Johnny Walker (18-7) vs Ion Cutelaba (16-7-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
An absolute banger at 205-pounds here. Walker is a wild man with incredible one-punch knockout power, but he’s lost his last two against Thiago Santos (UFC Vegas 38) and Jamahal Hill most recently. Cutelaba is also a wild man, with just one win in his last five fights and a submission loss to Ryan Spann in his last bout.
Walker is a power puncher with unorthodox movement and good kicks, but he’s proven to be chinny in more recent bouts and must stay alert to keep this fight at range. Cutelaba on the other hand is a super aggressive fighter who has good knockout power and excellent wrestling, but has had huge issues with his cardio and balancing that all out. Cutelaba has all the tools to win this, but it won’t be easy.
If Cutelaba blitzes early with takedown attempts and blasts him out of there it wouldn’t be a surprise at all. There’s also the opposite scenario that is possible too, with Walker definitely able to KO Cutelaba too. That said, “The Hulk” is most likely to be successful. He has different looks to make Walker think and his aggression should be enough to force Walker backwards, and I think he’ll claim the win. PICK – Ion Cutelaba via Knockout, Round 2
Irene Aldana (13-6) vs Macy Chiasson (9-2) – (Catchweight/140lbs)
A fun bantamweight fight up next between these two ladies. Aldana has won three of her last four with a defeat to Holly Holm the only flaw, to which she rebounded from with a KO win over Yana Kunitskaya at UFC 264. Chiasson bounced back from a submission defeat to Raquel Pennington at UFC Vegas 45 with a big win over Norma Dumont at UFC 274 most recently.
Aldana is a solid boxer with great combinations and power in a division that lacks big hitters, while her takedown defence has shown great improvements too in recent fights. Chiasson is a Muay Thai fighter who likes to clinch with her opponents, while also using her range to flick out her jab and land low kicks. Both women’s ideal strategy fits right into the other’s and that makes this an excellent fight.
Chiasson could have trouble with the weight cut after even missing weight at featherweight last time out. Aldana is the better boxer and can use her jab to make Chiasson work, while threatening with that big left hook that is cash money when it lands. With that said, the Mexican should have enough to claim the win and potentially set herself up for a title shot in the near future. PICK – Irene Aldana via Decision
Li Jingliang (19-7) vs Daniel Rodriguez (16-2) – (Catchweight/180lbs)
An excellent fight at a catchweight after being put together on short notice here. Jingliang comes into this fight after being dominated and humiliated by Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 267, before bouncing back with a brilliant KO win over Muslim Salikhov in July. Rodriguez on the other hand has won his last three, earning decisions against Mike Perry (UFC Vegas 23) and Kevin Lee while knocking out Steven Parsons too.
Jingliang is a power puncher, pure and simple. His speed and combinations are solid and his takedown defence has usually been pretty good, barring the Chimaev fight. Rodriguez alternatively is a super boxer with impressive technique and power, while his wrestling chops are solid too to make the opposition at least think about the potential threat. This is most likely to be a big striking affair, and the size of Rodriguez is likely to be key.
“The Leech” was preparing to fight someone smaller than him, with a great ground game but he’s now facing someone who weighed in ten-pounds heavier and is a pure striker. His power probably won’t be as effective now, and Rodriguez has the size to use his jab and potentially claim a late finish on this short notice fight. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Decision
Khamzat Chimaev (11-0) vs Kevin Holland (23-7) – (Catchweight/180lbs)
Potentially the fight of the night here. Chimaev is 11-0 after ripping through the UFC, finishing John Phillips (UFC Fight Island 1), Rhys McKee (UFC Fight Island 3), Gerald Meerschaert (UFC Vegas 11) and Li Jingliang (UFC 267) before a fight of the year contender against Gilbert Burns (UFC 273). Holland has won his last two, knocking out Alex Oliveira at UFC 272 before claiming a submission win over Tim Means most recently.
Chimaev is one of the most dominant figures we’ve seen in MMA in a long time, with incredible wrestling and grappling skills as well as an insane chin to go with his crisp striking and powerful punches. Holland is a brilliant kickboxer with superb power and speed, while his takedown defence has improved greatly over the last 18 months and his jiu-jitsu has proven itself worthy. These two have genuine beef so this likely won’t last long.
The fact that Chimaev missed weight so badly would normally be a big issue, but he’s now fighting at a different weight against someone his size and didn’t need to cut much. Mix that in with his dominant wrestling, which Holland has struggled with badly in the past, expect Chimaev to dominate on the ground and take a late finish. PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Knockout, Round 4
Nate Diaz (21-13) vs Tony Ferguson (25-7)- (Welterweight/170lbs)
Diaz has fought three times since 2016, beating Anthony Pettis before getting smashed by Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards most recently (UFC 263). Tony Ferguson has lost his last four in a row, getting dominated by Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira (UFC 256), Beneil Darisuh (UFC 262) and then getting toe-punted into a new galaxy by Michael Chandler at UFC 274. He moves up to welterweight for the first time since winning TUF in 2011.
