Tag Archives: UFC 254

UFC 254 Fallout: Whittaker Up Next, What Now For 155lbs?

UFC 254 lived up to all its hype as Fight Island’s final show delivered great fights, great performances and a historic retirement.

In the main event, Khabib Nurmagomedov dominated Justin Gaethje before choking him unconscious with a triangle choke in the second round to retain his undisputed lightweight championship. Following the fight and after moving to 29-0, Khabib announced that this was his final fight after making a promise to his mother following the passing of his father in July.

It was an emotional moment as Khabib collapsed to the canvas following his win and burst into tears, letting out months of pent up frustration and anger. Justin Gaethje, now conscious, consoled the champion too in a superb moment showing the respect between the two.

So with Khabib Nurmagomedov now retired and undefeated, all eyes switch to who will take over as the king of the division.

January’s fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier now looks likely to have some sort of title implications, while Tony Ferguson, Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje are all still in the mix. Gaethje’s defeat to Khabib means it’s unlikely he’ll be involved in the immediate title re-crowning but one win could get him right back in the race for contetion. The likelihood is that Ferguson will fight Chandler, which means Gaethje would need to fight Dan Hooker to get himself back in the race.

As for the middleweight division, Robert Whittaker showed he is still the best contender for Israel Adesanya with a comfortable win over Jared Cannonier in the co-main event.

Whittaker used his explosiveness and his excellent jab to shut down any offence from Cannonier, who attempted to prevent Whittaker’s attack by throwing hard leg kicks. The kicks weren’t enough to stop Whittaker’s movement though, and Bobby Knuckles dominated the opening two rounds before knocking him down with a huge head kick in the third round.

UFC 254: Whittaker v Cannonier : News Photo

‘Bobby Knuckles’ survived a tense final 30 seconds where he was wobbled by one of Cannonier’s right jabs, but overall it was a convincing display to move him to 2-0 since his loss to Adesanya in 2019.

Cannonier had been promised a title fight should he win at UFC 254, but after Whittaker’s performance UFC president Dana White admitted that the prospect of an Adesanya vs Whittaker rematch was ‘very appealing’.

While Adesanya dismantled him in their first fight, winning via knockout in the second round, Whittaker looks fresher, more focused and even better since coming back from that loss. If ‘The Reaper’ is able to keep up this level of performance against Adesanya in the rematch, he will pose a huge threat to the title. If Adesanya can beat him once again, then it will almost certainly see ‘The Last Style Bender’ leapfrog him in the ranks of greatest middleweight of all time.

2021 is shaping up to be a very special year for the UFC.

Khabib Nurmagomedov Retires From MMA

Khabib Nurmagomedov has announced his retirement from mixed martial arts with immediate effect, following his second round win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

The Dagestani grappler moved to 29-0 on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi, choking Justin Gaethje unconscious with a triangle choke just 94 seconds into the second round. The win means he unified the division, reinstating his title of undisputed lightweight champion in the UFC.

Following the fight, Khabib’s team cut the tape on his gloves off and during his post-fight interview in the octagon he revealed to Jon Anik that this was his last fight ever.

This was my last fight in the UFC. This was my last fight. There’s no way I’m going to come here without my father. It was the first time after what happened with my father. After the UFC called me about Justin, I spoke with my mother for three days. She doesn’t want me to fight without my father, but I promised her this is going to be my last fight. If I give my word, I have to follow this. It was my last fight here.

I know only one thing I want from UFC on Tuesday, to put me on #1 pound-for-pound fighter because I deserve it. UFC undisputed lightweight champion, 13-0 in UFC, 29-0 in my pro MMA career, I think I deserve it.

The announcement is one that rocks MMA, with many expecting him to try and hit 30-0 before bowing out – potentially against Georges St-Pierre.

However, while many fighters retire from the sport and eventually come back I don’t think anyone expects that will happen on this occasion. The Team AKA fighter has always come across as a man of his word and following his father’s death in July, there were talks of retirement immediately.

His comments after the fight confirm that it was an option but he instead opted to fight in his father’s honour one last time before bowing out and riding off into the sunset.

With Justin Gaethje dispatched in a relatively easy manner, all eyes were on Conor McGregor’s bout with Dustin Poirier in January as Khabib’s next contender. Khabib admitted that fight played a part in his decision as he has no interest in fighting them again.

