Now 40 years old, Holly Holm attempts to work her way back up the Bantamweight ranks this Saturday (May 21, 2022) in her UFC Vegas 55 main event battle with Ketlen Vieira. UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, also hosts an absolute banger between Michel Pereira and Santiago Ponzinibbio, as well as a Middleweight battle between Contender Series graduates Chidi Njokuani and Dusko Todorovic.
There are a half-dozen “Prelims” undercard bouts to get through before then, though. Let’s get started …
135 lbs.: Jonathan Martinez vs. Vince Morales
Jonathan Martinez (15-4) had a rather inauspicious UFC start, as he found himself dominated by Andrew Soukhamthath in Moncton. He now sits at 6-2 in his last eight bouts, one of those losses coming by highly questionable decision against Andre Ewell.
“Dragon” will have a one-inch of height and 1.5 inches of reach on “Vandetta.”
Vince Morales (11-5) likewise initially struggled to find his footing in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, dropping three of his first four UFC bouts. He has since righted the ship with two straight wins, among them a vicious knockout of Louis Smolka in Dec. 2021.
The win marked his sixth professional (technical) knockout and eighth professional finish overall.
It’s worth making clear that Morales’ .500 UFC record undersells his abilities. One of those losses was a garbage decision against Benito Lopez and the other two came against some of the division’s best strikers in Song Yadong and Chris Gutierrez. Still, I don’t see this going particularly well for him. That’s because the Gutierrez fight showed a clear blueprint for taking him apart with kicks, which Martinez has the skills to replicate.
Morales has some real power in his right hand and some genuine boxing chops, so it’s not out of the question that he could lamp Martinez the way Davey Grant did if “Dragon” gets too comfortable mixing it up inside. Still, it’s likelier that Martinez plays a conservative game, taking apart Morales’ lead leg and keeping him at a distance for UFC victory No. 7.
Prediction: Martinez via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Chase Hooper vs. Felipe Colares (10-3)
Though Chase Hooper’s (10-2-1) win on Contender Series only earned him a developmental contract, he worked his way to the Octagon proper with a 3-0-1 run on the regional circuit. He now sits at 2-2 in the world’s largest MMA promotion, most recently dropping a decision to Steven Peterson.
His eight professional stoppages include five submissions.
Felipe Colares (10-3) — the former Jungle Fight Featherweight champion — has alternated losses and wins since joining UFC undefeated (7-0). His last two fights have seen him survive early trouble to overpower Luke Sanders and battle Chris Gutierrez to a split decision loss.
He gives up five inches of height and six inches of reach to Hooper.
Enormously limited though he may be, Colares has the right set of skills to knock Hooper’s UFC record back below .500. He’s insanely durable, extremely aggressive and sufficiently skilled on the ground to hold his own in Hooper’s wheelhouse.
That’s assuming they even go there, of course. Colares showed against Sanders that he can do some work on the feet by just marching forward and swinging for the fences, and while the Brazilian is much of a wrestler, Hooper’s shiny 18 percent takedown percentage has me thinking that any grappling exchanges will be on the former’s terms. Seeing as his Brazilian jiu-jitsu is sharp enough to avoid getting caught in a quick-kill submission the way Peter Barrett was, all signs point to Colares tanking his way to a decision win.
Prediction: Colares via unanimous decision
115 lbs: Elise Reed vs. Sam Hughes (6-4)
Less than two months after winning the Cage Fury Strawweight title, Elise Reed (5-1) moved up in weight for a short-notice debut against Sijara Eubanks. Though that predictably ended poorly, she got back on track eight months later with a split decision over Contender Series graduate Cory McKenna.
She faces a two-inch height disadvantage and a 1.5-inch reach disadvantage.
Sam Hughes (6-4) opened her UFC career with three consecutive losses to division standouts Tecia Torres, Loma Lookboonmee and Luana Pinhero. She came up big with her back against the wall, though, out-lasting a strong start from Istela Nunes to claim a majority decision victory.
“Sampage” has scored three submissions and a knockout as a professional.
My basic read on this fight is that Reed has many of the same tools that Nunes used to great effect while also lacking some of the issues that let Hughes take over in the latter two rounds. Though she can’t match Nunes’ power, Reed’s footwork should allow her to pick off Hughes’ linear rushes and steer clear of the fence. Plus, Reed’s cardio is nowhere near as suspect as Nunes,’ so she’s unlikely to fade late.
Hughes’ two biggest weapons in this match up are her wrestling and adaptability. The former shouldn’t be an issue so long as Reed stays mobile, and the greater variety of her striking compared to Nunes makes it much more difficult for Hughes to get dialed in in time to retake control. In the end, Reed’s rangy offense should carry her to a narrow win.
Prediction: Reed via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 55 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including some potential slugfests at Bantamweight and Lightweight. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 54 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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