Tag Archives: Michael Chandler

UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje – Main card predictions

The UFC heads to Arizona for a huge pay-per-view card this weekend headlined by two massive title fights in the lightweight and strawweight divisions.

The main event will see Charles Oliveira defend his 155-pound title for the second time against Justin Gaethje, who looks to earn the belt at the second time of asking.

In the co-main event we’ll see Rose Namajunas defend her 115-pound title for the second time of her second stint as champion when she takes on Carla Esparza, reigniting a rivalry years in the making from the inaugural title fight in the division.

We’ll also see Michael Chandler fight against Tony Ferguson in a huge lightweight fight, as well as ‘Shogun’ Rua, Donald Cerrone, Randy Brown, Khaos Williams, Danny Roberts and more.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 53 we had a poor night with our picks, going 5/11 with four perfect picks. That moves us up to 613/951 (64.46%) with 259 perfect picks (42.25%).

We’ll look to improve on that here with this massive 15-fight card, and after starting with the early prelims then moving on to the rest of the prelims here, we finish up with our main card picks now.


Donald Cerrone (36-16) vs Joe Lauzon (28-16) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A retirement (?) fight opens up the main card between two legends of the UFC. Cerrone is winless in his last six fights with five losses and a draw (overturned to a no contest), with a first-round knockout defeat to Alex Morono at UFC Vegas 26 most recently. Lauzon on the other hand has lost three of his last four, with a win over Jonathan Pearce most recently via knockout way back in 2019.

Both of these fighters are super well-rounded with crisp striking and a solid ground game too. Cerrone looks to use his kickboxing skills while on the mat his jiu-jitsu is always capable of helping him out of a hole, while Lauzon is a brawler who comes forward and looks to land big strikes or force mistakes to latch on to submissions.

This is interesting because stylistically they match up great but their approach is very different. Cerrone is a notoriously slow starter while Lauzon tends to explode early and blitz his opponents, which could help him earn a quick win here. But skill for skill, I do think Cerrone has him here. He’s been more active in the cage and he is the bigger man naturally so I think he claims a decision win in an all-out war.
PICK – Donald Cerrone via Decision

Mauricio Rua (27-12-1) vs Ovince Saint Preux (25-16) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

A light heavyweight fight that really has no business being on the main card between a legend and a legend killer. ‘Shogun’ got well beaten in his last fight back at UFC 255 when he tapped out to strikes against Paul Craig, while OSP has suffered back-to-back knockout defeats against Jamahal Hill at UFC Vegas 16 and then Tanner Boser and UFC Vegas 30.

These two fought way back in 2014 with OSP earning a knockout win in just 34 seconds. ‘Shogun’ is a talented striker with powerful punches, excellent kicks and decent grappling skills when the fight hits the ground. OSP is a rangy striker with a beautiful left hook counter, while his ground game has seen him pick up an excellent eight wins via submission including his patented ‘Saint Preux choke’.

If the weight cut goes well, Saint Preux wins this fight. It’s really that simple. He has the range and style to keep Shogun away in a striking battle, has the power to knock him out and if he gets the fight down to the ground he has the qualities to control him and even get a submission. This should be a pretty straightforward fight for OSP to claim a win.
PICK – Ovince Saint Preux via Decision

Michael Chandler (22-7) vs Tony Ferguson (26-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Absolute banger in the lightweight division between two of the top seven ranked fighters, both coming in on losing streaks. Chandler made his debut with a first-round KO against Dan Hooker at UFC 257, before suffering a KO loss to Charles Oliveira for the title at UFC 262 and then a fight of the night loss to Justin Gaethje at UFC 268 in November. Ferguson saw a 12-fight win streak snapped by Gaethje back at UFC 249 in a one-sided five-rounder, before getting dominated by Oliveira at UFC 256 and then Beneil Dariush at UFC 262.

Chandler is a gladiator who walks his opponents down and swings huge hooks to the head, setting them up with jabs to the body and threatening with his excellent wrestling skills. Ferguson is a wild fighter, with incredible cardio ability, amazing jiu-jitsu skills and great power to go with an iron chin. But he has looked a shadow of himself in recent fights and his decline looks set to continue here. Against both Oliveira and Dariush they were able to nullify him entirely with wrestling and keep him on his back, something Chandler is more than capable of doing.

Ferguson will want the fight standing and will want to encourage a war with Chandler, who has proven to be chinny in the past and reckless when he gets carried away. But the blueprint to beat Ferguson is there and his tank seems to be emptying after being unbelievable in his prime. Chandler clips Ferguson in a big exchange, takes him down and dominates for 15 minutes for a huge win.
PICK – Michael Chandler via Decision



Rose Namajunas (12-4) vs Carla Esparza (19-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

Huge title fight between the two women who competed against each other in the first ever strawweight title fight in UFC history. Namajunas won the belt with a first-round KO win over Weili Zhang at UFC 261, before winning a close fight in a rematch at UFC 268. Esparza has won five in a row coming into this bout with decisions over Virna Jandiroba, Alexa Grasso, Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez (UFC Fight Island 3) and Yan Xiaonan most recently via knockout.

‘Thug Rose’ is a very well rounded fighter. She has got amazing striking, with great speed and power in her kicks and punches while her footwork and range management is near perfect. She’s also very good on the ground, with five submission wins across her career. Esparza is a terrific wrestler, who looks to use those skills to get the fight to the ground and work her own terrific submission game, as she did against Namajunas in their first fight where she won via rear-naked choke.

This fight is eight years later though and Namajunas is so much better than she was back then. She has completely evolved as a fighter to go up several levels and while Esparza is still great, it feels like Namajunas has to make a mistake to lose this fight. Add to that her record in rematches (4-0), I can’t look past Namajunas landing a hard kick at some point and getting another finish in a title fight to retain the belt.
PICK – Rose Namajunas via Knockout, Round 3

Charles Oliveira (32-8) vs Justin Gaethje (22-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

The best fight of the night on a wild card headlines the event for the lightweight championship. Oliveira is on a ten-fight win streak, with a submission win over Dustin Poirier most recently at UFC 269 in December. Gaethje bounced back from defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 with a huge win over Michael Chandler in his most recent fight.

Oliveira is one of the most complete fighters in the UFC. He has terrific Muay Thai striking skills with vicious knees and elbows, as well as crisp boxing and a snappy front kick to the body to go with the best submission skills in UFC history and amazing cardio. Gaethje is, like Chandler, a gladiator who just walks his opponents down and looks to take their head off with crazy power punches. He also has chopping low kicks, great wrestling defensively and an insane will to just never quit as well as amazing cardio of his own. This is, quite simply, going to be amazing.

