After taking the Memorial Day Weekend off, the UFC is back with a vengeance on Saturday from the UFC Apex with a prime time card for East Coasters that will be highlighted by a main event between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Augusto Sakai.
It is a big card with 14 fights scheduled and three fights from the heavyweight division will be the headliners. We should have a lot to talk about with these fights, so let’s not waste any time getting to the breakdowns.
Claudio Puelles (+170) vs. Jordan Leavitt (-200); Total: 2.5 (-105/-125)
Claudio Puelles makes his return to the Octagon for the first time since 9/21/19 for this fight against undefeated Jordan Leavitt. Puelles, who was the runner-up in the TUF 3 Latin America tournament, has two wins since that loss to Martin Bravo nearly five years ago, but he isn’t being given a great chance here against Leavitt.
Leavitt, a Dana White Contender Series find, knocked out Matt Wiman just 22 seconds into his first fight under contract back in December. It was actually his first KO finish to go with five submission wins and two decision victories. The 26-year-old seems to have a little helium in the promotion and this should be a good victory for him.
Youssef Zalal (+154) vs. Sean Woodson (-179); Total: 2.5 (-245/195)
Youssef Zalal is looking to snap a two-fight losing streak in this matchup against Sean Woodson. Zalal lost to Ilia Topuria last October and then lost to Seungwoo Choi in February. Five straight fights have gone the distance for Zalal and this one is expected to as well with that -245 on the over 2.5. He actually fought four times in 2020 and went 3-1, but maybe it was too much, too fast against UFC competition as evidenced by the recent losses.
Woodson lost for the first time in his career last time out against Julian Erosa. He had a knockdown early in the fight and seemed to have his opponent on the ropes, but Erosa battled back and locked in a submission. It wound up being a pretty even fight in the end, but a great learning experience for Woodson against a far more experienced fighter. You have to think he’s better for it here and this should be a win for him.
Maryna Moroz (+135) vs. Manon Fiorot (-155); Total: 2.5 (-275/215)
Manon Fiorot lost her first career MMA fight by split decision on 6/16/18. Since then, she’s 6-0 and has five knockout wins in that span, along with being the flyweight champion in EFC and ADW. She won her debut UFC fight over Victoria Leonardo and has a lot of momentum coming into this bout against Maryna Moroz. Moroz is a UFC veteran of eight fights, but still finds herself in the underdog role.
Moroz has won two in a row. It is worth noting that each of her last seven fights has gone the full 15. Fiorot went the full 25 in a championship fight on 12/14/19, but has four knockouts in a row otherwise and has not been asked to go deep into the third round. You wonder if that will give Moroz some advantage here. I think the upset is very much possible. Moroz has never lost by stoppage.
Alan Patrick (+240) vs. Mason Jones (-300); Total: 2.5 (-141/111)
This might be the end of the UFC road for Alan Patrick. He needs an upset win here over Mason Jones, otherwise the 37-year-old could go the route of so many other veterans. He’s lost two in a row and didn’t look very competitive against Bobby Green last time out. That fight was nearly two years after losing by KO to Scott Holtzman.
Jones lost his first UFC fight in what was a rather disappointing effort from the 26-year-old Welshman. He came to the UFC as the CW champ and had a first-round title defense, but fell short against Mike Davis. The unanimous decision result may not have been as bad as it looked, as Jones attempted 329 strikes and landed 132. His takedown defense was tested quite a bit as well. This actually looks like a “get right” spot for Jones and -300 makes him a good open parlay piece.
Kamuela Kirk (+195) vs. Makwan Amirkhani (-230)
Kamuela Kirk tried and failed on the Dana White Contender Series and went back to LFA to hone his craft. With Nate Landwehr out of this fight due to injury, Kirk gets another chance, but this time against a more proven UFC fighter in Makwan Amirkhani. The favorite has lost two of his last three fights, but Kirk is not Shane Burgos or Edson Barboza. He’s probably not even Danny Henry or Chris Fishgold, the most recent wins for Amirkhani.
