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UFC Vegas 77 predictions

UFC Fight Night: Vera v Sandhagen
Holly Holm
Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

In the words of the the great Jon Anik, the hits just keep on coming!

Following the sensational UFC 290 event last weekend, the UFC returns to its roots in the APEX for UFC Vegas 77, headlined by a women’s bantamweight fight between Holly Holm and Mayra Bueno Silva.

Fresh off her unanimous decision win over Yana Santos, Holm finds herself in arguably the best spot she’s been in years. With longtime champion Amanda Nunes officially retiring earlier this year, the 135-pound division has an opening for a new champion, and given her name and ranking, the former champ has a good chance to be in the inevitable vacant title bout, provided she can win on Saturday.

Standing in Holm’s way is a surging Bueno Silva, who is unbeaten at bantamweight and currently on a three-fight winning streak since moving back up to 135 pounds in 2022. Earning submission finishes in her previous two bouts, Bueno Silva is currently the No. 10 ranked bantamweight in the UFC’s rankings, but a win over Holm would be exactly the sort of high-profile name that could shoot the Brazilian to the top of the contender’s list.

In the co-main event, one of the hottest prospects in all of MMA, Jack Della Maddalena, takes on short-notice opponent Bassil Hafez in a bout that was thrown together after “JDM” had two fights unexpectedly fall off of UFC 290. Della Maddalena is a perfect 4-0 inside the UFC, with all four coming by way of first-round stoppage, so if the 31-year-old Hafez can somehow pull off the upset, the former Fury FC welterweight champion could change his life overnight.

Elsewhere on the card, there are a series of lightweight bangers — Ottman Azaitar vs. Francisco Prado and Terrance McKinney vs. Nazim Sadykhov — and quite possibly the final women’s featherweight fight in UFC history, as Norma Dumont takes on Chelsea Chandler in a bout that now has some unexpected heat on it.

Holly Holm vs. Mayra Bueno Silva

A staple of the UFC for almost a decade at this point, Holm remains one of the toughest outs in women’s MMA. A Hall of Fame boxer, Holm’s striking is still the highlight of her game, with combinations and her always lethal head kick as the things to watch out for. But as she’s gotten older, Holm has also added a consistent and reliable grappling attack. Even at 41 years old, Holm is still a physical force in the division, and she’s comfortable enough on the floor now to pursue takedowns, or simply grind away in the clinch. It’s not always pretty, but it has proven effective for the former champion.

Bueno Silva has looked excellent since returning to bantamweight, using a high-pressure game to force mistakes from her opponents. Offense is the name of the game for Bueno Silva as she marches forward aggressively, employing a heavy kicking game to the legs and body, and plenty of volume with the hands. When she inevitable gets inside, Bueno Silva has also proven dangerous in the clinch, with a high output of elbows and knees. And if the fight hits the mat, there’s no reprieve there either as Bueno Silva is constantly attacking and can find submissions almost out of nowhere, off her back or in scrambles.

Ultimately, Bueno Silva has shown great improvement, but Holm is still a tall task. Like Manon Fiorot, who Bueno Silva struggled with, Holm is a physical fighter who can smother Bueno Silva’s offense when necessary and use a high output at range to win exchanges.

Pick: Holly Holm

Jack Della Maddalena vs. Bassil Hafez

We could go into a full breakdown of this fight, but that really doesn’t seem necessary. No disrespect intended to Bassil Hafez, but he’s a massive underdog for a reason. Della Maddalena is one of the best, most exciting prospects in the entire sport, while Hafez has not even been dominant on the regional circuit. Hafez is primarily a grappler, which is at least something for him, as Della Maddalena’s ground game remains unproven, but he’s going to struggle to get takedowns — and while he does that, he’s going to be eating bombs on the feet.

JDM is likely going to get another first-round finish.

Pick: Jack Della Maddalena

Ottman Azaitar vs. Francisco Prado

Still only 21 years old, there’s a lot to like about Prado’s game. Despite stepping in on short notice against Jamie Mullarkey in his previous fight, he still gave a good accounting of himself against one of the better lightweights in the world. “Argentinian Drew Dober” is a good athlete, willing striker, and solid submission stylist who simply needs time to develop and continue adding tools to his game.

Coming off the first loss of his career, the bounce back from Azaitar is going to be interesting. There’s no shame in losing to Matt Frevola, but at 33 years old, the question for Azaitar is if the game is starting to pass him by. “The Bulldozer” is a good athlete with fast hands and a bit of flash, but against a durable, well-rounded fighter like Prado, I’m not sure that flash will be enough.

Pick: Francisco Prado

Albert Duraev vs. Jun Yong Park

I continued to doubt Jun Yong Park and he continues to make me look foolish. “The Iron Turtle” is a little small for middleweight, but he makes up for it by being supremely tough and extremely well-rounded. Park’s best weapon is his top-position grappling and he’s shown off a variety of clinch takedowns lately. The question is, can he pull those off against Duraev?

For his part, Duraev is fluid and athletic, and mixes his striking and grappling very well. On the feet, his best weapon is his kicking game, something he can use to good effect against Park. Duraev is also a very good defensive fighter, but that can at times limit his offense.

The question for this bout is who wins the pressure battle, and I’m going to side with Park. I’m not sure he can score takedowns but he’s more committed to coming forward, and that might be enough to edge out the scorecards.

Pick: Jun Yong Park

Norma Dumont vs. Chelsea Chandler

Aside from her UFC debut where she was knocked out quickly by Megan Anderson, Dumont has impressed inside the octagon. Slightly undersized at 145, Dumont nonetheless uses her bouncy, sanda style of kickboxing and some underrated grappling skills to out-point almost all of her opponents. Leg kicks, fast hands, and stance switches are the key for Dumont, particularly against the unrefined Chandler.

Chandler looks very much like what she is, which is a Cesar Gracie fighter. Plodding footwork and aggression on the feet, and a dangerous grappler on the floor, Chandler is a mauler of a fighter. She’s going to try to make this fight ugly and win a dog fight, and if she can drag Dumont into one, she has a good shot. Ultimately, I’m not sure Chandler can pull that off consistently, so I favor the technical superiority of Dumont.

Pick: Norma Dumont

Terrance McKinney vs. Nazim Sadykhov

McKinney is here for a good time, not a long time. In his 18 career fights, only three have made it past the first round, and none of them have gone to decision. This is a man who is going to come out and throw the kitchen sink at his opponent and simply see where the chips fall. That sort of aggression makes for compelling viewing, but unpredictable fights.

Sadykov is also a finisher, but one that allows fights to come to him. He has a looser, more flowing style than McKinney, one that allows him to find perfect windows for his shots. The other side of that loose style is that it opens him up to exactly the sort of bumrush that McKinney can put on, so if his chin can’t carry the load, then Sadykhov is in trouble.

Pick: Terrance McKinney


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