In a straight up fire fight on the feet, Gaethje has the edge. He’s the more powerful fighter and he has got excellent head movement to go with it. But the grappling of Oliveira is an incredible game changer in this fight. The ease with which Khabib was able to get Gaethje down and advance positions to get a submission was scary, so Oliveira will feel and know he can do the same if he gets the chance to grapple. There is always a chance that Gaethje lands a nasty uppercut or a violent hook that turns the lights out, but with how good Oliveira has looked recently I expect him to be able to work his grappling patiently and eventually take the neck of Gaethje to leave him sleeping just like Khabib did before him.
PICK – Charles Oliveira via Submission, Round 3

Major UFC fights announced for coming months

The UFC have been busy planning some big fights for the coming weeks and months.

Title fights, fight night main events, contender bouts, rumoured scraps in the pipeline and more have all been mentioned over recent weeks so here’s the big round-up for everyone that needs it.

Starting with April’s pay-per-view opener, we’ll list off all the fights that have been officially announced or rumoured for cards going through the summer so far.



UFC 273 takes place on April 9th after a two-week break in action with a big title-fight double header.

Already announced is the headliner between Alexander Volkanovski v Korean Zombie for the featherweight title, while Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan will finally meet in their rematch for the bantamweight title.

But we will also see the return of Khamzat Chimaev as he takes on Gilbert Burns in a bout that UFC president Dana White has admitted will serve as a title eliminator bout in the welterweight division.

The following week will see another welterweight clash serve as the main event in the Apex, as Vicente Luque takes on Belal Muhammad at UFC Vegas 51.

Down at 135-pounds at the end of April we’ll see a top contender bout between Rob Font and Marlon Vera battle in the main event of UFC Vegas 53, before UFC 274 takes place from Phoenix, Arizona.

Originally scheduled to be in Brazil, we’ll now get the 155-pound title fight between Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje in the headline slot in Gaethje’s home state, while Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza will meet in their long-anticipated rematch for the strawweight title in the co-main event.

We’ll also see an amazing lightweight bout between Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson on that card, as well as a stack of other amazing fights.

The following week the UFC is targeting the rescheduled main event from the UFC Columbus card in the light heavyweight division between Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic, as well as a fun fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Amanda Ribas.

Then at UFC 275 the delayed light heavyweight title fight between Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka will take place, while ‘Bullet’ Valentina Shevchenko will fight Taila Santos for the flyweight championship in the co-main event.

We’ll also see the return of Robert Whittaker at that event, as he is scheduled to take on Marvin Vettori in the middleweight division to get back on the title trail once again.

Dana White has also confirmed that the organisation are expecting welterweight champion Kamaru Usman to return in the summer, and he has promised the next title fight to British fighter Leon Edwards with the target aimed for international fight week in July.

It’s a great year coming up, so keep your eyes on Tap Ins & Tap Outs for coverage of all these events coming up.

Tap Ins & Tap Outs Awards 2021 – Fight of the Year

An amazing year of fights has come to an end and that means it’s time to hand out the annual awards for the fight game.

After 509 fights in 2021 after the global pandemic was worked around, the UFC produced some amazing fights with incredible moments throughout the year. But which were the best? Who was the best?

For our second annual end of year awards, we’ll be handing out the honours for each of the following categories:



FIGHT OF THE YEAR

3. Petr Yan vs Cory Sandhagen (UFC 267, October 2021)

A fight that was thrown together at short notice for the interim bantamweight championship back in October served up a thriller in Abu Dhabi.

Yan and Sandhagen went head-to-head in a bout that saw each man have their moments, but ultimately it was the Russian fighter who saw gold wrapped around his waist at the end of a 25-minute war of pure technical striking ability.

There was a mix of wrestling in there too as both contenders showed every facet of mixed martial arts is important. It was a really excellent fight and while it probably lacked moments where the fight looked like it was going to end, it was a great example of a world class MMA fight.


2. Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez (UFC Vegas 42, November 2021)

A main event bout that lived up to it’s billing between two of the very best featherweights in the world today.

Max Holloway took this fight after his title shot got delayed, and Rodriguez was making his first appearance in almost two years but it was one of the most exciting fights of the year.

Both fighters consistently threw fire at each other, with both taking plenty of damage and producing moments that would have ended the fight against a lesser opponent. On this occasion Holloway was forced to use his superior wrestling in the latter rounds to secure a victory, before both men took a trip to the hospital together.

A fight that had you on the edge of your seat for the full 25-minutes, it won’t be forgotten any time soon.


1. Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler (UFC 268, November 2021)

A lightweight banger that somehow exceeded expectations of the fans despite many calling it the fight of the year before it even happened.

Both men knew that a win would likely see them granted the next title shot at 155lbs and both men promised fireworks – and boy did they deliver.

It was a fight that saw both guys swinging for the fences from the opening minute and connecting, but their chin and willpower held out for a full 15-minutes for Gaethje to go the distance. It was a fight that you can watch any time for entertainment, even knowing the result.

The fight of the year by quite a distance, but arguably one of the best fights of all-time too.

Conor McGregor agrees to fight Michael Chandler in 2022

Lightweight may have it’s next big match up for the new year after Conor McGregor verbally agreed to fight Michael Chandler in 2022.

Chandler was involved in the fight of the night, and one of the best fights of the year, at UFC 268 as he dropped a unanimous decision to Justin Gaethje to make it back-to-back defeats in the UFC.

McGregor is currently recovering from his broken leg suffered at UFC 264 as he fell to Dustin Poirier for a second time in a row at the event.



But despite the defeat on Saturday night, it seems that Chandler already has his eye on his next bout and called out McGregor on Twitter in a respectful manner on Monday.

Chandler posted a tweet that simply said ‘2022’, with a photoshopped image of himself and McGregor facing off.

With the internet buzzing about the potential match-up, McGregor logged in to verbally accept the bout. He said in a response, “I’m down at some stage for sure. Great fight the other night Mike, congrats!”

McGregor and Chandler both fought on the UFC 257 card in January, with Chandler earning a debut win against Dan Hooker via first-round knockout while ‘Notorious’ was stopped by Poirier in the second round.

The Irishman has made it clear that he wants to fight Poirier again once he is medically cleared from his freak injury, although the Louisiana native could be the lightweight champion at that point as he challenges for the belt at UFC 269 next month.

That would make an immediate rematch difficult for the UFC to make, with the likes of Justin Gaethje and Islam Makhachev both very deserving of a title fight in their own right.

It would allow the UFC to enter McGregor back into contention, with a win over Chandler likely allowing him to leapfrog some big names to set up the fight because of his status.

But after back-to-back defeats for both guys, this is a fight that would make a lot of sense for both and would absolutely get the fans excited.

Booking the UFC lightweight division after UFC 268

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.

