After bashing his way into Heavyweight contention with a string of rapid-fire knockouts, Sergei Pavlovich faces his stiffest test to date this Saturday (April 22, 2023) when he and Curtis Blaydes battle it out inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Much farther down in weight (but equally interesting) is a Bantamweight battle that sees Song Yadong look to rebound from defeat against Ricky Simon, who’s won five straight since suffering back-to-back losses. In addition, Bobby Green trades hands with Jared Gordon and Strawweight prospect, Iasmin Lucindo, takes on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 30 finalist, Brogan Walker.
We’ve still got three UFC Vegas 71 “Prelims” undercard bouts to check out (see the first batch here), though, so grab your reading glasses and get to scrolling …
155 lbs.: Rick Glenn vs. Christos Giagos
Rick Glenn (22-6-2) announced his arrival in the Lightweight division by thrashing Joaquim Silva in 37 seconds, erasing the memory of a loss to Kevin Aguilar and a previous mediocre 3-3 UFC Featherweight run. Two rough rounds against Grant Dawson looked poised to put him back in the loss column, but “The Gladiator” battled back to force a majority draw.
He fights for the first time in 18 months.
Though he fell to Charles Oliveira in his Octagon return, Christos Giagos (19-10) reignited his UFC career with wins in four of his next five appearances. Then came Arman Tsarukyan and Thiago Moises, who put away Giagos with first round submissions to drop his Octagon record to 5-6.
“The Spartan” will enjoy one inch of reach on Glenn despite being shorter by two inches.
On paper, Giagos’ high-volume takedown attack is the right approach to take. He may not be a top control artist on the level of Grant Dawson, but we’ve seen Glenn struggle underneath the likes of Myles Jury and Dennis Bermudez in the past, so it might not take truly elite grappling to neutralize “The Gladiator.”
It’s hard to put too much faith in that outcome, though, as Giagos’ grappling tends to fail him as his level of competition rises. The jury’s out on whether he can hold down Glenn; if he can’t, Glenn’s pressure and output figure to win the day on the feet. I’ll hedge my bets and say Giagos does hit a handful of takedowns, but can’t keep Glenn on the mat or rack up enough damage to offset Glenn’s striking volume.
Prediction: Glenn via split decision
135 lbs.: Rani Yahya vs. Montel Jackson
Now more than one decade into his UFC career, Rani Yahya (28-10-1) sits at 13-4-1 in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion. His current 5-1-1 run includes consecutive wins over Ray Rodriguez and Kyung Ho Kang, the former of which earned him his 21st career submission.
This marks his first appearance in 17 months.
Undaunted by his UFC debut loss to Ricky Simon, Montel Jackson (12-2) bounced back with six wins in his next seven appearances. He last saw action in Nov. 2022, overpowering Julio Arce to extend his win streak to three.
“Quik” stands four inches taller than Yahya and boasts an 8.5-inch reach advantage.
I have so much respect for Rani Yahya because rather than attempt to “round out his game” and veer away from what made him successful in the first place, he built a style designed to maximize his strengths. His “burn through the gas tank with relentless takedowns to either get the submission or build a huge lead before collapsing down the stretch” approach may be goofy at times, but you can’t deny the results.
That said, Jackson may be a bit much for him.
Beyond “Quik’s” massive physical advantages, he’s got ridiculously heavy hands and fairly stout wrestling. Indeed, he’s been out-grappled before, but Simon and Brett Johns are stronger takedown artists than Yahya and neither managed to put him in any submission danger. He’s got what it takes to weather the early Yahya blitz and demolish him down the stretch, though he’s struggled to find the finish of late and may have to settle for a decision after dropping the first half of the fight.
Prediction: Jackson via split decision
145 lbs.: Karol Rosa vs. Norma Dumont
Karol Rosa (16-4) rattled off four consecutive wins to start her UFC tenure, only to fall short against Sara McMann and suffer her first defeat since 2018. She returned to action seven months later with a majority decision over Lina Lansberg at UFC 280.
This will be her first Featherweight appearance in more than five years.
The inglorious UFC debut loss for Norma Dumont (8-2) to Megan Anderson gave way to three straight wins, among them a main event victory over Aspen Ladd. Macy Chiasson put a halt to her momentum a half-year later, but Dumont reclaimed a portion by dominating Contender Series product, Danyelle Wolf, at UFC 279.
“The Immortal” stands two inches taller than Rosa at 5’7.”
Dumont is one of those fighters I just can’t seem to get a bead on. Before her squash match with Wolf — which everyone in the world saw coming — I believe I picked her previous four fights incorrectly.
Just keep that in mind when I pick her to lose here.
Though Dumont will enjoy a noteworthy size and power advantage, Rosa is the far busier striker of the two, which could prove critical in a fight likely to go the full 15 minutes. The latter has also proven willing to lean on her takedowns, and considering that Dumont hit the deck six times against a notoriously poor wrestler in Chiasson, that looks like a winning strategy if the standup doesn’t play out to her liking. In the end, Rosa out-works and out-wrestles Dumont to a comfortable decision win.
Prediction: Dumont via unanimous decision
UFC Vegas 71’s top two fights look like absolute doozies that you don’t want to miss. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 56-27-1
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 71 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 71: “Pavlovich vs. Blaydes” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.