• Rick

UFC Paris Preview - Gane vs Tuivasa

The UFC took a much needed week off after 12 consecutive weeks of fighting, a stretch we at Happy Hour Sports ended +10.69u during! Now overseas in Paris for the first time since MMA was legalized, we have another fight night that could pose as a pay-per-view on a different day. Both the main and co-main events are headlined by the #1 contender of their respective weight class and we have prospects littered throughout this card with Charles 'Air' Jourdain, Benoit Saint-Denis, Michal Figlak, and more that you probably haven't heard of but will know of by the afternoon on Saturday. Lets get started!

Stephanie Egger vs Ailin Perez (+215)

Stephanie Egger’s UFC career has been a roller coaster to say the least. Absolutely lost in her debut against Tracy Cortes, she was able to bounce back against Shanny Young and Jessica Rose-Clark - finishing both. Her last outing was the strangest of them all though. After taking down Mayra Bueno Silva early, she was caught in an armbar and tapped but none of the judges could see it. After much deliberation and crying from Silva, the judges claimed they saw a clear tap and ruled victory for Silva. She’s since posted on Instagram claiming she didn’t tap and there is no evidence she did, so it really is a bizarre situation. Egger, the Muay Thai specialist with a Judo background, re-enters the octagon after just 4 weeks to take on Ailin Perez.

The Argentine is 7-1 (loss is due to an illegal knee) over her professional career with her most recent fights being in the Samurai Fight House, an MMA organization that operates in South America and is a drastic step from even the B-tier competitions. Ready to take her step into the UFC after back-to-back stoppage victories, Perez is a very aggressive fighter who push the pace on Egger early. She does her best damage in the clinch but that’s an area you don’t want to be in against Egger who will throw Perez down consistently if it stays there.

Egger’s career has been unpredictable but I do think she’s levels above Perez from the tape I’ve watched. I can’t take these odds with Egger though, so I’ll actually stay away from this fight.

Pick: No pick (lean Egger)

Jeff Bottari - Zuffa LLC

Khalid Taha vs Cristian Quinonez (-101)

Taha has had quite the obscure UFC record at 1-1-3, but it should be 2-3 because his fight against Bruno Silva was ruled a no-contest due to a failed drug test back in 2019. After 2 unanimous decision losses thereafter, Taha takes the octagon for the first time in more than a year, desperate for a win to keep himself in the UFC. Quinonez is a Dana White Contenders Series veteran who was supposed to make his UFC debut against Youssef Zalal, but was canceled. He's jumped around a handful of competitions and with a record of 16-3 finally gets to make his debut.

Khalid Taha is very durable and will rely on his boxing heavily, trying to keep this fight in the pocket. He’ll have the distinct power advantage but does have a susceptibility to getting taken down. Quinonez likes to stay on the outside and finish combinations with kicks from that range. It comes down to who dictates where the fight takes place. If Quinonez keeps range he could really hurt Taha, whose chin has been in question in previous fights. If Taha does close the distance, I believe Quinonez will grapple and register a few takedowns, scaring Taha out of closing that space. Give me Quinonez straight on the moneyline.

Pick: Quinonez -101 (1u)

Benoit Saint-Denis vs Gabriel Miranda (+215)

Only 1-1 in the UFC, but Benoit has one of the more interesting submission games within the UFC. With victories by Rear Naked Choke, Arm Triangle Choke, Armbar and Kneebar, he boasts a well-rounded Jiu Jitsu game capable of taking anyone out. It’s no secret that his striking is used almost exclusively to set up takedowns and from there end the night of his opposition, but whether you can stop it is a different story. Elizeu Zaleski was able to thwart it and in doing so dominated his fight, but I doubt Gabriel Miranda can and that’s why the line is -280 in favor of Saint-Denis. It's also worth saying that Saint-Denis took that Zaleski fight on short notice AND up a weight class.

