This Saturday UFC middleweights Uriah Hall and Sean Strickland lock horns in the octagon. The two will face off in the main event of UFC Vegas 33 which takes place on July the 31st in the UFC Apex.
UFC Vegas 33 Main Card
Middleweight Bout: Sean Strickland (-225) vs. Uriah Hall (+175)
Bantamweight Bout: Kyung Ho Kang (-140) vs. Rani Yahya (+115)
Women's Strawweight Bout: Cheyanne Buys (-165) vs. Gloria De Paula (+140)
Welterweight Bout: Niklas Stolze (-200) vs. Jared Gooden (+165)
Welterweight Bout: Bryan Barberena (-250) vs. Jason Witt (+200)
UFC Vegas 33 Main Event Prediction
Uriah Hall vs. Sean Strickland Prediction
After picking up four wins in a row, Uriah Hall gets to test himself against 23-3 Sean Strickland.
A 2018 motorcycle accident would render Strickland unable to compete for two years, and since his return he has chained together three wins over good competition.
Ever since Hall’s amazing run on TUF, the narrative of his potential has been overshadowing his actual results in the cage. He is 10-7 in the UFC.
Strickland has been more consistent historically, with a 10-3 UFC record. He recently fought and beat 185-pound prospect Brendan Allen. You can check out his performance below.
Sean averages 5.14 strikes per minute with an accuracy of 39%. He absorbs 3.64 strikes every minute and defends himself against 67% of strikes thrown by opponents.
Consistency is key in this matchup, and Hall has never picked up more than a few wins in a row before losing, throughout his career. Strickland is overall a much more consistent fighter compared to Uriah Hall.
Hall lacks the arsenal to go toe to toe against a guy like Strickland, who can mix it up with takedowns and strikes to various targets. Strickland is also undefeated at 185 lbs, and has been able to outstrike his opponents for the majority of his career. Hall’s negative strike differential doesn’t really tell me that he’s the elite striker everyone says he is. A negative strike differential is especially bad when your whole game is built around striking.
Hall is a counter striker, evident by his relatively low striking output. The TUF contender averages 3.34 strikes per minute while absorbing 3.54. His accuracy and defense on the feet is so-so, at 51% and 53% respectively.
Strickland usually strikes, but his fighting IQ is quite good so I could see him imposing a grappling heavy game plan against Hall, who has always been a fish out of water on the ground.
'Tarzan' averages 1.14 takedowns every fifteen minutes. When he shoots, he usually succeeds in dragging his opponent down at a 60% accuracy. Defensively, he defends the vast majority of takedowns attempted on him, at 82%, though he probably won't have to worry about being on the receiving end of grappling exchanges against Uriah Hall.
Strickland isn't one to fish for submissions, but it's not for lack of skill. He has won via submission in the UFC before, and attempts a submission in every other fight.
Hall isn't known for his grappling as he averages 0.67 takedowns per 15 minutes with an accuracy of 38%. Defensively Hall is quite good against grapplers, with a defensive percentage of 69%.
Rani Yahya vs. Kyung Ho Kang Prediction
Yahya, one of the older fighters on the roster, is primarily a grappler. Either he wins via submission or decision. Rani has never won via knockout in his career consisting of 37 fights.
Yahya averages 2.89 takedowns every 15 minutes, and has a takedown accuracy of 33%. Yahya is never one to avoid going to the ground, and for that reason, he usually allows himself to be taken down if his opponents go for his legs, evident by his 24% takedown defense. Rani attempts two submissions every three rounds.
Yahya’s skill set makes him predictable for fighters that game plan. Stop his takedowns and pick him apart on the feet. That is easier said than done, but Yahya’s average of landing one and a half strikes per minute is painstakingly low, even for grapplers.
Yahya is a dying breed. His path to victory is becoming increasingly easy for the new generation of fighters to stop. Submissions are becoming rare these days, and you need skills in all areas of fighting to make it in the UFC.
Kang might be the worst matchup possible for Yahya. A half-decent striker, who has the grappling to stop Yahya’s takedowns. Kang is essentially Rani Yahya with better striking which is bad news for Yahya.
Kang lands an average of 2.52 strikes per minute, which is a bit more than Yahya's striking average of 1.57. Defensively Kang is also superior, with a striking defense of 58% compared to Yahya's of 50%.
Kang is also a tad more accurate than Yahya, with a striking accuracy of 44% which is greater than Yahya's of 37%. However Rani absorbs fewer strikes on average, absorbing 1.70 strikes per minute. Kang absorbs 2.43 strikes per minute.
Kang is no Sean O’Malley, but he has the volume to outclass Rani. The fact that he has a positive strike differential while Yahya has the opposite is statistically significant in a bout between two experienced UFC fighters.
No one knows who the better grappler is in this matchup but even if we give the edge to Yahya, he won’t control Kang for the majority of all three rounds.
If Kang feels Yahya is superior on the ground, he’ll just work his way back to his feet and win with his striking. After all, Kang's takedown defense of 71% should allow him to remain of his feet if he wants to. He could also shoot for some takedowns of his own, as he usually averages 2.52 takedowns per 15 minutes.