It means a nine-fight win streak and a move up to fourth in the UFC rankings, with many believing he is now the obvious next contender for the title against the winner of UFC 269’s main event between the champion Oliveira and Dustin Poirier.

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.


Winner of Oliveira/Poirier vs Islam Makhachev

This shouldn’t be controversial at all, but Makhachev absolutely deserves the next title shot.

A nine-fight win streak, beating excellent guys along the way and now starting to add finishes to his resumรฉ 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

Beneil Dariush reacts after defeating Tony Ferguson in their lightweight bout during the UFC 262 event at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston,...

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

Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil and Conor McGregor of Ireland face off during the UFC 197 on-sale press conference event inside MGM Grand Hotel & Casino...

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.

UFC 268: Usman vs Covington 2 – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Ode Osbourne def CJ Vergara via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Fun start to this fight with both guys staying in range and feinting a lot before exploding into strikes. Osbourne lands a nice left hand and then attempts a jump knee that just misses. Another left from Osbourne but Vergara trying to flick his jab and land hooks. Check-hook from Vergara lands but Osbourne rolls with it and replies with a strong right straight. Nice right hand from Vergara but neither fighter landing particularly flush yet. Osbourne goes for a takedown but Vergara gets himself to the cage and is able to defend it as we enter the final minute of the round. More close exchanges from both fighters before a strong right hand and head kick lands from Vergara right at the end of the round. 10-9 Osbourne for me, but close.

Vergara taking charge of the second round as we begin, stepping forward and throwing strong strikes on the inside. Osbourne starting to throw kicks to try and get some distance back between the two of them, but Vergara is doing well. Nice hook from Osbourne lands but Vergara replies with a left hand of his own. Osbourne growing into the round, landing his left hand more and busting up the nose of Vergara. Osbourne changes levels in the middle of an exchange to go for a takedown but Vergara defends really well. Osbourne continuing to throw combinations to the head and Vergara is slowing down. Front kick to the head just misses from Vergara, then he attempts another and Osbourne catches it and takes him down to end the round. 20-18 Osbourne.

Vergara trying to empty the tank in the final round, possibly feeling as though he’s behind, and Osbourne is starting to counter more and more. Two big left hands land and he drops Vergara, but he gets back up immediately and continues to step forward applying pressure. Osbourne goes for some takedown attempts but Vergara denies them and continues to walk him down. Vergara and Osbourne clinch in the middle and then Vergara trips him and ends up on top in Osbourne’s full guard. Osbourne is visibly tiring but is trying to tie him up to stall, but Vergara lands a big elbow from the top. More ground and pound attempts from Vergara but Osbourne is shifting his hips and looking to set up submissions. Vergara lands three big elbows from the top as we enter the final minute and now Osbourne is trying to get up to his feet. Vergara is able to pin him down and lands some more ground strikes but the round comes to an end and Osbourne should claim the tight decision win. 29-28 Osbourne for me.

Melsik Baghdasaryan def Bruno Souza via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Slow start to the fight with both guys feeling each other out early on, as Melsik lands two nice low kicks inside the first minute. Baghdasaryan starting to walk Souza down against the cage, but not much action so far. Souza goes for a jump knee but misses, before Baghdasaryan lands a nice left hand. Souza tries to create some distance with a few body kicks but Baghdasaryan showing real disdain for his power and walking him down with his hands really low. Souza shoots for a takedown after eating another hard low kick, but Baghdasaryan denies it excellently and they separate. Spinning kick from Baghdasaryan causes Souza to lose balance before a hard body kick, but Souza is struggling with speed and distance. 10-9 Melsik.

Souza opens up with a right hand but Baghdasaryan stepping forward again and just forcing him to fight on the back foot. Another hard low kick from Melsik, and another. Souza doing a lot of moving but not much else and Melsik currently seems content just to outwork him for a win. Melsik lands a nice overhand left but the two clinch and then separate. Another left hand lands and Souza lands two nice jabs, before Melsik evades and lands a beautiful uppercut-left hook combo. End of the second round, 20-18 Baghdasaryan.

Final round and Souza trying to come forward to claim the initiative. Baghdasaryan throwing low kicks and forcing Souza to switch stances a lot and buckling the leg. Lots of hesitation from both guys so far, before a strong knee from Souza. A longer exchange sees Baghdasaryan land a nice left hand. Entering the final minute and Souza goes for a takedown but once again Baghdasaryan defends it really well and kicks him away. More movement from both guys before a big right hand lands from Baghdasaryan and a final exchange before the bell. 30-27 Baghdasaryan for me. Not a great fight.

Dustin Jacoby def John Allan via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Very intriguing start to this fight with both guys standing right in front of each other and trading blows. Jacoby using his jab well and landing some low kicks, but Allan is throwing them too and landing them much heavier. Battle of the low kicks so far but Jacoby’s hands flowing much better and landing more fluently. Strong body kick from Allan followed up by a jab, but Jacoby is growing in confidence. Hard strikes from both again, but Jacoby has a slight speed advantage it seems. Head kick attempt from Jacoby just misses, then he follows up with a hard low kick again. Hard right hand from Jacoby right on the buzzer ends an entertaining round. 10-9 Jacoby.

Both guys throwing out hard low kicks once again in this second round. Jacoby’s jab starting to get through the guard of Allan, but neither guy going anywhere currently. Nice one-two from Jacoby but Allan steps forward and lands a nice left hand. Allan starting to apply more pressure and Jacoby is slowing down, but he’s still landing his jabs well. Allan getting more physical as he walks forward but Jacoby counters with a good one-two and a right hand down the middle. Final minute of the round and Allan pouring the pressure on, which causes a second accidental eye poke of the fight by Jacoby. The referee decides it’s accidental and the fight resumes without further punishment for 30 seconds before it ends. 20-18.

Final round and Jacoby is landing his leg kicks well and throwing the jab out there once again. Allan on the front foot trying to pressure Jacoby, but his counters are quick and his movement still good enough to evade. Nice right hand lands from Allan knocks his mouthpiece out but Jacoby not hurt by it. Nice right hand lands down the pipe from Jacoby as we approach the half-way point of the final round. Allan continuing with the hard pressure to force Jacoby backwards but not throwing enough output right now. Head kick from Jacoby lands but is partially blocked as we enter the final minute. Nice body shot from Allan but Jacoby responds with three or four strikes to earn marks with the judges and the round comes to an end. 30-27 Jacoby.

