This weekend (Sat., June 17, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, with UFC Vegas 75. Both Marvin Vettori and Jared Cannonier have become accustomed to five-round fights in recent years, and now the Top Five-ranked Middleweights are set to square off in another main event. Before those men take center stage, elite talent Arman Tsarukyan is fighting Joaquin Silva for some reason, and there’s some good scraps leading up to those matches.
Let’s dig in and take a closer look at the main card matches that lead up to the co-main event:
Middleweight: Armen Petrosyan vs. Christian Leroy Duncan
Best Win for Petrosyan? Gregory Rodrigues For Duncan? Dusko Todorovic
Current Streak: Petrosyan won his last bout, while Duncan’s successful UFC debut in March brought his pro record to 8-0
X-Factor: Duncan has 23 amateur fights worth of additional experience!
How these two match up: Talented striking prospects collide.
Petrosyan is a kickboxer with great fundamentals. He pushes a solid pace and is capable of putting his foes away with a single well-placed kick, but he’s yet to stop an opponent inside the Octagon. Still, “Robocop” is a quality win, and he’s not far off from breaking into the rankings.
England’s Duncan is also a striker. He’s a very fun to watch, known for for firing flashy kicks that can actually do real damage. Seven of his eight victories came before the final bell, but it’s important to note that his contest vs. Todorovic ended due to an unfortunate knee injury fairly early in the first.
I’m the first to side with fundamentals over flash usually, but Duncan has both. He’s just a really clean and dangerous kickboxer who’s coming into his own. He still hasn’t shown much inside the Octagon, but there’s a good reason the Cage Warriors champion debuted with so much hype.
Petrosyan isn’t going to get walked over, but he’s on the wrong side of the youth equation, and he’s less dynamic overall. Both men will get the striking battle that usually chase, but Duncan is going to do more damage and stay ahead in this one.
Prediction: Duncan via decision
Featherweight: Pat Sabatini vs. Lucas Almeida
Best Win for Sabatini? Jammal Emmers For Almeida? Mike Trizano
Current Streak: Sabatini lost his last fight, whereas Almeida won his UFC debut last June
X-Factor: Sabatini enters following the first knockout loss of his career
How these two match up: This is a clear-cut wrestler vs. striker battle.
Sabatini is a very good grappler. He’s takedown transitions are sharp and effective, and once on the canvas, Sabatini is really skilled at controlling opponents while he advances position. He’s stopped 10 of his foes via submission, as well as another couple wins via strikes.
Almeida came to the UFC as something of a finished product already. The 32-year-old Brazilian is a former Jungle Fight champion with a classically punishing Muay Thai attack. He’s stopped most of his foes via knockout, and he showed off really great combination striking in his UFC debut.
If this one stays on the feet for long, Almeida is going to smoke Sabatini, who just got ran over by Damon Jackson. The problem for Almeida is that I’m not sure it does. He’s yet to face a ground specialist quite like Sabatini, who also debuted with as an accomplished regional champion with a plus skill set.
It’s a really good match up, but if Sabatini scores one takedown, his success is likely to snowball. Almeida, meanwhile, needs to land something huge to break that trend. If he’s stuck on his back and getting tired, that’s not likely to happen.
Prediction: Sabatini via decision
Lightweight: Manuel Torres vs. Nikolas Motta
Best Win for Torres? Frank Camacho For Motta? Joe Solecki
Current Streak: Both men enter following one UFC victory
X-Factor: Torres looks to be the far more physical fighter
How these two match up: Two Contenders Series veterans who like to throw down will face off.
Torres is a big, powerful Lightweight. He tends to start fast and overwhelm his opponents, as evidenced by his four most recent wins taking place in less than eight minutes combined! Contrary to the striking-first style he’s shown inside the Octagon, Torres has actually won just as many fights via submission as strikes.
Motta is the more dedicated sprawl-and-brawl fighter of the two. He’s a crisp kickboxer, capable of flurrying forward or staying back and picking with counter shots. Either way, he can crack and has stopped nine foes via knockout.
This is a real interesting match up. On one hand, Torres is the larger and strong man. He’s likely to start quickly and land heavy shots off the bat, which tends to produce quick finishes for him. Plus, given his ground skills and Motta’s historic weakness to submissions, that’s also a potential avenue to victory for him.
At the same time, Motta has quite a bit more experienced and has the counter punching to punish Torres’ aggression. Motta is more dangerous late, and if this fight goes long, that experience could really come into play in a punishing manner. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, I’m not sure he has the defense to last that long. Torres is a finisher, and Motta gives finished fairly often.
Sometimes, it’s that simple.
Prediction: Torres via knockout
Welterweight: Nicholas Dalby vs. Muslim Salikhov
Best Win for Dalby? Alex Oliveira For Salikhov? Francisco Trinaldo
Current Streak: Dalby won his last two bouts, whereas Salikhov returned to the win column last time out
X-Factor: Salikhov is 39 years old
How these two match up: Finally some well-established names!
Denmark’s Dalby is a damn tough veteran. He’s a striker first and foremost, but since returning for his second stint in the UFC, he’s shown marked improvement in his grappler and MMA game as a whole. Really, he’s been able to push a much harder pace, which has helped him capitalize on his best attributes of grit and heart.
Salikhov is a highly decorated Sanda fighter. He’s got a massive arsenal of spinning kicks and wild range offense, but he can really box nicely as well. He tends to run into more trouble when forced to the canvas, though it’s been some time since he was really controlled on the mat.
Salikhov has won six of his last seven bouts.
This should be a lot of fun. Per usual, Dalby will be working at something of a speed and power disadvantage. The odds that Salikhov wins the first round feel very high. The question then will become whether or not Dalby can build his success as the fight wears on. He’s got the willpower and toughness necessary to outwork Salikhov on the feet or the canvas over time, but that’s going to be a tricky proposition given Salikhov’s range mastery.
I’ll get super specific on this prediction: Salikhov wins the first two rounds, is fatigued by the third, but takes the decision!
Prediction: Salikhov via decision
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 17-13-1 (1)
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.