The dust has now settled from UFC 260 as we turn our attention back to Vegas for a Fight Night. Darren Till was forced to withdraw from his main event bout with Marvin Vettori after breaking his collar bone, but the UFC called and Kevin Holland answered. Fresh off the back of his first main event loss to Derek Brunson, big mouth himself wastes no time in attempting to correct his performance that left plenty to be desired. We have a 14 fight card to entertain us this week and in this article we will take a look at each every one of them to try predict who will prevail.
Impa Kasanganay vs Sasha Palatnikov (welterweight bout)
This is a bout between two guys relatively new to the promotion, both making their UFC debut in 2020. Sasha Palatnikov improved his professional MMA record to 6-2 as he got off to the perfect start to his UFC career with a 3rd round TKO victory over fellow debutant Louis Cosce at UFC 255 in November. Kasanganay on the other hand is probably best known for his role in Joaquin Buckley’s sensational jumping spinning back kick KO that most have hailed as the knockout of the year 2020. Prior to this, the Florida born fighter had accumulated an impressive 8-0 professional MMA record including an emphatic unanimous decision victory over Maki Pitolo as well as two separate wins on Dana White’s contender series.
Despite winning via TKO, Palatnikov was in serious trouble early on when he ate a flurry of punches and was subsequently dropped by Cosce, who appeared to empty the gas tank looking for the finish. Before this, Palatnikov had been forced to fight with his back against the cage and was seemingly losing a striking battle. Kasanganay has shown he likes to take control of the octagon, so this should play directly into his hands. As well as this, he is a much more selective but more powerful striker than Cosce. The two loses on Palatnikov’s record have both come by way of TKO.
Selection: Impa Kasanganay via TKO
Odds – 6/1
Da Un Jung vs William Knight (light heavyweight bout)
Before his split draw with savvy veteran Sam Alvey, Da Un Jung was on a 12 fight win streak including 7 consecutive finishes, 2 of which underneath the UFC banner. The 27 year old South Korean is a striker with immense power, particularly in his right hand which earned him a quick knockout against Mike Rodriguez in late 2019. The most glaring flaw in Jung’s game is his takedown defence which was questionable at best against Khadis Ibragimov in his UFC debut. Although this was nearly 2 years ago, significant improvement will be needed in order to keep William Knight at bay, who secured 4 separate takedowns in his victorious promotional debut against Aleksa Camur at UFC 253. Knight also possesses a good striking ability and too has the potential to finish fights with a single shot. The American, who turned 33 a week prior to this matchup, fights in place of Jung’s original opponent Shamil Gamzatov after Knight’s bout with Alonzo Menifield at UFC 260 was scrapped due to COVID protocols.
Da Un Jung is a young fighter who has no doubt drilled his takedown defence relentlessly in preparation for this event due to his original opponent’s grappling background. As well as this, Knight appears to have the slightly worse chin of the two, boasting the only defeat by TKO between the pair.
Selection: Da Un Jung via TKO
Odds – 9/5
Luis Saldana vs Jordan Griffin (featherweight bout)
This fight appears to be destined to not go the distance with Saldana boasting 14 professional wins, none of which via decision and Griffin finishing all of his last 9 victories, not having won by decision since 2015. Griffin’s last 5 wins have all been by submission, but has lost 3 of his 4 most recent fights including most recently a UD loss to Youssef Zalal in summer 2020. Saldana is making is promotional debut after he was awarded he was awarded a contract on Dana White’s contender series last year with a TKO win over Vince Murdock. Saldana completely outclassed his opponent on the feet for the most part, displaying a wide variety of dangerous strikes before securing the finish early in the final round with a flurry of strikes including a powerful front kick.
At times in all of his UFC fights so far, Jordan Griffin has put himself in compromising positions on the feet allowing himself to be hit, which should favour a technical striker such as Saldana. The path to victory for Griffin lies in his ground game. Saldana’s takedown defence remained untested when he won his UFC contract, but does have a couple of submission loses on his record. Griffin displayed an urgency to get the fight to the mat in his loss to Zalal who has yet to be submitted in his career and did well to fend off the attempts from Griffin. It may also be worth noting that one of Griffin’s loses came at the hands of now #8 ranked featherweight Dan Ige, in which he did take a round across all 3 scorecards.
Selection: Jordan Griffin via Submission
Odds – 13/2
Hunter Azure vs Jack Shore (bantamweight bout)
Our first British fighter of the card. Welsh prospect Jack Shore puts his perfect 13-0 professional record on the line against a tough Hunter Azure, who only has 1 loss to his 9 wins. Shore has looked the real deal since joining the UFC from Cage Warriors in 2019 and should continue to improve with every fight. Shore has fought twice in the UFC so far, both bouts ending in submission victories for the Brit by way of Rear Naked Choke. However, Azure presents his toughest challenge yet. Azure bounced back from his first loss with a unanimous decision victory over Cole Smith.
