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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 38 main card predictions

UFC 261 Weigh-in Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

This weekend (Sat., Oct. 2, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 38. If we’re being honest, a majority of the recent “Fight Night” events have been somewhat underwhelming, but this card seems to buck that trend. There’s guaranteed action throughout the night, and even the undercard mostly features fighters with Wikipedia pages! Ah ... nostalgia.

Anyway, UFC Vegas 38 has all the looks of a fun night of combat, so let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 74 On ESPN+

STRAWWEIGHT CONTENDERS COLLIDE! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., May 20, 2023, with No. 7-ranked women’s Strawweight contender, Mackenzie Dern, testing her high-powered submission skills against No. 13-seeded Angela Hill. In UFC Vegas 73’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, Anthony Hernandez will lock horns with Edmen Shahbazyan in a showdown between talented Middleweight up-and-comers.

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

Welterweight: Alex Oliveira vs. Niko Price

Best Win for Oliveira? Carlos Condit For Price? Tim Means
Current Streak: Oliveira has lost two in a row, while Price is winless in his last three (one of those fights being a draw)
X-Factor: Oliveira is a bit of a frontrunner
How these two match up: Sure, these two have been struggling lately, but this is absolutely going to be an awesome fight.

The Brazilian “Cowboy” is never in a boring fight. Oliveira is wildly athletic and technically limited — such a fun combination. On his feet, Oliveira shocks opponents with his ability to blast powerful kicks and spring forward with knockout punches, and he’s also a real threat with his wrestling as well.

Price has a bit of awkwardness to his overall fighting style, but the man also has giant shoulders and lunchboxes for hands! Price hits stupid hard and is never out of a fight, and if things do hit the mat, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt is deceptively tricky.

Unless he can really dominate with his wrestling, Oliveira probably has five minutes to win this fight. In general, Oliveira has been fading more often down the stretch, particularly when the going gets tough. Against a hard-nosed scrapper like Price, the fight will get ugly and gritty if it lasts long enough, and that war of attrition will almost certainly favor “The Hybrid.”

So, there’s the question at hand: can Oliveira knock his foe out in the first or completely control him on the canvas? The knockout is definitely possible. Oliveira drops bombs ... and Price is far from un-hittable. The latter seems far less likely, as Price is too good of a scramble to remain contained indefinitely.

Still, considering Price is plenty capable of scoring an early knockout himself, betting on the early Oliveira stoppage seems unwise. More likely, this fight drags into the second round, and Price begins to take over and do major damage.

Prediction: Price via knockout

Middleweight: Misha Cirkunov vs. Krzysztof Jotko

Best Win for Cirkunov? Nikita Krylov For Jotko? Thales Leites
Current Streak: Both men came up short last time out
X-Factor: Cirkunov is moving to Middleweight for the first time
How these two match up: A pair of quality European veterans will throw down.

Cirkunov really has all the skills to be a top contender. The Canadian (by way of Latvia) has a great wrestling background and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Plus, the Southpaw has some power on his feet, though his striking defense/durability have proven an issue in recent losses. Oddly enough, size did not seem to be a limiting factor at 205 pounds, but perhaps Cirkunov knows something we do not.

Jotko is similarly well-rounded, more of a grappler but plenty competent on his feet as well. In general, Jotko has done well vs. fellow jiu-jitsu fighters, struggling more against top-notch sprawl-and-brawl fighters.

This is a hard one to predict. On paper, Cirkunov is the more dangerous grappler, likely holds an edge in the wrestling, and seemingly hits harder. At the same time, it’s such a mystery what he’ll look like at 185 pounds, particularly since he’s not young at 34 years old.

The chance of a wonky weight cut is high.

If Cirkunov is at his best, I like his chances. As is, I have to assume that Jotko will keep his feet moving and maintain a higher level of volume. Furthermore, Cirkunov is more likely to be chinny minus an additional 20 pounds, and Jotko has surprised his foes with power punches in the past.

Prediction: Jotko via decision

Women’s Bantamweight: Aspen Ladd vs. Macy Chiasson

Best Win for Ladd? Yana Kunitskaya For Chiasson? Marion Reneau
Current Streak: Ladd returned to the win column last time out, whereas Chiasson has won two straight
X-Factor: Can Chiasson match Ladd’s strength?
How these two match up: Two of Bantamweight’s strongest ladies will throw down.

As evidenced by her intense weight cuts, Ladd is one of the largest women competing at 135 pounds. Her physicality is a major edge in wrestling exchanges, and she’s shown some quality pop in her hands as well. When able to gain top position, Ladd often finishes her opponents quickly.

A former Featherweight, Chiasson also imposes her physicality on her opposition. On the whole, Chiasson is pretty slick on her feet, particularly in the clinch, and she really excels at swarming wounded or fading opponents.

Ladd is going to wrestle, and it’s likely going to work, at least early on. Really, the big question here is whether or not Chiasson can survive on the mat. If she can extend the bout, Ladd’s wrestling-based style and weight cut definitely do drain her as the fight wears on.

Chiasson has the size and clinch skills to really give Ladd trouble if those takedowns start failing to land. The path to victory is there ... but it’s hard to go against the talented 26 year old, who is still the frontrunner as the division’s future.

Prediction: Ladd via decision

Remember that 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.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 38: “Santos vs. Walker” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 25-19-2 (1)

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