An absolute banger of a card takes place from Madison Square Garden this weekend as UFC 268 finally is upon us.
A welterweight championship rematch headlines the card as Kamaru Usman looks to lap the division when he takes on Colby Covington in the main event, while Rose Namajunas is looking to bring some stability to strawweight but she’ll have to dispatch of Weili Zhang once again in the co-main.
We also have violence guaranteed in the main card opener between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler in a lightweight contender bout.
Last week at UFC 267 we had a great night, picking 12/14 fights correctly with four perfect picks to move us up to 458/716 (63.97%) with 194 perfect picks (42.36%).
We’ll look to continue that good momentum with this 14-fight card and after starting off with the early prelims here, we complete our prelim picks now.
Ian Garry (7-0) vs Jordan Williams (9-5) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super exciting bout at welterweight as Cage Warriors’ Ian Garry makes his debut. Garry is an undefeated prospect who claimed the belt in the UK’s premiere promotion, with four knockout wins in his career. Williams on the other hand has lost each of his last two, getting tapped out by Micky Gall in his last bout.
Garry is an excellent striker with good range, with some good takedown and mat skills including vicious ground-and-pound and good submission skills too. Williams is also a decent striker with some solid wrestling, but it just hasn’t clicked together for him yet and he’s a few levels below Garry at this point in their careers.
‘The Future’ has great finishing instincts whether it be on the feet or mat, but he won’t rush into it at all. He likes to stay patient on the feet using his range, but he’s also capable of taking the fight down to the mat and grinding wins out. Williams has good power and could always land a big punch, but I expect Garry to control this from start to finish and even secure a finish after 10-15 minutes of punishment.
PICK – Ian Garry via Knockout, Round 3
Edmen Shahbazyan (11-2) vs Nassourdine Imavov (10-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very intriguing middleweight bout here as the young prospect looks to get back to winning ways. Shahbazyan was one hell of a prospect, but has since suffered back-to-back defeats against Derek Brunson at UFC Vegas 5 and then Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 27. Imavov earned an impressive win over Ian Heinisch last time out too, putting his stock at an all-time high.
Shahbazyan is one of the better kickboxers in the middleweight division, with brilliant striking accuracy and clean technique. Imavov is also a great striker on the feet, who has shown an excellent knack of getting off his back quickly when taken down. That shouldn’t come into play here, with a striker’s paradise likely to take place.
Shahbazyan’s cardio has caused him a lot of problems recently and Imavov has the ability to push a pace. In a stand-up battle, I think he has the advantage in power but if he doesn’t score a first-round knockout the performance tends to fall off a cliff and Imavov has more than enough about him to hurt him and pour the pressure on. Ultimately, Shahbazyan could win it but Imavov is too good of an opponent on this occasion and will take over as the fight goes on to claim a victory.
PICK – Nassourdine Imavov via Decision
Phil Hawes (11-2) vs Chris Curtis (26-8) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very fun middleweight bout next that was supposed to take place last month. Curtis agreed to fight at UFC Vegas 39 on super-short notice after Deron Winn withdrew, only for Hawes to decline the opponent change. Hawes is on a seven-fight win streak, with a decision over Kyle Daukaus most recently at UFC Vegas 24, while Curtis makes his UFC debut in this one on a five-fight win streak.
Hawes is an excellent wrestler with scary power in his hands, capable of turning out the lights on anyone in the division. Curtis on the other hand is a powerful striker himself with decent wrestling in his back pocket. The big issue for Curtis however is that he’s fighting up a weight class against someone who’s huge for the division.
Curtis has a nasty left hand, but Hawes’ right hand should scare him into using it too much and the wrestling of Hawes is likely to be able to keep Curtis relatively quiet. He’s a great fighter and deserves his chance, but he’s been fed to the wolves here. If Hawes controls the pace, he earns a wide decision using his size and physicality to earn another victory.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Decision
Al Iaquinta (14-6-1) vs Bobby Green (27-12-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A bout between two vets of the MMA world in this one. Iaquinta is fighting for the first time since 2019 when he was beaten by Dan Hooker, while Green has been super active recently but is currently on a two-fight losing streak with decision defeats to Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 12 and then Rafael Fiziev at UFC 265.
Iaquinta is a strong wrestler with okay boxing skills, who’s best skills are arguably mental rather than technical. Green on the other hand has shown some excellent boxing and wrestling skills too, with solid cardio and great defensive abilities. This fight will not be a showcase of elite skills, but more a bout between two guys who love a scrap and can grind it out.
Green’s the better striker by a bit of a distance here and with their wrestling pretty evenly matched, I expect ‘King’ to be able to go the distance with him. Green has gone to the judges in each of his last ten fights and I expect him to land the cleaner strikes to earn himself a close decision win once again.
PICK – Bobby Green via Decision
Alex Pereira (3-1) vs Andreas Michailidis (13-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A UFC debut for the two-weight Glory kickboxing champion who once knocked Israel Adesanya out cold headlines the prelims of this card. Pereira is in the UFC off name value alone, but he has three KO wins in a row in his last three. Michailidis fell out of the cage to get the fight stopped in his UFC debut at UFC Fight Island 1, before earning a decision win last time out at UFC Vegas 25 against KB Bhullar.
Pereira is a world renowned kickboxer, with tremendous power and unmatched technique with his striking. Michailidis alternatively is a bit of a mixed bag, with okay striking and okay wrestling but not much else going for him. Put it this way, there is a reason why the UFC have made this fight and put it in this slot at Madison Square Garden.
‘Poatan’ has a size advantage in height and reach, an insane power advantage and an unreal advantage when it comes to the stand up game. Michailidis will undoubtedly look for takedowns, but his cardio has caused him a lot of problems in the past so even if he gets one it’s not over. Pereira pieces him up on the feet and finds a highlight reel knockout with his killer left-hook to close the show.
PICK – Alex Pereira via Knockout, Round 1