UFC Fight Night 129: Maia vs. Usman main card preview and predictions

If you’re looking for a stacked card with big names and fights loaded with major stakes, then UFC Chile isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. However, for fans who just want to watch some intriguing and fun fights, this main card should deliver for the most part. Even with out its initial main and co-main event on the card anymore, this is still a card that could yield some good fights.

The headliner between longtime contender and two-time UFC title challenger Demian Maia and surging prospect Kamaru Usman is solid for a short notice bout, there’s a couple of good women’s bouts on deck, Dominick Reyes is a must watch prospect and Vicente Luque vs. Chad Laprise is a bigger fight than it’s being advertised to be. It’s a small, light overseas card that will have some highlights for sure. With the UFC’s Summer scheduled being filled to the brim, this card isn’t nearly at that level on paper. In terms of entertainment value though, even though it’s not as fun on paper as the prelims, the main card could deliver a lot more than expected.

Main card (10/9c, FS1)

Vicente Luque (12-6-1) vs. Chad Laprise (13-2)

While a lot of this main card isn’t high level, the opener between Chad Laprise and Vicente Luque is good enough to be on any televised main card, whether that be a Fight Night or a FOX card. Both men are 6-2 in the UFC, both pack a punch, both are finishers and both are on the verge of being ranked with a victory in this one. Luque is the type of fighter that will either end the fight quickly or lose a decision. Eight of his 12 wins have come in the opening round, and his lone decision win came nearly four years ago. In contrast, four of his six losses have come via decision. He’s got a chin and a myriad of ways to win, but if the fight gets long in the tooth and gets to the third round, his chances of victory drastically go down.

Meanwhile, Laprise is dangerous too, but has a gas tank to boot. He’s finished eight of his 13 wins, including seven in the first round, and also has five decision wins. The TUF: Nations Welterweight winner won his first three UFC bouts via decision, thereby lowering the hype he had when he won the tournament. He then lost two straight fights, making many wonder if he could be on the verge of getting cut. Since then, however, Laprise has won three straight fights, all via tko, and is on a roll now.

This fight comes down to one key factor; can Luque get a quick finish, or will Laprise grind it out until he takes it into deep waters? Laprise’s best chance is to utilize his wrestling in order to make this one an ugly affair. I hate to say it, but that’s the case here. I want this to be a fun fight that ends with a finish, but that won’t be in Laprise’s best interest. Anything’s possible here, and while I’d love to see Luque get another finish, I fear that Laprise will end his own tko streak and win this one via decision. Prediction: Laprise via decision. 

Andrea Lee (8-2) vs. Veronica Macedo (5-1-1)

Up next, Andrea Lee makes her UFC debut! The former Legacy FC Women’s Flyweight champion and Invicta contender is someone who’s been on my radar since her second pro fight in 2014, and she’s got a lot of potential. She has some power in her fists, has four submission wins and a gas tank to boot. The only time she ever got finished was against longtime competitor Sarah D’Alelio in 2016. The one issue with her is her failed diuretic test some years back, and the fact that it’s safe to wonder if she can contend with the best Flyweights in the UFC. Nonetheless, I’m very happy to see her in the UFC, and I believe she can be a potential contender down the road.

Make no mistake though, Veronica Macedo is no joke. The 22-year-old Venezuelan’s lone loss came against Ashlee Evans-Smith in her UFC debut, and her potential is quite good as well. She’s got more decisions than finishes, but she’s tenacious and and wants to make a name for herself with a win tonight. I think Lee will beat her, but Macedo’s more of a live dog than people will give her credit for. If this winds up being a closer fight than expected, don’t be too surprised. Prediction: Lee via decision or late submission. 

Diego Rivas (7-1) vs. Guido Cannetti (7-3)

A fight card taking place in Chile needs to have some Chilean fighters on it, no? Enter Diego Rivas. The TUF: Latin America quarterfinalist will be fighting in his home country, which is the only reason why this fight is on the main card. It should still be fun though, as Rivas has finished five of his seven wins and Cannetti has only gone the distance once in ten fights. Rivas is more reserved, while Cannetti is a wild brawler who’s been submitted three times. Either Cannetti finishes early or Rivas gets a late finish or a decision. I’ll take Rivas, but Cannetti winning should surprise no one. Prediction: Rivas via decision or late submission.

