Youssef Zalal vs Da’Mon Blackshear (+107)
Youssef Zalal hit the ground running in the UFC with three straight victories, but then the UFC gave him Ilia Topuria to see who the next top prospect is at Featherweight and he lost decisively. Since then he’s lost two more decisions against Seung Woo Choi and Sean Woodson, but still showed promise in those outings. In his last outing against Woodson he was able to negate the massive reach disadvantage with a wrestling-heavy approach and while he didn’t have much success bringing him down, it was impressive nonetheless. Zalal is well-rounded with a good gas tank that utilizes fantastic calf kicks complimented with decent power in his left jab and right straight.
Da’Mon Blackshear is a name you aren’t aware of yet but will be soon. Blackshear is a seasoned veteran coming off of back-to-back championship fights at CFFC where he submitted both opponents. He has an incredibly fast pace to his fights that you’d expect him to not be able to maintain, but his surprising endurance proves itself throughout his fights. His wrestling and scrambling is top tier with phenomenal chokes to go with it. Factor in that Youssef Zalal has never fought down at 135 and we could see a short notice victory for Blackshear that builds his hype train very quickly.
Pick: Blackshear +107 (1u)
Jason Witt vs Josh Quinlan (-220)
Postponed from last week until now, we should still have a barn burner at welterweight. Quinlan is a Dana White Contender Series graduate with great experience from LFA on his way in and he’s proven a lot in his 5 finishes as some have gone deep. His best traits are his boxing and speed and against a guy like Jason Witt whose 3 UFC losses are by KO, there’s an obvious path to victory for the newcomer. It’s never that simple though, as Witt recently secured a victory over Bryan Barberena (who just won in back-to-back Fight of the Night level performances) and his calling card is imposing wrestling. He has decent power in his hands and can mix his wrestling in well, but he struggles to defend himself when going for takedowns. If he can get this fight to the mat and impose his style on this fight I think Witt has a decent chance, and this line is far too steep for a guy who has been in the ring with better fighters than Quinlan.
Pick: Witt +200 (.5u)
Ode Osbourne vs Tyson Nam (+200)
Tyson Nam returns to the octagon off the back of a very close split decision loss to Matt Schnell 18 months ago. That layoff was unfortunate as 2 bouts were canceled and now gets blessed (sarcasm) with one of the better prospects in Ode Osbourne. He’s only 3-2 in his UFC career with a guillotine loss to Brian Kelleher and a flukey flying knee from Manel Kape where the fight was stopped well before it should have been, but he’s bounced back with 2 fantastic victories since then.
This fight will most definitely be on the feet as Nam is a solid boxer with phenomenal power in his right hand. He mixes in some good leg kicks but his volume doesn’t often win him rounds. He’s durable with solid staying power throughout the fight and when he mixes in body shots it tends to open up his connection to the head. There’s no offensive grappling in his repertoire so we know he won’t take it there but neither will Osbourne. The x-factor for Osbourne is his speed because his hand speed is up there with the best in the UFC and if he can continue to evolve his kickboxing he should be able to keep Nam guessing and connect on a counter when Nam blitzes in to put him out, much like he did against Zarrukh Adashev. With that said, Nam is no slouch, his 3 losses in the UFC come against Matt Schnell, Sergio Pettis, and Kai Kara-France.
Pick: Ode Osbourne by KO/TKO +175 (.5u) & u2.5 -125 (.5u)
Gabriel Benitez vs Charlie Ontiveros (+290)
Gabriel Benitez has been in the UFC for a number of years and while he’s certainly no Top-15 prospect, he’s sure to entertain. 6-6 in the UFC with 8 of those fights coming by stoppage, the UFC knows he’s good for a brawl so even though he’s faced strikers far above his level like David Onama, Billy Quarantillo, Omar Morales, and Sodiq Yusuff and lost to all of them, they know he’ll bring eyes to the card. Not only is he a great striker, he has quite the BJJ threat with 10 submissions even though all but 1 came prior to the UFC. It’s his ability to get the fight to the mat that is a major downfall.
Charlie Ontiveros has lost his first two fights in the UFC after coming in with a lot of hype. Charlie got Kevin Holland on debut, so that should tell you the level of hype behind him, but the fight ended with a peculiar verbal tap due to a neck injury. He started his 2nd fight with an axe kick that made Garcia lose all control and proceeded to knock him down twice, but was rallied against to a 2nd round stoppage because he just had no answer to his wrestling and ground and pound. That’s his Achilles heel and we might see it tested against Benitez.
