Photo Credit: MMAFighting.Com
*This was originally posted May 19, 2022*
Before the UFC takes a break for a week, we’ll be treated to one last card, this time headlined by top bantamweight contenders Holly Holm and Ketlen Vieira. In the co-main, the people’s main event, we’ll see an explosive, thrilling matchup between Santiago Ponzinibbio and Michel Pereira. There won’t be any UFC debuts this week, but we’ll see some young, fairly new fighters return to the Octagon including Chase Hooper, Joseph Holmes, Tabatha Ricci and the incredible young phenom. Jailton Almeida. Also included in that group are two DWCS alum. who will face off in the main card: Chidi Njokuani and Dusko Todorovic. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds. As a special bonus, the third episode of The Ultimate Fighter Season 30: Peña vs. Nunes (as seen on UFC Fight Pass) is also covered below.
Main Card (4:00 PM PST)
Eryk Anders vs. Jun Yong Park
Anders: +166 Park: -209
Over 2.5: -213 Under 2.5: +162
Two impressive middleweights clash in this one with the always active Eryk Anders and the fairly new Jun Yong Park. Anders has had his ups and downs in his UFC career with a couple of wins over impressive contenders like Darren Stewart and Gerald Meerschaert and losses to other VERY impressive veterans Lyoto Machida and Thiago Santos. As you may be able to gather from the Thiago Santos matchup, he’s flipped between light heavyweight and middleweight where this will take place. Jun Yong Park doesn’t have as much experience in the UFC with a record of 3-2 with tight wins over Tafon Nchukwi and Marc-Andre Barriault and a rough loss to Gregory Rodrigues in his last.
This matchup is very reminiscent of Park’s last matchup against Rodrigues. Rodrigues was a bigger middleweight, like Anders, who had a Jiu-Jitsu background and heavy punches, also much like Anders. Not only that, but Park has also fought another HUGE middleweight Tafon Nchukwi. Normally, the bigger man has the edge, but Park seems to do well against larger men, likely because of his extra speed and impressive durability. If Park can withstand the power of Nchukwi and some pretty bad shots from Rodrigues, he should be able to withstand Eryk Anders as well. In terms of their ground game, I’d say they’re pretty even. Thanks to the extra speed, I think Park will have the edge when it goes to the cards.
Park by Decision
Polyana Viana vs. Tabatha Ricci
Viana: +112 Ricci: -137
Over 2.5: -167 Under 2.5: +130
In this one, we’ll see two young contenders face off in the strawweight division. Viana was having a rough break in the UFC with 3 losses in a row including ones to JJ Aldrich and Hannah Cifers. Since then she’s turned it around with two DOMINANT 1st Round armbars. Ricci is young in her MMA career, but has done VERY well with a record of 6-1 with a couple of UFC wins at 115 and her lone loss coming against a HUGE striker, Manon Fiorot, at 125. Viana comes in with a substantial reach advantage of 5 inches, but being that Ricci is so short, she’s used to this disadvantage.
This is undoubtedly going to be a tight fight that will likely end in a decision, but Ricci seems to hold a slight advantage. She spent almost two rounds in the cage with Fiorot who is essentially a bantamweight, already that tells you that Viana won’t be too successful in the striking battle. They’re both skilled on the ground and submission could happen at any moment, but with Ricci’s aggressiveness, I think she’ll get the ground control time to win the decision and likely do some damage on the feet.
Ricci by Decision
Chidi Njokuani vs. Dusko Todorovic
Njokuani: -234 Todorovic: +185
Over 1.5: -172 Under 1.5: +133
Two DWCS alum face off in this exciting middleweight brawl. Njokuani recently made his debut in February, grabbing a blistering 1st Round TKO win in 16 seconds over Marc-Andre Barriault. Dusko has had a couple more fights in the UFC, moving to a 2-2 record after his TKO win over Maki Pitolo in December. Before that he lost a decision to Gregory Rodrigues and was annihilated by Puna Soriano in the 1st Round before that.
Dusko is talented but has struggled against power punchers because he gets hit too much. Chidi is HUGE for a middleweight and carries a 6-inch reach advantage into this matchup. Dusko is going to struggle with Chidi’s power and he’ll likely get finished as a result. It should also be said that finishing Barriault that quick is WAY more impressive than anything Dusko has done so far in the UFC.
Njokuani by Finish
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Michel Pereira
Ponzinibbio: +105 Pereira: -129
Over 2.5: -175 Under 2.5: +137
In the most exciting matchup of the night, we’ll see Michel Pereira try and break into the rankings by fighting 14th-ranked Santiago Ponzinibbio. Ponzinibbio has been in the rankings for a while, beating Gunnar Nelson, Mike Perry and Neil Magny to get his spot, but hasn’t been able to break the top 10 with an early loss to Li and a split decision loss to Geoff Neal in his last fight. Pereira, as we’ve mentioned a few times on BLÜ-FC, is one of the most unique and creative strikers you’ll ever see in the Octagon. He only joined the UFC in 2019, but since then he’s gone 5-2 with 4 wins in a row coming into this fight. To make his streak more impressive, they were over some of the most promising unranked contenders in the UFC in Khaos Williams, Niko Price and, most recently, Andre Fialho. Records aside, they’re physically identical, except for the fact that Pereira is 7 years younger.
