After a week away from action, the UFC returns to the Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada for a thirteen-bout Fight Night card.
The main event is a top-five Strawweight contest pitting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and ADCC champion Mackenzie Dern against aggressive striker Yan Xiaonan. Randy Brown faces off with dangerous veteran Francisco Trinaldo in the co-main, while Mike Davis and Viacheslav Borschev are set to open the main card in a striker’s delight.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Yan Xiaonan (SW)
ADCC champion Mackenzie Dern (12-2, 7-2 UFC) quickly became a hyped prospect, going 6-1 in her first seven UFC bouts before dropping a five-round decision to Marina Rodriguez. She rebounded in her last outing, scoring a split decision victory over Tecia Torres by exchanging strikes on the outside. Dern is a truly elite grappler, with the submission arsenal to quickly find the tap from top or bottom position. Once the match hits the mat, Dern is always live to end the fight. However, her wrestling does not match up to her jiu-jitsu and we have seen her struggle to find success when unable to take fights to the mat, as she is willing to pull guard or take lackadaisical shots. On the feet, Dern can be wild and eats more than her fair share of punishment in the pocket, though she does have some power in her hands.
A six-fight win streak saw Yan Xiaonan (15-3, 6-2 UFC) knocking on the doors of a title shot, though she was finished by Carla Esparza in a title eliminator. She looked to rebound opposite Marina Rodriguez but lost a close split decision. “Nine” keeps a high striking pace with solid power not often seen in the Strawweight division. While she can be lost off her back, she sports solid takedown defense and works back to her feet quickly. Yan is best when pushing the pace with her pressure and volume, mixing it up in the pocket with long combos. Six of her seven stoppages have come by knockout, though she is yet to find a finish in the Octagon.
Our main event features a clear-cut stylistic clash between the grappling of Dern and the striking of Yan. Both fighters have clear paths to victory, they just need to keep the fight within their wheelhouse. Dern quickly locks up submissions and will likely find another here if she can corral Yan to the mat early. However, despite Yan being billed as the striker here, I see her as the better wrestler. That is by no means me saying that she will use her wrestling to offensive success, but she should have little trouble keeping Dern off of her hips, who struggled to ground lesser wrestlers than Yan. On the feet, Yan has the pace, power, and pressure to keep the volume heavy on Dern, not allowing the ADCC champion to utilize her judo takedowns. Unless Yan indulges Dern in a grappling match, she should pick away at the Brazilian for a late knockout or decision.
My Pick: Yan Xiaonan via Knockout
Randy Brown vs. Francisco Trinaldo (WW)
Two straight finishes brought Randy Brown (15-4, 9-4 UFC) into an August 2020 clash with Vicente Luque, suffering a second-round knockout loss. Undaunted, “Rude Boy” has rebounded with three straight wins, including a highlight reel one-arm rear naked choke over Alex Oliveira. Brown has a well-rounded fighting style complemented by his explosiveness and physical advantages, with a massive height and reach for 170 pounds. He uses his range well and mixes up his attack well, dealing some good damage to the body. Brown can be found in close exchanges and is susceptible off his back, but also brings in solid top control and a varied submission attack. His eleven stoppages are split six and five between knockout and submission.
Francisco Trinaldo (28-8, 18-7 UFC) is a true veteran of the Octagon, competing in the UFC since 2012 off the first season of TUF Brazil. He is 3-1 since moving up to Welterweight, currently riding a two-fight win streak. “Massaranduba” has a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pedigree, along with heavy power in his hands and stalkign pressure. He has excellent top control and incredible recoverability, as Trinaldo has come back from adversity to secure victory in recent appearances. However, now at 44 years old, there are numerous questions about Trinaldo’s future, as his speed and chin have shown weakness in recent years.
This is a fun co-main between two well-rounded gamers, and we likely have a great scrap on our hands here. Trinaldo’s power and athleticism have still been apparent, even at 44, with a clear decision win in his last outing. However, Brown presents a number of challenges for his style, even setting aside Trinaldo’s age. His six-inch height advantage and eight-inch edge in reach will let him find success against Trinaldo on the feet, with his kicks likely to be a key factor. While I give Trinaldo the edge in jiu-jitsu, Brown has the wrestling to keep himself on the feet and pick apart Trinaldo or find success from top position, as Brown sports terrific submission defense. I expect Brown to secure a wide decision or late knockout over the aging veteran.
My Pick: Randy Brown via Decision
Raoni Barcelos vs. Trevin Jones (BW)
Our featured bout pits two game Bantamweights against each other, sure to push the pace for as long as the fight goes. Raoni Barcelos (16-3, 5-2) racked up a five-fight win streak to establish himself just outside the Bantamweight rankings. He has been outmatched in his last two outings, dropping decision losses to Victor Henry and Timur Valiev. Barcelos is incredibly technical and well-rounded, with slick grappling along with heavy hands working in crisp combos. Trevin Jones (13-8, 1-2 UFC) upset Timur Valiev with a knockout in his UFC debut, only for that win to be overturned to a No Contest. “5 Star” picked up another knockout over Mario Bautista before losing his next two to Saidyokub Kakhromonov and Javid Basharat.
