Ignacio Bahamondes punching Roosevelt Roberts at UFC Vegas 34 | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Get the scoop on the early action of UFC Vegas 49, with a slew of KO specialists to open things up, including the lanky Ignacio Bahamondes looking to turn away China’s Rong Zhu.
There are a lot of similarities between UFC Vegas 49 this upcoming weekend and the card from last weekend. Both main events were changed on short notice. Neither of the co-main events are truly worthy of being a co-main event. Most notably for this article, the prelims are full of fighters who it feels like the UFC needs to offer fights to in order to fulfill their contractual obligations.
Fortunately, also like last week, there are some rough cut gems on the prelims. Ignacio Bahamondes has already attracted some attention for one of the best KO’s of the year in 2021. Terrance McKinney had the fastest KO for the year, at least within the UFC. Even the fights without top prospects appear to be bangers. Well, all but one of them. See if you can figure out which one I’m not too crazy about.
While the debate of how old Zhu Rong is will likely never have a satisfactory answer – he’s currently listed as 21 – we will get some closure on who the better fighter is between himself and the ridiculously long Ignacio Bahamondes. While Rong has more official MMA fights under his belt, Bahamondes has more overall combat experience thanks to his extensive kickboxing career. At 6’3”, it’s hard to believe Bahamondes stays at lightweight for the entirety of his career, but he knows how to use it in an unorthodox manner. He doesn’t circle on the outside they way many lanky strikers do – he kind of struggles off his back foot – instead, Bahamondes presses forward, mixing power shots and jabs as his lead punches. That isn’t even bringing his kicks into play. However, given Rong is a pressure fighter with plus power, there’s a chance the native of China can find a way to touch up Bahamondes’ chin and put him to sleep. Rong’s defense still leaves a lot to be desired and the youngster is used to having a physical advantage in just about every way against his opposition. He’s not going to have that against Bahamondes. Rong has never been KO’d, but he’s never faced a striker the caliber of Bahamondes and there is a first time for everything. The native of Chile has a fantastic chance of adding another brutal KO to his highlight reel. Bahamondes via KO of RD2
There was a lot of drama with Jennifer Gonzalez and USADA prior to her scheduled contest with Josiane Nunes falling out, but putting all that aside, Nunes gets an inexperienced Ramona Pascual on short notice. Furthermore, the fight will be taking place at featherweight given the short notice nature of it. That’s going to be a hell of a sight as Nunes clocks in at 5”1’, shorter than both the strawweights who are fighting on the card. Despite her lack of height, Nunes is nonetheless an imposing figure, walking her opponents down as she wings bombs that could put down an elephant. A slick striker with some head movement could make Nunes pay a mighty price, but those are on short supply in the heavier women’s divisions and Pascual isn’t one of those rarities. That isn’t to say Pascual doesn’t have some promise as she is an actual bantamweight – she won’t be dropping to flyweight – but It’s going to be a chore for her to clinch up with Nunes to effectuate her preferred Muay Thai offense. If Pascual can survive the early barrage from Nunes, she’ll be in the driver’s seat to score an upset over Nunes, but those odds are very long. Nunes via KO of RD1
Even though he lost his appearance on DWCS, most still believed Terrance McKinney was one of the brightest prospects at featherweight. Unfortunately, a submission loss to Darrick Minner began to allow doubts to creep in. Once McKinney stopped trying to dehydrate to 145, he caught lightning in a bottle. In a three month span, McKinney fought four times, resulting in four wins that came in less than two minutes combined. No longer restrained by needing to conserve energy, McKinney let his prodigious athletic gifts to fly freely and he began accumulating a body of victims in a hurry. Fares Ziam isn’t nearly as explosive as McKinney, but he is a disciplined striker with a K-1 background who makes good use of his lengthy frame to keep his opponents at the end of his punches. The funny thing is, even though he’s the more disciplined fighter, he’s also three years younger and far from being a finished product. Ziam can win this fight by outpointing McKinney, but he’ll be walking a hell of a tightrope. It Isn’t just McKinney’s power he’ll have to contend with, but McKinney is a hell of a wrestler, easily the best one Ziam has faced since joining the UFC. While Ziam has improved his ground game since his regional days, there are still enough concerns on the mat that I’m not sure he can fight off McKinney if that’s the route McKinney takes. Perhaps McKinney has grown overconfident, goes for the kill early, and gasses out in a hurry, allowing Ziam to take the last two rounds. Though I recognize that as a distinct possibility, I think McKinney opts to show off his wrestling and it leads to a victory. McKinney via submission of RD2
It could be argued Alejandro Perez owns the least impressive seven-fight unbeaten streak in UFC history. That isn’t to say Perez isn’t talented. You don’t go seven fights without losing strictly on luck. The issue is Perez struggled to put a stamp on his performances, even when he secured a finish. Much of that can be attributed to his slow pace, slowing things down about as much as one can slow down a bantamweight contest on a regular basis. That said, Perez is well-rounded, technical, and has enough pop in his punches that opponents can’t overlook him. It looks like he added some wrinkles to his ground game too if his most recent fight against Johnny Eduardo is any indication. Jonathan Martinez may not have much of a power advantage in his fists, but he is a far more dynamic striker, possessing serious KO power in his kicks and knees. He’ll need to maximize those advantages since Perez should have a sizeable advantage on the mat. Martinez has made serious progress in his takedown defense since breaking into the UFC, meaning there‘s a good chance he gets the fight he wants. This is a tough contest to predict. I was initially leaning towards Perez due to his ability to control the pace, but I’m being pushed over the edge to go with Martinez as 5-inch reach advantage and ability to fight from the outside should do the trick. Martinez via decision
It looked like the UFC was doing everything in its power to give good soldier Micheal Gillmore a fighting chance at securing a UFC victory. Unfortunately for Gillmore, Johnny Parsons was forced to withdraw, leaving Gillmore to test his mettle against Ramiz Brahimaj… a much more difficult matchup for Gillmore. Brahimaj isn’t a world-beater, but he is an aggressive submission artist who has yet to win a fight via decision. Hell, he hasn’t won a fight with strikes either, all his W’s coming by way of subs. Gillmore is the definition of a try-hard with a burning passion for the sport. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for success. He’s got some powerful kicks, is well-conditioned, and tough as hell. He also struggles with physical opponents and is prone to submissions. In other words, his weaknesses line up directly with the strengths of Brahimaj. Even though Brahimaj isn’t getting a lot of time to prepare for this fight and his gas tank is always a concern, he should have enough physical advantages to overwhelm Gillmore. Brahimaj via submission of RD1
Typically, the UFC doesn’t match DWCS graduates against one another for their UFC debuts, but they’re doing that with Carlos Hernandez and Victor Altamirano. Given the flyweight division is still recovering from the attempted dismantling of it, the hierarchy of the division is still very much up in the air, so I suppose it makes a degree of sense. Altamirano is the elder statesman, clocking in at 31 with a much higher degree of experienced opponents underneath his belt. He doesn’t have much power, but he works his offense to all levels from the outside and doesn’t mind working in the occasional takedown. Hernandez doesn’t have as proven as a track record, but there is a smoothness to his strikes that isn’t there with Altamirano. However, Hernandez isn’t a power threat either and while he’s solid at getting the fight to mat on his terms, he struggles to stop takedowns. Then again, the same could be said of Altamirano. While it’s impossible not to see similarities between both men when watching their film, I favor the more proven Altamirano as I know he can push an insane pace and has a notable three-inch reach advantage. Despite that, there’s no confidence in the pick. Altamirano via decision