Get the dirt on the preliminary action out of UFC Vegas this Saturday, featuring the UFC’s all-time leader in appearances, Jim Miller, looking to extend his winning streak to four.
When is the UFC going to hit the road full time? Given the frequency in which the cards from the APEX are of substandard quality, I’m anxious for the promotion to make a priority of fighting in front of a live audience. I know there will continue to be cards that are less than stellar, but I believe there would be a greater effort to ensure the live fans pay for quality. Well, I suppose it’s more accurate to say that a greater effort would be made to ensure a live audience pays to show up, but it’s the same idea. To be fair, UFC Vegas 69 was plagued by injuries and rescheduling issues. Regardless, over half of the preliminary contests feature a fighter making their UFC debut. The debutants are reasonable prospects, but they haven’t proven themselves either. In other words, this card is a hard sell, even former frequent Fight Night headliners Jim Miller and Ovince Saint Preux.
- Jim Miller has become a beloved figure as the all-time leader in UFC bouts and UFC victories. He’s sitting at 40 fights under his belt right now, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he were to make it to his goal of 45 given how the UFC continues to give him favorable matchups. Miller isn’t as durable as he used to be, nor is he as fast. Perhaps most concerning, his gas tank may be the most suspect part of his game. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who is more savvy at securing the type of fight he wants. Though most fighters know they shouldn’t hit the mat with Miller, he often finds a way to make it happen early in the fight. Plus, Miller has become more acute as to when to let his power loose, as his wins over Erick Gonzalez and Nikolas Motta indicate. However, during that stretch, the opponents Miller has defeated have either had a lack of experience or were well past their prime. It could be argued Alexander Hernandez should be smack dab in the middle of his prime. He’s got plenty of quality experience too. Unfortunately for him, he’s one of the UFC’s better definitions for inconsistent. Hernandez can be a physical presence, bullying his opponent with punches and pressure. In the same fight, he can wilt into someone merely looking to survive. However, that typically happens as a result of his conditioning failing him and his opponent remaining strong. Miller has shown he can remain effective into the second round, but it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to if the physically stronger Hernandez takes the fight to him. Hernandez is hard to trust, but he is a cut above those whom Miller has been beating as of late. Hernandez via TKO of RD2
- It’s a shock Lina Lansberg is still on the roster. At the age of 40 with three consecutive losses, there doesn’t appear to be any upside to keeping her on the roster at this point. Then again, it’s hard to point to the glut of hungry bantamweights on the regional scene capable of providing the same level of competitiveness as Lansberg. Lansberg was never a great athlete, but her toughness and determination allowed her to carve out a lengthy UFC career. Her minute physical gifts appear to have declined some, but her intangibles don’t appear to have been affected. She’ll need every bit of those as Mayra Bueno Silva would have had a notable athletic advantage even if Lansberg was in her prime. Silva’s issue come with her mental miscues. For instance, she has too much confidence in her guard, allowing her opponents to secure large chunks of control time. There’s been signs those are issues of the past, but a considerable track record is needed before that reputation can be changed. However, even with that issue, Silva isn’t short on toughness or determination herself; the Brazilian has never been finished. Plus, there’s reason she has so much trust in her guard. Lansberg might be able to make it to the end – she has never been submitted – but it is very hard to see her winning. Silva via decision
- Khusein Askhabov has been trying to make his UFC debut for a while now, proving fortunate enough to forgo his previously scheduled appearance on DWCS. Long considered to be one of the top prospects at bantamweight, Askhabov is touching down at 145 instead. That could prove problematic as the Russian is used to being the larger man in the cage. He won’t be against Jamall Emmers. Emmers has proven to be a sound wrestler himself, but doesn’t always take that approach when it appears to be the best route to victory. In fact, his fight IQ in general has been questionable. I’m not sure Askhabov can take advantage of that as he’s been able to trample over most of his opposition due to many of them being a lower level of competition than someone with his hype. Regardless, if Emmers has his head on straight, he operates behind an effective jab to compliment his solid wrestling. However, he can also slow down the stretch, hasn’t fought in 18 months, and is 33. For all we know, he could very well be past his prime. However, there’s no guarantee of that and Askhabov’s own layoff – almost three years – is also problematic. I wouldn’t consider putting money on this fight given all the unanswered questions. Based on what is known, I’ll go with the younger fighter. Askhabov via decision
