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UFC Fight Night: Tuivasa v Tybura Predictions

Knockout artists Tai Tuivasa and Marcin Tybura trade leather in a heavyweight headliner at UFC Vegas 88 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


Knockout artists Tai Tuivasa and Marcin Tybura trade leather in a heavyweight headliner at UFC Vegas 88 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

After rocking Miami with an epic pay-per-view card last weekend, the UFC returns to its APEX facility in Las Vegas, where former Ultimate Fighter winner Bryan Battle locks horns with Ange Loosa in a welterweight co-main event.

Ovince Saint Preux and Kennedy Nzechukwu bring the heat at light heavyweight, top-10 bantamweights Pannie Kianzad and Macy Chiasson collide, Gerald Meerschaert meets Bryan Barberena in a middleweight match-up and flyweights Christian Rodriguez and Isaac Dulgarian duke it out in the main card opener.

MAIN CARD (from 1 AM Sunday SA time):

Tai Tuivasa (1.83) v Marcin Tybura (2.00) (Heavyweight)

This weekend’s mammoth main event is a melee between two top 10 heavyweights desperate to get back on track.

Ninth-ranked Tuivasa (14-6) is on a three-fight skid, while 10th-ranked Tybura (24-8) was stopped by current interim heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall in his last fight, which snapped a two-fight win streak.

Both behemoths are finishers of note – Tuivasa has finished all but one of his 14 wins by knockout whereas “Tybur” has nine knockouts and six submissions to his name, setting the table for a titanic tilt destined to finish inside the distance.

A destroyer from Down Under, Tuivasa’s as popular as he is potent and one of the funnest fighters to watch in all of mixed martial arts. From his comical walk-out songs, including once coming out to a Spice Girls tune, to his wild brawling and trademark shoey celebration, the Australian ace is a violent entertainer unlike any other.

Prior to his current losing streak, “Bam Bam” had scored five knockouts in a row, including stopping former two-time title challenger Derrick Lewis, and looks to turn the tide with a statement victory and build momentum for another run at the title.

Tybura is more technical than Tuivasa and holds notable wins over former champion Andrei Arlovski, Stefan Struve and Walt Harris. The Polish powerhouse was no match for the speed of Aspinall last time out, yet no one has had an answer for the interim titleholder yet.

In Tuivasa, he faces a much slower but highly effective berserker who more often than not finds a way to land the killshot. At 38, Tybura is the older man by eight years and it’s safe to say his best days are behind him. He’s still a threat, but he’s very hittable, having been knocked out five times, and Tuivasa should be able to turn his lights off.

Prediction: Tuivasa by knockout.

Best Bet: Tuivasa by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.00.

Alternative Bet: Tuivasa at 1.83.

Bryan Battle (1.54) v Ange Loosa (2.54) (Welterweight)

Winner of the middleweight tournament on Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter in 2021, Battle (10-2) banked an additional win in the 185-pound division against the man he was originally scheduled to face in the final, Tresean Gore, before dropping down to welterweight.

The move to 170 pounds has proven to be a good one as he’s gone 3-1 since with all three of his wins coming by finish. Boasting a strong all-around game, “The Butcher” has won two on the trot, knocking out Gabe Green in just 14 seconds and submitting AJ Fletcher last time out, and is looking to build on that momentum at the APEX.

Loosa (10-3) is looking for his third straight win as well. He recovered from an unsuccessful UFC debut with a decision win over Fletcher and outpointed Rhys McKee in his lone appearance last year. “The Last Ninja” is known for his striking and has solid if not scary power. His output is his biggest weapon.

Having said that, Battle is the more proven and polished pugilist and has a notable size advantage (three inches in height and reach). With his ability to mix things up, and Loosa’s suspect defence, Battle is the man to back.

Prediction: Battle by decision.

Best Bet: Battle at 1.54.

Alternative Bet: Battle by decision at 2.50.

Ovince Saint Preux (5.40) v Kennedy Nzechukwu (1.16) (Light Heavyweight)

Nigeria’s Nzechukwu (12-4) looks to claim the scalp of a high-profile opponent in the featured bout as he faces former interim title challenger Saint Preux (26-17).

