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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 36 main card predictions

This weekend (Sat., Sept. 4, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 36. I fear that I have run out of ways to introduce these “Fight Night” events. For the umpteenth time in a row, the main event is arguably the only truly important fight with relevant title implications. The rest of the card is packed up by action fighters and prospects — or “Contender’s Series” products, which are kind of both.

Still, these events have been consistently great to watch, so let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 87 On ESPN+

PIVOTAL FLYWEIGHT FRACAS! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Arena CDMX in Mexico City, Mexico, on Feb. 24, 2024, with a pivotal Flyweight fracas between former 125-pound kingpin, Brandon Moreno, and most recent title challenger, Brandon Royval, who replaces the red-hot (and injured) Iraqi “Prince,” Amir Albazi. In UFC Mexico City’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, top-ranked Featherweight contenders, Yair Rodriguez (No. 3) and Brian Ortega (No. 4), will run it back after their initial encounter ended prematurely via gross injury.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Heavyweight: Tom Aspinall vs. Sergey Spivac

Best Win for Aspinall? Andrei Arlovski For Spivac? Tai Tuivasa
Current Streak: Both men have won three in a row inside the Octagon
X-Factor: The two are prospects still young in the fight game
How these two match up: An actually good match up of Heavyweight prospects!

Tom Aspinall was originally set to face Sergei Pavlovich before visa issues derailed that match up, which explains how “Polar Bear” was able to fill-in. Regardless, Aspinall has been quite impressive three fights into his UFC career, as the boxer last pulled a slick submission off when things were getting a bit hairy. Meanwhile, Spivac has found consistency, as his kickboxing has improved to the point that he’s better able to implement his grappling skill.

Can Spivac take Aspinall down? That seems like the very clear deciding factor in this match up. If the Moldovan grinder can get the Englishman down, he’s very likely to beat him up from top position and win big. If not, Aspinall puts his combinations together far more effectively, and he hits quite a bit harder.

English wrestling has been the butt of many bad MMA jokes over the years, but times have changed, and Aspinall has a background in grappling too. At this point, I’ll trust the jiu-jitsu black belt to keep it standing and drop the hammer.

Prediction: Aspinall via knockout

Flyweight: Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell

Best Win for Perez? Jussier Formiga For Schnell? Louis Smolka
Current Streak: Both men have lost their last bout
X-Factor: Both men have brutal calf kicks
How these two match up: Okay, this fight is actually very relevant, but it wasn’t scheduled for the main card when I first started writing this article.

Perez did not earn a title shot by accident. A major physical force at 125 lbs., Perez can wrestle with the best of ‘em, stop foes with calf kicks or punches, and wrangle submissions on talented grapplers.

Schnell is quite well-rounded himself, but “Danger” is more of a specialist. He prefers rangy kickboxing battles, but when fights do go to the mat, Schnell has proven himself a real deal submission threat.

On paper, this is a tremendous match up that should be a lot of fun. In the cage, however, Schnell is historically not the most durable, and he’s fighting one of the division’s heaviest hitters. Unless Schnell can pretty immediately destroy the calf or throw up an early triangle choke, the odds seem strong that Perez connects on a big shot that puts his foe down.

Even if it goes the full 15, Perez is the stronger wrestler.

Prediction: Perez via knockout

Welterweight: Alex Morono vs. David Zawada

Best Win for Morono? Max Griffin For Zawada? Abubakar Nurmagomedov
Current Streak: Morono was victorious last time out, while Zawada came up short
How these two match up: This is a guaranteed scrap!

Alex Morono is a BJJ black belt who cannot help but throw hands. He’s comfortable in slugfests, where his conditioning and toughness have definitely overcome theoretically more skilled strikers. Zawada is a similarly hard-nosed veteran. A majority of his wins come via knockout, but he’s done great work on the mat inside the Octagon.

In short, it sounds like something of a mirror match that should see great scrambles and exchanges alike. Similarities aside, Morono is the far more proven man, the athlete with quite a few UFC victories under his belt.

Does that matter much when the punches start flying? Perhaps not. Morono’s recent performances have been inconsistent, and while Zawada hasn’t been able to win every time, his individual showings have been solid. This one is likely to be standing more often than not, and Zawada appears to be the cleaner, more powerful striker.

It’s not likely to be easy, but Zawada survives a bad position or heavy shot to earn the nod.

Prediction: Zawada via decision

Light Heavyweight: Khalil Rountree vs. Modestas Bukauskas

Best Win for Rountree? Eryk Anders For Bukauskus? Andreas Michailidis
Current Streak: Both men have lost two in a row
X-Factor: Rountree is wildly inconsistent
How these two match up: This should be a really fun kickboxing battle.

Ahhh Rountree has so much potential. “The War Horse” is ridiculously athletic, difficult to take down, and able to hit like a Mack truck. He’s refined his kickboxing skills in Thailand to the point that he really resembles a true Nak Muay, complimenting his natural gifts with good form

Why isn’t he better? It’s hard to pinpoint the exact issue, but it seems like Rountree sometimes struggles to find his flow, which could be a gas tank problem.

As for Bukauskus, the British veteran is decorated as a kickboxer and took home the Cage Warriors strap to earn his shot inside the Octagon. He’s still early in his UFC career, but Bukauskus has already fought some very tough 205-pound up-and-comers.

Bukauskus is likely the better technical striker, or at least gritty enough to force Rountree off his game like Marcin Prachnio did last time out. However, his durability does have to be questioned a bit. Three of his four losses come via knockout, and his sole victory inside the cage came from Travis Browne-style elbows along the fence.

Rountree isn’t shooting, but he does throw bombs.

Prediction: Rountree via knockout

Remember that 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.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 21-17-2 (1)

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