UFC 18 Vegas Preliminary Card
After a sojourn to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, the UFC makes a triumphant return to Las Vegas on Saturday (February 6), featuring a preliminary card with no fewer than eight fights.
Read on for previews and predictions of each bout on the lineup, featuring odds from William Hill USA. Get free bets and bonus offers to bet on UFC Vegas 18 fights with BetMGM or Poinstbet. States: NJ, CO, IL, IN, MI, IA, PA, VA and more.
UFC Vegas 18 Predictions (+ Odds)
- Michael Johnson (-220) vs. Clay Guida (+180)
- Mike Rodriguez (-240) vs. Danilo Marques (+200)
- Timur Valiev (-360) vs. Martin Day (+280)
- Devonte Smith (-300) vs. Justin Jaynes (+240)
- Michael Johnson (-220) vs. Clay Guida (+180)
- Karol Rosa (-240) vs. Joselyne Edwards (+200)
- Molly McCann (-165) vs. Lara Procopio (+140)
- Youssef Zalal (-240) vs. Seung Woo Choi (+200)
- Ode Osbourne (-195) vs. Jerome Rivera (+160)
Michael Johnson vs. Clay Guida
Punches will be thrown, and they will land. Prediction: Johnson via decision (+138).
Two UFC veterans close out the preliminary card as Michael Johnson and Clay Guida meet in a lightweight bout of rare combined experience, with 90 mixed martial arts fights between the two.
It’s actually a surprise that Johnson isn’t at shorter odds than -220 with William Hill given he hasn’t looked that bad in some of his recent outings, despite going 2-6 across his last eight (since November 2016). “The Menace” has been open on the ground and suffered three submissions during that span, but the record looks more respectable considering some of his recent losses came against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje and Darren Elkins.
Guida (35-20) has suffered 20 defeats in his 55 professional fights, though only two of those have come via KO/TKO, proving just how hard he is to finish. At 39, one would think “The Carpenter” would be cycling towards retirement, but it was announced not long before this, his 30th UFC fight, that he’s signed a new contract with the promotion, per James Lynch:
Just spoke to Clay Guida who mentioned he’s signed a new four-fight contract with the UFC. “The Carpenter” fights Michael Johnson on Feb 6 at #UFCVegas18. I’ll have that interview up soon on the @Line_Movement Youtube channel soon
— James Lynch (@LynchOnSports) January 22, 2021
Johnson’s record has taken serious damage in recent years, but his solid boxing and takedown defense should see him over the line provided he doesn’t grow complacent as in some of his other fights. Four-loss streaks don’t spell positive omens for combatants looking to remain in the UFC, giving all the motivation he needs to get back on the victory trail.
Johnson to win via decision is the choice outcome at +138, but bettors may cast some attention over a small cover on Guida by submission at an extravagant +1000.
Mike Rodriguez vs. Danilo Marques
Redemption is the name of the game for Mike Rodriguez at UFC Vegas 18, where he’ll look to avenge an unfair September defeat to Ed Sherman when he takes on Danilo Marques. Prediction: Rodriguez via KO/TKO (-150) in Rd 2 (+400).
Rodriguez (11-5-1NC) incurred his third UFC loss after a poor refereeing decision meant he should have been awarded a TKO win, only for Herman to come back and seal the victory via kimura using the cage fence to gain illegal leverage. The UFC made up for the error in part by awarding Rodriguez his win prize money, while the judges’ scorecards reflected how he was dominating until the fight reached its conclusion:
#UFCVegas10 Official Scorecard: Ed Herman vs Mike Rodriguez
More Scorecards: https://t.co/mizeGsoO3B pic.twitter.com/IlaqwCg7dF
— UFC News (@UFCNews) September 13, 2020
He’s the -240 moneyline frontrunner to avenge that loss against +200 underdog Marques (10-2), who makes his second UFC appearance in what will be just his third fight in the past three years. The Brazilian handed Khadis Ibragimov his fourth straight defeat when he made his UFC debut (also in September), though Marques had plenty of opportunities to finish his opponent. It’s a factor the 35-year-old took that fight on short notice and won, but a longer training camp likely won’t be enough to surpass Rodriguez, who’s seeking his 10 knockout win in his 18th bout.
An early finish looks certain with this fixture listed at -350 to not go the distance, and a Rodriguez KO/TKO win looks deserving of its short price at -150. Marques has a route to victory if he can get “Slow” to the ground, but his takedown game looks largely one-dimensional and easy enough to read.