Ponzinibbio has been around the UFC longer but their recent records are equally as impressive. The differences come in how they fight. Ponzinibbio tends to do poorly when faced with a relentless striker like Pereira, while Pereira does best when opponents let him explode forward. I’m not sure if Pereira will be able to grab a finish, but I think it’ll be a long night for Ponzinibbio.
Pereira by Decision
Holly Holm vs. Ketlen Vieira
Holm: -240 Vieira: +190
Over 4.5: -260 Under 4.5: +190
Closing out the night is a bantamweight matchup between the UFC legend, Holly Holm, and the young phenom, Ketlen Vieira. Holm joined the UFC in 2015 and has fought the best. Most notorious, of course, was her crowning achievement, beating Ronda Rousey to become champ in her first year. From there she lost to other UFC legends like Tate, Valentina, de Randamie, Cyborg and Nunes. Since her most recent loss to Nunes, she’s gone on to beat Aldana and Pennington to keep her spot near the top of the rankings. Vieira joined in 2016, but since being handed her first loss by Aldana in 2019 she’s gone 2-1 with wins over Tate and Eubanks and had a close loss to Kunitskaya. Just like the co-main, they’re physically identical, but Vieira is MUCH younger at 30 years old compared to Holm at 40.
As always with matchups between top women, this is a tight matchup and could go either way. The differences here seem to be in their fight IQ and their styles. Holm is one of the smartest fighters on the roster; she makes her fights boring because she shuts down everyone’s offence with clinching and movement. Vieira did well against Tate in her last because Tate was slow, but even still, Tate managed to keep up with Vieira’s output, it’s just that Vieira was landing harder. Just before that she lost in a decision to Kunitskaya because of Yana’s clinch along the fence (and some questionable judging). It’ll be tight, but with the athleticism, strategy and movement of Holm, I think she’ll edge ahead in another fairly boring decision win
Holm by Decision
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 1:00 PM PST)
Chase Hooper vs. Felipe Colares
Hooper: +150 Colares: -186
Over 2.5: -167 Under 2.5: +130
In one of the openers on the prelims this week, we’ll see the fan-favourite, Chase Hooper, face off against another dangerous grappler, Felipe Colares. Hooper entered the UFC in 2019 with a record of 8-0-1 and won his debut in the opening round. Since then though, he’s gone 1-2 with losses to Alex Caceres and Steven Peterson. Felipe Colares also entered the UFC with 8 wins and no losses but has fought more often, going 2-3. All 5 of those fights ended in a decision with a loss to Montel Jackson and a split decision loss to Chris Gutierrez in his last. It should also be mentioned that half of those were fought at bantamweight, while all of Hooper’s fights have been at featherweight, PLUS he has a 6-inch edge in reach.
This matchup is VERY close. Hooper is still young at only 22 years old and hasn’t really been all that impressive since his debut, BUT he has the significant size advantage thanks to his weight and reach. On the other side, Colares has been fighting the MUCH tougher competition and has dragged everyone to a close decision. The biggest difference I’ve noticed though is Hooper’s minimal striking ability and Colares’ impressive striking paired with great jiu-jitsu. Hooper has a chance on the ground, but if Colares can stay on his feet or in the top position, he’ll win the decision. The decision in this fight is likely going to be close, but thanks to those edges on the feet and in his experience, I’m going to have to give the edge to Felipe Colares.
Colares by Decision
Parker Porter vs. Jailton Almeida
Porter: +433 Almeida: -650
Over 1.5: +120 Under 1.5: -155
To me, this is the 2nd most interesting matchup on the entire card, right behind the co-main event. Parker Porter had a rough start to his UFC journey with a 1st Round KO/TKO loss to Chris Daukaus, but has turned it around with 3 straight decision wins over Josh Parisian, Chase Sherman and Alan Baudot. Almeida impressed all UFC fans with a stunning submission win over an undefeated Russian prospect to gain his contract from Dana White’s Contender Series. From there he dismantled Danilo Marques in the 1st Round of his UFC debut, earning himself a BLÜ Bonus for his performance.
The real talking point of this matchup is their size; Porter is very much a heavyweight while Almeida is a light heavyweight, but a VERY large one. While I believe Almeida could quite easily be ranked as a light heavyweight, he’ll have a hard time against the bigger heavyweights. That being said, he possesses such an absurd level of skill that it’d be surprising if Porter could make it through to the end or land something big. Almeida is so strong and skilled, even with the weight disadvantage, he should be able to finish Porter on the ground within the opening 2 rounds.
Almeida by Finish
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Vegas 55. 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.
