The UFC is back in the APEX this weekend with UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs. Cannonier. Middleweight gets the focus on Saturday night with both Marvin Vettori and Jared Cannonier meeting for remarkably the first time. Both are firmly in the ‘other guys’ camp below the champ Israel Adesanya and perennial contender Rob Whittaker. Whatever happens on Saturday isn’t going to change that.

Well, now that I’ve sold this card as much as the UFC has, let’s get into who we think is going to win.

It’s a close fight and that’s reflected in plenty of picks going to either man. However, it is the American who has the most support among our staff. Seven of us are picking Jared Cannonier, while five of us think Marvin Vettori will get his hand raised. Interestingly, our two leading pickers Dayne and Eddie are on opposite sides for this one.

The co-main event is more clear cut. Everyone, but me, is picking Armen Tsarukyan to beat Joaquim Silva. And I’m not exactly confident in this pick.

Check out all our picks below. And don’t forget to tell us yours in the comments.

UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs. Cannonier staff picks

Marvin Vettori vs. Jared Cannonier

Anton: An okay main event, then 16 fighters without wiki pages on the undercard? That sounds exactly like the formula for another filler Apex card for the UFC’s ESPN quota. Oh well. As for this headliner, they’re both really good, but they’re clearly a tier below the very elite of the division. Both contenders have pretty much dominated the field and haven’t lost in years except to both Adesanya and Whittaker, so this match-up was bound to happen.

I can see Vettori grinding out a win, but I think Cannonier will have enough success on the feet and find his power shots now that he’s not facing the far more technical strikers at the top of the division. Jared Cannonier by Decision.

Chris: For a guy who’s most famous for simply being angry, Vettori actually thrives in chaos and has held it down in his two most vicious firefights vs Costa and Hermansson. Cannonier has been lulled into boring losses and Vettori’s jab/lowkick approach could hypnotise Cannonier again. Either way, it’s Marvin’s night. Also the coin flip said so. 

Victor: Jared’s a smart fighter, but he has his limitations. Marvin has the output and pace that will be harder to deal with, plus the cardio to make it last. And if Marvin can outbox and outhustle Jack Hermansson, he could probably do the same here. Jared starts a little slower and could potentially close the distance quickly to land damage inside. Maybe body shots will help slow Marvin down, but I’m not seeing Jared pulling that off with Marvin’s use of distance. Marvin Vettori by decision.

Eddie: Nothing makes me softer than the dusty ass APEX. It’s Transformers, or The Fast & The Furious series. It was cool for a little while, but then morphed into a lifeless, money making, paint by numbers scheme. Fuck that place is what I’m saying. Jared Cannonier by majority decision

Bissell: Gatekeeper vs. Gatekeeper. Blergh this card is so uninspiring. I know these two were bound to meet at some point, and that they may very well have an entertaining and close fight, but to hinge an entire event on this bout feels very… uh… not-give-a-fuck-y? I think Vettori has looked better in his losing efforts to really good fighters than Cannonier has and I think he’ll be able to outwit Cannonier in a lot of the clinch game and may punctuate a few rounds with a takedown to seal the deal. Cannonier has the better power punches, but Vettori accomplished at avoiding that kind of threat. Marvin Vettori via decision.

Zane: It’s not that hard to see exactly how this fight between Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori will play out. Most likely the two men will establish a fairly even middle distance striking battle, with Cannonier finding the bigger power shots, while Marvin Vettori lands with more consistency. Given that Vettori isn’t a great shot wrestler and is insanely durable, but also doesn’t have big power, it seems like the fight dynamics are pretty unlikely to change over the course of 25 minutes.

Knowing who will get the win in a fight like that, however, is a lot more difficult. Is Vettori more likely to hurt Cannonier than to get hurt, given how good his chin is? Is Cannonier more likely to hurt Vettori than get hurt, given his power striking edge? I’ll take Cannonier’s power to win out, but it should be a close run thing. Jared Cannonier by decision.

Staff picking Vettori: Chris, Victor, Ben, Dayne, Bissell
Staff picking Cannonier: Lucas, Stephie, Anton, Kristen, Jack, Eddie, Zane

UFC Fight Night: Marvin Vettori vs. Jared Cannonier video preview.

Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joaquim Silva

MMA: UFC 240-Aubin Mercier vs Tsarukyan, Jul 27, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Arman Tsarukyan (blue gloves) and Olivier Aubin-Mercier (red gloves) during UFC 240 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports, 27.07.2019 20:54:13, 13112732, NPStrans, MMA, Rogers Place PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xSergeixBelskix 13112732
Arman Tsarukyan when he fought Oliveir Aubin-Mercier. IMAGO/ USA TODAY

Anton: Lock of the night? Tsarukyan is really good, and probably deserves a higher level of competition by now. Arman Tsarukyan by decision.

