UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev
March 12, 2022
Emrick’s UFC Fighter Pick Record (23-13)
LHW: Tafon Nchukwi (6-1) vs. Azamat Muzakanov (10-0)
- Pick: Azamat Murzakanov (-180)
BW: Kris Moutinho (9-5) vs. Guido Cannetti (8-7)
- Pick: Kris Moutinho (-165)
MW: Dalcha Lungiambula (11-3) vs. Cody Brundage (6-2)
- Pick: Dalcha Lungiambula (-130)
WFLY: Sabina Mazo (9-3) vs. Miranda Maverick (11-4)
- Pick: Miranda Maverick (-365)
FW: Damon Jackson (19-4-1, 1 NC) vs. Kamuela Kirk (12-4)
- Pick: Kamuela Kirk (-110)
BW: Trevin Jones (13-7, 1 NC) vs. Javid Basharat (11-0)
- Pick: Javid Basharat (-150)
WFLY: JJ Aldrich (10-4) vs. Gillian Robertson (10-6)
- Pick: Gillian Robertson (-135)
WW: Matthew Semelsberger (9-3) vs. AJ Fletcher (9-0)
- Pick: Matthew Semelsberger (-200)
Main Card Predictions:
MW: Alex Pereira (4-1) vs. Bruno Silva (22-6)
- Deciding Factor: Can Pereira manage to stop any takedowns and pressure against the cage from Silva? Personally, this fight is a toss-up based on the takedown defense and ability for Pereira to not be against the ground or cage for a majority of the time. Good news for the world-renowned kickboxer in Pereira, Bruno Silva has only attempted 3 takedowns in his UFC career, none of which have been successful. Silva is a quality KO artist in the UFC thus far, winning 3 straight by this manner. However, Silva’s opponents have been KO’d in 8 of their 10 combined losses, so this fight will really show us if his KO power is legit. I doubt this fight will go to the ground, as Silva has experienced 5 submission defeats in his MMA career, which could come to the advantage of Pereira as well. I hate to ride a hype train with a fighter that has only 5 MMA bouts, but I feel like I have to pick Pereira based on his well-roundedness on the feet. Albeit my pick for Pereira, I’d avoid this moneyline and instead play this fight to not go the distance.
- Pick: Alex Pereira (-220)
LW: Drew Dober (23-11, 1 NC) vs. Terrance McKinney (12-3)
- Deciding Factor: Does Dober survive on the ground against McKinney? Nearly 2 weeks ago I almost picked Fares Ziam over McKinney based on the uncertainty of McKinney’s skillset against a quality UFC opponent. Boy, I’m glad I didn’t. McKinney showed off the best of his abilities to achieve an electric submission against Ziam in the first round. While he looks like a legit contender in the stacked LW division, recent short notice fighters have tended to strongly underperform against elevated competition (ex: Bobby Green, Renato Moicano). Dober, on the other hand, has not found great success as of late. I believe his weaknesses on the mat play into McKinney’s favor, as Dober’s been submitted in 4 of his 7 UFC defeats. His standup game is pretty solid, which could make for an interesting slugfest and serve as a slight favor to the experienced Dober if McKinney keeps it on the feet. Overall, I believe McKinney is balanced enough to make this difficult for Dober, ultimately ending in an early submission victory for the short notice challenger.
- Pick: Terrance McKinney (+145)
LHW: Khalil Rountree (10-5, 1 NC) vs. Karl Roberson (9-4)
- Deciding Factor: Rountree’s lacking ground attack should put Roberson in a comfortable position. Although Roberson has lost 3 of 5 dating back to 2019, these have all been via submission to elite grapplers in Marvin Vettori, Brendan Allen, and Glover Teixeira. Similar to Alex Pereira, this is something that the kickboxing Roberson won’t have to worry with when facing his opponent Saturday evening. The only difference is that Roberson has some level of ability on the ground, which he has only displayed against non-elite grapplers in the past. Rountree has yet to attempt a takedown in his 10 fight UFC career, but has also been submitted only once in 2016. Rountree has finished 4 of his 5 wins by way of KO and has seen 3 of 5 losses (2 KO, 1 Submission) come via finish as well. Rountree’s KO power is something Roberson should be weary of, but Roberson has an opportunity to attack from a few more angles to secure a victory. Another note, Rountree exhibits more significant strikes landed per minute (3.24 vs. 2.87), but his low accuracy (44.08% vs. 60.96%) against Roberson’s metrics could make this a very technical matchup. While this is one of my less confident picks, especially if it were to end within the first couple rounds, I give a slight edge to Roberson being the more rounded fighter to secure a victory via decision or submission.
