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UFC 303, PFL 6, ONE Friday Fights and more

Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira, UFC 295
Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira, UFC 295 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jake Noecker/Cageside Press

Cageside Press analyst Val Dewar returns with his ongoing Best Fights of the Week series and reunites with boxing expert Phillip Walsh who will analyze the best boxing title fight of the week. Dylan Knostman, an amateur fighter who just had his first Muay Thai fight/win, is new to this periodic collaboration and writes for CalfKickSports.com, is a color commentator for PFA, and is one-third of the Cagecraft Podcast.

This trio comes together to break down the best fights from a week of fights including UFC 303, PFL 6, ACA 177, ONE Friday Fights 68, Crown Duel: Estrada vs Bam and, as always, a dozen smaller regional shows which may not be mentioned, but nevertheless showcase the next generation of fighters from around the world and play an important role in the martial arts ecosystem.

And now, on with the show.

Ricky Simon, UFC Vegas 72
Ricky Simon, UFC Vegas 72 weigh-in Credit: Rodney James Edgar/Cageside Press

10. Ricky Simon vs. Vinicius Oliveira (UFC-303)

In the curtain-raiser of UFC 303 and this article, we have a very high-level match between Ricky Simon and Vinicius “Lok Dog” Oliveira. Simon was recently ranked but lost his number after losses to Mario Bautista and Song Yadong. Oliveira, on the other hand, is coming off a UFC debut victory over Bernardo Sopaj, earning both Fight and Performance of the Night honors with a clean flying knee knockout in round three. While Oliveira is talented, Simon has proven himself time and time again against the best bantamweights in the world, such as Merab Dvalishvili, Raphael Assuncao and now featherweight Jack Shore.

This booking is odd for this reason, as Simon will be making the walk for the thirteenth time in his UFC career, while this is only the second bout of Oliveira’s promotional run.

Ricky Simon is one of the best wrestlers in MMA today. Simon was a high-level high school wrestler in Oregon and had over 1,000 amateur wrestling matches before switching directly to MMA after high school. His style is ruthless, progressive and diverse. He uses weaving head movements and half-step feints to set up boxing and wrestling matches, consistently linking techniques together. His chain wrestling is elite, stringing together takedown attempts until his opponent can’t defend himself. Once on the ground, he possesses suffocating top pressure and a capable submission game. Despite falling out of the rankings, Simon remains one of the most skilled fighters in the UFC. In this fight, pressure will be paramount for Ricky. Keeping Vinicius in the background, preventing him from executing his punches, will be key to quelling the Brazilian’s chaotic attack.

When you put a wild and explosive striker like Oliveira in the starting line, he’s not going to stop. He crushed Victor Madrigal on the Contender Series and followed it up with that finish of Sopaj in his debut. Despite the highlight reel finish, there’s a solid argument to be made that Oliveira was down two rounds-0 entering the final round of that fight. While he hurt Sopaj multiple times in the first two rounds, he overextended himself on punches, leaving himself vulnerable to counters and takedowns. Active on his back with elbows and with solid scrambling ability, he would be better off with get-ups once the fight gets to the mat. The main things that could help him succeed in this fight are his calf kick, his counter-striking and not allowing Simon to push him back up on the cage. While Oliveira is dangerous and has potential, Simon is one of the toughest tests in the divisions, especially at this point in the career of ‘Lok Dog.’

–Dylan Knostman