The UFC is coming to Sacramento for a Bantamweight title eliminator between Aspen Ladd and Germaine de Randamie! Don’t forget the killer co-main between the returning Urijah Faber and rising Ricky Simon!
Aspen Ladd vs. Germaine de Randamie (BW)
The surging Aspen Ladd (8-0, 3-0 UFC) will look to secure the next title shot here with another win. Ladd is coming off a win just over a month ago over Sijara Eubanks. The two fights she has had with Sarj are the only matches of hers to go to decision. Ladd’s top game is unparalleled and she can dish out an otherworldly amount of damage once she is on top of her opponent. On the feet, she is not lost, but certainly prefers to get the match to the ground and go to work.
Germaine de Randamie (8-3, 5-1 UFC) will go for the UFC title that has eluded her for ages, despite her only loss being to the double champ Amanda Nunes. Fighting out of AKA, de Randamie is one of the few who does not boast a wrestling gameplan, instead using the world-class ground fighters there as ways to boost her game. She has an 88% takedown defense in the UFC and is near impossible to take down. Even outstriking Holly Holm is an impressive feat, one de Randamie did without any problems. She packs power but has such great defense few can get by her.
If this fight was two months ago, I would have probably picked Aspen Ladd. The Eubanks fight, although a victory for Ladd, exposed some serious holes in her game, namely what happens when she cannot secure top control. Whenever Eubanks could reverse the position or avoid getting taken down, she was able to piece up Ladd on the feet and showed serious failures in the defensive striking of Ladd. De Randamie is as good as it gets for takedown defense and she can piece up Ladd all day. I would forecast a decision, but I think Ladd will shut down, never having gone through five rounds and rarely even taking the fight to three.
Take the Shot: Germaine de Randamie via Round 3 Knockout
Urijah Faber vs. Ricky Simon (BW)
The creator of Team Alpha Male, Urijah Faber (34-10, 10-6 UFC) will be making his first return to the cage since his retirement in 2016. “The California Kid” has been a longtime staple of both the Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions since the days of the WEC, from his multiple matches with Dominick Cruz and name status as one of the pioneers of these lower weight classes. The now 40-year-old has great striking because of his speed, but also has an amazing ground game. His wrestling is only beaten by his jiu-jitsu skill, giving him 17 submissions along his long pro career.
Ricky Simon (15-1, 3-0 UFC) is a tough return for anyone. The Contender Series alum recently showcased the stifling ability of his wrestling against Rani Yahya, dominating the jiu-jitsu legend on the ground and the feet. Although Simon has a wrestling base that he uses heavily, his striking skill is increasing leaps and bounds in every fight. Even in a tough debut against Merab Devalishvili, Simon overcame significant adversity to get a last-second submission.
While I’m sure being the head of one of the premier MMA gyms helps, three years out is still three years out. Ring rust will almost certainly be a factor for Faber here, and even if this was the Faber of three years ago, I don’t know if this would be his match to win. On the feet, the speed and power of Faber might take over, but won’t stabilize if Simon negates some of Faber’s pressure. Keep in mind, this is MMA, and the ground game is one of the crucial elements of each fight. While Faber’s jiu-jitsu led to a skilled wrestling pedigree, Simon values the position through and through. He boasts more takedowns per fight than any Bantamweight and has the skills to back it up, showing against Yahya he can stop just about anything with his dominating ground game. It’s hard to see Faber withstand that, even if he does find success on the feet after his vacation.
Take the Shot: Ricky Simon via Unanimous Decision
Josh Emmett vs. Mirsad Bektic (FTW)
Josh Emmett (14-2, 5-2 UFC) is one of Alpha Male’s hottest prospects. The former Lightweight is 3-1 since his move to Featherweight, his loss there coming to the vicious power of Jeremy Stephens. He fixed that little smudge with a highlight-reel knockout of Michael Johnson back in March. Emmett is the usual Alpha Male fighter with his striking and wrestling blend, but has leaned more heavily on his wrestling as of late. Don’t be mistaken — Emmett has some real power, but it comes from his counterpunches. In particular, a wide right hook he loves to lead his opponents into. Emmett is difficult to outstrike with his constant feinting and quick movement, along with fight-changing power.
Counterstriking may not be enough to do the trick against Mirsad Bektic (13-1, 6-1 UFC). The Bosnian fighter has dominated every opponent he has gone up against with his pressure-heavy striking and unrelenting wrestling game. Even in his lone loss, he was crushing Darren Elkins until his gas tank failure led him into an area Elkins took advantage of with some hard counter-shots. Bektic will look to jump higher into the rankings with another brutal performance over Emmett.
Emmett truly does have good wrestling, but he will not want this fight anywhere near the ground with Bektic. The swarming style of Bektic could walk into the counter right he loves to throw. However, Bektic’s striking has never looked better since moving to Tristar Gym in Montreal after the Elkins loss, becoming more thought-out and patient. Even keeping it on the feet is a big ask against the Bosnian, who will shoot a takedown whenever possible and lives for that grinding mentality. Bektic has repaired all problems with his cardio and even his striking is looking more technical. However, it’s hard to see him not heading for the ground here, as his base of a ground game and unrelenting pressure both stifle Emmett’s game and bring out his own force.