Chris Barnett def Gian Villante via Knockout, Round 2 (3:22)

Some front kicks to the body attempted early on by Villante but they all miss, before Barnett lands a low kick. More low kicks from Barnett land but very little output from these two guys so far. Villante lands a nice body kick finally, before Barnett lands a nice body kick of his own and then they trade low kicks. Left hook lands for Villante but everything is singular right now from both guys. Villante looks for a head kick before Barnett counters with an uppercut and then blitzes forward with four strikes. Spin kick to the body by Barnett lands before the two fighters clinch up to end the round. 10-9 Barnett, but could be anything.

Another slow start to the round before Barnett throws a double spin kick that lands and gets a reaction from the crowd. Barnett throws a nice overhand right that lands, but Villante looks slow and goes for a head kick that misses. Barnett throws a wheel kick to the head and drops Villante! He follows him up with some heavy ground and pound strikes and Villante is just covering up and the referee stops it! Huge win for Barnett!

PRELIMS

Ian Garry def Jordan Williams via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)

Garry goes in for a low kick and Williams counters with a fierce one-two that wobbles him! Garry recovers quickly and goes for another leg kick, but Williams lands another big one-two that snaps his head back. Williams staying patient though and looking to counter more. Nice body kick from Garry lands as he circles on the outside. Williams goes in for a big shot but over-reaches and misses then grabs a leg to engage a takedown against the cage. Garry defends it well and then switches the position briefly to gain some control as they battle in the clinch. Nice knee from Garry in the clinch to the head before a hard right hand lands on the break. Hard left high kick lands from Garry, but Williams drops his hands and continues to walk forward. Garry looking to counter and just about avoiding big strikes. Williams goes in for a big left hand that he slips and then lands a huge right straight that puts Williams out!! He lands a follow up and walks off before the referee waves it off! What a knockout! Wow!

Nassourdine Imavov def Edmen Shahbazyan via Knockout, Round 2 (4:42)

Lots of feinting early on between these two, as Shahbazyan lands a few hard low kicks. Imavov pushes Shahbazyan against the cage with pressure and lands a hard right hand, but Shahbazyan throws another hard low kick. Shahbazyan landing hard low kicks and he buckles Imavov’s leg with one, but Imavov responds with a hard right hand too. Clinch against the cage and Shahbazyan goes for a takedown and eventually gets it, but Imavov sinks in a guillotine! Shahbazyan is able to escape and gets back to the top position before they get back to the feet. Clinch against the cage and Imavov lands a big elbow before Shahbazyan switches the position and sees the round out. 10-9 Shahbazyan for me.

Another hard low kick by Shahbazyan and he’s getting reactions from Imavov for it now. Nice body work from Shahbazyan but Imavov looking to turn the pressure up a little in this second round, as they cinch up against the cage. Shahbazyan goes for a takedown again but Imavov looking for a standing guillotine and it looks really tight but Shahbazyan just about escapes! He drops down for another takedown and once again leaves his neck hanging out and Imavov takes it for a big submission but again Shahbazyan shows great heart to survive and escape! Imavov looks for a takedown and Shahbazyan takes his neck but he is able to switch sides and relieve the pressure. Shahbazyan is exhausted now and Imavov lands some huge elbows! He transitions on the ground into a crucifix position and lands some huge elbows until the referee calls an end to the fight! What a performance!

Chris Curtis def Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 1 (4:27)

Good start to the fight for Hawes as he steps forward and lands some powerful shots down the middle and some brilliant front kicks. Hawes keeping the pace high and throwing lots of combinations, ripping body kicks and hard right hands to the face. Curtis tries to fire back but Hawes is too quick and too powerful so far, just throwing lots of shots and constantly stepping forward. Hawes lands a nice overhand right and fakes a level change too to keep Curtis guessing. Hawes looks brilliant so far, but Curtis counters a right hand with a left hook to the body. Both guys throw at the same time and Curtis lands a brilliant left hand straight to the chin that wobbles Hawes!! He goes for the finish and lands a knee to the body, then they separate and Hawes just falls to the ground! The referee steps in and it’s all over! What a comeback win!!

Bobby Green def Al Iaquinta via Knockout, Round 1 (2:25)

Fast start to the fight from both guys with Iaquinta stepping forward and looking to box, but Green standing with his hands low and using his great shoulder roll defence. Nice right hand lands from Green as he moves away from Iaquinta and avoids more strikes. Iaquinta steps forward and Green lands a left jab with a straight right hand behind it that drops Iaquinta!! He stuffs a takedown attempt and then rains down ground and pound until the referee steps in! Huge win for Green!

Alex Pereira def Andreas Michailidis via Knockout, Round 2 (0:18)

Both guys starting on the feet with distance and looking to land low kicks. Pereira goes for a one-two but Michailidis ducks under it and shoots in for a takedown. Pereira looks to defend it well but Michailidis overpowers him and gets him down to the mat. He looks to take his back and get some shots in, but Pereira defends it really well and gets back to his feet. The referee separates them after a lack of action, but then Michailidis goes straight back in for the takedown and they remain in a clinch against the cage for the rest of the round. 10-9 Michailidis.

Pereira comes out early with a head kick attempt. Michailidis fakes a level change and Pereira comes up with a flying knee and puts him out!! He follows up with one shot and then the referee ends it! Wow!

MAIN CARD

Justin Gaethje def Michael Chandler via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Gaethje opens up with a low kick that just misses and then Chandler lands a nice left hand. Gaethje slips a right hand and counters with one of his own, then lands a leg kick that wobbles Chandler. Chandler lands a hard leg kick of his own and then they exchange. Chandler lands a huge right hand in the exchange and both men are trying to take the other’s head off. Hard low kicks being exchanged and then Chandler lands a big right hand but Gaethje eats it! Both men land a jab and then Gaethje lands a hard low kick. Huge left hook from Gaethje lands and then Chandler lands a flush one two! Gaethje is hurt and Chandler goes for a flying knee! Chandler goes for the kill and wobbles Gaethje, but he fires back and now Chandler is hurt! Big hooks from Gaethje and Chandler eats it! Gaethje lands some huge uppercuts and Chandler is hurt! Huge right hand from Gaethje again, Chandler is exhausted and shoots for a takedown but Gaethje stuffs it! What a round! I have no idea how to score that!

More of the same in the second as Gaethje looks to counter Chandler’s jab with a hard one-two. Chandler fighting behind his jab now but Gaethje is countering brilliantly. Big right hand from Gaethje and then an uppercut. Hard left hook from Gaethje and then a massive uppercut drops Chandler! He goes for the finish but Chandler grabs onto a single leg and just stalls him to try and recover. Gaethje finally gets back to his feet and starts teeing off on Chandler again. Big uppercut from Chandler but Gaethje eats it, then stuffs a takedown. Chandler kicks off the cage with a superman punch that lands flush, but Gaethje lands a hard leg kick and Chanlder is wobbled. Hard right hand again from Gaethje and then Chandler lands a hard right hand, but seems to poke Gaethje and the referee pauses it. Quick restart and then the end of the round. Gaethje round with the knockdown. Amazing fight.

