UFC Vegas 29 predictions
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Sound the alarm. It’s time for another Korean Zombie fight night.
With respect to Dan Ige, a featherweight contender finding success in one of MMA’s most crowded divisions, Chan Sung Jung established himself as appointment viewing a long time ago and Saturday’s UFC Vegas 29 main event should be no different. This is the eighth straight event that Jung has headlined, going all the way back to 2012.
Treasure these moments, because Jung admitted that his recent loss to Brian Ortega left a kernel of doubt in his mind that he might not continue fighting, and while it could just be a passing thought, it is a reminder that Jung is closer to the end of his career than the middle. Given that we’re likely to see another standup war with Ige tonight, who knows how many of those Jung has left in his legendary career?
Speaking of legendary, heavyweight submission specialist Aleksei Oleinik seeks his 60th pro MMA victory in the co-main event when he takes on Serghei Spivac. Spivac, 17 years Oleinik’s junior, has quietly strung together a solid run in the division with back-to-back wins and three in his past four. Beating Oleinik would vault Spivac ahead of his fellow prospects and once again prevent Oleinik from hitting a rare milestone. Will Oleinik pull it off or will he eventually have to go for the big 6-0 outside of the UFC?
In other main card action, bantamweights Marlon Vera and Davey Grant meet in a rematch five years in the making, featherweights Julian Erosa and Seungwoo Choi look to keep their win streaks alive, Wellington Turman welcomes Bruno Silva to the UFC in a middleweight bout, and veteran welterweight Matt Brown makes UFC appearance No. 28 when he fights Dhiego Lima.
What: UFC Vegas 29
Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas
We’ve reached the point with Dan Ige where it’s not crazy talk when he says that he welcomes a brawl with Chan Sung Jung. I mean, it is crazy to want to trade shots with The Korean Zombie, but it’s not an unrealistic path to victory for Ige anymore.
Long known for his grappling, Ige has really rounded out his standup game, not just developing legitimate KO power but proving that he can win an intelligent striking battle too. He’s gone toe-to-toe with sluggers like Calvin Kattar, Edson Barboza, and Mirsad Bektic and lived to tell about it. Jung is a different beast though.
Willingly going to war with Jung just isn’t smart. Brian Ortega and Jose Aldo, two fighters who defeated Jung, didn’t do it. They outworked and outmaneuvered him. Yair Rodriguez did get into a bomb-fest with Jung, but he only escaped that fight with a win after landing the most insane buzzer beater in MMA history. When Jung brawls, he usually wins.
So hopefully for Ige, he’s just talking himself into the possibility of a standup scrap or he’s playing mind games. Either way, his best path to victory is probably to use just enough striking to keep Jung honest, wear him down against the fence, and get the fight to the ground where he can at least neutralize Jung for stretches.
A lot of that is easier said than done, so I’m going with the most obvious outcome here: Jung and Ige throw down for three rounds before Jung finds a finish in the fourth or fifth.
How to approach this one if you’re young Serghei Spivac? On the one hand, a big part of your game is dependent on taking your opponents down and beating on them with ground-and-pound or softening them up for submissions.
On the other hand, you’re fighting Aleksei freaking Oleinik.
Trying to straight out-grapple Oleinik has never worked out for anyone, so Spivac needs to prioritize his striking over wrestling. He’s been a little hesitant to pull the trigger since joining the UFC a couple of years ago, but the quick-strike potential is there. He should try to emulate the game plan of the past two fighters to defeat Oleinik, Chris Daukaus and Derrick Lewis, and come out of the gates firing.
Oleinik typically knows how to take advantage of opponents who are overly aggressive, dragging them to the mat whether they want to ground fight or not and working his submission magic from there. So Spivac will have to be smart about pressing his advantage, lest he be dissected by Oleinik’s methodical grappling.
Spivac has a ton of potential and he’s another substantial obstacle standing in the way of Oleinik hitting the 60-win mark even though the matchup isn’t terrible for Oleinik stylistically. Still, Spivac should score a knockout here.
It would be very 2021 for Marlon Vera to become the next knockout victim of Davey “English Justin Gaethje” Grant.
Seriously, what has gotten into Grant? Injuries plagued him for years and now at age 35, he’s suddenly become a fan favorite brawler coming off of back-to-back highlight-reel KOs. That’s just not normal. And yet here we are.
As improved as Grant is, I don’t see him having the edge against Vera anywhere. “Chito” is younger, has longer reach, has more power, and he has the mental advantage of having beaten Grant before. It could get interesting on the ground as submissions were Grant’s specialty before he discovered the dynamite in his hands, but even there Vera has the superior skills.
I predict that Vera hurts Grant on the feet and finishes with a submission.
This matchup of lanky featherweights is a sleeper pick for Fight of the Night or we could at least see one fighter pick up a Performance of the Night-worthy finish.
If it’s a finish, it’s probably Julian Erosa who gets it. He’s the more experienced and patient fighter, which usually works for well him as he looks to find that perfect shot to end a fight or an opening to take his opponent down. That can work against him though as sometimes he can wait too long for an opening that never comes. That’s in contrast to Seungwoo Choi who will push the pace early in this one and keep the volume coming for three rounds.
This pick really comes down to whether or not you think Erosa can put Choi away. While Choi is somewhat of a wild card at this stage of his career, he’s made substantial improvements to his defense and that should help him weather the storm against the cagey Erosa. There might be some scary moments for the Korean prospect, but Erosa will have trouble sealing the deal.
That means we’re going to the judges and I expect Choi’s constant activity and pressure striking to win the day there.
I’m predicting some classic middleweight screwiness here, which is what happens when you toss a couple of lesser known fighters onto the main card like this, including one who is making his UFC debut after not competing for two and a half years.
That would be Bruno Silva, a castoff from The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 who has been waiting a long time to compete in the UFC since his brush with the promotion in 2014. Outside of an exhibition loss on that show, “Blindado” has gone 14-1 over the past nine years and he brings a fan-friendly standup style to the APEX. On the flip side, he’s had his struggles on the ground, and that’s where Wellington Turman needs to go if he wants to make things easier for himself on Saturday.
Turman has an excellent chin, but coming off of the first knockout loss of his career he shouldn’t take too many chances. He’s a strong fighter with good ground skills and he should be shooting early and often to prevent Silva from getting off with his striking. If he plays around at all, Silva will shut Turman down in a hurry.
Though Turman has struggled against strong UFC competition so far, I like him as a future top-15 guy at 185 pounds and I think he’s going to surprise some people here.
Turman by submission, barring any other strange middleweight happenings.
Dhiego Lima has come along nicely as a fighter since his two stints on The Ultimate Fighter, but I don’t think he has the extra gear needed to beat Matt Brown. “The Immortal” has been doing this for a long time and it takes more than just solid technical skills to put him away. You either have to have the same supernatural toughness as him or be a high-level fight finisher. Lima is neither of those.
It’s possible that Lima picks Brown apart with counters. Brown turned 40 this year and it’s logical to assume that he’s lost a step. However, he has the size to get in Lima’s face and muck things up, so we have to see how effective Lima is when he’s drawn into a true dogfight. I have my doubts.
If it’s Brown setting the tone, this should be an entertaining fight, one that Brown finishes with strikes in the first or second round.