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UFC Vegas 18 predictions: ‘Overeem vs Volkov’ early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., Feb. 6, 2021) when UFC Vegas 18: “Overeem vs. Volkov” returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Vegas 18 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC Fight Night: Zawada v Emeev Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

After three rapid-fire events and a brief hiatus, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) resumes in 2021 campaign this Saturday (Feb. 6, 2021) when Alistair Overeem meets Alexander Volkov inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The evening will also see Cory Sandhagen face Frankie Edgar in a clash of elite Bantamweight contenders and Macy Chiasson attempt to continue her rise through the ranks at Marion Reneau’s expense.

UFC Vegas 18 features eight “Prelims” undercard matches on the schedule at the time of this writing, so let’s have a look at the first four ...

135 lbs.: Joselyne Edwards vs. Karol Rosa

A seven-fight win streak carried Joselyne Edwards (10-2) to an LFA title fight, where she lost a narrow split decision to future UFC competitor Sarah Alpar. Following a lengthy layoff and get-well knockout, she stepped up on short notice last month to defeat Wu Yanan by split decision in the Octagon.

She steps in for Nicco Montano, who withdrew because of lingering concussion symptoms, on less than two weeks’ notice.

Karol Rosa (13-3) and Lara Procopio combined to land 336 significant strikes in the pair’s Octagon debut, which Parana Vale Tudo product won via split decision. Four separate attempts to fight Julia Avila followed, and when those all fell through, she instead claimed a comfortable victory over countrywoman Vanessa Melo.

She is the shorter of the two by three inches and faces a similar reach disadvantage.

Edwards definitely exceeded expectations against Wu, whom I’d tabbed to spoil the former’s Octagon debut. Despite that success, it’s hard to see her having a pleasant sophomore experience. Rosa looks like the sharper puncher of the two, has some sneaky wrestling in her arsenal, and pushes a pace I’m not convinced “La Pantera” can match. Even with Edwards’ striking acumen, she lacks means to keep Rosa from simply burying her in volume.

Rosa’s just too busy and has too many tools for Edwards to overcome. In the end, the Brazilian out-works Edwards on the feet and potentially sneaks in a takedown or two to seal a wide decision.

Prediction: Rosa via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Molly McCann vs. Lara Procopio

Molly McCann (10-3) — the former Cage Warriors Flyweight champion — put a UFC debut loss to Gillian Robertson behind her by winning her next three. Her efforts made her a sizeable favorite against Taila Santos, who used consistent takedowns to hand “Meatball” her second Octagon defeat.

She has scored four professional victories and one amateur victory by knockout.

Lara Procopio (6-1) defeated Mariana Morais to claim the Shooto Brasil Bantamweight title in 2018, then claimed the Flyweight belt as well with a decision over Sidy Rocha. Her Octagon debut pitted her against Karol Rosa, who battled her way to an entertaining split decision victory.

This will be her first appearance in 17 months.

It’s hard to get an exact bead on McCann’s potential, as her two UFC losses came against genuine contenders and her three wins came over opponents with losing Octagon records. Still, her efforts paint a clear enough picture for me to confidently pick Procopio. The Brazilian is by far the better grappler, and judging by McCann’s losses, “Meatball’s” wrestling improvements don’t hold up when the competition improves.

Even if McCann does manage to shut down Procopio’s takedown attack, that’s no guarantee of success. Indeed, Procopio kept up with the very capable and visibly larger Rosa on the feet, landing more than 11 strikes per minute in the process. If McCann has a stand up edge, it’s not significant enough to make up for the deficit on the ground. In short, Procopio racks up top control and holds her own in the stand up to claim a decision.

Prediction: Procopio via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Seung Woo Choi vs. Youssef Zalal

Seung Woo Choi (8-3) received no matchmaking favors in his first two Octagon bouts, facing and falling to contenders Movsar Evloev and Gavin Tucker. His third appearance went a bit more smoothly, battering The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Suman Mokhtarian for a wide decision in Dec. 2019.

Five of his professional victories, including three of his last four, have come by way of knockout.

Youssef Zalal (10-3) burst onto UFC’s scene in 2020 with three consecutive wins in the span of six months, including an upset of Austin Lingo in his promotional debut. He couldn’t quite make it four straight against top prospect Ilia Topuria, losing a decision to the Georgian newcomer in Oct. 2020.

He replaces Collin Anglin, who himself replaced Steven Peterson, on just over a week’s notice.

Choi, like McCann above, has only faced very good or very poor opposition in the Octagon. Unfortunately for him, Zalal definitely falls into the former category, and “The Morroccan Devil” is a nightmare style match up for him besides. Not only is Zalal durable and crafty enough to avoid any kill shots on the feet (as he did against Lingo), but his wrestling is more than sufficient to put Choi on his back whenever things get hairy.

While both the Peterson and Anglin match ups were winnable for Choi, this one simply isn’t. Good footwork, careful potshots and regular takedowns carry Zalal back into the UFC win column.

Prediction: Zalal via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Ode Osbourne vs. Denys Bondar

Ode Osbourne (8-3) — who’d racked up three consecutive first-round finish, defied moderate odds to tap Armando Villareal on “Contender Series” and secure a UFC contract in the process. An Octagon debut against Brian Kelleher proved too ambitions, as “Boom” forced “The Jamaican Sensation” to tap to a guillotine less than three minutes in.

He fights for the first time since Jan. 2020.

Denys Bondar (14-2) has dispatched eight opponents, all inside the distance, since last tasting defeat in 2016. Five of those have come inside the first round, including his most recent effort in Aug. 2020.

The 14 finishes for “Psycho” are split 9/5 between submissions and knockouts.

I’m more torn on this one than I thought I’d be. That’s because I was extremely high on Osbourne going into the Kelleher fight, but when I recently re-watched his fights, he lost some of his luster. While he’s certainly far better than Bondar on the feet, his ability to actually keep it there against a suffocating grappler like Bondar remains in question, and his historical issues with submission defense bode ill against a finisher of the Ukrainian’s caliber.

That said, Bondar hasn’t faced anyone nearly as good as Osbourne, so it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him overwhelmed by Osbourne’s striking before he ever really got out of first gear. Considering how well-equipped Bondar is to exploit Osbourne’s key weakness, however, expect “Psycho” to overpower him on the mat and eventually force the tap.

Prediction: Bondar via second-round submission

Three more UFC Vegas 18 fights remain to preview and predict tomorrow, including the return of Timur Valiev. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs!

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 18 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+ at 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 18: “Overeem vs. Volkov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.