The UFC returns to Perth, Australia for one of the biggest main event bouts in history as Alexander Volkanovski moves up to lightweight to challenge Islam Makhachev for the title.
The undisputed featherweight champion is currently ranked as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, while Makhachev is ranked at number two, making this the first time the top two fighters in the company have gone head to head.
We’ll also see an interim featherweight champion crowned in Volkanovski’s absence from the 145-pound division, as Yair Rodriguez takes on Josh Emmett in an exciting fight too.
Jimmy Crute (12-3) vs Alonzo Menifield (13-3) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A very fun light heavyweight bout opens up the main card next. Crute has lost his last two after suffering a leg injury against Anthony Smith, before being KO’d cold by the new champion Jamahal Hill most recently in just 48 seconds. Menifield has won his last two alternatively, KO’ing both Askar Mozharov and Misha Cirkunov in the first round.
Crute is a tidy boxer, but it’s his excellent wrestling and incredibly top pressure that saw him break onto the scene in the UFC as a top prospect. Menifield is a striker with an absolute weapon of a right hand, but his overall skillset isn’t the most well-rounded and that’s a problem here. Crute’s chin has obviously shown that it can be cracked, and Menifield has the power to dent it further.
However Crute will know he has a clear route to victory in the grappling, and the likelihood is that he will need just one takedown per round to get it there and keep it there. Expect him to avoid the early hammer blow and take Menifield down early, before controlling for 15 minutes for a wide decision win. PICK – Jimmy Crute via Decision
Justin Tafa (5-3) vs Parker Porter (13-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights up next in a fight that doesn’t really belong on the main card of a pay-per-view if we’re being honest. Tafa has lost two of his last three, but earned a KO win over Harry Hunsucker last time out back in December 2021. Porter on the other hand was on a three-fight win streak with decisions over Josh Parisian, Chase Sherman and Alan Baudot before running into Jailton Almeida most recently and getting choked out in the first round.
Tafa is just a brawler, stepping forward and throwing bombs until he hits something and it drops. He’s got very good takedown defence so far throughout his career too, with a 100% defence rate. Porter is a bog-standard heavyweight who throws the odd strike with power and has a few leg kicks in his game too. He is an okay wrestler with good top control, and that’s probably where he’ll look to take this fight.
The only reason for this fight to be on the main card is because the UFC wants Tafa to land an explosive strike that folds Porter up and gets the crowd absolutely electrified. The chances are they’ll get it, but if they don’t this could be the longest 15 minutes of the night. PICK – Justin Tafa via Knockout, Round 1
Jack Della Maddalena (13-2) vs Randy Brown (16-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
One of the best welterweight fights of the year so far between absolute stars. Maddalena is undefeated since losing his first two professional bouts, going 3-0 in the UFC with KO wins over Pete Rodriguez, Ramazan Emeev and Danny Roberts. Brown is on a four-fight win streak having submitted ‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira with a standing rear-naked choke, before earning decisions over Jared Gooden, Khaos Williams and Francisco Trinaldo most recently.
Maddalena is a phenomenal striker, with excellent power and boxing combinations as well as great cardio to keep up his all-action style throughout 15 minutes. Brown is an explosive striker with great power himself, but he’s also a very talented grappler and solid wrestler too. That wrestling could be key in this fight, because on the feet I probably edge it slightly in the Australian’s favour.
On the mat Brown is definitely the better grappler, but he’s not someone who uses the wrestling as his primary game plan much. If he chooses to do that, he could find success but it could also find him being more tired later in the fight than usual. If they go blow for blow on the feet then it’s a coin toss but with Maddalena in his own back yard and with all the hype and momentum behind him, I think he can get it done in a brilliant fight. PICk – Jack Della Maddalena via Decision
Yair Rodriguez (15-3) vs Josh Emmett (18-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A real sleeper of a fight in the co-main event as the interim featherweight title is on the line. Rodriguez ran Max Holloway really close back in November 2021, before beating Brian Ortega due to a shoulder injury to earn this shot. Emmett on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak, earning his title shot with a split decision win over Calvin Kattar last time out.
Rodriguez is one of the greatest strikers in the UFC, with an incredible array of kicks and some great power in his hands as well as incredibly explosive elbows and knees. He’s also got some more than decent wrestling defence to go with those kicks, meaning he can always use them. Emmett has moved away from his strong wrestling base in this win streak, landing great volume and power with his striking and using his cardio as a weapon. Stylistically this is a very interesting fight, because Emmett’s wrestling is a game changer but isn’t what got him to the dance.
