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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 8 main card predictions

UFC Fight Night: Cutelaba v Ankalaev Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., Aug. 29, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will continue its stay at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, with UFC Vegas 8. In the main event, Anthony Smith will attempt to make a quick rebound from a brutal loss by taking on top up-and-comer Aleksandar Rakic. Prior to that Light Heavyweight violence, however, we have three quality fights to analyze and predict.

Remember, we’ll be back later this week to preview and predict the biggest fights of this weekend’s event.

Women’s Flyweight: Ji Yeon Kim vs. Alexa Grasso

Best Win for Kim? Justine Kish For Grasso? Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Current Streak: Kim returned to the win column last time out, while Grasso’s came up short to Carla Esparza
X-Factor: a potential size discrepancy
How these two match up: This is likely to be a kickboxing match.

A veteran of Jewels and Deep, Kim has fought a fair portion of her career — including her most recent two bouts, in which she missed weight (above 125 pounds). “Fire Fist” is a Wushu and Hapkido black belt, which translates to an active and rangy kickboxing game in the Octagon.

Grasso, 27, has been known as one of the division’s better prospects for several years now, though she’s unfortunately alternated wins and losses in her last five bouts. On the bright side, Grasso’s takedown defense and overall performances have generally been improving, allowing her to showoff her boxing talent.

This will be her first bout at 125 pounds.

Fights between former Bantamweights who cannot make weight consistently and Strawweights moving up are questionable. There’s a chance the size discrepancy could overall any difference in skill. Fortunately for Grasso, strength and size are more significant in the grappler department, and neither of these women are likely to hunt for takedowns.

Instead, we have a striking match, and Grasso is the cleaner puncher with heavier hands. Grasso never really had a problem with pace anyway at 115 pounds, but without much of a weight cut, she should be able to let her hands go now more than ever.

Prediction: Grasso via decision

Featherweight: Ricardo Lamas vs. Bill Algeo

Best Win for Lamas? Charles Oliveira For Algeo? Scott Heckman
Current Streak: Lamas came up short last time out, whereas Algeo makes his UFC debut having won his last bout
X-Factor: Algeo accepted this bout on very short-notice
How these two match up: It’s not Lamas vs. Ryan Hall, but this should still be a fun fight.

Lamas has been there, done that. The former title challenger has really fought all the best names of the last five years at 145 pounds, taking out a fair share of them. He’s an opportunistic wrestler and grappler with absolutely brutal ground striking, and on the feet, Lamas is a tricky range striker.

Algeo is a veteran of the northeast fight circuit, having competed for respected promotions like Ring of Combat and CFFC. He’s a grappler first and foremost, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who looks to take the back and secure a strangle.

I liked Lamas against Hall, and I like him against a short-notice replacement. Algeo is a solid fighter who has fought a high-level of competition, but it’s really tough to see him taking out a divisional staple on such short-notice. Algeo is a finishing threat, but not an overwhelming one, which is probably what’s required to defeat Lamas without a full camp.

Lamas lands his calf kick and scores enough takedowns to secure a clear-cut decision win.

Prediction: Lamas via decision

Light Heavyweight: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba 2

Best Win for Ankalaev? Klidson Abreu For Cutelaba? Khalil Rountree Jr.
Current Streak: Ankalaev has technically won four straight, while Cutelaba lost his last bout to ... Ankalaev in a controversial outcome
X-Factor: What happens if this fight goes beyond the first round?
How these two match up: Two strong wrestlers with serious punching power will throw down yet again.

Dagestan’s premier Light Heavyweight representative brings the skills one would expect, namely a dominant wrestling game with crushing ground strikes. However, Ankalaev has proven himself a very solid striker as well, notably one with a penchant for head kicks.

Cutelaba is a wild man. He has a background in Greco-Roman wrestling and will muscle foes to the mat, but really, “Hulk” is all about smashing foes. Whether he does so on the feet with big punches or on the mat with heavy elbows, his strategy is really the same.

In the first bout, it became immediately apparent that Ankalaev could counter his opponent at distance. He was simply sharper, and he knew what to expect. Perhaps Cutelaba’s strategy of playing possum would have worked had the referee allowed the fight to play out, but after that botched ending, Ankalaev knows to be aware of that as well.

Ankalaev is the quicker kickboxer and better wrestler. Unless Cutelaba can out-smart his foe with some trickery or win the cardio battle, it seems like he’s in trouble. Realistically, “Hulk” is not known for either of those tactics, so it’s haymaker knockout or bust for the Moldovan athlete.

Prediction: Ankalaev via knockout

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 8 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 9 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 8: “Smith vs. Rakic” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2020: 36-13