Connect with us


UFC Fight Night: Perez v Taira Predictions

The action will be fast and furious when elite flyweights Alex Perez and Tatsuro Taira face off in the main event of UFC Vegas 93 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


The action will be fast and furious when elite flyweights Alex Perez and Tatsuro Taira face off in the main event of UFC Vegas 93 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Middleweights Ikram Aliskerov and Antonio Trocoli will bring explosiveness to a main card dominated by fights in smaller weight classes in the co-headliner at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

In the featherweight division, Timmy Cuamba takes on Lucas Almeida, with Asu Almabayev and Jose Johnson set to square off at flyweight, while two bantamweight bouts will see Douglas Silva de Andrade and Miles Johns as well as Brady Hiestand and Garrett Armfield go at it.

MAIN CARD (from 4 AM Sunday SA time):

Alex Perez (2.60) v Tatsuro Taira (1.52) (Flyweight)

The past and present of the flyweight division meets the future as former title challenger Perez (25-8) collides with undefeated rising star Taira (15-0) in a compelling main event clash scheduled for five rounds.

An Octagon veteran, Perez made his UFC debut back in 2017 and challenged then-king Deiveson Figueiredo for the title in 2020, losing by first-round submission.

The championship heartbreak was the start of a three-fight losing streak, all of which were against the best the division has to offer, but he got back on track in style with a knockout win over Matheus Nicolau in April. He did so as an underdog and is once again the dog in this one, despite being the higher-ranked fighter.

At 32, he still has plenty of time to earn another crack at the crown but jumps straight back into the action looking to defend his fifth place in the rankings and hand Taira his first career loss.

One of the best prospects at 125 pounds, Taira has never tasted defeat and while he’s mainly known as a grappler, he’s showcased a well-rounded skillset since joining the UFC two years ago.

He’s 5-0 in the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion, capturing two of those wins by submission, two by decision and, most recently, knocking out Carlos Hernandez in December to climb up to 13th in the rankings.

All of the 24-year-old’s hard work has led to this, his first UFC main event and an opportunity to break into the top five. Will he seize the day, or will the wily Perez derail the Japanese blue-chipper?

Perez is undoubtedly the toughest test of Taira’s career to date. A complete competitor (six knockouts and seven submissions) with more than double the experience of his up-and-coming foe, Perez is the perfect litmus test for the prodigy.

Taira, who has four knockouts and seven submissions to his name, is not just impressive inside the Octagon, where he has speed and skill in equal measure, but outside of it as well. He’s as humble, hard-working and calm as can be, so the magnitude of a maiden marquee fight is unlikely to faze him.

Stylistically, Perez throws a bit more volume on the feet, but Taira is the more accurate striker, while he’s also the busier grappler, both in terms of takedown attempts and on the ground, where he’s constantly setting up submissions.

It should be a fun, competitive fight, but Taira’s poise, speed, five-inch reach advantage and strong grappling should see him pick up the biggest win of his career.  

Prediction: Taira by submission.

Best Bet: Taira at 1.52.

Alternative Bet: Taira by submission at 2.30.

Ikram Aliskerov (1.08) v Antonio Trocoli (8.40) (Middleweight)

The co-main event is a mismatch of epic proportions.

Aliskerov (15-1) is a former combat sambo world champion who burst onto the UFC scene in style last year, scoring first-round stoppage wins over Phil Hawes and Warlley Alves. One to keep an eye on, his lone defeat came to undefeated juggernaut Khamzat Chimaev back in 2019.

Trocoli (12-3) is a massive underdog as he replaces Andre Muniz on short notice. One can’t blame him for jumping on the opportunity to make his UFC debut, but he’s fought just once since being suspended for taking a banned substance in 2019, and that was on the regional circuit three years ago.

“Malvado” is nothing more than a lamb to the slaughter as he’ll struggle to take the fight to the ground, which is where he does his best work, and looks set to become Aliskerov’s seventh knockout victim.

Prediction: Aliskerov by knockout.

Best Bet: Aliskerov by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.74.

