Photo Credit: MMANews.Com via Getty Images
*This was originally posted June 3, 2022*
After a week off and with only a week until a HUGE PPV in Singapore, the UFC returns to Vegas for another round of fights. The night will be headlined by two of the top heavyweights, Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, who are both trying to climb the ladder back into title contention. Just before that, we’ve got another ranked fight to look forward to, a featherweight matchup between fan-favourite Dan Ige and the undefeated Movsar Evloev. Interestingly, there’s not one… but THREE UFC debuts taking place on the main card alone. Askar Mozharov will be making a TOUGH debut against the powerhouse Alonzo Menifield, Poliana Botelho will have her hands full with the young grappler Karine Silva fresh off her DWCS win while Lucas Almeida draws the scrappy Mike Trizano for his debut. Opening up the main card action, we’ll also see a rematch between two veterans of the UFC: Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz 2. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve also got some exciting matchups in the prelims with Erin Blanchfield making her return against JJ Aldrich, plus TWO incredible flyweight matchups between Jeff Molina and Zhalgas Zhumagulov, as well as Ode Osbourne and Zarrukh Adashev. 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 fifth 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)
Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Herrig: -120 Kowalkiewicz: +100
Over 2.5: -325 Under 2.5: +240
The main card opens with two of the earliest female additions to the UFC, Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Herrig did well early in her UFC career, but since losing to Kowalkiewicz in their first meeting in 2018, she lost a decision to Waterson and by a BRUTAL 1st Round submission from Jandiroba. Thanks to that 3 fight losing streak, she hasn’t won since her tight, split decision victory over Cortney Casey in 2017. Kowalkiewicz has also struggled recently with 5 losses in a row with her last win coming, funny enough, over Felice Herrig. That being said, she’s been slightly more active with losses to Andrade, Waterson, Grasso, Yan and Penne.
As with most women’s fights, especially when you’ve got 2 veterans on losing streaks near the end of their careers, this one could go either way. Despite that, there are still a few factors that push the momentum in one direction. Kowalkiewicz, although she’s lost 5 in a row, has been more active and put up a decent performance in a decision 2 years ago against Yan who was just as dangerous then as she is now. The biggest factor is their last encounter; Kowalkiewicz used her grappling and better striking to control Herrig. They’re both going to be slightly slower and weaker than in their first encounter, but thanks to Karolina’s extra activity and the advantages that won her the decision in their first encounter, she should edge the decision here as well.
Kowalkiewicz by Decision
Alonzo Menifield vs. Askar Mozharov
Menifield: -209 Mozharov: +166
Over 1.5: +136 Under 1.5: -175
In the first of THREE UFC debuts on the main card, Mozharov will make his first walk to Octagon to face an absolute beast in Alonzo Menifield. Since grabbing an 8-second TKO win on the Contender Series in 2018, Menifield has been pretty even in his UFC career with a record of 4-3 with three 1st Round finishes and losses to top contenders Devin Clark, OSP and William Knight. Mozharov has a lengthy MMA resume with a record of 25-7, but like many similar fighters, most of his MANY 1st Round finishes have come over fighters with almost no MMA experience in promotions that most people have never heard of. In fact, the only MMA performance he’s had recently in a recognizable promotion was a 1st Round TKO loss in Titan FC.
If we purely looked at their records, it’d seem like Mozharov might hold the edge in striking and power, but when you dive deeper, especially after watching tape, that falls apart. At Titan FC just a couple of years ago he lost to a light heavyweight who was a smaller man. Torres controlled Mozharov on the ground and finished him in the 1st Round by TKO. Being that Menifield has decent wrestling (that he showed by occasionally out-grappling the MASSIVE William Knight) and HUGE power, it seems unlikely that Mozharov will be able to withstand his offence for much longer than a round.
