Anthony Hernandez (9-2) vs Marc-Andre Barriault (14-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A banger at middleweight opens the main card here. Hernandez shocked the world with a submission win over Rodolfo Vieira at UFC 258, before returning with a decision win over Josh Fremd at UFC 273 most recently. Barriault bounced back from a 16 second KO loss to Chidi Njokuani with a submission win over Jordan Wright in his most recent bout.
Hernandez is a technical freak with great wrestling and solid submission skills to go with excellent durability, footwork and decent striking. Barriault alternatively is a powerhouse striker with aggression and durability that tend to make up for his technical flaws. The Canadian tends to attempt to outwork his opponents and grind them out, but that’s unlikely to work in this one.
Barriault has struggled against fighters who pose a consistent takedown threat, and that’s exactly what Hernandez has. He rarely gets tired, can hold his own on the feet and has the wrestling to not allow Barriault a chance to find his rhythm on the feet. Expect relentless takedowns and some decent strikes on the feet to carry “Fluffy” to a win on the cards. PICK – Anthony Hernandez via Decision
Tanner Boser (20-8-1) vs Rodrigo Nascimento (9-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys back in the cage for this one. Boser snapped a two-fight skid when he claimed a KO win over Ovince Saint-Preux in his last fight back in June 2021, while Nascimento suffered a 45 second KO loss to Chris Daukaus before a KO win over Alan Baudot was overturned to a no contest in his last bout in July 2021.
Boser is a talented kickboxer, using solid leg kicks, feints and footwork to set up his huge right hand and keep opponents ticking over rather than standing still. Nascimento is an elite grappler who has fantastic submission skills and nasty ground and pound from the top too. He has finished all nine of his victories, including the overturned result.
Nascimento will look to close the distance and drag this fight to the mat, because on the feet he’s outmatched by Boser. Boser isn’t the best defensive grappler, but he’s very good at avoiding getting into grappling matches with his movement and range management. He should be able to stay on the outside and use his kicks and jab to earn a decision win, but there is a risk of Nascimento blitzing him and dragging him into his world on the floor. PICK – Tanner Boser via Decision
Joe Pyfer (9-2) vs Alen Amedovski (8-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
“Be like Joe Pyfer,” said Dana White. Now he gets a chance to do it in the UFC after his KO win on the Contender Series earned him a contract back in July. Amedovski has lost his last three in a row, getting submitted in 64 seconds by Joseph Holmes back in May after almost two years out.
Pyfer is a power striker with good boxing combinations and the 25-year-old has got an experienced mind beyond his years. Amedovski on the other hand is a really powerful striker himself, but he lacks technique and timing and it’s a mystery how he’s still on the roster in reality. If we’re being honest, this is a bit of a set-up fight to get Pyfer some hype in the UFC.
He’s the bigger and more powerful fighter and he’s also got decent wrestling in his back pocket, something Amedovski simply won’t be able to cope with. But Pyfer will step forward and go to war, and that leaves him susceptible to getting KO’d. But with more ways to win, an advantage in technique and arguably more power too, I expect him to get the job done in highlight reel fashion. PICK – Joe Pyfer via Knockout, Round 2
Andre Fili (21-9) vs Bill Algeo (16-6) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolutely brilliant bit of matchmaking in the featherweight decision up next. Fili has just one win in his last five, losing to Bryce Mitchell and getting KO’d by Joanderson Brito in just 41 seconds last time out with a no contest sandwiched between them. Algeo on the other hand is on a two-fight win streak after beating Brito at UFC Vegas 46 and then making Herbert Burns retire mid-round last time out.
Fili is a really exciting striker who has slick boxing and a nice kicking game, while also being a more than competent grappler on the mat too who excels in the scramble. Algeo is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but he’s always ready for a war and he tends to get involved in striking battles a lot due to his love for Muay Thai. He tends to come forward a lot and that will leave him open to counter shots from “Touchy”.
If he chooses to make this a grappling match he has a far better chance of success, but it won’t be easy because his wrestling has never dominated and Fili is a good defensive wrestler too. With his volume and counters on the feet and his ability to defend takedowns or get back to his feet, expect Fili to get back into the win column in this one. PICK – Andre Fili via Decision
Chidi Njokuani (22-7) vs Gregory Rodrigues (12-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A really fun middleweight fight takes up the co-main event slot here. Njokuani is on a four-fight win streak, including knockout wins in the UFC over Marc-Andre Barriault and Dusko Todorovic most recently. Rodrigues saw his own four-fight win streak snapped by Armen Petrosyan, but he got back in the win column by KO’ing Julian Marquez most recently.
Njokuani is a powerhouse striker with excellent Muay Thai skills and great experience when it comes to clinch work and grappling defence. Rodrigues is a powerful striker too who tends to walk opponents down and encourage a brawl, but that is a dangerous strategy in this one.
“Bang Bang” is the more technical striker and if he extends his combinations on the feet he could potentially get a finish here. But Rodrigues is capable of switching it up and going for takedowns to make this ugly, which is his best way to win. The problem with that though is that isn’t “Robocop”s usual game plan and it could have an adverse effect on him, so I think Njokuani will be able to claim a decision victory in a tight affair. PICK – Chidi Njokuani via Decision
Cory Sandhagen (14-4) vs Song Yadong (19-6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best bantamweight fights available right now in a stacked division. Sandhagen suffered back-to-back defeats against TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan (UFC 267) most recently despite stunning performances in both bouts, while Yadong enters on a three-fight win streak after beating Casey Kenny (UFC 265), Julio Arce and most recently Marlon Moraes.
Sandhagen is an incredible striker, with brilliant boxing and kicks as well as explosive attacks like flying knees and superman punches to go with his 5ft 11′ frame. Yadong is a powerful boxer with a more traditional style, with great footwork and decent grappling too that he tends to avoid using. Sandhagen will enjoy this fight because Yadong is often quite static and he often relies on his big right-hand or a short combination to do the damage.
“Sandman” is always happy to go the distance if he needs to, because he’s constantly touching his opponent with good jabs, low kicks and body work. His constant activity is going to be really difficult for Yadong to cope with, and this is comfortably the biggest test of his career. In his first five-rounder, this is a tough task. I expect Sandhagen to wear him out with constant attacks, and while Yadong is powerful I don’t see him putting Sandhagen out with one shot. I think Sandhagen touches him up and puts on a clinic for 25 minutes to claim a win. PICK – Cory Sandhagen via Decision
3. Petr Yan vs Cory Sandhagen (UFC 267, October 2021)
A fight that was thrown together at short notice for the interim bantamweight championship back in October served up a thriller in Abu Dhabi.
Yan and Sandhagen went head-to-head in a bout that saw each man have their moments, but ultimately it was the Russian fighter who saw gold wrapped around his waist at the end of a 25-minute war of pure technical striking ability.
