Former women’s Bantamweight champion, Holly Holm, gets the spotlight once again this Saturday (July 15, 2023) when she battles rising contender, Mayra Bueno Silva, inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. UFC Vegas 77 will also see Albert Duraev look to get back on track against the always dangerous Jun Yong Park and Walt Harris return to the Octagon against Josh Parisian.
Seven “Prelims” undercard bouts set UFC Vegas 77’s stage this weekend, and we’ve prepared breakdowns of the first four below ...
155 lbs.: Evan Elder vs. Genaro Valdez
The Octagon debut for Evan Elder (7-2) saw him step up in weight on short notice to battle Preston Parsons, who soundly out-wrestled Elder en route to a unanimous decision win. He was two rounds up against Nazim Sadykhov his next time out, but an uncalled clash of heads turned what would have been a technical decision win into a technical knockout loss.
He stands one inch taller than Genaro Valdez (10-2), but gives up one inch of reach.
“Rayadito” warred his way past Patrik White on Contender Series to punch his ticket to the Octagon. His momentum failed to make the jump with him, as he fell to Matt Frevola and Natan Levy in his first two UFC appearances.
All of his wins have come inside the distance, seven of them via knockout.
Though he did better than I expected against Levy, I can’t see this going well for Valdez, as Elder just held his own against a lethal striker in Sadykhov who outright laps Valdez in striking technique. Valdez is too fragile and too limited to stand up to Elder in any protracted exchanges, so even if he does manage to sucker the far more skilled Elder into a brawl, he’s likelier of the two to go down.
Unless Elder still has some residual bad luck from the Sadykhov ruling, odds are he smashes Valdez in the first few minutes. Hopefully, Valdez at least lasts long enough to make it entertaining.
Prediction: Elder via first round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Tyson Nam vs. Azat Maksum
Tyson Nam (21-13-1) rode into the Octagon in the midst of a 6-1-1 run, only to lose his first two UFC bouts. He came back to win three of his next four — all by knockout — but subsequently suffered a club-and-sub loss to Bruno Silva in March 2023 (watch it).
He is one inch shorter and 11 years older than “Kazakh.”
Azat Maksum (16-0) made his name in both Brave CF and Kazakhstan’s Octagon promotion, amassing undefeated records in both. He last saw action in Jan. 2023, knocking Fabricio Nuns from the ranks of the unbeaten with a first-round d’arce.
His 11 professional finishes include six by submission.
Nam has the tools to spoil Maksum’s debut. Maksum is heavily reliant on his wrestling and can leave his chin exposed when punching, which isn’t a great pair of weaknesses to have against a lethal counter-puncher with great takedown defense. At the same time, Nam is 39 years old and has never been a particularly high-output striker, so it’s easy to picture Maksum just out-hustling him.
He’ll have to stay on his toes the whole time, but I do think Maksum’s speed and versatility will be too much for a fading Nam, especially after watching Nam get floored by Silva. In short, superior output and constant takedown attempts should carry Maksum to victory.
Prediction: Maksum via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Alexander Munoz vs. Carl Deaton III
Alexander Munoz (6-2) started his professional career perfect (6-0), including a decision over Nick Newell on Contender Series, before joining UFC in 2020. He’s still searching for his first Octagon win, though, dropping successive decisions to Nasrat Haqparast and Luis Pena.
This marks his first appearance in almost 27 months.
Carl Deaton (17-6) joined UFC in the midst of a 5-2 run that saw him beat Octagon veteran, Justin Jaynes, along the way. His debut pitted him against Joe Solecki, who handed “The Anishinaabe Kid” his second career submission defeat.
He’s submitted nine professional opponents and knocked out another three.
This honestly just boils down Munoz’s condition. If he’s hale, hearty and ready to roll after two years on the sidelines, there’s no reason he shouldn’t dominate. Deaton is a highly limited fighter whose poor takedown defense presents an easy target for the wrestling-savvy Munoz.
Even if Munoz is a little rusty, he’s got such an edge in skills that it’s hard to see him losing. In short, he grapples his way to a dominant decision win.
Prediction: Munoz via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Ailin Perez
Ashlee Evans-Smith (6-5) bounced back from her unsuccessful UFC debut with back-to-back wins over Mario Reneau and Veronica Hardy. She’s 1-4 since, including a decision loss to Norma Dumont last time out.
She fights for the first time in nearly 32 months.
Ailin Perez (7-2) capped off her stint on the Brazilian circuit by beating Stephanie Bragayrac for the Samurai Fight House Bantamweight belt. She was slated to make her UFC debut against Zarah Fairn in Sept. 2022, but instead suffered a submission loss to late replacement, Stephanie Egger.
Four of her five professional stoppage wins have come via knockout.
One-note as Perez can be, Evans-Smith hasn’t won a fight since 2018 or even looked impressive in far longer. “Rebel Girl” is a wrestler who lands less than a quarter of her takedown attempts. For example, she managed two takedowns on 10 attempts against Andrea Lee — a Flyweight with notoriously weak defensive wrestling — and got taken down twice by Dumont.
Perez’s only real skill is muscling opponents down and working from the top. Unless Evans-Smith has dramatically improved behind the scenes in the last three years, though, that might be all she needs. In the end, she physically overpowers Evans-Smith and racks up long stretches of top control for her first UFC win.
Prediction: Perez via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 77 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the return of Melsik Baghdasaryan. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 77 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 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 77: “Holm vs. Bueno Silva” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.