Predictions! UFC Vegas 87 ‘Prelims’ Preview - Pt. 2

 Tate v Nunes

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., March 2, 2024) when UFC Vegas 87: “Rozenstruik vs. Gaziev” returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Vegas 87 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Heavyweights headline the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) return to its APEX venue in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend (Sat., March 2, 2024) when knockout artists Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Shamil Gaziev duke it in UFC Vegas 87’s ESPN+-streamed main event. The show also sees Tyson Pedro and Alex Perez look to halt the respective rises of undefeated Vitor Petrino and Mohammad Mokaev, as well as super prospect Umar Nurmagomedov’s return opposite Kazakh up-and-comer, Bekzat Almakhan.

Thanks to some last-minute saves, we’ve got four more “Prelims” undercard bouts to examine (checkout the first batch here), so let’s see if we can’t get those knocked out ...

 Adesanya v Vettori 2

185 lbs.: Eryk Anders vs. Jamie Pickett

Eryk Anders (15-8) went from an undefeated (10-0) professional start that included an Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) title victory and two wins in the Octagon to losing four of his next five. He clawed his way back into the picture with a 3-1 (1 NC) run, but now sits at 1-3 in his last four.

He’s ended 10 professional bouts inside the distance.

Jamie Pickett (13-10) fell short in his first two Contender Series appearances before knocking out Jhonoven Pati to finally earn a contract. He’s since dropped six of eight in the Octagon, including his last four appearances.

He sports a one-inch reach advantage and a five-inch reach advantage.

Though he may be on the downswing, Anders can at least still be competitive with competent fighters. He arguably deserved the decision against Jun Yong Park and put on a solid show against Marc-Andre Barriault.

Pickett, by contrast, found a way to lose to the painfully-limited Denis Tiuliulin.

Anders is a once-decent fighter sliding into mediocrity. Pickett is a never-was — “The Night Wolf” has little to offer besides durability and a solid gas tank. We’ll see if Pickett’s improbable UFC longevity can survive a fifth consecutive loss when Anders out-classes him in a snoozer.

Prediction: Anders via unanimous decision

 Basharat v Henry

135 lbs.: Aiemann Zahabi vs. Javid Basharat

After cruising past Reginaldo Vieira in his UFC debut, Aiemann Zahabi (10-2) managed just two fights in the next four years, both of them losses. The inactivity continued, producing three fights in the last three years, but he emerged victorious in all three and claimed a post-fight bonus in the process.

His professional finishes are split 5:3 between knockouts and submissions.

Javid Basharat (14-0) dominated fellow unbeaten Oron Kahlon on Contender Series to claim his eleventh consecutive stoppage and a UFC contract. He proceeded to win his first three in the Octagon, but had to settle for a “No Contest” in Oct. 2023 after inadvertently kicking Victor Henry in the unmentionables.

“The Snow Leopard” will enjoy one inch of height and a half-inch of reach on Zahabi.

Zahabi’s mobile, conservative approach works a treat against come-forward sluggers. If they decline to press the action, he’ll circle and potshot all night without ever leaving himself open to danger, as he did against Ricky Turcios. If they try to force the issue, he’ll melt them with counters, as he did against Drako Rodriguez and Aoriqileng.

I’m not convinced it’s the right way to deal with Basharat. “The Snow Leopard” isn’t one to overextend — give him room to operate and he’ll simply piece you up with cleaner, faster strikes. Unless Zahabi can sleep him with one punch, Basharat is too slick and well-rounded to handle, especially since Basharat also figures to be the better wrestler. In the end, Basharat’s superior kickboxing carries him to a one-sided decision.

Prediction: Basharat via unanimous decision

Dana White’s Contender Series – Season 7, Week 8

135 lbs.: Vinicius Oliveira vs. Bernardo Sopai

Vinicius Oliveira (19-3) lost both a six-fight win streak and UAE Warriors title when unbeaten Ali Taleb out-slugged him in one of 2022’s more underrated fights of the year. After getting back on track with a first-round knockout of his own, he took his talents to Contender Series, where a nasty left hook flattened Victor Madrigal and earned Oliveira a UFC contract.

He’s ended 17 professional fights inside the distance, 15 of them via knockout.

Allstars’ Bernardo Sopai (11-2) won his sole amateur bout and his first six professional bouts before hitting a 2-2 slump. Subsequent efforts proved more successful, entering the cage this Saturday on the heels of three consecutive finishes.

He steps in for Yanis Ghemmouri on less than one week’s notice.

Oliveira would have blasted Ghemmouri into oblivion — and even though Sopai is a much better fighter than Ghemmouri in most categories — this still looks like a knockout win for “Lok Dog.” Sopai looks very undersized for the division, doesn’t check low kicks and tends to leave his chin up in exchangers, all of which play directly into Oliveira’s hands.

That’s assuming that Oliveira can keep his composure, of course. If he fights like he did on Contender Series — staying on the back foot and tearing up Sopai’s lead leg until “The Lion King” overextends — it’s his fight to lose. If he swings like an idiot, as is his wont, Sopai will sleep him with a counter right. I’ll lean toward the Brazilian and say he jacks Sopai’s jaw with a right hand in the opening few minutes.

Prediction: Oliveira via first round knockout

 Sandhagen v Font

155 lbs.: Ludovit Klein vs. A.J. Cunningham

The 76-second knockout for Ludovit Klein (20-4-1) in his UFC debut gave way to two straight losses, one a controversial decision to Michael Trizano and the other a decision defeat to Nate Landwehr. Moving up to 155 pounds appears to be just what “Mr. Highlight” needed, standing unbeaten in his last four.

His 16 professional finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.

A.J. Cunningham (11-3) entered Contender Series in the midst of a 6-1 run, including wins in LFA and Fury FC. The momentum wasn’t enough to save him from Steven Nguyen, who stopped him standing late in the second round.

He steps in for the re-scheduled Joel Alvarez on less than one week’s notice.

There are certain fighters I just can’t suss out. I was extremely high on Klein going into his UFC debut, but his abilities seem to fluctuate wildly from fight to fight. He out-classed a bigger striker in Devonte Smith, then needed a point deduction to steal a draw against another big striker in Jai Herbert, then out-classed another big striker in Ignacio Bahamondes.

He’s a nightmare when he’s on ... the problem is that you can never be sure if he’s flipped that switch.

Luckily for him, any version of Klein wins this matchup. Cunningham’s striking defense is nonexistent and the ease with which Nguyen destroyed him with the jab bodes ill for his chances against Klein’s straight left. Unless Cunningham weathers the beating long enough for Klein to gas out, which doesn’t seem all that likely, Klein kicks his head off inside of five minutes.

Prediction: Klein via first round knockout

At least UFC 299 is less than two weeks away, right? See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Current Prediction Record for 2024: 27-13

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 87 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 4 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 87: “Rozenstruik vs. Gaziev” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.