Max’s Weekend Predictions – 2/6

Max’s All Time Predictions – 56-96

The UFC has returned from Fight Island to Las Vegas to kick off the month of August. Due to backstage fainting and some COVID tests coming back positive, the UFC ran their shortest fight card of 8 fights last Saturday.

Here, I have taken a shot at deciding what should be next for all 16 fighters from last weekend’s action. Here’s what I think: 

Chris Gutierrez – Kang Kyung Ho

After salvaging a draw coming behind from two rounds, Chris Gutierrez (15-4-2 Career, 3-1-1 UFC) showcased his ability to survive in bad situations and almost secured an armbar victory later in the fight. I’d love to see him fight Durden down the line but I know immediate rematches are uncommon at the prospect level. Prior to this fight, he had won three straight fights and still one of the toughest prospects in the bantamweight division.

I like Kang Kyung-Ho (17-8, 1 NC Career, 6-2, 1 NC UFC) for him next. Kyung-Ho is coming off three straight victories just as Gutierrez was before the draw, and his last two fights were close – so this gives them both an opportunity for a definitive win in their next efforts.

Cody Durden – Miles Johns

In the first round, Cody Durden (11-2-1 Career, 0-0-1 UFC) looked like he was going to cruise to victory in his UFC debut, dominating on the ground and almost locking in a rear naked choke. After giving up the back two rounds he ended in a draw, but from my perspective the prospect shined against a very difficult opponent for an octagon debut. He is a hot prospect who has two Georgia High School Wrestling State Championships to his name, so his next opponent is also going to be a high caliber prospect. 

My pick would be Miles Johns (10-1 Career, 1-1 UFC). After winning his debut, Johns had a tough run against Mario Bautista in February, but the well rounded prospect will certainly stay in the league and keep getting tough competition. A great fight for Durden and a test against a fighter who is good off his back in Johns.

Jamall Emmers – Gavin Tucker

It was a great night at the office for featherweight Jamall Emmers (18-5 Career, 1-1 UFC) on Saturday following his decision win. He looked good everywhere, showcasing masterful striking in the second round following by strong clinch work in the third. This was his first UFC win, and Emmers showcased a seriously bright future and will likely fight a prospect who is in a similar place.

That fighter in my opinion is Canadian bomb thrower Gavin Tucker (11-1 Career, 2-1 UFC) assuming he wins his bout in a few weeks. Tucker took a few years off after suffering broken facial bones following his loss to Rick Glenn, but returned last September and won. These two men would be wildly exciting throwing leather in front of each other, and would really help them establish their name as a prelim on a big card. 

Vincent Cachero – Jordan Griffin 

It was a rough debut for Hawaiian prospect Vincent Cachero (7-3 Career, 0-1 UFC) who hung in tough but lost definitively to Emmers over all three rounds. I have a suspicion that Cachero will be able to keep his job on the roster but another loss on his resume could send him back to the regional circuit.

Jordan Griffin (18-8 Career, 1-3 UFC) is in an extremely similar situation to Cachero. Since winning his contract on the Contender Series July of 2018, he is 1-3 and coming off a loss to Youssef Salal, meaning that another loss will likely send him packing. Cachero vs Griffin is a great “loser leaves” fight between two tough fighters.

 Nate Maness – Ray Borg

After three shots to the dick courtesy of late replacement Johnny Munoz and an absolute battle, Nate Maness (12-1 Career, 1-0 UFC) won his UFC debut after going through the meat grinder. Maness is talented, but didn’t have a real opportunity to showcase to his fullest and I think a big part of that is the late replacement to his opponent.

For that, I’d like the UFC to rebook Maness with Ray Borg (13-5 Career, 8-5 UFC). Borg is coming off of a loss but has tons of experience, 13 UFC bouts including a Flyweight title fight. I’d love to see him at 145 especially against a young hungry fighter in Maness.

Johnny Munoz – Austin Lingo

Johnny Munoz (10-1 Career, 0-1 UFC) had a very confusing matchup against Maness on Saturday. He took the bout short notice, was deducted a point for three low blows throughout the fight en route to his first professional loss. Munoz isn’t going to get cut for this loss, the UFC loves fighters who can make weight on a whim and dive in, but he’s going to have to earn his keep in his second fight with the organization. 