Miranda and his beautifully curled mustache enter the UFC after an 11 month layoff from his days fighting in the “Face the Danger” promotion. With 16 submissions on his record as well it’s no secret that he’ll be looking for the neck just as Saint-Denis is, but as we know in MMA - there are levels to quality. While he was able to choke out lower opposition, he’s never faced an opponent with the strength and tenacity like Saint-Denis and that will show on Saturday. Give me Benoit to find the neck and take down the surging prospect.

Pick: Benoit Saint-Denis by Submission +225 (.5u)

Nassourdine Imavov vs Joaquin Buckley (+215)

If there’s a fight to sit down and not take your eyes off, it’s Imavov and Buckley. These two can finish their opponents in a flash and we should have fireworks for however long it lasts. Imavov is 3-1 in his UFC career with his only loss coming by way of majority decision against Phil Hawes, but has recently impressed with a crucifix victory against Edmen Shahbazyan. Now a UFC veteran, Joaquin Buckley stands 5-2 with 6 of those fights coming by stoppage. His jumping spinning back kick seems ages ago now, but the muscular middleweight has held his own with 3 wins over the past 9 months.

Buckley marches forward and throws power shots for as long as his endurance lets him. He has decent staying power throughout fights but his volume doesn’t score him many points unless he tacks on the knockdowns with it. Imavov is a striker himself, but does so in a very different style. He works behind his jab brilliantly and is a much more technical striker. If Imavov can time Buckley’s power shots he should be the first to connect consistently, and given Buckley leaves his chin up he’ll likely get dropped. He’s been knocked out now 3 times in his career and we might see another stoppage here on Saturday. Give me Imavov.

Pick: Imavov / Saint-Denis MLP -120 (1u) & u2.5 -145 (.5u)

Josh Hedges - Zuffa LLC

Fares Ziam vs Michal Figlak (-192)

Fares Ziam might not have been able to stop the Terrance McKinney hype train, but he was able to stop Jamie Mullarkey’s. 2-2 in his UFC career now with a great win over Mullarkey but a bad loss to Don Madge in debut, Ziam looks for consistency now as he tries to solidify himself in the UFC. His test gets no easier though as he welcomes UFC newcomer but undefeated Michal Figlak. With a lot of hype behind years of dominating in Cage Warriors, Figlak can make a quick leap towards the rankings with an impressive victory.

Figlak is a fundamentally sound fighter starting with fantastic boxing, mixing up his attacks to the body, picking his shots, and showing good defense. He's a solid wrestler when needed but he should keep this fight standing. Fares Ziam is the opposite to Figlak in that he’s much more raw. He has some of the pieces to make him successful starting with a solid kickboxing repertoire, but lacks knockout power to keep opponents honest. Figlak will keep the pressure on Ziam and force this fight into boxing range where he will dominate. It’s a lot of juice to take, but I’ll go with Figlak straight up to come out with a victory here.

Pick: Figlak -192 (1u) & Figlak / Gane MLP -126 (1u)

Dustin Stoltzfus vs Abusupiyan Magomedov (-275)

Finally notching his first UFC victory after 3 losses to very solid opponents in Kyle Daukaus, Gerald Meerschaert, and Rodolfo Vieira, Stoltzfus is given no easy task now as he looks to dismantle the hype train Magmodeov. At 24-4-1 and 31 years of age, Magomedov is incredibly experienced and has shown the ability to dominate wherever the fight goes. With multiple wins by Guillotine or Rear Naked Choke and knockouts on the feet or by ground and pound, he has the versatility to take the fight wherever Stoltzfus wants to.

While he does have the chokes to his name so it’s in his arsenal, Magomedov is a natural striker who attacks all 3 levels and switches stances fluidly. While he can win this fight anywhere, his easiest path to victory is on the feet at range, where he should have a sizable advantage. Stoltzfus wins his rounds with cage control and grappling but that game plan won’t work against Magomedov. The only question mark surrounding him is that he hasn’t fought in 2 years because of cancellations, but it’s not because he’s hurt, ill, or other reasons.

