After controversially failing to take the Light Heavyweight title from Jon Jones and subsequently falling to Jan Blachowicz, Dominick Reyes will try to turn aside Czech finishing machine Jiri Prochazka in UFC Vegas 25’s main event inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition, kickboxing ace Giga Chikadze looks to keep his unbeaten Octagon record intact against a resurgent Cub Swanson and venerable Middleweight contender Krzysztof Jotko fights to stop Sean Strickland’s unexpected rise through the ranks.
Three “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), but we’ve rectified that below ...
115 lbs.: Randa Markos vs. Luana Pinheiro
Randa Markos (10-10-1) spent her first five years in the Octagon alternating losses and wins, with only a draw against Marina Rodriguez spoiling the pattern. Though she’s since managed to buck the trend, she did so in the wrong direction, and she enters the cage this Saturday having lost three straight.
“Quiet Storm” will enjoy a 1.5-inch reach advantage over the Brazilian.
Six consecutive first-round finishes carried Luana Pinheiro (8-1) to “Contender Series,” where she squared off against longtime veteran Stephanie Frausto. She kept the streak alive by smashing Frausto with first-round punches to secure a UFC contract.
Her seven stoppage wins include five by submission.
The thing about Markos is that she’s not a bad fighter — she’s a decent one who keeps having to fight very good ones. Yeah, she’s dropped three straight and is 2-5-1 in her last eight, but six of those opponents are currently in the Top 15 and one of the others was a blue-chip prospect in Kanako Murata.
In short, if Pinheiro isn’t the talent she appears to be, Markos absolutely has the skills to spoil her debut.
That’s a big “if,” though. Between her judo pedigree and newly discovered bomb of a right hand, Pinheiro really looks like one to watch. Markos may be durable enough to avoid the one-hitter quitter, but Pinheiro figures to find her neck before too long.
Prediction: Pinheiro via first round submission
145 lbs.: Gabriel Benitez vs. Jonathan Pearce
A 5-2 UFC start gave way to two consecutive losses for Gabriel Benitez (22-8), falling to rising prospects Sodiq Yusuff and Omar Morales. He returned to form in Dec. 2020 with a vicious knee knockout of Justin Jaynes, earning his second “Performance of the Night” bonus in the process.
“Moggly” stands four inches shorter than Jonathan Pearce (10-4) at 5’8.”
“JSP” put the hurt on Jacob Rosales to graduate on the Contender Series, but a blitz from Joe Lauzon ended his subsequent Octagon debut in just 93 seconds. He dropped to 145 for his sophomore effort, which saw him pound out heavily favored late replacement Kai Kamaka III.
That win marked his ninth professional finish and his eighth by form of knockout.
Pearce really surprised me against Kamaka — the Hawaiian is a genuine top-flight wrestler and Pearce ate him alive on the mat. That persistence figures to pay dividends here, as despite Benitez’s obvious improvements throughout his lengthy UFC tenure, his kick-heavy offense and tendency to get backed against the fence seemingly play right into Pearce’s hands.
“Moggly” does have a considerable edge on the feet and a clear target in Pearce’s vulnerable lead leg, but “JSP’s” durability is nothing to scoff at. In the end, expect him to steadily smother Benitez in takedown attempts and relentless ground-and-pound for an increasingly one-sided decision.
Prediction: Pearce via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Kai Kamaka III vs. T.J. Brown
Kai Kamaka III (8-3) — who opened his professional career 2-2 — won five straight in King of The Cage (KOTC), Bellator and LFA before winning a “Fight of the Night” war with Tony Kelley in his Octagon debut. He wasn’t quite as successful his next time out, succumbing to Jonathan Pearce’s ground-and-pound late in the second.
He gives up two inches of height and 4.5 inches of reach to T.J. Brown (14-8).
“Downtown” extended his finishing streak to four with a third-round submission of Dylan Lockard on “Contender Series” to earn a spot in UFC. He’s yet to taste victory in the Octagon, suffering a comeback submission loss to Jordan Griffin and getting his leg torn up by Danny Chavez en route to a unanimous decision defeat.
Thirteen of his professional wins, including all of them since 2016, have come inside the distance.
I’ve flip-flopped on this one a lot more than I thought I would. Both men have painfully glaring flaws that undercut their impressive technical acumen, namely Kamaka’s gas tank and Brown’s durability. After seeing their most recent efforts, however, Kamaka’s key weakness seems the more damning. Pearce had him exhausted by the middle of the second round and Brown can be every bit as relentless with his takedown attack.
While Kamaka does have more pop than his one career finish would suggest, Brown withstood a lot more punishment from Chavez than Kamaka can inflict, and Kamaka can’t rely on his own takedowns against a scrambler this good. An initially even fight gets ever more lopsided as Brown racks up takedowns and saps Kamaka’s cardio for a late finish.
Prediction: Brown via third round submission
There are some egregiously violent match ups on UFC Vegas 25’s card that you absolutely do not want to miss. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 25 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+/ESPN2 at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 25: “Reyes vs. Prochazka” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.