After a one-week break from caged violence, the UFC is back in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 18. In the main event, Alistair Overeem takes on fellow top-10 contender Alexander Volkov to determine who moves on and who gets moved to the back of the heavyweight que for championship gold.
With no further delay, let’s get into the preliminary fights for UFC Vegas 18!
Featherweight: Ode Osbourne vs. Jerome Rivera
This is an important bout for both men who are each looking for their first promotional win in the UFC. Rivera is coming off of two back-to-back losses, and Osbourne fell to a first round guillotine choke in his UFC debut. While both athletes normally compete at flyweight, this bout will be contested at 145lbs due to Rivera filling in as a late-replacement on a four-day notice. This is not a new bout for either man, as a matchup between the two was scheduled for UFC Fight Night: Magny vs. Chiesa, but Osbourne withdrew.
Osbourne has a clear speed advantage in this one, but his stance leaves him vulnerable to leg kicks – a consistent weapon of Rivera. In addition to leg kicks, Rivera seems to have a greater number of weapons in his arsenal when it comes to the striking when compared to Osbourne. The problem for Rivera in the UFC has been his inability to get respect from his opponents due to his lack of pop on his strikes. Osbourne should have the power and strength advantage in this one too. If Rivera can get the fight to the floor, this matchup should prove interesting. Both men are proven submission threats, and both have fallen to submissions in the past.
Pick: Ode Osbourne.
Featherweight: Timur Valiev vs. Martin Day
This is another battle between athletes looking to get their UFC careers on track. While Valiev was stopped via strikes in his UFC debut, that loss became a no contest due to his opponent (Trevin Jones) testing positive for cannabis in a post-fight drug test. Day on the other hand has dropped three-straight since becoming a UFC athlete. Valiev is a horror to prepare for due to his varied attack. He utilizes an incredible array of techniques in his approach to combat, mixing kicks, punches, elbows, and even some spinning shit. With his taekwondo background, Day is fantastic on the outside and has some great boxing when things get in close. I think the deciding factor in this will be the grappling that Valiev will have in his back pocket when the going gets tough. Day has struggled on the floor in the past, and if it goes there against Valiev, we could see Day in a ton of trouble.
Pick: Timur Valiev
Featherweight: Seungwoo Choi vs. Youssef Zalal
!BANGER ALERT! Even though this bout was put together last-minute, it should be a striking fan’s dream. Choi has a world-class Muay Thai background which utilizes solid punches and kicks with a high-pressure approach. Zalal has some great striking in his own right, but is much more focused on footwork and darting in with straight punches. Zalal also mixes in kicks to the body, thigh, and calf from the outside while moving. For this bout, Zalal will need to stay one step ahead of Choi, using his great footwork to stay away from the high-pressure, high-power of his opponent. There is the possibility for Zalal to grapple, because Choi has shown a weakness on the floor. Choi will need to avoid this while also cutting off the Octagon to be able to land his devastating strikes. It is almost a little too close to call, so I’ve got to go with my gut.
Pick: Youssef Zalal
Flyweight: Molly McCann vs. Lara Procopio
This should be another fun one, and another matchup between two fighters who are coming off a loss. McCann, the former Cage Warriors champion, will look to rebound since losing a unanimous decision to Talia Santos. Lara Procopio is a Brazilian athlete who seeks her wins through clinching and ground fighting. She moves forward and is not afraid to throw down on the feet. While both women in this contest are able to do all aspects of MMA at at least a competent level, this is primarily a striker vs. grappler matchup. I believe the difference in this fight will be the striking of McCann. Her boxing is clean, she has great head movement, and she is constantly improving when it comes to her kicking game. With her constant forward motion and lack of head movement, Procopio will be a perfect punching bag in this one if she does not aggressively seek to grapple. That said, even if Procopio can get her grappling going, McCann is a pretty good counter-wrestler and is able to get back to her feet most of the time.
Pick: Molly McCann
Bantamweight: Karol Rosa vs. Joselyne Edwards
This is an interesting matchup between two vastly different fighters. Rosa relies on relatively stationary Muay Thai techniques and some good clinch work. She is good with her hands and is at her best when her opponents fight at her slower pace and are willing to stand in the center of the Octagon. Edwards’ fighting style is a bit like a hurricane. She lives for uncertain exchanges on the feet and on the floor. Edwards likes to rush forward with repeated hooks, backing her opponents up to the cage, inviting clinch fighting along the fence. On the floor, Edwards is a finisher and is usually looking for ground and pound or submission holds. She is also a threat from bottom guard, proven in her Octagon debut against Wu Yanan. I think Rosa’s cleaner technique will win out, but Edwards has surprised me before.
Pick: Karol Rosa
Catchweight (160lbs): Justin Jaynes vs. Devonte Smith
Due to being on five-days’ notice, Jaynes and Smith will face off 15lbs north of their normal featherweight limit. Jaynes agreed to step in after Smith’s original opponent Alex de Silva pulled out. Smith has been out for a while. After suffering his first UFC loss at the hands of his former teammate Khama Worthy, Smith then ruptured his Achilles, further delaying his return to the Octagon. Jaynes has been a staple of the UFC in the pandemic-era. He successfully debuted in June of 2020, and fought two more times, getting finished in both subsequent outings. Both men have a lot to prove on Saturday, and Jaynes’ aggressive style will be a tough test for the returning prospect, Smith. While the winging hooks and aggressive forward motion of Jaynes will provide an interesting test for Smith, I think the rededicated, youthful fighter will come out on top. He will have to be careful in the opening stanza as Jaynes is a consummate first-round finisher, but I think Smith wins with his varied attacks and great movement.
Pick: Devonte Smith
Light Heavyweight: Mike Rodriguez vs. Danilo Marquez
A couple light heavyweights face off in the prelim headliner when Rodriguez and Marquez throw down in Vegas! The strategy for these men will differ in that Rodriguez is looking to utilize his striking and Marquez is a bit of a grinding grappler. While Rodriguez looks looming and for sure has big power, he has been unable to string wins together, last seen being submitted by UFC-veteran Ed Herman. Marquez is riding a three-fight winning streak having won his UFC debut via decision. Rodriguez for sure has the striking advantage here, but his grappling has proven to be subpar against more well-rounded opposition. I think Marquez will eventually get this fight to the floor, and although I don’t know if a finish is in order, he will be able to keep it on the mat long enough to win.
Pick: Danilo Marquez
And that’s it! After a two-week wait and a few last-minute changes, we get UFC Vegas 18 later tonight. Enjoy the fights, and we’ll see you next week.
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Let me know what you think in the comments down below!