Predictions! UFC Vegas 90 ‘Prelims’ Preview - Pt. 1

 Volkanovski v Kennedy

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing more “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., April 6, 2024) when UFC Vegas 90: “Allen vs. Curtis 2” returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Vegas 90 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The Octagon makes one final pit stop inside its APEX venue in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend (Sat., April 6, 2023) before UFC 300 when Middleweight contenders Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis duke it out in a five-round rematch. The show also sees Alexander Hernandez try to get back on track against dangerous veteran, Damon Jackson, and French star, Morgan Charriere, look for his second Octagon victory at Chepe Mariscal’s expense.

Seven “Prelims” undercard bouts set UFC Vegas 90’s stage, all of which join the main card on ESPN+. Let’s check out the first batch below ...

 Volkanovski v The Korean Zombie

115 lbs.: Piera Rodriguez vs. Cynthia Calvillo

Piera Rodriguez (9-1) followed her Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) title-winning stoppage of Svetlana Gotsyk by beating Valesco Machado on Contender Series to claim a UFC contract. She dispatched Kay Hansen and Sam Hughes in her first two Octagon bouts, but succumbed to Gillian Robertson’s armbar in April 2023 (watch it).

All five of her professional finishes have come by knockout.

Cynthia Calvillo (9-6-1) entered UFC in 2017 with wins over Gillian Robertson and Montana De La Rosa under her belt, then proved her bona fides with a 6-1-1 Octagon start. The run wasn’t to last, though, making the walk this Saturday on the heels of five consecutive defeats.

She fights for the first time in almost exactly one year.

Though it’s not impossible that Calvillo makes one last run — she was reasonably competitive with Lupita Godinez last time out — there’s not a lot of supporting evidence. Her last standout win was a 2017 decision over Joanne Wood, and while most of her recent defeats came against solid opposition, it’s hard to bounce back from saying “no mas” against a fighter in Andrea Lee who went on to lose her next four.

I’ve never been hugely impressed with Rodriguez, but she’s athletic and well-rounded, which is more than enough to earn her a nod against what’s left of Calvillo. Indeed, she edges out Calvillo on the feet and on the mat to return to the win column.

Prediction: Rodriguez via unanimous decision

Dana White’s Contender Series – Matsumoto v Tanner

135 lbs.: Dan Argueta vs. Jean Matsumoto

Dan Argueta (9-1) followed his one-and-done The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 stint with a successful LFA title run that saw him edge out Diego Silva for the belt in May 2022. He split his first two UFC bouts with Damon Jackson and Nick Aguirre, but had to settle for two consecutive “No Contest” outcomes thanks to an early stoppage against Ronnie Lawrence and Miles Johns’ failed drug test.

He’s submitted four professional opponents and knocked out two others.

Jean Matsumoto (14-0) spent four years racking up accolades on the Brazilian circuit before going undefeated (2-0) in LFA and earning a spot on Contender Series. There, he out-classed undefeated Kasey Tanner in Sept. 2023 to earn a UFC contract.

He stands one inch shorter than Argueta, but boasts a half-inch reach advantage.

This is more a test of Matsumoto’s patience and fight IQ than anything else. He’ll make mincemeat of Argueta on the feet because, as I’ve said before, “Determined” has some of the worst defensive instincts I’ve ever seen, giving him few answers for Matsumoto’s machine gun boxing combinations.

Just because Argueta’s wrestling is one-note doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous, though, and Matsumoto has a habit of leaving his hips exposed when he lets his hands go. It’s not hard to see Argueta blocking a few dozen punches with his face before tying up and turning it into a slog. Between Matsumoto’s improving lateral movement and quality setups, though, I like him to circle and sharpshoot his way to a comfortable decision.

Prediction: Matsumoto via unanimous decision

 Almeida v Fernando

185 lbs.: Dylan Budka vs. Cesar Almeida

Dylan Budka (7-2) powered through a debut loss to win five straight, only to fall for Azamat Bekoev in a bid for LFA gold. “Mindless Hulk” returned to action two months after with a quick get-well victory, then stepped up on two weeks’ notice to beat Chad Hanekom on Contender Series and claim a UFC contract.

He steps in for Josh Fremd on less than one month’s notice.

Cesar Almeida (4-0) juggled mixed martial arts (MMA) and kickboxing before taking a shot at Contender Series in 2023. There, he showed off stout defensive grappling to beat Lucas Fernando via decision in his first trip past the first round as a mixed martial artist.

He stands one inch taller than Budka, but gives up one inch of reach.

Budka didn’t really excel on Contender Series, but he’s got a ton of promise at just 24 years old and I’m willing to blame some of the issues on the quick turnaround. This still seems like a rough matchup for him. Despite Budka’s speed, Almeida’s a fair bit sharper on the feet and should have the takedown defense to keep it in his wheelhouse, as Budka’s wrestling background has yet to translate to a dominant grappling game.

Budka is still developing and have improved in the interim, but the same can be said for Almeida, who remains a relative neophyte in the cage. In short, Budka’s past struggles with crisper punchers suggest Almeida can sprawl-and-brawl his way to a debut victory.

Prediction: Almeida via unanimous decision

 Alekseeva v Dixon

135 lbs.: Nora Cornolle vs. Melissa Mullins

Undeterred by a debut loss to Jacqueline Cavalcanti, Nora Cornolle (7-1) battled her way to the Octagon with six consecutive finishes. Her debut pitted her against Joselyne Edwards, who Cornolle out-struck en route to her first decision victory.

Those six finishes include five by knockout.

Melissa Mullins’ (6-0) two-fight stint in Ares FC saw her defeat Rizlen Zouak in her debut before pounding out unbeaten Darya Zheleznyakova five months later. These victories carried her to a 2023 UFC debut, which saw her survive an early knockdown to grind out Irina Alkseeva for a unanimous decision win.

She’ll enjoy a one-inch reach advantage.

Mullins desperately needs to fix her striking defense sooner rather than later — she’s been stunned in three of her last four fights. And while she’s been able to bail herself out each time, it’s hard to see her surviving long against genuine hitters like Irene Aldana or Macy Chiasson. Cornolle — a decorated striker in her own right — has a very real chance of sparking Mullins before the latter even gets going.

Unfortunately for Cornolle, she’ll have to keep it on the feet to do so. And if the Edwards fight is anything to go by, that’s beyond her abilities. Barring some serious improvement on her part, she doesn’t appear to have an answer for Mullins’ clinch, takedowns and top game, which have saved “No Mess” from disaster multiple times before. In the end, Mullins survives a hairy start to take down Cornolle and out-class her from the top.

Prediction: Mullins via unanimous decision

Three more UFC Vegas 90 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the return of former women’s Featherweight champion, Germaine de Randamie. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 90 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 90: “Allen vs. Curtis 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.