This main event in the Las Vegas Nevada Apex arena is set to be a good one. We have an exciting undercard featuring Joaquin Buckley who has the greatest KO in UFC history (check it here) and Antonina Shevchenko whose older sister is defending her belt in the main card. On the main card, we have a little bit of everything, with some washed-up guys duking it out for a rematch, power, vs technique, as well as a sushi chef/barber/WORLD CHAMP with his first title defense, and one of the top 5 fighters in women’s UFC history defending her belt. (available ESPN+)
Rau #14 vs. Craig #15: Light Heavyweight
To start the main card we have the rematch that nobody asked for in Mauricio “Shogun” Rao vs Paul “Bearjew” Craig. The last time these two light heavyweights match up ended in a draw last November, however, both fighters have gotten a victory since then. The Scottish Craig has had a less than memorable career in the UFC with his record being (5-4-1) but for some reason, he has some hype around his fights and I cannot figure out why. He is decent at all parts of the fight, but he is not outstanding in any one category. He is pretty good on top but that about it in terms of areas where he shines. Despite being dubbed the BearJew, he does not possess much power in his strikes and he doesn’t have any outstanding speed. His cardio is just okay and there really is nothing exciting about Craig.
Shogun Rao is no at impressive at this end of his career which is a shame for this future Hall of Famer who came up at the start of the UFC. At 38 years old his chin is not as strong as it used to be and his condition has deteriorated, showing there isn’t much thread left on the tires. He has a blackbelt in Jiu-Jitsu, but I consider it a Thiago Santos black belt, meaning he has it as a box to check off and not a legitimate skill (Think Dwight when he calls himself assistant to the regional manager). He is not going to be as good on the ground as Craig, but his Muay Thai is still pretty good and could help him out at the beginning of the fight. I am going to take Craig in this match up via TKO in the second or third round due to both men having poor cardio, leading to a drop off in their guard and technique.
I genuinely am not sure who wins this dumpster fire of a matchup; I Think that the Muay Thai of Rau is an advantage in this fight, but his weak chin makes me think he could get clipped early and dip out of the fight early like he has before. I am going to look for a KO since this is a rematch from a draw and both fighters are looking to prove the other wrong; However, I do not think anyone is that superior of a striker or has enough power to do that, so I am taking Crag via unanimous decision
Chookagian #2 vs. Calvillo #4: Flyweight
We have Katlyn “Blonde Fighter” Chookagian fighting against Cynthia Calvillo at 125lbs. Calvillo is 1 or 2 fights away from her shot at the title and is a big favorite going into this matchup. Shew will look to push the pace early. She has won 3 of her last 4 fights with one coming in as a draw, including an impressive decision win over Jessica Eye in June. Calvillo is a great wrestler and will have forward pressure going the whole fight; using her grappling to execute takedowns. She also brings a great volume to her strikes meaning there will plenty of action coming from her in the octagon.
Chookagian is much taller at 5’9” and a 4-inch reach advantage, making it no surprise she is known as a striker going into this fight. She throws a surprisingly high volume of strikes in her bouts where she is constantly throwing shots, but not all of the land. Her accuracy leaves a lot to be desired and she just throws strikes, not for damage but because she knows it will show up well on the scorecard, with most of her strikes landing on the gloves of her opponents. To have a chance she will need to land more combinations and meaningful strikes. She was TKO’d by Andrade in October by a nasty body shot. I do not see that happening Saturday due to her use of front kicks to maintain her distance from opponents and continue those long strikes. This plays into the reach advantage I mentioned before.
I think Clavillo will waste no time pushing the pace in this fight and want to use her wrestling and grappling early. She knows this is a must-win for title shot, I see her maintaining top control in this fight to win by decision.
"Platinum" Perry vs. "Dirty Bird" Means: Welterweight
In this fight welterweight matchup, Mike “Platinum” Perry faces Tim “Dirty Bird” Means in the octagon. Mike Perry is coming into this fight after his June decision victory over Mickey Gall and looking to use his power and toughness to take out the 36-year-old Means. Perry is a big puncher with dangerous power in his hands (but you have to go back 3 years to see him win by KO). He relies a lot on his power in his fights which leads to poor technique with these big looping punches leaving his chin open or tiring him out later in the fight. That being said if he lands the fight is going to be over, he is a brawler and will trade blows until the ref needs to step in. He will go into this fight without a coach again, he will have his pregnant girlfriend Latory Gonzalez and some dude named Matt in his corner to give him moral support. I do not really understand this move as he is so reckless in the octagon, but he won his last with Gonzalez supporting him in his corner. I think his unpredictability plays into his favor as well as his power, if he gets lucky and lands blows early, he can win.
