After three controversial defeats, former bantamweight champion Petr Yan looks to right the ship against a surging 135-pound contender this Sat. night (March 11, 2023) inside The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada, when he takes on Merab Dvalishvili.
The UFC Las Vegas fight card also hosts a Heavyweight clash between Alexander Volkov and Alexandr Romanov, as well as an ultra-intriguing battle pitting bantamweight bruiser Said Nurmagomedov against 135-pound veteran Jonathan Martinez.
We’ve still got four more “Prelims” bouts to examine (check out the first four right here), so let’s get cracking.
265 lbs.: Karl Williams (7-1) vs. Lukasz Brzeski (8-2-1)
Williams, who suffered the first loss of his pro career at the hands of Bellator and PFL veteran Jason Butcher in June 2021, started 2022 strong with three consecutive wins. He then stepped up in weight on 10 days’ notice to challenge Jimmy Lawson on the Contender Series, dominating for three rounds to claim a UFC contract. He stands an inch shorter than “The Bull” but boasts a one-inch reach advantage.
A failed drug test for clomiphene overturned Brzeski’s Contender Series victory over Dylan Potter and left him on the sidelines for nearly a year. He finally made his UFC debut in August 2022, losing a highly controversial split decision to fellow DWCS grad Martin Buday. His seven pro finishes are split 5/2 between knockouts and submissions.
Credit where it’s due: Brzeski greatly exceeded expectations against Buday, especially his ability to sustain his output. That said, he definitely benefited from Buday’s lack of speed and urgency, a luxury he won’t enjoy against the super-athletic Williams. I favor Williams’ faster, sharper boxing over Brzeski’s long punching volleys on the feet, and the former has shown off enough wrestling skills to prevent Brzeski from leaning on his usual grind-heavy Plan B,
Brzeski does have one thing going for him, though, and that’s Williams’ inexperience fighting at 265. Though Williams was able to manhandle Lawson, it’s anyone’s guess whether he can stand up to Brzeski’s body attack with similar ease. Still, Williams’ physical advantages and ability to control Brzeski as needed make him the clear winner.
Prediction: Williams by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao (28-9) vs. Davey Grant (14-6)
A torrid 12-1 run, marred only by a loss to TJ Dillashaw in their rematch, gave way to four consecutive losses for Assuncao. In October 2022, with his back against the wall, he defied more than three-to-one odds to beat Victor Henry for his first win in over four years. He gives up three inches of height and reach to Grant.
After years of injuries and setbacks, former TUF 18 finalist Grant finally found his groove with three straight wins. Competitive Fight of the Night losses to Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez slowed his momentum, though he got back on track in May 2022 by pounding out Louis Smolka. He steps in for Kyler Phillips on around a month’s notice.
This one comes down to pace. Assuncao slowed Henry down with a mix of sharp counters and takedowns, preventing the younger, busier man from ever building a head of steam. He’ll have to do the same to Grant, though he’ll find that more difficult. Grant seems a fair bit more reckless than Henry and is also a far more focused body puncher; considering he traded with and at times overpowered the ultra-dangerous Yanez, I don’t see Assuncao scaring him off without taking real damage in the process.
Grant’s not too shabby a wrestler, either, so he should be able to keep it on the feet and overcome Assuncao’s precision with power and output. He lands the heavier, more eye-catching blows to secure the decision.
Prediction: Grant by unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Sedriques Dumas (7-0) vs. Josh Fremd (9-4)
Dumas cut a swath through Jorge Masvidal’s various organizations en route to an August 2022 Contender Series battle with Matej Penaz. Though “The Reaper” entered as an underdog, he secured both the win and a contract by choking Penaz out in 47 seconds. He’s ended six pro fights inside the distance, four of them via knockout and three of those via kick.
Fremd made a two-month turnaround on short notice to battle Anthony Hernandez at UFC 273, ultimately struggling with “Fluffy’s” pace en route to a decision loss. Those grappling issues reared their heads once again against Tresean Gore, as Fremd fell victim to a lethal guillotine in the opening seconds of the second. He replaces Abu Azaitar on less than two weeks’ notice.
Fremd is unquestionably a trickier opponent than the one-note, cardio-deficient Azaitar. Whether he’s good enough to hand Dumas his first defeat is another question entirely. Besides the striking skills with which he made his name, “The Reaper” has shown off the sort of sticky grappling game that Hernandez and Gore used to great effect against Fremd.
If this was a pure striking battle, Fremd would have a very strong chance of exploiting Dumas’ limited boxing and overpowering him down the stretch. As is, Fremd has proven too vulnerable to one of Dumas’ better weapons. Much like the Penaz fight, Dumas finds Fremd’s neck in the early going.
Prediction: Dumas by first-round submission
135 lbs.: Mario Bautista (11-2) vs. Guido Cannetti (10-7)
Bautista now sits at 5-1 since a disastrous short-notice UFC debut saw him tap to a Cory Sandhagen armbar in 2019. His current three-fight winning streak most recently saw him submit Benito Lopez with a bonus-winning armbar for his third Octagon finish. That victory marked his fifth pro submission and eighth stoppage win overall.
The 43-year-old “Ninja” followed an 0-2 TUF: Latin America run with a 2-5 UFC start over the course of seven years. Undaunted, he’s since put together his first multi-fight winning streak in nearly a decade by stopping Kris Moutinho and Randy Costa in a combined 3:11. He is the shorter man by three inches.
These two were originally supposed to fight in late 2021 when they were both coming off of brutal knockout losses. The matchmaking made sense at the time, but not so much anymore. Bautista’s come into his own as a genuine contender, and letting him brutalize Cannetti after “Ninja” finally got to taste some sustained success feels a bit cruel.
Though I suppose you could look at it like allowing someone one last delicious meal before their execution. Merciful, in a sense.
Cannetti has nothing for Bautista. His aggressive slugging can’t hope to match Bautista’s slick kickboxing and the latter’s grappling has grown too potent for Guido to grind him out. Sheer chutzpah keeps Cannetti in the running for a bit, but Bautista should finish him well before the halfway mark.
Prediction: Bautista by second-round submission
A chaotic main event and some sneaky-good matchups scattered throughout? Works for me. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 36-13
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Las Vegas fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 6 p.m. ET.
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