This weekend (Sat., Feb. 26, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain in UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 49. For the second time in as many weeks, the main event scheduled is not the original plan. This time around, an injury less than two weeks away from fight night forced Beneil Dariush from his clash vs. Islam Makhachev, creating an opening for the resurgent Bobby Green to capitalize upon. The rest of the card is a touch lackluster, with the sole exception of an absolutely incredible Lightweight bout between Arman Tsarukyan and Joel Alvarez.
Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:
Women’s Flyweight: Ji Yeon Kim vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Best Win for Kim? Justine Kish For Cachoeira? Gina Mazany
Current Streak: Kim has lost two in a row, while Cachoeira lost her last bout
X-Factor: Kim has a seven inch advantage in reach
How these two match up: Don’t ask me why this is on the main card over McKinney vs. Ziam or Perez vs. Martinez.
Regardless, Kim is consistent inside the cage. She has a nice one-two combination, which she throws constantly. Given her reach, that’s not exactly the worst strategy. On the whole, she’s a bit of a one-note striker, but Kim does good work when able to enforce her range and keep her foe at the end of her straight punches and kicks.
Cachoeira is also pretty solely a striker ... and not a particularly technical one. Unlike many of her peers, however, Cachoeira has big power in her hands, so it’s real significant when she does connect on a big swing.
Though neither woman has scored a takedown inside the Octagon, Kim is the only one with any submission wins on her record at all. That fact, alongside her generally better grappling defense on the mat, leads me to believe that if things get wild, she’s more likely to shoot for a takedown. Considering how bad Cachoeira’s grappling has looked in every UFC fight, that seems a viable option.
If not, Kim seems more likely to pick at Cachoeira with jabs all night. Betting on Cachoeira is betting on a knockout, and that’s seldom a great choice given the division and simple fact that Kim has never been stopped.
Kim probably takes an overhand or two in the process, but lots of straight shots earn her the decision nod.
Prediction: Kim via decision
Lightweight: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Joel Alvarez
Best Win for Tsarukyan? Davi Ramos For Alvarez? Thiago Moises
Current Streak: Both men have won four in a row
X-Factor: Both men also have extremely difficult weight cuts
How these two match up: A pair of Welterweights masquerading as Lightweights will throw down, and fortunately, they’re excellent fighters regardless of weight cut woes.
At 25 years of age, Tsarukyan is an incredible wrestler who just so happens to be able to kick brutally hard. There’s a reason so many fight fans are high on the Armenian talent: he has the physical tools and skill set of a future champion. On the other hand, On the other hand, Alvarez has been flying under the radar, but he’s starting to really shine. All four of his recent wins come via stoppage, a testament to the potency of his kicks-and-submissions style.
This is an interesting match up on several levels. For one, both men are accustomed to implementing their physical size on their opponents, but that usual advantage cancels out. In addition, it’s a pair of young Lightweight killers riding considerable waves of momentum who keep looking better every fight.
Ultimately, I think Alvarez is the sharper, more powerful striker. In general, he’s the more dangerous man, likelier to score a finish. However, it’s tough to deny Tsarukyan’s wrestling gifts, as well as his pure physicality. Back in his UFC debut vs. the forgotten (but excellent) Damir Ismagulov, Alvarez spent too much time on his back looking for submissions, and it cost him the fight.
A repeat here seems the most likely outcome, but expect Alvarez to have his moments.
Prediction: Tsarukyan via decision
Middleweight: Armen Petrosyan vs. Gregory Rodrigues
Best Win for Petrosyan? Kaloyan Kolev For Rodrigues? Jun Yong Park
Current Streak: Petrosyan makes his debut on a two-fight win streak, whereas Rodrigues is 2-0 inside the UFC
X-Factor: This is Petrosyan’s first fight at 185 lbs.
How these two match up: “Contender Series” products collide.
Petrosyan made a stellar first impression in his first trip to the UFC Apex, scoring a brutal head kick knockout in the first round. There’s still much to learn, but he showed really crisp stand up technique in that bout, and the Russian has an extensive history in Muay Thai.
Rodrigues, meanwhile, is a former LFA champion. He’s not the most mobile fighter, but he’s strong and powerful, and he’s quite confident in the pocket. In addition, he’s proven himself a solid offensive wrestler inside the Octagon.
This is a tough debut for for Petrosyan. In a straight kickboxing match, I’d surely favor the Russian, but this ain’t that. Rodrigues has scored takedowns in both of his UFC bouts previously, and he does good work with damaging blows in the clinch. Simply put, he has all the skills necessary to make this one ugly, to rack up control time without merely stalling.
“Robocop” applies pressure, dirty boxing, and the occasional takedown to ruin his opponent’s first UFC appearance.
Prediction: Rodrigues via knockout
Lightweight: Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Zhu Rong
Best Win for Bahamondes? Roosevelt Roberts For Rong? Brandon Jenkins
Current Streak: Both men won their last bout
X-Factor: Despite the 22 pro fights on his record, Rong is just 21 years old
How these two match up: Young strikes collide.
Bahamondes enters following one of 2021’s best knockout wins, a sensational wheel kick opposite Roberts in a fight that really showed off his talents. Bahamondes is an excellent high-volume striker, able to overwhelm his opponents with constant activity if they cannot prevent his output in some manner.
Rong, meanwhile, has stopped a majority of his opponents via knockout and recently scored his first UFC win. The Tibetan athlete has been fighting since 16 and prefers to slug it out, though he occasionally will wait too long searching for the counter and allow his opponents to steal rounds.
Rong has genuine power, and Bahamondes is certainly hittable with the amount of punches he fires off. Fortunately for “La Jaula,” he’s also never been stopped by strikes and demonstrated a very solid chin thus far in his UFC career.
Given Rong’s tendency to react to his opponents, it seems likely that Bahamondes gets his offense flowing. Between his volume and height/reach advantages, it seems likely that Bahamondes simply lands more strikes more consistently. That’s enough for a win on its own, though perhaps Bahamondes can pull more spinning s—t off to really put an explanation mark on this one.
Prediction: Bahamondes via decision
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 8-4
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.
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