The UFC still isn’t slowing down, putting on another fantastic card back at home in the UFC APEX centre in Vegas. The night is headlined by two explosive, ranked lightweight contenders: Arman Tsarukyan and Mateusz Gamrot. Also in the lightweight division, two men on the edge of the rankings, Thiago Moises and Christos Giagos will square off. One of the most exciting matchups of the night comes in the co-main event where the veteran, Neil Magny, takes on a dangerous newcomer, Shavkat Rakhmonov. Before the main card kicks off, the prelims are filled with entertaining matchups including the featured prelim, Tafon Nchukwi vs. Carlos Ulberg and Raulian Paiva and Sergey Morozov. We’ll also see the return of UFC standouts Umar Nurmagomedov, Chris Curtis and Brian Kelleher. These matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds. As a special bonus, the eighth episode of The Ultimate Fighter Season 30: Peña vs. Nunes (as seen on UFC Fight Pass) is also covered below.
Main Card (7:00 PM PST)
Chris Curtis vs. Rodolfo Vieira
Curtis: -132 Vieira: +105
Over 1.5: +112 Under 1.5: -143
Taking the middleweight division by storm, Chris Curtis is only two fights deep into his UFC journey but shocked the community with two HUGE KO wins over Phil Hawes and Brendan Allen. Also trying to get a spot in the top 15 is Rodolfo Vieira. Vieira is also young in his UFC career with a record of 3-1 in the UFC with all of his fights ending in submissions thanks to his incredible BJJ background.
This matchup really could go in either direction. Curtis has a clear edge in striking while Vieira has a clear edge if the fight hits the canvas. After watching a lot of tape, their styles seem to favour Curtis slightly. Vieira is fantastic on the ground, but he hasn’t really handled forward pressure all that well, plus he tends to get hit a lot. Anthony Hernandez, Vieira’s last loss, who is MUCH smaller than Curtis, knocked Vieira down on multiple occasions and even controlled some of the grapplings before Vieira got exhausted and was submitted. Curtis doesn’t get tired, always pressures forward and is VERY strong and large. With Curtis’ heavy style, Vieira is likely going to struggle to get his offence going and will likely end up getting finished by Curtis’ strikes.
Curtis by Finish
Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Nate Maness
Nurmagomedov: -1100 Maness: +650
Over 1.5: -167 Under 1.5: +128
Trying to keep his undefeated record alive, one of the most dangerous Bantamweight contenders, Umar Nurmagomedov will take on Nate Maness, who’s only got ONE loss in his pro career. Umar came into the UFC last year and has since grabbed two VERY impressive submission wins over Sergey Morozov and Brian Kelleher. Maness also has a perfect UFC record at 3-0, most recently beating a promising prospect in Tony Gravely.
Maness is a great rising prospect, but it’s Umar’s fight to lose here. Nurmagomedov, much like his cousin Khabib, is an incredible wrestler and actually has some fairly impressive kicks in his striking arsenal. In one of Maness’ previous bouts against Gravely, he shut down the takedowns early but was then taken down and ravaged by Gravely. He ended up winning that bout, but with Umar’s wrestling ability, he wouldn’t have made it out of the first round of that fight. This is a clear win for Nurmagomedov that will likely end in another finish before he starts to take on the top 15.
Nurmagomedov by Finish
Thiago Moises vs. Christos Giagos
Moises: -250 Giagos: +200
Over 2.5: -137 Under 2.5: +108
Thiago Moises seems like a UFC veteran at this point, ranked up his last bout, but he only joined the UFC in 2018. He’s gone 4-4 since then, but all of his losses have come to top contenders like Dariush, Makhachev and Ismagulov. Perhaps the most impressive part is that he got to the 4th Round against Islam and went to a decision with the other two. Giagos is also trying to work his way into the top 15. His last matchup was against one of the headliners of this card: Arman Tsarukyan. Sadly, that one was a quick loss, but he’s gone 4-3 with dominant decision wins and a couple of losses to some of the top contenders in Drakkar Klose, Tsarukyan and none other than the champ, Charles Oliveira.
