This weekend (Sat., Oct. 1, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 61. For the second time in as many events, Saturday’s show lost its co-main event when Rani Yahya was forced to withdraw from a scheduled scrap opposite Cody Garbrandt. Unlike UFC Vegas 60, however, this card is ill-equipped to survive many hits. Mackenzie Dern vs. Yan Xiaonan is certainly a relevant Strawweight fight that should entertain, but it’s far from a high-profile main event.
Can the rest of the night’s bouts make up for it? Let’s take a closer look at these main card match ups:
Bantamweight: Raoni Barcelos vs. Trevin Jones
Best Win for Barcelos? Said Nurmagomedov For Jones? Timur Valiev (this column refuses to recognize wins overturned for marijuana)
Current Streak: Both have lost two in a row
X-Factor: Barcelos age (35) may be catching up with him
How these two match up: Recent results be damned, this is an awesome fight.
Barcelos likely ended up in UFC too late to make the most of his talent, but the Brazilian has shown something special nevertheless. The Brazilian has powerful, patient Muay Thai, unusually excellent chain wrestling, and a legitimate Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, all of which pairs well with his experience.
Jones, meanwhile, has one true standout feature: power. “5 Star” is solid everywhere, but tends to win fights as a counter puncher, waiting for that perfect moment to absolutely shut off the lights.
What’s interesting here is that both fighters conflict with the current Bantamweight meta: throwing a ton of strikes. Neither man could be considered high-volume by any stretch of the imagination, which has ended up costing them potential wins against more active opponents when the finish doesn’t materialize. Against each other, this will likely be a pure battle of strike quality. Whichever man lands the more impactful blows will be the victor, regardless of the strike count.
I like Barcelos here. Jones’ excellent counter punching is less likely to find a way through the defenses of a composed kickboxer like Barcelos, whose style will give him fewer openings than a volume puncher anyway. Plus, if the Brazilian does decide to take this bout to the canvas, I’m not sure Jones will be able to deny him.
Prediction: Barcelos via decision
Featherweight: Sodiq Yusuff vs. Don Shainis
Best Win for Yusuf? Andre Fili For Shainis? Cody Pfister
Current Streak: Yusuff returned to the win column last time out, whereas Shainis has won five straight ahead of his UFC debut
X-Factor: Short notice for Shainis
How these two match up: Pitting the No. 11-ranked Featherweight vs. a newcomer will produce a predictable win or a truly shocking result.
Yusuff is a huge Featherweight, and physical gifts come with that size. “Super” hits damn hard and can take a shot very well. In addition to that physicality, Yusuff has developed a technical and patient kickboxing style, and he’s very willing to surprise his foe with a sudden double leg takedown too.
Massachusetts's Shainis is a six-year pro who has fought almost exclusively for Cage Titans and Bellator. “Shameless” is a striker first and foremost, an aggressive finisher with solid boxing form.
This just reads like way too much of a step up for Shainis. He’s earned his shot at the UFC, but he doesn’t really look like the type of exceptional signing who could immediately break into the Top 15 — some random “Contender Series” alum would’ve been much more reasonable. Instead, he has to take on the battle-tested Yusuff, and he’s doing it on a shortened camp.
That’s just not a recipe for success. Most likely, Shainis’ aggression walks him into a huge shot, and Yusuff picks up his first finish since 2019.
Prediction: Yusuff via knockout
Bantamweight: John Castenada vs. Daniel Santos
Best Win for Castenada? Miles John For Santos? Nizambek Zhunusov
Current Streak: Castenada has won two straight, whereas Santos lost his UFC debut last time out
X-Factor: Castenada is more experienced against tougher opposition
How these two match up: Bantamweight fights rarely fail to deliver.
Castenada didn’t debut with a ton of hype behind him, and he came up short in his first UFC fight. Since then, however, “Sexi Mexi” has exceeded expectations, picking up a quality pair of wins via finish to prove his talent on the feet and the canvas. Conversely, Santos has yet to show his best inside the Octagon. The Brazilian has a gnarly spin kick and some quality jiu-jitsu, but neither prevented Julio Arce from absolutely boxing him up in his UFC debut.
Santos picked up some decent wins on the regional scene, but even considering those performances, it’s hard to be too confident after his debut. Arce utterly controlled him with the jab, and Santos simply seemed lost.
Seeing as the wrestling may well cancel out here, Castenada is the better and more powerful kickboxer. In short, it’s hard not to see his win streak extending to three this weekend.
Prediction: Castenada via decision
Lightweight: Mike Davis vs. Slava Borschev
Best Win for Davis? Mason Jones For Borschev? Dakota Bush
Current Streak: Davis has won two in a row, whereas Borschev came up short last time out
X-Factor: Davis hasn’t fought since January 2021
How these two match up: This reads like an absolute BANGER!
Davis is a tremendous athlete with clear potential to do something special at 155 lbs. “Beast Boy” won a spot on the Tiger Muay Thai roster at their tryouts 2019, an accomplishment that puts him on a list with people like Petr Yan and Alexander Volkanovski. Inside the cage, Davis has shown technical kickboxing paired with brutal punching pair.
Borschev is a highly accomplished Russian kickboxer who only recently transitioned to MMA in 2019. “Slava Claus” is still working to fully strengthen his wrestling and grappling at Team Alpha Male, but his striking is absolutely ferocious.
Some admitted bias aside, I like this style match up for Slava. Davis is a decent enough wrestler, but that’s not really his style — it’ll exhaust him if he tries to copy Marc Diakiese’s game plan. More likely, this ends up a kickboxing match, which is precisely the type of fight Borschev is chasing.
Of course, that doesn’t mean its a layup for the Russian. MMA isn’t kickboxing, and anything can happen when dealing with an athlete like Davis wrapped in mere four once gloves. However, knowing firsthand just how sharp of a kickboxer Borschev is, it’s hard to bet against a breakout performance in what’s likely to be an all-out war.
Prediction: Borschev via decision
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 39-26
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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