UFC Vegas 65 staff picks and predictions: We’re liking Lewis to get it done

Oh boy, this card leaves a lot to be desired. Sure there could be some great fights on Saturday night, but it’s hard to…

By: Tim Bissell | 11 months ago
UFC Vegas 65 staff picks and predictions: We’re liking Lewis to get it done
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Oh boy, this card leaves a lot to be desired. Sure there could be some great fights on Saturday night, but it’s hard to get up for them when there aren’t many fighters on the card who have much of a reputation in the Octagon.

One half of the main event has plenty of reputation, though. The largely beloved Derrick Lewis will be taking on the unheralded Sergey Spivak here. The 37-year-old Lewis is in one of the roughest patches of his career, going 2-3 in his last five with all losses coming via TKO/KO. His last fight was a first round TKO loss to Sergei Pavlovich in July.

But us at BE have faith in ‘The Black Beast’. We’re unanimous in throwing our support behind Lewis which… might not be a good thing. We’ll have to wait and see if Lewis can avoid the BE curse this Saturday night.

Check out our other picks below and don’t forget to share yours in the comment section!

*Reminder: I’m making my picks based solely on fighter’s past winning percentages as an experiment to see how effective that nugget of data is at predicting fight outcomes. More on that here. You can see the data here. This method of picking fights is currently 66-42. Once 1,000 fights have been logged like this, we’ll take a look at what it all might mean.

Derrick Lewis vs. Sergey Spivak

Zane Simon: I have a sinking suspicion that Lewis’ time as a top heavyweight is at an end. His game has always been thin and only functional in the most relative of circumstances. It says more about heavyweight that he’s been so successful for so long as anything else. That said, Spivac really doesn’t look at all like the kind of guy that beats Lewis. As much as his wrestling defense has been a liability, it’s rarely just takedowns and top control that are enough to put him away. If Lewis can stay patient and ride out tough spots, it seems likely he’ll find enough moments on the feet to end this. Derrick Lewis via KO, round 3.

Victor Rodriguez: I’ll be kind enough to say that Lewis has lost to better people than Spivak has won against, and Spivak won’t have the power to put him away. Also, Derrick isn’t fighting in Texas and has the advantage of the smaller cage. He might spend more time engaging in adult activities after the fight than the fight itself, and I applaud that. You should, too. Derrick Lewis by TKO.

Tim Bissell: The crude metric is picking Lewis here, since it’s all about seeing if past UFC success is a predictor for a given fight night’s success. Lewis has .680 winning percentage over his 25 UFC contests. Spivak is 6-3, which means he is just behind Lewis with a .666 record. I personally wouldn’t pick Lewis here, Spivak lands more punches, is slightly more accurate and has far better striking defense. He also goes for takedowns. Lewis’ only chance of winning this one is landing a haymaker, which he is entirely capable of. But as he gets older, it’s going to be harder and harder to make that happen. Derrick Lewis by KO

Staff picking Lewis: Dayne, Kristen, Chris, Bissell, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Spivak:

Ion Cutelaba vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu

Zane Simon: It’s not so much that Nzechukwu is exceptionally technical anywhere or that he’s incredibly dangerous anywhere. Hell, we’ve even seen him stopped, so we know he’s not impossible to hurt either. But, he is very durable and consistent and rarely puts himself in position to lose fights easily. Given too that he tends to pick up momentum as fights go on, and given the myriad of ways that Cutelaba tends to throw himself into danger over and over again, it just feels like Nzechukwu has to be the pick here. Kennedy Nzechukwu by TKO, round 3.

Tim Bissell: Nzechukwu is the pick here. Cutelaba has a woeful record in the UFC (0.384). I think reach will play the biggest factor in this fight with Nzechukwu having an eight inch advantage over his opponent. Because of that I think Cutelaba is going to be forced to bet everything on getting a takedown and trying to sap Nzechukwu’s gas tank. However, Nzecykwu has decent takedown defense (81% so far in the UFC), so I think he should be able to shrug off those attacks. If Cutelaba gets frustrated, I can see him landing on bottom in an exchange and succumbing to some big ground and pound. Kennedy Nzechukwu via TKO.

