It’s easy to rip on the UFC for some of the card quality they present week in and week out, but it can’t be denied they tend to put forth consistently competitive contests. UFC Vegas 73 is no exception. Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill may not be the highest quality main event – it was moved over from the middle of last week’s main card – but it is a competitive contest. You’ve come to the right place if you need all the action broken down for the card as I’ll give you the boldest of predictions for UFC Vegas 73.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Angela Hill | Women’s Strawweight
It takes the slightest amount of MMA knowledge to know this will be a striker vs. grappler contest. Dern is one of the most decorated BJJ practitioners on the roster while Hill comes from a Muay Thai background. Of course, Hill has more MMA experience and is technically the better fighter all-around. However, she lacks the finishing ability of Dern, meaning she’s likely to need to go the distance if she wants to emerge the victor.
The dynamic is simple enough. If Dern can get the fight to the mat, there’s a good chance she can finish Hill. Hill has vastly improved her ground skills over the years, so I wouldn’t say a submission is automatic for Dern. Hill’s takedown defense has also improved over the years. However, all that said, Dern is supremely talented and has proven she can get the fight to the mat on her sheer physicality, even if her technique is lacking. She’ll have five rounds to find a finish. With her doggedness, I think she can do it, especially as Hill enters the stage when Father Time can begin to get the best of her.
Prediction: Dern via submission of RD3
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Anthony Hernandez | Middleweight
Shahbazyan was given a bit of a layup with Dalcha Lungiambula in his last fight, but he responded with the type of mature performance needed for people to believe he’s not a bust. That said, even if he isn’t a bust, he could very well still come up short against Hernandez. Hernandez is a prospect further along in his development. The question is whether that alone is enough to make up for the physical disparities between the two of them as Shahbazyan is one of the more gifted middleweights on the roster. But is he that much more gifted?
Shahbazyan is exceptionally explosive, scoring three first round finishes in his five UFC wins. That also came with the price of his draining his gas tank in a hurry. And while he paced himself against Lungiambula, Lungiambula also fights at a deliberate pace. Hernandez probably won’t let him. This is a winnable fight for Shahbazyan, but he’s still figuring out how to fight intelligently. That takes time. This will prove to be a learning experience for him.
Prediction: Hernandez via submission of RD2
Emily Ducote vs. Loopy Godinez | Women’s Strawweight
Ducote had a LOT of people on her bandwagon. She was a slight favorite against Hill – the card’s headliner – heading into her last contest. She came out looking exceptionally flat in that contest. Whether it was Angela Hill having the perfect game plan or Ducote shrinking under the pressure can only be speculated. Regardless, the sheen is off… which very well means she’s being underestimated due to recency bias. After all, it can’t be argued that she’s the cleaner striker and bigger fighter against Godinez.
Godinez isn’t the striker Hill is, but she will apply the pressure and will threaten with takedowns. However, being one of the smallest competitors on the roster has limited her wrestling effectiveness and her striking gets by more on effort than technique. Ducote is a solid wrestler and has enough power to potentially tamper Godinez’s attack. If nothing else, Godinez does tend to fade. I also can’t help but feel everyone is giving up on Ducote too quick.
Prediction: Ducote via decision
Andre Fialho vs. Joaquin Buckley | Welterweight
No one doubts the power of either Fialho or Buckley. Both are talented strikers with some highlight reel finishes within the confines of the UFC. Both have also been on the receiving end of some nasty finishes, leaving many to question their upside given the weakness of their chin. There’s even more reason to question Buckley given he’s returning to 170, a place he left due to the difficulty of the weight cut. Maybe they don’t hit as hard at welterweight, but his chin Isn’t going to get any better if he’s dehydrating himself more.
Fialho may be the better striker based solely on striking technique, but his success has also come against a lower level of competition. Even when Buckley has been losing, he’s been competitive to a degree. For instance, he easily outworking Chris Curtis before the lights were turned out. That could happen again with Fialho, but the odds are just as good that he turns out Fialho’s. Throw in that Buckley is the busier striker and he feels like the fighter more likely to get his hand raised.
Prediction: Buckley via TKO of RD2
Michael Johnson vs. Diego Ferreira | Lightweight
Two years ago, the narrative would be Ferreira is just on the outside of being a contender while Johnson is washed. In the modern day, Ferreira appears to be washed while Johnson, perhaps not circling contendership, is experiencing a revitalization of sorts. Johnson isn’t the quick-twitch athlete he was in his prime, but he’s still far superior to Ferreira and his hand speed doesn’t appear to have diminished much, if at all.
