This weekend (Sat., Feb. 18, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 69. Last weekend, UFC’s two most elite champions threw down in what will likely go down as one of the most skilled clashes in promotional history. This week? It’s very much a leftovers event, and the two best fights of the evening were booked within the last two weeks.
Before we get into the predictions, a quick caveat: I’ve made the executive decision to include a prediction for the official co-main event of Zac Pauga vs. Jordan Wright rather than the main card opener Jim Miller vs. Alexander Hernandez, because the latter is a more interesting fight that will make for a better full preview post later in the week.
Anyway, let’s get to it and take a closer look at the match ups that lead up the to main event:
Light Heavyweight: Zac Pauga vs. Jordan Wright
Best Win for Pauga? Markus Perez For Wright? Jamie Pickett
Current Streak: Pauga lost his UFC debut back in August 2022, whereas Wright has lost three in a row
X-Factor: Both men are shifting weight classes
How these two match up: This match up feels like a chance to rebound for Pauga.
“The Ripper” looked pretty solid in his UFC debut and on The Ultimate Fighter. However, he was also an undersized Heavyweight, so when he did finally get clipped clean in the second round of his debut against Mohammed Usman, that was the end of it. At 34 years of age, it’s time to see whether or not Pauga can swim at the UFC level down at a more fitting weight class.
Wright is a really aggressive striker. He pretty much goes balls-to-the-wall from the first bell in an offensive onslaught that only ends when one man is on the canvas. Unfortunately for “The Beverly Hills Ninja,” that man has been him in five of his seven trips to the Octagon.
Wright always has a shot, as he hits hard and throws with absolutely zero regard for his own well-being. However, it’s not clear what he’s doing up at Light Heavyweight. He never seemed like a huge Middleweight, and now he’s taking on a fighter experienced at taking lumps from Heavyweights. Add in the simple fact that Pauga is the more refined technical striker, and it all seems like a recipe for another knockout loss.
Prediction: Pauga via knockout
Heavyweight: Josh Parisian vs. Jamal Pogues
Best Win for Parisian? Alan Baudot For Pogues? Paulo Renato Jr.
Current Streak: Parisian won his last bout, whereas Pogues debuts following consecutive victories
X-Factor: Potential UFC jitters for Pogues
How these two match up: A pair of Contenders Series Heavyweights will throw down.
Both of these men are scrappers, as well as full-sized for the division. Parisian is the more powerful pure puncher, and last time out, he showed an ability to drag the fight to the canvas and drop hammers from top position if need be. Conversely, Pogues is more of a volume striker, able to pump out combinations of quick punches at distance to pepper his opponent.
I see two very possible outcomes here. On one hand, Parisian is the heavier hitter by a fair margin, having stopped 11 of his 15 wins via knockout. Pogues stands rather tall in the pocket and his whole game relies on extended trades, so the chance of him getting absolutely creamed by a big hook is considerable.
At the same time, plenty of Heavyweights have tried that exact path. Pogues is tough, and his ability to stick opponents with jabs and counter combos does a whole lot to stall their aggression. If the fight escapes the first frame, he’s also a much more consistent source of offense across the entire 15 minutes.
Ultimately, I trust “The Stormtrooper” to avoid the early knockout and win the latter half of this fight in clear fashion for his first UFC win.
Prediction: Pogues via decision
Light Heavyweight: William Knight vs. Marcin Prachnio
Best Win for Knight? Alonzo Menifield For Prachnio? Khalil Rountree Jr
Current Streak: Knight has lost two in a row, while Prachnio lost his last bout
X-Factor: Will Knight make weight?
How these two match up: This is some bizarre Light Heavyweight action.
Six fights into his UFC career, I still don’t know quite what to make of William Knight. He’s wildly powerful, but he bounces between Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight in confusion fashion. His wrestling is his best tool, but if he relies on it too much, he gets very tired and loses to men like Devin Clark. Still, if able to gain top position, he can actually end fights very quickly.
Six fights into his UFC career, I still don’t know quite what to make of Marcin Prachnio. How can the same man rush face-first into losing to Sam Alvey way too late in his career then beat the piss out of Khalil Rountree Jr? It doesn’t make the least bit of sense. At a minimum, we know that Prachnio has some solid power and a diverse offense, though he remains too hittable.
I’m going to get real specific with this prediction. Knight is a shorter wrestler who struggles with his weight cut. Prachnio is a funky European Karate kickboxer-type who explodes into weird strikes. At some point, Prachnio is going to run up into a ripping left body kick that just explodes Knight’s insides. It may be early while both men are fresh, and it may be late when both are tired, but either way, it should end the fight.
Remember Jan Blachowicz vs. Ilir Latifi back in the day? Left kicks are still in vogue nearly a decade later!
Prediction: Prachnio via knockout
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 1-3-1
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 69 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 69: “Andrade vs. Blanchfield” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.