Last week, the UFC kicked off the month of June with a fun Fight Night card out of the UFC Apex, which saw a new Heavyweight make their claim for a top-five spot. This week, the UFC will travel to Singapore for a red-hot Pay-Per-View card, complete with two title fights and a Strawweight title eliminator!
In the main event, the Light Heavyweight title is up for grabs as Glover Teixeira looks to defend his throne opposite Czech wrecking machine Jiri Prochazka. Valentina Shevchenko looks to tighten her vice on the Flyweight division with another title defense opposite the hard-charging Taila Santos, while Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk duke it out in the rematch of their 2020 Fight of the Year.
Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka (LHW)
Perennial contender Glover Texeira (33-7, 16-5 UFC) has proven he is still in fighting shape, riding five straight victories into his October 2021 title fight. He dominated Jan Blachowicz in that bout, submitting the former champ in the second round. He has shown a revitalized performance in his past two outings, both main events opposite Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. He finished both after some heavy early adversity, submitting Santos and pounding out Smith. Texeira has a terrific jiu-jitsu and grappling base that he uses to implement control. However, don’t think that is all Texeira brings, as his stellar boxing and iron chin bring his total game together. Glover is a dangerous fighter in all areas and has immense skill for implementing ground control. However, he has struggled against fighters also able to mix it up well. The main detractor at this point in Glover’s career is his age and more importantly, the amount of damage he has received in that time. He has had to fight through knockdowns and serious striking differentials in recent fights, showing that his time at the top is certainly ticking away.
Before coming to the UFC, Jiri Prochazka (28-3, 2-0 UFC) cemented himself with a ten fight winning streak with nine of those by KO, and eight of THOSE inside the first round. In his UFC debut, he flattened Volkan Oezdemir with a right hook in the second round to assert himself in the rankings, then destroyed Dominick Reyes with a spinning back elbow. He has an extremely unorthodox style, keeping his hands low and offering no shortage of taunts or feints before firing power shots from his hips. Jiri keeps great distance with his fundamental boxing and jab, but the sole focus of his game is to land power shots.
Despite how well-rounded of a fighter Teixeira is, I see this going down as a stylistic clash between a striker and grappler. Glover has impressive boxing, but his defense and durability have been suspect as he ages, and Prochazka only needs one clean land to close the show. Teixeira will assuredly test the takedown defense of Prochazka and if he succeeds, his grappling heavily outweights the Czech fighter. However, I see the range, length, and takedown defense of Prochazka being enough to keep it standing and pick apart at Teixeira from range. Unless Teixeira can bring the fight to the mat early and often, the power, volume, and creativity of Prochazka will finish the veteran inside two rounds.
My Pick: Jiri Prochazka via Knockout
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Taila Santos (FLW)
Since capturing the Flyweight title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Valentina Shevchenko (22-3, 11-2 UFC) has been nothing short of dominant, defending her title six times and scoring four stoppages among them. “Bullet” is truly an incredible striker with punishing Muay Thai featuring battering kicks and punches. She manages range well and mixes her attack up to the body and head, with a high pace to go along with it. On top of that, she has adept offensive and defensive wrestling, which I imagine will be the difference maker here. She is immensely well-rounded as shown by her record, with has avenues to finish wherever the fight goes. Herfifteen career stoppages are split 8/7 between knockouts and submissions. Shevchenko is truly an elite and losing two incredibly close matches to Amanda Nunes is nothing to scoff at.
Taila Santos (19-1, 4-1 UFC) emerged in the UFC after a victory on the Contender Series, outworking Estefani Almeida to a decision. She dropped a split decision to Mara Romero Borella in her debut, but has rattled off four straight wins since. Her most recent appearance was the most impressive, submitting Joanne Wood in the first round. Santos does her best work in the striking with her Muay Thai, offering a powerful kicking game. She has a clean switch kick, as well as skilled grappling from top control and two submissions. My criticism is that her gas tank and cardio are still suspect, as she has not had much exposure against the best in the world, comparitively speaking. Still, she offers skilled striking and aggressive grappling, proven in her aforementioned finish over Wood.
With her vice grip on the Flyweight division, the same question is often asked of Valentina’s new challengers: do they bring skills to challenge the dominance of the champ. Santos is certainly a new challenge, a dangerous finisher who has proven her aggressive style on both the feet and the mat. However, while Santos has excellent Muay Thai and heavy hands for the weight class, her defensive lapses make this look like another Shevchenko showcase. When forced onto her back, her offense slips and she struggles to regain her footing. In addition, her gas tank has not been tested in the championship rounds, where Shevchenko can go all night long. I predict a fairly even fight on the feet, before Shevchenko notches a takedown and progresses for a submission finish.
My Pick: Valentina Shevchenko via Submission
Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk II (SW)
A sub-minute knockout over Jessica Andrade scored Weili Zhang (21-3, 5-2 UFC) the Strawweight title, which she defended against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in an instant classic. “Magnum” then dropped her next two fights to Rose Namajunas, by knockout and split decision, respectively. Zhang is a finishing machine, knocking out ten opponents and submitting another seven. Zhang has a high work rate on the feet with technical Muay Thai, but is no stranger to a slugfest in the pocket with her power hooks. On the mat, she holds an array of defensive submissions and is yet to be taken down in the Octagon. Zhang is an incredibly fun fighter who comes in with a warring mentality and a surefire chin, along with strong takedowns and a sizable frame for the Strawweight division.
