Fresh off the back of a jaw-dropping night of fights at Madison Square Gardens for UFC 295, we return this weekend to the more humble backdrop of the UFC Apex. Headlined by a middleweight contender clash between Brendan Allen and Paul Craig, UFC Vegas 82 features a deep 8-fight undercard, littered with roster riders and prospects.

A bloody Featherweight brawl awaits in the featured preliminary this Saturday, as the thudding power of Jonathan Pearce and Joanderson Brito collide in the octagon. Pearce was last stopped in 2019 at the hands of veteran Joe Lauzon, and he will be hoping to avoid becoming Brito’s fourth consecutive first-round stoppage in the UFC.

Pintsized’s pick of the undercard involves a Flyweight toss-up between the savvy Charles Johnson and undefeated Rafael Estevam. In a stacked 125lb division, a statement win for either man would put their name back in the hat for more meaningful fights.

Joanderson Brito is no stranger to highlight reel stoppages at the UFC Apex (Credit: YouTube)

Jonathan Pearce vs Joanderson Brito

In the shadows of many a UFC Apex undercard, Jonathan Pearce has built a respectable five-fight winning streak. Stoppage victories over the likes of Makwan Amirkhani and Omar Morales, underline the American’s top-15 calibre quality. Wrestling provides the key to Pearce’s success, averaging just shy of six takedowns per fight (5.74). While Pearce has been successful chasing submissions when in control of an opponent’s back, his preference is to instead posture up and rain down strikes.

Whether Pearce’s chin can stand up to the ferocious early threat of Joanderson Brito is the crux of Saturday’s fight. ‘Tubarao’ has viciously ended his last three fights in the first round, including a stunning 41-second knockout over the typically durable Andre Fili. Meanwhile, Brito’s one loss in the UFC has come at the hands of Bill Algeo, who avoided the Brazilian’s power on the feet by taking his opponent down. Pearce’s game plan is obvious, however, he will have to be wary of Brito’s own submission arsenal off his back.

Pearce vs Brito Prediction: Brito TKO Round 1

Nikolas Motta vs Trey Ogden

If there is one word to describe Nikolas Motta‘s three-fight tenure in the UFC, it would be ‘violence’. The Brazilian was emphatically knocked out in his debut by veteran Jim Miller, before bouncing back with a left hook KO of his own over Cameron VanCamp. After withdrawing from a fight with Ignacio Bahamondes in April, Motta would return against Manuel Torres two months later, only to be iced by an elbow in the first-round. ‘Iron’ isn’t the most active striker, having banked on his power as his equaliser across the regional scene. Unfortunately, against sharper opponents, his one-note pace can be picked apart – with fighters capable of reacting to his lunging southpaw hook.

Not that Trey Ogden will be looking to spend much time on the feet against the Brazilian. The ‘Samurai Ghost’ is a submission specialist, having collected a number of rear-naked chokes during his time on the regional scene. Despite a 1-2 record since entering the UFC in early 2022, Ogden’s issues are not related to his grappling skillset. Rather, Ogden has been unable to take opponents down, averaging just 14% takedown accuracy. Although Motta is yet to face a takedown attempt in the UFC, the stats should change fairly early in Saturday’s fight.

Motta vs Ogden Prediction: Ogden Submission Round 2

Lucie Pudilova vs Ailin Perez

Lucie Pudilova garnered significant attention upon her return to the UFC following her dominant victory over Yanan Wu last year. The Czech fighter had struggled immensely during her first campaign over 2017-2020, before picking up a string of wins at OKTAGON against middling opposition. While her striking is sharper now, she struggled to crack the code of Joselyne Edwards’ freak length last time out. Moreover, Pudilova would benefit from mixing in more strikes on the mat in order to open up more submission avenues.

Still, Pudilova shouldn’t find it too difficult to takedown Ailin Perez. The 29-year-old wilted in her UFC debut under Stephanie Egger’s chain-wrestling, struggling to keep herself standing against a taller opponent. Pudilova represents a similarly physical wrestling threat, and although Perez has since bounced back with a decision win over Ashlee Evans-Smith, the Argentinian has not revealed any improvements in her TDD yet.

Pudilova vs Perez Prediction: Pudilova Decision

Mick Parkin vs Caio Machado

Mick Parkin‘s six-fight stoppage streak to start his professional MMA career finally came to an end in his last fight against Jamal Pogues. The 28-year-old boasts a surprisingly deep eight-fight amateur career, however, his matchmaking in the pro ranks has been questionable at best. Don’t expect a Tom Aspinall-esque prodigy, but rather, an English Chris Daukaus. That isn’t an insult either – Parkin can keep fights standing, controlling the centre of the octagon and engaging opponents in hand fighting before fizzing in his speedy hooks.

