Four months after kicking off her comeback with a late stoppage (watch it), Miesha Tate will look to keep the momentum going this Saturday (Nov. 20, 2021) when she takes on Ketlen Vieira inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The ESPN+-streamed card also features a pivotal Welterweight battle between Michael Chiesa and Sean Brady, as well as a potentially insane grappling battle between the ageless Rani Yahya and the high-octane Kyung Ho Kang.
155 lbs.: Terrance McKinney vs. Fares Ziam
Things went from bad to worse for Terrance McKinney (11-3) when, just one fight after eating a flying knee from Sean Woodson on “Contender Series,” he fell victim to a 57-second triangle choke from Darrick Minner. “T. Wrecks” returned to form with three knockouts in a combined 1:45, then needed just seven seconds to wipe out Matt Frevola in the Octagon on an eight-day turnaround.
All 11 of his stoppage wins have come in the first round, nine of them in less than two minutes.
Fares Ziam (12-3) saw his five-fight win streak come to an end in his UFC debut, a unanimous decision loss to Don Madge. Subsequent efforts proved more fruitful, as he claimed decisions of his own over Jamie Mullarkey and Luigi Vendramini.
“Smile Killer” stands three inches taller than McKinney and sports a one-inch reach advantage.
Despite that incredible finish in his UFC debut, McKinney is still more a twitchy bundle of potential than a completed product. Luckily, Ziam figures to be fairly accommodating. The Frenchman just has zero urgency, landing just over two significant strikes per minute, and determined opponents have managed to bully him into the fence for takedowns on multiple occasions. McKinney’s a stronger wrestler than Ziam’s last three foes and figures to find plenty of success following that blueprint.
There’s a lot that can go wrong, of course. Leaning on his wild stand up could get McKinney sparked, and if his gas tank gives out, Ziam could very easily take over late. Still, I like McKinney to muscle his way inside, drag Ziam to the mat, and dominate for an early finish.
Prediction: McKinney via first round submission
125 lbs.: Cody Durden vs. Aoriqileng
A 4-2 professional start gave way to an undefeated (7-0) run for Cody Durden (11-3-1), who answered the call to face Chris Gutierrez on late notice in Aug. 2021. He wound up settling for a draw, then succumbed to a flying triangle from Jimmy Flick four months later.
He’s knocked out and submitted five professional foes apiece.
Aoriqileng (18-8) punched his ticket to the Octagon with six consecutive victories, five of them inside the distance. He couldn’t quite overcome Jeff Molina in his promotional debut, but did walk away with a “Fight of the Night” bonus for his trouble.
He’ll enjoy a two-inch reach advantage.
I really think Durden is better than that 0-1-1 UFC record would suggest. He’s the only blemish in Gutierrez’s last six fights and was thoroughly in control of the Flick fight before Flick caught him. He remains an excellent wrestler and solid striker, giving him the tools to beat the powerful, but straightforward, Aoriqileng.
Durden’s likely the best wrestler Aoriqileng has ever faced, and those nasty low kicks of his should allow him to slow down Aoriqileng’s relentless offense. Odds are he won’t need them, as he’ll snag an early takedown, move to the back, and finish it from there.
Prediction: Durden via first round submission
145 lbs.: Shayilan Nuerdanbieke vs. Sean Soriano
A 7-1 run — marred only by a loss to current Lightweight standout Rongzhu — earned Shayilan Nuerdanbieke (19-7) a 2021 Octagon debut. It didn’t quite work out for him, as Joshua Colubao out-classed him on the feet en route to a unanimous decision win.
He stands one inch shorter than Sean Soriano (14-7) and surrenders two inches of reach.
An undefeated (8-0) professional start gave way to a 1-5 skid for Soriano, including three losses in the Octagon. He returned to the world’s largest fight promotion on short notice in May 2021, starting strong but ultimately tapping to a d’arce choke from Christos Giagos.
His professional finishes are split 7/4 between knockouts and submissions.
Grappling has always been Soriano’s bugbear. It’s accounted for literally all of his professional defeats, and while he showed some much-improved takedown defense against the much larger Giagos, he still surrendered his fifth professional submission loss. While that’s ostensibly bad news against a dedicated wrestler like Nuerdanbieke, it’s offset by the fact that Nuerdanbieke has nothing to offer outside of his takedowns.
Soriano is leagues above Nuerdanbieke on the feet, and with so little to worry about outside of Nuerdanbieke’s obvious Plan A, he should have plenty of success keeping it there. In the end, he takes apart Nuerdanbieke for a late finish.
Prediction: Soriano via third round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Luana Pinheiro vs. Sam Hughes
Luana Pinheiro (9-1) rode a streak of five consecutive first-round finishes into “Contender Series,” where she made it six with a brutal knockout of Stephanie Frausto. The streak stayed intact in her UFC debut, albeit under odd circumstances, as she ate a fight-ending illegal upkick from Randa Markos.
She’s submitted seven professional opponents and knocked out another two.
Sam Hughes (5-3) earned a shot at LFA gold in her fifth professional fight, only to succumb to a comeback submission from Vanessa Demopoulos. Though she got back on track by choking out Danielle Hindley, she’s 0-2 in the Octagon after falling to Tecia Torres and Loma Lookboonmee.
“Sampage” steps in for Jessica Penne on 10 days’ notice.
Honestly, I respect the hell out of Hughes. That’s because she stepped up on short notice against one of the division’s best veterans in Torres, gave a solid account of herself against a lethal striker in Lookboonmee, and now takes on a top-notch prospect. Unfortunately, I don’t see her success matching her courage. Lookboonmee — an undersized striking specialist — consistently took her to the ground, meaning a veteran judoka like Pinheiro should be able to rag doll her.
Hughes is definitely the sharper striker of the two, admittedly, and Pinheiro’s power isn’t enough of an equalizer to keep her from getting pieced up on the feet. So long as Pinheiro fights to her strengths, though, expect her to drag Hughes to the canvas and choke her out from there.
Prediction: Pinheiro via first round submission
Three more UFC Vegas 43 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a super intriguing clash of rising Featherweight prospects. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 43 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET.
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