All-action Bantamweight contenders, Song Yadong and Ricky Simon, save the day at UFC APEX this Saturday (April 29, 2023), accepting an additional two rounds on short notice to serve as a makeshift ESPN+ main event. In other action, Michal Oleksiejczuk attempts to halt the rise of Caio Borralho and Ange Loosa trades hands with Josh Quinlan in a Welterweight battle that could easily steal the show.
Three UFC Vegas 72 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here). Let’s pop ‘em open and see what’s inside …
265 lbs.: Martin Buday vs. Jake Collier
Martin Buday (11-1) capped off an eight-fight finish streak by knocking out Lorenzo Hood on Contender Series to claim a UFC contract. He’s now 2-0 in the Octagon, though not without controversy, as he beat Chris Barnett by technical decision before claiming a highly questionable split decision over fellow Contender Series alum, Lukasz Brzeski.
He’s knocked out six professional foes and submitted two others.
Jake Collier (13-8) went 2-2 as a UFC Middleweight, then 1-1 as a Light Heavyweight before spending nearly three years on the sidelines. He returned in 2020 at Heavyweight, where he’s amassed a 2-4 record.
He has a 1.5 inch reach advantage, though he’s the shorter of the two by one inch.
This boils down to whether Buday remembers his strengths. His clinch is absolutely suffocating and he can do an impressive amount of damage from point-blank, but he completely neglected that aspect of his game against Brzeski, instead electing to try and kickbox despite being slow as molasses. He can’t afford to do that here because even though Collier carries a ton of extra weight, he’s a remarkably smooth kickboxer who can run circles around Buday just as easily as Brzeski did.
That said, I can’t trust Collier against a grinder after watching him gas to death in a one-sided beatdown of Chris Barnett. If his cardio gave out in a fight with zero adversity, the sheer size and strength of Buday are way more than Collier can handle. So long as Buday stays on the front foot, expect him to slowly batter the life out of Collier against the fence for a late finish.
Prediction: Buday via third round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Natan Levy vs. Pete Rodriguez
After choking out Shaheen Santana on Contender Series, Natan Levy (8-1) spent a year on the sidelines due to injury, ultimately returning in Nov. 2020 to drop a decision to Rafa Garcia in the Octagon. His 2022 campaign proved more fruitful, resulting in consecutive decision victories over Mike Breeden and Genaro Valdez.
His height and reach are identical to those of Pete Rodriguez (5-1).
An admirably bold short-notice UFC debut saw Rodriguez stopped in three minutes by Jack Della Maddalena. He was quite a bit more successful against Mike Jackson, flattening “The Truth” in just 93 seconds.
None of his five knockout wins have gone past the 2:21 mark.
Though Levy had a lot more trouble than I expected against the very limited Valdez, there’s a lot going his way here. Rodriguez has never faced a takedown artist even remotely comparable to Levy, who’s shown off enough durability and technique to hold his own on the feet. Nothing Rodriguez has shown so far indicated that he’ll have an answer when Levy starts firing off double-digit takedowns.
It’s admittedly hard to get a bead on where exactly Rodriguez stands because losing to a monster like Della Maddalena and knocking out the likes of Jackson are to be expected of virtually any UFC fighter. Still, I’m confident that Levy’s wrestling and experience will let him grind out a wide decision.
Prediction: Levy via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Cody Durden vs. Charles Johnson
A 1-2-1 UFC start saw Cody Durden (14-4-1) suffer highlight-reel submission losses to Jimmy Flick and Muhammad Mokaev. A 68-second knockout of JP Buys nudged his Octagon record back to .500, after which he ground out LFA champ Carlos Mota for his first multi-fight winning streak since 2020.
His 11 professional finishes include six by knockout.
Charles Johnson (13-4) — a former Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) titlist — put a debut loss to Muhammad Mokaev behind him to score back-to-back wins over Zhalgas Zhumagulov and Jimmy Flick. He then made a six-week turnaround against Ode Osbourne, ultimately fading down the stretch en route to a split decision loss.
He boasts two inches of height and three inches of reach on Durden.
Johnson is genuinely his own worst enemy. His cardio, striking and durability make him a problem for virtually anyone at 125 pounds, but he insists on fighting three-rounders as though he had 25 minutes to work with. Osbourne and Zhumagulov essentially had free rein to tee off on him for large chunks of their bouts, and he can’t afford that sort of passivity against Durden’s constant takedown assault.
Even if Johnson can stop the majority of them, he’s had issues with being controlled in the past, meaning Durden can likely rack up valuable time either on top or against the fence. Johnson has a shot if he comes out with the same fire in his belly he had against Flick, but odds are Durden grinds him out for two rounds and survives the comeback attempt to claim a decision.
Prediction: Durden via unanimous decision
Well, at least UFC Vegas 72’s re-worked main event kicks butt. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 57-32-1
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 72 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 72: “Yadong vs. Simon” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.