On Saturday night, Ultimate Fighting Championship fans will be treated to an exciting event headlined by the featherweight clash between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez. The upcoming UFC Vegas 42 card had to be reshaped during the week after a few scheduled matchups fell off. First, former interim UFC 205-pound title challenger Ovince St. Preux had to pull out of the proposed heavyweight clash with Philipe Lins due to undisclosed reasons. Then, the fight between Kyle Daukaus and Roman Dolidze was canceled after someone from Dolidze’s camp failed the COVID-19 protocols.
Let’s take a closer look at the fights on the main card.
Former UFC 145-pound champion Holloway (22-6, 18-6 UFC) finds himself in a bizarre situation where he was defeated twice by the current divisional kingpin Alexander Volkanovski but lies a notch above the featherweight pack. In his latest Octagon appearance, “Blessed” clobbered Calvin Kattar for five rounds in the UFC on ABC 1 headliner en route to a unanimous decision victory. Holloway relied much on his boxing skills in an one-sided affair, landing 445 significant strikes and setting the new record in a fight regardless of weight class.
Returning to the Octagon after a two-year hiatus, Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC; 8-1, 1 NC UFC) is looking for his first title shot. “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America” winner upended Jeremy Stephens via unanimous decision in their heated rematch at UFC on ESPN 6. After that, “El Pantera” pulled out of his scheduled pairing with Zabit Magomedsharipov due to injury in August 2020 before the USADA flagged him by not notifying them of his whereabouts.
At the fight’s eve, Holloway is a huge betting favorite with good reason. While everyone still has in mind Rodriguez’s highlight-reel KO elbow at the expense of “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in 2018, Holloway is far more experienced and wise than every opponent “El Pantera” has faced so far. On top of that, “Blessed” has fought in 24 UFC battles without suffering a knockdown. It’s hard to see Rodriguez passing the solid defense of the Gracie Technics’ standout and threaten the former champion. At the same time, the Mexican’s endurance should ferry this battle to the judges’ scorecards.
The pick is Holloway via decision.
The co-headliner sees two behemoths locking horns in the only heavyweight affair on the card. The bad news is that the expectations for this fight are shallow, considering that the pace will likely be slow. On the other hand, both fighters are known for finishing their opponents, and, hopefully, they will live up to their reputation. A slightly favorite in this contest, Rothwell (39-13, 8-7 UFC) is walking out with three victories in his latest four appearances. At the age of 39, his speed is not anymore the same as it was once, but the Rothwell MMA representative can give a tough night at the office to anyone in the heavyweight division.
In his latest bouts, Strikeforce vet Da Lima (18-7-1, 7-5 UFC) has alternated wins and losses. Most recently, “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 3 alum took home a unanimous decision over Maurice Greene in May. “Pezao” has shown some improvements in keeping at bay his impetuosity since moving up to heavyweight, proving that he can handle his opponents to a decision when he sticks to his game plane.
While da Lima is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, his submission defense game failed him several times in the past. Overall, Rothwell’s offensive arsenal both on the feet is more varied and he won’t go down quickly if “Pezao” attempts to move the fight on the canvas.
The pick is Rothwell by a first-round finish.
This bout will answer some pending questions, especially about the future of Spencer (8-3, 2-3 UFC) in the organization. While the former Invicta FC 145-pound queen’s score in the UFC is negative, it must be taken into account that she lost to Cris “Cyborg” and Amanda Nunes, arguably the best women’s MMA contenders ever. The real misstep for the “Feenom” was dropping a narrow split decision to Norma Dumont in May, a defeat that crushed her dreams to get another shot at Nunes’ championship in the short term.
It’s been a while since fans saw “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 28 alum Letson (5-1, 1-0 UFC), as her latest Octagon appearance dates back to November 2018. That time, she edged Julija Stoliarenko thanks to a split decision in her promotional debut. After that, “Nidas” had to deal with various health issues that prevented her from competing. 60% of Letson’s wins came by stoppage, making her a fighter that can be a menace for most contenders at 145.
Cage rust might be a fundamental factor in this one, and the odds indicate Letson as the underdog. The punching power of “Nidas” is indeed something that her opponent has to be careful about, but the resiliency of Spencer’s chin is undeniable. The “Feenom” only lost by decision to “Cyborg” and Nunes, who both put away the majority of their opponents inside the distance. The most likely scenario sees Spencer adopting a cautious strategy by taking down her opponent and submitting her as soon as possible.
The pick is Spencer via second-round submission.
In the upcoming battle, Song (17-5-1, 6-1-1 UFC) is putting on the line his #15 ranking position at 135 pounds. The Chinese fighter fought most recently in August, when he did enough to outpoint former Tachi Palace Fights champion Casey Kenney thanks to a split decision at UFC 265. That night, the “Kung Fu Monkey” also bounced back from his first defeat in his first eight UFC appearances, a decision loss to Kyler Phillips at UFC 259.
Dana White’s Contender Series alum Arce (17-4, 4-2 UFC) made the right choice by moving down to bantamweight after dropping a decision to Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 244. Since then, he bounced back with an emphatic finish over Andre Ewell at the 3:45 mark of Round 2 at UFC on ESPN 27. In his UFC tenure, the Team Tiger Schulmann representative proved that he is good at everything, but he doesn’t quite excel in something that makes him stand out of the pack.
The odds are pretty equal for this matchup, which might easily go down as the Fight of the Night candidate. 23-year-old Song is slightly favorite, mostly because he showed a significant amount of maturity in his UFC appearances so far. He can box indeed and shows real awareness about the different phases in this game. Still, many wrestlers gave him some hard time in the past, which Arce will undoubtedly look into.
The pick is Song via decision.
The UFC had to promote this tilt the preliminary to the main card after the abovementioned matchups fell off the bill. Baeza (10-1, 3-1 UFC) took his first settle back in his professional career after losing a decision to Santiago Ponzinibbio at the end of their barnburner in June. That defeat put an end to an impressive ten-bout winning streak. The “Caramel Thunder” features an 80% finishing rate, and he proved that he could also submit his opponents by forcing Takashi Sato to tap at UFC on ESPN 18.
Williams (12-2, 3-1 UFC) made quite a stir in his first UFC battles that ended after a mere combined 57 seconds following his KO success over Alex Morono and Abdul Razak Alhassan at UFC 247 and UFC Fight Night 182, respectively. The loss to Michel Pereira took away some wind from under the wings of “Khaos the Ox Fighter,” but he got back on track with a decision victory against Matthew Semelsberger in June.
None of the contestants have been ever finished, and both are heavy-handed enough to change that. While Baeza is ahead at the bookmakers, Williams showed that he could adapt and switch to a different game plan when needed. If this contest doesn’t end in the first frame, “Khaos the Ox Fighter” looks to be the only fighter who has the tools to edge his opponent on the scorecards.
Pick: Williams via decision.