While UFC Vegas 70 isn’t the best quality Fight Night the UFC can offer, it’s not too shabby. Given it’s a Fight Night at the Apex, it could be considered downright good. The main event may not be exquisite or a can’t miss, Nikita Krylov clashing with Ryan Spann over five rounds is a perfectly acceptable contest. The co-main event between Andre Muniz and Brendan Allen is another contest that could be sold as a main event contest as well. Plus, the we’re also receiving the long awaited return of Tatiana Suarez, who was on the verge of fighting for a title before her health problems sprang up. There were many, myself included, who didn’t think we’d see her fight again. If she can come close to what she was before, the UFC is picking itself up a hell of a talent.
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Nikita Krylov vs. Ryan Spann, Light Heavyweight
The ten year anniversary of Krylov’s UFC debut is creeping up this year. While he took a hiatus from the organization, it’s crazy to look back on how far he has come in that time. That doesn’t mean he has eliminated the brain farts that have been one of his defining features, but he has cut down on them and has developed into a legit top ten light heavyweight.
Spann’s road hasn’t been quite as adventurous as Krylov’s, but it has been a hell of a journey as well. How the 6’5” behemoth ever made 185 will forever be a mystery, but he has settled down into being one of the steadier presences in the division. Coming off the biggest win of his career when he KO’d former title challenger Dominick Reyes, Spann declared he has only begun taking his training seriously. If he’s being serious about that and he’s been able to advance to this point in his career, what type of fighter can he become if he really is taking his career seriously? Then again, if he hasn’t been taking his career seriously, what’s to say we can trust his ability to flip the switch and do so now?
Krylov’s journey has been more about a lack of maturity as opposed to a lack of a work ethic. After all, he was only 21 when he debuted as a chunky heavyweight with a terrible gas tank. Even as a youngster, his physical gifts were obvious, winning fights in spite of his fight IQ. As his level of competition grew, his intelligence was forced to grow as well. Realizing he can’t overrun all his opponents, he has learned to pace himself. Realizing some opponents would be better to take to the mat than try to trade with, he’s proven to be a boring grinder in some fights, belying his reputation as a reckless striker. That doesn’t mean he won’t let the fists fly, but it’s no longer his main course of attack. How will he deal with Spann?
That’s hard to say. Spann tends to be very deliberate on the feet, though he does unleash his fury once he has his opponent hurt. Fortunately for him, that’s proven to be a frequent occurrence. It used to be Spann relied only on his own prodigious physical gifts. Since teaming with Fortis MMA, he’s become a formidable boxer. Couple that with an underrated submission game – his guillotine in particular is potent – and it’s been a rare occurrence for his fights to go the distance. Then again, part of that is due to his own mental miscues.
This is a very difficult contest to predict. Spann is probably the better grappler, but Krylov is certainly the better wrestler. Krylov is more aggressive, which could lead him to walking into a hard right hand from Spann. Then again, it’s been a while since Krylov made any major mistakes on the feet. Who is the better athlete is up for debate. Spann’s record in terms of wins and losses is more impressive, but Krylov has faced the superior competition by a wide margin. This should serve as a breakout win for either competitor. I’m having the hardest time picking one or the other. The betting odds are already close, but I’d say they should be closer. Ultimately, I’m siding with Spann. It isn’t for anything on tape or paper; it’s that Krylov has disappointed so many times that I don’t feel comfortable picking him in these types of contests any longer. Spann via submission of RD2
Andre Muniz vs. Brendan Allen, Middleweight
Muniz may be one of the few middleweights who hopes Israel Adesanya regains his title from Alex Pereira. It has nothing to do with the matchup; Muniz owns a significant advantage on the mat against either fighter while being at a disadvantage on the feet. It has everything to do with the number of notable middleweights with losses at the hands of Adesanya. If Adesanya regains the belt, Muniz has a quicker road to the title.
