UFC Vegas 55 Preview
On the surface, UFC Vegas 55 does not jump out as one of the best UFC cards of the year. Fortunately, several fights are poised to be entertaining despite their lack of notoriety. The main event includes former champion Holly Holm and rising contender Ketlen Vieira in a fight that has major implications for the UFC women’s bantamweight division. Each of the remaining fights on the main card provide interesting matchups that fans should look out for. UFC Vegas 55 will take place on Saturday, May 21. The television coverage will be on ESPN+ where the prelims will begin at 4 p.m. ET followed by the main card at 7 p.m. ET.
Holly Holm (2) vs Ketlen Vieira (5)- Women’s Bantamweight
In the main event of UFC Vegas 55, Holly Holm will look to defend her #2 spot in the rankings against surging contender and #5 ranked Ketlen Vieira. The winner of this bout will be front and center in future title contention discussions. The future of the women’s bantamweight belt is unclear at the moment as Juliana Pena and Amanda Nunes are currently hosting The Ultimate Fighter and will fight after the show concludes. Valentina Shevchenko may also test the waters at bantamweight if things go her way against Talia Santos at UFC 275. Regardless, Holm and Vieira are looking at an opportunity to position themselves at the top.
Holly Holm is a former champion and legend of women’s MMA. Her 14-5 record may not jump off the page; however, all five of her losses have come to fellow UFC champions. In addition, Holm has a pro boxing of 33-2-3. The downside of this experience is that she is now 40 years old. This does raise questions and it does not help that Holm has not fought since October of 2020. In that fight, Holm did look impressive as she defeated Irene Aldana in a one-sided unanimous decision victory. She displayed her boxing and footwork as she pieced apart Aldana on the feet while mixing in some takedowns.
For Vieira, Holm would not be the first legend that she beat if she is able to walk out victorious on Saturday. In Vieira’s last fight, she went to war with Miesha Tate and came out on the right side of the decision. This fight was very competitive but the deciding factor was the power in Vieira’s hands. Even though she won this fight using her hands, Vieira is much more known for her work on the ground.
To start, I am not overly concerned with Holm’s age or her time off. Holm is a part of Jackson Wink MMA, one of the best gyms in the world. Come fight night her team should have her in top form. One of the biggest factors in this fight will be Holm’s defense. The female MMA GOAT, Amanda Nunes, is the only woman to ever knockout Holm in MMA. The improvements of Vieira on the feet are noticeable but Holm is going to be much harder to hit than Tate. Vieira may be able to take this fight to the mat a couple of times and win a round or two but ultimately I think Holm will point fight her way to a decision victory.
Santiago Ponzinibbio (14) vs Michel Pereira- Welterweight
In the co-main event of UFC Vegas 55, Santiago Ponzinibbio will look to keep his #14 spot in the rankings as he goes up against Michel Pereira. Ponzinibbio has a long history inside the UFC octagon. At one point he was a top prospect that earned wins over Neil Magny, Mike Perry, and Gunnar Nelson. Shortly after these wins, the Argentinian fought a handful of injuries that derailed his career and kept him out of competition for a little over two years. Since his return in 2021, Ponzinibbio has gone 1-2 with a win over Miguel Baeza and losses to Geoff Neal and Jingliang Li. However, you could make the argument he beat Neal. Regardless, Ponzinibbio does not seem to be the same fighter since his return. He is still a talented fighter with good boxing and great durability but we may never see him at the same peak.
Pereira is an interesting fighter who has shown improvements in the octagon. Early in his UFC career, Pereira dropped two fights to Tristan Connelly and Diego Sanchez. In the Connelly fight, he gassed after throwing a ton of wild strikes while trying to get a flashy finish. In the Sanchez fight, he lost via disqualification after landing an illegal knee in round three. Since these losses, Pereira has gone 4-0 and has shown improvements. He has left some of his flashy strikes behind while keeping his explosive outbursts.
This fight should be close. I think this will go the distance because Ponzinibbio and Pereira have both proven to be durable fighters. If it goes three rounds Ponzinibbio will be at a slight advantage because Pereira may gas by the end of the third. However, Pereira does a great job of attacking the body with teep kicks from the outside while landing strong knees in the clinch. This should help wear on Ponzinibbio throughout the fight. Even if Pereira does gas and drops round three he should be able to win round one and two by staying on the outside and landing straight punches. I’ll take Pereira by decision.
