UFC On ESPN 38 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Mateusz Gamrot
With Tsarukyan having won five fights in a row inside the Octagon and Gamrot also having compiled a trio of victories, both men are hoping that a big win on Saturday night will propel them into the lightweight division’s top 10 rankings.
This is a really competitive headliner between two very talented and also well-rounded fighters. Tsarukyan is a very capable striker who likes to press forward aggressively and has showcased fight-ending power in his last two bouts as he continues to build momentum in the promotion. Gamrot is also a solid stand-up fighter, though he likes to mix things up and will look to utilize his solid wrestling and grappling skills too.
That approach usually works well for Gamrot, but while he should be able to make things very competitive on the feet here, there are concerns about how well he’ll be able to implement his ground game as Tsarukyan has demonstrated very good wrestling ability and even gave Islam Makhachev a run for his money when they met in his UFC debut. On top Tsarukyan has very good ground and pound and can also seek out submissions.
As a former KSW champion Gamrot has the advantage of having fought in five-round fights before, which is something that Tsarukyan will be experiencing for the first time. Nevertheless, I don’t see cardio being Tsarukyan’s downfall and instead I feel his stronger wrestling ability will give him the edge here and lead him to a win by decision.
Pick: Arman Tsarukyan wins by decision.
Neil Magny vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
A vastly experienced UFC veteran, the 10th ranked welterweight Magny has five wins from his last six fights, while the 15th placed Rakhmonov has a perfect 15-0 record and has clocked up three stoppage victories since arriving in the UFC.
Despite the 27-year-old Rakhmonov still being a relatively fresh face in the UFC it’s clear that the 34-year-old Magny thinks highly of him as he’s spoken pre-fight of his need to dig deep to emerge with the win on Saturday night and even suggested that he won’t be able to just rely on his usual speed and distance management, suggesting that he’ll be looking to put more power being his strikes too.
That’s an interesting take as while Magny is a very good all-rounder, one thing he’s never been noted for is his punching power, so it does leave a large question mark as to whether he can really pull that off in this fight.
Rakhmonov is a skilled fighter wherever the action goes and has a proven record as a fight-finisher, having never gone the distance, while splitting his wins almost evenly between strikes and submissions stoppages.
Despite that Rakhmonov isn’t the kind of fighter who gets tunnel-vision while going for a finish, instead remaining calculating and composed, while still having that killer instinct.
Still, this is Rakhmonov’s biggest fight to date and Magny is not an easy fight for anyone, but there’s not an obvious weakness for the veteran to exploit here andwith Rakhmonov being the more potent offensive threat I think he’ll land the bigger strikes on the feet here and come away with a TKO victory in the second round.
Pick: Shavkat Rakhmonov wins by TKO in Rd2.
Josh Parisian vs. Alan Baudot
Both of these heavyweights know that a win is a must here, with Parisian having lost two of his three fights since joining the UFC, while Baudot is an even more precarious spot having failed to get a win in his three fights with the promotion.
So far neither fighter has shown much in the Octagon to suggest that they are better than their records suggest. Parisian is more of a pressure fighter than Baudot and he does mix in some creative strikes at times, though he can also get bogged down in the clinch and has fairly limited wrestling ability.
Baudot is a muay thai striker, who like his opponent has power but can also eat a lot of strikes, and he doesn’t have the benefit of a ground game he can go to if the fight on the feet isn’t going his way.
This may well turn out to be a scrappy fight that could go either way, but I feel Parisian’s forward pressure will help him to get the better of the action and take home a decision victory.
Pick: Josh Parisian wins by decision.
Thiago Moises vs. Christos Giagos
Not so long ago Moises was on a three-fight winning run, but now he’s coming off two losses in a row, while Giagos did have back-to-back wins, but saw that ended by a TKO loss to main event star Arman Tsarukyan.
Moises has a muay thai striking style and should be a bit more technical than Giagos with better shot selection, though he isn’t active offensively and lacks real stopping power.
Meanwhile, Giagos will look to apply pressure and have a higher output, while hunting for opportunities to use his wrestling and bring the fight to the canvas.
However, from there he will have to contend with the fact that Moises is the better BJJ player here and Giagos has been finished a few times in the past via submisison, although the standard of opposition on those occasions was high.
Still, when you also factor in that Giagos tends to slow down in the later rounds then in an otherwise close fight I feel Moises will do enough to sway the judges in his favor.
Pick: Thiago Moises wins by decision.
Nathan Maness vs. Umar Nurmagomedov
Maness has won all three of his fights in the UFC to date, taking his career record to 14-1, while Nurmagomedov is undefeated at 14-0 and has clocked up two submission wins since joining the promotion.
Nurmagomedov is every bit as good of a wrestler as you might expect from a cousin of former lightweight king Khabib, and that’s not the only string to his bow as he also has good submissions and solid kick-based attacks on the feet too.
Maness is an all-rounder who will be looking to use his takedown defense to try to keep this one upright and look to implement his boxing. He’s also a hard-headed fighter and has shown in the past that he can battle back from adversity to win fights.
Maness has compiled a nice record up to this point, but Nurmagomedov is on a different level and his dominant wrestling will enable him to grab this fight by the scruff of the neck, with a submission finish following in the second round.
Pick: Umar Nurmagomedov wins by submission in Rd2.
Chris Curtis vs. Rodolfo Vieira
Something of a journeyman on the regional circuit, Curtis has got off to a surprisingly good start in the UFC, winning two fights in a row, while Vieira is coming off a submission win.
In fact, all but one of Vieira’s eight career wins have come via submission as you’d expect from one of the sport’s most highly credentialed BJJ specialists. That’s why it was so shocking last year when Vieira was actually tapped out by Alexander Hernandez, a result no one saw coming, with the fact that he completely ran out of gas in the second round leading to his downfall on that occasion.
That’s a concern as despite having decent striking, Vieira doesn’t take a punch particularly well either, so there are some clear vulnerabilities that Curtis will fancy his chances of exploiting as he is the better striker, has finishing power and carries that late into his fights, with numerous third-round finishes spread across his long career.
Add in the fact that Curtis has solid takedown defense and has only been submitted once in 36 fights and it feels like this is a winnable fight for him, keeping the action standing and outlasting Vieira to secure a third round TKO stoppage.
Pick: Chris Curtis wins by TKO in Rd3.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Carlos Ulberg vs. Tafon Nchukwi
Brian Kelleher vs. Mario Bautista
Shayilan Nuerdanbieke vs. T.J. Brown
Raulian Paiva vs. Sergey Morozov
Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Jinh Yu Frey
JP Buys vs. Cody Durden