Alistair Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik are among the most experienced fighters in all MMA and are entrusted with the task of leading a UFC St. Petersburg full of new faces.
The match faces a pair of heavyweights with 131 professional fights combined with each other and that does not even include Overeem's extensive kickboxing career and Oleinik's grip competitions. Both are also finalists tested, with Overeem with 39 in total and Oleinik with 45 counting their presentations. Oleinik is getting close to Alexander Volkov on short notice and it is hard to imagine the matchmakers finding a more exciting replacement for Saturday's main event.
Islam Makhachev leads the lightweight co-main, where he receives prospect Arman Tsarukyan, 22, in the Octagon. One of the best kept secrets of the lightweight division, Makhachev, will have to be at his best to avoid the discomfort and get his fifth consecutive victory.
In another main action, Sergey Pavlovich and Marcelo Golm meet in a heavyweight bout, undefeated light heavyweight Ivan Shtyrkov debuts against Devin Clark, veteran flyweight Roxanne Modafferi fights Antonina Shevchenko, and former middleweight Krzysztof Jotko looks to the ship against the newcomer Alen Amedovski. .
What: UFC St. Petersburg
Where: Yubileyny Sports Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia
When: Saturday, April 20. The six-fight preliminary card starts at 10:15 a.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. The main card of six fights starts at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN +.
Alistair Overeem against Aleksei Oleinik
This is what I wrote about Aleksei Oleinik's most recent fight against Mark Hunt, in which I predicted that Oleinik would lose:
Obviously, Mark Hunt will want to keep him on his feet and Aleksei Oleinik should take him to the canvas where he can work for his 47th victory in submission. But Hunt is no longer the seated duck he used to be, as he had propped up both his takedown defense and his ability to survive on the canvas, and Oleynik has shown himself to be a willing striker during his time with the UFC.
Now, replace Hunt's name with Alistair Overeem, change from 47 to 48, and modify the comments to reflect that the basic Overeem game is better than Hunt's, and practically has my prediction for Saturday's main event.
But once again, I predicted that Oleinik would lose and ended up sending Hunt before the end of the first round. Could the same fate fall on Overeem, who has only tapped once in his career? You can not rule out anything with Oleinik, especially since he has shown that a choke can be caught from almost any position. Alone in the UFC, he has rotated twice and is fully badembled in his trademark of Ezekiel in the choke.
However, as mentioned earlier, Overeem is a much more competent fighter than Hunt and also a better athlete. It also better matches physically with "The Boa Constrictor". In the strike department, there is no doubt that Overeem will have the advantage.
All the signs point to a victory for Overeem, and while Oleinik has been able to outperform many talented kickboxers in the past, the full Overeem game will be too much for him this time around.
Islam Makhachev against Arman Tsarukyan
It is probably too early for Arman Tsarukyan, but do not count the chances of the 22-year-old Armenians being a contender in the future. Tsarukyan already has victories over former UFC fighters Felipe Olivieri, Junior Assuncao and Takenori Sato, which may explain why the runners felt confident enough to reserve him for Saturday's de facto main event.
However, it looks like this should be an exhibition fight for Makhachev, given how consistent he has been in his six UFC appearances. He is an elite fighter who also hits hard and rarely makes major mistakes. Makhachev is as technically sound as anyone on the list.
Tsarukyan is actually incredibly advanced at his age and uses many of the same techniques that Makhachev does: a stiff right, good trips in the clinch and a fast double leg. It's just that Makhachev is more polished at this moment in his career. Still, he expects Tsarukyan to make three difficult rounds with Makhachev before losing a decision.
Sergey Pavlovich vs Marcelo Golm
When faced with the much more experienced Alistair Overeem in his first UFC start, Sergey Pavlovich did not have the opportunity to show what he is capable of. He is a fast starter who had some obvious defending defensive shortcomings. This time he has coincided with Marcelo Golm, another heavyweight prospect who has struggled to deal with the fighters.
If this is still a standing issue as expected, the enormous reach and advantage of Pavlovich's strength will play an important role in him, and possibly save Golm sooner. Even if he can not, he has shown that he is capable of going to five full rounds and drawing a victory, while Golm is 0-2 in the confrontations that go beyond.
Standard Disclaimer: At the heavyweight, anything can happen, but Pavlovich should make the most of his second chance to make an impressive first impression of the UFC in his home country.
Ivan Shtyrkov against Devin Clark
Ivan Shtyrkov certainly looks like part of a future light heavyweight contender and has the resume to back it up. Like Arman Tsarukyan, he brings a legitimate list of conquests to the Octagon, although Shtyrkov is even more extensive: Fabio Maldonado, Philip De Fries, Antonio Silva and Ricco Rodriguez are just some of the UFC names they have defeated.
Now that he has made his way to promotion, he is in a tough battle against the game, always Devin Clark. The "brown bear" could be expelled in a bodybuilding contest with Shtyrkov, but in a 15-minute fight he has many more things in his favor. As unattractive as it sounds, Clark is a clbadic grinder and, fortunately for him, Shtyrkov is not particularly adept at finishing things early. In fact, if Shtyrkov is too aggressive in the first round, that could play directly into Clark's hands.
Look for Clark to get in front of Shtyrkov's face and press the rhythm as soon as the bell rings with the aim of draining Shtyrkov's gas tank. If you can hold Shtyrkov against the fence, those mbadive muscles will tire quickly, which will make Shtyrkov easy to remove and control in rounds two and three.
Roxanne Modafferi against Antonina Shevchenko
Make no mistake, Roxanne Modafferi has absolutely the tools to achieve great annoyance here against the relatively unproven Antonina Shevchenko. It would require "The Happy Warrior" to get a few lucky shots that would take Shevchenko to his back, because if Modafferi can get to the first position, he can do serious damage from there.
Shevchenko has a solid demolition defense, although he has never faced an opponent with Modafferi's grip vocabulary. She has to be prepared to defend herself, not only against an initial demolition, but also because of the pressure of the cage and the trips that follow. Once Modafferi seizes Shevchenko, he will stand to save his life and try to take him to earth.
Obviously, Shevchenko is the best attacker and will go back to Modafferi while he remains standing. This will be an important test for Modafferi, who has never shied away from taking damage, but that has not always translated into victories. If she lets Shevchenko dictate where she's going, Modafferi is toast.
I see this as a closer call than many experts are predicting, and I will even risk it and say that Modafferi will turn this into a ground fight and stop the Shevchenko fire engine.
Krzysztof Jotko against Alen Amedovski
Krzysztof Jotko is fighting for his life in the UFC here and that can precipitate a safe game plan. He can not play with Alen Amedovski, an unbeaten Macedonian fighter with absolute hammers for his hands. By intervening in less than a month's notice, Amedovski will be hungry and will be eager to finish this sooner.
I can easily see Amedovski catching a collapsed Jotko here and adding him to his impressive first round KO roster; On the opposite side, I can also see Jotko using smart counters to keep Amedovski at bay and to eliminate them opportunely when he stretches too much. In this last scenario, Jotko moves to a decision.
Amedovski is so little tested on the ground, it is difficult to choose against someone with the versatility of Jotko. Those KOs are not that easy when you face a UFC veteran, and I hope Amedovski takes his first loss here.
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Alexander Yakovlev def. Alex Da Silva
Shamil Abdurakhimov def. Marcin Tybura
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Magomed Mustafaev def. Rafael fiziev