After things went up in smoke the first time around, Heavyweight standouts Derrick Lewis and Serghei Spivac are once again set to lock horns inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The ESPN+ broadcast, which kicks off late (start time is 10 p.m. ET) to better accommodate Asian viewers, will also see Da Un Jung battle Devin Clark and Marcin Tybura take on Blagoy Ivanov in a clash of top European big men.
UFC Vegas 68 features seven “Prelims” this time around, including the four Road to UFC finals. We’ve split the undercard lineup 4:3 for easy browsing, so enjoy the first portion below ...
125 lbs.: Seung Guk Choi (6-1) vs. Hyun Sung Park (7-0)
More than two years after he’d last entered the cage, Choi grinded his way past Rama Supandhi in the Road to UFC semis. Then came Qiulun, whom Choi again leaned on his grappling to defeat. The Chan Sung Jung acolyte stands an inch shorter than Park and gives up two inches of reach.
“Peace of Mind” cruised into the Road to UFC semis thanks to a first-round beatdown of Jeremia Siregar. This set up a semifinal clash with Muay Thai veteran Topnoi Kiwram, who dropped Park early but succumbed to a comeback submission midway through the first. Park’s six pro finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
Unless Choi’s shaky performances in the tournament were due to issues with southpaws, the prognosis looks grim. He’s at a distinct disadvantage in the standup thanks to Park’s well-timed counters and I’m not convinced his wrestling can bail him out this time, as “Peace Of Mind” has shown off some solid ground skills of his own.
Choi needs to have made a huge technical turnaround to win this, and given he’s still at this level after nearly five years as a pro, I’m not hopeful. Park outclasses him, potentially finishing with either a heavy counter or rear naked choke.
Prediction: Park via second round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Ji Yeon Kim (9-6-2) vs. Mandy Bohm (7-2)
“Fire Fist” put a UFC debut loss to Lucie Pudilova behind her to win three of her next four, including a TKO finish of Nadia Kassem. She’s since lost four straight, though her decision defeat to Priscila Cachoeira came with no shortage of controversy. She’ll enjoy an inch of reach over Bohm.
Bohm spent the first portion of her career on the German circuit, after which she beat Jade Masson-Wong for the TKO Flyweight title and won her sole Bellator appearance against Griet Eeckhout. Those would be her last victories to date, as she’s dropped consecutive decisions to Ariane Lipski and Victoria Leonardo in the Octagon. She’s knocked out and submitted two pro foes apiece.
I didn’t expect Bohm to set the world on fire, but man, she’s been underwhelming in the Octagon. She looks almost lethargic in there, rarely showing off the solid kicks or dangerous clinch work that brought her victory in other organizations, and she still declines drastically as fights progress despite pushing such a low pace.
If nothing else, Kim is extremely busy in the cage. Even if Bohm does manage to play keep-away early on, Kim will be the one doing damage, especially as the rounds go by and Bohm’s gas tank gives out. Kim finally gets back on track by outworking Bohm to a wide decision.
Prediction: Kim via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Jun Yong Park (15-5) vs. Denis Tiuliulin (11-6)
Park’s UFC run got off to a shaky start thanks to Anthony Hernandez, who ended their competitive clash with an anaconda choke late in the second. “The Iron Turtle” has since won five of six, most recently choking out Joseph Holmes in October 2022. He gives up three inches of height and four inches of reach to Tiuliulin.
Tiuliulin welcomed Contender Series standout Aliaskhab Khizriev to the Octagon in his UFC debut, which saw him fall to “The Black Wolf’s” rear naked choke in the second round. He had quite a bit more success against Jamie Pickett, battering “The Night Wolf” into submission in September 2022. All but one of his pro wins have come by knockout.
Dispatching Pickett, one of the most underwhelming members of the UFC Middleweight roster, isn’t enough to change my opinion of Tiuliulin. His decent power is offset by a lack of technique and speed, plus a poor ground game that Park’s high-volume takedown offense will take full advantage of.
Park’s cardio and durability are both stout enough to prevent Tiuliulin from snowballing late, though it’s hard to see him lasting long enough for that to matter. Park overwhelms him on the mat for a mid-round finish.
Prediction: Park via second round submission
125 lbs.: Tatsuro Taira (12-0) vs. Jesus Aguilar (8-1)
Taira capped off his lengthy stint in Shooto by choking out Ryuya Fukuda for the promotion’s Flyweight title in July 2021. After another quick submission of Alfredo Muaiad, he made his way to the Octagon, where he’s claimed dominant victories over Carlos Candelario and C.J. Vergara. He’s the taller man by three inches and boasts an eight-inch reach advantage.
Undefeated since his pro debut, Aguilar put together a strong run to earn a spot on the Contender Series, claiming the UWC Flyweight belt along the way. Once at the APEX, he survived a rough start to outlast Erisson Ferreira and put him away with his signature guillotine choke. That technique accounts for five of his six submission victories.
With all due respect to Aguilar, he’s boned. This goes beyond tough matchmaking into downright spiteful. Taira is the superior technician in every facet of the game; too skilled and rangy for Aguilar to beat on the feet, too adept a wrestler for Aguilar to grind out, and too good a submission artist to succumb to Aguilar’s chokes.
The only feasible scenario in which Aguilar wins is if Taira dives headfirst into Aguilar’s guillotine, and though Taira can make things difficult on himself at times, he’s not foolish enough to fall victim to that. He dominates everywhere before ultimately finding Aguilar’s neck.
Prediction: Taira via second round submission
Four more UFC Vegas 68 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the debut of an undefeated wrestling ace with vicious power. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 68 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 1 a.m. ET.
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