This weekend (Sat., March 11, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Las Vegas. Lately, UFC has been mostly putting together thoroughly uninspired Apex cards immediately after big events like UFC 285. For whatever reason, March is the exception! This weekend’s event features a genuinely excellent Bantamweight main event between former champion Petr Yan and streaking contender Merab Dvalishvili, and there’s actually quite a bit of Eastern European talent throughout the entire event. Even the seemingly mandatory Heavyweight co-main event is better than usual, as Alexander Volkov and Alexander Romanov have actual skill!
Let’s dig in and take a closer look at the match ups that lead up the to main event:
Middleweight: Makhmud Muradov vs. Abusupiyan Magomedov
Best Win for Muradov? Andrew Sanchez For Magomedov? Dustin Stoltzfus
Current Streak: Muradov has lost two straight, whereas Magomedov recently won his UFC debut to make it three in a row
X-Factor: Muradov’s back is to the wall
How these two match up: A pair of slick strikers will collide.
Muradov really seemed to be the next big thing at 185-pounds until his current slide. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly changed: he’s got really solid skills everywhere, but he fell in a brawl to Gerald Meerschaert, and Caio Borralho managed to sneak a decision off him in something of a nothing fight.
“Abus” has only fought in the UFC for a grand total of 19 seconds. Fortunately, he’s got a wealth of experience in promotions like PFL, where he was a favorite to win the Middleweight tournament back in 2018. He’s a powerful kickboxer, confident in his combinations and able to press opponents while actively scoring counters.
Both of these men like to strike at range but are capable on the canvas, which at Middleweight means one thing: there’s an equal chance of a fun kickboxing match and awful clinch drudgery. Hopefully, we get the former, because it seems unlikely that either athlete has enough of a wrestling edge to really control top position.
In a close match, it’s hard to go against the man with power and momentum. Magomedov seems a bit faster and more likely to land the harder shots early, which should help him control the exchanges as the fight wears on. Plus, he seems less likely to fatigue over time, which could be a major factor as the exchanges get less snappy.
Prediction: Magomedov via decision
Featherweight: Ricardo Ramos vs. Austin Lingo
Best Win for Ramos? Bill Algeo For Lingo? Luis Saldana
Current Streak: Ramos won his last bout, whereas Lingo has put together two consecutive wins
X-Factor: Ramos occasionally gets too flashy and pays for it
How these two match up: This should be a fun fight between young Featherweight talent.
Ramos has been on the roster since 2017, but he’s still just 27 years old! The Brazilian appears to be coming into his own, growing more consistent with his mix of kickboxing and opportunistic grappling. He also has perhaps the nastiest spinning elbow in the game, a technique he’s used to stop two opponents and has landed in other fights as well.
Lingo doesn’t have a huge number of knockout wins to his record, but the man clearly hits hard. He’s a talented puncher with good in-and-out movement, and his ability to throw down for 15-full minutes has proven a major factor in his UFC success thus far.
The threat of a Lingo knockout in the first five minutes is certainly real, but this style match up seems to feed into Ramos’ game well. On the feet, his approach to kickboxing is more fluid and rangy, meaning Lingo is going to have to get after him in order to land well. When he does, expect Ramos to reactively drop into the takedown.
Lingo is not immune to takedowns, and Ramos is a better grappler than any of his past opponents. Likely, Ramos can frustrate Lingo by kicking him at range then wrestling when he gets too close, and a submission might even open up if Ramos can jump the back.
Prediction: Ramos via submission
Bantamweight: Said Nurmagomedov vs. Jonathan Martinez
Best Win for Nurmagomedov? Douglas Silva de Andrade For Martinez? Cub Swanson
Current Streak: Both men have won four straight
X-Factor: Can Martinez find his low kicks against a quick, stance-switching fighter?
How these two match up: This should be a really, really fun striking match.
Shared last name aside, Said Nurmagomedov’s style of fighting bares no resemblance to Khabib. He’s a rangy striker, able to kick powerfully and suddenly from both stances. He’s really quick and excels at springing forward to catch his opponents off-guard, and it’s worth noting that the Russian talent has a gnarly guillotine choke as well.
Martinez is a Southpaw with the best left leg in the division. With that left leg, he can break apart an opponent’s lead leg with calf kicks, pummel the liver, or interrupt a combination with a perfectly timed knee. He routinely breaks opponents down with that weapon, even when they know it’s a fundamental piece of his attack.
Between the two, I find Martinez’s approach to kickboxing far more trustworthy. Nurmagomedov replies too much on quickness and spinning techniques, attacks and attributes that tend to become less effective over time. Conversely, Martinez’s left kick only heats up as the fight wears on, and each land slows his opponent’s movement.
In addition, “The Dragon” has been showing off improved counter punching and more formidable power. The 28-year-old is positioning himself for a run at the top, and I don’t know that Nurmagomedov is the man to halt his rise.
Prediction: Martinez via decision
Light Heavyweight: Vitor Petrino vs. Anton Turkalj
Best Win for Petrino? Rodolfo Bellato For Turkalj? Acacio dos Santos
Current Streak: Petrino debuts at 7-0, while Turkalj came up short in his short-notice debut to Jailton Almeida
X-Factor: Potential UFC jitters for Petrino
How these two match up: This is a clear-cut case of striker vs. grappler.
Petrino really doesn’t have that much cage time. Six of his seven victories came via knockout and never saw the third round, and his sole decision win came very early in his career. From what we’ve seen so far, the Brazilian is a pretty classic brawler, happy to load up and swing big hooks.
Conversely, Sweden’s Turkalj brings the classic backpack strategy to the table. That’s not exactly common for a 6’4” Light Heavyweight, but he’s been able to make it work pretty consistently, and it helps that he has some pop on his feet too.
Petrino might land a big swing in the first two minutes that immediately ends Turkalj, but if he doesn’t, Turkalj is the more experienced and skilled fighter. He’s got a suffocating style, and it probably matches up pretty well here. He’s smart about getting to the clinch and plays to his strengths, which should help mitigate the risk of getting blasted at range.
After a few minutes of wrestling, Petrino’s hooks probably don’t look so scary.
Prediction: Turkalj via submission
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 4-3-1
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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