- Pick: Karl Roberson (-125)
FW: #12 Sodiq Yusuff (11-2) vs. #15 Alex Caceres (19-12, 1 NC)
- Deciding Factor: Yusuff’s standup ability and fair clinch game should decide this battle. While smaller than Caceres, Yusuff has plenty of punching power and has proven this via 2 of 4 UFC wins coming via KO. He’s a legit contender in the FW division, as his most recent bout and only professional loss came via 29-28 UD to #7 Arnold Allen. Caceres is a tough competitor with 26 fights of UFC experience. He’s riding a 5 fight win streak with 2 of the past 3 victories coming by way of submission. Since Yusuff is a more rounded opponent, Caceres will probably opt to keep this fight on the feet, using his extended reach and size instead of risking going to the mat with a solid clinch athlete. Caceres has only been KO’d once in his 31 professional bouts, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Yusuff was the one to make it Caceres’ second time. Yusuff may be coming off a loss and has less experience in the UFC, but a win via TKO or UD should be in play as he makes a run for the FW top 10.
- Pick: Sodiq Yusuff (-275)
BW: #10 Marlon Moraes (23-9-1) vs. #14 Song Yadong (18-5-1, 1 NC)
- Deciding Factor: Yadong’s chin vs. Moraes’ chin makes this the easiest choice for me on this main card. Moraes has not looked great since his 2019 title shot with Henry Cejudo, losing 4 of his last 5 fights by KO. While Moraes looked good early on against his fight with Merab Dvalishvili, things quickly fell apart once he was touched a few times, ultimately leading to a non-responsive flurry of ground and pound to put Moraes away. Yadong is a brawler at 7-1-1 in the UFC, where he’s finished 4 of his wins by 3 KO’s and 1 submission. While their metrics are about the same for height and Yadong has a slight reach advantage, the key to this fight lays in the higher output and more accurate significant strikes siding with Yadong. Moraes and Yadong are both pretty solid on the mat, so I see this fight being standup until things get awry for one of the fighters. Overall, this is one of my more confident picks unless Moraes can shock the MMA community and prove he still belongs in the top 10. Song Yadong by finish is the move.
- Pick: Song Yadong (-275)
LHW: #5 Thiago Santos (22-9) vs. #6 Magomed Ankalaev (16-1)
- Deciding Factor: Ankalaev just can’t be stopped. Since his loss to current #11 Paul Craig in his UFC debut, Ankalaev has been on a roll! A 7 fight win streak and recent wins against current #8 Volkan Oezdemir and #9 Nikita Krylov has presented Ankalaev as a well-rounded threat to the LHW divisional crown. A win over Santos could place Ankalaev closer to a top contender spot. This win seems pretty obtainable, as Santos hasn’t been the same since his 2019 title fight loss to Jon Jones and recovery from his ACL, MCL, and PCL tears during the bout. He was extremely timid against Johnny Walker in Santos’ previous fight, opting for the judges scorecards instead of fighting for a finish and risking a potential 4th consecutive loss. Unless he comes ready to put Ankalaev out by fighting with the same mentality he had pre-injury, I see Ankalaev piecing Santos up more each round as the fight goes on. Although there is a real risk of going the distance, I think Ankalaev will try to demonstrate to the UFC that he belongs in the title picture and looks for a KO or submission in the middle rounds.
- Pick: Magomed Ankalaev (-650)