Victor Rodriguez: Bruh. THIS is before the main event? Like, I’m the first guy to tell you card hierarchy has been dead for years, but come on. Do I like Ion? Absolutely! Do I trust him to go out there and not revert into a feral bush animal relying exclusively on instinct and physicality? No sir-ee Bob. I’ll trust the guy that fights ugly over the dude that does a Tasmanian Devil impression to gas himself out. Kennedy Nzechukwu by TKO.

Staff picking Cutelaba: Dayne
Staff picking Nzechukwu: Kristen, Chris, Bissell, Zane, Victor, Stephie

Chase Sherman vs. Waldo Cortes-Acosta

Victor Rodriguez: Waldo started as a baseball player, which we all know can’t fight for shit. He overcame that deficit to a degree that he should get a Hallmark movie just for that alone. Sherman has unfortunately hit his ceiling, and Waldo’s gonna hit him harder than that. He’s bigger, he’s stronger, and despite his defensive lapses and relative inexperience, the dude can hurt Chase. Besides, you already know where my loyalties lie. Let’s get it. Waldo Cortes-Acosta by TKO.

Tim Bissell: A classic gate-keeper fight, with two men both coming off wins over Jared Vanderaa. Sherman upset Vanderaa with a TKO win in July whereas Cortes-Acosta took a decision over him just last month. This feels like another test to see how legit Cortes-Acosta is in the very shallow heavyweight division. His 8-0 record gets him the pick here, but you have to be wary of Sherman who has played spoiler more than once in the Octagon. I’m siding with the metric here simply because of how much punishment Sherman takes. He absorbs 6.51 significant strikes a minute, which is an absurdly high number. If his defence is that leaky versus Cortes-Acosta, he won’t last the entire fight. Waldo Cortes-Acosta by TKO.

Zane Simon: There’s no real reason Sherman should lose this fight. But he can’t seem to help trading with anyone and everyone, no matter their skill level. Cortes-Acosta doesn’t have a very well developed MMA game yet, but he’s big and fast and powerful and willing to stand in and take a shot to land a shot. If Sherman can turn this into a brawl and stay conscious, he’ll likely come out ahead late. But it feels more likely that this stays tenative and ugly, with lots of cage grinding. Waldo Cortes-Acosta by decision.

Staff picking Sherman: Dayne, Chris
Staff picking Cortes-Acosta: Kristen, Bissell, Zane, Victor, Stephie

Muslim Salikhov vs. Andre Fialho

Zane Simon: Give Fialho a creative range striker and he tends to freeze up a bit. There’s a clear path to victory here if he can get inside and change levels on Salikhov, or put the Russian on the back foot with a steady diet of jabs. But neither of those things seem as likely as Salikhov getting to lead from distance. Muslim Salikhov via decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Loved watching Fialho’s earlier fights where he’s pull some wild punches out of nowhere. But he needs layers against the King of Kung Fu, and I’m not sure he’s got them. Versatility should be key for Salikhov. Muslim Salikhov by decision.

Staff picking Salikhov: Kristen, Bissell, Zane, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Fialho: Dayne, Chris

Jack Della Maddalena vs. Danny Roberts

Zane Simon: Della Maddalena’s penchant for pressure and volume while selecting multiple targets feels entirely like bad news for Roberts, who doesn’t stay comfortable for long in pocket exchanges, and has a lot of trouble keeping his feet under him while backing up. Jack Della Maddalena via KO, Round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: Hot Chocolate can crack, but Jack is cut from a different cloth. The guy just has a different kind of disciplined striking and refuses to be bullied. Plus, he has a more varied offensive array. Gotta go with the newer kid on the block. Jack Della Maddalena via TKO, Round 2.

Tim Bissell: I just feel like Roberts has been in too many wars to survive the precision striking he’ll face against Della Maddalena. So I’m siding with the metric here (which favours undefeated fighters). Jack Della Maddalena via TKO

Staff picking Della Maddalena: Dayne, Kristen, Bissell, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Roberts: Chris

Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Charles Johnson

Zane Simon: Two flyweights that seem as though they have trouble keeping up with the kind of tempo that UFC level flyweight bouts demand. Johnson isn’t a terrible defensive fighter, but even regionally, he’s been more dependent on having a few big moments that turn his fights around than winning rounds. Think Zhumagulov’s hard work on throwing more and staying on the front foot finally pays off for him. Zhalgas Zhumagulov by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Zhalgas seems to have a little more long-term discipline and poise, so I guess I’ll trust him here? Meh. Zhalgas Zhumagulov by decision or whatever.

