The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight division could crown its next title challenger this Saturday (Feb. 26, 2022) when Bobby Green steps up on short notice to challenge the seemingly unstoppable Islam Mackhachev. Also on tap at UFC Vegas 49, which takes place inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, are a must-win Middleweight match between Misha Cirkunov and Wellington Turman and a potential Flyweight firefight pitting Priscila Cachoeira against Ji Yeon Kim.
We’ve got three UFC Vegas 49 “Prelims” undercard bouts to examine still (check out the first batch here), so let’s get on that ...
155 lbs.: Rongzhu vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
The 10-fight win streak for Rongzhu (18-4) came to an end in his Octagon debut, which saw him out-worked by “Kazula” Vargas over 15 minutes. He returned to form five months later, however, dominating late replacement Brandon Jenkins en route to a last-minute finish.
All but one of his professional wins have come inside the distance, 12 of them via (technical) knockout.
The impressive finish from Ignacio Bahamondes (12-4) on Contender Series didn’t translate to immediate UFC success, dropping a hugely entertaining split decision to John Makdessi in his Octagon debut. Then came a clash with fellow Contender Series alum Roosevelt Roberts, whom “La Jaula” out-struck before flooring with a wheel kick in the last five seconds.
He boasts six inches of height and 4.5 inches of reach over Rongzhu.
I really liked what I saw out of Rongzhu in his second UFC bout. His debut was incredibly disappointing, so it was nice to see him throw volume and adjust his gameplan once he spotted a hole in Jenkins’ game. Still, this looks like Bahamondes’ fight. “La Jaula’s” terrific takedown defense should take Rongzhu’s wrestling out of the equation, and though Rongzhu is the harder puncher, Bahamondes has the edge in striking variety.
Whatever the outcome, these are two very promising young men who deserve further opportunities to grow in the Octagon. It’ll be Bahamondes improving to 2-1, leaning on his dangerous kicks and superior reach to win a long-range striking battle.
Prediction: Bahamondes via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Josiane Nunes vs. Ramona Pascual
Josiane Nunes (8-1) — whose only professional loss came against current UFC standout Taila Santos in 2013 — rode a six-fight win streak into her Octagon debut. Though “Josi” had to wait a while after initial foe Zarah Fairn failed her weight cut, she made that debut in style with a vicious knockout of Bea Malecki.
Six of her seven professional wins have come by form of knockout
Hong Kong’s Ramona Pascual (6-2) cut her teeth on the Asian circuit before stopping Guadalupe Guzman in her May 2021 North American debut. She was even more efficient in her first stateside effort, a 60-second knockout of Shamir Peshewa under the Invicta banner.
She replaces Jennifer Gonzalez, herself a late replacement for Wu Yanan, on just over a week’s notice.
This might actually turn out to be the most violent fight on the whole show. These women only know how to march forward and try to pulverize people, Nunes with a nuclear left hand and Pascual with a nasty Muay Thai onslaught.
While there’s a lot of uncertainty here, largely due to Pascual’s limited cage time in the last few years, Nunes looks to have the edge. Pascual’s willingness to mix it up inside despite her height plays into the Brazilian’s hands, and Nunes is by far the hardest puncher she’s ever faced. She may not have as many weapons, but the one that she has is enough to do the job.
Prediction: Nunes via first round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Terrance McKinney vs. Fares Ziam
These two were supposed to fight in Nov. 2021 before one of McKinney’s cornermen caught COVID, and seeing as my thoughts haven’t changed, I might as well use what I already had.
Things went from bad to worse for Terrance McKinney (11-3) when, just one fight after eating a flying knee from Sean Woodson on “Contender Series,” he fell victim to a 57-second triangle choke from Darrick Minner. “T. Wrecks” returned to form with three knockouts in a combined 1:45, then needed just seven seconds to wipe out Matt Frevola in the Octagon on an eight-day turnaround.
All 11 of his stoppage wins have come in the first round, nine of them in less than two minutes.
Fares Ziam (12-3) saw his five-fight win streak come to an end in his UFC debut, a unanimous decision loss to Don Madge. Subsequent efforts proved more fruitful, as he claimed decisions of his own over Jamie Mullarkey and Luigi Vendramini.
“Smile Killer” stands three inches taller than McKinney and sports a one-inch reach advantage.
Despite that incredible finish in his UFC debut, McKinney is still more a twitchy bundle of potential than a completed product. Luckily, Ziam figures to be fairly accommodating. The Frenchman just has zero urgency, landing just over two significant strikes per minute, and determined opponents have managed to bully him into the fence for takedowns on multiple occasions. McKinney’s a stronger wrestler than Ziam’s last three foes and figures to find plenty of success following that blueprint.
There’s a lot that can go wrong, of course. Leaning on his wild stand up could get McKinney sparked, and if his gas tank gives out, Ziam could very easily take over late. Still, I like McKinney to muscle his way inside, drag Ziam to the mat, and dominate for an early finish.
Prediction: McKinney via first round submission
All the Lightweight matchups are great, at least, and there’s tons of potential for extreme violence. See you
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2022: 22-9
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 49 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 49: “Makhachev vs. Green” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.