This looks like a good spot for Amirkhani to get back on the right track and his -230 is a good open parlay piece with Jones.
Francisco Trinaldo (+210) vs. Muslim Salikhov (-250)
A couple of old guys square off here as 42-year-old Francisco Trinaldo takes on 36-year-old Muslim Salikhov. Trinaldo is still humming right along with three straight wins at his advanced age, including a knockout last time out against Jai Herbert. It was the UFC debut for Herbert, who was clearly not ready for the fight or that level yet.
Salikhov has rattled off four in a row, including a split-decision win back in July at UFC 251. He’s 17-2 now in his MMA career and only has one loss in his last 15 fights, but Trinaldo might be the most accomplished fighter he’s ever faced. The underdog seems pretty live here with that information, especially with Trinaldo’s resurgence late in his career.
Ilir Latifi (+170) vs. Tanner Boser (-200); Total: 1.5 (-205/165)
Ilir Latifi’s debut as a heavyweight was a unanimous decision loss to Derrick Lewis back in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic fully took hold. It was the third straight loss for Latifi, who is one of the smallest heavyweights in the division at 5-foot-10. Latifi was having weight cut concerns at his advanced age, so he opted to move up to heavyweight. We’ll see how that move works long-term, but he may be at risk of getting axed from the promotion if he can’t get a win soon.
Tanner Boser just lost to Andrei Arlovski in November by unanimous decision. It wasn’t a good loss for the 29-year-old, who dropped to 7-6-1 in decisions. It was a rather boring fight. Boser was the aggressor with more strikes attempted, but Arlovski stayed away and did enough to impress the judges into 29-28 scores across the board. It was kind of a weird fight for Boser. I would expect better here, especially against the smaller Latifi. Put this one in the open parlay as well.
Ariane Lipski (+235) vs. Montana De La Rosa (-275); Total: 2.5 (-260/200)
Montana De La Rosa fought to a draw with Mayra Bueno Silva in her most recent fight on February 27. She’s gone winless in three of her last four fights as she faces off against Ariane Lipski on Saturday. These are two tall and lanky fighters for the flyweight division and this should be a good fight. Lipski is the big underdog as a lot of money has come in on the De La Rosa side so far.
A big reason for the move is that Lipski has struggled with fighters on her level or better than her. She beat Isabela de Padua, who has not fought since, and then also topped Luana Carolina, who seems to have a low ceiling. Still, this is a hard fight to lay the big price and even the juice on over 2.5 is cost-prohibitive. There are better fights to bet.
Antonio Arroyo (+210) vs. Tom Breese (-250); Total: 2.5 (115/-145)
Middleweights Antonio Arroyo and Tom Breese start off the main card of UFC Vegas 28 with Arroyo a big underdog in the fight. Arroyo won twice on the Dana White Contender Series before getting his contract. He’s lost twice since. His most recent loss came to Deron Winn on December 19. Arroyo was 9-2 when he got the contract and had eight finishes, but he’s gone the distance in three of four UFC fights, including his first DWCS appearance.
Breese is coming off of a loss to Omari Akhmedov, but that was a tough fight and a step up for Breese. The 29-year-old has suffered all three of his losses in the UFC. His wins have come against less experienced fighters at this level and that is precisely what Arroyo is. I wouldn’t lay the -250 here, though. A pick is coming on every fight, and Breese is the pick, but this would not be a bet.
Pick: Tom Breese
Gregory Rodrigues (+121) vs. Dusko Todorovic (-141); Total: 1.5 (-130/100)
Gregory Rodrigues steps right into the spotlight here as an injury replacement for Maki Pitolo. Rodrigues recently won the LFA title on May 21 by first-round knockout and he is now in this fight against Dusko Todorovic. Rodrigues got a Dana White Contender Series shot and lost by first-round knockout to Jordan Williams, who went on to lose to Nassourdine Imavov in his first fight under contract. It was also the third chance for Williams on DWCS.
