UFC Fight Night Tips and Picks: Holly Holm Set to Return
The UFC returns to Texas this weekend as two of bantamweight’s top contenders headline a Fight Night card at the AT&T Center. Holly Holm also makes her return this Saturday night and we’ve put together our UFC picks for the weekend.
Marlon Vera vs. Cory Sandhagen
Two of the main men in the bantamweight division look to establish themselves as the next contenders for the title at 135 lbs, as Marlon Vera and Cory Sandhagen headline the card.
Sandhagen is back in the win column after securing a doctor stoppage TKO over the impressive rising star, Song Yadong. Previous to that win, he did lose to T.J. Dillashaw and Petr Yan in close decisions defeats, and this means the American is 3-3 in his past six fights after also losing to Aljamain Sterling in 2020.
Sandghagen possesses a highlight reel that barely anyone can match. His flying knee knockout against Frankie Edgar and his spinning wheel kick TKO over Marlon Moraes will go down as two of the best knockouts at bantamweight, but he is going to have a tough time doing the same to Vera.
The American has also struggled against submission artists at times in his career, and in facing a black belt in jiu-jitsu like Vera, there is always another chance he slips into an uncomfortable position.
Vera already has an incredibly experienced career in MMA, as he made his debut back in 2011 at just 18 years old. The Ecuadorian has since amassed only seven losses and 20 wins and he is now on a four-fight winning run, including a stunning Performance of the Night victory over Dominick Cruz last August.
It’s a fight that could go either way, but we expect a battle on the feet with Vera likely to use his excellent kicks, just as Sandhagen aims to one-up his opponent in a fight IQ challenge. Either way, we expect it to go the distance.
Fight to go the distance is -132 with FanDuel.
Holly Holm vs. Yana Kunitskaya
At 41 years old, Holly Holm is back in action for just the second time in almost three years, as the former champion looks to get back into the win column against Yana Kunitskaya.
Sadly for Holm, it’s been a rough ride since she stunningly won the title off the seemingly unstoppable Ronda Rousey in 2015 via head kick. The American went on to lose her title to Meisha Tate just five months later and she has since gone on to lose five more fights and win only four of them. In fact, her last win came against Iren Aldana in late 2020 and she has not registered a KO/TKO for almost six years.
As for Kunitskaya, she brings to the table the exact same record as Holm (14-6) and also a black belt in taekwondo. This in itself makes this fight tough to call, but so is the fact that Kunitskaya lost to Aldana but beat Ketlen Vieira just a few months before the latter defeated Holm.
We are picking Holm's experience as the ultimate factor here and for her to get the win on the scorecards.
Holly Holm by points is -110 with FanDuel.
Nate Lanwehr vs. Austin Lingo
The experienced Nate Landwehr meets with a potential future contender, Austin Lingo, on the main card after numerous cancellations for the two in 2023.
Lingo has only 10 fights on his record and has so far won nine through three knockouts, two submissions and four decisions. At the same time, his only defeat came on his UFC debut against Youssef Zalal.
Lingo then went on to defeat Jacob Kilburn via unanimous decision a year later before doing the same against Luis Saldaña. He has, however, not fought in 18 months since that win.
As for Landwehr, he is also on a two-fight winning run and registered his first-ever submission victory in MMA — this time with a sensational anaconda choke over Ľudovít Klein to earn a Performance of the Night bonus.
Despite having an experienced career, Landwehr has been relatively inactive in the past six years, fighting only nine times since late 2017. Lingo, however, has not impressed too much in his time in the UFC and by being a black belt in taekwondo, we expect him to struggle against somewhere with way more tools in the bag.
Nate Landwehr by points is +240 withDraftKings.
Andrea Lee vs. Maycee Barber
10 years separate Maycee Barber and Andrea Lee in age, and all eyes will be on Barber in this one to see if she can establish herself as the next contender for the women’s flyweight title.
Barber has won three in a row since her loss to the current champion, Alexa Grasso, as she has gone on to ease past Jessica Eye and Montana De La Rosa in unanimous decision wins while edging past Miranda Maverick on a split decision.
As for Lee, she has struggled in the past four years, losing four times and beating only Antonina Shevchenko and Cynthia Calvillo, although both were in convincing style.
Barber seems to be one of the next contenders in this weight class at just 24 years old, and we think a win here will get her right on the path to a title shot.
Maycee Barber by points is -110 with DraftKings.
Alex Perez vs. Manel Kape
Two fighters heading into the octagon with very contrasting positions in the form guide sees Alex Perez look to wipe out his two-fight losing run against Manel Kape's three-fight win streak.
A tough start to life in the UFC for Kape saw him lose on points to Alexandre Pantoja and Matheus Nicolau, although he delivered a sensational flying knee against Ode Osbourne soon after. The Angolan then went on to beat Zhalgas Zhumagulov via TKO before defeating David Dvořák on points and in truth, he’s looked pretty flawless since his last loss.
Perez would lose his last two fights via submission against Deiveson Figueiredo and Pantoja and this also means he hasn't tasted a victory in almost three years since his Performance of the Night victory over Jussier Formiga.
At 29, we think Kape is the real deal, and a win here would move him up to #6 in the flyweight rankings and put his name right in the talks of a title shot.
Manel Kape to win by KO/TKO/DQ is +150 with DraftKings.
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