Take the Shot: Mirsad Bektic via Knockout
Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose (LW)
Beneil Dariush (16-4-1, 10-4-1 UFC)is coming off a submission win over Drew Dober back in March. Dariush is another fighter where the blueprint is out there to win for those in the know. He has impressive wrestling, dangerous jiu-jitsu, and a nice strike differential. However, he has been consistently outclassed by fighters who are more athletic and better strikers. The way to beat Dariush is to exploit his fading chin and make him go night-night.
Drakkar Klose (10-1, 4-1 UFC) has been on a nice run since joining the ranks of the UFC, only dropping a decision loss to David Teymur. Klose has great striking and mixes up his shots well with nice combinations, along with a great judo base. Klose does his best work in a brawl and is often stifled when he is pressured. The Teymur loss came as a result of Klose’s opponent refusing to engage with him and not letting Klose get off his ridiculous output and striking, which leads to his judoka background.
All of Dariush’s losses have come when he cannot get his pressure and wrestling off. Here he has to contend with someone who is not only amazing in brawls but has a great wrestling background. Still, Klose has a habit of taking the pressure of his opponent and was able to be taken down by many of his opponents. If Dariush can pressure Klose and put in his own wrestling, this will be his fight to take home. The best ground artist Klose has been tested with yet is Bobby Green, who although having some subs and wrestling on his record, was still landing his own shots and defying those of Klose. Dariush has the superior takedown defense and the higher chance to finish.
Take the Shot: Beneil Dariush via Unanimous Decision
Karl Roberson vs. Wellington Turman (MW)
After a fifteen second knockout over UFC Light Heavyweight Ryan Spann on the Contender Series, Karl Roberson made his way to the UFC Middleweight division, where he got wins over Darren Stewart and Jack Marshman, but lost in submission to Cezar Ferreira. Moving up to LHW, he fell to another triangle choke from Glover Teixeira. Still, Roberson has great striking, especially off the clinch, and has shown he can get work done on the ground against non-elite grapplers.
Wellington Turman (15-2) will be stepping in as a late injury replacement for John Phillips. Turman is going into the UFC for the first time here. Turman is well-rounded on the feet and the mat, but also has great cardio and has gone the distance a few times. Turman has four knockouts, but his striking is very low level. He throws looping shots that leave his head open for the taking and he doesn’t take his head off the center line. His strong suit is his jiu-jitsu, where he holds 7 submissions and could wrap up the fight against the sub-defense-lacking Roberson.
Turman has some nice work in the clinch and poses dangerous threats when pressing his opponent against the cage, but he will need to get this to the ground for the victory. Roberson’s precision and striking defense and world-class and he is the type of fighter to knock someone out with a jab — that’s how precise and crisp he is. Turman’s wrestling has shown holes and as long as Roberson has learned something from his losses, he will come away with this.
Take the Shot: Karl Roberson via Round 3 Knockout
Cezar Ferreira vs. Marvin Vettori (MW)
Being present in the UFC since 2012, Cezar Ferreira (13-7, 9-5 UFC) has proven himself to be a dominant force only real contenders can get past. “Mutante” was recently outgrinded and outstruck by the surging Ian Heinisch, but prior to that, he put Karl Roberson to sleep with a gorgeous arm-triangle choke. He has shown repeatedly that he can be outstruck by his slow-paced capoeira striking, but he mainly goes to the ground and wrestles his way into dominant position or a submission.
The Italian Dream Marvin Vettori (12-4-1, 2-2-1 UFC) is coming off a split decision loss to Israel Adesanya, making it the closest victory for Adesanya’s career prior to his Gastelum match in April. Vetorri is developed in every element of his game with good striking and 8 submissions in a variety of chokes. A guillotine choke in his debut gave way to four decisions and he has since shown issues against pressure wrestling, although he does have a solid defense against takedowns.
This match is incredibly similar to Vettori’s match with Shoeface. His defense held up for a bit but was then dominated on the ground. His striking isn’t dangerous enough to end the fight on the feet, and his four-inch reach disadvantage will make it difficult to keep the pressure and grappling of Ferreira. Vettori’s defense is good enough to stall the better ground fighter and stay away from getting finished, but he will likely ride his way to a loss.
Take the Shot: Cezar Ferreira via Unanimous Decision
Quick note before I send all you lovely people on your way. We have one of the closest cards I have seen in a while. I am putting in a lot of extra thought to these picks as I am seeing many close matches, as you can tell. Keep an eye out, as a few of these may change, but I will put an edit marker if I do.
Anyways, it’s amazing to see the women’s divisions finally getting some respect and headlining some cards! Even if it ends up being ill-fated, it’s good to see Urijah Faber in the Octagon again! Make sure to check out the prelims picks right here and enjoy these fights on ESPN+!
Until next time, Freaks.