Photo credit: BBC

*This was originally posted June 16, 2022*

After a HUGE PPV in Singapore, the UFC is following up with another WILD card, taking the show back to Texas. The night will be headlined by Calvin Kattar and Josh Emmett, but OG UFC fans have their eyes focused on the co-main event where the ‘Cowboy’, Donald Cerrone, returns to Texas to take on another veteran in Joe Lauzon. We’ll also see the return of fan-favourite contenders like Kevin Holland, Joaquin Buckley and Adrian Yanez. Other entertaining matchups include two VERY dangerous lightweights on the edge of the rankings, Damir Ismagulov vs. Guram Kutateladze, Cody Stamann taking on the veteran Eddie Wineland and a thrilling grappling matchup between Kyle Daukaus and Roman Dolidze. 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 seventh 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)

Julian Marquez vs. Gregory Rodrigues

BET99 Odds

Marquez: +150 Rodrigues: -184

Over 2.5: +130 Under 2.5: -167

Here we’ll see a middleweight brawl between two DWCS alum., Marquez and Rodrigues. Marquez was on the Contender Series all the way back in its first year: 2017. He won that matchup against another dangerous prospect, Phil Hawes, following that up with a 3-1 record in the UFC. All three wins have been by submission, but he’s actually more of a striker who’s knocked down his opponents with his fists and just used that position to get a submission. Rodrigues is a much more recent addition to the UFC, only joining in 2021, finding himself with a 2-1 record with a split decision loss to an incredible young contender in Petrosyan in his last.

This is a tight matchup, but Marquez’s style could be his downfall this time. His last two fights were to Alvey and Pitolo, two men that haven’t had much UFC success. He used his accurate striking to eventually catch them and drop them to the canvas. The problem with that in this matchup is that Rodrigues is MUCH larger; he’s got a lot of extra power, strength and grappling ability. Since Marquez tends to get hit a lot and tends to get controlled along the fence and on the ground, Rodrigues should be able to control Marquez wherever the fight will go, winning a fairly clear decision.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Rodrigues by Decision

Damir Ismagulov vs. Guram Kutateladze

BET99 Odds

Ismagulov: -163 Kutateladze: +130

Over 2.5: -234 Under 2.5: +175

In a card full of thrilling matchups, this one may fly under the radar to casual fans, but will SURELY produce some explosive action. Ismagulov comes into this fight with a stunning record of 23-1, with a 4-0 UFC record and wins over Thiago Moises and a dangerous new UFC addition in Rafael Alves. On the other side is an unbelievable Georgian striker, Kutateladze, who’s only making his 2nd UFC appearance but opened his journey with a split decision win over Gamrot and holds an impressive record of 12-2.

Both of these men have an incredible MMA record and are unbeaten in the UFC, but that will change after this matchup. They’re VERY closely matched, but it seems as though Ismagulov holds a slight edge. He may only have decision wins so far in the UFC, but these wins have been dominant. He uses his amazing striking ability to pick people apart at a distance, then shoots in for takedowns and controls his opponents on the ground. In all of his fights so far, he’s knocked down his opponents, even Moises, thanks to his crisp striking. Guram is also an incredible striker but struggled with the wrestling of Gamrot. Gamrot took him down fairly easily most of the time, even with some lazier takedowns and was controlled on the ground. It’s because of that difference in grappling capability that should lead to another decision win for Ismagulov.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Ismagulov by Decision

Joaquin Buckley vs. Albert Duraev

BET99 Odds

Buckley: +185 Duraev: -234

Over 1.5: -158 Under 1.5: +122

Here we’ve got a very interesting middleweight matchup between Buckley, who’s now 4-2 in his short UFC career, and the relative newcomer, Duraev. Only joining the UFC in 2020, Buckley has stunned UFC audiences with HUGE wins over Jordan Wright, and Antonio Arroyo and with the 2020 UFC Knockout of the Year over Kasanganay. Duraev grabbed his UFC contract with an impressive 1st Round submission on the Contender Series, following that up with a dominant win in his debut last October.

