This weekend (Sat., June 18, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will venture out to Moody Center in Austin, Texas, for UFC Austin. It’s been a little while since UFC left its Apex venue in Las Vegas, Nevada, for a non-pay-per-view (PPV) event, but as a result, the promotion bolstered the night a bit. Josh Emmett vs. Calvin Kattar is a certified banger of a main event, and the rest of the card is filled with names that are fairly established for their work inside the Octagon.
Indeed, when Adrian Yanez is stuck on the “Prelims,” it’s likely to be a fun night! Let’s take a closer look at these match ups:
Welterweight: Kevin Holland vs. Tim Means
Best Win for Holland? Ronaldo Souza For Means? Thiago Alves
Current Streak: Holland returned to the win column last time out, while Means has won three in a row
X-Factor: Means has been in a lot of wars
How these two match up: A pair of rangy kickboxers are going to try to put each other in the dirt.
Holland’s rise and fall at 185 pounds is well-documented, but he seems primed for success as a Welterweight. Physically, he looks great at his new weight class, long and powerful. Regardless of division, Holland’s ability to fire straight shots down the middle and do major damage is a threat, and his wrestling seems to have come a long way as well.
Means is a crafty veteran. He’s been fighting for well over a decade, developing all sorts of nasty kickboxing tricks from the Southpaw stance. “The Dirty Bird” excels at distance and in the clinch, and he has the range to largely match Holland’s build.
This is going to be awesome. Means is the more technical man, but it’s hard to for me to see those skills alone overcoming Holland’s superior speed and power. If the two fight a kickboxing match, it seems likely that Means does quite well ... until suddenly Holland lands something clean, and he’s on the floor.
Could Means switch it up and wrestle? It might be worth an attempt for the resulting clinch elbow exchanges alone, but realistically, he’s not the level of wrestler that’s usually required to hold Holland down.
Most likely, Holland continues his Welterweight climb.
Prediction: Holland via knockout
Middleweight: Joaquin Buckley vs. Albert Duraev
Best Win for Buckley? Impa Kasanganay For Duraev? Roman Kopylov
Current Streak: Buckley has won two in a row, while Duraev won his UFC debut last October
X-Factor: Buckley has never faced a true wrestling specialist
How these two match up: What we’ve got here is a clear-cut case of striker vs. wrestler.
Maybe that’s underselling Buckley a bit? The man known for his insane jumping spin kick knockout did actually do a bit of wrestling last time out, putting the pace on Abdul Razak Alhassan to earn a close decision. Still, in this match up at least, it’s clear where each man would like to compete. Russia’s “Machete” has solid kickboxing, but he’s far more at home mauling his opponents from top position.
While I’m not completely ruling out a Buckley victory — he’s athletic and hits hard, there’s always a chance — this reads like a pretty terrible match up for him. I’ll be honest: on the whole, I don’t really think Buckley should be at 185 pounds. He’s mostly been able to get away with being 5’8” against bigger men for this long, but this is the type of style match up that punishes being the smaller man.
Getting stuck under a bigger, stronger fighter is an absolutely heinous experience. Buckley is about to find out the hard way that Duraev is a true Middleweight, and that his own best wins likely await him at 170 pounds.
Prediction: Duraev via submission
Lightweight: Damir Ismagulov vs. Guram Kutateladze
Best Win for Ismagulov? Joel Alvarez For Kutateladze? Mateusz Gamrot
Current Streak: Ismagulov has quietly won four in a row inside the Octagon, while Kutateladze’s sole UFC performance was a major upset win
X-Factor: Kutateladze hasn’t fought in 20 months
How these two match up: You won’t find a more underrated match up at 155 pounds.
Ismagulov has defeated fighters like Alvarez and Thiago Moises, yet relatively few fight fans know his name. That’s a real shame, because the 31-year-old Russian is a master of sports in hand-to-hand combat. Inside the cage, that means he’s not the stereotypical Sambo fighter: he can kickboxer and wrestle in equally excellent fashion.
Kutateladze has the misfortune of facing Gamrot — who main events next week! — in a short-notice UFC debut ... and he f—king won. That’s incredible, but his momentum was stalled by inactivity afterward. Regardless, Kutateladze showed off excellent defensive wrestling, powerful kickboxing and great overall athleticism in that victory.
This is going to be an excellent, high-level fight. I wish I could say with true confidence who’s going to win, but it’s a difficult one to read. Both men have shown plus skills in most areas, but the overall amount of UFC level experience is limited, especially for Kutateladze. But then, his victory over Gamrot is the best win between them.
Ultimately, I think Ismagulov is well-rounded enough to really keep Kutateladze guessing. If the two are kickboxing fairly evenly, a single takedown can be the deciding factor, and Ismagulov is the more likely man to drag his foe to the canvas.
Prediction: Ismagulov via decision
Middleweight: Julian Marquez vs. Gregory Rodrigues
Best Win for Marquez? Darren Stewart For Rodrigues? Jun Yong Park
Current Streak: Marquez has won two in a row, while Rodrigues recently suffered his first UFC loss
X-Factor: Marquez is pretty great at breaking opponents late with pressure
How these two match up: Barring an early knockout, this will be a brawl.
Marquez is a big Middleweight, and he knows how to use that physicality to his advantage. He fights a wearing style, pressuring his opponents constantly with heavy punches and combinations. He’s not a technician nor unhittable, but he stays in his foes faces until they break or something big lands.
A former Light Heavyweight who’s equally comfortable in bloody brawls, “Robocop” is likely to welcome the style of fight that Marquez forces. He’s a knockout artist, a heavy-handed former LFA champ who can keep his cool in wars of attrition.
Rodrigues is just four fights into his UFC career, but I’ve been consistently impressed with what Rodrigues brings to the table. He’s tough and durable, technical and powerful, and generally seems really well built to win fights at 185 pounds. Marquez, meanwhile, is a fighter who overperforms in the moment. He doesn’t always show up in the best shape, but he’ll fight hard nevertheless, and he has a real knack for turning the tide late.
While the recipe for a late rally from Marquez is certainly there, taking a lot of “Robocop” punches in the mush of the face to do so seems like iffy strategy. Rodrigues can crack, and enough damage will mitigate the chances of a comeback even if he can’t score a knockout.
Prediction: Rodrigues via decision
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 29-17
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Austin fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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