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UFC 291 predictions: Early ‘Prelims’ undercard preview | Poirier vs. Gaethje 2

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., July 29, 2023) when UFC 291: “Poirier vs. Gaethje” storms Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 291 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Five years after putting on an instant classic in Glendale, Calif., Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje headline UFC’s return to Salt Lake City, Utah, this Saturday (July 29, 2023) on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV). In UFC 291’s PPV co-main event, former Middleweight champion, Alex Pereira, will make his Light Heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz, while Tony Ferguson gets his latest desperate shot at redemption inside Delta Center against Bobby Green one fight prior.

UFC 291 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this time, three on ESPN+ and the rest on ABC/ESPN/ESPN+. Let’s check out that first batch ...

LIVE! Watch UFC 293 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

MASSIVE MIDDLEWEIGHT MATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its highly anticipated return to Sydney, Australia, for the first time in five years on Sat., Sept. 9, 2023, with a 185-pound world title fight inside Qudos Bank Arena. In the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight roost-ruler, Israel Adesanya, plans to silence No. 5-seeded contender, Sean Strickland. In UFC 293’s hard-hitting Heavyweight co-main event, No-6-ranked fan favorite, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with towering Russian, Alexander Volkov (No. 8).

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!

125 lbs.: CJ Vergara vs. Vinicus Salvador

CJ Vergara (11-4-1) knocked out UFC vet Jacob Silva to win the Fury FC Flyweight title, then smashed Bruno Korea in 41 seconds to claim a UFC contract. He sits at 2-2 in the world’s largest fight promotion, most recently surviving a nightmarish first round to stop Daniel Lacerda in a “Fight of the Night.”

He gives up an inch of height and 2.5 inches of reach to Salvador.

Vinicus Salvador (14-5) extended his win streak to four with a contract-winning knockout of Shannon Ross on Contender Series. That lead to a UFC debut against Victor Altamirano, who out-wrestled “Fenomeno” en route to a unanimous decision win.

All of his wins have come inside the distance, 13 by knockout.

With all due respect to Vergara, he’s got one of the uglier 2-2 Octagon records you’ll find. Only one of 15 media outlets had him beating Kleydson Rodriguez and Lacerda had him dead to rights before punching himself out. Though Salvador similarly underwhelmed against Altamirano, this seems much more winnable for him, as Vergara is a dedicated pressure fighter who’s yet to attempt a single takedown in UFC.

Salvador is too big, tough and heavy-handed for Vergara to overwhelm. Any protracted striking engagements are going to favor Salvador, and since that’s Vergara’s one and only plan of attack, all signs point to the Brazilian bludgeoning his way to his first UFC win.

Prediction: Salvador via second round technical knockout

170 lbs.: Matthew Semelsberger vs. Uros Medic

Matthew Semelsberger (11-5) earned his biggest win to date, overpowering Jake Matthews in Dec. 2022. He looked poised for a quick finish against Jeremiah Wells four months later, but struggled with his foe’s wrestling skills on his way to a decision loss.

“Semi the Jedi” has knocked out six professional opponents and knocked out one other.

Uros Medic (8-1) followed his Contender Series knockout of Mikey Gonzalez with a 100-second knockout of Aalon Cruz in his Octagon debut. Though he fell to Jalin Turner six months later, he returned to the win column in May 2022, stopping Omar Morales.

He steps in for Yohan Lainesse on little more than one week’s notice.

Semelsberger’s shortcomings have become painfully apparent. He struggles with both determined wrestlers and strikers who won’t willingly stay in the pocket with him. Luckily for him, Medic is neither — the AFC vet is all about aggression, speed and power, putting him square in Semelsberger’s wheelhouse.

Unless Medic has been hiding a monster blast double this whole time, it’s hard to see him standing up to Semelsberger in a fire fight, especially because he gives up a ton of reach and probably a decent amount of weight as well. In the end. “Semi the Jedi” clips him with that monster right hand midway through the first.

Prediction: Medic via first round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Miranda Maverick vs. Priscila Cachoeira

Miranda Maverick (13-5) fought her way to a red-hot (3-0) UFC start, highlighted by a decision over Gillian Robertson. She’s since dropped three of five bouts, including a decision to Jasmine Jasudavicius less than two months ago.

She replaces Joanne Wood on just over two weeks’ notice.

Once clinging to UFC life after three straight losses, Priscila Cachoeira (12-4) now finds herself 4-1 in her last five. Her most recent bout was her most impressive yet, a 65-second knockout of Ariane Lipski (watch it).

The victory marked her seventh via (technical) knockout.

This is do-or-die for Maverick. Her loss to Maycee Barber was one of that year’s biggest robberies and there’s zero shame in losing to Erin Blanchfield, but she looked weirdly gunshy and ineffective against Jasudavicius even before the eye trauma. If she can’t impress against Cachoeira — whose only answer to grapplers is either waiting for them to gas or trying to gouge their eyes out — she needs to reconsider her future in the sport.

I’ll be an optimist and say she has enough in the tank to win here. She’s a lot faster than Cachoeira, who’s both a lesser wrestler than Jasudavicius and a lesser physical threat. So long as Maverick’s gas tank holds up, expect her to ground Cachoeira early and often while racking up ground-and-pound for a decisive win.

Prediction: Maverick via unanimous decision

Four more UFC 291 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from top Welterweight prospect, Gabriel Bonfim. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 291 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 291: “Poirier vs. Gaethje 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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