There was a mix of wrestling in there too as both contenders showed every facet of mixed martial arts is important. It was a really excellent fight and while it probably lacked moments where the fight looked like it was going to end, it was a great example of a world class MMA fight.
2. Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez (UFC Vegas 42, November 2021)
A main event bout that lived up to it’s billing between two of the very best featherweights in the world today.
Max Holloway took this fight after his title shot got delayed, and Rodriguez was making his first appearance in almost two years but it was one of the most exciting fights of the year.
Both fighters consistently threw fire at each other, with both taking plenty of damage and producing moments that would have ended the fight against a lesser opponent. On this occasion Holloway was forced to use his superior wrestling in the latter rounds to secure a victory, before both men took a trip to the hospital together.
A fight that had you on the edge of your seat for the full 25-minutes, it won’t be forgotten any time soon.
1. Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler (UFC 268, November 2021)
A lightweight banger that somehow exceeded expectations of the fans despite many calling it the fight of the year before it even happened.
Both men knew that a win would likely see them granted the next title shot at 155lbs and both men promised fireworks – and boy did they deliver.
It was a fight that saw both guys swinging for the fences from the opening minute and connecting, but their chin and willpower held out for a full 15-minutes for Gaethje to go the distance. It was a fight that you can watch any time for entertainment, even knowing the result.
The fight of the year by quite a distance, but arguably one of the best fights of all-time too.
Tagir Ulanbekov def Allan Nascimento via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
A couple of hard low kicks early from Nascimento to start the fight, but Ulanbekov taking the centre and flicking his jab out nicely. Another nice leg kick from Nascimento and then he follows that up with a nice right hand. Flying knee attempt just misses but Ulanbekov grabs a body lock and takes the fight to the ground immediately. Nascimento defending really well on the ground and threatening with an armbar, then sweeps to the top but Ulanbekov immediately gets up and tries to get the fight back down against the cage. Ulanbekov battling against submission attempts and ends up in a mounted guillotine and it’s tight! Nascimento fighting it and eventually pops his head out to survive! Amazing! Ulanbekov gets back to top position and is resting in a controlling position, with Nascimento threatening with a guillotine of his own. He now moves to a kimura trap to try and get to his feet but the round ends. Great round. 10-9 Ulanbekov for me.
Good start to the round again from Ulanbekov with his jab landing well, before he shoots in deep for a takedown. Nascimento defends it well against the cage but eventually Ulanbekov is able to change levels and get the fight down. Nascimento threatening with a kimura from the bottom, but Ulanbekov defending it well and eventually gets back into full guard without the threat. Nascimento being very active off his back, but Ulanbekov trying to stifle him from the top to control him. Nascimento tries for a triangle but Ulanbekov deals with it easily, before Nascimento lands a huge elbow from the bottom. Nascimento goes for an armbar and starts smashing him with elbows from the bottom to see out the round. Close, but I edge to Nascimento there for attacking more despite being on the bottom. 19-19.
Big knee attempt from Nascimento early on but Ulanbekov gets the fight to ground once again immediately. Nascimento went for a kimura trap immediately and swept him to get on top but once against Ulanbekov raced to the next position to maintain control. Ulanbekov in full guard just stalling and looking for a bit of ground and pound, but Nascimento seems happy enough on his back to look for submissions. Ulanbekov trying to pass guard but Nascimento is looking to make him defend as much as possible. He finally passes into half guard now and starts looking for some short elbows from the top. Big left hand lands but Nascimento still being active and trying to sweep him. Final minute and Nascimento goes for another kimura, but Ulanbekov defends it excellently again. Nascimento goes for a triangle armbar but Ulanbekov defends it and ends the round with some big ground shots to likely claim a win. 29-28 Ulanbekov.
Andre Petroski def Hu Yaozong via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 3 (4:46)
Lots of feinting early on from both guys, before Petroski flies in with a big left hand that just misses. Petroski lands two big left hands and then Yaozong goes for a head-kick that gets blocked and he ends up on his back. Petroski goes straight for the neck and jumps on a mounted guillotine but it’s not quite in yet. He lets go and takes the back, rains down some big ground and pound. He goes for the rear-naked choke and it’s tight but Yaozong explodes out and Petroski goes for a d’arce but Yaozong gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a big left hand again but Yaozong is still coming forward. Petroski throws two big strikes that lands clean but Yaozong eats it. Three huge left hooks land from Petroski but Yaozong is still standing and Petroski is exhausted. Single leg takedown from Petroski but Yaozong gets straight back up and keeps coming forward. One more left hand lands for good measure as the round ends. Crazy round. 10-9 Petroski.
Immediate takedown from Petroski and he goes for a guillotine again, but Yaozong scrambles out quickly and gets back to his feet. Petroski lands a huge left hand and then a couple more, before another takedown where he now looks to control the position. Another attempted guillotine from Petroski before he looks to control again. Petroski moves to side control and looks for a head-and-arm choke but Yaozong grabs his own leg to defend it. Petroski looks to move to his back but Yaozong defends it again, but Petroski is controlling him much better now. Petroski moves into full mount and then goes for the head-and-arm choke again, but once again Yaozong defends it. Yaozong gets back to his feet but Petroski keeps a body lock and takes him down once again. Petroski flows on the mat and takes Yaozong’s back again and is looking for a rear-naked choke. Petroski controls until the buzzer goes. 20-18 Petroski.
Petroski lands a big left hand as Yaozong pressures him to the cage early in the final round, but Petroski shoots for a takedown and then runs him the entire way across before getting him down. Petroski takes control and looks to move to his back, then lands a few big ground strikes before pulling Yaozong backwards onto the mat. Petroski flowing well and looks for a guillotine, before Yaozong gets back to his feet. Yaozong sprawls and slips and then Petroski lands a huge one-two Douglas Lima style. Petroski gets another takedown and ends up in full mount, landing big elbows but Yaozong refusing to give up. Another huge elbow from Petroski and he works to control again. Petroski moves to side control and locks up a head-and-arm choke once again and forces the tap with 15 seconds left! Great win from Petroski.
Lerone Murphy def Makwan Amirkhani via Knockout, Round 2 (0:14)
Early takedown in the opening round from Amirkhani as soon as Murphy switches to an orthodox stance. Amirkhani controlling him against the cage and looking to advance to three-quarter mount, but Murphy doing relatively well to defend so far. Amirkhani keeping the body lock tight and Murphy is trying hard to break the lock, but Amirkhani keeping it tight and keeping the fight as grappling heavy as possible as we enter the final minute. Amirkhani completely controlling the action through the first five minutes as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Amirkhani.
Amirkhani goes for an early takedown as soon as Murphy switches to orthodox again but Murphy blasts a HUGE knee and Amirkhani is out!!! Oh my word what a KO!!
Michal Oleksiejczuk def Shamil Gamzatov via Knockout, Round 1 (3:31)
Great first round from Oleksiejczuk who keeps the fight standing for the most part, before landing a crisp right uppercut that puts Gamzatov down. He follows it up with some big ground and pound and that’s all she wrote!
