This weekend (Sat., Dec. 9, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Vegas 83. That wasn’t always the case, however. Originally planned for Shanghai, China, the event fell apart to some degree when the rumored Petr Yan vs. Song Yadong booking didn’t materialize. Chris Gutierrez stepped up, but the event and the Road To UFC finalists were all shipped to Sin City.
One final evening in the Apex for 2023. Let’s dig into all the main card fights leading up to the co-main event:
Flyweight: Sumudaerji vs. Tim Elliott
Best Win for Sumudaerji? Andre Soukhamthath For Elliott? Tagir Ulanbekov
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: Elliott took the fight on just a few days notice!
How these two match up: This is still a great fight!
It’s been far too long since Sumudaerji was last in the Octagon. In July 2022, he put on one of the best fights of the year against Matt Schnell, a back-and-forth scrap that showcased his powerful and dynamic kickboxing attack. Elliott is a longtime veteran of the division, a scrappy striker with awkward timing. For the most part, he gets the job done via his wrestling and physcality, both of which are top-notch at 125 lbs.
Sumudaerji is the man with more hype behind him. He’s younger, taller, longer, and tends to win fights in more dramatic fashion. Were this match up booked a month ago, however, I would be concerned about his defensive grappling. It’s far from proven, and Elliott has derailed a handful of hype trains in his day.
On like 96 hours worth of notice though? Ain’t no way. I’ll be shocked if Elliott can make the weight, let alone perform well. Realistically, Elliott has perhaps a round to submit Sumudaerji, otherwise he’s going to get tired. When Elliott gets tired, he gets sloppy, and that’ll leave him wildly vulnerable to Sumudaerji’s power punching.
Prediction: Sumudaerji via knockout
Lightweight: Nasrat Haqparast vs. Jamie Mullarkey
Best Win for Haqparast? John Makdessi For Mullarkey? Michael Johnson
Current Streak: Haqparast has won two in a row, while Mullarkey rebounded last time out
X-Factor: The judges seem to really like Mullarkey
How these two match up: This should be a fun striking battle between Lightweight veterans.
Germany’s Haqparast has been on the UFC roster since 2013, but he’s still just 28 years of age. The Tristar-trained boxer is a very quick Southpaw with a heavy left hand, which has helped him score nine wins via knockout. However, he’s faced criticism for being a bit too consistent in his approach and strategy.
Mullarkey is more of a volume kickboxer. He’s quite comfortable in a brawl, willing to grit his way to victory if needed. Though he cannot directly match his opponent’s athleticism, Mullarkey certainly has the craft and diversity of strikes to keep this one interesting.
Beating Mullarkey is rarely easy, but this feels like a great stylistic match up for Haqparast. He’s going to be operating at a considerable speed advantage, which should allow him to dictate boxing exchanges on his own terms. Mullarkey may be the better kicker between the two, but Haqparast’s footwork should be fluid enough to navigate those waters well.
For Mullarkey to win, he either has to rock the historically durable Haqparast or successfully mix in some takedowns. Both seem unlikely, and the most obvious outcome is that Haqparast’s 1-2 remains the most effective weapon of the contest for 15 continuous minutes.
Prediction: Haqparast via decision
Middleweight: Jun Yong Park vs. Andre Muniz
Best Win for Park? Eryk Anders For Muniz? Ronaldo Souza
Current Streak: Park has won four straight, while Muniz has lost two in a row
X-Factor: Muniz has kind of fallen apart in his last two
How these two match up: Yup, this is a classic striker vs. grappler match up.
Park has really come along in a positive manner recently. He’s not brawling wildly, but instead pushing the pace in a more defensively responsible manner. He’s actually a rather punishing kickboxer when he gives himself room to work, and his defensive grappling has improved quite a bit as well.
Muniz, sadly, feels like he’s regressing. In both of his recent fights against Brendan Allen and Paul Craig, Muniz was doing well until his gas tank suddenly evaporated — the classic pitfall of the stereotypical Middleweight BJJ guy!
Muniz can absolutely win this fight. He’s still elite on the canvas, and Park has been overwhelmed and submitted in the past. A year ago, that would have been my exact prediction.
MMA is very much a sport based on momentum and confidence, however. Park is peaking, showing off his best work and building off past performances. Muniz, conversely, cannot be trusted beyond the seven minute mark, and he’s facing a man who excels in wars of attrition.
For the third time in a row, I’m betting Muniz takes the first frame before looking a little fatigued, at which point “The Iron Turtle” will storm back with a vengeance.
Prediction: Park via knockout