In a striking battle I have no doubts that Rodriguez will win with ease and potentially get the finish with his counter striking and kicks. If Emmett wrestles though he has the chance to control the fight on the mat. For me however, Yair is good enough in scrambles to get back to his feet and he can do so much damage on the feet with his variety of striking that it would be a big shock to me if Yair didn’t leave Australia with the belt. PICK – Yair Rodriguez via Decision
Islam Makhachev (23-1) vs Alexander Volkanovski (25-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The best fight the UFC can make today takes place in the main event at UFC 284 as lightweight champion Islam Makhachev makes his first defence against current featherweight champion and number one ranked pound-for-pound fighter Alex Volkanovski. Makhachev is on an 11-fight win streak, winning the belt by submitting Charles Oliveira back at UFC 280 most recently. Volkanovski is on a 22-fight win streak, including 12-0 in the UFC, with a third win over Max Holloway last time out at UFC 276.
Makhachev is the best wrestler in the UFC pound-for-pound, with incredible trips and technique. But his striking abilities are largely overlooked and they have improved greatly in recent years, as he showed when he dropped Oliveira in their bout. Volkanovski is arguably the most well-rounded fighter in the company right now, with brilliant striking and boxing techniques to go with solid wrestling defence and offense and great movement. Stylistically this fight is insane, because Volkanovski is so good defensively and so powerful with insane heart some of the best cardio around.
But Makhachev does have a natural size advantage, despite Volk’s past as a rugby player. It’s the minor details that matter in this fight and while I don’t expect Makhachev to be able to take Volkanovski down and control him for long periods, I do expect takedowns to occur. While he’s working to get back up, he’s not doing any damage and that means Islam is winning and working for openings, so I think he takes the win just off his sheer size advantage. But do not be surprised if Volkanovski walks out of Perth as a double champion, because he’s one of the very best around. PICK – Islam Makhachev via Decision
Katlyn Chookagian (18-4) vs Manon Fiorot (9-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs) *Chookagian missed weight by 1.5lbs, fight will proceed as a catchweight bout*
A potential title eliminator in the flyweight division opens the main card here. Chookagian has won five of six since losing her title show to Valentina Shevchenko, winning four decisions in a row to see off Cynthia Calvillo (UFC 255), Viviane Araujo (UFC 262), Jennifer Maia and Amanda Ribas. Fiorot on the other hand in undefeated since losing her pro debut, going 4-0 in the UFC with an impressive win over Maia most recently.
Chookagian’s style is the same no matter the opponent and very few people have been able to do anything about it. She has a great karate style which sees her kick from a distance and use great footwork to get in, land shots, and get back out. Her takedown defence isn’t the best though and good wrestlers have had their way with her in the past. Fiorot is a world class kickboxer with incredible kicking abilities, but her wrestling has also been a big surprise as she’s been able to dominate everyone she’s come up against in the UFC so far.
This seems like a really tough fight for Chookagian to keep her momentum going. Fiorot is more than skilled enough to go toe-to-toe in a kickboxing fight with her at range, an her takedown offence should see her able to get in close too if necessary. Her greater power makes her a finishing threat too, so I think “The Beast” can secure a career-highlight win here. PICK – Manon Fiorot via Decision
Beneil Dariush (21-4-1) vs Mateusz Gamrot (21-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Absolute banger in the lightweight division up next. Dariush was all set for a title eliminator before picking up an injury a year ago, but he’s still sitting on a seven-fight win streak that saw him dominate Tony Ferguson most recently at UFC 262. Gamrot on the other hand is on a four-fight win streak, KO’ing Scott Holtzman at UFC Vegas 23 before submitting Jeremy Stephens, KO’ing Diego Ferreira and then earning a super-close call against Arman Tsarukyan last time out.
Dariush is one of the best wrestlers and jiu-jitsu fighters in the lightweight division, probably only behind the two men in the main event in both areas. But his striking has significantly improved in recent years and he’s now a real threat on the feet too. Gamrot alternatively is a supreme striker on the feet with really good wrestling too, and has taken the division by storm recently. This is a huge step up in competition for him though, that is levelled out by how long Dariush has been out for.
