Following the excitement of UFC 264, MMA’s biggest and baddest promotion returns to the 25-foot octagon for some bangers to kick-off UFC Vegas 31. For what these prelims lack in name-value compared to last week, they make up for in intriguing matchups and the potential for a lot of finishes.
The UFC Vegas 31 prelims are set to begin Saturday, July 17, beginning at 7:00 PM (EST). The event can be viewed on both ESPN and ESPN+. Make sure to watch the main card which is headlined by lightweights Islam Makhachev and Thiago Moises.
UFC Vegas 31 Prelims
Alan Baudot (8-2) vs Rodrigo Nascimento (8-1)
To kick off the prelims, Alan Baudot takes on Rodrigo Nascimento in a heavyweight matchup. Nascimento is a graduate of Dana White’s Contender Series, a BJJ brown belt, and ever-improving kickboxing. Against Chris Daukaus, he proved to be a step slow and unable to overwhelm him with his size and suffered a lot of damage eating fast combinations. In his other UFC appearance, he was able to win the striking battle against Don’Tale Mayes before overwhelming him with an RNC in the second round.
Baudot comes off a disappointing UFC debut, against top prospect Tom Aspinall where he showed some resistance on the feet, before succumbing easily to the grappling of Aspinall. Additionally, Baudot lost in the first 30 seconds of R1 against Dalcha Lungiambula at 205 pounds back in 2017. Moreover, Baudot lost his last fight by submission before joining the UFC, only to have it overturned to a win due to a positive test for cannabis from his opponent.
While Baudot now fights at heavyweight and has a similar height and reach to Nascimento, I don’t believe that he will match up well and will find himself in tough situations if Nascimento is able to close the distance and clinch up or shoot for a takedown. Baudot has a judo background but did not display great defensive sensibilities in the tape I saw, and I don’t trust him to maintain the distance long enough to hurt Nascimento. Daukaus is a much slicker striker, with more power, and big combos. Baudot relies on single shots, spinning back-fists, and one-shot power, I don’t trust Baudot to hurt Nascimento, and I see this one ending by submission inside the distance.
Official Pick: Nascimento R1 Submission
Francisco Figueiredo (12-3-1, 1 NC) vs Malcolm Gordon (12-5)
Francisco Figueiredo makes his return to the octagon, after taking his last fight against Jerome Rivera. And for Figueiredo, it was extremely concerning that he was being out-landed on the feet for a good portion of the bout against Rivera, someone who has now been finished in his three other UFC outings. That leads me to believe that Malcolm Gordon, who has suffered 4 KOs and 1 submission loss in his career, might not have to be as concerned about a potential finish from Figueiredo, who has only 3 KOs compared to 7 submissions on his record.
I contend that the only grappler to finish Gordon by submission, Amir Albazi, is much slicker on the mat than Figueiredo and Gordon should be able to at least survive the distance in this fight. Overall, I do think that Figueiredo may be the stronger and more athletic of the two, that Gordon has faced stiffer competition all around and might be able to capitalize on the opportunity to get his first UFC win, off a name with some hype around it.
Official Pick: Malcolm Gordon Split Decision
Miles Johns (11-1) vs Anderson dos Santos (21-8)
Miles Johns put a stamp on his last performance, finishing Kevin Natividad with a 3rd round knockout, punctuating a masterpiece of a striking performance. What was most concerning was going 0-7 on takedown attempts, having to resort to wearing Natividad down before getting the finish. In his first career loss to Mario Bautista, we saw that Johns can be caught out of position, knocked out with a flying knee. When he hasn’t been able to impose his will on opponents, we saw him give in to the resistance.
Across the octagon, Anderson dos Santos has nearly double the total experience as Johns does, but one less UFC fight. Dos Santos will hold a 4-inch reach advantage while being 2 inches shorter. Dos Santos has run into trouble facing UFC-level competition, dropping distance striking bouts against Andre Ewell and Nad Narimani, being outstruck 2:1 in each matchup. When getting a step down in competition in Martin Day, dos Santos was able to sink in an early guillotine.
In this matchup, Johns should be able to win the distance striking battle with more efficient combos and has the defensive grappling necessary to avoid a submission. While Johns has shown the ability to be reversed by good wrestlers, dos Santos shouldn’t provide enough resistance to keep Johns from cruising to a decision victory.
Official Pick: Miles Johns Unanimous Decision
Khalid Taha (14-3, 1 NC) vs Sergey Morozov (16-4)
Khalid Taha has proven in his career to have a granite chin, especially in his last fight against Raoni Barcelos, where he withstood an early barrage to put on a solid round 3 performance. Taha has also shown finishing ability of his own, one submission in the UFC against Bruno Silva being overturned by USADA, and brutally finishing Silva by KO. However, Taha has not shown the ability to intelligently defend and maintain distance or to ever work an offensive grappling game. Sergey Morozov had a near-impossible task in his debut, taking on Umar Nurmagomedov, a fight he was destined to lose. Morozov showed an ability to scramble, smart striking, but an inability to deal with the elite grappling and head kicks of the Khabib protege.
Ultimately, Taha is too hittable, and in a fight where Morozov doesn’t have to be concerned with a high-level grappler, we should see a lot more of his veteran striking prowess, and timing his combos well off the back foot as Taha tries to close the distance. Morozov is being undervalued due to his debut fight, and I believe he might be able to style on Taha should he keep up his movement.
Official Pick: Morozov Unanimous Decision
Amanda Lemos (9-1-1) vs Montserrat “Conejo” Ruiz (10-1)
Amanda Lemos has entered the strawweight division on fire, disposing of Mizuki Inoue and Livinha Souza without much resistance. Since being suspended by USADA and dropping down from bantamweight, Lemos has shown a size advantage and high-level Muay Thai striking, with elite range management and strong takedown defense. Additionally, her strength advantage has allowed her to bully around opponents when they try to grapple her. In her debut, “Conejo” was able to provide a shock to the highly touted debutante, Cheyenne Buys. A combination of head and arm throws, scarf holds, and heavy top pressure led to a dominant decision win.
Unfortunately for “Conejo” in this fight, she is going to be at an even more stark size disadvantage than when she made her debut. Lemos holds a 4-inch height and reach advantage, and is much larger given that Lemos used to fight at 135, and Conejo was an atomweight at 105, before signing with the UFC. I don’t see the head and arm throw being as effective this time out for “Conejo”, and without that, she lacks the head movement and striking ability to make this a close fight with Lemos, before succumbing to strikes later in the fight due to volume and exhaustion.
Official Pick Lemos R3 KO
Daniel Rodriguez (14-2) vs Preston Parsons (9-2)
To headline the preliminary card, we have now seasoned UFC veteran Daniel Rodriguez taking on UFC newcomer Preston Parsons. Originally slated to face Abubakar Nurmagomedov, Rodriguez gets a step down in Parsons, who has finished all of his victories by submission and has lost by KO to Mike Perry in his second career fight, and another time by submission. Conversely, in just his UFC career, Rodriguez has won by KO once, submission once, and 2 decisions. Also, he lost a completely sketchy decision to Nicolas Dalby, I would argue he should be undefeated thus far in his UFC run. In addition, Rodriguez possesses a deep background in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, which should allow him to remain safe from any submission attempts coming back from Parsons.
Ultimately, Rodriguez is such a high-level boxer, that he should be able to use his 2-inch height and reach advantage, along with his movement and cardio, to catch Parsons when he tries to close the distance. I don’t envision Parsons making it the distance, as Rodriguez has hurt multiple opponents in the past, and was able to finish veterans like Tim Means and Dwight Grant.
Official Pick: Rodriguez by R2 KO
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