Diaz is a fan favourite who has got world class jiu-jitsu and decent boxing, but it’s his cardio and heart that are mentioned most when discussing Diaz. This fight realistically has no business being made, because there is a huge gulf in class between these two fighters right now. Ferguson is a bit of a crazy fighter, with relentless pressure being coupled with incredibly heavy hands, insane cardio and world class jiu-jitsu on the mat. This fight is absolutely wild and the fact that Ferguson is moving up in weight is incredibly interesting and exciting.
Ferguson has the power advantage, will feel as though he can more than hold his own on the ground and should be strong enough physically to control this fight. But the fact he was training for three rounds rather than five could go against him. Diaz will look to drag this out into the later rounds, but ultimately I think Ferguson will have too much pressure for him early on to be able to claim a big win in a far more competitive fight than what was originally planned for either guy. PICK – Tony Ferguson via Decision
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.
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
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.
But with season 29 finally upon us, what are the greatest seasons that have come before this? We’ve seen legends created through the show like Michael Bisping and TJ Dillashaw, but these five seasons stand out for me more than any other.
TEAM JONES VS TEAM SONNEN (Season 17)
The greatest fighter of all-time according to most people was a TUF coach once upon a time, lining up alongside ‘The Bad Guy’ Chael Sonnen to coach a bunch of welterweights.
Names like Uriah Hall and Kelvin Gastelum stood out the most, as Jones and Sonnen kept it mostly civil throughout the season – preferring to settle their beef in the octagon rather than the gym.
The coaches challenge was hilarious and there were some incredibly highlight reel knockouts to go with it before a fun finale fight ended in split decision. There was even a cameo by female superstar Ronda Rousey as she promised to make an appearance for one fighter in particular after he declared his love for her. It’s well worth the watch.
TEAM LESNAR VS TEAM DOS SANTOS (Season 13)
If your name isn’t Conor McGregor, then you have no claim to being a bigger box-office draw than Brock Lesnar in the UFC. The former world heavyweight champion was looking to bounce back after losing his title to Cain Velasquez and a bout with diverticulitis by taking on Junior Dos Santos.
It was a series that really endeared Lesnar to MMA fans, as it showed just how seriously he took his training and how incredibly strong his mentality to win was. He often talked to his team about “turning chicken shit into chicken salad”, rather than make excuses and it was something that many noticed.
Dos Santos had in-house problems, sending a coach home during the series for trying to take sessions over, while Team Lesnar had a war amongst themselves when a drunk Tony Ferguson made some crude remarks during an argument in the house.
Overall, the series was great entertainment with highly competitive fights and two coaches who wanted to win at all costs.
TEAM RAMPAGE VS TEAM EVANS (Season 10)
One of the most heated coaches rivalries in the show’s history took place in season 10, as the heavyweights season reignited a concept that was beginning to dwindle.
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Rashad Evans were fierce rivals in the light-heavyweight title picture and agreed to take part as coaches of two heavyweight-filled teams for this season. There was extra spice added to the show as UFC president Dana White made the shock announcement once the teams were revealed that there was still another contender – legendary street fighter Kimbo Slice.
Joining the ranks alongside the likes of Roy Nelson and Brendan Schaub, Kimbo competed under the UFC banner for the only time in his career. Add to that some very heated clashes between the coaches, including the infamous scene where Jackson literally ripped a door to shreds, it’s more than worth your time.
TEAM LIDDELL VS TEAM COUTURE (Season 1)
Where it all began. 28 seasons later and the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter is still among the best there is.
Legendary names in the sport like Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Chris Leben, Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar and Kenny Florian all debuted in the UFC in this series of the show, coached by the just as legendary light heavyweight Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture.
It was the season that introduced us all to the craziness that was the TUF house, as Sanchez paraded around drunk and doing yoga in the rain while Leben showed us just how emotionally charged the whole process can be.
In the end, it also led to one of the greatest fights ever in the finale between Griffin and Bonnar that was so close both fighters were awarded contracts with the UFC despite Griffin getting the nod on the scorecards. Legendary.
TEAM PULVER VS TEAM PENN (Season 5)
For me, without a doubt the greatest season there is of The Ultimate Fighter. Some of the most iconic moments in the show’s history took place as lightweights matched up, with former champion BJ Penn and Jens Pulver going head-to-head as coaches.
Names like Nate Diaz, Manny Gamburyan, Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon and Cole Miller were apart of the series, where we saw the good and bad sides of the fighting community. From Penn asking the fighters who absolutely didn’t want to be on Pulver’s team and ten of the 16 putting their hand up, to a fighter being 20lbs overweight, to personal feuds spilling over into the octagon it really had everything.
Several fighters made it into the UFC and enjoyed long stints with the company but it was the season that made me fall in love with the sport and I expect it will do the same for you too.