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos def Benoit Saint-Denis via Unanimous Decision (29-26 x3)
Saint-Denis opens with a body kick, then Zaleski lands a nice one-two. Nice body kicks from Zaleski and some hard low kicks, but Saint-Denis coming forward still and then creates an angle for a takedown and slams Zaleski down. Zaleski gets back up relatively easily though and lands another hard low kick. Saint-Denis ripping some strong kicks to the body, but Zaleski responding with leg kicks. Big exchange of punches and Zaleski lands a hard right hand that rocks him, but Saint-Denis shoots in for a double leg to buy himself some time. Zaleski gets back up again quickly and continues to chop the lead leg. Level change from Saint-Denis but Zaleski keeps it standing, then just slips a big uppercut. Great round, 10-9 Zaleski for me.
Fast flurry of strikes between the two leads to Zaleski landing a big counter-right hand. Saint-Denis keeps coming and eats another huge right hand and then Zaleski lands a flush knee to the head. Saint-Denis is badly hurt but Zaleski keeps coming forward and landing big strikes. Saint-Denis won’t go down but Zaleski is pouring it on! Huge strikes and another big right hand and Saint-Denis is just refusing to go down. Zaleski is battering him and the entire arena is screaming for the referee to stop the fight but he won’t. Zaleski is lighting him up but he won’t go down and then he shoots for a takedown. Somehow, the round goes the full five minutes. Unreal. 20-17 at least.
Somehow they come out for the final round and Zaleski lands a hard low kick. Accidental eye poke from Zaleski causes a pause of the action. Saint-Denis tells the referee he can’t see , but the referee restarts the fight anyway without bringing in a doctor??? Zaleski lands a right hand that wobbles Saint-Denis, who shoots for a takedown that gets sprawled. Zaleski sitting on the top in full guard before they get back to the feet. Head-kick from Saint-Denis is blocked and Zaleski comes forward again with a right hand. Big left hand from Saint-Denis lands before a takedown attempt, but Zaleski is able to scramble to switch the position and then get back up. Final minute now and there’s an accidental low blow by Zaleski to cause another pause in the action. The referee takes a point away from Zaleski (???) who now steps forward with some more aggression. Round comes to an end with Zaleski chasing Saint-Denis down, but that should be that. 29-26.
Albert Duraev def Roman Kopylov via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-27 x2)
Kopylov starting off confidently in the centre, landing hard low kicks and one that even drops Duraev momentarily. Duraev explodes with a one-two and then a leg kick of his own. Duraev lands a right hand down the middle, then lands a low kick and left-hook combo that stuns Kopylov. Another hard leg kick from Duraev as he starts to pressure Kopylov back against the cage. Big elbow strike lands but Kopylov is giving as good as he’s taking so far. Duraev currently just too quick for Kopylov at the moment, but no great damage being done. Kopylov catches a high kick and lands a few uppercuts before they separate and Duraev goes for some more jabs. 10-9 Duraev at the end of the first.
Kopylov lands a big left hand early in the second and drops Duraev! Duraev manages to survive with good movement and then shoots in for a takedown against the cage. Duraev goes for a takedown and Kopylov grabs the fence to deny it! The referee stops the action, gives a hard warning and resets them which allows Duraev to get an immediate takedown. Duraev then transitions straight into full mount and starts attacking with ground and pound and threatening with a head-and-arm choke. Big ground and pound from Duraev and Kopylov is trying to fight back but getting hurt bad. Duraev landing big, heavy elbows from the top in full mount and Kopylov is getting beaten up bad. Duraev going for a head-and-arm choke but Kopylov defends it and Duraev goes straight back to the big elbow strikes from the top. Kopylov turns on to his belly and Duraev takes his back to look for a choke, before smashing in more ground and pound. Duraev goes for a rear-naked choke and it’s in deep but Kopylov is saved by the bell! 20-17 Duraev.
Nice body shot from Kopylov and a head-kick is blocked, before Duraev goes straight back for a takedown against the cage. Kopylov defends it well but Duraev keeps trying until they separate and reset in the middle of the octagon. Nice body kick from Kopylov again, but Duraev lands a big right hand and then goes back in for a takedown. Kopylov defending it excellently though and as he escapes, Duraev goes down with exhaustion. Kopylov lands a big left hand and Duraev is exhausted, but so is Kopylov. Kopylove with his hands on his knees, trying to invite Duraev towards him. Duraev just taking his time to circle as we enter the final minute but both men are just waiting for the final bell at this point. Duraev goes for a takedown but gets caught and then Kopylov goes for a big takedown of his own to end the round. 30-26 Duraev.
Zubaira Tukhugov def Ricardo Ramos via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start to this one as Ramos comes out very kick heavy, with low kicks and body attempts while Tukhugov just staying calm and patient. Nice left hand counter lands from Tukhugov that stumbles Ramos, which immediately makes the Brazilian think twice. Tukhugov forcing Ramos against the cage with his pressure and lands a big left hand. He follows it with a big right hand that opens up a huge cut! Tukhugov throws a big body shot and is pressuring Ramos hard now. Low kick from Ramos but Tukhugov counters with a nice one-two down the pipe. Big right hand swings wildly and misses but Ramos is very focused on avoiding rather than causing damage right now. Big counter-right hand from Tukhugov lands again. Tukhugov goes in for a left hook but Ramos counters with a spinning reverse elbow that opens a big cut up on Tukhugov! What a round! 10-9 Tukhugov for me.
Start of the second similar to the first, with Ramos trying to be first and Tukhugov trying to counter. Big right hand from the Russian lands but Ramos continuing to be on the front foot. Tukhugov slips a big combination and points at Ramos, before Ramos slips a counter one-two straight back. Nice low kick from Ramos lands and then a big one-two down the pipe. Tukhugov goes for a single leg but lets it go and lands a right hand of his own. Tukhugov starting to pressure Ramos against the cage but the Brazilian doing well to move and circle. Big right hand from Tukhugov lands and he follows up with two nice jabs. Tukhugov fires in with a blast double leg and gets a back trip to take the fight down with ten seconds left and likely take the round. 20-18 Tukhugov for me.
Tukhugov looking to take the initiative early on again and stepping forward with his jab. Ramos looks like he’s tiring but is landing his right hand well. Ramos lands a big knee with his back against the cage and then explodes forward with more strikes. Tukhugov stays calm though and continues to land his jab, while avoiding Ramos’ bigger strike attempts. Another stiff jab by Tukhugov but Ramos just misses with an elbow. More jabs from Tukhugov, who is pressuring Ramos backwards consistently. Ramos lands a right hand and then a low kick but Tukhugov still coming forward and then shoots for a takedown with 30 seconds to go. A few trip attempts but the buzzer goes and Tukhugov should earn the decision win.
