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X-Factor! Check out some UFC Vegas 52 main card predictions

UFC Fight Night: Guida v Santos Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

This weekend (Sat., April 23, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain in Las Vegas, Nevada, and its Apex facility for UFC Vegas 52. Fortunately, this card was a big step up from last week’s fights. All of the main card bouts pretty much guarantee scraps, and the Strawweight main event between Amanda Lemos and Jessica Andrade carries significant title implications, particularly with Rose Namajunas as the reigning queen.

First, let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 74 On ESPN+

STRAWWEIGHT CONTENDERS COLLIDE! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., May 20, 2023, with No. 7-ranked women’s Strawweight contender, Mackenzie Dern, testing her high-powered submission skills against No. 13-seeded Angela Hill. In UFC Vegas 73’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, Anthony Hernandez will lock horns with Edmen Shahbazyan in a showdown between talented Middleweight up-and-comers.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Lightweight: Clay Guida vs. Claudio Puelles

Best Win for Guida? Anthony Pettis For Puelles? Felipe Silva
Current Streak: Guida won his last fight, whereas Puelles has quietly won four in a row
X-Factor: This is a step up in competition for Puelles
How these two match up: Wrestler vs. BJJ guy combat!

Guida may be 40 years of age, but the grinder is still making it a habit of out-hustling opponents on the canvas. To add to that long-time wrestling skill, Guida’s right hand and calf kicks have been growing more dangerous over the years, proving there’s still plenty in the tank.

On the other side of the equation — did you know Claudio Puelles has been on UFC’s roster since 2016? He’s been through some layoffs, but fought twice in 2021, renewing interest in the potential of the former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) contestant. Puelles is primarily a grappler, but he’s got some Muay Thai skill, too.

Puelles has some definite skill, and he did just recently out-finesse a solid grinder in Chris Gruetzemacher. “El Nino” is likely to engage a similar game plan here: land big shots on the feet and hunt for submissions when the pair come together.

Guida has been hurt and submitted in recent years — that’s a reality of growing older. However, as his last fight demonstrated, Guida remains a difficult man to finish, one not likely to stop pushing unless he’s fully stopped. His durability and gas tank are still very solid, and his wrestling is superior here.

All in all, that adds up to a grinding grappling match, likely full of blood and sweat. Sounds like a classic Guida fight to me!

Prediction: Guida via decision

Featherweight: Lando Vannata vs. Charles Jourdain

Best Win for Vannata? Yancy Medeiros For Jourdain? Doo Ho Choi
Current Streak: Both men won their last bout
X-Factor: Vannta’s spinning s—t
How these two match up: Guaranteed “Fight of the Night.”

Vannata has yet to win consistently inside the Octagon, but he’s one of the most entertaining fighters on the roster all the same. “Groovy” is a really tricky kickboxers who cannot help but be suckered into a brawl — the prospect of scoring a knockout is simply too good to resist.

This will be his second bout at 145 pounds.

Jourdain fits a similar mold. He’s a technical enough kickboxer with considerable power, but unlike Vannata, he actually fights even better when he lets everything hang and really gets after his opponent. Jourdain is fearless ... and he can push a nasty pace.

There’s every chance someone goes to sleep early. Jourdain gets aggressive fast, and Vannata is exceptionally sharp with his right hand early on. At the same time, Vannata has never been that hard to hit, and Jourdain typically wins via knockout himself. Quite simply, the exchanges are going to be violent.

Over time, however, I lean more and more toward Jourdain. His forward pressure style is easier to maintain in a scrap, and his conditioning at Featherweight is more proven. Jourdain probably gets dropped at least once in the first seven or so minutes of the fight, but that’s never deterred him before.

At some point, the tide turns, and Jourdain is like a snowball rolling downhill.

Prediction: Jourdain via knockout

Women’s Flyweight: Maycee Barber vs. Montana De La Rosa

Best Win for Barber? Miranda Maverick For De La Rosa? Ariane Lipski
Current Streak: Both women won their last bout
X-Factor: Barber’s power
How these two match up: This one could honestly go anywhere.

Barber is still figuring out her overall mixed martial arts (MMA) game. She has great physical gifts — few women can land as hard in the clinch or from top position — but she has yet to find a way to consistently apply that talent. Fortunately, at 23 years of age, there’s still time for everything to really click into place for the prospect.

De La Rosa’s gameplan is more straightforward. She’s a wrestler with good jiu-jitsu and developing stand up. Generally, however, she tends to live and die based on whether or not the takedown lands.

So, the match up itself is clear enough. De La Rosa will try to wrestle, and Barber will either sprawl-and-brawl or look to gain top position and drop bombs. Either way, it’s a fight that comes down to Barber’s takedown defense, which was problematic for her vs. Roxanne Modafferi.

I still like Barber here, though. She quickly dealt with a similar foe in Gillian Robertson, and her ability to drop the hurt tends to surprise and discourage opponents. If De La Rosa goes for a takedown, fails and eats a huge knee, she may just accept the kickboxing match from that point forward.

Prediction: Barber via decision

Lightweight: Steve Garcia vs. Damir Hadzovic

Best Win for Garcia? Charles Ontiveros For Hadzovic? Marcin Held
Current Streak: Both men won their last fight
X-Factor: This is Garcia’s first fight vs. an established UFC-caliber fighter
How these two match up: Strikers collide!

Garcia is a kickboxer who cut his teeth in Bellator, primarily at Bantamweight and Featherweight. He’s moved up to 155 pounds since joining UFC’s roster, splitting a pair of bouts. Hadzovic, meanwhile, has been on the roster since 2016, participating in some very memorable scraps along the way. “The Bosnian Bomber” has struggled a bit with being put on his back, but that’s unlikely to be an issue here.

Once more, this is a scrap that could end early. Both men like to trade and have knockout power, so those initial exchanges are likely to be rather tense.

Hadzovic is so much more proven, however, that it’s difficult to go against him. He’s really proven his power and durability at this level, whereas Garcia has yet to do so. Plus, Hadzovic is a big, strong 155-pounder, which could become a major factor if the fight goes deep.

Maybe Garcia makes a statement here, but until that happens, I have to side with the veteran.

Prediction: Hadzovic via knockout

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 22-9

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 52 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 9 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 52: “Lemos vs. Andrade” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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