UFC Vegas 71 preview: Can 40-year-old Raphael Assuncao pull off another win?

While labeled UFC Vegas 71, it should be noted that this event is not actually taking place in Las Vegas. Set in nearby Paradise, Nevada. Of course, a good chunk of the Vegas strip is in Paradise, so there’s a large chunk of people who would say it’s “same difference”.

Preliminaries are an interesting grab bag of matches. There are some promising newcomers with red flags, some long-time veterans, a few up-and-comers, and others fighting for their UFC jobs.

In a bit of an unusual situation, the fighter who seems to get the most attention has nothing to do with his performance in the cage. The funny thing is that Sedriques Dumas shows a LOT of talent. Unfortunately, he has a rap sheet a mile long, to the extent that there are many who believe he should not be given a chance in the UFC. The former backyard fighter didn’t help himself when he reportedly asked for $100 for an interview. One would think that Dumas would be happy to get his name out there for free, maybe even use it as an opportunity to declare himself rehabilitated in some way. Again, people are already talking about the request. Maybe Dumas outsmarted us all as we talk about the cash request for the interview. Good chance we hadn’t talked about the interview.

  • This will be just the second appearance for Lukas Brzeski since being awarded the DWCS contract 18 months ago, making it understandable why so many forgot his UFC debut was a controversial decision loss. The burly Pole pushes an unusually high pace for a heavyweight, helping to make up for the lack of thunderous power that most heavyweights possess. For this contest, the question will be whether he can stop his takedowns Carl Williams, another DWCS graduate. Williams proved that he is more than a capable wrestler to live up to his contract, not just knocking out former Penn State wrestler Jimmy Lawson, but keeping him down. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown much beyond that, at least not against solid competition. Regardless, his wrestling could prove to be enough to solidify him as a UFC talent, but it would be foolish to call him a future contender until he shows there’s more to his arsenal. Regardless, Williams appears to be the better athlete. I vacillated quite a bit on this pick, tossing between Brzeski’s advantage in experience over quality competition and impressive ability over Williams’ overall upside. Ultimately, I think Williams can dominate wrestling enough to get the job done. Williams by decision
  • Davy Grant‘small The evolution from an injury-plagued roster to one of the most consistent action fighters in a stacked division has been nothing short of amazing. The Brit was never blessed with abundant physical skills, but he always had a big heart and courage. Once he developed confidence in his hands, his career began to take off. As it is now, he is still not the most technical striker, but he is developed excellent instincts and he knew he had some pop when he let his fists fly with abandon. He’s also been lucky in his last few fights to fight opponents who are willing to stand and trade. Although I don’t doubt it Rafael Asuncao could hold his own against Grant on the feet, the longtime veteran may find more success taking Grant to the mat. Not that Grant is weak on the mat – people tend to forget that grappling has been his mainstay since he became an action fighter – but Assuncao is one of the most fundamentally sound grapplers on the roster. Plus, at 40, Assuncao’s stamina isn’t what it once was. It’s hard to see the Brazilian giving Grant many opportunities to control his chin. It could be argued that he could be dragged into a fight, but Assuncao rarely – if ever – strays from his discipline and has only lost to far superior athletes. I can’t say for sure if Grant is a better athlete, but I can say he’s not leaps and bounds ahead of Assuncao. That makes me think Assuncao has enough in the tank to pull it off. Assuncao by decision
  • All sports have a “what have you done for me lately?” feel to them. So while Joss Fremd he’s on a two fight losing streak, I find it hard to believe he’s as bad as his UFC run has been. After all, he made his UFC debut on short notice and was winning until he was against Tresean Gore. Again, Fremd steps in again in short order to welcome Cedric Dumas in the organization. Dumas isn’t as big as Fremd, but he’s also a big middleweight. Plus, he’s easily the superior athlete. Strictly separating physical tools and skills, Dumas is the easy choice. As we all know, there are many other factors involved in MMA. Despite the two losses, Fremd is a smart and aggressive fighter who is better on the ground than most people think. More importantly, it has a significant advantage in quality experience. That being said, Dumas had a lot going for him in the fight game thanks to his physical abilities. At some point, a seasoned vet will make him pay a heavy price, but I’m not convinced it’s Fremd, not with his spotty defense and questionable chin. If the fight goes to decision, expect Fremd to get the decision. Unfortunately for him, I don’t think he’ll make up his mind. Dumas via TKO of RD2
