UFC Fight Night: Ribas vs. Namajunas Predictions

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UFC On ESPN 53 takes place on Sunday (AEDT) at the APEX arena in Las Vegas, United States – and we’ve got our UFC predictions for all the fights below, and you can join the action at the best betting sites Australia has to offer!

UFC Fight Night: Ribas vs. Namajunas Predictions


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Amanda Ribas vs. Rose Namajunas  Prediction

Amanda Ribas has been alternating between wins and losses for a while, but did deliver a big TKO finish in her last fight. Now she faces former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, who is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in almost a decade.

At her best the 31-year-old Namajunas is a special talent, from her early years when she was a predator in pursuit of submissions and pulling off flying armbars, through to her crisp, calculated striking performances in title fights against other high-level technicians like Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Zhang Weili, both of whom she’s beaten twice. Her progression in the stand-up game over the years was particularly impressive, combining her natural speed with great timing, distance management and footwork to outstrike and outclass her opponents.

However, a big problem for Namajunas has been her mental game as she’s confessed to falling out of love with the sport at times and has contemplated retiring at a relatively young age more than once.  And that’s had an impact on her career as since her first title win back in 2017 she’s typically only fought once a year, and at times in recent years has looked out-of-sorts, most notably in a title fight rematch with Carla Esparza in 2022 where she struggled to get out of first gear.

On the other hand the 30-year-old Ribas has consistently proven to be a battling performer who will give her all in every fight. She is an aggressive striker and does carry some power, but suffers from being overly-willing to eat strikes to land her own, leading to her being finished by strikes three times in her career. Meanwhile she is comfortable in the clinch and will look for judo throws, while she’s also a very capable grappler too and will hunt for submissions.

If Namajunas doesn’t want to be there and is gun-shy then Ribas’ more aggressive approach could stand a chance. Truth be told though, beyond that Namajunas is just simply far more skilled of a fighter wherever the action goes. This should be particularly telling on the feet as ‘Thug’ Rose will be able to play matador to the bull and pick apart the very hittable Ribas apart on the outside, leading to a TKO finish in the third round.

Prediction: Rose Namajunas to win by TKO in Rd3

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Karl Williams vs. Justin Tafa Prediction

After two wins in the UFC so far, Karl Williams was supposed to fight Junior Tafa at this event, but when his opponent became unavailable to compete his own brother Justin stepped in on just three weeks notice to replace him as he looks to continue his current four-fight unbeaten run.

To be exact the 30-year-old Tafa has three wins and a no-contest from his last four UFC fights, and he’s demonstrated his knockout power in each of his victories by way of 1st round KO finishes. However, the caveat is that he’s been facing bottom-of-the-barrel UFC heavyweight’s during that time in Harry Hunsucker and Parker Porter (who have both since been released) as well as Contender Series newcomer Austen Lane (twice). Still, Tafa will be happy to have now put a 1-3 start to his time in the UFC (also against low-level opponents) firmly in the rear-view mirror.

Tafa is a capable boxer offensively with good hand-speed and counter-striking ability, while he did also finish Porter with a head kick, but he tends to rely too much on his toughness rather than solid defense. He also had to pull out of a fight just last month due to a knee injury, so there’s a question-mark her about whether he’s fully healed and how he’ll fare in this shorter-notice fight if he can’t find an early finish.

Like Tafa, the 34-year-old Williams has only been tested against other low-tier heavyweights so far. Williams is 3″ taller and has 5″ in reach over his opponent here, but weighs about 25lbs less, and in fact spent much of his career at 205lbs before joining the UFC. He’ll have the athletic edge here but isn’t as naturally heavy-handed as Tafa.  He’s more well-rounded though as while he can strike to an extent he prefers to use his wrestling to his advantage instead and will keep working for the full 15 minutes.

Tafa will be a threat early on the feet, but I think Williams will look to play the long game, striking on the outside when he has to, but also looking for takedown opportunities whenever possible rather than getting dragged into a slug-fest, leading him to a decision victory.

Prediction: Karl Williams to win by decision.

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Edmen Shahbazyan vs. AJ Dobson Prediction

Edmen Shahbazyan has lost four of his last five fights and now attempts to turn things around against AJ Dobson, who lost his first two fights in the UFC, but got a win under his belt last time out.

It feels like Shahbazyan has been in the UFC for a long time, yet he’s still only 26-years-old. He made a promising start to his UFC run back in 2018 with four wins in a row, proving to be a hard-hitting muay thai striker with a knack for finishing fights early. A head kick KO finish of Brad Tavares was a high-point, but since then he’s found the going tougher against other ranked opponents at middleweight. Part of the problem is that he tends to fade badly as the fight goes on if he doesn’t get the big finish he’s looking for, leaving him vulnerable later on, and that’s taken a toll on his chin as he’s now been TKO’d three times in the past few years, including his last fight.

The 32-year-old Dobson accepted this fight on four weeks notice to replace Dusko Todorovic. He’s a good athlete and while he doesn’t stand out in any particular regard he does have a capable mix of boxing and wrestling along with having the cardio to fight at a solid pace for the full three rounds.