It’s the beginning of a new era at 155lbs as Charles Oliveira defeat Michael Chandler at UFC 262 to become the 11th undisputed lightweight champion.
It was a rocky start for the Brazilian, as ‘Iron’ Mike was able to close the distance quickly and effectively using his right cross to the body before going upstairs with a couple of hard shots. Those punches took their toll on Oliveira who ended the first round on his back eating big punches, thankful for the buzzer.
Chandler came out rather excited in the second round but his world came crumbling down around him as just 19 seconds later the referee was waving the bout off in ‘Do Bronx’s favour.
The commentary team had spent the entire build up to the fight talking about how Oliveira threw all his strikes with perfect technique and in straight lines, and it was on full display in the finish of this fight.
The 31-year old slipped a barrage of strikes from Chandler, who clearly wanted to take advantage of the fact he’d hurt Oliveira in the round previous, and landed a stunning left hook right on the button to put his opponent down.
He moved in for the kill immediately, landing punches, a knee and an elbow before Chandler tried to create space by moving away. But Oliveira refused to allow him that breathing room and chased him around the cage, before landing another big left hand that put his lights out.
The scenes following the referee’s stoppage were something to behold, as Oliveira climbed the cage and went straight to the commentary table to tell them “surprise, surprise!” – mocking what Chandler had told the world after he stopped Dan Hooker in his debut at UFC 257.
He then proceeded to run around the stadium celebration, embracing fans and coaches before returning to the cage to show the utmost respect to Chandler and his team.
It was the 28th fight of his illustrious UFC career, making him the man with the most fights in the promotion before winning the belt. But it couldn’t have come at a better time for him. He’s in his fighting prime at just 31-years-old and seems to have accumulated the knowledge and IQ from his previous fights to pick and choose his moments well.
He has the most finishes in UFC history now with 17, as well as the most submission wins in the companies history with 14, which begs the question of just who can beat him right now. Whoever does eventually take the belt from him will have to be something special, because Oliveira is far from a one-trick pony.
In the co-main event we saw a brilliant performance from another lightweight in Beneil Dariush as he completely dominated Tony Ferguson for 15 minutes to claim a place in the top five of the 155lbs rankings.
Many thought that Ferguson would come out all guns blazing after back-to-back defeats to Justin Gaethje and Oliveira, but Dariush closed the distance well and used his superior grappling to tremendous effect to take next to no damage in the fight and get a routine win in the end.
While Dariush was incredibly impressive, it was a sad sight to see for Ferguson as it looks like the wild techniques and awkwardness that once made him great are now the exact reason he can’t get anything going.
His basic fundamentals are lacking and in an era where the average level of the UFC fighter has increased, coinciding with father time tapping ‘El Cucuy’ on the shoulder, it may now be time to call it a day.
His run at the top of the division was incredible and the fact he never got to challenge for the undisputed title will always burn him, but rather than go out even sadder he should just admit his time at the top is over and walk away.
Ferguson’s fights are notorious for being absolute wars and he has taken so much damage over his career, not to mention we don’t know the damage caused long-term by the heel hook he refused to tap out to during the UFC 262 card.
There’s no shame in admitting that you’re just not that guy anymore and saving yourself for another day and that’s exactly what I hope he does.
Christos Giagos def Sean Soriano via Submission (D’arce Choke), Round 2 (0:59)
Big start to the fight for both guys as Giagos lands a nice right hand to open that wobbles Soriano, who responds with a nice low kick that puts Giagos down to one knee. Giagos shoots for a takedown and pushes the fight against the cage before switching to take the back, before letting it go before they separate. Soriano lands a nice one-two down the middle and Giagos is wobbling again, but he responds with a combo of his own. Soriano’s speed is causing Giagos big problems and he’s landing clean. Giagos goes for a takedown but Soriano sprawls well and denies it. Both guys head hunting with the punches right now, but Soriano mixing in some leg kicks too and it’s serving its purpose so far. Head kick from Soriano lands partially as he slips, before Giagos shoots for a takedown and dumps him down as the round ends. 10-9 Soriano.
Soriano comes out heavy once again and lands a big right hand but Giagos goes for a takedown much earlier this time and gets top position quickly. He flows through the position and Soriano tries to get back up, but Giagos locks up a d’arce choke and sits down on it! It’s super tight and Soriano stops fighting it and goes to sleep! Huge win for Giagos!
Tucker Lutz def Kevin Aguilar via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Fast start from Aguilar as he presses forward and applies pressure early looking to throw big strikes to the head. Lutz looking to slow him down a little with leg kicks and then a clinch, but Aguilar doing well to separate and lands a nice left hook. Lutz now starting to come forward more and he lands a nice left hook of his own clean, before a head kick lands partially too. Aguilar is doing well to be dangerous in the pocket and make Lutz think first, then Lutz lands a huge uppercut. Big takedown from Lutz, with perfect timing and minimal effort, before shifting Aguilar over to the cage and starts landing some decent ground and pound to control the position. Aguilar trying to get back up but Lutz does well to keep him down and end the round on top. 10-9 Lutz.
