After a week off for the UFC, the UFC heads back to the UFC Apex for UFC Vegas 61, Dern vs. Yan. The two top 10 Strawweights are looking to climb the division’s ladder and get closer to the coveted championship shot versus the winner of Carla Esparza vs. Weili Zhang. In the Co-Main Event borderline, top-15 Welterweight Randy Brown takes on the 44-year-old Francisco Trinaldo. Before I make my predictions for those matchups, let’s jump into the prelims!
Fight One: Randy Costa (6-3) vs Guido Cannetti (9-6)
Winner: Randy Costa by KO/TKO
Bantamweights Randy Costa and Guido Cannetti look to get a win in the opening bout of the night’s card. In his last five fights, Costa is 2-3 and has suffered back-to-back losses; another loss here may spell the end of his days in the UFC. Cannetti has been around the UFC for a long time, and in his last five fights, he is 2-3 but is coming off a win in his previous fight against Kris Moutinho, which has kept his career alive. Unfortunately for Cannetti, I don’t think he will be coming home with his 10th win Saturday night, as I am taking the younger Randy Costa. Although we have seen a struggle in Costa’s cardio in the past, the intangibles in which Costa holds the advantage are too much to ignore. Costa is over 14 years younger, three inches taller, holds a five-inch reach advantage, and has a decisive power advantage over Cannetti. As I said, I could bring up the cardio concerns for Costa and the possible volume advantage that Cannetti has. Still, I think Costa will come out hot to start the fight as he usually does, and Cannetti will not have the defense to counter it. Costa will finish the fight by knockout in Round One.
Fight Two: Julija Stoliarenko (10-6-1) vs. Chelsea Chandler (4-1)
Winner: Julija Stoliarenko by Submission
In the Women’s Bantamweight division, submission specialist Julija Stoliarenko looks for her second win in a row with a victory over Chelsea Chandler this weekend. Stoliarenko had a rough start to her UFC career, going 0-3, but finally got her first win in the organization close to three months ago over Jessica-Rose Clark. She is looking to continue to impress with a second win. Chandler is making her UFC debut after winning her last four fights and now looks to make it five. This is one of the closest fights on the card as we have one competitor with a losing UFC record and one making her debut. I will be going with the fighter with the UFC experience and better finishing ability in this matchup. I think Chandler will look to take the fight to the ground, but will leave herself open for the patented arm bar of Stoliarenko, which will end the fight.
Fight Three: Maxim Grishin (32-9-2) vs. Philipe Lins (15-5)
Winner: Maxim Grishin by Decision
Moving up the card, Light Heavyweights Maxim Grishin and Philipe Lins square off, looking for their second win in a row. Since entering the UFC, Grishin is 2-2 and is coming off a win in his most recent fight over William Knight, and is looking to get over a .500 record in the UFC. Lins lost his first two UFC contests to Andrei Arlovski and Tanner Boser, but has kept his career alive with a win over Marcin Prachino and looks to improve to .500. This fight was another tough one as both fighters have a decisive advantage in some aspects, Grishin is a much better striker than Lins, but Lins is a much better grappler. Here, I lean towards Grishin being able to keep the fight standing for an extended period of the fight and score more points, as Lins won’t be able to do enough on the ground to win a decision.
Fight Four: Brendan Allen (19-5) vs Krzysztof Jotko (24-5)
Winner: Krzystof Jotko by Decision
Middleweights Brendan Allen and Krzystof Jotko are both contending for a spot in the Top 15 rankings. Allen has won four of his last five fights and his previous two in a row with wins over Sam Alvey and Jacob Malkoun. Jotko is in the same position as his opponent, as he has also won four of his last five and two in a row; with his most recent wins coming over Misha Cirkunov and Gerald Meerscharet. A win over Allen may propel him into the Top 15 as he is right outside the rankings already. In a fight with a probable Top 15 ranking on the line, I see this as a striking match where Allen will use his kicks to set up his takedowns as he will look for a submission. I think Jotko will be able to stop those takedowns and get through the poor defense of Allen with more brutal strikes that score more points on the judge’s scorecards, leading to a decision win.
Fight Five: Joaquim Silva (11-3) vs Jesse Ronson (21-11)
Winner: Joaquim Silva by Decision
Next up on the card, Lightweights Joaquim Silva and Jesse Ronso go head-to-head as both need a win. Silva came into the UFC undefeated, but he has lost two of his total three professional losses in his last two fights, both coming by knockout, so he is looking to rebound with a win this Saturday. Ronson entered the UFC a little over two years ago and has yet to earn a win in the organization in his first two fights, so a loss here might spell the end of his stint with the company. Silva has proven in his last two fights that he has a glass chin after being knocked out in both contests. I believe that Silva will use his superior grappling to get the fight to the ground, set up submissions, grind out a decision victory, and avoid the power of Ronson.
Fight Six: Aleksei Oleinik (60-16-1) vs Ilir Latifi (15-8)
Winner: Aleksei Oleinik by Submission
In the featured preliminary bout, two older heavyweights go at it looking for their second win in a row. Five months ago, Oleinik captured his 16th professional Mixed Martial Arts win, this one being over Jare Vanderaa. At the ripe age of 45, Oleinik looks to make it 61 wins and two in a row this Saturday in Vegas. Latifi also comes in off a win in his last fight, but has only fought twice in the past three years. His last fight was over a year ago, where he squeaked out a decision win over Tanner Boser. After going back and forth multiple times, I have officially settled on taking “The Boa Constrictor” Aleksei Oleinik. Although Oleinik has an unusual form of striking, it has proven effective in the past. His opponents have a hard time defending and countering against it because they don’t even know what is coming. I believe Oleinik will use his odd striking style to force Latifi to bring the fight to the ground, which will allow Oleinik to set up what he is best at. Later in the contest, as Latifi starts to tire on the ground, Oleinik will jump on the first opening he sees to lock in a submission, put the fight away in the later rounds, and secure himself his 61st professional victory.