Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
*This was originally posted April 14, 2022*
After a month of travelling, the UFC finally makes its return to the Apex in Vegas. We’ve been blessed with some of the best cards in years recently, but this one could be considered one of those classic UFC ‘sleeper cards’. We may not have those big names, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see any action! The main event is a rematch between two of the best welterweights around: Belal and Luque. Before that, we’re going to be treated to a showcase of the talent coming off of Dana White’s Contender Series with a matchup between Caio Borralho and Gadzhi Omargadzhiev. Other interesting matchups include a ranked Bantamweight fight between Lina Lansberg and Pannie Kianzad plus the return of standouts like Miguel Baeza, Pat Sabatini, William Knight and Alateng Heili. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds.
Main Card (5:30 PM PST)
Mounir Lazzez vs. Ange Loosa
Lazzez: -209 Loosa: +166
Over 2.5: -186 Under 2.5: +145
Originally scheduled as a bout between Lazzez and Elizeu Zaleski, this fight has now been rescheduled late in the week to the UFC newcomer Ange Loosa. Lazzez is only 2 fights deep into his UFC career and has landed at an even 1-1 record. He debuted with an impressive decision win over the rising contender Abdul Razak Alhassan, then fell in the 1st Round to Warlley Alves to land at 10-2 record in his MMA career. If you’ve been watching DWCS for a while, you may or may not remember Loosa in September; sadly, he was not given a contract after losing to Jack Della Maddalena.
I don’t think this will be a runaway win or an early finish, but I do think that Lazzez clearly holds all the cards in this matchup. Lazzez has a UFC win over a VERY tough Alhassan while Loosa couldn’t win his contract on DWCS. That being said, his only two MMA losses have come by decision, so it seems clear that the bet to make is Lazzez by decision.
Lazzez by Decision
Pat Sabatini vs. T.J. Laramie
Sabatini: -500 Laramie: +350
Over 2.5: -128 Under 2.5: +100
Sabatini has only been in the UFC for a year now but already he’s made waves with a 3-0 record. So far he’s notched two decision wins and an impressive 1st Round heel hook submission. Originally, this fight was scheduled against Gavin Tucker, a VERY impressive Canadian contender. Instead, another, slightly less impressive Canadian, T.J. Laramie has taken his spot. Laramie actually joined the UFC before Sabatini, earning his contract on DWCS, but since his QUICK submission loss to Darrick Minner in his debut in 2020, he hasn’t returned to the Octagon.
This seems like a fairly easy matchup to pick. Sabatini is riding a fantastic win streak from last year while Laramie hasn’t won in the UFC and hasn’t fought since 2020. Laramie lost by an early submission while Sababini has collected some submission wins in the past, including that heel hook in the UFC. Sabatini is also carrying a 4 inch reach advantage into this fight. It may also be silly to bring up, but Canada seems to have a minor curse put on them in the UFC as they tend to lose quite often. All that put together, we’ll likely see a dominant decision win or another impressive submission win for Sabatini.
Sabatini by Finish
Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Yanan Wu
Bueno Silva: -500 Wu: +350
Over 2.5: -180 Under 2.5: +137
This women’s bout isn’t ranked, but it’s still got some intrigue. Since her insanely impressive Ninja Choke win on the Contender Series back in 2018, Bueno Silva has had a rocky experience in the UFC with a record of 2-2-1. It’s important to keep in mind that she still sits at a record of 7-2-1 and her losses came to Maryna Moroz, then Fiorot in her last trip to the Octagon. Wu has had a slightly rougher time here with a record of 1-3, none of those against anyone of note. The one difference is that Wu has only fought at bantamweight and is certainly built for this weight. Bueno Silva, on the other hand, normally fights at flyweight and is certainly more built for that division.
If these women regularly competed in the same division, the choice would be EASY. But, thanks to her extra size, Wu could give Bueno Silva a harder time. That being said, Bueno Silva is far more skilled and experienced, she’s also from the Chute Boxe gym which is known as one of the most savage gyms around. All those factors combined, Bueno Silva will have a hard time with the extra weight but will still likely cruise to a decision win.
Bueno Silva by Decision
Andre Fialho vs. Miguel Baeza
Fialho: +145 Baeza: -180
Over 1.5: -184 Under 1.5: +142
Fialho is still in his rookie year in the UFC, making his debut in January against the absolute MONSTER Michel Pereira. Leading into that fight, it seemed as though Pereira would run away with it, but we were all shocked to see that Fialho rose up to the challenge and made it a VERY close fight. Baeza is more familiar to UFC audiences at this point with 5 fights in the promotion so far. He started off his UFC journey with 3 straight wins, improving his record to 10-0. Since then though, he’s lost two in a row to two impressive contenders in Ponzinibbio and Khaos Williams.
