MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main card for UFC on ESPN 39.

UFC on ESPN 39 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.

Last event’s results: 4-0-1

Overall picks for UFC main cards in 2022: 65-34-1

Welcome to MMAJunkie’s Quick Picks and Prognostications, where I’ll be giving brief, fight-day breakdowns for UFC main cards.

With that in mind, I hope these write-ups don’t come off as curt or dismissive, as my goal here is to offer quick picks and analysis in a digestible format. All odds listed are provided by Tipico Sportsbook.

If you’d like more detailed analysis from me, then feel free to check out my weekly show, The Protect Ya’ Neck Podcast.

So, without further ado…

Matchup: Michael Johnson (+190) vs. Jamie Mullarkey (-250)

Summary: Despite the current UFC matchmaker’s apparent intent to make main cards as long and painful as humanly possible, it’s nice to see them finally pay tribute to the great Joe Silva by slotting a proper lightweight action fight as the opener.

I’ve always been a big fan of the southpaw striking sensibilities of Michael Johnson, but I find myself siding with Jamie Mullarkey in this spot.

Aside from Johnson’s propensity to combust when put on the wrong side of pressure, I didn’t like the fact that he got visibly stung twice by an aging Alan Patrick. Mullarkey will likely eat some hard counters regardless of how this shakes out, but I’ll officially pick the Australian to score a left hook knockout in the second round.

Matchup: Cynthia Calvillo (-160) vs. Nina Nunes (+125)

Summary: Serving as one of the harder fights to make a pick on is a flyweight matchup between Cynthia Calvillo and Nina Nunes.

Although part of me suspects that this is the perfect opportunity for Calvillo to finally get back to her grappling, it’s hard to hold out hope given how dedicated she’s been to fighting off of the back foot. It’s also hard to be confident in Calvillo after seeing her take some tough losses that appeared to take a real toll on her.

Nunes may be the fighter who is closer to the end on paper, but being the more impactful striker and having a stronger competitive spirit is enough for me to side with her in what will probably be a close call on the scorecards.

Matchup: Jared Vanderaa (-200) vs. Chase Sherman (+150)

Summary: Fulfilling the current UFC matchmaker’s fetish of forcing heavyweight fights onto the main cards of non-PPV events is a dubious encounter between Jared Vanderaa and Chase Sherman.

Despite going 1-7 in his last eight appearances under the UFC banner, Sherman finds himself in a fairly winnable matchup this Saturday. However, akin to my feelings on Calvillo, I also have a hard time being confident in the confidence of Sherman.

For that reason, I’ll side with Vanderaa to score a submission win in the second round after a sloppy but competitive first five minutes.

Matchup: Douglas Silva de Andrade (+270) vs. Said Nurmagomedov (-380)

Summary: Even though I came into this fight leaning toward Said Nurmagomedov, I ended up taking a flier on the underdog in Douglas Silva de Andrade.

Nurmagomedov definitely deserves distinction as the favorite for his superb striking at range and his ability to find finishes. That said, Nurmagomedov has never faced a puncher like Andrade, nor has he ever fought in the smaller cage of the UFC Apex.

Perhaps it’s the gambler in me, but I’ll take the muscle-bound Brazilian vet to score a second-round knockout off of a poorly-timed spinning attack from Nurmagomedov.

Matchup: Caio Borralho (-260) vs. Armen Petrosyan (+195)


Summary: Continuing the Contender Series bias when it comes to card billings (as well as bonuses for those paying attention) is a co-main event matchup between Caio Borralho and Armen Petrosyan.

Petrosyan showed some solid grit en route to receiving some generous scorecards in his last outing opposite Gregory Rodrigues, but I’m not sure how he’ll fare against a crafty southpaw with good positional control.

Borralho may not be super active when it comes to striking numbers, but I suspect that he can get to his grappling game inside of the smaller octagon. For that reason, I’ll reluctantly side with Borralho to press the advantages that Rodrigues didn’t en route to a decision win.

Matchup: Rafael dos Anjos (+170) vs. Rafael Fiziev (-220)

Summary: As stated in my in-depth breakdown, the main event in Las Vegas features a fantastic fight between two lightweights who are familiar with the art of eight limbs.

Although I’m not necessarily surprised to see Rafael Fiziev installed as the favorite, I find myself siding with another experienced Brazilian veteran in Rafael dos Anjos.

Not only does dos Anjos wield underrated wrestling and grappling (as he’s officially 14-3 when scoring just one takedown), but the former lightweight champion will also be operating inside of the smaller octagon.

So, unless Fiziev is able to starch his durable foe early with either a counter hook or uppercut, then I see the pace and pressure of dos Anjos paying off in the mid-to-late rounds with a head-and-arm choke victory.

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