The UFC returns to the T-Mobile Arena for UFC 276 for a double-header title fight event in what looks like one of the best cards of the year.
In the main event middleweight champion Israel Adesanya defends his title against ‘Tha Killa Gorilla’ Jared Cannonier, while Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway go head-to-head for a third time for the featherweight title in the co-main event.
We’ll also see the likes of Sean Strickland and Alex Pereira face off, while all of Robbie Lawler, Sean O’Malley, Maycee Barber, Brad Riddell, Jalin Turner and Dricus Du Plessis will all fight too.
We’ve had a few weeks off for picks due to a holiday, but our last time out at UFC 275 saw us go 7/11 with five perfect picks, moving us to 635/987 (64.33%) with 273 perfect picks (42.99%). You can view our full picks record here.
Pedro Munhoz (19-7) vs Sean O’Malley (15-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Absolute banger to open up the main card in the bantamweight division. Veteran Munhoz has lost four of his last five fights, including close bouts against Jose Aldo (UFC 265) and Dominick Cruz (UFC 269) in his last two. O’Malley on the other hand is continuing his rise as one of the most popular athletes in the sport, with three KO’s in his last three fights including a stunning finish over Raulian Paiva last time out.
Munhoz has got a nasty low kick and great wrestling, while also having some decent power in his hands when it comes to striking. His iron chin means he has never been KO’d before, but he’s not as mobile as he once was and his lack of speed sees him struggle against the elite. O’Malley alternatively is one of the fastest fighters in the entire UFC, with unbelievable striking skills and stunning power to go with his movement. He’s also an excellent grappler and will have a huge size advantage in this bout.
If Munhoz lands hard low kicks and hurts the legs of O’Malley to the point where he effects his movement then he has a chance. But O’Malley is likely to stand just far enough away that he can smash Munhoz with his combinations without getting caught himself. His experience should see him make this fight difficult for O’Malley, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see the ‘Suga Show’ make a statement here. PICK – Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 2
Robbie Lawler (29-15) vs Bryan Barbarena (17-8) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight between two iron fisted scrappers. Lawler snapped a four-fight losing streak when he earned a TKO win over Nick Diaz at UFC 266 in his most recent bout, while Barbarena has earned back-to-back decision wins against Darian Weeks and Matt Brown in his most recent fights.
Lawler is an all-rounder, with heavy-handed strikes, excellent wrestling and the heart of a lion in the cage. Barbarena is a similar type of fighter, who is more than willing to bite down on his mouth-piece and swing away to earn a big win. If they’re both at their best then it’s not even close and Lawler wins, but where they are right now in their careers this is a close fight.
Barbarena’s career takedown defence isn’t great and Lawler will likely look to use that to open up his striking more than to actually wrestle. Barbarena will be ready to crack with him though and it could be a wild fight. Barbarena’s volume could be key, but I lean towards Lawler doing enough to earn a judge’s decision. PICK – Robbie Lawler via Decision
Sean Strickland (25-3) vs Alex Pereira (5-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very interesting middleweight fight in what could potentially be a number one contender fight for the belt. Strickland has won six fights in a row and been running riot in the 185lbs division, defeating Uriah Hall and Jack Hermansson in his two most recent bouts. Pereira on the other hand is 2-0 in the UFC after switching over from kickboxing to MMA, knocking out Andreas Michailidis before taking Bruno Silva to a decision.
Strickland is a brilliant boxer who has got a terrific jab and unrelenting cardio, while his offensive wrestling is also excellent. He is capable of taking fights to the ground and inflicting plenty of damage from top position, with very heavy hips keeping his opponent down. Pereira is a former world champion kickboxer and is the only man whose striking can compare to the champion’s. He’s also shown great ability to defend takedowns up to this point and his chin has held up too.
This looks like a step too far, too soon for Pereira to me. The UFC are clearly trying to build towards a rematch between Adesanya and Pereira, but Strickland is simply not a walkover. “Tarzan” is a maniac and he will do everything he can to stop this fight with damage. Pereira will have his moments, undoubtedly, but I expect Strickland to take him down and dominate him on the mat to potentially even get a finish and claim next for the title shot. PICK – Sean Strickland via Knockout, Round 2
Alexander Volkanovski (24-1) vs Max Holloway (23-6) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
It’s not often we get a trilogy of fights that are all title fights, especially when the first two fights were won by the same guy – but that’s what this is. Volkanovski is on a 21-fight win streak including two wins over Holloway (UFC 245 & UFC 251), before big wins against Brian Ortega (UFC 266) and Korean Zombie most recently. Holloway has won his last two though, with incredible performances against Calvin Kattar (UFC Fight Island 7) and Yair Rodriguez (UFC Vegas 42).
Volkanovski is a complete all-rounder, with terrific wrestling to go with his sharp striking and cardio for days. Holloway is the opposite, with unbelievable striking and some of the best boxing in the company with some solid wrestling and cardio for days. This fight is razor close and could legitimately go either way. Volkanovski clearly won the first fight between the two, but many people – myself included – though Holloway won the second.
Since then though Volkanovski has got better and better while Holloway showed against Rodriguez that he’s not the untouchable guy he once was. The aura has gone, and while he’s still one of the best ever, that matters. Volkanovski has the blueprint to win and while I would love Holloway to get his belt back as one of my personal favs, I think history repeats itself in a more concrete fashion this time around and Volkanovski retains. PICK – Alexander Volkanovski via Decision
Israel Adesanya (22-1) vs Jared Cannonier (15-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
The middleweight championship is on the line here and Adesanya is the man with everything to lose. The champion has won his last two against Marvin Vettori (UFC 263) and Robert Whittaker (UFC 271), and remains undefeated in the division with his only loss coming up a weight class. Cannonier has won his last two in a row too, earning a decision against Kelvin Gastelum before knocking out Derek Brunson.
‘The Last Stylebender’ is regarded as the best pure striker in the UFC today, with sharp counters and scintillating speed while his takedown defence has held up against everyone at 185-pounds. Cannonier is a power-puncher with some decent wrestling in his back pocket, but this seems like quite a lopsided match up.
Adesanya is too quick, too sharp and too well-rounded for Cannonier. He knows that the only way that Cannonier can really win this is by landing a big shot clean, and he is the absolute best when it comes to evading that and making his opponents look like amateurs. Cannonier must stay patient or he’ll get countered into an oblivion, but if he isn’t active enough the Adesanya will pick him off from range. Neither fighter has an issue with cardio, so expect it to go to the latter rounds before Adesanya catches a desperate Cannonier with a counter or a head-kick for a big KO win. PICK – Israel Adesanya via Knockout, Round 4
Maxim Grishin def William Knight via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Slow start to this one, with Grishin attacking the body with kicks in the first minute and landing a nice low kick too. Grishin just misses with a front kick to the face, then Knight responds with a body kick attempt of his own. Grishin has a huge reach advantage and is staying on the outside, then lands a huge head kick! Knight doesn’t go down but he’s hurt, Grishin stays patient though and doesn’t go for the kill. Grishin lands a low outside kick and then goes for another head kick that misses. Knight throwing next to nothing so far, as Grishin just touches him from the outside and avoids all the damage coming his way. Grishin backs Knight against the cage but both guys are lacking with their output through the first round. 10-9 Grishin.
Similar start to this round as Grishin takes the centre and uses his kicking game to maintain distance, while Knight not doing much. Grishin lands a low inside kick and follows it with a right hand, then a hard low kick that gets a big reaction from Knight. Knight trying for a few kicks of his own but not landing anything, then Grishin lands another right hand and Knight goes in for a takedown. Grishin defends it well but Knight chain wrestling and eventually gets Grishin on his shoulders and slams him down! Knight goes for the back but Grishin fights out and ends up on top himself, landing two good elbows and taking side control. Knight powers his way back up to his feet but Grishin does well to separate and get back to his jab and kicking game from range. 20-18 Grishin.
