It’s another trip to the Apex for a UFC Fight Night, which means another event without the benefit of a live audience. Sigh…. Not only is the Apex a guarantee of no live crowd, but it’s also an indication of a below average card. Let me put it this way, there’s 14 UFC fights the card, so 28 participants. Less than half of the participants of this UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs Cannonier card have their own Wikipedia page.
With so many unknowns, a guiding hand is needed to know how the UFC fights will play out. That’s what I’m here for. I’ll give you the bare essentials to know how things will go, and who will get their hands raised.
Marvin Vettori vs. Jared Cannonier | Middleweight
If you were to take one look at Vettori without knowing anything about him, you’d guess he’s a KO machine with his ripped physique. If you got to know him on a personal level, you’d think he’s a hot head who would fight recklessly. While he is a hot head, Vettori enters every UFC fight with a plan… and it isn’t to knock the block off his opposition. With an endless gas tank, Vettori pushes a hard pace that tends to exhaust his opponent. Doesn’t matter if it’s wrestling or outvoluming them, he’s going to outwork them. Just don’t count on him to knock anyone out.
On the flip side, Cannonier is one of the premier KO threats at middleweight; perhaps the KO threat in the division. The funny thing is his low kicks might be the aspect of his game opponents are more wary of; it makes it easier to catch a big punch if the opposition has had their mobility impugned. There are some red flags with Cannonier. His pace can be overly deliberate and his takedown defense has always been a major question mark. Progress has been made in those areas over the years, but he also hasn’t faced anyone who matches up with the ability to exploit both of those issues.
I can’t deny that Cannonier has an excellent chance of being the first to finish Vettori. His power is that impressive. But he’s also 39 and one-dimensional. I acknowledge Vettori looked a bit rough against Roman Dolidze, but Dolidze could threaten Vettori both on the ground and standing. Vettori had to walk a tightrope. Cannonier can’t do that. Vettori should look more like his old self as his getting his first favorable matchup since fighting Kevin Holland in 2021.
Prediction: Vettori via decision
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joaquim Silva | Lightweight
Bellator has a reputation for staging lopsided fights. Think of all the criticism thrown towards them for throwing Michael Page softball after softball. Tsarukyan is getting the biggest softball I can recall for a UFC fighter that isn’t receiving a short notice opponent. I don’t fault Tsarukyan; he just wants a fight. It’s everyone else who refused to step in the cage with Tsarukyan that should be blamed.
Silva has some power and is a solid athlete, but there’s reason to question if he’s even a mid-tier UFC lightweight anymore. Tsarukyan could realistically end up becoming champion over the next few years. About the only advantage Silva has is he’s a cleaner technical striker, but he’s not the strategist Tsarukyan is. The Armenian will win the UFC fight by whatever way he wants.
Prediction: Tsarukyan via TKO of RD1
Armen Petrosyan vs. Christian Leroy Duncan | Middleweight
Petrosyan has been a bit of a mixed bag thus far and Duncan hasn’t had much of an opportunity to show what he can do. Thus, this UFC fight feels like a coin flip to the untrained eye. Both have serious but not unbelievable KO power, both are big 185ers, both are solid athletes. However, Duncan is the more versatile striker, has a much longer reach, and is a more dynamic athlete. Plus, he’s younger and has far more MMA experience when you throw in his amateur experience. Petrosyan isn’t a softball for him, but there’s a reason a lot are excited about Duncan’s future.
Prediction: Duncan via TKO of RD2
Pat Sabatini vs. Lucas Almeida | Featherweight
Everyone appears to have jumped off the Sabatini train after he was bowled over by Damon Jackson. It kind of makes sense. He’s not a great athlete and tends to take a lot of damage before he can get the fight to the ground. Given Almeida is a superior athlete and more than his share of power, it isn’t hard to see an upset being perpetrated here. Despite that, I’m still going with Sabatini. He’s a smart UFC fighter who should have a plan to maneuver around Almeida’s reach ground out a relatively boring decision victory if he can’t find a sub.
Prediction: Sabatine via decision
Manuel Torres vs. Nikolas Motta | Lightweight
I see Torres having a similar trajectory to the man he disposed of in his UFC debut, Frank Camacho. His aggression will ensure he’s in competition for a Performance Bonus every time he fights, but he’ll be clipped down by steady, technical veterans. Motta is more experienced and more technical, but I don’t know if he’s at quite the level he needs to be to counter Torres’ aggression. Given there’s some flukiness to Torres’ recent victories – Camacho was shot and he poked Kolton Englund in the eye – I’ll lean towards Motta having what it takes, but not without apprehension. I don’t like Torres’ lack of experience beyond the first round either.
Prediction: Motta via TKO of RD2
Nicolas Dalby vs. Muslim Salikhov | Welterweight
Dalby will want to make this UFC fight as ugly as possible since he’d be foolish to engage in a tit-for-tat kickboxing contest with Salikhov. Salikhov’s timing is amongst the best in the business and Dalby isn’t the type of athlete who can overwhelm him. What I don’t know is if he has the skill set to close the distance without getting torn up by Salikhov. Salikhov tends to do a better job of playing to his strengths than Dalby does, having me lean in his direction, even though Dalby is the better all-around UFC fighter. Expect some spinning stuff to land from Salikhov too.
