Updated: Oct 15
The UFC took a much needed week off to breathe before two gigantic cards to close out the year, and to get us warmed up for it they bring another afternoon fight night headlined by Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo, but those aren’t the only stars. The undercard boasts up and coming talents like Nick Maximov, Piera Rodriguez, Sam Hughes, and more while the main card has fan favorite Cub Swanson and a fight of the night contender in Askar Askarov vs Brandon Royval. Most casual fans tend to overlook fight nights especially when the main fight isn’t a huge name, but these are the cards that typically deliver. See below on why these fights will! Let’s get rolling!
Mike Jackson (+475) vs Pete Rodriguez (-750)
If you click their names above to see each of these fighter's tapology pages, it'd be very brief. They're a combined 5-2 in their professional MMA career, but that doesn't tell the story at all. Mike Jackson is 1-1 with his lone win coming earlier this year by a 1st round disqualification. His most recent fight prior to that was against CM Punk in 2018. Pete Rodriguez is a legitimate fighter who lost his undefeated record on short notice against Jack Della Madalena on debut. He'll win this fight, but I wouldn't bet it. Maybe throw it in a parlay of yours, but I recommend just turning on the card 30 minutes late.
CJ Vergara (+195) vs Tatsuro Taira (-240)
Tatsuro Taira is carrying the UFC banner for Japan at this moment. There are some other Japanese fighters on the come-up, but Taira has the highest potential and his 11-0 record is no fluke. He's only had one UFC fight but succeeded with flying colors in a decision victory over Carlos Candelario. He now faces a similar opponent in Dana White Contenders Series (DWCS) veteran CJ Vergara who looks to turn one UFC victory into two on Saturday. Vergara is similar to Candelario in that they both chain takedowns but aren't phenomenal grapplers, which couldn't be a better matchup for Taira.
At 22, Taira came into the UFC as a phenomenal grappler with beautiful, unorthodox takedowns but his calling card is his grappling on the ground. He has an uncanny ability to reverse positions on the ground and excels scrambling. Both are areas where Vergara could improve and if Vergara looks to chain takedowns of his own he could very well end up on the bottom more often than not. Where Taira needs to improve is his striking. He came in very barebones, striking mainly with single shots. In his UFC debut it looked like he's improved on that, throwing more in combination, and given he's only 22 he should only get better. I like Taira's ability to get finishes on the ground and dominate when the fight goes there. I'll take the favorite in a parlay later, and for the fight to not go to the judges.
Pick: Fight to not go the distance +130 (.5u)
Piera Rodriguez (-185) vs Sam Hughes (+149)
As someone who lives relatively close to Wofford, I have somewhat of a soft spot for Sam Hughes. She was a cross country athlete for Wofford and has since fully embraced MMA. She worked her way up through LFA before making the move to the UFC. It wasn't all glamorous though as she began 0-3 to start her UFC career. She had the cardio and pace to win fights, but her skills weren't refined. It was after that poor run that she decided to move to Texas and train at Fortis MMA with Sayif Saud and has looked like a completely different fighter since then. She's more tenacious and responds well to Saud. Her strikes are more crisp and her takedowns are clean.
Opposite of her is Piera Rodriguez. A more natural striker and definitely more damaging, Piera will look to keep the fight on the feet, dominating with phenomenal boxing. She has some solid kicks in her arsenal, but her bread gets buttered with high volume and powerful boxing combinations. She'll have to pace herself against Sam Hughes or the pressure coming from Hughes could exhaust her, but she should be alright. She's managed to come back from poor first rounds before, which tells me her cardio and intangibles are good. I'll take Sam Hughes though as she's ever improving under Saud and her new training partners to pull the upset and notch another victory.
Pick: Hughes +149 (1u)
Lucas Alexander (+290) vs Joanderson Brito (-400)
Two relative newcomers into the UFC, Lucas Alexander is making his debut while Joanderson Brito is merely 1-1 in his short career. Though Brito only has two fights, he’s been fed to the wolves in those matchups. After losing by unanimous decision to Bill Algeo, Brito came back with his furious style to knockout Andre Fili in 41 seconds in his second fight.
Alexander has fought a much lower level of competition with his last fight being on Anthony Pettis’ promotion exemplifying it. By no means does that mean he’s out of his depth here, but he did take this fight on extremely short notice (10/9). His bread gets buttered at range, and if he’s able to keep Brito at range in this larger octagon he should find success with crippling, diverse leg kicks and a range finding straight right.
The more likely scenario to me is Brito is able to close distance with his explosive style and pace he puts on fighters in the first round. Given Alexander is taking this fight on short notice I don’t expect his cardio to be at 100%, so as Brito wanes throughout the fight so should Alexander. I doubt it gets there though, as we could see another fast finish from Brito as he forces Alexander to fight Brito’s style. Give me Joanderson Brito to win early.
