The most prolific Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) submission artist defends his title against one of its fiercest knockout machines this Saturday (May 7, 2022) when Lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira, headlines UFC 274 opposite Justin Gaethje inside Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The co-feature sees Strawweight queenpin, Rose Namajunas, rematch the first woman to defeat her in the Octagon, Carla Esparza. Other main card pay-per-view (PPV) action includes Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson and Ovince St. Preux vs. “Shogun” Rua in a Light Heavyweight rematch.
UFC 274 features 10 “Prelims” undercard bouts that set the stage before that. Let’s check out the first six on ESPN+:
170 lbs.: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Danny Roberts
Welterweight run for Francisco Trinaldo (27-8) got off to a rough start, as Muslim Salikhov snapped the Brazilian’s three-fight win streak. Four months later, “Massaranduba” secured his first 170-pound Octagon victory by narrowly defeating Dwight Grant at the APEX.
He gives up four inches of height and reach to “Hot Chocolate.”
Stoppage losses to Claudio Silva and Michel Pereira didn’t stop Danny Roberts (18-5) from righting the ship with an upset knockout of Zelim Imadaev. His next effort pitted him against Ramazan Emeev, whom he scraped past via split decision in Vegas.
He has scored eight knockouts as a professional, three of them in the Octagon.
Even if the Welterweight division has treated Trinaldo more poorly than his former stomping grounds of 155 pounds, I like his chances here. Emeev found a lot of success with the same sort of grinding, low-output approach that Trinaldo’s perfected over the years, and “Massaranduba’ is a fair bit more aggressive and pressure-heavy than his Russian counterpart. Roberts’ occasional bursts of dynamic striking strike me as less reliable than Trinaldo’s familiar approach.
Trinaldo’s definitely getting up in years and was fortunate to get the decision against Grant, but Roberts’ historically shaky takedown defense should give him a convenient out if things get too hairy on the feet. Persistence, power, and old man strength carry him to a narrow win.
Prediction: Trinaldo via split decision
125 lbs.: Tracy Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto
A win over top prospect Erin Blanchfield sent Tracy Cortez (9-1) to Contender Series, where she wrestled her way past Mariya Agapova to claim a UFC contract. She’s now 3-0 in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, most recently beating future Bellator champion, Justine Kish, via split decision.
Saturday’s bout ends a year-long layoff.
Melissa Gatto (8-0-2) first signed with UFC in 2019, only to withdraw from three planned debuts due to injury and travel restrictions. She made up for lost time in 2021, stopping Victoria Leonardo and Sijara Eubanks in the span of four months.
She has submitted four professional foes and knocked out two others.
This is a winnable fight for Cortez, but one that could get away from her in an instant. Eubanks’ early wrestling success should give Cortez plenty of confidence in her own grinding approach, and while she’s on the wrong end of a reach disadvantage, the technical gap on the feet doesn’t look insurmountable. At the same time, Gatto’s bottom game is a legitimate threat, as seen when she swept a world BJJ champ in “Sarj.” While Cortez has the right cards, she has to play them perfectly.
So long as Cortez manages her weight cut better than in the Kish fight, though, I trust her to mind her P’s and Q’s while racking up long stretches of top control. She grinds a game Gatto out to make it four straight in the Octagon.
Prediction: Cortez via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Kleydson Rodrigues vs. C.J. Vergara
A submission finish of Eduardo Henrique da Silva earned Kleydson Rodrigues (7-1) the Jungle Fight Flyweight title and extended his win streak to five. A two-year layoff followed, which “KR” ended by dominating Santo Curatolo on Contender Series.
His five professional finishes include three by knockout.
C.J. Vergara (9-3-1) followed his acquisition of the Fury FC Flyweight title with a 41-second wipeout of Bruno Korea on the Contender Series. He debuted less than two months later against Ode Osbourne, who survived a late surge to snap Vergara’s five-fight win streak.
He’ll enjoy one inch of height and reach on Rodrigues.
While he did turn things around late, Vergara’s performance against Osbourne doesn’t give me a lot of hope about his chances here. Rodriguez has the long-range striking attack to piece Vergara up in similar fashion, being a superior technician to “The Jamaican Sensation,” and he has the gas tank to maintain his pace for three rounds. Vergara won’t even find success in his wheelhouse, as Rodrigues can more than hold his own in the pocket with heavy knees and elbows.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Rodrigues already looks like a potential player at 125. Vergara gets hit enough that the early finish should be there for him, but even if it’s not, “KR’s” sharp enough to dominate throughout.