Granted, Muniz needs to complete the path to get there and there’s no doubt Allen has the ability to upend Muniz’s journey. Then again, it’s never been a question of Allen’s talent. It’s been a question of maturity more than anything. While Allen has 25 professional fights under his belt over the course of the past seven years, he’s still only 27. A plus athlete with good size and technique, it’s been a matter of developing consistency and avoiding the mental miscues that tend to come with youth.
Whether Allen is mature enough to overwhelm the likes of Muniz is up for debate. If the fight remains standing, there’s no doubt Allen is the favorite. Perhaps he gets overconfident – which is usually where his brain farts come into play – but he’s developed a jab that can anchor him if he makes that the center of his attack. Muniz has become a competent striker himself, but his striking lacks any element of danger. That’s because it’s all about closing the distance for him and securing the takedown. Muniz is hardly a wrestling savant, but he’s a crafty vet who knows how to drag his opponent down or secure a trip from the clinch. Once he gets the fight to the mat, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to label Muniz as the Arm Collector if the nickname wasn’t already taken. His armbars are that damn lethal.
I don’t want to sell Allen short on the mat. He did sub Krzysztof Jotko within a round in his most recent contest, becoming the first person to sub the Pole in eight years. That’s said, we all know Allen should try to avoid hitting the mat with Muniz. But just because Allen shouldn’t do something doesn’t mean he won’t. Remember when he was getting pieced up by Sean Strickland and stubbornly refused to even try to get the fight to the mat? He did make some cursory efforts to take Chris Curtis to the ground, but was more content to trade with the striker than he should have been. Most concerning is how easy Jacob Malkoun was able to take Allen down. Malkoun is a more aggressive wrestler than Muniz, but he isn’t as savvy. It’s hard to believe the fight won’t hit the mat at some point.
If Allen keeps his head about himself, he can win this, even if the fight hits the mat. Allen is no slouch on the mat and can easily pull off the type of submission defense Uriah Hall demonstrated in Muniz’s last contest. What he would need to do in the in-betweens is score enough offense on the feet to sway the judges in his direction. That or deliver a KO. The problem is, Allen doesn’t have the same defense first mentality on the mat Hall possesses. And if he’s going to look for a KO on the feet, he’ll likely walk into a trap from Muniz and end up on his back. A win isn’t out of the question for Allen, but a submission from Muniz is most likely. Muniz via submission of RD2
Tatiana Suarez vs. Montana De la Rosa, Women’s Flyweight
If you’ve only followed the UFC for the last two or three years, you may not be familiar with Suarez given she hasn’t fought in almost four years. It’s a shame. Prior to the neck issues that initially kept her on the shelf, Suarez was in line to challenge for the strawweight title. Among her victims to get into that position were recent champion Carla Esparza and Alexa Grasso, who will be challenging Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight title. Neither contest was close either, Suarez smashed through both of them.
As Suarez makes her return to the cage, she’s doing so up a weight class at flyweight. Given a big part of her dominance at strawweight was exemplified by her being the bigger and stronger woman in the cage, it’s fair to wonder how well the transition to fighting at a higher class will go. That’s not even addressing the cage rust that has surely built up after being on the sidelines since 2019.
That said, Suarez is all about overcoming long odds. Neck issues are what dashed her Olympic wrestling hopes over a decade ago. She overcame that, in addition to thyroid cancer, to blaze her initial path in the UFC. If there is a positive to her being sidelined for so long, it’s that she hasn’t put her body through the typical wear and tear that comes with being an MMA fighter. Combine that with her not cutting as much weight and it’s a possibility that she’s going to be at the peak of her physical condition….
While I find that highly unlikely, credit goes to the UFC for getting her an opponent who seems highly appropriate. De la Rosa isn’t a bum by any means; she’s actually one of the better submission specialists in the division. Unfortunately, she’s a limited athlete, something that has been seen in her losses. Despite being technically superior than Maycee Barber, Barber was able to overpower her in the clinch and outwork her. Provided Suarez hasn’t lost anything, she’ll be both a superior athlete and technician, at least in terms of wrestling. Given De la Rosa’s base is wrestling, that’s bad news for the underdog.
