This weekend (Sat., Sept. 16, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns from its travels abroad to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, for Noche UFC. UFC did its best to put together a high-profile and free card to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, but the card has been battered by injuries and USADA. Fortunately, there’s still an title rematch on the line between Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko, as well as a Welterweight barnburner pitting Kevin Holland vs. Jack Della Maddelena. At least the most important stuff remains!
Let’s dig into all the main card fights leading up to the co-main event:
Bantamweight: Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Terrence Mitchell
Best Win for Rosas Jr? Jay Perrin For Mitchell? Christian Alexander
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: How does Rosas Jr. respond from his first career loss?
How these two match up: Grapplers collide.
The Rosas Jr. experiment is far from over, but it certainly hit a speed bump when the teenager wunderkind was shut down by Christian Rodriguez. That bout demonstrated that a slower roll was necessary for the young talent, but there’s no shame in climbing the ranks slowly. He remains a prospect, a gifted grappler still refining the rest of his game.
Alaska’s Mitchell is in the habit of crushing cans, if we’re being honest. Even with 17 pro fights on his record, “Terr-Bear” has yet to beat anyone particularly good, though he does usually finish his opposition.
Let’s cut to the chase: this is a bounce back fight. Mitchell is a grappler who got overwhelmed on the mat last time out, and UFC is expecting a similar outcome here. Rosas Jr. absolutely has the physical gifts to toss Mitchell to the canvas and overwhelm him, and if nothing else, he showed some grit in his loss to Rodriguez, fighting to the final bell.
Mitchell isn’t going to be able to handle the early blitz, and even if he does, he’s never demonstrated the endurance required to outlast “El Problema Nino.”
Prediction: Rosas Jr. via submission
Lightweight: Daniel Zellhuber vs. Christos Giagos
Best Win for Zellhuber? Lando Vannata For Giagos? Rick Glenn
Current Streak: Both men won their last bout
X-Factor: How does Zellhuber’s defensive wrestling hold up?
How these two match up: Lightweights always deliver.
Zellhuber is a rather nasty striker, even if he hasn’t managed to score a knockout inside the Octagon just yet. His distance kickboxing is solid, his shots obviously carry good power, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the 6’1” Mexican talent has a 77-inch reach to deliver his shots. Meanwhile, Giagos has established himself as a jack of all trades inside the Octagon. He wrestles well, has fluid kickboxing, and transitions nicely on the floor, but elite opposition can usually overwhelm him in at least one of those aspects.
The question here is a fairly simple one: can Giagos consistently get this thing to the ground? On the feet, he’s not technically overmatched, but he’s going to end up stranded at range with a more powerful and longer kickboxer. Zellhuber is also nearly a decade younger with an edge in athleticism — that all sounds like bad news!
If Giagos can get his wrestling going, the rest of his game works better too. If his first few attempts are stuffed, however, the concern that Zellhuber just tees off on him is pretty considerable.
Prediction: Zellhuber via knockout
Featherweight: Kyle Nelson vs. Fernando Padilla
Best Win for Nelson? Polo Reyes For Padilla? Julian Erosa
Current Streak: Both men won their last bout, with Padilla successfully making his UFC debut
X-Factor: Padilla is still fairly inexperienced in the UFC
How these two match up: This one could go anywhere.
Nelson has been on the roster since 2018, winning just two fights in seven trips to the Octagon. His last performance against Blake Bilder was his best, however, a nice display of powerful distance kicks and keeping the fight in his area of strength. Padilla, meanwhile, debuted back in April, shocking Erosa with a first-round blitz of power punches. He’s a historically prolific finisher, having stopped all but two of his wins via knockout or submission.
Once more, it’s not hard to read UFC’s intention behind this match up. Padilla is an aggressive young finisher, whereas Nelson has never really excelled as a UFC fighter. His athleticism holds him back, whereas Padilla seems to have that gift in spades.
Nelson’s last performance was promising, but odds are that Padilla’s offense is too nasty. Consequently, he finds his chin then finds a finish, club-and-sub style.
Prediction: Padilla via submission
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 38-28-1 (2)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire Noche UFC fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest Noche UFC: “Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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