Amanda Ribas def Virna Jandiroba via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Jandiroba shoots straight in for a takedown but Ribas sprawls and denies it immediately. Ribas fires a one-two down the pipe after slipping Jandiroba’s strike attempt, before Jandiroba sees another takedown attempt denied. Big one-two lands from Jandiroba and then she shoots for a takedown and secures it into full guard. Jandiroba goes for body-head strikes but Ribas throws her legs up and looks for a very unique submission, but Jandiroba stays calm, escapes and goes back to the ground and pound. Jandiroba scoops her over to the cage and stacks her up, looking for some strikes then launches down with a huge elbow. Jandiroba completely controlling on the ground right now with relentless pressure but then the referee stands them up. Jandiroba lands a big right hand that drops Ribas but the buzzer goes and potentially saves her! 10-9 Jandiroba.
Lots of bouncing to open the second round and then Ribas lands a big right hand straight down the pipe. Jandiroba responds with a right hand of her own before a spinning back kick from Ribas lands to the body. Nice counter right from Ribas again as both women stand toe-to-toe. Lots of big actions from both women but not much landing as of now, with Ribas pushing the action and Jandiroba on the back foot. Jandiroba goes for a single leg takedown but Ribas reverses the attempt and ends up on top, before they scramble up to their feet again. Lots of tough grappling to end the round, but Ribas takes it. 19-19.
Ribas pressuring hard in the third now with nice combinations and ending them all with a kick. Jandiroba is slowing up quite clearly and she shoots for a lazy takedown that Ribas stuffs then tries to trip her herself. Nice left hand from Jandiroba before Ribas counters the next strike with a nice left hand. Spinning kick to the body doesn’t land clean, before Jandiroba goes for another takedown but is denied. Big head kick from Ribas lands and Jandiroba is hurt! She goes for a spin kick that misses and that allows Jandiroba to recover her senses, but she’s very tired. Ribas still fresh and being first with her strikes as the fight winds down to a close. Should be a comeback 29-28 win for Ribas.
Ankalaev opening up early with some speedy strikes down the pipe, but Oezdemir staying calm in front of him. Oezdemir throws a wicked left hook that lands, then follows up with a left uppercut that wobbles Ankalaev. Oezdemir goes for a flying knee but misses and Ankalaev gets a body lock and puts him up against the cage. Oezdemir has Ankalaev backing up against the cage but both men are just missing with their strikes. Big one-two down the pipe from Ankalaev and he drops Oezdemir! He goes to finish but Oezdemir gets back up quickly and they reset. Another jab and left hand from Ankalaev lands and he’s now taking the centre. Oezdemir looks hesitant and Ankalaev’s left hand is landing at will almost. One-two followed by two more right-hands by Ankalaev as the round ends. 10-9 Ankalaev.
Oezdemir tries to rush in with his right hand but Ankalaev escapes, clinches up and then lands a big left hand on the break. Hard low kick from Oezdemir before Ankalaev throws another combination that just misses. Oezdemir steps forward with a right hand but Ankalaev counters with a hard right hook that cuts Oezdemir above the eye. Oezdemir’s only success really coming from low kicks but Ankalaev controlling the range and throwing his left hand well. Uppercut from Ankalaev lands and then he locks up a body lock against the cage, throwing hard knees to the thigh of Oezdemir. Ankalaev tries to get a takedown but Oezdemir defends well, then blocks a big left hand on the break. 20-18 Ankalaev.
Ankalaev staying very calm and jabbing well in this final round. Nice jab and a big right hand lands but Oezdemir eats it well. Oezdemir goes for a takedown but Ankalaev denies it and then lands a hard right hand. Ankalaev turning up the pressure a little now with a left head kick but Oezdemir still trying to find a moment. Big right hand lands from Oezdemir but Ankalaev eats it and steps to the side before returning to his jab. Entering the final minute now and both guys seem to have accepted the result of this one, with not much happening. Hard body kick from Ankalaev before a stiff right jab lands too. Takedown attempt from Ankalaev as the round ends, in what should be a 30-27 win for him.
Khamzat Chimaev def Jingliang Li via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 1 (3:16)
Chimaev ducks under a right hand and goes straight for a takedown on Li, who defends it well before eventually getting lifted, slammed and controller. Chimaev throwing some ground strikes again but Li defending well, although Chimaev is controlling him with wrestling so far. Heavy ground and pound from Chimaev as he puts a hook in and starts searching for a choke. Chimaev goes on the back and flattens Li out and starts smashing him with ground and pound! Huge shots from Chimaev but Li is still trying to fight him! Chimaev switches to the back and goes for a choke and sinks it in! Li fighting the submission but Chimaev switches sides, readjusts the grip and puts Li to sleep! Wow!! What a performance! The hype is real!
Alexander Volkov def Marcin Tybura via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Great start from both guys as Volkov comes forward with some body shots and stiff hooks, but Tybura replies with a big left hand of his own. Volkov using his length well to land straight shots and avoid Tybura’s returns so far, before Tybura changes levels on him to no avail. Tybura gets inside and goes for a takedown, but Volkov denies him really well before breaking with an elbow attempt. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura steps forward again with pressure to close the distance. Tybura changes levels on Volkov but he turns him and ends up on top, landing a big elbow early. Tybura stalling on the ground by just holding Volkov tight to him and Volkov goes for a forearm to the throat to try and disrupt the breathing. Volkov lands a few more ground strikes to end the round in control and take it on the cards, 10-9.
Volkov using his front kick well once again and the big right hand following behind it. Tybura pressing the pace and forcing him backwards, but his takedown attempts are being denied quite comfortably. A few uppercuts in the clinch from Tybura land before another takedown attempt is denied. Volkov throws a knee that is caught and Tybura tries for another takedown, but Volkov denies him again and lands a right hand as they separate. Nice one-two from Tybura lands and Volkov is starting to tire now. Left hand misses from Tybura again and then Volkov lands a beautiful right hook. Tybura fakes a jab and goes for another takedown but Volkov denies it and sees out the round. Hard to score, but it’s probably even going into the third.
Tybura on the front foot once again in this final round, almost chasing Volkov but neither doing much damage. Volkov lands a hard knee to the body before Tybura goes for another takedown that gets stuffed. Nice one-two from Volkov as they separate but it’s still Tybura pushing forward. Big left uppercut followed by a right hand from Volkov lands and then he denies yet another takedown! Short left hook from Tybura lands and then he goes in for a takedown again that Volkov defends routinely at this point. Tybura tries a hip toss but Volkov holds a body lock and has the back, landing big knees to the thigh. Big right hands from Volkov land and then some nice combinations as Tybura starts to tire. Big one-two from Volkov but Tybura responds with a big left of his own. Final minute now and both guys are breathing heavy. Volkov lands a big right hand, slips Tybura’s strikes and lands a nice combination to back Tybura up. Straight right hand each as the round comes to an end, should be a Volkov decision win 29-28.
