After yet another week away from action, the UFC returns to the Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. We have a thirteen-bout fight card in store full of rising stars and promising matchups.
In the main event, Alexa Grasso looks to assert her name in the top five at Flyweight at the expense of the hard-charging Viviane Araujo. In the co-main,
Alexa Grasso vs. Viviane Araujo (FLW)
A loss to current Strawweight champ Carla Esparza sent Alexa Grasso (14-3, 6-3 UFC) up ten pounds to Flyweight. She has pieced together three straight victories, including a first-round submission over Joanne Wood in her last outing. Grasso has tight boxing fundamentals with a solid volume, also mixing up chopping low kicks. Her technical defense is a highlight, avoiding 63% of significant strikes thrown her way inside the Octagon. Her grappling has been steadily improving since her emergence in the UFC and her performance over Wood showed the work she has been putting in there. However, she can be overwhelmed on the mat when secured on her back.
Viviane Araujo (11-3, 5-2 UFC) made headlines in her UFC debut, securing a highlight reel KO up a division on short notice. She has gone 4-2 since then, most recently taking home a decision win over Andrea Lee. “Vivi” is a well-rounded and dangerous fighter, game for a scrap wherever the fight goes. She pushes a high pace on the feet with solid pressure and genuine power in her hands, though her head movement can be lacking. She has slick jiu-jitsu along with skilled wrestling, boasting a 90% takedown defense rate. Araujo’s main weakness is her cardio, often giving up the third round and seeing her output drop significantly. She has seven career finishes, with four by submission.
This should be an exciting contest likely to present itself in a back-and-forth affair. Both fighters are well-rounded, but with very different styles. Araujo looks to hold the grappling advantage, particularly with her wrestling and control, looking to take away the sharp hands of Grasso. While Araujo is also the more powerful puncher, Grasso has the advantage in technique and speed on the feet and I see her having success with her high-volume combos against the hard-nosed aggression of Araujo. This is a spot where Araujo needs to find an early finish, however, as her cardio has proven unable to hold up in the third round, much less the fifth. I’m expecting Araujo to score control time early before Grasso begins to rack up volume in the latter half, resulting in a late knockout or dominant decision.
My Pick: Alexa Grasso via Decision
Jonathan Martinez vs. Cub Swanson (FTW)
Jonathan Martinez (16-4, 7-3 UFC) emerged in the UFC off of a short-notice appearance, going 4-3 in his first seven fights under the promotional banner. “Dragon” is currently riding a three-fight win streak, all by unanimous decision. He has slick Muay Thai striking with his kicks being a prominent focus of his game. He utilizes his reach well, mixing in his hands with long, range-finding kicks. While he keeps a 60% defensive rate on the feet, his durability can be a concern, suffering knockdowns in both the Perez and Soukhamthath bouts, along with a KO defeat to Davey Grant. Martinez is not often thought of as a grappler, though he showed considerable improvements in his last bout, landing two takedowns on Vince Morales.
WEC and UFC veteran Cub Swanson (28-12, 13-6 UFC) will be stepping down to Bantamweight, looking for a career rejuvenation at 135 pounds. “Killer” Cub has been on the UFC roster since 2011, challenging elite fighters like Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway at every turn. Swanson is a dangerous finisher with powerful striking and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to his name with twelve knockouts among his seventeen career finishes. His last performance saw him get back on the winning track, scoring a wheel-kick knockout of Darren Elkins in the first round. His slick striking is most impressive with pinpoint accuracy and a diverse shot selection, though lapses in his grappling defense have seen him suffer seven of his losses by submission. Despite now being 38 years old, Swanson is 3-2 in his last five and still competing with killers like Giga Chikadze and Kron Gracie.
We have a fun prospect vs. veteran battle in our co-main between two well-rounded but aggressive strikers. Both fighters have skills on the mat, with Cub being the more live submission threat, though Martinez looks to have slightly better offensive wrestling. Regardless, both are primarily strikers with remarkably similar stats on the feet and we are likely in store for a slugfest. I am excited to see how Swanson looks at Bantamweight, as his frame is excellent for the division and he will likely carry his knockout power down to 135. While Martinez has a variety of offensive weaponry, his defense and durability remain in question. I don’t see him having much success dragging Cub to the mat, with even less likelihood of holding him left. Left to a kickboxing battle, I expect Swanson to utilize his superior firepower and boxing technique for a knockout in his Bantamweight debut.
