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Dan Tom

UFC Fight Night 224: Quick picks and prognostications

MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main card for UFC Fight Night 224.

UFC Fight Night 224 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card streams on ESPN+.

Last event’s results: 3-2

Overall picks for UFC main cards in 2023: 42-38-3

Welcome to MMAJunkie’s Quick Picks and Prognostications, where I’ll be giving brief, fight-day breakdowns for UFC main cards.

With that in mind, I hope these write-ups don’t come off as curt or dismissive, as my goal here is to offer quick picks and analysis in a digestible format. All odds listed are provided by Tipico Sportsbook.

If you’d like more detailed analysis from me, then feel free to check out my weekly show, The Protect Ya’ Neck Podcast.

So, without further ado…

Diego Ferreira (-165) vs. Michael Johnson (+135)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 19: (L-R) Opponents Diego Ferreira of Brazil and Michael Johnson face off during the UFC weigh-in at Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino on May 19, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

I’m not sure if Joe Silva snuck back into the office this week, but it’s nice to see the quality lightweights opening up main cards again.

In this fun styles match, we have Diego Ferreira, who is trying to snap a three-fight losing skid opposite southpaw staple, Michael Johnson.

Johnson has traditionally struggled with pressuring submission grapplers, so I totally understand why Ferreira is favored coming into this contest (especially inside of the smaller octagon).

That said, Ferreira is officially 0-3 inside of the UFC APEX and 1-3 against UFC-level southpaws.

Add in Ferreira’s low takedown average and the fact that he has the propensity to get hurt to the body, and I can’t help but take a flier on Johnson to return to form with a first-round finish via a check right hook.

Andre Fialho (+185) vs. Joaquin Buckley (-225)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 19: (L-R) Opponents Andre Fialho of Portugal and Joaquin Buckley face off during the UFC weigh-in at Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino on May 19, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Filling out the main card is a potential welterweight war between Andre Fialho and Joaquin Buckley.

Buckley is making his return to the weight class, while Fialho is trying to stop the bleeding of a two-fight losing skid.

Both men aren’t beyond getting hurt in victory or defeat, but I believe that Buckley is the more durable party with the slightly better gas tank in tow. Fialho, who is officially 0-1 opposite UFC-level southpaws, may also have trouble with Buckley’s shot selection.

The pick is Buckley to survive some scares in the first in order to knock Fialho out with a cross-hook combination in round two.

Emily Ducote (+130) vs. Loopy Godinez (-160)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 19: (L-R) Opponents Emily Ducote and Loopy Godinez of Mexico face off during the UFC weigh-in at Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino on May 19, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Despite initially being scheduled to fight Polyana Viana this Saturday, Emily Ducote will now meet Loopy Godinez at a catchweight of 120 pounds.

It’s still hard to know what exactly you’re gonna get with Godinez, but I suspect that the small cage will help encourage the Mexican fighter’s pressuring sensibilities.

That said, Ducote comes from a wrestling base and carries a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so I’m not sure how much success Godinez will find when wrestling.

It’s not a confident pick, but I’ll take a flier on Ducote to edge out at least two scorecards with her superior technique and counters.

Anthony Hernandez (-210) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (+170)

The co-main event in Las Vegas features a middleweight encounter between Anthony Hernandez and Edmen Shahbazyan.

Hernandez appeared to have found his niche as a relentless chain grappler, while Shahbazyan seems to be recovering from a string of setbacks since shifting his training over to Las Vegas.

Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shahbazyan hurt Hernandez to the body early, I ultimately have a hard time going against the superior grappler and the man with a more proven process inside of the smaller cage.

The pick is Hernandez by third-round submission (arm-in guillotine/boa choke).

Mackenzie Dern (-175) vs. Angela Hill (+145)

The main event on ESPN+ features a strawweight showdown between Mackenzie Dern and Angela Hill.

As stated in my in-depth breakdown, I actually leaned toward Hill when this fight was initially set to take place in a regulation-sized octagon in Charlotte.

However, after this fight getting shifted to the smaller octagon of the UFC APEX, I now believe that the stylistic edge resides with Dern.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room in regard to Dern’s admitted struggles in the lead-up to this fight (something I was not privy to when locking in my prediction). For that reason, I don’t blame anyone for taking Hill in this spot.

Despite being the older fighter, Hill has shown solid improvements in her counter wrestling that deserve to be acknowledged. Whereas Dern, who was gifted an awful decision in a fight where she was clearly outstruck by Tecia Torres, could easily be winless in her last three fights.

But I digress.

My heart is with Hill, but I’ll stick to my initial prediction of Dern by second-round submission.

Gannett may earn revenue from Tipico for audience referrals to betting services. Tipico has no influence over nor are any such revenues in any way dependent on or linked to the newsrooms or news coverage. See for Terms and Conditions. 21+ only. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO).

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