Menifield by Finish
Poliana Botelho vs. Karine Silva
Botelho: +110 Silva: -134
Over 2.5: -175 Under 2.5: +133
In this all-Brazilian matchup, this fight should be just as close as you’d expect. Botelho had a promising start to her career, opening with a record of 3-1, but has dropped her last two with decision losses to Robertson and Luana Carolina. Karine Silva is MUCH less experienced, making her first UFC appearance in this one. Some UFC fans will recognize her from her impressive performance on the Contender Series late last year.
This is a battle of styles. You’ve got primarily a striker in Botelho and a VERY good wrestler in Karine Silva. Although I believe Botelho may have edged the win in her split decision loss to Luana Carolina, it was clear that she struggles against someone larger who can wrestle. Silva showed that she’s got incredible wrestling that would stack up in the UFC, she’s also very quick and fairly large. Given all those problems that Botelho had with Carolina and Robertson, it seems like the wrestler, Silva, will control the fight and win on the cards.
Silva by Decision
Mike Trizano vs. Lucas Almeida
Trizano: -234 Almeida: +183
Over 2.5: -200 Under 2.5: +154
Just like the last two fights, we’ve got someone making their UFC debut. Like Mozharov, Almeida didn’t get his contract from the Contender Series. In fact, he lost on his DWCS appearance last September. Other than that, he’s been flawless with 13 finishes in his 13-1 record. Trizano made his UFC debut after winning Season 27 of TUF. Since then he’s got some hard-fought wins against Luis Pena and Ludovit Klein and losses to Grant Dawson and Hakeem Dawodu.
I think this one is gonna be a striker’s delight. This should be an exciting battle that will likely end in a decision. That being said, with all of Trizano’s experience it seems like he’s edge ahead by the end. Trizano is a pretty large striker and his skill was evident in his last fight against another impressive striker in Dawodu. He’s also a decent grappler that could pose problems for Almeida. You combine that with Almeida’s lacklustre cardio and weakness in the clinch, and it seems like Trizano holds the edge.
Trizano by Decision
Dan Ige vs. Movsar Evloev
Ige: +320 Evloev: -434
Over 2.5: -400 Under 2.5: +280
This one is the most exciting matchups of the night and could end up being an easy pick for Brawl of the Night. Dan Ige is currently ranked 10th after his recent losses to Emmett and the Korean Zombie. He got his spot in the rankings with VERY impressive performances against Mirsad Bektic and the legendary Edson Barboza. Evloev has only had 5 fights in the UFC, but he’s held his perfect record together at 15-0. His most recent wins have come from dominant wrestling performances over Grundy, Lentz and Dawodu.
This fight is a lot closer than the odds suggest. Ige’s standup is fantastic and he could land something big that stumbles Evloev, but the difference-maker here is clearly Evloev’s wrestling. Ige struggled a LOT with the wrestling of the Korean Zombie and a little bit with Emmett. Considering both men are extremely durable and have endless gas tanks, it seems like this fight will clearly last the full 3 rounds. Ige will probably land some great combos, but Evloev should be able to control the action on the ground to win on the cards.
Evloev by Decision
Alexander Volkov vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Volkov: -158 Rozenstruik: +128
Over 3.5: -134 Under 3.5: +105
We’re closing out the night with a HUGE fight between two top-ranked, heavyweight brawlers. After a devastating 1st Round loss to Aspinall in London just a couple of months ago, Volkov has fallen to 7th in the rankings. Ever since his debut, he’s been fighting the best of the best with wins over Struve, Werdum, Hardy, Harris, Tybura and Overeem and losses to Lewis, Blaydes and Gane. Rozenstruik is slightly newer to the UFC but has made a HUGE impact in the division with wins over Arlovski, JDS, Sakai and Overeem. His only losses have come at the top of the division against N’Gannou, Gane and Blaydes.
