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UFC Vegas 61 predictions: Early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Dern vs. Yan

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., Oct. 1, 2022) when UFC Vegas 61: “Dern vs. Yan” returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Vegas 61 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Dangerous women’s Strawweight contenders reeling from recent defeats look to bounce back at each others’ expense this Saturday (Oct. 1, 2022) when Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan square off inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also on tap for UFC Vegas 61 is a Welterweight co-feature between Randy Brown and the ageless Francisco Trinaldo, as well as a potentially explosive Bantamweight battle pitting John Castaneda against Daniel Santos.

UFC Vegas 61 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around, all of which join the main card on ESPN+. Let’s crack open the first batch ...

LIVE! Stream UFC Austin On ESPN+

LIGHTWEIGHT CONTENDER COLLISION! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to its APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Nov. 18, 2023, with a Middleweight main event showdown between top-ranked division contenders, Brendan Allen (No. 10) and Paul Craig (No. 13), both of whom are looking to inch closer to the 185-pound Top 5. In UFC Vegas 82’s co-main event, Michael Morales vs. Jake Matthews will lock horns in an exciting Welterweight collision.

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

155 lbs.: Joaquim Silva vs. Jesse Ronson

Joaquim Silva (11-3) followed his quarterfinal run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Brazil 4 with wins in his first three Octagon appearances. He’s 1-3 since, though he did walk away with “Fight of the Night” for his knockout of Jared Gordon.

He fights for the first time in 15.5 months.

Six years after three consecutive split decision losses bounced him from the Octagon, Jesse Ronson (21-11) returned to UFC with a club-and-sub upset of Nicolas Dalby. A failed drug test saw the result overturned and Ronson placed on the sidelines for nearly two years, after which he suffered a submission loss to Rafa Garcia.

He’s scored nine knockouts and eight submissions as a professional.

Takedown defense was the bugbear that cost Ronson during his first UFC stint, and the Garcia fight showed that the issue is here to stay. Luckily for him, Silva’s nickname is a bit of a red herring. That’s because he’s almost a pure brawler, attempting just two takedowns in seven UFC appearances. That’s good news for the bigger, more durable Ronson, who hasn’t been stopped with strikes in over a decade.

Silva has a shot if those last two knockout losses convinced him to focus on improving his ground game, but just based on what he’s done so far in the Octagon, odds are he’s going to slug it out. If that happens, Ronson’s going to blast him out within the first half of the fight.

Prediction: Ronson via first round technical knockout

205 lbs.: Maxim Grishin vs. Philipe Lins

Maxim Grishin (32-9-2) followed an unbeaten Professional Fighters League (PFL) run with a short-notice UFC debut against Marcin Tybura, who outgrappled the Russian veteran to a decision win. Grishin then returned to 205, where he’s beaten Gadzhimurad Antigulov and William Knight while losing a narrow decision to Dustin Jacoby.

He faces a two-inch reach disadvantage despite being the taller of the two by an inch.

Philipe Lins’ (15-5) UFC start wasn’t the triumph he’d have liked, as he dropped a decision to Andre Arlovski in his debut before suffering a violent knockout loss to Tanner Boser. Two years and six fight cancelations followed, after which he finally made it into the UFC win column by beating Marcin Prachnio in April 2022.

His 12 professional finishes include eight by knockout.

This is honestly a sneaky good match up between adept strikers who’ve yet to really make their marks in the Octagon. While I’m still not convinced that Light Heavyweight is Lins’ best weight class, he looked sharp against Prachnio after a rough start, and Grishin could very easily be 3-0 since losing to Tybura at 265 pounds.

It’s a coin flip, but I think I favor Grishin. Lins’ speed advantage is offset by a historically shaky chin and, despite taking over as the fight progressed, he still ate a lot of shots from the very limited Prachnio along the way. Grishin’s only stoppage loss in the last decade came to Magomed Ankalaev, so if they mix it up on the feet like I expect them to, it’ll be “Monstro” hitting the deck first.

Prediction: Grishin via first round technical knockout

265 lbs.: Aleksei Oleinik vs. Ilir Latifi

Aleksei Oleinik (60-16-1) started his UFC career 6-2 before hitting a two-fight skid, but picked right back up where he stopped with wins over Maurice Greene and Fabricio Werdum. Three consecutive losses followed, though “The Boa Constrictor” managed to right the ship in April 2022 by submitting Jared Vanderaa.

His 55 stoppage wins include 47 by submission.

Consecutive decision losses to Corey Anderson and Volkan Oezdemir sent Latifi Ilir Latifi (15-8) to 265 pounds, where he dropped a decision to Derrick Lewis. Then came 16 months on the sidelines, followed by a split decision over Tanner Boser.

This marks the first fight for “The Sledgehammer” in nearly 16 months.

Speaking as a fan of Oleinik’s, this has the potential to be a very, very stupid fight. His moments of grappling brilliance are regularly offset by bizarrely sloppy striking and wrestling, and Latifi has completely transformed from periodically entertaining knockout puncher to wet blanket. Honestly, though, that might work in Latifi’s favor. His complete disinterest in advancing position sorely limits Oleinik’s opportunities to snatch up some esoteric submission in transition, so the easy-to-take-down Oleinik doesn’t have a ton of options to stop Latifi from just smothering him in guard.

I’d also mention Latifi’s ability to potentially crack Oleinik’s oft-shattered chin, but the former threw 12 significant strikes in 15 minutes against Derrick Lewis, so I’m not expecting much offense from him. Expect a criminally dull lay-and-pray-session by Latifi.

Prediction: Latifi def. Oleinik via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Jessica Penne vs. Tabatha Ricci

Four years almost to the day after a hugely questionable decision loss to Danielle Taylor, Jessica Penne (14-6) announced her return to the Octagon with consecutive wins over Lupita Godinez and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Then came fellow former Invicta titlist Emily Ducote, who out-struck Penne to hand her her fourth UFC defeat.

Eight of her 10 pro finishes have come by submission.

Though an admirably bold move, the short-notice UFC debut for Tabatha Ricci (7-1) against Manon Fiorot saw her battered into submission midway through the second round. Returning to her proper weight class proved fruitful, entering the cage this Saturday having won two straight.

She gives up four inches of height and five inches of reach to Penne.

Something of a mirror match here between grappling specialists who do their best work on the inside, pitting the youth and judo prowess of Ricci against the experience and wrestling of Penne. Based on their recent efforts, I’m leaning towards Penne; she’s the more adept of the two at transitioning into dominant positions from the clinch and those height and reach advantages should serve her well in any point-blank dustups.

Ricci looks to be improving fight to fight and it wouldn’t be too outlandish to see her grind Penne out from guard the way as she did Polyana Viana, but her willingness to go into Penne’s wheelhouse and the latter’s effectiveness there have me thinking that veteran savvy wins the day. Good clinch strikes and long stretches of back control earn Penne the decision.

Prediction: Penne via unanimous decision

Three more UFC Vegas 61 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a debuting female knockout artist. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 61 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 61: “Dern vs. Yan” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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