Pick: u1.5 -135 (1u)
Nick Maximov (-145) vs Jacob Malkoun (+115)
2-2 in his short UFC career, Jacob Malkoun now welcomes his most pesky task of his short career. Maximov has losses to Phil Hawes and Brendan Allen but beat AJ Dobson and knockout artist Abdul Razak Alhassan. Maximov is 2-1 in the UFC but his split decision victory was a fluke as I and many others believe Puna Soriano won.
If you’ve watched Maximov fight, you know exactly what we’re going to see. Wrestling, wrestling, wrestling, and more wrestling. He’s a poor striker on the feet and doesn’t have much of a submission game on the mat. That’s about all you need to know about Maximov. He’ll win points by wrestling and holding top control. It’s boring but it’s somewhat effective.
Malkoun is a wrestler himself, which makes this stylistic matchup interesting. The difference is Malkoun has a more complete skill set in the other areas, even though his striking and grappling isn’t top tier. I don’t trust Maximov’s wrestling enough against Malkoun to have any confidence he’ll even win that battle, and I like Malkoun in nearly every other area. Give me Malkoun every day.
Pick: Malkoun +115 (2u)
Raphael Assunção (+265) vs. Victor Henry (-345)
These two fighters combine for the age of 75 and Raphael accounts for 40 of those - and he looks it. Once one of the best bantamweights in the UFC for years, he's now on a four fight losing streak looking to pull an upset win before putting down the gloves. He boasts one of the most well-rounded skillsets of any fighter in the division, but his speed, power, durability, and stamina have all gotten worse with age.
Victor Henry is essentially a younger version of Assuncao. He should be able to push the pace on Raphael using his main strengths that are his speed, volume and jiu-jitsu to his advantage. If he can push Raphael early he could very well knock him out with a quick flurry, and if he doesn't I still favor him as the rounds go on. I don't like the odds on this fight at all, but I am confident that Henry will have his hand raised.
Pick: Henry & Taira MLP -124 (1u)
Mana Martinez (-157) vs Brandon Davis (+133)
Mid-way through the card we have our first kill-or-be-killed fight where the loser likely won’t be in the UFC with another loss. Mana Martinez is 1-1 thus far with his only win coming against Guido Cannetti by split decision, while Brandon Davis is 32 and in his second stint in the UFC after going 2-5 in his first stint a while ago. He lost his first fight back in the UFC by knockout to Batgerel Danaa within 2 minutes. What we should have in this fight is a phenomenal boxing match taking place in the pocket.
Mana Martinez has the distinct power advantage, mixing power shots in wonderfully throughout his combinations. He tends to extend himself in the first round in hopes to knock out the opposition, which is a double-edged sword against Brandon Davis because of Davis’ steady nature. On one hand, Martinez should win the first round heavily, but on the other if Davis survives he should have the endurance and confidence after surviving the first to grow into the next two rounds.
This fight should stay on the feet and take place in the pocket as I said, so we should be in for a banger. I’m just not sure that Brandon Davis can withstand the power shots that he will inevitably take for Martinez, and I think we could have an early finish because of it. I’ll go with Martinez and the fight to not go the distance.
Pick: Martinez -157 (1u) & Fight to not go the distance -110 (1u)
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Misha Cirkunov (+160) vs Alonzo Menifield (-200)
This fight is fairly straightforward. Can Misha Cirkunov take Alonzo Menifield down? If so, he’ll win the fight on the ground. If he can’t, Menifield will knock Menifield out. Cirkunov kicked off his UFC career on a four-fight win streak, but is 2-6 since with losses to some of the best fighters in Glover Teixiera, Johnny Walker, Ryan Spann, Volkan Oezdemir, and others. To delve deeper, six of those eight fights have come by finish in the first round.
Menifield’s career isn’t too dissimilar. At 5-3 in the UFC he has massive wins against Paul Craig and Fabio Cherant, but disappointing losses to Ovince Saint-Preux, Devin Clark, and William Knight. He’s a fantastic striker with some of the best power in the light heavyweight division, and because of that if this fight stays on the feet he’ll likely take Cirkunov’s head off. Unfortunately, Cirkunov will clinch and wrestle the entire fight. Cirkunov’s striking has fallen off a cliff but he’s still unbelievably dangerous on top control if he can get the fight there. Menifield has struggled in the clinch before and might here, but that’s the only place on the feet he has to avoid.
I could see this fight ending by way of knockout for Menifield or submission for Cirkunov, but I highly doubt we go to the cards with both of these fighters typically ending their fights early and getting up there in age. I’ll take the fighter that has shown more in his recent fights against the now one-trick-pony in Cirkunov. Give me Menifield inside the distance.