If De la Rosa can keep the fight standing, there’s no guarantee she’ll win the standup either. De la Rosa looks the part with her striking in terms of her technique, but has never looked completely comfortable on the feet. However, Suarez’s striking is largely limited to low kicks. Perhaps she has been able to work on her hands in her time away. Perhaps not. But the odds the fight spends any significant time as a striking contest is slim and none.
Even if Suarez isn’t going to be at full strength, she should be able to overcome De la Rosa. Perhaps De la Rosa can snatch an arm as Suarez looks to deliver punishment from the top, but Suarez has done an excellent job of avoiding submissions from her opponents guard while dealing out punishment from the top. Then again, four years is a long time to be away. Given Suarez has always been smart about her preparation, I feel confident she’ll get the job done. Suarez via decision
- On paper, Dontale Mayes has everything you want in a heavyweight. He’s a legit heavyweight, not an overgrown 205er. He has length, athleticism, power, and toughness. He’s even picked up some wrestling the last few years. He’s also responsible for one of the greatest MMA gifs ever. Despite that, the first three-time participant for DWCS can’t seem to put everything together on a regular basis. To be fair, it isn’t hard to see the improvements from fight to fight; it’s just sustaining those improvements for the entirety of the fights. He’s getting a BIG jump in competition against Augusto Sakai, though it might be hard to recognize given Sakai’s four-fight losing streak. A closer look at those whom Sakai has lost to reveals three fighters populating the top ten of the official UFC rankings with the lone exception being all-time great Alistair Overeem. In other words, Sakai hasn’t been losing to bums. Prior to the current streak, Sakai won his first four UFC contests with a smothering clinch and surprisingly high volume for someone with as much flab as he carries. Where he has faltered is down the stretch of five-round contests, having his chin checked by the heaviest hitters in the division, and in stopping the persistent wrestling of Serghei Spivac. Given we all saw Spivac do the same thing to Derrick Lewis, it’s safe to say Sakai has some heat off him. This isn’t a five-round contest, nor is Mayes one of the heavy hitters in the division. Provided his confidence isn’t shot from all the losing, Sakai should pull this off. Sakai via decision
- It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but Yohan Lainesse scored his first UFC win in his most recent performance, likely saving his job in the process. A powerhouse at 170, Lainesse struggles beyond the halfway mark of a contest. There’s no doubt he has one-punch power, but he doesn’t have enough tools to consistently win if he can’t secure that early. He can wrestle some, but his compromising gas tank limits the effectiveness through roughly the first round. That said, he’s going to be much bigger than Mike Malott, a former featherweight who has ballooned up to welterweight. Malott’s weight gain does appear to be healthy and he’s a smart fighter. But he hasn’t faced anyone nearly as big as Lainesse. More worrisome, Malott’s defense isn’t rock solid. Given Lainesse only needs one clean punch, that raises concerns. If Malott can avoid that shot, he’s the better grappler and busier striker by a wide margin. Confidence is something I feel short on, but Malott is the better overall fighter. I’ll pick him for that reason. Malott via submission of RD2
- I have no doubt Trevor Peek would have preferred to fight the man who hasn’t fought in over five years in Alex Reyes, but Peek’s UFC debut still appears to be a very winnable contest. The hard-hitting Alabama native will be greeted by Erick Gonzalez instead. Gonzalez has faced a tough road in the UFC, lining up opposite Jim Miller and Terrance McKinney, meaning it’s a bit difficult to dock him too much for those losses. However, the lanky striker also has a spotted record on the regional scene, coming up short against anyone who has ever either been in the UFC or come close to sniffing it. Gonzalez won’t back down, but he doesn’t have the discipline to maintain the outside striking attack he favors against the aggressive Peek. If Gonzalez can extend the fight, he may be able to outpoint a fading Peek down the stretch as the newcomer has never left the second round. However, Gonzalez’s chin can be questioned while there’s no doubt his takedown defense is garbage. Peek certainly has his flaws, but he’s better suited to expose Gonzalez than Gonzalez is suited to expose him. Peek via TKO of RD1
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