Middleweight action headlines this week as Sean Strickland -179 battles Abus Magomedov +138 from the Apex. This card features some big tests for intriguing prospects, as well as Welterweight Michael Morales -250 battles veteran Max Griffin +190, and Lightweight Ismael Bonfim -333 takes on Benoit Saint-Denis +245. I gave out my predictions for every fight on this deep card, so let's get into it.
Odds Provided by Stake.com Accurate as of 6/27/2023 7:00 AM EST
A large jump in competition takes place here at Middleweight on the top of the card. Sean Strickland is a high-pressure boxer with a tall stance and great cardio; he has also shown a solid ground game, although he rarely chooses to use it offensively at this point in his career. Abus Magomedov gets a massive jump in competition here after a quick knockout in his debut; he throws a lot of kicks with heavy power, although he doesn’t have a very strong schedule to this point, and he does not fight at a high pace.
I like Strickland here as I am not sure the kick-heavy game of Magomedov will work against the pressure of Strickland, who has a clear advantage in straight boxing.
Pick: Strickland O/U: Over 3.5
Ranked Lightweights battle here in a clash of styles. Damir Ismagulov is a very clean kickboxer, although he has been outwrestled and made some interesting retirement statements giving me a lot of concerns on his side. Grant Dawson is a smothering grappler who has cleaned up a lot of holes in his game since moving to American Top Team, showing improved cardio and game planning in recent showings; his striking is not great, but he attacks wrestling often.
I’m taking Dawson here as the underdog as I love his ground game which has been the path against Ismagulov in the past.
Pick: Dawson O/U: Over 2.5
An interesting prospect gets a tough test here at Welterweight. Max Griffin is a gritty veteran with a powerful right hand who has been able to fight closely with other veterans in his past few showings, landing an impressive number of knockdowns along the way. Michael Morales is massive for the weight class and very young in his career, he has not impressed me much so far, having a competitive fight with Adam Fugitt where he was taken down multiple times and getting hit early against Trevin Giles.
I’ve got Griffin at these odds as he has proven his game at a high level, and Morales has struggled in his first few fights, although he is very young, so improvement is to be expected. Still, I don’t think Morales could have improved enough since his last fight to cover this price.
Pick: Griffin O/U: Under 2.5
Young Flyweights who are looking to enter the rankings conversation clash here. Ariane Lipski returns off a huge win over JJ Aldrich in her last fight, where her striking looked sharp as ever. Melissa Gatto is a submission grappler who is very aggressive in looking to create opportunities, especially off her back, although she can spend long portions of the fight on her back, which has cost her against other grapplers.
I’ll pick Gatto here, as I think she can use her grappling offensively and get enough control or submission, and she may also be able to keep it close in the striking.
Pick: Gatto O/U: Under 2.5
Exciting Lightweight battle between prospects here. Benoit Saint-Denis is a strong grappler with decent hands, many remember his brutal loss to Elizeu Zaleski, although that was at Welterweight against a tough matchup, and he has looked good since. Ismael Bonfim burst onto the scene with a dominant debut knockout over Terrance McKinney, showing patient and powerful striking, he is also not afraid to grapple, having several submission wins himself.
I’m on Bonfim here as I give him a massive advantage in the striking and I don’t expect Saint-Denis to have much success with the grappling.
Pick: Bonfim O/U: Over 2.5
Fast finishers collide here at Middleweight to open the main card. Nursulton Ruziboev enters his UFC debut here with a wealth of experience against regional opposition, where he has attacked submissions aggressively, although he has found himself in the bottom position against some lackluster competition. Brunno Ferreira makes his return after pulling a stunning upset over Gregory Rodrigues in his debut, showing that the power in his hands is real, although he still has yet to get very far into any of his fights, leaving some questions.
I’ll take Ferreira here as although he is still unproven, he has shown that his finishing skills translate at a high level.
Pick: Ferreira O/U: Under 1.5
Wrestler’s matchup here at Welterweight. Kevin Lee is back in the UFC after his win over Diego Sanchez, where he survived another serious knee injury early, he is a powerful wrestler early, although his pacing often causes him to have cardio issues as fights go on. Rinat Fakhretdinov is a high pace grappling machine who has shown a strong ability to accumulate top time so far in his UFC career.
I’ve got Fakhretdinov here as I’m not sure what form Lee will come back in after even more injury troubles, and if he is not able to finish early, he may get drowned by the pressure.
Pick: Fakhretdinov O/U: Over 2.5
A rare appearance of the Women’s Featherweight division here. Yana Santos is a solid wrestler, although she has not looked good in her last few showings, having been finished early by Irene Aldana, and then after several years off, she was dominated in what was thought to be her strong point of grappling against Holly Holm. Karol Rosa makes a quick turnaround here after a close loss to Norma Dumont, where she was able to land a big shot late that was not enough to steal the fight, she has solid boxing and a nice clinch game.
I like Rosa here as she has decent hands and enough grappling skill to keep this fight standing or get control time of her own.
Pick: Rosa O/U: Over 2.5
Short notice replacement fight here at Featherweight that has some scratching their heads. Joanderson Brito is a powerhouse with strong punches and a threatening submission game that he has demonstrated in two quick victories in a row. Westin Wilson makes his debut here off of three straight submission wins, although those wins are against subpar competition, as much of his career has been to this point.
This fight is a mismatch as I expect Brito to finish this fight early with his striking as he has faced much better grapplers than Wilson and beaten them with ease.
Pick: Brito O/U: Under 1.5
Very fun battle at Lightweight here that came together on short notice. Guram Kutateladze is a clean kickboxer with good movement who has had two very good showings so far in his UFC career. Elves Brener enters with the classic style of the Chute Boxe gym, including an aggressive submission game and creative striking, and although many believe he should not have won his UFC debut, his performance was solid nonetheless.
Kutateladze should win this as he has a clear advantage striking and will likely be able to keep the fight in his realm. I also like the over in this matchup, as Brenner has never been finished, and Kutateladze has only been finished once, over eight years ago.
Pick: Kutateladze O/U: Over 2.5
A Flyweight newcomer takes on a veteran in need of a win here. Ivana Petrovic makes her debut here, she bounced back from early adversity to finish her last fight showing a good top game on the ground, although her striking is questionable, and she was controlled and hurt in the first round. Luana Carolina is a long striker who has fought a respectable schedule over her UFC career, although her grappling has cost her several close fights.
I’ll pick Petrovic here as I believe she will be able to get this fight to the ground and control Carolina; however, at this price, I will pass on the debutant.
Pick: Petrovic O/U: Over 2.5
Heavyweights open the card this week. Alexandr Romanov has been a very hit-or-miss fighter, with him at times looking like a dominant force and others, like his last fight against Alexander Volkov, where he has less than half a round of cardio. Blagoy Ivanov is a tough veteran who has gone the distance in each of his UFC fights showing his insane durability and lack of overwhelming power.
I’ll lean with Romanov here as he is much younger, and I feel he has the potential to look dominant here, but Ivanov being as difficult to finish as he is gives me concerns that Romanov may not get the finish before exhausting himself.
Pick: Romanov O/U: Under 1.5
Sean Strickland + Ismael Bonfim
Ismael Bonfim + Rinat Fakhretdinov
Guram Kutateladze by decision