This should be another close, entertaining bout and likely one of the best of the night. It’s close, but I’d have to give the edge to Moises. The biggest factor in his favour is that matchup against Islam. Islam still ended up getting his submission win, but Moises was the only person I’ve seen recently that actually gave Islam some problems in grappling. Moises lasted 4 rounds, had some good moments in the clinch and actually pieced him up on the feet quite a bit, which is impressive because Islam doesn’t tend to get hit all that much. Giagos has some great wrestling too, but he tends to get hit a lot, plus; that’s why he lost to Klose. Moises reminds me of Klose because of his pressure and striking… but Moises is better. Giagos, on the other hand, reminds me a bit of when Alexander Hernandez lost to Moises; he was big and could strike and grapple, but Moises was just too good. I think the same thing will happen here and Moises will win a close decision.
Moises by Decision
Josh Parisian vs. Alan Baudot
Parisian: +105 Baudot: -125
Over 1.5: -193 Under 1.5: +150
I’m at a loss as to why this is just before the co-main event considering all the talent on this card. Neither of these men has done particularly well in the UFC thus far. Parisian has gone 1-2 since his DWCS contract win with losses to Parker Porter and Don’Tale Mayes and a split decision win over Roque Martinez. On the other side is Alan Baudot who’s gone 0-2 with a ‘no contest’ (where he was KOd in the 2nd Round). He too lost to Parker Porter, but he also got an unlucky draw with Tom Aspinall in his UFC debut.
When two evenly matched, striking-heavy heavyweights meet up, literally anything could happen. This is a complete coin toss. Parisian will come in with a weight advantage of probably about 10-15 pounds and has used that to his advantage, stumbling Parker Porter. Sadly, because of that size, he starts to slow down quite a bit and he can be pretty slow as it is. Baudot didn’t really get as tired as his fights went on, he moved a decent amount, but as soon as he got hit with anything big in his other fights, he shut down. There’s a decent chance that Baudot can just use his extra stamina to beat Parisian on the cards, but with 15 minutes to land something significant, I think Parisian has a great chance to get a finish. It should also be said that both of these men are strikers and have never faced a striker in the UFC, so we’re much more likely to see a finish here.
Parisian by Finish
Neil Magny vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
Magny: +300 Rakhmonov: -400
Over 2.5: +120 Under 2.5: -155
Here we’ve got another HUGE matchup, one between a VERY experienced UFC veteran and a dangerous, undefeated rising contender. Ranked 10th, Magny has been a staple in the top 15 for years. Since a layoff in 2019, he’s gone back to his incredible activity, going 5-1 since 2020 with wins over Robbie Lawler, Geoff Neal and Max Griffin, plus a loss to Chiesa. After grabbing sensational finishes in his only 3 UFC bouts, Rakhmonov grabbed himself the 15th spot in the rankings. Not only does he have a pristine 15-0 record, but he’s also grabbed a finish in EVERY win; that’s a rare, RARE achievement.
While I think Rakhmonov will keep his undefeated record intact, I don’t think he’ll be able to finish someone as tough and experienced as Magny. Magny doesn’t tire out and tends to win his fights with his incredible clinchwork. That being said, he was dropped multiple times by Max Griffin and was taken down and controlled by Chiesa. With Shavkat’s crisp, technical, powerful striking, plus his incredible takedowns, it seems fairly clear that he should be able to control Magny wherever the fight goes.
Rakhmonov by Decision
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Mateusz Gamrot
Tsarukyan: -300 Gamrot: +225
Over 4.5: -120 Under 4.5: -107
Once again, we’ve got a sensational matchup in the main event. Tsarukyan, who’s now ranked 11th, lost his debut to Islam in a decision but has since run through all of his opponents, going 5-1 in his UFC career, seemingly gaining steam as he continues on his journey. Gamrot also lost his debut, losing to Guram Kutateladze, but has also been flawless since then with a 3-1 record, grabbing his 12th spot after finishing Jeremy Stephens and Diego Ferreira.