Conor is going to fight Dustin in January. I already choke them both and beat them. I have no interest in that one, this is gonna be my last fight.

Both fighters were among the plethora of athletes and celebrities to comment on the champ’s retirement, both sending respectful messages over Twitter.

Justin Gaethje revealed he is also ready to get back into the octagon as soon as possible, mentioning a 6-8 week period before fighting again which could see him fight Michael Chandler in a potential title eliminator once again. Tony Ferguson is also still in the conversation, with his last fight snapping a 12 fight winning streak in which he never got to challenge for the undisputed title.

As for his wish to be crowned the No.1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, I think it’s a no-brainer. At 29-0 in this division, defeating the opponents he’s defeated in the manner he’s defeated them in, it’s a legacy that will likely go unmatched in history. The least the UFC can do is grant him his final wish.

Khabib Nurmagomedov, thank you.

UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Joel Alvarez def Alexander Yavkolev via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:00)

Fight starts with Alvarez throwing lots of leg kicks to stop Yavkolev’s forward motion. Yavkolev finds a moment to change levels and shoot for a takedown and falls straight into a guillotine. Alvarez squeezing tight but Yakvolev not panicking and eventually pops his head out into full guard. He starts with ground and pound, targeting the body but Alvarez attacking from the bottom with elbows to the head. Yavkolev not looking to pass and Alvarez throws up an armbar out of nowhere. Yavkolev tries to fight it but Alvarez is too good and secures the tap. Huge win for the Spaniard.

Miranda Maverick def Liana Jojua via Knockout, Round 1 (5:00)

A good start to the fight for both fighters as they start throwing early. Jojua counters Maverick’s attempted entries with solid right hands to the jaw. Maverick adapts the entry and starts landing a lot of power shots with the southpaw stance. Jojua is coming forward again now but Maverick throws a huge slicing elbow with her left arm and cuts Jojua open bad. She keeps throwing power shots and busts Jojua up bad as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Maverick.

Between rounds the referee has checked in on Jojua and deemed that she in unable to continue fighting due to the cut! It’s all over! Huge win for Miranda Maverick!

PRELIMS

Da Un Jung vs Sam Alvey – SPLIT DRAW (29-28 Alvey, 29-28 Jung, 28-28)

Slow start to this fight as Jung rushes to the centre to start but Alvey stays against the cage. Jung throwing lots of kicks and Alvey looking to counter with a big right hook but hitting air for the most part. Jung pressuring Alvey against the cage and throwing combinations down the middle, but Alvey throws a big left counter hook that wobbles Jung! Jung clinches up and recovers then breaks with a big elbow. Looks like an accidental eye poke by Jung but the referee doesn’t see it and Jung lands a big combo straight to the chin of Alvey. 10-9 Alvey but it’s a close round.

Another good round that follows the pattern of the first. Jung keeping Alvey pressed against the cage and firing off shots but Alvey is replying with heavy shots of his own. Alvey throwing nice leg kicks too to try and slow down the movement. Jung not throwing enough shots to trouble him and the fight is getting away from him at the moment. 20-18 Alvey.

What a start to the round! The two come together much like in previous rounds but then as Alvey moves in to throw, Jung lands a huge right elbow that drops him! He lands a big shot on the ground too on the follow up but Alvey gets back to his feet. Jung takes his back and throws some big shots but Alvey breaks and then lands a big uppercut of his own. Jung looks hurt as Alvey starts swinging, then Jung throws another massive elbow that connects again! Alvey is wobbling but the two fighters clinch up as Jung looks for a takedown. A minute to go, Jung is looking for a takedown to get a finish but Alvey defending well. Jung breaks from the clinch with another massive elbow and Alvey is battling to survive as the round comes to an end. 29-28 Alvey for me but a great fight.

Shavkat Rakhmonov def Alex Oliveira via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (4:40)

Competitive start to the round as ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira comes out and lands a big right hand right off the bat. Both fighters exchange leg kicks and jabs before Rakhmonov lands a big body shot with the knee that backs Oliviera up. A barrage of strikes and knees look like they’re hurting Oliveira but then ‘Cowboy’ throws a massive check-left hook which forces a clinch. The remainder of the round looks like it will play out against the cage but out of nowhere Rakhmonov grabs the neck and sinks in a guillotine to force the tap out! Huge debut win for Rakhmonov!