Hard low kick early in the third from Gaethje again and Chandler is suffering with it. Gaethje’s right hand lands, but then Chandler lands one and has to eat a huge leg kick again. Chandler starts working to the body and then Gaethje lands a big left hook and a hard leg kick. Gaethje follows up with two huge hooks and then Chandler shoots in for a takedown and gets it, but Gaethje scrambles out and ends up on top landing ground and pound. Chandler egging Gaethje on and he’s getting absolutely smashed now. Gaethje throwing huge hooks and Chandler is literally walking through him like a terminator! This is insane! Final minute and both men are exhausted but it’s Gaethje coming forward and that is the end of the night! What an incredible fight. Absolutely amazing. Gaethje wins for me. Insane.

Shane Burgos def Billy Quarantillo via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Fast start to this one as Burgos starts popping his jab and landing some hard low kicks. Nice right hand from Burgos lands and Quarantillo starts to get a little wilder and just misses with a jump knee. Burgos lands a jab, low kick and then grabs a body lock to try and control Quarantillo. A few knees each in the exchange and both guys are landing huge shots now. Burgos slipping with a big right hand, but Quarantillo’s jab is doing damage and busting the nose of Burgos up. Lots of low kicks from Burgos but Quarantillo still coming forward. Both guys trading hooks and Burgos gets the better of it and then Quarantillo shoots in for a takedown. Well defended by Burgos and then they separate. Burgos lands a huge right hand that drops Quarantillo to one knee and then he smashes him while he’s down but he just eats the shot. More back and forth as the round ends. 10-9 Burgos for me.. just.

Huge right hand from Burgos to start the round but Quarantillo returns with a big overhand right of his own. He pressures forward and just misses with a spinning back fist, and then Burgos digs to the body and lands a hard right hand. Quarantillo throwing jabs relentlessly but Burgos slipping some and then lands a hard low kick that drops Quarantillo down again. Quarantillo looking to be physical in the clinch but Burgos holding his own and then lands a nice hook to the body. Clinch again and Quarantillo just seems a physically stronger guy and is having his way here. Burgos lands two big hooks and then a hard low kick as Quarantillo misses with a wild overhand right. Quarantillo goes for a takedown but it’s denied and then they exchange big strikes again. Hard low kick again from Burgos but Quarantillo lands a flush right hand. Burgos starts slamming his shots in and Quarantillo is hurt! Burgos slamming in low kicks and smashing him with right hooks but the buzzer goes! Unbelievable fight! 20-18 Burgos for me but it’s close.

Final round and Burgos wants the kill. He’s stepping forward and landing his right hand, with the low kicks absolutely taking their toll now on Quarantillo who’s struggling to stand. Burgos lands a hard right hand again but Quarantillo clinches up after some failed takedown attempts. Quarantillo looking for some haymakers but Burgos is slipping and countering with short shots and now winning the clinch exchanges against a one-legged Quarantillo. Quarantillo shoots in for a takedown but again Burgos defends it well. Quarantillo trips him but Burgos jumps back up immediately and they start trading strikes again. Burgos chops at the leg again but Quarantillo responds with a big uppercut and then they clinch again exchanging knees. Wild flurry from both men at the end but Burgos should take the W.

Marlon Vera def Frankie Edgar via Knockout, Round 3 (3:50)

Fast start from Edgar as he steps forward with a nice right hand and then a level change to attempt the takedown, but Vera stuffs it. Vera taking the centre and throws a hard body kick that Edgar catches, but he again denies the trip attempt. Edgar bouncing around a lot and Vera staying calm in the centre. Edgar shoots for the takedown scrambles his way to the top and starts looking for ground and pound in the centre of the cage. Edgar lands some short elbows and starts going to the body, but Vera is landing some heavy elbows from the bottom too. Vera defending well from the bottom, but Edgar controlling the position and then lands another big elbow. Big upkicks from Vera land and Edgar drops down to his knee and back into full guard to work the short elbows. Edgar ends the round on top and Vera looking for an upkick. 10-9 Edgar.

Hard low kick from Vera at the start of the second and then a great left hand lands as they exchange strikes. Edgar lands a nice right hand over the top as Vera fires back with a right cross. Edgar changes levels and gets the takedown, but Vera immediately throws hard elbows to the head and lands some upkicks from the bottom too. Edgar stacking him and moving to get into full guard and attack with ground and pound but Vera rolls through and gets back to his feet. Vera denies another takedown from Edgar but he’s starting to walk forward now and trying to cut the cage off. Hard knee from Vera up the middle grazes Edgar and then a big left hand behind it. Vera closing the distance and lands another knee that drops Edgar momentarily. Low kick from Edgar lands hard and then a big right hand lands on the chin of Vera. Vera lands a short elbow that wobbles Edgar and then goes for another big knee right at the end of the round. 19-19 for me!

Both guys a little more hesitant in this final round to start, knowing it’s a close fight. Vera is pushing forward a lot now and forcing Edgar backwards to close distance. Edgar goes for a takedown but Vera stuffs it and makes him eat a nice left uppercut. Hard low kick from Vera lands and then a hard front kick to the body again. Jab lands from Vera but Edgar lands a nice body shot in return. Vera closing distance and he lands a hard left hook. Edgar goes for the takedown and gets it but Vera gets back up to his feet quickly and continues the pressure. Vera throws a HUGE front kick to the face and Edgar is out!!! Wow!!! What a knockout win!

Rose Namajunas def Weili Zhang via Split Decision (48-47, 47-48, 49-46)

Three hard outside leg kicks land from Zhang early on in the opening round, with Namajunas taking the centre and feeling her opponent out. Zhang lands another low kick, before Namajunas throws a low kick of her own then blitzes forward with some nice strikes to the face. Namajunas stepping forward again and lands another low kick followed by a left hook, before Zhang shoots for a takedown and gets it. Namajunas grappling well and defending her position on her back, but Zhang using her physicality to get on top and land some good strikes. Rose sweeps and gets back to her feet really well. Zhang throwing haymakers but Namajunas quick enough to evade so far and lands a few low kicks for good measure. Weili slips and Namajunas throws a beautiful right hand clean as the round ends. Close, but I think it’s 10-9 Zhang.

Namajunas moving well early in this second round and she lands a nice one-two that ends with a low kick that gets a reaction from Zhang. Namajunas threatening with the high kick from the first fight, but Zhang lands a big combination. Namajunas responds with one of her own though and Zhang just misses with her own head kick. Namajunas lands a left hook as Zhang lands another hard leg kick. Another hard leg kick from Zhang, but Namajunas still moving very well. Zhang lands a big right hand that wobbles Namajunas, who responds with a big head kick! Namajunas goes for another head kick but Zhang catches it and takes her down to the mat. Namajunas lands a big upkick, but then Zhang replies with a big strike from the top position before they get back to the feet. Namajunas with an outside trip for a takedown of her own and she moves into full mount but the buzzer ends her chances of success. Another very close round. 19-19.

