Ten Best Fights of the Week: 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 is back with his ongoing Best Fights of the Week series, and has reunited with boxing expert Philip Walsh who will break down the best boxing title fight of the week. Newly joining this periodical collaborative effort is Dylan Knostman, who is an amateur fighter coming off his first Muay Thai fight/win, and who is a writer for CalfKickSports.com, a color commentator for PFA, and is one-third of Cagecraft Podcast.

This trio team up to list the best fights in a stacked week of fighting which includes 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 which nevertheless showcase the next generation of fighters around the world, playing an important part in the ecosystem of combat sports.

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 jerker of UFC 303, and of this article, we have a very high-level matchup 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 win over Bernardo Sopaj, in which he earned both Fight AND Performance of the Night honors with a clean flying knee knockout in round three. While Oliveira has talent, Simon has proven himself again and again against the top bantamweights in the world, such as Merab Dvalishvili, Raphael Assuncao, and now-featherweight Jack Shore.

This booking is strange for this reason, as Simon will be making the walk for the thirteenth time in his UFC career, while this is just the second fight in Oliveira’s promotional tenure. 

Ricky Simon is one of the best wrestlers in MMA today. A high-level high school wrestler in Oregon, Simon had over 1000 amateur wrestling matches before transitioning directly to MMA after high school. His style is relentless, forward moving, and diverse. He utilizes weaving head movement and half-step feints to set up boxing and wrestling entries, consistently chaining techniques together. His chain wrestling is elite, stringing takedown attempts together until his opponent cannot defend. Once on the ground, he possesses suffocating top pressure and a capable submission game. Despite falling from the rankings, Simon remains one of the most skilled fighters in the UFC. In this fight, pressure will be paramount for Ricky. Keeping Vinicius on the backfoot, keeping him from getting his striking going, will be key to stifling the Brazilian’s chaotic offense. 

If one lets a wild and explosive striker like Oliveira get started, then he will not stop. He demolished Victor Madrigal on the Contender Series and followed it up with that finish of Sopaj in his debut. Despite the highlight reel finish, there is a solid argument that Oliveira was down two rounds to none entering the final round in that fight. While he damaged Sopaj on several occasions in the first two rounds, he overextended on strikes which left him open to counters and takedowns. Active off his back with elbows and possessing solid scrambling capabilities, he would be better served attempting get ups as soon as the fight hits the mat. The main things which could help him succeed in this fight will be his calf kick, his counter-striking, and not allowing Simon to push him back onto the cage. While Oliveira is dangerous and has potential, Simon is one of the toughest tests in the divisions particularly at this point in the career of ‘Lok Dog.’

Dylan Knostman