Casey Kenney def Nathaniel Wood via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

A very fast paced start to the round as both men look to establish some dominance early on. Wood throwing lots of leg kicks and jabs while Kenney is replying with a mixture of kicks and big hooks. Both guys trading fast shots and slipping out of the way too, but Kenney is landing the bigger shots as this round goes on. Kenney is landing bombs with his left hand but Wood showing he has a chin as we enter the final minute of the round. Super fun round, Kenney edges it. 10-9.

Second round and Kenney comes out more aggressive and looks a bit fresher, landing more shots as he comes forward once again. Wood is throwing more leg kicks and that is troubling Kenney’s movement, but he is still landing his left hand often. Kenney is now looking more tired than Wood, who continues to throw kicks and follow them up with a jab, left hook. Kenney starting to try and work the body, but Wood is taking it well and throwing leg kicks still. Kenney goes for a takedown but Wood defends very easily before Kenney lands a huge left hand that snaps his head back! Kenney clinches and throws a knee but Wood breaks away and lands a nice one-two. Kenney is tiring but still landing the left hand. 19-19 for me going into the final round.

Final round and Wood comes out fresher, throwing leg kicks once again. Kenney is throwing a right jab, left straight combo that is landing flush but Wood is doing well to counter with his own right hand and more leg kicks. Kenney changes levels and shoots for a takedown and ends up against the cage taking Wood’s back. Wood defending well to try not to end up on the ground but Kenney is winning this round simply through position. Wood tries to explode out but Kenney holds on, and they end up back in the same position. Wood defends brilliantly and they break with a little over 90 seconds to go. Wood throws a big elbow on the break and follows it up with a barrage of punches, but Kenney clinches and trips Wood to no avail. Another takedown attempt but Wood sprawls out and avoids superbly, then fires in another kick. Big right hand by Wood followed by a left hook stumbles Casey and the round ends with the two slugging it out. What a fight. 29-28 Wood for me.

Tai Tuivasa def Stefan Struve via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)

Slow start to this one as Tuivasa looks to get close enough to land his heavy shots but Struve tries to keep the distance. Tuivasa moves in and Struve clinches up and uses those long limbs to control posture, as Tuivasa starts blasting body shots and trying to break away. Tuivasa does break away and then lands a nice short elbow on the break that wobbles Struve but he stays standing. Lots of leg kicks from Tuivasa now too have Struve shaking on his feet. Struve tries to clinch again but Tuivasa throws him to the ground and starts throwing bombs! He drops Struve and then throws more shots and the referee waves it off with a second to go! What a win Tai Tuivasa!

MAIN CARD

Magomed Ankalaev def Ion Cutelaba via Knockout, Round 1 (4:19)

Much slower start to this fight than their original bout, as time elapses past the previous duration with barely a strike thrown. Ankalaev having the better of all the striking exchanges in this round as he throws a straight left beautifully down the pipe but Cutelaba is stepping forward well, although he’s following Ankalaev instead of cutting him off. Cutelaba tries to spin but Ankalaev throws a straight left that drops him but he recovers. Cutelaba throws a big strike that Ankalaev counters with a right hook, left straight that knocks Cutelaba down! He follows up with huge ground and pound and knocks Cutelaba unconscious! What a knockout!

Lauren Murphy def Liliya Shakirova via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:31)

A competitive opening round as Murphy takes the centre of the octagon and forces Shakirova against the cage. The entire round is spent circling the cage with Shakirova too far away to land any strikes, so Murphy is reading everything and landing plenty. Shakirova shoots for a takedown and gets it but Murphy gets straight back to her feet and the pattern continues. Shakirova shoots in again but Murphy fights it really well and lands some nice elbows against the cage that forces Shakirova to break away and abandon the attempt. Slow round but interesting. 10-9 Murphy for me.

A slightly quicker start as Murphy steps forward more aggressively with combinations. Shakirova still moving and bouncing around avoiding big damage but not really throwing anything herself. A clinch against the cage allows Murphy to show her physical advantage and she gets the takedown and ends up in guard, throwing elbows. Shakirova attempts to hip escape but Murphy transitions to the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke. It’s tight and Shakirova fights it but it’s too much and she taps out. Big, impressive win for Lauren Murphy!

