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X-Factor! Check out some UFC Vegas 71 main card predictions

MMA: DEC 17 UFC Vegas 66 Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., April 22, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 71. It’s actually been more than a few weeks since we were last inside the Apex, which is a pleasant change from last year. Even better, this is a solid card. The Heavyweight main event between Sergei Pavlovich and Curtis Blaydes would be a clear-cut title eliminator in any just reality, but as it stands, it’s still an awesome fight. The one-week delay of Song Yadong vs. Ricky Simon cost the card its co-main event — which certainly hurts — but I still get the pleasure of breaking down fire fights featuring veterans like Bobby Green and Brad Tavares.

Let’s dig in and take a closer look at the matches that lead up the to main event:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 74 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES FLYWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., June 3, 2023, with No. 3-seeded contender, Kai Kara-France, face rising No. 7-ranked Amir Albazi. In UFC Vegas 74’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, an exciting Featherweight bout sees No. 15-ranked contender, Alex Caceres, lock horns with all-action Daniel Pineda.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Middleweight: Brad Tavares vs. Bruno Silva

Best Win for Tavares? Lorenz Larkin For Silva? Andrew Sanchez
Current Streak: Tavares lost last time out, whereas Silva has coughed up consecutive defeats
X-Factor: Is Silva falling off?
How these two match up: This is a battle of kickboxer vs. brawler.

It’s kind of wild to consider that Tavares debuted inside the Octagon at 5-0 a full 13 years ago. He’s become one of the most consistent and established Middleweights on the roster, fighting a “Who’s Who” of the 185-pound division over the years. He’s a quality kickboxer with an excellent calf kick and very solid takedown defense, which is why the Hawaiian has been able to stick around the Top 20 or so for such a long time.

Silva, meanwhile, is a brawler with concrete in his fists, particularly if able to gain top position. Nineteen of 22 wins via knockout doesn’t happen by accident, but his last defeat to Gerald Meerschaert was highly concerning. Silva went from giving Alex Pereira a real challenge on the feet to getting absolutely picked apart by a submission ace — it was a perplexing performance.

I’ll be honest: that loss really removed my confidence in Silva. On his best day, he’s absolutely a challenge to Tavares, simply because he hits so much harder. On the heels of two losses — one of which saw him looking quite gun shy — it’s hard to trust that best version of Silva to show up.

Instead, expect Tavares to keep his distance, chop up the lead leg, and work smoothly to a decision win.

Prediction: Tavares via decision

Lightweight: Bobby Green vs. Jared Gordon

Best Win for Green? Josh Thomson For Gordon? Joe Solecki
Current Streak: Green has lost two straight, whereas Gordon was “defeated” by Paddy Pimblett last time out
X-Factor: Green was knocked out cold by Drew Dober in his last fight
How these two match up: Lightweight veterans will throw down!

It’s been enjoyable to watch Green active and fighting well since 2020. He’s still one of the slickest boxers in the game with an underrated wrestling game, and even at 36 years of age, there aren’t many Lightweights faster than “The King.” On the flip side, Gordon is a straight up grinder. He can put together good combinations and has some pop in his hands, but Gordon does his best work grinding for takedowns and pushing a harsh pace.

I’ll be honest: this is a stylistic layup for Green. He’s going to have a massive speed advantage, and he’s very difficult to take down for folks who are not named Islam Makhachev. Gordon has never showed the wrestling necessary to overwhelm Green, nor is he fast or skilled enough on the feet to box with him.

There’s always a chance Green has grown old overnight, but if he’s in remotely similar form to his Dec. 2022 showing against Dober, he’s going to style on Gordon.

Prediction: Green via decision

Strawweight: Iasmin Lucindo vs. Brogan Walker-Sanchez

Best Win for Lucindo? Sarah Frota For Walker-Sanchez? Miranda Maverick
Current Streak: Both women lost their last bout
X-Factor: Walker-Sanchez is a replacement opponent
How these two match up: This should be a quality scrap.

Lucindo didn’t win, but she really impressed in her debut. As a relative unknown, she stood toe-to-toe with the highly regarded Jazmin Jauregui, showcasing a really strong stand up game and solid conditioning. She already has nearly 20 professional fights on her record, which isn’t bad for being just 21 years old.

Walker-Sanchez made her name known first in Invicta FC then on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), coming up short in the final fight. She’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who excels at controlling her opponents from top position, but she hasn’t often been able to force the finish.

That may be an issue against Lucindo. Even if Walker-Sanchez is able to win the early goings of this fight, she’s not much of a finishing threat. As a result, Lucindo’s pace and athleticism are likely going to become more and more of a factor. As her strikes start to land more and the takedowns grow more exhausting, Lucindo should be able to pull the momentum into her favor.

Prediction: Lucindo via decision

Welterweight: Jeremiah Wells vs. Matthew Semelsberger

Best Win for Wells? Warlley Alves For Semelsberger? Jake Matthews
Current Streak: Wells has won three straight UFC fights, while Semelsberger returned to the win column last time out
X-Factor: Both men have POWER!
How these two match up: Somebody is probably going to sleep.

Wells is a difficult fighter to really get a read on. The 36-year-old’s stand up feels fairly disjointed and random, but then he connects on something massive and puts his opponent to sleep instantly, so ... it’s working? He’s also a capable finisher on the canvas, which is an added element of danger for his opposition. Semelsberger isn’t quite as wild as Wells, but he’s equally reliant on athleticism and power. “Semi The Jedi” throws short, simple combinations, and if his right hand happens to connect, it detonates like a bomb on his opponent’s jawline.

Unless it’s very clear that he’s on another level athletically from opponent, I have a difficult time picking athletes like Wells. Mixed martial arts (MMA) games that rely entirely upon creating big moments are untrustworthy, particularly in the lighter weight classes where fighters tend to have better strategy.

Semelsberger isn’t drastically more complicated by any means, but he’s stood toe-to-toe with several big hitters and come out on top more often than not. He still seems to be improving, and if nothing else, he throws the straighter punches.

Prediction: Semelsberger via knockout

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 7-9-1

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 71 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 71: “Pavlovich vs. Blaydes” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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