We are only two days away from the final UFC event of 2022, as Sean Strickland and Jared Cannonier will headline a 14-fight UFC Vegas 66 card on Saturday night at the UFC Apex.
While the card might not be loaded with household names for the average fan, there should still be plenty of fireworks to help send the promotion into the new year with a bang!
Let’s jump right in and see if we can end the year with a bang too with the OddSmokerMMA UFC Vegas 66 Picks and Predictions:
Sergey Morozov – Morozov is 18-5 entering his fight this weekend against Journey Newson and coming off a pretty solid win over Raulian Paiva. Newson is also coming off a victory himself and is 10-3 (1 NC) in his career, however, he is only 1-2 with the no contest in the UFC. Morozov should have a fairly sizeable grappling advantage in this matchup, and the striking numbers are fairly even between the two of them. Newson has a 0% takedown defense in the UFC (3 faced/3 conceded) and Morozov should be able to exploit that throughout this fight. Morozov is 7-1 on the scorecards in his career and he should pick another win in this one.
Manel Kape – Kape is 17-6 with a ridiculous 94% finish rate, stopping 16 out of 17 wins with 11 KO and 5 submissions. He’s 2-2 so far in the UFC and coming off back-to-back knockout victories. Dvorak is 20-4 with 16 stoppage wins of his own and a perfect split of 8 KO and 8 subs. He’s 3-1 in the UFC and coming off a loss to Mateus Nicolau, who also happens to be the last fighter to beat Kape. Both have slightly positive striking differentials while also absorbing a fairly high number of strikes. Considering both fighters have takedown defenses at 80% or higher, this one should stay mostly on the feet, where Kape will have a decent power advantage. Kape should be able to pick up the win here, but it won’t be easy.
Bryan Battle – Battle is 10-1 in his career with 7 stoppages. The former Ultimate Fighter contestant is 3-0 in the UFC and coming off a viscous head-kick knockout win over Takashi Sato that took only 44 seconds. Rinat Fakhretdinov is 19-1 in his career with 17 stoppages and has never been finished. However, he is only 1-0 in the UFC, and a vast majority of his opposition prior to joining the promotion is suspect at best. Meanwhile, Battle has victories over a handful of current and former UFC fighters during his pro and amateur careers. Despite stepping into this fight on extremely short notice, Battle should be the more well-rounded fighter and be able to get the job done to continue his hot start with the promotion.
Maheshate – Maheshate is 9-1 in his career with 5 stoppage wins and is 2-0 so far in the UFC/DWCS. He’s coming off an impressive knockout win over Steve Garcia and will likely be hoping to find another here against Rafa Garcia (unrelated). Garcia is 14-3 with 9 stoppages and has also never been stopped in his career. He will have a sizeable experience advantage in this fight and is a solid grappler likely to look for takedowns early and often. While Maheshate will have his hands full defending those takedown attempts from Garcia, he should be able to find enough success staying on his feet to use his striking and five-inch reach advantage to land enough damage to pick up a tough decision in this fight.
Saidyokub Kakhramonov – Kakhramonov is 10-2 in his career with a 70% stoppage rate. He has won four straight fights, 2-0 so far in the promotion, and coming off a very impressive victory over Ronnie Lawrence where he dominated with his grappling landing 12 takedowns. Said Nurmagomedov is 16-2 in his career with a 50% stoppage rate and 5-1 so far with the UFC. Both fighters have a roughly 2:1 striking differential, however, Kakhramonov should have a sizeable advantage in the grappling. Nurmagomedov has an abysmal 10% takedown accuracy and will almost certainly want to keep this fight standing as much as possible. As long as Kakhramonov can avoid the early power from Nurmagomedov, he should be able to grind out a close, potentially split decision victory.
Julian Marquez -Marquez is coming in with a 10-3 record with a 100% finish rate and looking to bounce back from the first stoppage loss of his career. Winn is 7-3 in his career and also coming off a brutal knockout loss of his own and hoping to get back on track. Marquez will have a sizeable 8″ height advantage, as well as a 2″ reach advantage, in this matchup. Winn is a pretty solid grappler, but he is vastly undersized for the middleweight division, and unless he can just dominate the grappling in this fight, Marquez should be able to stay on his feet enough to find success with his striking. Once Marquez starts landing strikes on Winn, he should be able put him away with a KO/TKO win, likely sometime in the middle of this one.
Jake Matthews -Matthews is 18-5 is his career with a 66% finish rate and has won four of his past five fights. Matthew Semelsberger is 10-4 with a 70% finish rate and looking to bounce back from a decision loss to Alex Morono in his last fight. Matthews is a very well-rounded fighter who is coming off an impressive knockout victory over Andre Fialho. Semelsberger will have slight two-inch advantages in both height and reach, as well as a solid striking differential and 100% takedown accuracy. However, he is also hit over twice as many times per minute in his UFC career compared to Matthews, and Semelsberger has only landed four takedowns in that timeframe as well. Matthews should be able to mix things up enough here to get this one done via decision or possibly a late stoppage.
