The UFC is back in action this weekend with a Fight Night card out of the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada!
In the main event, ranked Lightweight prospects Arman Tsarukyan and Mateusz Gamrot face off to determine the best new name in the top 10 at 155 pounds. Meanwhile, veteran Neil Magny looks to turn back the Kazakh onslaught of Shavkat Rakhmonov in our co-main.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Mateusz Gamrot (LW)
Arman Tsarukyan (18-2, 5-1 UFC) made his way to the UFC through a short-notice debut against Islam Makhachev, and impressed in defeat, exchanging with Makhachev on the feet and the mat to earn Fight of the Night honors. He is undefeated in the promotion since, rattling off five straight wins and two stoppages. His most impressive showing came in his last outing, as he finished grappling ace Joel Alvarez with ground and pound. “Ahalkalakets” is incredibly well-rounded with diverse and technical Muay Thai, and a masterful top position with quick scrambles. He holds twelve career stoppages, with seven by way of knockout. Arman utilizes excellent feinting when striking, and throws no shortage of high-amplitude strikes and spinning attacks.
Claiming double champ status in Poland’s KSW, Mateusz Gamrot (20-1, 3-1 UFC) came to the UFC with much anticipation. His first outing saw him lose his undefeated record to Guram Kutateladze, who emerged with a controversial split decision in their October 2020 Fight of the Night. He has been nothing short of dominant since, scoring three straight stoppages, most recently a technical knockout over Diego Ferreira due to a knee against the cage. Gamrot has an oppressive top game with a great jiu-jitsu background, winning gold at ADCC twice. He is technical on the feet, with a wide strike diversity and dangerous knockout power. He has stopped the same number of opponents in the same way as Arman, with seven by knockout and five by submission. Gamrot holds an impressive 64% striking defense rate and attempts over five takedowns per fifteen minutes inside the Octagon.
This bout is UFC matchmaking at its finest, with two elite prospects matched up to determine who is ready for a serious step up in competition. Both fighters are incredibly well-rounded and technical with high fight IQs, making this contest into a game of inches. I’m inclined to disagree with the oddsmakers here, as Gamrot has a high level BJJ accolade, and excellent scrambling. While Tsarukyan is more than talented in his own right on the mat, expect Gamrot to end up in top position more often, along with being the more likely party to hunt for a submission. The fight is much closer on the feet, as Tsarukyan will likely have the speed advantage, with a highly technical Muay Thai style. Gamrot also holds an advantage in having gone five rounds before, a factor I certainly expect to come into play. In an incredibly close fight, I am siding with Gamrot to work behind his jab and range and mix in takedowns for a tense decision nod.
My Pick: Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Neil Magny vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov (WW)
Neil Magny (26-8, 19-7 UFC) scored three dominant decision victories over the likes of Li Jingliang and former champion Robbie Lawler before running into Michael Chiesa, who overworked him on the mat in a five-round decision. He has rebounded nicely, scoring two decision wins over Geoff Neal and Max Griffin. “The Haitian Sensation” uses his massive 6’3 frame and eighty-inch reach to outstrike his opponents, using long strikes and expert clinch work to dictate the range at which the fight takes place. Magny also has fantastic wrestling to back him up and a wealth of knowledge at his disposal about submissions, although he clearly favors position. Magny is a UFC staple and versatile threat, relying on distance striking and top control to net the victory.
Shavkat Rakhmonov (15-0, 3-0 UFC) has proven himself has force to be reckoned with, finishing all three of his UFC opponents less than halfway through the fight. His most impressive outing came in his last bout with Carlston Harris, where he landed a spinning hook kick KO in the first round. “Nomad” holds a high level Sambo background, and is dominant on the mat. He offers powerful ground strikes and positioning, along with flashy Muay Thai striking. Shavkat has finished each one of his professional opponents, with eight coming by way of knockout.
Magny proves himself a gamer once again by taking this fight, against an opponent few are quick to call out. Magny is a tried and true talent in the Welterweight division, with aggressive grappling and top notch range control. However, Shavkat is an awful stylistic matchup for Magny, with the well-rounded skillset and skilled defense to excel wherever the fight goes. I expect a close fight on the feet before Shavkat catches a submission.
My Pick: Shavkat Rakhmonov via Submission
Josh Parisian vs. Alan Baudot (HW)
Josh Parisian (14-5, 1-2 UFC) came into the UFC off of a Contender Series finish. He did not immediately find success, losing a decision to Parker Porter. He rebounded in a split decision over Roque Martinez, before being pounded out by Don’Tale Mayes in his most recent bout. Parisian is an aggressive striker who favors wild spinning attacks, with a dangerous top game. However, his defense is lacking, on both the feet and the mat. Alan Baudot (8-3, 0-2 UFC) made a short-notice debut against Tom Aspinall and was quickly finished. He is yet to claim a UFC win, with a No Contest to Rodrigo Nascimento and a decision loss to Parker Porter. Baudot is a kickboxer with a technical approach. He has heavy hands, stopping all but one win via knockout.
To be perfectly honest, I am surprised to see this bout make the featured bout with the treasure trove of prelims, yet here we are. The fighters are likely fighting for their UFC contracts in this bout, ensuring we will see some action. Parisian is the more well-rounded fighter, but I do not see him with the takedown accuracy or persistence to reliably hold Baudot down. In a striking affair, I side with Baudot’s superior defense, especially as Parisian’s gas tank winds down. I see a wild start before Baudot takes over for a late knockout or decision.
