UFC Fight Night 227 (aka Nocho UFC) takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Alexa Grasso shocked long-time flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in their last fight with a 4th round submission win to seize the title, and now she’ll have to beat her for a second time as they head into an immediate rematch.
There was several years where Shevchenko appeared unbeatable in the division, but there was a sign that perhaps the 35-year-old’s vice grip on the belt was starting to loosen in her previous fight when she’d found the going tougher than expected against Taila Santos.
There’s been some suggestion that perhaps Shevchenko’s 20-years fighting at a high level in both MMA and kickboxing / muay thai is finally catching up with her, but at the same time it’s important that Grasso’s upset win doesn’t overshadow the fact that ‘Bullet’ was actually winning the fight up until the moment she overcommitted on a spinning kick that missed, leaving her back exposed to set up the resulting submission finish.
To be fair, Grasso had actually performed really well in the first round too, getting the better of the striking action with her fast, accurate striking and movement, but in the 2nd and 3rd rounds Shevchenko got control of the fight by using her wrestling ability to good effect.
And that’s something that’s been a problem for Grasso in the past too. She is a good grappler, but she often struggles to get off her back against fighters who have better wrestling and / or are able to overpower her. That was the case even at 115lbs where she was undersized, and is even more accentuated at 125lbs.
So I’d expect that Shevchenko will be looking to exploit that weakness again on Saturday night, but she is also still a very talented striker who will no doubt have also made adjustments to her stand-up strategy based on what happened last time out. Grasso will have too, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one goes, but while Shevchenko may no longer be in her absolute prime, I still think she reclaims the title here by decision.
Pick: Valentina Shechenko wins by decision.
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Kevin Holland
Jack Della Maddalena has been on a roll since being recruited from the Contender Series, having won five wins in a row, and now he’ll get a higher-profile fight against Kevin Holland, who has earned stoppage victories in his last two bouts.
Maddalena’s first four wins in particular were impressive as he was able to swarm his opponents with powerful combinations of punches and elbows to the head and body at close quarters with good technique that paved the way for four finishes in a row inside the first round. With that in mind his last fight was a surprise as he was expected to bulldoze through late replacement newcomer Bassil Hafez in similar fashion, but instead found himself in a hard fought battle that he’d only emerge victorious from via a split-decision verdict.
As such a little of the initial hype has died down for now, but there’s no doubt he remains a talented fighter who backs up his striking prowess with good cardio and a capable ground game, though his takedown defense is on the weak side.
Holland should be a very good test for Maddalena to see just how good he is as the former middleweight is a dangerous striker in his own right and has a distinct size advantage here, being 4″ taller with a whopping 8″ extra in reach to work with. And he uses that effectively with straight punches and kicks being delivered with both speed and power, while he also has creative flair, which adds an element of unpredictability to his attacks, including at close quarters where he’ll mix in elbows and knees.
Holland’s wrestling defense has been a glaring weakness in his career so far, which distracts attention from the fact that he actually has some pretty respectable offensive wrestling and submission chops.
So this is an intriguing stylistic match-up which has me leaning towards Holland as I think Maddalena will have difficulty consistently getting into those close-quarter striking situations he thrives in without having to walk through Holland’s hard-hitting strikes from range. And Holland will be a threat in close too, so while anything could happen here, I’ll take Holland to land the more telling blows and emerge with a decision victory.
Pick: Kevin Holland wins by decision.
Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Terrence Mitchell
18-year-old Raul Rosas Jr was the UFC’s youngest ever signing after impressing on the Contender Series, but though he went on to win in his debut he lost his last fight and now attempts to rebound against Terrence Mitchell, who was TKO’d in his UFC debut a couple of months ago.
Rosas Jr’s last fight demonstrated that while he’s still a raw talent at this stage. He’s a talented grappler for his age and physically strong too, but the cracks soon start to show when he can’t just overwhelm opponents early and get the takedowns he needs to shine. The longer the fight goes the more his fast pace starts to wear on his cardio, and the fact that he tends to lean on brute force rather than clean technique only adds to that problem.
Still, he’s at an age where he’s going to learn and develop rapidly, and the grappling skill he already has can certainly be refined, though his rough-and-ready striking game is going to require more work, and the sooner the better.
In the 33-year-old Mitchell he’s facing a striker with a significant 3″ height and 7″ reach advantage. He’s not a stand-up technician, but he carries big power in his punches and has good head kicks too. There are signs his chin might not be the strongest, but he’s not just purely a striker as he is willing to wrestle at times and does have a solid number of submission wins on his record, though it’d be wise not to read to much into that at this stage since they all came on the regional circuit in Alaska.
It may have been better for Rosas Jr to develop for a while longer outside of the UFC, rather than having to rapidly evolve under the bright lights in the Octagon, but I do think this is a level of opponent that he still has a good chance to do well against, assuming he can get the fight to the mat. While it would be good to see him demonstrate more composure, I suspect he just gets Mitchell down early and secures a 1st round submission finish.
Pick: Raul Rosas Jr wins by submission in Rd1.
Daniel Zellhuber vs. Christos Giagos
A loss in Daniel Zellhuber’s UFC debut brought an end to his undefeated 12-0 record, but he has since picked up his first win in the promotion. Now he fights Christos Giagos, whose had mixed results, going 5-4 in the UFC, but is coming off a 1st round knockout victory.
The 24-year-old Zellhuber is tall by lightweight standards and as such holds a 3″ height and 6″ reach advantage here. He fights well at range off the jab and has fast hands and good kicks. He has no qualms about fighting at closer quarters as well though, but he is less comfortable when he’s being put on the back foot.
Giagos is athletic and likes to press the action wherever possible, making up for his lack of clean technique with his energetic approach and ability to mix things up on the feet and on the mat. His striking is a bit wild though and while he can wrestle and seek out submissions he’s also been tapped out himself several times. Still, he’s not an easy fighter to face, but his tendency to run out of steam late in the fight is a real weakness.
This is good challenge for Zellhuber and should make for a competitive fight, but I think his cleaner striking technique from range and better cardio will pay off to win by decision.
Pick: Daniel Zellhuber wins by decision.
Fernando Padilla vs. Kyle Nelson
Coming in off a 1st round TKO victory in his UFC debut, Fernando Padilla now fights Kyle Nelson, who has only mustered a 2-4-1 record in the UFC so far, but is coming off a win.
The 26-year-old Padilla is a tall, rangey striker who will look to use his 2″ height and 5″ reach over Nelson to land his active, accurate offense with good power. His finishing instincts are apparent on the mat too via submissions. However the fact he doesn’t check leg kicks could be a concern here and he’s not much of a wrestler.
The 32-year-old Nelson has a tough, gritty style that’ll see him pressure with his boxing, while also landing hard leg kicks too. He’s really quite hittable though, but can shift gears by bringing his wrestling into the mix too.
There’s potential avenues to victory for Nelson here, but his defensive liabilities would appear to leave plenty of opportunity for Padilla to find a home for his strikes and I see that taking a toll by the second round to bring about a TKO stoppage.
Pick: Fernando Padilla wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Loopy Godinez vs. Elise Reed
Roman Kopylov vs. Josh Fremd
Edgar Chairez vs. Daniel Lacerda
Tracy Cortez vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius
Josefine Knutsson vs. Marnic Mann
Alex Reyes vs. Charlie Campbell