Both of these men have the skill to get it done, but it seems as though Tsarukyan likely has a better shot of getting there. He’s HUGE for the division, plus he has fantastic striking AND wrestling. Not only did he grab devastating KO finishes in his last two, but he actually managed to take down Islam Makhachev and spent all 3 rounds grappling with him. To anybody that knows Islam, that’s wildly impressive. To really point out how significant that is, Islam had never been taken down in the UFC before that and I’m not sure if he’s been taken down since. Gamrot is also fairly large and has decent wrestling, but the real problem in this matchup is his striking. He struggled with the striking of both Ferreira and Holtzman. If Gamrot already struggled with their striking, plus he couldn’t actually keep Ferreira down for long, he’s going to have a nightmare of a time against Arman. With all of those advantages, in a 5 round matchup, Tsarukyan will likely grab another highlight-reel finish.
Tsarukyan by Finish
BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 4:00 PM PST)
Raulian Paiva vs. Sergey Morozov
Paiva: +120 Morozov: -148
Over 2.5: -175 Under 2.5: +137
After losing his spot in the top 15 to the ‘Suga Show’, Sean O’Malley, in his last outing, Raulian Paiva is trying to make his way back, taking on the surging newcomer, Sergey Morozov. Raulian Paiva used to compete down at flyweight where he used his size and length as a weapon. Since moving up to bantamweight though, he’s had a much tougher time, winning a tight, somewhat questionable, majority decision against Kyler Phillips and getting brutally knocked out by O’Malley. Morozov is only 1-2 since joining the UFC last year but lost to one of this card’s biggest names, Umar Nurmagomedov, and another dangerous contender in Douglas Silva de Andrade.
Just like most of the other matchups on this card, this one’s close and should be a thrill. That being said, Morozov seems to carry an edge that will help him take this fight on the judges’ cards. Unlike Paiva, he’s a true bantamweight and likely couldn’t ever make flyweight. With that power and strength, he knocked down both Silva de Andrade and Taha AND took them both down to control them on the ground. It has to be said that Paiva is MUCH smaller and weaker than Silva de Andrade and still smaller than Taha. Meanwhile, Paiva was dropped and controlled by Phillips’ wrestling. The only reason why Paiva won the decision over Phillips is that Phillips tired himself out after mangling Paiva in the opening round. Thanks to all that extra size and skill, Morozov should be able to win a hard-fought decision.
Morozov by Decision
Tafon Nchukwi vs. Carlos Ulberg
Nchukwi: -119 Ulberg: -105
Over 1.5: -180 Under 1.5: +137
Both of these men got their start on Dana White’s Contender Series. After grabbing a HUGE head kick KO on DWCS, Nchukwi has gone 2-2 with a win over Jamie Pickett and fairly unlucky losses to Murzakanov and Jun Yong Park. I mention that he was unlucky in those fights because he lost to Park in a questionable majority decision and Murzakanov from a flying knee after doing well the rest of the fight. Ulberg has been less active, going 1-1 so far in the UFC.
Both of these men have the chance to grab a KO. But after you watch the tape, there’s a glaring hole in Ulberg’s defence that will likely lead to a BRUTAL KO from Nchukwi. Ulberg is quick and has great kicks… but he holds his hands VERY low, not protecting his chin at all. In every one of his 3 fights in front of UFC audiences, that’s been a problem. Every time the opponent walks toward him and throws, Ulberg gets hit clean. Nchukwi may not be the fastest guy, but he walks forward constantly and pushes people into the fence and shreds them with HUGE shots. With that kind of jarring clash of styles, it seems inevitable that Nchukwi will land a couple of big ones and finish the fight early.
Nchukwi by Finish
BLÜ’s Best Bets
Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Vegas 57. 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.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Mateusz Gamrot Under 4.5 at -107
They’re both highly skilled, but Tsarukyan has a HUGE advantage in size and power. With 5 rounds to work (or 4.5 in this bet), it seems pretty likely that he’ll get the finish before then.
Tafon Nchukwi vs. Carlos Ulberg Under 1.5 at +137
With Ulberg’s chin WIDE open and Nchukwi’s power, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he grabs a MASSIVE KO in the opening round. At +137, it’s well worth the risk.
