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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 22 main card predictions

UFC 254: Khabib v Gaethje Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., March 20, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain in UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 22. In the main event, a Middleweight grudge match will go down between divisional dark horses Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland. Before those veterans throw down, however, there are some early action fights to analyze.

Let’s take a closer look at some main card fights:

Heavyweight: Tai Tuivasa vs. Harry Hunsucker

Best Win for Tuivasa? Andrei Arlovski For Hunsucker? Corey Moon
Current Streak: Both athletes rebounded from losing streaks in their last fight
X-Factor: Will Tuivasa show up in good shape?
How these two match up: Someone is going to sleep.

Tuivasa is still a fairly raw talent, but that talent is undeniable. For such a big man, “Bam Bam” moves very quickly, and those attributes add together for a whole bunch of power. In addition, the knockout artist has some real tricks up his sleeve, including flying knees, thudding low kicks, and nasty elbows.

Kentucky’s Hunsucker will be making his debut on very short-notice after Don’Tale Mayes was forced to withdraw earlier today! A “Contender Series” veteran, Hunsucker prefers to wrestle his opponents and lock up submissions.

I’ll be honest: this read like a match up intended to continue rebuilding Tuivasa before the replacement opponent, and it still does. The Aussie puncher is far more athletic and far more skilled on the feet, where this fight is almost certainly going to take place. Even if Hunsucker’s boxing proves better than expected, Tuivasa could probably deaden his lead leg and make him a non-factor anyway.

Tuivasa has struggled with top-tier strikers and committed wrestlers, and while Hunsucker likes to grapple, he has yet to demonstrate the skill of someone like Blagoi Ivanov. He’s yet to defeat anyone close to Tuivasa’s caliber, so this appears to be a rather rough entrance to UFC competition for him.

Prediction: Tuivasa via knockout

Welterweight: Max Griffin vs. Song Kenan

Best Win for Griffin? Mike Perry For Kenan? Bobby Nash
Current Streak: Griffin won his last bout, whereas Kenan has scored two straight wins
X-Factor: Kenan is the younger man by five years
How these two match up: This should be a back-and-forth scrap!

Griffin has come a long way since his UFC debut, back when he was a fairly straightforward power puncher. Nowadays, Griffin has developed a more effective jab and outside kickboxing game, but more impressively, his offensive wrestling has become a formidable weapon. Admittedly, his growth has yet to translate to consistent wins, but Griffin has put putting up quality fights opposite tough opponents.

Meanwhile, Song Kenan has built up an impressive 4-1 start to his UFC career, though the level of competition leaves something to be desired. Still, the Chinese athlete throws with serious power, and this will be a chance to test his brawling style against a more experienced foe.

Though it’s unclear just who punches hard between the two, all the technical edges seem to favor Griffin. His in-and-out movement might just fluster Kenan without ever having to really trade in the pocket, and if things get hairy at any point, Griffin has the option to turn this into a wrestling match.

“Pain” simply has more ways to win.

Prediction: Griffin via decision

Women’s Strawweight: Cheyanne Buys vs. Montserrat Ruiz

Best Win for Buys? Hilarie Rose For Ruiz? Janaisa Morandin
Current Streak: Both women are making their UFC debuts, but Buys has won four straight, while Ruiz returned to the win column last time out
X-Factor: Will either athlete suffer UFC jitters?
How these two match up: “Contender Series” vs. Invicta FC veteran in a debut match up.

Unlike what seems like a majority of Strawweight prospects, Buys is a striker. In her bout on “Contender Series,” Buys showed a wide arsenal of strikes and kept a high volume up over three rounds to take a clear-cut and entertaining decision. Meanwhile, Ruiz is very much a grinder. She looks to wrestle from the clinch quite a bit, and Ruiz is generally pretty aggressive from top position.

She also accepted the fight on very short-notice.

This seems like a difficult match up for Ruiz. Buys’ high-volume kickboxing matches up well vs. Ruiz’s clinch-heavy strategy, particularly since Buys will have a rare edge in height and reach. Unless Ruiz can finish her foe early — hardly a safe bet at 115 lbs. — Buys’ kickboxing advantage will likely carry her to a decision nod.

Prediction: Buys via decision

Remember that 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.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 1-6-1

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