The UFC will keep its weekly streak going with its third event of July, coming from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
This Fight Night event is set to be headlined with the rescheduled contest between Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw. With the original co-main falling out, Kyler Phillips will take on late replacement Raulian Paiva as the co-headliner. Elsewhere on the card, Adrian Yanez and Randy Costa go out for the undisputed best fight-watching snack.
Cory Sandhagen vs. TJ Dillashaw (BW)
Few fighters have shown such rapid growth right in front of our eyes in the Octagon as Cory Sandhagen (14-2, 7-1 UFC). With nearly every fight he seems to have added a new skill to his arsenal, never lacking the elements required to outscramble or outstrike his opponent. Since his first UFC loss to current champion Aljamain Sterling, Sandhagen has scored two highlight reel knockouts, a wheel kick against Marlon Moraes and a flying knee Knockout of the Year contender opposite Frankie Edgar. He has deceptive power for his lanky frame and is well-rounded enough to secure a submission, but has shown lapses with his own wrestling defense. Sandhagen’s striking caliber can be attributed to his movement and precision, constantly switching stance while stalking down his prey before raining hellfire down on them. Though a deadly and aggressive striker, his poor takedown defense can be exploited, though he has some nice scrambling in his back pocket.
TJ Dillashaw (16-4) has not competed since all the way back in January of 2019 at the very first UFC on ESPN+ card, where he was knocked out in under a minute by Henry Cejudo. He has been serving a two-year USADA suspension since, being suspended for cardio enhancer EPO. Dillashaw was the Bantamweight champion prior to the Cejudo loss, winning and defending the title with consecutive knockouts over Cody Garbrandt. Dillashaw trains under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig and has a well-rounded style. He has sharp footwork and movement with excellent flowing combos. He has skilled wrestling in his back pocket and a high level takedown defense. With thirteen stoppages on his record, nine have come by way of knockout.
This a terrific main event, but it brings quite a few X-factors in with it. Dillashaw has not competed in over two years, and hasn’t claimed victory in almost three. That’s not to mention that his last fight saw him starched in just over thirty seconds, though the horrific weight cut to 125 pounds may share some blame there. Setting those concerns aside, this is a great stylistic clash. When striking, this two both have versatile offensive output with quick movement, though I give Sandhagen a slight advantage due to his knockout power and five-inch height advantage. Dillashaw has his own advantages on the mat, as his slick takedown entries could easily break the porous defense of Sandhagen. If Dillashaw comes in on his A-game, he has all the tools in his belt to take home a win over Sandhagen with evasive footwork and intermittent takedowns. That said, it is not a pick I am especially confident in, given his layoff and Sandhagen’s devastating striking attack.
My Pick: TJ Dillashaw via Knockout
Kyler Phillips vs. Raulian Paiva (BW)
Kyler Phillips (9-1, 3-0 UFC) took some time to make it to the Octagon, despite scoring a sub-minute stoppage on the Contender Series and competing on the Ultimate Fighter. He made waves in his UFC debut by earning a Fight of the Night bonus over Gabriel Silva in a decision, and followed that up with two more victories, including a knockout win and another FOTN scrap against Yadong Song. “Matrix” uses a high-volume output and wild, unorthodox power strikes, unleashing fluid combos while bouncing around the outside. He does his best work on the mat, though, as the BJJ brown belt has amazing transitions and powerful ground striking, as well as a threatening submission game.
A rough start in the Octagon saw Raulian Paiva (20-3, 2-2 UFC) lose his first two bouts, but he has since rebounded, now on a two-fight win streak. His most impressive performance to date has been a one-punch knockout over Mark de la Rosa, his third knockout win. Paiva is most often seen on the feet, utilizing his reach and superb takedown defense to keep it at range. He keeps a good volume, but leaves himself open to shots and does not have tons of power. Paiva has a background in judo, but rarely uses it offensively. He has a freakish height advantage for the division, coming in at 5’8″, but does not net him much up a weight class in this short notice appearance.
I am glad to see Paiva moving up a weight class, as he has had numerous struggles not he scale and looks more suited to 135. With that said, this matchup is all wrong for him. Though Paiva has success pushing the pace on the feet and denying takedowns, that does not lend him much help against Phillips. The violent and non stop offense of “The Matrix” leave Paiva outgunned even in a firefight, with a superior strike differential and more stopping power. Though Paiva sports nice defensive wrestling, the transitions and scrambling of Phillips have him beat on the mat as well. I expect a dominant showing from Phillips before turning the lights off in the later rounds.
My Pick: Kyler Phillips via Knockout
Darren Elkins vs. Darrick Minner (FTW)
The UFC veteran Darren Elkins (25-9, 15-9 UFC) got a much needed win in his last outing with his back up against the wall after four straight losses. When matched up with Eduardo Garagorri, Elkins put on a back and forth scrap before finishing the fight in the third round with a rear naked choke. Though a veteran of the cage for many, many years, Elkins is still a very real threat at the Featherweight division, maybe not for the title, but he is still a composed and dangerous fighter. “The Danger” of his game comes from his striking and wrestling base. He can find submissions, but also grinds his way to a decision well and holds a comeback opportunity at any point.
