See who we are picking for UFC Vegas: Lewis vs. Spivac.
We’ve been here before. In November we thought we would have this headliner. However, Lewis had to pull out due to a last minute COVID-19 infection detection. Before we knew that was going on, we made our picks and were mostly on the side of ‘The Black Beast’. This time around not much has changed, with all but one of us picking Lewis to rise past the challenger of the upstart Serghei Spivac.
Check out the rest of our picks below for this card I’m not many will be watching (the main card starts at 1 a.m. ET). And don’t forget to add you own picks in the comments below.
Derrick Lewis vs. Serghei Spivac
Anton Tabuena: It could be tough to keep relying on raw power and physicality as he turns 38, but until I see Lewis lose to people on a much lower level, I’ll still pick him to beat middle of the pack heavyweights. Derrick Lewis by KO.
Zane Simon: It kinda snuck up on me, at least the first time, but this really is something of a ‘do or die’ moment in Derrick Lewis’ career. Behind fearsome punching power, he clawed his way to the top of the heavyweight mountain, but the water’s just been a bit too deep for him among the very very best. Is that all there is to his recent losses? He’s never been the most durable heavyweight, so there’s nothing to say that losing to Pavlovich and Tuivasa is different than him losing to Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan way back in the day. Put more simply, Derrick Lewis doesn’t lose to guys like Spivac. Not for a long long time. If a low power, high energy grinder can take him out, then it really is a sign that time is catching up with the ‘Black Beast’. Absolutely could be the case, but for now I’m still betting that this is the kind of fight Lewis can survive and find a way to win spectacularly. Derrick Lewis via KO, round 2.
Tim Bissell: I think this is a very close fight and that Lewis’ days as a threat at the top of the division are behind us. However, I don’t really anticipate Spivac reaching that upper level of the division, nor do I think he’s good enough (or on enough of an upswing) to catch Lewis as he’s coming down. Lewis is still a cut above everything Spivac has faced in the Octagon, thus far, and I just think he will be too tough for Spivac to put away and too crafty to drop a decision. Derrick Lewis via decision.
Staff picking Lewis: Bissell, Chris, Kristen, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Spivac: Eddie
Da Un Jung vs. Devin Clark
Zane Simon: Clark really struggles badly with rangy strikers. Da Un Jung has his defensive flaws, but he’s incredibly consistent about delivering steady range output round after round. Considering that Clark isn’t much of a finisher either, seems like a very tough fight for the ‘Brown Bear’. Da Un Jung by decision.
Tim Bissell: Da Un Jung has the reach advantage and lands way more significant strikes a minute than Clark (4.05 vs. 2.94). Clark is over ten percent more accurate with his striking, but I don’t think that will trouble Jung too much — in 20 career bouts he only has 3 TKOs to his name (one of those was due to a hand injury suffered by his opponent and another was in his second ever fight). Jung made his name as a KO artist on the regional scene and has stopped Kennedy Nzechukwu and Mike Rodriguez in the Octagon. I think he’ll find the range and hurt Clark here. Da Un Jung by TKO.
Staff picking Jung: Bissell, Chris, Eddie, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Clark: Kristen
Marcin Tybura vs. Blagoy Ivanov
Zane Simon: Has ugly 3-round heavyweight grind fest written all over it. Could easily be a split decision decided by whose back was on the fence for longer. Marcin Tybura via split decision.
Tim Bissell: If you’re staying up past 1 a.m. to watch this, then you need to take your sleep more seriously. That being said, this one will probably lull you into a slumber before the end of the second round. Marcin Tybura by decision.
Staff picking Tybura: Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Ivanov: Chris, Anton
Doo Ho Choi vs. Kyle Nelson
Anton Tabuena: Choi’s long layoff is no joke, and neither is the damage he has taken in his prior fights. I have no idea how he looks in this return, but on paper, this should at least be a good fight that favors the South Korean. Doo Ho Choi by TKO.
Zane Simon: Nelson has a real chance to win this. He’s a good puncher, a good wrestler, and a solid physical specimen. His problem has always been the heavy tension that he seems to compete under. It usually leaves him gassed after a round, no matter how well he’s doing. Choi has a lot of problems, and I have no idea how rusty he’ll be or where his chin is at these days, but he doesn’t tend to break himself. Doo Ho Choi via TKO, round 2.
Tim Bissell: This is probably going to be the fight of the main card, since both these guys have a reckless streak to them that goes either well or very bad for them. I’m wary of the lay-off for Choi, and the fact he was probably pumped to be making a return in Seoul, before this fight card got moved to Vegas. Still, he’s battle tested as all hell and his output should cause Nelson problems here. Doo ho Choi via decision.
Staff picking Choi: Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Nelson: Chris, Lucas
Yusaku Kinoshita vs. Adam Fugitt
Anton Tabuena: I may be wrong here, but Fugitt, I’m going to pick Kinoshita. Kinoshita by Decision.
Tim Bissell: Boooooooo Anton. Yusaku Kinoshita via TKO.
