This weekend (Sat., Aug. 13, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will travel to Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California for UFC on ESPN 41. In the main event, former world champion Dominick Cruz aims to fully rejoin the title hunt by toppling streaking contender Marlon Vera. Before the big Bantamweight bout, however, we have a rather nice group of fights to analyze, as the event continues the trend of booking better bouts when the show leaves Las Vegas.
Let’s take a closer look at these main card match ups:
Light Heavyweight: Devin Clark vs. Azamat Murzakanov
Best Win for Walker? Alonzo Menifield For Murzakanov? Tafon Nchukwi
Current Streak: Clark won his last bout, whereas Murzakanov recently won his UFC debut to improve his pro record to 11-0
X-Factor: Clark doesn’t always react well to getting hit
How these two match up: This is a classic case of wrestler vs. striker.
Clark is a really physically gifted athlete with a great wrestling background. He definitely has power in his game, but Clark has yet to really develop a complete MMA game. If he’s unable to get his wrestling going, he tends to struggle, and he’s left himself vulnerable to submissions chasing the takedown as well.
Murzakanov is a more straightforward slugger. The “Contenders Series” product is a definite finisher, having scored a majority of his wins via knockout, including both of his trips to the Octagon. The Russian is deceptively explosive, and he’s been competing since 2010.
In order for Clark to win this fight, he must successfully answer to questions. First, can he take Murzakanov down at all? Secondly, can Clark do it consistently across 15 minutes without getting dreadfully tired?
Clark is perhaps the biggest wrestling test yet of Murzakonov’s career, but he’s shown promise so far. “The Professional” is in the prime of his career, and he only needs one connection to drastically shift the tide of the fight. Clark is likely going to need a really precise and careful performance to avoid such a shot, and we’ve yet to see that level of control from “Brown Bear.”
Prediction: Murzaknov via knockout
Featherweight: Nate Landwehr vs. David Onama
Best Win for Landwehr? Darren Elkins For Onama? Gabriel Benitez
Current Streak: Landwehr returned to the win column last time out, whereas Onama has won two in a row
X-Factor: Landwehr looked considerably sharper last time out
How these two match up: Banger alert!
Former M-1 champion Landwehr doesn’t know how to have a boring fight. He’s a certified scrapper, best known for outlasting opponents in deep water then swarming for the finish. Last time out, Landwehr’s distance management and defense did look far improved, so perhaps the slugger has turned over a new, more technical leaf?
Regardless, 28-year-old Onama looks to be a big problem at Featherweight. He’s simply giant for the division, a talented striker who’s also finished opponents via strangulation. It’s still early in his UFC career, but the potential seems very real for Uganda’s “Silent Assassin.”
I very much liked Landwehr 2.0 last time out, and he’s got a major experience advantage here. At the same time, it’s difficult to see how a scrapper like Landwehr will be able to overcome a significant height and reach disadvantage against such a gifted athlete. He’s going to have to walk through absolute fire to get into his range, and even then, it’s no guarantee he gets the better of Onama in the pocket.
Landwehr has a chance to rally late and take over, but this is only a 15 minute fight. Likely, he’ll be too far behind on the scorecards before the tables potentially turn.
Prediction: Onama via decision
Women’s Flyweight: Cynthia Calvillo vs. Nina Nunes
Best Win for Calvillo? Joanne Wood For Nunes? Claudia Gadelha
Current Streak: Calvillo has lost three in a row, whereas Nunes has lost her last two
X-Factor: This is Nunes’ first fight at 125 pounds
How these two match up: Yet another grappler vs. striker match up.
Calvillo has struggled since moving up to Flyweight. She’s had a far more difficult time securing takedowns, leaving her vaunted grappling game fairly useless. Instead, she’s found herself stuck on the feet with superior strikers like Jessica Andrade and Andrea Lee. Nunes is certainly the sharper striker, but can the Brazilian keep it standing? The 36 year old is moving up to Flyweight for the first time, and she never seemed to be a particularly huge Strawweight.
This is a bout that can be decided by a single takedown — Calvillo is that nasty on the canvas. To my mind, this is essentially a fight between two women who are probably better off at 115 lbs., thus they should be about the same size.
Against a foe without a major strength advantage, I like the odds that Calvillo finds top position somehow. She’s generally crafty, willing to catch kicks or start scrambles in unorthodox fashion. Provided she commits to a grappling-focused attack, I expect Calvillo to find dominant position at some point.
Prediction: Calvillo via submission
Catchweight: Angela Hill vs. Lupita Godinez
Best Win for Hill? Maryna Moroz For Godinez? Loma Lookboonmee
Current Streak: Hill lost her last three, whereas Godinez has won two in a row
X-Factor: Hill has way more top-level experience
How these two match up: This is a real step up for Godinez.
Hill’s performances have been better than her recent record would indicate. Still, it definitely seems like “Overkill” has hit a wall in that her Muay Thai is not enough to overwhelm the division’s best strikers, and the standout grapplers continue to frustrate her on the mat.
Is Godinez one of the top Strawweight wrestlers? It’s still too early to say confidently, but early results are promising! She’s racked up 23 takedowns in five trips to the Octagon, winning three of her five bouts.
Despite that impressive volume, Godinez hasn’t yet proven herself a wrestling force against the upper end at 115 lbs. Hill, meanwhile, has denied shots from women like Amanda Lemos and Claudia Gadelha with good consistency. It’s a little worrying that Virna Jandiroba was so able to work through her defenses, but on the whole, Hill is fairly proven as a sprawl-and-brawl fighter.
Importantly, she’s also difficult to hold down. Jandiroba was able to control her because she’s a major jiu-jitsu threat, but Godinez is nowhere near as credentialed once actually on the mat.
Likely, Hill is taken down a couple times, pops up, then outworks her opponent to return to the win column.
Prediction: Hill va decision
Middleweight: Bruno Silva vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Best Win for Silva? Alexander Shlemenko For Meerschaert? Thiago Santos
Current Streak: Both men came up short last time out
X-Factor: Both men are expert finishers in their respective realms
How these two match up: One last time: striker vs. grappler!
Silva is a great and relatively recent addition to the Middleweight rank and file. The Brazilian has absolute hammers in his hands, both on the feet and on the canvas. Given a small opportunity, Silva will quickly separate his opponent from their senses. It’s hard to argue with 19 knockouts in 22 wins!
Meerschaert, meanwhile, is an incredibly prolific submission fighter. He’s got a ripping body kick and solid cross, but “GM3” has always done his best work on the canvas thanks to his jiu-jitsu slickness.
Both of these men could finish the other in an instant. Silva hits stupid hard, and Meerschaert is rarely that difficult to crack. Plus, his historically great chin took a couple dents in 2020. On the flip side, Silva is aggressive and loves ground striking, which could very easily lead him into a trap against the ultra savvy black belt.
Meerschaert didn’t tap 26 opponents by accident, after all.
Ultimately, it feels more likely that Santos implements his game. He’s such a damaging fighter, and there’s no safe space in the cage with him. If he stuns Meerschaert, “GM3” cannot count on his jiu-jitsu to keep him safe vs. Santos’ hellacious ground and pound. Plus, as the fight wears on, damage from clubbing punches tends to build more punishing than attempt submissions.
Prediction: Silva via knockout