The UFC heads to the Toyota Center in Space City to crown an interim heavyweight champion.
Hometown boy Derrick Lewis will take on rising Frenchman Cyril Gane in the main event of Saturday’s event with the winner expected to unify the belt with Francis Ngannou soon. Former champion Jose Aldo will lock horns with Pedro Munhoz while Michael Chiesa faces Vicente Luque in the other big fights of UFC 265.
But before the big fights happen, a loaded prelims undercard will open the PPV show and the ESPN+ card. Let’s take a look at those fights and predict our winners.
Bobby Green is a former King of Cage lightweight and junior welterweight champion. The 34-year old from San Bernardino, California has also fought for promotions like Tachi Palace Fights, Strikeforce, and Affliction. He joined the UFC in 2013 and has amassed an Octagon record of 8-6-1. Green saw a three-fight winning streak end at the hands of Thiago Moises who defeated him via decision in his most recent bout.
Green is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 71 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 27-11 with 8 knockouts and 9 wins via submission.
Rafael Fiziev is a former Muay Thai champion in Kyrgyzstan and IFMA. The 28-year old from Kazakhstan fought under Road FC and Titan FC before joining the UFC in 2019. After losing via first round TKO to Magomed Mustafaev in his UFC debut, he has won three in a row and heads to this fight after a KO win over Renato Moicano.
Fiziev has a record of 9-1 with six knockouts and one submission victory. He stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 71 inches and is a switch hitter.
Green certainly has the durability, wrestling, and pace to test the rising Fiziev. In the last 10 years, only Dustin Poirier has been able to stop Green on strikes. That means he will most likely have 15 minutes to try and outwork Fiziev, which is not impossible.
However, Fiziev’s technical advantage may be enough to overcome Green’s high volume. It won’t be easy, given what we said about Green. However, Fiziev’s kickboxing should do its thing on the feet and his takedown defense should hold to prevent Green from turning this into a wrestling match.
Prediction: Rafael Fiziev
Karolina Kowalkiewicz is a former KSW women’s flyweight champion. The 35-year old from Poland also fought under Invicta FC before joining the UFC in 2015. After winning her first three fights, including a win over Rose Namajunas in a title eliminator, she challenged but lost to compatriot Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 205. She has struggled since then, losing five of her last seven bouts including her last four.
The Polish Princess is 5-3 tall with a 64-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance. She has a record of 12-6 with one knockout and two wins via submission.
Jessica Penne was the inaugural Invicta FC atomweight champion. The 38-year old from Newport Beach, California also fought in the first-ever women’s bout at Bellator MMA. Penne joined the UFC in 2014 but has fought only four times under the promotion, going 2-2 during that span. She is coming off a win over Lupita Godinez last April.
Penne is 13-5 with two knockouts and seven submission wins. She is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-5 tall with a reach of 67 inches.
Kowalkiewicz’s steady decline is a red flag. This once title challenger has dropped four in a row and the manner in which she lost the bouts was bothersome. Against Yan Xiaonan, she was taken down five times by a fighter who was destroyed by Carla Esparza on the ground.
Penne has a grappling-heavy game and takedowns and we should see Kowalkiewicz struggle with those once again. I’m not a fan of Penne’s game but Kowalkiewicz’s decline is the big issue here.
Prediction: Jessica Penne
Vince Morales was a mainstay of Front Street Fights and also fought under KOTC before appearing in the Contender Series where he was submitted by Domingo Pilarte. The 30-year old from Caldwell, Idaho joined the UFC in 2018 but is just 1-3 under the promotion. Morales has not fought since losing via TKO to Chris Gutierrez in May 2020.
Morales is 9-5 with five knockouts and two wins via submission. He is 5-7 tall with a reach of 70 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Draco Rodriguez earned a 6-1 record at KOTC then joined the Contender Series last year where he scored a technical submission win over Leomana Martinez. The 25-year old from Sioux City, Iowa was knocked out by Aiemann Zahabi during his UFC debut last February.
Rodriguez is 7-2 with two knockouts and four wins by way of submission. He is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-8 tall and has a 69-inch reach.
Rodriguez is the younger fighter here and he has superior submission skills and a snappy array of kicks that could take Morales off his game plan. However, Morales has a big right hand that can undo all the good qualities of Rodriguez. If the defensive lapses we saw against Zahabi show up here, things could go downhill for Rodriguez.
The oddsmakers think this is a pick ‘em fight and I would have to agree. Rodriguez got destroyed by a big right hand that Morales has but at the same time, he has more tools to win this fight. I won’t be surprised if Morales goes berserk after the opening bell and clips Rodriguez. But I think Rodriguez will use low kicks to defuse his opponent’s attack and take a hard-earned decision.
Prediction: Drako Rodriguez
Alonzo Menifield fought under Bellator and the Legacy Fighting Alliance Promotion. The 33-year old from Los Angeles, California joined the Contender Series in 2018 and defeated Dashawn Boatwright to earn a UFC contract. Menifield is 3-2 in the UFC and is coming off a win over Fabio Cherant.
Menifield is an orthodox fighter who stands six feet tall with a reach of 76 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance. He owns a record of 10-2 with eight knockouts and two submission wins.
