The UFC returns to the Apex this weekend as ranked Middleweight contenders Roman Dolidze +142 and Nassourdine Imavov -162 clash in our main event. I went over the entire card and gave my picks and best bets, so let's get into it.
Odds provided by BetOnline.ag accurate as of 1/31/2024 1:00 PM EST
Middleweight contenders who want to take the next step into title contention square off here in our main event. Roman Dolidze is an interesting fighter as he has phenomenal grappling and powerful striking, although he struggles to get it to the ground and throws low volume, leaving me unsure what to make of his ceiling. Nassourdine Imavov is a very slick striker who has impressed me during his time with the UFC with his rapidly improving skillset, and with him just beginning to enter his prime; I'm excited by his potential.
I like Imavov here; he is the much cleaner striker with a higher volume, better footwork, and main event experience.
Pick: Imavov O/U: Over 2.5 -160
Lightweight finishers face off here in our highly anticipated co-main event. Renato Moicano is a tall grappler with great submissions and much-improved striking, although he is still rather hittable and doesn't take punches well. Drew Dober is one of the most credentialed knockout artists in the UFC, with nine to his credit during his time with the promotion; he has been submitted several times during his UFC run, however, all by very talented submission artists like Islam Makhachev or Beneil Dariush.
I've got Dober in this one, as I feel he can force a striking match here for long enough to catch Moicano with a big shot and get the knockout.
Pick: Dober O/U: Over 1.5 +100
Veteran strikers clash here in this Welterweight affair. Randy Brown is a tall and slick striker with good boxing, but his defense is not great as he leaves his chin exposed often, and it has cost him several times. Muslim Salikhov is a hard-hitting and durable striker with plenty of high-level experience, although he has noticeably declined with age.
I'll pick Brown to take a decision here, but with his durability issues and questionable defense, I'll pass on playing him against a tricky striker like Salkikhov.
Pick: Brown O/U: Over 2.5 -160
A highly touted Flyweight prospect gets another step up here in this main card matchup. Viviane Araujo comes into this one off a bounce-back win over Jennifer Maia, proving she can still compete near the division's top despite recent struggles. Natalia Silva looks to continue her impressive UFC run here after extending her perfect run in the promotion to four fights, including wins over ranked opponents Jasmine Jasudavicius and Andrea Lee.
I expect Silva to take the next step here by dominating her way to a win and into title contention.
Pick: Silva O/U: Over 2.5 -300
A fantastic matchup here at Middleweight will test two exciting fighters to watch. Aliaskhab Khizriev is an undefeated grappler who has dominated opponents to this point, although some questions remain about how his grappling will hold up to higher competition and his cardio. Makhmud Muradov is a powerful striker who has had some really good moments in the UFC, although he has also had some rough nights at the office, like his fights with Gerald Meerschaert, which makes him tough to trust.
I'll go with Muradov as the underdog here, as his grappling is good enough to drag this fight out and make it ugly where he will have an advantage.
Pick: Muradov O/U: Over 1.5 -200
Middleweights with something to prove face off here to open the main card. Gilbert Urbina is a big Middleweight with solid finishing skills wherever the fight may go, although he is not the most durable fighter out there. Charles Radtke is a decent wrestler coming off a gritty win in his UFC debut, although he has yet to show he can compete with high-level competition.
Urbina has every advantage here and should take this one comfortably.
Pick: Urbina O/U: Over 2.5 +125
Strawweight rematch here several years after the first meeting, which took place at Flyweight. Molly McCann has become a fan favorite with her fun, striking style, although her game still has clear holes that she still needs to fix based on recent performances. Diana Belbita is a good kickboxer who has been in the UFC from a very young age and has improved significantly.
I like Belbita to get her revenge; she is much improved and should have a clear striking edge.
Pick: Belbita O/U: Over 2.5 -270
Short notice change of opponents leaves us with this Flyweight matchup. Charles Johnson is a solid volume striker with good cardio, although his takedown defense and getup game has been a serious issue for him at the UFC level. Azat Maksum is a well-rounded prospect coming off a debut where he struggled, although it was against Tyson Nam, who was a tough matchup for someone with his style, and that experience will likely benefit him.
I'll take Maksum to use his wrestling and take a decision here, as Johnson has proven challenging to finish, but he can be controlled.
Pick: Maksum O/U: Over 2.5 -265
Welterweight finishers go head to head here in this fantastic matchup. Themba Gorimbo is a tall grappler coming off a complete performance over Takashi Sato to pick up his first UFC win. Pete Rodriguez is a hard hitter with some early knockouts on his resume; although I'm not sold, he will have much success at this level with a lack of grappling and cardio.
If Gorimbo can survive Rodriguez's early rush, he should take over and get the finish, although I can't bet him at this price.
Pick: Gorimbo O/U: Under 1.5 -130
Fun action is expected here at Featherweight. Blake Bilder is an aggressive striker who likes to get into firefights and often comes back from being hurt early. Jeong Yeong Lee is a big guy for the division and a hard hitter capable of finishing fights quickly, although he has been taken down and controlled before by fighters outside the UFC.
I've got Lee in this one, as he has the tools to be a real threat at this weight, and Bilder may not take advantage of his weaknesses.
Pick: Lee O/U: Over 2.5 -115
Flyweight veterans square off, looking to gain momentum here. Julija Stoliarenko is a submission specialist with a tricky armbar, although if that doesn't work, she has little else to offer, having never won a UFC bout any other way. Luana Carolina is a tall striker who can do well at range, although she struggles with aggressive opposition.
I'll pick Storliarenko, but I'd rather bet the under as nearly all her wins are round-one armbars, and the under is a better price with the possibility she gets finished as well.
Pick: Stoliarenko O/U: Under 2.5 +130
Lightweight strikers battle it out here early on the card. Marquel Mederos debuts here off the Contender Series where he showed off his unique striking style. Landon Quinones returns after putting up a tough fight against Nasrat Haqparast in his debut, taking the opportunity to show his high-paced striking attack after a tough showing on The Ultimate Fighter, where he was submitted in under a minute.
I'll go with Mederos in this one as he has the more diverse striking attack, although I am not entirely sold on his style at this level yet.
Pick: Mederos O/U: Over 2.5 -125
Heavyweight up-and-comers open the card in this solid matchup. Thomas Petersen makes his debut here; he is a strong grappler for the division, although he is very hittable, and his only pro experience past round two is a knockout loss. Jamal Pogues is a big and durable guy who wears down his opponents, although he lacks much speed in his strikes compared to others at this level.
This is a really close fight, so I'll lean toward the underdog in Pogues to take a decision, but I won't be placing any bets on this one.
Pick: Pogues O/U: Over 1.5 -240
Nassourdine Imavov -150
Drew Dober +125
Diana Belbita +220
Azat Maksum by Decision +105