Benitez has faced much higher competition, has far superior striking, more well-rounded skills and isn’t going to be the fighter cutting a lot of weight. I’ll take the UFC veteran to punish Ontiveros to the body with leg kicks and punches. Give me another liverkick KO here.
Pick: Benitez by KO/TKO -135 (1u)
Cynthia Calvillo vs Nina Nunes (+153)
This fight was originally scheduled for a month ago but was canceled. Luckily these two get the chance to scrap yet again. For Cynthia Calvillo, she has lost 4 of her last 5 fights and the trend there is that she gets blown up on the feet and has quit on the stool in two of her last fights. She pushes forward and throws a lot of combinations but typically at too far of a range to hit land with consistency because if she does get into that boxing range she gets pieced up consistently.
Nina Nunes has only fought once in the past 3 years and lost that fight via armbar to Dern, which is unfortunate but it happens. We know how good she is at her best, dominant on the feet synergizing her power and cardio well, and if she’s able to keep the fight there she could easily force Calvillo into another retirement. She has good takedown defense and power in her hands, so I think there is a much clearer path to victory for Nunes and I’ll take the dog to win. The odds are where they are because of the layoff, but the skill set matches up far too well against Calvillo who hasn’t shown progression over her last number of fights and is mentally giving up.
Pick: Nunes +153 (1u)
Martin Buday vs Lukasz Brzeski (+210)
Two Dana White Contender Series veterans come together to clash in San Diego at Heavyweight. Both fighters only have 1 loss in their professional careers and are looking to ascend quickly within the unique heavyweight division. The first thing you notice when looking at Martin Buday is not only how massive he is, but how quick he is on his feet. He’s consistently on the balls of his feet and able to move quickly to avoid shots, unlike most in the division. He dominated Chris Barnett in his first fight but an unintentional elbow to the back of the head ended it in a no-contest. His forward pressure, boxing, and wrestling acumen are his biggest assets and he should lean on that wrestling against someone who struggles with his defense.
There admittedly isn’t too much tape on Lukasz Brzeski but in listening to media members I trust and reading reports he is a phenomenal prospect. When he gets people to the cage he mixes his attacks to every level well.
He’s incredibly strong and packs massive power in his punches. He begins each fight by throwing a ton of leg kicks before getting into his boxing, which isn’t all that good. His takedown defense is poor and that could come into question against Buday.
I’ll go with the massive heavyweight who is active on the feet with good boxing, keeps the forward pressure and should be able to dictate where the fight takes place. Give me the wrestle heavy Buday to get it done in his 2nd UFC fight.
Pick: u2.5 -145 (1u) & Buday/Godinez MLP -126 (1u)
Bruno Silva vs Gerald Meerschaert (+240)
Gerald Meerschaert enters his 50th professional fight with a record of 34-15 and holds the record for most submissions in Middleweight UFC history. He capitalizes on others getting tired through wearing them out with wrestling and is an expert at it. However, he is very awkward on the feet and has shown to have a very average chin. To add to it, Bruno Silva is a horrific matchup for Meerschaert. 3-1 in his UFC career with the lone loss coming up against title challenger Alex Pereira where he stood his own on the feet (something Sean Strickland couldn’t do) and won plenty of exchanges in that. He’s a decent wrestler with a solid gas tank so I don’t think Meerschaert will be able to see the success he’s had with other fighters in dragging them to deep waters. I’ll take Silva inside the distance with a small hedge on Meerschaert by submission as that’s the only way I see him winning.
Pick: Bruno Silva ITD -170 (1.25u) & Meerschaert by Sub +425 (.25u)
Ariane Lipski vs Priscilla Cachoeira (+170)
This fight was also intended to be on last week’s card but Ariane Lipski could not make weight and was escorted to the hospital after getting sick moments after she stepped off the scale. Now in San Diego, they are fighting a weight class above with hopes to avoid the same issue.
Two fighters with losses to Meatball Molly early in their career, Lipski and Cachoeira meet in an effort to ascend towards the top-15. Cachoeira is known for the pressure she puts on opponents, implemented through her boxing and power. She likes to mix in offensive takedowns but this fight will likely be on the feet for all 15 minutes. Lipski looked great against Bohm in her last fight, but as we saw again last week Bohm is horrible. Lipski utilizes an adept muay thai striking acumen, weaponizing kicks well and providing a more consistent approach. If she can keep her range in this fight she’ll win, but if Priscilla gets in boxing range she’s in trouble. I like the forward pressure, power, and team change from Cachoeira so I’ll go with the dog in this one.
Also, is it me or does Cachoeira look like female Jake Gyllenhall?