Shahbazyan’s takedown defense isn’t the best, so if Dobson commits to his wrestling and looks to wear down his opponent over time then he certainly has a chance of success here. Still, this is a bit of a step down in competition for Shahbazyan compared to the people he’s lost to in the past, and at 26 there’s still time for him to iron out some of his more glaring weaknesses. That being said I think he gets the job done here early, making the most of his striking advantage and power to come away with a first round TKO victory.

Prediction: Edmen Shahbazyan to win by TKO in Rd1.

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Payton Talbott vs. Cameron Saaiman Prediction

The undefeated Payton Talbott is a highly regarded prospect off the contender Series who earned a submission victory in his UFC debut and now fights Cameron Saaiman, whose own unbeaten record came to an end last time out after starting his UFC run with three wins in a row.

These two fighters are definitely talented and still fairly young too, with Talbott being 25, while Saaiman is just 23. A tall, lanky bantamweight with a 2″ height and 3″ reach advantage here, Talbott has the kind of style that will quickly win him fans as he’s an extremely high-volume striker who takes the fight to his opponent’s and can maintain his output for the full three rounds. He puts combinations together nicely, has good accuracy for the amount of strikes he throws and has solid power, though he’s not typically known for starching opponents in the first five minutes and instead breaks them down over two or three rounds.

However, he’s the kind of fighter who uses offense to make up for his lack of defense on the feet, and while he’s shown good durability so far it’s a trait that will catch up to him sooner or later if he doesn’t look to correct it. Also, though he did get a submission win in his UFC debut and can work back to his feet when necessary his ground game could yet prove to be a vulnerability as he’s not hard to take down.

Saaiman is also a good striker, being the more technical kickboxer of the two, and will do his best to match the pace that his opponent sets. Like Talbott, Saaiman has a solid finishing record and has shown an ability to do so late into his fights. As such this could turn into a back-and-forth war on the feet, but Saaiman can also mix things up strategically by working for takedowns too.

It will be intriguing to see how this one goes, and no matter who wins, the loser still has a chance at a bright future in the UFC. I’m torn on this pick, but Talbott does seem to have more spark about him, so I’ll say that overall it’s Talbott who maintains the higher output on the feet over three rounds and has the bigger moments in the exchanges to win a closely fought decision.

Prediction: Cameron Saaiman to win by decision.

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Billy Quarantillo vs. Youssef Zalal Prediction

Having alternated between wins and losses for some time, Billy Quarantillo will now attempt to string together two victories in a row when he faces a late replacement in Youssef Zalal, who returns to the UFC on a week’s notice after previously being released from the promotion back in 2022.

Zalal’s previous two-year stint in the promotion started off promisingly with a trio of wins, but he then went on to lose his next three, followed by a majority draw which led to his exit. Since then he’s gone on to win three fights in the 1st round in one night on the regional circuit, and it seems the UFC still believes he has potential, though they’ve given him almost no time to prepare for this opportunity. Despite a couple of quick TKO wins recently Zalal hasn’t generally demonstrated the power to be a big finisher on the feet, though he is a capable kickboxer and will blend that with an emphasis on wrestling and grappling to grind out a win.

The 35-year-old Quarantillo is a pressure-based, all-action fighter who continually swarms his opponents with strikes from start to finish. He’s not the most technical and has defensive holes, but he’s still effective, has respectable power and a good chin. Meanwhile Quarantillo can also wrestle, and though he doesn’t have the best takedown defense he is a threat with submissions when the fight hits the mat.

No real complaints here about Zalal being given a second shot in the UFC here, but I think Quarantillo matches up favorably against him and will be a challenging opponent to face on a week’s notice, leading him to a decision victory.

Prediction: Billy Quarantillo to win by decision.

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Fernando Padilla vs. Luis Pajuelo Prediction

Fernando Padilla has gone 1-1 in the UFC so far and now fights Luis Pajuelo, who will be making his promotional debut after being recruited from the Contender Series.

The 27-year-old Padilla is very tall and lanky by featherweight standards, having a 3″ height and 7″ reach advantage here. He’s a good technical striker and will put that reach to good use. He doesn’t just hang around on the outside though and will look to press the action with high-volume boxing and some kicks mixed in, while he’s also effective in the clinch and has had significant success delivering submission finishes on the mat too.

The 29-year-old Pajuelo is primarily a boxer who has solid power and will fight aggressively in search of a finish, both on the feet and on the mat via ground-and-pound.  That’s worked out for him so far as seven of his eight career wins have come inside the distance.

I like Padilla here as he’s the more technical striker and can use his reach to work from range, but also won’t be intimidated by Pajuelo’s aggression at closer quarters. The fact he also has the better ground game strengthens his case here, so I’ll take Padilla to win a hard-fought decision.

Prediction: Fernando Padilla to win by decision.

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UFC On ESPN 53 Prelims

(Predicted winners in bold)

Kurt Holobaugh vs. Trey Ogden
Ricardo Ramos vs. Julian Erosa
Miles Johns vs. Cody Gibson
Jarno Errens vs.
Steven Nguyen
Montserrat Rendon vs.
Dariya Zgeleznykova
Mohammed Usman vs.
Mick Parkin
Igor da Silva vs.
Andre Lima

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About Ross Cole

Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process. You can read more of Ross's work at MMAInsight.com.