Lethal Flyweight strikers look to punch their tickets into title contention this Saturday (Oct. 15, 2022) when Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo square off inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN+ will also host Cub Swanson’s Bantamweight debut against Jonathan Martinez, as well as a pivotal Flyweight battle between grappling aces Askar Askarov and Brandon Royval.
UFC Vegas 62 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this weekend, which we’ve split into two piece for ease of perusal. Let’s get cracking ...
135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Victor Henry
An 11-1 run — the sole loss coming to T.J. Dillashaw — had World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran Raphael Assuncao (27-9) knocking on the door of title contention. Four consecutive losses followed, and he enters the cage this Saturday winless in the last four years.
He stands two inches shorter than Victor Henry (22-5) and gives up two inches of reach.
“La Mangosta” rode an 8-1 run into his Octagon debut, which he entered as a massive underdog against dangerous veteran Raoni Barcelos. Despite losing the first round, Henry’s pressure ultimately turned the tide and earned him a unanimous decision win.
He’s submitted eight professional opponents and knocked out another six.
The best case scenario for Assuncao is that he just can’t handle elite-level competition anymore. All four of the men he lost to in his current skid are extremely dangerous, or at least they were at the time. We can’t definitely say how he’ll do against middle-of-the-pack guys like Henry.
Thing is, Assuncao’s 40 years old and it’s been ages since he showed even a flash of the potent counter-striking that made him such a threat in the past. Henry’s consistent, high-volume pressure worked against a younger, more immediately dangerous counter specialist in Barcelos, and it should be just as effective here. In the end, he out-works Assuncao to a clear unanimous decision win.
Prediction: Henry via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Piera Rodriguez vs. Sam Hughes
Piera Rodriguez (8-0) followed her LFA title-winning knockout of Svetlana Gotsyk with a dominant decision win over Valesca Machado on Contender Series. Her efforts earned her a UFC contract, which “La Fiera” broke in by beating Kay Hansen in her debut.
Five of her professional victories have come by knockout.
Sam Hughes (7-1) — a former LFA title challenger — struggled her way to a winless (0-3) UFC start. Leaning on her wrestling appears to have been the adjustment she needed, however, and she steps into the cage in the midst of a two-fight winning streak.
“Sampage” is the taller woman by two inches.
I think I’m done underestimating Hughes. She showed impressive resilience against Istela Nunes and looked better than ever against Elise Reed, hunting down the fleet-of-foot striker and utterly mauling her on the mat. That renewed focus on wrestling should serve her well here, as Rodriguez struggled off her back in the opening round of her fight with Hansen.
Though Rodriguez did end up turning the tables, Hughes is ostensibly a more technically sound takedown artist than Hansen and seems to get stronger as the fight goes on. Rodriguez also lacks the firepower to put down Hughes for good, so expect Hughes’ aggression and constant wrestling attack to carry her to an increasingly one-sided decision.
Prediction: Hughes via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Tatsuro Taira vs. C.J. Vergara
Tatsuro Taira (11-0) amassed a perfect (9-0) amateur record before turning pro in 2018 and making his name under the Shooto banner. He made his UFC debut in May 2022, dominating two-time Contender Series veteran Carlos Candelario for a wide decision win.
Five of his eight professional stoppage wins have come by submission.
An upset knockout of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Brazil veteran Bruno Korea earned C.J. Vergara (10-3-1) a UFC debut against Ode Osbourne, who out-lasted the Texan to claim a unanimous decision victory. He then took on another Contender Series graduate, Kleydson Rodriguez, winning a highly controversial split decision at UFC 274.
He faces a one-inch height disadvantage and a two-inch reach disadvantage.
More than anything else, this is a test of Taira’s fight IQ. He’s an absolute wizard on the mat, but is often willing to eschew takedowns in favor of trading hands. Though he’s an adept striker — as we saw in that masterclass against Candelario — this could easily allow Vergara to sway the judges with raw aggression as he did in what was, frankly, a clear loss to Rodriguez.
I’ve been burned before by Japanese grappling aces failing to actually use their grappling, but I’ll be an optimist this time. In short, Taira holds his own on the feet and mixes in regular takedowns until he finds Vergara’s back and chokes his lights out.
Prediction: Taira via second round submission
170 lbs.: Mike Jackson vs. Pete Rodriguez
The ignominious UFC debut for Mike Jackson (1-1) saw him tapped in 45 seconds by Mickey Gall, and a failed drug test overturned his win over C.M. Punk two years later. It would be nearly four more years before “The Truth” again set foot in the Octagon, walking away with a disqualification victory over Dean Barry.
He stands five inches taller than Pete Rodriguez (4-1) and boasts a three-inch reach advantage.
Rodriguez followed a 7-2 amateur run with four straight knockouts in Jorge Masvidal’s iKon Fighting Federation. He subsequently stepped up on short notice to fight Contender Series graduate, Jack Della Maddalena, who knocked out “Dead Game” midway through the first round.
Three of his four knockout wins came in less than 90 seconds.
This honestly feels like an apology to Rodriguez for letting a monster like Della Maddalena use his head as a speed bag. I’m not saying he’s a world-beater or that Jackson can’t fight, but Jackson has always been a more accomplished photographer than mixed martial artist. Even Rodriguez’s rudimentary slugging should be more than sufficient to carry him past a part-time fighter who couldn’t even impress against Punk.
Outside of another bizarre situation like the Barry fight, the only feasible way I can see Jackson coming out on top is Rodriguez gassing himself out, which isn’t out of the question against a guy who’s never fought for longer than 10 minutes. It seems likelier that Rodriguez just brawls his way to a first-round stoppage.
Prediction: Rodriguez via first round technical knockout
Four more UFC Vegas 62 “Prelims” bouts remain to preview and predict, including a potential slugfest between Mana Martinez and Brandon Davis. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 62 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/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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