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  1. Saturday 8th August back at the APEX in Vegas. It’s the ‘Black Beast’ vs the ‘Boa Constrictor’. ESPN+ MAIN CARD Derrick Lewis vs Alexey Oleynik Chris Weidman vs Omari Akhmedov Darren Stewart vs Maki Pitolo Yana Kunitskaya vs Julija Stoliarenko Beneil Dariush vs Scott Holtzman ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS Tim Means vs Laureano Staropoli Nasrat Haqparast vs Alex Munoz Andrew Sanchez vs Wellington Turman Justin Jaynes vs Gavin Tucker Youssef Zalal vs Peter Barrett Irwin Rivera vs Ali Alqaisi Kevin Holland vs Joaquin Buckley Not the best Fight Night we’ve had but far from the worst. Main event is about as close to a SEG era style vs style throwback as you’re going to get in 2020 and I’m into it. No real obvious killer fights but there is some decent stuff scattered throughout this one. Derrick Lewis vs Alexey Oleynik is our Heavyweight headliner. I like it. Two guys who are never going to be champions or even proper contenders but they’re great for where they are in the pecking order, both fun to watch in totally different ways and they’re fine as Fight Night main event guys or in the middle of a PPV to beef up a main card. Lewis is definitely the more popular of the two. Everyone loves the ‘Black Beast’, don’t they? He’s found his level now and it’s below the top guys. But I actually think he gets slightly underrated sometimes because of his personality and the hilarious shit he comes out with. He’s 23-7-1 overall now but you look at his record and in his last 14 fights, the only losses are to Cormier, JDS and Hunt. He’s coming off wins over Ilir Latifi and Blagoy Ivanov in his last couple, both tough guys. And also has wins over Gonzaga, Nelson, Tybura, Abdurakhimov, Browne and Volkov. And there was that decision over Ngannou. It was a shit fight and he clearly caught Ngannou in a slump, but a win is a win. That’s not a bad resume at all, is it? I think people forget because he’s almost a novelty act at times but Lewis gets the job done more often than not. Oleynik is going to be a tricky one for him though. Big John McCarthy’s Heavyweight submission GOAT. I actually used to think he was a bit shit. When you first see him fight it’s easy to come to that conclusion because he looks so lumbering and uncoordinated. It takes some time to appreciate Oleynik but the big lug has grown on me over the years. And his record. 59-13-1 with 46 submissions! 14 of them by Ezekiel choke. Which is mental. You really shouldn’t be able to pull that off on a regular basis like he does. Regardless of a lot of his opposition being suspect, that kind of record is unheard of in MMA. Especially in the wild and unpredictable world of the Heavyweights. He’s coming into this fight off a points victory over a rusty Fabricio Werdum. Very much a clash of styles. You already know what the game plans are going to be. Lewis will be looking for the knockout, Oleynik will want it on the ground. And you can realistically see either scenario playing out. I think if Lewis doesn’t land a bomb early though, he’s probably getting strangled. Chris Weidman vs Omari Akhmedov. Here we go again. Another Weidman fight. At first glance, you look at this and think ‘well at least they’re scaling Weidman back a bit’. But at this point my confidence is pretty shot. Hard to believe this guy was on top of the world a few years ago. He was the man who ended the reign of the legendary Anderson Silva. Beat Machida in a great fight after that. Smashed up Belfort after that. Middleweight champion of the world. Undefeated. He was the man. Since then he’s gone 1-5 and been stopped in all 5 losses. Granted they were all killers at the time Weidman fought them but it’s still 5 stoppage losses out of 6 fights. The flying knee he took from Yoel Romero alone probably shaved 3 years off his life. He moved up to 205 for his last fight in October, trying to make a fresh start, and got fed to Dominick Reyes immediately and put on his arse in a round. It’s just not happening for him. The fact he managed to submit Kelvin Gastelum in amongst all those losses tells you he wasn’t completely shot. It’s probably more to do with the relentless bunch of