UFC Vegas 84 predictions: Late ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Ankalaev vs. Walker 2
UFC’s 2024 schedule begins inside its APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Jan. 13, 2024), topped by a pair of rematches pitting Magomed Angkalaev and Manel Kape against Johnny Walker and Matheus Nicolau, respectively. The ESPN+-streamed show also features Gabriel Benitez’s attempt to halt Jim Miller’s late-career renaissance and Ricky Simon’s comeback opposite Mario Bautista.
Three UFC Vegas 84 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain (checkout the first batch here) and no time like now to analyze them. Shall we?
265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski (34-22) vs. Waldo Cortes-Acosta (10-1)
“The Pitbull” put together his best run since 2015 at more than 40 years old, winning six of seven from 2020 to 2022. The miracle wasn’t to last, as he enters the cage this Saturday on the heels of two consecutive stoppage losses. His 20 finishes include 17 by knockout.
“Salsa Boy” followed his Contender Series finish of Danilo Suzart with two straight UFC victories, only to run afoul of Marcos Rogerio de Lima in April 2023. Undaunted, he returned to form four months later with a one-round beatdown of fellow DWCS vet Lukasz Brzeski. He’ll enjoy an inch of height and reach on Arlovski.
Any fighter on the tail end of their career should look to Arlovski as a role model. The man basically rebuilt his style from scratch to compensate for declining athleticism, squeezing several extra years out of a career that looked over on multiple occasions.
It couldn’t last forever, though. He was very fortunate to escape with a decision over Jake Collier last year, and though “Pezao” is a menace when he’s on, he really should have been able to beat Don’Tale Mayes. Cortes-Acosta is 12 years younger, throws way more volume, and has a remarkably good gas tank for his size; even with that extremely exploitable weakness to low kicks, it’s hard to see him losing this one. He blitzes his aging foe before Arlovski can drag him into his pace.
Prediction: Cortes-Acosta by first-round TKO
170 lbs.: Preston Parsons (10-4) vs. Matthew Semelsberger (11-6)
Parsons rebounded from an unsuccessful short-notice UFC debut by overpowering Evan Elder in April 2022. An 11-month layoff followed, culminating in a narrow split decision loss to Trevin Giles. Nine of his 10 pro wins have come by submission.
“Semi the Jedi” hammered his way to a 4-1 UFC start, the lone loss a decision to Khaos Williams. He’s since dropped three of four, including a comeback knockout defeat to Uros Medic last time out in July 2023. He steps in for Bassil Hafez on less than a month’s notice.
I really don’t know what to make of Semelsberger at this point. His power remains as devastating as ever, but there is no excuse for that stagnant ground game. The man essentially knocked Jeremiah Wells unconscious twice and still couldn’t keep on the feet. Parsons has the wrestling chops to consistently ground Semelsberger and the grit to do so for all three rounds.
I don’t see Semelsberger winning this without a knockout, which is admittedly more than doable considering the power in his right hand and Parsons’ two (T)KO defeats. With how easily Wells neutralized him on the ground, though, I have to favor the better wrestler. Parsons grinds his way to victory.
Prediction: Parsons by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Marcus McGhee (8-1) vs. Gaston Bolanos (7-3)
“The Maniac” put his first-ever loss behind him to score back-to-back knockouts, then stepped up at the eleventh hour to battle Journey Newson in his UFC debut. He ultimately dispatched Newson via second-round club-and-sub, then flattened late replacement JP Buys with a walk-off bonus-winning KO four months later. All of his wins have come inside of two rounds, seven of them via knockout.
Bolanos spent the first nine fights of his MMA career in Bellator, where he racked up six knockouts. He made the jump to UFC in 2023, overpowering Aaron Phillips in his debut to claim his first-ever decision victory. He is the shorter man by an inch.
At time of writing, oddsmakers have Bolanos as anywhere from a +215 to a +230 underdog, which I’m really not convinced is wise. Yes, he managed to lose a round to one of the worst Bantamweights on the roster, but we’re still talking about a decorated kickboxer in what should be a pure striking battle.
Man, McGhee looks good, though. It’s not just the power and speed; he has excellent awareness of incoming fire and manages distance well. While I’ll acknowledge that smashing JP Buys on the feet is not a major accomplishment, I’m willing to call this guy the real deal. Between his skills and Bolanos’ inconsistency, I like McGhee to floor him with a right hand before the halfway point.
Prediction: McGhee by first-round TKO
Bit of an underwhelming way to start the year, but a couple of these matchups should entertain. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Final Prediction Record for 2023: 182-101-3 (5 NC)
LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 84 On ESPN+
TOP-RANKED LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT REMATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicks off its 2024 mixed martial arts (MMA) campaign on Sat., Jan. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada, with No. 3-ranked Light Heavyweight contender, Magomed Ankalaev, running it back against No. 7-seeded Johnny Walker after their initial wild encounter went up in smoke. In UFC Vegas 84’s co-main event, Lightweight legend, Jim Miller, locks horns with upstart knockout artist, Gabriel Benitez, in an intriguing 155-pound showdown.
Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 84 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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