarily striking fighter like Alexander, this has knockout written all over it. Brito will come out looking for the finish early and turn Alexander against the fence to cut off his ability to counter from a distance. He will eventually land enough powerful punches to finish the fight by first-round TKO.
Fight Five: Nick Maximov (8-1) vs. Jacob Malkoun (6-2)
Winner: Nick Maximov by Decision
Next Up, the UFC schedules another Middleweight bout between young up-and-comers Nick Maximov and Jacob Malkoun. Maximov came into the UFC undefeated a year ago and won his first two fights against Cody Brundage and Punahele Soriano before dropping his most recent to Andre Petroski. So, he is looking to bounce back with a win over Malkoun. Malkoun is now closing in on being a two-year UFC veteran with a 2-2 record. Although Maximov is coming off a loss in his last fight, I am reasonably confident that he will rebound in this fight. Both of these fighters are primarily wrestlers. When two talented wrestlers match up against one another, it can be challenging for one to gain control on the ground, so often, it turns into a striking match, and I give that advantage to Maximov. Maximov has proven that he is a better striker than Malkoun, and with his three-inch height and reach advantage, I don’t think Malkoun can slow him down on the feet. I think Maximov will win the striking battle for the first two rounds before Malkoun loses his defense in the third, where Maximov can finally get it to the ground and end the fight on top and earn a decision victory.
Fight Six: Raphael Assuncao (27-9) vs. Victor Henry (22-5)
Winner: Victor Henry by KO/TKO
In the featured prelim of Saturday’s card, UFC legend Raphael Assuncao and the new Bantamweight contender in the UFC, Victor Henry, both look for a win this Saturday. Assuncao has had an illustrious career in the UFC, but to put it lightly, his last four fights have not added to his legacy. Unfortunately, as the legend has aged into his mid-30s and is now 40, his career has fallen off with four straight losses, and he needs a win to keep his career alive. Henry’s opponent made his debut eight months ago at 34 years old and started strong with a decision win over Raoni Barcelos. He looks to stay undefeated in the octagon and possibly get a top 15 ranking next to his name. I will go against the legend in this fight and take the rising Victor Henry to 2-0 in the UFC. Unfortunately for Assuncao, I believe the sun is setting on his career, and with the length and striking advantage, I see Henry having complete control of this fight on the feet. Assuncao will most likely try to close the distance and want to get the fight to the ground, but because of Henry’s speed advantage, he will be able to avoid the takedowns and piece Assuncao apart from the outside. Eventually, when Assuncao looks to close the distance, his defense will fall, and Henry will connect with a knockout blow to end the fight and get him the win.
Fight Seven: Mana Martinez (9-3) vs. Brandon Davis (14-9)
Winner: Mana Martinez by KO/TKO
Bantamweights Mana Martinez and Brandon Davis square off inside the octagon in the first fight on the main card, looking to rebound from their last loss. A year ago, Martinez made his UFC debut and squeaked out a split decision win over Guido Cannetti, but in his most recent fight, he suffered a loss to Ronnie Lawerence and now looks to defeat Davis and earn his second UFC win. Davis made his debut about 11 months ago and suffered a TKO loss to Batgerel Danaa, and is looking to keep his career alive with a win this Saturday. Although Davis possesses the reach advantage, I think that Martinez is the better striker. In a fight, I anticipate being primarily a striking match, it leads me to believe Martinez will get the win. Davis may have the higher output of strikes, but Martinez is a much more efficient striker, with his 51% land rate compared to Davis’s 35%. Along with that, all but one of Martinez’s wins in his career have been by way of knockout. He has the power to finish the fight, and that power mixed with Davis having shown he can be finished, I see Martinez walking out with a TKO win.