Phil Hawes def Jacob Malkoun via Knockout, Round 1 (0:18)

Hawes comes across the octagon, backs Malkoun up against the cage and throws a HUGE right hand that drops Malkoun. Two follow up right hands knock Malkoun unconscious and that’s the end of that. Goodnight.

Alexander Volkov def Walt Harris via Knockout, Round 2 (1:15)

A fun first round between these two heavyweights as Harris starts well, using his speed advantage. Lots of jabs and inside leg kicks but Volkov backs up and uses his range well to counter. Nice right hand from Harris is met with a low left kick by Volkov that stumbles him. Volkov throws a short right-hand followed by a left that stumbles Harris and hurts him! Volkov marches to the cage and starts throwing to finish. Harris covers up then throws two big looping hooks to defend himself as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Volkov.

Harris starts the second round with a fake takedown attempt and when Volkov defends he goes up top with a big punch. Volkov steps forward again and throws some more punches that force Harris to cover up. Front kick to the body by Volkov brings a shout of pain from Harris and Volkov moves in with the big follow up punches for the end of the fight! Big win for Volkov!

Robert Whittaker def Jared Cannonier via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Fight starts with a massive leg kick from Cannonier that shakes Whittaker immediately. Whittaker bouncing in and out now but every time he throws a jab Cannonier launches the leg attack. A second kick drops Whittaker but he bounces back up immediately. Whittaker’s leg is bruising already but it is Whittaker landing more with the hands. Big counter striker from Whittaker lands and wobbles Cannonier but he comes back well. Very tentative end to the round with both men respecting the striking technique of the other. Head kick by Whittaker lands but Cannonier walks through it and the round ends. 10-9 Whittaker.

A tense round once again as Cannonier continues to attack the lead leg and Whittaker throwing jabs to score points. Whittaker throws a nice right overhand that connects and then goes back to his jab. The jab is landing enough to cause a good amount of swelling around Cannonier’s right eye. Cannonier throws another leg kick but so far it’s not effecting Whittaker’s movement much. First clinch of the fight and Whittaker secures a trip and takedown but Cannonier uses the cage to bounce immediately and escape. Straight right from Whittaker down the middle lands flush as the second round comes to an end. 20-18 Whittaker.

Final round and once again Whittaker using his jab to control the distance. Nice one-two lands nicely by Whittaker as Cannonier misses with a wild right hand. Whittaker lands a one-two and follows it with a head-kick that drops Cannonier! Whittaker charges across the octagon looking for the finish and lands huge ground and pound but Cannonier survives. Whittaker moves into full guard on the ground but Cannonier explodes out and gets back to the feet. Final 30 seconds and Cannonier lands a big jab that wobbles Whittaker! He goes for the finish but Whittaker has enough about him to change levels and clinch until the buzzer. 30-27 Whittaker, what a performance!

Khabib Nurmagomedov def Justin Gaethje via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 2 (1:34)

Super first round for the champion Khabib. The fight started slowly with both fighters feeling each other out but then Khabib turned it up a level and started stalking him around the cage. Gaethje’s leg kicks causing plenty of damage but Khabib walking through them and landing his jab. Flying knee lands for Khabib too. Gaethje lands a big left hook but Khabib eats it and keeps moving. Big takedown landed by Khabib as we enter the final minute and he passes into full mount very quickly. He attempts to transition into an armbar but time goes out on him. 10-9 Khabib.

Second round starts and Gaethje lands a big leg kick that looks like it hurts Khabib again. He continues to march forwards though and lands one-twos and jabs. A double leg attempt sees him end up on the back of Gaethje and then he instantly transitions into full mount. Khabib locks in a triangle choke from mount, falls back and forces the tap out from Justin Gaethje who goes unconscious. What a performance. What a fighter. 29-0.

UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje – Main Card Predictions

After a month-long stay on UFC Fight Island, the grand finale is upon us as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight championship against interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

A stacked card, with a six-fight main card, has been put together for the fans’ viewing pleasure and should be one of the best events we’ve seen since the pandemic started back in March.

With 12 fights scheduled to take place, I will break down each fight and give my prediction as to the winner, method of victory and round while giving my analysis on both fighters too.

Last weekend I got a very respectable 8/11 correct predictions with three perfect picks, so lets see if I can better that on this 12 fight card. I’ve already predicted the prelims, which you can check out here.