Although Duraev comes into this one with a 10 fight win-streak, this matchup doesn’t look all that favourable. He struggled to get takedowns in his debut against Kopylov. This is concerning since Buckley is MUCH larger than Kopylov and has some grappling skills himself. He was also dropped by Kopylov and… with 3 TKO/KO wins for Buckley, that’s another huge concern. Thanks to Buckley’s WAY above-average strength, Duraev will struggle with his grappling and will likely eventually get hit by something that’ll end his night. I predict either a fairly clear decision win or a late finish for Buckley.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Buckley by Finish

Tim Means vs. Kevin Holland

BET99 Odds

Means: +225 Holland: -300

Over 2.5: -129 Under 2.5: +100

Making his 2nd appearance in the UFC’s welterweight division, Kevin Holland is taking on the veteran Tim Means. At this point, you’re likely aware of Holland’s striking ability with multiple highlight-reel KOs in 2020 alone, but the big story lately has been his grappling. He struggled immensely, especially at middleweight, with grappling and was dominated by both Brunson and Vettori on the ground. Since then though, after working on his grappling he shut down all the takedown attempts from Kyle Daukaus at middleweight and Alex Oliveira at welterweight: two very good grapplers. As for Means, he’ll be Kevin Holland’s next grappler. Thanks to his grappling, he’s got UFC wins dating all the way back to 2014 and has found himself on a 3 fight win-streak with decision wins over Staropoli, Mike Perry and Nicolas Dalby.

On paper, this seems like a tough matchup for Holland because of the grappling, but I’d confidently say that Alex Oliveira was the tougher matchup. Means tends to fight at range, then goes in, gets hit a lot and lands a takedown. That will NOT work against Holland who is an incredible striker and has an absurdly long reach for the division. Thanks to his height and his new grappling abilities, Means will struggle to take him down… if he can even get past his striking. It should be noted that Means was actually submitted by Alex Oliveira and Holland didn’t have too much trouble for the most part. It seems likely that Holland will be grabbing yet another KO finish before he moves on to ranked opponents.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Holland by Finish

Co-Main Event

Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon

BET99 Odds

Cerrone: -167 Lauzon: +137

Over 1.5: -148 Under 1.5: +114

Originally scheduled for UFC 274, two of the UFC’s biggest veterans will finally clash in an explosive lightweight brawl. After taking a year off, perhaps contemplating retirement, fan favourite UFC legend, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, is back against another veteran in Joe Lauzon. ‘Cowboy’ has been in the UFC since all the way back in 2011 when it merged with WEC. Since then he’s fought most of the big names both at lightweight and welterweight. Although he’s close to the record for most UFC wins of all time, he’s been going through a rough patch, going 0-5-1 since 2019. He may not have won any of those, but four of them were to ranked UFC superstars Ferguson, Gaethje, McGregor and Anthony Pettis. His most recent loss happened a year ago to Alex Morono where he was finished in the 1st Round. Joe Lauzon’s most recent bout ended in a win, sadly it was over someone fairly unknown and it was back in 2019. Before that he struggled like ‘Cowboy’, losing 3 in a row. Amazingly, Lauzon joined the UFC all the way back in 2006.

They may both be veterans in the UFC, but ‘Cowboy’ holds the clear edge in experience; he’s also one of the most active fighters in UFC history. Outside of all that experience, Cerrone also stands out because of his recent welterweight history. Since this bout is taking place at lightweight, ‘Cowboy’ should have an edge in power. Lauzon, on the other hand, is small in comparison and, although he has some crisp striking, gets hit a LOT. Thanks to all the experience, the activity, the power, the size and the determination to get a win… Cerrone has everything he needs to win the close decision battle and possibly leave his career on a high note.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Cerrone by Decision

Main Event

Calvin Kattar vs. Josh Emmett

BET99 Odds

Kattar: -234 Emmett: +185

Over 4.5: -140 Under 4.5: +110

Don’t let the odds fool you, this is one of the closest matchups of the night and really could end with either man taking the win. Many people only really found out who Calvin Kattar was when he got dominated by Holloway early last year. He’s a sensational boxer that’s grabbed his number 4 spot in the rankings by beating the likes of Dan Ige, Jeremy Stephens, Shane Burgos and, most recently, Giga Chikadze. Josh Emmett is ALSO a dangerous striker, earning the number 7 spot thanks to his wins over Michael Johnson, Shane Burgos and Dan Ige.

