Two profoundly different Heavyweight finishers duke it out at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend (Sat., Aug. 8, 2020) when the destructive Derrick Lewis attempts to end a two-fight knockout drought against ageless submission ace Aleksei Oleinik. Meanwhile down at Middleweight, UFC Vegas 6’s co-main event features former division champion Chris Weidman attempting to end his free fall against the quietly surging Omari Akhmedov, while Darren Stewart takes on Maki Pitolo in what could be an absolute banger.
Six “Prelims” undercard matches set the UFC Vegas 6 stage before all that, though, so let’s have a look ...
145 lbs.: Justin Jaynes vs. Gavin Tucker
Despite entering the cage on the heels of four consecutive first-round victories, Justin Jaynes (16-4) ended up an underdog after replacing Matt Frevola against Frank Camacho. Undaunted, “Guitar Hero” smashed “The Crank” in just 41 seconds to earn “Performance of the Night” and his tenth win in 11 fights.
All but one of his pro finishes have come in the first round.
Gavin Tucker (11-1) looked poised for a serious Featherweight run after cruising past Sam Sicilia, only to suffer a nasty beating from Rick Glenn his next time out. He returned to action almost two years later against Seung Woo Choi, whom Tucker choked out for his fifth pro submission victory.
This will be his first fight in more than 12 months.
I’ll admit to writing off Tucker before the Choi fight — the Glenn debacle was the sort of mauling that could end a career in a single night. To his credit, “Guv’nor” turned in a solid, well-rounded performance that culminated in a decisive win. If that was the product of Tucker successfully rebuilding and not Choi’s deficiencies, he should comfortably beat Jaynes the way he did fellow free-swinging wrestler Sicilia.
Beyond being the smoother operator on the feet and a capable-enough wrestler, Tucker also has far more experience actually making the Featherweight limit. Indeed, Jaynes has spent his whole career between 155 and 170 pounds, including a 165-pound Catchweight just two fights back. With a clear technical edge and an opponent entering unfamiliar territory, Tucker takes a wide decision.
Prediction: Tucker via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Youssef Zalal vs. Peter Barrett
An impressive flying knee knockout of Jaime Hernandez brought Youssef Zalal (9-2) to the Octagon, where he debuted with a dominant decision over Austin Lingo in February. He made it two-for-two not long after by out-dueling veteran Jordan Griffin in an entertaining affair.
He steps in for Steve Garcia on less than two weeks’ notice for his second bout in two months.
Peter Barrett (11-3) got off to an 8-0 professional start before dropping three of his next four, all of them inside the distance. He got back on track with a knockout of Zach DiSabatino, then grappled his way past unbeaten Sang Hoon Yoo on the Contender Series.
“Slippery Pete” has knocked out seven opponents as a professional and ends a nearly year-long layoff on Saturday evening.
“The Moroccan Devil” has really impressed me in the Octagon thus far, especially against Griffin. I expected Zalal to struggle with the latter’s aggressive grappling attack, but he instead maintained his composure and turned in a quality performance. He takes a step down against Barrett, whose shoddy takedown defense and unspectacular striking make him easy pickings.
I genuinely do not see an avenue of victory for Barrett — Zalal has a clear technical edge in the stand up and can likely take him down whenever the fancy strikes him. The Factory X-trained product makes it 3-0 in the Octagon in comfortable fashion.
Prediction: Zalal via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Ali Al Qaisi vs. Irwin Rivera
Ali Al Qaisi (8-3) has enjoyed a strong run since starting his professional career winless (0-2), securing four submission finishes along the way. His last three wins took place in Brave CF, a promotion that’s also featured the likes of Khamzat Chimaev and Amir Albazi.
“Royal Fighter” stands two inches taller than Irwin Rivera (9-5) at 5’8.”
Though he started his run in Titan FC with a leg injury, “The Beast” ultimately won and defended the promotion’s Bantamweight title in a three-fight stretch. He moved up to 145 pounds for his short-notice Octagon debut, which saw him last the distance but struggle to close the distance against kickboxing veteran Giga Chikadze.
He has scored five professional victories, including his last three, by (technical) knockout.
There isn’t much free footage of Al Qaisi’s recent efforts out there and I can’t say that what I did manage to find impressed me. Despite a Sanda background that reportedly earned him two world championships, he seems generally content to plod along with a high guard and wait for the opportunity to hit a reactive takedown. That’s not going to work against Rivera, who both scrambles well and can do some serious damage when allowed to lead the dance.
Now that he’s fighting someone his own size, Rivera should find far more success than in his Octagon debut. Al Qaisi may land some early takedowns, but Rivera’s power, cardio and ability to get out of dangerous patches should carry him past a rough start. “The Beast” steadily overwhelms him for a late finish.
Prediction: Rivera via second-round technical knockout
Three more UFC Vegas 6 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from knockout artists Nasrat Haqparast and Tim Means. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 6 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 6: “Lewis vs. Oleinik” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.