UFC On ESPN 39 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Rafael Fiziev
After a 4-4 run at welterweight, former lightweight champion dos Anjos has returned to form back down in the division he once ruled, picking up back-to-back wins so far, while Fiziev has been turning heads in the weight class during an impressive five fight winning streak.
There’s no doubt that the 37-year-old dos Anjos is the far more experienced and well-rounded fighter here, being able to hold his own in a technical striking battle on the feet, while mixing in solid takedowns and top control along with a threat from submissions. He’s also acclimatized to a five-round atmosphere and can keep a good tempo throughout.
RDA had some issues at 170lbs against dominant wrestlers, but he’s far better suited to 155lbs and won’t have to worry about a takedown here as the 29-year-old Fiziev is very much a striker – and a very potent one at that.
Fiziev had a decorated muay thai background and it shows in his powerful, dynamic offense on the feet, delivering fight-ending power in his punches and kicks, while he’s also very good in the clinch and has developed strong takedown defense too.
This is a big test for Fiziev as RDA could cause a lot of problems for him on the mat if he can get the fight there. Still, dos Anjos is no longer in his prime and is outgunned on the feet against the sharper, harder-hitting Fiziev and I’ll take him to keep this one on the feet and battle his way to a third round TKO stoppage.
Pick: Rafael Fiziev wins by TKO in Rd3.
Caio Borralho vs. Armen Petrosyan
Two former Contender Series fighters take the co-main event spot, with Barralho’s debut win back in April taking his record to 11-1, while Petrosyan claimed a split-decision victory win in his first octagon outing to go 7-1.
Petrosyan’s debut was particularly notable as he was given a tough assignment going up against Gregory ‘Robocop’ Rodrigues, so emerging with his hand raised, however narrowly, was a big statement for him.
Not to be mistaken for the famous kickboxing brothers of the same name, Petrosyan is a talented kickboxer in his own right who fights at a good pace with an assured style and has finished all but one of his 11 career victories via strikes. He’s also the taller man man by some margin, 6″ to be exact, though oddly he’s actually at a 4″ disadvantage in terms of reach.
Borralho adopts a karate-based approach on the feet and can be fairly effective in that regard with a more aggressive and perhaps less defensively minded approach than he you tend to see from others from that style. However, he is also a talented grappler too and it would seem that it would be wise for him to focus on that here.
Petrosyan should have the edge on the feet then, but I feel Borralho will have success in utilizing his ground game here to emerge with a decision victory.
Pick: Caio Borralho wins by decision.
Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Said Nurmagomedov
De Andrade comes into this fight with a KO and submission win from his last two fights, and coincidentally so does Nurmagomedov.
That’s where the similarities end in terms of their respective records though, with the 37-year-old Andrade having put together a mixed 6-4 run overall in the UFC, while the 30-year-old Nurmagomedov has gone 4-1 so far.
Nurmagomedov isn’t a relative of Khabib, and instead focuses on a more kickboxing-orientated style, operating well from range with a solid selection of kicks and good speed, though he is also a very capable wrestler with submission ability too.
Andrade is the bigger finisher of the two with his heavy-handed boxing. He loads up on his strikes though, so he’s less active offensively than Nurmagomedov and also has more lapses defensively.
Beyond Andrade’s power advantage I feel that Nurmagomedov is just the better all-round fighter and I think he’ll be more effective and operating at a higher pace throughout to take a decision victory.
Pick: Said Nurmagomedov wins by decision.
Jared Vanderaa vs. Chase Sherman
You’ll find two of the saltier UFC records on the roster currently in this heavyweight match-up, with Vanderaa going 1-4 in his five UFC fights so far, while Sherman has only mustered a 3-9 record combined from three different spells with the promotion.
Sherman is the better athlete here and is the more dangerous striker too, with fast-paced, high-volume kickboxing in the opening round and he does have good stopping power to go along with it.
That being said, Sherman will eat a lot of strikes along the way and he struggles against fighters with a broader skill-set as he doesn’t have much to offer beyond his striking ability.
Vanderaa isn’t a physical specimen, but he’s the bigger man here and can put that to good use as he’s a better all-rounder than Sherman and should be able to take advantage of his opponent’s lack of a solid ground game.
As such I see vanderaa getting Sherman down and eventually coming away with a submission victory in the second round.
Pick: Jared Vanderaa wins by submission in Rd2.
Michael Johnson vs. Jamie Mullarkey
Johnson was in dire need of a victory last time out after having lost four-in-a-row beforehand, and he did just that by scoring a KO victory and now opens the main card against Mullarkey, who suffered a TKO loss last time out after having won two fights before that.
Johnson is a better fighter than his overall 20-17 record would suggest as let’s not forget that he’s beaten the likes of Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza in the past.
Johnson has fast hands and good footwork to go along with his solid power and he can wrestle too, though these days he uses it more as a tool to try to keep the fight standing. At the same time, he is 36 now and has been in a lot of wars, so he’s not as durable or sharp as he once was and he’s also been submitted numerous times over the years.
At 27, Mullarkey is almost a decade younger than Johnson and he likes to get on the inside and let his hands fly, and that aggressive style has landed him 10 victories via strikes from 14 career victories. It’s a style that can see him get hit in return though and he has been stopped by strikes on three occasions, including his last fight.
Overall though I feel like Mullarkey is still the more reliable of the two at this stage in their careers and I feel Mullarkey’s gritty work on the inside will cause problems for Johnson and lead to a second round finish via TKO.
Pick: Jamie Mullarkey wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Cynthia Calvillovs. Nina Nunes
Aiemann Zahabi vs. Ricky Turcios
Antonina Shevchenko vs. Cortney Casey
Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Karl Roberson
Ronnie Lawrence vs. Saidyokub Kakharamonov