Islam Makhachev def Dan Hooker via Submission (Kimura), Round 1 (2:25)
Hooker trying to keep length nice and early here with a few low kicks as Makhachev takes the centre and just looks for his moment. Makhachev throws a nice hook then dips low and catches Hooker’s leg to get an immediate takedown and move straight to half guard in his own corner. Makhachev throws a nice elbow in tight and is now attacking a kimura! Makhachev readjusts the grip, steps over and twists the arm behind the back and secures the tap out! Unbelievable performance from Makhachev!
Petr Yan def Cory Sandhagen via Unanimous Decision (49-46 x3)
An exchange of leg kicks between the two in the opening minute, as Yan takes the centre and Sandhagen looks to circle on the outside and use his length. Yan lets a left hand fly but it just misses, before a nice low kick followed by a body shot from Sandhagen. Low kick from Yan and Sandhagen counters with two nice left hands before changing levels to go for a takedown. Yan defends it well though and they go back into a close exchange of striking. Hard low kick from Yan lands before Sandhagen steps forward and just misses with a left. Sandhagen forces Yan to the cage and lands a few touching shots, before a nice kick to the body. Hard strikes from Sandhagen land but Yan returns with a big right hand of his own before Sandhagen changes levels again. Big flying knee from Sandhagen lands and the round ends. 10-9 Sandhagen.
Hard low kick from Sandhagen to open up the round, before both guys use their feints really well. Body kick from Yan lands but he misses with the follow up right hand and Sandhagen responds with a right hand of his own. Huge body kick from Yan lands clean and then Sandhagen responds with a nice left hook to the body himself. Head kick attempt from Yan is caught and Sandhagen throws a nice right. Yan responds with a low kick and then a big left hand to the chin. Sandhagen moving well still and touching Yan well, but Yan starting to counter with powerful strikes of his own. Yan just misses with a big left hand and both guys exchange body shots again. Sandhagen goes for a takedown but Yan defends it well and keeps the fight standing. Big knee from Sandhagen again but Yan eats it well. Yan pushing forward and putting his pace on this fight, but Sandhagen using his length well to stay out of real danger. 19-19.
Soft left hands from Sandhagen before he checks a leg kick and lands a beautiful left down the pipe to wobble Yan. Yan comes forward with a spinning kick to the body before Sandhagen lands his jab again. Huge left hook to the body from Yan lands but Sandhagen comes forward again with his jab and circles on the outside. Hard leg kick but Yan checks it and then he lands a big left uppercut. He goes for a combination but Sandhagen avoids it and lands a one-two of his own. Yan trying to turn the pressure up but Sandhagen slipping shots well and avoiding clean hits. Big one-two from Yan lands but Sandhagen staying calm and circling on the outside. Body kick from Yan but Sandhagen moves forward to trade with him. Yan throws a big hook and then a spinning back fist and drops Sandhagen! He goes for vicious ground and pound but Sandhagen stays calm and after some scrambles, they get back to the feet and the round ends. 29-28 Yan.
Yan starting to walk Sandhagen down a bit now but he isn’t going anywhere. Nice jabs again and a nice knee attempt just misses, but Yan is throwing big left hands and landing clean. Another big left from Yan lands flush but Sandhagen still standing. Body shot from Sandhagen gets a big left straight reply from Yan, but Sandhagen continuing to poke at him with jabs. Yan with a body kick and then a beautiful one two lands. Sandhagen shoots for a takedown and gets it, but both guys go for a heel hook before they scramble back to their feet. Yan ducks under a spinning back fist then lands some big combinations to the head and body. Yan continuing to march forward and the big hooks are landing, but Sandhagen responds with a big elbow. Yan steps forward and blasts Sandhagen with a huge right hand, but Sandhagen just eats it. Yan stuffs a takedown and they start scrambling again, with Yan throwing big combinations. 39-37 Yan.
Final round and Sandhagen still trying pick his shots while Yan is walking him down. Hard low kick from Yan gets a big reaction from Sandhagen, before he tries another jump knee that Yan blocks. Yan looking to close distance again but Sandhagen still fresh and moving well, flicking out his jab. Yan goes for three hooks but misses them all thanks to good movement, before Yan tries for a takedown and Sandhagen denies him. Huge head kick from Yan lands but Sandhagen shakes his head and says no, before Yan goes for more big hooks. Final 90 seconds and Yan is still coming forward. Right jab from Yan before Sandhagen makes him miss several times. Big left hand from Sandhagen lands and then he avoids the spinning back fist. Big knee from Sandhagen with ten seconds left but Yan responds with a spinning kick to the chin and they go wild with seconds remaining to end the fight. What a bout! 49-46 Yan for me.
Glover Teixeira def Jan Blachowicz via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:02)
Hard leg kick from Blachowicz opens up the fight as Teixeira looks to take the centre. Teixeira changes levels and goes for the takedown, before spinning him off the cage and securing it. Straight into full guard as Blachowicz looks to tie him up and avoid that vicious ground and pound game of Teixeira’s. Teixeira pulling the head up and making Blachowicz very uncomfortable on the bottom, grinding his elbows and head against him too. Teixeira goes for an elbow but just misses, then cranks the neck up again and then lands a short elbow. Final minute and Teixeira starting to be more active from the top position and that’s the round. 10-9 Teixeira.
Blachowicz comes out with the jab early and lands a nice left hand combination, before denying Teixeira’s takedown attempt. Big left uppercut from Blachowicz before Teixeira closes the distance and rushes Blachowicz against the cage with a clinch. Blachowicz denies another takedown attempt and is just popping his jab. Teixeira goes wild and lands a big left hand that wobbles Blachowicz! Blachowicz responds with a nice right hand combination that staggers Teixeira himself, but the Brazilian gets a takedown quickly and moves into mount immediately! Teixeira flattens him out and gets the arm under his neck and gets the tap!!! Unbelievable!! AND NEW!!
Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) vs Volkan Oezdemir (17-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight banger to open up the main card! Ankalaev is on a six-fight win streak with knockout wins over Ion Cutelaba twice including at UFC 254 and then a decision against Nikita Krylov at UFC Vegas 20. Oezdemir on the other hand saw his two fight win streak snapped by a violent knockout by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251.
Ankalaev is a violent kickboxer with stunning power and great technique on his side. Oezdemir on the other hand is a good striker too with legit one-punch knockout power and good grappling defence skills (except against Daniel Cormier). Ankalaev likely has the power and technique advantage in this fight, but Oezdemir is a slick mover and I think he has the speed edge here.
Oezdemir will need to use his calf kicks well and hope to land with one of his powerful looping hooks, but those hooks will likely be countered by the crisp, straight strikes of Ankalaev and I expect he’ll turn the lights out midway through the fight. PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 2
Li Jingliang (18-6) vs Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A super exciting welterweight banger between Li Jingliang and the returning Khamzat Chimaev. Li is coming off a stunning knockout win over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Fight Island 7 where he was a huge underdog, while Chimaev is fighting for the first time since his third win in 60-odd days at UFC Vegas 11 where he KO’d Gerald Meerschaert in 17 seconds.
