This weekend (Sat., April 30, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain in Las Vegas, Nevada, and its Apex facility for UFC Vegas 53. Provided you don’t look below the main card, UFC’s return to ESPN+ reads like a lot of fun! Marlon Vera is one of the pound-for-pound most entertaining fighters on the roster, and it’s well-known that Rob Font is down for a scrap — that’s a main event we can trust to entertain. Before that Bantamweight clash, a mix of proven finishers and gritty veterans will lead us in.
Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:
Featherweight: Andre Fili vs. Joanderson Brito
Best Win for Fili? Dennis Bermudez For Brito? Diego Lopes
Current Streak: Fili enters off a “No Contest,” while Brito lost his UFC debut last time out
X-Factor: The bout was booked on short notice
How these two match up: This reads like a very fun scrap.
Fili has picked up a few Top 15 wins in his career, but he has yet to build the type of win streak that really generates momentum toward the title. Fortunately, “Touchy” still seems to be getting better, as his most recent performance was likely the finest kickboxing showcase of his professional career.
Brito may be winless in his UFC career thus far, but he’s beaten some excellent opponents on the regional scene. The Brazilian scrapper is pretty straightforward in his Muay Thai approach, but that style has produced finishes more often than not.
This is a bit of a strange bout. Brito came up short vs. Bill Algeo, a good fighter but one generally less accomplished than Fili. In that bout, Brito repeatedly punched into the clinch when it didn’t benefit him, resulting in some takedowns and lots of control from Algeo. Fili has the reactive takedowns to find similar success.
Furthermore, Fili looks like the sharper kickboxer. He shifts stances and takes angles quite a bit, which will be a problem for the more stationary Brito. Unless the Brazilian can land something devastating early, it seems pretty likely that Fili picks him apart and controls the flow of the fight.
Prediction: Fili via knockout
Lightweight: Jared Gordon vs. Grant Dawson
Best Win for Gordon? Hacran Dias For Dawson? Leonardo Santos
Current Streak: Gordon has won three in a row, whereas Dawson enters off a draw
X-Factor: Can Dawson keep up with Gordon’s gas tank?
How these two match up: Two wrestlers who embrace the grind will attempt to drown one another.
Gordon is relentless. He’s not the absolute best in any one area, but “Flash” is about as hard-nosed and determined as they come. When able to get his opponent tired, Gordon tends to absolutely dominate from that point forward.
Dawson is more of a specialist. Though his kickboxing is coming along, Dawson really excels at chain wrestling along the fence. Once in top position, he’s quite good at pinning his opponents down and funneling them into submissions. Since moving up to Lightweight, however, Dawson has experienced a bit more difficulty in keeping foes contained.
I believe Gordon is the better striker with heavier hands here, but it’s also likely that Dawson can take and keep him down. As the recent Joe Solecki fight showed, however, that alone isn’t enough to win the fight. Dawson has to be ready to wrestle for the full 15 minutes — something he failed to due vs. Rick Glenn — or else Gordon is going to scratch and claw his way back into the fight.
Barring an early finish, the likely result is a bloody, exhausting match that sees Dawson start strong but Gordon finish big. Then, those pesky judges come into play ...
Prediction: Dawson via decision
Featherweight: Darren Elkins vs. Tristan Connelly
Best Win for Elkins? Mirsad Bektic For Connelly? Michel Pereira
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: Elkins is damn near impossible to submit
How these two match up: Experienced grapplers collide!
Elkins is a grinder of the purest variety. “The Damage” walks through fire to get his wrestling going, exhausts his opponents, then slowly takes over. It’s rarely pretty, but Elkins has a bunch of Featherweight longevity records as a credit to his grit and skill. Canada’s Connelly is also a ground specialist, but he falls a bit more into the jiu-jitsu subcategory. He’s got plenty of experience in his own right, but this is only his third trip to the Octagon.
At this point, the path to defeating Elkins is generally to hurt him standing up and then avoid the wrestling. Even when opponents do well wrestling with Elkins early on, that success tends not to last. Seeing as Connelly is a grappler first and foremost, it will likely be extremely difficult for him to completely shift his style and avoid scrambling with the veteran.
Even at 37 years of age and deep in his professional career, Elkins remains a nightmare match up for most grapplers. He just doesn’t stop wrestling, working his way into top position despite any number of submission attempts or elbows to the temple. It’s physically and mentally wearing, and it’s a very easy trap to fall into.
Expect a vintage “Damage” performance in this one.
Prediction: Elkins via decision
Middleweight: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Best Win for Meerschaert? Makhmud Muradov For Jotko? Thales Leites
Current Streak: Meerschaert has won his last three, whereas Jotko rebounded last time out
X-Factor: Both men are a bit inconsistent
How these two match up: Middle of the division Middleweight madness!
“GM3” deserves major credit for rebounding from his Khamzat Chimaev loss so well. In his last three fights, he’s looked more dangerous than ever, wearing down opponents with heavy kicks before bringing his masterful submission game into play. In 34 victories, Meerschaert has tapped out 26 opponents and stopped another six via strikes.
On the flip side, nearly 70 percent of Jotko’s wins come via decision. He’s a technical kickboxer, solid wrestler, and can push a good pace for 15 minutes, but there’s not anything about his game that really pops off the page. He’s a tactical fighter though, which has resulted in a very solid UFC career.
This is an annoying fight to predict. On one hand, Meerschaert is the far, far more dangerous fighter. He’s the one that might actually hurt his opponent, be it via liver kick or strangulation. At the same time, Jotko is generally pretty good at not getting creamed by big shots or caught in submissions, and he does well in winning minutes of fights.
Are we in a Meerschaert finishes or loses by decision situation? Possibly.
As such, it’s hard to be too confident either way. Ultimately, the deciding factor for me was Meerschaert’s performance vs. Muradov. Opposite a composed, powerful, and technical striker, Meerschaert really put on a smart performance that saw him methodically build to the finish, rather than just pull it off suddenly.
If he can be consistently damaging and dangerous vs. Jotko, a similar outcome is likely.
Prediction: Meerschaert via submission
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 24-10
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 53 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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