UFC Vegas 68 is an early front-runner for the promotion’s strangest event of the year.
Originally set to take place in South Korea, Saturday’s card ended up back in the cozy confines of the UFC APEX after it was originally planned for Chan Sung Jung to have a triumphant homecoming. Unfortunately, an injury removed any chance of “The Korean Zombie” headlining what would have been UFC South Korea so the decision was made to just tack another lineup to the Vegas board, even though a glut of Asian fighters (including the Road to UFC tournament finalists) had already been booked for this date.
This is how we arrived at a major event on the east coast that will not start until 3:00 in the morning.
Even weirder, that main event is recycled from UFC Vegas 65, a heavyweight clash between Derrick Lewis and Serghei Spivac that was postponed on fight day (Lewis told reporters this week that it was due to a bout of COVID-19). So if you were looking forward to that matchup, congratulations, you had but to wait a few months. Who says the MMA Gods never do anything for us?
Also on the main card, Da Un Jung looks to rebound from his first UFC loss when he fights Devin Clark in a light heavyweight bout, Marcin Tybura takes on Blagoy Ivanov in a clash of heavyweight veterans, featherweight fan favorite Doo Ho Choi fights for the first time since December 2019 as he faces Kyle Nelson, and 22-year-old Japanese welterweight Yusaku Kinoshita makes his UFC debut against Adam Fugitt.
What: UFC Vegas 68
Where : UFC APEX Las Vegas
When: Saturday, Feb. 4. The seven-fight preliminary card begins at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+, followed by a five-fight main card at 1 a.m. ET on ESPN+.
(Numbers in parentheses indicate standing in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings)
Derrick Lewis (7) vs. Serghei Spivac
Here is what I wrote back in November :
about this matchup
True, Derrick Lewis has had a bad record, but lets consider what type of fighter we need to defeat Lewis :
– If you are a large person with an athletic advantage and a substantial size (Sergei Pavlovich or Ciryl Gane )
– If you are also an approved practitioner of swangin’ and bangin’ (Tai Tuivasa )
– if you’re a technically superior to striker (Gane, Junior dos Santos)
– if you’re Daniel Cormier (Daniel Cormier)
That’s the summation of Lewis’ past five losses. Spivac does not fall within any of these categories.
Spivac, a skilled wrestler and a great ground worker is what he is. Spivac knows how to win the fight, get into advantageous positions and cause damage. He should have interest in playing around on the feet, his only goal should be to take Lewis down as soon as possible and go to work.
But one thing Lewis excels at is getting up. He doesn’t care about your fancy level changes and double legs, he doesn’t care about your meager ground-and-pound, and he definitely doesn’t care about your jiu-jitsu. In his mind, escaping a precarious grappling situation is as simple as hauling his 260-pound-plus frame off of the canvas.
Unless Spivac has another path to victory I’m unaware of, he’s eventually going to run out of options, especially in five-round fight, and he’ll have to spend some time with Lewis on the feet. Spivac will be out of luck once that happens.
What’s changed since then?
Lewis is certainly looking slimmer these days, though he weighed in at a healthy 265 pounds on Friday. Spivac, and all of the heavyweights in the division, could face serious problems if that is true. It also remains to be seen if catching COVID-19 will have any long term negative effects on Lewis’ performances going forward, but let’s hope that’s not the case.
Having more time to prepare for Lewis could benefit Spivac, but I’m grasping at straws here to find a reason to change my pick. According to Draft Kings, Spivac is a healthy favorite here, which is surprising to me.
You know what? I am going to tweak my pick. Forget what I said about Spivac losing late in the fight. Lewis by first-round knockout.
Da Un Jung vs. Devin Clark
It’s a shame that Da Un Jung won’t be enjoying the support of a boisterous South Korean crowd as he heads into the highest card placement of his UFC career, because he was on a nice run before being stopped by Dustin Jacoby this past July. That loss snapped a 14-fight unbeaten stretch for Jung, including a 4-0-1 UFC mark.
