Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ends its brief hiatus this Saturday (Oct. 7, 2023) with another APEX show in Las Vegas, Nevada, this one headlined by Lightwieght grappling ace Grant Dawson’s battle with fan favorite, Bobby Green. UFC Vegas 80 will also see Joe Pyfer trade hands with the brick-fisted Abdul Razak Alhassan and Drew Dober look to bounce back from defeat at Ricky Glenn’s expense.
115 lbs.: Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Diana Belbita
A submission defeat to Jessica Penne at UFC 265 extended Karolina Kowalkiewicz’s (15-7) losing streak to five and left her 2-7 since an undefeated professional start. She’s since breathed new life into her career with three straight wins, the most recent of which saw her defeat Vanessa Demopoulos in May 2023.
She gives up four inches of height and reach to Diana Belbita (15-7).
“Warrior Princess” struggled her way to a 1-3 UFC start, the lone win a decision over Hannah Goldy. After 16 months on the sidelines, she returned to action in June 2023 with a one-sided win over Maria Oliveira in Vancouver.
Six of her 10 professional finishes have come via (technical) knockout.
She’s had more downs than ups in the Octagon, but I do think Belbita can become a solid Strawweight with the proper seasoning. In her current state, though, she’s in for a rough night. Belbita still shows several lingering striking issues, namely a tendency to dip her head and leave it unprotected after hurling her right hand, that a kickboxer as seasoned as Kowalkiewicz will have a field day exploiting.
Kowalkiewicz’s cleaner hands carried her past a heavier hitter than Belbita in Silvana Gomez Juarez, so I don’t see “Warrior Princess” winning through sheer horsepower. Plus, Kowalkiewicz has also shown a willingness to wrestle of late. And while she’s not Tatiana Suarez by any means, Belbita’s showed enough grappling issues against Gloria de Paula and Maria Oliveira that it’s a potentially productive avenue for the veteran to explore. In short, superior technique and versatility should carry Kowalkiewicz to her fourth straight win.
Prediction: Kowalkiewicz via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Aoriqileng vs. Johnny Munoz
Aoriqileng (24-10) evened up his UFC record after a 2-2 start with back-to-back wins over Cameron Else and Jay Perrin. Then came Aiemann Zahabi, who handed Aoriqileng the first (technical) knockout loss of his eight-year career just 64 seconds into the first round.
“The Mongolian Murderer” faces two-inch height and reach disadvantages.
Johnny Munoz (12-3) started his professional career with an undefeated (10-0) run in Cage Warriors, eight of those wins inside the distance. He’s since alternated losses and wins on his way to a 2-3 UFC record.
His nine professional finishes include seven via submission.
The knee-jerk response after seeing Munoz fall apart against Daniel Santos is to expect another collapse against another pressure fighter. “Willycat” has one very important skill that Aoriqileng doesn’t, however, and that’s ridiculous takedown defense. Munoz is a decorated jiu-jitsu player and solid wrestler, while Aoriqileng gave up a combined 10 minutes of control time against Cody Durden and Jay Perrin.
Between Munoz’s jab and wrestling, Aoriqileng is going to have tons of issues consistently doing damage, especially if getting smashed like that damaged his confidence. Aoriqileng could still wear him down, as Munoz has faded more than once, but even a gassed-to-death Durden managed to neutralize Aoriqileng. In the end, Munoz’s wrestling should be sufficient to keep him afloat.
Prediction: Munoz via unanimous decision
Wonky UFC Vegas 80 main even matchmaking aside, all signs point to an entertainingly violent evening. See you Saturday. Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 139-84-1 (3 NC)
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