The Underdog Brian Kelleher at +136
Kelleher has struggled to fight heavier men; now that he’s back in his better weight class it seems as though this is his fight to remind everyone how good he is. But considering all of his experience and his dangerous, intense fighting style, +136 is definitely worth the risk.
The Short Run
Nurmagomedov + Rakhmonov + Tsarukyan
The Long Run
Morozov + Nurmagomedov + Moises + Rakhmonov + Tsarukyan
TUF 30: Episode 8 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 the last heavyweight quarterfinal: an all-out brawl between Chandler Cole (Team Nunes) and the undefeated Jordan Heiderman (Team Peña). After it seemed as though Cole did enough to win the opening two rounds, the judges decided to see a third, sudden victory round, which ended in a come-from-behind TKO finish for Heiderman. In this episode, we saw the final flyweight bout of the quarterfinals: a matchup between Brogan Walker (Team Nunes) and Hannah Guy (Team Peña).
The episode was pretty short on the history of these ladies, but there were still some interesting facts thrown in there. As shown in a couple different episodes, Brogan Walker (Team Nunes) injured her knee in training and was swapped out of her original matchup and into this one. Unlike most of the other fighters on TUF who live and train in the States, she’s actually lived in Guam for the past decade. Interestingly, she didn’t start training in MMA until she moved there. Although she still works as a 1st-grade teacher in Guam, she still trains and fights with the full support and enthusiasm of Guam, her team and her family. She started her fighting journey in Muay Thai where she went 6-0, then took up Jiu-Jitsu to compete in MMA, where she’s achieved an impressive 7-2 record. Hannah Guy (Team Peña) is a little younger so she doesn’t quite have as cool of a life story yet, but she currently lives in an ambulance that she’s repurposed as a tiny house. Like a lot of younger, female fighters, she started MMA after watching the women in the UFC, specifically TUF 18: Rousey vs. Tate. Since then she’s gone 4-1 in her MMA career and found herself on the show that got it all started for her. Thankfully, unlike a couple of the other ladies, both women easily made weight for this one.
Both ladies went straight into it, getting some combos going. With her awkward stance and angles, Walker seemed to be edging ahead, landing the cleaner strikes. After some back and forth striking, Brogan was the first to land BIG, dropping Guy to the canvas and getting her wrestling going. For the rest of the round, Walker was in complete control, clinching Guy along the fence and shredding her with elbows and knees. Walker wasted no time, knocking Hannah down to her knees with another crisp shot. From there, Brogan kept up her pressure along the fence and ended up taking Guy down and lighting her up. After spending most of the round pinned along the fence, Hannah finally started to get a dominant position, pinning Brogan along the fence and taking her down. That’s when things got REAL interesting; Guy took Walker’s back and started to work for some submissions and hit her with some great ground and pound. After a round and a half of dominant control, it looked like Walker was just going to walk away with an easy decision, but after that insane comeback, everyone thought the fight was going into a 3rd Round. Unbelievably, the judges ended it, handing Brogan Walker a majority decision win and the last spot in the semifinals. Dana was confused (and somewhat pissed) and both Peña and Nunes were surprised. I was shocked too, but sometimes… usually… the judges get it wrong and here we are.
Closing out the episode, Nunes, Peña and Dana started to pick their semifinal matchups. With Peña having 3 heavyweights to Nunes’ 1, it was a little harder to make a matchup there, but the flyweights were easy to pick at an even 2 and 2. After a lot of thought, Dana came back with his choices. To open the semifinals, Dana went with two of Peña’s heavyweights: Jordan Heiderman and Zac Pauga. This is exactly what Peña requested and it makes sense because they’re evenly matched. That also left Eduardo Perez (Team Nunes) and Mohammed Usman (Team Peña), the number 1 picks for each team, to fight in the other heavyweight semifinal. Then, for the flyweights, Dana matched up Brogan Walker (Team Nunes) and the alternate, Laura Gallardo (Team Peña), plus Kaytlin Neil (Team Nunes) and Juliana Miller (Team Peña) in the other fight because of their fighting styles. These are looking like some fantastic matchups and it all starts next week with two of Team Peña’s heavyweights: Jordan Heiderman and Zac Pauga.