After officially debuting in the Apex Center three weeks ago, the UFC is set to return with one last card before Fight island, which takes the main stage on July 11.
We’ve seen Cynthia Calvillo move up a weight class and take out the number one contender. We’ve witnessed Curtis Blaydes toss around Alexander Volkov. What’s in store this weekend?
For three weeks in a row, fans have been spoiled with thrilling bouts, many ending by way of knockout. It’s no secret that many of us have our eyes set on July 11, which marks the debut of ‘Fight Island’. However, before setting sail to the Middle East, one last event is set to go down at the Apex Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, which features two exciting finishers at lightweight.
Gian Villante (17-11) vs. Maurice Greene (8-4)
I was instantly perplexed when discovering Villante would step up to heavyweight to face the TUF veteran Greene. The fight itself is definitely an oddball, albeit with the world’s current situation, odd is the new norm.
Villante has been a member of the UFC roster for over seven years now, but has struggled to piece together any consistency. He packs big power, however is slower and often leaves him exposed to counters. This doesn’t stop Villante from engaging in firefights, which is exciting in the eyes of fans. After tagging his combatants, frequently leaving them stumbling, Villante marches forwards with hands low and chin high. Often eating big shots in return. This sequence starts the brawl, which in the case of Villante is a coin flip – either he puts his enemy to sleep, or is slept.
In perhaps the greatest win (and maybe performance) of his professional career, Villante knocked out top contender Corey Anderson. Villante showcased good defensive striking, with better decision making than previously witnessed. To defeat a man of Greene’s stature, Villante will need to perform to a similar standard. Villante will need to pressure Greene for the majority of the fight.
Calling Maurice Greene large is an understatement, even by the standard of heavyweight. Standing at 6′ 7″ and often weighing in close to the 265lb heavyweight limit, Greene is the visual representation of a heavyweight. He is big and menacing with plenty of knockout power. After a successful stint on the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter reality show, Greene made his Octagon debut in 2019. He started out by defeating two opponents in the space of a few months. Since then, he has dropped his last two fights to Sergei Pavlovich and Aleksei Oleinik, two well respected and formidable contenders.
When matched with Villante, one thing is apparent, Maurice Greene does not like pressure. Greene will have to avoid succumbing to Villante’s pressure, which allows Villante to open up his offence. “The Crochet Boss” will undoubtedly own an advantage in terms of power, and will likely walk into this bout much heavier than Villante.
This really boils down to power vs. speed (although mentioned previously Villante is slow, I expect him to be noticeably quicker than Greene). The fight is nothing more than a coin flip, either man has the ability to claim victory. I see Villante owning better endurance and precision, which will have a major impact when chasing down Greene. Exiting the pocket unscathed, as well as avoiding punishment at range will be difficult for Villante; defensively slacking against a man of Greene’s size isn’t a favourable decision.
Prediction: Gian Villante via unanimous decision.
Kyle Daukaus (9-0) vs. Brendan Allen (14-3)
Originally, Brendan Allen was set to face #13 ranked Ian Heinisch, who was fresh off a knockout win at UFC 250. However, Heinisch had to withdraw, prompting newcomer Kyle Daukaus to step in with just over a weeks notice.
Brendan Allen has gotten off to a perfect start in the UFC, fighting twice and winning in thrilling fashion. His last victory over the well respected Tom Breese – a first-round TKO – further asserted Allen’s potential. Being 24 years old, he has plenty of time to work and grow as an athlete.
Allen is a very physical middleweight who uses the clinch and takedowns to control the fight, always seeking a submission. After establishing the body lock position, Allen will jump on the back, sink in, and fully torque the rear-naked choke. The fight will fall to the canvas, although this doesn’t often spell the end, it is where “All In” performs best. If he’s not isolating an arm to wrap up a kimura, he is chasing the rear-naked. His submission abilities are not elite, nonetheless remain a firm challenge for any ranked middleweight fighter.