In other words, it sure looks like this line is a little bit cheap. Todorovic isn’t all that experienced either and just suffered his first career loss in January, but the 27-year-old was holding his own in that first round between undefeated fighters when he got caught. We could see an extended feeling-out process in this fight with the late switch, but also, Rodrigues just fought and prepared for a fight camp. Todorovic hasn’t fought in a few months. He has the upper hand in that regard.
Pick: Dusko Todorovic
Santiago Ponzinibbio (+100) vs. Miguel Baeza (-120); Total: 1.5 (-161/131)
The return for Santiago Ponzinibbio was not what he expected it to be. After well over two years outside of the Octagon, Ponzinibbio was a first-round KO victim at the hands of Li Jingliang. It wasn’t even long enough for Ponzinibbio to get his legs under him and shake off the cage rust. It was just an early assault and one that resulted in the third career KO loss of Ponzinibbio’s career.
He’s still an accomplished fighter at 28-4 in his career, but we didn’t see a lot in that fight to know where the 34-year-old is right now. He only landed 11 strikes and only attempted 18. That being said, this is a huge step up for Miguel Baeza, who is 10-0 in his pro career, but has not really fought anybody of consequence. He has three stoppage wins in UFC and just scored his first submission victory of Takashi Sato, but nobody he has fought has any UFC success.
Baeza deserves to be the favorite here and it may be a leap of faith to take Ponzinibbio, but as long as he’s got his legs, he has a great chance here.
Pick: Santiago Ponzinibbio
Laureano Staropoli (+131) vs. Roman Dolidze (-151); Total: 2.5 (-180/150)
Perhaps a Ponzinibbio win will spark something for fellow countryman Laureano Staropoli. Staropoli has dropped his last two fights against Tim Means and Muslim Salikhov. Prior to that, he was 9-1 in his career, with two of those wins in the UFC. It’s been a while for Staropoli and his UFC 237 win over Thiago Alves means less now that he’s basically retired and had lost four of five to finish it out.
Roman Dolidze lost to Trevin Giles back in March for his first career loss. It was a short-notice fight for Dolidze, who stepped in and didn’t really look ready to go. You have to think he’ll be ready for this fight. Dolidze actually landed nearly double the strikes that Giles landed and many questioned the judging after that fight. You have to think he feels robbed a little bit. I think this is the best bet on the card.
Pick: Roman Dolidze
Walt Harris (+145) vs. Marcin Tybura (-165); Total: 1.5 (-175/145)
Walt Harris has dropped two in a row as he gets ready for the fight against Marcin Tybura. Harris has had a lot going on of late. His stepdaughter was murdered in November 2019 and there was a lot that happened with the investigation and the court proceedings are still ongoing. Harris returned on April 11 to the UFC and lost to Alistair Overeem, even though he appeared to have the upper hand early. Then he lost to Alexander Volkov in October, shortly before running for a city council seat in the general election.
The 37-year-old Harris is still trying to get some paychecks and stay relevant in the UFC, but there may simply be way too much happening behind the scenes for him to fully focus on fighting. Marcin Tybura has won four straight fights, all of which came in 2020, so he’s been on top of his game at the age of 35. It would be great to see Harris get another win, but I don’t think it happens here.
Pick: Marcin Tybura
Augusto Sakai (+108) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (-128); Total: 1.5 (-215/175)
We’ve finally made it to the main event of UFC Vegas 28 with a couple of heavy hitters in Augusto Sakai and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Sakai is 15-2-1 in his career and the 30-year-old had been riding a decent run before losing to Alistair Overeem back on September 5. Sakai had won two fights that could have gone either way by split decision, though, so maybe a big too much was made of those wins.
Rozenstruik’s two losses have been in his last three fights. He lost in 20 seconds to Francis Ngannou, who followed up that performance by beating Stipe Miocic for the title. His other loss was to Ciryl Gane over 25 minutes in the main event on February 27. Gane won the fight in very lopsided fashion, but Gane’s wrestling and ground games are some of the best in the division.
We don’t get that with Sakai. He’s a striker. These are guys that Rozenstruik can beat. Gane only has three career knockouts. He wins on the ground. This is a much better matchup for Rozenstruik and he should win this one.