MAIN CARD

Magomed Ankalaev (13-1) vs Ion Cutelaba (15-5 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

This fight has been booked three times before UFC 254 during the pandemic and fallen through every time. My prediction remains the same though. The first time these two fought each other was one of the strangest fights in UFC history. Cutelaba came out super aggressive and nearly came to blows in the octagon with Ankalaev before the fight even started, before employing a “drunken master” strategy where he acted hurt when getting hit to egg Ankalaev on. It backfired though when the referee stepped in insanely early and handed Ankalaev a TKO win. Realistically, Ankalaev is the better fighter. Both are strong wrestlers with powerful strikes but the Russian mixes his strikes up better with kicks too and his defence is much better. Cutelaba’s best chance is to hang in there until Ankalaev gets tired, or he lands a big punch.
PICK – Magomed Ankalaev via Knockout, Round 1

Lauren Murphy (13-4) vs Liliya Shakirova (8-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

‘Lucky’ Lauren Murphy steps into the octagon on the back of a three fight win streak when she takes on short-notice step in Liliya Shakirova making her UFC debut. Shakirova has also won three in a row coming into this fight, with a knockout win in her last bout over a year ago. Murphy is one of the pioneers of women’s MMA and at 37 year old, she was due to take on Cynthia Calvillo in a title eliminator in the flyweight division. Calvillo is out but Murphy wants to fight and she should be able to win this pretty comfortably. Shakirova is no pushover. She throws great front kicks and spinning kicks and has good striking but she will have a reach disadvantage and Murphy is just so experienced and in arguably the best moment of her career that she should see this one through.
PICK – Lauren Murphy via Unanimous Decision

Phil Hawes (8-2) vs Jacob Malkoun (4-0) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

After a stunning debut victory on Dana White’s Contender Series, Phil Hawes re-enters the octagon just 6 weeks later to take on UFC debutant Jacob Malkoun. Malkoun is a grappler who trains with Robert Whittaker in Australia who is undefeated with two knockouts from four career wins. Hawes has won his last four in a row via first round stoppage and I’d be surprised if he didn’t make it five in this one. His leg kicks are fantastic and he has real one punch power and hand speed. Against someone as green as Malkoun who’s strengths lie elsewhere, it should be a short night.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 1

Alexander Volkov (31-8) vs Walt Harris (13-8 1NC) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

The heavyweights make their mark on this card as two big men square off in this one. Volkov’s last fight saw him defeated by Curtis Blaydes in their main event back in June, while Walt Harris got dominated and knocked out in an emotionally charged performance against Alistair Overeem in May. Both men are power strikers with genuine knockout power, but Volkov for me is comfortably the more well rounded mixed martial artist. All of Harris’ wins have come by knockout, with 11 of them coming in the first round. If Volkov can withstand the initial burst that Harris will come out with, I expect that he will control the fight using his length and clinch to come away with a convincing decision win.
PICK – Alexander Volkov via Unanimous Decision

Robert Whittaker (21-5) vs Jared Cannonier (13-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

I’ve kind of gone over this fight already earlier this week, when I explained why I’m all in on Robert Whittaker to beat Jared Cannonier, but I’ll do it again here in a snappier way. Whittaker is one of the best middleweights of all-time and despite his chin showing him up on occasion in recent fights, he’s lost just once in his last 12 and that was to lose the title to Israel Adesanya. His level of technical kickboxing is among the best ever in the UFC and his leg kicks and explosiveness have seen him beat some of the best the company has to offer, including Darren Till last time out. Cannonier is on a streak right now that has seen him win three in a row all by knockout and he absolutely has the power to put Whittaker away. He has to hit him cleanly first though and while Whittaker has been dropped in each of his last four fights, only Adesanya was able to finish him. He is durable, explosive, fast and powerful himself. Cannonier, for me, is a wrecking machine but when it comes to technical aspects he is a level below ‘The Reaper’ and should the Aussie mix in his takedowns too he should win this fight pretty comfortably. Cannonier absolutely has the knockout power but Whittaker avoids it for the most part and takes a one-sided decision win.
PICK – Robert Whittaker via Unanimous Decision

Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) vs Justin Gaethje (22-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

