This weekend (Sat., Aug. 21, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 34. This event is unlikely to blow any minds with its star power, but action is pretty guaranteed. In addition to the slobber-knocker main event between Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum, veteran scrappers like Clay Guida, Vinc Pichel and Brian Kelleher guarantee fun throughout the night.
In general, these seemingly uninspiring “Fight Night” events have been exceeding expectations as of late, so let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:
Heavyweight: Chase Sherman vs. Parker Porter
Best Win for Sherman? Damian Grabowski For Porter? Josh Parisian
Current Streak: Sherman came up short last time out, whereas Porter scored his first UFC win via decision
X-Factor: It’s a low-level Heavyweight fight, so ... yeah
How these two match up: Someone is likely to go down for the count.
Sherman may not be capable of finding consistent success inside the Octagon, but fortunately for “The Vanilla Gorilla,” he’s the type to go down swinging. Sherman has finished all but one of his victories via knockout, and he frequently finds himself in knock-down-drag-out scraps.
On the flip side, Porter is a touch more well-rounded, willing to pursue the takedown and submission if available. For the most part, however, Porter is also hunting for the stoppage via strikes.
Porter showed some surprising volume for a thicker Heavyweight last time out, but it seems like he’s going to fall directly in Sherman’s wheelhouse. Not only is Sherman five years younger, but he holds significant advantages in reach and height. In general, defeating Sherman requires a clear-cut technical advantage or the pure power to bomb through his rather solid chin.
Porter seems to come up short in either area. Most likely, the bout begins as a competitive, scrappy match before Sherman’s continual low kicks build up and turn the tide in his favor.
Prediction: Sherman via knockout
Lightweight: Vinc Pichel vs. Austin Hubbard
Best Win for Pichel? Jim Miller For Hubbard? Max Rohskopf
Current Streak: Pichel has won two straight, whereas Hubbard returned to the win column last time out
X-Factor: Hubbard is nearly 10 years younger
How these two match up: There is little doubt in my mind that this will be a quality Lightweight scrap.
Pichel is a gamer. Strong, tough and well-conditioned, Pichel implements a physical game on opponents, breaking them with his pressure and wrestling. He has not historically been the most active fighter, but Pichel has won an impressive six out of his last seven dating back to 2014.
Hubbard, meanwhile, has the looks of a talented prospect who just hasn’t managed to hit his stride yet inside the Octagon. He’s got a very solid and tricky kickboxing game, but Hubbard has struggled to defend against the grappling assault of some very skilled ground fighters.
This is difficult. On the whole, I think Hubbard is the more skilled man, and he has a higher upside. At the same time, Pichel is a hard-nosed grinder who can push for three rounds, which is a stylistic problem for Hubbard, even as his takedown defense has improved over time.
If Hubbard can keep this standing, his calf kicks and intercepting counters are a major problem for Pichel. However, the odds some strong that Pichel manages to build an early lead via the takedown, and once that happens, he won’t be deterred from walking through the fire to land more slams.
Prediction: Pichel via decision
Flyweight: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval
Best Win for Pantoja? Brandon Moreno For Royval? Kai-Kara France
Current Streak: Pantoja picked up the win last time out, while Royval suffered an injury vs. Moreno in defeat
X-Factor: Royval loves high-risk, flashy techniques
How these two match up: Given Pantoja’s pair of wins over Brandon Moreno (though one was on The Ultimate Fighter), this could end up deciding the next Flyweight title contender!
Pantoja is no joke. The Brazilian is a high-level black belt on the mat, and his kickboxing has improved dramatically over the years. Nowadays, he can rip power kicks from the outside and brawl with the best of them, making him a formidable all-around offensive force at 125 lbs.
Meanwhile, Royval is a wild card. He’s primarily a grappler with a knack for suddenly snatching up submissions out of thin air, but Royval has proven himself dangerous on the feet as well.
This is going to be a SCRAP! Unfortunately for “Raw Dog,” however, Pantoja simply appears better in all areas, and he’s more experienced against elite competition to boot. Despite his foe’s flash, Pantoja is the heavier kickboxer and is likely to win the grappling exchanges.
In truth, there is a cost to being as wild on the mat as Royval. Against a top-tier submission player like Pantoja, Royval’s activity from bottom is likely to open up his opponent’s offense, rather than create his own opportunities.
Prediction: Pantoja via submission
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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 34: “Cannonier vs. Gastelum” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.