Interestingly enough, Kang is quite accurate with his takedowns, and secures a takedown 60% of the time he attempts it.
Think Gilbert Burns versus Demian Maia. That fight can be compared to this one. Who won that fight?
Women's Strawweight Bout
Cheyanne Buys vs. Gloria De Paula Prediction
This is an incredible opportunity for both fighters to work on some wrestling and win. Buys and Paula had a similar UFC debut. They both won the striking exchanges but came up short due to a lack of grappling ability.
In her UFC debut, Paula was controlled with wrestling in nine of 15 minutes. Buys was controlled in 10 of 15 minutes.
On the feet both fighters excel, so stylistically it should be an even bout going the distance.
Paula holds the physical advantages though, in the shape of a three-inch reach advantage, and a two-inch height advantage.
Both fighters have wide strike differentials, but Buys holds the slight advantage.
In such an even matchup, the only logical thing is to go with the underdog.
Paula has a slightly better killer instinct too, which usually means a lot in the lower weight divisions. Furthermore, Paula switches up her targets more efficiently than Buys, meaning she could run away with the strike totals due to leg kicks and body kicks. Buys is more of a headhunter.
A super close fight, but most advantages point in the same direction.
Bryan Barberena vs. Jason Witt Prediction
The recipe to beat Barberena is out there. Stay at a safe distance and catch him coming in. While the best guys might be able to follow such a game plan, Jason Witt isn’t a guy to implement a clear-cut strategy in the octagon.
Witt is 1-2 in the UFC. Barberena is 6-5. Experience is on Bryan’s side.
Barberena is an absolute wrecking ball once he gets going, and only the best strikers are able to survive long enough to counter him as he starts fatiguing.
Bryan’s recklessness has handed him losses in the past, but Witt is not a dangerous striker. On the ground is where Witt excels, evident by his eight submission wins.
“Bam Bam” usually struggles against wrestlers, but his grit and determination on the feet still carry him across the finish line against pure grapplers such as Anthony Ivy. Bryan can give up five takedowns and still win on the cards.
Witt’s historical tendency to fold under pressure won’t do him any favours against a juggernaut like Bryan, and his chin has taken some serious hits in his career. He has been knocked out five times.
Overall, Bryan’s striking advantage over Witt is larger than Witt’s grappling advantage over Barberena. Don’t be fooled by Barberena’s 60% takedown defense, as his ability to get back to his feet is impressive.
Witt surrenders two inches in reach and height to Bryan. Being smaller than the more powerful striker isn’t good when you have a tendency of getting finished.
Welterweight Bout: Orion Cosce (-165) vs. Philip Rowe (+140)
UFC Vegas 33 Featured Preliminary Bout Prediction
Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Collin Anglin Prediction
Two fighters coming off a DWCS win get to face off in their UFC debut.
Melsik is a renowned striker and a former kickboxing K1 title challenger. He faces Collin Anglin, a striker with solid wrestling abilities.
On the feet Melsik is superior. He’s called ‘The Gun’ for a reason. Powerful kicks, punches, elbows, Baghdasaryan has it all. On the ground is where he might run into trouble with Anglin.
With a record of five wins and one loss Melsik is still very green in MMA. His win on DWCS was impressive, but Melsik seemed to have trouble finding his punches like he usually does. The fight would be the first time Melsik went to the scorecards in MMA, and is perhaps a sign of his finishing abilities not holding up against higher levels of competition.
Melsik also got taken down twice in that fight, and despite reversing positions and getting on top, it’s not good to give up one minute of two rounds when you’re not even in the UFC yet.
That said, his takedown defense held up for the most part, and he stopped six of eight attempts.
Anglin is a good striker, but he only goes to the head. I’m sure Melsik will be one of the best strikers he’s ever faced.
All in all, Anglin’s grappling doesn’t impress me to a point where I can predict he will out grapple Melsik. Every round starts on the feet and Collin will most likely fall behind on the total strikes fast if he decides to trade for just half of every five minute round.
Collin’s entries are also quite sloppy and he could easily become another highlight on Melsik’s resume if he isn’t careful.
The takedowns are there, but the gap in striking skill is too great.
Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Rafa Garcia Prediction
Striker versus grappler.
Chris Gruetzemacher is as pure a striker as you’re going to see. The guy has not attempted one takedown in his five UFC bouts, six if you include his fight against Ryan Diaz in Strikeforce.
On the other side of the table is Rafa Garcia, a young fighter who lost his debut to 145-pound prospect Nasrat Haqparast. He did manage to give a good account of himself in that fight though.
For me the clashing styles mean everything in this fight. Garcia can drag this to the ground, Gruetzemacher wants to remain standing. However with a 62% takedown defense it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, as to who is going to impose their will.
Chris does have a decent ability to get back up, I’ll give him that, but the man is still a fish out of water once you get him down.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Rafa wins a striking fight either, as I just think the age difference makes Garcia the clear favourite.
