February’s fight schedule continues with UFC Vegas 19 this Saturday (Feb. 20), and a meaty preliminary card comprising nine bouts gets underway from 5 p.m. ET.
William Hill in NJ, CO, IL, IN provides the odds as we make calls for who will emerge on top in each and every matchup fights, including specific result, method and round predictions.
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UFC Vegas 19 Main Card Predictions
Phil Hawes vs. Nassourdine Imavov
Prediction: Hawes via KO/TKO (+125) in Rd 2 (+550)
Someone’s hot streak is set to end as middleweights Phil Hawes and Nassourdine Imavov close out the preliminary action of UFC Vegas 19 in a war promising entertainment.
After requiring only 18 seconds to knock out Jacob Malkoun, Hawes (9-2) makes his second appearance in the UFC as a close -125 moneyline favorite against one of the biggest prospects in the division. “Megatron” made short work of Malkoun after winning in his second attempt at Dana White’s Contender Series, with the 32-year-old looking like a man on a mission since losing to Julian Marquez in his first try:
That’s potentially terrible news for Imavov (also 9-2), who has the unenviable honor of being next to try and stop Hawes from connecting with fearsome fists. The Dagestan-born contender is only 24 but has notched victories in his last six straight, including two submissions and two TKOs.
Like Hawes, the “Russian Sniper” won on his UFC debut last time out and beat Jordan Williams by decision, but it’s just so difficult to bet against the finishing power of Megatron after witnessing his more recent contests. The sportsbooks appear to agree, with Hawes priced a relatively short +125 to win via KO or TKO, which is too tough to ignore as the elder fighter looks to establish himself among the middleweight ranks.
Imavov is yet to be knocked out in his career and gains the advantage the longer this bout lingers, but the struggle comes in evading Hawes long enough to reach that point.
Danny Chavez vs. Jared Gordon
Prediction: Gordon via decision (+225)
A new home could await Jared Gordon at featherweight after he booked his first win in the division over Chris Fishgold last July, hoping to follow up with more success against Danny Chavez.
After switching camps to the increasingly successful Sanford MMA in 2019, as well as having appeared to get the hang of his weight cut to 145lbs, Gordon (16-4) could become a contender in this division. He’ll be the +125 moneyline underdog when he takes on “The Colombian Warrior” Chavez (11-3), who’s won his last four and beat TJ Brown in his UFC debut last time out (Aug. 2020).
Gordon’s victory over Fishgold last summer was all the more impressive considering he was going through major personal struggles at the time, not to mention UFC commentator (and team-mate) Paul Felder had to step in as his cornerman after his coaches returned positive COVID-19 tests:
Despite being 2-3 in his last five fights, Gordon has fought some steep competition at lightweight, with those three losses coming against Diego Ferreira, Joaquim Silva and Charles Oliveira (all by KO/TKO). The jump down to 145lbs looks like a very logical move on his part, and the future looks bright if that Fishgold performance is anything to go by.
If “Fast Hands” has indeed got the weight cut under control, he could well become a contender at featherweight. Chavez is something of a decision master having racked up eight wins via the judges’ scorecards in 14 fights, but Gordon has all the tools to turn the tables here.
Drakkar Klose vs. Luis Pena
Prediction: Pena to win (+150)
Two UFC lightweights on a mission to make up for losses in their most recent matchups, Drakkar Klose versus Luis Pena makes for a potential Fight of the Night contender at UFC Vegas 19.
Two losses in his last three bouts has clearly affected the level of confidence in Pena (8-3), with The Ultimate Fighter alumnus coming into this clash as +155 moneyline underdog. There’s potential money to be made off his name if “Violent Bob Ross” can rediscover his best form, however, especially after he looked to be beating Khama Worthy in his last fight prior to being caught in a guillotine:
Pena is still a young prospect at 27 (five years younger than Klose), and he’s training in elite company at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. By contrast, Klose was forced into an unforeseen change of camp after a rumored falling out with longtime coach Eddie Cha, which could harm the -180 favorite’s chances.
Even though Pena took this fight as a short-notice replacement for Jai Herbert, there are reasons to believe he represents a problem for the frontrunner. Two very significant factors are his six-inch advantages in height and reach, which is a problem for someone possessing his level of striking IQ.
Klose’s wrestling gives him a sturdy foundation to lean on, but Pena’s 6’3” frame presents a problem if he’s hoping to enforce his game plan on the ground. Pena at underdog odds looks like good value, short notice or not, boasting the range to possibly inflict a second straight KO/TKO finish on Klose following his violent loss to Beneil Dariush in March 2020.
