UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, hosts yet another event this Saturday (March 20, 2021), headlined by surging Middleweight contenders Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland in a pivotal match up. UFC Vegas 22 will also see Brad Riddell attempt to continue his rise through the Lightweight ranks at the expense of Gregor Gillespie, while Max Griffin trades hands with fellow Welterweight slugger Song Kenan.
There’s just three more UFC Vegas 22 “Prelims” remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so get scrolling ...
135 lbs.: Macy Chiasson vs. Marion Reneau
Macy Chiasson (6-1) ran roughshod through the The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28 tournament, racking up three finishes in three fights to claim victory. Subsequent beatdowns of Gina Mazany and Sarah Moras left her poised for greatness, and though Lina Lansberg stopped her hype train cold, she successfully bounced back in Feb. 2020 with a decision over Shanna Young.
She stands five inches taller than Marion Reneau (9-6-1) and boasts a four-inch reach advantage.
“The Belizean Bruiser’s” impressive 5-2-1 Octagon start saw her score two ground-and-pound technical knockout wins and submit standouts Jessica Andrade and Sara McMann along the way. Success has proven more elusive recently, though, dropping three consecutive unanimous decisions.
All but one of her professional wins have come by stoppage, five of them by form of knockout.
While favorable style match ups may have disguised Chiasson’s myriad flaws, she’s got what it takes to dominate Reneau. The former’s sheer size and aggression make her a nightmare to deal with for those unable to back her up or shut down her wrestling, and considering that Reneau’s given up at least one takedown in each of her last nine fights, she’s unlikely to enjoy anywhere near the success that Lansberg did.
For all of Reneau’s power and striking technique, all Chiasson really has to worry about is getting submitted while on top. Reneau’s definitely caught people sleeping before, but so long as Chiasson mutes her customary mauling somewhat, she should out-muscle and out-work Reneau to a wide decision.
Prediction: Chiasson via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Leonardo Santos vs. Grant Dawson
Brazil’s Leonardo Santos (18-3-1) quietly assembled a 7-0-1 record during a nearly eight-year stretch in the Octagon, though he remains plagued by inactivity. He has fought just twice since 2016, brutally knocking out Stevie Ray and subsequently defeating M-1 champ Roman Bogatov.
He’s the taller of the two by two inches and will enjoy a three-inch reach advantage.
Grant Dawson (16-1) ran over Adrian Diaz on “Contender Series” to punch his ticket to the Octagon, only for United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) issues to leave him on the shelf for 1.5 years. He’s since made up for lost time with four wins in four UFC appearances, one of which earned him “Performance of the Night.”
His 14 professional stoppages include 11 by submission.
This is some low-key excellent matchmaking. Dawson, a top-notch prospect, has thus far leaned on his physicality and phenomenal grappling during his Octagon run. Now he’ll have to deal with a world-class submission artist with the punching power to potentially punish “KGD’s” still-developing stand up ... all in a weight class he hasn’t seen since 2016.
Luckily for Dawson, said world-class submission artist is 41 years old and gassed to oblivion against Bogatov. Indeed, even if Santos can hold his own in the early going, he’s going to wilt if the early knockout isn’t there. So long as Dawson stays patient and doesn’t leave himself open to a kill shot, he beats up Santos’ lead leg and grinds him down for his fifth Octagon victory.
Prediction: Dawson via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Trevin Giles vs. Roman Dolidze
Trevin Giles (13-2) followed his successful Legacy and LFA runs with dominant stoppages in his first two Octagon appearances, only to suffer consecutive submission losses to Zak Cummings and Gerald Meerschaert. He has since bounced back with a narrow split decision over James Krause and subsequent knockout of Bevon Lewis.
He’s gone the distance just twice as a professional, knocking out six.
More than one year after injuries scrapped planned UFC debuts against Gadzhimurad Antigulov and Vinicius Moreira, Roman Dolidze (8-0) made up for lost time with a brutal knockout of Khadis Ibragimov. Then came Brazilian John Allan, whom Dolidze overpowered for the first decision win of his career.
He steps in for Dricus Du Plessis, who ran into visa issues, on less than two weeks’ notice.
I characterized last Saturday’s scrap between Eryk Anders and Darren Stewart as a battle of overachiever vs. underachiever, and I’m prepared to re-use that here. Giles has struggled to break through despite obvious physical gifts and technical ability, while Dolidze’s poor striking has done little to slow him down in the Octagon. Still, there’s enough going Giles’ way for me to pick “The Problem.” That’s because not only does he possess a considerable speed advantage and the wrestling savvy to shut down Dolidze’s grappling, but the Georgian is also making his first cut to 185 pounds with very little prep time.
Dolidze needs to get a grind going to win this one and I’m not convinced he has the tools to pull that off, especially in these extenuating circumstances. So long as Giles’ tendency for self-sabotage doesn’t flare up again, he’ll control the striking exchanges and hold his own in the clinch for a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Giles via unanimous decision
There’s just a mess of quality slugfests in store for UFC Vegas 22 — be sure not to miss ‘em. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 22 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 22: “Brunson vs. Holland” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.