Third round and Namajunas feinting a lot and making Zhang miss with a wild hook. Both women trade low kicks and then go back to bouncing and feinting each other. Zhang misses big with a few hooks, but Namajunas trying to counter and just missing herself. Hard low kick from Namajunas and then she slips out of the way of a big right hand. Hard right hand from Namajunas again but Zhang responds with a big low kick and then a body kick. Big exchange and Namajunas lands a left hook and low kick combination that drops Zhang! She looks to finish but Zhang clinches up and recovers against the cage before they trade low kicks again. Overhand right from Zhang but Namajunas counters with a left hook, right hand. Zhang fires back with a huge left hook that lands flush, but Namajunas still there. Zhang goes for a takedown and gets it, now tries to transition to the back. Namajunas is able to defend until the buzzer, but that’s a Zhang round. 29-28.

Championship rounds and they’re going for it! Zhang looks for a hook and Namajunas lands a big right hand that stuns Zhang! Namajunas lands it twice more and then Zhang catches a kick and takes the fight to the mat, but Namajunas with upkicks get back up immediately. Namajunas goes for a right hand but Zhang shoots in and gets the back of Namajunas again. Namajunas staying calm though and defends it well, then sweeps and explodes to get top position. Decend ground and pound strikes from Namajunas on top and Zhang fighting to control her. Namajunas on top and lands a big left hand as the round comes to an end. 38-38 going into the final round for me!

Final round and Zhang going for the leg kicks once again. Zhang goes for a big strike but Namajunas slips it and then flies into a takedown with a big outside trip. Namajunas lands a big strike on the ground and is controlling from top position and Zhang looks very tired. Zhang looking for upkicks but Namajunas able to avoid damage and trying to move to side control now. Zhang gets it back to full guard and is throwing elbows from the bottom as well as upkicks now. Namajunas however staying calm and controlling position as we enter the final minute. Nice elbows from the bottom but then Namajunas stands, lands a leg kick to a downed Zhang and then a big left hand to go back into guard to see the round out on top. That should see her retain the belt! What a fight!

Kamaru Usman def Colby Covington via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x2, 49-46)

Early jab lands for Usman with both fighters far more cautious in the opening moments of this fight than their first. Usman pressuring forward and forcing Covington backwards, who just misses with a wild left hand. Covington goes for a takedown and Usman immediately rolls through it, takes the controlling position and then they get to the feet. Hard left hand lands for Covington but Usman eats it and looking to land his jab again. Usman steps in to strike but Covington moves and lands a good left hand. Usman shoots for the takedown as Covington looks to blitz, but Covington able to get back up immediately too. Covington throwing a straight left well, but Usman eating it and fires back with a right hand of his own. Nice left by Covington again as the round ends. Close one, 10-9 Covington.

Usman opens the round up with a nice left hook but Covington staying calm and fighting a slower pace than either usually fight at. Covington goes for a left hand and Usman clinches up, with boy guys trading body shots before they separate. Big body shot from Usman and Colby just misses with a left hand. Hard low kick from Covington but Usman responds with a body kick and a jab. Big right hand from Covington lands and then he changes levels for a takedown, but Usman defends it really well against the cage and muscles his way out of it. Usman by far the more aggressive so far and leading the fight. Usman lands a big left hook that drops Covington! Colby gets back up but Usman lands another hard left hand that drops him again. Covington grabbed on to a leg and survived 15 seconds until the bell. Mad. 19-19 for me, but Usman could be 20-18 up.

Round three and Usman taking the centre again and staying patient. Using the jab well again but then Covington lands a big one-two that lands clean. Usman pawing away with the jab as both guys fake takedown attempts. Covington lands a body kick but Usman just walking him down and lands a nice right hand. Covington lands a big left hand clean and then goes for a takedown but Usman defends it with ease and lands some ground strikes from the front headlock position. Big body kick from Usman and then a straight right hand. Both guys trading strikes and Usman lands a nice right hand before going back to his jab. Covington lands a few big left hands and then finally secures a late takedown with a trip and a few strikes before the buzzer. 29-28 Usman.

Championship rounds now and Usman seems to have lost a little focus. Covington landing his left hand well and clean. Nice jab from Covington before Usman throws a wild hook to the body. Covington lands a left hand and just misses with an uppercut. Covington lands the big left hand again and then follows up with a jab, right hand and left hook again! Usman stays calm though and responds with some big right hands of his own and this is becoming more like the first fight now. Usman lands a big right hand but Covington now taking the centre. Covington lands a big body kick and then three or four big left hands that have Usman wobbled. Covington goes for a takedown but Usman defends against the cage. Nice strikes from Covington and then a big left hand wobbles Usman right on the buzzer!! Wow! 38-38 going into the final round!

Final round and Usman looking to work the body, but Covington looking to land his left hand again. Usman lands a nice right hand before Covington lands two big lefts and Usman starts wobbling again! Covington shoots for a takedown and Usman stuffs it well, then lands a great jab once they’re back on the feet. Head kick from Usman lands but then Covington lands a nice left hand again. Covington goes for a head kick but Usman slips and then Covington goes for a takedown again. Usman defends and keeps it against the cage. Covington lands a big elbow as they break but Usman stepping forward in the final minute with his jab. Usman looks to evade a strike but gets a finger in the eye accidentally with 40 seconds left to pause the action. Head kick from Usman and they trade strikes until the final buzzer. What a fight. Who knows what the score is.

UFC 268: Usman vs Covington 2 – Main card predictions

An absolute banger of a card takes place from Madison Square Garden this weekend as UFC 268 finally is upon us.

A welterweight championship rematch headlines the card as Kamaru Usman looks to lap the division when he takes on Colby Covington in the main event, while Rose Namajunas is looking to bring some stability to strawweight but she’ll have to dispatch of Weili Zhang once again in the co-main.

We also have violence guaranteed in the main card opener between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler in a lightweight contender bout.

Last week at UFC 267 we had a great night, picking 12/14 fights correctly with four perfect picks to move us up to 458/716 (63.97%) with 194 perfect picks (42.36%).

We’ll look to continue that good momentum with this 14-fight card and after starting off with the early prelims here, we completed our prelim picks here and now move on to the main card.


