Two ultra-talented strikers will look to prove that Heavyweights aren’t just big galoots this Saturday (June 26, 2021) when Alexander Volkov looks to halt the rise of French technician Ciryl Gane in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition, Tanner Boser tries to snap his current slump against Ovince St. Preux and Renato Moicano slugs it out with British banger Jai Herbert.
Three UFC Vegas 30 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here) and there’s no time to waste. Let’s dig in ...
135 lbs.: Raoni Barcelos vs. Timur Valiev
Assorted misfortunes have held Raoni Barcelos (16-1) to just five fights since the end of 2016, though he’s yet to taste defeat in that span. His last two efforts have seen him out-last rising prospect Said Nurmagomedov and war his way to a “Fight of the Night” decision over Khalid Taha.
His 10 professional finishes are split 8/2 between knockouts and submissions.
Timur Valiev (17-2) entered the Octagon with considerable hype behind him and seemed to be living up to it against debut foe Trevin Jones, only to suffer a shocking comeback knockout loss. The defeat was later overturned to a “No Contest,” which he followed by dominating Martin Day in Feb. 2021.
He stands one inch shorter than Barcelos.
I loathe this fight from a matchmaking perspective. Barcelos is undefeated (5-0) in the Octagon and turned 34 this year. In other words, he deserves a ranked contender, not another hugely promising prospect. From the perspective of someone who likes watching very skilled fighters punching each other in the face, on the other hand, it’s great. These are two top-tier strikers who’ll put on a hell of a show.
Barcelos will be the one to close it. He’s got the edge in power, wrestling, submissions and (most critically) durability, as well as the countering skills to punish Valiev’s aggression. In the end, Barcelos ends a terrific battle sometime in the second.
Prediction: Barcelos via second round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Michel Prazeres
Kazakhstan’s Shavkat Rakhmonov (13-0) ran roughshod over the Eurasian circuit, claiming titles in both Battle of Nomads and M-1. His success earned him a trip to the Octagon, and after more than one year of delays, “Nomad” announced his arrival by choking out Alex Oliveira at UFC 254.
All of his wins have come inside the distance, seven of them by form of knockout.
Though he assembled an impressive six-fight win streak as a UFC Lightweight, Michel Prazeres (26-3) wound up missing weight three times in four fights along the way, sending him to 170 pounds. He started strong with wins over Zak Cummings and Bartosz Fabinski, but failed to overcome Ismail Naurdiev in his third effort.
This will be his first fight in 28 months thanks to a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspension (read details here).
While Prazeres’ smothering wrestling and top-notch jiu-jitsu make him a credible threat to the still-developing Rakhmonov, there’s very little going his way here. Aside from the huge layoff, his inability to grind out Naurdiev, whose takedown defense proved porous in subsequent UFC efforts, suggests that he’s nowhere near as effective at manhandling Welterweights. Plus, Rakhmonov boasts downright unfair height and reach advantages and the striking know-how to make the most of them.
Prazeres’ best shots at victory lie in either clipping Rakhmonov early for a club-and-sub or turning it into an absolute slog, neither of which strike me as particularly likely. “Trator” is durable enough to last the full 15 minutes, but Rakhmonov will take him apart at range.
Prediction: Rakhmonov via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Tim Means vs. Nicolas Dalby
A 6-1 (1 NC) run for Tim Means (31-12-1) gave way to a 3-5 skid, capped off by a submission loss to Daniel Rodriguez. “The Dirty Bird” has since righted the ship with decisions over Laureano Staropoli and Mike Perry to up his UFC victory total to 13.
His 24 career stoppages include 19 via (technical) knockout.
Three years after leaving UFC on a loss to Peter Sobotta, Nicolas Dalby (19-3) returned with a vengeance, out-lasting Alex Oliveira for his first Octagon victory since 2015. A failed drug test on Jesse Ronson’s part overturned Dalby’s subsequent loss, which he followed by narrowly edging out the aforementioned Rodriguez.
Though the shorter man by four inches, he gives up just a half-inch of reach.
This is something of a kludge match — Means was supposed to fight Danny Roberts last week, while Dalby was booked to face Sergey Khandozhko this Saturday. Can’t complain about the improvisation, though, as this is a very nice stylistic match up.
I had Means beating Roberts and I have him beating Dalby. Means’ height, volume and stopping power figure to serve him well in the stand up, and though Dalby’s a functional wrestler, Means has become increasingly adept at keeping it on the feet over the years. In addition, Dalby has the Eddie Alvarez/Jorge Masvidal problem of consistently getting dropped once per fight, which takes what’s already an uphill battle and makes it that much steeper.
Dalby’s persistence could admittedly pay dividends, especially if Means’ takedown defense proves more porous than expected. Against a bigger, more active, versatile and powerful striker, however, his options outside of pure grind are limited. In short, Means shuts down his wrestling and comfortably out-works him standing.
Prediction: Means via unanimous decision
Most of UFC Vegas 30’s main card is “blah,” but there’re some diamonds in this rough. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 30 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 30: “Gane vs. Volkov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2021: 89-45 (2 NC)
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