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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 14 main card predictions

The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Di Chirico v Marquez Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., Nov. 14, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain in the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 14. I don’t want to lie to the kind folks who click on this article each week: if there was an event to skip, it’s probably this one. Outside of the main event — an admittedly intriguing, but probably dull, Lightweight clash between Rafael dos Anjos and Paul Felder — ranked fighters are absent, and even athletes with Wikipedia pages are few and far between.

Fortunately, none of that is to the say the fights themselves cannot be excellent. Let’s take a closer look at some main card fights:

Welterweight: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Khaos Williams

Best Win for Alhassan? Niko Price For Williams? Alex Morono
Current Streak: Alhassan came up short last time out, while Williams enters off a successful UFC debut
X-Factor: Has Alhassan learned anything from his last fight?
How these two match up: Violence!

Alhassan is nicknamed “Judo Thunder,” which sounds super cool, but the emphasis is definitely on the second word. Alhassan throws tremendously powerful punches, looking to end his opponent inside the opening couple minutes ... but if the fight goes late, things tend to get hairy.

Williams is something of a slugger himself. He’s not quite an overwhelming knockout artist like his foe, but “The Oxfighter” — another awesome nickname! — but Williams nevertheless likes to trade hooks. He’ll also dig low kicks and wrestle occasionally, but only power shots were needed to knock out Morono in 27 seconds.

There is a very established path to success against Alhassan, which involves surviving the opening five minutes and capitalizing on his fatigue later in the fight. Williams is tough and has yet to be finished, but otherwise, there’s really nothing about his game that fits with the path.

In terms of pure power, Williams is outgunned (though a flash knockout the other way is, of course, always possible). Technically, Williams might have an advantage, but not one so large that if offsets the power. The “better” fighter can still lose if fatigued, but even then, Williams tends to slow down in the second round too.

As for wrestling, I also tend to lean towards Alhassan as the more likely man to get on top.

Prediction: Alhassan via knockout

Middleweight: Julian Marquez vs. Saparbek Safarov

Best Win for Marquez? Darren Stewart For Safarov? Rodney Wallace
Current Streak: Both athletes lost their most recent fight
X-Factor: Marquez’s 28-month layoff
How these two match up: This should also be a scrap!

Marquez made a real name for himself as an early “Contender Series” product to watch. A really physical Middleweight with a rugged dirty boxing style, Marquez seemed prime to do big things ... until a split-decision loss sent him to the sidelines for over two years!

Safarov is an absolute wild man. He goes hard from the first bell, throwing winging punches until he’s gassed then continuing to throwing wide hooks! Sloppy stuff, but he has finished six foes via knockout. Supposedly, Safarov is a master of sports in both Combat Sambo and Freestyle Wrestling, but that has yet to be evident in his UFC bouts.

Truly, this appears to be booked as a rebound fight for Marquez. Safarov is tough and dangerous, but he fatigues quickly, and there’s nothing complicated about his style.

“The Cuban Missile Crisis” is comfortable in a brawl. He should be able to handle taking a few shots in the early going. Yet as Safarov starts to fade, Marquez should be in prime position to turn up the heat and force a finish.

Prediction: Marquez via knockout

Middleweight: Eryk Anders vs. Antonio Arroyo

Best Win for Anders? Brendan Allen For Arroyo? Henrique da Silva
Current Streak: Both men enter following a single loss
X-Factor: will Anders opt to strike or try to force his takedowns?
How these two match up: This one might end up a classically slow Middleweight bout, but it also could be a brawl!

Anders is a frustrating fighter, and I say that as a fan. He has major athletic ability, but he’s arguably regressed? He’s no longer the aggressive Southpaw slugger that stormed into the UFC to flatten Rafael Natal. He’s trying to improve his technique and become more well-rounded, but some times that equates to not throwing enough punches and shooting for bad takedowns.

Arroyo is a well-rounded and physical talent himself, but his UFC debut saw him pretty soundly out-grappled when his gas tank began to fail. Still, he kicks plenty hard, and the Brazilian finishes opponents more often than not.

At this stage in the game, Anders’ overall game is an x-factor. Will he spam takedowns? Refuse to throw punches? Hang on the outside and get kicked? There’s precedents for all of that.

At the same time, Anders is not an easy man to beat. He’s largely proven impossible to take down, is incredibly tough, and hits like a truck. Assuming Anders is fighting well, it takes a certain level of finesse or expertise to really handle “Ya Boi,” and I’m not sure Arroyo is that guy.

I expect a close, somewhat ugly bout that moves between distance striking, clinch leaning, and perhaps an occasional takedown of little consequence. The judges will be left to name a winner, and Anders’ left hand will prove the most memorable factor of the fight.

Prediction: Anders via decision

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 14 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 14: “Felder vs. dos Anjos” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2020: 53-22

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