To the casual UFC viewer, this may seem like an odd choice for late in the main card, but this actually seems like a tight, interesting and explosive matchup. Fialho had a close fight with one of the strongest, wildest men in the division, but Baeza has also proven himself to be quite the contender in the division in his own right. This is a real coin toss, but the difference may be in stamina and experience. Fialho ended up losing to Pereira because of his stamina, whereas Baeza’s stamina is incredible. He’s also got more UFC experience and a very well-rounded skill set with submissions and KOs, so I think Baeza edges this one in a decision.
Baeza by Decision
Caio Borralho vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev
Borralho: +108 Omargadzhiev: -132
Over 2.5: -112 Under 2.5: -115
We’ve got a strange, unique situation in the co-main event this week. BOTH of these men are making their UFC debuts this weekend after winning their contracts on the Contender Series in October. Borralho fought on DWCS not just once, but twice in less than a month! Don’t let that fool you though, he won both of those fights, in two different divisions and notched a 1st Round finish at light heavyweight in his last one to get the contract. Gadzhi only needed one DWCS appearance to secure his contract, locking in a 1st Round kneebar to keep his undefeated record.
On paper, Gadzhi is likely the clearer choice, even just based on his undefeated record, but Caio has something special about him. Just like most of the matchups on this card, this is a close one that could lead to a win on either side. Gadzhi has the edge of an undefeated record, but Caio has the benefit of fighting at light heavyweight AND getting finishes there. He’s also got an extremely well-rounded skill set, plus a full 8 inch reach advantage in this matchup. I’m sure it’ll be close and we’ll likely see a decision, but I’m actually going to lean towards Caio to win.
Borralho by Decision
Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad
Luque: -180 Muhammad: +145
Over 4.5: +100 Under 4.5: -129
Capping off the night is another tight matchup between two of the top contenders in the welterweight division. Luque is ranked 5th after going 10-1 in his last 11 fights. The real story comes from his last 5 bouts. He lost to ‘Wonderboy’ in a decision, but followed that up with 4 wins in a row including two 1st Round finishes over the former champ Woodley and top contender Chiesa. Belal has also been successful recently with a record of 10-1 (1 NC) in his last 12. Most of those wins were over fairly unknown fighters, but since his unfortunate No Contest due to an eye poke from Edwards, he’s beaten the formidable Demian Maia and ‘Wonderboy’.
This is one of the closest matchups you could make right now in the welterweight division. Luque is an extremely tough, active and dangerous contender who’s very well-rounded. On the other side is Belal; he may be boring to me (and pretty much everyone else), he is a VERY skilled grappler who overwhelms all of his opponents with his wrestling. There’s an interesting wrinkle in this matchup and that’s that these two had previously met back in 2016. Back then, Luque used his explosive power to get a quick 1st Round TKO/KO victory. With Luque’s power, it’s certainly plausible that he could get another knockout win. All that aside, this still seems like a grappler vs. striker kind of matchup. With that kind of matchup, I think that Belal, as usual, will make this fight extremely boring, grind Luque against the fence and minimize the offence coming from him. Their previous matchup was almost 6 years ago; I think Belal has gotten better since then and will be able to control Luque’s offence much better. Just remember, this fight is still 5 rounds and anything could happen.
Muhammad by Decision
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 2:30 PM PST)
Heili Alateng vs. Kevin Croom
Alateng: -175 Croom: +142
Over 2.5: -175 Under 2.5: +137
It’s the opening fight of the night and we’ve got a fascinating one taking place in the bantamweight division. Since his debut in 2019, Alateng has been somewhat impressive with a record of 2-1-1. He debuted with 2 wins in a row, one of which was over another impressive, young contender Batgerel Danaa. He followed that up with a loss to the VERY impressive Casey Kenney and a draw to Gustavo Lopez. As for Kevin Croom, things haven’t gone his way at all since his debut. He had actually won his debut in the lightweight division against Roosevelt Roberts, but sadly that win was taken away due to his use of marijuana. Since he’s lost two, but they were to a couple of guys on the edge of the rankings: Alex Caceres and Kelleher.
What stands out very clearly is Croom’s weight and his reach; he’s coming down from lightweight and featherweight, now down to bantamweight PLUS he’s got a 6 inch reach advantage in this matchup. With those advantages, normally that’s enough to sway the odds… but in this case it still may be Alateng who holds the edge. Just based on what skills each man has shown, Alateng is just better all around. It’ll be a coin toss and I’d say we’re almost sure to see a decision (thanks to their toughness), but I’m going with the skilled Heili Alateng.
Alateng by Decision
Chris Barnett vs. Martin Buday
Barnett: +190 Buday: -250
Over 1.5: +100 Under 1.5: -129
After being deprived of a heavyweight slugfest for the past few weeks, we’ll finally be treated with one in this matchup. You may remember Chris Barnett from late last year when he had one of the most spectacular KOs of the entire year, landing a WILD wheel kick to finish off Gian Villante. If you don’t remember that, he also threw out some fancy dance moves as a celebration. Other than that, he’s only got one other fight here in the UFC: a submission loss to the legendary Ben Rothwell. Buday is also new to UFC audiences as he’ll be making his UFC debut this weekend. But, if you’re like me and you watch Dana White’s Contender Series, you’ll remember him from thereafter he walked away with a BRUTAL 1st Round KO by knee.
