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UFC Fight Night: Song v Simon Predictions 

Top-10 bantamweights Song Yadong and Ricky Simon will aim to make the most of their main event billing at UFC Vegas 72 on Sunday morning.

UFC Song Simon

Top-10 bantamweights Song Yadong and Ricky Simon will aim to make the most of their main event billing at UFC Vegas 72 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld. 

A lightweight bout between Renato Moicano and Arman Tsarukyan was originally set to headline the card but Moicano withdrew due to injury and the UFC was unable to find a short-notice opponent for Tsarukyan.

Song and Simon were subsequently thrust into the cherished spotlight at the UFC APEX, where they’ll face off in a five-round fight a week after they were meant to meet in a three-round co-main event affair at UFC Vegas 71. 

Middleweights Caio Borralho and Michal Oleksiejczuk will battle it out in the co-headliner after an earlier clash at 185 pounds between Rodolfo Vieira and Cody Brundage. 

Plus, Julian Erosa faces newcomer Fernando Padilla at featherweight and Marcos Rogerio de Lima throws down with unbeaten Waldo Cortes-Acosta at heavyweight.

MAIN CARD (from 1 AM Sunday SA time): 

Song Yadong (2.00) v Ricky Simon (1.83) (Bantamweight)

The fight’s elevation to a five-round main event might marginally favour Song as he’s headlined a card before. 

The Chinese fighter topped the marquee in his last bout against former interim title challenger Cory Sandhagen and while he lost the contest because of a late doctor stoppage due to a cut, he gained invaluable experience as far as added pressure and media responsibilities are concerned, as well as competing in a fourth round.  

It’s new territory for Simon, who’s only fought in three-round scraps. In a fight that’s likely to go the distance, given how evenly-matched the pugilists are, how they adapt their pacing could prove decisive. 

Prior to his setback against Sandhagen, Song had won three in a row with his knockout of former title challenger Marlon Moraes, in particular, showing why he’s one of the top young contenders in the 135-pound division. Currently ranked eighth, his record stands at 19-7-1 with eight knockouts and three submissions. 

As his nickname suggests, “Kung Fu Kid” is primarily a striker. Swift and smart on the feet, he uses his speed and fight IQ to do damage and competes at a high pace.  

Well-rounded and red hot, Simon’s rattled off five straight wins to move up to 10th in the rankings. His last fight highlighted what a complete threat he is as he hurt Jack Shore on the feet before forcing him to tap with an arm-triangle choke. 

The 30-year-old, who’s 20-3 with six knockouts and four submissions, relies heavily on his wrestling to dictate terms (averaging a very high 6.55 takedowns per 15 minutes) and will have a distinct advantage in the grappling department. Song has been susceptible to being grounded and Simon’s sure to test his takedown defence. 

Ultimately, Simon’s two-pronged attack gives him the edge over the dangerous but fairly one-dimensional Song and should see him continue his winning ways. 

Prediction: Simon by decision. 

Best Bet: Simon at 1.83.

Alternative Bet: Simon by decision at 3.15. 

Caio Borralho (1.27) v Michal Oleksiejczuk (4.00) (Middleweight)

The co-main event pits the grappling prowess of Borralho against the devastating striking skills of Oleksiejczuk (20-3). 

Borralho is 3-0 a year into his UFC career and 13-1 overall. “The Natural” bases his success on his strong wrestling and boasts an impressive 75% takedown completion rate, along with three submission victories. He’s lighter on his feet than his Polish counterpart and has solid power as well (four knockouts).

Oleksiejczuk, who’s 20-3, is the better technical striker to go along with his experience advantage. He banks on his striking and boasts 13 knockouts despite not being the fastest man around. 

Oleksiejczuk has to keep the fight standing to stand a chance but struggles against grapplers like Borralho, which is why he’s the biggest underdog on the main card. 

Seven of his 10 fights inside the Octagon finished inside the distance and he was submitted in two of them, so bank on Borralho to take him down and force him to tap. 

Prediction: Borralho by submission. 

Best Bet: Borralho by submission at 2.65.

Alternative Bet: Under 2.5 rounds at 1.64.

Rodolfo Vieira (1.41) v Cody Brundage (3.00) (Middleweight)

There are grapplers and then there’s Vieira (8-2), a former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion who’s secured all but one of his wins by submission. 

His striking needs work but crucially for his style, he’s defensively sound on the feet. He has, therefore, never been knocked out and has just enough craftiness to hang tight before he drags opponents into his world on the ground. 

Brundage (8-3) has heavy hands (four knockouts) and is a former Division I wrestler, so he’ll make “The Black Belt Hunter” work for his takedowns. However, Vieira is so slick and skillful that he will put Brundage on his back and submit him. 

Prediction: Vieira by submission.

Best Bet: Vieira by submission at 1.86.

Alternative Bet: Under 1.5 rounds at 1.83

Julian Erosa (1.74) v Fernando Padilla (2.15) (Featherweight)

Dangerous veteran Erosa (28-10) welcomes debutant Padilla (14-4) to the UFC in what promises to be an exciting fight. 

Erosa’s a versatile, all-action scrapper with 11 knockouts and 12 submissions to his name. “Juicy J” is never in a boring fight and went on a 5-1 run before being caught by Alex Caceres last time out. 

Padilla (14-4) has a propensity for finishes as well. A well-rounded prospect, he has a dozen stoppage victories (four knockouts and eight submissions) and has won four of his last five, including a second-round KO of Cameron Graves in his last fight to claim the Fury FC title and a UFC contract.

Padilla hasn’t fought in nearly two years, though, due to visa issues. His rustiness coupled with Erosa’s vast experience should see the veteran stand tall. 

Prediction: Erosa by knockout.

Best Bet: Erosa at 1.74.

Alternative Bet: Erosa by KO/TKO/DQ at 5.00. 

Marcos Rogerio de Lima (1.52) v Waldo Cortes-Acosta (2.60) (Heavyweight

A 10-year UFC veteran, De Lima (20-8-1) serves as the litmus test for the undefeated Cortes-Acosta in this weekend’s featured heavyweight battle. 

Former LFA champion Cortes-Acosta has recorded back-to-back decision wins to start his UFC career but has been underwhelming. He’s largely stayed in his shell and poked at opponents with his technical striking to improve his perfect record to 9-0. 

De Lima’s set to take the fight to “Salsa Boy”, so we’ll see what Cortes-Acosta is truly made off. De Lima’s at the tail end of his career but is coming off his biggest-ever win, a first-round submission of former champion Andrei Arlovski. 

“Pezao” is a finisher (14 knockouts and three submissions) and will benefit from a five-inch reach advantage, which along with his savviness should see him stay safe on the feet and take the fight to the ground, where he holds what’s set to be a decisive edge. 

Prediction: De Lima by submission. 

Best Bet: De Lima at 1.52.

Alternative Bet: De Lima by submission at 6.50.

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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 SARugby.com and senior staff writer at Rugby365.com, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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