Cory McKenna – Both of these fighters have identical 7-2 records and have started their UFC careers with the same 3-1 record as well. Cheyanne Vlismas is a very solid striker and kickboxer who will be working with a 4.5″ reach advantage in this matchup. McKenna is the more well-rounded fighter of the two and should have a pretty decent grappling advantage, while also being able to hold her own in the striking exchanges as well. This should be a fairly even matchup that will likely be decided by whether more of it occurs on the feet or on the ground. McKenna should be able to mix things up enough and work in some takedowns with damage to get the decision win as long as she works her grappling into the gameplan here.
Michal Oleksiejczuk – Oleksiejczuk is 17-5 with 13 stoppage wins and a 5-3-1 record so far in the UFC. Brundage is 8-2 with an 87.5% stoppage rate and is taking this fight on extremely short notice. Oleksiejczuk is coming off a nasty KO victory over Sam Alvey, but he has struggled against some of his tougher competition in the UFC. Brundage is coming into this fight off back-to-back knockout wins, however, he lost his previous two fights and survived quite a bit of early adversity for the two victories as well. As long as Oleksiejczuk can fight off the Brundage takedown attempts and stay on the feet, he should be able to land hard enough strikes to get Brundage out of this one sometime during the first two rounds via knockout.
Bobby Green – Green comes into this fight with a 29-13-1 record, while Drew Dober enters with a record of 25-11. Each fighter has 18 stoppage victories and will be making their 20th appearance in the UFC this weekend. It should be one of the more exciting fights on the entire card. Green is coming off the first KO/TKO loss of his career in an extremely short notice fight against now-champion Islam Makhachev. Dober is coming off two hard-fought knockout wins and has each of his previous five wins by the same method. While that would seem like a good mix for Dober, Green wasn’t TKOed on the feet vs Makhachev: it came via ground and pound. In a fight that should occur mostly on the feet, Green should be the much cleaner striker to earn a comfortable decision or late stoppage.
Julian Erosa – Erosa is 28-10 in his career with 23 of those wins coming via stoppage (11 Ko/12 subs) and he has won three straight fights. Alex Caceres is 19-13 with 10 stoppage wins of his own and enters this one off a decision loss. Prior to that loss, Caceres had won his previous five fights and has quite a bit of UFC experience. Both of these fighters are submission threats; however, Erosa is the much more dangerous striker in this matchup. Caceres has been stopped in 8 of his 13 career losses with seven via submission. While Erosa has been stopped in 6 of his 10 losses, they have all come via knockout, where Caceres isn’t a large threat. This fight likely ends in the latter rounds and Erosa should be able to find enough success with his striking to get Caceres out of there via GNP or submission.
Amir Albazi – Albazi is 15-1 in his career with 13 of those wins coming via stoppage. Alessandro Costa is 11-2 with 8 finishes and will be making his UFC debut in this fight. Costa is currently the biggest betting underdog on the UFC Vegas 66 lineup. Both of these fighters are dangerous submission threats, but Albazi is clearly the more experienced fighter in this matchup. Costa has won his six previous fights; however, they have all been over much lower levels of competition than Albazi has recently faced and consistently beaten since debuting in the promotion. Albazi should be able to mix things up enough to find some submission opportunities here and he can likely put Costa away in the latter portion of this fight.
Damir Ismagulov -Ismagulov is 24-1 in his career so far with 13 of those wins coming via stoppage. Tsarukyan is 18-3 overall with a 66% finish rate and coming off a very close decision loss to Mateusz Gamrot in his most recent fight. These are two of the best young fighters in the UFC Lightweight division and could easily leave with a Fight of the Night bonus. Ismagulov is 5-0 in the UFC with all of those wins coming via decision. Tsarukyan will be the better grappler in this matchup, while Ismagulov is definitely the better striker. Ismagulov has shown he is able to win fights even when opponents find takedowns because he is rarely held down long and he should also be the much better striker in this matchup. This fight likely goes to decision and Ismagulov should be able to find enough success to get the close victory on the scorecards.
Sean Strickland – Strickland is 25-4 with 14 stoppages and coming off a pretty brutal knockout loss to now-champion Alex Pereira earlier this year at UFC 276. Cannonier is 15-6 with an 80% finish rate and is also coming off a loss at UFC 276, where he had a largely underwhelming performance in a decision loss against former champion Israel Adesanya. Cannonier is always a danger with his striking, but he is also 39 years old now and eventually will start to show more of his age during his fights. While Strickland is coming off the KO loss, it was only the second of his career, and it’s highly unlikely he will enter this fight with the same game plan as he did vs Pereira. Strickland has the cleaner striking and a clear grappling advantage as well if he chooses to use it. Cannonier will likely find some success early before Strickland takes over and comfortably takes the latter rounds of this fight. Strickland should be able to get the clear decision in this one or potentially at late round KO.
Favorite picks of the card: Jake Matthews, Michal Oleksiejczuk, Amir Albazi and Julian Marquez.
Favorite betting underdogs of the card: Bobby Green and Damir Ismagulov.
Be sure to check back leading up to the event for our complete OddSmokerMMA Betting Card for UFC Vegas 66, and also check out our First Two Bets for this weekend in the meantime!
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