Justin Gaethje (22-3) vs Michael Chandler (22-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Not only my pick for fight of the night, but arguably and potentially the fight of the year opens up the UFC 268 main card. Gaethje is coming off his lightweight title shot defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 last October, following a four-fight win streak before that. Chandler is 1-1 in the UFC after KO’ing Dan Hooker at UFC 257 before losing his lightweight title shot to Charles Oliveira at UFC 262.

Gaethje is a straight up brawler, with persistent forward pressure and amazing punching power with a brilliant wrestling pedigree in his background too. Chandler is also a brilliant wrestler with a solid background, with powerful punching and solid hooks also. This fight is sure to be fireworks and that means Gaethje has the advantage.

His constant pressure and amazing cardio is brilliant to watch and he has genuine one-punch knockout power. He has great combinations and his leg kicks are legendary. With that said though, Chandler is arguably a more willing wrestler and that is his path to victory. Chandler could throw up a shock, but I can’t look past Gaethje earning yet another highlight reel knockout win.
PICK – Justin Gaethje via Knockout, Round 1

Shane Burgos (13-3) vs Billy Quarantillo (16-3) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A very fun featherweight fight next between two guys looking to become contenders in the division. Burgos is on a two-fight losing streak after a decision loss to Josh Emmett before getting KO’d by Edson Barboza at UFC 262. Quarantillo suffered defeat to Gavin Tucker at UFC 256, but bounced back with a KO win over Gabriel Benitez at UFC Vegas 31.

Burgos is a very, very good boxer and is up there with Rob Font and Max Holloway as the best strikers in the division. Quarantillo is a fan favourite who is a brilliant cardio fighter, using his gas tank as a weapon to go along with his solid striking skills. This is set to be a striking fan’s paradise, with both guys going toe-to-toe and using their excellent technique to get one over their opponent.

Quarantillo has a jiu-jitsu advantage but Burgos’ wrestling is good enough to avoid that even coming into the equation and on the feet, I think he has the edge. He has big power, great combinations and excellent body work so I think he claims a fun decision win that gets fans up on their feet throughout.
PICK – Shane Burgos via Decision

Frankie Edgar (24-9-1) vs Marlon Vera (17-7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A very exciting fight in the bantamweight division between two guys looking to become contenders. Edgar opened his 135lbs career with a decision win over Pedro Munhoz at UFC Vegas 7, before a jump-knee KO defeat to Cory Sandhagen at UFC Vegas 18. Vera in the other corner has alternated wins and losses recently, KO’ing Sean O’Malley at UFC 252, then dropped a decision against Jose Aldo at UFC Vegas 17 before bouncing back with a win over Davey Grant at UFC Vegas 29.

Edgar is a legend of the game, previously holding the title at 155lbs, who has tremendous wrestling and an excellent ground game. Vera is a fighter who stylistically is relatively similar, with excellent ground game and powerful striking on the feet too with heavy leg kicks. This is a really even match up, but ultimately father time may have finally caught up with Edgar.

At 40-years-old now and with four defeats in his last six, it’s hard to see him claiming victory here. Vera can match him in the wrestling, is probably the better striker and has the output and cardio to go hard for 15 minutes so I think he claims an important decision victory.
PICK – Marlon Vera via Decision



Rose Namajunas (11-4) vs Weili Zhang (21-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

Without a doubt the hardest fight to pick on the entire card is the women’s strawweight title fight. Namajunas has won her last two-in-a-row, defeating Jessica Andrade before KO’ing Weili Zhang at UFC 261, snapping the Chinese fighter’s 21-fight winning streak.

Namajunas is a very well-rounded fighter, with much improved striking over the years and good power in her punches and kicks. She is also a very good grappler, with half of her career wins coming via submission. Zhang is a powerhouse of a fighter with ten knockout wins but also good wrestling and submissions herself. It’s a very well-rounded and evenly matched fight, which makes it so hard to pick.

In their first fight at UFC 261, I predicted Zhang to use her physicality and power to grind away and earn a stoppage. But after that fight, it’s hard to go against Namajunas. She has a speed advantage, uses her kicks brilliantly and can more than hold her own on the ground so I think she’ll be able to go 25 minutes and hang with Zhang to earn yet another win and cement herself as one of the best ever at this weight.
PICK – Rose Namajunas via Decision

Kamaru Usman (19-1) vs Colby Covington (16-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

The grudge match of all grudge matches at welterweight as the champ defends his title in a rematch from 2019. Usman is on an 18-fight win streak including a fifth-round KO of Covington in his first title defence at UFC 245. He’s since beaten Masvidal twice and KO’d Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 too. Covington has only fought once since, stopping Tyron Woodley at UFC Vegas 11 in September 2020.

Usman and Covington are both primary wrestlers, but have great volume and striking on the feet too which led to zero takedown attempts during their first fight. Usman has however greatly improved his striking since that fight, with two KO’s in three fights since. Covington went back to his pressuring wrestling against Woodley to earn a dominant win, but whether he can implement that style against Usman is hard to say.

Colby is unlikely to get into a straight striking war again after he got his jaw broken in their first fight, which means he’ll probably try to wrestle more. But Usman is the physically stronger fighter and arguably the superior wrestler, so it’s really tough to see how Covington can get a win. Usman’s striking is powerful and greatly improved under Trevor Wittman, and his wrestling is still unmatched in the division (maybe the company?). Ultimately, Usman is the best and won’t lose this title until he retires probably so I think he earns the big win yet again to cement his legacy as one of the best ever.
PICK – Kamaru Usman via Knockout, Round 3

Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler to open UFC 268 main card

The UFC have reshuffled their main card and stuck one of the best fights of the year at the start of UFC 268.

The lightweight contender bout between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler was originally scheduled to be third from last on the night, just before the two title fights between Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang, and Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington.

However the organisation have confirmed now that the bout will instead open the main card at Madison Square Garden.



After an initial report from Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, the company confirmed that the bout will now go on first in the main card rather than third at UFC 268 this Saturday night.

When asked for a reason, the UFC simply stated they wanted to start the card with a bang and that this fight basically guaranteed fireworks.

Gaethje has won 19 of his 22 career bouts via knockout, earning himself the nickname of ‘The Highlight’. In eight UFC appearances he has earned NINE performance of the night bonuses, with none of his fights since 2014 going to the judge’s scorecards.

Chandler on the other hand has only fought twice in the UFC so far but both appearances have been hugely exciting affairs.

It took him less than half a round to dispatch of Dan Hooker on his debut at UFC 257 via first-round knockout, before his lightweight title fight against Charles Oliveira at UFC 262.

Justin Gaethje reacts after knocking out Edson Barboza of Brazil in their lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Wells Fargo Center on...

While he lost that bout, he earned a knockdown and almost finished Oliveira in the opening round before the Brazilian was able to recover between rounds and earn a knockout of his own to capture the title.