My Pick: Cub Swanson via Knockout
Askar Askarov vs. Brandon Royval (FLW)
After a draw in his UFC debut opposite Brandon Moreno, then-undefeated Askar Askarov (14-1-1, 3-1-1 UFC) strung together three straight victories to put himself in a title eliminator opposite Kai Kara-France, though he lost a unanimous decision. “Bullet” is an excellent chain wrestler with a variety of submissions he can attack. He has slick scrambling and reversals, though his striking volume leaves something to be desired. Brandon Royval (14-6, 4-2 UFC) has proven himself all action TV since joining the UFC with sneaky submissions and heavy hands, along with bringing a hectic pace to each and every one of his fights. “Raw Dawg” is now riding two straight wins since a submission loss to Alexandre Pantoja, last scoring a guillotine choke over Matt Schnell in a truly wild affair at UFC 274. While he is a tremendous finishing threat, his striking and takedown defense can be porous.
I am most excited for this bout, as we are likely for a high-paced affair with plenty of wild grappling exchanges. Askarov is an elite Sambo practitioner who utilizes solid takedowns and scrambling, outworking grapplers like Tim Elliott and Joseph Benavidez on the mat. Royval is undoubtedly more live for a finish with a quirky jiu-jitsu offense and scrambling skills that could interrupt the top control of the Russian. Even on the feet, Royval has real power and high output, though defensive lapses leave him open for power shots. I expect Royval to keep the fight close with random eruptions of action with plenty of hectic scrambles and high volume exchanges. However, I see the persistent volume and control of Askarov narrowly claiming a decision, though I wouldn’t bet on Askarov at more than -200.
My Pick: Askar Askarov via Decision
Dusko Todorovic vs. Jordan Wright (MW)
A dominant decision win on the Contender Series saw Dusko Todorovic (11-3, 2-3 UFC) earn a UFC contract, scoring a second-round TKO over Dequan Townsend in his promotional debut. He is just 1-3 since last seen being floored by a Chidi Njokuani elbow. “Thunder” has heavy hands along with an offensive wrestling attack, with ten career stoppages. His head movement often leaves him open for the counter, suffering two of his recent losses by brutal knockout. Jordan Wright (12-3, 2-3 UFC) truly lives and dies by the sword inside the cage, without a single one of his pro bouts even reaching the halfway mark. “The Beverly Hills Ninja” blitzes forward with a variety of wild, powerful strikes, though he often leaves himself open for counters. He is a submission threat on the mat, though his wrestling needs improvement, particularly defensively.
Expect nothing short of insanity from this fight. Both fighters are well-rounded finishers without much regard for defensive awareness, and both have suffered their fair share of KO defeats inside the UFC. Todorovic certainly has the more technically developed skillset, along with the marginally superior defense. However, Todorovic struggles to deal with pressure, which Wright attacks with in spades. Both fighters have durability concerns along with knockout power, making this bout unlikely to hit the second round, much less go the distance. I would not be surprised by Wright running into a power shot, but I am expecting him to blitz through Todorovic’s defense for an early knockout. With that being said, look at the under 1.5 rounds from a betting perspective rather than the moneyline in this chaotic clash.
My Pick: Jordan Wright via Knockout
Alonzo Menifield vs. Misha Cirkunov (LHW)
Alonzo Menifield (12-3, 5-3 UFC) emerged in the UFC after two first-round knockouts on the Contender Series, one coming in just eight seconds. He went 4-3 in his first seven bouts with the UFC before picking up another first-round finish over the signed and released Askar Mozharov. “Atomic” has massive knockout power but has made improvements to his overall game, with a developing top game on the mat and improving cardio. Just 1-4 in his last 5 and winless in his last three bouts, Misha Cirkunov (15-8, 6-6 UFC) is returning to the Light Heavyweight division after two straight losses at Middleweight. He has high-level grappling with submission victories over the likes of Jimmy Crute and Nikita Krylov. His striking is serviceable and works well into his takedown entries, boasting an impressive success rate on his takedown attempts. However, his durability is becoming a concern at age 35, suffering knockouts in four of his UFC losses.
This fight is unlikely to last long, with both fighters being prolific finishers. Cirkunov is likely fighting for his spot in the promotion here and will need to drag the fight to the mat early and often. While Cirkunov is defensively responsible, his durability remains a major concern. In addition, recent fights have seen him struggle in recent fights, without displaying the skillset he came into the UFC with. Menifield has a massive striking advantage with the power to take advantage of CIrkunov’s chin, though he will assuredly need to stay away from grappling. With a high takedown defense rate and improving cardio, expect Menifield to secure the KO, though the moneyline on him is too high for me.
My Pick: Alonzo Menifield via Knockout
The action kicks off at 4 PM EST, with the main card live at 7!
Categories: UFC Predictions