I think this matchup favours Jack Shore heavily. Despite clearly winning the fight against Smith, Azure found himself in real trouble on a number of occasions. Azure’s back was taken twice during the fight which is not something he can afford to happen against Shore, who has shown he has the ability to finish from this position numerous times in his career so far. I don’t see Shore’s momentum slowing in this one.
Selection: Jack Shore via submission (lock in of the card)
Odds – 3/1
Yorgan De Castro vs Jarjis Danho (heavyweight bout)
One of the longest layoffs in the UFC gets broken in this one as Jarjis Danho makes his first appearance in the Octagon in almost 5 years. Prior to his extended spell on the sideline, Danho was winless in his first 2 UFC bouts, with a decision loss and a draw. His opponent, Yorgan De Castro, had quite the opposite start to his UFC career as he burst onto the scene with a huge knockout over Justin Tafa. However, he has since gone on a 2 fight slide.
Both of these fighters have found their success by utilising their heavy hands, but I’ll take De Castro to get back on track by using his wide range of strikes and unpredictability.
Selection: Yorgan De Castro via TKO
Odds – 8/11
John Makdessi vs Ignacio Bahamondes (lightweight bout)
Ignacio Bahamondes makes his UFC debut here after earning himself a contract with an impressive all round striking display and huge front kick knockout on Dana White’s contender series at the end of last year. His opponent John Makdessi attempts to play the role of gatekeeper in this, his 17th UFC fight. The veteran has had a year to reflect on his decision loss to Francisco Trinaldo in the last UFC event that took place before the pandemic threw the world into a tailspin.
With both of these fighters being primarily strikers, the advantage here seems to lie with the bigger, more powerful fighter in Bahamondes. Makdessi has not managed to finish any of his opponents since 2015, but has suffered 2 himself since then. As well as this, Makdessi, standing 5ft8in with a reach of 68in, will be at a severe disadvantage in terms of size as his opponent stands at 6ft3in and has a reach of 75.5in. Bahamondes showed that he knows how to use his reach and height advantage with his constant jabs and kicks that he uses to keep his opposition at bay and punish them if they decide to close the distance. This is something that Makdessi has been vulnerable to in the past.
Selection: Ignacio Bahamondes via TKO
Odds – 23/10
Erin Blanchfield vs Norma Dumont Viana (women’s bantamweight bout)
This one comes together after Bea Malecki was replaced on short notice by Invicta standout Erin Blanchfield. At just 21 years old, Blanchfield has already amassed an impressive 6-1 pro record with her only loss to date coming by way of split decision against Tracy Cortez, who has since found success in the UFC. Standing accross from her will be Norma Dumont Viana, who avenged her only pro loss to title challenger Megan Anderson with an emphatic decision victory at the end of last year.
Both fighters have the ability to strike and grapple, but I expect this one to take place primarily on the feet. Viana showed real patience and speed with her counters in her most recent fight that pundit, Dominick Cruz, noted as the reason she was unable to find the finish in a fight she was dominating. Although this style of fighting should be ideal against this weeks opponent. That, along with the short notice and the step up in competition and weight class for Blanchfield, is the reason for my pick, although I expect Blanchfield to be a real force in her natural flyweight division going forward.
Selection: Norma Dumont Viana via decision
Odds – 10/11
Scott Holtzman vs Mateusz Gamrot (lightweight bout)
Both of these fighters are coming off loses for Gamrot, his first on his professional record. Things didn’t quite go to plan when he was out struck by Guram Kutateladze in his UFC debut. He was successful in a number of takedowns, but he just wasn’t able to do any real damage once he got his opponent to the ground. Kutateladze is however, a training partner of Khamzat Chimaev, which may explain his relative comfort on the ground with Gamrot. Holtzman suffered a KO loss to Beneil Dariush who is now scheduled to take on Tony Ferguson.
Gamrot will almost certainly try to turn this one into a grappling match, and Holtzman has shown in previous bouts that he can be taken down. Holtzman holds a brown belt in BJJ and has never been finished via submission; so he should be able to survive if that fight does go that way. Gamrot does have grappling experience at the very highest level, including a loss against Gary Tonen, so I expect him to be able to have the greater influence in this one.
Selection: Mateusz Gamrot via decision
Odds – 1/1
Jim Miller vs Joe Solecki (lightweight bout)
Two guys at opposite ends of their career meet here. Jim Miller has fought 33 times at lightweight in the UFC, more than anybody else in the company’s history. Solecki has been perfect since entering the promotion, overwhelming all his opponents with his superior grappling ability. Miller has truly been in there with the best lightweights in the world so this should be a real test for the rising prospect.
Despite earning most of his wins by submission, I don’t think that’s too likely for Solecki here due to Miller’s ground ability. He has been forced to tap in the past but only by the elite of the elite such as Charles Oliveira. You can’t quite put Solecki on that level until he’s proved himself more. I do still see Joe Solecki getting the better of the grappling position wise, due to his energy and effectiveness in setting up his takedowns. Once on the ground, he will look to throw strikes from top position with bad intentions but Jim Miller is as tough as they come, so it will take something considerable to get him out of there.
