This weekend (Sat., Dec. 4, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 44. A rare week off from Octagon combat has the world’s leading MMA promotion returning with a real banger in a pivotal Featherweight clash between an all-time great in Jose Aldo and relatively new contender Rob Font. As is often the case with cards on primetime ESPN, this main card is packed with action top-to-bottom, promising a very entertaining night of action.
Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:
Lightweight: Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos
Best Win for Guida? Anthony Pettis For Santos? Kevin Lee
Current Streak: Both athletes came up short last time out
X-Factor: Both fighters have been fighting for nearly 20 years!
How these two match up: These two veterans are almost guaranteed to put on a frenetic, entertaining scrap.
At 39 years of age, Guida is still putting on solid performances. In recent years, he’s learned to sit down a bit more on his punches, resulting in more frequent knockdowns. While his wrestling remains his strongest asset, Guida has committed to his calf kicking more as well.
Santos is one of the more interesting “what ifs” of recent years. The Brazilian went undefeated from 2013 to 2020, picking up some big wins in the process on the strength of his jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to fight all that often, and the 41 year old’s winning streak was violently snapped last time out.
Though Guida is the man with 34 more professional fights on his record, Santos is the one that seems to be slowing down as of late. He’s fatiguing earlier and earlier in bouts, whereas Guida just took a top prospect in Mark Madsen to the brink in a 15-minute war.
The risk of Santos landing big early on is definitely there, but otherwise, “The Carpenter” seems primed to grind out another hard-fought win via takedowns and volume punching.
Prediction: Guida via decision
Lightweight: Jimmy Crute vs. Jamahal Hill
Best Win for Crute? Paul Craig For Hill? Ovince Saint Preux
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: These two Light Heavyweights are both offense-first fighters
How these two match up: This should be a whole lot of fun, and a finish on either side seems likely.
At 25 years of age, Crute is one of Light Heavyweight’s best young talents. The jiu-jitsu black belt has already squared off with some really tough opposition, and he’s very well-rounded for his age and experience. Outside of Robert Whittaker, he’s likely Australia’s best shot at a UFC champion.
Hill has proven himself quite talented in a short time too. “Sweet Dreams” is a striker first and foremost, having finished half of his victories by knockout. Long and rangy for the division, Hill looks to pepper his foes with straights before really committing to his power shots.
I don’t want to write off Hill completely. He’s got a solid edge in range, and he puts together smart combinations nicely. At the same time, Crute is just a much more varied threat. He absolutely has the kickboxing and power to compete with Hill, but his wrestling and jiu-jitsu are far ahead.
Crute might not need to wrestle at all to win this fight. That’s a problem in itself for Hill, who risks giving up his hips if he gets too comfortable slugging. Most likely, Crute exchanges with Hill just enough to time a takedown, at which point “The Brute” is in control.
Prediction: Crute via submission
Middleweight: Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis
Best Win for Allen? Kevin Holland For Curtis? Phil Hawes
Current Streak: Allen has won two in a row, while Curtis recently won his UFC debut to extend his win streak to six
X-Factor: Curtis is a career Welterweight.
How these two match up: One way or another, this is going to be violent.
Allen is a damn good Middleweight. The “Contenders Series” product has won five of six inside the Octagon, relying mostly on his excellent grappling to pick up finishes. However, under the tutelage of Henri Hooft, Allen is developing into a pretty nasty kickboxer too! It certainly helps that “All In” is tough as nails.
Curtis was the feel good story of last month! After years and years of hard fights for various promotions around the world, “Action Man” took a risky, short-notice fight to gain a position on the roster ... and he won! Curtis is a slick kickboxer with real knockout power, but he’s also fought at 170 pounds more often than not.
This feels like a fight where Curtis has to win via knockout, otherwise he’s outmatched. The same could be said about the Hawes match up, but Allen is a level above in terms of durability and experience compared to “Megatron.” Curtis hopefully earned himself a nice paycheck and some credit from the big bosses for accepting another short-notice replacement at 185 pounds, but it’s hard to see that one going well for him.
At some point, Allen decides to shoot, finds top position, and starts dropping hammers.
Prediction: Allen via submission
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 34-21-2 (1)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 44 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 44: “Aldo vs. Font” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.