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UFC Vegas 44 Prelims Breakdown

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Saturday’s fight card is filled with exciting bouts from top to bottom, even though there is not much star power on the card. Those not experienced with MMA will miss many of the fighters on the card, but that’s not to say there’s no talent on the prelims. It’s a card full of veterans looking to keep their jobs and young fighters trying to make a name for themselves.

The card is one of the thinner ones of the year, at least from the perspective of names, but that does not mean it lacks any great fights. Several should be expected to bring an action, and we can expect some great finishes from this card.

Fights to Watch

Vince Morales vs. Louis Smolka

Bantamweight Vince Morales (10-5-0 2-3-0) may be older than his opponent Louis Smolka (17-7-0 8-6-0 UFC), but he has the more promising career in the UFC, at least in comparison to Smolka, who had a promising run in the promotion before dropping four in a row, getting cut, and making his way back as a sort of gatekeeper for prospects. Morales lost a bout by freak submission in his DWCS debut but eventually fought his way to the UFC where he has won two of his five fights and is coming off a unanimous decision win over Drako Rodriguez at UFC 265.

Morales has shown flashes of skill in his fights, but he must stay consistent to give Smolka a test, at least on the feet. At times, Morales has been the high-volume guy, but sometimes he is slow to engage and becomes tentative, something that will cost himself the bout as Smolka is notoriously aggressive. For the bout to play in Smolka’s favor, he will need to find a way to get to the fight on the ground, something easier said than done considering he lacks takedown ability.

Dusko Todorovic vs. Maki Pitolo

Former top prospect Dusko Todorovic (10-2-0 1-2-0 UFC) faces another young brawler in Maki Pitolo (13-8-0 1-4-0 UFC), and it appears both men’s careers are on the line. Todorovic was well-regarded as a fighter coming into the UFC that had holes in his game, and he has failed to fix his inability to land a takedown and defend on the feet in his losses to Gregory Rodriguez and Punahele Soriano. That being said, he is an athletic fighter with lots of pop in his hands and an overwhelming ground-and-pound. He has a lot of upsides, and if he can use his raw talent to get past Pitolo he will have a bright future ahead.

Maki Pitolo was a Hawaiian who people had extremely high expectations for, but looking back Pitolo was not quite cut out for the lofty aspirations people had for him. He is a little too large for 170 pounds but is undersized at 185, and he has lost three in a row in the UFC, including a loss to now-released Impa Kasaganay. However, he is quick and skilled with a takedown, so that might bode in his favor if he can avoid having his size used against him. If Pitolo doesn’t walk away from this with a win, his UFC career is likely over.

Manel Kape vs. Zhalgas Zumagulov

There is a lot of hype surrounding former Rizin FC fighter Manel Kape (16-6-0 1-2-0 UFC) and it is easy to see why, as he finished his most recent fight against Ode Osbourne with a stunning flying knee in the first round. He dropped his first two UFC fights, but it was clear that he possessed enough power to put his opponents away- it was more a question of if he would throw enough volume to get there. His first two UFC fights were close decision losses, and if he can buckle down and press forward he should have a very successful UFC career.

Zhalgas Zumagulov (14-5-0 1-2-0 UFC), however, is on the other end of the spectrum. Technical wrestler Zumagulov lost his first two UFC fights but won his most recent by slick guillotine choke. He is much less athletic than his opponent, so he needs to use his technical wrestling to force an impressive and tight performance from Kape. Top pressure and volume should work in Zumagulov’s favor, as Kape can be hesitant at times and on his back foot.

These fights are all fantastic, and there should be even more to watch: William Knight and Alonzo Menifield are two beefy middleweights who are looking to bring the fire, and Alex Morono and Mickey Gall are two welterweights who are trying to take the next step towards contender status. No one knows how these fights are going to play out, but they should all be great compliments to the main card of UFC Vegas 44.

How do you think these fights are going to play out? What other bouts are you excited for? Let us know in the comments!

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I’m a high school student who is a massive sports fan, and I have a passion for writing about the things I love, including MMA.