Fast-growing light heavyweight Magomed Ankalaev is looking to make a title case this Saturday night (March 12, 2022) when he meets the ultra-dangerous Thiago Santos in his first UFC main event. Also on the line for UFC Vegas 50, a bantamweight crossroads bout between Marlon Moraes and Song Yadong, with Alex Caceres putting his five-fight winning streak on the line against returning Sodiq Yusuff and Terrance McKinney making a two-way turnaround. weeks against Drew Dober.
There are four more UFC Vegas 50 “Prelims” undercard fights left to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so let’s not dawdle…
170 pounds: Matthew Semelsberger vs. AJ Fletcher
Matthew Semelsberger (9-3) kicked off his Octagon run with a three-round decision over Carlton Minus and a 16-second knockout over Jason Witt, only to fall short against Khaos Williams. His next fight was a return to form, as it took just 15 seconds to annihilate Octagon newcomer Martin Sano.
“Semi the Jedi” will take advantage of three inches in height and eight inches in reach over AJ Fletcher (9-0).
“The Phantom” has entered Competitor Series after four straight first-round wins, including two wins in the space of two months. He made five and earned a contract in the process by annihilating Leonardo Damiani with a magnificent flying knee.
He eliminated and submitted four professional enemies each.
I can’t understand why the UFC matchmakers looked at Fletcher — a green but very gifted young fighter with real potential — and decided he should make his debut against Semelsberger. It’s not that Fletcher doesn’t stand a chance here, but Semelsberger looks like an awful match for him. That’s because “Semi the Jedi” does a great job of punishing the sorts of bare kicks and dangerous entrances that Fletcher has yet to wipe from his game.
Fletcher’s key weapon here is his wrestling, and it’s worth noting that Semelsberger didn’t really have his takedown defense tested in the Octagon. That said, Fletcher’s inability to maintain the solid cardio of Damiani and Semelsberger suggests that even if Fletcher drags him down, he will eventually get cut. At the end, Semelsberger dives him in with a right counter for another quick finish.
Prediction: Semelsberger via knockout in the first round
125 lbs: JJ Aldrich vs. Gillian Robertson
Despite falling to Juliana Lima in her Octagon debut in 2016, JJ Aldrich (10-4) has established herself as a contender with wins in six of her next eight fights. His current two-fight winning streak includes decisions over Cortney Casey and Vanessa Demopoulos.
It has a reach advantage of 4.5 inches.
The UFC’s 6-2 start for Gillian Robertson (10-6) gave way to back-to-back losses to Taila Santos and Miranda Maverick. Unfazed, she rebounded by suffocating Priscila Cachoeira in December 2021.
“The Savage” replaces Ariane Lipski with less than three weeks’ notice.
With all due respect to the often underrated Aldrich, this match is far less competitive than the original. Not in the sense that Robertson is exponentially better than the rapidly improving Lipski, to be fair, but in the sense that it’s a more polarized clash of styles. If Robertson can beat her opponents, she wins the vast majority of the time, and my money says she can beat Aldrich.
As vastly superior as Aldrich is on the feet, I don’t trust him to keep him there once Robertson decides to switch levels, and getting out from under “The Savage” is a huge task. Barring complications from the late notice, Robertson’s best game brings him to another choke finish at fullback.
Prediction: Robertson via second-round submission
135 pounds: Trevin Jones vs. Javid Basharat
Trevin Jones (13-7) staged one of the most impressive starts from the Octagon in recent memory, knocking out Timur Valiev and Mario Bautista, although the former win was overturned due to a drug test. failed drug. ‘5 Star’ couldn’t keep up the momentum against Saidyokub Kakhramonov, however, hitting a guillotine choke in the final minute of the third round.
It is two inches shorter than “The Snow Leopard”, but sports a slight range advantage.
After encountering visa problems on his first attempt, Javid Basharat (11-0) finally reached Competitor Series in October 2021. There, he systematically dismantled Oron Kahlon before polishing him off with a bonus-winning guillotine.
All of his professional victories have come from inside distance, six of them by submission.
This fight honestly comes down to Basharat’s calmness. He’s incredibly elusive when engaging in long-range combat, and Jones seems to have all sorts of trouble getting close enough to use his decent, killer right hand. If Basharat tries to take the lead, though, I could definitely see him running into one of Jones’ patented snap punches.
I will be optimistic and say that “The Snow Leopard” keeps a cool head. He put up a perfect fight against Kahlon despite the latter crossing the line with his comments, so he shouldn’t have too much trouble sticking to a game plan here. In short, it punishes Jones’ legs and body for a wide decision.
Prediction: Basharat by unanimous decision
145 pounds: Damon Jackson vs. Kamuela Kirk
Damon Jackson’s (19-4-1) return to the world’s biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion after a 4.5-year absence saw him defy all odds to snuff out Mirsad Bektic, winning both his first UFC win and a bonus “Performance of the Night” on the heels. Although he later suffered a knockout loss to Ilia Topuria, “The Leech” returned to the win column beating Charles Rosa 10 months later.
He is the tallest man by an inch, but gives up four inches in reach.
Kamuela Kirk (12-4) put a pair of straight losses behind him to score two dominating finishes under the LFA banner. The subsequent short-term UFC debut for “The Jawaiian” pitted him against Makwan Amirkhani, whom Kirk narrowly edged for a unanimous decision victory.
The win was his first trip to the judges should he win, as he had submitted six and knocked out four others as a professional.
While there’s a solid argument to be made that Kirk deserved the loss to Amirkhani, I don’t see him having that much trouble here. The strike is decidedly in his favor, and Jackson’s top-notch play is crippled by a struggle that, on paper, can’t break through Kirk’s takedown defense the way Amirkhani did.
There’s the issue that this is another short-notice fight for Kirk, of course, but he seems to have the edge pretty much everywhere. Better striking, better wrestling and more than enough submission chops to avoid Jackson chokeholds. Depending on how he decides to proceed, he will box Jackson on the feet or overpower him on the mat.
Prediction: Kirk via unanimous decision
All of the fights on the main card broadcast by ESPN+ have the potential for stunning finishes, and the “Preliminaries” aren’t too shabby either. Indeed, not bad for an ESPN+ card. See you Saturday, the Maniacs.
Current UFC “Prelims” prediction record for 2022: 32-13
remember that MMAmania.com will provide live, turn-by-turn, blow-by-blow coverage of all UFC Vegas 50 fight card on the right herestarting with the ESPN+ “Preliminary” matches, which are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. ET, and then the remaining balance on the main card (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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