Li is a very powerful striker with great low kicks and crisp boxing, while Chimaev has shown great power in his hands but also a relentless ground game that just completely crumbles his opponents. Chimaev’s background is also in kickboxing and on the regional scene he was knocking guys out for fun.
If Li is to earn a victory in this one he needs to keep the fight standing and exchange on the feet. Unfortunately for him, Chimaev’s power is enough that he won’t be scared to exchange on the feet but also his wrestling game is just too good to be able to avoid for 15 minutes. Chimaev takes his time but eventually storms a takedown and pummels Li until the referee steps in. PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Knockout, Round 2
Alexander Volkov (33-9) vs Marcin Tybura (22-6) – (Heavweight/220-265lbs)
A very fun heavyweight bout between two guys looking to stay in-and-around the top five. Volkov started the year with a knockout win over Alistair Overeem at UFC Vegas 18 but then got dominated by Ciryl Gane at UFC Vegas 30. Tybura on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak currently with KO’s over Greg Hardy at UFC Vegas 17 and then Walt Harris at UFC Vegas 28.
Volkov is a power, technical boxer who stands at 6ft 8′ and is very mobile and athletic. Tybura on the other hand is a powerful striker who uses his leg kicks really well and throws good combinations with his hands. His previous toughest opponent was arguably Derrick Lewis and he got stopped in the third round, while Volkov dominated Lewis until a literal last second KO in the fifth.
With his size advantage and technical prowess, this fight seems to play into Volkov’s hands. He’s got a pretty good chin on his own, good knees to the box and enough power to end it early. In the end, I think he pieces Tybura up for 15 minutes and gets a wide decision win. PICK – Alexander Volkov via Decision
Islam Makhachev (20-1) vs Dan Hooker (21-10) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really fun fight at the top of the lightweight division as Islam Makhachev takes on Dan Hooker on short-notice. Makhachev is on an eight-fight win streak, with stoppages against Drew Dober at UFC 259 and Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31 most recently. Hooker was on a two-fight losing streak after defeats to Dustin Poirier at UFC Vegas 4 and Michael Chandler at UFC 257, but bounced back with a decision win over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266. He replaces Rafael Dos Anjos on just a few weeks notice.
Makhachev is the prodigy of former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and his style in the cage shows that. He is a terrific wrestler with brilliant pressure and a decent array of strikes too, while Hooker is a kickboxer with amazing cardio and good knockout power in his hands too. Hooker loves to throw knees up the middle and he is always game for a fight, but this seems like a stretch too far.
Makhachev is comfortable on the feet but he will look to shoot in for the takedown and grind on Hooker. ‘Hangman’ is a good scrambler, but Makhachev is by far the best wrestler he’s fought and the likelihood of him getting back up could be slim. Islam may get caught once or twice but once he gets the reads he’ll take him down and dominate him for a wide and dominant decision. PICK – Islam Makhachev via Decision
Petr Yan (15-2) vs Cory Sandhagen (14-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights of the year on paper for the interim bantamweight title. Petr Yan was unstoppable in the UFC, claiming the title with a KO win over Jose Aldo at UFC 251 before his disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 meant he lost the belt. Sandhagen was on a tear and earned a shot himself with KO’s over Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Island 5 and Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 18 before a razor close defeat to TJ Dillashaw in July.
Yan is a brilliant all-rounder, with excellent boxing, tremendous footwork and good wrestling too. He has fight-changing power on the feet but is also patient enough not to rush in and commit himself. Sandhagen is a brilliant striker with great range and length, with a decent wrestling game in his back-pocket too. Yan is the smaller guy by some way here, but he is a clean, technical fighter who is in his prime right now.
Sandhagen will no doubt look to use his length and spinning techniques to keep the fight in his world, but Yan’s forward pressure and wrestling ability means he just has a little edge. Sandhagen has struggled in later rounds in the past and I think Yan can outwork him over 25 minutes for a thrilling win. PICK – Petr Yan via Decision
Jan Blachowicz (28-8) vs Glover Teixeira (32-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A light heavyweight title fight between the top two ranked guys in the world. Blachowicz is coming off the back of five-fight win streak including winning the belt with a KO of Dominick Reyes at UFC 253 before a dominant win over Israel Adesanya at UFC 259. Teixeira earned himself a title shot with a five-fight win streak of his own, ending in a dominant KO win over Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 13.
Blachowicz is a really well-rounded fighter with his ‘legendary Polish power’ matched up with great wrestling and excellent cardio. Teixeira on the other hand has got crisp boxing and excellent power, while his ground game is among the nastiest in the UFC in any weight. Blachowicz and Teixeira are both veterans of the sport, but the four-year age gap does certainly help the champion.
Teixeira will likely want to use his clean technique on the feet to land his big strikes, while Blachowicz will look to close the distance and make it dirty to use his physical style before unloading his big right hand. Teixeira will also look to get this fight to the ground to use his jiu-jitsu, but if Blachowicz ends up on top he’ll have the edge there too because of his physicality. Blachowicz for me has a power and speed edge on the feet and I think he lands one of those big shots early and gets the finish with some ground and pound. PICK – Jan Blachowicz via Knockout, Round 3
UFC 267 this weekend is set to be one of the biggest cards of the year, headlined by a double header of title fights at the top of the card.
One of those will be an interim title fight at bantamweight, arguably the most stacked division in the sport right now, between Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen in a fight the people have dubbed as the people’s title fight.
They were supposed to run it back from UFC 259 after Yan became the first fighter to lose their title via disqualification when he kneed Sterling in the head while he was down and rendered him unable to continue.
The way that fight was going, Yan was set to retain his title. He had denied Sterling’s attempts to take him down and began finding the mark with his excellent boxing, while the cardio was holding up for him and Sterling was faltering.
A win on that night would’ve set up a title shot against Sandhagen. However because of the way that fight ended, ‘Sandman’ was forced to decide between waiting it out or taking another fight.
Listening to the company, he opted to take a huge fight against the returning former champion TJ Dillashaw and suffered a defeat in a razor close five-round war that could easily have gone either way.
At that point, it seemed as though he had lost his opportunity at the next title shot and would have to earn another win somewhere to get back into contention.
But when Sterling withdrew and Dillashaw had undergone knee surgery following his bout against Sandhagen, the UFC remembered that he didn’t need to take the fight that cost him the title shot and rewarded him.
Now you have two of the best pure strikers in the division going head-to-head, with UFC gold on the line and both men having a point to prove.
It’s the fight many wanted anyway and fans will now get to see arguably the two best 135lbers in the world go at it with the ultimate stakes on the line.
It’s the people’s main event and two of the very best in the world and my pick for the fight of the night on a stacked card.
The UFC have officially announced the card for UFC 267 at the end of the month and there are some changes to it.
In a stacked card that is to be headlined by Jan Blachowicz defending his light heavyweight title against Glover Teixeira, there is now set to be an interim bantamweight title fight in the co-main event slot while another major fight has had a short-notice step in too.