Njokuani vs. Todorovic Under 1.5 at +133
Njokuani is a HUGE, long striker with impressive skill and power. On the other side, Dusko struggles with big/long strikers because he gets hit pretty often. When you combine those two styles, +133 doesn’t seem out of the question for Njokuani to get a finish.
Almeida vs. Porter Over 1.5 at +120
Porter is a MASSIVE heavyweight. Although Almeida is extremely skilled and will likely get a finish, it seems likely that he’ll take the 1st Round to get used to fighting such a big heavyweight. From there he’ll use his ground game to shoot for a finish in the 2nd or 3rd Round. At +120, those are incredible odds for something that seems so likely.
Holmes vs. Amedovski Over 1.5 at -137
Holmes is skilled and Amedovski has been finished by top contenders before, but this is only Holmes’ 2nd fight in the UFC. I’m not convinced yet that Holmes has the skill to finish Amedovski in Under 1.5, so -137 sounds like a great deal.
The Short Run
Almeida + Njokuani + Holm
The Long Run
Almeida + Njokuani + Martinez + Pereira + Holm
Other Fight News
TUF 30: Episode 3 Recap
For the milestone 30th season of the Ultimate Fighter, we’re going to see coaches Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes lead teams of heavyweights and flyweight women to find the next UFC superstars. Last episode we saw the opening flyweight matchup of the season between Helen Peralta (Team Peña) and Kaytlin Neil (Team Nunes). After a dead-even fight, it was Team Nunes’ Neil who edged ahead in a split decision to move on to the semifinals. In this episode, the show moved back to the heavyweights with the most exciting matchup of the year so far: the TUF debut of Kamaru Usman’s brother, Mohammed Usman (Team Peña), and the biggest trash-talker of the season in Mitchell Sipe (Team Nunes).
The focus of Usman’s story was put squarely on the tragic loss of his young son Nash and how he’s dedicating his performances to him. He also mentioned that it was his brother’s success that pushed him to start his MMA career, motivating him to try and be just as good. In stark contrast to Usman’s intensely focused and determined attitude, Sipe decided to instead play the part of the instigator, taunting Usman and saying some WILD stuff to try and get under Usman’s skin. Sipe is from Oklahoma, is part native and actually appeared on one of the first seasons of Dana White’s Contender Series, where he grabbed his first pro loss. Like the first two heavyweights of the season, Pauga and Bartling, Usman weighed in at a lower weight of 238 (of muscle), while Sipe was the first LARGE heavyweight, weighing in at 265 (with a fair bit of flab).
Using his smaller size, Usman had a clear speed advantage, dodging most of Sipe’s early strikes. Being the outrageously overconfident fighter he is, Mitchell had his hands down a lot and was VERY reckless. Although that’s a… questionable strategy against someone as clean, strong and focused as Usman, it worked for him in the opening round. In fact, he had the first big moment of the fight, clipping Usman with a HUGE shot, dropping him to the ground and jumping right on him with some ground and pound. After grabbing that exciting moment, Sipe turned up his antics to the next level, taunting him more, arms wide open and talking to Usman’s corner. From there though, Usman managed to get Sipe to the ground and landed a couple strikes of his own. That being said, it seemed likely that Sipe had grabbed the first round on Dana’s card. The 2nd Round started a little slower with neither man making much of a move, but Usman landed the first couple of big strikes of the round. Trying to pull a mistake out of Usman, Sipe then began his taunting again, but it was pretty clear that Usman still wasn’t going to be tricked like that. Funny enough, even though Usman was the one edging ahead and landing bigger strikes, Sipe was still the one taunting. After some advice before the 3rd Round, Mitchell opened up with a slew of leg kicks, trying to slow Usman down and get some more offence going. From there, Usman landed another BIG shot, but once again, Sipe brushed it off with some showboating. Just as the round was closing, Usman started to push the pace a little bit and got some more decent shots in. After all 3 rounds were done, it was pretty tough to tell who was going to walk away with the win. Ultimately, Griffin and Dana chose Usman thanks to that extra bit of activity and those couple of big shots. Sipe’s coach, Nunes, didn’t seem all that surprised, saying that he needed to focus in the last 2 rounds instead of taunting.
I tend to enjoy fighters with a personality, one that can taunt their opponents and make a show… but you have to be able to back it up with skill and offence. Personally, I’m happy to see Sipe leave and even happier to see that Usman opened his TUF experience with a win over someone like Sipe. Next week we’ll… hopefully see another flyweight matchup. I say “hopefully” because it was shown that the next matchup between Chantel Coates (Team Peña) and Brogan Walker (Team Nunes) was threatened by a LOT of adversity to the point where it’s unclear if the fight happened or not. It was shown a couple times throughout the episode that Coates was having some pretty significant problems cutting weight. She mentioned that she’s at 150 pounds after catching COVID recently and ALSO losing her baby to a miscarriage. Not only was Coates going through all of that, her opponent, Brogan Walker, (Team Nunes) injured her knee leading up to the fight. With all that in mind, it will be interesting to see what happens in episode 4 with the matchup.