After subjecting us to four deathly dull Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) main events, Sean Strickland once again gets the spotlight this Saturday (July 1, 2023) when he meets Abus Magomedov inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The evening also sees Damir Ismagulov look to bounce back from defeat against fast-rising Grant Dawson and Ariane Lipski battle Melissa Gatto in a clash of Flyweight finishers.
Three UFC Vegas 76 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out first batch here), so let’s not waste any more time ...
170 lbs.: Kevin Lee (19-7) vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov (21-2)
Kevin Lee (19-7) — who once put together a 9-1 run in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion — got his walking papers after a 1-4 skid. He then took his talents to Eagle FC, beating Diego Sanchez via unanimous decision in his one and only bout under that banner (watch highlights).
This marks his first bout in nearly 16 months.
Fakhretdinov rode an eight-year, 14-fight win streak into his Octagon debut, which saw him grind his way past Andreas Michailidis. He was even more impressive his next time out, running roughshod over The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 winner, Bryan Battle, for just his fourth professional decision win.
Eleven of his 17 professional finishes have come by knockout.
The laws of comedy dictate that, after hilariously underestimating Fakhretdinov ahead of the Battle fight, picking him here will result in his defeat. The matchup is just weighted so heavily in his favor that I can’t pass him up.
Lee just hasn’t impressed at 170 pounds, underwhelming against both Daniel Rodriguez and Diego Sanchez. His reliance on top control and tendency to fade are bad weaknesses to have against a larger, stronger wrestler, and even if that wrestler can’t hope to match Lee in terms of pure technique, Fakhretdinov’s top control looks stout enough to overpower Lee’s bottom game. In the end, a fairly even start gives way to grappling dominance from “Gladiator” once Lee starts to fade.
Prediction: Fakhretdinov via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Yana Santos vs. Karol Rosa
Yana Santos (14-7) rebounded from her unsuccessful UFC debut against Cris Cyborg by winning four of her next five bouts, among them an upset decision over Ketlen Vieira. She’s fought just twice in the last two years, falling to Irene Aldana and Holly Holm.
“Foxy” will enjoy three inches of height and one inch of reach on Karol Rosa (16-5).
Despite suffering through a bevy of fight cancelations, Rosa battled her way to a perfect (4-0) UFC start. She’s 1-2 since, a decision over Lina Lansberg sandwiched between losses to Sara McMann and Norma Dumont.
She steps in for Macy Chiasson on little more than one-week notice.
The loss to McMann was understandable, as McMann can beat any woman who weighs less than 145 pounds if she somehow gets her gears to mesh, but Rosa definitely lost some shine by waiting until the third round to wake up against Dumont. This does look winnable, though; she’s more active than Santos on the feet and has some wrestling in her back pocket that should give “Foxy” issues.
Between Santos’ durability issues and inability to fight off her back, Rosa has plenty of avenues to pursue. If she can keep her foot on the gas pedal, she’ll outwork Santos to a comfortable win.
Prediction: Rosa via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Joanderson Brito vs. Westin Wilson
Joanderson Brito (14-3-1) saw his 12-fight unbeaten streak snapped by Bill Algeo in his UFC debut. Subsequent efforts proved more successful, as “Tubarao” dispatched Andre Fili and Lucas Alexander in less than three minutes combined and took home “Performance of the Night” against the former.
His professional finishes are split 7:5 between submissions and knockouts.
Westin Wilson (16-7) — a training partner of Stephen Thompson — went 2-2 as an amateur before opening his professional career 10-6. He’s 6-1 since, the lone loss coming to UFC veteran Teruto Ishihara in July 2022.
He replaces the injured Khusein Askhabov on less than two weeks’ notice.
Brito is going to absolutely destroy this man. Wilson’s inability to manage distance earned him a knockout loss to Ishihara and will do the same against the hard-charging Brito if “Tubarao” elects to keep it standing. That said, Brito is equally free to lean on his grappling, as his wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu far outstrip Wilson’s.
This is a human bulldozer against a deeply flawed regional fighter who consistently falls short against competent competition. Unless Brito elects to stick his neck in Wilson’s guillotine, he wins however he wants.
Prediction: Brito via first round submission
It’s a terrible main event, but at least it’s not as terrible as Holm vs. Bueno SIlva in a few weeks. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 82-56-1 (2 NC)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 76 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 76: “Strickland vs. Magomedov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.