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Dan Tom

UFC on ESPN 49: 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 on ESPN 49.

UFC on ESPN 49 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.

Last event’s results: 3-2

Overall picks for UFC main cards in 2023: 60-51-4

Welcome to MMA Junkie’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 FanDuel.

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…

Terrance McKinney (+120) vs. Nazim Sadykhov (-145)

I know I complain about card structures all the time, but props to the current matchmakers for making proper use of lightweight action fighters by allowing them to open the main card.

This week, we’re looking at potential fireworks at 155 pounds between Terrance McKinneyl and Nazim Sadykhov.

I’ll be curious to see what improvements McKinney has brought to the table since recently switching up his training camp, but I have a hard time ignoring the southpaw crosses and knees that seem to be a common culprit for him.

McKinney’s southpaw report:

This feels like a coinflip that I wouldn’t mind being wrong on, but I’ll side with the southpaw stylings of Sadykhove to score a stoppage off bodywork in round two.

Norma Dumont (-142) vs. Chelsea Chandler (+120)

Despite having fantastic men’s flyweight matchups that continue to get buried on the prelims, the UFC matchmakers saw fit to feature the baron wasteland that is women’s featherweight with a matchup between Norma Dumont and Chelsea Chandler.

Although Dumont is the more proven product, Chandler may quietly have a higher ceiling in this spot.

Not only can Chandler actually make bantamweight if she needs to, but the Stockton native fights with some serious urgency and swagger that can be easy to overlook at first glance.

Dumont is definitely the more technically refined fighter on the feet, but – as we saw last weekend with Dricus Du Plessis’ victory over Robert Whittaker – sometimes being a physical tryhard is enough to make the difference.

The pick is Chandler by a back-mount TKO in the first round.

Albert Duraev (+125) vs. Jun Yong Park (-150)

Despite initially being slated as the co-headliner, Albert Duraev versus Jun Yong Park will have to settle for a featured main-card attraction.

That said, I do hope that the winner of this matchup – particularly if it’s Park – starts to get more promotional love in regard to rankings and meaningful fights going forward.

Even though I believe that Duraev is a live dog, I have a hard time trusting his tactical decisions, suspect gas tank and propensity to shoot naked (without strikes for setup).

Couple that with Park’s pacing and underrated wrestling, and I can’t help but side with the Korean fighter to survive the early storms in order to secure a finish in round three.

Ottman Azaitar (-105) vs. Francisco Prado (-115)

Filling out the main card is a lightweight showdown between Ottman Azaitar and Francisco Prado that’s tricky to call.

Aside from the fact that picking this fight from a stylistic perspective feels like flipping a coin, the limited sample size of relevant competition makes this matchup a nightmare to prognosticate from a betting perspective.

Azaitar could easily catch his Argentinian counterpart early, but I’ll side with the younger man in Prado to pull away after the first round for a somewhat surprising decision win.

Jack Della Maddalena (-590) vs. Bassil Hafez (+430)

The co-main event in The Apex features an impromptu welterweight matchup between Jack Della Maddalena and Bassil Hafez.

Despite Hafez debuting on roughly a week’s notice to meet Maddalena, he appears to be a legit talent who I see putting on fun fights in this division.

Not only is Hafez a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who competed with names like Gordon Ryan, but the 31-year-old has been sharpening his striking in the martial arts hotbed of Denver, Colorado. That said, I still have to side with Maddalena in this spot.

Aside from the Australians’ underrated counter-grappling skills, I suspect that Maddalena’s bodywork will be too much for Hafez on such short notice.

Hafez seems durable, though, so I’ll semi-reluctantly pick him to survive until the final bell in what should be a showcase win for Maddalena.

Holly Holm (-172) vs. Mayra Bueno Silva (+144)

The main event on ESPN features another appearance from Holly Holm, who takes on the oncoming Mayra Bueno Silva.

As stated in my in-depth breakdown, I believe that the smaller octagon will force Holm to walk a fine stylistic line this Saturday.

Holm, who has steadily morphed into a clinch grappler through the latter parts of her UFC tenure, will be facing a fighter who is ferocious both in the clinch and on the floor. And though Holm’s style should have some purchase on the feet (at least early), Silva has underrated leg and body attacks that could build out nicely for her over five rounds.

It won’t win me any popularity contests this week, but I’ll take a flier on the underdog in Silva.

Even though I see Holm winning large stretches on this fight early, I believe that Silva is just too dangerous for her to hang around with at this point in her career. The pick is Silva by fourth-round submission.

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