Stuck in the midst of a 1-3 skid, British Middleweight ace Darren Till will look to finally break back into contention this Saturday (Sept. 4, 2021) when he takes on the resurgent Derek Brunson inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The evening will also see Britain’s top Heavyweight prospect, Tom Aspinall, take on short-notice replacement Serghei Spivac and David Zawada meet Alex Morono in an intriguing Welterweight showdown.
Between injuries and visa issues, UFC Vegas 36 is down to just five “Prelims” undercard bouts, the first three of which we’ll examine below ...
150 lbs.: Julian Erosa vs. Charles Jourdain
One year after washing out of UFC a second time, Julian Erosa (25-10) rewarded the promotion’s faith in him by stopping Grant Dawson and Nate Landwehr. “Juicy J” couldn’t quite make it three straight against Seung Woo Choi, who knocked out Erosa out 97 seconds into round one.
He replaces Lerone Murphy, who ran into visa issues, on short notice.
Canada’s Charles Jourdain (11-3-1) wasn’t always successful, but he entertained like few others during his 1-2-1 Octagon start. Things got a bit better for him recently, however, as “Air” successfully warred his way past Marcelo Rojo in a March slugfest.
All of his professional wins have come inside the distance, eight of them by knockout.
If Erosa’s first five professional knockout losses didn’t convince him to tone things down and actually utilize his freakish dimensions, I doubt the sixth one will do it. “Juicy J” is what he is, an insanely aggressive slugger who will always eschew safe paths to victory in favor of simply marching forward and throwing heat until he or his opponent falls over.
Bless him for that, of course, but that’s not going to cut it here. Jourdain has a serious edge in punching power and an even bigger one in durability, meaning Erosa’s preferred style of fight favors Jourdain in a huge way. The one thing Erosa has going for him here is his wrestling, which will pay decreasing dividends thanks to Jourdain’s quality gas tank and scrambling ability. While Jourdain does tend to start slow, I like him to turn Erosa’s lights out around the halfway point.
Prediction: Jourdain via second-round knockout
185 lbs.: Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
Dalcha Lungiambula (11-2) earned his moniker by claiming EFC titles at both Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight, ultimately earning a spot in the Octagon after beating Andrew Van Zyl for the latter. “Champion Dalcha” has since gone 2-1, a loss to top prospect Magomed Ankalaev sandwiched between wins over Dequan Townsend and Markus Perez.
Though the shorter man by five inches, he’ll enjoy a three-inch reach advantage.
Canada’s Marc-Andre Barriault (12-4) finally entered UFC’s win column in his fourth attempt by knocking out Oskar Piechota, only for a failed drug test to wipe his victory from the slate. There was no such asterisk in his next fight, however, as “Power Bar” battered Abu Azaitar into submission at UFC 260.
He has ended nine fights inside the distance, all by knockout.
While Lungiambula is definitely more credentialed and dangerous than Azaitar, this match up is eerily reminiscent of Barriault’s most recent fight, pitting Lungiambula’s raw power and grappling against Barriault’s relentlessness.
I lean toward Barriault. Lungiambula really hasn’t impressed me in the Octagon, especially with regard to his striking. Barriault’s too durable to go down from one of Lungiambula’s sporadic flurries and lands well over twice as many significant strikes per minute, meaning the standup is his for the taking. Plus, he’s gotten increasingly adept at getting back to his feet when taken down, limiting Lungiambula’s chances of grinding out an agonizingly unpleasant decision from top control.
In the end, Barriault sprawl-and-brawl snowballs his way to a late finish.
Prediction: Barriault via third-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Jonathan Martinez vs. Marcelo Rojo
Jonathan Martinez (13-4) rebounded from a UFC debut loss to Andre Soukhamthath with wins in four of his next five, the sole loss a controversial one against Andre Ewell. “Dragon” looked poised to make it five of six against Davey Grant, but succumbed to the Brit’s power midway through the second round.
His nine professional stoppages include seven knockouts.
After putting together an 8-2 run on the Latin American circuit, Marcelo Rojo (16-8) got the call to face lethal Brazilian Raoni Barcelos in his Octagon debut. When Barcelos pulled out with COVID-19, Rojo instead stepped up in weight to fight Charles Jourdain, ultimately falling short in a phenomenal back-and-forth war.
He steps in for Nathaniel Wood on short notice.
Rojo was previously slated to fight Kevin Croom at UFC Vegas 35, and I’m certain that “Pitbull” would have absolutely mauled “Crash.” This won’t go nearly as well for him, as Martinez boasts superior overall striking technique and one-shot power. So long as the Grant knockout didn’t put an unfixable dent in Martinez’s chin and/or confidence, he’s a fair bit too sharp for Rojo, who took some serious damage of his own last time out.
The only way Martinez loses this is if he gives ground and lets Rojo tee off on his lead leg. Considering that Martinez has stayed on the front foot against aggressive bruisers like Thomas Almeida, though, that seems unlikely. In short, “Dragon” pieces him up for a mid-round stoppage.
Prediction: Martinez via second-round technical knockout
Two more UFC Vegas 36 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from one of the sport’s top prospects in Jack Shore. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 36 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 36: “Brunson vs. Till” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.