Fight Eight: Misha Cirkunov (15-8) vs Alonzo Menifield (12-3)
Winner: Alonzo Menifield by KO/TKO
Moving up the card and into the Light Heavyweight division, Misha Cirkunov looks to break a three-fight losing streak, while Alonzo Menifield is aiming for his second straight win. Cirkunov has lost his last three appearances and is now making a change and moving up a weight division, looking to re-start his career with a win over Menifield. For Menifield, he comes in with three wins in his last five UFC appearances, with a win over Askar Mozharov by TKO in his previous fight. Now he is looking to build off that win and get a winning streak going that will continue with a win over Cirkunov. In this fight, I will bet on the fighter still consistently winning in Menifield. Cirkunov has been knocked out twice in his last five fights, proving he lacks a strong chin, and going up against someone with Menifield’s power with a chin like that spells disaster. Cirkunov will try to get this fight to the ground early, but unfortunately for him, Menifield will be able to stuff his takedown attempts and keep the fight standing. Those takedown attempts will tire Cirkunov, which will give Menifield more opportunities to find a home for his powerful strikes. This will be too much for Cirkunov to handle and end his night by TKO.
Fight Nine: Dusko Todorovic (11-3) vs. Jordan Wright (12-3)
Winner: Dusko Todorovic by KO/TKO
Middleweights Dusko Todorovic and Jordan Wright look to rebound from losses in their last fight and are looking to finish their opponent in this one. Todorovic has been very active recently, as he has fought five times in the previous two years, but unfortunately, he has suffered three losses in those five fights. His last loss came from an elbow knockout from Chidi Njokuani, and Punahele Soriano finished him in early 2021. He needs to make sure he is protecting himself from potentially fight-ending strikes if he wants to win this matchup. Wright is in a similar situation as his opponent. He has only won two of his last five, coming off back-to-back losses to Marc-Andre Barriault and Bruno Silva, so he desperately needs a turnaround win. The primary issue with Wright in this fight is that he tends to get knocked out by his opponents, who have the power to do so, and Todorovic has that power. Although Todorovic might want to look for the power shot to finish the fight by knockout, he shouldn’t try to do it at a distance with Wright’s reach advantage. Instead, Todorovic should use his grappling advantage to get Wright onto his back and capitalize with ground and pound to end the fight by TKO.
Fight 10: Jonathan Martinez (16-4) vs. Cub Swanson (28-12)
Winner: Cub Swanson by KO/TKO
In the Co-Main Event, the young Jonathan Martinez looks to extend his win streak to four, but he’ll have to get through UFC veteran Cub Swanson. In the last two years, Martinez has an impressive record of 4-1, with his only loss coming to Davey Grant, but now he takes on by far his most formidable challenge to date in Swanson. Although Swanson is closing in on 39 years old, he should not be taken lightly as he holds wins over top UFC fighters, such as Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira, and won his last fight against the tough Darren Elkins. I usually like to take the significantly younger fighter if there is one, but in this matchup, I will take my one and only underdog pick on the card. I will take the knockout enthusiast Cub Swanson to take home his 29th professional win. I’m a fan of Martinez, but the last time he took a step-up in competition, it did not go as planned, and this is quite the jump in competition since his last fight. Martinez was also knocked out clean by an overhand left of Grant. When going against someone with the knockout power of Swanson, you need a strong chin, and I’m not sure Martinez has that. Swanson will use his boxing to close the distance and find an opening to land the knockout blow that finishes the fight.
Fight 11: Alexa Grasso (14-3) vs Viviane Araujo (11-3)
Winner: Alexa Grasso by Decision
The Main Event features top 10 Women’s Flyweights Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo, who look to move into championship contention. Since her loss to now-champion Carla Esparza, Grasso is on a three-fight win streak. A win over Araujo could put her in line for a match with someone in the top three. Last May, Araujo was defeated by Katlyn Chookagian but took almost a year off before coming back and defeating Andrea Lee. Now she is looking to build on that and earn a top-five ranking with a victory over Grasso. Simply put, the longer this fight continues, the more it favors Grasso. Araujo is primarily a grappler, and while the fighters are dry, she may be able to land takedowns that get her an early round win, but I don’t think that will last long. Once Grasso can feel out Araujo’s ground attack, I think she can counter it with distance strikes and ones from the clinch that will be more effective at scoring points on the judge’s scorecards. Grasso’s striking will be too much for Araujo to handle for most of the fight, and will be enough for Grasso to earn her fourth straight win and possibly move up the rankings.