One of the most fearsome knockout artists in mixed martial arts (MMA) meets a brutal kickboxing ace this Saturday (Aug. 28, 2021) when Edson Barboza looks to continue his Featherweight resurgence against former GLORY standout, Giga Chikadze, in a pivotal Featherweight battle. UFC Vegas 35 will also feature the Lightweight and Middleweight The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 Finale bouts. At 185 pounds, Bryan Battle takes on Gilbert Urbina (who steps in for the injured Tresean Gore), while 30 pounds south, Brady Hiestand meets “Contender Series” veteran Ricky Turcios.
Three UFC Vegas 35 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), and examine them we shall ...
185 lbs.: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Alessio Di Chirico
Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-4) smashed his way to a 4-1 Octagon start, taking home “Performance of the Night” bonuses for his finishes of Charlie Ward and Sabah Homasi. Success has proven more elusive of late for “Judo Thunder,” entering the Octagon this Saturday on the heels of three consecutive defeats.
All of his professional wins have come by first-round knockout.
Italy’s Alessio Di Chirico (13-5) went from starting his UFC career 3-2 to dropping three straight against Kevin Holland, Makhmud Muradov, and Zak Cummings. He came up huge with his back against the wall, however, flattening the red-hot Joaquin Buckley in Jan. 2021 to claim “Performance of the Night.”
Having lost original opponent Aliaskhab Khizriev, he steps in for Antonio Braga Neto on a week’s notice.
Alhassan fights are as boolean as they come — either he smashes his opponent’s face in the first couple minutes or he gasses out and gets dominated. He’s shown zero inclination to change his approach despite its diminishing returns, and now that he’s at Middleweight, I expect it to become even less effective.
That looks to be the case here. If nothing else, “Manzo” is extremely durable, having traded heat with heavy hitters like Oluwale Bamgbose, Julian Marquez and the aforementioned Buckley without ever getting stopped by strikes. He’s tough enough to weather the early storm and skilled enough to retake the reins once Alhassan inevitably runs out of steam. In the end, Di Chirico banks the latter two rounds for a clear decision.
Prediction: Di Chirico via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Sam Alvey vs. Wellington Turman
Following a 5-2 stretch at Middleweight, Sam Alvey (33-15-1) moved up to 205 pounds, where he defeated Marcin Prachnio and Gian Villante in succession. He’s winless since, going 0-4-1 in his next five Light Heavyweight efforts and falling to Julian Marquez in his return to 185.
He has scored 20 knockouts as a professional.
A four-fight win streak, capped off by a submission of former TUF: “Brazil” finalist Marcio “Lyoto,” sent Brazil’s Wellington Turman (16-5) to the Octagon in 2019. “Prodigy” has won just one of four in the world’s largest fight promotion, suffering consecutive stoppage losses to Andrew Sanchez and Bruno Silva in his last two efforts.
He faces a two-inch height disadvantage and a 3.5-inch reach disadvantage.
I’m more torn here than I should be about an Alvey fight in 2021. Yes, he hasn’t won a fight since 2018, but stout takedown defense and solid power are a recipe for success against Turman, whose lack of striking potency and durability have become increasingly obvious in recent efforts. I distinctly remember facing this exact same dilemma before his fight with Prachnio, where I ultimately picked against him and ate crow.
So help me, I think I’m taking Alvey. His current skid isn’t as bad as it looks (he deserved the win against Jung) and Turman really hasn’t impressed me in UFC. I say Alvey keeps his UFC career alive by catching Turman with something nasty.
Prediction: Alvey via first round technical knockout
205 lbs.: Dustin Jacoby vs. Darren Stewart
Eight years after washing out of the Octagon with an 0-2 run, Dustin Jacoby (14-5-1) announced his return with a brutal low kick finish of Justin Ledet. “The Hanyak” followed that up with a competitive decision over Maxim Grishin, then survived a rough first round to force a draw against Ion Cutelaba.
Nine of his 10 professional finishes have come by form of knockout.
Once on the brink of being cut after going winless in his first four UFC appearances, Darren Stewart (12-7) rattled off a 5-2 run to establish himself as a genuine contender. Then came another winless skid, and he currently finds himself at 0-2 (1 NC) in his last three.
He stands three inches shorter than Jacoby and gives up four inches of reach.
If Stewart was a genuine Light Heavyweight, he’d have a decent shot here. For all his striking prowess, Jacoby’s takedown defense and gas tank have been a bit iffy during his second UFC run, and what Stewart lacks in overall wrestling technique he can sometimes make up for in aggression. Sadly, he’s not a 205er, making it unlikely he can recreate Grishin’s powerful striking or Cutelaba’s suffocating grappling attack.
That’s not to say he’s totally out-classed, of course. On the contrary, I can definitely see him doing well for himself in the clinch despite Jacoby’s likely dominance at a distance. I just don’t see him getting enough done in his windows of opportunity to overshadow the sharp potshots Jacoby will land all night. In short, Jacoby sprawls-and-brawls to victory behind his jab.
Prediction: Jacoby via unanimous decision
UFC Vegas 35 features one helluva of a main event, and what’s left of the main card ain’t too shabby. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 35 fight card right here, starting with the 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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