Elite submissions meet elite Muay Thai inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Oct. 9, 2021) when Mackenzie Dern battles Marina Rodriguez in a pivotal women’s Strawweight battle. Also on tap are a Welterweight slugfest between Randy Brown and Jared Gooden and the latest from Flyweight prospects Mariya Agapova and Sabina Mazo.
Three UFC Vegas 39 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here); therefore, let’s rectify that, shall we?
135 lbs.: Chris Gutierrez vs. Felipe Colares
Chris Gutierrez (16-3-2) boldly stepped up on a six-week turnaround to face Raoni Barcelos in his UFC debut, only to suffer his first-ever professional submission loss to the Brazilian ace. Subsequent bouts proved more successful, and he enters the cage this weekend unbeaten in his last five fights.
He is the taller man by one inch, though he gives up 2.5 inches of reach.
Felipe Colares (10-2) battled his way to Jungle Fight gold in his eighth professional fight with a decision over countryman Caio Gregorio, setting up a UFC debut 16 months later. He’s now 2-2 in the world’s largest fight promotion, most recently beating Luke Sanders by gutsy decision in May 2021.
His professional finishes are split 5/2 between submissions and knockouts.
This is a very winnable but potentially hazardous match up for Gutierrez. “Cabocao’s” preference for long-range kicking battles plays right into “El Guapo’s” hands, and speaking of hands, Gutierrez is by far the more effective boxer of the two. No matter the distance, the striking is all Gutierrez. Thing is, he’ll have to stay sharp from bell to bell. That’s because Colares is borderline impossible to finish, as we saw when he absorbed about two dozen clean shots from a monstrous puncher in Montel Jackson without going down, and is a genuinely adept grappler. Gutierrez can’t get lazy like he did in the first round against Cody Durden and let Colares turn this into a ground fight.
At the end of the day, though, Gutierrez is too damn good on the feet for me to pick against him, especially considering Colares’ middling wrestling. So long as Gutierrez has learned his lesson about throwing lazy kicks at grapplers, he takes apart Colares at range for a dominant decision or late stoppage due to low kicks.
Prediction: Gutierrez via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Jamie Pickett vs. Laureano Staropoli
Undaunted by a pair of losses on “Contender Series,” Jamie Pickett (11-6) returned to the program to demolish Jhonoven Pati and finally secure a UFC contract. He’s still looking for his first Octagon victory, having fallen to fellow alumni Tafon Nchukwi and Jordan Wright in successive efforts.
“Nightwolf” will enjoy one inch of height and a whopping 10.5 inches of reach on “Pepi.”
Argentina’s Laureano Staropoli (9-4) warred his way into the Welterweight picture with entertaining wins over Hector Aldana and Thiago Alves, only to fall short against division standouts Muslim Salikhov and Tim Means. A subsequent move to Middleweight failed to produce immediate dividends, as he fell short against Georgian bruiser Roman Dolidze earlier this summer.
He’s scored five knockouts as a professional.
Even with his recent struggles, I don’t think Staropoli is a bad fighter, just someone who got pushed too hard, too fast. While I’m still not sold on Middleweight being his ideal division, I do like his chances here; Pickett is notoriously vulnerable to aggressive strikers due to his poor cage awareness, making him an ostensibly easy mark for the all-action Argentinean. It’s not like Pickett’s reach will do him much good, either, as he constantly struggles to keep smaller men at a distance.
It’s not that I don’t like Pickett or that he can’t do some damage when he turns up the heat, but he’s just too fundamentally flawed to beat even a standard-issue slugger like “Pepi.” In the end, Staropoli walks him down and overpowers him inside for 15 minutes.
Prediction: Staropoli via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Alexandr Romanov vs. Jared Vanderaa
Moldova’s Alexandr Romanov (14-0) stormed onto UFC’s Heavyweight scene with dominant finishes of Roque Martinez and Marcos Rogerio de Lima, the latter of which earned him “Performance of the Night.” Then “King Kong” had quite a bit more trouble with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner Juan Espino, but ultimately emerged victorious by technical decision.
His 13 stoppage wins include nine by submission.
Though he powered through a shaky start to beat Harry Hunsucker on “Contender Series,” Jared Vanderaa (12-5) had few answers for Sergey Spivak’s wrestling in the Octagon, resulting in a second-round technical knockout loss. “Mountain” turned things around in a big way his next time out, however, outstriking Justin Tafa to claim both a decision win and “Fight of the Night.”
He is the taller of the two by three inches and will enjoy five inches of reach on Romanov.
Credit where it’s due: Vanderaa showed truly astonishing striking improvement between his first and second UFC bouts. I’d written him off as someone who needed to score takedowns as quickly as possible, but he showed strong kickboxing craft and a terrific gas tank for someone his size. He’s undoubtedly the better of the two on the feet, a discrepancy that figures to grow larger and larger as the rounds progress.
That said, it remains to be seen whether he’s fixed his takedown defense, as he was a sitting duck for Spivak. That uncertainty has me leaning towards Romanov, as even with that poor performance against Espino, “King Kong” is enormously dangerous when he can consistently get on top. While it’s far, far closer than the bookies have it, I like Romanov to return to form, dragging Vanderaa down early and going to town until the ref steps in.
Prediction: Romanov via first round technical knockout
Virtually every fight on UFC Vegas 38 has the potential to be wild in some way; therefore, be sure not to miss it. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 39 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 39: “Dern vs. Rodriguez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.