Former champion Joanna Jedrzejzcyk (16-4, 10-4 UFC) has not been seen since her title fight opposite Zhang in February 2020. Prior to that, she picked up a dominant decision win over Michelle Waterson, showing her striking pedigree. Joanna is a striking specialist with some of the highest volume you can put out. She mixes up her striking with the best of them, even firing multiple kicks in with her combos. Her Muay Thai technique is second to none, with a barrage of kicks and punches from every angle imaginable. Though she has not scored a stoppage since 2015 opposite Jessica Penne, she is an offensive machine and the most violent woman at 115 pounds.
This rematch has been readily anticipated for some time, and I am expecting yet another firefight between these two strikers. The first bout was incredibly close with fan scorecards all over the place, and I am expecting a similarly close battle. Zhang excels with her pocket boxing, also chipping away with powerful low kicks, though her striking defense has been exposed in recent outings. I think the range and technique will be the differential for Joanna in this bout, as she has the fight IQ and elite Muay Thai skill to make the requisite changes from the first fight. The x-factor I am concerned about is Joanna’s layoff, but I see her winning a close decision on the cards.
My Pick: Joanna Jedrzejczyk via Decision
Rogerio Bontorin vs. Manel Kape (FLW)
Rogerio Bontorin (17-4, 3-3 UFC) made his way to the Octagon with a submission on the Contender Series. He started off 2-2 then picked up a decision over Matt Schnell before losing a split decision on the cards to Brandon Royval. On the feet, Bontorin has good striking accuracy and kicks, but has poor striking defense and can get pieced up when standing. Luckily, his strong suit is his jiu-jitsu, having successfully scored 11 submissions on his way to the UFC. His wrestling is sufficient enough to get it there and he proved that against a dynamic wrestler in Magomed Bibulatov. Once he is on the back, Bontorin is as hard as any to get off of there. Bontorin always comes for a scrap, and the has the well-rounded skills to find success anywhere the fight goes.
Manel Kape (17-6, 2-2 UFC) got off to a rough start in the UFC with two close decision losses to Alexandre Pantoja and Matheus Nicolau. He rebounded quite nicely, with two highlight-reel first-round knockouts. “Starboy” came into the UFC following his time as the RIZIN bantamweight champion, claiming notable victories over the likes of Kai Asakura and Ian McCall. Kape is a finisher of the highest regard, ending all but one of his victories before the final bell. His tremendous knockout power is most noteworthy, claiming nine (T)KO wins. He has incredibly explosive striking, judging timing with a well-timed jab and feints before opening up with power combos. However, Kape is somewhat reliant on the finish as he can be worn down by top control and persistent volume.
While Bontorin may be a well-rounded competitor, this is a bout as sure to make him a through and through grappler as any. Kape has dangerous one-punch power and an abnormal range for the division due to his sheer explosivity. Bontorin has clear edges within his grappling and mat work, but I do not see him having the wrestling or repetitive takedown attempts to bring the fight to the mat. Kape’s 80% takedown defense and range management should keep him at kicking range, picking apart Bontorin with his more powerful striker as the Brazilian leaps into the pocket. Expect Kape to land another home run hitter for the highlight reel.
My Pick: Manel Kape via Knockout
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Ramazan Emeev (WW)
A fan-friendly decision win on the Contender Series brought Jack Della Maddalena (11-2, 1-0 UFC) to the UFC. He wasted little time in his first outing, knocking out Pete Rodriguez in under three minutes. Maddalena is a crisp striker with beautiful footwork and boxing, keeping up an impressive volume and managing range quite well. He holds ten submissions on his pro record, with nine of them coming via knockout in the first two rounds. Though the Aussie is a striker, he has impeccable wrestling hips and elite scrambling, quickly regaining his footing when grounded.
Ramazan Emeev (20-5, 5-2 UFC) scored two decision wins to get back on track, but was beaten by Danny Roberts by split decision in his most recent outing. He holds ten career finishes, with seven coming by way of submission, though all of his UFC fights have gone the distance. Emeev is dominant once he can get it to the mat and has incredible top control, but has struggled with his takedowns against skilled ground artists. He has incredible stifling ability and technical striking, though his output could use some work. “Gorets” is most dominant when secured in top position, punishing his opponent with ground and pound.
THey certainly aren’t giving Maddalena any preferential matchmaking in his rise to the top, as Emeev is a tough test for anyone in the division. Once secured in top position, he is near impossible to get off and is excellent at managing position and grinding his opponent. Maddalena holds the clear advantage striking, both in technique and finishing ability, but he will need to stay upright to win this bout. While I think Emeev may get Maddalena to the ground, his takedown defense and scrambling should get him quickly back to his feet. I expect Maddalena to pick Emeev apart for a decision win, as the Russian has proven incredibly durable.
My Pick: Jack Della Maddalena via Decision
The card has an early start time, with the main card action kicking off at 6 PM EST.
Categories: UFC Predictions