Prediction: Salikhov via decision
Raoni Barcelos vs. Miles Johns | Bantamweight
Two years ago, me and everyone else is picking Barcelos in this contest without much thought. Having lost three of his last four at the age of 36, Barcelos appears to be headed for the proverbial cliff. The question is if Johns is enough of a step down for the Brazilian to get back on track. Johns has come a long way as a striker and has good takedown defense, but Barcelos is a BIG step up… provided Barcelos isn’t just a victim to Father Time. That’s a big if since that’s everything this contest hinges on. Given Umar Nurmagomedov just appears to be a beast, I’ll lean towards Barcelos having enough in the tank for this fight.
Prediction: Barcelos via submission of RD1
Jimmy Flick vs. Alessandro Costa | Flyweight
Flick may be the one with a UFC win under his belt, but I’m more sold on Costa than I am Flick. Costa is young, hungry, and has excellent grappling pedigree. Flick has one of the most dynamic submission games on the entirety of the roster. However, he also retired two years ago. It’s hard to believe Flick’s heart is in fighting at this stage. It might be worth “sprinkling” on Flick to win by submission, but the pick is Costa all day based on his superior athleticism and accolades.
Prediction: Costa via TKO of RD2
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Cristian Quinonez | Bantamweight
Kang may have one of the more underappreciated UFC runs, but it’s because there’s a lack of quality victories on his ledger. Thus, this comes down to how one sees Quinonez. Is he in the UFC for a cup of coffee or does he have a lengthy run in him? A win over Khalid Taha doesn’t distinguish what his future is, but that he was capable of putting him away speaks volumes. Quinonez is well-rounded enough that I don’t see Kang jabbing him to death or smothering him with his top heavy grappling. Quinonez squeaks out a close one.
Prediction: Quinonez via decision
Carlos Hernandez vs. Denys Bondar | Flyweight
Given the gruesome injury suffered by Bondar in his UFC debut, he’s still very much a mystery. His reputation is that of a skilled grappler, but the question is whether he has the wrestling to exploit where he’s at his best. If he does, Hernandez has shown a weakness to skilled grapplers. He’s also a vastly superior striker with solid wrestling. And while Hernandez didn’t look good against Allan Nascimento, Nascimento is a phenomenal grappler. Hernandez looked like a solid grappler prior to that. Given Bondar’s striking is lacking, I like Hernandez’s all-around game to prove superior.
Prediction: Hernandez via decision
Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Felipe Bunes | Flyweight
Zhumagulov officially overtook Angela Hill as the most hated UFC fighter by the judges on the roster. It could be argued he should be 4-2 in his UFC run as opposed to his pitiful 1-5 record. A wily vet with underrated power and a chin that’s tough to crack. Bunes has been heavily reliant on putting his opponent away. Given more proven flyweights haven’t been able to do that, it looks like it’ll be a hard ask for Bunes to overcome… unless the judges are still against Zhumagulov. But he can’t get screwed over again… right?
Prediction: Zhumagulov via decision
Tereza Bleda vs. Gabriella Fernandes | Women’s Flyweight
Even though most roll their eyes at her moniker of “Ronda,” no one denies that Bleda has the looks of a special talent. It’s about being able to harness her abundant talent. First things first, she needs to work on her conditioning and energy management as she was spent after one round in her UFC debut. Fernandes is older with a lower ceiling, but she could also develop into something special based on her striking prowess. Fernandes can pull off the upset if Bleda expends too much energy keeping her down early, but the guess here is Bleda won’t expend as much energy holding her down as she did against Natalia Silva.
Prediction: Bleda via decision
Daniel Argueta vs. Ronnie Lawrence | Bantamweight
Lawrence looked like he was on his way to being a real force in the division until running into Saidyokub Kakhramonov. Now, everyone appears to be down on him. Is it just recency bias or are the concerns about his ability to push a hard pace legit? Perhaps a bit of both. Noticing Lawrence couldn’t stop Kakhramonov’s takedowns, many believe Argueta has the wrestling to do the same to Lawrence. If Lawrence has issues with his weight cut again, it’s a good possibility. If not, I’d anticipate Lawrence bowling over him. It isn’t easy to replicate Kakhramonov’s performance.
Prediction: Lawrence via decision
Zac Pauga vs. Modestas Bukauskas | Light Heavyweight
At 35, it’s hard to believe Pauga will be able to do more than break into the official rankings given his late start in the sport. Nevertheless, he’s proven to be willing to listen to his coaches, maximizing his abilities as he’s still learning. However, he hasn’t faced anyone like Bukauskas. Not only does Bukauskas have a much longer frame than Pauga, he’s quicker and a much more technical striker. Pauga is used to marching down his opponents and pushing them against the cage. Bukauskas’ lateral movement will make that a far more difficult proposition than Pauga is used to.
Prediction: Bukauskas via TKO of RD3
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