This weekend (Sat., Feb. 19, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 48. Last second visa issues prevented Rafael Fiziev from scoring his first main event slot versus Rafael dos Anjos this weekend (details here), and that bout will now bolster the UFC 272 pay-per-view (PPV) in a couple weeks. Unfortunately, it’s a considerable blow to an already iffy card, which no longer offers any particularly fascinating or overly relevant match ups outside of the new main event in Johnny Walker vs. Jamahal Hill.
So, the situation isn’t ideal, but Apex events are known for over-performing, and Jim f—king Miller is fighting, so not all is lost! Let’s take a closer look at these donnybrooks:
Catchweight (195 lbs): Kyle Daukaus vs. Jamie Pickett
Best Win for Daukaus? Dustin Stoltzfus For Pickett? Laureano Staropoli
Current Streak: Daukaus enters following a “No Contest” vs. Kevin Holland, whereas Pickett has won two straight
X-Factor: Pickett accepted the fight on very short notice
How these two match up: Two well-rounded up-and-comers will face off.
Sporting a 1-2 (1) record inside the Octagon, Daukaus has yet to realize the success that his skills imply should be quite attainable. Admittedly, part of his struggle comes from the fact that he’s fought stiff competition since his debut vs. Brendan Allen, but he’s generally shown a strong mix of skills, good conditioning, and ample toughness inside the cage.
Pickett rebounded from a difficult start to his UFC career to start up his current win streak. He has yet to score a finish or land anything terribly dramatic, but Pickett’s combination of solid wrestling and consistent distance striking has been enough to carve out a spot on the roster at least.
On paper, this is a grappler vs. striker match up, with Daukaus winning the bulk of his fights via submission and Pickett doing the same via strikes. However, Pickett has spent a lot of his time inside the Octagon working for takedowns and/or trading positions in the clinch. Even with his four inch reach advantage, it seems likely that he’ll engage Daukaus in a wrestling match ... whether that’s a good idea or not.
Daukaus appears the more technical man, particularly in regards to grappling, and he’s already faced stiff competition than his opponent. Add in a five-year advantage in youth, and everything seems to add up to Daukaus leading this dance and returning to the win column.
Prediction: Daukaus via decision
Heavyweight: Parker Porter vs. Alan Baudot
Best Win for Porter? Chase Sherman For Baudot? Todd Stoute
Current Streak: Porter has won two straight, whereas Baudot enters following a “No Contest”
X-Factor: Baudot is fighting for his UFC career
How these two match up: Unranked Heavyweight fights are hit-or-miss, but I have a good feeling about this one.
Mostly, that feeling is due to Parker Porter. Six-foot even and 260 lbs., Porter doesn’t look like more than the average regional Heavyweight slugger, but he’s deceptively technical, reasonably quick, and can fight hard for the full 15 minutes. I’m not calling a title run any time soon, but Porter has shown the skills necessary to stick around amongst the UFC big men.
Baudot ... not so much yet. Were it not for Rodrigo Nascimento’s drug test failure for psychostimulants, he’d likely have been released after his second consecutive stoppage loss. Instead, he’ll receive a third chance here, though he’s once again the underdog.
Perhaps Baudot can exceed expectations here, but I do not have any reason to predict it. He doesn’t have many particularly high quality wins, and both of his UFC fights have shown him to be outmatched. Porter may not be as talented as Tom Aspinall, but he’s highly experienced and capable, the clear-cut sharper striker in a fight that’s likely to remain on the feet.
One shot can, of course, change everything at Heavyweight, but barring a big blow early, Porter might just pick up his first UFC finish.
Prediction: Porter via knockout
Lightweight: Jim Miller vs. Nikolas Motta
Best Win for Miller? Charles Oliveira For Motta? Joe Solecki
Current Streak: Miller won last time out, whereas Motta is making his UFC debut following a three-fight win streak
X-Factor: UFC jitters for Motta?
How these two match up: On one hand, this is an obvious veteran vs. prospect match up, a man with nearly 40 UFC fights vs. an athlete with none. At the same time, Motta is a 10-year pro and Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Brazil vet, so it’s not like this is entirely his first rodeo.
At any rate, Miller remains dangerous after all these years. He still has some real heat behind his punches, but as has long been the case, Miller’s best asset remains his jiu-jitsu. If able to take the back or throw up an armbar, he’s a serious finishing threat.
Motta is a former Cage Warriors Lightweight champ, which is where he picked up a win over current UFC Lightweight Solecki back in 2018. The Brazilian trains out of Factory X Muay Thai, and he largely employs a sprawl-and-brawl strategy.
This is the second time he’s been booked to debut vs. Miller.
At this stage of his career, Miller pretty much has to win quickly. Case in point: Miller hasn’t won a decision since 2016, and all his victories since that time have come in the opening six minutes. The man is 38 years old and has a lot of mileage on him, so it’s not a surprise that his output tends to wane past the midway point in fights.
The question, then, is can he knock out or submit Motta inside the first round and a half? All of Motta’s losses come via finish — including his TUF Brazil run — so the potential is there.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like a great bet. Motta is coming into his own, dangerous and experienced vs. stiff opposition. If he’s smart, he’ll play it cautious early, and then the opportunities to land heavy shots will open up more and more as Miller fatigues.
Prediction: Motta via decision
Middleweight: Joaquin Buckley vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
Best Win for Buckley? Impa Kasanganay For Alhassan? Niko Price
Current Streak: Both men have won their most recent bout via knockout
X-Factor: Buckley finally faces an opponent without a huge height advantage
How these two match up: This is a straight up BANGFEST!
Look, Buckley probably isn’t the title contender fans were hoping for after he ninja kicked Kasanganay into the stratosphere (see it). There are pros and cons to his boxing style: he puts together nice combinations of fast, powerful punches to the head-and-body, but he tends to do so at one speed, which has run him into big counter shots. Generally, the height and reach advantage he often gives up at Middleweight seems to be a problem, so the question of his Welterweight potential definitely remains.
Still, he’s won three of his last four via knockout, so it could be a whole lot worse.
Alhassan is figuring out his footing at Middleweight. He’s 1-1 since jumping up 15 lbs., getting badly upset in his debut before rebounding with a 17-second head kick knockout. Whatever the weight class, Alhassan is a powerhouse who hits really damn hard.
“Judo Thunder” is also, surprisingly, 36 years of age, nearly a decade older than Buckley. Aside from that high kick, his recent run has been pretty miserable, as Alhassan looked ineffective in a three-fight losing streak. In truth, it looked like he was on his way out.
Buckley, meanwhile, has some holes in his game to fix, but he’s still improving, and his athletic potential is clear. Against an opponent he doesn’t have to lunge towards, Buckley’s combinations should land more safely, and he generally maintains a higher pace.
As with the Miller bout above, this seems like a fight where Alhassan has about a round to badly hurt his opponent. If that doesn’t happen, Buckley holds the advantage.
Prediction: Buckley via knockout
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 5-3
Full disclosure: Though Sam Alvey’s opponent switched after the last article published, I still publicly picked his opponent’s replacement (Brendan Allen) and am giving myself credit for that softball prediction in the above record.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 48 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 (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 48: “Walker vs. Hill” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.