This weekend (Sat., July 15, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remains inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 77. Such highs lead to such lows. UFC 290 was the sure-fire event of the year, one of the best fight cards of all time! It was tremendous from start to finish. Unfortunately, penning plans to fake my death ahead of time may have given away my intentions, and the powers that be were able to locate me amongst the mountains and force my typing hand back toward this atrocity of a fight card. Truly, the only fight that I care about this weekend is Alexander Munoz vs. Carl Deaton III, and that’s solely because Munoz is a lovely person.
Well, there’s nothing else going on, so let’s dig into all the main card match ups that lead up to the ho-hum main event:
Middleweight: Albert Duraev vs. Jun Yong Park
Best Win for Duraev? Chidi Njokuani For Park? Eryk Anders
Current Streak: Duraev won his last bout, while Park has won three straight
X-Factor: This fight is going to be chaos
How these two match up: This is an 185-pound slugfest in the making.
Duraev is an odd fighter. He’s a mix of brawler and wrestler, but his degrees of success in each realm seem to vary wildly fight-to-fight. Meanwhile, I wholeheartedly love “The Iron Turtle.” He’s all about action, happy to strike or wrestle so long as the exchanges are fast and furious.
Both men have knockout power, and both have good enough takedowns to ground the other. The difference to me is pace. Park throws himself into the fire until someone goes down, and he’s proven himself both durable and well-conditioned on several occasions. Conversely, Duraev has slowed down significantly against both Joaquim Buckley and Njokuani, and he doesn’t wear shots nearly as well.
Unless Duraev scores an early finish, he’s going to get overwhelmed late.
Prediction: Park via knockout
Women’s Featherweight: Norma Dumont vs. Chelsea Chandler
Best Win for Dumont? Aspen Ladd For Chandler? Julija Stoliarenko
Current Streak: Dumont won her last two bouts, whereas Chandler recently was victorious in her UFC debut, extending her win streak to five
X-Factor: Chandler has yet to fight at 145 pounds in UFC
How these two match up: What are we even doing here? Women’s Featherweight is a dead division with no champion and like three active fighters.
I’m not going to look into it — you think I’m doing extensive research on this card?!? I’m going full Daniel Cormier — but I believe Dumont has the most women’s Featherweight fights in UFC history. She’s certainly up there. At any rate, she’s a solid Muay Thai striker with decent pop in her hands.
Chandler made an impression in her UFC debut, overwhelming her foe with an incredible activity rate. A Cesar Gracie fight team member, she’s demonstrated scrappy kickboxing and solid ground work in her short career.
If the division was going to last into the New Year, I would like Chandler as a prospect. She’s got moxie. However, her combination of aggression and relative inexperience should play into the hands of Dumont, who looks to be the technically superior and heavier puncher. Dumont can crack, so she should be able to make her lands really count and discourage Chandler.
Likely, that’s enough to keep her ahead on the cards, particularly since she’s got so much more experience against UFC calibre competition.
Prediction: Dumont via decision
Lightweight: Ottman Azaitar vs. Francisco Prado
Best Win for Azaitar? Khama Worthy For Prado? Jose Barrios Vargas
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: Will Azaitar commit international crime in the lead up?
How these two match up: It should be fun for however long it lasts.
Azaitar lives up to his “Bulldozer” moniker. He wins fights by overwhelming his opponents with raw physicality, often with the help of a nasty right hand. Prado, meanwhile, is just 21 years old, 13 years younger than his opponent. He’s athletic and has a rounded skill set for his age, though he found little success implementing those skills against Jamie Mullarkey in his UFC debut.
Truthfully, I have no idea if Azaitar is any good. He tore through his first two UFC opponents, but neither were known for their durability. Conversely, Matt Frevola has proven to be quite good, and he smoked Azaitar with ease.
Generally, I just have very little confidence in Lightweights that seem to require a knockout in the very seven minutes to win. If nothing else, Prado proved his toughness in his debut. Plus, he can crack and maintain a high pace! Alongside a massive advantage in youth, there are enough x-factors lining up in favor of the Argentinian for me to take his side in this coin flip.
Prediction: Prado via decision
Lightweight: Terrance McKinney vs. Nazim Sadykhov
Best Win for McKinney? Matt Frevola For Sadykhov? Evan Elder
Current Streak: McKinney lost his last bout, while Sadykhov recently won his UFC debut to extend his winning streak to eight
X-Factor: McKinney tried out a new fighting style last time out ... to disastrous effect
How these two match up: What did I just say about Lightweights who have to win by knockout in seven minutes or less?
In defense of “T. Wrecks,” he can also win via rear naked choke in that allotted time span too. A very physical talent with huge power and dynamic wrestling, McKinney is a major finishing threat for the first half of a fights, but he’s 1-2 in fights that go beyond the first five minutes.
Sadykhov is a prospect from the Serra-Longo fight team. He’s also a knockout artist, and though he cannot match McKinney’s pure power, he makes up for it with smart combinations. Thus far, he’s shown the defensive wrestling and grappling necessary to force kickboxing matches.
Per usual, the question of this match up is whether or not McKinney can overwhelm his opponent in the first round. On the feet, Sadykhov seems to have the composure and head movement to exchange without getting slept. He’s less proven on the floor, however, as his sole career loss came via rear naked choke.
Ultimately, I like Sadykhov’s game much more. In addition, I trust the Serra-Longo team to prepare Sadykhov well to survive a bad position or two on the floor. Again, he just has to survive the early goings, then his chances of victory really skyrocket.
Prediction: Sadykhov via knockout
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 20-21-1 (2)
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.
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