This Saturday, the UFC returns to the Apex for another blockbuster card on paper. The main event see’s the consensus greatest Featherweight of all time, Jose Aldo, take on one of the best boxers on the current UFC roster, Rob Font.
The prelims kick off with a Bantamweight bout between Louis Smolka and Vince Morales. Smolka was scheduled to fight ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley on the huge UFC 264 card, however, had to pull out of the scheduled bout due to an infection. His return on Saturday marks a year exactly since he last stepped into the Octagon, when he defeated Jose Quinonez in December of 2020. Vince Morales has had quite a tough ride so far in the UFC, with his first bout under the UFC banner in 2018 being against power puncher, Song Yadong. After 1 win, he was then granted bouts with Benito Lopez and Chris Gutierrez being beaten in both. I can see the fight playing out on the feet, with Smolka having a lot of success and getting the finish in the first 2 rounds.
A Welterweight bout between Alex Morono and Mickey Gall follows, with Morono looking to make it 3 in a row, after defeating ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and David Zawada already this year. Mickey on the other hand is performing at a win loss ratio of 50%, as in his last 6 fights, he hasn’t put together consecutive wins. Both fighters are Jiu-Jitsu specialists, so I am expecting the fight to play out at quite a slow and patient pace, and can see Morono taking the unanimous decision victory, making it 3 in a row.
The penultimate bout of the prelims see’s Manel Kape face Zhalgas Zhumagulov, in what I predict will be one of the fights of the night. Kape, who is the former Rizin Bantamweight champion, came to the promotion with a lot of expectation and hype due to his previous fights in Rizin and his fight style. His UFC career didn’t get off to the start he may have expected as he was defeated by Alexandre Pantoja, who is the current rank 3 in the Flyweight division and Matheus Nicolau in a controversial split decision loss. He bounced back from a 2 fight losing skid by defeating Ode Osbourne with a highlight reel flying knee. Similarly to Kape, Zhalgas lost his first 2 UFC bouts, bouncing back with his recent win over Jerome Rivera. This bout will mark the first bout of Zhumagulov’s new contract, and he’ll be hoping it mark it with a statement win. I see the bout playing out to Kape’s advantage as his striking is more polished than Zhalgas’, with a unanimous decision victory for Kape what I am predicting.
The featured prelim bout see’s a clash of 2 Middleweights coming off the back of losses. The Serbian, ‘Thunder’ Todorovic faces off against Maki Pitolo in a fight that both need a win to resurrect their UFC careers. Both fighters acquired their UFC contracts through the Contender Series, with both fighters only winning once since their Contender Series victories. I can see the fight playing out on the feet, with Todorovic throwing with volume using the clinch to his advantage, getting a finish.
Kicking off the main card is a barn burner in the middleweight division, between Chris Curtis and Brendan Allen. ‘The Action Man’, Chris Curtis, caused an upset in his UFC debut against Phil Hawes, KO’ing him with a short left hook to the dome. During that fight, he faced some adversity as Hawes was laying it on him with beautiful body strikes and powerful combinations. Brendan Allen, another Contender Series alumni, is looking to stop Curtis’ streak of 6 wins in a row, starting a streak of his own as he looks to end the year with a 100% win record, already with 2 wins for the year. Curtis is going to look to try and keep the fight on the feet, nullifying the threat of Allen’s black belt BJJ credentials. I can see Allen getting the fight to the ground early on with a decision victory or submission win on the cards.
The co-main event see’s an even matchup between ‘Attaman’ Fiziev and Brad Riddell. This matchup is one I am most looking forward too as Fiziev is one of the most explosive strikers in the Lightweight division, coming up against his toughest test so far in Riddell. In his last bout, Fiziev defeated Bobby Green in a war, taking the unanimous decision victory, showing that he’s not just an explosive striker and can in fact, take some punishment as well as dishing it out. Both fighters are coming into the bout 10-1, looking to catapult themselves into a top 10 fight. Fiziev will fancy himself if the fight stays standing but I envisage Riddell shooting for the legs after tasting any of Fiziev’s shots. Fiziev will utilise his Muay Thai style with vicious leg kicks and strikes in the clinch, and I am predicting ‘Attaman’ will get the finish and will be granted a top 10 opponent after being one of the most avoided guys in the division.
The Bantamweight division will again show its quality in Saturday nights main event, when Font and Aldo step into the Octagon. Currently occupying ranks 4 and 5, a win for either fighter gives them a great platform for a title fight, or at the least, a number one contender fight against the recently returned, TJ Dillashaw. Font is coming off the back of a 5 round masterclass against former Bantamweight King, Cody Garbrandt. Before that bout, everyone knew about Font’s elite boxing, but we weren’t really sure how he’d fair against another elite boxer. During the fight, Font stuck behind his jab and jabbed his way to a unanimous decision victory, putting his name at the top end of a stacked Bantamweight division. On the other side of the Octagon you have the King of Rio, Jose Aldo, coming off the back of a unanimous decision victory over Pedro Munhoz where he showed once again that age is just a number, and he is still a man to be feared in the Bantamweight division.