Either way, Garcia gets his hand raised, be it via submission or with a decision. Only pure strikers like Israel Adesanya can beat grapplers with his movement and feinting style. Comparing Gruetzemacher to Adesanya is perhaps a bit of a stretch.
Danny Chavez vs. Kai Kamaka Ill Prediction
We have a great striking bout on our hands when Chavez takes on Kamaka this Saturday.
Both fighters have yet to stake their claim as established fighters in the 145-pound division, but a win for either fighter should be a good step towards that.
From the tape I’ve watched on both fighters, this matchup is very even. However Kamaka has impressed me more, with a fight of the night performance in his debut, and a very controversial loss in his last fight - I’ll argue he actually won.
Chavez had a good debut too, beating TJ Brown via unanimous decision, but his most recent fight was less impressive, getting dominated by Jared Gordon for three rounds.
Both Chavez as well as Kamaka are well-rounded fighters, but I think Kai’s grappling is a bit more effective than Danny’s which might be the deciding factor in this bout.
When striking is even, judges usually look for control time, and that’s where I can see Kamaka being able to run away with this fight.
Throw in a two inch reach advantage for Kamaka along with an eight-year age advantage and we’ve got ourselves a pick.
Women's Straweight Bout
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Ashley Yoder Prediction
In the first women’s bout of UFC Vegas 33, Jinh Yu Frey (1-2 in the UFC) takes on 115-pound veteran Ashley Yoder.
Yoder is the more experienced of the two, with nine bouts under the UFC mantle. Her results, however, aren’t exactly consistent with just three wins in those nine outings making her 3-6 in the UFC.
Frey is fresher in her UFC career, and this will be her fourth fight for the promotion.
Neither fighter has a pretty record, but Yoder’s 8-7 is a serious indication of her lacklustre skill level. She’s the female Artem Lobov.
Frey is coming off a March 2021 win and has some wind in her sails. She doesn’t have a lot of output, but I don’t think skills alone will dictate the winner of a matchup like this. It’s more simple than that.
Can Yoder win a UFC fight? Sure, but only when given enough attempts. Frey has faced far better competition, most notably prospects Kay Hansen and Looma Lookboonmee.
Statistically it’s mind boggling that we can even get Yoder as a favorite, when she has a win rate of 33% in the UFC. Frey has way more tools to work with, and has some finishing ability, compared to Yoder who has gone to a decision in all of her last nine bouts.
Zarrukh Adashev vs. Ryan Benoit Prediction
Kicking off the UFC Vegas 33 card we got a fun fight between two strikers in the 125-pound division.
While being matchup up against tough competition, Adashev has struggled to give a good account of himself in his first two UFC outings. He is in desperate need of a win this Saturday.
Benoit has gotten wins in the UFC, but only three in eight bouts. Both fighters head into Saturday’s fight on a two-fight skid.
“Baby Face” has more experience, but lacks the consistency to make me trust him as the favorite.
Adashev hasn’t won in the UFC yet, but he has been matched up quite unfavourably, most recently against divisional prospect Su Mudaerji.
Benoit doesn’t have much grappling in his back pocket, so I think Adashev will have a small advantage in the striking department. He pushes the pace a bit more, and was even able to back up Mudaerji when they fought.
Benoit does have a small three-inch advantage, but at this level physical advantages don’t count for much unless they’re extreme.
I think Adashev’s willingness to engage and forward pressure could make him a valued play as an underdog against Benoit who has struggled to make it in the UFC.
At the very least this fight is 50/50 so I’m rolling with the ‘dog.
Catchweight Bout (173.5 lb)
Philip Rowe vs. Orion Cosce Prediction
Without watching any tape on Rowe, I’d have picked him in this fight based on the fact that he has a nine-inch reach advantage.
However, after seeing Gabe Green smack him around for 15 minutes in his last bout, I can’t say I see a world in which Rowe bounces back with a win over Cosce.
Orion is currently unbeaten at 7-0, and watching his recent DWCS fight tells all.
Cosce got the ‘dub over another unbeaten prospect in that fight, winning via third-round KO.
“Galaxy” is well-rounded, and most importantly absorbs very little damage when he fights. He is a great example of what the new generation of fighters can do.
If Cosce keeps this standing, Rowe might be able to get off some good shots due to the extreme reach advantage. On the ground size is more redundant, and Orion can have a field day with Philip.
“The Fresh Prince” also seems to suffer from the same condition as Andre Ewell, and that is not knowing how to use your superior reach to your advantage.
Rowe got dominated by Gabe Green on the feet, a fight in which he should’ve been able to use his length to win.
Unless Rowe somehow manages to utilize his reach more effectively, there’s no way he wins this fight against a prospect like Orion.
Rowe missed weight for the bout, which can either be a big advantage or the opposite. Usually when fighters miss weight by over 2 pounds, it's a strategic decision made by the fighter to be more energized on fight day. Regardless, I still think Rowe's inability to use his reach advantage will cost him the fight. Cosce will beat him at a disadvantage. He is simply the better fighter.