Ferreira’s once vaunted gas tank appears to have faded and he doesn’t appear capable of taking the punishment he once could. There’s always – and I mean always – the possibility Johnson makes a stupid mistake and gets himself submitted. That’s Johnson’s M.O. But Johnson has also displayed more maturity in his last three contests than he has at any other point of his career. It’s a risky pick, but I see Johnson puts away a fading Ferreira before he can make a dumb mistake.
Prediction: Johnson via KO of RD1
Maheshate vs. Viachslav Borshchev | Lightweight
Everyone knows the way to beat Borshchev. The former kickboxer is miserable at stopping takedowns. Maheshate hasn’t even attempted a takedown, much less succeeded in completing one. Maheshate is bigger and a superior athlete, but Borshchev is durable and the superior technician. Borshchev’s overall combat sports experience should shine through for him on this stage… provided Maheshate hasn’t been holding out on us with his wrestling abilities.
Prediction: Borshchev via TKO of RD2
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Vanessa Demopoulos | Women’s Strawweight
Demopoulos may be on a three-fight win streak, but it has come against competition with major holes in their game. There was an argument Kowalkiewicz was shot about a year ago, but a change in camps and some time away has revitalized her, resulting in consecutive wins for her. Like Demopoulos, her competition has been questionable. However, Kowalkiewicz, provided she isn’t shot, is technically sound and likely to chew up the diminutive Demopoulos in the clinch. Confidence is lacking in my pick, but Kowalkiewicz appears to have found herself. If she has, it’s a confident pick.
Prediction: Kowalkiewicz via decision
Orion Cosce vs. Gilbert Urbina | Welterweight
I don’t want to put much into Cosce’s win over Blood Diamond given Diamond doesn’t appear to belong anywhere near a UFC cage. Regardless, he showed a maturity in his performance that had been lacking, giving pause on labeling him a bust. The jury is still out on Urbina for that. What I do like is Urbina’s massive size advantage and experience against quality competition. Urbina’s defense worries me given Cosce isn’t lacking for power, but I’ll base this pick on which one has the higher ceiling given the massive question marks surrounding both men.
Prediction: Urbina via submission of RD3
Ilir Latifi vs. Rodrigo Nascimento | Heavyweight
Latifi has never been submitted. Given Nascimento is the rare heavyweight who prefers to grapple, that’s a major point worth making. However, Latifi is looking older with every passing fight and was able to lay on top of a pair of opponents who were lacking in the grappling department off their back. Nascimento is better from the top, but he can at least threaten off his back, which should create room for him to escape as well. Plus, Nascimento has the type of reach that will make Latifi securing takedowns problematic in the first place.
Prediction: Nascimento via decision
Chase Hooper vs. Nick Fiore | Lightweight
It was common knowledge Hooper would have to make a move to lightweight sooner rather than later, but the hope was he’d develop his wrestling skills by the time he needed to start fighting larger opponents. It hasn’t happened. Fiore isn’t exactly a blue-chipper – nor is he huge for 155 – but he is more physically developed than Hooper and fights with the type of aggression that has proven problematic for Hooper. Hooper does have an unusual level of craftiness for someone his age, but it feels foolish to rely on that securing him a win when his style of fight requires him to be the bigger, stronger fighter. He’s not that anymore.
Prediction: Fiore via decision
Victoria Leonardo vs. Natalia Silva | Women’s Flyweight
Someone in the UFC brass doesn’t like Leonardo. She’s a physical and gritty test for a young fighter, but she’s also very limited in her physical gifts. Silva has already proven to be one of the more talented prospects in the division. She has arguably beaten a higher level of competition than Leonardo too. I get the feeling the UFC is hoping Silva can secure some sort of a highlight reel finish. Given Leonardo’s history of being finished, I see no reason not to believe it won’t happen.
Prediction: Silva via KO of RD2
Takashi Sato vs. Themba Gorimbo | Welterweight
There’s a lot of holes in Gorimbo’s game. There’s also a lot of holes in Sato’s game. It comes down to who you believe is going to have those holes exposed first. Sato’s UFC wins have come over opponents with dissipated chins. That doesn’t appear to be Gorimbo’s issue. Sato has been his ground game. Gorimbo isn’t a technical savant, but he is aggressive in hunting for submissions. Gorimbo is on the old side for a prospect, but he is still improving. Given Sato appears to be a finished product, I’ll go with Gorimbo.
Prediction: Gorimbo via submission of RD1
A bit of a soft brag, but I am leading the staff picks as we enter UFC Vegas 73. Just sayin’….
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