Prediction: Rodrigues via first round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Ariane Carnelossi vs. Lupita Godinez
Ariane Carnelossi (14-2) went from losing to Amanda Ribas in her professional debut to winning 12 straight, a streak that ended in a competitive UFC debut loss to Angela Hill. She’s since gotten back on track with stoppage wins over Na Liang and Istela Nunes.
She’s scored 11 finishes as a professional and hasn’t seen the judges since 2018.
After claiming the LFA Strawweight title with a majority decision over Vanessa Demopoulos, Lupita Godinez (7-2) welcomed Jessica Penne back to the Octagon, losing a split decision in the process. She then went 2-1 in under 50 days, defeating Silvana Gomez Juarez and Loma Lookboonmee, while dropping a decision to Luana Carolina.
She’s the same height as her opponent for once, though she faces a slight reach disadvantage.
Honestly, I still struggle to wrap my head around Godinez after four Octagon appearances. She’s a great wrestler with some remarkably sharp boxing to back it up, but is prone to some inexplicable decision-making in the cage, such as her insistence on clinching with Penne and complete refusal to try striking with Carolina once the takedowns dried up.
Still, that wrestling’s enough to earn my pick here. Carnelossi’s takedown defense consistently failed her against a very limited takedown artist in Na, so while her power and volume make her a genuine threat on the feet, there doesn’t seem to be much stopping Godinez from just dragging her to the mat anytime things get uncomfortable. She defuses “Sorriso” with constant takedowns and long stretches of top control.
Prediction: Godinez via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Journey Newson vs. Fernie Garcia
Journey Newson (9-3) went 7-2-1 as an amateur before starting his professional career 9-1, the lone loss coming to future Contender Series graduate, Benito Lopez. He’s still chasing his first official UFC victory — failing a drug test for marijuana overturned his knockout win over Domingo Pilarte.
He fights for the first time since 2020.
After suffering his first professional defeat in a 2019 split decision against Cody Freeman. Fernie Garcia (10-1) rode a four-fight win streak into the Contender Series. When Paul Capaldo withdrew, Garcia took on Joshua Weems, whom he put away with his first professional technical knockout victory to secure a contract.
He’s the taller of the two by two inches but gives up a half-inch of reach.
It’s hard to get a bead on where exactly Newson is in his development; as he’s fought for all of 1:19 in the past give-or-take three years. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him emerge from this layoff a changed man and secure a victory, especially since Garcia’s had his share of close shaves in the past.
I can only work with the data I’m given, though, and that has me favoring Garcia. The latter’s volume punching figures to work a treat against a boxer who lacks the power to punish his lapses, and he ostensibly has the wrestling chops to steer clear of Newson’s ground game. Garcia outworks him to a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Garcia via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Andre Fialho vs. Cameron VanCamp
Portugal’s Andre Fialho (15-4) brought a four-fight knockout streak into his UFC debut, which saw him drop a decision to veteran Michel Pereira in Anaheim. Undeterred, he smashed Miguel Baeza in his sophomore effort to earn “Performance of the Night.”
He boasts 12 professional knockouts and fights for the second time in three weeks.
Cameron VanCamp (15-5-1) started his professional career 5-3-1 before embarking on his current run, which has seen him lose only to former or future UFC fighters. He’s currently in the midst of a four-fight winning streak, including three consecutive finishes.
He has ended 13 professional fights inside the distance, nine by submission.
Unless the quick turnaround completely compromises Fialho, VanCamp’s in trouble. He’s far too hittable on the feet to handle a knockout artist of Fialho’s caliber, and though he’s shown some decent wrestling in the past, it’s too unproven against strong competition for me to have any faith in it. He’s in for a striking battle that he’s not equipped to survive.
It’s worth noting that Fialho’s had cardio issues in the past, making the short notice a potential landmine, but I don’t see VanCamp surviving long enough for that to play a factor. Fialho levels him in the first few minutes.
Prediction: Fialho via first round technical knockout
Four more UFC 274 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a pivotal Flyweight clash and some potential slobberknockers at 265- and 170-pounds. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 274 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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