Another reason behind the switch could be down to Gaethje’s coach Trevor Wittman, who is also the head coach for both Namajunas and Usman.

While this is purely speculation, it’s possible that the camp asked for the switch so that Wittman would have more time with his fighters before their title bouts at the top of the card.

UFC 268 will kick off live from 10pm UK time on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday November 6th, before BT Sport show the prelims live from midnight. The main card is due to begin at 2am UK time.

UFC 268: Violence guaranteed as Justin Gaethje finally returns to the octagon

UFC 268 is finally upon us and that means a return to the octagon for the true king of violence in Justin Gaethje.

It’s been over a year since we last saw ‘The Highlight’ in a UFC cage, when he was dominated and choked into unconsciousness by the consensus greatest lightweight of all-time in Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254.

Khabib’s victory proved to be the final fight of his career as he retired as the undisputed 155lbs champion with a flawless record of 29-0, with Gaethje supposed to be his toughest contender.



But on that night we never got to see the version of Gaethje that has become synonymous with entertainment and violence, as Khabib’s persistent pressure and mesmerising ground game proved too much for him.

After some time away and fights falling through for Gaethje though, he finally returns against Michael Chandler in Madison Square Garden at UFC 268 in a fight that could potentially fire him straight back into title contention.

Chandler was supposed to fight Gaethje in his debut fight after serving as back-up for the title fight at UFC 254, but he then couldn’t make the weight again at such short notice.

Then after knocking out Dan Hooker at UFC 257, Chandler was supposed to fight Gaethje again only for Khabib to cement his retirement decision and relinquish the title.

Michael Chandler punches Dan Hooker of New Zealand in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January...

That meant the UFC offered Chandler the title fight against Charles Oliveira, who would KO him at UFC 262 to claim the belt. But after months of back and forth, Gaethje will finally settle his differences with Chandler.

This time though, we’re guaranteed violence. Both Gaethje and Chandler have got solid wrestling backgrounds but have tremendous power in their hands and have fallen in love with striking.

Gaethje once said in an interview that his career goal is to “break his shine on his opponents head”, while Chandler’s record of ten knockouts from 22 career wins is impressive to say the least.

Both men will come forward, both will look to strike first and both will throw with venom. Neither has cardio issues to deal with should the fight go to a third round and both have a point to prove after defeats in their previous outings.

Justin Gaethje punches Tony Ferguson in their UFC interim lightweight championship fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena...

This has the makings of one of the most fan-friendly fights of the year, with a true dislike between the pair and an ambition to shut each other’s lights out in the process of making an impression to those watching in the UFC hierarchy and around the world.

A win may not be enough for either to earn an immediate title shot once again following Islam Makhachev’s impressive showing at UFC 267 but it cements the fact they should be in the conversation and likely puts them just a single victory away from stepping into the cage for gold once again.

Violence is guaranteed in this one, do not miss it.

Planning out 2021 for the UFC lightweight division

The lightweight championship is no longer vacant as the ‘Do Bronx’ era began at UFC 262 when Charles Oliveira knocked out Michael Chandler in Houston, Texas.

The 31-year-old made it nine wins in a row at 155lbs with a second round stoppage, after surviving a scare in the first round to become the 11th undisputed world champion in the organisation’s history to take over from Khabib Nurmagomedov.

While the belt is now occupied, the division is far from settled with so many top contenders immediately ready to challenge and ensure he isn’t just a paper champion.

So how does the division play out going forward? Oliveira is the champion and seems ready to take on all comers but the top six ranked guys can all be paired up together but what is the best way to do it, so that the next contender makes sense?

Well the obvious next contender is the winner of the Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor trilogy at UFC 264.

The two fought back in 2014 in the featherweight division, with Notorious getting the first round knockout win en route to his stunning title win over Jose Aldo before claiming the lightweight crown from Eddie Alvarez.

They met again in January of this year in a rematch but this time at 155lbs, with a very different result. Poirier used calf kicks brilliantly to destabilise McGregor’s movement and while the Irishman landed some big shots, ‘Diamond’ was able to come through them this time and eventually get a huge knockout win of his own in the second round.

Opponents Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor pose face off for media during the UFC 257 press conference event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island...

That win should have seen Poirier challenge for the title in his next bout, but instead he opted to take the money fight with McGregor for a final trilogy bout – something he was praised for by UFC president Dana White.

Poirier is the most deserving man in the division for a title shot and McGregor is still without a doubt the biggest name in the sport, despite winning just once at lightweight in his entire UFC career. It’s the obvious fight to make, with Poirier’s run undeniable if he wins again while McGregor would be “back” and would be the fight Oliveira wants too as his first defence.

Justin Gaethje is still waiting in the wings for an opponent after his defeat to Khabib back at UFC 254, and the perfect choice for him could be the man who is looking to break into the top five once again – former champion Rafael Dos Anjos.

The Brazilian was the champion at 155lbs once upon a time and after a venture into welterweight where he was successful until his lack of size paid dividends against the elite of the division, he moved back down.

Since returning he got a big win over Paul Felder on short notice to push himself into the top ten and stylistically would prove a good match up against Gaethje. Both guys have a great grappling background, but are excellent strikers on the feet too and would prove to be excellent competition for one another.

Justin Gaethje of the United States celebrates after defeating Tony Ferguson of the United States in their Interim lightweight title fight during UFC...

Neither have fought since the back end of 2020 and would both be available to make a fight happen any time soon, although whether Gaethje would be willing to go against the number six ranked guy is up for debate.

The other option for Gaethje is a fight against UFC 262’s other big lightweight winner, Beneil Dariush. The Iranian dominated Tony Ferguson to a unanimous decision win in the co-main event to break into the top five and with Gaethje ranked at number two it’s certainly a fight that would make sense.

The issue with that, is that Dariush is expecting his first child next month and told everyone in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan that he doesn’t expect to come back to the cage until the end of the year or even early next year.

That would mean over a year out of the cage for Gaethje, which isn’t something that he’s likely to be happy about. For that reason, the UFC can look to pair Dariush up with the beaten challenger Chandler in their next fight as they both look to get to the top of the mountain again.

Chandler would be afforded the chance to recover from the vicious knockout he suffered, but also keep himself in the picture with a fight against a top five guy knowing that a win could set him up to get back into title contention as soon as possible.

Charles Oliveira of Brazil holds the belt after defeating Michael Chandler during their Championship Lightweight Bout at the UFC 262 event at Toyota...

So we have a mini tournament bracket that has Oliveira as the champion, with the winner of Poirier vs McGregor getting the next title shot. Gaethje vs Dos Anjos and Dariush vs Chandler, with the winners fighting each other potentially to see who would fight the winner of the original title fight.

Who’s in?