A classic grappler vs. striker matchup headlines UFC’s latest show at the APEX, which sees Mackenzie Dern square off with Yan Xiaonan. The card also hosts a Welterweight bout between Randy Brown and Francisco Trinaldo alongside the return of Raoni Barcelos opposite Trevin Jones.
Three Prelims remain to be examined, so let’s fix that ...
135 lbs.: Randy Costa (6-3) vs. Guido Cannetti (9-6)
“The Zohan” rebounded from his first-ever loss to Brandon Davis by smashing Boston Salmon and Journey Newson in under three minutes combined and earning himself a Performance of the Night bonus along the way. The success wasn’t to last, and he enters the cage this Saturday on the heels of two consecutive stoppage losses. All of his pro victories have come by knockout within 2:30.
Now eight years removed from his stint on the first-ever TUF: Latin America, Cannetti struggled to a 2-5 UFC start. His most recent effort proved his most impressive, however, as he crushed Kris Moutinho in just over two minutes. He gives up three inches of height and five inches of reach to Costa.
There’s been a trend lately of fighters who, after losing due to cardio problems, become so utterly terrified of gassing out that they barely throw strikes. It happened to Yohan Lainesse, it happened to Louis Cosce, and it looks like it happened to Costa against Tony Kelley. Costa threw just 37 significant strikes in the first round of that fight compared to over 100 against Adrian Yanez, and while that latter pace probably wasn’t sustainable, he overcompensated so much that he lost what made him effective in the first place.
Still, even a fraction of a fraction of Costa’s abilities should be sufficient to win him this fight. He’s taller, more durable, younger, more technically sound with his strikes, and a hell of a lot more powerful. If he doesn’t chin Cannetti in the first few minutes, he might be broken for good.
Prediction: Costa by first-round knockout
185 lbs.: Brendan Allen (19-5) vs. Krzysztof Jotko (24-5)
“All In” followed up his successful Contender Series appearance with three consecutive UFC victories before running afoul of Sean Strickland. Undeterred, he’s since won four of five, including a narrow decision over Jacob Malkoun in June 2022. His pro finishes are split 10/5 between submissions and knockouts.
Poland’s Jotko saw a 6-1 UFC start give way to three straight defeats, two of them via knockout. He now sits at 5-1 in his last six with notable wins over Eryk Anders and Gerald Meerschaert. He stands an inch shorter than Allen but will have a two-inch reach advantage.
Jotko’s role in the Middleweight division is to test your wrestling. His striking, takedown offense, and takedown defense let him outstrike grappling specialists and outwrestles strikers who haven’t properly rounded out their games. That’s fine and dandy against one-dimensional fighters, but not a fellow all-rounder like Allen, who’s also by far the better finisher.
That looks like the difference here. With a wrestling deadlock likely, Allen’s higher-volume striking attack figures to catch the judges’ eyes than Jotko’s robotic, powerless kickboxing. Don’t expect a barnburner, but do expect Allen to outwork him to a decision win.
Prediction: Allen by unanimous decision
140 lbs.: Julija Stoliarenko (10-6-1) vs. Chelsea Chandler (4-1)
After a one-and-done first UFC stint saw her lose a split decision to Leah Letson, Stoliarenko amassed five wins on the regional circuit to return to the promotion in 2020. Though she lost the first three bouts of her second stint, she came up big in July 2022 with a bonus-winning 42-second armbar of Jessica-Rose Clark. She steps in for Leah Letson on less than two months’ notice.
Chandler, a Cesar Gracie product, fell short in her 2018 pro debut under the Invicta banner. She’s unbeaten since, most recently ending a nearly two-year layoff with a decision over Courtney King. She is the taller woman by an inch.
In terms of action potential, Chandler is the most exciting addition to the women’s Bantamweight roster in a long time, a genuine knockout puncher with a quality ground game to back it up. She’s not going to smash Amanda Nunes or anything, but she’s a ton of fun to watch and I hope she does well.
Maybe it’s that hope talking, but I really like her chances here. While she’s still green enough to get caught in Stoliarenko’s mousetrap of an armbar, she’s by far the more destructive of the two on the feet and Stoliarenko isn’t exactly a defensive wizard. Since Chandler is also ostensibly the stronger wrestler, it really comes down to whether she has the composure to brutalize Stoliarenko with body and head strikes without instinctively going for takedowns. I’ll be an optimist and say yes.
Prediction: Chandler by first-round TKO
The main event should be fun, at least, and fights like Mike Davis vs. Viacheslav Borshchev promise serious violence. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Prediction Record for 2022: 140-69-2
Remember that MMAmania.com 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.
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