There’s no sugarcoating it: UFC Vegas 40 is a weak card, at least in terms of name recognition and contender implications.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. The de facto main event featuring Aspen Ladd and Norma Dumont—thrown together following the injury withdrawal of Holly Holm—could actually produce a UFC title challenger, though it would be in the featherweight division that currently does not even have official rankings. However, should Amanda Nunes successfully defend her bantamweight title against Julianna Pena and decide she wants to return to action soon, she could defend the featherweight title against the winner of Saturday’s main event.
Thrilling, I know.
But let’s focus on the positives, of which there are several beyond just the chance for fighters light on recognition and UFC experience to gain some shine.
- Ladd is back! The 26-year-old has not competed in almost two years, mostly due to a knee injury but also because of struggles with the scale. With an extra 10 pounds to play around with, Ladd made weight comfortably on Friday and now she has an opportunity to remind us why she’s been a top prospect since day one.
- Andrei Arlovski and Jim Miller are still cooking! That’s right, the UFC’s leaders in heavyweight and lightweight appearances respectively both have fights on the main card. Arlovski makes UFC appearance No. 36, two behind Miller, whose 38th appearance is a promotional record. As pointed out by TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, Arlovski and Miller’s 72 UFC appearances heading into Saturday were almost as much as the rest of the card combined; with Julian Marquez vs. Jordan Wright falling through on Friday, they actually have more then all of the other fighters now (66 combined UFC bouts).
- History is being made! As far as we can tell, this is the first time since the UFC introduced its rankings that a card features no ranked fighters competing in their assigned division. Ladd is No. 3 at bantamweight in the UFC’s rankings, but is fighting at featherweight. And that’s it.
The card did initially feature one fighter in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, No. 15-ranked flyweight Sijara Eubanks, but she was a late scratch this week and has since been replaced by strawweight Lupita Godinez. By the way, Godinez is also making history with the quickest turnaround ever for a UFC fighter, having just competed and won this past Saturday.
How’s all that for a look on the bright side?
What: UFC Vegas 40
Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas
Aspen Ladd vs. Norma Dumont
Aspen Ladd is taking a risk here.
It’s understandable that Ladd is eager to get back into the octagon as soon as possible after being inactive since December 2019. She has the talent to challenge for the bantamweight title and it’s only issues outside of competition that have slowed her. A win over Norma Dumont gets her back in the conversation at least, whether it’s at bantamweight or featherweight.
But Dumont is no pushover. The striker was expected to be steamrolled by Felicia Spencer in her last outing; instead, Dumont controlled the range and out-struck Spencer en route to a split decision win. Were it not for Dumont putting herself on her back in the third with a failed trip attempt, she likely would have won on all three scorecards.
Dumont is a natural featherweight and she’s going to have size on Ladd, which will make a difference. Ladd is a pressure fighter who has bullied her competition at 135 pounds, something that won’t be easy to do against Dumont. Add in the extra weight that Ladd will be carrying and one can foresee her tiring early if she can’t get a finish and losing a decision.
I still like Ladd’s chances as I see her as the better all-around fighter and as improved as Dumont’s takedown defense is, she’s still susceptible to being controlled by better athletes. It’s up to Ladd to not get too cute with the striking, stick with the game plan, and get this one to the mat where she can work her ground-and-pound.
This is a mighty optimistic pick, but let’s go with Ladd by second-round TKO.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Carlos Felipe
I don’t know if Carlos Felipe’s go-for-broke style is what’s best to deal with Andrei Arlovski. He’s a fun boxer to watch when he finds a rhythm, but he’s yet to find that extra gear that other up-and-comers in the UFC heavyweight division have exhibited. We know he can stand and strike, headhunt, and work the body. The question is can he win ugly?
That’s pretty much all that Arlovski has done in the second stage of his career. When he’s not facing proven finishers, the former UFC heavyweight champion always seems to find a way to make it to the scorecards and, as of late, win over the judges. There are shades of the knockout artist he once was and while those highlight-reel moments are few and far between, Arlovski still has enough pop to hang with the new generation of big men.
I’m torn here between guessing that Felipe finally finds the KO he’s been looking for and Arlovski surprising another upstart looking to make a name off of him. Give me the veteran by decision.
Jim Miller vs. Erick Gonzalez
As mentioned by MMA Junkie, this matchup features the greatest discrepancy in experience in UFC history with Jim Miller having 37 octagon appearances to Erick Gonzalez’s zero. While Miller has the advantage on paper, Gonzalez is incredibly dangerous.
Fighting primarily for Combate Americas, “The Ghost Pepper” developed a reputation for being a ferocious and gritty competitor. He’s not the most fundamentally sound fighter, but what he lacks in technique, he more than makes up for with a deep gas tank and an ability to fight from behind. That latter aspect will factor heavily into his fight with Miller as there’s no chance that the lightweight lifer goes down easily.
Skill for skill, you have to like Miller here. He’s faced every possible scenario in his MMA career and is uniquely suited to take on a relative unknown like Gonzalez. Miller won’t overlook Gonzalez’s talent, which is one reason why he’ll find success. The second the bell sounds, Miller should get in Gonzalez’s face and limit his options. Then, when the time is right, take it to the ground where he’s given headaches to better fighters than Gonzalez.
With respect to Gonzalez, this is a tough draw for anyone in their first UFC fight and I expect Miller to take care of business with his submission skills.
Is this where the Manon Fiorot hype train hits its first major bump?
The hype behind Fiorot is understandable. She has wicked hands and the kind of knockout power that’s rarely seen at 125 pounds. It’s not a stretch to say that in terms of sheer power, she’s right up there with Jessica Andrade. That’s how impressive she’s looked in her pro career so far.
It should be noted that Mayra Bueno Silva has fought better competition. Fiorot’s most recent win was against the undersized Tabatha Ricci (a replacement for Maryna Moroz) and her first UFC win came against Victoria Leonardo, a hard-luck fighter who has been on the receiving end of several highlight-reel finishes. Win or lose, this is an important and potentially revealing fight for Fiorot.
Silva has good submission skills, but I expect this one to take place primarily on the feet with “Sheetara” putting her muay Thai against Fiorot’s boxing. Should it go to the ground, Fiorot has to avoid Silva’s aggressive grappling and focus on standing back up rather than initiating her own offense. If she can, Fiorot will eventually find a home for those lethal hands and rack up another knockout.
Ludovit Klein’s first UFC loss came by way of a controversial decision, so hopefully that means he’ll be in a risk-taking mood to avoid going to the judges again. Because he has a willing dance partner in Nate Landwehr and if both men throw caution to the wind, we could have an instant classic on our hands.
When the UFC signed Landwehr, they knew what they were getting: a bona fide scrapper with little regard for his own safety who’s always prepared to put on a complete 15-minute performance. That won’t be necessary here as I see this one ending in the first or second round.
As fond as I am of Landwehr’s work, it’s Klein who I see coming out on top. The Slovakian’s array of kicks and spinning strikes are just too fun to pick against. Even though Landwehr has the chin to weather the storm and the striking to dish out his own fair share of damage, the precision of Klein tips this one in his favor.
It’s time for another Klein head kick KO.
Lupita Godinez def. Luana CarolinaInternet Explorer Channel Network