Dirty Bird Means comes into this matchup as the significant veteran at age 36 with a professional record of 30-12-1. He is the favorite due to his precision with his striking. Unlike Perry, Means does not throw everything behind his shot but can land really effective combos and has excellent technique as well; This shows since he started training with world-class kickboxer and fellow welterweight Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. He is great from the clinch as well with great knees and powerful elbows he will look to capitalize on to reduce the likelihood of getting smoked by one of Perry’s heavy hands. Means has only been truly KO’d once in his career which came in his loss to Niko Price in 2019, so I would be shocked for someone with as much experience as Dirty Bird to get KO’d by someone as reckless as Perry who also did not make weight for this fight.
BIRD IS THE WORD! Overall, I think Means is the better fighter due to his technique and years of experience. Perry has phenomenal power but is the underdog here. Both fighters will look to move forward in the fight, but the precision of Means’ combos and the lack of cardio by Perry leads me to take Means via decision. (Perry could catch him with a bomb and shock us all if he is lucky)
Shevchenko C vs. Mai #3: Flyweight
n the co-main event of this UFC card, we have Bullet Shevchenko vs Jennifer Maia. Look there really isn’t too much to say here, Shevchenko (whose sister is fighting in the prelims and is a real threat in the division) is one of the best female fighters in UFC history. She is just so good at EVERYTHING I cannot find a weakness for her which makes me as a writer feel lazy. She has excellent Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu, she is a lights-out boxer, and she is a very good wrestler. I guess if I had to pick a weakness it would be her wrestling but even still, I consider her wrestling world-class. Shevchenko is on a path of destruction in the UFC and will dominate any fighter put in front of her. She is known for her striking ability but honestly foes for more takedowns and grappling in her recent fights showing how well-rounded she can be, She is one of the smartest fighters I’ve seen as well as she is always in good position and rarely leaves herself in danger.
Despite what I have said about her opponent, Jennifer Maia is a word-class fighter as well. The Brazilian is an excellent Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu fighter having a black belt in both. She has great pressure when she is on top and can wear opponents out similar to a level that Khabib does, and she can really push the pace on her feet with her excellent cardio. She is also an incredibly violent fighter and will be a tough competitor for Shevchenko as she has not been KO’d since 2012 in her loss to Sheila Gaff
This is a relatively easy one to predict, not many fighters come out as the -800 favorite like Shevchenko does but when this happens it's for good reason. There is no weakness to Shevchenko, her ground and pound is unbelievable, she cannot lose this fight, I think she will win via KO in the second round.
Figueiredo C vs. Perez #4: Flyweight
In the main event of the night headlining UFC 255 is Figueiredo vs Alex Perez. This is my prediction for the fight of the night. Both fighters come in at 5’5” and 5’6’ respectively (Yikes) and look to put on a show for Figueiredo’s first title defense. The Brazilian is 32 years old and is known as a finisher with 9 of his 19 wins by KO and 7 by submission. He is dangerous at any position in the octagon with a solid ground game and absolutely dangerous striking. He possesses crazy power for this division with the sound of his hands hitting his opponents reminding me of Francis Ngannu (no seriously). On his feet, he is a great grappler and will often use his straight-up stance to bait people for takedown attempts so he can lock in his guillotine choke (he has attempted this in 7 out of 9 of his last fights. However, To possess this power at 125 comes at a price, he is known to really chunk up between fights (it's all that sushi) and have a hard time cutting weight, even admitting he has cut 40lbs two fights back this is his biggest question mark as it cuts into his cardio ability. He can gas by throwing bombs based on his tough weight management, but his chin is made of steel making it hard for me to imagine his getting slow enough to KO. That being said he has to get his shit tighter for his first title defense, and who can blame him for having fun between fights? He is a known sushi chef and barber when he’s not cracking skills in the octagon.
Perez comes into this fight as the big underdog. The 28-year-old American is a great wrestler and grappler who has excellent condition going into the fight, I am convinced he could wrestle for 25 straight minutes and be in great shape. That being said, he is not as dynamic as his opponents. He can pus the pace and is a decent top wrestler but I’m not sure it compares to Figueiredo’s ability on the ground. There are times where he leaves himself in a bad position on the ground where opponents either go off with ground and pound or go for submission attempts and this is his glaring weakness. He has been submitted twice in his career and with his eagerness to wrestle could he be walking right into the Brazilian’s guillotine?
In this flyweight matchup, I see Figueiredo walking away from this match retaining his belt. This is a stacked division and there really are no scrubs here (this fight was supposed to have former champ Cody Garbrant). Fig’s power is just too great for me to pick Perez in this one, Deiveson is so big for this division that he will control the bout on the ground or if it remains standing he could get KO in one punch/kick, I see him winning this in round 2 via TKO.
(all fighter profiles are courtesy of ESPN and the UFC)