Final round and Grishin lands a hard low kick early on, who reacts in pain but spins into a spinning back fist and gets a clinch. Knight goes for a takedown and gets the single leg to put Grishin on his backside, but he immediately switches and gets back up. He gets separation and lands a nice left hand and low kick combo, but Knight responds with a left hand too. Knight goes for another takedown and Grishin defends it well, but then he throws a kick that Knight catches and he trips Grishin to end up on top. Grishin is able to get back to his feet relatively quickly though and pushes Knight back against the cage. Knight goes for a flying knee and misses then gets another takedown, but Grishin defending well and lands a hard right hand followed by two low kicks. Knight goes for a big right hand but Grishin lands a left that drops him and he ends the round in full mount. Solid performance from Grishin. 30-27.
Wells sprints around the outside of the octagon and slips in the opening seconds, so Blood Diamond moves in quickly. Wells immediately gets a clinch and starts looking for a takedown, but Blood Diamond defending it really well so far 90 seconds in. Wells trying to use strength to get the takedown and eventually is able to lift him and puts him on the mat, then falls into mount! Wells looking for a choke but Diamond fighting the hands, so Wells starts landing heavy ground and pound. Diamond trying to get up but Wells is on his back heavy with hooks in and is throwing heavy shots on the ground. Wells slides the arm under the chin and tries to go for a choke again but Diamond looks to be defending well. Suddenly the referee stops the fight and we can see that Diamond is out cold! What a submission win!
Douglas Silva de Andrade def Sergey Morozov via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:34)
Both guys looking to take the centre early as Morozov lands a jab and Andrade lands two nice calf kicks. Morozov lands a nice right hand that wobbles Andrade and he follows it up with two hooks that drops him! Morozov goes into top position and starts working him with heavy ground and pound strikes. A huge elbow from Morotoz and he slices Andrade wide open and that is a nasty cut over the eye. Andrade tries to get back up but Morozov drops him down and then allows him up and lands a big knee to the head. Morozov lands a lovely one-two and Andrade is still hurt. Morozov lands a nice knee to the body, then Andrade explodes with a heavy left hook that lands. Spinning body kick from Morozov lands clean and then he shoots for a double leg takedown and gets it to end the round on top. Huge round for Morozov. 10-9.
Fast start from Andrade who knows he’s down a round early on. Morozov being backed up against the cage and Andrade lands a heavy strike that wobbles him! Big right hand and Andrade drops him! He goes for a finish but Morozov defends the position well and is able to grapple his way to safety. Andrade looking for haymakers and just missing. Andrade throws the same combination and drops Morozov again! Morozov in survival mode, but Andrade landing heavy strikes and a big knee connects. Andrade hurts him and moves for a choke! Morozov defending it well but Andrade changes the grip and secures it. Morozov refuses to tap but he goes out unconscious! What a comeback win!
Jacob Malkoun def AJ Dobson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Super quick punching combination from Dobson early on causes Malkoun problems. Malkoun trying to get close, but Dobson lands a nice short right hand that hurts him! Malkoun goes for a takedown to recover but he defends it well and starts looking to strike again. Malkoun changes levels again and is in deep, but once again Dobson defends it despite being lifted into the air. Dobson lands a hard knee to the body, and then both fighters exchange strikes to the chin. Malkoun catches a kick and tries for another takedown but Dobson again stays on his feet and defends it. Malkoun lands a nice right hand but Dobson responds with a lovely combo. Hard one-two from Dobson but Malkoun finally gets himself a takedown with ten seconds of the round remaining. 10-9 Dobson.
Malkoun and Dobson going after it early on in this second round. Malkoun lands a nice right hand and shoots for a takedown, but Dobson denies him and fires a knee up the middle that misses. Malkoun shoots in again and this time gets the trip and gets him down, then looks to move to his back but Dobson is able to get up quickly. Malkoun swings him down to the mat again and is landing some hard ground and pound strikes, hurting Dobson. Lots of ground strikes landing and Dobson is trying to find a way back to his feet but Malkoun controlling him well. Hard strikes and Malkoun continuing to control as he allows Dobson up for the final ten seconds to end the round. Could easily be a 10-8 round. 19-18 Malkoun.
Final round and Malkoun is back in with a takedown early on and gets it. Straight back to the same position on the back of Dobson, landing ground and pound strikes once again. Malkoun switches the position and gets to half guard with Dobson flat on his back and he’s controlling the position and landing good, solid ground and pound strikes. Dobson is trying to kick off the cage to get out from under Malkoun, but he blocks it and gets some big shots off again. Malkoun postures up and lands some heavy strikes. Malkoun throwing some elbows too as we enter the final 30 seconds and he’s dominated this final round again too. 29-26 Malkoun for me.
Ronnie Lawrence def Mana Martinez via Unanimous Decision (29-27 x2, 29-28)
Cagey start to this fight early on as Lawrence lands a few low kicks, while Martinez takes the centre and feints to try and set up his strikes. Lawrence steps forward and shoots with a beautiful takedown and gets it immediately, looking to control Martinez although he’s not doing much damage yet. Martinez fights the hands and is able to get back up to his feet, then lands a hard low kick of his own. Lawrence back to moving on the outside and then steps in with a low-kick, right hook combination that drops Martinez! Lawrence jumps on top for a finish and lands some good ground and pound strikes, and Martinez scrambles to survive. Lawrence in full guard looking for elbows as we enter the final 15 seconds. Good round. 10-9 Lawrence.
Martinez trying to land some strikes from range early on in this round, but Lawrence moving well and avoiding. Big right body shot and left hook to the chin from Lawrence lands and Martinez gets knocked down again! Lawrence goes back to top position and fires in some ground and pound and wrestles for control as he takes the back. Martinez gets to the cage and battles his way back up to the feet, but then Lawrence lands another huge right hook that drops him again! He misses with some ground and pound but then gets the hooks in and takes the back to look for a rear-naked choke. Martinez is able to reverse it and get up to his feet but then Lawrence shoots for a takedown again and takes control again. Lawrence gets another takedown to end the round, pure dominance. 20-17 Lawrence.
Martinez coming out in this final round knowing he needs a finish and pressing forward. Lawrence staying very calm on the feet but Martinez lands a couple of nice right hands. Hard low kick from Martinez and then Lawrence goes for a head kick. Lawrence goes for a takedown but Martinez stuffs it, then lands a nice right hook. Martinez stuffs a takedown attempt again and then lands a huge spinning back fist that drops Lawrence! He lands some huge follow up strikes but Lawrence just about survives and shoots for a takedown. Martinez goes for a triangle and then goes for an armbar but Lawrence rolls through it and defends it well, then ends the round in top position. So close to a comeback. 29-27 Lawrence for me.
Carlos Ulberg def Fabio Cherant via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Relatively slow start to the round for both guys as Ulberg takes the centre and backs Cherant up against the cage. Hard low kick from Ulberg lands and then goes for a body kick but lands low and pauses the action. Cherant is mad now and blitzes out when the action resumes, landing a big left hand and then clinching. Ulberg denies him and then gets a takedown of his own, before letting him up quickly. Cherant flies in for a big left hand but Ulberg fires a low kick that drops Cherant but then he lets him stand up again. Nice work from Ulberg but he looks quite cocky right now and Cherant is dangerous. Big left from Cherant lands just before the buzzer and drops Ulberg, but he’s not really hurt at all. 10-9 Ulberg for me, but a weird round.
Cherant more aggressive early on in this round and backing Ulberg up with his left hand. Ulberg lands a low kick and then counters Cherant’s left hand with a beautiful left hook that opens up a cut over his eye. Ulberg goes to the body with his kicks and is landing his jab well, while Cherant continues to look for that left hand explosion. Ulberg landing some nice kicks to the body and his jab getting through, plus his check-left hook is doing well. Easy round for Ulberg. 20-18.
