Big men with big power get the spotlight this Saturday (June 5, 2021) when knockout artists Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Walt Harris face fellow finishers Augusto Sakai and Marcin Tybura, respectively, inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition, Santiago Ponzinibbio slugs it out with undefeated banger Miguel Baeza and Dusko Todorovic welcomes LFA Middleweight champion Gregory “Robocop” Rodrigues to the Octagon.
We’ve still got four UFC Vegas 28 “Prelims” undercard bouts to break down before all that (check out the first batch here), so let’s not put that off any longer:
145 lbs.: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Kamuela Kirk
Makwan Amirkhani (16-5) quickly made a name for himself in the Octagon with wins in five of his first six bouts, two of which earned him post-fight bonuses. The momentum was not to last, as “Mr. Finland” has now lost two of three to division standouts Shane Burgos and Edson Barboza.
He boasts 11 submissions among his 12 stoppage wins.
Things went from bad to worse for Kamuela Kirk (11-4) when he followed his “Contender Series” loss to Billy Quarantillo with a narrow split decision defeat in his LFA return. “The Jawaiian” has since righted the ship with two straight wins, the most recent of which saw him retire fellow “Contender Series” veteran Daniel Swain in May 2021.
He replaces the injured Nate Landwehr on less than two weeks’ notice.
It’s become clear that while Amirkhani is a wrestler nonpareil with an excellent array of front chokes, he’s a non-factor if he can’t find an early finish or rack up long stretches of top control. Kirk — an excellent jiu-jitsu player in his own right — is skilled enough to keep his neck safe while Amirkhani’s fresh and debilitating enough in his striking attack to sap the Finn’s gas tank on the feet.
So long as Kirk isn’t debilitated by the short notice and doesn’t elect to indulge Amirkhani on the mat, his high-volume boxing looks like just the ticket to make “Mr. Finland” wilt. In short, Kirk punishes Amirkhani’s head and body down the stretch after a tough first round.
Prediction: Kirk via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Tanner Boser vs. Ilir Latifi
The well-traveled Tanner Boser (19-7-1) announced his arrival in UFC’s Heavyweight division with wins in three of his first four appearances, including brutal knockouts of Philipe Lins and Raphael Pessoa. Like so many others, however, “Bulldozer” fell victim to Andrei Arlovski’s new technical approach, dropping a unanimous decision in Nov. 2020.
He’ll have four inches of height and two inches of reach on “The Sledgehammer.”
Ilir Latifi (14-8) went from losing his last-minute Octagon debut against Gegard Mousasi to winning seven of his next nine, five of them inside the distance. That run has since given way to a three-fight losing streak, which most recently saw him fall to Derrick Lewis in a move to Heavyweight.
He has knocked out and submitted five professional foes apiece.
Changing weight classes is never a cure-all for a struggling fighter, but it strikes me as straight-up counterproductive for Latifi. He was already short for Light Heavyweight at 205 pounds and relied on punching power and ridiculous physical strength to make up for his technical shortcomings, neither of which figure to be anywhere near as effective against larger opposition.
On top of that, Boser is a toxic stylistic match up for him, as the Canadian is too mobile for Latifi to land his short-range bombs or find good entries for his shots. Unless he can glue Boser to the fence and grind away for all 15 minutes, Boser figures to potshot him to a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Boser via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Muslim Salikhov
Francisco Trinaldo (26-7) — who’d put together an impressive seven-fight win streak — found himself in a 2-3 hole capped by a bogus decision loss to Alexander Hernandez. Later efforts proved more successful, as “Massaranduba” racked up consecutive wins over Bobby Green, John Makdessi and Jai Herbert.
This will be his first fight as a UFC Welterweight after more than eight years at 155 pounds.
Muslim Salikhov (17-2) stumbled out of the UFC gate thanks to Alex Garcia, who snapped his 11-fight win streak with a second round rear-naked choke. “The King of Kung Fu” has since righted the ship with four straight wins, the most recent of them a narrow split decision over dangerous veteran Elizeu Zaleski.
Eleven of his 14 stoppage wins have come via strikes.
I greatly enjoyed watching Trinaldo go from an oversized Lightweight oddity with a 1.5-round gas tank to a genuine contender, and I do think his brand of heavy pressure could pay dividends against the kick-happy Salikhov. That said, between his advancing age, the fact that Herbert nearly put him away, and the ostensible lack of his customary strength advantage against a natural Welterweight, I see this ending poorly for the venerable Brazilian.
Salikhov is just too fast and too crisp for Trinaldo to get away with the huge left-handed swings that anchor his striking, and the former’s takedown defense has looked stout since the disaster against Garcia. Nice as it would be to see Trinaldo grind out another win and prove himself an ageless wonder, the likelier outcome sees Salikhov catch him with something nasty once he starts to fade.
Prediction: Salikhov via second round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Alan Patrick vs. Mason Jones
Brazil’s Alan Patrick (15-3) put together a 5-1 Octagon start, the sole loss coming to the terrifying Mairbek Taisumov, before running afoul of Scott Holtzman at UFC 229. A nearly two-year layoff followed, culminating in a Sept. 2020 return that saw him fall to late replacement Bobby Green.
“Nuguette” is a full 11 years older than his opponent at 37.
Having knocked out Joe McColgan for the Cage Warriors Lightweight title in March 2020, Mason Jones (10-1) took on Adam Proctor for the Welterweight belt six months later, stopping the SBG-trained product late in the first round. This led to a Jan. 2021 Octagon debut against Mike Davis, who narrowly edged out “The Dragon” in a “Fight of the Night” war.
His seven professional stoppages include four by form of knockout.
Patrick’s one-note wrestling attack appears to have reached its expiration date. He’s proven unable to score consistent takedowns on strong opposition and has yet to develop his stand up beyond “semi-functional.” Jones’ savage boxing attack, solid sprawl and impressive ability to get up off of his back all spell doom for the aging Brazilian, especially since “The Dragon” is too durable for Patrick to put him down with a wayward haymaker.
“Nuguette’s” only chance is to consistently drag Jones to the mat and keep him there for long periods of time, which both men’s recent efforts suggest is beyond his capabilities. In short, Jones breaks him down for a mid-round stoppage.
Prediction: Jones via second round technical knockout
Heavyweight shenanigans aside, UFC Vegas 28 is absolutely loaded with quality tussles, so be sure you don’t miss them. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 28 fight card tonight right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 28: “Rozenstruik vs. Sakai” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.