Since we’re at heavyweight, a finish could always happen at any moment, especially since both men prefer to strike. Volkov seems to struggle early in fights where the fighter pressures like Rozenstruik, but he’s always been great at shutting down the offence of strikers… with the exception of Derrick Lewis. Since they both fought Overeem recently, it seems like a fair point of comparison. Jairzinho struggled a bit with Overeem’s wrestling but picked him apart on the feet slowly over the 5 rounds. Volkov came in, walked forward for most of the fight and finished him in the 2nd Round. Rozenstruik will likely come in pretty aggressive in the opening round or two, but his cardio will likely let him down, especially considering Volkov’s incredible stamina. They’re both ridiculously tough and it’ll be a close, entertaining fight, but it seems like Volkov will edge ahead in a tight decision.
Volkov by Decision
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 1:00 PM PST)
Erin Blanchfield vs. JJ Aldrich
Blanchfield: -550 Aldrich: +375
Over 2.5: -286 Under 2.5: +210
Both of these women represent the future of the women in the UFC. Only two fights into her UFC career and Blanchfield is 2-0 with two DOMINANT wins. Maverick was looking like an unstoppable force in the division until Blanchfield came in and completely dominated the grappler on the ground. Aldrich is slightly older than Erin, sitting at 29 years old, but has an extensive UFC resume with a record of 7-3 here. Her last 3 fights have all been decision wins over other fairly impressive flyweights in Cortney Casey, Vanessa Demopoulos and Gillian Robertson.
Unlike most women’s bouts in the UFC, this one is likely going to be a blowout. Although Aldrich is good, Blanchfield has looked so dominant that she could get a title shot before she turns 25. She pushes the pace, has good standup and is one of the best wrestlers I’ve seen recently in women’s MMA. She should be able to get Aldrich down fairly easily and wear her down to the point that she may be able to get her first UFC finish.
Blanchfield by Finish
Jeff Molina vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Molina: -184 Zhumagulov: +150
Over 2.5: -193 Under 2.5: +150
This is likely the closest matchup of the night and it’s also going to be an explosive brawl. Since grabbing his UFC contract on the Contender Series, Molina has been flawless with an impressive pair of wins over Aoriqileng and Daniel da Silva. Zhumagulov doesn’t have a great record, sitting at 1-3 in the UFC, but all 3 losses were to ranked opponents Paiva, Albazi and Kape.
This may turn into a battle of styles. They both love striking, but Zhalgas has shown impressive grappling skills: he’s got a standing guillotine in the UFC. Molina was controlled in most of the grappling exchanges he’s had. Normally Molina can close that gap with his striking, but Zhumagulov ALSO has fantastic striking. He may have been finished by Kape in his last fight, but Zhalgas stumbled him, he’s incredibly tough and he moves a LOT. With all the movement and skills of Zhalgas, I think Molina will struggle to keep up and will lose in a close decision.
Zhumagulov by Decision
Ode Osbourne vs. Zarrukh Adashev
Osbourne: -186 Adashev: +150
Over 2.5: -128 Under 2.5: +100
This flyweight matchup isn’t as important (in terms of rankings) as the last one, but it should still be a fast-paced brawl between two exciting fighters. Osbourne snagged his UFC contract on DWCS back in 2019 and has gone even in the UFC at 2-2. His record may not sound impressive, but his losses came to Kelleher, who’s a bantamweight now, and Kape, who’s the fastest rising contender in the division. Adashev is also fairly new to the UFC with a 1-2 record and, interestingly, an overall record of 4-3. He opened his UFC stint with losses to Tyson Nam and Sumudaerji, but turned it around with an impressive win over Ryan Benoit.
These men are similar in that they’re both better than their records suggest. They’ve both got great skills, but Osbourne seems to edge ahead by the slightest bit. He’s VERY quick, and has great striking and decent grappling, while Adashev is slower and struggled with the length of Sumudaerji. Since Osbourne is the same length as Sumudaerji and likely has even better standup skills than him, Adashev is going to struggle with his striking.
Osbourne by Decision
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Vegas 56. 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.
Osbourne vs. Adashev Over 2.5 at -128
Both of these men are extremely tough, it’s also at flyweight where there aren’t as many finishes. Plus, there will likely be some grappling and clinching involved which will eat the clock. For a flyweight fight with two durable fighters, -128 needs to be jumped on.
