After nearly a month of no action, we are back with the first UFC event of the new year. The absence of title fights should not discourage you from tuning in for this event. We have a solid card with multiple bouts that have the potential to be explosive. Here are our UFC Fight Night 234 predictions.
UFC Fight Night 234 Predictions: Diverse Main Card
Ankalaev vs Walker Prediction
Ankalaev and Walker have already fought with each other, but the fight ended in a no-contest. Magomed lost his vigilance and made an illegal knee strike while his opponent was leaning on one knee during a clinch. This moment happened in the middle of the first round, so we really saw almost no fighting during their first bout.
We definitely have to point out that the three minutes we saw were dictated by Ankalaev – he slowly squeezed out space and Walker looked really confused. Johnny seemed like he had no solution for the pressure and we even consider the idea that he faked being hurt in hopes that Ankalaev would get disqualified.
Initially, Walker did not look shocked after the illegal blow but then failed to respond appropriately to the doctor who was called in the octagon. Both fighters appeared ready to continue their match but the doctor declared that Walker was unable to continue.
With a high degree of probability, we can argue that Walker simply did not know how to win this fight and wisely gave up on it. If this was the truth, he definitely hoped for a DQ, not a rematch. And now he will be forced to come up with a plan after he saw how much better Ankalaev is than him.
Beating Ankalaev has proven to be nearly impossible – only Paul Craig managed to win against him and we know that he is a master of submissions. Walker is inferior to his opponent in every main component and we believe that Ankalaev will not give him any chances this time. Bookmakers believe that the Russian is a huge favorite and we agree with them for our UFC Fight Night 234 predictions.
• Ankalaev to Win
• Over 2.5 Rounds
Nicolau vs Kape Prediction
Nicolau has been in performing in the UFC for quite a long time (2015), but from 2018 to 2021 he was absent, trying his luck in other promotions. The break was good for Matheus – after he returned, he beat very serious opponents – Tim Elliott, David Dvorak, Matt Schnell – and lost only to Royval, who recently fought for the Flyweight title in December 2023. Punching is not Nicolaou's strong point – he himself was knocked out three times in his career and only lost once by decision. Yes, he has several knockouts in his resume, as well as five submissions, yet he mostly wins by decision.
Manel Kape entered the UFC in a rush and immediately ran into Pantoja, the current champion of the division, and lost to him by decision. In his second appearance, he met Matheus Nicolau, the same man he will face on Saturday. The good thing is that it was a split decision, which guarantees that this match now will be as competitive as they get. After the bad start, Kape had to prove his worth, and he crushed four opponents in a row.
We believe that the moment has come for Kape to take revenge on Nicolau for his dubious defeat. Bookmakers think the same and we all agree that Kape should win for our UFC Fight Night 234 predictions. His trump card is his knockout power and we all know how much Matheus has struggled against technical fighters in the past.
• Manel Kape to Win
Miller vs Benitez Prediction
As you probably know, Miller is a guy who loves to fight. He does this recklessly, despite his considerable age. He still has knockout power, and he has excellent grappling skills, but he simply does not consider the decision to be a real option. He always wants to end it fast and it has often led to him losing. Nowadays, however, Miller's opposition is weak, and he has not fought a formidable opponent in years. This is why he has won four of his last five bouts, despite being significantly older than all of his opponents.
Benitez is another fighter who is not going to leave the decision to the judges. He hits, wrestles, gets knocked out himself, and does everything in his power to keep it fun. Gabriel is not having the best of times now – only 2 victories in his last 6 fights, but facing a 40-year-old is often a good opportunity to return to the winning path.
Miller will definitely be one of the toughest opponents Benitez has faced recently. Bookmakers actually consider the veteran to be the favorite and we generally agree with them for our UFC Fight Night 234 predictions. We cannot neglect Gabriel's poor form. While he did fight several strong opponents, he is reckless and just the type of opponent that Miller loves facing.
• Miller to Win
UFC Fight Night 234 Prelims Predictions – Top 3 Picks
Arlovski vs Cortez-Acosta Prediction
Every time Arlovski enters the octagon is already a holiday for old-school MMA fans since we are witnessing yet another match of a living legend. And although 44-year-old Andrei lost his last two, before that he had 4 victories in a row. Due to his age, Arlovski changed his game plan and now, instead of looking for the knockout and rushing forward, we see economical work with one simple goal – to get a decision.
Cortes-Acosta is new to the UFC – he made his way into the promotion through the contender series and beat outright underdogs. All his opponents had a significant number of defeats behind them and it is not surprising that he crushed everyone. However, like Arlovski, Acosta lost to Rogerio de Lima (surprisingly), so it is quite obvious why Dana White decided to make this bout.