Pick: Menifield ITD -110 (1u)
Dusko Todorovic (-210) vs Jordan Wright (+169)
Do not get up from your seat once the referee yells ‘fight’. This one likely won’t make the first bell, in fact Wright has only seen the 2nd round twice in his 16 fight career. Wright is a true kill or be killed fighter with a dangerous karate style but leaves himself able to get hit. Todorovic is much the same but implements his wrestling decently. Todorovic does like to stand and bang though and it’s come back to haunt him in fights against Chidi Njokuani where he was knocked out by an elbow from hell and against Puna Soriano where he was knocked out in the first too.
These two should stand at arm’s length from each other and bang it out for as long as this lasts. Because of that, I’m going to have to go with the underdog as this fight should be closer to even for both sides. I’ll go even further on that to say that Wright wins inside the distance to add an extra 30 juice to this pick.
Pick: Wright ITD +200 (1u)
Askar Askarov (-265) vs Brandon Royval (+210)
This is undoubtedly my favorite fight of the night. Askarov and Royval on their day can compete with the best in the world at their division and they’ve shown it! Both have fought Kai Kara-France (Royval won via submission), both have fought Alexandre Pantoja (Askarov won, Royval lost), and the list goes on. These two are established stars in the flyweight division and get it done in completely different ways.
Starting with Askar Askarov, he’s a model of consistency. He’s one of the best wrestlers and grapplers in the division, but has a solid striking game led by a decent jab. It’s much more basic than Royval, but it’s effective when he needs it. What he’ll likely do in this fight, as he does in most, is wrestle. He’ll go for takedowns early and often and given Royval’s mediocre takedown defense he should see success there. Now, if he can hold Royval down when he gets them there he should see a clear, easy path to victory, but that’s a tall task because…
…Royval’s scrambling and activity is nearly unrivaled. From the first minute to the last Royval will be throwing everything he has at the opposition. Whether it’s spinning attacks, mounted guillotines, twisters, he has it all and he’s used to being on his back at times. He can work from there to open up submission opportunities, but he hasn’t faced a wrestler as good as Askar Askarov in his career. He should be the much more damaging striker on the feet as well as a dangerous submission threat on the mat, but will Askarov afford him the opportunities to capitalize?
He might, but the more likely scenario is that Askarov wins by decision. I’m confident in that much, either Askarov will win by decision or Royval wins inside the distance, and for that reason, I’ll take both at plus money.
Pick: Askarov by Decision +135 (1u) & Royval ITD +350 (.5u)
Jonathan Martinez (-211) vs Cub Swanson (+174)
If this fight lives up to expectations we should be in for an absolute banger. Cub Swanson is going down a weight class to 135 at the old age of 38, which is a major x-factor in this fight. To add on to that, he’s shown a lack of durability to the body, an area Jonathan Martinez likes to attack early and often with kicks and punches alike. Neither fighter should take this fight to the mat, so we should see a brutal battle on the feet between these two who have 20 combined knockout victories in their careers.
Swanson looked all but washed up after a four fight losing streak, but has since won 3 of his last 4 - albeit against lower competition - and has looked impressive in the process. His last fight against Darren Elkins might be the best of the bunch, and I am excited to see how he will fare against Martinez. The difference between Elkins and Martinez is a 10-year age difference that comes with speed and power. Swanson has taken a ton of damage in his career and given the volume and variation of Jonathan Martinez’s striking, I doubt he comes out of this test with a victory. Give me Martinez convincingly in the co-main event.
Pick: Martinez & Pete Rodriguez MLP -150 (1u)
Viviane Araujo (+185) vs. Alexa Grasso (-230)
I’m going to be completely transparent with you all, I don’t have too much to say about this fight, so I’ll be short. Both of these fighters are in the middle of a good stretch in their careers and are looking for a title shot with a win in this fight. Alexa Grasso has won four of her last 5 with her lone loss coming to Carla Esparza in 2019. Despite notching her first submission victory of her career in her last fight against Joanne Wood, Grasso will want this fight to take place on the feet, where her volume and efficient striking should pick her up rounds.
Viviane Araujo is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt with good Judo but you wouldn’t know it if you just watched her UFC fights. She’s spent her time in the UFC being a power puncher that just lacks the knockout power to lay opponents to rest. Given her history of not going for takedowns, I doubt she’ll use them here and I expect Alexa Grasso to pick up rounds in what should be a fairly boring main event, all things considered.
Pick: Alexa Grasso in R4, R5, or Decision -115 (1u)
Stay tuned as I continue to put out more UFC content as the year goes along. We also will have plenty of NFL and College Football reactions, best bets, and NBA previews coming your way, so make sure to keep an eye out on our socials below! Finally, thank you for taking the time to check out Happy Hour Sports, and we would love to hear any suggestions and feedback you may have as the platform continues to grow.
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