Two weeks after Jared Cannonier secured his place among the Middleweight elite with a decision over Kelvin Gastelum, two more top-ranked 185-pound contenders will look to stake their claims this Saturday (Sept. 4, 2021) when Derek Brunson (No. 5) meets Darren Till (No. 7) on ESPN+. In addition, blue-chip Heavyweight Tom Aspinall will try and keep his unbeaten UFC record intact against dangerous wrestler Serghei Spivac and Khalil Rountree will face Modestas Bukauskas in a clash of skilled, but struggling, Light Heavyweights.
We’ve got just two UFC Vegas 36 “Prelims” undercard bouts that need to be dissected (check out the first batch here), so let’s dig in ...
125 lbs.: Molly McCann vs. Ji Yeon Kim
Molly McMcann (10-4) put a UFC debut loss behind her with a three-fight win streak, among them a decent-sized upset of Brazilian knockout artist Ariane Lipski. “Meatball” now finds herself in the midst of an 0-2 skid, having dropped decisions to fast-rising prospects Taila Santos and Lara Procopio.
She’s scored four knockouts as a professional.
Korea’s Ji Yeon Kim (9-3-2) battled her way to a 3-2 Octagon start with two decision victories and a brutal beatdown of Nadia Kassem. Then came Alexa Grasso, who out-boxed “Firefist” en route to a decision win of her own.
She’ll have three inches of height and a massive 10 inches of reach on McCann.
Odds-wise, this is the closest fight on the entire card, and it definitely looks like a split decision in the making. McCann has the better footwork and more varied arsenal, while Kim boasts a considerable edge in size and firepower.
In short, all signs point to a tit-for-tat striking battle that will come down to the wire.
I’ve got McCann by a hair. Kim’s got the leakier striking defense of the two, and while McCann’s apparent wrestling improvement turned out to be a case of limited opposition, Kim’s inconsistent takedown defense looks like a tempting target. “Firefist” will touch up McCann, but key takedowns should barely nudge McCann over the finish line.
Prediction: McMann via split decision
135 lbs.: Jack Shore vs. Liudvik Sholinian
Jack Shore (14-0) — the former Cage Warriors Bantamweight champion — kept his momentum going with two dominant submission wins in the Octagon. Then came “Contender Series” veteran Hunter Azure, who fell short against the Welshman this past April, but managed to break his five-fight finishing streak in the process.
“Tank” has submitted eight professional foes and knocked out another four.
Liudvik Sholinian (9-2-1) — representing Team Ortega on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 — authored one of the show’s bigger upsets by beating first-overall-pick Mitch Raposo in the quarterfinals. The Cinderella story wasn’t to last, as Ricky Turcios managed to out-last the Ukrainian in a terrific battle.
He steps in for Zvaid Lazishvili, who himself replaced Said Nurmagomedov, on less than two weeks’ notice.
I wish nothing but the best for Sholinian. He showed inspiring grit in beating Raposo and it absolutely broke my heart to see him break down in tears after his loss to Turcios. I hope stepping up like this earns him enough brownie points to stay on the roster after this defeat.
I don’t at all mean to imply that Sholinian is a bad fighter, just that Shore is an elite prospect who’s ready for the likes of Nurmagomedov. At the risk of being reductive, Shore’s better everywhere. He’s the better boxer by a huge margin, the better wrestler, and the better submission artist. As we saw against Azure, determination, pressure and takedowns aren’t enough to beat the Welshman. In the end, he steadily out-classes Sholinian before wrapping up his neck in the final stretch.
Prediction: Shore via third-round submission
There may not be much left of UFC Vegas 36, but at least we’ve still got a solid main event and some quality prospects in action. See you Saturday, 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.