Pick: Magomedov in R3 or Decision +140 (1u)

Charles Jourdain vs Nathaniel Wood (+120)

Charles ‘Air’ Jourdain might have lost in a banger to Shane Burgos, but the speed and entertainment value he brings to the octagon can’t be questioned. Lightning fast with body shots that make me squirm watching, he boasts the rare combination of speed and power. Nathaniel Wood on the other hand recently reminded us just how good he can be after a 2 -year layoff as he dominated Charles Rosa over three rounds back in July. He destroyed Rosa in a 30-26 victory blending kicks with his boxing seamlessly. With both of these fighters near the rankings, this fight could give the winner a number next to their name if they put the other to sleep.

Both of these fighters have their fair share of submission victories, but I highly doubt we see this fight on the mat by any way other than a knockdown. Both fighters are fantastic boxers with different x-factors - Jourdain has the power advantage on his hands, but Nathaniel Wood’s kicks open up his boxing phenomenally. That’s not to say Jourdain doesn’t have kicks because he does have snapping kicks to all 3-levels, but he doesn’t mix it with his boxing combinations as well. The odds for this fight are exactly where I’d put them - a slight lean to Jourdain. Given the speed and power of his boxing and the forward pressure he should be able to implement, I think Jourdain wins over the course of 3 rounds.

Pick: Jourdain -148 (1u)

Jeff Bottari - Zuffa LLC

William Gomis vs Jarno Errens (+182)

Another UFC newcomer, Frenchman William Gomis enters the fold on the main card boasting an 8 fight win streak including 6 finishes. Fighting in 6 different competitions over his last 6 fights, Gomis has shown the determination to take on anyone he’s given and will have a tough test in The Netherlands’ Jarno Errens. Also making his UFC debut, Errens hasn’t had the run that Gomis has, and is 1-1-2 over his last 4 fights. While he’s jumped around competitions in the world, he hasn’t seen the dominance Gomis has.

As it comes to styles, Gomis has a Sanda striking background but loves to utilize trip takedowns due to a lack of close-range striking. At range he’s dangerous with those patented Sanda long, debilitating kicks but if Errens is able to close that distance and make him uncomfortable he could see success. With a Judo background and solid boxing to complement it, if Errens can get on the inside and utilize that boxing and potentially implement a takedown he could end it on the mat. I’ll take the sizable underdog to get it done.

Pick: Errens +182 (.5u)

Nasrat Haqparast vs John Makdessi (+180)

There was a time not long ago that Nasrat Haqparast was touted as the next potential title challenger. Those days are long gone as he’s lost his last 2 fights and 3 of his last 5. With those losses coming to Bobby Green, Drew Dober, and Dan Hooker, he failed all of his litmus tests to determine whether he belongs in the top-10. Still only 27 and looking to reinvent himself, he’s offered John Makdessi to get right. Only having fought twice over the past 3 years, Makdessi is on the tail end of his long and illustrious UFC career dating back to 2010. His most notable fight was in a loss to Donald Cerrone in his prime, where a head kick broke his jaw and forced him to retire.

Unlike Magomedov’s layoff that wasn’t due to his health, Makdessi has had a plethora of injuries throughout his. He’s a pure boxer that has a flashy backfist he throws a little too often, and he does add some decent calf kicks in the standup. Haqparast is cut from a similar cloth as Makdessi in that he is a good volume boxer, but what separates him is his technique and the ability to keep pressure on opponents and keep the pace for 15 minutes. We don’t know what form of John Makdessi we’ll get given the layoffs and age but I expect Haqparast to get it done and bounce back.

Pick: Haqparast R3 or Dec -110 (1u)

Josh Hedges - Zuffa LLC

Alessio Di Chirico vs Roman Kopylov (-112)

Di Chirico has been in and around the UFC for a number of years now, but has had very little success as of late. 1-4 in his last 5 fights with the lone win coming over Joaquin Buckley, Di Chirico faces Kopylov who is a putrid 0-2 in the competition. Having only fought twice over the past 4 years due to cancellations, the 32-year-old Kopylov is desperate to get back into the octagon to remind Dana why he has a contract in the first place. I’m not sure why this fight is placed as the 3rd largest on the card, but we should have an entertaining fight at least.

