Middleweight: Abu Azaitar vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
Abu Azaitar (14-2-1, 1-0 UFC) is an athlete out of Germany with Combat Club Cologne. It’s been a while since Azaitar made his way to the UFC Octagon; he hasn’t fought in over two years. This is partly due to injuries, but it is also due to a USADA suspension dating back to September 2020. Currently, Abu Azaitar is on a 10-fight unbeaten streak dating back to 2013. In terms of style and skill, Azaitar is unpredictable, powerful, and explosive. He has a solid kickboxing game that relies on lunging attacks. He is not the best at pacing himself, but that doesn’t seem to be a skill he’s needed in his MMA career, having finished the majority of his wins. While Azaitar’s explosive aggression is undoubtedly an asset, it sometimes puts him in bad positions – especially on the ground.
Marc-Andre Barriault (11-4 1NC, 0-3 1NC UFC) is a Canadian fighters out of Nova Gym and Patenaude Kung Fu – Quebec City. He is coming off of a USADA suspension of his own, but a less severe one due to only trace amounts of a banned substance being found in his samples. Six months later, Barriault is looking to get his first official win in the UFC. This might be do or die for the French-Canadian. He is a former double champ under the TKO in the middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions, but he has been unable to put it together in the Octagon. It’s not due to a lack of skill, though. Barriault is a solid boxer – he especially likes uppercuts and a type of overhand/straight right hybrid. He is a pressure fighter and likes to stalk opponents back to the fence where he shells through opposition and dirty-boxes opponents to slowly break them down.
I think that Barriault should win this fight if he can avoid being taken out by the explosive power of Azaitar. Barriault is durable and has a gas tank. Both attributes will be important when facing off against a wild fighter like Azaitar.
Pick: Marc-Andre Barriault.
Featherweight: Shane Young vs. Omar Morales
Shane Young (13-5, 2-2 UFC) is an athlete out of City Kickboxing in New Zealand. He is coming off of a disappointing KO loss in his last bout, and he will be looking to rebound. Young is a striker, and he is willing to take a few shots to get things going. He is really relaxed and he often throws half-power shots to set up more devastating blows. He often jabs his way in to deliver right straights and hooks. He will also pick away to the body and legs of his opponents. Young’s striking defense leaves a bit to be desired, and he uses his ability to take shots to wear down his opponents. Sometimes that backfires, like in Young’s most recent bout.
Omar Morales (10-1, 2-1 UFC) is a Venezuelan fighter out of Hard Knocks 365 in Florida. He is a stalking striker with good, forward-moving footwork. Morales is a power-striker who mixes in punches and kicks at about a 70/30 split, favoring punches. When he does punch, it is high velocity straight punches and whipping hooks. Overall, he is a solid athlete although his power striking doesn’t allow his volume to stay totally consistent over 15 minutes.
Shane Young is tough, but after his last fight, I’m not sure he can keep taking damage like he has in the past. His style relies heavily on his ability to take damage, and I’m not sure how well that will work against a heavy hitter like Morales.
Pick: Omar Morales.
Light Heavyweight: Modestas Bukauskas vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
Modestas Bukauskas (11-3, 1-1 UFC) is a Lithuanian fighter out of Gintas Combat. He first made a name for himself under the Cage Warriors banner, and he has had mixed success since getting the call to the big show; winning his debut, but losing to Jimmy Crute in his sophomore effort. When Bukauskas is on his game, his #1 weapon is his movement. He moves really well for an athlete at this weight class. When he strikes out, it is usually a jab or kick to the leg. Further attacks come in combinations that usually start with a jab. Bukauskas feints well, and his strikes in general are heavy impact.
Mical Oleksiejczuk (14-4 1NC, 2-2 1NC UFC) is a Polish athlete out of the Akademia Sportow Walki Wilanow. He starts so dang quick. He almost sprints at his opponents feinting just enough to throw heat to the head, and especially body. The fast pace and high power of Oleksiejczuk often overwhelms his opposition. He is a consummate first-round fighter, but if the fight keeps going, Oleksiejczuk just keeps moving forward. The pace doesn’t stay as high, but he does stay as consistent as he can. He is a smaller light-heavyweight, so he will need to contend with the long reach and great movement of Bukauskas.
I think that Oleksiejczuk will get it done with one of his lunging punches. Bukauskas has great movement and is good at striking from distance, which will be great assets against Oleksiejczuk, but Bukauskas tends to keep his chin up. That vulnerable spot will be a prime target for the fighter from Poland.
Pick: Mical Oleksiejczuk.
Welterweight: Jared Gooden vs. Abubakar Nurmagomedov
Jared Gooden (17-5, 0-1 UFC) is an athlete out of Atlanta’s X3 Sports gym. He is as solid a prospect as any. Even though he ultimately dropped a decision, his showing against Alan Jouban at UFC 255 was an incredible display against a veteran of the UFC. In the cage, Gooden stays calm and often looks to use solid punch combinations with kicks to hurt opponents. He also paces himself well and doesn’t just swarm when an opponent his hurt. Gooden is solid in the wrestling and grappling as well, possessing a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While he’s still in his 20’s, Gooden looks to be a solid addition to the UFC roster.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov (15-3-1, 0-1 UFC) is a Russian fighter who made his name is the World Series of Fighting and then in the Professional Fighters League when the organizational name change occurred. Numagomedov’s style stays true to his cousin, the former UFC lightweight champion. He will be looking for a takedown, and if history is a predictor, he will be able to get them. That said, he has been suseptible to submissions in the past. He has actually been caught twice in the last few years. Most notably, Nurmagomedov’s UFC debut went south when he was caught in a Triangle Choke by David Zawada. In terms of striking, Nurmagomedov is servicable, but it only stays in that realm for as long as it takes for him to get the fight to the floor.
I think Gooden’s takedown defense should be good enough to stay upright. If not, I think he can threaten with submissions from there. It will be tough, because Gooden tends to stand pretty upright.
Pick: Jared Gooden.
Light Heavyweight: Alonzo Menifield vs. Fabio Cherant
Alonzo Menifield (9-2, 2-2 UFC) is an athlete out of Fortis MMA. While he is on a two-fight skid, Menifield is still a hot prospect. He hits hard and he has some pretty good defensive wrestling to keep the fight where he wants it. His weapons include an awesome overhand right and an overall good muay thai game. He is not invincible, Menifield has been clipped in the past, most notably in his most recent bout where he was put away by Ovince Saint Preux. That said, I like the way he moves in the cage and I think he is young enough to have learned some lessons from his recent adversity.
Fabio Cherant (7-1, 0-0 UFC) is an athlete out of Lauzon Mixed Martial Arts. He is taking this bout, his UFC debut, on pretty late notice. That said, he has some attributes that might come in handy against Menifield on Saturday. Looking at the footage available, Cherant is impressively relaxed during his fights. He often stalks opponents while attacking with jabs and straight crosses. He does use kicks, but not nearly as much as his punches. I’m not sure he is prepared for the intensity that Menifield will bring Saturday.
I think Menifield will get it done on Saturday. While Cherant has good weapons, he does not seem to have the same pop on his punches that Menifield does.
Pick: Alonzo Menifield.
And that’s it! Thanks for reading, and enjoy the fights! Check out the main card predictions by clicking here!
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Categories: UFC Predictions