Chris: I am 100% on the Arman Tsrukyan hype train and he’s going to have to fight some top 5 people before I consider picking against him. Also the coin flip said so.

Victor: Arman losing would be a massive upset, and that’s not a knock on Silva. Silva’s pretty great, but he’s lacking the level of polish Arman has, and his game isn’t as well-rounded. Tsarukyan has more offensive weapons and a tight methodology when it comes to his fights. Arman Tsarukyan by TKO.

Eddie: Tsarukyan bout to give Netto BJJ that Christos Giagos treatment. Arman Tsarukyan by a hard to watch KO in round 1

Bissell: Honestly, I need to make up grounds in the staff picks leaderboard so I’m fading the rest of the crew here. Jaoquim Silva via submission.

Zane: If Tsarukyan wins this fight it will seem like a reasonable stay busy booking to keep his paychecks coming in while he waits for bigger name opponents. If he loses, it will seem like a damn foolish waste of time. Arman Tsarukyan by submission, Round 2.

Staff picking Tsarukyan: Lucas, Stephie, Chris, Anton, Kristen, Victor, Jack, Ben, Dayne, Eddie, Zane
Staff picking Silva: Bissell

Armen Petrosyan vs. Christian Leroy Duncan

Victor: Got some high expectations for this one, and I want to go with Duncan. Petrosyan has the striking pedigree, and Duncan has the power, durability and fights pretty smart, too. But I just can’t discount the experience factor here. Armen Petrosyan by decision.

Bissell: Gonna go with the relative newcomer this UFC fight night to get a W to follow up his very impressive debut win over Dusko Todorovic (who looked like he could have been someone once upon a time). Duncan is a big rangy striker, who might miss, get taken down and be wiped all over the mat by Petrosyan, but I just feel like Duncan has more up-side. And a big reason for that is his ability to finish fights. Christian Leroy Duncan via TKO.

Zane: I’m just not that sold on Petrosyan’s stay-busy striking style to easily win rounds. It could be argued that he’s actually lost every UFC fight he’s had so far. That said, he’s very consistent and very competitive. Duncan, on the other hand, feels like a wild card. The power and dynamic striking is there to make him a potential future top contender, but the consistency and wrestling are bigger concerns. I don’t think Petrosyan will try to take this fight down, though, so I’m picking Duncan’s more impactful strikes to carry the day. Christian Leroy Duncan via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Petrosyan: Lucas, Victor, Petrosyan, Eddie
Staff picking Duncan: Chris, Anton, Kristen, Jack, Stephie, Dayne, Bissell, Zane

Pat Sabatini vs. Lucas Almeida

Victor: Pat Sabatini has been one of the best under-the-radar signings in recent memory, and we’re probably about to see why in this one. Pat Sabatini by TKO.

Bissell: Not fading the staff on this one. No way Sabatini loses this. Almeida’s loss to Zellhuber looks pretty bad now the bloom has come off that prospect’s rose. Sabatini is too quick, too strong and too crafty to let Almeida get away here. Pat Sabatini via submission.

MMA: UFC 261-Sabatini vs Connelly, Apr 24, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Pat Sabatini (Red Gloves) fights Tristan Connelly (Blue Gloves) during UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports, 24.04.2021 20:19:04, 15960935, NPStrans, Connelly, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, MMA PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xJasenxVinlovex 15960935
Pat Sabatini cranking Trisan Connelley. IMAGO/USA TODAY

Zane: Sabatini absolutely should win this. He’ll almost definitely have a big grappling advantage to go with his obvious wrestling advantage. But, I won’t lie, I’m very concerned about how stiff his striking is and how his comfort there only seems to be diminishing with time. If Almedia storms the gates early, he just might get Sabatini in big trouble the way both Emmers and Jackson did. That said, every minute this fight goes on feels like we’re more likely to see Sabatini wear Almeida out and drag him down. Pat Sabatini via submission, round 2.

Staff picking Sabatini: Lucas, Stephie, Chris, Anton, Kristen, Victor, Jack, Ben, Dayne, Eddie, Bissell, Zane
Staff picking Almeida: 

Manuel Torres vs. Nikolas Motta

Bissell: Small sample size, but Torres landed 10.5 significant strikes a minute across his two UFC fights. That’s more than three times what Motta has shown in his three UFC contest. Torres has also landed over half those strikes. Motta lands about a third of his. Manuel Torres via KO.

