Las Vegas is getting treated to another sneaky good card tomorrow when UFC Fight Night: Vieira vs. Tate takes over Sin City. Flying under the radar seems to be the new theme of these fight night cards, but I can honestly say, I’m looking forward to these next two quite anxiously. But before I put the cart before the horse, let’s have a look at what makes Saturday’s event so good.
The entire main card is a well-appointed affair with a top tier contender’s bout sitting in the headlining spot and several important matchups that will determine the outer ring of entry level contenders. Will Kyung Ho Kang be able to spoil the spoiler when he takes on the oft underestimated Rani Yahya? Can Joanne Wood shake off the win-one-lose-one aura she’s taken on over the last couple years, or will Taila Santos put her on a proper losing skid? Will Adrian Yanez’s power and speed be enough to overcome the ultra-tough Davey Grant? Can Michael Chiesa stave off the undefeated wolf nipping at his heels in Sean Brady?
This is just a small sampling of the great contests that are scattered throughout this excellent bout sheet. There are plenty of other fights that will no doubt appeal to all sorts of combat appetites, but we’re going to take a look at the four that we feel are the most optimal bets to make on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Miesha Tate vs. Ketlen Vieira
Miesha Tate To Win By Decision +200
Ketlen Vieira didn’t exactly make waves when she arrived on the UFC scene five years ago. With a hard-fought split-decision win over Kelly Faszholz followed up by a unanimous decision win over Ashlee Evans-Smith, she would need a statement win to get noticed, and she achieved that, when she submitted Olympian Sara McMann. Another tough split-decision win over Cat Zingano would cement her spot in the rankings, but her next fight would see her undefeated record broken when Irene Aldana cleaned her clock with a crisp left hook. She would come back with a decision over Sijara Eubanks, but would find another loss at the end of her most recent outing against Yana Kunitskaya.
And that performance was very telling. Kunitskaya took her to task both on the ground and the feet, and it was a grindy, ugly fight. Ketlen was content to settle into a slow pace where she got out struck. Despite the slow, plodding way she approached that fight with Yana, Vieira somehow managed to gas herself out. It should also be noted that she missed weight going into that fight.
Miesha Tate might have been on the shelf for five years, but when she came back to the sport, she did it emphatically with a nice finish of Marion Reneau. She has outstanding wrestling and showed off a much improved striking game, launching hard jabs and combos, being the first to ever finish Reneau. Many wondered what she’d look like when she came back, but that question was quickly answered. Tate also has a phenomenal gas tank (unintentionally funny since Vieira's nickname translates to ‘Phenomenon’). Work rate and conditioning will be the biggest factors in this fight, and Miesha pushes a relentless pace and is always in peak shape. Look for her to dominate the fight.
Michael Chiesa vs. Sean Brady
Michael Chiesa To Win By Decision +300
Both Michael Chiesa and Sean Brady have a lot to prove in this fight. Chiesa will need to show that he learned from his impulsive mistake in the Luque fight, and Brady will need to demonstrate that he can take on top-tier grapplers and still come out on top.
Brady is an imposing figure by welterweight standards, even more so than Chiesa, who fought way too long at lightweight and still looks big for 170. Sean’s undefeated record consisted of regional level talent until his entry to the UFC, and he’s enjoyed a perfect, unblemished record for his entire career. He’s great on the feet and has a very strong submission game. There’s not much to pick apart with him, as he’s made very few mistakes to speak of and pretty much dominates in every fight.
Chiesa has fought at a higher level for the majority of his career, taking on the best at lightweight and was doing well at 170 until he ran into Vicente Luque. No shame in that loss, as Luque is looking more and more like a title contender in the coming year. What seems to be Maverick’s Kryptonite is his willingness to take huge risks with his grappling, often leaving himself unprotected and succumbing to submissions. Of his four losses, all have been by submission and all of them have been chokes. Talk about sticking your neck out!
That said, I still favor Chiesa here because he’s frequently faced bigger opponents and overcome the challenges presented, and because his experience level is much higher. I have a gut feeling that will be the case tomorrow as well. His striking is greatly improved and his grappling is still incredibly lethal. Look for this one to go the distance.
Rani Yahya vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Kyung Ho Kang To Win By Decision +200
Rani Yahya has been playing the spoiler for nearly 20 years. That’s an incredible feat considering he’s just recently turned 37. His grappling is next level and his submission game is lethal. In his last six fights, he’s only lost once (to Ricky Simon). He has impressed even the most discerning fans and pundits, but at some point, especially after 20 years, the edges of a skillset start to come unraveled.
Enter Kyung Ho Kang. This stout fireplug is powerful and has excellent wrestling, something that has foiled Yahya in the past. Yahya depends on the fight reaching the ground, but he may end up facing a very tough challenge with Kang, who has great takedown defense and the better striking to keep those attempts at bay. And if this fight somehow stays on the feet, which is a distinct possibility since grapplers often find themselves strangely compelled to swang and bang, Yahya will lose that battle.
Kang’s two-year absence from activity shouldn’t really factor in since he’s not the one who had COVID earlier in the year (looking at you Rani). This could end up being another big spoiler finish for Yahya, but I’m leaning more toward the physicality of Kang being too much for him.
Joanne Wood vs. Taila Santos
Taila Santos To Win By Decision -150
Jo-Jo Wood (she dropped Calderwood when she got married to her coach, John Wood early this month) has been hit or miss at 125. Her tendency to get too comfortable after a good round, opting to coast a bit rather than keep pushing the pace, has cost her in more than one fight. Both Lauren Murphy and Katlyn Chookagian capitalized on this to get wins over the Scottish striker, who also happens to have pretty decent grappling when she applies herself.
Wood faces a very tough opponent in Taila Santos, a woman who has only had one blip on her impressive 19-fight career. Santos is fresh off a win over Wood’s teammate, Roxanne Modafferi and beat a very good grappler in Gillian Robertson, and Molly McCann before that. Santos has very good, albeit low output striking, but her grappling is outstanding. She is lead blanket heavy in top position and bulldogs her opponents completely. She has legitimate power, too, so Wood will need to bring her A-game if she want to get her arm raised.
This comes down to decision-making and fight IQ, and while Jo-Jo isn’t bad, she has been making some questionable choices lately, choices that Santos hasn’t. Judging from what I’ve observed, Santos is evolving into a very complete fighter that looks like she could be a title contender very, very soon. This fight will likely go the distance.
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