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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 33 main card predictions

UFC Fight Night: Weigh-Ins Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., July 31, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 33. There’s one more week until the big boys collide at UFC 265, but fortunately, there’s an unspectacular list of bouts to hold us over until Texas. In the main event, streaking Middleweight strikers Uriah Hall and Sean Strickland will throw down, but first, a handful of prospects will do their best to make an impact.

Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 74 On ESPN+

STRAWWEIGHT CONTENDERS COLLIDE! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., May 20, 2023, with No. 7-ranked women’s Strawweight contender, Mackenzie Dern, testing her high-powered submission skills against No. 13-seeded Angela Hill. In UFC Vegas 73’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, Anthony Hernandez will lock horns with Edmen Shahbazyan in a showdown between talented Middleweight up-and-comers.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Women’s Strawweight: Cheyanne Buys vs. Gloria de Paula

Best Win for Buys? Hilarie Rose For de Paula? Pauline Macias
Current Streak: Both women lost their last bout
X-Factor: The general inexperience of both women
How these two match up: Without trying to be a hater, this analysis should be Patrick Stumberg’s problem on the undercard.

At any rate, both “Contender’s Series” pickups are looking to score their first UFC win. Buys debuted with a reputation as a kickboxer who could also wrestle well ... before Montserrat Ruiz head-and-arm throwed her for 15 straight minutes. De Paula also struggled with her opponent’s wrestling in her debut, but the Chute Boxe-trained athlete showed some nice kickboxing of her own.

Let’s be honest here, this is a low-level match up, and those are hard to predict. At any point, one of these woman could throw up a sudden armbar and end the fight from her back ... it’s that type of bout. On the more positive side, either young athlete could have developed considerably since her last performance.

Still, based on what we’ve seen thus far, it’s easier to side with Buys. Her performance on “Contender’s Series” inspired some hype for good reason: she has some kickboxing chops and solid physicality for the Strawweight division. Against a less determined wrestler, Buys should rack up the volume and perhaps even land a takedown of her own.

Prediction: Buys via decision

Bantamweight: Kyung Ho Kang vs. Rani Yahya

Best Win for Kang? Michinori Tanaka For Yahya? Mike Brown
Current Streak: Kang has won three in a row, while Yahya is unbeaten in his last two
X-Factor: Yahya is older for a Bantamweight (36 years of age) and has been fighting since 2002
How these two match up: Grappler’s delight!

Kang has been on the sidelines since Dec. 2019, but it’s great to have “Mr. Perfect” back. Kang is one of those fun wrestlers that doesn’t just content himself to control opponents. Instead, he constantly forces scrambles, hoping to advance passed the guard and create opportunities for submissions.

With Demian Maia on his way out, is Yahya the last older jiu-jitsu guy still wrangling tough opposition? Yahya is pretty single-minded in his pursuit of the takedown, at which point his top pressure and strangles are really top-notch.

I don’t know how much Yahya has left in the tank. He’s long in the tooth, and it’s been some years since he defeated a ranked foe. Much like Maia, Yahya is a liability in the second half of fights, even if he’s getting the grappling match he desires.

Unfortunately, I am a man who picks fights largely based on style match ups, and it is impossible to ignore how perfect this fight is for Yahya! Kang may be the better striker, but he cannot help himself to leap into fire on the mat. Yahya has the skills to secure dominant positions, and if the submission doesn’t emerge, he’ll rack up long periods of time controlling his foe.

Prediction: Yahya via decision

Flyweight.: Ryan Benoit vs. Zarrukh Adashev

Best Win for Benoit? Sergio Pettis For Adashev? Tevin Dyce
Current Streak: Both men have lost their last two bouts
X-Factor: Benoit’s weight cut woes
How these two match up: This analysis ACTUALLY does come courtesy of Stumberg, who wrote the following prior to this bout being moved to the main card:

These two were supposed to fight in May, but Benoit borked his weight cut. My thoughts on the match up haven’t changed in the last two months, so let’s just use what we’ve got ...

Ryan Benoit (10-7) began his UFC career by alternating losses and wins, amassing a 3-3 record and taking home a post-fight bonus for his debut bout with Josh Sampo. “Baby Face” has since dropped two straight, losing decisions to Alatengheili and Tim Elliott.

His nine professional finishes include eight by form of knockout.

Though he fell in his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut, former kickboxer Zarrukh Adashev (3-3) went on to win three straight under the Bellator banner, two of them inside the distance. He’s yet to taste victory in the Octagon itself, though, falling short against knockout artists Tyson Nam and Sumudaerji.

He gives up 3.5 inches of reach to Benoit.

Losing to the likes of Nam and Sumudaerji is nothing to be ashamed of, and now that he’s fighting someone closer to his own height, I expect a much better showing from Adashev. Though Benoit has serious power, his standup never quite developed enough to properly deliver it, and his offensive wrestling isn’t particularly potent.

Adashev has Benoit out-classed in a pure striking battle, which Benoit’s underdeveloped takedown game is insufficient to prevent. In short, a fast-paced slugfest sees Adashev land the cleaner, more telling blows to seal the deal.

Prediction: Adashev via unanimous decision

Welterweight: Bryan Barberena vs. Jason Witt

Best Win for Barberena? Warlley Alves For Witt? Cole Williams
Current Streak: Barberena returned to the win column last time out, whereas Witt came up short.
X-Factor: Can Witt force the takedown?
How these two match up: Striker vs. grappler!

Okay, describing Barberena as a pure striker would be underselling him a bit. “Bam Bam” is a tough as nails scrapper, a man who thrives in ugly fights where both athletes are landing heavy shots. Witt, meanwhile, is a pretty clear-cut submission fighter, having tapped out eight of his past opponents.

“The Vanilla Gorilla” has a chance here; Barberena has been ground out before. However, those defeats came to elite grinders like Colby Covington and Leon Edwards, and Witt has yet to prove himself near that level. Plus, Barberena still managed to land some quality shots in those defeats, and Witt’s durability is in question after two quick knockout losses in three trips to the Octagon.

Barberena is the more proven and more powerful man, and he’s likely to punish his foe’s attempts to take him down.

Prediction: Barberena via knockout

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 33 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 9 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 33: “Hall vs. Strickland” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 17-15-2 (1)

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