Ed Herman has the longest uninterrupted tenure in the UFC, having been in the promotion since 2004. The 40-year old from Vancouver, Washington was a finalist at The Ultimate Fighter 3 tournament and also competed for Strikeforce and Pancrase. After losing four of five bouts from 2015 to 2018, he has won three in a row and is coming off a submission win over Mike Rodriguez.
Herman is 26-14 with 7 knockouts and 14 wins via submission. He stands 6-1 tall with a 77-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance.
While Minefield may never realize the full potential of his athletic gifts, I think his athleticism alone will win this fight. Herman has the skill, experience, and toughness to make this a fight but he doesn’t have the reach to punish Menifield’s striking limitations.
At this stage of his career, Herman is too slow to keep up on the feet and his takedown skills might not work here. Unless Menifield is lured to the clinch where Herman’s knees and grappling will give him a shot at victory, Menifield should overwhelm Herman with punches.
Prediction: Alonzo Minefield
Manel Kape is a former Rizin FF bantamweight champion and Knock Out Bantamweight champion. The 27-year old from Luanda, Angola is winless in two UFC bouts and is coming off a loss to Matheus Nicolau.
Kape has a record of 5-6 with nine knockouts and five submission wins. He is a southpaw who stands 5-5 tall and has a reach of 68 inches.
Ode Osbourne is a veteran of NAFC and Pure FC. The 29-year old from Waukesha, Wisconsin submitted Armando Villareal in the Contender Series in 2019, earning a UFC contract. He lost to Brian Kelleher in his Octagon debut but bounced back to beat Jerome Rivera via KO in his second UFC bout.
Osbourne is 9-3 with four knockouts and four submission wins. He is a southpaw who stands 5-7 tall and has a reach of 73 inches.
Both fighters have the potential to be a contender in the UFC and their contrasting styles make this an excellent matchup. But as good as Osbourne has looked, I think this bout will go down to whether Kape will be able to let his hands fly. In his last losses, he looked passive and it appeared like he could’ve taken the win had he been more active.
Osbourne is good but he has not been tested against top-level opposition. Kape has fought better quality foes and if he just lets his hands go in this fight, I have no doubt that he will be victorious in a striking affair.
Prediction: Manel Kape
Miles Johns is the former LFA bantamweight champion. The 27-year old from Newton, Kansas defeated Richie Santiago in the Contender Series and earned his UFC contract in 2019. Johns is 2-1 inside the Octagon and is coming off a win over Kevin Natividad.
Johns is 5-7 tall with a 66-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 11-3 with three knockouts and two submission wins.
Anderson dos Santos is a former Titan FC bantamweight champion. The 36-from Sao Paulo, Brazil is joined the UFC in 2018 but has fought just three times for the promotion, losing his first two bouts before winning against Martin Day in his last bout last November 2020.
Dos Santos has a record of 21-8 with 5 knockouts and 12 submission wins. He is an orthodox fighter who is 5-5 tall and has a 70-inch reach.
Dos Santos’ striking attack is heavy on hooks which leaves him vulnerable to the laser jabs that Johns likes to lead his offense with. The latter also has solid wrestling that will be able to take care of things in case this fight goes to the mat.
The ground attack of Dos Santos does pose some threat here. However, the big discrepancy in wrestling skills will be the key for Miles Johns. For as long as Johns doesn’t get too passive here, he has all the tools needed to emerge victorious.
Prediction: Miles Johns.
Victoria Leonardo fought for LFA, Bellator, and Invicta FC before joining the Contender Series where she scored a TKO win over Chelsea Hackett. Leonardo lost via TKO in her UFC debut last January.
Leonardo is 8-3 with one knockout and four submission wins. She is 5-5 tall with a reach of 64 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Melissa Gatto fought in Brazil and is unbeaten in eight fights with two draws. This 25-year old from Sao Paulo, Brazil defeated Karol Rosa in her most recent bout but that was in 2018.
Gatto is an orthodox fighter who is 5-5 tall with an undisclosed reach. Her MMA record is 6-0 with four submission wins.
Gatto was a capable submission artist but she has not fought since 2018. At 25, she may have worked on her skills and may be a much better fighter now but we don’t know until we see her inside that cage on Saturday.
Leonardo isn’t a world-beater but she looks to have the striking advantage here and appears to be the much better wrestler. Although those are assumptions, I’d rather go with those than the unknowns that Gatto brings with her long layoff.
Prediction: Victoria Leonardo
Jamey Simmons fought mostly for Pure FC before joining the UFC last year. The 28-year old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin was knocked out by Giga Chikadze in his UFC debut. He has a record of 7-3 with four knockouts and one submission win. Simmons is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-6 tall with a 70-inch reach.
Johnny Munoz Jr. is a former champion at the King of Cage promotions. He entered the UFC with an unbeaten 10-0 record but lost a decision to Joseph Nathan Manses in his UFC debut. The 28-year old from Norco, California has a record of 10-1 with two knockouts and six submission wins.
Simmons was pitted against a much bigger opponent who was also a more seasoned striker than him in his UFC debut and he lost. But now he’s fighting someone closer to his size and I think we’ll see what he’s made of here.
While his cardio problems could become an issue here, Munoz is a world-class submission artist with decent wrestling. Unless Simmons stays at a distance and is successful with potshots, Munoz grabs his neck and puts him to sleep.
Prediction: Johnny Munoz Jr.
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