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UFC Fight Night: Nicolau v Perez Predictions

Elite flyweights Matheus Nicolau and Alex Perez seek to get back on track when they trade leather in the main event of UFC Vegas 91 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


Elite flyweights Matheus Nicolau and Alex Perez seek to get back on track when they trade leather in the main event of UFC Vegas 91 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Lethal light heavyweights Ryan Spann and Bogdan Guskov go to war in the co-headliner at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas while top-15 women’s flyweights Ariane Lipski and Karine Silva face off in the featured bout.

Plus, former NFL star Austen Lane welcomes Jhonata Diniz to the Octagon in a heavyweight collision, Uganda’s David Onama faces Jonathan Pearce at featherweight and veteran Tim Means meets Uros Medic in a welterweight contest.

MAIN CARD (from 1 AM Sunday SA time):

Matheus Nicolau (1.52) v Alex Perez (2.60) (Flyweight)

Capping off the month of April’s UFC action is an interesting and important clash of top 10 flyweights.

Nicolau (19-3-1) was originally set to square off against Manel Kape but the Angolan-born Portuguese fighter was forced to withdraw due to a rib injury. Enter Perez (24-8), who comes in on short notice desperately seeking to return to the form that saw him compete for the title in 2020.

Nicolau saw his six-fight win streak snapped by a first-round knockout loss to Brandon Royval last April. It was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for the Brazilian as the victory earned Royval a title shot. Now Nicolau, ranked fifth, looks to get back on the horse in his quest for a championship opportunity.

Perez has jumped on the opportunity to face a top contender in a main event as he’s stuck in a rut. The American has lost three fights in a row and hasn’t tasted victory in almost four years. It must be said, though, that those losses came against the absolute top of the food chain at 125 pounds.

The skid started with a submission loss to then-champion Deiveson Figueiredo in 2020, followed by a tapout loss to current kingpin Alexandre Pantoja two years later and a decision defeat to Muhammad Mokaev in March. Still ranked eighth, this is a golden opportunity for him to turn his fortunes around.

Flyweights are known for their speed and well-roundedness and this weekend’s headliners are prime examples of this. Nicolau has 10 stoppage wins split down the middle while Perez has five knockouts and seven submissions to his name. This fight, however, will likely go to a decision.

It’s no surprise that Nicolau’s the favourite. Getting caught by Royval last time out is nothing to be ashamed of and doesn’t erase the run he’d been on or the fact that he’s in his prime. In contrast, Perez’s best days are behind him, plus he’s at a disadvantage as a short-notice replacement.

As a result, expect Nicolau to bounce back and improve his record as a favourite inside the Octagon to 6-1.

Prediction: Nicolau by decision.

Best Bet: Nicolau by decision at 3.40.

Alternative Bet: Over 4.5 rounds at 2.14 or Nicolau at 1.52.

Ryan Spann (1.50) v Bogdan Guskov (2.64) (Light Heavyweight)

The judges will be mere spectators in the co-main event as these two are prolific finishers.

Spann (21-9) has 18 finishes to his name, including a dozen submissions, whereas Guskov (15-3) boasts a 100% finish rate, which includes 13 knockouts. It’s no surprise, then, that the former will seek to take the fight to the ground while the latter will look to keep it standing.  

Tall and rangy, Spann’s size and experience will be key factors in this fight. He’s fought a murderer’s row at 205 pounds since his UFC debut back in 2018 and has notable wins over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Ion Cutelaba and former title challenger Dominick Reyes.

A staple in the top 15, eleventh-ranked “Superman” comes into this clash on his first losing streak since 2017 having dropped his last two to Nikita Krylov and Anthony Smith. The fight against Smith could’ve gone either way, though, with Spann ending up on the wrong side of a split decision.

Unranked Guskov is still unproven inside the Octagon. He lost to his only high-calibre opponent to date, Volkan Oezdemir, by submission in his promotional debut and bounced back with a first-round knockout win over Zac Pauga in February.

Spann is defensively sound on the feet, having only been knocked out once in the UFC, by Johnny Walker back in 2020. Add the fact that he’ll have a three-inch reach advantage and it’s unlikely that he’ll be caught by Uzbekistan-born Guskov.

Instead, he’ll dictate how the fight plays out and should come away with a finish.

