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UFC Vegas 54 predictions, early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Blachowicz vs. Rakic

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPN2/ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., May 14, 2022) when UFC Vegas 54: “Blachowicz vs. Rakic” returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Vegas 54 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC Fight Night: Zawada v Emeev Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

A former champion meets a rising contender inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (May 14, 2022) when Jan Blachowicz squares off with Aleksandar Rakic. The Octagon’s latest trip to “Sin City” will also see Ryan Spann slug it out with Ion Cutelaba, Louis Smolka meet Davey Grant in a clash of Bantamweight finishers, and Katlyn Chookagian take on Amanda Ribas in a Flyweight bout with serious title implications.

Five “Prelims” will set UFC Vegas 54’s main card stage, and we’ve broken three of them down for you below. In we go ...

LIVE! Stream UFC Orlando On ESPN+

EXCITING WELTERWEIGHT TILT! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., for the first time in more than four years with an intriguing Welterweight scrap that will see No. 7-ranked contender, Stephen Thompson, battle Kevin Holland. In UFC Orlando’s co-main event, Heavyweight knockout artists collide when No. 4-seeded contender, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with No. 5-ranked Sergei Pavlovich.

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

115 lbs.: Virna Jandiroba vs. Angela Hill

Virna Jandiroba (17-3) rebounded from her UFC debut loss to Carla Esparza by winning three of her next four, all of them inside the distance. She looked poised for another quick finish when she rocked Amanda Ribas, but faded down the stretch to even her Octagon record at 3-3.

“Carcara” has submitted 13 foes and stopped one other via injury.

After kicking off her second UFC stint with a 3-5 run, Angela Hill (13-11) fought her way into contention by winning three straight. She’s now 1-4 in her last five, though three of those defeats came by controversial split decision.

She sports a half-inch reach advantage.

I really do want to emphasize that Hill could be 3-2 or 4-1 with just slightly different judging. For example, I definitely had her beating Amanda Lemos and Michele Waterson, at least. That said, Jandiroba seems like a deeply unfavorable match up. Though solid, Hill’s takedown defense has regularly failed her of late, and most of the women who dragged her to the mat were far lesser wrestlers than “Carcara.”

Even considering her cardio issues and struggles with fellow grapplers, Jandiroba has the skills to consistently overpower “Overkill” on the mat. It’ll be dicey if the early submission finish isn’t there, but Jandiroba should find enough grappling success before her gas tank gives out to sway at least two judges.

Prediction: Jandiroba via split decision

125 lbs.: Tatsuro Taira vs. Carlos Candelario

These two were supposed to square off a couple weeks back before Candelario fell ill, so here’s what I wrote up before with only minor adjustments.

Japan’s Tatsuro Taira (10-0) made his amateur debut at 16 years old, racking up a perfect (9-0) record in the unpaid ranks before turning professional in 2018. He’s been similarly successful there, amassing seven first-round finishes among his victories.

His professional stoppage wins are split 5/3 between submissions and knockouts.

Carlos Candelario’s (8-1) victory on Contender Series gave way to a four-year layoff, which he ended in Aug. 2021 with a decision over Miguel Restrepo. Less than four weeks later, he returned to Contender Series, where he lost a borderline robbery decision to Victor Altamirano.

He stands one inch taller than Taira at 5’8.”

While the 22-year-old Taira is clearly extremely promising, Candelario’s technically sound, well-rounded game could turn him into an unexpected speed bump. Taira has been a little too passive in the past, meaning Candelario has a real shot at outworking him on the feet and potentially burning clock from guard if he decides to risk ground engagements.

Still, Candelario’s left enough openings in past grappling exchanges that it’s easier to picture Taira latching onto his back at some point and closing the show from there. In the end, Taira skips past a potential minefield with an early finish.

Prediction: Taira via first round submission

185 lbs.: Andre Petroski vs. Nick Maximov

Andre Petroski (7-1) — Brian Ortega’s first Middleweight pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 — ran over Aaron Phillips before succumbing to a Bryan Battle ninja choke his next time out. He has since won two straight in the Octagon, picking up third round finishes of Micheal Gillmore and Hu Yaozong.

His professional finishes are split 4/3 between knockouts and submissions.

Diaz Bros. acolyte Nick Maximov (8-0) jumped all the way to Heavyweight for his Contender Series appearance, which saw him grind out a decision over Oscar Cota to secure a contract. He now sits at 2-0 in the Octagon after defeating fellow Contender Series alumni Cody Brundage and Punahele Soriano in successive efforts.

He’ll enjoy three inches of reach on Petroski.

I think Maximov’s proven his ability to defeat knockout-punching, physically superior wrestlers at this point. Whatever advantages you give Petroski, the same could have been said about Soriano, and Petroski’s cardio is even more suspect than “Puna’s.”

There’s no question that Petroski will have the better of things early thanks to his edge in raw horsepower, but history suggests he’ll wilt once Maximov gets the grind going. In short, Jake Shields 2.0 makes it 3-0 in the Octagon with another dull decision.

Prediction: Maximov via unanimous decision

Two more UFC Vegas 54 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a pivotal Flyweight clash. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 54 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN2/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 54: “Blachowicz vs. Rakic” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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