The UFC returns to its APEX Facility in Las Vegas for UFC Vegas 34 on Saturday night.
Middleweight veterans Jared Cannonier will take on Kelvin Gastelum in Saturday’s main event as one of them looks to move up the ladder. Meanwhile, Mark O. Madsen attempts to keep his clean slate when he faces Clay Guida while heavyweight knockout artists Parker Porter and Chase Sherman also collide in the main card.
But before the big names hit the Octagon, fans will be treated to a six-fight prelims undercard that will precede the show. Let’s take a look at the fights and make our predictions.
Luis Saldana is a veteran of MCC, AFC, and RFA. He joined the UFC last year after a third-round TKO win over Vince Murdock at the Contender Series. Saldana scored a unanimous decision win over Jordan Griffin at UFC ABC 2 last April 10th.
This 30-year old is 5-11 tall with a 73-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 15-6 with 9 knockouts and 5 submission wins.
Austin Lingo fought for LFA and XKO before joining the UFC last year. The 27-year old from Mesquite, Texas lost to Yousef Zalal in his UFC debut at UFC 247. However, he bounced back to defeat Jacob Kilburn on points in his most recent bout last January 16th.
Lingo has a record of 8-1 with three knockouts and two submission losses. He is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 70 inches.
It won’t be a surprise to see Lingo land one of his big shots before Saldana gets going, especially if he constantly applies the pressure and keeps his opponent on the back foot.
However, Saldana has a significant edge if he is able to stay away from Lingo’s power shots. Lingo does not have the wrestling to prevent Saldana from getting his kicking game going here. I think Saldana fights brilliantly from a distance and wins comfortably on points.
Prediction: Luis Saldana
Brian Kelleher fought under Bellator and CES MMA before joining the UFC. This 34-year old from Selden, New York is also a former Ring of Combat bantamweight champion. Kelleher has lost two out of his last three bouts and heads to Saturday’s even coming off a loss against Ricky Simon.
He has a record of 22-12 with 8 knockouts and 10 submission wins. Kelleher is a switch hitter who stands 5-6 tall with a 66-inch reach.
Domingo Pilarte fought for LFC, LFA, and Fury Fighting before joining the Contender Series where he scored a submission win over Vince Morales. He lost to Felipe Dias Colares in his UFC debut and had figured in a no-contest against Johnny Newson in his most recent bout.
Pilarte is 8-2 with two knockouts and four submission wins. He stands six feet tall with a 73-inch reach and is a southpaw fighter.
Pilarte has decent striking skills but often he is unable to fight at range, which has led to his downfall in the UFC. If Kelleher puts the pressure on him and forces Pilarte to fight in the pocket, Kelleher should find Pilarte’s jaw sooner or later.
Kelleher does have a tendency to get taken down because of his aggression and Pilarte is sneaky on the ground. However, Kelleher’s submission defense, scrambling skills, and fast pace will carry him to victory.
Prediction: Brian Kelleher
Bea Malecki is a newcomer to the sport. The 29-year old from Sweden fought under Excite Fight before joining the UFC in 2019. She won her UFC debut against Duda Santana via submission in 2019 and followed that up with a 2020 win over Veronica Macedo.
Malecki is 4-0 with one knockout and two submission wins. She is 5-9 tall with a 74-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Josiane Nunes fought under Brazilian promotions EFC, SHC, STF, and Curitiba Top Fight before joining the UFC this year. The 27-year old Brazilian heads to this fight with six straight wins including a TKO over Quesia Zbonik in her most recent bout.
Nunes is 7-1 with six knockouts. She stands 5-2 tall with a 67-inch reach while fighting out of the southpaw stance.
Malecki has the edge in height, reach, and striking skills. And even if she has not mastered using her length to her advantage, she is also the stronger fighter between these two in the clinch. She also has the kicking game to fight from range, just in case.
Nunes is a slugger who displayed knockout power against low-quality opponents in her native country. She figures to land a lot here, as Malecki’s defense isn’t elite. However, I think that Nunes isn’t going to be a big puncher against stronger opponents in the UFC. Malecki’s volume should propel her to victory here.
Prediction: Bea Malecki
William Knight fought under Premier FC and CES MMA. The 33-year old from Hartford, Connecticut appeared in the Contender Series twice where he picked up two TKO wins. He joined the UFC in 2020 and defeated Aleksa Camur in his UFC debut. However, he lost to Da Un Jung in his second UFC bout.
Knight has a record of 9-2 with 8 knockouts. He stands 5-10 tall with a 73-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Fabio Cherant went undefeated at CES MMA and LFA. He joined the Contender Series in 2019 but lost to Aleksa Camur via TKO. Cherant was submitted by Alonzo Menifield during his UFC debut at UFC 260.
He has a record of 7-2 with five knockouts and is a southpaw who stands 6-1 tall with an undisclosed reach.
Cherant has shown a tendency to get backed against the cage which plays to Knight’s advantage. If Knight can also take this fight to the ground, he can very well grind out Cherant. However, if he can keep this fight standing up, Cherant’s crisp combinations and fast hands will win him the fight. Outside low leg kicks and overhand rights, Knight’s striking game is underdeveloped. That’s where Cherant takes advantage and wins this fight.
Prediction: Fabio Cherant
Roosevelt Roberts is a former CXF lightweight champion. He joined the Contender Series in 2018 and earned his UFC contract. Roberts is 4-2 with one no-contest inside the UFC with the no-contest originally a loss to Kevin Croom in his last fight which was overturned after the latter tested positive for marijuana.
Roberts is 10-2 with three knockouts and five submission wins. He is an orthodox fighter who is 6-2 tall and has a reach of 73 inches.
Ignacio Bahamondes fought under Square Ring Promotions, Titan FC, LFA, and Lux Fight League before joining the UFC via the Contender Series. Bahamondes lost via split decision to John Makdessi in his UFC debut last April 10th.
The 23-year old from Chile has a record of 11-4 with 8 knockouts. He is 6-3 tall with a 75-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Bahamondes has the edge on the feet because of the volume and variety of his attack. Roberts has a dangerous submission game but it won’t be much of a factor as his takedown offense isn’t going to work against Bahamondes’ defense. I won’t discount the possibility that either can end this fight with a knockout. However, the most probable ending is Bahamondes winning on points by outworking Roberts.
Prediction: Ignacio Bahamondes
Ramiz Brahimaj is a veteran of XKO and LFA. The 28-year old from Bronx, New York joined the UFC last year but suffered a loss to Max Griffin in his debut. Brahimaj is just 2-3 in his last five bouts.
He has an overall record of 8-3 with all of his wins coming via submission. Brahimaj is 5-10 tall with a 72-inch reach and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Sasha Palatnikov fought under AFC and ADW prior to joining the UFC in 2020. The 32-year old from Hong Kong suffered a submission loss to Impa Kasanganay in his most recent bout.
Palatnikov is 6-3 with three knockouts and is 5-10 tall with a 72-inch reach while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Palatnikov has a decent striking game and he can hang around the mid-tier fighters ni the promotion. However, Brahimaj is a fighter who can hold his own on the feet and if this becomes a wrestling match, he has the big edge in grappling. I think this fight will end up on the mat and in one of their scrambles, Brahimaj will find Palatnikov’s neck and choke him out.
Prediction: Ramiz Brahimaj
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