This one should be a fun one; I’m sure we’ll see a great finish coming from either side. As for who’s going to get that finish… it really could go either way. Barnett has looked decent in his 2 UFC appearances, but Buday is currently on an EIGHT fight finish streak right now, all of them in the first two rounds. It’s close, but I’m going with Buday because he seemed more well-rounded during DWCS and he’s on a huge finishing streak. Plus, I don’t want to take anything away from Barnett’s wheel kick KO… but Villante looked horrendous going into that fight; he knew it was his last UFC fight and it really didn’t even look like he had trained for the fight.
Buday by Finish
Lina Lansberg vs. Pannie Kianzad
Lansberg: +320 Kianzad: -434
Over 2.5: -375 Under 2.5: +275
Interestingly, this is one of only two ranked fights on the card, yet it’s still scheduled as a prelim. On paper, this fight is extremely close; Lansberg sits in 11th and Kianzad sits in 12th. Lansberg has been around the UFC since 2016 and has an even 4-4 record. She’s fought some of the stronger contenders like Cyborg, Ladd and Kunitskaya, but they’ve all ended in losses. Kianzad, on the other hand, is 10 years younger and returned to the UFC in 2019 after leaving for one fight after her loss in the TUF 28 finale. Since her return, she’s gone 4-2 with a 4-fight win-streak sandwiched between decision losses. That streak was broken in her last one to Raquel Pennington who we just saw grab another impressive win last week.
This should be a tight matchup and is almost guaranteed to produce a decision, but one woman seems to steal some of the momentum. Kianzad is 10 years younger and has slightly more impressive wins. That’s enough for me to give Kianzad the slight edge in the decision.
Kianzad by Decision
Devin Clark vs. William Knight
Clark: -180 Knight: +145
Over 2.5: -167 Under 2.5: +128
In the featured prelim we’ve got a VERY interesting matchup scheduled at Heavyweight. What makes this interesting is that both men traditionally fight at 205 pounds (light-heavyweight). Devin Clark comes into this fight on a 2 fight losing streak, recently losing a decision to Cutelaba and was absolutely destroyed by Anthony Smith before that. Other than that, his UFC career has been about 50/50 with a record of 6-4 before those 2 losses. As for William Knight, he hasn’t been around the UFC for nearly as long, but UFC fans have been quick to support him since his win on DWCS in 2020. Since then he’s gone 3-2, losing to Grishin in his last. One thing that stands out has ALWAYS been Knight’s weight and physique. It was truly miraculous to see that he was somehow cutting down to 205; the man is MASSIVE. He’s SO big, that he actually weighed into his last fight at 218 pounds, 12 pounds over the limit!
We talked about this after his last fight; Knight has absurd power… but seems to be scared to jump in and use it. This will likely be a problem again, BUT, because he’s just so big, so powerful, he should be able to control the grappling scenarios and do some HUGE damage to his feet to Clark. On the other hand, I can’t help but think Clark will be the more active fighter and win on the cards. This is a real toss-up. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Knight grab a massive KO win, but the safer bet may be to go with Clark by decision.
Clark by Decision
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Vegas 51. These are odds that favour the bettor. Although some of them may conflict with my picks, they offer a fair reward for a slight bit of risk.
Pat Sabatini vs. T.J. Laramie Under 2.5 at +100
Being that Sabatini is such a HUGE favourite in this fight, it seems strange that this fight is expected to go the distance. As I mentioned above, Laramie lost his last fight, his UFC debut, by submission in the 1st Round. Since Sabatini has UFC submissions, more experience and is on a 3 fight win streak, it seems rather likely that he’ll be able to finish this fight before the 2.5 round mark.
The Underdog Andre Fialho at +145
As always, in tight matchups like this, betting stats will tell you to side with the underdog. That aside, even though Fialho lost his debut, we have to keep in mind that Michel Pereira is a loose cannon who could KO you at any given moment. The fact that Fialho stood his ground against him for all 3 rounds is VERY impressive. I still think Baeza has a slightly better shot at winning, but because the matchup is so tight, at +145, Fialho is worth putting a bit of cash on.
The Underdog Belal Muhammad at +145
This may be one of those cases where a boring fighter, Belal, is getting overlooked by bettors and oddsmakers. Belal knows how to shut down the offence of strikers and uses his grappling to win decisions. Luque has a chance to land a KO, but the safer outcome, in this case, is to expect Belal to grind out a decision win.
The Short Run
Klose + Kianzad + Sabatini + Bueno Silva
The Long Run
Buday + Klose + Kianzad + Lazzez + Sabatini + Bueno Silva