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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 25 main card predictions

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Copenhagen-Cutelaba vs Rountree Jr. Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend (Sat., May 1, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 25. After a brief jaunt to Jacksonville, Fla., for UFC 261 — one of the most absolutely ridiculous MMA events of all time in my humble opinion — we are heading back to a more standard night of action inside the Apex. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a fun show, as the main event between Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka promises fireworks, and the rest of the card is lots of fun.

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

Light Heavyweight: Ion Cutelaba vs. Dustin Jacoby

Best Win for Cutelaba? Khalil Rountree Jr For Jacoby? Maxim Grishin
Current Streak: Cutelaba has technically lost his last two under weird (but also violent) circumstances opposite Magomed Ankalaev, while Jacoby has won two straight
X-Factor: Which man manages his energy more efficiently?
How these two match up: There has yet to be a boring Cutelaba bout, and Jacoby is a highly skilled kickboxer. Sounds like fun!

Cutelaba appears to be at least mildly out of his mind. He’s always flexing and yelling, but credit to him, he brings that intensity into the cage! A skilled wrester with real power in his hands, Cutelaba very often tries to empty the tank by immediately overwhelming his opponents.

Jacoby is a more measured fighter, but the former Glory kickboxer still has knocked out 18 foes between the ring and cage. He’s a crafty and rangy striker, one who looks to break his foe down from the outside before delivering the killing blow.

Unless he’s getting blown out of the water, Cutelaba fights are hard to predict. The 27-year-old “Hulk” has a lot of talent, but he’s also very willing to throw away wins by brawling or gassing out. At the same time, Jacoby has shown that while he’s much improved for his second UFC run, there are still cracks in his overall MMA game.

He’s not immune to fatigue himself.

Ultimately, I trust Cutelaba’s wrestling and physicality to get him through some tough spots. He’s strong and tough enough to take shots, return fire, and find his way to the takedown. No matter how talented the kickboxer, a couple minutes of wrestling makes him much less dangerous.

Prediction: Cutelaba via knockout

Middleweight: Sean Strickland vs. Krzysztof Jotko

Best Win for Strickland? Brendan Allen For Jotko? Thales Leites
Current Streak: Both athletes have won three in a row
X-Factor: Jotko’s recent hesitancy in firefights
How these two match up: Two experienced and talented Middleweights will throw down.

Strickland’s decision to move back to 185 lbs. is the right one. As a result of facing bigger men — sort of, Strickland is huge himself — his speed advantage has really shined, letting his boxing control the flow of fights.

Meanwhile, Jotko has rebounded well from a rough streak, largely returning to his wrestling to control his opposition. Last time out, however, Jotko proved that his kickboxing is still on point, sticking and moving wonderfully opposite Eryk Anders to cruise to another victory.

Jotko is a veteran, and he’s been in there with many of the division’s best. However, Strickland is riding a serious wave of momentum, gaining confidence, and his style appears all wrong for Jotko. Kamaru Usman aside, Strickland has struggled more with fellow strikers than wrestlers.

It seems unlikely that Jotko is able to get “Tarzan” down, at least not consistently nor for very long. On the feet, Strickland’s swift jab will likely be the difference-maker, and it doesn’t hurt that he seemingly is the bigger puncher too.

Prediction: Strickland via decision

Bantamweight: Merab Dvalishvili vs. Cody Stamann

Best Win for Davalishvili? John Dodson For Stamann? Bryan Caraway
Current Streak: Dvalishvili has won five straight, whereas Stamann came up short last time out
X-Factor: Dvalishvili takes a lot of chances
How these two match up: Both men like to use range kickboxing to set up takedowns, but they go about that strategy in very different ways.

Dvalishvili is a whirlwind. He has a seemingly endless gas tank, and he fights like it’s his mission to find the bottom of it. The Georgian athlete throws jump kicks and spinning punches like they’re going out of style, confounding his opponent with constant volume and general weirdness. Then, he looks to rack up takedowns, rarely bothering to really hold his opponents down.

He’d rather just take them down again!

Stamann is much more calculated and slick. He manages his distance very well, using a sharp side kick and smart angles to set up both his counter punches and takedowns. He’s one of the division’s best wrestlers, so this bout really could produce some amazing scrambles.

Early on, I really expect Stamann to look sharper. He’s going to feint, make Dvalishvili miss, and land punches on. In all likelihood, he’ll be able to defend takedowns or scramble back up immediately.

Unfortunately, Stamann has yet to finish an opponent inside the Octagon, and Dvalishvili is seemingly made of iron anyway. “The Machine” is going to be a tough man to decision; he throws too much and wrestles too often. Most likely, Stamann wins early portions of the fight, but Dvalishvili’s nature of constantly doing something eventually sways the judges.

Prediction: Dvalishvili via decision

Women’s Flyweight: Poliana Botelho vs. Luana Carolina

Best Win for Poliana? Lauren Mueller For Carolina? Priscila Cachoeira
Current Streak: Both women lost their last bout
X-Factor: Will either fighter look to wrestle?
How these two match up: We should have a good old fashion kickboxing match on our hands (unless someone decides to flip the script!).

Botelho started her UFC career strong, scoring a body kick stoppage to build some hype and earn a step up in competition. Since then, unfortunately, Botelho has struggled to implement her Muay Thai skills against opponents determined to take her down. Similarly, Carolina will be searching for the third knockout win of her career, and she has demonstrated solid kickboxing so far.

She was doing well in her last bout, out-striking Ariane Lipski. Then, she tried to do a leg lock, and her opponent countered with a kneebar that sat Carolina on the bench for the better part of a year.

This match up certainly reads like a kickboxing battle, but with so many legs flying through the air, it still feels like a takedown is going to happen. Either way, Botelho’s physicality is a huge advantage. She hits harder, and if the two do engage in some wrestling, she’s more likely to end up on top.

In short, Carolina still has a lot to prove inside the Octagon before I can confidently pick her over more established UFC veterans.

Prediction: Botelho via decision

Remember that 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.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 6-8-1

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