This weekend (Sat., Nov. 20, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 43. In the main event, former women’s Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate will look to continue her successful return from retirement opposite Brazilian bruiser Ketlen Vieira. Before that 135-pound battle, there are some quality fights, featuring both top prospects and an excellent grappling battle.
Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:
Bantamweight: Kyung Ho Kang vs. Rani Yahya
Best Win for Kang? Michinori Tanaka For Yahya? Mike Brown
Current Streak: Kang has won three in a row, while Yahya is unbeaten in his last two
X-Factor: Yahya is older for a Bantamweight (36 years of age) and has been fighting since 2002
How these two match up: Grappler’s delight!
Kang has been on the sidelines since Dec. 2019, but it’s great to have “Mr. Perfect” back. Kang is one of those fun wrestlers who doesn’t just content himself to control opponents. Instead, he constantly forces scrambles, hoping to advance passed the guard and create opportunities for submissions.
With Demian Maia on his way out, is Yahya the last older Brazilian jiu-jitsu guy still wrangling tough opposition? Yahya is pretty single-minded in his pursuit of the takedown, at which point his top pressure and strangles are really top-notch.
I don’t know how much Yahya has left in the tank. He’s long in the tooth, and it’s been some years since he defeated a ranked foe. Much like Maia, Yahya is a liability in the second half of fights, even if he’s getting the grappling match he desires.
Unfortunately, I am a man who picks fights largely based on style match ups, and it is impossible to ignore how perfect this fight is for Yahya. Kang may be the better striker, but he cannot help himself to leap into fire on the mat. Yahya has the skills to secure dominant positions, and if the submission doesn’t emerge, he’ll rack up long periods of time controlling his foe.
Prediction: Yahya via decision
Women’s Flyweight: Joanne Calderwood vs. Taila Santos
Best Win for Calderwood? Jessica Eye For Santos? Roxeanne Modafferi
Current Streak: Calderwood lost her last bout, while Santos has won three straight
X-Factor: This is a big step up in competition for Santos
How these two match up: One of the best up-and-comers at 125 pounds takes on a long-time veteran.
Calderwood has been close to a Flyweight title shot since she moved up to the weight class, but she hasn’t been able to string together enough consecutive wins just yet. It’s hard to pinpoint her exact issue: Calderwood is a skilled kickboxer, can wrestle, and is a submission threat too.
Fight IQ can be tough.
Santos, meanwhile, is a tremendous athlete. She’s a rare Flyweight with knockout power, having stopped 10 of her past opponents, and Santos has some powerful takedowns in her arsenal.
This is likely to be a really competitive fight. Santos is more powerful and more physical, but Calderwood is the more skilled combatant. That should produce some really interesting exchanges, as that dynamic extends from the kickboxing to the wrestling. Plus, a sudden armbar on bottom from either woman wouldn’t shock me.
Ultimately, it has become hard to trust Calderwood. She has developed something of a reputation for losing close fights, and she seems more likely to fall into a submission between the two. Additionally, siding with the younger up-and-comer is rarely a bad idea in a likely war of attrition.
Prediction: Santos via decision
Bantamweight: Davey Grant vs. Adrian Yanez
Best Win for Grant? Jonathan Martinez For Yanez? Randy Costa
Current Streak: Grant came up short last time out, while Yanez has won three straight inside the Octagon
X-Factor: Grant’s newfound KO power
How these two match up: VIOLENCE!
Davey Grant rebranded himself wonderfully. For years, he was a dude who competed on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), a decent wrestler-type who only fought every couple years. Suddenly in 2020, Grant started actually fighting often, and he suddenly started sparking opponents with gigantic swinging hooks!
Talk about a glow up.
Meanwhile, Yanez is one of the most impressive young fighters to join the roster off “Contender’s Series.” He’s still developing his defense, but Yanez is already an excellent counter striker with big power in his hands.
The potential for a knockout is high here on either side. Yanez is certainly the cleaner boxer, the more precise athlete who can really break opponents down. Grant, however, loads up some damn much on those hooks that he can knock out an elephant if he connects, and he does have some decidedly sneaky setups.
If Yanez takes as many shots as Randy Costa landed, he’s going to sleep.
At the same time, I am a believer in Yanez’s talents. It might get sketchy, but Yanez survives a scare to body punch and overhand his way to victory.
Prediction: Yanez via knockout
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 31-21-2 (1)
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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 43: “Tate vs. Vieira” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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