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Grant Emrick Breakdown of UFC Fight Night

UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Sandhagen

March 25, 2023

Emrick’s 2023 UFC Fighter Pick Record (75-35-3)

Main Events (4-5)

Lock of the Week (6-3)

Dawg of the Week (3-6)

Lifetime Fighter Pick Record (373-197-6)

Prelim Predictions:

FLY: Victor Altamirano (11-2) vs. Vinicius Salvador (14-4)

  • Pick: Victor Altamirano

FLY: CJ Vergara (10-4-1) vs. Daniel da Silva (11-4)

  • Pick: CJ Vergara

WW: Trevin Giles (15-4) vs. Preston Parsons (10-3)

  • Pick: Preston Parsons

FW: Steven Peterson (19-10) vs. Lucas Alexander (7-3)

  • Pick: Steven Peterson

FW: Daniel Pineda (27-14, 3 NC) vs. Tucker Lutz (12-2)

  • Pick: Tucker Lutz *Lock of the Week*

Main Card Predictions:

MW: Chidi Njokuani (22-8, 1 NC) vs. Albert Duraev (15-4)

  • Pick: Chidi Njokuani (-155)
  • Quick Reasoning:  I love Chidi’s striking and power so much more than Duraev’s here. Both guys have a tendency to slow down as the fight progresses, but Chidi has impressed against tough competition such as Gregory Rodrigues in the first round and a TKO of Marc-Andre Barriault. With striking accuracy of 72% and much more volume than Duraev against difficult competition, I’m siding with Chidi here. Duraev does average two takedowns per fight, but I don’t see Njokuani being stuck in these positions. I think this will look similar to Duraev vs. Buckley, where Njokuani will take over with a TKO in the second or third round. 

FLY: Alex Perez (24-7) vs. Manel Kape (18-6)

  • Pick: Manel Kape (-190)
  • Quick Reasoning: As long as Kape doesn’t fight like an ass he should absolutely win this. If you watched Kape vs. Dvorak, then you’ll understand after seeing Kape dance around instead of going for what could’ve been a finish without input from the judges. And when it comes to Texas judging, there may be some questionable results in clear 10-9 rounds. Kape is rolling with Figueiredo-like power at flyweight, great ground defense and ability to reverse positions, and always live for a finish at any moment. Perez has only fought once in the past three years, losing to Pantoja via submission in less than a round. With two straight submission losses and against a crafty fighter when striking and on the ground, I don’t like the chances for Perez here. I expect a focused Kape to look for a statement win in front of the San Antonio crowd, earning a TKO victory in the second or third as well. 

WFLY: Andrea Lee (13-6) vs. Maycee Barber (11-2)

  • Pick: Andrea Lee (+230)
  • Quick Reasoning: I’m not confident of this pick either way. There’s absolutely a path for either lady here in this one. Lee can out-volume Barber on the feet, or Barber can bully Lee up against the fence. However, Jessica Eye managed to land over eight minutes of control time against Barber in her last outing. If Jessica Eye can rack up this amount of control time, Lee is just as adept on the ground and clinch to do this as well. Add on the fact that Lee has outstruck her opponents by 8+ in all but one of her nine UFC fights, I think we’re going to see this volume add up. This is not a confident pick either way, but with the odds as they are it’s a dog or pass in this one. I’m going with Lee in a weird 29-28 SD thanks to the volume, but don’t be shocked if it’s a landslide in one of the two fighters’ favor. 

FW: Nate Landwehr (16-4) vs. Austin Lingo (9-1)

  • Pick: Nate Landwehr (-200)
  • Quick Reasoning: I don’t like the two weight cuts for Lingo going into this one. Landwehr is also a tough SOB, as he’ll eat everything you give him on the feet as he continues to press forward with constant volume. Not only will Landwehr give you fits on the feet, he’ll also find ways to land a takedown with great timing. The thing I do worry about is the fact that Landwehr absorbs over five significant strikes per minute and has absorbed 121 strikes against Darren Elkins and suffered two knee-enforced KO’s in his first three UFC fights. Since then he’s had a wild back-and-forth fight with David Onama, where he was KO’d and brought back to life by the mat in which he came back and won via MD. Lingo, on the other hand, has had wins over opponents with a combined 2-5 record in the UFC and suffered a loss to Youssef Zalal, who is on a four-fight losing streak. Lingo will be able to have success on the feet, but it’s the extent of the success that is the x-factor. Will he be able to put Landwehr out for good? The only way I see Lingo winning is if he KO’s Landwehr early, but I don’t truly believe this will happen. I’m seeing another gritty Landwehr performance after he comes alive in the second and third rounds to win by UD. 

WBW: Holly Holm (14-6) vs. Yana Santos (14-6, 1 NC)

  • Pick: Holly Holm (-240)
  • Quick Reasoning: I’m still angry at the Vieira vs. Holm decision. However, I’m pressing forward and going with the 41 year old lady to win again. I’m expecting a low-output clinch war between the two here. Yana has been out of the octagon for almost two years, so I’m not too sure what we’re going to see out of her. This fight is arguably even weirder to call than the Lee vs. Barber fight, so I’m going to go with the active-ish fighter in Holm to pull out a SD win. Please, like many other ones on this card, don’t bet on this fight.

BW: Marlon “Chito” Vera (20-7-1) vs. Cory Sandhagen (15-4)

  • Pick: Marlon “Chito” Vera (+135) *Dawg of the Week*
  • Quick Reasoning: Chito just keeps finding a way. His timing, power, and ability to utilize leg kicks against taller BWs has proved his legitimacy as a top contender. Main event Marlon is also a cheat code, as his KO power lasts into the later rounds of the fight. Although Vera has a negative striking differential thanks to Rob Font, he picks up the pace as the fight goes on and his power outweighs the volume he eats. Sandhagen will put up plenty of volume on Vera, as he dishes out over six significant strikes per minute, but he’s also hittable as well. Petr Yan and TJ Dillashaw both put up over 100 significant strikes on Sandhagen, so if Vera can just get half of that output to land then he can have Cory in lots of trouble. The wrestling/grappling side may be prevalent from Chito as well, being able to show different looks along with his switch stance style. Sandhagen is also a switch stance fighter, but the power and late-fight push from Vera is too scary to deny. As much as I love both of these fighters, I won’t pick against Chito until he drops a main event. Give me Marlon Vera by late-TKO or 48-47 UD.

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