“Gamer” will likely look to use his cardio as a weapon and step forward to force Dariush to engage with him, which could open up takedowns. But Dariush is experienced and I think he has the edge as the better wrestler so could welcome that. I expect a real chess match between these two, but Dariush should just edge it with more power on the feet and a better grappling game. PICK – Beneil Dariush via Decision
Petr Yan (16-3) vs Sean O’Malley (15-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fight that is absolutely baffling, but must-watch television at the same time. Number one ranked Yan has lost two of his last three after losing his title to Aljamain Sterling via DQ at UFC 259, before winning the interim title against Cory Sandhagen via decision at UFC 267. He then lost the rematch via split decision to Sterling at UFC 273. O’Malley was on a three-fight win streak after KO’ing Thomas Almeida (UFC 260), Kris Moutinho (UFC 264) and Raulian Paiva (UFC 269) before a no contest against Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 due to an accidental eye poke.
Yan is arguably the most well-rounded MMA fighter in the organisation pound-for-pound, with world class boxing and a sensational ground game with his wrestling too. O’Malley alternatively is one of the most entertaining fighters in the world with incredible striking and knockout power, as well as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt that he doesn’t need to use much because he puts people out on the feet. I love O’Malley and do think he could be a future champion, but there are levels to this right now.
On the feet Yan is better, and while O’Malley absolutely has the speed and power to hurt him, he has to hit him to do that. Mix in the fact that Yan has got excellent wrestling and a stifling gas tank to march forward constantly, and enough power to hurt O’Malley himself, I think the ‘Suga Show’ takes a hit to his reputation in this one. PICK – Petr Yan via Decision
Aljamain Sterling (21-3) vs TJ Dillashaw (18-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Big time bantamweight title fight up next. Sterling is on a seven-fight win streak with an 88-second submission win over Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 setting him up for his title fight wins over Yan. Dillashaw was stopped by Henry Cejudo before popping for injectable EPO and serving a two-year ban. He returned to beat Sandhagen controversially, but tore his ACL and fights for the first time in a 15 months.
Sterling is a lengthy grappler, with an excellent gas tank that he uses as a weapon but it’s his jiu-jitsu and control on the mat that set him apart from his foes. Dillashaw on the other hand is arguably the best 135-pounder of all-time with a perfectly rounded MMA game. His wrestling is excellent, he can grapple in submission situations but also has genuine KO power in his hands. This is a super fight.
Dillashaw has been out for a while, but he looked great against Sandhagen after two years out so I don’t see rust being an issue. I did think he lost that bout, but his ability to mix everything together is a problem for Sterling. On the feet he has a clear advantage and he’s arguably a better wrestler too. I think Sterling will want to grapple and control, but it’s nigh on impossible to do that to Dillashaw and I expect a new champion to be crowned in Abu Dhabi. PICK – TJ Dillashaw via Knockout, Round 3
Charles Oliveira (33-8) vs Islam Makhachev (22-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Potentially the fight of the year in one of the most exciting divisions in the MMA world. Oliveira is on an 11-fight win streak including ten stoppages. People started taking notice when he submitted Kevin Lee, before he dominated Tony Ferguson at UFC 256. Since then he’s been on a killing streak, KO’ing Michael Chandler (UFC 262) and then submitting Dustin Poirier (UFC 269) and Justin Gaethje (UFC 274), although he missed weight in the latter bout and was stripped of the belt. Makhachev is on a ten-fight win streak, finishing Drew Dober (UFC 259), Thiago Moises, Dan Hooker (UFC 267) and Bobby Green in each of his last four fights.
Oliveira is the greatest submission artist in UFC history but has developed into one of the very best strikers in the company too, with his Muay-Thai style and power doing a lot of damage. Makhachev is the best wrestler in the division and potentially the company, with a suffocating style and solid submission game that comes from being in the Nurmagomedov camp for his entire career. This fight is absolutely wild and could go in any direction, it’s so hard to call.
