UFC 255 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Alex Perez
The manner in which Figuieredo defeated Joseph Benavidez in back-to-back fights to earn the flyweight title was impressive and he rides that momentum into this fight against Perez, who wasn’t the first choice to get this shot, but comes in with a very respectable 6-1 record in the UFC to date.
In terms of height and reach there’s not much to choose between these two, but Figueiredo cuts a lot more weight and also packs the bigger punch, having the kind of finishing power that’s rarely seen in the lightest weight class.
Given that Figueiredo is also fast, accurate and appears to be improving as he grows into the role of the 125lb kingpin, that makes him a formidable striking force, though it should be said that he’s generally not the most active fighter on offense, opting for a more low-volume approach.
Perez is a solid enough striker, but if this one stays upright he’s in real danger of being outgunned, so it’s just as well that he has good wrestling and is a finishing threat via submissions.
It’s an avenue that’s well worth exploring here, though Figueiredo is also well versed in submissions, but I still believe it’s the champion’s potent striking that’s going to keep Perez at bay early and ultimately finish him by TKO in the second round.
Pick: Deiveson Figueiredo wins by TKO in Rd2.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jennifer Maia
Shevchenko has been an unstoppable force since moving down to flyweight and winning the title, and it’s starting to leave the UFC brass struggling to find suitable opponents for her.
Maia is by no means a bad fighter – she is a former Invicta FC 125lb champ after all, but though she’s claimed some notable wins in the UFC to date over the likes of Joanne Calderwood, Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Davis, she’s only mustered a 3-2 run, which in most divisions would not be enough to move into title contention.
The 32-year-old Maia does have solid muay thai striking and good BJJ too, but she’s not proven to be much of a finisher against higher-level opposition, though getting a submission win over Calderwood last time out certainly gives her a nice confidence boost heading into the biggest fight of her career.
Shevchenko is a formidable opponent though as she’s a well-oiled striking machine with clinical kickboxing, very solid defense and will have a 3″ reach advantage to work with, while she also has robust wrestling that should enable her to dictate whether the fight goes to the mat or not.
Shevchenko is a smart fighter and is risk-adverse, so I’d expect her to go with the path of least resistance here, outstriking Maia on the feet and utilizing takedowns if required to help solidify rounds if necessary on her way to a comfortable decision victory.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko wins by decision.
Mike Perry vs. Tim Means
It feels like Perry’s been on the verge of completely coming off the rails for a while, with disturbing allegations of domestic violence by his ex-wife surfacing recently and video of him engaging in a drunken altercation outside a bar earlier in the year, while he has now taken to having his girlfriend corner him for his fights rather than getting trained professionals to help guide him.
At a time when he’s only registered three wins from his last eight Octagon outings that doesn’t bode well for his long-term future in the UFC, but given his big power and toughness he’s still capable of picking up a few wins along the way.
He’ll certainly have to lean into his toughness in this fight as Means is a lanky offensive striker with a 4″ height and reach advantage who actually likes to use his long limbs from close range and in the clinch, utilizing sharp elbow and knees to slice and dice his opponents, while he’s also effective with submissions on the mat.
Whereas Means is a volume striker, Perry makes his mark with single strikes that can prove to be fight-enders. He’s also willing to eat punches in order to land a bigger one of his own and while that’s not a particularly smart strategy, I can see him losing the striking battle here at times, only to then find a home for a punch that turns the fight on it’s head and leads him to a second round TKO victory.
Pick: Mike Perry wins by TKO in Rd2.
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Chookagian lost out to a small in stature former strawweight just last month in Jessica Andrade and now she’s going up against another in Calvillo on Saturday night.
Calvillo may not have Andrade’s raw punching power and strength, but in her flyweight debut recently she did appear to also be thriving now that she’s not constrained by her previous weight-cutting woes.
Calvillo is a willing pressure fighter whose striking is not very polished yet, but is developing with some solid boxing fundamentals. It’s her grappling that’s her real strong suit though, being a decent wrestler with very good scrambling and submission ability.
As for Chookagian, she’ll be hoping to make the most of her 5″ height and 4″ reach advantage to keep Calvillo on the end of her high-volume striking. That could pay off, but Chookagian can have a habit of looking busy without being particularly effective and I’m not convinced she has the power to disuade her opponent from closing the distance.
So, I think Calvillo will engage with Chookagian at times on the feet, but will mostly be looking to get into range to set up takedown attempts and scramble opportunities, which with her sharp finishing instincts could lead to a submission finish, though I’ll settle for her emerging victorious via decision.
Pick: Cynthia Calvillo wins by decision.
Mauricio Rua vs. Paul Craig
It’s almost exactly since these two last fought to a split decision ruling and now they are going at it again in the hopes of declaring a clear winner this time around.
The last fight between them was curious in that there was somewhat of a role reversal, with Craig actually taking the striking battle to Shogun in the opening round and actually appearing to have him in trouble at times despite being far better known for his submission skills.
He was doing well enough that Shogun abandoned his own striking the the rounds that followed in favor of trying to outwrestle Craig.
It’s possible that Rua was just completely underestimated Craig last time out and will be eager to stamp his authority in the stand-up department this time around, but while he certainly has the power advantage he has to be careful as at 38 he’s slowed down significantly and isn’t as durable as he was back in his heyday.
So, Craig could still have have a chance on the feet, but the fact that Shogun was so willing to go to the mat with him last time out will surely tempt the Scottish fighter to get him there again since he’s fond of pulling guard and has had an impressive knack for finding submissions from his back, even in the dying seconds of fights he was losing, over the years.
As such I think Shogun will tempt fate by going to the mat with Craig one too many times and as fatigue sets in late in the fight and will get caught up in a fight-ending submission.
Prediction: Paul Craig to win by submission in Rd3.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Brandon Royval vs. Brandon Moreno
Joaquin Buckley vs. Jordan Wright
Antonina Shevchenko vs. Ariane Lipski
Daniel Rodriguez vs. Nicolas Dalby
Alan Jouban vs. Jared Gooden
Kyle Daukaus vs. Dustin Stoltzfus
Louis Cosce vs. Sasha Palatnikov