This weekend (Sat., Aug. 8, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will continue its stay at the UFC APEX for UFC Vegas 6 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Big men in a small cage is the theme of Saturday’s main event, as the colossal “Black Beast” Derrick Lewis will tangle with human-anaconda hybrid Aleksei Oleinik. Prior to those men shaking the foundation, however, we have several collisions of action fighters to analyze.
I’m riding a hot streak (nine straight correct picks!), so let’s risk it all and break down some main card fights.
Remember, we’ll be back later this week to preview and predict the biggest fights of this weekend’s event.
Middleweight: Darren Stewart vs. Maki Pitolo
Best Win for Stewart? Deron Winn For Pitolo? Charles Byrd
Current Streak: In a strange circumstance, Stewart lost his last UFC bout during a Cage Warriors event (COVID, amiright?), while Pitolo rebounded to score his first UFC win last time out
X-Factor: Pitolo’s inconsistency
How these two match up: With 14 knockout wins between them, action is expected.
Stewart started his UFC career a miserable 0-3 (1), but a “Fight of the Night” winner and change in weight class kept him on the roster. Stewart proved this a smart decision, winning four of his next five bouts before the aforementioned weird fight with Bartosz Fabinski.
“The Dentist” is a scrapper, an athletic puncher with a real flair for clinch violence.
As for Pitolo, it’s been difficult to get a real read on “Coconut Bombz.” He’s definitely an aggressive bruiser who likes to punch in the pocket, but he was thoroughly out-struck in his UFC debut by a Welterweight. His follow up win over Byrd was more impressive work, and hopefully he’s able to keep that flow going.
This is going to be fun. Both men like violent battles in close distance. Sure, they’ll occasionally try to run a double along the fence, but they’re far more interested in jamming their foe into the fence and firing punishing shots.
At close distance, Stewart tends to do major work with elbows, whereas Pitolo likes body shots. That could make for some real interesting exchanges overall, but I cannot help but feel that Stewart simply hits harder and is more durable. He may get put on his back at some point or lose a round, but when Stewart strings together big shots, his foes tend to fall down.
I don’t see Pitolo having the defense to avoid those heavy blows.
Prediction: Stewart via knockout
Women’s Bantamweight: Yana Kunitskaya vs. Julija Stoliarenko
Best Win for Kunitskaya? Marion Reneau For Stoliarenko? Lisa Verzosa
Current Streak: Kunitskaya came up short last time, while Stoliarenko won her last five bouts on the regional scene
X-Factor: Stoliarenko accepted the bout on short-notice
How these two match up: This bout is better than I first realized.
Kunitskaya was sacrificed to Cris Cyborg in her debut, but since moving back down to 135 pounds, she’s proven her talent. Kunitskaya is a long-time martial artist with quality kickboxer, but her takedowns and quality clinch work have been equally important to her recent success.
Also, she’s been dating and training with Thiago Santos for a while now, so perhaps we’ll see some of that “Marreta” power in her kicks.
Stoliarenko is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt who has scored eight submissions in nine wins — you could be forgiven for thinking she’s just a grappler. However, she’s also an unbeaten champion in Lethwei, the absolutely violent Burmese martial art that involves bare knuckle punches and headbutts!
Full disclosure: I don’t know a damn thing about the women’s Lethwei scene in Japan. Was the competition level high? Terrible? Who can say, but that’s pretty cool regardless!
At any rate, Kunitskaya is one of the better Bantamweights on the roster. She’s a good size for the division with a well-rounded mix of skills that are designed to win rounds. She can fight hard for three rounds.
That’s a major ask for an opponent who took the fight on less than two week’s notice.
Prediction: Kunitskaya via decision
Lightweight: Beneil Dariush vs. Scott Holtzmann
Best Win for Dariush? Carlos Diego Ferreira For Holtzmann? Jim Miller
Current Streak: Dariush has won four straight, while Holtzmann has won two in a row
X-Factor: Dariush’s durability is something of a question mark
How these two match up: This has all the makings of an awesome Lightweight battle.
Dariush had a rough streak a couple years back that halted his rise through the ranks, but he’s rebounded incredible well and looks more dangerous than ever! Dariush is a killer on the mats with excellent jiu-jitsu. He’s almost as dangerous on the feet, a nasty Southpaw kickboxer with major power from all his left side weapons.
“Hot Sauce” is similarly riding a wave of momentum, having put on really strong performances in the last two years or so. Holtzmann is aggressive, a bruiser that wants nothing more than to exchange within the pocket, where he’s quite tricky in setting up his power shots.
This is such an interesting fight, because both men have clear paths to victory. Holtzmann has historically struggled with being trapped on his back — Dariush is a very solid wrestler with excellent top control. Alternatively, Dariush has lost several fights to hard punchers who he was unable to finish early on. Holtzmann is a tough customer, and he throws bricks!
Further muddying the waters is the fact that both men have really improved on their weaknesses.
Ultimately, Dariush seems the more dangerous man. He’s almost certainly going to win the first round, and there’s a solid chance he finishes the fight at the point. If he doesn’t, well, he only has to win one more and avoid getting clobbered to see his hand raised.
In a tough and competitive fight, picking the man with more ways to win isn’t a bad move.
Prediction: Dariush via submission
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.