Ulberg using nice footwork inside the opening 90 seconds of this round to stay away from Cherant, who knows he needs a finish to get anything from this fight. Very slow pace to this one with neither man really doing much to win the fight yet. Ulberg lands two nice body shots, but Cherant just standing in front of him and not throwing anything at all. Cherant steps forward and swings a big left hand but Ulberg ducks under and takes his back, then secures a takedown with a minute to go. Cherant fights his way back to the feet with ten seconds to go and this one fizzles out. 30-27 Ulberg, but not the most entertaining fight by any means.
Blistering start to this fight as Phillips throws a huge leg kick and then lands some big combinations on Rojo. Rojo steps forward and lands a nice combo to the body himself, before Phillips lands a nice straight right hand. Flying knee from Phillips and then another hard leg kick drops him. Phillips lands another lovely combination, but Rojo still coming forward and lands a nice right hand himself. Phillips lands a good right hand as the clinch, then gets a takedown and moves to the back of Rojo very quickly. He gets the hooks in and takes him down to the mat, then transitions to mount but Rojo quickly gets half-guard back. Hard knee from Phillips but Rojo gets back to his feet. Rojo continues to come forward and looking for combinations, but Phillips seems to have him beaten everywhere. A lovely trip sees Phillips end the round on top too. 10-9 Phillips.
More of the same early on in this second round as Rojo tries to take the centre, but he’s just a step behind the lightning quick Phillips. Phillips lands low kicks and his jab well, but Rojo is trying to push forward and land blitzes. Overhand right misses by Rojo, and Phillips steps in with a nice combo and flying knee attempt. Rojo keeps coming forward though and looking for combinations, but Phillips’ leg kicks are doing lots of damage now. Rojo denies a takedown attempt but Phillips eventually gets him in a clinch position against the cage and sees the round out in control. 20-18 Phillips.
FInal round now and Rojo is suffering with some severe damage on his lead leg, but he is soldiering through it. Phillips goes for a takedown but Rojo stuffs it, only for Phillips to chain wrestle and secure a different position on top. Phillips pushing for a submission and gets into full mount. He goes for an inverted mounted triangle, then synches in an armbar too. Rojo tries to get out but taps out before he rolls through to a belly down position and Phillips secures the victory! What a performance!
Modafferi coming forward with lots of pressure early on and is landing her jab well, but O’Neill countering well with her right hand. Nice left hook from O’Neill as she starts to work her own jab and force Modafferi backwards. Both women land a left hook at the same time, then Modafferi lands a right hand behind it too. Hard one-two from O’Neill lands over and over again but Modafferi continues to come forward with pressure. O’Neill comes forward and just misses with a big elbow, but she’s still landing well with her punches. O’Neill landing hard and heavy shots but Modafferi eating them all and firing back herself to end the round. 10-9 O’Neill, but it’s competitive.
Lots of forward pressure from Modafferi once again early on but O’Neill without doubt has the advantage all over in the striking battle. O’Neill landing big shots on her counters and they’re starting to take an effect on Modafferi. O’Neill starting to up the pressure now and looking for big strikes, but Modafferi responds with a forward blitz and then separates from a clinch attempt. O’Neill is landing her one-two and her overhand right at will now, and is starting to mix in some kicks to her attacks too. Modafferi still marching forwards though. Modafferi goes for a knee but just misses and O’Neill starts screaming while she’s striking. Modafferi changes levels and gets the takedown with seconds remaining to end up on top, but that’s O’Neill’s round. 20-18.
O’Neill coming out very aggressive in the final round looking for a finish, as Modafferi once again looks to blitz her way into a successful striking battle. O’Neill is very sharp though and is landing first and hardest in these exchanges. O’Neill lands a hard right but Modafferi responds with two nice knees to the body. Modafferi still stepping forward and lands a big spinning back fist, but O’Neill eats it and then lands a lovely combo of her own. Modafferi clinches up and lands some knees but O’Neill again lands her right hand freely. Modafferi goes for a takedown but O’Neill sprawls, then throws a kick and sees it caught by Modafferi who pushes her to the ground. O’Neill gets up quickly and is attacking the body lock that Modafferi has wrapped around her, while she throws knees looking to do damage. Modafferi pushing for a takedown but O’Neill defends it all the way to the buzzer and should take a dominant decision win.
Andrei Arlovski def Jared Vanderaa via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Hard low kick from Arlovski to open up the fight and then a lovely combination of strikes to the head lands on Vanderaa. Arlovski moving a lot on the outside and bursting with speed and precision to land. Vanderaa backing Arlovski against the cage, but he’s not really throwing much yet. Arlovski lands a big right cross and then Vanderaa just misses with a right uppercut. They clinch against the cage and Vanderaa looking for trips, but Arlovski is able to separate. Arlovski throws a spin kick to the body and then a hard right hand follows which rock Vanderaa. Arlovski stays patient and throws a spinning back fist that just misses and that’s the round. 10-9 Arlovski.
Vanderaa goes for a low kick and Arlovski lands a beautiful combination that sends Vanderaa backwards. They clinch against the cage and Vanderaa lands some solid knees to the body and thighs before Arlovski is able to separate and get away. Hard right hand lands again from Arlovski and he follows it up with three more clean strikes with his overhand, but Vanderaa is still there. Another hard right hand lands from Arlovski and Vanderaa is just eating them now. Vanderaa gets a body lock against the cage but Arlovski defends it easily and lands his right hand a couple more times for good measure before the round ends. 20-18.
Final round and Vanderaa is coming out with more kicks. Lots of leg kicks followed by a heavy body kick and then they clinch up, with Vanderaa throwing some knees against the cage too. Lots of stalling and then Arlovski finally steps away and then lands a nice right hand, but Vanderaa is still coming forward. Nice counter strikes from Vanderaa and a good left hook lands as Arlovski is backing up against the cage. Final 20 seconds and they clinch again, before Arlovski lands a big right hand as the round ends. 29-28 Arlovski for me.
Bobby Green def Nasrat Haqparast via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Good start to this one from Green as he takes the centre early on and starts looking to implement his jab. Haqparast accidentally pokes him in the eye to cause a pause in the action, then he misses with two wild hooks as Green showboats. Green coming forward with his hands very low, while Haqparast has a very high guard and is trying to counter. Hard low kick from Haqparast, but then Green responds with more jabs. Green is very confident and is landing well in the centre and Haqparast is struggling to get any sort of offense going. 10-9 Green.
Haqparast trying to apply more forward pressure in this round from the off but Green slipping and countering so well to land his jabs. Green is striking through the high guard well and busting up Haqparast’s face, but he’s still coming forward. Nice left hand from Haqparast lands as Green tries to chip away at the guard. Both guys land with a stiff jab, then Haqparast lands a hard low kick to go with it. Haqparast throws another left overhand that connects, but Green rolling with the shots for the most part. Big straights and crosses from Green busting up the face of Haqparast at this point as we enter the final minute. Big overhand left again from Haqparast lands and he’s starting to land more by keeping Green backed up against the cage. Green still landing too with double jabs and straights. What a great fight. I give it to Green, but could be Haqparast’s round. 20-18 for me.
Haqparast comes out firing in the final round, but Green catches a kick and then lands some more straight shots to the nose through the high guard. Green’s boxing has been excellent, with body shots mixed in now. Haqparast trying to apply forward pressure, but Green is doing so well to land combinations at speed through the guard and mix his attacks up. Green dominating the exchanges now and he lands a couple of big strikes to end the round and claim a huge career victory. 30-27 Green.