His upcoming opponent, Kyle Daukaus, has no qualms about going to ground. The Contender Series veteran has picked up eight submissions in nine fights, illustrating his willingness to grapple with the fast-rising Allen. His very lanky frame often gifts him a reach advantage over adversaries. However, he enters this contest with only a slight reach and height advantage. Because of this, combined with Daukaus overall ineffectiveness on the feet, Brendan Allen should have leadership in the striking department.
I am confidently picking Brendan Allen to defeat Kyle Daukaus at UFC Vegas 4. Asides from Daukaus’ sly D’Arce and rear-naked choke, there’s nothing he can do to finish his middleweight counterpart. It is likely we witness a back-and-forth grappling match, yet each round starts on the feet. This is where the fight should be won for Allen.
Allen will capitalise on his opponent’s poor striking defence, firing a big counter to score a knockdown. He will follow up with rough punches and elbows, maybe look for a chokehold. Daukaus will be unable to recover as a result of the onslaught, causing the referee to intervene.
Prediction: Brendan Allen via first-round TKO.
Mike PerryMike Perry (13-6) vs. Mickey Gall (6-2)
One of MMA’s more colourful personalities returns to action when the Mike Perry meets fellow welterweight Mickey Gall in the co-main event.
Mike Perry is one of the more interesting figures in mixed martial arts. Once looked upon as a prospect (just like his opponent), Perry has found it difficult to string together wins inside the Octagon. After entering the UFC, as an undefeated and promising fighter, Perry has compiled a record of 6-6. He is going toe-to-toe with some of the divisions toughest and more durable competitors. His one-dimensional approach doesn’t achieve success when paired with more well-rounded athletes, but has made him a huge fan favorite.
“Platinum” edged out a split decision against top-ranked lightweight Paul Felder, who refused to back down against the bulky Perry. Despite previously labelling him as one dimensional (which he usually is), Perry displayed takedowns and a competitive clinch game. Instead of picking shots at range, he enjoys stepping into the pocket and unleashing robust strikes to stun the opposition. On top of possessing big power, specifically in his right hand, Perry appreciates a good elbow or two. An example is his win vs. Jake Ellenburger, one of the sports examples of how much damage an elbow can do. Perry instantly rendered his opponent unconscious upon collision. Perry has used this a number of times inside the cage, often in the clinch or as a post-break shot.
One flaw in his game that sticks out like a sore thumb is jiu-jitsu, and his overall grappling defence. Although he is routinely updating his skills on the mat, it remains a distinct weakness of his. This weakness is set to be questioned come Saturday night, as his foe, Mickey Gall, boasts a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Gall has finished all but one win via submission.
Gall burst on to the scene in one of the first episodes of ‘Dana White, Lookin’ for a Fight’. So far, the show has created a path for the likes of Sage Northcutt and Devin Clark, who have both competed multiple times for the company. After impressing UFC President Dana White on the show, Gall called out former pro-wrestler CM Punk, who had announced months prior that he would be trying his hand at MMA. White subsequently signed Gall and gave him a ‘tune-up’ bout against Mike Jackson. After submitting Jackson in less than a minute, he was granted his wish – Gall vs Punk was set to go down.
The jiu-jitsu ace proved to be too much too soon for the WWE star, taking a few minutes to pummel him and then force a tap with the rear-naked choke. Since defeating Punk, Gall has collected a handful of victories under the promotional banner, while suffering two important setbacks. One of which came at the hands of Diego Sanchez. After returning to the win column in August, he will be looking to extend his streak.
Mike Perry has the striking ability to knock his opponent around the Octagon. While Gall owns a clear advantage in the submission facet of fighting, he isn’t terrific off of his back. Perry’s offensive wrestling is good enough to take Gall down. According to Perry himself, his corner team will only consist of his girlfriend, who (by the looks of things) has little experience in mixed martial arts. If he was accompanied by his regular team, I would confidently pick Perry, however, due to their absence the fight evens out.
I anticipate that the fight will mainly be contested on the feet, where “Platinum” reigns supreme. Because of this, I expect him to control the bout and be looking for his big right hand to cause issues. For the lengthy Gall, who stands over 4 inches taller; his chin will be tested in the pocket.