With that said though, I see two potential outcomes. One is that Makhachev is able to use his wrestling early, control Oliveira on the ground and wear on him until getting a finish in the latter rounds with a dominant performance. The other is a wild start in which Oliveira marches forward just like he did against Chandler, Poirier and Gaethje and lands a huge shot to drop Makhachev and gets an early finish by taking his back or pounding him out. Both are as likely as the other, but after under-estimating Oliveira for so long I can’t do it anymore. “Do Bronx” is the best fighter Makhachev has ever fought by a distance and we don’t know if he can do it at this level. With the advantage on the feet and his amazing guard, I’ve got the Brazilian to get it done again. PICK – Charles Oliveira via Knockout, Round 2
But with Dariush out, the UFC have moved quickly to replace him in the bout and Bobby Green will step in on just ten days notice to take the fight.
Green most recently fought at UFC 271 last weekend, earning a unanimous decision victory over Nasrat Haqparast on the main card with an impressive striking performance.
It was his fifth win in his last seven bouts and a second consecutive victory, having knocked out Al Iaquinta in the first-round at UFC 268 in November previously.
But he will step into the cage to fight Makhachev, who many see as the next champion in the division, on a nine-fight win streak and ready to challenge for the championship.
Due to the short notice nature of the bout, it will be contested at a 160-pound catchweight according to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.
Dariush’s injury was said to have happened just this week, with Okamoto claiming to have been present at the gym when the incident took place.
He says as Dariush went for a takedown in training, his toe got caught in the mat and as he and his partner’s weight came crashing down it left his foot in a very awkward position and thus causing some quite ‘severe’ damage.
There is no time-frame on Dariush’s return to the octagon, however it seems as though his chances of getting into the title picture in the immediate aftermath are now in doubt.
A win for Makhachev will likely cement his place as the number one contender for the title later this year, but a win for Green could see one of the most remarkable MMA stories in recent years.
As of writing, Green isn’t even ranked in the UFC lightweight rankings but will be taking on the number four fighter in the world.
UFC Vegas 49 is scheduled to take place at the Apex Centre in Las Vegas on February 26th.
The UFC returns to title fights this weekend at UFC 270 when the heavyweights and flyweight strap is on the line.
Both of those belts changed hands in 2021, as Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 and Brandon Moreno submitted Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 263.
We also saw a new bantamweight, lightweight and light heavyweight champion crowned during the year, so how will 2022 pan out? Lets take a look.
Flyweight (125lbs) – Askar Askarov
Flyweight is one of the better divisions in the UFC right now and I think we’ll once again see a new champion crowned at some point in 2022.
Askar Askarov has been undefeated throughout his career with a 14-0-1 record, with the only draw coming in his UFC debut against… Brandon Moreno. Askarov will get his title shot by the end of the year, and his wrestling is too good for anyone to be able to navigate past him so I think he holds the belt come 2023.
Bantamweight (135lbs) – Petr Yan
The only reason Yan isn’t the champion right now is because he got over excited and threw a knee to a downed Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259. He was winning the first fight quite comfortably at the time, so the fight was re-made for later in the year.
Sterling was forced to withdraw and it’s now set for UFC 273 in April, which means Yan will head into the summer as champ. He’ll likely defend the strap at the end of the year against TJ Dillashaw in a brilliant fight, but I think he edges that and takes a huge boost in credibility this year.
Featherweight (145lbs) – Max Holloway
What a division, and what a title fight that awaits us later this year.
If Volk can see off the Korean Zombie at UFC 273 now in the new bout, he will face off against Holloway at some point in 2022 and I think ‘Blessed’ finally gets his win over the Aussie to reclaim the title.
Lightweight (155lbs) – Islam Makhachev
Arguably the most exciting division in the company right now when it comes to the title picture, I’m predicting yet another new champion at lightweight.
I think Makhachev gets the victory there, then gets the victory in the title fight too to fulfil Khabib Nurmagomedov’s prophecy that he will become champion and rule over the division for a long time to come.
Welterweight (170lbs) – Kamaru Usman
The best in the world right now pound-for-pound, and I don’t see that changing in 2022.
Usman went 3-0 in 2021 with wins over Gilbert Burns at UFC 258, Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 and Colby Covington at UFC 268 and is now not expected to return to the cage until the summer.
That means one or two fights at most this year, with Leon Edwards certainly one of them, and I don’t see him losing to anyone so soon so I think he holds onto the belt yet again.
Middleweight (185lbs) – Israel Adesanya
The best middleweight in the world and one of the best of all-time, Israel Adesanya will be the 185-pound champion when we enter 2023.
