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UFC Uruguay predictions

Valentina Shevchenko (pictured) defends her flyweight title against Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC Uruguay on Saturday
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Valentina Shevchenko heads into her first headlining bout as a UFC champion and while it’s not a pay-per-view, it is an opportunity for “Bullet” to expand her rapidly growing fanbase.

A native of Kyrgyzstan who speaks fluent Spanish due to her deep Peruvian roots, Shevchenko makes for a fine headliner as the Octagon makes its debut in Uruguay on Saturday. Then again, all this talk of star power could go out the window if she can’t handle an old nemesis, Liz Carmouche.

The two clashed back in September 2010 and Carmouche defeated Shevchenko by cut stoppage in the second round. It remains the only time that Shevchenko has been finished in MMA.

A fight that needs no storyline is the welterweight co-main event between Vicente Luque and Mike Perry. Luque is a finisher of the highest order, having picked up all nine of his UFC wins by knockout or submission. Perry’s finishing ability has dwindled as his competition has improved, but he’s also matured as a fighter, outpointing more experienced opponents like Alex Oliveira and Paul Felder. Fans can expect this one to either have a violent and quick end or turn into a three-round war.

In other main card action, unbeaten Uruguayan featherweight Luiz Eduardo Garagorri makes his UFC debut against Humberto Bandenay, a twice-delayed light heavyweight bout between Volkan Oezdemir and Ilir Latifi finally goes down, Brazilian jiu-jitsu superstar Rodolfo Vieira competes in the Octagon for the first time when he meets Oskar Piechota in a middleweight bout, and featherweights Enrique Barzola and Bobby Moffett look to get back on the winning track when they clash in the opener.

What: UFC Uruguay

Where: Antel Arena in Montevideo, Uruguay

When: Saturday, Aug. 10. The entire card will air on the ESPN+ streaming service with the seven-fight preliminaries beginning at 5 p.m. ET and the six-fight main card starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Liz Carmouche

Valentina Shevchenko isn’t going to let history repeat itself.

Let’s give Liz Carmouche her proper respect. She’s an extraordinarily durable fighter with great timing on her takedowns and trips, and she works well from top position. It’s not that much of a stretch to envision a scenario where Carmouche scores a few timely takedowns in the first two rounds and wears Shevchenko down en route to an upset decision win.

It’s even easier to envision the more expected outcome: Shevchenko dices Carmouche up with her kickboxing and has her way with the challenger for as long as the fight lasts. “Bullet” is an excellent grappler as well and it’s entirely possible that she surprises Carmouche with takedowns of her own to keep Carmouche guessing.

Carmouche has never been knocked out, so putting her down with strikes will be a true test of Shevchenko’s highly vaunted striking skills. I think she’ll show the total package here, hurting Carmouche on the feet before finishing with a submission on the ground. It’s even possible that Shevchenko ends the fight with an armbar, just like Ronda Rousey did when Carmouche challenged her for the UFC bantamweight title six years ago.

Should that happen, it’s Carmouche who will have a sickening sense of deja vu.

Pick: Shevchenko

Vicente Luque vs. Mike Perry

Can we give some kudos to the matchmakers for putting this one together? It’s really the perfect pairing of two fighters who have shown potential to be contenders at 170 pounds for years to come. Vicente Luque is closer to the top-10, but Mike Perry has shown how his all-around game and poise have improved with unanimous decision wins over quality opponents in two of his last three fights.

Perry still packs plenty of punch too. As long as it’s been since his last KO, it’s hard to shake the image of him smashing Alex Reyes and Jake Ellenberger. He’s simply blessed with the kind of finishing instincts you can’t teach. The same could be said of Luque, who is one of the best in any weight class at putting an exclamation point on his performances.

One major difference is the fact that Luque is a threat to finish on the ground and that may be where he decides to go if a firefight with Perry blazes out of control. That added dimension has me thinking he’s got the slight advantage in what could be a short fight. If Luque doesn’t get an early submission, I see him getting the better of Perry in a potential three-round brawl.

Pick: Luque

Humberto Bandenay vs. Luiz Eduardo Garagorri

Humberto Bandenay is a developing southpaw striker who loves to throw everything with power. He’s got good size for a featherweight, but hasn’t really been able to leverage his physical gifts inside the Octagon in any meaningful way. His jab is non-existent, so he relies on walking his opponents down and the threat of a counters to close the distance.

That might not be an issue against the debuting Luiz Eduardo Garagorri, who has been a first-round fight finisher in South America’s regional scene. If he wades right into Bandenay’s range, it could make for a short, crowd-pleasing fight. Garagorri likes to throw spinning kicks, which is sure to pop the fans in his home country.

That boost is what I expect to push Garagorri to a win in a bout featuring two fighters who are still unproven at the top level of MMA. Either the judges will be swayed by the loud reaction to Garagorri’s offense, or the man himself will draw on the strength of his fellow Uruguayans to gut out a decision win.

Pick: Garagorri

Volkan Oezdemir vs. Ilir Latifi

You have to wonder if Volkan Oezdemir became a little gun shy after being finished by Daniel Cormier and Anthony Smith. In both of those instances, Oezdemir looked drained before being finished on the ground, which may explain why he was hesitant in his razor-thin split decision loss to Dominick Reyes.

At his best, Oezdemir specializes in finding tiny openings to land big punches, which means he should be able to have a lot of success against Ilir Latifi, who isn’t the best defensive fighter. However, Latifi is also incredibly explosive, a trait that gave Oezdemir reason for pause in the Reyes fight.

Oezdemir has his back against the wall coming off his third straight loss and desperation could play a factor here. More likely, it’s Oezdemir’s accuracy and superior leg length that will give him the advantage against Latifi. I’m not confident Latifi can close the distance on Oezdemir without eating the kind of short, powerful strike that has become one of Oezdemir’s trademarks.

Oezdemir by knockout.

Pick: Oezdemir

Rodolfo Vieira vs. Oskar Piechota

They could have picked an easier opponent to showcase the Brazilian jiu-jitsu mastery of Rodolfo Vieira, but one can see why the matchmakers booked this one.

Oskar Piechota has a functional ground game, so he won’t be completely lost should Vieira take him down. More importantly, he’ll make Vieira work to get that takedown and that has been the downfall of many grappling specialists. A fast finisher, Vieira’s cardio is largely untested.

What’s intriguing about Vieira is that in his five pro bouts so far, he has looked more comfortable on the feet than you would expect, which will help him conserve a lot of energy when shooting in. His primary goal should still be to turn this into a submission contest, a game that Piechota has almost zero chance of winning.

Vieira lives up to the hype here and gets an early tap-out.

Pick: Vieira

Enrique Barzola vs. Bobby Moffett

This matchup between Enrique Barzola and Bobby Moffett has the potential to be a fun one.

Barzola has one goal when he gets in the cage, he’s going to go for takedowns and not stop until his opponent’s butt is on the mat. It’s a formula that’s worked well for him and it could be perfect for Moffett, who doesn’t have the greatest takedown defense. What Moffett does bring to the table is an enthusiasm for scrambles and a dangerous D’Arce choke.

Successfully securing that hold on the stout Barzola seems unlikely, but just the threat of it could help Moffett to move into advantageous positions on the mat or make Barzola think twice about his entries.

One could argue that Moffett should be 0-2 in the UFC after earning a controversial submission win over Chas Skelly in his debut. There’s no questioning he has a ton of heart though, I just don’t think it will be enough to outlast Barzola in a 15-minute fight this time around.

Pick: Barzola


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