This weekend (Sat., June 5, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 28. Let’s be honest, if not for the rare weekend absent of a UFC event a few days back, fight fans may have turned their noses at Saturday’s offering. It’s far from the best card to take place inside UFC Apex, but nevertheless, there are still fun and interesting fights … if you search for them.
Let’s take a closer look at some main card donnybrooks:
Middleweight: Roman Dolidze vs. Laureano Staropoli
Best Win for Dolidze? John Allan For Staropoli? Thiago Alves
Current Streak: Dolidze suffered his first pro defeat last time out, and Staropoli has lost two straight
X-Factor: How will Staropoli perform at 185 pounds?
How these two match up: A former Light Heavyweight will battle a long-time Welterweight.
Dolidze has skills, but I’m not sure he fully understands how to use them just yet. He’s very clearly a natural athlete with some plus skills on the mat and at the kicking range, but he’s also very willingly to make risky choices like diving on leg locks, which came back to bite him in his most recent performance opposite Trevin Giles.
Meanwhile, Staropoli started his UFC career strong with a pair of victories on the strength of his Muay Thai and conditioning. He’s since come up short to a pair of very established veterans, but a bad weight miss has sent him packing to Middleweight.
This could go down very strangely. Staropoli pretty much wins by remaining active and rangy, throwing more than his opponent at long range. That may be more difficult against bigger men, but he at least understands how he wins fights. Dolidze, on the other hand, might spend 15 minutes kickboxing the kickboxer for reasons unknown.
Still, Dolidze appears to be bigger and better. Even if he doesn’t take the path of least resistance (takedowns), he still has a solid chance of coming out ahead.
Prediction: Dolidze via decision
Welterweight: Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza
Best Win for Ponzinibbio? Neil Magny For Baeza? Matt Brown
Current Streak: Ponzinibbio returned from a long layoff and big win streak to disaster results back in January, whereas Baeza has won three straight inside the Octagon
X-Factor: How does Ponzinibbio respond from a bad knockout loss?
How these two match up: Violence.
Ponzinibbio is a bruiser. The Argentinian athlete hits very, very hard, ripping calf kicks and sending murderous one-two combinations down the middle. He’s got five-round cardio and solid defensive wrestling in his back pocket as well, but it remains to be seen if Ponzinibbio is still at his best given his layoff and loss.
Baeza is one of Welterweight’s most promising up-and-comers. The MMA Masters-trained prospect glides around the Octagon, showcasing a real veteran knack for effortlessly timing counters and picking opponents apart.
Prior to Ponzinibbio’s loss to Li Jingliang, I would have picked him in a heartbeat — he’s knocked out some really quality opposition. However, the cold hard facts here are that “Gente Boa” is a 34-year-old slugger coming off a bad knockout less than six months ago facing an undefeated prospect.
Maybe Ponzinibbio turns back the clock, but sometimes one has to side with momentum and common sense.
Prediction: Baeza via knockout
Middleweight: Dusko Todorovic vs. Gregory Rodrigues
Best Win for Todorovic? Dequan Townsend For Rodrigues? Josh Fremd
Current Streak: Todorovic is looking to rebound from his first pro loss, while Rodrigues debuts following two wins in LFA
X-Factor: UFC jitters
How these two match up: Two aggressive young Middleweights will throw down.
Todorovic was looking real slick opposite Punahele Soriano … until the Hawaiian started timing his head movement with absolute BOMBS! That defeat aside, Todorovic has thus far proven himself a well-rounded prospect, showing off both slick kickboxing and grinding wrestling.
Rodrigues has only lost once in the last five years, coming up short on “Contender Series.” Otherwise, the striker has been stopping quality competition in legitimate regional shows, priming him for his UFC debut.
I am not ready to write off Todorovic just yet. He faces a dangerous foe with considerable range and power, so the risk of getting caught leaning back definitely exists, but the Serbian athlete seems built for long term success in the Octagon. If the stand up exchanges get too spicy, expect “Thunder” to return to his wrestling roots and win from top position.
Getting back in the win column is the priority here.
Prediction: Todorovic via decision
Middleweight: Tom Breese vs. Antonio Arroyo
Best Win for Breese? Keita Nakamura For Arroyo? Trevor Carlson
Current Streak: Breese came up short last time out, while Arroyo has lost two in a row
X-Factor: Breese is rather inconsistent
How these two match up: More Middleweight action!
At one point, Breese was perhaps United Kingdom’s hottest prospect thanks to a violent 3-0 start to his UFC career. A competitive loss to Sean Strickland sent him to the sidelines and then eventually to 185 pounds, where Breese has since struggled to find consistent success. When he’s on point though, the English athlete is very dangerous on his feet and carries rather heavy hands.
Winless since his “Contenders Series” signing, Arroyo is still searching for that first UFC victory. He’s got some nice range kickboxing skills to compliment his grappling, but thus far, Arroyo has struggled to control where the fight takes place. In two UFC fights, he’s given up 15 takedowns.
Fortunately for Arroyo, Breese is not exactly a dynamic offensive (or defensive) wrestler. On the flip side, Breese is the better striker, and unless Arroyo manages to showcase a new depth to his wrestling, he’s unlikely to be able to mix it up and keep Breese (also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt) uncomfortable.
Instead, Breese continues alternating wins and losses on the strength of his power punching.
Prediction: Breese via decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 28 fight card tonight right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 28: “Rozenstruik vs. Sakai” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 8-9-2
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