Pure violence is on tap at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Oct. 2, 2021) when the Light Heavyweight division’s ultimate kill-or-be-killed slugger, Johnny Walker, takes on ultra-dangerous former title challenger, Thiago Santos, in UFC Vegas 38’s main event. Twenty pounds south, Kevin Holland attempts to recapture his prior form against the gritty Kyle Daukaus, while Bantamweight contender Aspen Ladd ends a nearly two-year layoff against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner, Macy Chiasson, one fight prior.
UFC Vegas 38 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts alongside the six-fight main card. Let’s have a look at the first chunk:
155 lbs.: Devonte Smith vs. Jamie Mullarkey
Devonte Smith (11-2) followed his brutal first-round knockout victory on the Contender Series with two brutal first-round finishes in the Octagon itself, one of which earned him Performance of the Night. Though he suffered a shock knockout loss to Khama Worthy, he successfully returned to action 16 months later by beating down Justin Jaynes.
All of his wins have come inside the distance, 10 of them by knockout.
Jamie Mullarkey (13-4) — the Superfight MMA Lightweight champion — struggled out of the UFC gate with consecutive competitive losses to Brad Riddell and Fares Ziam. His third effort proved a return to form, as he demolished Khama Worthy in just 46 seconds.
Though three inches taller than Smith, he gives up two inches of reach.
While he had a rough matchup in his debut and decidedly underperformed in the Ziam fight, Mullarkey showed why I’m high on him against Worthy. When he’s on, he’s a potent mix of solid striking and grappling bolstered by terrific durability. That figures to be a key weapon against Smith, whose own fight with Worthy demonstrated that he dishes it out a lot better than he can take it.
If Mullarkey can stay on the front foot and threaten with takedowns, I can easily see him taking “King Kage” out early. That said, he’s not invincible; while he absorbed everything Brad Riddell could dish out, he suffered two (technical) knockout losses in the past, and Smith is among the heaviest hitters in a division chock-full of power-punching monsters. Still, so long as Mullarkey comes out with the same fervor he had against “Deathstar,” he’ll check Smith’s chin in the opening round.
Prediction: Mullarkey via first round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Gaetano Pirrello
Brazil’s Douglas Silva de Andrade (26-4) has amassed an even UFC record (4-4) over the past seven years, taking on the likes of Rob Font and Petr Yan along the way. He was last seen dropping a decision to rising prospect Lerone Murphy in Jan. 2021.
He’s scored 19 knockouts as a professional.
Belgium’s Gaetano Pirrello (15-6-1) rode a 5-1 streak into his late-notice UFC debut, which pitted him against dangerous contender Ricky Simon in Jan. 2021. His boldness failed to produce commensurate results, as Simon dominated on the mat en route to a second-round submission finish.
Fourteen of his 15 professional wins have come inside the distance.
Silva de Andrade’s UFC strength of schedule is more wildly inconsistent than almost anyone else; he’s beaten three men who are no longer with the promotion while losing to two top-five Bantamweights and a pair of dangerous Featherweight contenders. The only blip in the pattern was Marlon Vera, who had yet to turn the corner and become the monster he is today.
This is a long-winded way of saying that I have no idea where exactly Silva de Andrade stands among his peers. I do, however, know that he hits like a truck and that Pirrello will almost certainly give him the striking battle he craves. Though Pirrello’s the better technician, Silva de Andrade’s speed and power should net him a brutal finish in the early going.
Prediction: Silva de Andrade via first round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Alejandro Perez vs. Johnny Eduardo
Alejandro Perez (21-8-1) went from splitting his first two UFC bouts to going unbeaten in his next seven, racking up three finishes along the way. The momentum wasn’t to last, suffering consecutive losses to Cody Stamann and Song Yadong.
This marks his first appearance in nearly 27 months.
The 41-year-old Johnny Eduardo (28-12) has managed just seven Octagon bouts in over a decade under the UFC banner. He last saw action in 2018, starting strong but suffering a submission loss to Nathaniel Wood for his third defeat in four appearances.
He has scored 13 submissions and eight knockouts as a professional.
The frustrating thing about this matchup is that Eduardo has the skillset to to win it comfortably. His pure striking craft outstrips Perez’s by a decent margin, and “Turbo” is further held back by middling wrestling and a shaky chin. Unfortunately for Eduardo, he’s 41 years old and hasn’t fought in more than three years. That alone would make him a hard sell, but he’s also got terrible fight IQ; he was eating Wood alive on the feet, but inexplicably shot directly into a d’arce choke.
That’s not to say Perez is free of fighting sin, as he’s had his share of uninspiring performances, but he strikes me as less likely to physically fall apart or shoot himself in the foot. He’ll either get plugged in the first round or run circles around the aging Brazilian, and the latter seems a bit more likely.
Prediction: Perez via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Shanna Young vs. Stephanie Egger
Shanna Young (7-3) bounced back from unsuccessful runs on “Contender Series” and Invicta’s “Phoenix Series” to beat Maiju Suotama by decision, claiming her third official win in four appearances. She then stepped up on short notice to face Macy Chiasson, who used her considerable size advantage to overpower Young over the distance.
“The Shanimal” fights for the first time in more than 19 months.
Just one month after scoring her third consecutive win, Stephanie Egger (5-2) accepted the call to fight Tracy Cortez on late notice. Cortez proved too much for the Swiss judoka, out-grappling her to a comfortable decision win.
She has knocked out and submitted two opponents apiece.
This one boils down to distance. At range, Young’s speed, versatility, and fluidity blow Egger’s out of the water. Conversely, Egger’s judo looks like a dominating weapon on the inside, and Young’s struggles to maintain range could give Egger opportunities to bring it to bear.
Though Young’s losses to Alpar and Chiasson should give Egger hope, “The Shanimal” just has too big an edge on the feet, and Egger’s inability to handle Cortez in the clinch has me concerned about her grappling’s effectiveness at the highest level. Young takes her apart for her first UFC victory.
Prediction: Young via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 38 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from a top Flyweight prospect. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 38 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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