His biggest test will come in February when he faces Robert Whittaker in a rematch at UFC 271, which I think he’ll win again. With that said though, a loss will almost certainly result in a rematch later in the year with their personal series set at 1-1 and he’d then reclaim the belt there.
Either way, ‘The Last Stylebender’ will be the champ when 2022 closes.
Light Heavyweight (205lbs) – Jiri Prochazka
This division isn’t particularly stacked at the top end but one thing it does have is a pathway for the title picture.
Glover Teixeira dethroned Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267 to finally claim the strap, but it feels short-lived because he’s due to take on the killing machine that is Jiri Prochazka next and that means he probably gets violently finished.
Aleksandar Rakic and Magomed Ankalaev are likely to find themselves in contention too by the end of the year, but stylistically none of them suit a fight with ‘Denisa’ and he holds the throne until 2023.
Heavyweight (265lbs) – Ciryl Gane
The big boys are in the best shape they’ve been in, maybe ever, in the UFC right now and it’s created arguably an amazing year in the division in 2022.
Ciryl Gane will take on Francis Ngannou this weekend and a fight with Jon Jones seemingly awaits the winner. Stipe Miocic is likely to return at some point this year too and head for the title once again.
With Miocic back as well as Jones and Ngannou’s contract situations there are plenty of routes to the title this year, but ultimately they all end with ‘Bon Gamin’ as the heavyweight champion of the world heading into 2023.
The UFC lightweight division has been given a huge fight early on in 2022 as Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev have agreed to fight.
The two top-five lightweight contenders have both been making their own individual claims for a potential title shot in their next fight, but it seems they’ve been told another win is needed to make that happen.
Now Dariush and Makhachev will face off on February 26th 2022 in a main-event bout to decide who deserves the next title shot between the two of them.
Dariush has been on a killer win-streak as of late, racking up a seven-fight win streak with victories over the likes of Thiago Moises, Drew Dober, Drakkar Klose, Carlos Diego Ferreira and most recently Tony Ferguson in a dominant performance at UFC 262.
Makhachev’s win streak is even more impressive, racking up an incredible ten-fight run which includes stoppage wins over Dober, Moises and Dan Hooker most recently at UFC 267.
The bout being made between the two of them almost guarantees that Justin Gaethje will get the next title shot, following his win over Michael Chandler at UFC 267 in a brilliant performance.
After UFC 267 and UFC 268 took place in consecutive weeks, the lightweight division has moved significantly forward in terms of the title picture.
After such a long period of domination by Khabib Nurmagomedov at the top of the mountain, it took a while for Dana White and the UFC to move on from him and help the division forward.
But with the title fight at UFC 262 which saw Charles Oliveira crowned champion, we finally got movement. Now, the UFC has finally stepped forward.
At UFC 267 it was Islam Makhachev who took the headlines at 155lbs. The man who is regarded as the heir to Khabib’s throne by the man himself took on Dan Hooker in a fight that many expected to be the toughest of his career.
Instead, Makhachev walked through the New Zealand native with an immediate takedown and then a nasty kimura lock to earn a first-round submission win.
One person who didn’t believe that however was the man who is currently ranked at number two – Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje took on Michael Chandler at UFC 268 on Saturday night and in the undoubted fight of the year (and my personal favourite fight ever) went to war, with the belief that a win earned him another shot at the belt.
In a stunning back and forth bout where both men were hurt several times, ‘The Highlight’ came out victorious via a unanimous judge’s decision – his first since time going the distance since 2014.
But those results and performances have given the UFC a headache-and-a-half going forward. How does the UFC book the division now for 2022? We’ve had a go at doing it ourselves.
A nine-fight win streak, beating excellent guys along the way and now starting to add finishes to his resumé too. He has the skillset to really cause a problem for either guy and both would be fresh match ups. Not to mention that he’s never had a title shot before.
Loser of Oliveira/Poirier vs Justin Gaethje
It may seem harsh to give Gaethje someone coming off a loss, but it makes sense. Gaethje’s last fight before the Chandler war was a title shot in which he was largely dominated, so to go straight back in for the belt after just one fight seems unfair when Makhachev exists.
Just like Robert Whittaker up a few divisions, Gaethje should beat the top guys and earn the spot back. A win over either Oliveira or Poirier after their title fight would mean he has no equal in terms of deserving a title shot.