Staff picking Zhumagulov: Chris, Zane, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Johnson: Dayne, Kristen, Bissell

Jennifer Maia vs. Maryna Moroz

Zane Simon: The problem for Jennifer Maia seems to be that if an opponent can out-work her standing, she doesn’t have a lot of other places to easily take the fight. Moroz isn’t the strongest natural athlete out there, but she’s got the more nuanced and varied boxing game here. Maryna Moroz by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Nope, I still trust Jennifer Maia. Especially when it comes to her ground game and clinch. She should be able to slow Maryna down and outwork her to earn a solid win here. Jennifer Maia by decision.

Staff picking Maia: Dayne, Chris, Victor
Staff picking Moroz: Kristen, Bissell, Zane, Stephie

Miles Johns vs. Vince Morales

Zane Simon: Vince Morales is so focused on being a puncher that it doesn’t seem like it takes much to disrupt his flow. Low kicks and/or takedowns both do the job, the latter of which should be a boon for Johns. Miles Johns by decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Eh. I got nothing. Vince Morales by decision.

Staff picking Johns: Dayne, Kristen, Chris, Bissell, Zane, Stephie
Staff picking Morales: Victor

Ricky Turcios vs. Kevin Natividad

Zane Simon: Really hard to like what I saw last time out from Turcios, who landed just 11% of his strikes and seemed to be in complete turmoil as to how to approach his opponent. The man came up on the regionals as a go anywhere, throw anything wild man. Trying to course correct that into being a cautious out-fighter now seems like it might be too big an ask. Kevin Natividad via decision.

Staff picking Turcios: Kristen, Bissell, Victor, Stephie
Staff picking Natividad: Dayne, Chris, Zane

Maria Oliveira vs. Vanessa Demopoulos

Zane Simon: Oliveira throws volume and Demopoulos has trouble controlling pace and where or how a fight takes place. Sub game is a big equalizer, though, if Demopoulos can hit quick transitions off takedowns. Maria Oliveira by decision.

Staff picking Oliveira: Chris, Zane
Staff picking Demopoulos: Dayne, Kristen, Bissell, Victor, Stephie

Fernie Garcia vs. Brady Hiestand

Zane Simon: A lot like Morales above, Garcia seems like he takes too many tools off the table when he fights. Dude is a violent puncher, but fighters who can go after him aggressively can find their own chances to land and opportunities to wrestle. That should play well into Hiestand’s style, as long as he doesn’t gas himself out. Brady Hiestand by decision.

Staff picking Garcia: Bissell
Staff picking Hiestand: Dayne, Kristen, Chris, Zane, Victor, Stephie

Natalia Silva vs. Tereza Bleda

Zane Simon: Silva did just beat a giantess, so there’s no saying that she might not be able to do it twice in a row. But this time around it really does feel like a strawweight facing off against a bantamweight. Won’t be surprised to see Silva down at 115 in the future, and there’s no way Bleda stays at 125 for long. Tereza Bleda by decision.

Staff picking Silva: Kristen
Staff picking Bleda: Dayne, Chris, Bissell, Zane, Victor, Stephie

A strong week for the staffers this week with both Dayne and Kristen going 11-3. That’s enough for both of them to leapfrog Zane (8-6) at the top of the leader board. Anton and my ‘crude metric’ went 10-4 last weekend. A new player has entered the game, with BE’s resident cartoonist Chris Rini getting in on the action. He’s decided to pick fights with a literal coin flip (with a Danish 2 kroner piece, by the way). Hilariously, Chris went 7-7 on the night.

Leader board (as of Sept 3):

1. Dayne 72-33 .686

2. Kristen 65-32 .670

3. Zane 72-36 .667

4. Anton 40-22 .645

5. Stephie 67-41 .620

6. Bissell 66-44 .611

7. Victor 18-12 .600

8. Lewis 12-8 .600

9. Chris 7-7 .500


Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 65%

    Derrick Lewis

    (71 votes)

  • 34%

    Sergey Spivak

    (37 votes)

108 votes total

Vote Now

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Email me at tim@bloodyelbow.com. Nice messages will get a response.

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