Dominick Reyes (8-0) vs. Jared Cannonier (10-3)

Small Fight Night cards tend to have some legit prospects on them, and that’s the case with this next bout. Reyes is a can’t-miss Light Heavyweight prospect who’s unbeaten, has finished all but one fight in the opening round and has four finishes within a minute. In a division desperate for surging new blood, Reyes is a major candidate to be the future of the division.

Speaking of potential candidates to be the future of the division, there was a time when Cannonier was a candidate to be just that. The former Heavyweight made the move down with an 8-1 overall record, had a terrific performance against Ion Cutelaba, and was hyped enough to get pushed to the wolves against Glover Teixeira. He got dominated in that fight, and after predictably finishing Nick Roehrick on short notice, got handled against Jan Blachowicz. He’s got good striking, good grappling, good cardio, a good chin and good finishing ability, so it’s not as if he can’t rebound and become a contender someday.

I can see why folks would think he’ll win this fight. That said, I’m not going to pick against Reyes until he loses or faces someone elite. He’s still unbeaten, Cannonier isn’t elite, and while Cannonier has all the tools to win this fight, I’m not hopping off the Reyes train for him.  Prediction: Reyes via tko, round 2. 

Tatiana Suarez (5-0) vs. Alexa Grasso (10-1)

I’ll admit it, this fight has no business being the co-main event of a UFC card, at least not unless it’s a Fight Pass card or a TUF Finale with these two being the finalists. Still, I’m a fan of both these women and am looking forward to the fight, even though I’d hate to see either woman lose. This fight is essentially a litmus test for Suarez. Grasso is a gritty fighter who used to be a finisher, but has gone the distance in seven of her last eight fights, including five straight. Still, she’s got power for her weight class, and her lone loss was a decision against Felice Herrig last February. That fight was a co-main event just like this one is. Just like Grasso lost that night, I see her losing on this night as well.

Suarez only has five pro fights, but is arguably the best female wrestler in the UFC right now not named Sara McMann. She had to bow out of the Olympics due to injuries and her transition to MMA has been seamless. She dominated her TUF season two years ago, looked great in her return against then unbeaten Viviane Pereira last November, and I think she can be a title challenger before long. She’s a great wrestler, has submissions to her game and I think she’ll win this one. Grasso isn’t easy to take down, and this one could get murky. I understand why folks are picking Grasso, but I’m going with the upstart Suarez to keep her undefeated record rolling. Prediction: Suarez via decision or late submission. 

Demian Maia (25-8) vs. Kamaru Usman (12-1)

In the main event of the evening, surging Kamaru Usman will face longtime contender and two-time title challenger Demian Maia on short notice. Initially, Usman was set to take on tenth-ranked Argentinian  Santiago Poinzinibbio. Sadly, Ponzinibbio got hurt, and Maia stepped in less than a month ago to essentially save this card. Honestly, with the co-main event between recent Light Heavyweight title challenger Volkan Oezdemir and former champion Shogun Rua being scrapped from the card already, if Usman had to be removed from the card too, this card likely would’ve been cancelled. Thankfully, Maia stepped up, Usman took the fight and the card is still happening.

As for the fight itself, it feels bleak. Maia is a class act who is beloved by his peers, not only for his skills on the mat, but also his outlook and demeanor. He’s clearly in the twilight of his career though, and was thoroughly outclassed in his last two fights, both decision losses against Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington. The losses snapped a seven-fight winning streak that earned him a title shot against Woodley, and now it’s fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank. The fourth-degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt is one of the most decorated grappling wizards in the sport, has 12 submission wins,  has only been finished once in 33 pro fights and possesses a 19-8 UFC record. He’s just two fights shy of tying Jim Miller and Michael Bisping for most UFC fights ever, and tonight’s fight will get him one closer. He has a shot in this one, if for no reason other than his grappling skills and chin. That said, I don’t like his chances.

Usman is like Colby Covington, except better. Unlike Colby, Usman has power in his fists and has six knockout wins to his credit. His lone loss came in his second pro fight five years ago, and he’s 7-0 in the UFC. Covington easily defeated Maia, but couldn’t finish him. Usman, however, might become just the second fighter to ever finish Maia. Maia’s now 40-years-old, and that chin isn’t going to get stronger than it already is. I hate to pick against Maia, but I have to here. It’s sad, but I think he’ll get finished tonight. I desperately hope I’m wrong though. Heart pick: Maia via submission. Prediction: Usman via tko, round 4. 

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