Prediction: Mike Perry via unanimous decision.
#3 Dustin Poirier (25-6-1) vs. #5 Dan Hooker (20-8)
The main event between two top-echelon lightweights has all the ingredients for ‘Fight of the Night’ and is being envisioned as an absolute barnburner. Both Dustin Poirier, the former interim champion, and Dan Hooker are on the hunt for gold. Personally, this is a fight I have been looking forward to for quite some time now.
Dan Hooker solidified himself as a top-five lightweight, going five rounds with the granite chinned Paul Felder. Although the end result was controversial to many, Hooker was given the win by way of split decision, catapulting him in the rankings. The New Zealand native has long been disrespected by the majority of fans, claiming he is both undeserving and not skilful enough to remain in the divisions top 10; Poirier will test this theory.
Since moving up to 155 pounds, Hooker has been on tear, putting together an impressive record of 7-1. His sole loss came at the hands of striking technician Edson Barboza, whom he naively opted to stand and trade with. Even after being completely shut down by Barboza, “The Hangman” bounced back with a KO victory over James Vick and has since accumulated another two wins.
Hooker is the complete opposite of a combination striker, landing only a strike or two at a time. To do so, he stays at range, using his 75-inch reach to fire straights to the body or sharp calf kicks. These leg kicks are criminally underrated, and have the potential to change a fight if not dealt with appropriately. While his defence isn’t up to par with elite-level lightweights, Hooker has tricks up his sleeve to counter incoming offence. One of these tricks is knees. The 30-year-old uses knees to counter opponents stepping in with strikes, particularly those who habitually dip their heads. This manoeuvre was executed to perfection in his knockout victory over Ross Pearson in 2017.
Besides his dangerous weapons on the feet, Hooker has a niche for wrapping up the guillotine. He has claimed two victims this way under the UFC banner, Hooker has the squeeze needed to force the tap in mere seconds. He enters this critical lightweight contest as an underdog and will be looking to score the upset, and punch his ticket to a title shot.
Fresh off a defeat to current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier is looking to scale the rankings once again and book himself another chance at the title.
Poirier is one of the sports most beloved figures, remaining classy both in and out of the cage. At UFC 236 Poirier was granted the opportunity to fight for the division interim championship. This happened following a phenomenal four-fight run which he defeated Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez. The fight itself, a five-round affair with featherweight kingpin Max Holloway. It was easily one of the best bouts in the sports illustrious history. After a close back-and-forth 25 minutes, Poirier was announced as the victor, earning the interim crown in the process. Following an unfortunate defeat to the champion, Poirier is fixated on once again returning to the top.
A striking technician by trade, Dustin is one of the modern era’s greatest at what he does. He has the ability to fold any lightweight in the world on any given day. He is the polar opposite of his scheduled counterpart, as he excels at stringing together combinations and leading the dance. The Louisiana native owns terrific boxing, often firing his straight from the southpaw stance. Poirier also uses hooks efficiently. He will be at a reach disadvantage to Hooker, Poirier will need to enter the pocket wisely and be smart in his selection of shots. Unfortunately for his scheduled opponent, Dustin does just that – in fact, he’s brilliant at it. His footwork and defence, which includes slips, allows him to frequently counter strike and do real damage. These pocket entries paid a big part in his recent victories over Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez.
Dan Hooker will give Dustin Poirier a harder fight than many anticipate, that is something I thoroughly believe; as Gaethje proved, Dustin is susceptible to eating leg kicks. Which is a tool Hooker uses very well, and regularly. Despite this threat, Poirier will damage Hooker badly in the pocket, exploiting his weak defence through vicious hooks and head-body combinations.
Hooker will have his moments, albeit they will not be enough to deny Poirier the win; he would need the performance of his life to do so. His durability will prolong his existence in the fight, but the judges will not be needed in this one.
Prediction: Dustin Poirier via fifth-round TKO.