The Underdog Karolina Kowalkiewicz at +100
Even based on the simple fact that Kowalkiewicz won their first encounter together, it already seems like a no-brainer to choose her in this matchup. Then you consider the fact that she’s had close fights recently against ranked opponents while Herrig has been struggling; +100 is an absolute steal.
The Underdog Zhalgas Zhumagulov at +150
Both Molina and Zhalgas are VERY skilled contenders. The difference is that Zhalgas has only lost to ranked contenders, plus, he’s put up a great fight against all of them. Considering Molina hasn’t faced anyone of that calibre yet and he’s struggled at times in his recent fights, Zhalgas at +150 is looking like a great betting line.
The Short Run
Blanchfield + Menifield + Evloev
The Long Run
Blanchfield + Menifield + Osbourne + Trizano + Evloev
Other Fight News
TUF 30: Episode 5 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 were originally going to see a matchup between Chantel Coates (Team Peña) and Brogan Walker (Team Nunes) but were instead treated to a matchup between Kathryn Paprocki (Team Nunes) and, the alternate, Laura Gallardo (Team Peña). After Coates left the competition due to her difficulty cutting weight, Gallardo came in to replace her. Sadly, Walker injured her knee, pushing Nunes to give her time to heal, which led to Paprocki taking the fight. Paprocki put up a great fight, but Gallardo was a clear winner thanks to her wrestling, only needing 2 rounds to win the decision. In this episode we returned to the heavyweights with the most interesting matchup of the series, the number 1 pick of the show, Eduardo Perez (Team Nunes), taking on the final pick of the show, TUF 2 alum. Bobby Maximus (Team Peña).
Bobby Maximus (Team Peña) has the most unique story of the season, competing all the way back in 2005 on TUF 2 on Team Hughes. Sadly, he lost in his first matchup on the show after blowing his shoulder. Amazingly, he was still given a chance to fight in the UFC and actually won in his debut, even grabbing the submission of the night bonus. After that though, he lost a couple and was cut from the UFC. From there he focused on parenting; his first son was born in 2009. Unbelievably, he’s returned to TUF, but hasn’t fought since 2009! At the age of 43, hearing that TUF 30 would have heavyweights, he decided that he had to go for it. Even though Perez is much younger, Maximus believed that his life experience and grappling would be a problem for Perez. In fact, he was using his life skills to help out a couple of women in the house with their sports psychology. They were on team Nunes, which his teammate Juliana Miller didn’t enjoy… but the rest of the team seemed to agree that Miller was being a little childish. The show didn’t focus too much on Eduardo Perez (team Nunes), they just focused on his MMA career. He’s got a fairly impressive, undefeated amateur career, a 4-1 pro record and he fights out of the acclaimed AKA gym. Headed into the fight, Perez weighed in at the limit of 266 pounds while Maximus came in at a clean 237 pounds.
The fight started off exactly the way Maximus wanted with an early takedown straight to the mat. Perez managed to get back up for a bit, but was pinned along the fence and dragged right back down. Bobby was doing VERY well with the grappling, but was busted open a but in the clinch. As the round went on though, Perez started to gain momentum, landing more and more strikes until Bobby found himself on the ground getting pummelled by ground and pound. Maximus just couldn’t get anything going and continued to get rocked on the ground, forcing the ref to jump in and stop the fight.
It really sucks to see someone with the story of Maximus go so early in the competition, but he looked great for most of the short fight and he said he wouldn’t be quitting MMA just yet. As for Perez, he struggled a bit with the grappling but otherwise looked great. There’s a reason he’s the number 1 pick; he’s a dangerous matchup for anyone left on the show. Of course, next week they’ll return to the flyweight action and we’ll now see Juliana Miller (Team Peña) and Claire Guthrie (Team Nunes). Interestingly, these two have already fought before and Guthrie took the W. Can she do it again? We’ll find out next week!