The biggest fight of 2020 by a country mile as the undisputed lightweight champion takes on the interim lightweight champion looking to unify the belts once again. Khabib Nurmagomedov is 28-0 having destroyed the entire lightweight division. He has arguably never lost a round in his UFC career and has started to search for finishes even more aggressively than he used to. Gaethje is a tank who has powered through the UFC since entering as an undefeated fighter. He dismantled Michael Johnson in his debut before incredible performances against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier ended in knockout defeats. He bounced back from that with first round knockout wins over Edson Barboza, James Vick and Donald Cerrone before destroying the divisions boogeyman Tony Ferguson over five rounds for a TKO win. While he’s never shown it in his MMA career, Gaethje is a world class wrestler and will be the toughest challenge Khabib has ever faced in the cage. Khabib has almost been over-looking Gaethje during the build-up to this bout, constantly talking up a potential bout with Georges St-Pierre to move to 30-0. Despite that, it’s so hard to bet against him. He’s so dominant, so good and so consistent. He only needs one takedown per round to keep the fight there because his top control is so good and I can’t see how anyone stops him getting it. I think Khabib does exactly what he said he would; takes him down, tires him out chokes him out in the later rounds.
PICK – Khabib Nurmagomedov via Submission, Round 4

UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje – Prelims Predictions

After a month-long stay on UFC Fight Island, the grand finale is upon us as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight championship against interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

A stacked card, with a six-fight main card, has been put together for the fans’ viewing pleasure and should be one of the best events we’ve seen since the pandemic started back in March.

With 12 fights scheduled to take place, I will break down each fight and give my prediction as to the winner, method of victory and round while giving my analysis on both fighters too.

Last weekend I got a very respectable 8/11 correct predictions with three perfect picks, so lets see if I can better that on this 12 fight card.

EARLY PRELIMS

Joel Alvarez (17-2) vs Alexander Yakovlev (25-10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Joel Alvarez makes his return to Fight Island on the card opener in this one where he takes on veteran lightweight Alexander Yakovlev. Alvarez has won 12 of his last 13 fights, including his last two in a row and has never won a fight via the judges scorecards. Yakovlev on the other hand has lost three of his last four and this will be only his fourth fight since losing to Kamaru Usman in 2016. Alvarez has stunning submission skills but his striking isn’t his strong suit, while Yakovlev is a wrestler who uses his striking to open up the takedown. The issue with that is that if he takes it to the ground, it opens him up to all of Alvarez’s submission game and that will be his downfall. Alvarez takes the neck for a guillotine submission win.
PICK – Joel Alvarez via Submission, Round 1

Liana Jojua (8-3) vs Miranda Maverick (7-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

In the women’s flyweight division, it’s a debut for Invicta’s Miranda Maverick where she takes on Liana Jojua. Jojua is a submission artist who has five of her career wins come by armbar, including her last win over Diana Belbita on Fight Island back in July. Maverick is a strong striker and wrestler who also the majority of her career wins via submission. Jojua’s best chance of winning the fight is by getting a takedown and working her submissions, but Maverick has a huge edge when it comes to takedown defence and offence so if anyone is getting taken down in this fight it’s Jojua. With her top control and striking to set it up, I can’t see past Maverick dominating for a comfortable decision win.
PICK – Miranda Maverick via Unanimous Decision

Nathaniel Wood (17-4) vs Casey Kenney (15-2-1) – (Catchweight/140lbs)

A fight that was put together at short notice sees Brit Nathaniel Wood look to make it back-to-back wins in the UFC when he takes on highly rated Casey Kenney at a catchweight. Both fighters come into this one 4-1 in their five UFC appearances and that’s only the start of where their similarities begin. Both are solid strikers that rely on wrestling and scrambles in the octagon while they also have great cardio, hand speed and decent power in their hands. Wood is two years younger than Kenney but he has more professional bouts so he has the ever so slight experience edge. It’s a fight that will likely be decided by who can establish their wrestling game more and I believe that Kenney may have the advantage in that aspect. With that said, Wood is a natural finisher in the cage with only three decisions in his career while Kenney has gone the distance ten times. Wood has the skillset to hurt Kenney and if he does, I back him to finish it. It’s a real coin flip of a fight but I’m going to be slightly biased and go with the Brit.
PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Unanimous Decision

PRELIMS

Da Un Jung (13-2) vs Sam Alvey (33-14 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

