The UFC is back in Las Vegas after another stint on Fight Island, and they’re returning with a banger of a card! The predictions from the MMA Empire team, along with our guest picker, can be found below for the six-fight main card.
Our guest picker for this event is undefeated Canadian prospect Keanan Kellar. After a 5-1 amateur career, Kellar has opened up his professional career with two straight wins. He’s currently scheduled to face Kyran Cameron on March 19 at BFL 66.
2021 standings thru UFC 257
T1. Cody Rempel (10-6) 11-9-1 in 2020
T1. Cooper Riehl (10-6) 13-7-1 in 2020
3. Cole Shelton (9-7) N/A in 2020
T4. Guest picker (8-8) 10-10-1 in 2020
T4. Cody Davis (8-8) 11-9-1 in 2020
6. Dylan Bowker (7-9) N/A in 2020
T7. Joel Griffith (6-10) 12-8-1 in 2020
T7. Kylan Knowler (6-10) N/A in 2020
9. Joe McDonagh (5-11) N/A in 2020
Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov
Cody Rempel – “Although the heavyweight title picture is a little blurry right now, the man who wins on Saturday night could put himself in the hunt for a title shot. My heart is with Overeem and wants to see him make that one final run before he hangs up his gloves. The smart money might be on Volkov, but I’ll take a shot on the Reem.” Pick: Alistair Overeem via knockout.
Cooper Riehl – “I absolutely love the way Overeem has evolved over the years. He’s got every tool in the shed now and he loves to use them all. I think he’ll find a way to get a finish here and keep inching closer to that final title shot.” Pick: Alistair Overeem via TKO.
Cole Shelton – “This should be a striking battle and I think Volkov is a bit more technical, can avoid the power shots and outwork Overeem to win a decision.” Pick: Alexander Volkov via unanimous decision.
Keanan Kellar – “I feel Volkov’s range will be a real problem for Overeem. I also feel Overeem’s body is war-torn from a long, tough fight career, and well past his prime.” Pick: Alexander Volkov via unanimous decision.
Cody Davis – “Overeem’s age catches up to him in this fight, with Volkov landing a knockout combination.” Pick: Alexander Volkov via knockout.
Dylan Bowker – “I can see Overeem mixing things up well with the striking and his burgeoning skills as a ground-and-pound heavy wrestler here. I think Overeem gets it done inside the distance.” Pick: Alistair Overeem via TKO.
Joel Griffith – “Overeem’s knockout potential is always something to be concerned about, but I see Volkov being the more technical striker and mixing it up more.” Pick: Alexander Volkov via TKO.
Kylan Knowler – “Getting taken down a bunch by Curtis Blaydes, maybe the best wrestler in the division, is not a sign of wrestling weakness. That said, Volkov was controlled that way for the majority of a twenty-five minute fight. Overeem’s complete enough in his game to tell us what the truth is, and is most certainly not only the better wrestler, but grappler in general. He is also seasoned enough to know when he should use it, and I think he will here.” Pick: Alistair Overeem via unanimous decision.
Joe McDonagh – “Overeem is on a two-fight win streak, both via finish. I believe that continues this weekend.” Pick: Alistair Overeem via TKO.
Picks – Alistair Overeem: 5, Alexander Volkov: 4
Frankie Edgar vs. Cory Sandhagen
Cody Rempel – “Another fight with title implications sees the hot, rising prospect against the tough, former champion. Sandhagen has been on a roll, with his only UFC loss coming to the number one contender. Edgar has seen mixed results over the last few years and will always be a tough test for anyone. Sandhagen should be able to keep his momentum going and earn the next shot at the bantamweight strap.” Pick: Cory Sandhagen via unanimous decision.
Cooper Riehl – “I don’t want to see Edgar lose, but I just can’t see him winning this one. I hope I’m wrong.” Pick: Cory Sandhagen via unanimous decision.
Cole Shelton – “Edgar is a live dog and can win this fight by using his wrestling. However, I expect Sandhagen to keep it standing and use his range to pick apart Edgar.” Pick: Cory Sandhagen via unanimous decision.
Keanan Kellar – “I feel again that Edgar’s best days are behind him and that Sandhagen, being young and in his prime, will be too much for Edgar.” Pick: Cory Sandhagen via unanimous decision.
Cody Davis – “Tough to say which Edgar shows up on Saturday, but I think he’ll be mentally prepared and coast to victory. He’s hungry for one last title shot.” Pick: Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision.
Dylan Bowker –“I think Edgar will be able to tap into that veteran savvy to get it done against the young killer here. I think Edgar’s footwork and his nuanced boxing game will lead him to victory.” Pick: Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision.
