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UFC Fight Night: Yusuff v Barboza Predictions

The spotlight shines on Nigerian-born featherweight contender Sodiq Yusuff as he headlines his first UFC event against lethal legend Edson Barboza at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


The spotlight shines on Nigerian-born featherweight contender Sodiq Yusuff as he headlines his first UFC event against lethal legend Edson Barboza at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The co-headliner of UFC Vegas 81 sees former flyweight title challenger Jennifer Maia face Viviane Araujo while Jonathan Martinez meets Adrian Yanez in a battle of top-15 bantamweights.

Also on deck is a middleweight donnybrook between Michel Pereira and Andre Petroski and a catchweight contest between Edgar Chairez and Daniel Lacerda.

Plus, South African prodigy Cameron Saaiman collides with Christian Rodriguez.

MAIN CARD (from 1 AM Sunday SA time):

Sodiq Yusuff (1.60) v Edson Barboza (2.40) (Featherweight)

African ace Yusuff (13-2) has lived up to his “Super” moniker so far in the UFC, winning six of his seven fights inside the Octagon. Victories over the likes of Alex Caceres, Andre Fili and Gabriel Benitez have helped him climb the rankings up to 11th and earn a maiden main event billing in his first appearance of 2023.

After his lone UFC loss to top-five contender Arnold Allen (by decision) in 2021, he battered Caceres with brutal leg kicks en route to a rebounding decision win and showed his ongoing evolution to score a submission victory over Don Shainis last time out.

Generally, Yusuff – who fights out of Bladensburg, Maryland – is a crisp, confident striker who’s technical and tactical and has six knockouts to his credit, the last coming against Benitez back in 2019.

He’ll meet one of the scariest featherweights in UFC history and one of the best strikers to ever grace the Octagon. Though past his prime, Barboza (23-11) still finds himself in the top 15 and can finish anyone in a flash with unrivalled versatility on the feet. 

The taekwondo black belt’s striking is as layered as a Swiss Army knife and as awe-inspiring as it gets. Explosive and unpredictable, he’s put together a jaw-dropping highlight reel that includes one of the all-time great knockouts when he flatlined Terry Etim back in 2012.

At 37, he’s “Junior” in nickname alone and has been on a rollercoaster in recent years, going 3-4 in his last seven. However, he got back on track with a 14th career knockout of Billy Quarantillo in April to snap a two-fight losing streak and punch his ticket back to the main event.

The Brazilian veteran has headlined three previous cards but is yet to triumph at the top of the marquee. He lost to Kevin Lee via doctor stoppage on the only occasion he saw a fifth round in 2018, was knocked out cold by current BMF titleholder Justin Gaethje in 2019 and was TKO’d by Giga Chikadze in 2021.

A few years ago, things would’ve been different, but with Yusuff coming into his own and Barboza’s best days behind him, the former’s the rightful favourite. The 30-year-old has the mind and approach conducive to a five-round fight and knows Barboza will be at his most dangerous in the first two rounds.

  As a result, he’ll play it smart, stay defensively sharp, mix it up and pull away in the latter part of the fights to come away with the signature win of his budding career.

Prediction: Yusuff by decision.

Best Bet: Yusuff at 1.60.

Alternative Bet: Yusuff by decision at 3.75.

Jennifer Maia (1.61) v Viviane Araujo (2.36) (Flyweight)

Top-15 flyweights on opposite career trajectories tussle in the co-main event.

Maia (21-9-1) is coming off back-to-back wins over Maryna Moroz and Casey O’Neill, while Araujo (11-5) has lost two on the bounce to Alexa Grasso, who went on to become champion, and Amanda Ribas leading up to this battle of Brazilians.

Both are well-rounded grinders as evidenced by their records. Maia, ranked two places above her countrywoman in ninth, has gone the distance in 14 of her last 15 fights, while Araujo has gone to the scorecards in each of her last eight outings, so this is set to go the full 15 minutes.

Despite being two years younger at 34, Maia has just about twice as much experience as “Vivi” and has reached heights Araujo has yet to attain, including fighting for the title and going five full rounds with the legendary Valentina Shevchenko in 2020.

In what will be a competitive fight, Maia has the edge above across the board and her superior fight IQ should see her continue her winning ways.

Prediction: Maia by decision.

Best Bet: Maia by decision at 1.80.

Alternative Bet: Maia at 1.61.

Jonathan Martinez (1.86) v Adrian Yanez (1.95) (Bantamweight)

The featured bout is a pick ‘em between the No 13 and No 14th-ranked bantamweights that should contend for Fight of the Night honours.

Having won his last five fights, momentum is squarely in the corner of Martinez (18-4), whereas Yanez (16-4) had his five-fight win streak snapped when he made a step up in competition and was turned back by Rob Font in his last bout.

Martinez has flown under the radar somewhat as he’s an economical rather than flashy striker and quiet outside of the Octagon. “Dragon”, who outpointed Said Nurmagomedov as the underdog last time out, is technical and carries good power. His leg kicks are particularly lethal as he showed when he stopped veteran Cub Swanson last October.   

Yanez is the lower-ranked half of the pairing but more well-known as he’s more flashy, versatile and potent on the feet. Four of his five wins in the promotion are by knockout and despite being on the wrong side of the KO equation against Font, I expect him to be his usually aggressive self.

That said, he’ll be less reckless and his exceptional hand speed and high striking output have me leaning towards him to get back on course.

 Prediction: Yanez by decision.

Best Bet: Yanez at 1.95.

Andre Petroski (2.54) v Michel Pereira (1.54) (Middleweight)

Pereira (28-11-2NC) has won five straight but is making a forced move from welterweight, where he was a ranked contender, up to middleweight after badly missing weight ahead for his fight against Stephen Thompson, which was scratched as a result.

The super explosive, highly unpredictable Brazilian is the one on the receiving end of a late curveball this time around with his original opponent Marc-Andre Barriault forced out of the fight due to his medical reasons, leading the always-game Petroski (10-1) to step up on short notice on Monday.

The burning question of this scrap is how Pereira’s speed and strength translate to his new weight class. No longer torturing himself to make 170 pounds, he should have more energy in the tank and it’ll be interesting to see if that prompts him to revert to the wild ways that saw him initially make a name for himself.

That’s if he can stop Petroski’s powerful and relentless wrestling. The 32-year-old was one of the early picks to win season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter but was bested by Bryan Battle in the semi-finals. He’s been perfect in his post-TUF career, matching Pereira with five consecutive wins.

A natural finisher, he has eight stoppage wins evenly split between knockouts and submissions but his last two wins are by decision. A late replacement is always at a disadvantage but Petroski’s a consummate professional with a great gas tank and has the perfect style to swoop in and neutralise “Demolidor.”

Prediction: Petroski by submission.

Best Bet: Petroski at 2.54.

Edgar Chairez (1.30) v Daniel Lacerda (3.60) (Catchweight)

Ferocious flyweights, each with a 100% finish rate, run it back after their fight last month came to a controversial conclusion.

Chairez (10-5-1NC) had Lacerda (11-5-1NC) in a standing guillotine and was prematurely deemed the victor by referee Chris Tognoni. Lacerda immediately protested the stoppage and, upon review, the referee’s decision was deemed incorrect and Chairez’s submission victory was overturned into a no-contest.

The matchup definitely favour Chairez and with “Miojo” mojo and winless in his five UFC fights, there’s a clear winner in this one, as the odds suggest. To shave off some of the odds, go with the submission prop bet.

Prediction: Chairez by submission.

Best Bet: Chairez by submission 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.

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