Heavyweight contenders hit a crossroads this Saturday (Nov. 19, 2022) in Las Vegas, Nevada, when Derrick Lewis and Serghei Spivac headline UFC’s latest show inside UFC APEX. UFC Vegas 65 will also feature a Light Heavyweight clash pitting Ion Cutelaba against Kennedy Nzechukwu and what looks like a banger between knockout artists Muslim Salikhov and Andre Fialho.
We hit UFC Vegas 65’s first set of undercard bouts right here — eager to learn more about the last few “Prelims?” Read on …
125 lbs.: Charles Johnson vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Successful knockouts of Joao Camilo and Carlos Mota saw Charles Johnson (11-3) retain his LFA title and earn a UFC debut against blue-chip prospect, Muhammad Mokaev. Though he proved more adept that most at staying on his feet, Mokaev’s relentless takedown attack nonetheless snapped “InnerG’s” four-fight win streak.
He’s knocked out and submitted four professional foes apiece.
After beating Tyson Nam for the Fight Nights Global Flyweight title, Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-7) defended it with narrow victories over Tagir Ulanbekov and Ali Bagautinov. He now finds himself 1-4 in the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, including a bogus split decision loss to Jeff Molina last time out.
He stands five inches shorter than Johnson and gives up four inches of reach.
You really do have to feel for Zhumagulov. He should be 3-2 in his last five, those two defeats coming to top contenders in Amir Albazi and Manel Kape, but wonky judging has left him on the chopping block. He’s not getting any favors here, either, as Johnson’s length, wrestling skill and incredible cardio make him a serious threat.
Zhumagulov’s saving grace is that while Johnson is hard to take and keep down, he’s not too difficult to grind against the fence. “InnerG” also thrives more in five-rounders than three-rounders, so it wouldn’t be too wild to see Zhumagulov grind him out. Still, Johnson’s physical advantages should be enough to carry him to a competitive victory.
Prediction: Johnson via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Jennifer Maia vs. Maryna Moroz
An upset submission of Joanne Wood allowed Jennifer Maia (19-9-1) to jump the queue and challenge Valentina Shevchenko for the Flyweight title, resulting in a unanimous decision defeat. She bounced back with a decision of Jessica Eye, but sits at 0-2 in 2022 courtesy of Katlyn Chookagian and Manon Fiorot.
She gives up three inches of height and reach to Maryna Moroz (11-3).
After bumping her UFC record to 5-3 with upset decisions over Sabina Mazo and Mayra Bueno Silva, Moroz withdrew from four consecutive fights. The nearly two-year layoff ended in March 2022 when she choked out Mariya Agapova with a bonus-winning arm triangle.
That victory marked her sixth by submission and seventh inside the distance overall.
At the risk of sounding reductive, this is the third time in a row that Maia has had to face a taller, rangier volume striker and she didn’t do all that great the first two times. Moroz showcased her ability to deal with a persistent aggressor when she beat Silva, and though Maia’s wrestling presents a danger that “Sheetara” lacked, that’s not enough to offset Moroz’s physical and stylistic advantages.
Moroz’s willingness to mix it up inside could work in Maia’s favor, but odds are that Moroz out-moves and out-works her to a comfortable decision win.
Prediction: Moroz via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Vince Morales vs. Miles Johns
Vince Morales (11-6) finally put together his first multi-fight win streak in the Octagon by dispatching Drako Rodriguez and Louis Smolka in quick succession. “Vandetta” then took on Jonathan Martinez, who out-landed and out-wrestled Morales to hand him his fourth Octagon defeat.
Six of his 10 professional victories have come by knockout.
Miles Johns (12-2) rebounded from his first-ever loss to Mario Bautista by scoring two consecutive bonus-winning one-punch knockouts. The fun wasn’t to last, as he got clubbed-and-subbed by John Castaneda his next time out.
He steps in for Jose Johnson on less than two weeks’ notice.
You can never be certain which Johns will enter the cage. At his best, he blends his wrestling and power-punching into a delightfully fluid and effective offense. At his worst, he seemingly forgets how to shoot a takedown and ends up torn apart by more technically savvy strikers. He’ll need to be on the ball here, as Morales packs some murderous power in his right hand.
Even with that caveat, I’m leaning towards Johns. Morales’ boxing-heavy approach should give Johns plenty of opportunities to get to his preferred distance and get his wrestling going. There’s a real chance that Morales plunks him as they trade, but with only one knockout finish in nearly five years, I’m not sure I trust him to land that missile on the target. Johns grinds him out over the full 15.
Prediction: Johns via unanimous decision
I mean, at least we’re likely to see a good number of finishes. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Prediction Record for 2022: 164-83-2
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 65 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 (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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