This weekend (Sat., June 26, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 30. While I will never claim to understand why UFC makes some of the choices it does, I can definitely pick up on certain patterns. In this case, UFC Vegas 30 is yet another ESPN+ event that will prominently feature Heavyweights in a small cage, and hopefully that will lead to some serious power punches.
Prior to the big man action, however, there’s a trio of exciting bouts to analyze. Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:
Light Heavyweight: Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Danilo Marques
Best Win for Nzechukwu? Darko Stosic For Marques? Mike Rodriguez
Current Streak: Both men have won two in a row inside the Octagon
X-Factor: Nzechukwu’s grappling is still fairly untested
How these two match up: This reads very much like a striker vs. grappler battle.
Nzechukwu may be a bit green behind the ears, but “The African Savage” has major physical gifts and only came up short to the classic Paul Craig last-second triangle choke. There is still work to be done in all aspects of his game, but Nzechukwu hits plenty hard and is learning to shuck off takedowns quite well.
On the flip side, Marques has picked up a pair of clear-cut wins inside the Octagon off the strength of his grappling. At 6’6,” he’s a surprisingly effective wrestler and is very effective at controlling from top position.
Don’t you hate when a fight’s outcome is entirely decided by whether or not the takedown lands? If Marques is able to drag Nzechukwu down, it’s unlikely that the Nigerian fighter is able to see the final bell without giving up his neck at some point. However, if Marques doesn’t get it to the floor quickly, he’s going to get his block knocked off.
Compared to Marques’ two most recent foes, Nzechukwu is a much stronger athlete and has the physical gifts to exceed Marques usual range advantage. Muscling Nzechukwu to the floor just seems unlikely — there’s a reason Craig pulled guard! Furthermore, Nzechukwu seems to be improving in the right direction, scrambling well and fighting well even if his opponent gets off to a strong start.
Prediction: Nzechukwu via knockout
Featherweight: Andre Fili vs. Daniel Pineda
Best Win for Fili? Dennis Bermudez For Pineda? Herbert Burns
Current Streak: Both athletes came up short last time out
X-Factor: Pineda’s do-or-die fighting style can lead to wild results
How these two match up: This one will not see the judges’ scorecards.
Andre Fili has been in the UFC for eight years now, slowly refining his game as he competed against many of the best Featherweights in the world. Now 30 years of age, “Touchy” is pretty damn solid everywhere but likely does his best work from the kickboxing range.
Pineda, meanwhile, is in his second stint with UFC. The 35-year-old is honestly a savage; he has yet to win a decision in 27 victories! “The Pit” really fights with confidence, attacking his opponent’s full force from the first bell until someone hits the canvas hard.
There is no doubt that Pineda is a finishing threat on both the feet and the mat, but he just seems a step behind Fili in most areas. Fili is the taller, longer Featherweight, and he’s quite a bit cleaner from distance. Perhaps most troublingly for the Texan, he looked a bit lost opposite Cub Swanson’s Southpaw stance last time out, and Fili fights as a leftie fairly often.
In addition, Pineda does slow down, a result of his pedal-to-the-floor approach to combat. Even if he does start strong, Fili’s reactive double-leg can slow him down, and eventually, that head kick will sneak around the guard.
Prediction: Fili via knockout
Lightweight: Renato Moicano vs. Jai Herbert
Best Win for Moicano? Calvin Kattar For Herbert? Jack Grant
Current Streak: Once more, both men came up short last time out
X-Factor: It’s still unclear whether Moicano can compete at Lightweight
How these two match up: As usual, expect the Lightweights to deliver a great fight.
Man, I know we like to credit guys like Dustin Poirier for cutting less weight and finding more success, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Moicano was closing in on a title shot at 145-pounds before Chan Sung Jung clipped him, sending him to Lightweight. He’s 1-1 since, stuck in the middle of a majorly crowded division.
On the plus side, Moicano is still a legit black belt with nasty kicks.
One has to feel for Herbert as well. The English striker took a short-notice bout vs. Francisco Trinaldo and performed amazingly well for two rounds. When the veteran rallied, however, Herbert found himself on the wrong end of a truly brutal beatdown that was not stopped for far too long.
I think Herbert is a really quality Lightweight and a worthy addition to the roster, which is why it sucks that he’s probably going to lose again. Moicano has world-class experience, the kicking and jabbing game to compete with the lanky “Black Country Banger” at distance, and the grappling game to really make Herbert pay if he gets too active.
Herbert has to really manage range masterfully, otherwise he’s going to end up with Moicano on his back. Even then, there’s no guarantee he can actually outwork the Brazilian, who is a very sharp kickboxer in his own right.
Prediction: Moicano via submission
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.