Font’s boxing heavy approach may be his downfall in this fight against Jose Aldo, as if he relies too much on his heavy hands, he may find himself getting chewed up by leg kicks as his feet will be planted too often. Jose Aldo will mix up his attacks better than Font, going from body to head mixing in his powerful leg kicks, closing the distance as much as possible. Font’s keys too victory will be sticking behind his jab and keeping his distance from Jose Aldo, utilising his range and length to his advantage.
In a division that is leaking with talent, who will put on a show on Saturday night and get a possible number one contender fight with former champ, TJ Dillashaw?
5 takeaways from ONE: Only the Brave
ONE Championship were back today with ONE: Only the Brave, an event which although it was hit by cancellations as always, still saw us able to tuck into an 11 fight card! With the semi finals of the featherweight kickboxing grand prix and some big contests in terms of divisional standings, here are 5 takeaways from ONE: Only the Brave.
Kondratev can upset at featherweight
Kondratev may not be a huge name In a shark tank of featherweight kickboxers, but with a superb finish over the previously undefeated Dovydas Rimkus, he’s certainly shown he has upset potential. Obviously he has bags of kickboxing ability, but what’s most noticeable is that always threatening fight ending power. Even in his ONE debut loss to Pound for pound staple Marat Grigorian, Ivan’s power shone through, putting the Armenian down, a man who’s renowned for being able to take a hit. Although he finds himself in argueably the most stacked kickboxing division of all time, Kondratev has shown he’s never out of the fight, something to keep in mind going forward. He can land, he can hard and he can certainly stir up that division.
Brooks is belt bound
UFC veteran Jarred Brooks may have only debuted for ONE in January with a round 2 submission over Lito Adiwang, but with a huge unanimous decision victory over today over #4 ranked strawweight Hiroba Minowa, he looks to be on a direct path to ONE gold.
He may possess a set of underrated a deceptively fast hands, but its no secret Brooks’ bread and butter is his suffocating wrestling base. He’s used this imposing tool to tear through his ONE opposition thus far and looks to face strawweight King Joshua Pacio next time out. If he sticks to his strengths and matches the pace he’s been setting in recent outings, you can’t help but think he’s going to be a nightmare for all the top strawweights and flyweights ONE have to offer.
Opacic is the uncrowded king at heavyweight.
ONE’s heavyweight kickboxing division may not be the deepest division they have, but ONE things for sure, Rade Opacic is the uncrowded king. ONE bring in new heavyweights and Opacic just keeps knocking them down. He continued his impressive streak today with a second round TKO over a game Francesko Xhaja. Since joining ONE, Opacic is 4-0, all 4 being second round stoppages credit to his heavy hands and composed yet very intelligent kickboxing style for a man who’s just 24 years of age. Body work, head shots, leg kicks, you name it Rade sprinkles his whole arsenal into these contests which makes him so unpredictable and dangerous. Yet to be challenged, expect this Serbian to continue adding to an already violent highlight reel as he surges toward that gold strap.
Zhang Lipeng is DANGEROUS
We were initially impressed with the experienced Lipeng after his debut unanimous decision victory over former champ Eduard Folyang last August. Fast forward to earlier today he wasted no time forcing his name into lightweight contention, flatlining a confident Ruslan Emilbek Uulu in just 32 seconds with a vicious two piece. Lipeng is showing it all, he can go the distance imposing a well rounded game and he harbours that killer instinct and power to end the fight in an instant. A very exciting addition to an electric lightweight roster, don’t be surprised if Lipeng causes some damage to those rankings come years end.
Chingiz Allazov is a threat to Superbons throne
Although suffering a tough defeat to Enriko Kehl on his ONE debut, Chingiz Allazov has since shown everyone why he’s one of the best featherweight kickboxers in the world. The vicious beat down of Samy Sana in just 39 seconds was one thing, but today even having suffered a late opponent change, Allazov decemated and outclassed Thai warrior Joe Nattawut. Utilising those fast and slick boxing combinations and implementing the body work he does so well, all Allazov needed was to accompany them with a couple of bludgeoning head kicks and it was wraps for his Thai opponent. Don’t be fooled by his debut, Allazov is very much one of the best kickboxers on earth, once he finds that rhythm he’s seemingly unstoppable, don’t be surprised at all if he takes the grand prix title.
Also on the card, Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong looks untouchable, convincingly taking out Davit Kiria in the second featherweight semi final bout, securing a comfertable unanimous decision victory. The Thai violently picks Kiria apart utilising all of his tools in a masterful fashion. He will take on Chingiz Allazov in the featherweight grand prix final. A Superb victory for both fighters, what a final we have in store.