Renato Moicano def Alexander Hernandez via Knockout, Round 2 (1:23)
Hernandez opens up with some hard low kicks, but Moicano lands the first big strike of the night with an overhand right to the chin. Hernandez landing those low kicks well, but Moicano slipping shots well and countering. Moicano looks to change levels and go for a single leg takedown, but Hernandez defends it well. They clinch against the cage and Moicano gets him down, but Hernandez scrambles back up to his feet immediately. Moicano holds on to the body lock though and eventually does throw Hernandez down and ends up in half guard after another scramble. Hernandez uses his strength to get up and goes straight back to striking, throwing jabs and hooks with a high pressure. Hernandez stalking him around the cage now, but Moicano responds with a lovely right hand down the pipe. Fun round, 10-9 Moicano, just.
Hernandez trying to weaponise his cardio in the second round, coming out very aggressively. Moicano lands a beautiful left hand, right uppercut combination to slow him right down. Hernandez goes to clinch and Moicano avoids it and lands a beautiful combination that rocks him! Moicano follows up with a knee that drops Hernandez! He goes for the finish but Hernandez gives up his back, so Moicano takes it, sinks in a choke and gets the tap! What a performance!
Jared Cannonier def Derek Brunson via Knockout, Round 2 (4:29)
Interesting start to the fight as Cannonier comes out looking for big strikes early on, while Brunson looking to stay away from those striking exchanges to wrestle. Brunson shoots in and Cannonier defends it, but Brunson switches to a single leg and lifts it high to secure the takedown, but Cannonier gets up relatively easily. Brunson looking to wear on him using clinches and takedown attempts, making Cannonier miss. Brunson shoots in again and after battling he gets the trip and ends up on top, looking for an arm triangle. Cannonier gets back up and misses with a kick, then Brunson lands a huge right hook that drops him! Brunson takes the back immediately and locks up a rear-naked choke but the buzzer goes and saves him. Close. 10-9 Brunson!
Brunson opens the round with an immediate takedown attempt in the centre of the octagon and gets it. He tries to secure position but Cannonier scrambles up to his feet and looks much fresher than Brunson. Brunson lands a couple of left hands but Cannonier is fresh and can see Brunson tiring. Brunson goes back in for a takedown but it’s denied. Big right hook from Cannonier lands and then an uppercut lands too. Hard jab from Cannonier and then a combination misses. Brunson looks very slow right now but he shoots in for a takedown anyway. Cannonier denies it easily and as they clinch he lands a huge short elbow and a back fist. Brunson is hurt badly and Cannonier drops him again. He gets on top position and lands huge elbows to put him out cold and that’s enough for the referee! What a win!
Tai Tuivasa def Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 2 (1:40)
Tuivasa comes out with feints and some hard low kick attempts inside the first minute as they look to feel each other out. Lewis goes for a right hand but Tuivasa ducks under it and gets a clinch against the cage, landing knees against his thighs. Lewis goes for a head kick that gets blocked then a flying knee that misses, before a right overhand lands and they clinch up again. Lewis drops down for a single leg but Tuivasa defends it well. Lewis gets an outside trip and ends up on top then as he postures up to land big strikes Tuivasa starts to get up too. Lewis lands four or five flush shots but Tuivasa gets up and starts swinging back before they clinch up again. Lewis gets another takedown but Tuivasa gets back up too and the round ends. Wild round. 10-9 Lewis.
Tuivasa looks for a low kick once again to open the round, but Lewis just misses with a big right hand. Lewis looks to blitz him with big strikes but Tuivasa evades him and they clinch up against the cage once again. Lewis tries to blitz him again but Tuivasa swings with him and lands a few of his own! Lewis is hurt! Tuivasa swinging big shots and Lewis is in trouble. Tuivasa lands a huge elbow and Lewis faceplants! He’s out cold! Tuivasa with the biggest win of his career! Wow!
Israel Adesanya def Robert Whittaker via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x2, 49-46)
Very methodical start from both guys as they miss with several low kicks each and lots of fakes and feints. Adesanya finally lands a hard low kick and then another about halfway through the round. Whittaker lunges in for a left hook but misses and Adesanya lands a left hand that drops Whittaker! He gets back up quickly and then looks to shoot a takedown, but Adesanya sprawls well and goes back to the centre. A hard low kick again from Adesanya and then a check left hook lands, before Whittaker shoots for another takedown and misses it. Whittaker checks a low kick but then eats on to the body and that’s the round. 10-9 Adesanya.
Whittaker just misses with a head kick early in the second round but then eats a heavy low kick. He swings overhand with his right hand and Adesanya lands another hard right hand. Whittaker moving backwards a lot but then he moves forward for a double jab and Adesanya counters with a right uppercut. Whittaker lands a nice left hand that gets a reaction but Adesanya evades a high kick. Whittaker shoots in for a takedown and gets Adesanya to the ground, but the champion immediately gets his back to the cage and stands back up before separating. A hard low kick from Adesanya again, followed by a head kick that’s partially blocked and a body kick. Low kick from Whittaker lands with a minute to go, then Adesanya returns fire with one 30 seconds later before the round ends. Close round that could go either way, but I probably lean towards Whittaker there. 19-19.
Adesanya taking the centre again in the third round and doing well to close of the octagon. Whittaker trying to use double jabs to close the distance, while Adesanya is using his low kicks well. Whittaker lands a jab and Adesanya responds with a hook, but neither man is hurt by it. Whittaker shoots for a takedown but Adesanya defends it perfectly and lands a nice knee before they break. Adesanya goes for a head kick but Whittaker ducks under it and goes for a takedown. He gets a body lock but Adesanya gets back to his feet well and then uses a kimura trap to force the break. Hard low kick from Adesanya gets a big reaction, before Whittaker steps in with a jab that gets countered by a hook. Round ends, 29-28 Adesanya for me.
Whittaker opens the round with a big right hand that lands flush and stuns Adesanya. He returns with two hard low kicks before they miss with big hooks. Whittaker goes for a takedown again and gets it and ends up in the backpack position against the cage looking to get a choke in! Adesanya fights the hands and gets him off relatively quickly, and they return to the centre. Adesanya lands another low kick and then misses with a big hook. Hard low kicks again from Adesanya, and Whittaker comes forward with his jabs again. Big hook from Adesanya just misses and then Whittaker just misses with his own as the round ends. 39-37 Adesanya.
Whittaker steps in with his double jab again as Adesanya misses a right hook. Hard low kick from Adesanya again, then another jab from Whittaker. Hard body kick from Adesanya and then a stiff jab from Whittaker does get a reaction, but he sits off him again. Whittaker shoots for a takedown but Adesanya defends it well. Whittaker shoots for a takedown again and gets it, but once again Adesanya bounces back to his feet and fights the hands of the body lock to try and separate. Adesanya goes for a knee, then Whittaker throws a big left hook that lands. Final 90 seconds now and Adesanya lands a nice low kick again. Whittaker goes for another takedown but Adesanya’s defence is impeccable again. They clinch against the cage and the fight ends, it should be #AndStill.. 48-47 Adesanya.
Bobby Green (28-12-1) vs Nasrat Haqparast (13-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight banger to open up the main card between two impressive fighters. Green is a veteran in the UFC and earned his first KO victory since 2013 last time out when he beat Al Iaquinta at UFC 268. Haqparast is a hot prospect who is struggling to live up to his skillset, having been comfortably beaten by Dan Hooker at UFC 266 in his last bout.
Green is a great all-rounder who has great boxing and some decent takedowns in his weaponry too. His pressure is relentless and he makes every fight competitive, arguably putting in his best performances in during his most recent fights. Haqparast is also a terrific boxer, arguably one of the best in the UFC, but his power has seemingly deserted him since coming to the UFC. His wrestling is decent too, but he was completely undone by Hooker in his last fight who isn’t known for his grappling at all, and that is worrying.
