This weekend (Sat., Aug. 12, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 78 ... and it shows that the promotion isn’t trying to sell tickets! The main event is a surefire scrap between well-known Welterweight veterans Rafael dos Anjos and Vicente Luque, but there’s not a lot else that inspires joy. At least Cub Swanson is around to liven up the card!
Another average Apex visit, another dollar. Let’s dig into all the main card fights leading up to the co-main event:
Strawweight: Polyana Viana vs. Iasmin Lucindo
Best Win for Viana? Jinh Yu Frey For Lucindo? Brogan Walker
Current Streak: Both women won their last bout
X-Factor: Lucindo is a decade younger
How these two match up: This fight could really go anywhere.
Viana is a finisher. She has some surprising power on her feet, but the jiu-jitsu black belt is best known for her submission prowess. That said, she has struggled with opponents who can take her down repeatedly and avoid her guard work. At 21 years of age, Lucindo is a legitimate prospect at 115 lbs. She’s a Judo black belt with a solid submission game, but she also proved in her debut against Yazmin Jauregui that she can throw down if need be.
It would probably be in Viana’s best interest to keep this one standing. Lucindo throws wild and wide at a good clip, but she has yet to show the power of Viana. Likely, if the two trade for extended periods of time, Viana is going to land the most impactful shots.
I don’t know that Lucindo will give her that choice, however. She’s not a dominant wrestler necessarily, but her clinch trips are probably good enough to drag her down. At that point, it becomes a question of whether or not Viana can lock up an armbar from bottom before the time runs out.
Prediction: Lucindo via decision
Middleweight: Josh Fremd vs. Jamie Pickett
Best Win for Fremd? Sedriques Dumas For Pickett? Laureano Staropoli
Current Streak: Fremd won his last fight, while Pickett has lost three straight
X-Factor: Pickett isn’t the most durable fighter
How these two match up: Contenders Series products collide.
Truthfully, neither man has impressed much yet in their UFC careers. Fremd was soundly outwrestled in his first pair of fights but did rebound well last time, picking up a pair of his own takedowns en route to a guillotine finish. He’s got decent kickboxing and has finished four opponents via knockout. Pickett, meanwhile, has good physical skills but hasn’t consistently manage to turn them into victories. He’s a definite Jack of all trades, master of none.
On the feet, Fremd seems to hold an advantage. He hits a bit harder and just seems more willing to initiate exchanges and find big shots. The question then becomes if Pickett can replicate the success of Anthony Hernandez or Tresean Gore by throwing him to the floor and dominating from there.
The second half sounds unlikely. I could see Pickett scoring a takedown or two, but he’s going to have a difficult time holding Fremd down, and takedowns without much control are an exhausting way to fight. So long as Fremd remains intent on working back to his feet, he should be able to edge exchanges and pick up the decision.
Prediction: Fremd via decision
Middleweight: AJ Dobson vs. Tafon Nchukwi
Best Win for Dobson? Hashem Arkhagha For Nchukwi? Mike Rodriguez
Current Streak: Both men have lost their last two fights
X-Factor: Dobson will likely be released with a loss
How these two match up: It’s not high-level, but it should be fun!
Dobson has struggled to find his footing inside the Octagon, losing his first two showings. He’s shown a reasonably rounded game, but in both defeats, he failed to take specialist out of their areas of expertise. Nchukwi, meanwhile, is a physical talent that remains rough around the edges. He’s also jumping between 205- and 185-pounds, which has limited his ability to build momentum.
Dobson prefers to take opponents down, but Nchukwi seems strong and sturdy enough to keep this one on the feet. In that case, is Dobson’s marginal technique advantage enough to outwit Nchukwi’s significant edges in athleticism and volume? Probably not. It doesn’t hurt that Nchukwi has more experience against stiffer competition as well.
Prediction: Nchukwi via decision
Light Heavyweight: Khalil Rountree vs. Chris Daukaus
Best Win for Rountree? Paul Craig For Daukaus? Shamil Abdurakhimov
Current Streak: Rountree has won three straight, whereas Daukaus has lost three in a row
X-Factor: This is Daukaus’ Light Heavyweight debut
How these two match up: Someone is getting finished.
Rountree is an entertaining but frustrating fighter to watch. He has such immense physical gifts and a real aptitude for Muay Thai, it feels like he should be a top contender in such a weak division. Sometimes, he looks the part, and other times, he underwhelms against mediocre opposition.
Hopefully, his current win streak is evidence that he’s turned a corner.
As for Daukaus, he quickly climbed up the Heavyweight ladder on the strength of hand speed and power. Unfortunately, the Top 10 proved a difficult nut to crack, as his three trips into the cage opposite elite competition resulted in brutal knockout losses.
The Light Heavyweight move is a good one for Daukaus, even if it’s a move made in desperation. He’s still going to have solid speed for the division, and his power should be even more impactful. Hopefully, his chin can hold up to heavy shots a bit better against smaller men as well.
I’m still not picking him here. Allegedly, Daukaus is a skilled grappler, but I’ve yet to see much evidence. This feels like a kickboxing match, and Rountree is the more durable man with equally huge power who also has a larger variety of offense weapons.
I’m with the Nak Muay.
Prediction: Rountree via knockout
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 28-26-1 (2)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 78 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 78: “dos Anjos vs. Luque” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.