This Saturday the UFC travels to San Antonio, Texas for a fight night headlined by two top bantamweight contenders in Marlon Vera and Cory Sandhagen. This Saturday’s main event could have huge implications for a future title shot for the winner while the loser may have to work back up the ladder. In the co-main event, former champion Holly Holm looks to bounce back from a loss to Ketlen Vieira by defeating Yana Santos who hasn’t fought in over 18 months. In this article I will give my picks for each fight and breakdown my analysis for the main card.
*Odds presented by the Betfred Sportsbook
Fight One: Vinicius Salvador (14-4) (-115) vs Victor Altamirano (11-2) (-105)
Winner: Victor Altamirano
Fight Two: CJ Vergara (10-4-1) (-245) vs Daniel Lacerda (11-4) (+195)
Winner: CJ Vergara
Fight Three: Trevin Giles (15-4) (-110) vs Preston Parsons (10-3) (-110)
Winner: Preston Parsons
Fight Four: Steven Peterson (19-10) (-175) vs Lucas Alexander (7-3) (+145)
Winner: Steven Peterson
Fight Fix: Daniel Pineda (27-14) (+237) vs Tucker Lutz (12-2) (-295)
Winner: Tucker Lutz by KO/TKO or Decision
Fight Six: Chidi Njokuani (22-8) (-175) vs Albert Duraev (15-4) (+145)
Winner: Chidi Njokuani by KO/TKO
The first fight on the main card is a middleweight scrap between Chidi Njokuani and Albert Duraev. Njokuani found major success in his first two fights in the UFC by finishing both Marc-Andre Barriault and Dusko Todorovic. Unfortunately, his most recent fight did not go as planned as he found himself on the receiving end of a TKO to Gregory Rodrigues. Now he looks to rebound with a win over Duraev and make it back towards fighting a ranked opponent. Duraev is also looking to bounce back from a loss after having his long win streak snapped by Joaquin Buckley.
Although I could see an upset occurring in this fight, I am backing the slight favorite in Chidi Njokuani. Njokuani proved he is very dangerous on the feet and I think it will be too much for Duraev to handle. Duraev will most likely try to push Njokuani against the fence before trying to drag the fight to the ground, but Njokuani’s length will make it difficult. I expect that Njokuani’s five-inch reach advantage will keep Duraev at bay and allow for Njokuanu to piece apart Duraev and eventually finish him.
Fight Seven: Alex Perez (24-7) (+150) vs Manel Kape (-180)
Winner: Manel Kape
Next up is what should be a great battle in the flyweight division between sixth ranked Alex Perez and ninth ranked Manel Kape. After a three fight win streak, Perez has now lost two in a row to Deiveson Figueiredo and Alexandre Pantoja, now he looks to prove he is still a top contender by shutting down the rising star Manel Kape. Kape is riding a three fight win streak and carries a lot of momentum going into this fight. He is now looking to extend the streak to four and move up the ranks and fight a top five opponent his next time out.
Although the odds may not be even, I expect this to be a very close fight, but I am backing the favorite in Manel Kape. Kape is currently fighting with an incredible amount of confidence, and he is backing it up with a mixture of speed and immense power in his striking. What could be a threat to Kape is Perez’s grappling abilities, but Kape has proven to have solid takedown defense and I think he can keep the fight on its feet. I believe that this fight should be highly competitive for the first three rounds, but I believe at some point late into the fight, as Perez is starting to tire, Kape will land a strike that sits Perez down and eventually ends the fight.
Fight Eight: Andrea Lee (13-6) (+230) vs Maycee Barber (11-2) (-290)
Winner: Maycee Barber by Decision
In the women’s Flyweight Division, ranked contenders Andrea Lee and Maycee Barber are set to clash inside the octagon. The underdog, Lee, is trying to bounce back from her win streak being snapped in a tough loss to Viviane Araujo. Her opponent, Barber, has been red-hot as of late with three straight wins and looking to make Lee her fourth as she is looking to soon crack into the top 10 ranks.
After looking at all the stats on paper, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that Maycee Barber will win this fight. I expect this to primarily be a striking fest and both offensively, and defensively, I give Barber the advantage. What Barber does need to be concerned with is Lee’s four and a half-inch reach advantage, which could cause problems when Barber tries to push the action. The best way I believe that Barber can counteract this is by using her grappling. Barber is the better wrestler and should not forget that aspect of her game if the fight gets too close for comfort on the feet. This mix of skill advantage and momentum should carry Barber to a decision win.