Provided Rodriguez has done his homework, he should be able to make use of his five-inch reach cushion and beat Marques standing.
Timur Valiev vs. Martin Day
Prediction: Valiev to win (-360).
Timur Valiev technically remains unbeaten in the UFC ahead of meeting Martin Day in his second fight with the promotion, despite suffering a TKO finish to Trevin Jones in his debut back in August. Fortunately for the Dagestan fighter, that result was overturned and ruled a no-contest after Jones tested positive for marijuana, and Valiev (16-2-1NC) again looks favorable as a -360 favorite to get his first UFC win on Saturday.
His opponent, Day (8-5) is also seeking a first win on MMA’s biggest stage, though he’s had more chances to do so and is 0-3 with the promotion, his losses evenly split with one by knockout, one by submission and one by decision.
While Valiev has only had one UFC bout to date, he boasts extensive experience with the World Series of Fighting and its successor, the Professional Fight League, winning six straight in those and Gorilla Fighting before he moved to the big time. He was in full control of his matchup with Jones before a lapse in judgement saw him suffer a second-round finish, but he should make up for that error against “The Spartan,” who’s a +280 dog.
William Hill USA offers -150 odds that this fight won’t go the distance; if Britain’s Davey Grant can get the finish over Day, it’s more than realistic to believe Valiev can do the same.
Devonte Smith vs. Justin Jaynes
Replacement Justin Jaynes will take on Devonte Smith at UFC Vegas 18 after filling in for the absent Alex da Silva Coelho on short notice, but it doesn’t promise to work out in his favor. Prediction: Smith to win (-300).
The pair couldn’t contrast much more in terms of recent fight activity: Jaynes (16-6) had five bouts across 2020—including his first three fights in the UFC—while Smith (10-2) returns to the Octagon after almost two years out due to injury.
“King Kage” elbowed his way into the UFC after impressing with a TKO win over Joseph Lowry on Dana White’s Contender Series, then went 2-0 in the promotion before a huge upset loss to Khama Worthy in August 2019:
To make matters worse, Smith then suffered a torn Achilles that meant he had to learn how to walk again. It’s natural bettors would be wary of his mental state as much as his physical condition ahead of his much-anticipated UFC return, but Smith assured Nolan King of MMA Junkie that he bided his time recovering in order to ensure he was ready for the comeback.
Jaynes, 31, is a game fighter himself who accumulated five first-round wins before suffering back-to-back losses in the latter half of 2020. His UFC career started with great promise after he finished Frank Camacho inside a minute, but Gavin Tucker and Gabriel Benitez have since exposed “Guitar Hero” to the higher levels of the lightweight division.
This clash will take place at a catchweight of 160lbs due to the short notice at which Jaynes agreed to fight, though that may only end up working more in the favor of Smith, who’s an inch taller and holds a massive eight-inch reach advantage.
A -300 moneyline favorite at William Hill NJ, Smith will hope for a victorious return after such a long layoff. His past five fights have each ended in the first round, with -162 odds available that his meeting with Jaynes—who also tends to feature in short bouts—lasts Under 1.5 rounds.
Karol Rosa vs. Joselyne Edwards
Taking a fight on short notice worked out just fine for Joselyne Edwards when making her UFC debut in January, and the tactic is set to pay off again when she faces Karol Rosa at UFC Vegas 18. Prediction: Edwards via submission (+1100) in Rd 3 (+1600).
The first Panamanian to win in the UFC can climb the women’s bantamweight rankings following that breakout victory over Wu Yanan, though Rosa (13-3) is a step up in tough-to-beat competition. The Brazilian is unbeaten in the UFC and has won her last four fights, while Edwards (10-2) is targeting her third win on the trot.
— Joselyne Edwards (@joselyneMma29) February 3, 2021
It says all one needs to know about La Pantera’s willingness to fight that she accepted this fight just days after her UFC debut, with less than a month separating the two bouts. What’s even more impressive is that she didn’t even know who her opponent would be when she said “yes,” per MMA Junkie’s Danny Segura.
Rosa leads with the sportsbooks and is a -240 favorite with William Hill, but +200 Edwards holds all the more value as an underdog. The former is yet to be knocked out—Edwards’ preferred method of victory with five KO/TKO wins on her record—but Rosa has displayed a weakness in the ground game, with two of her three losses coming via submission.
La Pantera and her team will have identified that as a major factor in their favor, where Edwards can look to use her taller frame to its fullest. Rosa has by and large fought opponents who are largely her height (5’5”) or shorter, but Edwards is more similar in dimensions to Larissa Pacheco (5’8”), who is one of those fighters to have submitted the South American.