murderers they’ve thrown at him. But it’s fucked him up big time. He badly needs a win here. Like I said, Akhmedov is definitely a few steps down from the guys Weidman’s been in with over the last 5 years. Still no pushover though. He’s 20-4-1 and hasn’t lost since 2016. Beat Ian Heinisch and Zak Cummings in his last 2, who are both solid opponents. He’s not bad. Tough Russian. But looking at his record and the guys he’s lost to, Weidman really should be beating him if he’s got any hope of sticking around at a high level. And Akhmedov isn’t a massive finisher either. If he manages to put Weidman away I think the writing is on the wall. Could be a real make or break fight for Weidman. It’s one thing getting battered by the top guys, when you start getting your arse kicked by journeymen it’s over. Darren Stewart vs Maki Pitolo just got added. Decent fight. Stewart is from London and has an 11-5 MMA record. Ups and downs but he’s had his moments in the UFC. Wins over Deron Winn and Eric Spicely aren’t to be sniffed at. He had a tremendous forgotten war with Julian Marquez in 2017 that probably about 5 people watched. And to date he’s the only man to take Edmen Shahbazyan the distance and, not only that, it was a close split decision. I’ve always got time for a Darren The Dentist fight. I’ve only seen Pitolo a couple of times. He’s Hawaiian, 13-5 with 10 finishes and is coming off a KO win over Charles Byrd in June. Not expecting the FOTY or anything but I can’t see it being boring either. Yana Kunitskaya vs Julija Stoliarenko is a bit of a comedown for me. Was supposed to be Kunitskaya vs Ketlen Vieira and I was looking forward to seeing how Vieira would bounce back from her first defeat. But she’s out. Think it was visa issues or something. She’s been rebooked for a fight in September. Stoliarenko has stepped in and it’s her UFC debut. She’s 27 years old, Lithuanian, Invicta champion and has a 14-2-2 record. Don’t know anything about her but I caught these pics from the start and finish of her last fight... Yeah, she doesn’t mind a scrap by the looks of it. Kunitskaya, I haven’t been that impressed with so far. She’s 12-5-1 and if she’s remembered at all it’s probably from getting steamrolled by Cyborg a couple of years ago. Beneil Dariush vs Scott Holtzman. Good fight. I’ve said it a bunch on here but I’m a fan of Dariush. One of the more under appreciated fighters on the roster for me. He’s pretty consistently in entertaining fights and has wins over the likes of Jim Miller, Michael Johnson, Carlos Diego Ferreira, Daron Cruickshank, James Vick and Rocco Martin. And that’s not even counting the 4 fight streak he’s currently on. He’s stopped his last 3 opponents. Submitted Frank Camacho and Drew Dober then did this to Drakkar Klose in his last fight at UFC 248 in March... Was a cracking fight before the KO as well. He’s great to watch. And seems a top bloke with it. Almost like an Iranian Demian Maia in his niceness. I’m less familiar with Holtzman but he’s is pretty solid from what I remember. 14-3 and coming off wins over Jim Miller and Dong Hyun Ma. Durable guy, BJJ brown-belt. His nickname is ‘Hot Sauce’ though. Fucking ‘Hot Sauce’. I’d have been rooting for Dariush anyway but for that nickname alone I hope he gets throttled. Tim Means vs Laureano Staropoli is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH***, one of those fights that nobody will talk about going in but turns out to be a war on the night. Means has a habit of getting into those kind of fights. He’s always reminded me of a lower level version of Carlos Condit in that way. Just goes all out for the finish or to do maximum damage from any position. He came up on the losing end but if you never saw his one round slobberknocker with Niko Price last year, get on it. You’ll thank me later. He subbed Thiago Alves in about 2 minutes after that as well but lost his last fight to Daniel Rodriguez in February. And that’s been the knock on Means. He just never puts wins together on a consistent basis. Staropoli is a scrapper himself, despite looking like a boyband reject from the early 90s. One of the few Argentinian fighters on the roster. He’s 9-2 and coming off a decision loss to Muslim