Far removed from Fight Night Global, Kopylov has looked poor in his UFC time - highlighted most by poor endurance. Prior to the UFC he was a knockout artist with dynamite in his hands, but we haven’t seen that with the step up in competition. Di Chirico won’t stand at range much if he’s smart, he should initiate the clinch and rack up small strikes there as usual. He has solid takedowns and defense to complement it and if he can avoid the dangerous boxing of Kopylov over the first two rounds he should coast to a decision victory.

Pick: Di Chirico -108 (.5u) & Di Chirico in R3 or Dec +165 (.5u)

Robert Whittaker vs Marvin Vettori (+185)

The Middleweight division is in an interesting position at the moment. Israel Adesanya is the clear #1 and no matter what anyone tells me, Robert Whittaker is the clear #2. Alex Pereira may be fighting Adesanya for the belt, but that’s as much a promotion that the UFC knows it can sell than anything else. Having beaten all of the top contenders in Middleweight including Gastelum, Cannonier, Till, Yoel Romero x2, Uriah Hall, and more but losing to Adesanya twice, we know just how good Whittaker is. But what is next for the New Zealand native? Marvin Vettori comes in as the rightful underdog after beating Paolo Costa handedly, but he’s also lost to Adesanya recently. Does the winner of this get Adesanya again assuming Pereira loses? It’s hard to say. But here’s how I believe the fight will break down:

If Vettori can get into the clinch and notch a takedown or two he will win. The problem lies in that it’s his only path to victory. The staple of Vettori’s game is relentless pressure wrestling and while his boxing is only average he does mix it well with takedown attempts to get deep in. He’ll be hard-pressed to log one as Whittaker has shown some of the best takedown defense in the sport, thwarting nearly everyone including Yoel Romero. Whittaker has phenomenal combinations starting with his jab and ending with a brutal head-kick and if he can land it will stun Vettori, but I don’t expect either to be knocked out in this one. Whittaker is starting to get old - older than his 31 years would indicate - but he’s not slowing down too much yet. I don’t think the line should be this large because of Vettori’s ability to impose his style, I think this is much closer to a pick ‘em. I’m not overly confident in Vettori to pull out the win but there is too much value for me to pass up on sprinkling on the dog.

Pick: Vettori +180 (.5u)

Ciryl Gane vs Tai Tuivasa (+405)

If there’s one bet I would’ve put my mortgage on with zero doubt of losing the bet, it’s that Ciryl Gane wouldn’t get outwrestled by Francis Ngannou. Boy am I glad I don’t have a mortgage because that’s exactly what happened throughout the championship fight. Now picking himself up, the UFC grants him their finest heavyweight prospect and a fan favorite in Tai Tuivasa. A traditional heavyweight by most accounts, Tai has ascended quickly since his victory against Greg Hardy, beating Augusto Sakai and Derrick Lewis by stoppage. He receives by far his toughest test to date in Ciryl Gane, a test almost every heavyweight does not want to endure.

A unicorn among heavyweights, Gane moves like he’s a lightweight. It’s rare you see heavyweights move on the balls of their feet like Gane nor have his stamina, and given that he pairs that with one of the most well-rounded MMA skill-sets he’s a tough match for anyone. He’s brilliant at throwing leg kicks and keeping his range to avoid the traditional heavyweight hook that’ll end anyone’s night, and is able to put the pressure on some of these bigger guys round after round. With an 8-inch reach advantage he’ll be able to do just that against Tai.

When it comes to Tuivasa, he’s refined his game throughout his ascension and has the ability to put Gane headfirst into the canvas like he did Derrick Lewis, but the speed, range, endurance, and athleticism of Gane will be highlighted in every minute of this fight. The odds in this fight are gigantic and are scary to take because of Tuivasa’s ability to separate opponents from consciousness at any moment. I’m fairly confident Gane is able to mitigate risk throughout and tire Tuivasa, knocking him down and winning by TKO later in the fight. Give me Gane inside the distance!

Pick: Gane ITD -150 (1.5u)

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