Alternative Bet: Round 1 KO/TKO/DQ at 3.25.

Timmy Cuamba (1.48) v Lucas Almeida (2.70) (Featherweight)

The featured bout is a proper opportunity for Cuamba (8-2) to show what he’s all about while it’s a chance for Almeida (14-3) to get back in the win column.

Cuamba’s dream of competing in the UFC saw him make a short-notice debut at lightweight against Bolaji Oki in February. “Twilight” gave a good account of himself in a close fight, losing a split decision, and should be at his best this weekend as he returns to his regular weight class with a full training camp behind him.

Almeida (15-3) has taken one step forward and two steps back inside the Octagon, following up a successful promotional debut against Michael Trizano with back-to-back losses against the experienced pair of Pat Sabatini and Andre Fili.

A solid kickboxer, Almeida is ultra-aggressive and lives and dies by the sword. Cuamba is more technical in his approach, which coupled with his strong wrestling and proper preparation, should see him pick up his first UFC win.

Prediction: Cuamba by decision.

Best Bet: Cuamba at 1.48.

Alternative Bet: Cuamba by decision at 3.50.

Douglas Silva de Andrade (2.10) v Miles Johns (1.76) (Bantamweight)

A seasoned veteran in Silva de Andrade (29-5-1 NC) meets a man high on momentum in Johns (14-2).

Silva de Andrade is a stud. The heavy-handed Brazilian boasts 20 career knockouts and a full decade of experience in the UFC. Despite being 38, he still seems to have plenty of fight left in him as he’s won three of four since returning to the bantamweight division in 2021.

Johns, who mixes striking with wrestling, is on a three-fight win streak, all three coming by decision. Balanced and calculated, “Chapo” is a point-fighter on the feet and a grappler who values position over submission.

This is a good piece of matchmaking. In what’s set to be a close fight, the value lies in Silva de Andrade, whose experience and takedown defence make him a good underdog bet.

Prediction: Silva de Andrade by decision.

Best Bet: Silva de Andrade at 2.10.

Alternative Bet: Silva de Andrade by decision at 4.30.

Asu Almabayev (1.18) v Jose Johnson (5.10) (Flyweight)

A dominant grappler with a world of potential, Almabayev (19-2) has won 15 on the trot, including his first two outings inside the Octagon.

The Kazakhstan prospect sticks to his strengths in a very pragmatic and unapologetic manner and it’s thus no secret that he plans to spam takedowns. In saying that, he does so intelligently.

Johnson (16-8), on the other hand, is a tall, rangy striker. He’ll tower over “Zulfikar” and will have a massive seven-and-a-half-inch reach advantage, but don’t get your hopes up about this underdog.

Almabayev is used to being the smaller man and uses his low centre of gravity as a positive as it allows him to get under the hips of his opponent and take him for a ride.

Johnson has questionable takedown defence as well, which led to him getting tapped out by Da’Mon Blackshearin his UFC debut before bouncing back with a win over Chad Anheliger last time out, soexpect Almabayev to seal his 10th submission win.

Prediction: Almabayev by submission.

Best Bet: Almabayev by submission at 1.90.

Alternative Bet: Under 2.5 rounds at 1.65.

Brady Hiestand (2.54) v Garrett Armfield (1.54) (Bantamweight)

Bantamweights are expected to put on a banger in the main card opener.

Runner-up of Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter, Hiestand (7-2) has won both of his UFC bouts since then, showcasing his tenacity to outlast Fernando Garcia and TKO Danaa Batgerel. He hasn’t fought since last April, though, so he could be rusty.

A clean and busy boxer with solid wrestling, Armfield (10-3) has suffered just a single loss in the UFC, which came in his first outing that he took on short notice and up a weight class against featherweight David Onama. He most recently beat Brad Katona, two-time winner of The Ultimate Fighter, in January.

Armfield is the more well-rounded fighter, and his bigger toolkit should see him get the better of “Bam Bam”.

Prediction: Armfield by decision.

Best Bet: Armfield at 1.54.

Alternative Bet: Armfield by decision at 2.80.

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.

More in UFC