UFC On ESPN 41 takes place tomorrow night in San Diego and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Marlon Vera vs. Dominick Cruz
Vera has arrived in the top 5 of the bantamweight rankings after a three fight winning streak, while former champ Cruz is situated a few places further back at No.8 after back-to-back victories.
It’ll always remain something of a tragedy that many of the prime years of Cruz’s UFC run were spent on the sidelines due to recurring and at times career-threatening injuries. At his peak the rest of the division’s great and good like Demetrious Johnson, TJ Dillashaw, Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez couldn’t solve the puzzle of how to deal with his unorthodox stand-up game that involved constant movement with fast footwork and strikes from unexpected angles, perfecting the art of hitting without being hit, while backing that up with a solid wrestling game, excellent cardio and a very high fight-IQ.
He’s now almost 37 though and his terrible luck with injuries means that while he’s been able to compete a few times recently, it still only amounts to three fights in the past four-and-a-half years. So while his mind is as sharp as ever and he still has a tricky fighting style to deal with, he’s not quite as fast as he once was and that does leave more opportunities to get hit, and that’s left some question marks over his durability too.
Meanwhile, Vera is very much in his prime at 29-years-old and has clearly improved over time. He’s still not technically on the level of Cruz, but he’s certainly a more efficient and effective striker than he was earlier in his career. He has proven to be a fighter who can keep a high pace for five rounds, which will be important against the former champ, and fights with volume and holds a big power advantage over Cruz, in addition to a 2.5″ reach advantage.
Vera is there to be hit though and Cruz will take advantage of that, though he’s not the kind of striker to deliver fight-ending blows. Cruz is the better wrestler too, though ‘Chito’ is a capable grappler on the mat and will offer a submission threat.
I could certainly see a fight in which Cruz just outmanoeuvres and outsmarts Vera over five rounds, but while he may land more punches, it’s Vera who will connect with the more damaging blows while matching his pace, and I do feel that at this stage in his career and after everything he’s been through, that may take a toll on ‘The Dominator’, with Vera eventually securing a TKO finish in the fourth round.
Pick: Marlon Vera wins by TKO in Rd4.
Nate Landwehr vs. David Onama
After going 2-2 in the UFC to date, Landwehr is now going up against a short-notice replacement in Onama, who comes in with a 2-1 UFC campaign so far and a 10-1 career record overall.
The 34-year-old Landwehr is a very aggressive fighter who will push forward applying lots of pressure and loves to get into a brawl, even though it often feels like he’d be better advised to use his wrestling ability instead. On the regional circuit it did pay off for him more often than not with his strong chin and high-volume striking and he was even an M-1 Global prior to joining the UFC, but since then he’s had more ups and downs and has suffered both a KO and TKO loss due to first round knee strikes.
Onama is a big, athletic featherweight with a 2″ height and reach advantage, who works well from range and has both the power and speed to cause Landwehr real problems. He’s a proven finisher, with all 10 of his wins so far coming inside the distance, but his takedown defense isn’t as strong as it could be.
I’m not convinced that Landwehr will try to test that though and engaging in a striking battle here has bad news written all over it, so I’ll take Onama to clock up a first round TKO victory.
Pick: David Onama wins by TKO in Rd1.
Yazmin Jauregui vs. Iasmin Lucindo
Despite the fact both of these ladies are making their UFC debuts, they still land a spot on the main card here with Mexico’s Yazmin Jauregui having so far compiled a perfect 8-0 record, while Brazil’s Lucindo is 13-4.
The 23-year-old Jauregui has very good boxing ability and unusually for a strawweight she has genuine stopping power, with six stoppage wins via strikes from her eight bouts so far.
Lucindo is even younger at just 20-years-old and it’s somewhat alarming to discover that her first ever win came when she was just 14 years old, fighting an opponent twice her age! She’s a physically strong fighter who uses her wrestling to gain the upperhand.
Jauregui has demonstrated fairly sound takedown defense so far though and she will have a notable advantage with his crisper, technical boxing ability which I think will enable her to win on the scorecards.
Pick: Yazmin Jauregui wins by decision.
Devin Clark vs. Azamat Murzakanov
Clark has only mustered a 7-6 record in the UFC to date, but is coming off a TKO victory as he gets ready to take on the undefeated Murzakanov, who won his UFC debut via a flying knee KO to take his record to 11-0.
Clark actually fought at heavyweight last time out, and back down at 205lbs this time out he’ll hold a 2″ height and 4″ reach advantage over Murzakanov. Don’t be fooled by his TKO finish in his last fight though as he’s typically more of a steady, grinder who will use his wrestling and look to win by decision. He is vulnerable to submissions though and isn’t particularly comfortable on the feet.
Murzakanov may be smaller, but he’s the more dangerous striker of the two here with a strong finishing record. That being said, aside from those big finishes, his recent performances beyond that have actually been underwhelming, so there are still real question marks as to how he’ll cope in the UFC as the level of competition rises.
Given that Clark’s form is so patchy I do have doubts about whether he can be the one to end that unbeaten run, but there is a real chance that his size and wrestling advantage could give him the edge here if Murzakanov doesn’t get off to a strong start, and so I’m tenatively picking him to win by decision.
Pick: Devin Clark wins by decision.
Ariane Lipski vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Lipski earned a confidence boosting with last time out after two losses in a row, while Cachoeira has picked up three victories from her last four fights in the UFC.
Lipski struggled to live up to the hype when she first arrived in the UFC, but a good performance last time out has raised hopes that the 28-year-old ‘Queen Of Violence’ can still make her mark in the promotion with her aggressive muay thai striking game, delivering good power in her strikes while also having decent wrestling and grappling too.
Cachoeira also struggled in the early stages of her UFC run, losing her first three fights, but her aggressive brawling style and ability to eat lots of strikes in order to land her own hard-hitting strikes has actually paid off for her in more recent times.
It will Cachoeira’s toughness that’s her best asset again here, but I do feel that Lipski’s the better all-round fighter, and so if her more technical striking doesn’t enable her to gain the upper-hand then I think she should be able to be switch things up with mat work to get the job done instead.
Pick: Ariane Lipski wins by decision.
Bruno Silva vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Silva’s three-fight winning streak to kick off his UFC career came to an end last time out with a loss to kickboxing ace Alex Pereeira, and now he fights Meerschaert, who has far more experience fighting in the UFC, but is also coming off a decision loss following a trio of wins.
These are two fighters who have a knack for finding a finish, though they do so in completely different ways with Silva having 19 stoppages via strikes from 22 career wins, while Meerschaert has no less than 26 submission finishes from 34 career victories.
Meanwhile, Meerschaert is a somewhat functional striker, but he’s not all that sound defensively when he’s put under pressure and though he’s typically been durable in his long career, he did suffer both a TKO and KO loss in the first round in 2020.
Silva will certainly fancy his chances of doing something similar, though he will have to concern himself with the fact that his less than stellar takedown defense, while he’s also been submitted five times in his career.
That being said, I do think Silva is less vulnerable in that regard these days and I can see him making life uncomfortable for Meerschaert on the feet with his offense on the feet, leading to a second round TKO finish.
Prediction: Bruno Silva to win by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Martin Buday vs. Lukasz Brzeski
Angela Hill vs. Loopy Godinez
Gabriel Benitez vs. Charlie Ontiveros
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Nina Nunes
Ode’ Osbourne vs. Tyson Nam
Youssef Zalal vs. Da’Mon Blackshear
Ariane Lipski vs. Priscila Cachoeira