Fight Nine: Nate Landwehr (16-4) (-235) vs Austin Lingo (9-1) (+190)
Winner: Nate Landwehr by Submission or Decision
This featherweight fight is one I’m very excited for, as I expect nothing less than a brawl. Both Nate Landwehr and Austin Lingo enter this fight on two fight win streaks as both look to move closer to a top 15 ranking next to their names. After being knocked out by Julian Erosa, Landwehr has fired off back-to-back impressive wins. His first being a submission win over Ludovit Klien and then a decision victory in a barnburner over David Onama. Lingo lost his UFC debut to Youseff Zalal but has now won two straight fights over Jacob Kilburn and Luis Saldana. After nearly 18 months away from the octagon, Lingo looks to make Landwehr his third straight victim.
I expect this fight to be an exciting war, but I believe the more experienced Landwehr will come out the victor. In his last fight with Onama, Landwehr proved he can withstand a lot of punishment and come back to win a fight. In round one, Landwehr got outstruck by 25 significant strikes and was knocked down before coming back to win rounds two and three and win via decision. I see this fight going a similar way, I believe that the first round is where Lingo will do his most damage, and if he wins I expect it to by a first round knockout. If the fight makes it out of the first round, I expect that Landwehr will be able to land more, which will score him more points. My pick is Landwehr to win this fight by a decision, but it is possible for Lingo to win this fight, so this is not one I would bet heavily on.
Fight 10: Holly Holm (14-6) (-250) vs Yana Santos (14-6) (+200)
Winner: Holly Holm by KO/TKO or Decision
In the co-main event, former champion Holly Holm looks to rebound from a very controversial loss to Ketlen Vieira by defeating Yana Santos. The 41-year-old Holm is 3-2 in her last five, but most recently suffered a split decision loss to Ketlen Vieira. In the eyes of most fans, that loss should have been a clear win for Holm but unfortunately the judges didn’t see it that way and her two fight win streak was snapped. Despite the loss, she is still riding some momentum coming into this fight and looks to keep it going with a win over Santos. Santos is also 3-2 in her last five appearances, but has yet to appear inside the octagon in over 18 months. Her last time out, Santos was finished by Irene Aldana and now after some time off she looks to rebound by defeating the legend of Holly Holm.
Despite her age, I have liked what I have seen more out of Holm recently than I have from Santos. The biggest reason that I am backing Holm to win this fight is because I can’t pick out an area where Santos is better than her opponent. I believe that anything Santos can do well, Holm should be able to match. Unless Santos has found a new wrinkle to her game or greatly improved a certain existing aspect, I expect Holm to out-duel her and earn a decision victory.
Fight 11: Marlon Vera (22-7-1) (+145) vs Cory Sandhagen (15-4) (-175)
Winner: Cory Sandhagen by KO/TKO or Decision
In the main event of this weekend’s fight night, Marlon Vera looks to extend his win streak to five with a win over perennial top contender Cory Sandhagen. After suffering a loss to Jose Aldo, Vera has fired off four straight wins while showing off his power with two very impressive knockout wins over Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz. Sandhagen has also fought well recently, with wins in three of his last five appearances. After knocking out both Marlon Moraes and Frankie Edgar, Sandhagen went on to lose a very close split decision to TJ Dillashaw and suffered a loss to former champion Petr Yan. In his last appearance, Sandhagen proved he could still compete after defeating Yadong Song and is now looking to humble the surging Vera.
This main event is not one that I am confidently betting on, but I am edging the victory to Sandhagen. Although both men are well-rounded fighters, I expect this fight to stay on its feet for the most part. In his fights with Cruz and Edgar, Vera has put on a clinic when it comes to his power, but over his last couple of fights his output has been a slight cause for concern. Other than his knockdown in round one, Vera was getting out struck by 32 significant strikes over the course of the first three rounds with Cruz. Sandhagen is not someone who struggles with volume and is more of a threat to finish than Cruz. I think that the combination of Sandhagen’s speed, power, and experience in five round fights will be enough for him to eventually finish the fight by TKO or win a decision, but he needs to be wary of Vera’s power and jiu-jitsu skills.