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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 23 main card predictions

UFC 255: Perry v Means Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

This weekend (Sat., April 10, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain in UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 23, the promotion’s second event that will air on ABC. For the second time in less than one month, Kevin Holland headlines an event, this time as a short-notice replacement opposite Marvin Vettori. The excitement is considerably dampened for round two, but fortunately, there are still some decent action bouts that should make for an entertaining night of action.

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

Middleweight: Kyle Daukaus vs. Aliaskhab Khizriev

Best Win for Daukaus? Dustin Stoltzfus For Khizriev? Rousimar Palhares
Current Streak: Daukaus scored his first UFC win last time out, whereas Khizriev will make his debut at 13-0
X-Factor: UFC jitters
How these two match up: Don’t look now, but we might just have a fire Middleweight contest on our hands!

Daukaus impressed in a losing effort in his UFC debut, taking the highly touted Brendan Allen to the limit on short-notice. He next righted the ship opposite Stoltzfus, showcasing a really well-rounded game between his ripping left body kicks, strong takedown chaining, and nasty back takes.

Unlike a lot of “Contender Series” products, Khizriev made his name prior to stepping into UFC APEX. The former Fight Nights Global champion is an aggressive wrestler who focuses on ground striking, but he can definitely swing a big hook with power to help set up that takedown.

This is likely to be a very competitive fight. Khizriev appears to have a rather high ceiling, as Russia’s “Black Wolf” has largely ran through his competition. However, a fair amount of his record amounts to can-crushing, and he seems a bit undersized at Middleweight.

Picking against undefeated Russians is seldom a recipe for success in this sport, but I’m doing it here. Daukaus is a rough UFC debut for anyone, and he can fight anywhere and fight hard for three rounds. Even if he’s put on his back early, he’s unlikely to crumble beneath his foe’s pressure, and it’s going to be tough to wrestle a larger man for three rounds.

Prediction: Daukaus via decision

Middleweight: Sam Alvey vs. Julian Marquez

Best Win for Alvey? Nate Marquardt For Marquez? Darren Stewart
Current Streak: Alvey is on a five-fight winless streak — yet somehow, is still getting main card fights? — whereas Marquez returned to the win column last time out.
X-Factor: Alvey is returning to 185 pounds after an unsuccessful stint at Light Heavyweight
How these two match up: This is likely to be equal parts ugly and fun.

Alvey ranks highly among my personal least favorite fighters to watch list. Let’s break it down: in the pros column, Alvey is extremely difficult to take down, and his counter right hook is deadly. Unfortunately, Alvey refuses to do much else besides wait for that hook to land, resulting in some truly painful staring matches over the years.

Marquez, on the other hand, is a wild man. He charges after opponents and throws heavy punches-in-bunches, willingly exposing himself to big punches and takedowns to land his own offense.

There is almost a 100 percent chance that Marquez runs directly into Alvey’s right hook. And he’ll probably do it more than once. It’s in his nature, and that punch is no joke — Alvey’s accumulated a tremendous 19 knockout wins largely because of that strike.

Fortunately, “The Cuban Muscle Crisis” is a young fighter in his prime, and he’s thus far shown a very sturdy chin. Alvey is only four years older, but he’s also 40 fights deeper into his career, and he very much appears to be feeling that wear. In short, I’m not convinced that Alvey can finish when Marquez runs into his counter.

Instead, Marquez likely endures, forces his foe into exhaustion, and pulls away with a higher work rate over time.

Prediction: Marquez via knockout

Women’s Strawweight: Nina Ansaroff vs. Mackenzie Dern

Best Win for Ansaroff? Claudia Gadelha For Dern? Virna Jandiroba
Current Streak: Ansaroff lost her last bout in June 2019, whereas Dern has won three straight
X-Factor: Ansaroff is returning from a long layoff and pregnancy
How these two match up: This is actually a pretty great match up to see where both women are at.

Is Ansaroff still a top contender? When she last competed, Ansaroff was in the title hunt, showcasing an advanced level of kickboxing with seriously stout takedown defense. However, at 35 years old following a nearly two-year layoff, one has to wonder if she still has it. On the other side of the spectrum, is Dern ready to break into the title mix? She’s come a long way since her loss to Amanda Ribas, but the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master’s kickboxing is still a work in progress, and her wrestling a bit unproven.

Potentially over-the-hill vs. potentially not there yet — which woman proves herself ready for the top-tier of the division in 2021?

As a general rule, it’s better to side with the young up-and-comer, but Ansaroff’s style is really perfect to diffuse Dern. She moves her feet smartly and puts together dangerous combinations. The gameplan she executed masterfully opposite Claudia Gadelha is the ideal strategy to take out Dern, who will need to pull off something spectacular to throw Ansaroff off ... assuming she’s still near the top of her game.

Prediction: Ansaroff via decision

Welterweight: Mike Perry vs. Daniel Rodriguez

Best Win for Perry? Paul Felder For Rodriguez? Tim Means
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: Will Perry ever get his s—t together?
How these two match up: A knockout is likely between these two sluggers.

I am tired, dear readers. For years, I’ve written about how naturally talented Perry is as a fighter, a tremendously powerful puncher with great counter striking timing and an iron chin. Unfortunately, he continues to squander those gifts, and at this point, it’s tough to tell if any of that ability remains after years of poor dieting and punches to the dome.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, found himself a bit flustered by Nicolas Dalby’s range strikes and refusal to trade last time out. Prior to that loss, however, Rodriguez picked up a solid trio of wins on the strength of his heavy hands.

One year ago, I surely would have picked Perry to win this bout. He’s likely the better wrestler by a fair margin, and Perry’s jawline is iron. However, he’s just not trustworthy ... at all. Maybe Perry’s new camp will make all the difference, but at this point, it’s been several years since Perry knocked out anyone, and his cardio isn’t good enough to grind Rodriguez to a decision win.

I hope Perry can put on a good performance, but I’m about hoping “Platinum” can pull it together. While he’s been screwing around, Rodriguez has been winning tough fights, and he’s going to seriously test his foe’s chin regardless of his focus.

Prediction: Rodriguez via decision

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 23 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN / ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ABC / ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 23: “Vettori vs. Holland” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 4-7-1

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