Joel Griffith –“As long as Sandhagen can avoid getting taken down, which I believe he does, he’s going to be way too much for Edgar on the feet. I think Sandhagen cruises here.” Pick: Cory Sandhagen via unanimous decision.
Kylan Knowler – “Edgar is still elite, but unfortunately I think if Holloway’s length and movement tied him up, Sandhagen’s will twofold. His unusual height and size for the weight class will allow him to easily find underhooks if Edgar tries to take him down, and he is a sniper on the feet. Even prime Edgar may have had a hard time with him.” Pick: Cory Sandhagen via unanimous decision.
Joe McDonagh – “Only one man has finished Edgar, I think that stays true. That being said, I see Edgar as the more complete fighter and taking a decision.” Pick: Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision.
Picks – Frankie Edgar: 3, Cory Sandhagen: 6
Michael Johnson vs. Clay Guida
Cody Rempel – “Well, this fight doesn’t mean as much as most of the other fights on the main card, but it should be good for some nostalgia. This should be an entertaining one and Guida should be able to use his ground game to earn the win.” Pick: Clay Guida via submission.
Cooper Riehl – “I think ‘The Menace’ should be able to keep Guida off of him with his solid wrestling and use his superior boxing to pick away at Guida.” Pick: Michael Johnson via unanimous decision.
Cole Shelton – “It’s hard to trust either guy, but I expect Johnson to out-strike Guida and win a decision.” Pick: Michael Johnson via unanimous decision.
Keanan Kellar – “I hate Johnson, such a cocky fighter. But I feel he’ll smash Guida.” Pick: Michael Johnson via TKO.
Cody Davis – “Johnson’s height and reach advantages may lead to an early finish.” Pick: Michael Johnson via TKO.
Dylan Bowker – “I think Guida will have his moments here, keeping up a rapid fire pace, but I foresee Johnson eventually finding his range and halting the action inside the distance.” Pick: Michael Johnson via TKO.
Joel Griffith – “If this one remains on the feet, Johnson is going to have a field day with Guida. I can’t see Johnson earning a stoppage win, but I do see him landing the more significant shots.” Pick: Michael Johnson via unanimous decision.
Kylan Knowler – “Theoretically, Johnson should be able to keep Guida at a distance with his boxing and volume, but I see Johnson getting greedy with his combinations and Guida taking him down, where he will establish top and side control and finish Johnson with ground and pound.” Pick: Clay Guida via TKO.
Joe McDonagh – “Not really sure what to expect here. Both are out of their primes and on losing streaks, but both still exciting.” Pick: Michael Johnson via TKO.
Picks – Michael Johnson: 7, Clay Guida: 2
Manel Kape vs. Alexandre Pantoja
Cody Rempel – “Kape will make his UFC debut and could immediately insert himself into the title picture with a win over number five-ranked Pantoja. It’s not going to be an easy introduction for Kape, but I still feel he’ll be able to pull out the win.” Pick : Manel Kape via unanimous decision.
Cooper Riehl – “We finally get to see Kape in the Octagon, and of course the UFC isn’t taking it easy on a debuting fighter from another promotion. Pantoja is for real and he has that ability to finish anybody at any time. Sometimes, though, I think he might be a little bit too reckless, I think Kape will find a way in this one.” Pick” Manel Kape via unanimous decision.
Cole Shelton – “Kape is the real deal and I think, in the second round, he will land something big and drop Pantoja and finish him off.” Pick: Manel Kape via TKO.
Keanan Kellar – “Kape’s been on a winning streak and has momentum, whereas Pantoja has lost two of his last three.” Pick: Manel Kape via TKO.
Cody Davis – “It’s Kape’s UFC debut, so I’ll take the more experienced fighter to capitalize on an early mistake or two.” Pick: Alexandre Pantoja via unanimous decision.
Dylan Bowker – “Both are surging contenders in the 125-pound ranks, but I think Kape is going to make an emphatic UFC debut. I think he separates Pantoja from consciousness here.” Pick: Manel Kape via knockout.
Joel Griffith – “Kape has some serious power for the flyweight division, but Pantoja has yet to be knocked out in 27 professional fights. I see Kape finding more success on the feet, while also mixing in some takedowns, to earn the victory in his UFC debut.” Pick: Manel Kape via unanimous decision.
Kylan Knowler – “Both are experienced and capable of submitting or knocking the other out, but I think Kape will prove quicker on the draw and looser on the feet, taking Pantoja to a competitive, but comfortable decision.” Pick: Manel Kape via unanimous decision.