Aguilar charges forward early once again at the start of the round but Lutz times him well and lands a decent left hook counter once again. Good little flurry while moving forward from Lutz again, but Aguilar looking to counter with a hard right hand. Aguilar looks to grapple against the cage but Lutz is able to stop him in his tracks easily then separates with a knee to the head. Aguilar comes forward and lands a nice body shot, but Lutz is timing everything perfectly so far and shoots in for a takedown to get it with ease again. This time though Aguilar is able to battle back to his feet quickly with his legs, before Lutz starts up on the leg kicks and left hooks once again. A more even round certainly, but still Lutz’s for me. 20-18.
Big left hand lands early from Aguilar and gets the crowd on their feet, before another left hand lands and sends Lutz backwards. Lutz replies with a big uppercut and hook combo that rocks Aguilar, but he keeps coming forward and lands more shots making this ugly and hurting Lutz. Aguilar goes for a one-two but Lutz ducks under it and gets the takedown, shuffling him over to the cage and stacking him. Aguilar explodes back to his feet and eats a couple of punches and a knee for his troubles, but he continues to come forward looking to be aggressive. Aguilar shoots for a takedown of his own but Lutz denies him and they go back to trading. Lutz keeping distance with leg kicks and clinching whenever Aguilar gets close as we enter the final 30 seconds. Big left hand from Aguilar snaps Lutz’s neck back but he keeps calm, keeps moving and should take the win. 29-28 Lutz.
Priscilla Cachoeira def Gina Mazany via Knockout, Round 2 (4:51)
Cachoeira comes out of the blocks very aggressive, right hand loaded looking for a power strike but Mazany nice and busy early with her jab and a small flurry. Mazany clinches up and is able to trip Cachoeira down to the top position and while Cachoeira gets up quickly, she’s immediately brought back down to the mat. Mazany starts landing some nice ground and pound as she controls the position, before Cachoeira eventually gets back up and starts landing some nice right hands. Mazany ducks under and gets another takedown to control the rest of the round from top position with ground and pound. 10-9 Mazany, easily.
Immediate takedown at the start of the round for Mazany has them in exactly the same position that they ended the first round in, with top control and suffocating pressure. Cachoeira looks to get back to her feet but Mazany transitions and takes the back, before Cachoeira rolls back onto her back to go into full guard again. More control from Mazany on top as she lands a couple of big elbows. The referee pauses the fight after she fails to advance position and stands them up and now Cachoeira is walking Mazany down and has thrown some big punches. Huge right hands landing from Cachoeira and Mazany is exhausted and hurt! Mazany looking for the takedowns but can’t get it and Cachoeira is beating her up and the referee steps in! Huge win for Cachoeira!
Andrea Lee def Antonina Shevchenko via Submission (Triangle Armbar), Round 2 (4:52)
Busy start to the fight from Lee early on, looking to land some kicks and a jab early on while Shevchenko is getting her reads and looking to counter. Lee clinches up against the cage and looks for some knees but she gets overpowered by Shevchenko who lands some of her own before the separate. Shevchenko engages in a clinch this time and lands several knees to the body before Lee is able to get away from it. Shevchenko goes for a spinning back first but Lee lands a big head kick and wobbles her, then goes for a takedown and eventually is able to trip her. Lee looks for a big hammer fist that just misses but she’s controlling the top position and sees the round out on top. Close round that Lee probably takes because of the takedown. 10-9.
Lee opens up the round with a huge spinning back elbow that lands flush and rocks Shevchenko! She goes for a finish and Shevchenko grabs her but Lee hip tosses her and ends up in a very dominant position. Big elbows to the head of Shevchenko and she transitions into a mounted triangle and rolls through. She starts throwing elbows off her back with the triangle on and she’s looking for an armbar too but Shevchenko is just about surviving. Huge elbows from Lee with the triangle still synched in and she finally is able to extend the arm of Shevchenko and gets the tap right at the end of the round! Huge win!
Jordan Wright def Jamie Pickett via Knockout, Round 1 (1:04)
Pickett opens the round with a big body kick and charges in for a takedown. Wright stays standing and starts throwing some big elbows to the side of the head and Pickett is hurt! Wright lands some big knees and sends Pickett stumbling as he swings a big right hand. Wright holds on to Pickett in a clinch and throws a big knee up the middle that drops him! He starts landing some huge ground and pound and the referee steps in to end if mercifully! Huge win for Wright! What a performance.