Jung is known for his flexibility, which makes him a formidable opponent to Devin Clark. Clark will make it his first priority to beat Jung on the feet. This strategy leaves Clark with very little room for error. Clark has been a man who, despite being technically proficient, is always struggled to control his feet. He enters his 15th UFC fight with just one knockout win for the promotion.
Jung is another fighter that Clark can’t afford to trade bombs with. This one will be a wild chase, with Clark using every inch of cage space to keep Jung guessing. Jung believes it is all about Clark’s timing, and making hard hits at the right moments.
This should be close. I have Jung taking it by late finish.
Marcin Tybura (T10) vs. Blagoy Ivanov
While the main event has the potential for some classic, dumb heavyweight fun, Marcin Tybura vs. Blagoy Ivanov could make for a truly dreadful grind.
Both men deserve credit for their perseverance, especially Tybura, who is still a great foil to many up-and coming contenders. Chill-inducing highlights might be few and far between in Tybura’s 16-fight UFC run, but he’s always finding ways to stifle his opponent’s offense and win. The same can’t be said of Ivanov, who has struggled to string together wins in recent years, despite remaining damn near impossible to finish.
Neither of those trends should change on Saturday as Ivanov takes Tybura’s best shots in a bout that will go the full 15 minutes. You can expect a lot of clinching against the wall and some stalling, along with the odd wild haymaker. You might be able to get one or two connections that spark excitement. But don’t put your money on it.
Doo Ho Choi vs. Kyle Nelson
Is “The Korean Superboy” rejuvenated or rusty?
On paper, Kyle Nelson should be easy pickings for Doo Ho Choi. You have to imagine that’s why this fight was originally cooked up, to give Choi an emotional win in his return fight in front a home crowd. Seeing his hand raised after almost 1,150 days on the shelf will still be meaningful, it just might not have the same impact in the relatively sparse UFC APEX.
I can’t help but be concerned not only with Choi’s long layoff, but the fact that he wasn’t exactly on a tear when he most recently fought in 2019. Choi is on a three-fight losing streak and while none of those losses are inexcusable (Charles Jourdain, Jeremy Stephens, and Cub Swanson, all tough outs), it’s fair to ask if those results have already given us an accurate gauge of Choi’s ceiling. Have his competitive fires been stoked while he’s been away or have those flames died out?
*Nelson’s luck has been terrible in the Octagon and Choi could prove to be a troublemaker at work. His fearlessness of scraps might be his downfall. Although I doubt Nelson is able to win with Choi in a fight, that could be the best way for him to steal a decision.
Let’s suppose that the matchmakers are aware of what’s going on with Choi’s return fight. Choi via first round knockout.
Yusaku Kinoshita vs. Adam Fugitt
I get the hype around Yusaku Kinoshita, but don’t count out Adam Fugitt here.
If you are looking for reasons why to support the underdog, then size might be the best place to start. Fugitt has a reach advantage of five and a half inches, so it might not be overselling. He has an upright Muay Thai hybrid style that makes him seem even taller and he attacks from odd angles. There’s much to love about this guy, especially when he can gain the top spot with a strong ground-and-pound style.
If you’d rather play it safe and pick Kinoshita, his youth and power are good reasons to do so. I mentioned Fugitt’s upright style, which makes for some fun offensive options, but also leaves his chin wide open. This fight could be ended early by Kinoshita, who is springy and might capitalize on Fugitt’s defensive deficiencies.
Fugitt has shown me enough flashes that I feel OK going with my gut and picking an upset. That 12-year age gap does worry me though.
Jeka Saragih def. Anshul Jubli
Jeong Yeong Lee def. Yi Zha
Rinya Nakamura def. Toshiomi Kasama
Hyun Sung Park def. Seung Guk Choi
Ji Yeon Kim def. Mandy Bohm
Jun Yong Park def. Denis Tiuliulin
Tatsuro Taira def. Jesus Santos Aguilar