Haqparast has got the boxing ability to win this fight, because he’s probably better technically. But Green is going to make this a dirty fight with plenty of clinching and wrestling mixed in with the striking exchanges. It’s bound to be an entertaining fight to open the card up, but I think Green’s ability to mix it up more will be able to drag him to a victory. PICK – Bobby Green via Decision
Alexander Hernandez (13-4) vs Renato Moicano (15-4-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really fun bout in the lightweight division between two experienced pros in the UFC. Hernandez is 3-2 in his last five bouts, with a KO over Mike Breeden in his last bout as expected. Moicano on the other hand is 2-3 in his last five, with a knockout loss to Rafael Fiziev at UFC 256 being followed up by a submission win over Jai Herbert at UFC Vegas 30.
Hernandez is a pressure fighter, with great striking and lots of power and volume to follow it. His body kick is solid too and he will always come forward. Moicano alternatively is a similar fighter to champion Charles Oliveira, he’s just several levels below. Moicano has got good striking and even better jiu-jitsu with eight submission wins in his career, but zero knockouts.
This is a tough fight to predict, because both guys are at different points in their careers and match up quite evenly despite having their primary strengths in different areas. The difference in their ground games though is significant and it makes me lean towards Moicano. If he’s getting outdone on the feet then he has the ability to take the fight down to turn it around, whereas Hernandez doesn’t have the option. For me, that makes it Moicano’s fight to lose. PICK – Renato Moicano via Decision
Jared Cannonier (14-5) vs Derek Brunson (23-7) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A middleweight title eliminator up next. Cannonier was on a three-fight win streak before suffering a loss to Robert Whittaker at UFC 254, but has since bounced back with a decision win over Kelvin Gastelum. Brunson on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak having stopped Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 5 and Darren Till most recently. He also dominated Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 22 in between those bouts.
Cannonier is a power puncher, full stop. He has got some of the heaviest hands in the division and knows it, so looks to walk forward and use hard low kicks to set up his overhand right. Brunson on the other hand is a heavy wrestler, who looks to use his striking just enough to close the distance and grab you. Cannonier’s wrestling isn’t the best, but defensively he will be looking to hold out being taken down so he can land the big strikes.
Brunson has shown, even in his most recent wins, that he doesn’t take punches very well. Holland and Till both hurt him, but then he used his wrestling to stifle their attacks. Cannonier hits much harder than them, so it’s unlikely he’ll get that chance if he eats a big shot. That said, Cannonier isn’t as quick so I think Brunson will be able to get his takedowns in early in the rounds and control the fight on the ground for 15 minutes for a victory. PICK – Derek Brunson via Decision
Derrick Lewis (26-8) vs Tai Tuivasa (14-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight smasher that is highly unlikely to go the full 15 minutes here. Lewis has won five of his last six fights, bouncing back from a KO defeat to Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 for the interim title by knocking out Chris Daukaus at UFC Vegas 45. Tuivasa has won four in a row, all by knockout, with the most recent coming against Augusto Sakai at UFC 269 via second-round knockout.
Both of these fighters are brawlers who look to land a clean punch, because it will put you to sleep. Whoever you are, if you get caught clean, you’re going to sleep. Unfortunately for Tai Tuivasa though, Lewis hits far harder and has the better chin of the two. He is also a good leg kicker, has flying knees and has been at the highest level for a long time.
Tuivasa got rocked and hurt by Greg Hardy, but recovered to hurt him back and win by knockout. Lewis will stay patient and know that when Tuivasa rushes in to blitz with his strikes, he will leave himself open to land a huge strike and end this one early doors. PICK – Derrick Lewis via Knockout, Round 1
Israel Adesanya (21-1) vs Robert Whittaker (24-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
The two best middleweight fighters in the world, and two of the best ever, go head-to-head for the world title once again. Adesanya is undefeated in the middleweight division, with a win over Marvin Vettori at UFC 263 most recently following the first-and-only defeat of his career to Jan Blachowicz up at light heavyweight. Whittaker has gone 3-0 since losing to Adesanya, with decision wins against Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and most recently Kelvin Gastelum.
Adesanya is a world-class kickboxer, with the best striking in the entire UFC in his weaponry. He’s also shown incredibly improved wrestling takedown defence in recent fights, while his range and distance management remain at the top of the division. Whittaker is a top level Muay Thai fighter, with brilliant wrestling and top level striking too. Neither man is particularly known for their power and finishing ability, but they usually just outclass their opponents throughout.
Whittaker has made his game plan clear, stating that Blachowicz gave him the blueprint for victory, meaning he’s going to look to wrestle more and mix in his takedowns. Adesanya will likely perform in a similar way; defend takedowns, land kicks and counter with hooks to do damage. While Whittaker is better since the first fight, so is Adesanya. I don’t think this one ends in a finish like the first did, but Adesanya has all the skills to nullify Whittaker’s new game plan, as he has done with everyone else, and earns an exciting decision win. PICK – Israel Adesanya via Decision
When the UFC rolls into the Toyota Centre in Houston, Texas this weekend for UFC 271 all eyes will be on the 185-pound division.
Headlining the card will be the middleweight division undisputed title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and number one contender Robert Whittaker.
But two fights before that there is another huge middleweight fight scheduled which could have big implications on the title picture for the rest of 2022.
It will be number three ranked Jared Cannonier fighting number four ranked Derek Brunson on the main card, with both knowing that a victory could set them up for a title shot against the winner of the main event next time around.
For Cannonier, he has been here before. ‘Tha Killa Gorilla’ won three fights in a row against David Branch, Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson via knockout to setup a fight with Robert Whittaker at UFC 254.
Israel Adesanya admitted that a win for Cannonier that night would’ve seen him next in line for the belt, but he was comfortably beaten by the number one contender.
He bounced back in his next fight though against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 34 to retain his top five ranking and earn another shot at glory.
Across the cage will be a resurgent Brunson, who has already fought Adesanya and got embarrassed by the now-champion via a first-round knockout.
Since then, Brunson has rattled off five wins in-a-row, a run only better matched by the champion himself in the weight class. He claimed decision wins against Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch, before a dominant main event win over prospect Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 5.
He then claimed another main event victory, dismantling Kevin Holland with his wrestling at UFC Vegas 22 before a big fight with Darren Till. Till had been in a similar position to Cannonier, told he’d potentially get a title shot with a win.
Brunson quickly ended those dreams though, wrestling the Brit for two-and-a-half rounds before submitting him with a rear-naked choke.
Now the dream is his own. A win sees him move to six-in-a-row and almost certainly sets up a title fight against the winner of the main event in a rematch from earlier in his career.
But Cannonier will surely not let this opportunity pass him by twice, having been through a rollercoaster of a career with weight divisions and successes.
A victory should do it for either man in reality, but a statement win would be the icing on the cake and would likely guarantee it.
Middleweights go to war at UFC 271, but it’s not only in the main event that you should be paying attention.
The fight will now take place at UFC 271 however as the co-main event, meaning both fighters can serve as back-ups to the middleweight title fight headlining the card.
It was announced this week that Israel Adesanya will defend his 185-pound championship against number one contender Robert Whittaker in Texas on February 12th, in a rematch from their 2019 bout that saw Adesanya take the title from him for the first time.
With the card for UFC 271 looking relatively thin, the UFC have made the decision to bolster the card with another big bout but it will also serve as the back-up in case something happens to one of Adesanya or Whittaker.
Brunson is on a five-fight win streak heading into this fight, having last lost when he fought Adesanya in 2018. He has beaten Elias Theodorou, Ian Heinisch, Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 5, Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 22 and most recently Darren Till at UFC Vegas 36 to climb back up the rankings into the top five.
Cannonier has strung together a 4-1 run in his last five fights, with knockout wins against David Branch, Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson. He was beaten by Whittaker at UFC 254, but he bounced back with a dominant decision win against Kelvin Gastelum in his last outing at UFC Vegas 34.
Brunson reacted to the news on social media, saying he would now be training for five rounds in preparation in case the title fight was to fall out.
The UFC returns after a two week break with two middleweights battling to get back into contention at the top of the rankings as Jared Cannonier takes on Kelvin Gastelum.
