With former title challenger Paulo Costa on the mend, Kelvin Gastelum steps up in no time to meet up with his The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) sparring partner Robert Whittaker this Saturday (April 17, 2021) in a He fights with serious implications for the middleweight title. UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada will also host a guaranteed lightweight fight between Jeremy Stephens and Drakkar Klose, as well as a heavyweight battle in which Andrei Arlovski will face Chase Sherman.
UFC Vegas 24 features seven “preliminary” undercard matches this time, which we’ve divided unevenly 4: 3 for your convenience below …
185 pounds: Bartosz Fabinski vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Although he had to deal with a nearly three-year layoff in between, Pole Bartosz Fabinski (15-4) fought his way to victory in his first three UFC appearances before colliding with Michel Prazeres. He returned to the win column in March 2020 with a decision over Darren Stewart, only to touch an arm bar from Andre Muniz 5.5 months later.
Gives one inch of headroom and 2.5 inches of reach to “GM3”.
After an inconsistent start to his Octagon career, Gerald Meerschaert (31-14) seemed to finally find his footing in a 2-2 stretch that saw him upset Trevin Giles and Deron Winn while suffering questionable split decision losses to Kevin. Holland and Eryk Anders. However, he soon hit a wall, suffering back-to-back knockout losses to Ian Heinisch and Khamzat Chimaev within three months.
He has subdued 23 professional opponents and knocked out six others.
Meerschaert’s recent losses have me more than a little concerned for his well-being. Historically, he has been enormously difficult to knock out, as seen in the sheer artillery barrage Thiago Santos had to unleash to eliminate him, and seeing him drop twice in two combined minutes makes me think the end might be near.
Fortunately for him, Fabinski doesn’t think about testing that chin. “The Butcher” knows only one way to fight, and that is to rack up as many double legs as humanly possible within the allotted time limit. Meerschaert has shown that playing him on the ground is silly even with his back turned, and that Muniz’s loss suggests Fabinski’s submission defense is not up to the task. In short, Meerschaert wraps an arm sometime in the first five minutes.
Prediction: Meerschaert via submission in the first round
135 pounds: Zarah Fairn vs. Josiane Nunes
A 5-1 run marred only by a questionable loss to Sinead Kavanaugh led Zarah Fairn (6-4) to the UFC, where he joined the promotion’s anemic featherweight division. “Infinite” failed to find success, suffering first-round stoppage losses to Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer.
She is six inches taller than Josiane Nunes (7-1) at 5’8 “.
“Josi” enters the cage this Saturday having won six in a row since a loss in 2013 to future UFC contender Taila Santos. She last saw action in November 2020, stopping the undefeated Quezia Zbonik in her native Brazil.
All but one of his professional victories have come a long way.
Some fights are difficult to predict because both fighters exhibit high-level skills that their opponents may or may not be able to deal with. Others, like this one, are tough because of mutual mediocrity. Nunes has some pop, but she’s extremely short for the division and lacks any kind of setup for her power shots outside of bare low kicks and the occasional jump technique. Fairn is louder and more experienced against capable opposition, but she had little to offer her two enemies in the Octagon.
In the end, I have more faith in Fairn’s ability to do three tough rounds than Nunes, ‘which is enough to make me lean towards her. In short, expect a competitive start before pressure from Fairn constantly turns things in your favor.
Prediction: Fairn by unanimous decision
135 pounds: Tony Gravely vs. Anthony Birchak
After claiming titles at both King of the Cage and CES, Tony Gravely (20-6) marked his ticket to the UFC with a one-sided stoppage of Ray Rodriguez on “Contender Series.” Although he came up short in the debut of “Fight of the Night” against Brett Johns, he entered the UFC win column 10 months later with a split decision over Geraldo de Freitas.
His 11 victories by professional knockout include eight by knockout.
Anthony Birchak (15-7) left the UFC in 2016 following a split decision over Dileno López, and although he lost his next three under the Rizin banner, he was back on track with a three-game winning streak. His efforts set up a late UFC comeback against Gustavo Lopez, who drowned “El Toro” in the first round.
Replaces Nate Maness one month early.
The big question here is whether Gravely’s cardiovascular fights against De Freitas were a one-time stumble or a systematic of a bigger problem. Their fight is more than enough to ruthlessly exploit Birchak’s historically unstable takedown defense; If the gas tank is there, you can make Birchak into oblivion without a problem. If not, things could go south very quickly, as Birchak’s spotty track record belies the kind of power and aggression that can violently sink an exhausted fighter.
Even with these reservations, Gravely’s game hypothetically counteracts Birchak’s so thoroughly that I cannot oppose him. Rack up your usual pile of takedowns to claim a broad decision.
Prediction: Seriously by unanimous decision
155 pounds: Austin Hubbard against Dakota Bush
In just his second fight under the LFA flag, Austin Hubbard (12-5) defied the massive odds to knock out undefeated Killys Mota and claim the promotion’s lightweight title. The victory also earned him a spot in the Octagon, where he has gone 2-3 in the span of two years.
“Thud” has four professional victories by knockout and another three by submission.
Dakota Bush (8-2) started his professional career 4-0 before a 2-2 streak that saw him drop decisions to Bryce Logan and Jaleel Willis. Since then, he has righted the boat with a pair of first-round finishes, including a 57-second knockout of Austin Clem in January 2021.
He replaces the injured Natan Levy with less than a week notice.
The change of opponent does not seem to stumble Hubbard too much, as both Bush and Levy are primarily fighters, but there is one key difference: Bush is ostensibly minor overall. He’s definitely a weaker forward than Levy, whose kicking attack posed a much greater threat than Bush’s basic attacks, and his struggles with Willis suggest he will have serious trouble imposing his wrestling match.
While Hubbard had his fair share of trouble trying to shut down dedicated takedown artists like Mark Madsen and Joe Solecki, he should be able to keep it here and really let go of his solid punch combination. Even if Bush finds success early, Hubbard’s short notice and top-notch gas tank mean things will only get worse for him as the fight progresses. In the end, Hubbard wears him down from a late stoppage.
Prediction: Hubbard by third round TKO
Three more UFC Vegas 24 “preliminaries” remain to be anticipated and predicted, including a debut strawweight slugger and the last of undefeated heavyweight Alexander Romanov. Tomorrow at the same time, Maniacs.
Remember it MMAmania.com will offer round-by-round, step-by-shot LIVE coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 24 card this weekend, beginning with the ESPN +/ ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to start at 7 pm ET, then the remaining balance of the main card on ESPN /ESPN + at 10 p.m. ET.
For the latest and greatest news and highlights from UFC Vegas 24: “Whittaker vs. Gastelum,” be sure to visit our comprehensive event archive. right here.