Lando Vannata def Mike Grundy via Split Decision (29-28, 27-30, 30-27)
A very tactical start from both guys as Vannata bounces around on the outside throwing feints and leg kicks while Grundy is switching stances and staying out of range. Grundy charges in for a takedown but Vannata holds up and both men throw a knee and land in the groin to cause a pause. They resume action and Vannata lands a couple of nice strikes before Grundy gets a single leg takedown. Lots of scrambling as Grundy looks to keep the grip but eventually Vannata is able to escape. Vannata lands a nice knee and then a right hand behind it, before Grundy goes for another takedown but he gets back up to his feet very quickly. Vannata doing well to defend all these takedown attempts and get back up and separated quickly, but not enough action from him so that’s likely a Grundy round. 10-9.
Vannata looks very fluid and relaxed in the second round here as he fakes a knee up the middle, but Grundy fires forward with a takedown attempt once again. Vannata stays standing once again before both men exchange nice, tight right hooks. Vannata pushing forward with pressure and lands a nice kick, before Grundy explodes forward with a big right hand that lands clean. Vannata lands a nice combo that ends with a leg kick before Grundy shoots for yet another takedown. Head kick from Vannata lands and then as he starts faking uppercuts Grundy replies with a big overhand right. Vannata having more success in this round as it ends, 19-19 heading into the third.
Grundy opens up the round with two immediate takedown attempts but Vannata denies them both and fires back with a hard calf kick. Grundy shoots in again but Vannata throws a hard knee that lands flush on the chin but Grundy powers through it and gets Vannata down finally. He starts working to the back but Vannata gets back up, avoiding a submission attempt from Grundy, before picking up and slamming Grundy down to the mat. Grundy explodes back up to his feet and Vannata starts pressuring forward once again as both fighters exchange head kicks. Final minute and both guys still look sharp as Vannata denies yet another takedown attempt to end the round. Great fight, I’ve got it 29-28 Vannata.
Andre Muniz def Jacare Souza via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:59)
Good start to the fight for Jacare as he comes forward landing some nice kicks to the body with a few flurries of strikes before shooting in for a takedown against the cage. Jacare lifts and sweeps the legs to complete the takedown, immediately stepping over and throwing some good ground and pound strikes. Muniz is able to kick his way up and then shoots in for a takedown of his own and lands it. Jacare is able to work his way back up to the feet but Muniz gets him down again and Jacare jumps up again quickly. Muniz jumps on the back and tries to roll over the top, but holds on to Jacare’s arm and sinks in a deep armbar. Jacare’s arm visibly snaps and the referee waves the fight off! Insanity! What a submission win!
Edson Barboza def Shane Burgos via Knockout, Round 3 (1:16)
Big start to the fight from Barboza as he steps forward and lands four huge calf kicks to Burgos that immediately causes problems. Burgos starts firing out his jabs but Barboza is looking to counter them with a heavy leg kick every time. Jab starts to land for Burgos and opens up a cut over the eye of Barboza, who then throws a spinning back kick to the body. Burgos starting to land more and then rips the body big and follows up with a nice left hook too. Barboza throws the uppercut and Burgos replies with a right hand. Barboza spins with a wheel kick and rocks Burgos, then follows up with two or three big right hands! Burgos keeps coming forward though and gets wobbled off a jab. Barboza continues to land the right hook and leg kicks as the round ends. 10-9 Barboza.
Burgos comes forward to apply pressure early in this round but Barboza continues to throw the leg kicks. Burgos goes body, body head while standing and lands nicely. Barboza throws another heavy leg kick and follows it up with a huge left hook, but Burgos keeps coming. Burgos throwing a nice front kick to the body, then follows up with a left hook to the body too. Burgos lands two leg kicks of his own now, before a spinning back kick to the body from Barboza. Burgos throws another calf kick but Barboza responds with a big left hook combo to the body and then the head. Three big body shots from Burgos and then Barboza goes for the wheel kick that just misses as the round ends. What a fight this is. 20-18 Barboza for me, but could be 19-19.
Final round and Burgos is pouring on the pressure now, but Barboza standing with him and throwing those leg kicks once again. Burgos comes forward with the body shots again, and Barboza lands a great body shot before a left hook and overhand right land flush. Both men reset but suddenly Burgos starts to stagger backwards and just falls against the cage! Barboza goes for the finish and the referee ends it quickly! What a fight.
Fast start to the fight for Araujo as she steps forward looking to land hard shots and closing the distance to prevent Chookagian’s kicking game from getting going. A nice left hook from Araujo leaves a mark on the cheek of Chookagian, but she fires back with a nice front kick to the body. Araujo throwing a lot of power into all of her shots and missing wildly so far and Chookagian is starting to get her kicks and jab working. Araujo starting to slow down a bit already and Chookagian lands two nice kicks to the body before Araujo shoots in for a takedown. They clinch up against the cage as Chookagian stuffs it and both ladies trade knees to the body as the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Good start to the round from Chookagian as she seems to have figured out her range now, slipping a couple of Araujo strikes before landing a push kick to the chest that sits Araujo down. Chookagian moving well and throws a body kick but Araujo catches it and puts her on the ground. Araujo gets on top and looks to move into full mount. She looks to synch up a guillotine but Chookagian survives it and eventually is able to get back up to her feet. Chookagian now starts throwing big strikes to an exhausted Araujo as the round starts coming to an end. 19-19. Big final round incoming.
