UFC Vegas 71 staff picks and predictions: Can Yan rebound with a win?

We are back at the APEX for this week’s UFC card. This time around it will be former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan versus…

By: Tim Bissell | 7 months ago
UFC Vegas 71 staff picks and predictions: Can Yan rebound with a win?
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

We are back at the APEX for this week’s UFC card. This time around it will be former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan versus Merab Dvalishvili (best bud of current champion Aljamain Sterling). The co-main event has Alexander Volkov vs. Alexandr Romanov in a heavyweight clash. There’s also Nikita Krylov vs. Ryan Spann at light heavyweight, a bout that was supposed to headline a Vegas card a few weeks ago.

We at BE have poured over the tape and the stats (and flipped a lucky coin) to determine who we think will win these match-ups. You can find all those below and you’ll see we are pretty split who wins the main event.

In addition to checking out our staff picks, tomorrow you’ll also be able to see—for the first time ever—the Bloody Elbow Community picks. We will be leaving Vox Media soon and becoming an independent site (yay!). To support those efforts we have established a Substack with premium exclusive content.

One of the perks of subscribing $5 a month to BE Substack is getting to make your picks on UFC events, which will be featured in tomorrow’s article. Founding members, those who subscribe at $500 a year will also be able to add explanations to their picks.

The community picks will be getting their own league table and a special prize when the year wraps up. So if you want in on that subscribe below:

Petr Yan vs. Merab Dvalishvili

Anton Tabuena: This could look a lot like Dvalishvili vs Aldo, and have a lot of close and competitive rounds, but Yan won’t slow down and will actually fight better as it goes on. I also wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up in controversy, depending on how judges (wrongly) score takedowns and control. Petr Yan by decision.

Tim Bissell: Obviously we have a better striker in Yan taking on a better wrestler in Dvalishvili here. However, both have shown good defence versus their weaker skill. Yan has an incredible 90% takedown defence (even more so considered he has two fights versus Aljamain Sterling). Dvalishvili’s striking defence is a very high 58%. So I don’t think either man is going to end this fight prematurely. I’m forecasting a close fight where Yan lands a little more than Dvalishvili on the feet and Dvalishvili relentless attacks with takedowns and lands around 10% of them. It’s going to be a nightmare to score. And with takedowns being easier for judges to spot than punches landed, I think the scorecards might ruin the Russian’s night (again). Merab Dvalishvili by decision.

Zane Simon: Petr Yan’s recent run is more than likely going to bring out its share of doubters as to his talent. Heck, it might even have him second guessing himself. But, it’s hard for me to imagine a new or old version of Yan that doesn’t match up reasonably well with Dvalishvili. Despite a pair of losses to Aljamain Sterling, Yan only gave up a total of 3 out of 39 takedowns in those two bouts. Over a career with numerous high level wrestlers faced, he’s defended 90% of the shots he’s faced. Sterling used his propensity to give up his back to turn even defended shots into a big advantage, but Sterling is an expert back-take artist in a way Dvalishvili is not. Dvalishvili is a high-energy rinse and repeat wrestler, and wrestling alone has rarely (if ever) been the sole key to defeating Yan. That’s not to say Dvalishvili doesn’t have some striking, but it’s all based around that change up that assumes people are absolutely scared of the chance he’ll take them down. If Yan is prepared for that, he should be able to catch Dvalishvili with hard shots in the pocket over and over just like Aldo and Moraes did, but with a lot more durability and higher output to go with it. Petr Yan via decision.

Staff picking Yan: Stephie, Eddie, Dayne, Chris, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Dvalishvili: Kristen, Bissell, Lucas

Alexander Volkov vs. Alexandr Romanov

Anton Tabuena: This seems like a tough match up for Volkov stylewise, but I’m banking on his big fight experience to get him through. Alexander Volkov by TKO.

Tim Bissell: I don’t think Volkov can stop himself getting taken down here. I’m not completely sold that Romanov can handle the step up in competition, but I do think he’s rising as Volkov is falling. Alexandr Romanov via decision.

