UFC Vegas 66 predictions
UFC Vegas leads 66 bouts between the middleweight contenders, but it’s the co-main event that could provide a real glimpse into the future.
This is not a jab at Jared Canonier vs. Shawn Strickland, the main event of Saturday’s show at UFC APEX in Las Vegas. They’ve put in the work to get numbers next to their name – Cannonier is No. 5 in the MMA Fighting Global rankings and has challenged Israel Adesanya for the UFC title, Strickland is tied for No. 11 – and has developed enough of a following to deserve top billing.
But both fighters have plenty of work to do for a second title opportunity (Strickland recently lost to current middleweight champion Alex Pereira) and have been in the zone long enough that their encounter lacks a certain spark, to be kind. . It feels more obligatory than it needs to be seen.
On the other hand, the co-main event between Arman Tsarukyan and Damir Ismagulov could be a late entry into the Fight of the Year discussion. Tsarukyan can already expect to feature on that list after an impressive back-and-forth battle with Mateusz Gamrot last June, but he could mess around and claim another spot if Ismagulov is up to the task. At 24-1 with five wins in five UFC bouts, there’s no reason to think Ismagulov won’t live up to the hype.
In his UFC debut, Tsarukyan gave future lightweight champion Islam Makhachev everything he could handle and a win over Ismagulov keeps him on track for a rematch somewhere down the road; On the Ismagulov side, he’s looking for a feature win to establish himself as the one to watch at 155 pounds and that’s exactly what Tsarukyan is.
In other major card action, flyweight contender Emir Elbazy welcomes short-term replacement Alessandro Costa to the UFC, Alex Caceres #27 appears against fellow featherweight vet Julian Erosa, Drew Duber fights Bobby Green in a lightweight duel, and Michal Oleksieczuk He looks to keep the win coming at middleweight when he fights Cody Brundage.
what: UFC Vegas 66
where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas
when: Saturday 17th December. A seven-fight preliminary card begins at 4pm EST on ESPN+, followed by a six-fight main card at 7pm on ESPN+.
(Numbers in brackets indicate standing MMA Fighting’s World Rankings)
Jared Cannon (5) Shaun Strickland (T11)
You couldn’t pick a better rebound fight for Shawn Strickland after the daring (read: crazy) stand-up strategy he used against Alex Pereira. Facing a two-division kickboxing champ known for his ability to stop one shot, Strickland gamely (read: madly) called out Pereira to bring him in, and indeed, Bratten was.
Now, Strickland faces another powerful hitter, but he doesn’t have the fine elite credentials of Pereira. Jared Cannonier is definitely a serious knockout threat, I just don’t see him tempting Strickland with a knockout like Pereira did. My biggest concern is the lack of output.
According to statistician Richard Mann, Cannonier has had problems pulling the trigger in fights and it has cost him, with four of his UFC losses coming by decision in bouts where he was injured.
Now, one must consider that these losses were to Israel Adesanya, Robert Whitaker, Jan Blachowicz, and Glover Teixeira, all former UFC champions. Strickland doesn’t quite fit into this category.
But Strickland is an effective pressure fighter if nothing else and does a good job of avoiding major damage when he’s not playing chicken with the Brazilian juggernaut. This fight should take place mostly on the feet with minimal mixing of martial arts and this is in Strickland’s Alley.
Strickland by decision.
pluck or pluck: Strickland
Arman Tsarukian (9) vs. Damir Ismagulov (15)
What a treat!
Yes, it’s a pity that contenders like Arman Tsarukyan and Damir Ismagulov have to blend together because so many higher-ranked fighters are sitting in their places (I won’t name names, but you know who you are); On the other hand, we’re going to get to see these two lightweight nails battle sooner rather than later, so isn’t that something to celebrate?
On this occasion, give me the most explosive Tsarukyan to catch Ismagulov and become the first fighter to finish the Kazakh blue boat. Tsarukyan is a dynamic talent at just 26 years old, a well-rounded fighter with elite wrestling and an aggressive stand-up style. Not only does he shoot for takedowns, he strings takedown attempts together. Not only does he load up for haymakers, he likes to string combos together to keep his opponents off balance. It’s fun stuff.
Fortunately for Ismagulov, good design suits him, too. He also has excellent defense in strikes and combat, which may be exactly what the doctor ordered him to deal with Tsarukyan. These two will show their extraordinary adaptability in a Fight of the Night candidate that would only be more interesting on paper if it were a five-round fight.
