Some thoughts on the UFC Vegas 25 prelims from a betting perspective.
Luke Sanders vs Felipe Colares
Opening up the card we have what should be a fun featherweight scrap between Luke Sanders and Felipe Colares.
Sanders has a big advantage on the feet here and should have the wrestling chops to keep the fight there. The problem is, he seems set on snatching the “biggest flake in the UFC” crown out of Michael Johnson’s hands. Like Johnson, he loves looking great in the first round, then flaking out and getting finished by fighters that, with his skills, he should be beating.
Colares has been a punching bag on the feet and it’s likely that Sanders is going to land power shots early. However, Colares showed a cast iron chin in his last fight vs Montel Jackson. He got beat pillar to post for 3 rounds but refused to go down. That doesn’t necessarily mean Sanders can’t hurt him, but it does mean he could take punishment and stick around, giving Sanders more opportunities to make a fight ending mistake.
Colares doesn’t have the punching power of Nate Maness or Andre Soccermom, so I don’t really see him hurting Sanders. But he’s certainly shown enough grappling chops to where you wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Sanders makes a mistake and gets submitted again.
I will side with the better overall fighter, but there’s absolutely no way I will trust him with my money as a favourite.
Prediction: Sanders via decision
Andreas Michailidis vs KB Bhullar
Up next we have a middleweight bout which should be a fun striking match.
I’m not sure what to make of Bhullar at this stage. He’s only 29, but missed 5 years of his prime between 2013-2018 because he watched a fighter get his jaw broken and was put off competing. In his debut, it only took Breese a few seconds of feeling him out before feeling comfortable enough to go for the finish and KO him with a jab. In his 5 round fight against UFC veteran Matt Dwyer, he showed some decent kickboxing at range, switching his stance often and throwing out a variety of kicks.
We’ve seen more of Michailidis, who has won most of his fights via round 1 KO. He’s a powerful kicker but often gets too wreckless with his punches and lacks fundamentals. If he can’t get the early KO, he has slowed down badly in the past.
It makes sense for Michailidis to be the favourite as he’s way more proven at this stage, and I’ll side with him to get another early finish despite his flaws. I have my suspicions about Bhullar, he very well could just be a guy who can’t handle pressure or take damage, which doesn’t bode well against a finisher like Michailidis. However we’ve just not got enough data on Bhullar yet and if Michailidis can’t get inside consistently and doesn’t get the early finish, things could get interesting.
Prediction: Michailidis via KO/TKO
Loma Lookboonmee vs Sam Hughes
Up next we have a women’s strawweight bout. Hughes looks to bounce back from her rough UFC debut loss to Tecia Torres, while Lookboonmee is coming off a dominant win against Jinh Yu Frey.
There’s no shame in losing your UFC debut to Torres on short notice, but even on her pre UFC tape Hughes hasn’t really shown anything that suggests she’s ready for the UFC. She only turned pro in 2019 after going 3-3 as an amateur, and her only athletic background before that was track and field.
Her opponent on the other hand has been training in Muay Thai since she was 7 years old, competing for the Thai national team and having a credentialed career before transitioning to MMA in 2017, where she has been training out of Tiger Muay Thai. In just her 6th MMA fight, she fought Angela Hill to a competitive decision, who would dominate Hughes in every area.
It’s hard to see a clear path to victory for Hughes. She’s a very basic, one-note striker, which is to be expected considering her background and inexperience. Plus she’s training out of a low level gym so I don’t really expect to see much improvements. She has attempted takedowns in the past, but struggles to finish them against very low level competition so I do expect a striking match.
Hughes is bigger, so maybe she can lean on Lookboonmee enough to squeak out a decision. However clinching with Lookboonmee probably won’t go well for her as her Thai clinch is elite, so I expect it to be a striking match, where Lookboonmee should have no issues winning the minutes. This should be a showcase fight for Lookboonmee and I’ll be siding with her to light Hughes up enroute to a dominant decision.
Prediction: Lookboonmee via decision
Kai Kamaka III vs T.J. Brown
Up next we have a closely lined featherweight bout. Kamaka is coming off a rough loss to Jonathan Pearce, while Brown looks to break a 2 fight UFC skid.
It’s good matchmaking because both guys fight at a high pace but also have big flaws, with Kamaka’s main one being his cardio, and Brown’s his durability. However, both of Kamaka’s UFC fights were on short notice, so his cardio could look improved this time out.
Kamaka has the boxing to light Brown up, but the way he gave up takedowns and how green he looked off his back in his last fight is a worry. If Brown comes in with the right gameplan, his path to victory with takedowns and control is there as long as he doesn’t get hurt.
It should be entertaining, but from a capping standpoint it’s a high variance fight that’s difficult to get a good read on and invest any of your money in an outcome prefight.
I’ve been flip-flopping on who to pick all week. I’m going to go with Brown to get enough takedowns and top control to get a decision, but with zero confidence.
Prediction: Brown via decision
Gabriel Benitez vs Jonathan Pearce
Benitez makes the drop back down to featherweight to face Pearce, who is coming off the best performance of his career.
This one should be a banger. Like many of his bouts, Benitez has the striking advantage. Pearce throws a lot of volume, but Benitez’s technique is vastly superior and he’s more explosive. Pearce’s long body and legs are wide open for Benitez’s baseball bat kicks, and he’s also very hittable so I expect Benitez to be able to land his coveted left straight hard and often.
However, Pearce is absolutely huge for 145 and showed that he can wrestle relentlessly for 3 rounds in his last fight. Although his get-ups are good, Benitez’s takedown defence has been poor overall at just 56%. The small cage also favours Pearce, as it gives him more opportunity to crowd Benitez’s kicks and grab a hold of him.
The path for Pearce is there, but it’s a huge step up and I think the striking disadvantage will ultimately be too difficult to overcome. Benitez will be on his bike and punish the hittable Pearce for closing the distance, and I think the damage will add up and eventually fold Pearce before he can get any sort of consistent grappling game going.
Prediction: Benitez via KO/TKO
Luana Pinheiro vs Randa Markos
Closing out the prelims we have a prospect vs veteran match-up. Pinheiro is coming off a round 1 KO win on the Contender Series, while Markos is on a 3 fight skid – albeit to good competition.
Pinheiro has only fought a very low level of competition thus far but you can only beat who’s put in front of you and she’s done everything you can ask of her, finishing all of them in the first round. I like some things she’s shown, she clearly has some pop in her punches for a strawweight, is a black belt in Judo and a brown belt in BJJ.
There’s just not much to go off at this stage though. We have yet to see her tested against anyone close to UFC level and we have no idea what her cardio is like past the first round. As we’ve seen in the past, trusting these unproven WMMA Contender Series prospects as favourites isn’t a good idea in general.
I’ll still side with the prospect because Markos really just doesn’t do much and is getting older. On the feet she barely throws anything, and she only averages one takedown per fight. Hopefully it goes the distance so we get more of a read on what Pinheiro brings to the table for future bets.
Prediction: Pinheiro via decision