UFC On ESPN 48 Predictions

UFC On ESPN 48 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.

Main Card

Sean Strickland vs. Abus Magomedov

Strickland returned to the win column in January with a unanimous decision victory over Nassourdine Imavov, after losing his previous two fights.  Now he takes on the unranked Magomedov, a former PFL finalist who made a stunning UFC debut last September, knocking out Dustin Stoltzfus in just 19 seconds.

Strickland is a reliably consistent fighter who leans on his solid boxing fundamentals with a nicely cultured jab in particular, while his toughness, solid defense and very good cardio help gradually wear down his opponents over time. He also has good takedown defense and underrated wrestling on top when he chooses to use it.

Magomedov is a well-rounded fighter with a background in wrestling and good ability on the feet, with solid kicks backing up his punches.  He’s shown a knack for finishing fights with 14 wins by knockout and 6 by submission in his 25-4 career, but he’s not faced the highest level of competition and he’s also been inactive for most of the past five years, fighting only three times.

So this is a big step up for Magomedov, who has never been five rounds before and will find it more challenging than in the past to find a finish. The longer the fight goes the more it favors Strickland to gain the upper-hand and I think he’ll get the better of the stand-up battle to earn a decision win.

Pick: Sean Strickland wins by decision.

Damir Ismagulov vs. Grant Dawson

Ismagulov is a former M1-Global champion who was a five-fight winning streak before losing to Arman Tsarukyan in his last fight, while Dawson is currently unbeaten in his eight-fight UFC run so far.

Ismagulov actually retired at the start of the year due to health issues and other circumstances, but quickly changed his mind and decided to complete the final fight on his current UFC deal.

Ismagulov is a sound technical boxer who will operate from range with steady offense and disciplined defense. He also has good takedown defense and can keep himself out of danger and work his way back to the feet if he does get put on the canvas.

Dawson can strike to an extend, but really he’s at his best on the mat. He is a capable wrestler and will work hard for takedowns, but his best weapon is his dangerous submission game that’s led to 13 finishes from 19 career victories, but his ground-and-pound is also a threat.

Dawson is on the up and has more hunger, but I think this will be a tricky match-up for him as it’ll be difficult to get Ismagulov to the mat in the first place and keep him there long enough to work for submissions, while on the feet Ismagulov will be able to get the better of the action from range to secure a decision victory.

Pick: Damir Ismagulov wins by decision.

Max Griffin vs. Michael Morales

Griffin has won four of his last five fights and now goes up against a former Contender Series prospect in Morales, who has secured two TKO victories since graduating to the UFC.

Griffin is getting up there in years at 37, but is actually in the best form of his 7-7 run in the promotion.  Griffin has solid boxing, can mix in wrestling too and though he’s been hurt at times, he’s still tough as nails and hard to put away, having been stopped by strikes just once in his entire career.

Morales is much younger at 24 and has a lot of potential. He is a powerful and aggressive striker with 11 knockouts from 14 wins and has a slight height and reach advantage over Griffin here.  He still needs to work on reigning in his wilder tendencies, but he is improving with every fight and has good takedown defense too.

This is a challenge for Morales, but I think he has the edge in speed and power as well as being the younger, fresher fighter. He could win by decision, but I’ll pick him to finish Griffin with strikes in the final round.

Pick: Michael Morales wins by TKO in Rd3.

Ariane Lipski vs. Melissa Gatto

Lipski returned to flyweight and earned a decision over JJ Aldrich last time out after a disastrous attempt at bantamweight that ended in a 65-second TKO loss. Meanwhile, Gatto started her UFC career with two wins, but then lost by decision in her last fight.

‘The Queen Of Violence’ Lipski has struggled to live up to the hype in the UFC with a 4-5 record so far that’s included being stopped by strikes three times. She can be a threat with her striking and when she’s on top with ground-and-pound, but there are holes in her game that can be exploited, particularly when she is not in control of the fight and on the mat, though her takedown defense seemed better last time out.

Gatto is a capable striker and has good submission skills. She can be too passive on her back at times though and was outwrestled last time out.  A big issue for Gatto has just been a lack of time in the Octagon, with various issues having kept her from competing since signing for the promotion in 2019, including spending the last year out due to an injury.

Still, I think Gatto can outwrestle and outgrapple Lipski here and will have better conditioning later in the fight to ensure she claims a decision win.

Pick: Melissa Gatto wins by decision.

Ismael Bonfim vs. Benoit Saint Denis

Bonfim, is a Contender Series alum who impressed in his UFC debut by knocking out  Terrence McKinney and now faces Saint Denis, who bounced back from a loss in his UFC debut to produce two consecutive finishes.

Bonfim has a background in amateur and professional boxing and it shows in his crisp and powerful striking, as well as his defensive awareness. He has also improved his wrestling and has not been submitted since 2014, despite having three losses by tapout in his career prior to that.

Saint Denis is a well-rounded fighter with a significant 4″ height and 1.5″ reach advantage over Bonfim. He may struggle to match Bonfim’s striking, so he will need to use other aspects of his game to close the gap. He can take the fight to the ground, and is dangerous with his submissions, accounting for 8 of his 10 career wins.  He doesn’t have the best top control though.

Bonfim is a promising prospect and his striking edge will be evident in this fight as he keeps it standing for the most part and finishes Saint Denis by TKO in round two.

Pick: Ismael Bonfim wins by TKO in Rd2.

Brunno Ferreira vs. Nursulton Ruziboev

Ferreira holds an unbeaten 10-0 record and made a big statement by KO’ing Gregory Rodrigues in his promotional debut back in January.  Ruziboev comes in to make his debut as a late replacement holding an extensive record of 34-8-2 (+2nc) on the regional circuit.

A stocky, muscular athlete, Ferreira is known for his explosive striking and has won all of his fights to date inside the first round. Ferreira has also shown some ability to work on the mat and has three submission finishes too.

Ruziboev has a 4″ height and reach advantage here and is also a proven finisher, though in his case he is primarily a grappler who has won 20 of his fights via submission, with a further 12 coming via strikes.  It remains to be seen if he can replicate that form now that he’s stepping up to a different level in the UFC though.

I think Ferreira’s speed, power and explosiveness are going to be difficult for Ruziboev to deal with, leading to a first round KO finish.

Pick: Brunno Ferreira wins by KO in Rd1.

Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)

Kevin Lee vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov
Guram Kutateladze vs. Elves Brenner
Ivana Petrovic vs. Luana Carolina
Yana Santos vs. Karol Rosa
Alexandr Romanov vs. Blagoy Ivanov

Ross launched MMA Insight (previously FightOfTheNight.com) in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.