Following last week’s Fight Night showcase of the Featherweight division, we will return with top ranked Heavyweights.
The UFC will showcase their final event of June from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, with a Fight Night card entitled UFC Vegas 30. The main event features technical strikers in Alexander Volkov and the undefeated Cyril Gane, sure to produce an entertaining fight.
Ciryl Gane vs. Alexander Volkov (HW)
Ciryl Gane (8-0, 5-0 UFC) has quickly surged through the UFC rankings after just becoming a pro MMA fighter three years ago. After joining the UFC in 2019, he tore through three straight opponents in five months, but then suffered forced inactivity due to injury and COVID-19. His lone bout of 2020 rocketed him towards contention as he scored a second round knockout over the aforementioned Dos Santos. Gane was most recently seen as the main event for UFC Vegas 20, where he defeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik by decision. “Bon Gamin” is an elite striker with quite a bit of skill on the mat as well. He brings in a professional kickboxing and Muay Thai background and has remarkable speed and technique for the Heavyweight division. His clean Muay Thai offensive is devastating, as he utilizes all eight striking points, attacks the head and body, and works in expert combinations. He has proved he has all the requisite champion-level skills as well, having gone the distance successfully to prove his gas tank while showing sneaky submission skills over Raphael Pessoa and Don’Tale Mayes.
Alexander Volkov (32-8, 6-2 UFC) has made himself a staple at the top of the Heavyweight division, now riding two straight victories over Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris, both coming by second round knockout. Volkov is a tactical, lanky striker who uses his 6’7″ length to establish range and pick apart his opponent from his kickboxing range where they cannot hit him back. Although susceptible to counters inside the pocket, as Derrick Lewis showed in his highlight reel performance, “Drago” can outstrike pretty much any fighter on the roster with his incessant volume, as well as holding knockout victories over former champion Fabricio Werdum and the aforementioned Overeem. Volkov holds twenty two career knockouts, with a variety of punches, kicks, and knees closing the show. Despite having a trio of submissions to his name and surprisingly adept wrestling, Volkov uses his defensive wrestling to keep the fight standing, where he almost always holds the technical advantage.
The fans are in for a real treat with colossal strikers taking center stage. Both bring in technical backgrounds and a sound defensive approach, even holding similar offensive weaponry in terms of a clean jab, quick check hooks, and teep kicks. The key difference I see is that Gane is more likely to take the fight to the mat, and could breach Drago’s decent takedown defense. On the feet, it is about as close as it gets, but the pure striking differential and output advantage of Gane have me leaning his way, as the Franchman averages over five significant strikes per minute in the Octagon. I expect an tight striking battle with Gane taking the edge in volume, with the errant takedown mixed in for good measure.
My Pick: Ciryl Gane via Decision
Ovince St. Preux vs. Tanner Boser (HW)
Ovince St. Preux (24-14, 12-9 UFC) has been around the UFC block more than once, with eight years and twenty three fights banked in the promotion. OSP is one of the most experienced UFC Light Heavyweights, taking on the likes of Jon Jones, Shogun Rua, and Glover Texeira. An extremely well-rounded fighter, OSP can knock you at in a second with kicks and also punches. However, his main strength is his ground game, hence the newly christened OSP choke (I never want to hear it called the Von Flue again). OSP has incredibly high fight IQ and fights expertly for a man of his age (37). The most notable advantage for OSP here will be recovery and experience. He can switch his game immediately when he knows he is in trouble and has all the skills to weather a storm and return with his own firepower. St. Preux is currently coming off of a knockout loss to Jamahal Hill, but secured a devastating KO in his previous outing opposite Alonzo Menifield. St. Preux has not won by decision since 206, scoring finishes in all six of his wins.
Tanner Boser (19-8-1, 3-3 UFC) came into the UFC with a decision win followed up with another fifteen minutes opposite top prospect Ciryl Gane, this time in a losing effort. He then made a name for himself as a true prospect in 2020, earning two knockout victories over Philipe Lins and Raphael Pessoa, but is now riding two straight decision defeats. “The Bulldozer” does his best work when striking, relying on his incredible leg kicks and takedown defense to keep it on the feet. Some main features of his game are his karate stance and expert movement, with his speed almost always being a key advantage for him. He has been able to be beaten by fighters who shoot at him with explosiveness and negate the leg kicks and volume he throws in. The combination striking of Boser, is the real highlight, as his hands move much faster than most at this weight.