Darrick Minner (26-11, 2-1 UFC) missed out on his UFC shot after a submission defeat to Herbert Burns on the Contender Series, but found his way back through a short notice opportunity against Grant Dawson. Though he was met with a second round stoppage, he rebounded against TJ Laramie, closing the show with a guillotine choke in under a minute. His next fight against Charles Rosa saw Minner with a much more composed effort, dominating the ground exchanges against the BJJ black belt. Minner is a finisher through and through, as twenty three of his pro fights ended before the final bell, with all but one coming by way of submission. Though he has found himself on the other end of the submission equation in eight of his defeats, his iron tight chokes and near endless submission attempts make him a dangerous fighter.
Though there are a number of rising prospects hidden not he prelims, I am not upset that this match is sitting in the Featured Bout position. These fighters both bring an aggressive pace and do not take their foot off the gas for one second. I give Elkins a slight advantage on the feet with his forward pressure and hard-nosed style, but Minner takes the edge on the mat. Along with having a higher takedown accuracy, Minner is a killer in scrambles and has a number of tight submissions, particularly his guillotine. Since Elkins has impeccable submission defense, I don’t see Minner finding a finish, but dominating position for a decision win.
My Pick: Darrick Minner via Decision
Maycee Barber vs. Miranda Maverick (FLW)
The hype train behind Maycee Barber (8-2, 3-2 UFC) screeched to a halt when she suffered a torn ACL and a the first loss of her career to Roxanne Modafferi last January. Her return fight against Alexa Grasso did not go much better, as Grasso pieced her up with technical boxing for a decision. The twenty-three year old has finished every one of her UFC victories, as well as her Contender Series entry, by technical knockout. She has great striking when pressuring forward with powerful accuracy, as well as savage ground and pound work. “The Future” has okay wrestling, but can be limited when secured on her back. Her striking defense still has a few holes to shore up, as she can get picked apart when her trademark pressuring isn’t able to take hold.
Miranda Maverick (9-2, 2-0 UFC) made her way to the UFC after winning the Invicta Phoenix Rising tournament and capturing their Flyweight title shortly thereafter. Her UFC debut proved fruitful, as she battered Liana Jojua for her first TKO stoppage victory. Her next showing against Gillian Robertson showed similar success, busting the Jiu-Jitsu ace up on the feet and the mat for a decision win. “Fear the” Maverick is primarily a grappler with five submission finishes, as well as skilled wrestling to get the fight to the mat. Her striking is composed and she manages distance expertly, holding a high striking defense percentage. She fights with a high volume and has ample cardio, making her pace a dangerous weapon. Her weakness to this point has been when she is secured on her back, but her wrestling base and quick footwork make that a daunting task.
If the UFC is trying to build up Maycee Barber, this is not the way to do it. Not only is Maverick a highly touted prospect with a well-rounded style and constant aggression, she has the style that Barber has shown issues with defending. Maverick’s consistent takedown threat and grappling advantage give her a massive advantage on the mat, and Roxanne Modafferi showed that Barber can be overwhelmed if contained on her back. Though Barber has some real clip in her hands and a striking advantage if she can keep the pressure on, the wrestling of Maverick is too much, who will dominate Barber for a wide decision or submission.
My Pick: Miranda Maverick via Decision
Adrian Yanez vs. Randy Costa (BW)
A sub-minute TKO on the Contender Series Brough Adrian Yanez (13-3, 2-0 UFC) to the big show, where it took him just over half a round to turn out the lights of Victor Rodriguez with a head kick. His next bout against Gustavo Lopez was another highlight reel finish, scoring a third round right hook KO. Now riding five straight wins, Yanez is primarily a boxer with quick hand speed and crafty combinations. He is a consummate finisher, with nine stoppages including seven by knockout. He has certainly improved his kicking game, with nasty leg kicks and his highlight reel head kick in his last showing. However, his weaknesses come when his opponent can consistently ground him and deny his submissions off of his back, as Miles Johns did in his last career defeat, though Yanez sports solid takedown defense.
Randy Costa (6-1, 2-1 UFC) came into the Octagon with a 4-0 record and just around two minutes and 30 seconds of cage time, scoring four first round knockouts. Brandon Davis weathered the storm in his debut, handing Costa his first career loss with a second round submission. Subsequent efforts have seen Costa return to form, knocking out Boston Salmon and Journey Newson in the first round, with the latter lasting just 41 seconds. Costa has a wild and aggressive striking game, coming forward with a blistering offense of kicks and punches. He is a switch stance fighter with a freakish reach for the division, and comes forward with pressure. His hard charging approach does leave holes open for counters, however, though Costa has a nice chin on him.
This matchup has been gathering a lot of interest on social media and it is not hard to see why. Both of these strikers come forward with a high volume and little regard for defense. Fans can expect these two to trade it out in the center of the cage, as neither is much of a ground fighter. Much of this fight comes down to how well Yanez can stand up to the aggressive start of Costa, who will undoubtably find success against Yanez’ exposed chin. With that said, the hand speed and well-timed counters of Yanez should let him have a field day with Costa’s low defense approach, so long as he can deal with the early storm. Expect a wild fire fight until the show is closed with a quick counter from Yanez, though I do think the betting line is a little inflated and that Costa is a fantastic underdog play.
My Pick: Adrian Yanez via Knockout
Six preliminary bouts accompany the main card. Click here to check out the full lineup and start time!
Categories: UFC Predictions
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