After weeks of mishaps, the Octagon returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Feb. 18, 2023) with a makeshift main event between former women’s Flyweight champion, Jessica Andrade, and fast-rising prospect, Erin Blanchfield. Up at Light Heavyweight, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 30 runner-up, Zac Pauga, looks to bounce back against Jordan Wright, while Josh Parisian welcomes Jamal Pogues to UFC’s Heavyweight division.

Three UFC Vegas 69 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), so let’s not dally …

135 lbs.: Lina Lansberg vs. Mayra Bueno Silva

Undeterred by a 1-2 UFC start, Lina Lansberg (10-7) put together a 3-1 run, capped off by an upset decision over Macy Chiasson. She’s winless since, dropping three straight to Sara McMann, Pannie Kianzad and Karol Rosa.

“The Elbow Queen” stands one inch taller than “Sheetara,” but gives up one inch of reach.

Mayra Bueno Silva (9-2-1) initially struggled to capitalize on the momentum from her UFC debut submission of Gillian Robertson, winning just one of her next four bouts. She returned to the win column with a Fight of the Night decision over Wu Yanan, then tapped Stephanie Egger in 77 seconds to secure her first multi-fight win streak since 2018.

Six of her seven stoppage wins have come by submission.

It’s beyond frustrating to see someone with Bueno Silva’s power and submission skills fail to develop cage cutting or wrestling. She’s someone who relies on opponents giving her the fight she wants, which allowed Maryna Moroz and Manon Fiorot to run circles around her.

Even if she can’t take the next steps she needs, what she’s got should be enough to carry her past Lansberg. She’s by far the heavier-handed on the feet, which should let her offset any difference in volume, and Lansberg’s preference for the clinch plays into “Sheetara’s” hands. Plus, Bueno Silva’s jiu-jitsu should serve as a deterrent if Lansberg considers taking it to the mat. Eye-catching power shots win the day for Bueno Silva.

Prediction: Bueno Silva via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Jamall Emmers vs. Khusein Askhabov

Jamall Emmers (18-6) bounced back from his controversial UFC debut loss to Giga Chikadze by cruising past Vince Cachero five months later. “Pretty Boy” looked poised to make it two straight after dropping Pat Sabatini in the opening seconds of their August 2021 bout, but quickly fell victim to a comeback heel hook.

He stands two inches taller than Khusein Askhabov (23-0) at 5’10.”

A professional since 2012, “Lion” racked up 16 finishes during his run through the European circuit. His accolades include an 11-0 record under the WWFC promotion and a reign as its Bantamweight champion.

This marks his third attempt at a UFC debut and his first bout in nearly three years.

Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess what’ll happen here. Askhabov’s been out since 2020 and Emmers can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like few others. From refusing to wrestle Giga Chikadze until midway through the second round to trying to play leglocks with Sabatini, Emmers’ skills are matched only by his penchant for self-destruction.

I’ve flip-flopped a couple of times, but I think I’ll bite the bullet and go with Emmers. Though clearly talented, Askhabov built his record on very limited opposition, and the version of him that last entered the cage lacked any one dominant area that Emmers could blunder into. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Askhabov flying kneed him within 30 seconds, but Emmers’ size and wrestling should let him eke out a decision.

Prediction: Emmers via split decision

205 lbs.: Ovince Saint Preux vs. Philipe Lins

Once a consistent contender and one-time title challenger, Ovince Saint Preux (26-16) now sits at 3-5 in his last eight bouts. He last saw action in May 2022 when he edged out “Shogun” Mauricio Rua by split decision in their rematch.

“OSP” will enjoy one inch of height and two inches of reach on Philipe Lins (15-5).

Lins struggled out of the UFC gate with consecutive losses to Andrei Arlovski and Tanner Boser. He’s had one fight since, a unanimous decision over Marcin Prachnio in his UFC Light Heavyweight debut, and eight different cancellations.

He has knocked out eight professional foes and submitted another four.

Honestly, the biggest question here is whether Lins will make it to the cage. For all the out-of-cage shenanigans, he’s actually a pretty solid striker, definitely good enough to box up what’s left of Saint Preux. “OSP” still has enough power to end things in one shot, but it can’t make up for his waning speed and stagnant technique. Hell, the guy couldn’t even stop the broken remnants of Rua last time.

Lins just needs to stay busy and stay mindful to win a comfortable decision. I think he’s up for it; expect him to out-work and out-maneuver Saint Preux to a decision victory.

Prediction: Lins via unanimous decision

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: outside of UFC Vegas 69’s main event, this might be the worst card in recent memory. At least it’s an afternoon/early evening show. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Current Prediction Record for 2023: 20-9

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 69 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 69: “Andrade vs. Blanchfield” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.