This weekend (Sat., April 29, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 72. Spoiler alert: this card is almost as bad as my predictions have been in 2023. Song Yadong vs. Ricky Simon was moved from last week’s event to keep the night somewhat alive, but even a great Bantamweight main event alone cannot redeem the desert of mediocrity that otherwise makes up the event.
On the plus side, a bunch of Wikipedia-less match ups can still turn out to be really fun fights. Let’s dig in and take a closer look at the matches that lead up the to main event:
Middleweight: Caio Borralho vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
Best Win for Borralho? Makhumud Muradov For Oleksiejczuk? Gadzhimurad Antigulov
Current Streak: Oleksiejczuk has won two in a row, while Borralho is 3-0 inside the Octagon
X-Factor: This is a major test of Middleweight Oleksiejczuk’s takedown defense
How these two match up: This is more than the typical grappler vs. striker match up. In fact, it’s the perfect embodiment of boring vs. exciting.
Maybe Borralho was lightning personified on the regional scene, but inside the Octagon, his fights have been miserable. In his 45 minutes of UFC fighting, the Brazilian has landed just 62 significant strikes — that’s an abysmal work rate. He is, however, hard to hit, and his striking is good enough to set up his takedowns.
Conversely, Oleksiejczuk is aggressive to a fault. As an undersized Light Heavyweight, he’d chase bigger men around the cage and try to pulverize their livers. He’s a knockout artist with serious hand speed, but he’s also run into problems getting bullied on the canvas.
I would consider myself an Oleksiejczuk fan, which is to say I’ve been hurt before. Does anyone else remember him teeing off on Ovince Saint Preux, then getting easily submitted in the second round? The Polish striker puts himself in bad positions in pursuit of the knockout, and Borralho is just the kind of fighter to make him pay in absolutely frustrating fashion.
Is there hope? Yes. At 28 years of age, Oleksiejczuk is coming into his prime, and Middleweight is a much better fit for him. Perhaps this is the fight he turns the corner, picks his moments smartly, and smacks his opponent around without giving up top position.
I’ll hope for it, but I won’t bet on it.
Prediction: Borralho via decision
Middleweight: Rodolfo Vieira vs. Cody Brundage
Best Win for Vieira? Dustin Stoltzfus For Brundage? Tresean Gore
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: How is Brundage’s takedown defense?
How these two match up: This is a fun BJJ vs. wrestling match up.
Vieira is one of the very best grapplers to ever compete inside the Octagon. However, as Anthony Hernandez demonstrated in his upset submission win over “The Black Belt Hunter,” the situation on the Octagon canvas is complicated by punches and conditioning. Fortunately, Vieira responded to that loss well, improving his boxing and cardio in response.
Brundage is a more recent signee. An accomplished collegiate wrestler, Brundage is an aggressive finisher but definitely still lacks polish, which makes sense since he turned pro in 2019!
Realistically, I would expect a sprawl-and-brawl strategy from Brundage, who likely doesn’t want to engage on the floor with Vieira. I’m not sure it works, however. Neither are great strikers, but Vieira’s 1-2 seems the most consistent weapon between them, and aside from that, his takedowns are actually pretty good inside the cage.
What’s really concerning here is how helpless Brundage looked when Michal Oleksiejczuk spun into his guard. He was winning the round, and then 30 seconds later, the fight was over because he was unable to offer any kind of meaningful resistance from his back.
Oleskiejczuk is a striker, and Vieira is a world-class black belt. You do the math!
Prediction: Vieira via submission
Heavyweight: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Waldo Cortes-Acosta
Best Win for Rogerio de Lima? Ben Rothwell For Cortes-Acosta? Chase Sherman
Current Streak: De Lima won his last bout, whereas Cortes-Acosta has two UFC wins and an 9-0 pro record
X-Factor: It’s a definite step up in competition for “Salsa Boy”
How these two match up: Brawler vs. boxer!
Rogerio de Lima has surprised many by finding more success at Heavyweight than 205-pounds, in large part due to the simple fact that unranked Heavyweights tend to be awful. The Brazilian tends to have about seven minutes of cardio, but he’s genuine knockout thread and occasionally a surprising submission threat for the first half of fights.
Cortes-Acosta has some professional boxing experience, and his performances inside the Octagon definitely reflect it. He moves well, using the jab to maintain distance and occasionally build bigger combinations. Mostly, he sticks and moves, capitalizing on his hand speed to avoid eating anything major.
By defeating Chase Sherman and Jared Vanderaa, Cortes-Acosta has cleared the absolute lowest level of UFC Heavyweight hurdles. Rogerio de Lima is far, far more dangerous than both of those men, even if he has plenty of flaws.
The difference in danger here is astronomical. Cortes-Acosta may be the much better boxer, but Rogerio de Lima is going to crash into him with overhands and powerful double legs. Does he have the defense, both standing and wrestling, to avoid those potential fight-enders?
I’m guessing not. “Pezao” gains top position via punches or tackle, and then he finishes things with heavy ground strikes.
Prediction: Rogerio de Lima via knockout
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 8-11-1 (1)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 72 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 72: “Yadong vs. Simon” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.