Originally supposed to be Paulo Costa, Gastelum stepped in to take over this bout and knows that a win for him can get him back in the conversation for a future title shot while Cannonier knows he’s just two big wins away from a title shot in all likelihood.
In a 12 fight card, it’s a card with a few sleeper fights and a killer main event so lets see how we do with our picks.
Last time out at UFC 265 we went 9/13 with four perfect picks to move to 383/600 (63.83%) with 169 perfect picks (44.13%). We’ll look to improve that here and after starting with the early prelims here and the rest of the prelim picks, here are the main card picks for the night.
Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) vs Brandon Royval (12-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Pantoja is a phenomenal striker, with brilliant combinations, kicks and hand speed at 125lbs. Royval is a very active striker too, with brilliant scrambles and hand speed himself. This is a fight that is undoubtedly between two top contenders and could go either way. Royval is a solid grappler too, with really good submissions all around the mat and eight submission wins in his career.
Unfortunately for Royval though, Pantoja has fantastic leg kicks and takedown defence as well as scary power for the division and I think overall he will be able to use his experience to earn a very entertaining win. PICK – Alexandre Pantoja via Decision
Vinc Pichel (13-2) vs Austin Hubbard (13-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An intriguing lightweight fight between a veteran and a newcomer in this one. Piche is 38-years-old and on a two-fight win streak, beating Roosevelt Roberts and then Jim Miller at UFC 252 in his last fight. Hubbard on the other hand is 29 and has alternated wins and losses in his last six, beating Dakota Bush last time out via decision.
Pichel has good stand up and good wrestling, but against the specialists in those departments he struggles. Physically he’s strong and he has decent cardio, but he doesn’t really excel in any level in particular. Hubbard on the other hand is a fighter who’s greatest attribute is his cardio, with good knees and strikes from range.
Hubbard is a good defensive wrestler and because of his cardio and attacks up the middle, Pichel may struggle to get his grappling game going and on the feet Hubbard has him beat. The longer the fight goes with Hubbard not on his back, the further he is able to pull away and earn a decision win. PICK – Austin Hubbard via Decision
Trevin Jones (13-6) vs Saidyokub Kakhromonov (8-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Jones is a powerful striker with genuine knockout power but also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, while Kakhromonov is a fantastic striker with good kicks and good enough wrestling to score a takedown over a Nurmagomedov relative. In a full camp, this would be an incredible fight but with Kakhromonov taking the fight on just four days notice this seems like a jump too far.
This is likely to be one of the best fights on the card but with both at a high level, but the lack of preparation time for Kakhromonov means I can’t go against Jones in this one. Remember the Kakhromonov name though. PICK – Trevin Jones via Decision
Parker Porter (11-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight banger as the impressive Sherman takes on Porter and looks to get back to winning ways. Porter is 1-1 in his last two fights, losing to Chris Daukaus before earning a decision over Josh Parisian last time out. Sherman on the other hand was on a four-fight win streak before stepping into the cage with former champ Andrei Arlovski in April where he was beaten by decision.
Porter is a typical heavyweight, who uses jabs and a big overhand to earn most of his victories but when that doesn’t work he looks low quality and poor. Sherman has tried to evolve his game more, throwing some leg kicks and good volume but his knockout power is excellent. He has 14 wins via knockout and has some decent footwork for a heavyweight.
Sherman will come out, bide his time, avoid the big strikes with good footwork and eventually land his big right hand to get back on the winning trail in this one. PICK – Chase Sherman via Knockout, Round 1
Clay Guida (36-17) vs Mark O Madsen (10-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fun lightweight fight is the co-main event of the night as veteran Clay Guida takes on undefeated Mark Madsen. Guida is 1-2 in his last three but beat Michael Johnson last time out at UFC Vegas 18 and will take on the Olympic silver medalist Madsen who hasn’t fought since UFC 248 pre-COVID.
Both these guys are wrestle heavy fighters, but the Olympic level wrestler is obviously the better of the two when it comes to that section of a fight. Guida is aggressive and storms forward constantly, throwing good strikes with not much power that Madsen will have to try and avoid. One advantage that Guida has though is his cardio. Despite being 364 years old, Guida never tires and Madsen has shown some cardio problems in the past.
With that said though, Madsen is a good enough wrestler that in both of their plan A’s he should be able to win at least two rounds to earn a decision win. PICK – Mark O. Madsen via Decision
Jared Cannonier (13-5) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-7) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Cannonier is a powerhouse with incredible one-punch knockout power and some violent leg kicks to go with it, while Gastelum is a solid boxer with good wrestling and a powerful left hand of his own to go with a granite chin. Cannonier has got scary power though and is capable of ending any fight at any moment and Gastelum isn’t exactly the most evasive when it comes to punches.
Gastelum has the option of using his wrestling to win rounds but Cannonier’s takedown defence is pretty good at 185lbs. He’s never been knocked out in his career and I think he has the better skillset to win rounds, so I’m going for an upset in the main event and Gastelum to earn a decision win. PICK – Kelvin Gastelum via Decision
Whittaker actually turned that fight down following his win over Gasteulm, with scheduling conflicts making it too hard to turn around and get a proper camp in for the desired date.
Cannonier is currently ranked at number four in the division, while Gastelum is ranked at number nine. A win for either man puts them into contention for a title shot in the near future, while a loss could plummet them further away from a shot than ever before.
Till and Brunson’s fight looks likely to be the next man to get a shot after Whittaker, with Adesanya previously name-checking Till as a future opponent while Brunson has previously been beaten by the champion but is currently riding a four-fight win streak after beating Kevin Holland in March.
It was revealed recently that the UFC are potentially looking at making a return to London in August, and it seems like that could be headlined by the returning Darren Till as he will fight Derek Brunson on August 14th pending medical clearance.
Till was supposed to face off against Vettori himself last month to determine the number one contender for Adesanya’s title, but the Briton broke his collarbone in training a little over a week out from the fight and was forced to withdraw.
Cannonier himself hasn’t been in the cage since UFC 254 when he fought Whittaker, being nullified to a complete halt as he saw his three-fight winning streak come to an end in the co-main event.
It will no doubt be an absolute banger of a fight, with both men having genuine one-punch knockout power to rely on while Costa is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt too.
With Whittaker guaranteed the next title shot after Adesanya vs Vettori 2, these fights will go a long way to establishing the contender after that. The most impressive winner is likely to get the nod early next year, in a division that is shaping up beautifully with new contenders constantly emerging to fight the top dogs that are already established.
There is always the wildcard option of Kamaru Usman moving up to middleweight should Vettori or Whittaker be able to dethrone Adesanya, with the current welterweight champion admitting that a move up a weight-class could become an option should his fellow African no longer be the man holding the belt.
Joel Alvarez def Alexander Yavkolev via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:00)
Fight starts with Alvarez throwing lots of leg kicks to stop Yavkolev’s forward motion. Yavkolev finds a moment to change levels and shoot for a takedown and falls straight into a guillotine. Alvarez squeezing tight but Yakvolev not panicking and eventually pops his head out into full guard. He starts with ground and pound, targeting the body but Alvarez attacking from the bottom with elbows to the head. Yavkolev not looking to pass and Alvarez throws up an armbar out of nowhere. Yavkolev tries to fight it but Alvarez is too good and secures the tap. Huge win for the Spaniard.
Miranda Maverick def Liana Jojua via Knockout, Round 1 (5:00)
A good start to the fight for both fighters as they start throwing early. Jojua counters Maverick’s attempted entries with solid right hands to the jaw. Maverick adapts the entry and starts landing a lot of power shots with the southpaw stance. Jojua is coming forward again now but Maverick throws a huge slicing elbow with her left arm and cuts Jojua open bad. She keeps throwing power shots and busts Jojua up bad as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Maverick.
Between rounds the referee has checked in on Jojua and deemed that she in unable to continue fighting due to the cut! It’s all over! Huge win for Miranda Maverick!
