UFC Vegas 53 predictions


Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera is a great fight! We’re not getting much to chew on after that.

Friends and fight fans, this is usually the part where your ol’ pal The Prince of Positivity does the UFC a solid and explains how this weekend’s latest thrown together Fight Night offering is worth your time and attention or how there are hidden stakes in a seemingly inconsequential lineup that will reveal themselves over time.

This is my respect for all fighters, and the hardworking people behind these cards, but I just can’t make it this time.

No question, the UFC Vegas 53 main event is still a banger and must-see television, even with Font missing weight by over two pounds for a bout that had little rankings or contender implications in the loaded bantamweight division to begin with. Vera, currently No. 11 in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, does have the opportunity jump into the thick of the top 10, a wall that he’s been crashing his head against for years.

The rest of the card is a smorgasbord of quality veterans (UFC fight No. 38 for Andrei Arlovski! ), stay-busy matchups, fresh faces, and the briefly postponed Alexandr Romanov vs. Chase Sherman, which, while amazing, is certainly not enough for me to tell you that you have to watch this card from beginning to end.

But hey, live your life and who knows? A year from now when Tatsuro Taira or Yohan Lainesse are household names and headlining cards you can dig this article up and throw these words back in this casual’s face.

What: UFC Vegas 53

Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas

When: Saturday, April 30. The six-fight preliminary card begins on ESPN2 and ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET, followed by a six-fight main card on ESPN and ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.

Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera

I’m torn on this one.

Marlon Vera is the best when it comes to mixing martial arts. He’s equally likely to slap you with power punches and choke you. Rob Font’s best skill is his boxing. This is something I love about him. And I think Font is good enough all around that he can make this primarily a boxing match.

Font will still be able to scrap with Vera, but it is a concern that Font can cause enough damage to win. Font’s striking was not enough to defeat Jose Aldo, despite having the advantage in several fights. When it was time to give their scorescards they preferred Aldo’s.

Font will need to look for another gear in order to show everyone why he is so high up. That could be a chance to get down to work with Vera, which he is more than capable of. His weight loss is not something I am concerned with, if anything it could mean for his concentration or his preparation.

Font is a way to stay ahead of the Vera storm in the early rounds. Font by decision.

Pick: Font

Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake Collier

First, we need to be clear about one thing: This is an actual co-main event and not the last fight listed on the card.

In Andrei Arlovski, you have a former UFC heavyweight champion (and yes, I understand that in the eyes of some fans that’s now about as relevant as Steve Jennum winning UFC 3), one of the all-time greats of the division, and a fighter who just so happens to be on a three-fight win streak and 5-1 in his past six. On the other side is Jake Collier, who is just fun as hell to watch.

Collier’s ability to be surprising is unmatched and it will really surprise anyone if he can force his style on Arlovski. The ageless veteran seemingly has a way of neutralizing his opponents strategies the moment they step into the cage with him as perhaps they’re awed by his mystique. But Collier should have the formula to outwork him as he brings a mixture of movement and volume that reminds you he once competed at 185 pounds.

Seriously, look at this:

For all of Arlovski’s shortcomings, he’s rarely blown out by fighters that aren’t top 10 talents like Tom Aspinall and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. You’re likely to lose to Arlovski if you are a middle-class heavyweight. This is something you will have to do. The smart money will be on Arlovski ending his unlikely win streak here. However, I have a strange feeling Collier is being dragged into an unsuitable fight.

This has all the makings of a split call for Arlovski.

Pick: Arlovski

Andre Fili vs. Joanderson Brito

Joanderson Brito’s strategy of using his striking for shots is what you should expect. This makes sense considering Andre Fili’s standing as one the best featherweight fighters in the division. Brito has some pop, but his striking vocabulary isn’t as extensive as Fili’s and it will be an easy night for Fili if Brito decides to go full K-1 against him.

Is Fili’s ground game sturdy enough to survive Brito if the strong Brazilian gets him down and starts to slice up his defenses? Fili is a skilled wrestler, and grappling should not be an issue. He’ll employ a counter-heavy game plan and score repeatedly as the aggressive Brito leaves himself open. It should be fun while it lasts. However, I predict Fili will get his first finish in quite some time, and knock Brito out in round two or three.

Pick: Fili

Jared Gordon vs. Grant Dawson

Grant Dawson’s education continues with Jared Gordon who is an experienced grinder.

Dawson, who turned 28 in February, is entering his physical prime and his skills are coming along nicely. He’s a force on the ground, with relentless pressure down there and a pace that’s difficult to keep up with. It’s unclear if he is able to defeat a strong opponent such as Gordon.

There’s no quit in Gordon and he’s going to make Dawson work to beat him. On the feet, he has the quickness to frustrate Dawson, which could also overwork Dawson and leave him with less gas in the tank in the later rounds. But, in the end I think Dawson’s size and strength are too great to be overcome. He will stand tall and strike Gordon repeatedly, before becoming the fighter who submits Gordon.

Pick: Dawson

Darren Elkins vs. Tristan Connelly

Tristan Connelly is all about coming forward and putting on the pressure, which would seem to play perfectly into Darren Elkins’ “come at me, I’m just going to fire back 10 times harder” mind set. But I think this is one occasion where that scenario won’t play out positively for “The Damage.”

Connelly can be aggressive, but he is also calm and has the endurance to compete with Elkins in his late-game output. Connelly is not a great homerun hitter, which will work in his favor. He won’t be as likely to waste his time on a bad finish. That said, Elkins could easily decide that he’s going to play the bull in this one and take the fight to Connelly at the sound of the opening bell.

These two will go back-and-forth for three rounds in a thriller that deserves to be seen by a packed arena and not the select audience of the UFC APEX. Connelly wins because of his more striking style and because he is less worn-out. Elkins will eventually be worn out from all of this wear.

Pick: Connelly

Krzysztof Jotko vs. Gerald Meerschaert

Remember what I said above about Andrei Arlovski? How he kind of just finds ways to win fights and it’s rarely pretty? That goes for Krzysztof Jotko, though his bouts are arguably even less distinct, even for a middleweight. Is there a Jotko fight that is more memorable than you can think of? If you said his 59-second knockout of Tamdan McCrory (shout outs to the “Barn Cat”), you’re a liar who had to look that up just like I had to to even make that reference.

All of this is to say that as persistent and hardworking as Jotko has been in his nine-year (!) UFC career, he should lose to Gerald Meerschaert on Saturday. Meerschaert is one of the most mentally resilient fighters in MMA and he won’t be flustered if he can’t get a quick finish or if the crafty Jotko peppers him with strikes early. “GM3” isn’t here to win decisions anyway.

It’s been a long time since Jotko has been forced to tap, but I think Meerschaert gets it done. At some point Jotko is going to get a little too comfortable, give up a takedown, and then succumb to one of Meerschaert’s many submissions.

Pick: Meerschaert


Alexandr Romanov def. Chase Sherman

Daniel Lacerda def. Francisco Figueiredo

Yohan Lainesse def. Gabe Green

Natan Levy def. Mike Breeden

Shanna Young def. Gina Mazany

Tatsuro Taira def. Carlos Candelario