“African Savage” was on a three-fight win streak before he was stopped by Dustin Jacoby last August and seeks to start another run to work his way back up the ladder. A massive light heavyweight, he stands 6’5″ tall and has an 83-inch reach. On top of that, he’s an explosive knockout artist and nine years younger than the struggling Saint Preux.

Turning 41 next month, Saint Preux is a shell of the man he was when he lost a decision to Jon Jones in their interim title fight back in 2016. Still a powerful puncher but now a plodding striker, “OSP” has managed just four wins in his last 10 and was put down by Philipe Lens in his last fight over a year ago.

Given his size and speed advantage, Nzechukwu stands to slay Saint Preux.

Prediction: Nzechukwu by knockout.

Best Bet: Nzechukwu by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.44.

Alternative Bet: Under 1.5 rounds at 1.65.

Pannie Kianzad (2.95) v Macy Chiasson (1.42) (Bantamweight)

The pair of bantamweights run it back after they met in the final of The Ultimate Fighter Season 28 back in 2018, which saw Chiasson (8-3) come out victorious by submission.

Both ladies are now part of the top 10 at 135 pounds, with Kianzad (16-7) sitting four places above her old rival in sixth position after having gone 6-3 since their maiden meeting. However, both fighters are 1-2 in their last three and are coming off losses.

Iranian-born “Banzai”, who lost a decision to Ketlen Vieira last time out, is a technical striker with good output, plus, she’s durable. That combination has seen all of her UFC fights go to a decision.

Chiasson, aside from being more well-rounded, is the more dangerous party as well with 50% of her wins coming by finish. It’s not the latter but the former fact that’s key as her bigger toolkit should allow her to dictate terms. 

She would’ve been on a two-fight win streak if not for getting caught with a freak up-kick to the body in her last fight, which dates back to September 2022. Ring rust might be a concern for some, but Chiasson’s simply the better mixed martial artist and she’ll do the double over Kianzad.

Prediction: Chiasson by decision.

Best Bet: Chiasson by decision at 1.90.

Alternative Bet: Chiasson at 1.42.

Gerald Meerschaert (1.40) v Bryan Barberena (3.00) (Middleweight)

Veteran middleweights meet in a classic clash of styles.

In one corner, you have a submission specialist with 27 taps out wins in Meerschaert (35-17) and in the other, you have a heavy-handed brawler with 11 knockouts in Barberena (18-11).

One of the most experienced fighters in the UFC, Meerschaert is determined to snap a two-fight losing streak in what’ll be his 53rd professional bout.

Barberena, who started out as a lightweight, has spent most of his career at welterweight and picked up wins over legends like Matt Brown and former champion Robbie Lawler.  

But back-to-back losses saw him make the move up to middleweight last July. It didn’t have the desired effect as he was outworked by Makhmud Muradov, but he’s decided to stick around at 185 pounds.

This one comes down to whether Barberena can keep the fight standing. He’s always had subpar takedown defence (49%), so “GM3” should be able to overpower him.

Prediction: Meerschaert by submission.

Best Bet: Meerschaert by submission (check markets).

Alternative Bet: Meerschaert at 1.40.

Christian Rodriguez (2.54) v Isaac Dulgarian (1.54) (Featherweight)

South African MMA fans are hoping Rodriguez (10-1) gets his comeuppance in the main card opener after his bitter win over Cameron Saaiman last October.

The 23-year-old missed weight, meaning the fight was changed from a bantamweight bout to a 140-pound catchweight contest, in which he beat “MSP” by decision to end the South African prodigy’s undefeated streak. He had done the same to Raul Rosas Jr, which prompted this move to featherweight.

“CeeRod” is a slippery customer who’s methodical inside the Octagon, something his opponent is not. Dulgarian is a danger man with a perfect record of 6-0 and has never seen a second round, with four of his fast finishes coming by knockout and two by submission.

With Rodriquez being a slow starter, he’ll likely be unable to weather the early storm, leaving “The Midwest Choppa” poised to put a smile on South African MMA fans’ faces.

Prediction: Dulgarian by knockout.

Best Bet: Dulgarian by KO/TKO/DQ (check markets).

Alternative Bet: Dulgarian at 1.54.

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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