Da Un Jung vs Sam Alvey – SPLIT DRAW (29-28 Alvey, 29-28 Jung, 28-28)
Slow start to this fight as Jung rushes to the centre to start but Alvey stays against the cage. Jung throwing lots of kicks and Alvey looking to counter with a big right hook but hitting air for the most part. Jung pressuring Alvey against the cage and throwing combinations down the middle, but Alvey throws a big left counter hook that wobbles Jung! Jung clinches up and recovers then breaks with a big elbow. Looks like an accidental eye poke by Jung but the referee doesn’t see it and Jung lands a big combo straight to the chin of Alvey. 10-9 Alvey but it’s a close round.
Another good round that follows the pattern of the first. Jung keeping Alvey pressed against the cage and firing off shots but Alvey is replying with heavy shots of his own. Alvey throwing nice leg kicks too to try and slow down the movement. Jung not throwing enough shots to trouble him and the fight is getting away from him at the moment. 20-18 Alvey.
What a start to the round! The two come together much like in previous rounds but then as Alvey moves in to throw, Jung lands a huge right elbow that drops him! He lands a big shot on the ground too on the follow up but Alvey gets back to his feet. Jung takes his back and throws some big shots but Alvey breaks and then lands a big uppercut of his own. Jung looks hurt as Alvey starts swinging, then Jung throws another massive elbow that connects again! Alvey is wobbling but the two fighters clinch up as Jung looks for a takedown. A minute to go, Jung is looking for a takedown to get a finish but Alvey defending well. Jung breaks from the clinch with another massive elbow and Alvey is battling to survive as the round comes to an end. 29-28 Alvey for me but a great fight.
Shavkat Rakhmonov def Alex Oliveira via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (4:40)
Competitive start to the round as ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira comes out and lands a big right hand right off the bat. Both fighters exchange leg kicks and jabs before Rakhmonov lands a big body shot with the knee that backs Oliviera up. A barrage of strikes and knees look like they’re hurting Oliveira but then ‘Cowboy’ throws a massive check-left hook which forces a clinch. The remainder of the round looks like it will play out against the cage but out of nowhere Rakhmonov grabs the neck and sinks in a guillotine to force the tap out! Huge debut win for Rakhmonov!
A very fast paced start to the round as both men look to establish some dominance early on. Wood throwing lots of leg kicks and jabs while Kenney is replying with a mixture of kicks and big hooks. Both guys trading fast shots and slipping out of the way too, but Kenney is landing the bigger shots as this round goes on. Kenney is landing bombs with his left hand but Wood showing he has a chin as we enter the final minute of the round. Super fun round, Kenney edges it. 10-9.
Second round and Kenney comes out more aggressive and looks a bit fresher, landing more shots as he comes forward once again. Wood is throwing more leg kicks and that is troubling Kenney’s movement, but he is still landing his left hand often. Kenney is now looking more tired than Wood, who continues to throw kicks and follow them up with a jab, left hook. Kenney starting to try and work the body, but Wood is taking it well and throwing leg kicks still. Kenney goes for a takedown but Wood defends very easily before Kenney lands a huge left hand that snaps his head back! Kenney clinches and throws a knee but Wood breaks away and lands a nice one-two. Kenney is tiring but still landing the left hand. 19-19 for me going into the final round.
Final round and Wood comes out fresher, throwing leg kicks once again. Kenney is throwing a right jab, left straight combo that is landing flush but Wood is doing well to counter with his own right hand and more leg kicks. Kenney changes levels and shoots for a takedown and ends up against the cage taking Wood’s back. Wood defending well to try not to end up on the ground but Kenney is winning this round simply through position. Wood tries to explode out but Kenney holds on, and they end up back in the same position. Wood defends brilliantly and they break with a little over 90 seconds to go. Wood throws a big elbow on the break and follows it up with a barrage of punches, but Kenney clinches and trips Wood to no avail. Another takedown attempt but Wood sprawls out and avoids superbly, then fires in another kick. Big right hand by Wood followed by a left hook stumbles Casey and the round ends with the two slugging it out. What a fight. 29-28 Wood for me.
Tai Tuivasa def Stefan Struve via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)
Slow start to this one as Tuivasa looks to get close enough to land his heavy shots but Struve tries to keep the distance. Tuivasa moves in and Struve clinches up and uses those long limbs to control posture, as Tuivasa starts blasting body shots and trying to break away. Tuivasa does break away and then lands a nice short elbow on the break that wobbles Struve but he stays standing. Lots of leg kicks from Tuivasa now too have Struve shaking on his feet. Struve tries to clinch again but Tuivasa throws him to the ground and starts throwing bombs! He drops Struve and then throws more shots and the referee waves it off with a second to go! What a win Tai Tuivasa!
Magomed Ankalaev def Ion Cutelaba via Knockout, Round 1 (4:19)
Much slower start to this fight than their original bout, as time elapses past the previous duration with barely a strike thrown. Ankalaev having the better of all the striking exchanges in this round as he throws a straight left beautifully down the pipe but Cutelaba is stepping forward well, although he’s following Ankalaev instead of cutting him off. Cutelaba tries to spin but Ankalaev throws a straight left that drops him but he recovers. Cutelaba throws a big strike that Ankalaev counters with a right hook, left straight that knocks Cutelaba down! He follows up with huge ground and pound and knocks Cutelaba unconscious! What a knockout!
A competitive opening round as Murphy takes the centre of the octagon and forces Shakirova against the cage. The entire round is spent circling the cage with Shakirova too far away to land any strikes, so Murphy is reading everything and landing plenty. Shakirova shoots for a takedown and gets it but Murphy gets straight back to her feet and the pattern continues. Shakirova shoots in again but Murphy fights it really well and lands some nice elbows against the cage that forces Shakirova to break away and abandon the attempt. Slow round but interesting. 10-9 Murphy for me.
A slightly quicker start as Murphy steps forward more aggressively with combinations. Shakirova still moving and bouncing around avoiding big damage but not really throwing anything herself. A clinch against the cage allows Murphy to show her physical advantage and she gets the takedown and ends up in guard, throwing elbows. Shakirova attempts to hip escape but Murphy transitions to the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke. It’s tight and Shakirova fights it but it’s too much and she taps out. Big, impressive win for Lauren Murphy!
Phil Hawes def Jacob Malkoun via Knockout, Round 1 (0:18)
Hawes comes across the octagon, backs Malkoun up against the cage and throws a HUGE right hand that drops Malkoun. Two follow up right hands knock Malkoun unconscious and that’s the end of that. Goodnight.
Alexander Volkov def Walt Harris via Knockout, Round 2 (1:15)
A fun first round between these two heavyweights as Harris starts well, using his speed advantage. Lots of jabs and inside leg kicks but Volkov backs up and uses his range well to counter. Nice right hand from Harris is met with a low left kick by Volkov that stumbles him. Volkov throws a short right-hand followed by a left that stumbles Harris and hurts him! Volkov marches to the cage and starts throwing to finish. Harris covers up then throws two big looping hooks to defend himself as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Volkov.
Harris starts the second round with a fake takedown attempt and when Volkov defends he goes up top with a big punch. Volkov steps forward again and throws some more punches that force Harris to cover up. Front kick to the body by Volkov brings a shout of pain from Harris and Volkov moves in with the big follow up punches for the end of the fight! Big win for Volkov!
Robert Whittaker def Jared Cannonier via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fight starts with a massive leg kick from Cannonier that shakes Whittaker immediately. Whittaker bouncing in and out now but every time he throws a jab Cannonier launches the leg attack. A second kick drops Whittaker but he bounces back up immediately. Whittaker’s leg is bruising already but it is Whittaker landing more with the hands. Big counter striker from Whittaker lands and wobbles Cannonier but he comes back well. Very tentative end to the round with both men respecting the striking technique of the other. Head kick by Whittaker lands but Cannonier walks through it and the round ends. 10-9 Whittaker.
