This weekend (Sat., March 12, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 50. There’s been a lot of cards recently ravaged by injuries, COVID-19 and other assorted mayhem, but this weekend’s event has largely held together ... for now. That’s fortunate for the fans, because from the top-billed clash between Thiago Santos and Magomed Ankalaev to the opening Middleweight bout, UFC Vegas 50 features nothing but exciting match ups of heavy hitters.
Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:
Featherweight: Sodiq Yusuff vs. Alex Caceres
Best Win for Yusuff? Andre Fili For Caceres? Sergio Pettis
Current Streak: Yusuff came up short last time out, whereas Caceres has won four in a row
X-Factor: Yusuff will be the far larger man on fight night
How these two match up: There is little doubt in my mind that this will be a very fun fight.
Yusuff is a serious powerhouse at 145 pounds. His technique is consistently impressive, but it’s his ability to melt opponents with power shots or overwhelm them on the mat that really makes the 28-year-old finisher stand out.
Caceres, meanwhile, has a pretty unusual game. The long-time veteran has never had a ton of pop in his hands, but he makes up for it with volume and creative distance kickboxing. In addition, his jiu-jitsu remains an underrated strength, which came often come into play late in fights when scrambles get a bit wild.
Caceres is on arguably the best run of his career. He’s performed more consistently than ever before, and the return to Featherweight has generally paid dividends. He’s earned a step up in competition, and now he’s got a chance to break back into the rankings.
Yusuff is not the match up for him to do so, however. The man throws bricks in a smart and composed fashion, and he’s just so much more physical than Caceres. It’s hard to see “Bruce Leeroy” really scaring off Yusuff with either his strikes or takedowns, which means Yusuff has no reason not to walk him down and put on the hurt.
Caceres has a hell of a chin, but unfortunately, he’s going to need it.
Prediction: Yusuff via decision
Light Heavyweight: Khalil Rountree vs. Karl Roberson
Best Win for Rountree? Gokhan Saki For Roberson? Darren Stewart
Current Streak: Rountree returned to the win column in his last bout, whereas Roberson has lost two straight
X-Factor: Roberson likes to wrestle at random times
How these two match up: Inconsistent kickboxing specialists collide!
Rountree is a stellar athlete who got in martial arts later in life. Like most pros in that scenario, he gravitated toward kickboxing, really finding his style once he began training in Thailand. Really, the biggest issue with Rountree has been inconsistency, as he sometimes fails to pull the trigger and lets his opponents dictate the pace and range.
A former pro kickboxer, Roberson’s struggles come more often against foes dedicated to drag him to the canvas. Despite being powerful and slick at all ranges, he has an odd habit of diving into grappling exchanges with opponents trying to wrestle him when disengaging would likely be a better choice.
There’s a lot of talent in this match up. Both men hit extremely hard, so each could conceivably put the other down at any moment. However, I could see either man making a costly tactical error, so being too confident here is difficult.
On the whole, I think the intangibles line up in the favor of Rountree. He’s more established at 205 pounds and has been fighting more often, which is typically a positive when consistency can be a problem. From a technical standpoint, Rountree has the option of slamming outside low kicks from distance and waiting for Roberson to come forward into counters. In general, the leftie seems to strike more confidently against fellow Southpaws, as his power low kick and lead leg switch kick are both very effective weapons to build from.
So long as Rountree is active, he’s at an advantage.
Prediction: Rountree via decision
Lightweight: Drew Dober vs. Terrance McKinney
Best Win for Dober? Alexander Hernandez For McKinney? Matt Frevola
Current Streak: Dober has lost two straight, whereas McKinney has won five straight (two in UFC)
X-Factor: McKinney fought two weeks ago!
How these two match up: Here’s an excellent unranked Lightweight scrap.
Drew Dober has been in the cage with quite a few of the best Lightweights on the planet. He hasn’t always won those fights, but Dober has come a long way from his early undercard days. He discovered punching power somewhere along the way, turning from a volume scrapper to genuine knockout threat.
Undefeated (2-0) with two quick finishes inside the Octagon, McKinney is deservedly building some hype around his name. The young prospect has major power in his hands and some very dynamic wrestling. Typically, he applies both those skills with force early in fights, looking to force that quick finish.
I’ll admit, I have trouble trusting prospects like McKinney, who historically either win quickly or come up short later in the fight. At the UFC level, it’s really damn hard to consistently finish opponents, so banking on the early stoppage is rarely a strategy for consistent success. Often, fighters who rise on the type of strategy run into a hard wall at one point or another.
Is Dober that wall? The veteran Muay Thai fighter has a chin like a cement block, so I’m not to worried about him getting flatlined early. Getting overwhelmed on the mat is a more significant concern, as Dober has been submitted four times previously in UFC.
The only two strangles in the last five years came versus Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev, however, and those guys are submission masters. If McKinney joins that circle, I’ll be hugely impressed, but I’m not betting on it.
More likely, Dober survives some bad spots early then starts connecting and stuffing shots.
Prediction: Dober via knockout
Middleweight: Alex Pereira vs. Bruno Silva
Best Win for Pereira? Andreas Michailidis For Silva? Alexander Schlemenko
Current Streak: Pereira recently won his UFC debut, whereas Silva is 3-0 inside the Octagon
X-Factor: Can Silva control his brawling instincts?
How these two match up: Two very different types of knockout artists are going to try to break each others’ faces.
Pereira is a highly accomplished professional kickboxer, known in the ring for erasing opponents with his left hook and putting Israel Adesanya to sleep. Now, he’s throwing those kill shots in four ounce gloves, and the MMA world as a whole is very, very interested in his potential to climb the ladder.
The trend of world-class kickboxers transitioning to MMA is hot right now.
Silva is a more straightforward slugger, but the man hits brutally hard, too. Unlike Pereira, Silva is also a known ground threat, possessing some of the nastiest ground-and-pound you’ll find at 185 pounds.
This is a dangerous and difficult fight for Pereira, a considerable step up from his UFC debut. Silva may not have the technical prowess of his opponent, but he hits plenty hard, and Pereira will have to respect that threat. If Silva then mixes in his takedown attempts, he stands a fair shot at landing them, and a single minute of control could spell doom for Pereira.
All the same, it’s hard to go against “Po Atan.” The man has dynamite in his fists, and his UFC debut showed an excellent mix of opportunism and good defensive grappling instincts. Silva is wild, and I’m not sure he can afford to be against an assassin like Alex Pereira.
Prediction: Pereira via knockout
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 10-6
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 50 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 50: “Santos vs. Ankalaev” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.