Two of the Featherweight division’s nastiest strikers collide at the APEX this Saturday when Calvin Kattar attempts to hand Arnold Allen his first Octagon defeat. 25 pounds north, Tim Means attempts to turn back the clock against the always-dangerous Max Griffin, while TUF veteran Tresean Gore looks for his first UFC victory at Josh Fremd’s expense.
With assorted misfortunes whittling the Prelims down to six, we’ve decided to present them to you all at once. Dig in ...
185 lbs.: Phil Hawes vs. Roman Dolidze
Four consecutive first-round finishes, including a 78-second knockout of Khadzhimurat Bestaev on Contender Series, earned Phil Hawes (12-3) a long-awaited Octagon berth in 2020. He currently sits at 4-1 in the world’s largest fight promotion and was last seen brutalizing Deron Winn to earn his second “Performance of the Night” bonus.
His 10 professional finishes include eight via (technical) knockout.
Georgia’s Roman Dolidze (10-1) picked up a pair of UFC victories before suffering his first-ever defeat at the hands of Trevin Giles. He’s since gotten back on track with another two wins, among them a 73-second bonus-winning knockout of Kyle Daukaus in May 2022.
He stands two inches taller than Hawes, but gives up 1.5 inches of reach.
This should be something of a graduation exam for Hawes. His cardio and durability have long been his biggest bugbears, and though Dolidze is outclassed virtually everywhere, he’s persistent and powerful enough to trip Hawes up if he’s not firing on all cylinders.
That said, Hawes has such a massive edge in striking technique that it’s hard to pick against him, especially when he has the wrestling pedigree to avoid a smothering. Unless Dolidze lands an out-of-nowhere bomb like the one that broke Daukaus, expected Hawes to carve him up for another mid-round stoppage.
Prediction: Hawes via second round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
Just three years removed from a 3-8 (1 NC) freefall, the ageless Andei Arlovski (34-20) now finds himself 6-1 in his last seven fights. His 2022 campaign has already seen him claim split decisions over Jared Vanderaa and Jake Collier.
“Pitbull” will enjoy two inches of height and reach on “Pezao.”
Last year, Marcos Rogerio de Lima (19-8-1) put together his first two-fight win streak since 2014 with a decision over Maurice Greene and knockout of Ben Rothwell. The fun wasn’t to last, as he subsequently dropped a competitive decision to Blagoy Ivanov.
He’s scored 14 knockouts as a professional.
How many times now have we seen the new old Arlovski “veteran savvy” his way past big punchers that should have knocked his block off? It seems like “Pezao” is a prime candidate, too; the man’s made an art form of completely falling apart when he can’t find the early finish.
And yet, I can’t bring myself to pick “Pitbull.” The man was beyond fortunate to get the nod against Jake Collier and has a historic allergy to the sort of devil-may-care blitzes that Rogerio de Lima loves to employ. Plus, while Rogerio de Lima is a dead fish off of his back, his takedown defense held up for a remarkably long time against Ivanov. If the Brazilian lands even a fraction of the power shots he connected with that evening, Arlovski’s going to sleep in a hurry.
Prediction: Rogerio de Lima via first round knockout
185 lbs.: Joseph Holmes vs. Jun Yong Park
Though the Contender Series victory for Joseph Holmes (8-2) didn’t earn him a UFC contract, his subsequent knockout of Jhonoven Pati on Lookin’ for a Fight did the trick. Jamie Pickett proved too high a bar to clear in his Octagon debut, but a dominant finish of Alen Amedovski got “Ugly Man Joe” back in the win column.
All of his professional wins have come inside the distance, six via submission.
Jun Yong Park (14-5) bounced back from a debut loss to Anthony Hernandez with three straight wins, only to fall short in a Fight of the Night war with Gregory Rodrigues. Undeterred, he subsequently kicked off his 2022 efforts with a split decision over Eryk Anders.
“The Iron Turtle” gives up six inches of height and seven inches of reach to Holmes.
Speaking in broad strokes, Holmes does have the means to give Park issues. Besides the obvious height and reach advantages, his solid top game is a good weapon to use against someone better at getting off of his back than at stopping takedowns in the first place. For all his skills, Park can definitely let fights get away from him.
Still, losing to Jamie Pickett is about as big a red flag as you can find in today’s UFC Middleweight division. Park is the more proven product, the more dangerous striker, and has some solid wrestling chops of his own, so he gets the nod.
Prediction: Park via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Chase Hooper vs. Steve Garcia
Chase Hooper (11-2-1) entered the Octagon undefeated before splitting his first four bouts. A nearly 12-month layoff followed, which he ended with a career-best wipeout of Felipe Colares in May 2022.
“The Dream” has submitted five professional foes and knocked out another four.
More than 19 months after losing his UFC debut against Luis Pena, Steve Garcia (12-5) scored his first Octagon victory with a ground-and-pound finish of Charlie Ontiveros. Then came fellow Contender Series veteran Maheshate, who stopped “Mean Machine” with punches just 74 seconds into the fight.
He’ll have a one-inch reach advantage despite being the shorter of the two by one inch.
We’re still a very long way from Hooper being an actual contender, but this is very favorable matchmaking for him. Garcia’s tendency to fall over himself when throwing was on full display against Ontiveros, who dropped him early before collapsing, and Maheshate, who just straight-up pasted him. This inability to maintain distance is an awful shortcoming to have against Hooper, who can convert a tie-up into a dominant position even without much in the way of actual wrestling skills.
While Garcia’s size and power admittedly give him an edge on the feet, his lack of discipline will give Hooper far too many opportunities to drag the fight into his wheelhouse. Hooper racks up ground-and-pound until the ref intervenes.
Prediction: Hooper via second round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Cody Durden vs. Carlos Mota
After starting his professional career 4-2, Cody Durden (13-4) worked his way to the Octagon with a seven-fight winning streak. His UFC record currently sits at 2-2-1, including a brutal finish of J.P. Buys in his most recent effort.
He is the taller man by two inches.
The first bid at LFA Flyweight gold saw Carlos Mota (8-1) fall to Charles Johnson in the fifth round of one of 2022’s best wars. He made a second attempt seven months later, smashing Rizvan Abuev with a one-punch knockout to earn the strap in Aug. 2022.
He steps in for Kleydson Rodrigues on less than one week’s notice.
The pivotal question here is whether Durden can consistently take Mota down. Even with Durden’s obvious striking improvements of late, Mota’s power, aggression, and wilting body attack pose huge issues for someone this prone to fading down the stretch. The longer it stays standing, the more one-sided it will get in “Tizil’s” favor.
This could just be the part of me that craves an entertaining fight talking, but I’m leaning towards Mota. He should have the grappling chops to survive Durden’s early takedown attack and has shown the grit and cardio necessary to take over once Durden starts to slow. A late snowball carries Mota to victory.
Prediction: Mota via third round technical knockout
UFC Vegas 63 may be a shell of its former self, but at least it offers plenty of striking battles. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Prediction Record for 2022: 152-75-2
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 63 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 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 63: “Kattar vs. Allen” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.