UFC Vegas 91 predictions – MMA Fighting

Don’t blame Matheus Nicolau and Alex Perez for the lack of buzz around the UFC Vegas 91 main event.

The original headliner for Saturday was to feature Manel Kape facing Nicolau in a rematch, with the expectation that a win for Kape would vault him towards a title shot. Unfortunately for all parties involved, Kape suffered a rib injury and was forced to withdraw, the latest in a long line of bout cancellations for the would-be contender.

So in steps Perez—no stranger to cancellations himself—a one-time title challenger in the midst of an unfortunate three-fight slump. With Nicolau also coming off of a loss, it’s understandable that this matchup isn’t exactly lighting up social media.

Still, top-ranked flyweights are not to be taken for granted, and with No. 14-ranked light heavyweight Ryan Spann competing in the co-main event, and fringe flyweight contenders Ariane da Silva (formerly Lipski) and Karine Silva also featured, there are a smattering of intriguing fights to sink your teeth into tonight.

What: UFC Vegas 91

Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas

When: Saturday, April 27. The seven-fight preliminary card begins at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+, followed by a six-fight main card at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+.

Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook

(Numbers in parentheses indicate standing in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings)

Matheus Nicolau (T10) vs. Alex Perez (12)

Matheus Nicolau and Alex Perez both utilize a ton of movement to get where they want to go, but they differ on the path. For Nicolau, he does his best work on the outside, poking at his opponents and mixing in his grappling when the situation calls for it. Perez circles until he can find an opening to rush in, then he attacks with combinations and takedowns. It’s going to be a 25-minute chess match when these two step into the cage.

As cliché as that sounds, it’s the most accurate way to break this one down. That’s not to say that neither is capable of finding a finish, just that it’s more likely these two favor tactics over bonus hunting. Add in the sterile APEX environment and the recipe is there for a fun, if somewhat low-key main event.

I always favor Nicolau if he goes to the scorecards. He’s a point fighter, which doesn’t go over well with the fans, but again, what fans? It’s the APEX! Nicolau will be at his workmanlike best, frustrating Perez from range and using his all-around game to take a decision.

Pick: Nicolau

Ryan Spann (14) vs. Bogdan Guskov

Is it just me or does Ryan Spann getting a third chance to beat Anthony Smith feel a little excessive?

OK, maybe Bogdan Guskov isn’t identical to Smith, but you can’t blame anyone if they have a sense of déjà vu seeing Spann standing across from another member of the bald brotherhood so soon after his unsuccessful Smith rematch.

Guskov is your classic light heavyweight slugger. He wants to circle to get into range to throw a heavy right hand and relies on a sturdy chin to keep himself out of trouble. That might not be the best strategy against the speedy Spann.

Though Spann has been on the wrong end of his fair share of highlight-reel knockouts, I give him the technical and defensive edge in this matchup. Spann should also consider changing levels here and grounding the dangerous Guskov before the standup action gets too hairy.

Spann by submission.

Pick: Spann

Ariane da Silva vs. Karine Silva

The name of the game here: Physicality.

Ariane da Silva (f.k.a. Ariane Lipski) has been the best version of herself in her past three fights. “The Queen” joined the UFC in 2019 with a reputation for high-octane offense, but it took time for her to find her footing. Now, she’s won three straight and four of her past five fights with timely striking and punishing pressure.

She can do some damage on the ground too, but shouldn’t play around with her fellow Brazilian down there. Karine Silva has been a submission machine lately and she’ll aim to take da Silva down and attack on the mat. Unlike some of Silva’s previous opponents, I’m not sure she can just hulk da Silva onto her back.

Silva can surprise on the feet. She has raw strength and confidence in her hands, which could result in a few thrilling exchanges. Still, her main goal should be to challenge da Silva’s submission defense.

Da Silva has never been submitted, but Silva has never won by decision. Something has go to give. I have Da Silva on points.

Pick: Da Silva

Austen Lane vs. Jhonata Diniz

I don’t like this one for Austen Lane at all.

The former football player has certainly made a name for himself as a scorecard-adverse, hard-hitting heavyweight that is guaranteed to deliver a highlight, win or lose. In this instance, I get the sense that Lane is being used to put over recent Contender Series signing Jhonata Diniz.

A former kickboxer, Diniz’s skills have translated well into MMA to the tune of six knockouts in six pro bouts. Lane likes to use his long legs to establish the kicking game, but that’s probably not a good idea against Diniz. The more combat-tested Diniz is going to walk Lane down and unless Lane has been relentlessly drilling takedowns, they’ll likely stay on the feet where Diniz wants to operate.

There’s a chance that Lane throws caution to the wind and gets to Diniz first, but the safe pick here is Diniz by KO/TKO in Round 1.

Pick: Diniz

Tim Means vs. Uros Medic

Uros Medic prefers to fight on the outside, utilizing crisp footwork to set up counters, while Tim Means is going to be in his face from the opening bell.

You have to like Medic’s chances of scoring a knockout here. Means has an excellent chin, but it’s weathered, and Medic will be eager to chip away at it until it cracks. If he can set the tone early and force Means to fight his fight, he can definitely end this one inside the distance.

On the other side, Means has to pressure, pressure, and pressure some more to give Medic no chance of establishing a rhythm. This is Means’ 29th UFC appearance and at this point in his career, he always fights like he’s in a hurry. I expect Means’ game plan will be to bury Medic with volume striking.

It’s a solid strategy that has worked well for Means in many of his wins and I expect it to carry him to a decision nod here.

Pick: Means

Jonathan Pearce vs. David Onama

First off, finger wag of shame for David Onama after he missed weight by over two pounds on Friday. If it’s a medical issue, then hopefully Onama is OK; if it’s a diet or discipline issue, then that has to be fixed. Because when Onama is on, he’s one of the most exciting up-and-coming fighters at 145 pounds.

Jonathan Pearce will make you pay if you’re not fully locked in. He throws everything to finish and approaches from some unexpected angles, too. Look for him to push the pace early to check if Onama is showing any ill effects from a botched weight cut. That’s a dangerous game to play though considering how hard Onama hits.

You also have to factor in Onama’s athleticism, which is a cheat code of sorts. He’s capable of pulling off moves that 90 percent of the division wouldn’t even attempt. I’m just concerned with whether or not his weight miss affected his cardio. If Pearce drags him into deep waters, that could be a wrap.

Onama has enough in the tank to go the distance, but Pearce outworks him for the win.

Pick: Pearce

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Ketlen Souza def. Marnic Mann

Chris Padilla def. James Llontop

Ivana Petrovic def. Liang Na

Gabriel Benitez def. Maheshate

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