Edwards already looks worthy of the pick at +200 moneyline odds, but a +1100 price for the submission if difficult to ignore given her advantages in height and range. We could well see those factors force Rosa into desperate takedown territory, in which case Edwards will be in a prime position to add to her three submission victories.
Molly McCann vs. Lara Procopio
The first women’s bout of UFC Vegas 18 features a flyweight flight between Molly McCann and Lara Procopio, both of whom are eager to make up for losses suffered in their last outings. Prediction: McCann via decision (+100).
McCann (10-3) came off second best in a unanimous-decision defeat to the surging Taila Santos, while Procopio lost via the same means when she faced Karol Rosa in August 2019.
That long absence is a major contributor as to why Procopio’s placement as +140 underdog with William Hill USA looks justified, and McCann is well capable of backing up her -165 frontrunner odds. “Meatball” mauled her way to a three-win streak in the UFC prior to that Santos defeat (all by decision) and a +100 price to take another win with the judges looks like great value.
The Liverpool native spoke to MMA reporter James Lynch ahead of her first fight in Las Vegas, appearing confident in her ability to outmatch her opponent’s intensity:
McCann is at a notable 5.5-inch deficit in regards to the reach, but that’s almost always the case in her fights and doesn’t prevent her getting inside the guard to unleash from the clinch.
After more than 18 months without a fight, Procopio’s grappling could be an issue for Meatball, though her purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu gives her good grounding to hold her own in that area.
Youssef Zalal vs. Seung Woo Choi
Originally scheduled to fight one another in October, Seung Woo Choi will stare down Youssef Zalal at UFC Vegas 18 on Saturday following Collin Anglin’s late withdrawal from facing the former. Prediction: Zalal via decision (+150).
It’s a matchup for fans to look forward to in what promises to be a typical striker-versus-grappler showdown, although Zalal (10-3) does have more strings to his bow than wrestling alone. That being said, +200 Choi (8-3) is one of the underdogs of this card who stands out with potential to outshine their price, particularly with his foe taking this fight on less than a fortnight’s notice.
It goes without saying that “The Moroccan Devil” holds all the cards as far as the ground game is concerned, which would be enough to convince many of his -240 favoritism, per William Hill.
However, Choi has stood up to the supreme grappling talents of Movsar Evloev and Gavin Tucker in two of his last three outings. He lost in both cases but showed glimpses of excellent takedown defense and clinch work, not to mention it’s doubtful as to whether 24-year-old Zalal is on the same level of either of those technicians just yet.
Nonetheless, while Zalal may not be able to put Choi away, he has the more rounded attributes to suggest a decision victory at +150 is the sensible pick.
While his opponent hasn’t fought since December 2019, The Moroccan Devil fought four times in 2020 and shouldn’t be hurt too much by the shorter prep. Ilia Topuria handed Zalal his first UFC defeat in October, but “El Matador” is an unbeaten prospect boasting wrestling skills Choi simply does not.
Ode Osbourne vs. Jerome Rivera
One of numerous fights subject to late change ahead of UFC Vegas 18, Ode Osbourne will face Jerome Rivera in a featherweight fixture, two divisions above the class he was preparing to fight at. Prediction: Jerome Rivera to win (+160).
That’s a factor that may well work out in favor of the latecomer, Rivera (10-4), although the new addition is at least a similar stylistic matchup to Osbourne’s original opponent, Denys Bondar. “The Renegade” agreed to step in as a replacement after going 0-2 in his first two UFC bouts, having only suffered a unanimous-decision defeat to Francisco Figueiredo—brother of flyweight champion Deiveson—on January 20.
It was in the latter stages of that fight that Rivera showcased a lot more aggression and willingness to engage, which will serve him well if he can find that speed earlier on with Osbourne. “The Jamaican Sensation” (8-3)—a -195 moneyline favorite—is coming off a loss of his own after he was submmitted by Brian Kelleher in January 2020, both combatants alumni of Dana White’s Contender Series.
Of Rivera’s 10 wins, seven have come via submission, though he’s by no means a pushover on his feet. He and Osbourne are nearly identical in physical terms, but Rivera has the upper hand in fighting fitness, having competed four times since January 2020 compared to his opponent’s one over the same span.
That and the fact this fight takes places at 145lbs is enough to give Rivera a strong chance of surprising the sportsbooks on Saturday.