Araujo comes out aggressive in the third, looking for nice hooks but Chookagian showing her range once again and landing nice jabs and body kicks. Araujo still coming forward and looking to cause damage with her hands, but Chookagian’s footwork has been great throughout this fight and she is sticking and moving well. Side kick to the body of Araujo, then she counters Araujo’s right overhand with a left high kick. Araujo goes for a takedown but Chookagian does brilliantly to defend it then lands a huge knee up the middle as they separate. Big right hand lands from Araujo in the final 10 seconds but Chookagian fires back with a flurry of punches and kicks to end the round strong. 29-28 Chookagian for me, but it’s all on how the first round was scored.
Rogerio Bontorin def Matt Schnell via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Pretty slow start to this one as both guys look to go make their reads early on. Schnell takes the centre of the cage and cuts off the centre as Bontorin circles on the outside, with the odd jab and low kick each. Schnell finally strings together a flurry of strikes but Bontorin does well to avoid damage, before landing a big right cross. Left hook and then a jab follows it, before a calf kick puts Schnell down on one knee. Bontorin lands a left hand but Schnell replies with a beautiful right hand then a pull left-hook counter that wobbles Bontorin. Bontorin lands a hard calf kick and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Bontorin.
Right high kick from Schnell opens up the round and lands flush on the nose, before following it up with a nice right hand too. Schnell lands a nice jab, low kick combo but Bontorin replies with another strong leg kick of his own. Bontorin is landing his left hook cleanly at will, but Schnell is still coming and landing some good strikes of his own. Schnell throws a nice four-punch combination before Bontorin replies with a low kick and left hook. Bontorin lunges forward and lands a big left hand that wobbles Schnell and he lands two or three more before missing with a big knee as they separate. Another short flurry from Schnell as the round ends, very close round but it’s probably Bontorin’s again for the more eye-catching strikes.
Both men look fearful of making a mistake to lose this fight as we start the third round. Schnell looking to get his combinations off but Bontorin landing the bigger strikes once again. Bontorin moves forward with a big left, right, left combination that rocks Schnell! He changes levels as Schnell is hurt and gets a takedown and starts landing some big elbows on the ground. Schnell tries his best to get out but Bontorin controls the position and sees the round out on top. 30-27 for me.
Beneil Dariush def Tony Ferguson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Very aggressive start to the fight from Dariush as he takes the centre and throws a big left hand early. Ferguson not really throwing anything yet and Dariush closes the distance quickly and shoots in for a takedown against the cage. He locks the hands and dumps him down on the mat and Ferguson immediately starts throwing elbows from the bottom. Dariush starts swinging some heavy ground and pound but nothing really landing. Dariush controlling the position from the top and while there’s not much damage being handed out, he’ll take that round. 10-9 Dariush.
Second round starts in a similar way and Dariush rushes him for a takedown and immediately gets it against the cage. Ferguson looks to synch up a d’arce choke but Dariush stays so calm and eventually pops his head out with no danger. Dariush starts raining down ground and pound again and Ferguson eventually tries to sweep him, but they end up entangled on the ground. Dariush synches in a heel hook super deep and Ferguson is grimacing with pain but he refuses to tap out! Dariush lets it go then moves to control top position for the rest of the round again. 20-18 Dariush.
Third round and Fergusons leg is in bits after the heel hook. Dariush lands a nasty body kick and then shoots in for a takedown once again and gets Ferguson down with a slam. Dariush goes into side control and is just completely controlling the positions. Ferguson is looking for some type of offence from his back but Dariush dominating him from top position into the final 30 seconds. Dariush rains down some ground and pound to end the fight but that is as one-sided a fight as you’ll see. Huge win. 30-27 Dariush.
Charles Oliveira def Michael Chandler via Knockout, Round 2 (0:19)
Fast start to the fight as Oliveira comes out and drops Chandler with a calf kick early. Chandler comes forward and throws a flurry of strikes, with a left hook busting open the eye of Oliveira. Oliveira shoots in for a takedown and Chandler sinks in a deep guillotine! Oliveira manages to escape and then Chandler gives up his back trying to get back up. Oliveira sinks in both hooks and starts working for the rear-naked choke but Chandler works back to his feet with Oliveira on his back and just drops backwards. He explodes out of the body triangle and gets back to his feet, then rocks Oliveira with a huge punch. He starts teeing off on Oliveira and cuts him up but Oliveira survives the round. Crazy! 10-9 Chandler.
Chandler comes out hard in the second round and Oliveira slips a big shot then lands a picture perfect left hook that drops Chandler! Oliveira charges over and starts blitzing Chandler who is in trouble! Oliveira lands another left hook that crumbles Chandler and it’s all over!!! AND NEWWWW!
