Two of the fiercest strikers the sport has to offer lock horns this Saturday (Feb. 27, 2021) when rising Heavyweight star Ciryl Gane meets fellow kickboxing ace Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The ESPN+-streamed card will also see all-action Light Heavyweight Nikita Krylov attempt to halt the rise of Magomed Ankalaev and Montana De La Rosa take on Brazilian finisher Mayra Bueno Silva.
UFC Vegas 20 features just five (for now) “Prelims” undercard bouts this time round, arranged in a COVID-inspired 3:2 format. Let’s get to it ...
125 lbs.: Alexis Davis vs. Sabina Mazo
Alexis Davis (19-10) — now closing in on eight years in the Octagon — went 5-2 as a UFC Bantamweight before successfully debuting at 125 pounds with a decision over Liz Carmouche. She’s yet to taste victory since, dropping consecutive decisions to Katlyn Chookagian, Jennifer Maia and Viviane Araujo.
“Ally-Gator” has submitted eight professional opponents and knocked out another two.
Though her hype train lost some momentum after a UFC debut loss to Maryna Moroz, Sabina Mazo (9-1) got it back on track with three consecutive victories. Her most recent proved her most impressive, as she dropped Justin Kish with a head kick before choking her out in the third.
She’s 13 years younger than Davis, stands one inch taller, and has a two-inch reach advantage.
On the one hand, Davis’ recent losses have come exclusively to quality Flyweights — Chookagian and Maia went on to challenge for the title, while Araujo has established herself as one of the division’s best prospects. On the other, this looks like a really rough match up for her, as Mazo has the takedown defense to keep it on the feet and the kickboxing skills to control and out-work her there.
Admittedly, Davis always puts up a tough fight and Mazo has let fights get closer than they need to be, so “Ally-Gator” gritting out a narrow decision isn’t out of the question. Still, the younger, fresher, busier Mazo looks poised to potshot her way to an entertaining victory.
Prediction: Mazo via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Ronnie Lawrence vs. Vince Cachero
Ronnie Lawrence (6-1) ended a two-year layoff with a first-round knockout in Jan. 2019, then sat out another 15 months following a win in his LFA debut. Back in Sept. 2020, he faced Jose Johnson on “Contender Series,” racking up a dozen successful takedowns en route to earning a UFC contract.
Half of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.
Vince Cachero (7-3) — a one-time LFA title challenger — snapped a two-fight losing streak in Feb. 2020, knocking out Marvin Garcia. Six months later, he stepped up on short notice to face Jamall Emmers, who used a lethal clinch and consistent takedowns to take a wide decision victory.
He stands two inches shorter than Lawrence at 5’6” and gives up 2.5 inches of reach.
I’m willing to cut Cachero plenty of slack for his performance in the Emmers fight because it was a last-minute bout against a very talented Featherweight; however, his complete inability to deal with Emmers’ wrestling makes it hard to see him winning this. Lawrence has the takedown prowess and gas tank to put Cachero on his back all night, making the latter’s striking advantage a non-factor.
Cachero’s best chance is to stay patient and try to catch Lawrence coming in, as “The Heat” is vulnerable when closing the distance. Considering his usual penchant for all-out aggression and Lawrence’s ability to capitalize on any opportunity, however, the likelier outcome sees Lawrence put him through the same roller coaster ride he did Johnson and start his Octagon run with a win.
Prediction: Lawrence via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Maxim Grishin vs. Dustin Jacoby
Maxim Grishin (31-8-2) put together an 18-1-2 run on his way to the Octagon, where he lost a short-notice Heavyweight clash with Marcin Tybura in his debut. He returned to Light Heavyweight for his sophomore effort three months later and knocked out Gadzhimurad Antigulov for his inaugural UFC victory.
“Maximus” has ended 22 professional bouts inside the distance, 16 of them via knockout.
Eight years after leaving UFC on a loss, Dustin Jacoby (13-5) showcased his vastly improved kickboxing with a decision over Ty Flores on “Contender Series.” He didn’t need the judges upon his return to the Octagon proper, however, running over Justin Ledet in just a half-round.
He’ll enjoy a two-inch reach advantage.
Fond as I am of Jacoby, he still needs to prove both his cardio and his ability to handle mid- to high-level wrestlers. Grishin figures to test one of those things, being a straightforward kickboxer with a strong motor and plenty of cage experience. If Jacoby can keep pace with him, his edge in firepower and versatility should be sufficient to secure a unanimous decision. If he fades the way he did on “Contender Series,” however, Grishin’s more than good enough to capitalize.
In Jacoby’s defense, that fight was just his second mixed martial arts (MMA) bout since 2015, so it stands to reason that his full-time return to the cage will produce appropriate adjustments to his pace. Grishin will make him work for it, but expect Jacoby to control the center and land the more telling shots on his way to victory.
Prediction: Jacoby via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 20 “Prelims” bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from Macy Chiasson and a fun clash of Light Heavyweight “Contender Series” veterans. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 20 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 20: “Rozenstruik vs. Gane” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.