Full results for ONE: Only the Brave:
Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong def Davit Kiria via unanimous decision
Chingiz Allazov def Joe Nattawut via round 1 TKO
Zhang Lipeng def Ruslan Emilbek Uulu via round 1 KO
Rade Opacic def Francesko Xhaja via round 2 TKO
Hiroyuki Tetsuka def Edson Marques via round 3 KO
Jarred Brooks def Hiroba Minowa via unanimous decision
Ivan Kondratev def Dovydas Rimkus via round 3 KO
Tatsumitsu Wada def Wang Shuo via unanimous decision
Purev Otgonjargal def Micael De Jesus via unanimous decision
ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE Final Weight and Hydration Results
ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE goes down today headlined by a Featherweight Kickboxing grand-prix semi-final between Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong and Davit Kiria. Jarred Brooks and Zhang Lipeng will also feature on the card under MMA rules.
You can see the full final weigh-in and hydration results below.
ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE Final Weight and Hydration Results
Kickboxing – Featherweight (65.9 KG – 70.3 KG)
Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong (69.25 KG, 1.0066) vs. Davit Kiria (70.30 KG, 1.0091)
Kickboxing – Featherweight (65.9 KG – 70.3 KG)
Jo Nattawut (69.45 KG, 1.0057) vs. Chingiz Allazov (70.20 KG, 1.0241)
Mixed Martial Arts – Featherweight (65.9 KG – 70.3 KG)
Kim Jae Woong (70.20 KG, 1.0156) vs. Tang Kai (70.10 KG, 1.0229)
Mixed Martial Arts – Lightweight (70.4 KG – 77.1 KG)
Ruslan Emilbek Uulu (77.05 KG, 1.0144) vs. Zhang Lipeng (76.85 KG, 1.0233)
Kickboxing – Heavyweight (102.2 KG – 120.2 KG)
Rade Opacic (111.50 KG, 1.0176) vs. Francesko Xhaja (103.00 KG, 1.0031)
Mixed Martial Arts – Strawweight (52.3 KG – 56.7 KG)
Hiroba Minowa (56.40 KG, 1.0087) vs. Jarred Brooks (56.25 KG, 1.0005)
Kickboxing – Catchweight (71.65 KG)*
Ivan Kondratev (70.95 KG, 1.0191) vs. Dovydas Rimkus (71.65 KG, 1.0009)
Mixed Martial Arts – Catchweight (61.50 KG)**
Tatsumitsu Wada (60.95 KG, 1.0044) vs. Wang Shuo (61.50 KG, 1.0091)
Mixed Martial Arts – Welterweight (77.2 KG – 83.9 KG)
Hiroyuki Tetsuka (83.15 KG, 1.0229) vs. Edson Marques (83.60 KG, 1.0078)
Mixed Martial Arts – Catchweight (108.0 KG)
Anderson Silva (108.00 KG, 1.0128) vs. Paul Elliott (106.15 KG, 1.0070)
Mixed Martial Arts – Bantamweight (61.3 KG – 65.8 KG)
Purev Otgonjargal (65.40 KG, 1.0009) vs. Micael De Jesus (64.30 KG, 1.0160)
Hydration values less than or equal to 1.0250 earn a passing mark, while values greater than or equal to 1.0251 earn a failing mark. Athletes who failed weight and hydration tests on Day 1 or Day 2 are given another chance to clear tests on the morning of the event.
*Bout originally at featherweight (65.9 KG – 70.3 KG), now at a catchweight of 71.65 KG. Both athletes failed to pass weight and hydration. Bout is no longer a ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix alternate.
**Bout originally at flyweight (56.8 KG – 61.2 KG), now at a catchweight of 61.50 KG. Wang Shuo failed to pass weight and hydration, and will forfeit a percentage of his purse to Tatsumitsu Wada.
Team Renegade’s Tom Breese signs multi-fight deal with Levels Fight League
Top UK fighter Tom Breese (12-3) has officially signed a multi-fight deal with Levels Fight League and will make his promotional debut at LFL 4 on March 13.
The fighter and coach out esteemed UK gym Team Renegade, which houses stars such as Leon Edwards, Jai Herbert & Aiden Lee, joins the dutch promotion folliwng his release last year from the UFC.
During his time within the UFC, the 30 year old enjoyed a 5-3 run in the UFC between 2016 and 2021 with notable wins over Dan Kelly, Cathal Pendred, and Keita Nakamura, and earned ‘Performance of the Night’ honours on three occasions.
Tom Breese will face David Ramires (8-4) in the main event of Levels Fight League 4. The Dutch-based Brazilian won his last fight via knockout in the first minute of the first round in the main event of LFL 3 back in October and will be aiming for a repeat performance.
LFL 4 will be available to watch live around the world on www.LFLMMA.com on March 13!
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