UFC 251: Usman vs Masvidal | Televised Prelim Predictions

UFC 251: Usman vs Masvidal | Televised Prelim Predictions
205lbs- Volkan Oezdemir vs Jiri Prochazka

Former UFC title challenger Volkan Oezdemir (17-4-0) returns after arguably his two best all-around UFC performances. The Swiss knockout artist has won back to back fights and while his last ended via split decision the win demonstrated a clear improvement in his overall game.

Volkan has recorded 12 knockouts, including 3 in the UFC. He has finished 12 in the opening round which has also created issues in fights when he is unable to end them early. Oezdemir has clearly slowed down in fights that have gone beyond round 1.

More recently, he has fought more measured. Throwing hard low kicks, solid knee strikes, and good combination boxing. Against Aleksandar Rakic, Volkan smashed his adversary’s lead leg leading to an unusual amount of swelling and diminished movement.

RIZIN 205 pound champion, Jiri Prochazka (26-3-1) of the Czech Republic, has multiple wins over noteworthy opposition. He has won 10 in a row dating back to a 2015 KO loss to “King” Mo Lawal who Jiri finished in their 2019 rematch.

With 23 of his 26 wins coming via knockout, the Czech fighter has only fought beyond the first round 4-times in 30 fights. Jiri will time jumping knees between left jab led combinations. He moves well for a big man and strikes long.

Jiri floored CB Dollaway with a brutal left hook and stopped Fabio Maldonado with a barrage in the corner of the RIZIN ring. It is worth noting that the last 5 men Jiri defeated have combined for 25 career knockout defeats, over 50% of their pro losses.

Prochazka is a finisher, but Volkan is more durable than his recent opposition. Jiri has had trouble with low kicks and he holds his hands low which gives Volkan openings to land with power. Additionally, a long run of fighting in a ring will create issues for Prochazka as Volkan closes and fires combinations along the wall. Oezdemir needs to pace himself for a potential 15-minute bout, which he has done better of late. Jiri’s stretch of early finishes catches up to him- my prediction is Volkan Ozedemir to defeat Jiri Prochazka by decision.

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170lbs- Muslim Salikhov vs Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos

A split decision defeat in his debut didn’t derail Brazilian Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (22-6-0) as he proceeded to 7 consecutive fights before an upset loss to Li Jingliang in China. He rebounded with a decision victory over Russia’s Alexey Kunchenko.

A talented finisher, dos Santos has stopped 14 opponents via knockout including a trio of UFC opponents. He utilizes a variety of striking techniques including various Capoeira kicks that have resulted in finishes. He also carries his finishing power deep into bouts with 5 stoppages after the opening round.

A BJJ Black belt, he will utilize his ground skills when needed. He picked up a pair of takedowns in his last fight and scored an early submission finish of the grappling vulnerable Curtis Millender to cap off a 7-fight winning streak.

Not to be outdone in the knockout department, Muslim Salikhov (16-2-0) has finished 12 of his 16 pro wins by knockout. He stopped Melvin Guillard prior to his UFC debut and 2 more in the UFC including Nordine Taleb. His only loss over his last 15 came in his UFC debut via sub to Alex Garcia.

The “King of Kung Fu” offers a dangerous kicking attack- throwing hard low kicks and flashy spinning attacks. He likes to use body strikes to determine the range before throwing his more impactful offense. He stopped Taleb and Ricky Rainey with massive right hands.

Of 18 fights, Muslim has gone beyond the first round just 4-times. He looked good over the distance in his last outing- hurting his foe throughout the bout. He did struggle with the takedowns of Garcia, eventually getting submitted in round 2.

Both fighters hit extremely hard and throw a variety of offense. While dos Santos is the more active striker, Salikhov is most likely the more durable. Dos Santos thrives in a demanding fight and the Russian’s limited experience outside of round 1 could cost him. Elizeu’s grappling should be an added wrinkle especially if the Russian starts to fade. dos Santos avoids the early power and wears on his foe before taking him to the floor- my prediction is Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos to defeat Muslim Salikhov by submission.

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145lbs- Makwan Amirkhani vs Danny Henry

A TKO loss to the talented Shane Burgos has slowed the rise of European standout Makwan Amirkhani (15-4-0), but his 5-2 record in the UFC is far from unsalvagable.

Despite finding some success with his grappling attack, Amirkhani was simply outgunned on the feet by Burgos. Although “Mr. Finland” has made noteworthy strides with his striking, his grappling remains the central aspect of his overall success. He has recorded 10 wins by submission- 2 in the UFC.

Makwan has completed at least 1 takedown in each of his bouts since his debut and 3 or more completions in all of his fights that went beyond the 2nd round.

An equal opportunity finisher, Scotland’s Danny Henry (12-3-0) has split his 10 career finishes evenly between knockouts and submissions. Ending 5 fights in the opening round, including a 39-second guillotine choke of Hakeem Dawodu.

“The Hatchet” clapped the Canadian with a big right hand before latching onto his neck for the finish. Conversely, Dan Ige hurt Henry with a left hand that eventually led to the fight-ending RNC.

The 31-year is traditionally the much taller and longer fighter than his opponent, but in this contest, he will stand just 2-inches taller than his foe with a single inch of reach.

SBG Ireland’s Amrikhani will be looking for takedowns early, similar to the Burgos bout. But, an aggressive start will test his cardio which has been an area of concern. Henry showed in his debut that he can endure an early onslaught and rally against a fading fighter. All that considered, Amirkhani should have a sizable advantage on the mat. Look for the well-timed takedowns of Amirkhani to routinely plant Henry on the floor- my prediction is Makwan Amirkhani to defeat Danny Henry by Submission.

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155lbs-Roman Bogatov vs Leonardo Santos

At 6-0-1 in the UFC, Brazil’s Leonardo Santos (17-3-1) owns impressive victories over Kevin Lee and Rocco Martin to go along with a TUF Brazil 2 tournament finals victory. Inactivity has hampered Santos, missing all of 2017 and 2018 and fighting just once in 2019.

A BJJ Black belt, Santos represents a dangerous task for anyone willing to go to the floor with him. His 2 submission wins have required just a single takedown each, as he is far from a volume heavy wrestler. He took Lee down with a beautifully disguised level change prior to scoring the KO.

Santos has drastically improved his striking. Offering a nice variety of straight and round kicks, he will target the body and legs. His best weapon in a laser-straight right hand which dropped Lee and KOed Stevie Ray in violent fashion.

Attempting to end the undefeated UFC run of the Brazilian, Russian’s Roman Bogatov (10-0-0) makes his promotional debut with an unblemished record over his first 10 pro bouts. His perfect start includes 7 victories, 5 by finish under the M-1 Global banner.

With 5 of his 10 wins coming by stoppage and his only TKO victory due to injury, Bogatov’s reliance on the mat will be tested against the BJJ ace Santos. The Russian will shoot a double or latch onto a leg and trip his foe. He likes to chain takedown attempts together and smother his opponent once on the floor.

The M-1 Lightweight champion will offer some decent striking attacks, mixing in a few spinning techniques, but ultimately his focus is on closing the gap to set up his takedowns.

At 40-years old with a 13-month layoff and just over 2-minutes of cage time since 2016- there is concern over how Santos will be impacted. Bogatov’s reliance on takedowns is incredibly concerning against a very adept BJJ practitioner. If the Russian is unable to find success on the mat, he loses his primary weapon. Santos’ kicks and dangerous straight right along with his BJJ will be his keys to victory against the hard-charging Russian- my prediction is Leonardo Santos to defeat Roman Bagotov by submission.

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