After a rare off week, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the familiar halls of its APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Oct. 7, 2023) for its latest ESPN+-streamed card, which sees surging Lightweight, Grant Dawson, take on inimitable veteran, Bobby Green, in the main event.
UFC Vegas 80’s co-feature sees Joe Pyfer look to continue his Middleweight rise at Abdul Razak Alhassan’s expense, while Alex Morono squares off with Joaquin Buckley in a high-octane Welterweight battle.
Five “Prelims” undercard bouts set UFC Vegas 80’s main stage this time around (thanks to this), which we’ve split evenly for easy analysis. Here’s the first batch ...
115 lbs.: Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Kanako Murata
Though she fell short on Contender Series and subsequently dropped a close decision to Lupita Godinez in her first Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) title defense, Vanessa Demopoulos (9-5) soon found her way to the Octagon. A loss in her debut gave way to a three-fight win streak, which came to an end at the hands of Karolina Kowalkiewicz in May 2023.
“Lil’ Monster” has submitted four professional foes and knocked out one other.
The wrestling of Kanako Murata (12-2) carried her to victory in both her Invicta title shot against Emily Ducote and UFC debut against Randa Markos. It couldn’t do the same against fellow former Invicta champ Virna Jandiroba, who badly injured Murata’s arm on her way to a second-round doctor’s stoppage.
This marks her first bout in 30 months.
Demopoulos enjoys fighting off her back, but as anyone who’s had one too many of their favorite snack can tell you, there can be too much of a good thing. She’ll have few, if any, opportunities to utilize her improved standup before Murata slams her to the mat and goes to work from the top.
The big question, then, is whether Demopoulos can submit her from the bottom. We’ve seen Demopoulos pull it off before, notably against Silvana Gomez Juarez after getting badly rocked (watch it), and Murata’s inability to fully defend Jandiroba’s armbar proved the key to her defeat last time. Still, after watching Murata survive every submission Emily Ducote threw her way for five rounds, I think Murata’s got what it takes to grind her out. So long as she’s not too rusty, Murata escapes a near disaster (or two) to secure a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Murata via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Nate Maness vs. Mateus Mendonca
Nate Maness (14-3) — the former TKO Bantamweight champ, battled his way to a perfect (3-0) UFC start that included bonus-winning finishes of Luka Sanders and Tony Gravely. His momentum failed to punch through a Dagestani wall in the form of Umar Nurmagomedov and Tagir Ulanbekov, who left Maness winless in the last two years.
He’ll enjoy four inches of height and a half-inch of reach on Mateus Mendonca (10-1).
“Bocao” capped off a pristine (10-0) professional start by smashing Ashiek Ajim just 48 seconds into their Contender Series bout to join teammate, Charles Oliveira, in the Octagon. His debut pitted him against Javid Basharat, who out-struck “Bocao” to claim a unanimous decision in Jan. 2023.
His six professional finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submission.
Though there’s no shame in losing to Basharat — Mendonca looked much shakier than expected in defeat, particularly in terms of endurance. If he fixes up his gas tank and makes a safe cut to 125 pounds, however, this is his fight to lose. Maness starts slow and has never been adept at dealing with aggressive strikers, habits that he doesn’t seem able to fix. He had to fight back from disastrously one-sided rounds in all three of his UFC victories, so it’s easy to see a focused Mendonca overpowering him through sheer persistence.
Again, this is all contingent on Mendonca being in shape. His power-punching and wrestling are excellent weapons in this matchup, but he only wins if they stay potent for all 15 minutes. Seeing as Maness’s red flags outnumber Mendonca’s, I’ll stick with “Bocao,” who bullies Maness to a wide decision.
Prediction: Mendonca via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Montana De La Rosa vs. JJ Aldrich
Mixed success on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 didn’t stop Montana De La Rosa (12-8-1) from winning four of her first five UFC bouts, the lone loss coming to Andrea Lee. The run wasn’t to last, as she now sits at 1-3-1 in her last five.
All but one of her nine professional finishes have come via submission.
JJ Aldrich (12-6) quietly put together a 7-3 UFC start before running afoul of Erin Blanchfield and Ariane Lipski. She returned to form against Na Liang, pounding out “Dragon Girl” to claim her first finish in nearly seven years.
She steps in for Stephanie Egger on around two weeks’ notice for her second bout in six weeks.
As ugly as De La Rosa’s record looks, she hasn’t lost to a bad fighter since her winless (0-2) professional start. I still don’t like her chances here because her chances of victory hinge entirely on her ability to consistently take down and control her opponents, something Aldrich has historically proven resistant to. Indeed, Gillian Robertson had nothing for Aldrich and I’d tab “The Savage” as a superior grappler to De La Rosa.
Lipski did admittedly take down Aldrich twice, but “Violence Queen” is a serious threat on the feet, which is not a descriptor I’d apply to De La Rosa. In short, against a one-note takedown artist, Aldrich has all the tools she needs to sprawl-and-brawl her way to victory.
Prediction: Aldrich via unanimous decision
Three Two more UFC Vegas 80 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including an A+ Bantamweight matchup pitting Chris Gutierrez against Montel Jackson. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 80 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 80: “Dawson vs. Green” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
Get the latest gear
- 2023 Panini Prizm UFC Factory Sealed Retail Blaster Box
- 2023 Panini Select UFC Factory Sealed Retail Blaster Box
- Islam Makhachev Walkout Jersey
- UFC Fanatics Single Glove Display Case
- 2022 Panini Donruss Optic Retail Blaster Box
- 2023 Donruss UFC Retail Blaster Box
- Miesha Tate UFC Authentic Plaque
- Brock Lesnar WWE Home Sweet Home Collage