Zane Simon: If this fight were 5 rounds I’d absolutely be picking Volkov with no reservations. Even as it stands, however, I feel like I’m leaning toward the Russian. The problem for him is that it’s practically an unavoidable truth that Romanov will take him down in the first round. It’s gonna happen. And if Romanov were a more decisive single strike/combo/sub finisher like Aspinall I’d be picking him here instead. But he’s more of a masher who has to wear on people with size and strength to get the job done. And in those kinds of fights, Volkov is insanely durable and does a very good job getting to his feet. If Romanov couldn’t hold Tybura down for long enough to get the win, Volkov is a much more dangerous man when his opponent starts to fade. Alexander Volkov via TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Volkov: Dayne, Chris, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Romanov: Kristen, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie, Lucas

Nikita Krylov vs. Ryan Spann

Anton Tabuena: I picked Krylov last time, but he got sick just two weeks ago so I’m not sure if I should change my pick now. Ah f—k it, Krylov by decision.

Tim Bissell: I think this is a very close fight and I think it has a lot of potential to be a really exciting back and forth fight with both men landing heavy shots and getting deep on submission attempts. I think both guy here has the potential to finish the other, so it will just come down to who best seizes that opportunity. And I think Spann’s size, strength and athleticism edge will help him do that sooner than Krylov’s craftiness edge. I can see him muscling out of some bad positions and making Krylov pay as he does. Ryan Spann via TKO.

Zane Simon: I already wrote about this fight in our Staff Picks a couple weeks ago, but Ryan Spann’s takedown defense has been very bad. If it weren’t for Luis Henrique shooting on him 11 times to get him down 4, practically every other takedown Spann has faced in the UFC has been completed. Nikki Thrillz may be best know for his kick-heavy karate, but the truth is that the man loves to wrestle, and practically every fight he wins is because of his wrestling. He held down Johnny Walker for three rounds, and he’s just as big and powerful as Spann. I think Krylov can wrestle his way through this one too, even if he has to eat a couple massive punching blitzes to do it. Nikita Krylov by decision.

Staff picking Krylov: Eddie, Chris, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Spann: Kristen, Bissell, Stephie, Lucas, Dayne

Said Nurmagomedov vs. Jonathan Martinez

Zane Simon: I actually wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is a very close, even fight. Neither Martinez nor Nurmagomedov really like to be in punching range much at all. Both men are extremely good kickers, and Martinez has done a lot of good work lately to improve his pressure footwork and his punching form. Given how little Nurmagomedov likes to be pressured, I could see a possibility of Martinez backing him up and taking the fight to him. But, I think the most likely scenario is an even kickboxing match in open space. If that’s the case, then Nurmagomedov is a little faster and a little more creative, and a little more confident. But the margin feels pretty thin to me. Said Nurmagomedov by decision.

Staff picking Nurmagomedov: Kristen, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie, Lucas, Dayne, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Martinez: Chris

Vitor Petrino vs. Anton Turkalj

Anton Tabuena: Anton’s are awesome. Anton T’s are even better. Anton Turkalj by gogoplata.

Tim Bissell: Picking a fighter just on their name is silly, Anton. But picking on what a name means, that’s just smart. Vitor gets the victory here. Vitor Petrino by Peruvian necktie.

Zane Simon: Both men are messy, but Turkalj is ‘clingy blanket’ messy and Petrino is ‘punch you really hard all the time’ messy. LHW is the kind of division where messy fighters who hit hard tend to get the one or two chances they need to show up big and win, so I’ll take Vitor Petrino via KO, round 2.

Staff picking Petrino: Bissell, Lucas, Dayne, Chris, Zane
Staff picking Turkalj: Kristen, Stephie, Eddie, Anton

Lukasz Brzeski vs. Karl Williams

Zane Simon: Most of the love for Williams here seems to be over his ability to out-wrestle 2015 NCAA D-1 tournament qualifier Jimmy Lawson on the Contender Series. I’m not all that convinced. Both men in that fight looked EXTREMELY raw as MMA talents, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a former top tier wrestler found himself surprised to get put on the back foot and taken down, especially if he was banking on that as a clear advantage. Maybe Williams really is just a top flight takedown artist, but I don’t want to use that bout as my basis of evidence. Otherwise, Brzeski seems like the much more capable and comfortable fighter in all other phases. Can definitely see him getting taken down here, but if he can stay alive and make Williams work, I think he’ll likely be able to do all the damage standing. Lukasz Brzeski via decision.

Staff picking Brzeski: Bissell, Lucas, Zane
Staff picking Williams: Kristen, Stephie, Eddie, Dayne, Chris, Anton

Raphael Assuncao vs. Davey Grant

Anton Tabuena: I probably would’ve had the opposite pick if this happened a few years ago, but Assuncao is now 40. Davey Grant by decision.