Salikhov in a really fun standup battle. Before that he was on a 7 fight streak. Haven’t seen a great deal of him yet but I’ve seen enough to know he’s kind of an ideal opponent to have a bit of a barnburner with Means. Should be good. Nasrat Haqparast vs Alex Munoz. Might be alright. Haqparast is usually in decent enough fights. He’s German, 24 years old and trains at Tristar under Firas Zahabi. He’s OK but I must admit I only remember him because he’s got Kelvin Gastelum’s face. Munoz is a UFC newcomer, although he competed on Dana White’s Contender Series. He’s 6-0 with 3 finishes so far. Only name of note on his record is Nick Newell. Andrew Sanchez vs Wellington Turman is just taking up a slot really. Can’t pretend I’m arsed either way. Sanchez is 11-5 with 7 finishes. Some decent wins over Khalil Rountree, Trevor Smith, Markus Perez and Marc-Andre Barriault. He was also giving Anthony Smith a rough night in their 2017 fight before Lionheart rallied and put him away. He’s OK. Nothing especially remarkable about him. Turman is from Curitiba, Brazil. 24 years old with a record of 16-3 and 11 finishes. Beat Markus Perez in November, lost to Karl Roberson in his UFC debut. Can’t recall him at all. Justin Jaynes vs Gavin Tucker might just be the sleeper on this card. Jaynes is 30 years old out of Las Vegas. 16-4 with 13 finishes. Bit of a rollercoaster ride for him the last few weeks. He got on the Blaydes vs Volkov undercard in June on really short notice, brutally KO’d Frank Camacho in seconds and not only banked a $50K POTN bonus, he also got a percentage of Camacho’s purse because Camacho missed weight. Considering Jaynes started that week not even on the UFC roster, it’s been quite a month or so for him. He’s probably still buzzing from that Camacho win now. As for Tucker, he’s 34 years old with a record of 11-1. He’s from a place in Canada called Newfoundland and Labrador. What the fuck is this, Crufts? I remember him coming in with a bit of hype as one of Canada’s potential breakout stars but that was 2017 and between injury layoffs and a loss to Rick Glenn, it’s gone nowhere. I’d like to see Jaynes get another win here. Youssef Zalal vs Peter Barrett. Don’t know. I’ve seen hardly any of Zalal and nothing of Barrett. But man, Barrett looking like he saved up his pocket money and bought the Colby Covington starter kit there instantly makes me root against him. Zalal, AKA ‘The Moroccan Devil’, is 9-2 and has won both his UFC fights by decision. He beat Jordan Griffin in his last fight in June, and I kind of rate Griffin so he might be worth keeping an eye on. Barrett was on DWCS. 33 years old with a 11-3 record. His nickname is ‘Slippery Pete’, which sounds like the guy on everyone’s road as a kid who’d knock on trying to flog you fake Adidas and Bermuda shorts in the middle of icy December. Irwin Rivera vs Ali Alqaisi is a complete shot in the dark for me. Rivera’s only fought in the UFC once, losing on points to Giga Chikadze in May. Can’t say I recall much about him. He’s 9-5 overall now, former Titan FC champ. Alqaisi is making his debut and I’ve never heard of him. He’s 29 years old from Jordan, 8-3 record in MMA but 2 of those losses were right at the start of his career. He’s on a 5 fight streak now. Background in Kung Fu and Sanda apparently. I’m kind of intrigued. Kevin Holland vs Joaquin Buckley is a last minute addition. Holland was supposed to fight Trevin Giles this past weekend on the Brunson vs Shahbazyan undercard but Giles fainted backstage right before the ring walks and the fight obviously got scrapped. Even under those circumstances, on the night he was campaigning backstage to fight Ed Herman (who’s opponent Gerald the bloodhound had dropped out with COVID) but it never got made. Fair play, the UFC haven’t fucked about getting him another fight sorted. Buckley is jumping in on very short notice here. Never ideal for an Octagon debut but if it pays off then it’ll all be worth it. I’d never heard of Buckley but he’s 9-2 and, to be fair, the timing might be good for him. He’s just won a fight in LFA last Friday apparently, so he’s already in shape. Big opportunity for him. Not bad.
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