In the co-main event both Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush will bring the chaos as both men enter a crossroads phase of their career, trying to get to the top but having to cross a top guy on their path.
Last week at UFC Vegas 26 we went 6/9 on an interesting card with one perfect pick to move to 308/482 (63.9%) with 134 perfect picks (43.51%).
Both of these guys are expert strikers, with Burgos coming with a fairly heavy boxing approach while Barboza is as good a kickboxer as there is in the UFC. Both guys use great pressure to overwhelm their opponents and are happy to hold their ground in the centre of the cage rather than back up. Both guys have genuine KO power, but one thing about Burgos is that he is hittable.
He’s as durable as they come though and while he has the ability to get the knockout, Barboza’s ability to use kicks to keep range and some decent grappling in his arsenal too I think he takes a super close fight. PICK – Edson Barboza via Decision
Katlyn Chookagian (15-4) vs Viviane Araujo (10-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Chookagian is a great kicker from distance, but showed in her last fight that she’s capable of mixing in some wrestling to her game too. Araujo on the other hand walks her opponents down and uses good striking and clinches to wear her opponent down for two rounds before slowly fading in the third.
This is a really close fight on paper and in the octagon, but I think Chookagian is able to mix it up that little bit more and has no issues with her gas tank so she should be able to outlast Araujo and get the win. PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Matt Schnell (15-5) vs Rogerio Bontorin (16-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Schnell is a brilliant grappler, but he’s shown in recent fights that he has got great power on his feet too and solid technique. Bontorin is a very similar fighter, with good skills on the ground backing up his powerful striking technique. On the feet Schnell has a slight power advantage and in the grappling both have the ability to control from the top but not get submitted from the bottom.
Schnell has a great cardio advantage though and in a scrap I expect to be quite scramble-heavy, I think he can keep the pressure up late to get a stoppage. PICK – Matt Schnell via Knockout, Round 3
Tony Ferguson (26-5) vs Beneil Dariush (20-4-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Ferguson is elite at absolutely everything. He brings total chaos to fights with unrivalled forward pressure, heavy hands with his unorthodox striking and great jiu-jitsu skills from top position or off his back. Dariush is similar, with stunning jiu-jitsu skills now being paired with heavy hands and improved striking of his own. This fight will undoubtedly be wild for as long as it lasts, but Ferguson is still by far the best fighter Dariush has ever fought. The question is which Ferguson turns up; the savage or the new version who can’t take the punishment anymore?
My bets are on the old Ferguson, simply because Dariush isn’t even close to being as good and dangerous as Gaethje and Oliveira are. Dariush will however take encouragement from the fact that Oliveira was able to dominate Ferguson on the mat. Despite that though, I think Ferguson comes through the other side and gets a highlight reel KO win to get back on track. PICK – Tony Ferguson via Knockout, Round 1
Charles Oliveira (30-8 1NC) vs Michael Chandler (22-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Oliveira is a third-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, with heavy hands and great volume on the feet too. Chandler on the other hand is a world class wrestler with great power in both his hands to set up those grinding takedowns. Oliveira is a scary proposition for anyone right now, with the most submission wins in UFC history but enough power and range to really cause Chandler problems. Chandler will undoubtedly be looking to put Oliveira on his back foot in a similar way that he did against Hooker but he will need the fight to stay on the feet to have his best chance of winning.
It’s going to be a crazy fight regardless of how it goes, but Oliveira just has so many paths to victory. The one thing we haven’t see from him is if his cardio can hold up for 25 minutes since he’s never gone past a third round before. Despite that, I think he gets it done with a knockdown followed by a submission to become the new champion. PICK – Charles Oliveira via Submission, Round 2
It’s rare that when you have two big names going head to head in the UFC that there is a crossroads at stake for both guys, but that will be the case in the UFC 262 co-main event this weekend.
Tony Ferguson spend several years as the man in the lightweight division that nobody wanted to face, but after back-to-back dominant defeats in his most recent fights he has got people questioning whether or not he still has it.
On the other side of the cage from him this Saturday night will be the highly impressive Beneil Dariush, who has made a name for himself as the 155lbs dark horse with a string of excellent performances and a six-fight win streak.
Ferguson is in desperate need of a win in this fight. After a record 12 fight win streak at 155lbs, ‘El Cucuy’ was essentially an uncrowned champion in many people’s eyes. He’d beaten everyone in his path and a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov fell through an insane five times meaning he never got a shot at the undisputed title during his career to date.
But he did get a second shot at an interim title against Justin Gaethje last year in the first event to take place during the pandemic for the UFC.
It was a bad night for him as he was knocked out in the fifth round after being brutalised for the entire fight beforehand. Gaethje however was considered one of the absolute best in the world, who enjoys chaos just as much as Ferguson does.
Part of the mystery around the fight that never happened with Khabib was Ferguson’s brilliant ground game that went along with his craziness on the feet. But Oliveira came in, went toe-to-toe in the striking exchanges and completely dominated him on the ground.