Zane: I like Nikolas Motta’s style a lot. He’s got solid technique, great power, and a puncher’s mentality. Unfortunately for him, he’s also got some defensive gaps and some durability issues. That’s a bad place to be when your style is predicated on meeting people in the pocket with heavy shots. Torres has less structure, less technique, and even less defence, but he’s big, fast, accurate, hits super hard, and has never been KO’d. Manuel Torres via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Torres: Anton, Kristen, Victor, Stephie, Ben, Eddie, Bissell, Zane

Staff picking Motta: Lucas, Chris, Jack, Dayne

Nicolas Dalby vs. Muslim Salikhov

Chris: Of course I must pick and passionately root for my adopted countryman. I wonder if any of the Danes in my neighbourhood know he’s fighting. Also the coin flip said so.

Victor: Salikhov has marvellous striking and all, yet I worry that Dalby will be able to push the pressure to get inside and neutralise that range. Plus he’s got the ground game and frantic energy with his ground strikes. Nicolas Dalby by decision. 

MMA: UFC 283 - Alves vs Dalby Jan 21, 2023; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nicolas Dalby (blue gloves) reacts after the fight against Warlley Alves (red gloves) during UFC 283 at Jeunesse Arena. Rio de Janeiro Jeunesse Arena Brazil, EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xJasonxdaxSilvax 20230121_szo_db3_0052
Nicolas Dalby after his win over Warlly Alves. IMAGO/USA TODAY

Bissell: Going with my Doppelganger Nicolas Dalby here. Dalby is rarely out of a fight and has a knack for getting wins by relentlessly pushing forwards. He’s not particularly great at any one thing, but as many fighters before him have shown, being well-rounded and having a motor can keep you employed for a long time. Salikhov is an interesting attraction, given his traditional background, but I think Dalby’s pressure will prevent him from getting off the offence he needs to win the fight. Nicolas Dalby via decision.

Zane: I worry a lot that Dalby just won’t be able to solve Salikhov’s technical striking and will find himself on the end of jabs and kicks he can’t push past. It’s happened to him before with slick strikers, even those less powerful than the ‘King of Kung Fu’. However, Salikhov’s low output also seems like a big problem here against a constant grinder like Dalby. I like rooting for Dalby, so I’ll pick him here to get another rugged win that sees him survive a few really bad spots. Nicolas Dalby by decision.

Staff picking Dalby: Chris, Stephie, Victor, Bissell, Zane
Staff picking Salikhov: Lucas, Anton, Kristen, Jack, Dayne, Eddie

Jimmy Flick vs. Alessandro Costa

Victor: The problem with Costa is that if he gets you on the ground and finds a semi-dominant position, he’s not letting you catch a breather. At all. Flick seems too smart and too based a grappler for that. Costa’s going to have to outwork him on the feet, but I think Flick will take over and gain control to earn a win. Jimmy Flick by decision.

Zane: Flick fights a lot more like a true flyweight with a great wrestling-to-scrambling back take game. But it’s also a much, much more limited game overall. Getting stranded for a few seconds on his feet…

To read the rest of our UFC staff picks head on over to Substack. Now that Bloody Elbow is a fully independent site the best way to support us, so that we can continue fearless coverage of combat sports, is to pick up a paid subscription. Paid subscribers help fund other exclusive content like editorials from Karim Zidan and Jonathan Snowden and investigations by John S. Nash.

Leader board

Dayne keeps his place atop the leader board, despite having a losing record for UFC 289 last week. Eddie went 5-5 so he was able to narrow the lead at the top to just 1 pick. Lucas did the best last week, bumping me down into 8th place. Dayne and Eddie are split on a few things at UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs. Cannonier so we might see a lead change next week.

PositionStafferCorrectIncorrectTotal Picks%Picks BackWeek 18 Record
1 (-)Dayne135922270.5954-6
2 (-)Eddie134932270.59015-5
3 (-)Anton133942270.58626-4
4 (-)Zane1271002270.55984-6
5 (-)Stephie124922160.574114-6
6 (-)Kristen1231042270.542133-7
7 (▲1)Lucas1121022140.523238-2
8 (▼1)Bissell1111162270.489243-7
9 (-)Chris1061112170.488295-5
10 (-)BE Community75621370.547606-4
11 (-)Victor74681420.521616-4
12 (-)Jack55471020.539804-6
13 (nr)Ben64100.61296-4

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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!

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