Two of the Lightweight division’s fiercest dark horses make a bid for the spotlight this Saturday (June 25, 2022) when Arman Tsarukyan and Mateusz Gamrot headline the Octagon’s return to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also on tap for UFC Vegas 57 are a Welterweight crossroads battle pitting Neil Magny against unbeaten Shavkat Rakhmonov and what looks like a loser-goes-home Heavyweight bout between Josh Parisian and Alan Baudot.
Having lost two Flyweight fights in quick succession, UFC Vegas 57 is down to a half-dozen “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around. Let’s get going ...
125 lbs.: J.P. Buys (9-4) vs. Cody Durden (12-4-1)
Three years and an EFC title reign after his unsuccessful first Contender Series appearance, J.P. Buys returned to the program to dominate Jacob Silva and secure a contract. He’s still looking for his first Octagon victory, having fallen to Bruno Silva in his UFC debut and to Montel Jackson in his short-notice sophomore effort.
His 100 percent professional finishing rate features five submissions.
After settling for a draw in his short-notice UFC debut against Chris Gutierrez and falling victim to a flying triangle from Jimmy Flick, Durden finally secured his first UFC victory by out-lasting Aoriqileng at UFC Vegas 46. He then got the honor of welcoming Muhammad Mokaev to the Octagon, resulting in a 58-second submission loss.
He is the taller man by two inches.
His personal drama and recent struggles overshadow the fact that Buys is an extremely talented young man. His UFC debut came against Silva — who’s really come into his own — and he proceeded to face one of the biggest and most powerful Bantamweights in the sport his next time out. This, a clash of similarly sized wrestling specialists, figures to be far more in his wheelhouse.
As potent as Durden’s wrestling is, he gassed badly both times he went past the first round in the Octagon and he’s a lesser scrambler and submission artist than Buys, who’s gone into the championship rounds before. Buys has shown enough heart to convince me that he wears out Durden in a transition-heavy first round before tapping his exhausted foe around the midpoint.
Prediction: Buys via second round submission
135 lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs. Mario Bautista
Brian Kelleher (24-13) rebounded from consecutive stoppage losses to John Lineker and Montel Jackson by winning five of his next seven, the only defeats in that span coming to division standouts Cody Stamann and Ricky Simon. Umar Nurmagomedov proved a bit too much, however, choking out “Boom” midway through the first round.
He faces a three-inch height disadvantage and a six-inch reach disadvantage.
A “Fight of the Night” war with Jin Soo Son and “Performance of the Night” flying knee finish of Miles Johns left Mario Bautista (9-2) with heaps of momentum, which Trevin Jones quickly extinguished with a comeback knockout. COVID then kept him out of action until Feb. 2022, when he scored a unanimous decision over late replacement, Jay Perrin, in “Sin City.”
He has knocked out, submitted and decisioned three opponents apiece.
Perrin isn’t anybody’s idea of a world-beater, but Bautista showcased a lot of skills in that fight that will serve him well against Kelleher. He landed quality offense at range, refused to be held down, and held his own in the clinch. And seeing as Kelleher is more slugger than technician on the feet and isn’t an overpowering takedown artist, that spells trouble for “Boom.”
The similarly compact Trevin Jones landing a one-hitter quitter on Bautista should give Kelleher some confidence, but so long as Bautista minds his P’s and Q’s and doesn’t get suckered into a phone booth fight, he’s got what it takes to piece up Kelleher for a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Bautista via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Jinh Yu Frey
Though she fell short against Cory McKenna on Contender Series, Vanessa Demopoulos (7-4) got her UFC opportunity one year later on short notice, facing and J.J. Aldrich and dropping a decision. Her next effort saw her come up big, however, as she survived a heavy knockdown to catch Silvana Gomez Juarez in a bonus-winning armbar.
That victory was her fourth by submission and her fifth finish overall.
Former Invicta Atomweight champ, Jinh Yu Frey (11-6), struggled to a winless (0-2) UFC start courtesy of Kay Hansen and Loma Lookboonmee. She’s since found her footing by out-lasting Gloria de Paula and out-slugging Ashley Yoder in successive efforts.
She’ll have a six-inch reach advantage on fight night.
Fighting Demopoulos can be more a test of composure than anything else. She’s genuinely world-class on the mat, but her lack of wrestling and striking means she needs to either pull guard or somehow goad her opponents into taking or following her down if she wants to use it. Frey is uniquely equipped to avoid this danger, being a decent striker, a functional wrestler, and historically reticent to take any sort of risk.
There is, of course, the danger of Demopoulos edging out a stand up battle by out-working Frey, who’s often passive to a fault. Seeing as Frey actually put the pedal to the metal against Yoder, landing more significant strikes than her previous three Octagon efforts combined, that doesn’t seem too terribly likely. In the end, Frey shuts down her wrestling and drills her with straight lefts for a comfortable win.
Prediction: Frey via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 57 fights remain to preview and predict, including a potential Bantamweight banger between Raulian Paiva and Sergey Morozov. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 57 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
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