When two ranked strikers match up like this, either one could be knocked out at any moment and the fight is likely going to be close up until that moment. It’s tough to say who holds the edge in this matchup. Emmett had the clear edge in power, but Kattar has the edge in technique, stamina and activity. What makes the decision slightly easier is the fact that they’ve fought a lot of the same fighters recently. Dan Ige is the best example of this. Emmett’s last fight was with Ige and, although he won the decision, it was a TIGHT decision thanks to Ige’s activity on the feet. Meanwhile, Kattar didn’t have as many problems. Not to mention, since that matchup, Kattar has gotten WAY better, as we all saw in his fight against Giga. We know that Kattar doesn’t slow down in 5 round fights, while Emmett slows down. With his extra stamina, striking skills and pace, he should be able to avoid Emmett’s power and chip away at him for 5 rounds to win a decision.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Kattar by Decision

BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 1:00 PM PST)

Kyle Daukaus vs. Roman Dolidze

BET99 Odds

Daukaus: -250 Dolidze: +200

Over 2.5: -160 Under 2.5: +125

In this one, we’ll be treated to a matchup between two men on the edge of the middleweight rankings. It looked as though Daukaus was going to jump into the top 15 if he beat Kevin Holland late last year, but sadly, due to a TERRIBLE accidental clash of heads, Holland was knocked out and the fight ended in a ‘No Contest’. He then followed that up with a HUGE 1st Round submission win over Jamie Pickett in February. Roman Dolidze also joined the UFC in 2020, finding himself with a record of 3-1 with a win over Laureano Staropoli and a loss to Trevin Giles in his last two fights.

These two are very similar and very evenly matched, but Daukaus looks like he holds an edge in this fight. He’s already fought some of the hardest hitters in the division (Holland, Hawes and Pickett) and stood up to their power by dominating them with clinches and takedowns. He’s also got some pretty heavy hands, almost knocking Hawes out on his feet. It should also be said that he dominated Pickett who was MUCH bigger than him in a catchweight bout at 195 pounds. Thanks to his extra strength and experience fighting larger fighters, Daukaus should grab a dominant decision win.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Daukaus by Decision

Cody Stamann vs. Eddie Wineland

BET99 Odds

Stamann: -567 Wineland: +400

Over 2.5: -158 Under 2.5: +122

Here we’ll see a dangerous, young, formerly ranked contender, Cody Stamann, take on a beloved veteran striker: Eddie Wineland. Stamann only has one win in his last 5 fights, but he’s been fighting some of the most dangerous men in the bantamweight division including Said Nurmagomedov (Loss), Merab (Loss) and Song Yadong (Draw). Wineland also has one win in his last five, but hasn’t been as active and hasn’t quite performed as well. In his last two, he was BRUTALLY knocked out by ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley and John Castaneda in the 1st Round. Before that, he grabbed a TKO win over Popov and a couple of decision losses dating back to 2017.

I’m a huge fan of Wineland, I’ve always loved his image and the way he fights, but this is a TERRIBLE matchup for him and this could be one of his final UFC fights. Stamann, as usual, is the shorter, but much stronger fighter. He was ranked up until his last bout where he was submitted early by the surging Said Nurmagomedov. Before that though, he had a close fight with one of the top-ranked contenders in Merab Dvalishvili. Merab is relentless with his pressure and pace, but Stamann handled it well with his own wrestling and even managed to stumble Merab. Meanwhile, Wineland’s last win was over Popov who was making his UFC debut. Eddie is quick with great striking but doesn’t have much of a chance against a VERY strong, well-rounded fighter in Stamann. Stamann isn’t much of a finisher though, so we’ll likely see a dominant decision.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Stamann by Decision

Adrian Yanez vs. Tony Kelley

BET99 Odds

Yanez: -300 Kelley: +233

Over 2.5: -132 Under 2.5: +100

In the featured prelim. of the night, we’ll see an explosive brawl in the bantamweight division. Fan favourite Adrian Yanez has been on a tear since his DWCS win, grabbing 3 TKO/KO wins to open his UFC career and a hard-fought decision win over Davey Grant in November. On the other side is Tony Kelley who also joined the UFC in 2020, but hasn’t had the same rise to fame. He opened his journey with a decision loss to Kai Kamaka and followed that up with wins over Ali AlQaisi and Randy Costa.

They’re both relentless, quick strikers and this will surely produce one of the best fights of the night, but Yanez seems to carry an edge into this matchup. Yanez fights a lot like Kamaka did against Kelley… but Yanez is MUCH better than Kamaka. Kelley struggled with Kamaka’s crisp striking and, although neither man really seems to slow down, Yanez seems to improve as fights go on. It should also be pointed out that he took a LOT of damage from Grant, damage that Kelley can’t produce. With Yanez’s crisp, technical striking and incredible chin, he should be able to win a scrappy, blood and violence-fueled decision on the judges’ cards.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Yanez by Decision

BLÜ’s Best Bets

Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Austin. 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.

