Two of the most consistent Light Heavyweight finishers, Nikita Krylov and Ryan Spann, lock horns this Saturday evening (Feb. 25, 2023) in UFC Vegas 70’s main event from inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The evening also sees Middleweight contender, Andre Muniz, attempt to continue his rise at Brendan Allen’s expense and Tatiana Suarez make her long-awaited return to action against Montana De La Rosa.
Seven “Prelims” undercard bouts (also on ESPN+) will set the main card stage. Here’s the first portion ...
155 lbs.: Rafael Alves vs. Nurullo Aliev
After four fight cancelations and a decision loss to Damir Ismagulov, Rafael Alves (20-11) claimed his first UFC victory by choking out Marc Diakiese in just 108 seconds. Then came Drew Dober, who stopped “The Turn” with a third round body shot at UFC 277.
He has submitted eight professional foes and knocked out another seven.
Nurullo Aliev (7-0) capped off his time on the European circuit with a decision over Kirill Kryukov on a combination AMC/Eagle FC show. Initial plans to join Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) turned into a Contender Series opportunity, which “Tajik Eagle” made the most of by pounding out Josh Wick late in the first frame.
He stands two inches taller than Alves and boasts a four-inch reach advantage.
The question here is how well Aliev can walk a tightrope. As physically gifted as Alves is, there’s no real connective tissue in his game, nothing he can lean on when the big flashy attacks and killer guillotine fail. Aliev’s is a much more consistent approach, and he’s a sufficiently strong wrestler to execute it against UFC-level opposition. If he can consistently get inside and glue himself to Alves against the fence, “The Turn’s” explosiveness can’t save him.
Just because Alves can’t set up his attacks doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous, though, and Aliev can definitely get a bit deer-in-headlights under fire. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Alves repeat his Diakiese victory by clipping Aliev and snatching up a choke as he shoots. More likely, though, relentless takedowns let Aliev grind him into paste.
Prediction: Aliev via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Hailey Cowan vs. Ailin Perez
Hailey Cowan (7-2) rebounded from a decision loss to Kelly Clayton with a submission win in her Invicta debut, setting up a Contender Series opportunity against Claudia Leite. Despite a rough second round, Cowan out-lasted Leite to win a split decision and UFC contract.
“All Hail” will have three inches of height and one inch of reach on “Fiona.”
Ailin Perez (7-2) — whose only prior defeat came via disqualification against future UFC competitor Tamires Vidal — joined UFC in 2022 and geared up for a debut against Zarah Fairn. When “Infinite” withdrew, Perez instead took on Stephane Egger, who choked out the Argentinean in Paris.
Five of her professional wins have come inside the distance, four of them via knockout.
I normally use the term “car crash” approvingly when discussing a match, but this is more like a fender bender in a school zone. Both women do their best work in the clinch, meaning there’s a good chance we see long stretches of inactivity against the fence.
Though Cowan’s physical strength is a distinct advantage, I actually favor Perez here. She strikes me as the more natural striker of the two and she’s much more dangerous from the top, making her the likelier of the two to catch the judges’ eyes whenever they aren’t stalemated. I say her aggression wins the day in a competitive and at-times dull affair.
Prediction: Perez via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Jose Johnson vs. Garrett Armfield
Impressive stoppages of Mo Miller and Dulani Perry earned Jose Johnson (15-7) a second shot on Contender Series, where he’d previously lost a decision to Ronnie Lawrence. This time around, he weathered Jack Cartwright’s wrestling contract to win a decision and punch his ticket to the Octagon.
He’ll enjoy six inches of height and two inches of reach on Garrett Armfield (8-3).
After putting together a 6-1 run, Armfield stepped up on short notice to face former amateur rival David Onama at Featherweight. Though ambitious, the move failed to pay dividends, as he succumbed to an arm triangle in the second round.
His eight professional wins include seven by stoppage.
I’m quite looking forward to this one, actually. Both men are dogged, technically adept, and entertaining finishers.
I’ve gone back-and-forth, but at the end of the day, I think Armfield gets it done. While he’ll definitely have issues with Johnson’s length, “Lobo Solitario’s” tendency to shell up under fire should give Armfield plenty of chances to get his combination punching going. Plus, Johnson’s strong top game is offset by fairly weak takedowns, so as long as Armfield doesn’t take a bad shot like he did against Onama, there shouldn’t be much stopping him from keeping it in his wheelhouse. While a one-hitter quitter or sudden sub from Johnson isn’t out of the question, I like Armfield’s hands to win the day.
Prediction: Armfield via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Joe Solecki vs. Carl Deaton III
Joe Solecki’s (12-3) six-fight win streak, which included three Octagon victories, came to an end at the hands of Jared Gordon in 2021. He got back on track against Alex da Silva in June 2022, surviving an early knockdown to take home a majority decision.
Seven of his eight professional finishes have come via submission.
Carl Deaton’s (17-5) Professional Fighters League (PFL) bid saw him drop a split decision to Alejandro Flores for his second consecutive defeat. He’s since gone on to win two straight, including a decision over UFC veteran Justin Jaynes.
He takes this fight on little more than one week’s notice, as Solecki was originally scheduled to fight Benoit Saint-Denis last weekend.
With all due respect to Deaton, he’s nowhere near the stylistic threat that Saint-Denis was. He can’t stand up to Solecki’s wrestling the way “God of War” could have and his striking is nowhere near dangerous enough to compensate. If you can’t consistently deny Solecki’s takedowns or stop him on the feet before he gets a chance to test your grappling, you’re not beating him.
Deaton is admittedly difficult to finish, but Solecki’s more than capable of grinding him out for 15 minutes if the rear-naked choke isn’t there. And odds are it will be.
Prediction: Solecki via first round submission
Three more UFC Vegas 70 “Prelims” undercard matches remain to preview and predict, including what looks like a fun one at Flyweight. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 70 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.
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