The UFC has not been in action since the colossal UFC 265 Pay-Per-View event, though we will return to action on Saturday with a fun Fight Night card out of the UFC Apex.
The main event will see a Middleweight contest between Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum, after Paulo Costa pulled out of the fight. In the co-main, Olympian Mark O. Madsen will look to continue his surge to the top opposite veteran Clay Guida.
Jared Cannonier vs. Kelvin Gastelum (MW)
This will be the first appearance in the Octagon for Jared Cannonier (13-5, 6-5 UFC) in almost a year. “Tha Killa Gorilla” is a former Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight, with three straight knockout wins in the Middleweight division. Those propelled him into a fight with Robert Whittaker, who emerged victorious in a decision. Cannonier looked solid in his Middleweight debut against David Branch, withstanding a thorough grappling attack to deliver his power shots and put Branch away in the second round. Cannonier’s main strength lies in his power and he has put down much bigger people than Robert Whittaker in his career. He brings in thunderous leg kicks to cut down movement, followed up by power shots fired individually. Though his grappling still presents his greatest weakness, he is likely in for a standup battle here.
Kelvin Gastelum (17-7, 11-7 UFC) got a much-needed win over Ian Heinisch after three straight defeats to solidify his spot on the roster. Of those defeats, his Fight of the Year with current champion Israel Adesanya and narrow split decision with Darren Till still showed his abilities well, even though they may not be favorable when looking at his record. His last fight against Robert Whittaker saw Gastelum thoroughly outworked on the feet for five full rounds. Gastelum is primarily a boxer who utilizes his hand speed and footwork to enter the pocket and unleash power spots. His prestigious wrestling background primarily serves to keep the fight on the feet for him, where he has his patience and timing to exact punishment, landing a knockdown in every Middleweight fight he has been in but three.
What a fun clash of strikers that can bring the action for all five rounds. Gastelum is more proven in the division, but has been on a clear downhill trajectory in the past two years. On the other hand, Cannonier brings frightening knockout power, but is clearly the less technical fighter. I think Cannonier is a winnable fight for Gastelum, but he will need to be on his A-game the entire fight to secure the win. He has the superior boxing to dance with the one-punch power of Cannonier, along with a wrestling advantage. Recent fights have not shown that Gastelum is capable of bringing the best version of himself into the cage here, with his signature durability an ever increasing issue. A tense striking contest ends when Cannonier unloads a bomb.
My Pick: Jared Cannonier via Knockout
Clay Guida vs. Mark O. Madsen (LW)
Clay Guida (36-20, 16-14 UFC) was last seen in February, securing a decision victory over Michael Johnson. This got him back in the win column after two straight defeats, including a submission loss to Jim Miller. Guida is a wrestler who loves to brawl, and fires takedowns with the best of them. “The Carpenter” has twenty professional stoppages, with fifteen coming in by submission. The 39-year-old still has plenty of fight in him and that Modelo Fighting Spirit (pay me, please), but has given up more than half of his losses to submissions, often getting trapped in a guillotine when shooting for a takedown.
Silver medalist Olympian Mark O Madsen (10-0, 2-0 UFC) has made a strong entry into MMA, despite now coming in at 36 years old. He has decent striking with some okay volume and power, but his main skill is in the ground game. He has six finishes to his name, evenly split between knockouts and submissions. Madsen has an exceptionally high level of Greco-Roman wrestling, with ferocious top control and a high takedown accuracy. He has three submissions, but is more than comfortable holding positions and utilizing control, something I love to see in wrestling-based fighters. His last fight against Austin Hubbard saw him suffer an injury after a tough fight on the feet, though he still managed to secure a victory through eight takedowns and stints of top control.
Though Madsen is up there in age for a prospect of his nature, he has all the tools to effectively dominate this fight. His wrestling advantage is much higher than that of Guida, meaning Madsen will have a clear avenue to his typical violent top game. Guida does have a striking advantage, with the higher volume and accuracy, but the accuracy and consistency of Madsen’s takedowns should outweigh that. I expect a one-sided showing from the Olympian for a dominant decision or late submission.
My Pick: Mark O. Madsen via Submission
Chase Sherman vs. Parker Porter (HW)
My Pick: Chase Sherman via Knockout
Trevin Jones vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov (BW)
My Pick: Saidyokub Kakhramonov via Decision
Vinc Pichel vs. Austin Hubbard (LW)
My Pick: Vinc Pichel via Decision
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval (FLW)
My Pick: Alexandre Pantoja via Submission
The main card gets going at 10 PM with twelve fights going down in total, including six prelims. Catch the action on ESPN!
Categories: UFC Predictions