Although Arlovski is almost 45 years old, he has more experience than anyone in the UFC (apart from Jim Miller). He is no longer the young KO specialist and he will not rush into exchanges. Cortez-Acosta is not the type of heavyweight with a deadly punch either. Instead of looking for a winner, we have decided that the over is a better option for our UFC Fight Night 234 predictions.
• Over 1.5 Rounds
McGhee vs Bolanos Prediction
Marcus came to professional MMA quite late – he is 33 years old. However, he is a shining example that age doesn't matter as long as your skills continue to develop. His professional record is 8-1, with his only loss coming by submission at LFA 135 to Nascimento. McGee won all 8 victories ahead of schedule, 7 by knockout. He made his UFC debut on 11 hours notice and made it look like he had a full camp. In his next performance, he looked even more impressive: he showed off his boxing and knockout power, finishing J.P. Buys in half a round. McGee is a wrestler but has excellent movement on his feet and can work equally well with both stances.
The 31-year-old Gaston Bolanos trains in California at the Combat Sports Academy. His professional record is 7-3. Taking into account his kickboxing performances, Gaston spent the first 9 fights of his mixed martial arts career in Bellator, where he scored 6 victories by knockout. He made his UFC debut in 2023, defeating Aaron Phillips by decision. He was scheduled to fight Marcus McGee earlier in mid-2023, but suffered an injury and was forced to pull out of the fight. Bolanos is primarily a kickboxer and he has solid experience in professional and amateur Muay Thai and kickboxing.
Can you already guess who we are going to pick for our UFC Fight Night 234 predictions? Marcus McGhee has become one of our favorite fighters due to his resilience and clear technical genuis. In his only UFC appearance, Bolanos took only the 1st round comfortably against one of the worst fighters on the bantamweight roster. The Peruvian is too readable for a fighter like McGee. Gaston will be slower, and his arsenal is limited. In this match, McGee will not need to think about defending against wrestling, since Bolanos never shoots for a takedown himself.
• Marcus McGhee to Win
Van vs Bunes Prediction
Joshua Van is only 22 years old. At the age of 12, he moved with his family from Myanmar to Houston, where he still lives and trains at the 4oz Fight Club. Joshua is new to professional MMA and has been competing since 2021. He performs frequently, has a record of 9-1, and won 7 victories ahead of schedule, 5 of them by knockout. For Van, this will be his 3rd appearance in the UFC. In his debut, he defeated Zhalgas Zhumagulov by split decision, and in his last fight, he defeated Peruvian Kevin Borjas, also by decision. Van is primarily a boxer and relies on speed and fast combinations. He threw 276 punches in 2 fights.
Felipe Bunes is a former LFA champion and will make his UFC debut.
He is 34 years old and has a professional record of 13-6 with 10 stoppage victories, 8 of them by submission. In addition to LFA, Felipe is known for performing in the Russian organizations ACA and Fight Nights Global. Bunes has a black belt in jiu-jitsu and trains at the famous Brazilian gym Pitbull Brothers.
On paper, this will be a fight between a boxer and a wrestler, but in reality, Bunes has the skills to fight on his feet too. He knocked out Horiuchi, who had never lost by knockout before and had only lost once by stoppage. Joshua Van is on less than a month's notice. It’s strange to see the Brazilian as a big underdog – Van is untested, too young a fighter, on short notice, he has less experience fighting, and in general, he has not fought against strong fighters. Bunes will also have a huge advantage in his arm span (about 15 cm). We cannot agree with the odds for our UFC Fight Night 234 predictions.
• Felipe Bunes to Win
UFC Fight Night 234 Full Card Predictions: The Best of the Rest
Hawes vs Ferreira Prediction
Hawes started out as a wrestler, winning a national junior high wrestling championship and then doing well in Division 1. His professional MMA record is 12-5, and he entered the UFC in 2020. In addition to the UFC, he performed in organizations like Bellator, Brave, and WSOF. Hawes' UFC record is 5-4, most recently losing to Ikram Aliskerov via 1st round knockout in May 2023. He was been knocked out three times in his last four appearances.
Ferreira will enter the cage after the 1st defeat in his career – he lost by knockout to Nursultan Ruziboev in 77 seconds. The Brazilian has a 10-1 overall record in MMA. Ferreira came to the UFC after making a strong impression at the Contender Series in 2022, knocking out Leon Aliu in 1.5 minutes. He made his UFC debut against the dangerous Gregory Rodriguez, whom he knocked out in the 1st round. Like his current opponent, Ferreira hits hard but has not shown any abilities in wrestling yet, and his takedown defense is 50%.
There is no question why this match was placed at the beginning of the main card – matchmakers knew that it was going to end fast. Over the course of their careers, these fighters have a combined 15 1st round victories, and all 11 of Brunno Ferreira's professional fights have gone within 6.5 minutes. Therefore, we cannot pick a winner for our UFC Fight Night 234 predictions but instead, we pick the Under 1.5 Rounds market.
• Under 1.5 Rounds