Tim Means vs. Kevin Holland Under 2.5 at +100

Due to the fact Holland is a heavy favourite (-300) and has almost every advantage in this fight, including his striking, power and reach, it seems bizarre that the oddsmakers believe this fight will go the distance. I’d genuinely be surprised if Means could survive until the end of the 2nd Round, let alone the third. At +100, this is one of the best betting lines of the night.

Julian Marquez vs. Gregory Rodrigues Over 2.5 at +130

While there’s definitely a chance either of these men could grab a finish, they’re both durable fighters. Not only are they durable, but based on the styles of these two guys, it seems like there will be a lot of grappling and clinching, which should extend this matchup all the way to a decision. At +130 it’s worth the risk.

The Underdog Joaquin Buckley at +185

If you look at almost any factor of this fight, whether it’s size, power or striking, Buckley holds a fairly clear edge. Duraev struggled with the striking and strength of Kopylov and Buckley is MUCH bigger, stronger and more skilled than him. With all those advantages, it seems strange that Buckley isn’t the favourite, so, at +185, this is a no-brainer.

Parlay Opportunities

The Short Run

Stamann + Holland + Cerrone

The Long Run

Daukaus + Stamann + Ramos + Yanez + Rodrigues + Holland + Cerrone + Kattar

TUF 30: Episode 7 Recap

For the milestone 30th season of the Ultimate Fighter, we’re following coaches Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes as they lead teams of heavyweights and flyweight women to find the next UFC superstars. In the last episode, we saw a hotly contested flyweight rematch between Claire Guthrie (Team Nunes) and Juliana Miller (Team Peña) that ended in a tight decision win for Juliana Miller as she avenged her only career loss. In this episode, we saw the final heavyweight bout of the quarterfinals: a matchup between Chandler Cole (Team Nunes) and the undefeated Jordan Heiderman (Team Peña).

At the end of the last episode, we were told that Chandler Cole (Team Nunes) suffered a tear in a ligament in his elbow but was told he could still train and fight. The injury impeded his wrestling-heavy gameplan, but he was still having a great time in the house, trying to motivate his housemates with ‘Fitness Chandler’ and his non-stop workouts. This lovable fighter has a 3-year-old daughter and works as a corrections officer and wrestling coach. He’s trying to inspire people with his journey; he grew up VERY poor and lived off of food stamps as a kid. He wants to prove that it doesn’t matter where you start your journey, you can still achieve your dreams. Heiderman (Team Peña) came into the show with an unblemished 5-0 record and is really throwing everything into his dream to become a professional fighter. He recently quit his job as a welder to focus on training and his UFC dreams. He came in the lighter fighter at 247 pounds compared to Cole’s 264, but Heiderman brought in a healthy height and reach advantage.

Cole got his offence going early with some beautiful kicks. He was really pushing the pace, landing some great combos, while Jordan wasn’t really all that active. The highlight of the round and really the whole fight was an absolutely sensational, WILD, HUGE spinning wheel kick that landed flush on Heiderman’s head, dropping him back onto the canvas. It looked as though that was going to be it, but he somehow managed to recover and survived the round. Cole kept that momentum going into the second with more heavy kicks. Finally, halfway through the round, Heiderman started to land some crisp jabs and combos. After a decent comeback round from Jordan, the judges decided they wanted to see more in a sudden victory, in the third round. Just like the opening round, Chandler landed another BOMB, but Jordan replied with one of his own. In response, Cole went in for a takedown, but Heiderman started letting loose some heavy ground and pound until the ref told him to stop. Unlike the other fights, Dana White was actually fairly upset with how the judges handled this one. He felt, like Amanda Nunes and myself, that Cole won the first two rounds, meaning there was no need for a 3rd Round. Although I agree with the assessment that, in the context of the show, in a 2 round fight, Cole won, if this had been a normal 3-round fight in the UFC, Cole would have lost anyway.

Considering the fact that Heiderman is undefeated in his career, it’s VERY impressive that Cole did so well. He was a couple of strikes away from finishing with a 1st Round TKO after the wheel kick and won the first two rounds of the fight. He may no longer be competing on TUF, but I guarantee you that Dana will give him another shot at the UFC. Now that the heavyweight quarter-finals are done, next episode we’ll see the final flyweight quarterfinal between Hannah Guy (Team Peña) and Brogan Walker (Team Nunes) who injured her knee earlier in an earlier episode.