UFC Vegas 85 predictions: Late ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Dolidze vs. Imavov

UFC Vegas 85 predictions: Late ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Dolidze vs. Imavov

  • MMA News
  • janvier 31, 2024
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The Middleweight division gets the spotlight once again this weekend (Sat., Feb. 3, 2024) when UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, hosts a showdown between Roman Dolidze vs. Nassourdine Imavov. Renato Moicano squares off with Drew Dober in UFC Vegas 85’s very promising co-feature, while fast-rising women’s Flyweight, Natalia Silva, looks to keep her undefeated Octagon record intact against veteran, Viviane Araujo.

We’ve got three more UFC Vegas 85 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict (checkout the first batch here). No time like the present …

125 lbs.: Molly McCann vs. Diana Belbita

Molly McCann (13-6) worked her way into Flyweight contention with three straight wins, including back-to-back spinning elbow knockouts of Luana Carolina and Hannah Goldy. The run wasn’t to last, as she’s since suffered back-to-back submission defeats at the hands of Erin Blanchfield and Julija Stoliarenko.

She gives up three inches of height and six inches of reach to Diana Belbita (15-8).

After a lengthy run on the European circuit, “Warrior Princess” punched her UFC ticket with a four-fight win streak of her own. She currently sits at 2-4 in the Octagon, most recently dropping a competitive decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz in Oct. 2023.

She’s knocked out six pro foes and submitted four others.

I’ll admit, I actually forgot that Belbita faced McCann in the former’s Octagon debut back in 2019. Though both women have noticeably improved since then, I see this following the same script: Belbita using her size and power to edge out the striking, only to be let down by her porous takedown defense.

Though McCann’s grappling remains a step below genuine elites like Taila Santos and the aforementioned Blanchfield, it’s good enough to carry her past overly one-dimensional strikers even as the smaller woman. It’s how she beat Belbita, Priscila Cachoeira, Ariane Lipski and Ji Yeon Kim. And it’s how she’ll beat Belbita again. Indeed, she punctuates a fire fight with regular takedowns to snap her losing streak.

Prediction: McMann via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Azat Maksum vs. Charles Johnson

Azat Maksum (17-0) capped off his tour of Europe by choking out undefeated Fabricio Nunes in Jan. 2023. His efforts set up and Octagon debut against Tyson Nam in July 2023, whom Maksum narrowly overpowered to claim a split decision victory.

His 11 professional finishes include six by submission.

Charles Johnson (13-6) — a former Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) champion — bounced back from an unsuccessful UFC debut by beating Zhalgas Zhumagulov and Jimmy Flick. Three straight defeats followed, the most recent of which saw him drop a decision to Rafael Estevam in Nov. 2023.

He steps in for the injured Nate Maness on one month’s notice.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Johnson cannot deal with chain wrestling. Even if he’s adept at avoiding damage and getting back to his feet, he just doesn’t know how to disengage. Maksum showed against Nam that he won’t be deterred by his initial shot failing. And if he’s similarly persistent here, there’s no reason to think Johnson will be any more successful than he was against other determined wrestlers like Cody Durden and the aforementioned Estevam.

It also doesn’t help that Johnson takes a minimum of five minutes to warm up. Maksum effectively has one free round in the bank already and is more than good enough to win the second. And a strong third round from Johnson won’t be enough to save him from another trio of 29-28s.

Prediction: Maksum via unanimous decision

UFC Fight Night: Dern v Hill

170 lbs.: Themba Gorimbo vs. Pete Rodriguez

Former EFC champion, Themba Gorimbo (11-4), rode a 4-1 run into his Octagon debut against A.J. Fletcher, who caught “The Answer” in a guillotine choke early in the second. He returned to action three months later against Takashi Sato, dominating on the feet and mat to sweep “Ten” on the scorecards.

He’s submitted six professional foes and knocked out one other.

After cutting his teeth in iKon Fighting Federation, Pete Rodriguez (5-1) stepped up on short notice to battle Jack Della Maddalena, who put him down with punches midway through the first. Though he rebounded with a 93-second knockout of Mike Jackson, a massive weight miss scrapped a bout with Natan Levy and left him on the sidelines for all of 2023.

He replaces Kiefer Crosbie on less than one month’s notice.

I’ve said before that Gorimbo’s ceiling isn’t terribly high, but it’s hard to picture him losing this one. “Dead Game’s” only win of note came over Jackson, who’s saved from the ignominy of being UFC’s all-time worst Welterweight by the existence of C.M. Punk. He’s not so superior on the feet that Gorimbo’s in danger of a one-punch finish and is by all accounts no match for “The Answer’s” ground game.

Strong wrestlers are Gorimbo’s Kryptonite — he can handle himself fine against undersized, unprofessional brawlers. In other words, he takes down Rodriguez down chokes him out without issue.

Prediction: Gorimbo via first round submission

I mean, at least the Moicano vs. Dober fight should be good? See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Current Prediction Record for 2024: 10-4

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 85 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 85 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.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 85: “Dolidze vs. Imavov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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