fter opening 2021 in Abu Dhabi, the UFC returns to its silent arena in Las Vegas for UFC Vegas 18 or UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs Volkov on February 6, 2021.
Headlining the event is a heavyweight showdown between former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem and former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov. But before the big guys come swinging at each other, the event will be preceded by a prelims undercard led by veterans Michael Johnson and Clay Guida.
Let’s take a look at the UFC Vegas 18 prelims undercard and make our predictions:
Michael Johnson was the runner-up of TUF: Team GSP vs Team Koscheck. The 34-year old known as the Menace fought in the regional circuits before joining the UFC in 2010. This former XCF lightweight champion has a record of 19-16 with 8 knockouts and 2 wins via submission. Johnson has lost six out of his last eight bouts including his last three. He stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 73 ½ inches and is a southpaw fighter.
Clay Guida has been fighting since 2003 and was the inaugural Strikeforce lightweight champion. The 39-year old joined the UFC in 2006 and has fought the who’s who of the division. The Carpenter is just 3-3 in his last six bouts and has lost two in a row heading to this fight. Guida has a record of 35-20 with seven knockouts and 13 wins via submission. He is 5-7 tall with a reach of 70 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Johnson is the better fighter on the feet but he is still lost when he’s put on his back. Guida will likely get battered by punches in the early stages of the fight. But he’s durable enough to withstand Johnson. Make no mistake, Menace has the tools to win this fight. But he is unable to stay focused long enough to pick up wins. Guida perseveres, puts Johnson on his back late in the fight, and get a submission win. Look for another meltdown from the Menace here.
Prediction: Clay Guida
Mike Rodriguez fought most of his career for CES MMA. The 32-year old is a product of Dana White’s Contender Series and has been in the UFC since 2018. Rodriguez lost his UFC debut to Devin Clark and is just 2-2-1 ever since. He has an overall record of 11-5 with nine knockouts and two wins via submission. Rodriguez is 6-3 tall and has a reach of 82.5 inches.
Danilo Marques won two straight bouts at Gladiator Combat Federation and earned a UFC contract. The 35-year old from Sao Paulo, Brazil is defeated Khadis Ibragimov at UFC 253 in his UFC debut. He stands 6-6 tall with a reach of 77 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 10-2 with four knockouts and four wins via submission.
Marques has decent wrestling and ground game but doesn’t have much else. He may take Rodriguez down and if the latter hasn’t improved his takedown defense, he could lose this fight. However, that may be just wishful thinking. Rodriguez is a good striker and will take advantage of Marques’ non-existent striking game. He should be able to land a couple of big blows that will dictate the tempo of this fight. This should be an easy win on the feet for Rodriguez.
Prediction: Mike Rodriguez
Timur Valiev is a Russian grappling champion and a European International Pankration champion. The 31-year old from Dagestan is unbeaten in his last seven bouts but is coming off a TKO loss to Trevin Jones which was overturned to a no-contest. Valiev has a record of 16-2 with five knockouts and two wins via submission. He stands 5-6 tall with a reach of 67 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Martin Day is a former URCC bantamweight champion in the Asia Pacific. The 32-year old is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 73 inches. He joined the UFC after winning the belt at URCC but has yet to pick up a win after three UFC bouts. Day has a record of 8-5 with three knockouts and two wins via submission.
Valiev gives up four inches in height to his opponent. But he has the kickboxing arsenal to shut down Day’s long-range striking and the wrestling to take advantage of Day’s lack of a ground game. Valiev is coming off a loss in his Octagon debut but unless his confidence is gone, he should have too much in the arsenal for the Hawaiian. Valiev’s boxing and superior wrestling will win this fight for him.
Prediction: Timur Valiev
Devonte Smith fought in the regional circuit before joining the UFC via the Contender Series. Smith won his first two UFC bouts, defeating Julian Erosa and Dong Hyun Ma before losing Khama Worthy via knockout at UFC 241. He has a record of 10-2 with nine knockouts and one win via submission. Smith is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-9 tall with a reach of 76 inches.
Justin Jaynes is a former WXC lightweight champion. The 31-year old from Richmond, Michigan joined the UFC after a successful first title defense in the WXC. Jaynes defeated Frank Camacho in his Octagon debut but has lost back to back fights to Gavin Tucker and Gabriel Benitez. He has a record of 16-5 with eight knockouts and five wins via submission. Jaynes stands 5-7 tall with a reach of 68 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Smith has a two-inch height and a massive eight-inch reach advantage over Jaynes, a one-dimensional striker. Smith has the heavier hands and his punches are sharper. Jaynes tends to swing for the fences, leaving him wide open for calf kicks. Both are coming off losses but I think this is a stylistic disadvantage for Jaynes. Not to mention the ridiculous reach disadvantage.
Prediction: Devonte Smith
Karol Rosa joined the UFC in 2019 and has picked up two wins against Laura Procopio and Vanessa Melo. This 26-year old from Brazil enters this bout with a four-fight winning streak. She has a record of 13-3 with four knockouts and two submission victories. Rosa is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-5 tall with a reach of 67 inches.
Josylene Edwards fought in KOTC, LFA, and Mexico before arriving in the UFC this year. In her Octagon debut, Edwards defeated Yanan Wu just last January 16th. She has a record of 10-2 with five knockouts and three wins via submission. Edwards is 5-8 tall with a reach of 68 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Rosa has the more sharp punches and has some neat wrestling in her arsenal. She also pushes a pace that Edwards might not match. Edwards has good striking but she could struggle against Rosa’s volume. She exceeded expectations against Wu but Rosa is more well-rounded. Look for Rosa to outwork Edwards on the feet while landing occasional takedowns.
Prediction: Karol Rosa
Molly McCann is a former Cage Warriors FC flyweight champion. The 30-year old from Liverpool, England lost her Octagon debut but has since won three out of her last four bouts. McCann is 10-3 with four knockouts. She is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-4 tall with a reach of 62 inches.
Lara Procopio is fought for Shooto Brazil before joining the UFC in 2019. She’s fought once inside the Octagon, losing to Karol Rosa. This 25-year old from Minas Gerais, Brazil has a record of 6-1 with one knockout and two submission wins. She stands 5-4 tall with a reach of 67 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Procopio is the better wrestler between these two fighters and while McMann has improved in that department over the years, it doesn’t seem enough to beat the Brazilian if this fight went that way. And if she is able to shut down Procopio’s takedown game, the Brazilian is a busy striker who can keep up with McCann on the feet. McCann could still have the edge in the striking department. But that’s not going to be enough to overcome the deficit on the ground.
Prediction: Laura Procopio
Seung Woo Choi was a bronze medalist in the Muay Thai World Championships and a 2-time Top FC featherweight champion in South Korea. The 28-year old Choi lost his first two Octagon assignments but finally got his first UFC win in his most recent fight against Suman Mokhtarian. He is 8-3 with five knockouts. Choi is an orthodox fighter who stands six feet tall and has a reach of 74 inches.
Youssef Zalal fought mostly for LFA before joining the UFC last year. The 24-year old Moroccan won his first three UFC bouts before losing to Ilia Topuria last October. Zalal is 10-3 with two knockouts and five wins via submission. He is a switch hitter who stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 72 inches.
Zalal is a very durable fighter who can get very creative on his feet and avoid getting hit with major blows. He also possesses a wrestling game that is enough to put Choi on his back if things aren’t working too well on the feet. Despite taking this fight on a week’s notice, Zalal’s footwork, takedown game, and careful potshots carry him to a win here.
Prediction: Youssef Zalal
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