John Castaneda vs. Eddie Wineland
Prediction: Castaneda via decision (+225)
UFC veteran Eddie Wineland will look to derail a rising bantamweight force in John Castaneda, who’s out to avenge a defeat in his promotional debut when he returns at UFC Vegas 19.
Each of these combatants has gone 1-3 in their last four fights, which represents a drop-off in form for Castaneda in particular considering he’d won 11 in a row prior to that.
“Sexy Mexi” takes the slimmest of edges as -120 moneyline favorite entering their bout, although the betting line is so slim that the right lean could see that move in favor of Wineland before the fight.
Given the closeness of the contest on paper, a Castaneda decision win at +225 could be where the value lies as he looks to get his first UFC win on the board against an opponent who has more losses than wins on MMA’s biggest stage (6-8). Five of those defeats have come via the judges’ scorecards, and 29-year-old Castaneda is the younger, more rounded competitor looking to make a splash after fighting only once in 2020 (as did Wineland).
The slight favorite recently spoke to MMA reporter James Lynch about his preparation for this camp training alongside Pat Barry and former UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, enhancing his dedication to ensure he’s sufficiently prepared for his first bout of 2021:
Wineland isn’t a bantamweight threat to be taken lightly, and a knockout defeat to Sean O’Malley in his last outing (June 2020) was against one of the biggest threats in the division. Approaching his 37th birthday and given his recent record, however, he looks like ideal preparation for a well-balanced contender like Castaneda to get his career back to winning ways.
Nate Landwehr vs. Julian Erosa
Prediction: Landwehr via KO/TKO (+185) in Rd 3 (+1200)
The closest matchup of UFC Vegas 19 as far as the sportsbooks are concerned, there’s nothing separating Nate Landwehr and Julian Erosa on the moneyline ahead of their featherweight fight.
In his third debut with the UFC, Erosa (24-8) sealed a turn-up for the books when he submitted Sean Woodson on short notice last June. “Juicy J” was released by the promotion for a second time in May 2019 after suffering three successive losses (two via knockout), but the 31-year-old is nothing if not a fun watch given he boasts 21 career stoppage wins (11 submissions, 10 via KO/TKO).
Landwehr (14-3) is the older combatant by one year at 32, but he doesn’t boast the same level of experience overall or in the UFC, where he’s fought only twice. After a grizzly knee knockout defeat to Herbert Burns in his promotion debut, “The Train” got back on track with a bloodied decision win over Darren Elkins last May, showcasing an ability to weather the harshest of storms.
Both these fighters like to hit but tend to get hit a lot in return; that being said, it’s Landwehr’s superior punching power that looks the safer bet to take over on this occasion.
Erosa is a major submission threat and trains with some very respected company, but what Landwehr lacks in sheer fight volume he makes up for in grit, durability and tenacity. Juicy J’s four-inch reach advantage is something for The Train to be wary of, but the latter could well take the fight to the fence and dish damage in the clinch to remove some of that buffer.
Over time, Landwehr’s heavy hands should begin to tell against the slightly more fragile-looking Erosa, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see Landwehr end the fight later on even after losing the earlier rounds.
Casey O’Neill vs. Shana Dobson
Prediction: Dobson via decision (+225)
One underdog pick that looks very capable of coming in sees Shana Dobson return at better than even odds to bear UFC debutant Casey O’Neill in the women’s flyweight division.
O’Neill is unbeaten in five professional fights and enters the UFC as a -155 favorite to overcome an opponent who’s 4-4. However, Dobson is coming off the back of a huge upset against Mariya Agapova back in August, giving her good ground to subvert the +130 price on her head this time around:
Despite losing her first three UFC fights prior to facing Agapova, Dobson—who can clinch back-to-back wins for the first time in her career—has always looked a game combatant in her bouts. It’s probably that willingness to exchange and throw down that led to decision defeats against Lauren Mueller and Sabina Mazo, while a monstrous uppercut saw her meeting with Priscila Cachoeira end in a 40-second defeat.
All that being said, O’Neill is unlikely to have come up against a striker with the same standard of movement and durability as Dobson. “King” has often been allowed to dictate her fights on the feet and comes out of a heavily respected team in Tiger Muay Thai, but Dobson has benefited from a high-quality camp of her own at Elevation MMA, which she joined in 2019.
The UFC brass appears to be high on O’Neill as an emerging prospect, but throwing her in against “Danger” Dobson seems a risk given the gulf in quality opponents each has faced. A frustrated underdog could again turn in a shock if she gets in O’Neill’s face early and often, although a hard-fought win across three rounds looks her most likely route to the upset.