Zane Simon: I can’t say I’ll be shocked if Assuncao just gets iced here, but the consistent through line of his recent losses have been fighters that can either entirely compete with him at a distance where they’re faster and more dynamic, or fighters who can drive through striking distance and out-wrestle Assuncao. And I’m not sure Grant can do either of those things. Even Henry, who has a high volume kicking game, found himself getting countered hard and taken down. Grant is a big puncher who keeps his output up well into fights, so he could catch Assuncao at any moment. But if Assuncao fights smart and defensively, I think he can ride out another veteran win. Rafael Assuncao via decision.

Staff picking Assuncao: Bissell, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Grant: Kristen, Stephie, Eddie, Lucas, Chris, Anton

Sedriques Dumas vs. Josh Fremd

Zane Simon: Fremd is the much more controlled, process driven fighter, but he’s also much slower and seems less powerful. Sedriques Dumas via decision.

Staff picking Dumas: Eddie, Lucas, Dayne, Chris, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Fremd: Kristen, Bissell, Stephie

Mario Bautista vs. Guido Cannetti

Zane Simon: Can Cannetti get another wild one-round finish? He’ll likely get a chance if Bautista comes charging out of the gate the way he did against Benito Lopez. But once that chance passes by, Bautista is very likely to take over in a serious way and Cannetti is very likely to fade. Mario Bautista via TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Bautista: Kristen, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie, Lucas, Dayne, Chris, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Cannetti:

JJ Aldrich vs. Ariane Lipski

Zane Simon: Lipski just has too much trouble controlling her instincts. When she’s winning she wants to plant her feet and start brawling, when she’s losing she wants to plant her feet and start brawling. And when she brawls she’s easy to hit clean on the chin and she’s easy to take down. Aldrich isn’t so big a puncher that I think she’ll knock Lipski out, but she certainly has the wrestling chops to put her on the mat. JJ Aldrich by decision.

Staff picking Aldrich: Kristen, Bissell, stephie, Eddie, Lucas, Dayne, Chris, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Lipski:

Tony Gravely vs. Victor Henry

Zane Simon: This feels a whole lot like the Basharat fight for Gravely to me. A very tough, high output, kick heavy fighter, who builds momentum over rounds. Gravely’s heavy wrestle-boxing approach will likely make him competitive early, but if he starts to fade, Henry will likely take over. Victor Henry via decision.

Staff picking Gravely: Bissell, Lucas
Staff picking Henry: Kristen, Stephie, Eddie, Dayne, Chris, Anton, Zane

Tyson Nam vs. Bruno Silva

Zane Simon: Two heavy-handed power-sluggers who rarely get KO’d. Silva is much more likely to fill open space when Nam is waiting for counters, which means he’s both more likely to win rounds, and more likely to leave himself open for huge counter shots. I’ll take Bruno Silva by decision, but this should be a great fight.

Staff picking Nam: Dayne, Chris, Anton
Staff picking Silva: Kristen, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie, Lucas, Zane

Carlston Harris vs. Jared Gooden

Zane Simon: Short notice or not, Gooden’s stiff, upright boxing style seems tailor made for Harris to swing wild on and connect. Carlston Harris via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Harris: Kristen, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie, Lucas, Dayne, Chris, Anton, Zane
Staff picking Gooden:

Well we were all wrong on Shevchenko beating Grasso, but that didn’t mean some of didn’t have a strong week for picks. Dayne, Eddie and Anton all went 11-3. That means Dayne and Eddie are continuing to lead the way here, with Dayne refusing to lose any ground to his closest challenger. That record was enough to move Anton up into the top four for the first time this season.

Week 10 Standings

Position Staffer Correct Incorrect Total Picks % Picks Back Week 9 Record
Position Staffer Correct Incorrect Total Picks % Picks Back Week 9 Record
1 (-) Dayne 76 37 113 0.673 9-6
2 (-) Eddie 73 40 113 0.646 3 8-7
3 (-) Zane 70 43 113 0.619 6 10-5
4 (-) Anton 69 44 113 0.611 7 10-5
5 (▼1) Kristen 67 46 113 0.593 9 8-7
6 (-) Stephie 64 38 102 0.627 12 8-7
7 (-) Bissell 60 53 113 0.531 16 6-9
8 (-) Lucas 50 49 99 0.505 26 5-10
9 (-) Chris 49 54 103 0.476 27 7-8
10 (-) Victor 21 20 41 0.512 55 8-7
11 (-) BE Community 17 11 28 0.607 59 10-5
12 (nr) Tim 8 7 15 0.533 68 8-7

About the author: 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. (full bio)

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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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