  • How Guido Cannetti how he’s managed to secure his last two wins is beyond me. The Argentine is on the wrong side of 40 and has never been the most disciplined fighter. What he had is heart, heavy hands and cruelty. Generally, that will only carry someone so far… especially someone checking in at the age of 43 in the bantamweight division. It’s hard to believe Mario Bautista will suffer against him. Bautista has good size, impressive power and a slick racing game. He has also increased his fight IQ since dropping some of his early UFC contests. Bautista has become more methodical, relying less on it explosive attacks. Despite this, he’s still been able to find first-round submissions in his last two contests. The guess here is that he will be able to find a third, given that he is much more disciplined than his last two contests. Bautista via RD1 submission
  • The UFC gave every opportunity to Ariane Lipski to regain her reputation as a feared attacker. I find it hard to believe it will happen. Prior to her UFC run, Lipski threw her punches with reckless abandon and bad intent. Since then, she has been hesitant, seemingly throwing in the hopes of keeping her opponent from closing the distance. When Lipski won in the UFC, it was more often than not based on her ground game. So how will he react to a confident striker JJ Aldrich? It’s hard to believe that things will turn out well for her. Aldrich is a limited athlete, but she is extremely technical and has grown in confidence from match to match. If Lipski had the same headspace as Aldrich, I’d pick her not only to win, but to regain her form as the Queen of Violence. Since that’s not the case and Aldrich has managed to boost her takedown defense, I feel confident picking Aldrich to get the job done. Aldrich by decision
  • There is no doubt between who is the best athlete Victor Henry and Tony Gravely. It would be Gravely. Despite this, Henry goes in as a slight favourite. It is reasonable; Gravely has a formidable history against fighters known for their craft and knowledge like Henry. Not that Gravely is a fighter. Gravely knows what he’s good at and plays to those strengths. In addition, he has improved his striking, allowing himself to make a few finishes behind power of his fists. Regardless, it will be difficult for him to build his wrestling base with Henry. This isn’t just because Henry is a solid wrestler. he is also a slick grappler. In fact, most people said that Henry’s wrestling was his greatest strength when he entered the UFC only to have Henry participate in a pair of standup fights. In these contests, Henry developed a deep tank of gas and a sense of distance and angles that only comes with a lot of experience… if it ever comes. Henry’s age is a concern that he could suffer a steep decline, but I think he’s crafty enough to either neutralize or finish Gravely. Henry via RD1 submission
  • At one point, Bruno Silva was one of the busiest flyweights on the roster. Now, he’s coming off a layoff that’s approaching 22 months. Regardless, he is coming off two wins that saw him finish the fight in the first round. Again, both of these opponents managed to go winless in the UFC. So it’s hard to leave much behind from his winning streak. Apart from that, it is expected that he will look to return to his roots in this competition Tyson Nam is one of them harder hitters in division. In fact, all three of Nam’s UFC wins have come via punches. The concern with Nam is his age. 39 is old for any division. It’s downright ancient for the fly. Still, Nam looked sharp in his most recent outing and always had solid takedown defense. Nam isn’t a great fighter, but Silva’s smaller frame and lack of impressive discipline make it a big possibility that he eats some of Nam’s heavy artillery. Nam via TKO of RD2
  • Credit to Jared Gooden. He made it his goal to return to the UFC and did so in a relatively short amount of time since his last fight in the event in October 2021. Gooden posted a 4-1 record on the regional stage, the only loss coming to former UFC alumni Impa Kasanganay. Gooden is a power forward with stamina and athleticism. He has the kind of power that cannot be measured by any fight until it is stopped or the final bell rings. However, she is not the only one fighting him Carlston Harris on very soon, it will be the second decrease to 170 in less than a month. If that leaves Gooden even more dehydrated than usual against Harris, it’s hard to see him coming out victorious. Harris’ biggest problem is that he may have low intensity, but he has an impressive killer instinct. Gooden’s chin is solid, but it’s not unbreakable. Plus, I’m not sold on Gooden being able to constantly stuff Harris’ rejections. One way or another, the Guyanese native finds an end. Harris via TKO of RD1

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