The UFC finally returns after a short hiatus to give us a showdown between a former champion and a surging contender when Max Holloway takes on Calvin Kattar in the main event. However, before those men top off the main card, we have a series of compelling, competative preliminary bouts that deserve some attention. So far in doing prelim predicitons, my record stands at 4-2, so let’s see if we can keep a winning record.
Join me now as we look to the bottom of the card and see which fighters should come out on top.
Featherweight: Austin Lingo vs. Jacob Kilburn
Pick: Lingo. This is a bout between two strikers. While both have other elements to their games, they share the same avenue to victory: Striking. There are slight differences in height and reach, but they are virtually identical. Neither man has been stopped via strikes in their professional careers, but Kilburn is vulnerable on the floor if it goes there. In a bout so even when it comes to the numbers, I have to go with Lingo, who has shown a greater ability to put opponents away when they choose to engage.
Bantamweight: Sarah Moras vs. Vanessa Melo
Pick: Moras. These two athletes desperately need a win. Moras is 3-5 in the UFC and Melo has lost all three of her octagon outings. I think that while Melo has the cleaner striking, Moras will be able to use her pressure and grappling to win a decision. While Melo has a BJJ brown belt, she is not very active once she is put on her back, and I think she will end up there for most of the fight.
Welterweight: David Zawada vs. Ramazan Emeev
Pick: Zawada. This was a pretty tough one to call. Both men have their assets, but Zawada seems to be good where it counts against Emeev. Zawada is big and is aggressive in the striking, which Emeev has had difficulty with in the past. Zawada is also skilled off of his back. All that said, if Emeev can get his grappling going, he is able to really wear on opponents. That’s really the difference in this fight: Zawada seems to have the skillset to stifle Emeev, but Emeev has a skillset that seems to be trouble for just about anyone. Went with my gut on this one.
Heavyweight: Justin Tafa vs. Carlos Felipe
Pick: Tafa. This is a battle of a couple of young heavyweights with the experience edge going the way of Felipe. While Felipe has the sharper boxing, he really only attacks with a few weapons: Jab, cross, body hook, and overhand right. These are solid attacks, but I’m not sure they are well-adapted to the southpaw stance of Tafa. I think that if Tafa can avoid being clipped, he can get a finish win.
Flyweight: Yanan Wu vs. Joselyne Edwards
Pick: Yanan. Yanan is the much more refined athlete, and while I do not predict a shutout, I think that Yanan has an edge in all the areas that matter.
Middleweight: Nassourdine Imanov vs. Phil Hawes
Pick: Hawes. This is a bout between two surging prospects. Imanov is on a six-fight winning streak, dating back to 2017, and Hawes has won five-straight bouts, dating back to 2019. I pick Hawes because of the impact his shots have and his overall skillset. His bout on Week 6 of 2020’s Contender Series showed fantastic leg kicks and an ability to overcome a reach advantage. Hawes’ UFC debut showcased big power in the 18 seconds that it lasted, and I think we will see much the same when he takes on Imanov on Saturday. In addition, while Imanov has fantastic movement and great striking in his own right, he relies on mixing things up with wrestling; a strategy that should prove fruitless against the clearly superior wrestler Hawes.
And that’s it! Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you next week for two more UFC Prelim Predictions.