Joe McDonagh – “Kape is a super exciting prospect, and puts on a show.” Pick: Manel Kape via unanimous decision.
Picks – Manel Kape: 8, Alexandre Pantoja: 1
Cody Stamann vs. Askar Askar **Canceled**
Cody Rempel – “Stamann has struggled to find consistency in the Octagon as of late and needs to get back on track to keep pace at 135 pounds. Askar is another fighter looking to make a statement against a veteran UFC staple in his debut, but Stamann should be able to hold him off and get the win.” Pick: Cody Stamann via unanimous decision.
Cooper Riehl – “Stamann has only really lost to elite competition in his career and although Askar has a lot of potential and might get there someday, he isn’t elite just yet. The threat of Stamann’s wrestling and his forward pressure should be the difference in this short notice matchup.” Pick: Cody Stamann via unanimous decision.
Cole Shelton – “Stamann is a world-class wrestler and will land takedown after takedown to win a clear-cut decision.” Pick: Cody Stamann via unanimous decision.
Keanan Kellar – “I feel this is a good fight. It’s a tough fight to pick, but I’m going to be cheering for Stamann.” Pick: Cody Stamann via unanimous decision.
Cody Davis – “Stamann is Vegas’ pick to win this matchup, and for good reason. His grappling should get the job done in the first or second round.” Pick: Cody Stamann via submission.
Dylan Bowker – “This is a good fight on paper and one that I think will be relatively competitive, but I think the short notice nature for Askar may inform this performance a bit. I see Stamann being able to push a harder pace over the course of three full rounds.” Pick: Cody Stamann via unanimous decision.
Joel Griffith – “Props to Askar for accepting this fight on this short of notice because Stamann is a very tough way to make your UFC debut. While I do believe Stamann is superior on the feet, I think we’ll see him utilize his elite wrestling in this one as well.” Pick: Cody Stamann via unanimous decision.
Kylan Knowler – “Debutant Askar has a solid record at 11-1, but I have to favour Stamann’s octagon experience and well-roundedness over that.” Pick: Cody Stamann via unanimous decision.
Joe McDonagh – “Stamann will be a lot to handle, and too tall a task on short notice for the high-ranked prospect.” Pick: Cody Stamann via TKO.
Picks – Cody Stamann: 9, Askar Askar: 0
Beneil Dariush vs. Diego Ferreira
Cody Rempel – “These lightweights are both on lengthy winning streaks and are hovering around just outside the top 10 of an absolutely stacked division. Even with a win here, either man might be a long way from a title shot, but it definitely helps. It’ll be a close one, but Dariush should get the victory.” Pick: Beneil Dariush via unanimous decision.
Cooper Riehl – “Ferreira has been on an absolute tear, but he doesn’t get any shine at all. He’s beaten some good fighters along the way and this is a chance to redeem one of his losses as a pro. Ferriera has improved his striking immensely and he packs a lot of punching power. I think Ferriera gets it done on the feet in the rematch. Dariush has knockout power, but his defence is too suspect for me in this one.” Pick: Diego Ferreira via TKO.
Cole Shelton – “I still have concerns about Dariush’s chin and I believe Ferreira will crack him early and finish him off via TKO.” Pick: Diego Ferreira via TKO.
Keanan Kellar – “Dariush scored a couple crazy knockouts last year and I think he’s going to be a new lightweight contender soon.” Pick: Beneil Dariush via knockout.
Cody Davis – “Dariush has black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay thai, with an impressive record to boot. His opponent is a phenomenal grappler, but Dariush is the more well-rounded fighter.” Pick: Beneil Dariush via unanimous decision.
Dylan Bowker – “Dariush got it done against Ferreira in their initial bout and I see him getting the nod once more in the rematch. It went the distance the first time out though and I see Dariush halting the proceedings here.” Pick: Beneil Dariush via TKO.
Joel Griffith – “There are so many different ways for this fight to play out, especially if it hits the ground. However, I think Dariush will look to keep this one standing where I see him outclassing Ferreira.” Pick: Beneil Dariush via unanimous decision.
Kylan Knowler – “While both have jiu-jitsu acumen and Dariush poses more dangerous striking, I think Ferreira will be the more skilled grappler in a match that I expect could be grappling-heavy if either or both want it to be, and Ferreira will eventually find a choke.” Pick: Diego Ferreira via submission.
Joe McDonagh – “Dariush is on a roll, and that continues Saturday night with another stoppage finish victory.” Pick: Beneil Dariush via TKO.