Jamall Emmers vs. Chas Skelly
Prediction: Emmers via KO/TKO (+400) in Rd 3 (+1000)
Chas Skelly returns to the cage for the first time in almost 18 months and comes back as the +180 underdog to get the better of Jamall Emmers at UFC Vegas 19.
That absence puts Skelly (18-3-1NC) at a potentially significant disadvantage against an all-action fighter like Emmers (18-5), the -220 frontrunner who clinched his first UFC win when he beat Vince Cachero by unanimous decision back in August. That was the last of three bouts in 2020 for “Pretty Boy,” putting these two at major odds when it comes to recent fight activity.
Emmers is 1-1 in the UFC, but the 31-year-old earned high praise for cutting it close in a split-decision debut defeat to Giga Chikadze, who’s a respected figure at featherweight.
It’s also worth noting Emmers holds a win over UFC bantamweight title contender Cory Sandhagen from when they were both under the LFA banner in 2017. Granted, Sandhagen has since found his groove down a weight class, but it’s still a significant feather in the cap of Emmers.
Skelly’s lay-off from fighting hasn’t been all his own fault following shoulder surgery, but at 35, his ability to recover as quickly is sure to be affected. Emmers has more decision wins (eight) than he does KO/TKO victories (seven), but it’s seemed only a matter of time before he adds to the latter tally in the UFC.
A win against Skelly would move Emmers into that next bracket of featherweight contention, and it’s after the earlier exchanges that his strengths in striking and fight fitness should come into play.
Drako Rodriguez vs. Aiemann Zahabi
Prediction: Rodriguez via decision (+135)
One of several UFC debutants on this card who earned his place via Dana White’s Contender Series, Drako Rodriguez makes his maiden appearance in the promotion against fellow bantamweight Aiemann Zahabi.
“The Great Drakolini” (7-1) carries a bunch of hype into this fight considering he’s only 24 and has finished six of his eight opponents to date (four submissions, two TKOs). Zahabi (7-2), on the other hand, is nine years his elder but has no real advantage in experience given he’s only fought once more, evidenced by the fact he enters as +160 underdog.
Those who recognise Zahabi’s last name probably do so thanks to his older brother, Firas, one of mixed martial arts’ most respected trainers, famous for his Tristar Gym in Montreal, Canada. However, younger sibling Aiemann has looked far less competent as a fighter and shown signs he was perhaps pushed to the head of the UFC queue thanks in large part to his last name.
The 33-year-old opened his career at 7-0 but has lost each of his last two fights, the second in particular coming against less-than-elite opposition in Vince Morales. That defeat was now almost two years ago, so it’s difficult to ascertain at what level Zahabi is returning.
Rodriguez sunk in a triangle choke to put Leomana Martinez to sleep in September and looks the far more threatening fighter on paper:
The main thing Zahabi does have going for his is great defense in most areas, and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt may stop The Great Drakolini from adding to his submission count. That being said, it’s to be expected that Rodriguez’s higher volume and style will see him outland his foe to back up that -190 frontrunner price.
Sergey Spivak vs. Jared Vanderaa
Prediction: Spivak to win (-230)
Jared Vanderaa will make a heavily anticipated UFC debut against Sergey Spivak this Saturday in a bout that was originally scheduled for UFC 256 in December. A bout of COVID-19 ruled the newcomer out on that occasion, but Dana White Contender Series graduate Vanderaa (11-4) is recovered to finally make his bow in the promotion as a +190 underdog.
Spivak (11-2) overrides as the -230 favorite having already fought four times under the UFC banner, going 2-2 in that time. The Moldova native suffered a first-round TKO defeat to Walt Harris in his UFC debut and has since gone back and forth in wins and losses, but there’s still a perception the best is yet to come from the 26-year-old up-and-comer.
Vanderaa, 28, is a former heavyweight champion in the Extreme Fighting Championship—a South African promotion—and SMASH Global, but he also suffered four defeats in such smaller promotions before earning his UFC contract. “The Mountain” has to make a big weight cut (25lbs or so) to get down to the 260lb heavyweight limit.
That can go one of two ways against someone like Spivak, who’s a far more natural fit at that weight and barely has to cut down at all. “Polar Bear” has showcased some of his grappling dominance in wins over Tai Tuivasa (arm triangle) and Carlos Felipe (majority decision), though Vanderaa’s bulkier frame may make it more difficult to add to his six submission wins.
Taking into account Vanderaa’s lesser experience at this level and the weight cut differential, Spivak stands a great chance if he can get control on the floor and convince the judges, possible scoring back-to-back UFC wins for the first time in his budding career.
- UFC Vegas 19 Main Card Predictions