No matter who wins, expect both men to be a factor in the 155-pound class for years to come.
pluck or pluck: Tsarukyan
Amir Elbazy vs. Alessandro Costa
It’s an odd thing to call a heavyweight flyweight, but that’s as good a description as any of Amir Elbazy’s approach to wrestling. He is very aggressive at the top and someone who stresses the damage over the situation. This is not to say that he doesn’t know how to maintain control when he has it, just that when he goes to ground, he goes there to finish.
Alessandro Costa, who intervenes at short notice for an injured Brandon Royval who was stepping in himself in place of Alex Perez, actually has a similar approach in terms of maximum control. If Costa beats Albazi, he can give Albazi a taste of his medicine and look for ground and pound or submission.
One of the problems Albazzi had in his recent win over Francisco Figueiredo was handling strikes from distance, but that should not be taken into account in this fight with Costa, who has a tighter standing style. This makes Costa a reliable threat on his feet although he likes to unbend his powerful left hand if his opponent’s chin is swept into range. This will be a tactical fight until one fighter scores a takedown.
I like that Al-Bazi shoots first and sets the stage for an entertaining grappling match that ends with his hand raising the decision.
pluck or pluck: Albazi
Alex Caceres vs. Julian Erosa
These next two fights are excellent pieces of matchmaking, both in terms of their crowd-pleasing potential and how challenging they can be dialed in.
If you feel like Alex Caceres has been around forever, it’s because he did! One of the most memorable characters from ultimate fighter 12 (A season revolving around Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck for the title if you want a reference to how far back that was) Bruce Leroy has done a great job of keeping his job. He’s never come close to a title shot, but he’s a good keeper at the middle level and that’s the test he gives Julian Erosa on Saturday.
Erosa is just as experienced as Caceres, but you feel he has the potential to shake the top tier of the featherweight division if he can extend his winning streak to three fights. The ultra-difficult Erosa is a tough style match for anyone, even similarly built Caceres. It’s not so much Erosa’s measurements that are the problem as the unorthodox way he moves and attacks. Cáceres watched it all, but he never fought anyone like Erosa.
Caceres’ submission defense has always been his Achilles’ heel, and this will again bother him because Erosa has such a strong submission game. After a few tense fights on his feet, Erosa would take this fight to the mat and lock his chokehold to take the win.
pluck or pluck: Eros
Drew Dawber vs. Bobby Green
Speaking of flip-a-coin matches, Drew Dawber vs. Bobby Green, everyone!
It’s weird, in my opinion, Dubier feels like the fresher fighter he is, but he’s barely two years younger than Green, he’s had almost as many fights, and both guys have been with the UFC since 2013. Green has a much more famous pre-UFC resume with work for Strikeforce and King of the Cage, which is probably why he felt more knowledgeable. Also, Duper hasn’t bothered to retire like Green has on two occasions.
Forget grappling, this will be an amazing fight through and through, with the tougher Dober chasing the knockout and Green using his own unique style to dazzle and confuse Dober. When Green is at the top of his game, there are few in the lightweight division they could trade with. Are we getting a better version of Green on Saturday? Your guess is as good as mine
This leads me to lean towards the more consistent Dauber, who will have more impactful moments in battle to sway the referees. It’s near impossible to finish off Green, but look for Dober to win the points after a vicious fight.
pluck or pluck: Hassan
Michal Oleksczuk vs. Cody Brundage
It’s easy to get excited about Michal Oleksiejczuk’s predictions at 185 pounds. He was a fan-friendly scraper as a light heavyweight, but seemed like a new guy slimmed down by his previous fight. His impressive performance might have a lot to do with the fact that he was fighting Sam Alvey, but still!
Cody Brundage is your classic wrestler, with a twist. Like most wrestlers, he has a great right hand in the room, but he also likes to keep things loose, which can surprise opponents (Tresean Gore learned this the hard way). However, the disciplined hitting technique is enough to defuse Brundage.
Add the focus on takedown defense and Oleksiejczuk should take off in this fight. He’s significantly faster in his new weight class, while retaining the pop that made him a 205-pound jumper. If Brundage can’t move on with his wrestling, it’s going to be a short night for him.
pluck or pluck: Oleksiejczuk
Corey McKenna def. Xi’an Flemmas
Jake Mathews def. Matthew Semmelsberger
Defeated, said Nurmagomedov. Seddukub Kkhromonov
Rafa Garcia def. Maheshat
Rinat Fakhretdinov def. Brian fight
Manel Cape (11) v.d. David Dvorak (T14)
Sergey Morozov defeated. Newson’s trip
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