UFC Vegas 86 predictions: Late ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Pyfer vs. Hermansson
The “Month of Middleweights” rolls on this Saturday (Feb. 10, 2024) when long-time division contender, Jack Hermansson, looks to halt the rise of Contender Series poster boy, Joe Pyfer, atop UFC Vegas 86 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The lineup also features fan-favorite Gregory “Robocop” Rodrigues’ clash with veteran Brad Tavares and a potentially explosive Lightweight bout pitting Michael Johnson vs. Darrius Flowers.
We’ve four more UFC Vegas 86 “Prelims” undercard bouts to examine before all that (checkout the first batch here), though. Let’s get cracking …
170 lbs.: Trevin Giles vs. Carlos Prates
Undaunted by a two-fight skid, Trevin Giles (16-5) battled his way back into the Middleweight picture with three straight wins, capped off by a decision over then-unbeaten Roman Dolidze. He’s since dropped three of five, including a 73-second submission loss at the hands of Gabriel Bonfim in July 2023 (watch it).
He stands one inch shorter than Carlos Prates (17-6) and gives up four inches of reach.
“The Nightmare” rode a 9-1 run into the Contender Series, entering as a sizeable favorite over unbeaten Mitch Ramirez. He proved the bookies right with a second round knockout to claim both his sixth consecutive finish and a UFC contract.
Twelve of his 15 professional finishes have come via knockout.
Giles — though rightfully the underdog — has a shot if he keeps his foot on the gas. Prates’ takedown defense is a real weakness and he doesn’t always protect his face as well as he should. Seeing as it’s been more than three years since Giles impressed in a fight, however, I wouldn’t bank on it. If he comes out as listless as he was against Louis Cosce and Preston Parsons, Prates is going to snipe him into the dirt.
Again, Giles has the tools to exploit Prates’ shortcomings and I wouldn’t be hugely surprised to see him lay on Prates for three rounds. It’s just far more likely that Giles stays cautious, gives Prates too much room to operate, and eats a shin to the dome.
Prediction: Prates via second round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Damir Hadzovic vs. Bolaji Oki
Damir Hadzovic (14-7) — who had the misfortune of debuting against the then-surging Mairbek Taisumov — settled into UFC’s Lightweight division with wins in three of his next four. He now finds himself in the throes of a 1-3 skid, the lone win a decision over Yancy Medeiros in 2021.
This marks his first fight in more than 1.5 years.
Bolaji Oki (8-1) went from losing his professional debut to rattling off seven straight wins on the European circuit. His subsequent Contender Series bid pitted him against kickboxing ace, Dylan Salvador, whom Oki finished via body shot midway through the first round.
“Zulu Warrior” has knocked out five professional foes and submitted one other.
I’m not really clear on what Hadzovic is supposed to do in this matchup. He’s tough and he hits hard, but Oki is also tough, also hits hard, and has him lapped in striking technique. All signs point to Oki — who took apart a top-tier striker in Salvador — dismantling “The Bosnian Bomber” without issue.
Oki admittedly had some trouble with the limited-but-aggressive Nair Melikyan three fights back, so Hadzovic has a small glimmer of hope if he can take Oki into deep waters, but Oki also has some takedown skills to fall back on. But, odds are he won’t need them — he folds Hadzovic with a pinpoint counter in the opening minutes.
Prediction: Oki via first round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Loma Lookboonmee vs. Bruna Brasil
A spirited effort wasn’t enough to carry Loma Lookboonmee (8-3) past Angela Hill in her second UFC appearance, resulting in her second defeat in four fights. She went onto win four of her next five, notably beating Denise Gomes along the way.
She competes for the first time in 364 days.
Bruna Brasil (9-3-1) punched her UFC ticket with a violent Contender Series head kick of Marnic Mann (watch it), only to suffer a knockout loss to fellow Contender Series alum, Denise Gomes, in her Octagon debut. Undeterred, she bounced back strongly four months later by handing Shauna Bannon her first professional defeat in London.
She is the taller woman by five inches and boasts a four-inch reach advantage.
Lookboonmee is oftentimes her own worst enemy, grappling when she should strike and striking when she should grapple. That’s not going to cut it here; limited though she may be, Brasil is an adept kickboxer when given room to work. Lookboonmee has the striking chops to overwhelm Brasil in the pocket and the wrestling skills to dominate her on the mat.
All she has to do is keep the pedal to the metal.
That’s far from a given, as previously stated, but I’m still confident Lookboonmee takes it. For all of Brasil’s length and skill, the similarly squat Gomes easily neutralized her through basic pressure. In short, Lookboonmee does the same, out-classing Brasil on the mat for a wide decision.
Prediction: Lookboonmee via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Devin Clark vs. Marcin Prachnio
It will soon be eight years since Devin Clark (14-8) capitalized on his Lookin’ for a Fight opportunity and went from RFA champion to UFC hopeful. His Octagon record now sits at 8-8, including defeats in four of his last six bouts.
He’ll enjoy a one-inch reach advantage despite standing three inches shorter than Marcin Prachnio (16-7).
On the verge of leaving UFC after three consecutive first round knockout losses, Prachnio unexpectedly reignited his career by winning three of his next four, most notably a massive upset of Khalil Rountree Jr. in 2021. Then came fast-rising prospect Vitor Petrino, who handed Prachnio the first submission loss of his 10-year professional career.
He’s scored 11 wins by knockout and one other via submission.
Admirable as it was, the Prachnio “comeback” was better on paper than in reality. Rountree was clearly a shadow of himself when he stepped in the cage, while Ike Villanueva and William Knight are among the worst Light Heavyweights to grace the roster in the modern era. Clark isn’t exactly the cream of the crop, mind you, but Prachnio is exactly the sort of opponent “Brown Bear” consistently beats: someone he can take down and out-hustle.
Prachnio is too fragile and too poor a wrestler to overcome Clark’s grueling pace, especially since he lacks the physical or technical superiority that Clark’s struggled with in the past. In the end, Clark puts Prachnio through the wringer before polishing him off around the midway point.
Prediction: Clark via second round technical knockout
I’ll always tune in for “Robocop” and Dan Ige vs. Andre Fili looks like a lot of fun. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2024: 13-8
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 86 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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