Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight division shows its depth once again this Saturday (Aug. 21, 2021) when brutal power-puncher Jared Cannonier squares off with long-time contender Kelvin Gastelum inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Earlier that evening, decorated wrestler Mark O. Madsen looks to keep his unbeaten record intact against Clay Guida, while Parker Porter meets Chase Sherman in a clash of Heavyweight knockout artists.
UFC Vegas 34 features six “Prelims” undercard bouts to get through before that, though, so let’s dig in:
205 lbs.: William Knight vs. Fabio Cherant
Though his comeback finish of Herdem Alacabek on “Contender Series” didn’t earn William Knight (9-2) a full contract, a ground-and-pound beatdown of Cody Brundage in his second stint did the trick. “Knightmare” proved similarly successful in his UFC debut against Aleksa Camur, but couldn’t keep the momentum going against fellow up-and-comer Da Un Jung.
He’s racked up seven knockout victories as a professional.
Fabio Cherant (7-2) put an unsuccessful “Contender Series” bid against Camur behind him by winning his next three, setting up a short-notice UFC debut against Alonzo Menifield. That one didn’t go his way, as Menifield took him out with a Von Flue choke 71 seconds into the fight.
“Water Buffalo” will have three inches of height and reach on Knight.
For all his physical gifts, Knight remains painfully underdeveloped at 33 years old. He’s yet to develop any sort of stand up beyond low kicks and overhand rights, and his genuinely fearsome top game is crippled by subpar wrestling. What makes this match up interesting in spite of his gaping flaws is that Cherant has some blatant shortcomings of his own, namely a tendency to back himself to the fence, that seemingly play into Knight’s strengths.
This basically comes down to whether Knight can actually land takedowns. That’s because if it stays on the feet, Cherant’s fast hands and crisp combinations will dominate. If Cherant gives too much ground and/or attacks guillotines instead of defending Knight’s shots, on the other hand, Knight could very well grind him out. I favor the former outcome, if only because of Knight’s total inability to adapt to Jung’s attacks last time out.
Prediction: Cherant via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Roosevelt Roberts vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
Roosevelt Roberts (10-2) followed his contract-winning submission of Garrett Gross with wins in four of his first five Octagon bouts, including a guillotine finish of Darrell Horcher that earned him “Performance of the Night.” Later fights didn’t work out quite as well for “The Predator,” tapping to a Jim Miller armbar and a Kevin Croom guillotine in succession.
He is the shorter man by one inch and gives up 2.5 inches of reach.
Bahamondes improved his run to 7-1 on “Contender Series,” knocking out Edson Gomez with a vicious front kick to punch his ticket to UFC. His debut pitted him against veteran striker John Makdessi, who defied height and reach disadvantage to bloody “La Jaula” and claim a split decision.
He’s knocked out eight of his professional foes.
Despite their recent struggles, I wouldn’t be too hasty to write these two off. They’re both young, physically gifted, and technically adept finishers who still have a lot to offer the sport. Somebody’s got to leave the cage with a losing streak, though, and I say it’s Roberts.
Bahamondes, while worryingly easy to hit, has a clear edge in striking volume and variety, boasting a far deeper arsenal than the boxing-centric Roberts. Roberts’ dangerous submission game doesn’t figure to play much of a factor, either, as Bahamondes is surprisingly difficult to take down despite his noodley frame. Both men got hurt in their most recent fights, so a finish could come at any moment, but I see Bahamondes out-working him to a bloody decision.
Prediction: Bahamondes via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Sasha Palatnikov
A 55-second submission victory in LFA sent Ramiz Brahimaj to “Contender Series,” only for an injury to scrap his clash with Miguel Baeza. He would ultimately make his Octagon debut in Nov. 2020, suffering gruesome ear damage in a technical knockout loss to Max Griffin.
All eight of his professional victories have come by submission.
Hong Kong’s Sasha Palatnikov (6-3) entered his UFC debut as a massive underdog, but survived a hairy start to out-last Louis Cosce in UFC 255’s “Fight of the Night.” He couldn’t quite do the same to Impa Kasanganay, who caught him in a rear-naked choke this past April.
He stands three inches taller than Brahimaj but gives up a bit of reach.
I’ll readily acknowledge that I’ve underestimated Palatnikov in the past. He proved much, much more durable than I anticipated against Cosce and honestly did pretty well for himself in the first round of the Kasanganay fight. That said, I do think Brahimaj is a problem for him, as he can hold his own on the feet and has Palatnikov fairly well out-classed on the ground.
The only way I see Palatnikov winning this is if Brahimaj once again elects not to wrestle, and it’s at least 50/50 even then. Whether Brahimaj initiates the grappling or Palatnikov decides to bring his bread-and-butter top control into play, the Fortis MMA-trained product should find Palatnikov’s neck before too terribly long.
Prediction: Brahimaj via first round submission
Three more UFC Vegas 34 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a pair of potential slugfests at Featherweight and Bantamweight. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 34 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
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