Prediction: Spann by stoppage.

Best Bet: Spann by KO/TKO/Submission/DQ at 1.62.

Alternative Bet: Spann at 1.50.

Ariane Lipski (2.24) v Karine Silva (1.67) (Flyweight)

Streaking Brazilians on a collision course collide in the featured bout.

Both women have been making serious waves to work their way into the flyweight top 15. No. 12-ranked Lipski (17-8) submitted Casey O’Neill in December to make it three wins in a row while No. 13-ranked Silva (17-4) is on an eight-fight win streak.

Known as “Killer”, Silva is a pure predator who’s claimed all of her victories inside the distance (nine knockouts and eight submissions). As her record suggests, she’s a well-rounded wrecking ball but it’s on the ground where she truly shines, having tapped out her last four opponents.

Lipski won’t take a backward step. Though not as deadly as her opponent, “The Queen of Violence” has zero fear and won’t die wondering. Constant movement and high volume on the outside are the keys to victory for the 30-year-old.

Having said that, Silva is so slick with her takedowns and jiu-jitsu that she should be able to tie up her countrywomen and sync in a fight-finishing submission.

Prediction: Silva by submission.

Best Bet: Silva by submission at 3.40.

Alternative Bet: Silva at 1.67.

Austen Lane (3.10) v Jhonata Diniz (1.38) (Heavyweight)

Don’t blink when these two heavyweight finishers slug it. Neither man has gone to a decision while both are looking for their first win inside the Octagon, setting the table for a heavy-duty shootout. 

Former Jacksonville Jaguars star Lane (12-4 with 11 knockouts and a submission) transitioned from American football to mixed martial arts in 2017 and got the call-up to the UFC after six straight wins.

The 36-year-old had a pair of bouts with Justin Tafa last year, the first coming to a premature end due to an accidental eye poke and the second seeing Lane getting laid out. A dynamic 6’6″ athlete, he’s hoping the third time’s the charm. 

Diniz is a perfect 6-0 with all of his wins coming by knockout in the first round. A former kickboxer, he has a good mixture of power and output but most importantly, he’s a far more technical striker than Lane, leaving him poised to make a successful UFC debut.

Prediction: Diniz by knockout.

Best Bet: Diniz by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.50.

Alternative Bet: Diniz by KO/TKO/DQ in round 1 at 1.74.

Jonathan Pearce (1.58) v David Onama (2.42) (Featherweight)

One of African MMA’s most exciting prospects, Uganda’s Onama (11-2) is a must-watch fighter with a kill-or-be-killed mindset.

Aptly nicknamed “The Silent Assassin”, he’s claimed all of his wins by stoppage. Seven of them are by knockout, including his latest triumph over Gabriel Santos last June, which saw him bounce back from a loss to Nate Landwehr.

Pearce (14-5), a dangerous striker with solid wrestling to boot, had a five-fight win streak ended by Joanderson Brito last time out. “JSP” looked in control of the fight but dropped his guard for a moment and was caught with a fight-ending ninja choke in the second round.

Having learned a valuable lesson, Pearce promises to be more defensively responsible, which should see him get his hand raised against a very hittable Onama in a fun fight.

Prediction: Pearce by decision.

Best Bet: Pearce at 1.58.

Alternative Bet: Pearce by decision at 3.00.

Tim Means (3.50) v Uros Medic (1.32) (Welterweight)

The main card gets underway with an intriguing welterweight match-up pitting a UFC stalwart in Means (33-15-1) against a fighter still trying to prove himself in the promotion in Medic (9-2).

One of the most experienced fighters in UFC history, Means is a war horse who, despite being 40 years of age, still has some kick left in him as he proved with his TKO win over Andre Fialho in their Fight of the Night last September.

Medic has blown hot and cold in his UFC career. He’s 3-2 inside the Octagon and 1-1 at 170 pounds, a TKO win over Matthew Semelsberger being offset by a submission loss to Myktybek Orolbai last time out.

All told, Means is durable, well-rounded and crafty and will have a four-inch reach advantage, making “The Dirty Bird” a juicy underdog.

Prediction: Means by knockout.

Best Bet: Means at 3.50.

Alternative Bet: Means by KO/TKO/DQ (check markets).

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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