For all of Jones’ danger, it seems that Barcelos has the technical edge in nearly every area of this fight. His expert takedown defense along with high volume should keep Jones on his back foot, with the grappling to keep it on the feet or control on the mat. Jones is incredibly tough, but I see him being outpointed on the feet for a wide decision.
My Pick: Raoni Barcelos via Decision
Sodiq Yusuff vs. Don Shainis (FTW)
After earning a UFC contract on the Contender Series over Mike Davis, Sodiq Yusuff (12-2, 5-1 UFC) rattled off four straight wins before suffering a decision loss to Arnold Allen. He rebounded in March, taking home a decision win over Alex Caceres. “Super” Sodiq has a clinical Muay Thai game with crisp combinations and solid power in his hands. He mixes his attack up well, targeting the body along with mixing in powerful low kicks. He sports terrific takedown defense, primarily looking to keep the fight on the feet. Don Shainis (12-3) is stepping up on short notice here and is a solid addition to the UFC roster. The FAC and Cage Titans champion has a powerful striking style that has seen him secure three straight knockout victories in his last three fights. His ground game is serviceable and he attacks well from top position, but I’d like to see more of how he does off his back.
This has the stylistic pairing to be a barnburner, though Yusuff is a MASSIVE step up in competition for Shainis. Don Shainis has been tearing it up on the regional circuit and presents a number of offensive threats, though his level of competition to this point leaves much to be desired. Yusuff mixes up his attacks better, keeps an excellent volume and pace over fifteen minutes, along with holding the much more technical striking, operating in crisp straights and tight combos. While I fully expect Shainis to make this a dog fight, Yusuff’s speed and volume look to catch the judges’ eye over fifteen minutes.
My Pick: Sodiq Yusuff via Decision
John Castañeda vs. Daniel Santos (140-lb. Catchweight)
John Castañeda (19-5, 2-1 UFC) made his UFC debut as a short-notice replacement and suffered a decision loss to Nathaniel Wood. “Sexi Mexi” returned with a vengeance, knocking out Eddie Wineland in the first round before choking out Miles Johns in February. He uses slick striking from the Southpaw stance, with heavy low kicks and good usage of range. He mixes it up well with his grappling attack and pressure but does his best work with his hands. His fourteen stoppages are evenly split between knockouts and submissions. Daniel Santos (9-2, 0-1 UFC) also came in through a short-notice opportunity and dropped a decision to Julio Arce. “Willycat” is an all-action striker who throws no shortage of spinning attacks and high amplitude kicks. He is dangerous on the mat as well and has terrific control, but his gas tank is suspect.
I am expecting fireworks in this fight as both fighters love to stand and bang, but can thrive on the mat if it goes there as well. Castañeda is the more technical striker and uses his range well with a healthy dose of pressure. Santos has the explosiveness and power to compete on the feet, though his gas tank has repeatedly proven porous past the first round. I have found myself going back and forth on my pick for this fight, with the fight much closer than the odds indicate. Expect a strong Santos start before he slows and Sexi Mexi picks him apart for the late knockout.
My Pick: John Castañeda via Knockout
Mike Davis vs. Viacheslav Borschev (LW)
After a short notice debut loss to Gilbert Burns, Mike Davis (9-2, 2-1 UFC) has put together two straight UFC wins, including one of the most one-sided beatdowns we have seen in recent years over Thomas Gifford. “Beast Boy” has a powerful Muay Thai attack with dangerous combinations, maximizing his length incredibly well. While Davis can be vulnerable on his back, he also presents solid top control and numerous avenues to finish the fight from top position. Viacheslav Borschev (6-2, 1-1 UFC) earned a contract off the Contender Series last year and quickly secured a knockout over Dakota Bush, though he dropped a decision to Marc Diakese in his most recent outing. Borschev is a technical kickboxer with ferocious one-shot power, slinging hooks with reckless abandon. While he is always live for a KO on the feet, he can be stifled when put on his back.
We look to be in store for an aggressive striking affair, though Davis may find success with his top game. On the feet, Davis brings in the superior volume and strike diversity, while Borschev has the one-shot power and speed to quickly close the show. Both fighters mix up their attacks well, but I see the volume of Davis likely taking the edge on the feet with his fast combinations and consistent range finders. Davis also has avenues to victory through his superior ground game and extensive pace, having proven he can excel in a fifteen-minute firefight. While Borschev is live for the knockout, look for Davis to take over with his volume in the second round for a clear decision win.
My Pick: Mike Davis via Decision
The main card kicks off at 7 PM EST, with the prelims getting going at 4 PM.
Categories: UFC Predictions