UFC Vegas 73: Staff picks and predictions
See who we're picking to win at the UFC APEX this weekend.
This weekend the UFC gives us another APEX show with an interesting headline act and not much to support it. Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill are doing the honours for UFC Vegas 73, having been parachuted in from the main card of an event that went down two weeks ago.
The co-main this weekend is Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Anthony Hernandez. Deeper down the card we have Michael Johnson vs. Diego Ferreira and Ilir Latifi vs. Rodrigo Nascimento.
Our staff has looked over the bouts and jotted down who they think will win. And we are pretty well split on the main event. Some of us think Dern will be a threat to finish Hill on the ground. And some of us think Hill will outwork the Brazilian on the feet. Our two leaders in the standings, Dayne and Eddie, are both picking Dern, though.
You can see the rest of our UFC Vegas 73 picks below.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Angela Hill
Anton Tabuena: Dern has a lot going on in her camp and personal life, apparently, but even without that I already have reservations about her approach. While her boxing has gotten better, it’s not to the point that she will outstrike strikers, yet she still wastes too much time trying to trade despite a massive gap in grappling skill against almost everyone in the division. Working heavily on wrestling and clinch entries, and employing a Demian Maia type approach focusing on immediately closing the gap would probably drown most opponents, but even without her complaints about camp, I don’t think that’s likely to happen soon. I’m guessing Dern will probably still spend way too much time trying to trade with Hill, which will only make things a lot closer and tougher on her. That being said, this style match up really favors Dern so much. Regardless of issues in preparation or her approach, on paper, this should be her fight to lose and she’s still clearly the logical pick here. I think she’ll unnecessarily take a lot of shots, but will eventually find a way to drag it to the mat, where there’ll be a big disparity. MacKenzie Dern by Submission.
Chris: I always played Dhalsim in Street Fighter so out of a sense of loyalty I gotta pick Hill. Also the coin flip said so. Plus she went to Cooper Union, which was my dream college and sadly did not get in. Have you ever heard Marc Maron talk about not getting on SNL? That’s what Cooper Union was for me for a while but thankfully I messed up so many more ways later in life that it’s but a drop in the regrets bucket.
Dayne: I love Angela as much as anyone else, but she has struggled to win the fights where the spotlight is brightest. She's going to do so now, at the age of 38, against an opponent who excels where she is weakest? Doesn't compute for me, even with Hill having upgraded her grappling immensely over the years.
Victor: Dern’s submission grappling is amazing, but she struggles to get the fight to the ground. Her standup has improved, but not enough to hang with Hill. Fights start standing, and Dern’s had a rollercoaster camp coming into this one. Gonna go with Angela Hill by decision.
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Zane: Well, all these news about Dern’s camp and personal life drama coming to light lately do not leave me all that comfortable with my pick. But I also try to avoid X-factor takes whenever possible. And just looking at the work they do in the cage, this fight still seems like a problem for Angela Hill. Mostly, Hill’s style relies on her getting to sit down and plant her feet in front of her opponent over and over again. She’s gotten better about getting back out of the pocket and stuffing simple shots, but she’s still very easy to tangle up because she wants to spend so much of the fight in close. It’s been a long while since she’s been subbed, but it’s also been a long while since she’s faced a grappler who attacks as quickly as Dern. I’ll take Mackenzie Dern by submission, but if she hasn’t got it by the end of round 2, she’s probably gonna lose.
Bissell: I’m a big fan of both these fighters and I’m glad this match-up has finally come together. My pick is Dern, because I think a lot of the fight will be contested in her wheelhouse. And when the fight is on the ground or wedged up against the cage, Dern will really be able to impress the judges with her control and pressure. Hill will do well when she has space, but I don’t think this will happen enough for her to build a concrete case for the judges to pick her. I doubt there’s a finish in this fight and it could be another one of those Hill fights where she has reason to be mad at the judges. However, I just think Dern has more weapons to nullify Hill’s strengths and Hill is yet to show she can really counter Dern’s brand of combat. Mackenzie Dern by decision.
Staff picking Dern: Stephie, Dayne, Eddie, Zane, Bissell, Anton
Staff picking Hill: Lucas, Jack, Chris, Kristen, Victor
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Anthony Hernandez
Chris: Wow, this is the battle of Prospects That Time Forgot. These two fighters got put through the UFC meat grinder with the quickness and may never be the same while also never realizing their true potential. With that said, Shahbazyan is an easy pick due to the size differential and Hernandez is likely willing to stand.
Victor: Edmen definitely turned things around since moving to Vegas and setting up shop at XC. Hernandez just seems more trustworthy and his losses to Markus Perez and Kevin Holland can be seen as mere growing pains. Edmen seems like he’s playing catch-up to make up for lost time now that he’s at a proper gym with quality staff and training personnel, but I have to favor Hernandez due to his versatility even though Shahbazyan packs more power with his blitzing rushes. Anthony Hernandez via submission.
Zane: I really liked what I saw from Shahbazyan against Dalcha Lungiambula, but Lungiambula has never really been a fighter to set the pace in a bout. It was a good show of consistency from Shahbazyan, but doesn’t tell me if he’s solved his issues with breaking when his opponent starts to take over extended grappling battles. Anthony Hernandez will be a huge test to that extent, since high-paced grappling battles are his whole game. Anthony Hernandez by submission, round 3.