I think his second opponent should be Texas Featherweight Austin Lingo (7-1 Career, 0-1 UFC). Lingo also came into the organization undefeated and  lost his UFC debut to Youssef Zalal in February. It will be a good opportunity for both fighters to earn a first UFC win against a top prospect.

Jonathan Martinez – Mario Bautista 

Despite missing weight by a mile, Jonathan Martinez (12-3 Career, 3-2 UFC) had a destructive performance on Saturday over a tough veteran. Martinez has never missed weight before, so I should probably give him the benefit of the doubt that he can make weight in the future. Martinez did look spectacular in his performance so I think him getting a strong bantamweight is in his future.

Mario Bautista (8-1 Career, 2-1 UFC) seems like the type of opponent that will be able to give Martinez a great challenge. Bautista has been fast tracked in his career so a 5 fight veteran in Martinez seems more than reasonable. Big win for either fighter.

Frankie Saenz – Retirement

Following another loss and approaching age 40 in a few weeks, I cannot see a great reason for Frankie Saenz (13-7 Career, 5-5 UFC) to keep fighting any longer. This marks his fifth loss in seven bouts, and back to back brutal KO losses. 

He is an excellent wrestler, extremely tough fighter and has been in the cage with some of the best. I think his time has come, even though I’ve always enjoyed watching him fight. 

If he does continue to fight, I cannot imagine a scenario in which the UFC keeps him on the roster. Perhaps Bellator or the PFL would scoop him, but even then I don’t have any good matchups for him. Maybe he will prove me wrong, who knows?

Bobby Green – Jim Miller

The rematch of 2017’s Green vs Vannata lived up to all of its expectations- taking home fight of the night honors AND having a clear victor in Bobby Green (26-10-1 Career, 7-5-1 UFC) following his spectacular performance Saturday. Green was as aggressive as always but wildly polished, and now putting together back to back wins, fight fans would love to have him in there with another fighter that toes the line of a contender.

I like him against Jim Miller (32-14 Career, 1 NC, 21-13, 1 NC UFC) next. With both of these fighters having competed in the UFC’s Lightweight Division, I’m shocked this fight hasn’t happened yet. Miller will give Green the entertainment factor, and with both men coming off wins it gives them both a chance to get a streak rolling off the back of a solid veteran. 

Lando Vannata – Clay Guida 

Win, lose or draw, Lando Vannata (11-5-2 Career, 3-5-2 UFC) has such a dynamic style and willingness to fight anyone, he will always have a job in the UFC. I’d be shocked beyond belief if he were ever let go, and even if he drops a handful of fights in a row, they will always find an equally savage brawler to scrap with. He is the definition of a fan favorite.

So what would be better than getting him in the cage with another fan favorite? Clay Guida (35-20 Career, 15-14 UFC) is the perfect mirror for Vannata. Both fighters are not in contender position, as Guida has dropped the last three of four. However, both men are wildly entertaining, have a style that can easily win them a fight of the night bonus, and are both coming off a loss to Bobby Green. This would be a perfect early PPV bout and the UFC has no reason not to pull it off.

Vicente Luque – Michael Chiesa

Vicente Luque (19-7-1 Career, 12-3 UFC) is back on his usual tear of destruction after Saturday’s demolition of Randy Brown. He has now won eight of his last nine bouts, seven of those eight wins by stoppage. Omitting his decision loss to Stephen Thompson last November, it is clear that Luque is not just one of the best welterweights in the world, he is one of the most terrifying. A welterweight who is well conditioned and has a great chin seems like the best fit.

To me, that fighter would be Michael Chiesa (17-4 Career, 10-4 UFC). Chiesa is currently on a three fight win streak, winning six of his last eight fights. Welterweight is a stacked division, and the only way to set yourself out from the pack is to find the baddest man available and win big. For Luque and Chiesa, it’s looking like the baddest man for each of them is each other, and would shape out a certain top 10 fighter in victory.

Randy Brown – James Krause

It seems everytime that Rude Boy Randy Brown (12-4 Career, 6-4 UFC) gets a bit of momentum going, he suffers a setback in his career. Brown was coming off of spectacular back to back wins before suffering a knockout loss on Saturday, and while it isn’t a knock on his entire career to drop a fight to Luque, it certainly pulls him a bit further from being a welterweight contender.