In what will be his fifth UFC bout, Sam Alvey comes into this fight on a four-fight losing streak to take on Korean power-puncher Da Un Jung. Jung is undefeated in the octagon, submitting Khadis Ibragimov before knocking out Mike Rodriguez in under a minute in his first two UFC fights. Alvey has been knocked out twice during this four-fight streak and despite being known as a power puncher himself, he has won a fight via that method just once in his last 11 bouts – stretching back to 2016. His chin looks like it’s cracking and Jung hits so hard that I think this will be the last time we see Alvey in the UFC as a fifth loss in a row will likely see him released.
PICK – Da Un Jung via Knockout, Round 2

Alex Oliveira (22-8-1) vs Shavkat Rakhmonov (12-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another contender for potential fight of the night in this one as ‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira steps up on short notice to take on undefeated Kazakhstani Shavkat Rakhmonov. Rakhmonov has 12 wins and 12 finishes, never seeing a professional fight going beyond the second round before. Alex Oliveira is a veteran of the UFC and is currently on a two-fight winning streak, defeating Peter Sobotta last time out on Fight Island via decision. Oliveira is a tricky welterweight with solid but unorthodox striking as well as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, while Rakhmonov is a very talented striker with a good top control game. This is another coin flip of a fight in all honesty. Rakhmonov’s power has seen him starch guys early on, but we’ve seen Oliveira ride out the storm before and even knock guys out himself. I’m going to go with my gut on this one and say the step-up in level of competition for Rakhmonov might be a little too much here and Oliveira can ride out a close decision win.
PICK – Alex Oliveira via Unanimous Decision

Stefan Struve (29-12) vs Tai Tuivasa (10-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Two heavyweights who are arguably fighting for their UFC careers in this bout as Stefan Struve looks to bounce back from a defeat to Ben Rothwell against Tai Tuivasa who is looking to snap a three-fight losing streak. Struve is a submission specialist who stands at 7 foot tall, while Tuivasa is a knockout machine who’s recently been found out in the octagon. It led to his UFC release earlier this year but he is back for a Fight Island card and looking to make the most of his second chance. Struve himself left the UFC for a retirement stint before realising he couldn’t stay away and is since 1-1 in the company. It really is a fight that is determined by where it goes. If it stays on the feet then Tuivasa has more than enough power and striking credentials to put Struve to sleep, but if it goes to the ground then Tuivasa is like a fish out of water and Struve will tap him out. As I see it going though, Tuivasa will walk forward and back Struve against the cage before crashing heavy punches in for a knockout win.
PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 1

Khabib Nurmagomedov Disrespecting Justin Gaethje With GSP Fight Talk

UFC 254 is this weekend and for the first time ever, Khabib Nurmagomedov will headline the card against Justin Gaethje for the UFC lightweight championship.

An undefeated 28-0 record, Khabib is arguably the most dominant fighter in UFC history. When he comes up against Gaethje though, it will be the toughest test of his entire MMA career. A man who lives for controlled chaos, Gaethje is an elite wrestler with some of the heaviest hands in the sport.

With 19 knockouts from 22 career wins, Gaethje revealed in a recent promo interview with BT Sport that the reason he doesn’t use his wrestling in fights is simply because it’s quicker to win by knockout.

Despite being the favourite for the fight, Khabib Nurmagomedov is usually one of the fighters who controls the narrative through actions rather than words. He is almost always respectful to his opponent and does his talking in the cage. This time around has been slightly different though.

Since the passing of his father Abdulmanap back in July, there has been a lot of talk about retirement from the Nurmagomedov camp. Revelations have come out that Khabib’s father had wanted him to retire once he hit 30-0, while others say Khabib has been planning for a potential fight with Georges St-Pierre more than ever since his father’s untimely demise.

During the fight week this week, Khabib has been quoted once again talking about a potential bout with GSP.

If you want to fight, he has to come and make 155lbs. I am ready for him. After this fight [with Gaethje] it’s going to be a great fight with GSP. Fans, they’re going to watch this fight. UFC loves this fight. I really want to fight and it’s going to be the biggest fight in UFC history.

Khabib Nurmagomedov talking to Adam Catterall for BT Sport

On this occasion, I believe it’s Khabib who is being the disrespectful fighter. He’s overlooking a motivated and healthy Justin Gaethje who is quite comfortably the biggest threat to the title he’s ever faced.