My Pick: Alan Baudot via Knockout
Thiago Moises vs. Christos Giagos (LW)
Thiago Moises (15-6, 4-4 UFC) scored three straight wins after a 1-2 start to his Octagon career. He has lost his last two outings, being stopped by Islam Makhachev and Joel Alvarez. His most impressive performance to date was his win over veteran Michael Johnson, earning a second-round heel hook finish after being soundly outstruck in the first round. Moises has capable kickboxing and solid power, but his main skill is in the submissions. Moises was the LFA and RFA champion and he has incredible cardio that has been well displayed in five-rounds bouts. His Octagon career has shown his lapses in striking and poor movement when backed up against the cage and he often lacks the takedown chops to force it into the grappling arena, but is more than capable off of his back.
After a 1-2 stint in the UFC, Christos Giagos (19-9, 5- 5UFC) returned to go 4-2 in his next six before running into Arman Tsarukyan, who finished him in the first round. Giagos has technical boxing, but not the most power, landing the seven knockouts on his record against low competition or with sweeping overhands. Giagos needs takedowns to secure the victory in most of his matches and has the wrestling background to get it there, averaging more than three takedowns per fifteen minutes in his UFC career.
I like this matchup, pitting two fighters with diverse skill sets opposite one another. Moises has the more devastating striking and mixes it up well, though his accuracy leaves something to be desired. Giagos holds the more aggressive wrestling attack, but Moises is a dangerous force on the mat, with a variety of submissions he will attack. I think this will be a chess match of technique unless Moises jumps on an early submission. I favor the higher level of competition for Moises, and I expect him to win a competitive decision.
My Pick: Thiago Moises via Decision
Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Nate Maness (BW)
Umar Nurmagomedov (14-0, 2-0 UFC) had immediate hype in the UFC through the success of his cousin Khabib but expanded upon that hype with dominant finishes over Brian Kelleher and Sergey Morozov. Umar comes in with the fantastic Dagestani wrestling and Sambo background his namesake would suggest. However, his striking is no joke, either, as the Russian fires off no shortage of spinning attacks and heavy kicks. Nurmagomedov has stopped eight of his pro victories, with seven by way of submission.
After signing with the UFC, Nate Maness (14-1, 3-0 UFC) battled to a hard-fought decision against Johnny Munoz Jr. to pick up his first UFC win. He has collected two stoppages since, knocking out Tony Gravely and sinking in a rear-naked choke against Luke Sanders. “Mayhem” started his career with a wrestling background, and displays slick submission skills as well. His striking has rapidly improved since the beginning of his career, displaying a clean jab and quick boxing combinations. Eight of his wins are inside the distance, with five by way of knockout.
While Nurmagomedov is the rightful favorite, I think the current betting odds massively disrespect Maness. Maness has a wrestling background and powerful striking, along with a solid work rate. However, I see the grappling dominance of Umar being too much for Maness to handle, even though I do expect Maness to take the striking advantage. While a dominant Nurmagomedov showing is likely, I see Maness having to jiu-jitsu defense to last all three rounds.
My Pick: Umar Nurmagomedov via Decision
Chris Curtis vs. Rodolfo Vieira (MW)
We have a fantastic stylistic matchup opening the main card, which will almost assuredly end inside the distance.
Chris Curtis (28-8, 2-0 UFC) stepped up on short notice in his UFC debut against Phil Hawes, scoring a beautiful knockout in the first round as a hefty underdog. Once again billed as the betting underdog in his second Octagon bout, he knocked out Brendan Allen in the second round to extend his win streak to seven. “The Action Man” is a veteran of promotions such as CES, XMAA, and the PFL, and even scored a hook kick knockout on the Contender Series. Curtis has excellent boxing at a fast clip, along with well-timed counters and adept defensive grappling. He has scored fourteen of his seventeen stoppages via knockout.
If you are not tuned into the competitive jiu-jitsu scene, you may not be familiar with Rodolfo Vieira (8-1, 3-1 UFC). “The Black Belt Hunter” is widely regarded as one of the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioners of all time, winning the IBJJF and ADCC World Championships multiple times, as well as championing numerous other BJJ organizations. The former Heavyweight has won has finished all of his eight victories, with seven coming by submission, as well as some terrifying power. However, with his impressive physique comes a cardio concern, as he ran out of gas in his lone loss to Anthony Hernadez, leading to a submission loss in the second round. He rebounded in his last contest, submitting Dustin Stotzfus in the third round and proving his cardio down the stretch.
As with many stylistic clashes featuring opposing specialists, one fighter will have success depending where the fight takes place. Chris Curtis has a clear striking edge, with the timing and power on his counters to catch Vieira when he exposes his chin. Similarly, Vieira will find domination on the mat, with the highest caliber Jiu-Jitsu background Curtis has faced in his lengthy career. I expect Vieira to shoot for a takedown early, and whether Curtis can shuck him off will reveal how the fight plays out. Vieira’s gaps in striking are glaring and I expect Curtis to find the button if Vieira cannot quickly and consistently drag the fight to the mat. While I find myself going back and forth quite a bit, Curtis has displayed solid takedown defense in his career, and I expect him to find Vieira’s chin early.
My Pick: Chris Curtis via Knockout
The card kicks off at 7 PM EST, with the main card getting going at 10 PM!
Categories: UFC Predictions