Originally the card was set to see Aljamain Sterling make the first defence of his bantamweight crown in a highly anticipated rematch against Petr Yan, following their first bout at UFC 259 which ended in the title changing hands via disqualification.
After that fight, Sterling underwent neck surgery for an injury he has had since his high school days from his wrestling background.
It was expected that he would be fine to fight, hence the rematch being booked but according to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto the UFC doctors would not clear Sterling to fight on October 30th as he hasn’t yet recovered fully from the surgery and therefore the fight was scrapped.
In it’s place however will be an interim title fight that will see Petr Yan look to get gold wrapped around his waist once more, when he takes on Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267.
In what was a razor close fight, Dillashaw was able to earn the decision win in that one but he blew his knee out in the first round and was forced to undergo surgery meaning he is unavailable to fight. The UFC have now done the right thing and given Sandhagen the shot he had earned prior to his defeat.
Elsewhere on the card, Islam Makhachev was supposed to finally settle his beef with Rafael Dos Anjos in the lightweight division after months of back and forth on social media.
The Brazilian however was forced to undergo knee surgery in the last few weeks and the UFC have now confirmed he is out of that match up, and has been replaced by the recently victorious Dan Hooker.
Hooker fought just last week at UFC 266, battling against Nasrat Haqparast to a three-round decision win after a host of visa issues and problems trying to find an opponent for the card. But after getting back in the win column after two consecutive defeats, Hooker has jumped at the chance to fight a ranked opponent again.
Makhachev is currently on an eight-fight win streak in the UFC and has made waves in recent bouts, being cornered by Khabib Nurmagomedov and being tipped to become the next lightweight champion by ‘The Eagle’. He is currently ranked at number five at 155lbs and a win over Hooker will almost certainly put him into title contention for his next bout.
Full Card announced for UFC 267:
Jan Blachowicz vs Glover Teixeira – Light Heavyweight Title Petr Yan vs Cory Sandhagen – Interim Bantamweight Title Islam Makhachev vs Dan Hooker – Lightweight Alexander Volkov vs Marcin Tybura – Heavyweight Li Jingliang vs Khamzat Chimaev – Welterweight Magomed Ankalaev vs Volkan Oezdemir – Light Heavyweight — Amanda Ribas vs Virna Jandiroba – Strawweight Ricardo Ramos vs Zubaira Tukhugov – Featherweight Albert Duraev vs Roman Kopylov – Middleweight Shamil Gamzatov vs Michal Oleksiejczuk – Light Heavyweight Makwan Amirkhani vs Lerone Murphy – Featherweight Hu Yaozong vs Alen Amedovski – Middleweight Magomed Mustafaev vs Damir Ismagulov – Lightweight Tagir Ulanbekov vs Allan Nascimento – Flyweight
UFC 267 will take place live from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi on October 30th, with a prime-time European slot. The prelims are scheduled to begin at 4pm UK time, with the main card due to begin at 7pm UK time.
Arguably the best fight of the year not on a pay-per-view card headlines UFC Vegas 32 this weekend as Cory Sandhagen puts his number one contender status on the line against the returning former champion TJ Dillashaw.
Elsewhere on the card, two young female prospects go head-to-head when Miranda Maverick and Maycee Barber square off on the main card in the flyweight division. Knockout sensation Adrian Yanez also returns to the octagon to take on Randy Costa too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 31, we went 7/10 with one perfect pick on the night to move up to 370/576 (64.24%) with 164 perfect picks (44.32%).
We’ll look to improve on that here with this 13-fight card and after starting with the early prelims here and finishing off our prelims picks here, we move on to our main card picks here.
Adrian Yanez (13-3) vs Randy Costa (6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Yanez has been dubbed the ‘mini Masvidal’ for his brilliant boxing skills and great kicks to the body, while Costa is a fantastic striker himself. Yanez is really good at setting up his kicks to the body and he has genuine knockout power in his hands. Costa on the other hand is a tricky fighter who switches stances, and that could allow Yanez to catch him on the inside.
It’s due to be a phenomenal striking battle and neither will want to give up anything against the other which could see a finish and I think Yanez will edge it, but don’t be surprised if Costa scores the win. PICK – Adrian Yanez via Knockout, Round 2
Miranda Maverick (11-2) vs Maycee Barber (8-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Maverick and Barber are both excellent strikers with genuine knockout power. Barber is a very solid wrestler who will look to hold her opponent down and slam ground and pound until she separates them from their consciousness. Maverick is really good at throwing in combinations on the feet and using her elbows and kicks well.
It’s a really tight fight and one that could well be the birth of a star and also fight of the night. Both have a path to victory but I think if they both tire, Maverick’s technique may help her out to land the better shots late and eek a close decision win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision
Darren Elkins (26-9) vs Darrick Minner (26-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Elkins is a well rounded fighter who is excellent at firing strikes with volume and pushing the pace. Minner on the other hand is a remarkable submission artist with 22 of his 26 wins coming via tap out. Elkins has some good body kicks and solid wrestling too and his scrambles are solid but Minner is so good on the ground it might not even matter.
‘The Damage’ is 37 now though and past his prime and while he beat Garagorri, that’s not a big teller of where he is right now. Minner on the ground is unreal and this fight will almost certainly go to the ground, so I can’t see how he doesn’t secure a submission once again. PICK – Darrick Minner via Submission, Round 2
Kyler Phillips (9-1) vs Raulian Paiva (20-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Phillips is a solid striker on the feet with a background in wrestling to fall on where needed. He’s got good kickboxing and mixes it well with takedowns and makes it really hard to make reads on him for his opponents. Paiva is a good striker in his own right but he is a flyweight moving up and that won’t stand him in good stead here.
Phillips is bigger, stronger, more well rounded and this should be a pretty easy win barring something miraculous happening. PICK – Kyler Phillips via Decision
Aspen Ladd (9-1) vs Macy Chiasson (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing fight at the top of the women’s bantamweight division as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson. Ladd is a great striker, who’s only defeat came in just 16 seconds against Germaine De Randamie. She bounced back from that with an impressive KO win over Yana Kunitskaya back in 2019 but hasn’t fought since. Chiasson won TUF 28 and has since gone 4-1 in the UFC proper, with her most recent win coming against Marion Reneau at UFC Vegas 22.
Ladd is a brilliant wrestler who has some violent ground and pound and vicious striking on the feet to go with it, while Chiasson is a super well-rounded fighter herself too with an even split of finishes via knockout and submission. Ladd is returning from a torn ACL/MCL injury but while Chiasson has got some good names on her resumé she’s not fought anyone of the calibre of Ladd before.