In his last 40-odd minutes of cage time, Ferguson has lost the aura of invincibility that he once had.
In steps Dariush now, who has found an aura of his own recently. A six-fight win streak including four finishes, the Iranian has been seen as a man who can make a push up the rankings and potentially challenge for the title.
But this fight is without a doubt the biggest of his career and there is more pressure on him now than ever before. His previous biggest win in his career was arguably his submission win over Drew Dober back in 2019, but Dober isn’t even ranked.
A win over Ferguson will show that he is finally ready to make the step up to the elite, because there are no easy fights after that. A defeat though would set him back and surely have fans question whether he can actually do it at the highest level.
He’s previously been beaten by Michael Chiesa and Edson Barboza, two who have failed to make it at the highest level themselves thus far in their careers, so it’s a barrier he must pass.
For Ferguson, a loss essentially ends his hopes at ever becoming the world champion. Three in a row against fighters of arguably diminishing quality and reputation each time would likely end his career at the top. Dariush needs the win to prove he’s worthy of the reputation he has received and can step up to fill Ferguson’s position in the division.
It’s a crossroads for both guys and a win has never been more important for either guy and all roads lead to chaos at UFC 262.
Dariush on the other hand is currently on a six-fight win streak with two submissions, two knockouts and two decisions. His most recent fight came in a rematch against the highly rated Carlos Diego Ferreira, where he beat him a second time by split decision at UFC Vegas 18 in February.
Dariush has been clamouring for a big name fight for a while now and has finally been rewarded for his growing popularity and wins, with Ferguson one of the biggest names in the entire company.
‘El Cucuy’ has struggled in his most recent bouts and has lost his position in the title picture as a result of these defeats. The showing against Oliveira in particular was stunning to many fans, as the Brazilian completely dominated and controlled him on the ground for the entire 15 minute duration of the fight.
Many believed that Ferguson was the man to stop Nurmagomedov’s reign as lightweight champion and since their fight never happened despite being booked on four separate occasions, the fight against Oliveira was supposed to prove that he could dominate someone with stunning grappling skills.
Instead he was beaten to a pulp and now will fight against Dariush, who is another fantastic grappler. With both men seemingly on different trajectories in their careers, it’s a great match up for both fighters to try and prove their point.
Dariush has improved dramatically over the last few years and has many analysts and fans talking up his chances of climbing the ranks and getting into title contention himself.
Ranked at number nine, a win over Ferguson would likely see him move into the top five and then potentially he would be just one win away from claiming himself a title shot. Ferguson on the other hand knows that if he is ever to hold undisputed gold in the UFC then he must win this fight.
A defeat would see him on a three-fight skid at 36 years of age with a list of killers in front of him including all the fighters that beat him, making it near impossible for him to climb back up the ranks.
A win though means he’s still in the upper echelons in the division and can look to make a final run while also halting the Dariush hype train right in its tracks. It’s likely to be a three-round fight since it’s happening on a numbered card, although no main event has been announced yet despite UFC 261 and UFC 263’s main events already being revealed.
With the Russian adamant that he is retired and has no plans of returning to the cage, it looked destined to be Poirier taking on either of Chandler or Oliveira in a bout for the title.
The UFC seemed to be pulling in the same direction, offering a fight between Chandler and Oliveira on short notice for UFC 258 which Chandler accepted, but Oliveira turned it down. It now seems that the president of the company is opting to buy more time in the battle to get Khabib to return for one more fight, by creating an unofficial mini tournament for the belt.
According to White Oliveira didn’t turn down a fight with Chandler specifically, he just turned down a short-notice fight. He now believes that fight could serve as a bracket for a tournament he is planning in his head, which would be headlined by the trilogy fight between Poirier and McGregor this summer.
“When you have two guys – Dustin who’s the No. 1 guy in the world ,and a guy like Conor – and they both want it that badly, you do it. These guys (at lightweight) are all going to fight it out and we will narrow it down to the two guys that will face off for the title.
What’s fun for us, being the fans, if you look at the No. 1 ranked guy in the world, Dustin Poirier, all the way down to No. 7, Rafael dos Anjos, the fights that can be made to find out who becomes the next champion are unbelievable. So we’re in for some incredible fights to find out which two of these guys from 1 to 7 will square off to become the next world champion.”
With seven fighters name checked as potential contestants in this “tournament” it sets up some fun fights. We already know it will be Poirier vs McGregor 3 and the assumption is that Chandler will fight against Oliveira. That leaves Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje and Rafael Dos Anjos left to battle it out.
That leaves Ferguson as the odd man out but with Islam Makachev scheduled to fight Drew Dober at UFC 259, a win for Khabib’s training partner could see him enter the bracket to fight Ferguson next and work his way up towards the top of the mountain.
All this would leave Dana White more time to try and convince Khabib to return, while also setting up spectacular fights throughout the year and at the end what we’ll have is a legitimate champion who earned their way to the belt.