A tense round once again as Cannonier continues to attack the lead leg and Whittaker throwing jabs to score points. Whittaker throws a nice right overhand that connects and then goes back to his jab. The jab is landing enough to cause a good amount of swelling around Cannonier’s right eye. Cannonier throws another leg kick but so far it’s not effecting Whittaker’s movement much. First clinch of the fight and Whittaker secures a trip and takedown but Cannonier uses the cage to bounce immediately and escape. Straight right from Whittaker down the middle lands flush as the second round comes to an end. 20-18 Whittaker.
Final round and once again Whittaker using his jab to control the distance. Nice one-two lands nicely by Whittaker as Cannonier misses with a wild right hand. Whittaker lands a one-two and follows it with a head-kick that drops Cannonier! Whittaker charges across the octagon looking for the finish and lands huge ground and pound but Cannonier survives. Whittaker moves into full guard on the ground but Cannonier explodes out and gets back to the feet. Final 30 seconds and Cannonier lands a big jab that wobbles Whittaker! He goes for the finish but Whittaker has enough about him to change levels and clinch until the buzzer. 30-27 Whittaker, what a performance!
Super first round for the champion Khabib. The fight started slowly with both fighters feeling each other out but then Khabib turned it up a level and started stalking him around the cage. Gaethje’s leg kicks causing plenty of damage but Khabib walking through them and landing his jab. Flying knee lands for Khabib too. Gaethje lands a big left hook but Khabib eats it and keeps moving. Big takedown landed by Khabib as we enter the final minute and he passes into full mount very quickly. He attempts to transition into an armbar but time goes out on him. 10-9 Khabib.
Second round starts and Gaethje lands a big leg kick that looks like it hurts Khabib again. He continues to march forwards though and lands one-twos and jabs. A double leg attempt sees him end up on the back of Gaethje and then he instantly transitions into full mount. Khabib locks in a triangle choke from mount, falls back and forces the tap out from Justin Gaethje who goes unconscious. What a performance. What a fighter. 29-0.
After a month-long stay on UFC Fight Island, the grand finale is upon us as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight championship against interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
A stacked card, with a six-fight main card, has been put together for the fans’ viewing pleasure and should be one of the best events we’ve seen since the pandemic started back in March.
With 12 fights scheduled to take place, I will break down each fight and give my prediction as to the winner, method of victory and round while giving my analysis on both fighters too.
Last weekend I got a very respectable 8/11 correct predictions with three perfect picks, so lets see if I can better that on this 12 fight card. I’ve already predicted the prelims, which you can check out here.
Magomed Ankalaev (13-1) vs Ion Cutelaba (15-5 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
This fight has been booked three times before UFC 254 during the pandemic and fallen through every time. My prediction remains the same though. The first time these two fought each other was one of the strangest fights in UFC history. Cutelaba came out super aggressive and nearly came to blows in the octagon with Ankalaev before the fight even started, before employing a “drunken master” strategy where he acted hurt when getting hit to egg Ankalaev on. It backfired though when the referee stepped in insanely early and handed Ankalaev a TKO win. Realistically, Ankalaev is the better fighter. Both are strong wrestlers with powerful strikes but the Russian mixes his strikes up better with kicks too and his defence is much better. Cutelaba’s best chance is to hang in there until Ankalaev gets tired, or he lands a big punch. PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 1
Lauren Murphy (13-4) vs Liliya Shakirova (8-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
‘Lucky’ Lauren Murphy steps into the octagon on the back of a three fight win streak when she takes on short-notice step in Liliya Shakirova making her UFC debut. Shakirova has also won three in a row coming into this fight, with a knockout win in her last bout over a year ago. Murphy is one of the pioneers of women’s MMA and at 37 year old, she was due to take on Cynthia Calvillo in a title eliminator in the flyweight division. Calvillo is out but Murphy wants to fight and she should be able to win this pretty comfortably. Shakirova is no pushover. She throws great front kicks and spinning kicks and has good striking but she will have a reach disadvantage and Murphy is just so experienced and in arguably the best moment of her career that she should see this one through. PICK – Lauren Murphy via Unanimous Decision
Phil Hawes (8-2) vs Jacob Malkoun (4-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
After a stunning debut victory on Dana White’s Contender Series, Phil Hawes re-enters the octagon just 6 weeks later to take on UFC debutant Jacob Malkoun. Malkoun is a grappler who trains with Robert Whittaker in Australia who is undefeated with two knockouts from four career wins. Hawes has won his last four in a row via first round stoppage and I’d be surprised if he didn’t make it five in this one. His leg kicks are fantastic and he has real one punch power and hand speed. Against someone as green as Malkoun who’s strengths lie elsewhere, it should be a short night. PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 1
Alexander Volkov (31-8) vs Walt Harris (13-8 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The heavyweights make their mark on this card as two big men square off in this one. Volkov’s last fight saw him defeated by Curtis Blaydes in their main event back in June, while Walt Harris got dominated and knocked out in an emotionally charged performance against Alistair Overeem in May. Both men are power strikers with genuine knockout power, but Volkov for me is comfortably the more well rounded mixed martial artist. All of Harris’ wins have come by knockout, with 11 of them coming in the first round. If Volkov can withstand the initial burst that Harris will come out with, I expect that he will control the fight using his length and clinch to come away with a convincing decision win. PICK – Alexander Volkov via Unanimous Decision
Robert Whittaker (21-5) vs Jared Cannonier (13-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
I’ve kind of gone over this fight already earlier this week, when I explained why I’m all in on Robert Whittaker to beat Jared Cannonier, but I’ll do it again here in a snappier way. Whittaker is one of the best middleweights of all-time and despite his chin showing him up on occasion in recent fights, he’s lost just once in his last 12 and that was to lose the title to Israel Adesanya. His level of technical kickboxing is among the best ever in the UFC and his leg kicks and explosiveness have seen him beat some of the best the company has to offer, including Darren Till last time out. Cannonier is on a streak right now that has seen him win three in a row all by knockout and he absolutely has the power to put Whittaker away. He has to hit him cleanly first though and while Whittaker has been dropped in each of his last four fights, only Adesanya was able to finish him. He is durable, explosive, fast and powerful himself. Cannonier, for me, is a wrecking machine but when it comes to technical aspects he is a level below ‘The Reaper’ and should the Aussie mix in his takedowns too he should win this fight pretty comfortably. Cannonier absolutely has the knockout power but Whittaker avoids it for the most part and takes a one-sided decision win. PICK – Robert Whittaker via Unanimous Decision
Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) vs Justin Gaethje (22-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The biggest fight of 2020 by a country mile as the undisputed lightweight champion takes on the interim lightweight champion looking to unify the belts once again. Khabib Nurmagomedov is 28-0 having destroyed the entire lightweight division. He has arguably never lost a round in his UFC career and has started to search for finishes even more aggressively than he used to. Gaethje is a tank who has powered through the UFC since entering as an undefeated fighter. He dismantled Michael Johnson in his debut before incredible performances against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier ended in knockout defeats. He bounced back from that with first round knockout wins over Edson Barboza, James Vick and Donald Cerrone before destroying the divisions boogeyman Tony Ferguson over five rounds for a TKO win. While he’s never shown it in his MMA career, Gaethje is a world class wrestler and will be the toughest challenge Khabib has ever faced in the cage. Khabib has almost been over-looking Gaethje during the build-up to this bout, constantly talking up a potential bout with Georges St-Pierre to move to 30-0. Despite that, it’s so hard to bet against him. He’s so dominant, so good and so consistent. He only needs one takedown per round to keep the fight there because his top control is so good and I can’t see how anyone stops him getting it. I think Khabib does exactly what he said he would; takes him down, tires him out chokes him out in the later rounds. PICK – Khabib Nurmagomedov via Submission, Round 4