UFC Fight Night 203 takes place this coming Saturday night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev
Santos’ impressive finishing ability in the 205lb ranks earned him a title shot where he raised his stock further by giving Jon Jones one of his toughest title fights to date. That came at a cost though as he suffered serious knee injuries in that bout that kept him out of action for an extended period and he’s never been quite the same since, losing three fights in a row.
A decision win over Johnny Walker last time out did help to right the ship, but it wasn’t a particularly inspiring performance against an opponent who is on a downward spiral, so question marks remain about Santos, and even more-so given that he’s now 38-years-old.
All that being said, at his best Santos remains an extremely potent striker who can punish opponents with punches and heavy kicks, so he can’t be taken lightly at all, but his knee troubles do seem to have taken some of the sting out of his attacks and curtailed his more dynamic, acrobatic offense at times.
At 29-years-old, Ankalaev is certainly the fresher fighter here, having only lost once in his 17 fight career, which was via submission, and he’s currently enjoying a seven fight unbeaten stretch in the UFC.
On the feet Ankalaev is a very assured, calculating striker who operates effectively from range with combinations of kicks and punches while being mindful of his defensive responsibilities.
Ankalaev also benefits from being a very good wrestler too and I think that would be a significant advantage for him here, and while he may not have Santos’ raw power I think he can also be very competitive on the feet on his way to a decision victory.
Pick: Magomed Ankalaev wins by decision.
Marlon Moraes vs. Song Yadong
Moraes made a strong start to his UFC run after beign a dominant force in the WSOF promotion, but we’ve since watched him suffer a major slump in form losing four of his last five fights – and troublingly all four came via TKO.
So there’s now serious questions about Moraes chin, but meanwhile he does remain a force to be reckoned with when he’s on the offensive thanks to his dynamic striking and finishing ability on the feet, while he can also mix things up on the mat too, though he’s much better on top than off his back.
At 24, Yadong is almost a decade younger than Moraes, but is very well-rounded for his age and has already compiled a 7-1-1 record in the UFC.
Yadong is a very crisp, technical boxer and has good hand speed and movement, while also having an ever-improving wrestling game too.
This remains a tough test for Yadong, but this feels like it’s his time to shine and while he might not be as potent as Moraes I think he can take advantage of the veteran’s decreasing durability to claim a second round TKO finish here.
Pick: Song Yadong wins by TKO in Rd2.
Sodiq Yusuff vs. Alex Caceres
Yusuff tasted defeat last time out agains the in-form Arnold Allen after enjoying a four-fight winning start ho his UFC run, while Caceres comes into this fight riding the best form of his career, with five wins in a row to his name.
The 33-year-old Caceres deserves as lot of credit for this surge after spending a lot of his time in the UFC before that alternating between wins and losses. Having said that, his level of competition during this winning streak hasn’t been the strongest and he’ll face a stiffer test of his skills this time out against a ranked opponent.
Caceres is an active striker who draws heavily on his karate background and is always willing to throw out eye-catching striking techniques, although they are often more style than substance since he doesn’t have much in the way of stopping power.
On the other hand, Yusuff also keeps up a good volume of strikes on the feet, but has a more compact style and has considerably more punching power than Caceres.
Caceres is also a tricky fighter to deal with on the mat and his submission game is his sharpest weapon and can find him making the most of scrambling opportunities, although it should be noted that he actually has as many losses by submission as he does wins.
Yusuff has solid takedown defense however and I believe that will prove to be a real thorn in Caceres flesh here, leaving this one to play out as a striking battle that I think Yusuff will be in command of all the way to a decision victory.
Pick: Sodiq Yusuff wins by decision.
Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Karl Roberson
Rountree comes in off a TKO victory last time out after losing three of his previous four fights, while Roberson would also like to get back to winning ways after two submission defeats in a row.
Roberson won’t have to worry about being submitted by Rountree here as his opponent will have no interest in going to the mat whatsoever. Instead, Rountree will be looking to use his powerful muay thai striking in search of a big finish via punches, kicks, elbows or knees, although he doesn’t have the best cardio and so he’s conservative with his output and isn’t as potent later in the fight.
Roberson won’t fear his opponent’s striking prowess as he’s a former kickboxer who will be technically sound with his output and should be able to commit more to his strikes given that he doesn’t have to worry about taking down.
That being said, even though he’s had some submission losses, Roberson actually likes to grapple with his opponents and he has had some success with that at times. With that in mind it may well be in his interests to explore that avenue here, looking for opportunities to bring Rountree while still being able to compete with him in the striking department too, so I’m going to say that pays off for him here via a second round submission win.
Pick: Karl Roberson wins by submission in Rd2.
Drew Dober vs. Terrance McKinney
McKinney has compiled three wins in a row in the promotion so far and now steps in on just a week’s notice to fight Dober, who suffered two defeats last year.
Dober’s losses came against Islam Makhachev and Brad Riddell, so there’s no shame in that and he remains a very durable striker with respectable technique who can push a hard pace.
McKinney will enjoy a 2″ height and 3.5″ reach advantage and he’s starting to become known for his finishing ability on the feet in recent years, both inside and outside of the UFC. That being said, in earlier years it was a solid wrestling foundation and a number of submission wins that helped him progress through the regional ranks.
It’ll be very interesting to see how McKinney gets on as this is a solid test at this stage in his career. I think the short notice aspect of the fight doesn’t favor him though as Dober is going to be working hard to push him for the full three rounds and I think that his work-rate could be enough to edge out a decision win here.
Pick: Drew Dober wins by decision.
Alex Pereira vs. Bruno Silva
Pereira has been a very interesting addition to the UFC ranks as not only has he been a high-level kickboxer for many years competing with the likes of Glory, but he also has the distinction of having beaten Israel Adesanya in that sport on two occasions, including once by KO.
Now he’s competing in MMA and holds a 4-1-1 record, and as you’d imagine he is a highly technical, dynamic striker. He’ll also command a 4″ height and 6″ reach advantage over Silva in this fight with his hard-hitting kicks and punches from range, while he showed in his UFC debut that his flying knees are another weapon to watch out for after registering a TKO victory.
The 32-year-old Bruno is also a striker to be reckoned with however, carrying devastating power in his hands, and that’s led him to three stoppages via strikes since joining the UFC.
Despite that, to his credit Silva has also shown a willingness to go for takedowns. To be fair he’s not the best grappler and his submission defense is a weakness, but nonetheless he should hold a notable advantage over the still-green Pereira on the mat.
So Silva has more ways to win here, but I think he could be drawn into a striking battle here that will prove costly as Pereira has the striking ability to pick him apart from range and punish him on the counter, leading to a TKO finish mid-way through the fight.
Pick: Alex Pereira wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Matthew Semelsberger vs. AJ Fletcher
JJ Aldrich vs. Gillian Robertson
Trevin Jones vs. Javid Basharat
Damon Jackson vs. Kamuela Kirk
Sabina Mazo vs. Miranda Maverick
Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Cody Brundage
Kris Moutinho vs. Guido Cannetti
Tafon Nchukwi vs. Azamat Murzakanov