Making the Grade – UFC Fight Night Apex

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 09: Alexander Volkov of Russia poses for a portrait backstage after his victory during the UFC Fight Night event at CSKA Arena on November 09, 2019 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

It’s that time again, Making the Grade is back and breaking down this weekend’s UFC Apex card taking place in Las Vegas, NV. The card is pretty stacked and the main card will almost certainly deliver some outstanding action. Last time we brought you this article, we took a look at UFC 250.

That night we were 4-1 breaking down the fights and the main event saw Amanda Nunes dismantle Felecia Spencer.  Saturday night the UFC is back with a card featuring the main event of Curtis Blaydes taking on Alexander Volkov. It’s an interesting fight that will take the winner to the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. Let’s take a look at the main card and see how things shake out.

Roosevelt Roberts vs. Jim Miller

Roosevelt Roberts is 4-1 since earning his contract via the Dana White Contender Series by submitting Garrett Gross via Rear Naked Choke. He just fought a month ago in a fun scrap with Brok Weaver. There was some bad blood heading into the fight and it was a big win for Roberts who parlayed that into this fight with Jim Miller.

Miller has been in the UFC fighting actively for going on a dozen years. He’s been in the UFC Octagon 22 times and he’ll be making the walk for the 23rd time Saturday night. He’s been one of the most durable fighters on the roster. That said, he is 3-6 in his last nine fights and has clearly been on the decline. This fight is the grizzled veteran taking on the upstart in what could be a changing of the guard. Miller has ten years on Roberts but Roberts has a considerable size and reach advantage.

This fight doesn’t mean much in terms of current rankings. That said, if Roberts can beat Miller, and do so impressively he will likely find himself ranked in the near future. It’s a very important fight for his continued success at Lightweight. This isn’t an easy fight to predict. If Roberts can stand and utilize his reach, he’ll do well. He could however be wrestled and controlled by Miller. I’m going with the former and expect Roberts to win a unanimous decision.

Grade: C

Belal Muhammad vs. Lyman Good

Let me begin by saying I like this fight an awful lot. Both of these guys are talented and this could well be a great matchup. Belal Muhammad is so underrated. The guy shows up to fight every time and has an elite skill level. He’s won six of his last seven entering this fight. In his last outing, submitting Takashi Sato in September of last year. This fight was scheduled for April but Lyman Good contracted Covid-19 and was forced out.

Speaking of Lyman Good, he’s 3-2 since joining the UFC and is coming off of a big victory over Chance Rencountre stopping him via TKO in the second round. Good is one of those fighters who could break through to the next level. I feel he’s a great performance or two away from establishing himself as a contender in the Welterweight division. A win over Belal Muhammad would be a good start. That said, it’s easier said than done.

My head says go with Belal Muhammad as he has more ways to win. My heart says this is the fight is where Lyman Good announces himself as a contender at 170 pounds. It’s a really tough fight to pick, but in the end, I’ll go with my brain and say Belal Muhammad gets the late submission victory.

Grade: B

Raquel Pennington vs. Marion Reneau

Raquel Pennington is a talented fighter who is currently ranked sixth in the Bantamweight division. She’ll be heading into this fight needing a victory in the worst way. She’s dropped three of four fights, against the elite of the division. She’s lost to Holly HolmGermaine de Randamie, and Amanda Nunes during that stretch.

Marion Reneau is ranked tenth in the division and a win over Pennington would move her potentially into the top five. That said, she’s also on a bit of a dip and enters the fight having lost two in a row. She was defeated Cat Zingano and Yana Kunitskaya. It goes to show how thin the female divisions are when you have two fighters ranked in the top ten who have gone a combined 1-5 in their last six.

Despite both fighters being ranked in the top ten, neither is looking at the possibility of a title fight anytime soon. Pennington is the more talented fighter of the two and I expect her to control the fight on the feet and on the canvas. In a fight that might not pack a ton of fan interest, expect one-way traffic and Raquel to earn the decision victory.

Grade: B-

Shane Burgos vs. Josh Emmett 

Shane Burgos is a legitimate rising star in the featherweight division. He’s currently ranked tenth in the division and a win over eighth-ranked Emmett would be a huge step for him. All his fights are non-stop action and he never fails to bring the action to the Octagon. Simply put, Shane Burgos is one of the three biggest up and coming stars in the promotion. He’s gone 6-1 since joining the UFC. His lone loss came in a firefight against Calvin Kattar.

Josh Emmett is a talented striker who has won two in a row entering this fight. He’s defeated Michael Johnson and Mirsad Bektic in back to back fights. He won both via stoppage and has looked very sharp with his hands. This is going to be one of those fights where whoever gets hit clean first could go to sleep.

I love this clash, it’s my favorite on the card. If I thought it would get out of the first round it would be a lock for the fight of the night. That said, it could very well deliver the knockout of the night. Burgos has a big five and a half inch reach advantage and I think that will allow him to land the cleaner shots. He will catch Emmett in the first round, and score a highlight real knockout finish.

Grade: B+

Curtis Blaydes vs. Alexander Volkov

Curtis Blaydes is ranked third in the heavyweight division and a win here will put him back at the top of the line for a title fight. He has lost twice in his career, both times to Francis NGannou. It makes it difficult for Blaydes to get a title fight since he’s behind NGannou in line and was stopped twice by him.

Alexander Volkov is 5-1 since coming to the UFC. He’s been defeated by Derrick Lewis but other than that, it’s been smooth sailing. He defeated Greg Hardy in his last fight and previous to that he had victories over Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum, and Stefan Struve. He’s a technical striker but also has a competent ground game. He enters this fight ranked fifth and a victory over Blaydes would elevate him into a possible title elimination fight.

I dig this fight because it’s a compelling matchup between fighters who are very much in the title picture. Curtis Blaydes in the favorite heading into it, and rightfully so. That said, I think it’s a close fight, and if Volkov is able to keep from being taken down, he could pull off the upset victory. It’s exactly how I see it going. Alexander Volkov stops Blaydes’s momentum and knocks him out in the process.

Grade: B+

Overall Card Grade: B-

Fight of the Night: Belal Muhammad vs. Lyman Good

Submission of the Night: Belal Muhammad

Knockout of the Night: Shane Burgos

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