- The end of Ovince Saint Preux’s UFC tenure is drawing nigh. Now 39, the former interim title challenger struggled to secure a win over the now retired Shogun Rua last May. That’s the same Shogun who was blasted by Ihor Potieria. So long as he can continue to make the 205 limit, his size will be problematic for any opponent. Everything else appears to be fading. Saint Preux only wrestles out of desperation at this point, afraid to deplete his gas tank. He was never fast outside of sudden bursts, but he’s becoming glacial at this point. There’s even signs his power is fading, having secured a lone KO/TKO finish in the last five years after securing five in the previous five years. However, while many a quick to jump on the idea of Philipe Lins running right past Saint Preux, they tend to forget Lins is 37, likely on the downside himself. Lins caught fire several years ago when he claimed the PFL heavyweight crown in 2018 for the million dollar prize, but hasn’t resembled that fighter since. Lins owns good size for light heavyweight and is one of the more skilled grapplers in the division. When his head is where it needs to be, he’s efficient on the feet too. The question is whether his head will be in the right place. Even if Saint Preux’s power appears to be waning, it would be stupid to assume it has disappeared completely. Neither man is trustworthy, so it would be insane to throw money towards the contest. That said, Lins appears to have more in the gas tank, so I’ll lean towards him in the slightest. Lins via decision
- Anyone who watches MMA on the regular knows that size does matter. Evan Elder found that out definitively in his UFC debut, taking his fight with Preston Parsons on short notice at welterweight. Given Elder’s ground game is his bread and butter, it was a rude awakening for the natural lightweight. To be fair, Elder showed a lot of grit, fighting off submission attempt after submission attempt. He’ll get to see what he can do against someone closer to his size in Nazim Sadykhov. Sadykhov reminds me of his teammate, Merab Dvalishvili, minus the relentless takedowns. Not that he can’t wrestle, but that hasn’t proven to be his bread and butter. Instead, what I mean is Sadykhov has power in his hands and an eternal gas tank, but he’s also on the reckless side with his striking. Elder’s striking has been progressing at a reasonable rate, but it feels like a stretch to say he can make Sadykhov pay for wild tendencies at this juncture. Elder probably has the edge on the mat, but Sadykhov has proven difficult to take down. This should be more akin to a pick ‘em than what the odds reflect, but I do agree Sadykhov is the right pick due to his pressure and volume. I just wouldn’t put money on it. Sadykhov via decision
- Themba Gorimbo is the latest attempt by the UFC to produce a fruitful investment from the continent of Africa. At 32, Gorimbo isn’t the youngest prospect and I’m not sure where his strength of attack is going to come from. He’s got some talent on the feet, but lacks KO power. He’s also picked up most of his wins via submission thanks to his aggressive guard, but the competition in Africa is questionable. We’ll get a good idea of how good his ground game is against AJ Fletcher. The stout 25-year-old is a ball of muscle with powerful takedowns and decent top control. However, he also has a questionable gas tank and will have a nine-inch reach disadvantage on the feet. Fletcher has dealt with being at a reach disadvantage before — just about every fight he’s been in – but it typically isn’t as large a discrepancy as what Gorimbo provides. In the end, I don’t trust anyone who operates off their back with the frequency Gorimbo does at this level. Throw in that Fletcher’s stocky frame will make it that much more difficult for Gorimbo to find a sub off his back and I have a good amount of confidence Fletcher scores his first UFC victory. Fletcher via TKO of RD2
- Juancamilo Ronderos is a HUGE wild card. The native of Colombia only has five professional fights under his belt and hasn’t fought since 2021. Given his inexperience and lack of experience, the 27-year-old could be a completely different fighter than the one who was bowled over by David Dvorak 21 months ago. Because of that, it creates a weird situation where the debuting fighter appears to be the more proven commodity. That said, Clayton Carpenter has a lot to prove himself given he only has six fights under his belt. The 26-year-old picked up his contract on DWCS thanks to a combination of wrestling and a steady diet of low kicks. Ronderos should be able to deal with the low kicks effectively with his constant pressure, but the wrestling is going to be a different story. Ronderos has proven to be slippery to maintain control over, but he also hasn’t faced someone the with wrestling and grappling of Carpenter. With so little known about Ronderos, I hate making a prediction. Regardless, I’ll say Carpenter’s wrestling makes the difference. Carpenter via decision