Bissell: Though not a main eventer, Edmen Shahbazyan remains a difficult problem for the lower half of his division. However, I think Anthony Hernandez has what’s needed to solve him: athleticism and solid grappling. Shahbazyan might crack him once, but I doubt he finds repeated success on the feet before he gets dragged down and put into serious trouble. Anthony Hernandez by decision.
Staff picking Shahbazyan: Lucas, Chris
Staff picking Hernandez: Jack, Stephie, Kristen, Dayne, Victor, Eddie, Zane, Bissell, Anton
Emily Ducote vs. Lupita Godinez
Victor: Loopy’s wrestling is a problem, and Ducote’s slick on the ground plus she’s improving her striking. Yeah, think I’ll run with that. Emily Ducote by decision.
Zane: This has frustratingly close split decision written all over it. If Ducote can stuff Godinez’s takedowns, then she’s probably the slightly higher output cleaner striker. Godinez has also shown a nasty habit of fading out of fights when she can’t flow between boxing, wrestling, and grappling. That looked better against Calvillo, but even then many thought Calvillo started to take over late. Assuming Ducote can stay on her feet, I’ll trust her kickboxing to get the win.
Bissell: I like Ducote’s motor and ability to land punches in the pocket. Godinez is a good wrestler, but Ducote is very fast and energetic and she might be able to evade a lot of takedown attempts. Her slight reach advantage should be able to help her use a jab to keep Godinez out of takedown range, too. Emily Ducote by decision.
Chris: This coin is BS. I would have picked Loopy.
Staff picking Ducote: Chris, Dayne, Victor, Zane, Bissell.
Staff picking Godinez: Jack, Stephie, Lucas, Kristen, Eddie, Anton
Andre Fialho vs. Joaquin Buckley
Anton Tabuena: I’m not too hyped about Buckley nor do I trust him to be consistent, but if he cut weight properly here, he should have a big power advantage on this drop to welterweight. Joaquin Buckley by TKO.
Chris: Buckley is a low-key Luke Rockhold / Gerald Meerschart type fighter in that you’re mostly going to see a finish whether he wins or loses. While the pick is derived via coin flip, if I were a betting man I’d wager this fight does not go the distance.
Victor: Fialho’s tough, but it makes me sad to admit he may have hit his ceiling. Buckley’s had some setbacks, but he’s probably got more in the tank. Joaquin Buckley by TKO.
Zane: Buckley is still intensely time-able in his entires into the pocket, to the point that there’s a significant chance a power-puncher like Fialho can catch him with something big. But, Fialho has a lot of trouble hanging with more creative strikers and with fighters who can force him into a fast pace. Buckley is great at changing up his combinations and, when he’s not getting sparked, of putting out a constant stream of power strikes. Good chance Fialho lands a few bombs, but I’ll take Joaquin Buckley to get the KO in round 2.
Bissell: Kinda wish I could go against the grain here and pick Fialho. But he gets hit, a lot. And if that happens here, he’s going night-night. Joaquin Buckley by TKO.
Staff picking Fialho:
Staff picking Buckley: Lucas, Jack, Stephie, Chris, Kristen, Dayne, Victor, Eddie, Zane, Bissell, Anton
Michael Johnson vs. Diego Ferreira
Chris: Ferreira is on a bad losing streak but they were all excellent fights against high caliber opponents who could all hang with him on the ground. Michael Johnson is not that guy. Maybe the Menace lights him early but the coin flip says Johnson does well and implodes in classic fashion.
Victor: I do not and will not trust Michael Johnson. I’m in agreement with Chris, he’s probably gonna fall apart near the end. Diego Ferreira by whatever.
Zane: Johnson has actually, honestly been looking pretty sharp lately, and he’s got a great argument to be on a 3-fight win streak with victories over a couple of opponents known for their clingy grappling and wrestling attacks. None of those opponents, however, have had a reputation for being as dedicated to pressure fighting or as venomous a submission specialist as Diego Ferreira. If Ferreira enters this fight cautious, looking to stay away from Johnson’s speed in the pocket, he could easily get chewed up. But as long as he forces a few grappling battles, I think he can put Johnson in a position where he’ll crumble once again. Diego Ferreira via submission, round 1.
Bissell: Johnson looked great against Diakiese, but at this stage of their careers, I don’t see anything he can do better than Ferreira. And Ferreira is a lot better than him at grappling (which has been an Achilles’ Heel for Johnson in his career). Diego Ferreira by submission.
Staff picking Johnson: Kristen, Dayne
Staff picking Ferreira: Lucas, Jack, Stephie, Chris, Victor, Eddie, Zane, Bissell, Anton
Maheshate vs. Viacheslav Borshchev
Chris: Slava Claus has been exposed! Two losses, he’s a bum!
Zane: Feels like a coinflip, pick-em fight. Borshchev throws in more volume and is more likely to lead exchanges, but he also seems like the fighter more likely to get hurt in exchanges. Maheshate is huge and has range, and loves to wait on counter opportunities, which Borshchev will provide.