I really like this contest as a second foray into Heavyweight for OSP. Boser has the high volume striking and quick movement to give him trouble, but St. Preux holds his own advantages with a vast edge when grappling. I do expect this fight to mostly take place on the feet, but I do not foresee a fast paced striking battle. Rather, expect St. Preux to try to establish his preferred kickboxing range on the outside against a quicker opponent, while Boser racks up volume strikes by forcing himself into the pocket. OSP has the tools to make it competitive by bringing in his grappling, with Boser’s 60% takedown defense rate remaining a key weakness to be taken advantage of. On top of that, OSP will still hold his usual size advantage, with Boser being s ampler Heavyweight. In the end, Boser gets his hand raised with superior volume and sound wrestling defense.
My Pick: Tanner Boser via Decision
Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Danilo Marques (LHW)
The debut of Kennedy Nzechukwu (8-1, 2-1 UFC) went south against the slick submissions of Paul Craig, tapping to an armbar just before the final bell. He has since scored two straight wins, most recently knocking out Carlos Ulberg to earn the pair a ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus. “African Savage” is a hulking Light Heavyweight at 6’5 and an 83″ reach, and he combines that with his long jab and powerful kicks to establish his preferred range. Nzechukwu performs at a high work rate, averaging over five significant strikes landed per minute. However, his defense is not as formidable, as he absorbs a higher amount of punishment than he gives out, statistically speaking. Nzechukwu brings in impressive cardio and quick kicks, with good range utilization and body work, though he over exposes himself in the pocket.
Danilo Marques (11-2, 2-0 UFC) brought himself to the UFC in a short notice replacement fight, where he defeated Khadis Ibragimov in a decision. He followed that up with a second round submission of Mike Rodriguez back in February to extend his win streak to four. Marques is a colossal 205-er coming in at 6’6″ with a 77-inch reach advantage. Marques is almost entirely a grappler in the cage, pursuing the takedown at all costs. His striking, though Marques is incredibly accurate and adept at keeping range, is primarily used to work the fight to the mat. He is a monster from top position, with hellacious ground and pound and some submission skills to back that up. He has scored nine finishes in his pro career, with seven by submission.
It is not controversial to call this bout a striker vs grappler matchup. Nzechukwu has the size to breach the technically inferior Marques’ rangy defense and overwhelm with his volume. On the other hand, Marques averages over four takedowns per fight and will dominate if secured in top position. I lean towards Nzechukwu – though Marques is a fearsome grappler, his wrestling is lacking and Nzechukwu’s takedown defense can keep the fight on the feet. From there, it’s Nzechukwu’s fight. His clean jab and combination striking can pick apart the sloppy Marques for a late knockout or dominant decision.
My Pick: Kennedy Nzechukwu via Knockout
Andre Fili vs. Daniel Pineda (FTW)
Andre Fili (21-8, 9-7 UFC) is an Octagon veteran fighting out of Team Alpha Male who has gone up against some of the Featherweight division’s best in Max Holloway, Calvin Kattar, and Yair Rodriguez. He has not been seen since October of 2020, last losing a decision to Bryce Mitchell. On the feet, Fili is always game for an entertaining brawl, as he comes forward with pressure and a variety of kicks. He has scored twelve finishes in his pro career, nine by way of knockout. “Touchy” Fili’s wrestling is another weapon of note, as he has controlling top position that is always in his back pocket. For example, he was able to ground Charles Jourdain in their bout prior to the Mitchell fight, where he was able to eek out a split decision after being knocked down. When Fili is in the cage, you know you are in for an entertaining bout with constant offense on the feet and the mat.
The UFC return for Daniel Pineda (27-14, 4-5 UFC) finally came in September 2020, where he finished Herbert Burns with ground and pound. A veteran of the fight game since 2007, Pineda has competed in promotions such as the PFL, Bellator, and Elite XC, as well as going 3-4 in his original UFC run. Pineda was last seen being knocked out by Cub Swanson in the second round of their UFC 256 meeting. Pineda is a well-rounded offensive threat, with every victory coming by finish. He has scored nine knockouts along with an astonishing eighteen submission wins. Pineda is a scrapper on the feet with quick combinations and snappy leg kicks, but also brings in an aggressive submission game. However, his love for the finish creates a live and die by the sword style, ass his defensive lapses can be taken advantage of.
This is a sleeper Fight of the Night bout. Both fighters have impressive finishing rates, as well as a love for the brawl when striking, with no shortage of a ground game in their back pocket. Fili brings in the more technical acumen on the feet, with his long straights and established one punch power. On top of this, he has the superior level of competition as he is a staple of the UFC roster. Pineda is a killer on the mat who can succeed from top or bottom position, but he is at a wrestling disadvantage in this contest. He will need to rely on Fili bringing the fight to the mat, as he holds the superior wrestling skills. On the feet, Fili has a clear edge. Though Pineda has some power and works at a good clip, Fili should secure a late knockout or clear decision by keeping the fight striking.