Beneil Dariush vs Michael Chandler
The forgotten man in the top five is Dariush, but he has a huge claim to being close to the title too. Currently on a seven-fight win streak after dominating Tony Ferguson at UFC 262, Dariush took some time away for his family with his wife pregnant.
But come 2022 he is likely to be ready to trade leather again, and who better than the former Bellator champ? Dariush only has the one marquee win, so may need to be built up a little more for a title shot and a win over Chandler would absolutely do that.
For Chandler, it’s a chance to put this most recent defeat behind him but also a reward for such a good performance despite the result. His stocks will have only risen with that fight, so there’s no harm in this match-up.
Conor McGregor vs Rafael Dos Anjos
You can’t talk about lightweight without mentioning Conor McGregor but after back-to-back losses to Poirier at UFC 257 and UFC 264, the UFC should have him fighting someone slightly lower down in the rankings.
Dos Anjos is desperate for another run at the title at 155lbs, but his first reign with the belt put him on a collision course with the Notorious one, until a broken foot ultimately led to the now legendary McGregor-Diaz feud.
There is a back-story for the company to build on, animosity to fuel McGregor, a payday for Dos Anjos and the chance to work their way up the rankings for both fighters. It just makes sense.
The UFC returned to Fight Island this past weekend and once again there was a Russian lightweight dominating in his division that took a lot of the headlines.
Instead of Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 though, this time it was Islam Makhachev at UFC 267 as he took Dan Hooker to the mat and mauled him into a kimura submission win in the first-round of their highly anticipated bout.
It was a marquee name to add to Makhachev’s resumé, as he cemented himself among the top five and likely moved up into the top three of the UFC’s rankings at 155lbs with the win.
With the lightweight title up for grabs at UFC 269 in December in a bout between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier, many are looking at UFC 268’s blockbuster bout between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler as the potential number one contender fight for the winner.
However with such a dominant and one-sided win for Makhachev in Abu Dhabi, what is next for him?
In reality, it should be the title shot. Makhachev’s nine-fight win streak is now the third longest in UFC history at the weight, behind only Khabib’s 13-fight run and Tony Ferguson’s 12-fight streak that was ended in May 2020.
He has beaten contenders all the way through the rankings and the only thing missing from his list of victims is one of the current ranked top five fighters.
Despite this though, he has more than earned his shot. His win streak is unmatched but on top of that both Gaethje and Chandler have already had title shots in their most recent fights and been beaten.
Poirier is more than deserving of his title fight which he’ll get next month, while Beneil Dariush is on a seven-fight win streak but only one of those opponents was ranked in the top ten at the time of their bout.
A fight against either Oliveira or Poirier would be a fresh match up for fans and would be highly competitive. It is the perfect and most logical next step for the organisation, the division and for Makhachev himself.
Should something crazy happen in that bout and it makes the bout impossible to make, then he should face the winner of the Gaethje and Chandler match up.
Whatever happens, it would be a travesty for Makhachev to miss out on the next title opportunity. He’s not only winning fights, but he’s finishing opponents and looks better with each and every outing.
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
One name consistently popped up, his teammate and long-time friend Islam Makhachev.
Makhachev has since improved his record to 20-1, with two wins this year against Drew Dober at UFC 259 and then a main event win over Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31 in July.
This weekend at UFC 267 he returns to Abu Dhabi and Fight Island to take on Dan Hooker in a three-round lightweight fight on the main card.
It was supposed to be Rafael Dos Anjos in a grudge match, but the Brazilian withdrew following knee surgery and it was ‘Hangman’ who stepped in on short-notice after he snapped a two-fight losing streak with a decision win over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266.
Stylistically, the fight still favours Makhachev. He is a great striker on the feet with good power to match up with Hooker’s kickboxing, but he has the ability to take a fight to the ground and keep it there in a dominant way – much like Khabib did.
Hooker will be looking for a huge upset on the night, but if Makhachev can get the victory that many are predicting and expecting on the night then he will further help to prove that Khabib was right about him the whole time.
With the lightweight title fight at UFC 269 in December just around the corner between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier, a stand-out win for Makhachev could easily see him installed as the next contender for the belt.
He is currently ranked at number 5 with Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler ahead of him scheduled to fight each other, with both men coming off title shot defeats.
Beneil Dariush is the other man ahead of Makhachev, but proving Khabib right at UFC 267 means he is likely just two wins away at most from becoming the lightweight champion of the world.