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UFC Fight Night: Ribas v Namajunas Predictions

Former two-time strawweight champion Rose Namajunas returns to take on Amanda Ribas in a pivotal flyweight main event showdown at UFC Vegas 89 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


Former two-time strawweight champion Rose Namajunas returns to take on Amanda Ribas in a pivotal flyweight main event showdown at UFC Vegas 89 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The event at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas has a dash of South African flavour to it as Cameron Saaiman squares off against the undefeated Payton Talbott.

Elsewhere on the main card, Karl Williams and Justin Tafa trade leather in a heavyweight tilt and Edmen Shahbazyan and AJ Dobson meet at middleweight, plus there are two featherweight fights with Billy Quarantillo battling Youssef Zalal and Fernando Padilla facing Luis Pajuelo.

MAIN CARD (from 4 AM Sunday SA time):

Amanda Ribas (2.80) v Rose Namajunas (1.45) (Flyweight)

Having ruled as the strawweight queen twice, Namajunas (11-6) has her sights set on conquering a new division ten pounds north at 125 pounds.

One of the most popular fighters in the UFC, technical and tenacious “Thug” plans to take full advantage of her chance to shoot straight into the top 10 of her new weight class.

Ribas (12-4) is equally determined to seize the day. It’s a massive fight for the ninth-ranked Brazilian as it’s her first main event and highest calibre opponent to date.

Namajunas is a future Hall of Famer, a decorated veteran who at 31, still has plenty of years ahead of her in mixed martial arts.

After being dethroned by Carla Esparza in 2022, she made the move up to flyweight and while she looked good, she was outpointed by top contender Manon Fiorot in her first fight in her new weight class last September.

Deciding to stay put, she’s back in the main event where her tactical expertise and vast experience of high-profile five-round fights give her a significant advantage over Ribas.

The American ace has gone five full rounds on four occasions and won three of those fights. Adept at pacing herself and fighting smart, her fight IQ will be tough for Ribas to overcome.

Skill-wise, she’s the total package. She’s a sharp, slick and fearless striker whose speed, footwork and technique are top-tier and she’s a highly skilled grappler.

She’s finished seven of her 11 wins (two knockouts and five submissions) but her last stoppage win was her title triumph over Zhang Weili in 2021.

Ribas is a gamer. She’s finished seven of her 12 wins (three knockouts and four submissions), including a highlight reel TKO of Luana Pinheiro in her last fight last November.

The 30-year-old has all the talent in the world but inconsistency has stopped her from breaking into the truly elite level where Namajunas resides. Having traded wins and losses in her last six fights, she’s looking to bag back-to-back wins for the first time since 2020.

She has good power, but Namajunas has fought better and harder punchers and has never been stopped by strikes, while she’s only been submitted once, 10 years ago by Esparza in The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 final.

Therefore, she’s unlikely to finish her decorated foe and also unlikely to outpoint and outsmart her in a tactical battle, leaving Namajunas poised to pick up the win.

Prediction: Namajunas by decision.

Best Bet: Namajunas by decision at 3.50.

Alternative Bet: Over 3.5 rounds at 1.80.

Karl Williams (1.52) v Justin Tafa (2.60) (Heavyweight)

It’s grappler versus striker in the co-main event.

Williams (9-1) hasn’t been all that exciting inside the Octagon, grinding out decision victories over Lukasz Brzeski and Chase Sherman in his first two bouts in the promotion, but his grappling style has proven successful as he’s on a six-fight win streak overall. It also sees him enter this scrap as a sizeable favourite.

Tafa (7-3), in turn, is a knockout artist. All of his wins are by KO, and he’s scored three first-round stoppage wins in his last four outings, most recently packing up Austen Lane last September. “Bad Man” isn’t the best athlete but then, neither is his opponent, and unlike Williams, he’s a proven Octagon warrior.

If Williams can take Tafa down, we could be in for a slow, uneventful affair. Fortunately, Tafa has solid takedown defence, which, coupled with his knack for finding fight-finishing punches, makes the big New Zealander a juicy underdog pick.

Prediction: Tafa by knockout.

Best Bet: Tafa by KO/TKO/DQ at 3.15.

Alternative Bet: Tafa at 2.60.

Edmen Shahbazyan (1.48) v AJ Dobson (2.70) (Middleweight)

A prospect gone pear-shaped, Shahbazyan (12-4) seeks to get back on track in the featured bout.

“The Golden Boy” is 1-4 in his last five fights, though it must be said he faced high-calibre opponents, including Derek Brunson, Nassourdine Imavov and Jack Hermansson. Dobson (7-2) is not on that level. At his best, Shahbazyan is a savage who’s finished all but one of his wins, with 10 of his victories coming by knockout.

Dobson has very much flown under the radar. That’s what happens when you lose your first two fights and break your UFC duck with a lacklustre decision win over Tafon Nchukwi. He’s no world-beater, but at the same time, he’s under-delivered inside the Octagon so far.

Shahbazyan has much more upside and weapons at his disposal, so he’s set to get back in the win column.

Prediction: Shahbazyan by knockout.

Best Bet: Shahbazyan by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.30.

Alternative Bet: Shahbazyan at 1.48.

Billy Quarantillo (1.74) v Youssef Zalal (2.14) (Featherweight)

All-action veteran Quarantillo (18-5) welcomes Zalal (13-5-1) back to the UFC in what promises to be a featherweight thriller.

Boasting 13 finishes (eight knockouts and five submissions), Quarantillo always brings the heat wherever the fight goes and has never been in a boring bout. “Billy Q” is aggressive without being reckless and fights at a frenetic pace.

Coming off a victory over Damon Jackson last August, inconsistency has been his biggest enemy as he’s alternated wins and losses in each of his last seven fights.

After going 3-3-1 in his first stint in the UFC, Zalal was cut in 2021 and has put in the work on the regional circuit since. Three successive wins, the last being a submission victory over Vadym Zadniprianyi in Sparta last August, sees “The Moroccan Devil” return to the big leagues determined to make an immediate splash.

Zalal has impressive jiu-jitsu and carries good power, however, he’s replacing an injured Gabriel Miranda on short notice and the leap from his recent competition to Quarantillo should prove too severe.

Prediction: Quarantillo by stoppage.

Best Bet: Quarantillo at 1.74.

Alternative Bet: Quarantillo by KO/TKO/Submission/TKO at 4.30.

Fernando Padilla (1.60) v Luis Pajuelo (2.40) (Featherweight)

Featherweights looking to find their footing in the UFC face off in the main card opener.

Padilla (15-5) is 1-1 in the promotion, failing to kick on from his fine first outing in which he knocked out Julian Erosa last April by getting outpointed by veteran Kyle Nelson four months later. Keen to bounce back, “El Valiente” is a super tall and rangy 145-pounder with crisp striking and a very good ground game.

Pajuelo (8-1) is primed to make his UFC debut after scoring a stunning knockout victory over Robbie Ring on Dana White’s Contender Series last August. It was the Peruvian’s seventh KO and improved his win streak to five. Now, he aims to prove he belongs at the highest level.

Padilla’s a tough puzzle to solve as he’s so long and accurate on the feet and I can’t see newcomer Pajuelo overcoming the five-and-a-half-inch reach disadvantage he’ll have to deal with.

Prediction: Padilla by knockout.

Best Bet: Padilla at 1.60.

Alternative Bet: Padilla by KO/TKO/DQ at 3.25.

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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