My Pick: Andre Fili via Decision
Tim Means vs. Nicolas Dalby (WW)
Tim Means (31-12-1, 13-9 UFC) made his first UFC appearance back in 2012 and has cemented himself as a veteran in the process, though he has failed to string together a meaningful win streak. He is currently coming off of two straight wins, both unanimous decisions over Mike Perry and Laureano Staropoli.“The Dirty Bird” is an entertaining Muay Thai striking who throws a variety of strikes from a number of odd positions. He also brings in underrated grappling ability, holding five of his 24 finishes in submission. His love for the brawl has become somewhat of a detriment in recent years, as his chin has showed durability concerns. Recent efforts have showed a more patient and technical regard for defense, yet the same killer instinct, landing 128 strikes in his most recent fight against Perry.
Nicolas Dalby (17-3-1, 3-2-1 UFC) retuned to the Octagon after a 3-1 streak outside of the UFC, along with one no contest. He won a decision over Alex Oliveira in his first show back, but was submitted by Jesse Ronson in what was overturned to a no contest. His last fight, a decision win over Daniel Rodriguez, was incredibly controversial and showcased Dalby’s complacency on the feet. Inside the cage, Dalby is a well-rounded threat with offensive grappling and a karate-based striking style centered around range management and counter striking. He is often reliant on his wrestling to find victory, with an often lackluster volume and not many ways to finish fights. “Locomotivo” has ten stoppage wins, with six by knockout.
This is a fairly binary bout, with the result almost entirely depending on whether Dalby is able to find himself in top control often enough. Means has a clear advantage striking, with the size to intercept Dalby’s movement and the striking variety to find him in the pocket with consistency. Dalby looks poised for a win if he can ride out top position, but the takedown defense and submission skills of Means leave me unconvinced Dalby can do so. Ultimately, Means works Dalby over from range for a unanimous decision win.
My Pick: Tim Means via Decision
Renato Moicano vs. Jai Herbert (LW)
Renato Moicano (14-4-1, 6-4 UFC) made a successful entrance into the Lightweight division with a submission over Damir Hadzovic in under a minute, but failed to replicate that success against Rafael Fiziev, who knocked Moicano out in the first round. Moicano is about as well rounded as they come with his crisp Muay Thai and slick submission skills. He has fantastic grappling and transitions, but his wrestling can be underwhelming at times. Thankfully, his striking is expert as well, based around crisp fundamentals and range utilization. He offers a quick low kick and a fast jab. Although having never secured a knockout, Moicano has stunned many opponents with his precision and dropped quite a few on his way to the top of the Featherweight division. Moicano’s recent defeats have come from his durability concerns as well as his striking defense, being clipped when found in the pocket.
Jai Herbert (10-2, 0-1 UFC) was most recently seen last July, where was he was brutally knocked out by Francisco Trinaldo. That bout was his Octagon debut, coming out of the Cage Warriors promotion as their Lightweight champion with a six fight win streak. “The Black Country Banger” is a powerful and lanky striker standing at 6’1″ with a specialization in accuracy that makes his strikes hurt all that much more. It’s worked out pretty well for him, as he has scored eight knockouts in his professional career and hurt Trinaldo badly in their fight. Herbert uses constant, hopping movement with a quick jab and a devastating Thai clinch with a dangerous utilization of knees, but does his best work when he is pressuring and forcing his opponent to expose themselves. In terms of a ground game, Herbert mainly uses his BJJ skills to keep the fight on the feet and hop back up quickly when taken down. However, he has poor offense when secured on his back.
This is a superb stylistic clash to open up the broadcast, with Herbert’s dangerous striking and the elite grappling of Moicano. The Brazilian can more than compete on the feet, however, as he also has a high level Muay Thai skillset. When this fight remains on the feet, I do expect Herbert to take a slight advantage with his constant movement and powerful straight punches. However, his stylistic attack does not match Moicano’s boxing weaknesses, so long as his range is established. On the feet it is an entirely different story, as Moicano has the wrestling to impose his will uponHerbert, as well as the grappling to keep and finish him there.
My Pick: Renato Moicano via Submission
This card has twelve fights at time of writing, so tuen into our prelims coverage!
The show gets going at 1 PM EST, so be sure to catch the early start time!
Categories: UFC Predictions