With Israel Adesanya back on top and Alex Pereira moving to 205 pounds, the Middleweight division rolls on this Saturday (June 17, 2023) when Marvin Vettori battles Jared Cannonier inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also on tap is a curious Lightweight battle pitting Arman Tsarukyan against Brazilian slugger Joaquim “Netto BJJ” Silva and a “Grappler vs. Striker” clash between Featherweights Pat Sabatini and Lucas Almeida.
Four UFC Vegas 75 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), so let’s get to it ...
135 lbs.: Raoni Barcelos vs. Miles Johns
Raoni Barcelos (17-4) entered UFC in the midst of a four-fight win streak, and after a couple of planned debuts fell through, finally hit the ground running with five consecutive victories. The momentum wasn’t to last, though, and he enters the cage this Saturday having lost three of his last four bouts.
Eight of his 10 professional stoppage wins have come via knockout.
Miles Johns (13-2) followed his LFA title run and successful Contender Series appearance with wins in three of his first four UFC bouts. Though he fell short against John Castaneda in Feb. 2022, he bounced back nine months later by edging out Vince Morales at the Apex.
He gives up one inch of reach to Barcelos.
If Barcelos has anything at all left in the tank, it’s his fight to lose. Johns is deathly afraid to throw anything more damaging than a jab and his wrestling has proven consistently ineffective in the Octagon. Barcelos’ speed, power, striking technique and overall grappling skills blow Johns’ out of the water.
Even if we assume that Barcelos’ age and recent knockout defeat dulled his edge, he so out-classes Johns in every area that it’s hard to pick against him. In short, he controls the fight behind his jab before dropping the boom down the stretch.
Prediction: Barcelos via third round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Jimmy Flick vs. Alessandro Costa
Jimmy Flick (16-6) kicked off his UFC tenure with an out-of-nowhere flying triangle against Cody Durden, only to abruptly announce his retirement afterward. The urge to compete proved too strong, however, prompting a Jan. 2023 return that saw him stopped in one by late replacement Charles Johnson.
He’s ended 14 of his professional victories via submission.
The Lux Fight League (LFL) title run for Alessandro Costa (12-3) earned him a spot on Contender Series, where he edged out Andres Luna, but failed to secure a UFC contract. After returning to LFL to score a 12-second finish, “Nono” answered the call to fight Amir Albazi on short notice, resulting in a third round knockout defeat (watch highlights).
He stands three inches shorter than Flick at 5’4.”
As much as I’m hoping for a grappling battle between two highly skilled ground artists, odds are neither we nor Flick will be so lucky. Costa looks like a sufficiently stout wrestler to keep it on the feet, where he holds a clear edge in power over the occasionally fragile Flick. Costa is obviously far from indestructible himself, as we saw against Albazi, but Flick’s 5:0 ratio of knockout losses to knockout wins suggest that he’s by far the likelier of the two to hit the deck.
Though Flick does have a good shot at victory if he can get on top of Costa, Albazi’s inability to consistently take down Costa spells doom for “The Brick’s” chances. In the end, Costa sprawls-and-brawls to an early finish.
Prediction: Costa via first round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Kyung Ho Kang vs. Cristian Quinonez
Kyung Ho Kang (18-9) — who made his UFC debut all the way back in 2013 — sits at 7-2 in his last nine. His current 4-1 run most recently saw him bounce back from his loss to Rani Yahya by winning a decision over division standout Danaa Batgerel at UFC 275.
“Mr. Perfect” fights for the first time in more than one year.
A Contender Series victory over Xiao Long punched Cristian Quinonez’s (17-3) ticket to the Octagon, though visa issues kept him out of action for the next 10 months. He made up for lost time in his Sept. 2022 UFC debut, which saw him knockout Khalid Taha in Paris (watch it).
He’s knocked out 10 professional foes and submitted three others.
As with many of Kang’s fights, this boils down to whether he can actually utilize his extensive skills properly. He has a maddening tendency to strike when he should grapple and grapple when he should strike, which has led to winnable fights either slipping through his fingers or turning out much closer they should be.
If he’s firing on all cylinders, he beats Quinonez, as he’s not far behind in the striking and holds a significant edge on the mat. His inconsistency makes me hesitant to pull the trigger, but he’s incredibly difficult to finish and generally does enough to come out on top, if not dominate as he should. He mixes in takedowns to edge out a nip-and-tuck standup battle.
Prediction: Kang via split decision
125 lbs.: Carlos Hernandez vs. Denys Bondar
Carlos Hernandez (8-2) secured a spot in the Octagon with a split decision over Daniel Barez on Contender Series, then made it two straight nail-biters by edging out Victor Altamirano in his UFC debut. Then came Allan Nascimento, who tapped Hernandez with a rear-naked choke to snap his eight-fight win streak.
Half of his professional wins have come via submission.
Denys Bondar (16-4) rode a 10-fight win streak into the world’s largest fight promotion, but missed all of 2021 due to various issues. He finally debuted in Feb. 2022, only to suffer a broken arm courtesy of Malcolm Gordon’s armbar.
This marks the first bout for “Psycho” in 16 months.
Bondar’s game may not be particularly deep, but it’s extremely well-suited to punching a hole through Hernandez’s generalist approach. Hernandez’s wrestling has consistently fallen short in recent bouts; he gave up five takedowns to Barez and two to Nascimento, which bodes ill against a dedicated pressure wrestler like Bondar.
I just don’t see Hernandez playing keep-away for 15 minutes or catching Bondar off of his back the way Gordon did. Though I may be overestimating Bondar based on wins over weak opposition and undervaluing his loss to Gordon, the stylistic matchup is so heavily in his favor that he gets my vote. He wears down Hernandez with takedowns and ground-and-pound before ultimately finding his neck.
Prediction: Bondar via third round submission
UFC Vegas 75 features some solid scraps ... and at least this one doesn’t have a massive asking price. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 74-51-1 (1 NC)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 75 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 75: “Vettori vs. Cannonier” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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