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UFC Vegas 81 predictions: Late ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Yusuff vs. Barboza

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., Oct. 14, 2023) when UFC Vegas 81: “Yusuff vs. Barboza” returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Vegas 81 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC Fight Night Dos Anjos v Lee Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Having re-invigorated his career with a highlight-reel finish of Billy Quarantillo (watch it), Edson Barboza looks to make it two straight when he headlines UFC Vegas 81 this weekend (Sat., Oct. 14, 2023) opposite Sodiq Yusuff. The ESPN+-streamed card also sees Jennifer Maia meet Viviane Araujo and Michel Pereira make his UFC Middleweight debut opposite late replacement, Andre Petroski.

Three UFC Vegas 81 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (checkout the first batch here); therefore, let’s not dilly-dally ...

UFC Fight Night: Elkins v Connelly Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. TJ Brown

An uninspiring 1-1 UFC start saw Darren Elkins (28-11) beat Duane Ludwig via ankle injury and tap to a Charles Oliveira armbar in less than 1:30 combined, but he quickly caught fire with a 13-3 run over the next eight years. “The Damage” now sits at 3-6 in his last nine bouts, most recently dropping a decision to Jonathan Pearce in Dec. 2022.

He stands one inch taller than “Downtown,” but gives up one inch of reach.

A slick arm triangle of Dylan Lockard on Contender Series earned TJ Brown (17-1) his fourth straight finish and a UFC contract. He enters the cage this Saturday 3-4 in the world’s largest fight promotion, including a submission loss to Bill Algeo last time out.

Ten of his 13 professional finishes have come by submission.

Brown has enough going his way that installing him as the favorite, as the bookies did, isn’t unreasonable. He’s got less mileage on him than Elkins and a far superior striking game that could very feasibly put the shopworn veteran down for the count. The way I see it, though, this is a fight between someone who’s defined by finding ways to win and someone who’s defined by finding ways to lose.

We know Elkins can power through adversity like nobody’s business, while Brown is notoriously prone to falling apart even in winnable matchups. Even if Brown does have the standup to shred Elkins the way Cub Swanson did, he’s just as liable to repeatedly bumble his way into bottom position. Brown’s fragility, inconsistency, and woeful takedown defense give Elkins all the tools he needs to grind out another upset win.

Prediction: Elkins via unanimous decision

UFC Fight Night: Egger v Alekseeva Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

135 lbs.: Irina Alekseeva vs. Melissa Dixon (5-0)

Sixteen months after winning her Bellator debut, Irina Alekseeva (5-1) stepped into the Octagon to face Stephanie Egger. Though she missed weight by four pounds, she emerged victorious thanks to a first-round rolling kneebar.

Russian Ronda” is the taller woman by an inch.

Melissa Dixon (5-0) enjoyed a nine-fight amateur career before scoring a first round finish in her 2021 professional debut. Then came a four-fight, four-win 2022, capped off by a comeback technical knockout of then-unbeaten Darya Zheleznyakova.

Three of her professional wins — and all five of her amateur wins — have come via strikes.

In a battle of eager sluggers with strong grappling backgrounds, I favor Dixon. Her takedown defense was on point against another solid judoka in Rizlen Zouak — and even though “No Mess Mullins” is alarmingly hittable — she’s durable enough and Alekseeva sloppy enough on the feet that she shouldn’t get in too much trouble before getting her wrestling going.

If Alekseeva had actual power, she’d have a shot of clipping Dixon, but the fact that the much sharper Zheleznyakova couldn’t put Dixon away suggests that Alekseeva can’t, either. In the end, Dixon’s top control carries her to a debut victory.

Prediction: Dixon via unanimous decision

UFC Fight Night: Guitierrez v Batgerel Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

135 lbs.: Chris Gutierrez vs. Alatengheili

Undaunted by a loss to Raoni Barcelos in his late-notice UFC debut, Chris Gutierrez (19-4-2) worked his way into Bantamweight contention with an eight-fight unbeaten streak. His efforts made him a favorite over Pedro Munhoz in April 2023, only for “The Young Punisher” to out-strike “El Guapo” en route to a clean sweep on the scorecards.

He steps in for Rani Yahya on short notice, having previously been slated to face Montel Jackson last Saturday.

Alatengheili (16-8-2) started his UFC run with back-to-back wins over Danaa Batgerel and Ryan Benoit, but hit an 0-1-1 rut thanks to Casey Kenney and Gustavo Lopez. Undeterred, he quickly scored a sub-minute knockout of Kevin Croom and a decision win over Chad Anheliger.

“The Mongolian Knight” fights for the first time in 13 months.

It’s hard to overstate how much more favorable a matchup this is for Gutierrez. Jackson is a colossal, heavy-handed slugger with the reach and wrestling skills to punish Gutierrez’s low kicks. Alatengheili has a bomb of a right hand and decent wrestling of his own, but he’s painfully passive in the cage; the 49 significant strikes he landed on Anheliger were the most of his UFC career.

Though Alatengheili has the power to spark Gutierrez, who’s had issues with aggressive punchers before, I can’t trust him to keep his foot on the gas. He’ll give Gutierrez far more room to operate than Jackson would have, which is a death sentence against an extremely adept kicker. The inordinate toughness Alatengheili showed against Kenney keeps him on his feet for 15 minutes as Gutierrez takes him apart with low kicks.

Prediction: Gutierrez via unanimous decision

UFC Vegas 81’s main event and Jonathan Martinez vs. Adrian Yanez are enough to carry this card ... the rest is just icing on a violent cake. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Current Prediction Record for 2023: 141-87-1 (3 NC)

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 87 On ESPN+

PIVOTAL FLYWEIGHT FRACAS! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Arena CDMX in Mexico City, Mexico, on Feb. 24, 2024, with a pivotal Flyweight fracas between former 125-pound kingpin, Brandon Moreno, and most recent title challenger, Brandon Royval, who replaces the red-hot (and injured) Iraqi “Prince,” Amir Albazi. In UFC Mexico City’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, top-ranked Featherweight contenders, Yair Rodriguez (No. 3) and Brian Ortega (No. 4), will run it back after their initial encounter ended prematurely via gross injury.

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


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 81 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 81: “Yusuff vs. Barboza” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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