With a fighter like Brown, he’s not in position to scrap with a top 10 guy but he’s so talented that you can’t just toss him in there with anyone. A successful veteran coming off of a loss that is available for Brown is James Krause (27-8 Career, 8-4 UFC). Krause had won six fights in a row before losing a close decision against Trevin Giles in February, but that loss was at middleweight and I presume he is going to try and come back down to 170. They may try to keep Krause at 185, but at 170 a well rounded war with Brown would be great for both of their stock.

Jennifer Maia – Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC Flyweight Championship

This one is past the point of speculation, the UFC has all but made it official in writing that Jennifer Maia (18-6-1 Career, 3-2 UFC) will get the next crack at dominant flyweight champion and women’s MMA legend Valentina Shevchenko (19-3 Career, 8-2 UFC). 

I don’t have much to say about this one to be honest. The winner of this fight was almost certain to be next up for a title shot, but outside of a third fight with Amanda Nunes, I don’t find too many matchups compelling for Shevchenko. I know MMA math doesn’t always add up the way we expect, but Maia’s two losses are against Kaitlyn Chookagian and Liz Carmouche, who both got crushed by Shevchenko. I’ll still watch it and won’t complain, but I also don’t have high expectations for Maia in her championship endeavor. Hey, if you enjoyed Maia’s performance on Saturday, bet her against Shevchenko when the lines open up. If she finds a way to win you can probably put your kids through college.

Joanne Calderwood – Jessica Eye 

Scotland’s own Joanne Calderwood (14-5 Career, 6-5 UFC) has had quite the roller coaster of a tenure in the UFC. Ever since she has entered the UFC as an undefeated prospect, she has not been able to string together more than two consecutive wins yet finds a way to defeat top contenders in her division. Definitely talented enough as a striker to compete with the best, but as soon as she’s close to gold it seems to slip away. 

It’s hard to say where she should go from here. I’m curious to see if she decides to make a weight class change and drop to 115 in an effort to balance her grappling faults with size. If she stays at 125 lbs – she should probably square up with a flyweight contender on a similar roller coaster to her.

The one fighter that stands out to me here is Jessica Eye. (15-8, 1 NC Career, 5-7, 1 NC UFC)  Eye is coming off of a loss to Cynthia Calvillo, who has also defeated Calderwood. Most importantly, Calderwood and Eye happen to be one of the flyweight fights the UFC hasn’t booked before, it seems that every other woman in the top 10 has fought one or the other. It seems like a good litmus year for both women to keep their contender status.

Derek Brunson – Jack Hermansson 

Going into Saturday’s main event, it is almost as if Derek Brunson (21-7 Career, 12-5 UFC) was almost set up to look bad against rising star and fight prodigy Edmen Shabazyan. It couldn’t have gone any better, as Brunson put a beating on the young star over the course of a little over two rounds. 

Brunson is now 3-0 since joining team Sanford MMA in Florida, and proved himself to be way more than a veteran gatekeeper. He is a bonafide contender, and should be treated and booked accordingly.

Also in the mix at middleweight is Jack Hermansson (21-5 Career, 8-3 UFC) who is fresh off his win against Kelvin Gastelum on fight island last month. 

Seeing as Adesanya vs Costa is already booked for the championship, and it is looking like the winner of Whittaker vs Cannonier will fight next for the next title shot, Brunson should fight the next best available. The next best available would either be Darren Till or Hermansson, but since Till has an injured knee, Brunson vs Hermansson seems the easiest to make immediately.

Edmen Shabazyan – Kelvin Gastelum

Watching the rise of a hot prospect is one of the best parts of watching MMA, especially those with superstar talent and unlimited potential. Sometimes fighters like that are fast tracked up the ladder, and in those times some matchups are just too much too soon.

“Too much too soon” is the best way to explain Saturday’s loss for Edmen Shabazyan (11-1 Career, 4-1 UFC). Winning his first 11 fights, 10 of those by first round KO, the 22 year old phenom was fed to a wolf and didn’t make it out with a win. Do I think his loss to Brunson signifies that he can’t hang with the worlds best? Of course not. Do I think he should still fight a top fighter at middleweight? I do. I just think it should be someone who is coming off a loss and has shown some struggle just as Shabazyan just has.

My best example of a matchup like this is Kelvin Gastelum. (15-6, 1 NC Career, 10-6 UFC) Gastelum has lost three in a row and four of his last six, but has enough wins in recent years to prove he can compete with contenders. This balance seems perfect for Shabazyan, who’s outcome vs Gastelum would benchmark if despite his young age, he should be in the pack with the top dogs at 185, or if he was shot too far up too quick.