UFC Vegas 52 predictions


Jessica Andrade has done it all.

She’s been a champion at strawweight, a No. 1 contender at flyweight (she is currently No. 2 at 125 pounds in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings), one of the most active and successful women in MMA history, and now possibly the highest level of gatekeeper depending on how Saturday’s UFC Vegas 52 main event goes. Andrade meets Amanda Lemos in the UFC APEX headliner and if she can stop Lemos’ five-fight win streak, we could see “Bate Estaca” in another title fight soon and maybe even a trilogy bout with Rose Namajunas.

The good news for Lemos — currently No. 9 at 115 pounds — is that she’s arguably closer to a championship opportunity than her opponent, given that she would be a fresh challenger compared to the always entertaining but familiar Andrade. Since losing her UFC debut, Lemos has been on a tear with three first-round finishes in her past five fights. Her most recent outing saw her eke out a controversial decision win over veteran Angela Hill, a result that quieted some of the hype around Lemos. A strong performance against Andrade would go a long ways in reminding people what all the fuss is about.

In other main-card action, Clay Guida, a legendary lightweight, faces Claudio Puelles. Young flyweights Maycee Barer and Montana De La Rosa battle it out. Alexandr Romanov, an undefeated heavyweight, takes on Chase Sherman in the last minute. Lando Vannata will meet Charles Jourdain at featherweight.

What: UFC Vegas 52

Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas

When: Saturday, April 23. The seven-fight preliminary card begins on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET, followed by a five-fight main card on ESPN+ at 9 p.m. ET.

Amanda Lemos vs. Jessica Andrade

Amanda Lemos should have learnt from her UFC first tough test. If she doesn’t, this will be a terrible night.

It’s not a shame to not be able to run past Angela Hill. But it was her first win streak in which her weaknesses became apparent: Lemos has gaps in her defense, is susceptible to pressure, volume and might be too dependent on power punching. That latter factor isn’t much of an issues since it’s helped her win plenty of fights; however, the other two points need to be addressed and if she tries to go power for power against Jessica Andrade, that’s not a good idea either.

There’s a reason that Andrade is second only Amanda Nunes when it comes to the most finishes by a woman in UFC history: she’s an absolute tank who is underrated when it comes to skills on the feet and on the mat. Add in her big fight experience and you can see why the diminutive Andrade is a problem for Lemos.

Reach will help Lemos a lot. If she’s patient, she can emulate some of the success that Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas have had in the past, though I wouldn’t put her striking at their level just yet. She does have more pop in her punches than either of those champions, I just really don’t like the idea of her trading punches with Andrade. She will drop at some point, I believe. Lemos will continue to fight until the end, even if she survives.

Andrade by convincing decision.

Pick: Andrade

Clay Guida vs. Claudio Puelles

Age is just a number. But almost 60 pro fights and 19 years in the game are pretty significant numbers!

When Clay Guida made his pro debut in 2003, Claudio Puelles was seven years old. “The Carpenter” has wrestling shoes older than Puelles. By the time Puelles made his octagon debut, Guida was 23 fights into his UFC career. Guida has been around a lot longer than Puelles is what I’m saying.

There’s a big enough gap in athleticism here that I feel comfortable picking Puelles. Guida has a legendary gas tank and can drown anyone. If they aren’t careful with energy consumption, Guida is a danger to drown anybody. But Puelles must get on the scorecards quickly by leading with groundwork and takedowns. The aggressive Puelles will frustrate even Guida, who is normally a calm and composed man.

There will be plenty of laughs and Puelles’ grit may also be put to the test. This is his first chance to make a statement against a member of the UFC Hall of Fame and I expect the 26-year-old to be at his best as he approaches his prime. As long as his cardio is on point, Puelles will find a submission in the second round.

Pick: Puelles

Maycee Barber vs. Montana De La Rosa

Maycee Barber is still one of flyweight’s most popular talents. Although she has shown that she can compete with the best, questions remain about her abilities to use those skills when it rings. Her past three performances have been uninspiring and now she has to deal with a fellow 20-something in Montana De La Rosa.

I like Barber’s style. She knows how to make a fight go where it needs to, but she doesn’t know exactly what she should do once she’s there. For example, if she wants to fight from range, then she has actually figure out how to score from distance; if she wants to be a pressure fighter, then she needs to be more accurate with her strikes. Plenty of fans have jumped off the bandwagon, but there’s still a ton of potential there for Barber, who doesn’t turn 24 for another month.

De La Rosa, despite all her UFC experience, is still an exciting prospect. She’s often overlooked, probably because she’s more the soft-spoken type, but she’s a legitimate threat to finish anyone on the ground and she’s made significant improvements in her striking. This is just smart matchmaking as both fighters should learn a lot from what I expect to be a 15-minute fight and neither should be too hurt by a loss.

*De La Rosa is a versatile woman, and Barber needs to keep it on the feet. Barber must consistently hit the hardest shots. Barber can’t be quite as decisive as she was against Miranda Maverick. De La Rosa is going to take the fight to her, whether Barber is ready or not.

It’s going to be a fun one and a close one, but Barber sneaks by on the scorecards again.

Pick: Barber

Alexandr Romanov vs. Chase Sherman

Before discussing Alexandr Romanov and Chase Sherman, let’s talk about my favourite type of matchup: The mutant matchup.

It’s not about the fighters’ physical attributes. It’s more about what happens when a fight that was originally set up becomes another one after both of them drop out. This heavyweight slot was once held by Rodrigo Nascimento and Tanner Boser. But then, Rodrigo quit and was replaced later by Romanov. Later, Boser quit and was succeeded by Sherman. So we have two guys fighting on short-notice for no real reason. It’s amazing!

This one won’t last very long. Romanov is one of the brightest prospects in the division and Sherman is a survivor who was just released from the UFC only for the promotion to find that it needed his services once more. All the power in the world to Sherman, who has everything to gain and nothing to lose, but he’s going to lose.

Sherman is submitted in the first.

Pick: Romanov

Lando Vannata vs. Charles Jourdain

If this has been read, it is possible to see that I feel pretty happy about the main card. The prelims are not as warm. You can tell the matchmakers put real consideration into making sensible matchups here (Romanov vs. Sherman excluded, that one is just a happy accident) and nowhere is that more evident than in throwing Lando Vannata and Charles Jourdain into the octagon together.

Both men have had a difficult time stringing wins together and neither of them is going to be fighting for the title any time soon. But you know what? Title shmitle! That sounded much better to me.

Sometimes you just want to pick out two exciting fighters from anywhere in the 170- to 125-pound range and have them throw hellfire at each other for 15 minutes. This is what will happen in Vannata vs Jourdain’s fight. Each fighter is technically skilled, and both are ready to fight when the time comes.

My eyes have a slight advantage for Journalist. Although he’s faster, I think Vannata might be able to play a part. This fight could go all over the place and I imagine the pre-fight predictions are just as scattered.

Here is a fun fact. Whoever wins Saturday’s fight will be the first to win a UFC streak. After a three round scrap, I believe Jordain wins.

Pick: Jourdain


Jordan Wright def. Marc-Andre Barriault

Sergey Khandozhko def. Dwight Grant

Tyson Pedro def. Ike Villanueva

Cameron Else def. Aoriqileng

Evan Elder def. Preston Parsons

Marcin Prachnio def. Philipe Lins

Dean Barry def. Mike Jackson