UFC On ESPN 49 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and you can see our picks for all the fights below.
Holly Holm vs. Mayra Bueno Silva
Holm comes in off a decision victory over Yana Santos in March, while Silva is in the midst of a three-fight winning run.
Holm’s career in combat sports began with a decorated run in boxing, but these day’s the 41-year-old is primarily a kickboxer who continues to benefit from tireless cardio and utilizes lots of movement to make life difficult for her opponents. Though she’s best known for her famous knockout of Ronda Rousey it’s actually one of only two finishes in her long UFC run. So she’s more about going the distance and likes to stay on the outside and throws a lot of strikes, even if a good amount of them don’t actually connect. These days she also uses her strength to control her opponents in the clinch and has shown glimpses of wrestling ability, though she’s more vulnerable off her back.
Silva is a younger and more aggressive fighter who uses muay thai to attack her opponents, working nicely to the body as well as the head and legs. She has a shorter reach than Holm and prefers to fight at closer quarters which could be an issue here. She is also a very capable grappler who has submitted seven of her 10 opponents, including her last two fights against Stephanie Egger and Lina Lansberg.
I think Holm’s style will be problematic for Silva as she can use her reach, movement and cardio to keep Silva at bay and out-strike her over five rounds to win on the scorecards.
Pick: Holly Holm wins by decision.
Albert Duraev vs. Jun Yong Park
Park has a solid 6-2 record in the UFC and is riding a three-fight win streak, while Duraev has two wins from three bouts in the Octagon since coming in from the Contender Series.
Both of these fighters typically rely on their ground game and use their striking to set up their takedowns. The 34-year-old Duraev in particular has been vulnerable on the feet at times, but compensates with good wrestling and ground-and-pound skills, as well as a dangerous submission game that has earned him 9 finishes out of 16 career wins.
Park has a slight speed advantage on the feet and can also threaten with strikes and submissions on the ground too, having tapped out his latest two opponents. However, he’s also found value in using his wrestling to just grind out a decision win too.
There’s a real chance this fight may just end up being a case of who can get on top and stay there. I think Park will be better at playing it safe that way, and with his slight edge in the striking department too I’ll take him to win by decision.
Pick: Jun Yung Park wins by decision.
Norma Dumont vs. Chelsea Chandler
Dumont has won her last two fights and has a 6-2 record in the UFC, while Chandler is a former Invicta FC fighter who made a big splash in her UFC debut last year with a first-round TKO of Julija Stoliarenko.
Dumont is a solid, dependable fighter with skills in most areas. She’s a Sanda practitioner who can strike capably, though not with much in the way of stopping power. She likes to get into the clinch and control the fight from there, or can also work from top position too.
Chandler is quite a wild and willing striker who has solid power in her hands, but pays scant regard to her defensive responsibilities. She’ll also crash into the clinch and look to take the fight to the ground, where she can unleash heavy ground-and-pound or hunt for submissions.
I think Dumont is technically a bit more robust and will also be more sturdy in the clinch, which will help her to control the action and grind out the kind of win that’s perhaps not likely to convince the UFC brass that the 145lb division still has a life beyond the retiring champion Amanda Nunes.
Pick: Norma Dumont wins by decision.
Ottman Azaitar vs. Francisco Prado
Two fighters who suffered their first UFC losses in their last outings will clash when Azaitar takes on Prado. Azaitar had a perfect 12-0 record before he was knocked out by Matt Frevola in the first round last time out following a two year layoff, while the also previously unbeaten Prado’s 10-0 record was blemished by a decision loss to Jamie Mullarkey in his UFC debut.
Azaitar is a 33-year-old boxer who won’t look to make the most of his 2″ height and reach advantage over Prado as he prefers to get in close and throw powerful hooks that have helped pave the way for 10 finishes via strikes in his career.
Prado is only 21-years-old and has an aggressive style that’s also marked him out as a finisher, with all 11 of his wins coming via a mix of strikes and submissions. It remains to be seen if he can maintain that against a higher level of opposition though now that he’s in the UFC. He has good striking, but questionable cardio, and he has issues on the mat if he’s not leading the dance. Given his age it’s quite possible he’ll show significant improvement from fight to fight though.
This is a tricky fight to predict, but I lean towards Azaitar as the more experienced and powerful fighter who will catch Prado with some big shots in the early exchanges and stop him via TKO.
Pick: Ottman Azaitar wins by TKO in Rd1.
Terrance McKinney vs. Nazim Sadykhov
McKinney suffered a KO loss last time out and now looks to rebuild against Sadykhov, who is coming off an impressive TKO win in his first UFC fight in February.
The 28-year-old McKinney is a fast starter who goes out in pursuit of a finish and has often been successful in that regard, with all 13 of his wins coming by either strikes or submission, and only one making it out of the first round. The downside however is that he’s also been stopped in all 5 of his losses.
McKinney has undeniable talent though as he can be explosive, creative and powerful, and he will also have a 4.5″ reach advantage in this fight. He’s also a good wrestler and has more submission wins than knockout finishes on his record, but if he doesn’t get an early finish he rapidly runs out of steam.
Sadykhov is also a finisher, on the regional circuit at least. He is not as well-rounded as McKinney and prefers to keep the action standing where he’s proven to be a smooth technical striker with good power and movement who fights at a manageable pace.
McKinney has a lot of tools and talent, but his lack of patience and fight IQ is holding him back at this stage in his career. Sadykhov has a more limited skill-set and could run into problems on the mat, but he is more composed and precise with his striking and I think he can survive the early onslaught and then take over to get a 2nd round TKO victory here.
Pick: Nazim Sadykhov wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners)
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Bassil Hafez
Tucker Lutz vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan
Viktoriya Dudakova vs. Istela Nunes
Austin Lingo vs. Melquizael Costa
Evan Elder vs. Genaro Valdez
Tyson Nam vs. Azat Maksum
Alex Munoz vs. Carl Deaton
Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Ailin Perez