Ladd is powerful, quick, a great striker and has the advantage with the wrestling too which means she can dictate where this fight goes. Because of that, she’ll only need one takedown per round to control and land some vicious shots and therefore I think she’ll get the win. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Knockout, Round 2
Cory Sandhagen (14-2) vs TJ Dillashaw (17-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Arguably the best main event of the year so far for a fight night card, Sandhagen takes on the returning Dillashaw in the headline fight. Sandhagen has won nine of his last 10 fights, including two in a row against Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Island 5 and Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 18. Dillashaw is coming off a two-year suspension for failing a drugs test, after losing in under a minute to Henry Cejudo at flyweight last time out.
Sandhagen is an amazing technical striker, with his last two wins coming via a spinning wheel kick followed by ground and pound and then a flying knee walk-off KO. Dillashaw is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division with excellent wrestling and powerful striking and kicks. Having been out for two years though, at this level, is something that is incredibly tough to overcome.
If Dillashaw can get in and wrestle Sandhagen he has a good chance, but ‘Sandman’ is one of the best at range management in the division and he has been very active while Dillashaw has been away. For that reason, I think he’s able to secure a huge win for his career in a real banger of a fight. PICK – Cory Sandhagen via Decision
It was supposed to happen back in May, but we’re finally about to get one of the best fights the bantamweight division could possibly put together.
The main event at UFC Vegas 32 will see Cory Sandhagen take on former 135lbs champion of the world TJ Dillashaw, in a fight that will likely determine the next contender for the title towards the end of the year or early next year.
But when Dillashaw returned from a two-year suspension after failing a drug test for EPO use when moving down to challenge for the 125lbs title against Henry Cejudo, he was immediately reinstated to the title picture.
The plan was likely to pit Sandhagen against the winner of the UFC 259 bout, with Dillashaw taking on the loser. But the crazy ending meant that the UFC had to find a way to keep them both active, or make them both wait.
The bantamweight division is one of the most stacked in the entire company, so it’s not like there weren’t match ups ready to be made. But this is arguably one of the absolute best you could make if given a clean slate of 135lbers to pick from.
Both are extremely well rounded fighters, with great striking skills but also a solid ground game to fall back on too. They both have knockout power, both have good submission skills, both have a high fight IQ and both shine when the lights are brightest.
This is a fight that could quite easily be for a title and could quite easily headline a pay-per-view card, but instead it’s there for all to see for free this weekend.
The winner will have a genuine claim at being the best bantamweight in the world, regardless of the title situation in the immediate aftermath.
While they’ll need to prove that in their next fight, it would be hard to argue. Should Sandhagen get the win, he’s just beaten one of the best of all-time and is on a three-fight win streak. If Dillashaw gets the W, he’s just come back from two years out and beaten one of the top contenders at the first attempt.
This is the type of fight that you show a casual fan and they turn into a real super fan. The level will be that high and the action will be that good. Don’t miss it.
The winner was expected to be the official next title challenger to Aljamain Sterling’s title, with the champion expected to face Petr Yan in a rematch once he recovers from neck surgery.
However that fight is now on the back burner after the former two-time bantamweight champion revealed in an Instagram post on Tuesday night that he would be unable to compete following a cut received in training.
According to Dillashaw, he was drilling in training and was met with an accidental headbutt by a teammate which opened up a big cut over his right eye. He posted a photo to go with the post showing the severity of the cut, while also stating he was hopeful of rescheduling the fight for as soon as possible.
Rather than find a new fight on short-notice for Sandhagen, the UFC are reportedly opting to bump the current co-main event up the card meaning that Michelle Waterson will headline once more against Marina Rodriguez.
The bout was initially scheduled to find the next opponent for the bantamweight champion after the title fight between Sterling and Yan at UFC 259 in March. But when that fight ended in a disqualification when Yan kneed Sterling while he was down, forcing the fight to end and a new champion to be crowned, UFC president Dana White confirmed that Yan would get an immediate rematch.
With Sterling undergoing neck surgery though, that fight has been put on the back burner until he is healthy which means this fight being postponed may not be the worst thing in the world in terms of blocking up the division.
Dillashaw was on a four-fight win streak, including winning and defending the 135lbs title against Cody Garbrandt before he tried to move down to flyweight to become a dual-champion. He was knocked out by Cejudo in just 32 seconds though, before it was revealed post-fight that he had tested positive for EPO and was suspended for two years, relinquishing his bantamweight title as a result.
With the pay-per-view main events set for the foreseeable future, the UFC have now announced some of their Fight Night main events and some other notable bouts too.
After UFC 261, former light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes returns to the octagon following his defeat at UFC 253 when he takes on Jiri Prochazka on May 1st in their main event bout. Prochazka made his UFC debut at UFC 251 with a stunning knockout win over Volkan Oezdemir to shoot himself into contention for the top five. This fight was originally scheduled for February but Reyes was forced to withdraw due to injury.
These two will now battle it out for the number one contender spot, with Yan and Sterling certain to compete in a rematch later this year. Dillashaw makes his return to the octagon after serving a two-year suspension after admitting to injecting EPO ahead of his flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo in 2019.
The following weekend will see UFC 262, before a return to the bantamweights headlining as Cody Garbrandt takes on Rob Font in a battle of heavy hands. ‘No Love’ last fought at UFC 250 with a highlight reel knockout over Raphael Assuncao, before being scheduled to move down to 125lbs for a flyweight title fight against Figueiredo. Garbrandt was forced to withdraw with injury and ‘Deus da Guerra’ instead fought Alex Perez at UFC 255.
Moving into June, at UFC 263 welterweight jiu-jitsu king Demian Maia will make his return to the octagon for the first time since being brutally knocked out by Gilbert Burns at UFC Brasilia last year – the first event to take place without fans due to the pandemic – when he takes on Belal Muhammad.
With the top of the division currently at a standstill as Jon Jones and the UFC have a contract impasse and Derrick Lewis waiting on a decision to see if he will fight new champion Francis Ngannou next for the title, Volkov and Gane have chosen to stay busy and look improve their own situations in the running for a potential title shot in the future.
That fight will be backed up by a bantamweight banger between two of the most underrated fighters in the division as Raoni Barcelos takes on Timur Valiev. Barcelos returned after nearly a year away from the cage with a masterful performance against Khalid Taha at UFC Vegas 13 before seeing his next three bouts fall through for various reasons. He has won his last nine fights professionally and is 5-0 in the UFC.
Last but not least, the UFC also announced blockbuster welterweight co-main event for UFC 264 on July 10th when Gilbert Burns returns to the cage to take on Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.
Burns was on a tear at 170lbs and fought Usman for the title at UFC 258 in February, only to suffer a third round TKO loss to his former teammate. He’ll be taking on former title challenger Thompson who has won his last two fights in a row, defeating Vicente Luque and then Geoff Neal most recently at UFC Vegas 17 in December. Both men are looking to get back into the title picture as soon as possible and with Leon Edwards hoping that a win over Nate Diaz at UFC 262 can earn him a fight against the winner of Usman vs Masvidal later this year. A win for either of these two competitors in July could see them challenge next for the title, especially if they can do it impressively.