Selection: Joe Solecki via decision
Odds – 11/10
Mike Perry vs Daniel Rodriguez (welterweight bout)
Mike Perry is a figure that divides opinion with his decisions, particularly in regards to his corner team (or lack of); and it seems that he may be fighting for his UFC career after losing 6 of his last 9 fights. Rodriguez is still a relative newcomer to the organisation when compared to Perry. He came up short in a decision loss against Nicolas Dalby in what was his toughest fight yet off the back of 3 successive wins since entering the UFC talent pool. Rodriguez does however, hold an impressive win over Tim Means, who has beaten Perry since.
Daniel Rodriguez is a guy that has heavy hands as displayed by his first round knock down of Tim Means and his knockout victory over Dwight Grant. However, Perry has only been knocked out once and that was by elite striker Geoff Neal. Prior to his last fight, Perry was unable to make the 171lbs weight limit for a non title welterweight bout, missing weight by a full 4.5lbs. If Perry has a hard weight cut again it will favour Rodriguez, especially as he will have a striking advantage.
Selection: Daniel Rodriguez via decision
Odds – 2/1
Nina Ansaroff vs Mackenzie Dern (women’s strawweight bout)
Our first ranked fight of the evening. Married to the consensus greatest female fighter of all time (Amanda Nunes), Nina Ansaroff is no joke herself. Ansaroff has been inactive for the best part of 2 years, taking a break to have a child. But before that, she had put together an impressive resume of wins against the likes of Angela Hill and former title contender Claudia Gadelha, but she did lose by decision to Tatiana Suarez. Dern has been much more active, putting together 3 consecutive wins in 2020 after her sole pro loss at the hands of Amanda Ribas.
This will be a classic battle of striker vs grappler. Ansaroff did show some weakness in her takedown defence last time out and she will not want to go to the ground with BJJ black belt Mackenzie Dern, who has 6 career wins by submission. I also believe that ring rust may be a factor in this for Ansaroff.
Selection: Mackenzie Dern via submission
Odds – 16/5
Sam Alvey vs Julian Marquez (middleweight bout)
Another veteran that may seemingly be fighting for their UFC career is Sam Alvey. Winless in 5, Alvey did manage to stop his slide somewhat, holding prospect Da Un Jung to a draw in his last fight. However, he might have been fed to the lions here. Marquez is a fighter with a 100% finish rate, with multiple knockouts and submissions on his record.
Julian Marquez is a big middleweight who has also fought at light heavyweight, and he punches like every bit of one. Alvey hasn’t been submitted since 2010 but has been finished twice with strikes since his hand was last raised.
Selection: Julian Marquez via TKO
Odds – 15/8
Arnold Allen vs Sodiq Yusuff (featherweight bout)
Our co-main event of the evening features 2 fighters with perfect UFC records. Both ranked as top 15 featherweights, Allen and Yusuff return to action on Saturday night, the pair of them last competing in January 2020. These two are closely matched in almost every way, even up to their age, 27. Both of these guys displayed their boxing skills in their decision wins last time out against Nick Lentz and Andre Fili retrospectively.
Going into this one I believe that Arnold Allen has the better resume of the two with 7 wins to his opponents 4, collecting names like former title challenger Gilbert Melendez along the way. Allen has won 5 of his 7 by way of decision, with his 2 submissions coming in the final round, so cardio is not an issue for the Brit. Yusuff on the other hand has more of a reputation as a finisher which doesn’t match up great in this one with Allen having never been finished. As well as this, Yusuff was notably tired in his final round against Lentz, not ideal for a fight that looks set to go the distance.
Selection: Arnold Allen via decision
Odds – 5/2
Marvin Vettori vs Kevin Holland (middleweight bout)
Main event time. When Darren Till confirmed that he had broken his collarbone last week, forcing him to withdraw from this fight; we were left without a main event. Luckily for us, Kevin Holland is healthy, game and keen to put his performance a month ago behind him. Vettori himself took on a near mirror image situation in his last time out when he too took Till’s spot in a main event. The Italian successfully upset the #4 ranked Jack Hermansson, elevating him through the middleweight division far quicker than we all expected. Vettori has previously faced current champ Israel Adesanya, only losing by split decision and in the process giving the champion his hardest fight at this weight in his UFC career by far.
Vettori has showed he has a wide range of tools to win a fight at his disposal. He’s shown the ability to stand with opponents, absorb shots, control his opponents on the ground and submit them. The one gap on his record in his UFC record is the lack of a knockout victory, That combined with Holland’s knockout power should lead this one to the ground. Vettori will find confidence when watching his opponents lacklustre performance from last month. Holland was easily taken down and held there in 4 of 5 rounds against Brunson, and to be brutally honest, seemed more concerned with talking than finding a way back to his feet or attempting any offense of his own. He did look far superior on the feet during the short spells they spent there, but that was few and far between. Holland has stated in the build up to this one that things will be different this time around, but to me, you’ve got to judge a fighter by their most recent bout and change your mind when they show you a reason to. Holland does outrank Vettori in terms of BJJ, so that should stop the Italian from adding another submission win to his record.
Selection: Marvin Vettori via decision
Odds – 15/8