Chidi Njokuani vs Dusko Todorovic- Middleweight
Chidi Njokuani put the middleweight division on notice in his UFC debut when he knocked out Marc-Andre Barriault in just 16 seconds. With that being said, Njokuani has more experience than the average fighter coming off their UFC debut. His resume includes eight fights in Bellator where he went 5-3. Njokuani’s skill set largely revolves around his striking. This is understandable as he is quick and accurate. This comes together to give Njokuani serious knockout power despite not having a physically imposing frame.
Standing across the cage from Njokuani at UFC Vegas 55 will be Dusko Todorovic. Todorovic got back on track in his last fight when he finished Maki Pitolo with ground and pound in the first round. Before that, Todorovic dropped two straight to Gregory Rodrigues and Punahele Soriano.
This is a difficult fight to predict as Njokuani and Todorovic both have clear paths to victory. Todorovic gets hit too often and has some holes in his defense. Njokuani should be able to exploit this. On the other hand, Todorovic will have an advantage in the clinch and may look to control Njokuani up against the cage. Todorovic may also look to get a takedown and utilize his ground and pound. At the end of the day, Todorovic’s defensive holes scare me. I think Njokuani should be able to land some big shots and get a finish. I’ll take Njokuani by first-round knockout.
Eryk Anders vs Jun Yong Park- Middleweight
Eryk Anders has been back and forth between the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions during his time in the UFC. This fight against Jun Yong Park will be his second straight fight at middleweight after a loss to Andre Muniz in his last bout. During his time in the UFC, Anders is 6-6 with one no contest. He has struggled to find sustained success but will look to push his UFC record above .500 with a win.
Park is far less experienced in the UFC with a 3-2 record in the promotion. In these fights, Park has shown solid boxing with good movement. He has also had some success on the ground which he may turn to if needed.
I am not a fan of fighters that are constantly switching weight classes. I think it is hard to find success when you are constantly having to adjust your diet and weight cut. With this fight taking place at middleweight, Andres will have a significant amount of weight to cut. All of these factors will play in Park’s favor. In the fight itself, Park should be able to avoid the explosive strikes of Andres and return with solid combos. I’ll take Park by decision.
Polyana Viana vs Tabatha Ricci- Women’s Strawweight
Polyana Viana and Tabatha Ricci are paired up in what may be the closest fight on UFC Vegas 55. These two fighters have a stark difference in size. Viana is 5′ 5” with a 67-inch reach while Ricci is 5′ 1” with a 61-inch reach. With her length, Viana has decent kicks from the outside but her bread and butter is her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Viana is currently 12-4 with eight submission victories.
What makes this fight interesting is that Ricci has a good ground game of her own. In addition, Ricci is very physically strong for the women’s strawweight division. This should help her land some takedowns and wear on Viana from the top.
This is the toughest prediction to make by far. Viana will be more than willing to let Ricci take her down so she can work for submissions off the bottom. However, Ricci should be able to fight off some submissions and get some control time. I think the difference will be Viana’s ability to chain submissions. Viana is very good at finding a submission even if it is not the original submission she was looking for. If she is unable to land a submission early, this fight will swing heavily in Ricci’s favor. Still, I think Viana will be able to find that submission in round one.
Prelim to Watch
Chase Hooper vs Felipe Colares- Featherweight
This may not be the most entertaining fight on the prelims but it will be an interesting fight to watch. Chase Hooper is one of the most intriguing prospects in the UFC. He is 22 years old and is 6′ 1” with a 74-inch reach. At 145 pounds, few other fighters have a similar frame. He also sports terrific Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. However, his striking is severely flawed and his poor wrestling makes it difficult for him to get the fight to the ground. Hooper has not fought since June of last year so it will be interesting to see if he has made any improvements in these areas.
Hooper’s opponent, Felipe Colares is a good Muay Thai striker with quick hands and solid leg kicks. The weakness of Colares is his takedown defense. He was taken down eleven times on 15 attempts by Montel Jackson. At 2-3 in the UFC, Colares is on the hot seat and may need a win here to keep his job.
This fight will come down to the improvements of Hooper. If he is able to improve his striking defense he will have a much better chance in this one. I do think Colares will be able to land some big shots on Hooper and will have him in danger early and often. On the contrary, if Hooper can get a takedown there is a solid chance he finds a submission. I do not think it will be pretty or flawless but I’ll take Hooper by third-round submission.