Pick: Cachoeira +170 (1u)
Devin Clark vs Azamat Murzakanov (-155)
Veteran Devin Clark looks to take the zero from Azamat Murzakanov who puts that 11-0 professional record to the test. After an impressive DWCS victory, Murzakanov’s cardio was tested vs Nchukwi as he wasn’t able to put him down until a perfectly-timed flying knee in the early stages of the third round. He moves well and his overhand left is a potential fight-ender.
Clark is as entertaining a light heavyweight as there is, always willing to get bloodied up in an effort to get his way inside of the octagon. While Clark’s UFC career can be defined by beating very average fighters and losing to ranked fighters, he’s still held in high esteem in the community and has a well-rounded skill set that makes him tricky for anybody. He has good boxing and phenomenal leg kicks, and solid wrestling that he really synergizes well with his striking.
I’ll take the versatility and well-rounded skill set of Clark to get it done against the powerful, wide-eyed Murzakanov in an upset.
Pick: Clark +130 (1.5u)
Yazmin Jauregui vs Iasmin Lucindo (+170)
The combined age of these two entering this fight is 43 and while you may think they’re not very experienced because of that, you’d be wrong. Jauregui is undefeated with 6 of her 8 wins coming via knockout, while Lucindo (20 years old) is 13-4 with 10 finishes to her name. Jauregui is one of the most technical and powerful boxers in the 115 pound division and it will be on full display if Lucindo can’t land her takedowns. The mixes in fantastic body shots with uppercuts and doesn’t have to force powershots, they are just naturally damaging.
Lucindo’s main training partner is Virna Jandiroba which I love for her development, especially on the ground. She’s a Muay Thai artist with fantastic takedowns and when she gets it there her transitions into more advantageous positions are seamless. While she’s not great on the feet, she is good in the clinch and should be able to close the distance against Jauregui.
Lucindo has faced the tougher competition in her 17 fight career and was preparing for a striker coming in. Jauregui was as well, so I worry about her ability to stop the takedowns and jiu jitsu of Lucindo. Factor in a great training partner and I think this fight should be a coin flip. Jauregui’s boxing will be on full display but I don’t think it’ll be enough for her. Both of these fighters will be in the UFC for a long time so get used to them. I’ll take the dog.
Pick: Lucindo +170 (1u)
Nate Landwehr vs David Onama (-310)
Onama takes this fight after submitting Garrett Armfield via an arm triangle just 5 weeks ago. He’s been dominant his last two UFC fights, knocking Gabriel Benitez from this card with one of the cleanest 14 punch combinations you’ll ever see en route to a standing knockout. He has a long reach for the division and utilizes it well behind a stiff jab. Onama’s power can’t be questioned and I think Landwehr will try to take Onama to deep waters. Landwehr is a pressure fighter who will move forward and loves to get into brawls. In his last outing against Klein he was best when he made the fight scrappy and was great in the clinch. If he can secure the takedowns and commit to them for all three rounds, he could win this solidly but if he can’t I see him being knocked out by the end of the second round. Either way, this should be fireworks and I’ll go with Onama’s power and hand speed to take out Nate Landwehr.
Pick: Onama ITD -110 (1u)
Marlon Vera vs Dominick Cruz (+190)
Chito Vera looks to continue his ascension towards the top of the Bantamweight division, riding a 3 fight winning streak coming into this fight. This is easily his toughest test to date as he comes against the decision king, Dominick Cruz (7 of 9 UFC fights to the cards). Having won his last two fights since losing the belt to Henry Cejudo, Cruz is looking for one last run at the title before his career comes to a close.
Chito Vera has one of the most diverse arsenals of strikes the UFC has right now and he’s only looked better with age. Long for the division and boasting a reach advantage in this fight Vera will need to utilize it to stop the volume pittar-pattar of Cruz that he uses to win rounds. Where Chito’s distinct advantage lies is in his power and if he can force Cruz to wrestle and stuff a takedown he might walk away with a finish by the end.
As I mentioned, most Cruz fights go to the cards and that’s because he doesn’t have the heaviest hands nor the deadliest Jiu Jitsu but everything in between is brilliant. What he does have is great cardio and volume striking that he’s proven lasts 25 minutes and his wrestling is phenomenal. He struggles to get finishes when taking it to the mat but does decent ground and pound.
Chito Vera likes to accept the bottom position on the ground and try to throw up submissions which I can guarantee won’t work against Cruz and I think that wrestling will be the x-factor in this fight. Both of these fighters will throw volume on the feet with Vera being the much more dangerous striker and I think that’s the difference. Cruz has looked noticeably slower in his recent fights and Vera has looked like a title challenger lately. I’ll go with the rightful favorite here in Marlon Vera.