Zane Simon: Fugitt’s the more well rounded fighter and he’s got some good size and decent takedowns that could trouble Kinoshita a lot. He also seems like the far less durable fighter and very very likely to be willing to step in and engage Kinoshita at close range where the Japanese fighter is a fearsome puncher. Yusaku Kinoshita via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Kinoshita: Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne
Staff picking Fugitt: Chris
Anshul Jubli vs. Jeka Saragih
Anton Tabuena: India and Indonesia have been underrepresented in major MMA promotions, and it’s interesting that they both made it to the final, but I believe it will be Indonesia that gets their first representative in the UFC. Both seem still a bit raw and limited at this point in their careers, but Saragih has better power. Jeka Saragih by TKO.
Zane Simon: Really like Jubli’s strike selection a lot. He’s got good form and he’s a dedicated body puncher. Both things that are sure to keep me invested in his future. The problem for him here is that he does his best work in the pocket, trading shots, and he just doesn’t have a lot of pop on his shots. That could easily come with time, but right now, at this moment, he’s facing a dude with some serious power and decent form and a really solid chin. Jeka Saragih via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Jubli: Bissell, Chris
Staff picking Saragih: Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Zha Yi vs. Jeong Yeong Lee
Anton Tabuena: While we didn’t get to see enough of his improvements in recent years — because he finished them all quickly — “The Korean Tiger” is obviously a potent finisher, and I think there are holes in Yi’s game that he can exploit to find that finish. Jeong Yeong Lee by TKO.
Zane Simon: Zha Yi’s impressive record make a lot more sense when you look at the level of competition he was usually facing and the way he approaches his fights. A dedicated wrestle-grappler, he’s not the most physical force or best takedown artist in the world, but he’s persistent with a controlling, grinding style. Exactly the kind of thing that’s gonna rack up wins on the regionals. It also seems like it won’t translate to bigger stages at all. Jeong Yeong Lee has a lot of the defensive gaps that Korean talent has been known for over the years, but he’s double tough, a heavy puncher, much bigger, and seems very capable of staying on his feet. Jeong Yeong Lee via TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Yi: Chris, Lucas
Staff picking Lee: Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Rinya Nakamura vs. Toshiomi Kazama
Anton Tabuena: Nakamura and Lee are probably the two most promising standouts in these Asian tournaments. Nakamura is a good wrestler that can probably keep this on the feet, where he’d have a power edge. Rinya Nakamura by TKO.
Zane Simon: Kazama’s crafty and capable, but Nakamura is a truly top tier athletic prospect with serious power and a dominant wrestling game. For a guy like Kazama, who often has to grind and trap his opponents into grappling with him, this is all bad news. Rinya Nakamura via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Nakamura: Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Kazama: Chris, Lucas
Hyun Sung Park vs. Seung Guk Choi
Anton Tabuena: Park needs a bit of work with his striking, but he’s tough and should be just the better overall MMA fighter here still in this all-Korean finals. Hyun Sung Park by decision.
Zane Simon: I’m not sure either of these guys has what it takes to really be long term flyweights in the UFC. Neither seems like an exceptional athlete, and neither man seems like they have single go-to skill in their game they can depend on. Facing off against one another, however, I gotta lean toward Hyun Sung Park, just because he’s a bit more physical and fights with more clear process and determination. Hyun Sung Park via decision.
Staff picking Park: Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Choi: Chris
Ji Yeon Kim vs. Mandy Bohm
Anton Tabuena: Kim has had a rough stretch of battles that could’ve gone her way with a few tweaks, but she has faced and done well against far better opponents and should be good enough to take this one. Ji Yeon Kim by decision.
Zane Simon: Bohm may be the most un-athletic fighter on the women’s flyweight roster. Kim has had her struggles, but she should handle this. Ji Yeon Kim via decision.
Staff picking Kim: Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Bohm: Chris
Jun Yong Park vs. Denis Tiuliulin
Anton Tabuena: Park will grind this one out. Jun Yong Park by late TKO.
Zane Simon: Every Jun Yong Park fight gives me just a little bit of pause. At 5’ 10” he’s a tiny middleweight, and he doesn’t really even make up for it with surprising strength or dynamic speed. Every fight Park has, he has to make victory happen on the razor’s edge of defeat. If Tiuliulin can just stay upright, he’ll have chances to snatch a victory. But, Park is a very good counterpuncher and a very clever wrestler with great top control ground and pound. As long as he can make that game work, he’s got a clear path to victory. Jun Yong Park via decision.
Staff picking Park: Bissell, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Tiuliulin: Chris
Tatsuro Taira vs. Jesus Aguilar
Anton Tabuena: The undefeated 23-year-old Taira keeps improving and is an intriguing Japanese prospect for a reason. Tatsuro Taira by TKO.
Zane Simon: Aguilar is a real physical beast, and could make this fight interesting if he can turn it into a wild series of brawls and scrambles at a high pace. But Taira much bigger and a really really good lock down grappler. If Aguilar is willing to go to the mat with him, and I think he will be, Taira will likely suffocate him there. Tatsuro Taira via submission, round 3.
Staff picking Taira: Bissell, Chris, Kristen, Eddie, Stephie, Lucas, Zane, Dayne, Anton
Staff picking Aguilar
Now we have some changes afoot at BE, but the staff picks will keep on ticking and I’ll keep maintaining this standings to crown our 2023 champion. As you can see below, Dayne held onto his place atop the leaderboard thanks to a 12-3 record last week. Close behind him are Eddie and Stephie. I jumped up in the standings this week, going from tenth to sixth thanks to a 12-3 record of my own last week.