Standing in Parkin’s way is the former BFL heavyweight champion, Caio Machado. The 29-year-old Brazilian thoroughly dominated Kevin Szaflarksi in his Dana White’s Contender Series appearance, landing 121 significant strikes to his opponent’s 17. Machado’s success stems from his unorthodox lateral movement, drunkenly throwing looping shots from his hips and catching opponents off guard. It is a defensively porous approach, however, and one that should be punished by a disciplined striker like Parkin.

Parkin vs Machado Prediction: Parkin TKO Round 1

Mick Parkin is a Heavyweight prospect fighting out of TFT (Team Fish Tank) MMA in England (Credit: YouTube)

Chad Anheliger vs Jose Johnson

Although the bantamweight match-up between Chad Anheliger and Jose Johnson is the most underwhelming on UFC Vegas 82, Johnson’s six-inch height advantage should at least provide some comic relief. Anheliger picked up a late stoppage win over Jesse Strader in his UFC debut before being out-gunned on the feet and mat by Altengheili. The Canadian can be defensively slick, but often at the expense of his own volume.

Johnson’s claim to fame is being just one of a number of fighters to lose via twister submission in the UFC, falling to Da’Mon Blackshear in August. The Michigan fighter is far better than his promotional debut suggested, however, having convincingly beat the former Cage Warriors champion Jack Cartwright in their DWCS bout. No matter his physical gifts on the feet, Johnson’s has not resolved his leaky TDD that once saw him surrender 12 takedowns to Ronnie Lawrence during their fight in 2020.

Anheliger vs Johnson Prediction: Anheliger Decision

Charles Johnson vs Rafael Estevam

For a fighter with such a well-rounded skillset, it has been a surprise to see Charles Johnson slide to a two-loss skid. While Johnson is incredibly easy to takedown, having fallen 12 times to Muhammad Mokaev and 11 times to Cody Durden, he can just as easily return to his feet. Unfortunately for the American, apart from his first-round knockout over Jimmy Flick, he has regularly failed to dictate the striking pace, and as such, has dropped winnable fights on the scorecards.

It is therefore wry matchmaking on the UFC’s part to throw DWCS prospect Rafael Estevam into the mix on Saturday. The undefeated Brazilian obliterated Joao Elias on the mat last year, reducing Elias to just three significant strikes en route to an astounding second-round knockout via G’n’P. One major question mark looming is Estevam’s one-year hiatus out of the octagon, in part due to a botched weight cut earlier in May. The Brazilian’s time at Flyweight may come to an end sooner rather than later if his troubles on the scales continue.

Johnson vs Estevam Prediction: Estevam Decision

Lucas Alexander vs Jeka Saragih

After an impressive showing on Anthony Pettis FC 1, Lucas Alexander was scooped up by the UFC in 2022. Despite falling in two-minutes to Joanderson Brito, Alexander was able to pick up his first promotional win against veteran Steven Peterson. The Brazilian’s heavy feet provide a double edged sword – offering Alexander extra pop to his shots at the expense of greater vulnerability to takedowns.

Singaporean grappler Jeka Saragih will be more than willing to search for an early takedown to avoid Alexander’s crisp boxing threat. While Saragih opted to trade with Anshul Jubli on the feet during their Road to UFC final, it could in part be attributed to the 28-year-old falling in love with his power from his previous first-round knockout victory over Won Bin Ki. With seven career finishes on the ground, a return to tradition for Saragih could prove enough on Saturday.

Alexander vs Saragih Prediction: Saragih Submission Round 2

Christian Leroy Duncan vs Denis Tiuliulin

It will be interesting to see the changes that Christian Leroy Duncan has made since his loss to Armen Petrosyan in June. The Englishman was beaten at his own game, out-gunned by Petrosyan on the feet over a closely contested affair. ‘CLD’s preference for spinning strikes were exposed as gimmicks against traditional kickboxing combinations, although Duncan’s leg kicking threat remained as potent as ever.

Thankfully for Duncan, he will not have to worry about any sort of wrestling threat against Denis Tiuliulin. Over his four fights in the UFC, the Russian has never attempted a takedown, opting instead to bull-rush opponents with his kill-or-be-killed striking. While Tiuliulin’s offence can be varied, his defensive counters rest almost entirely upon his right hook. If Duncan can make the necessary reads early in the contest, he should face no issues in avoiding Tiuliulin’s power.

Duncan vs Tiuliulin Prediction: Duncan TKO Round 1

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