170lbs- Belal Muhammad (14-3-0) vs Takashi Sato (14-2-0)
In the final fight of the Early prelims, Belal “Remember the Name” Muhammad takes on Japanese knockout artist Takashi Sato in the Welterweight division. Muhammad has won 5 of his last 6 fights including a unanimous decision win over Curtis Millender and a decision victory over Chance Rencountre. Sato has won back to back fights including a successful debut victory over Ben Saunders by TKO.
Muhammad is an inch taller, but Sato will have a 1″ reach advantage. The Japanese fighter is the younger man by 2-years.
Carrying an 11-2 record in decisions, including 5 wins in the UFC, Muhammad is an active striker offering a solid volume attack. In addition to his vertical output, Belal’s takedown game is solid.
He is 6-1 when completing at least 1 takedown, including 6 straight wins after dropping his debut.
Sato is coming off a fight where he was outlanded almost 2-1 over roughly 6 minutes by Saunders, before dropping him with a well-timed straight left.
He has good power, but doesn’t throw with enough volume which is a major concern at this level. He was also clipped and stumbled by Saunders and in his final pre-UFC fight. He has been knocked out just once.
Sato needs a knockout or to hurt Belal on multiple occasions in order to win this fight. He doesn’t offer enough volume to overcome the output of Muhammad over the course of a full 15-minutes. Muhammad did struggle with the power-punching of Geoff Neal and was knocked out by Vicente Luque but his volume should give him the edge here. Look for Muhammad to mix in a few takedowns to create further issues for Takashi, my prediction is Belal Muhammad to defeat Takashi Sato by decision.
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170lbs- Nordine Taleb (14-6-0) vs Muslim Salikhov (14-2-0)
With both fighters coming off of victories, Canada’s Nordine “The Machine” Taleb takes on Muslim Salikhov in the Welterweight division. Taleb scored a decision win over Kyle Prepolec to snap a 2-fight losing streak. Salikhov started his UFC run with a loss to Alex Garcia but rebounded wit a knockout over Ricky Rainey.
Nordine will stand 2-inches taller than his foe to go along with a 4″ reach advantage. Salikhov is the younger man by 3-years, but he hasn’t fought in 17-months.
It is worth noting that Taleb trains out of Tri-Star, alongside Alex Garcia who submitted Muslim in his promotional debut.
The Russian draws on his Kung Fu background, throwing a methodically paced striking attack with a high percentage of spinning offense. By contrast, Taleb throws well over 1.5 more significant strikes per round.
Salikhov has 12 wins by knockout compared to just a single decision win.
Taleb’s early UFC run was highlighted by a wrestling heavy attack, but in recent fights, he has focussed more on his striking. He has a pair of knockouts inside the Octagon, but Taleb has also recently suffered the 2nd knockout loss of his career.
Against Rainey, Salikhov struggled with the reach of the longer fighter until he landed a fight-ending counter. Against Garcia, he was snuffed out by a superior grappler. Taleb has the skills to meld these 2 scenarios together. If he can avoid the power of the Russian, Nordine will find success throwing more volume before closing to grind the smaller man along the cage and eventually taking him down. Muslim has been out of the first round just 3-times, that shows up here- my prediction is Nordine Taleb to defeat Muslim Salikhov by decision.
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185lbs- Omari Akhmedov (18-4-1) vs Zak Cummings (23-6-0)
In the Middleweight division, Russia’s Omari “Wolverine” Akhmedov meets fellow former Welterweight Zak Cummings. Akhmedov is undefeated in his last 4 fights, including wins over Tim Boetsch and Kyle Noke. Cummings has won 4 of his last 5 outings, most recently defeating Trevin Giles by submission.
Both fighters are 6’0″ tall, but Cummings will have a slight 2″ reach advantage. Omari is the younger fighter by 3-years.
Each man is capable of winning this fight on the ground or on the feet. Cummings offers a solid submission game while Omari is more apt to look to do damage with heavy GNP while maintaining top position.
On the feet, Akhmedov has good power in his hands and mixes in heavy legs kicks. The American’s approach will center more on counter striking, landing punches and sliding out of danger.
Akhmedov’s cardio has been an issue in previous fights as he has a tendency to slow down. That being said, the move to Middleweight appears to have helped him with this issue.
Cummings needs to make Akhmedov work hard early to compromise his cardio and slow him down. Conversely, Cummings’ willingness to let his opponent lead the exchanges won’t fair well against the heavier striker. Zak isn’t a big volume striker which will make it difficult for him to overcome Akhmedov’s power. Omari will find success over the first 2 rounds with heavy leg kicks and hooks before Cummings makes a late rally- my prediction is Omari Akhmedov to defeat Zak Cummings by decision.
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155lbs- Don Madge (8-3-1) vs Fares Ziam (10-2-0)
After a successful debut, Don Madge returns to the Octagon to welcome the debuting Fares Ziam to the UFC’s Lightweight division. Madge took out fellow UFC debutant Te Edwards via round 2 head kick KO to extend his current winning streak to 5 straight. France’s Ziam has won 5 in a row after a mild 1-2 slump back in 2016.
Ziam is the taller man by an inch to go along with a 3″ reach advantage. He is also the younger fighter by 7-years- he is taking this fight on roughly 2-weeks notice.
Fares hails from France, where MMA was just recently legalized. His last 3 opponents are a combined 32-15 and he has stopped 9 of his 10 pro wins- 5 by knockout.
The South Africa Madge comes from a kickboxing background and showcased those skills with a head kick finish in his debut. He also locked up a nasty armbar that nearly won him the fight in the first frame. He has a trio of submission wins and both of Ziam’s losses have come by tap out.
Despite both his losses coming on the mat, Ziam is more than willing to look for takedowns and could opt to try and take Madge to the mat- especially if the striking exchanges don’t go his way.
Madge put together an impressive performance but too long away prevented him from building on a strong start. While Ziam has shown signs of being a capable prospect, he is still relatively green, debuting, and doing it all on short notice. Look for Madge’s aggression and more impactful striking be the difference in this fight. Even if Fares takes him down, Madge has shown he can hold his own against competent wrestlers- my prediction is Don Madge to defeat Fares Ziam by TKO.
Starting in 2010, Scott began posting UFC and NFL predictions videos on youtube under the name Kamikaze Overdrive MMA Predictions. Eventually, MMA became his main focus and as the channel’s popularity grew Kamikaze Overdrive eventually expanded to include a website. Scott has worked for various MMA and Sports betting information sites and now posts UFC Predictions, Betting Breakdowns, and Content along with other sports-related betting information.