After more than two years on the sidelines, former Bantamweight champion, T.J. Dillashaw, returns to the cage against one of the division’s most dangerous contenders in Cory Sandhagen this Saturday (July 24, 2021) in the main event of UFC Vegas 32, which will take place inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Earlier that evening, Aspen Ladd ends her own lengthy layoff against Macy Chiasson and Darren Elkins throws down with submission machine Darrick Minner.
Three more UFC Vegas 32 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here); shall we have a look?
185 lbs.: Punahele Soriano vs. Brendan Allen (16-4)
Though he was forced to see the judges for the first time in his professional career, Punahele Soriano (8-0) secured a contract on “Contender Series” with a decision over Jamie Pickett. “Puna” returned to his finishing ways in the Octagon itself, flattening Oskar Piechota and Dusko Todorovic in one round apiece.
He has scored five knockouts and two submissions as a professional face puncher.
Brendan Allen (16-4) — then the reigning LFA Middleweight champion — dispatched Aaron Jeffrey in less than one round to earn himself a UFC contract in his own “Contender Series” appearance. He proceeded to win four of five in the world’s largest fight promotion, including stoppages of Kevin Holland and Tom Breese.
“All In” will have three inches of height and reach on Soriano.
On paper, Allen has the tools to test Soriano in a way that Piechota and Todorovic couldn’t. He’s a better striker and wrestler than either of those men, and if he can turn the fight into either a technical striking match or a grueling grind, he could force Soriano to prove whether he’s fixed the cardio issues that plagued him against Pickett.
That’s a big “if,” though, especially since Allen is so easy to hit. Soriano’s murderous left hand might be enough to carry the Hawaiian to victory by itself, and while Allen’s shown off some serious toughness in prior fights, I don’t trust him to shake off the sort of clean bombs Soriano figures to land. In short, Soriano makes it 3-0 in the Octagon with another quick finish.
Prediction: Soriano via first round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Nassourdine Imavov vs. Ian Heinisch
When his “Contender Series” slot against Gregory Rodrigues fell through, Nassourdine Imavov (9-3) proceeded right to the Octagon, where he overpowered “Contender Series” graduate Jordan Williams for his sixth consecutive win. Then came another “Contender Series” alumn in Phil Hawes, who banked two strong rounds and survived a late surge to hand Imavov his first defeat since 2017.
He’s ended seven pro fights inside the distance, five of them via knockout.
Ian Heinisch (14-4) went from LFA champion to UFC competitor with a ground-and-pound beatdown of Justin Sumter on “Contender Series,” then announced his arrival with wins over Cezar Ferreira and Antonio “Cara de Sapato.” He’s just 1-3 since, most recently suffering a decision loss to Kelvin Gastelum in Feb. 2021.
“Hurricane” gives up four inches of height and three inches of reach to Imavov.
Even acknowledging that he’s only lost to quality fighters in UFC, it’s hard not to feel like Heinisch should be doing better. Between his wrestling pedigree, punching power and overall physicality, this is a man with the tools to be a real player at 185 pounds, but he’s really struggling to make his game work against top-class opposition.
That said, this does look like a winnable match up. Imavov isn’t always the best at maintaining range, and considering how successful Hawes was at controlling him against the cage, it’s easy to see Heinisch doing the same. It won’t be pretty, but expect Heinisch to smother his way back into the win column.
Prediction: Heinisch via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Adrian Yanez vs. Randy Costa
Adrian Yanez (13-3) — whose only losses since 2014 came by split decision against future UFC competitors Domingo Pilarte and Miles Johns — punched his ticket to the Octagon by smashing Brady Huang in 39 seconds on “Contender Series.” Subsequent efforts proved similarly violent, dispatching Victor Rodriguez and Gustavo Lopez with bonus-winning knockouts.
He stands two inches shorter than Randy Costa (6-1) and gives up three inches of reach.
“The Zohan” only needed a combined 2:50 to dispatch his first four professional foes, but couldn’t keep the momentum going in a UFC debut loss to Brandon Davis. He’s since gotten back on track with violent finishes of Boston Salmon and Journey Newson, the latter of which earned Costa “Performance of the Night.”
All of his professional and amateur wins have come by form of knockout.
I have no idea why this is buried in the middle of the “Prelims” because it is teed up to be an absolute slugfest for however long it lasts. For my money, it comes down to Yanez’s chin. The Texan is an extremely adept counter-puncher and Costa’s berserker offense leaves holes you could drive a truck through, meaning that if Yanez can survive the blows his own leaky defense lets through, he’ll end things in a hurry.
While Costa hits heinously hard and I’ve definitely underestimated him before, Yanez has given me no reason to doubt his durability. As much as I like to watch devastating punchers blow away superior technicians through sheer brute force, Yanez’s boxing is just too sharp for Costa to try and smash his way through. In short, Yanez plunks him with a counter right sometime in the first few minutes.
Prediction: Yanez via first-round knockout
UFC Vegas 32 features a main event for the ages and there’s some nice tussles to set it up. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 32 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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