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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 10 main card predictions

UFC Fight Night: Ibragimov v Herman Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., Sept. 12, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will continue its stay at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, with UFC Vegas 10. After the last few weeks, it feels misleading for me to write a preview of the event more than a handful of hours before airtime. Will Michelle Waterson vs. Angela Hill remain the main event by Saturday, or will it go the way of the original headliner? Will any of the matches I attempt to break down happen, or will they be shuffled about as COVID strikes down another athlete?

It’s impossible to say, but regardless, it’s time to break down fights, so here’s some analysis on what Saturday’s fights might look like!

Remember, we’ll be back later this week to preview and predict the biggest fights of this weekend’s event (whatever they may be!).

Lightweight: Ottman Azaitar vs. Khama Worthy

Best Win for Azaitar? Teemu Packalen For Worthy? Devonte Smith
Current Streak: Azaitar won his UFC debut last time out and is undefeated in 12 professional bouts, whereas Worthy has won seven straight (two in the Octagon)
X-Factor: It’s a significant step up in competition for Azaitar
How these two match up: Someone is getting knocked out.

Azaitar debuted almost exactly one year ago, scoring one of the cleanest overhand right knockouts you’ll ever see. “Bulldozer” typically wins via knockout, crushing his foes with heavy punches and making the most of his physicality with power shots. Admittedly, Azaitar’s competition level on the regional scene wasn’t anything special, and Packalen is hardly the stiffest test for a UFC debut.

Alternatively, Worthy was thrown to the wolves in his debut, only to hand Smith his first professional loss in a massive upset. “Deathstar” continued his winning ways against Luis Pena, shutting down his rangier foe with heavy counter shots and forcing a bad takedown attempt that let him lock up the neck.

This is a tricky one. At 33 years old and eight years into his pro career, Worthy is coming into his own. He’s a veteran who has gained confidence, and as a result, everything is clicking and he’s winning fights.

He’s definitely a better Lightweight than his 16-6 record would typically imply.

At the same time, Worthy has five losses via knockout, and Azaitar will be throwing bricks at his chin. It’s one thing to counter Pena’s long jab, but Azaitar is going to be bullying his way forward and throwing heat.

It’ll be a fire fight, which means it’s difficult not to side with the man who’s never been stopped by strikes.

Prediction: Azaitar via knockout

Women’s Flyweight: Andrea Lee vs. Roxanne Modafferi

Best Win for Lee? Montana de la Rosa For Modafferi? Antonina Shevchenko
Current Streak: Lee has lost two straight via split-decision, while Modafferi lost her last bout
X-Factor: This is a rematch from 2014, in which Modafferi won a split decision
How these two match up: Striker vs. grappler.

I — along with most of the combat sports world — am not particularly high on the women’s Flyweight division nor most of its contenders. Lee, however, has impressed me more than most of her peers with her accurate, high-volume kickboxing and much improved takedown defense.

Neither of the recent decisions she lost were robberies, but it could also be argued that she’s won five straight inside the Octagon.

Modafferi, meanwhile, has undergone plenty of improvements herself over the years. She’s greatly improved her kickboxing, which may remain a touch awkward but now presents an actual threat. Her overall physicality has improved too, making “The Happy Warrior” a more considerable wrestling presence.

I will admit that I find predicting Modafferi fights difficult. It is certainly not my forte. At times, she is able to impose her wrestling when I did not expect it (see Barber, Maycee), whereas in other bouts, she winds up stranded on the feet, so ... take what’s coming with a grain of salt.

Lee lost their initial bout in her third professsional fight, whereas Modafferi was 11 years into her professional career. That’s an absurd experience gap. In the six years since, Lee has surely gained plenty of knowledge on fighting top-tier women, as well as improved the holes in her game considerably.

Add in a six year age difference, and I expect Lee to cleanly sprawl-and-brawl her way to victory.

Prediction: Lee via decision

Light Heavyweight: Ed Herman vs. Mike Rodriguez

Best Win for Herman? Tim Boetsch For Rodriguez? Adam Milstead
Current Streak: Herman has won two straight fights, while Rodriguez picked up a win last time out
X-Factor: Herman is 39 years old
How these two match up: The likelihood for clinch violence is high!

Herman is one of those veterans who sort of forgot several of the skills that once made his name. He doesn’t really look for takedowns anymore, nor would I expect Herman to pull off a slick inverted heel hook from his guard like he once landed on Kyle Noke in 2011. Nowadays, “Short Fuse” is all about the clinch, where he can slow the fight down and land heavy knees.

I’ll admit that I am still unsure about “Slow” Mike Rodriguez. He’s got a great build for Light Heavyweight and seems to alternate between looking quite dangerous and quite hittable. Among big men, that’s a very dangerous line to walk.

There are two very obvious paths for this bout to go. On one hand, Rodriguez could take advantage of being far younger and far bigger by simply destroying Herman in the opening few minutes. Alternatively, Herman could survive that dangerous period, at which point his experience and clinch work may take over.

Both possibilities seem equally likely to me. Still, when I look back at Herman’s record, he hasn’t defeated anyone still on the UFC roster — I’m assuming Khadis Ibragimov will not return after his 0-3 start — since 2013. Rodriguez may not yet be achieving consistent success at 205 pounds, but he’s at least proven himself worthy of a roster spot.

In this case, I’ll go upside over experience.

Prediction: Rodriguez via knockout

Featherweight: Kyle Nelson vs. Billy Quarantillo

Best Win for Nelson? Marco Reyes For Quarantillo? Spike Carlyle
Current Streak: Nelson picked up his first UFC win last time out, while Quarantillo has won seven straight (two in the Octagon)
X-Factor: Nelson’s gas tank
How these two match up: This should be a competitive bout in all areas.

Nelson drew a difficult short-notice debut opposite Carlos Diego Ferreira, finding some impressive early success on the feet before succumbing to the Brazilian’s power. After moving back to Featherweight, Nelson has shown off solid wrestling to compliment his striking.

At 31 years of age with a fairly long career as a pro, Quarantillo seems like a finished product despite being a somewhat recent “Contender Series” pickup. The name of his game is pressure and pace, as Quarantillo wears his opponent down with constant work on the feet and (ideally) top position grinding.

Every once in a while, a match up comes up that feels like it’s happened before. I remember (wrongly) thinking that Nelson would handle Matt Sayles well as the stronger man, and sure enough, he landed some takedowns and won a round. Then, Sayles’ pace wore Nelson down, and he wound up on his back and strangled.

Quarantillo has the cardio and pace to do the exact same thing, except he’s probably a better wrestler/grappler than “Robo.”

History repeats in Las Vegas.

Prediction: Quarantillo via submission

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 10 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 10: “Waterson vs. Hill” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2020: 39-13

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