Gaethje has consistently referred to Khabib as the best in the world and the number 1 lightweight, with all predictions for the fight coming across as competitive and confidence rather than disrespect. Khabib has matched those comments, talking about ‘drowning him in deep water’ with his wrestling but the talk about his next fight before this one has even happened just seems disrespectful.

With Khabib seemingly overlooking the threat Justin Gaethje poses to his title reign, the chance that we see a new champion has grown in my eyes ahead of this fight. Khabib needs to focus, ignore the talk around a potential super-fight with Georges St-Pierre and make sure he does his job in Abu Dhabi this Saturday night.

UFC 254: Why I’m All In On Robert Whittaker To Beat Jared Cannonier

It’s not often in the UFC that the undisputed champion of a division is the one calling out opponents after victorious bouts.

After Israel Adesanya defended his belt in stunning fashion against Paulo Costa last month, knocking the Brazilian out in the second round after dominating the entire fight, it was he who made the challenge for his next opponent.

Much in the same way that he called out Yoel Romero following his win over Robert Whittaker, Adesanya called out Jared Cannonier for his next title defence if he can defeat ‘The Reaper’ at UFC 254.

UFC 243 Whittaker v Adesanya : News Photo

Cannonier has knockout wins at heavyweight, light heavyweight and now middleweight too with his most recent wins over Jack Hermansson and Anderson Silva. But this bout against Robert Whittaker will be the biggest fight of his career.

Whittaker has lost just once in his last eleven fights, with the last defeat prior to the one against Israel Adesanya coming against Stephen Thompson at welterweight in 2014. Bobby Knuckles is one of the most explosive and technical strikers in the entire division, with world class Muay-Thai and excellent wrestling to back it up.

He has knockout power too as shown in his fights against Derek Brunson and Jacare Souza but what’s most impressive about him is just how well he mixes his attacks up. His capable of staying at range and exploding in with quick attacks before moving back out of range. Whittaker, for my money, is behind only Anderson Silva as the greatest middleweight of all-time but Adesanya wants that crown and isn’t far off.

Cannonier is an absolute monster. He has crazy knockout power, speed and good boxing. His issue is that he’s just not as well rounded and complete as Whittaker. He has every chance of landing big on Whittaker and scoring a knockout. The Australian has been knocked down in each of his last four fights, but only Adesanya was able to translate that into a knockout or even a win.

Whittaker has a chip on his shoulder after losing to ‘The Last Style Bender’ at UFC 243 and is adamant he wants to get his title back. He believes he was burnt out after fighting non-stop for so many years and the two back-to-back wars against Yoel Romero almost certainly took time off his career. He dominated Darren Till in July on Fight Island, blowing out the Brit’s knee in the process with low kicks and wants to get back to a title shot.

A win over Cannonier, who has been promised the next title shot with a win, would almost certainly put him back at the top of the pile. A Robert Whittaker who has already been to the top of the mountain and knows what these pressure situations feel like is going to know what it takes to get the win here.

I’m all in on Whittaker for this fight but it’s not a dig at Cannonier’s skillset at all. He’s a great fighter and no doubt one of the best middleweights in the world. But so is Whittaker and I think ‘Bobby Knuckles’ will be able to survive the initial explosiveness and outclass his over three rounds to set up a rematch for the undisputed middleweight crown in 2021.

UFC 254: Khabib Nurmagomedov Quiz

It’s finally fight week, where Khabib Nurmagomedov will defend his undefeated record and UFC lightweight championship against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 this weekend.

In anticipation of the card, I’ve had a look at the career of one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in MMA history and put together a short quiz about him. See if you can get 10/10 and let me know the results you get in the comments or over on Twitter.

Good luck!

Michael Chandler: Who Should Welcome Him To UFC Lightweight Division?

After seeing out his contract with Bellator with a win over long-time rival Benson Henderson, Michael Chandler has officially signed with the UFC.

The former Bellator lightweight champion had long been linked with a move to the UFC and upon entering free agency, Dana White certainly was open to the idea. It’s now been revealed that ‘Iron’ has signed a long-term deal with the organisation and will serve as a back-up for the UFC 254 main event where Khabib Nurmagomedov will defend his lightweight title against Justin Gaethje.

That decision has been met with scepticism, considering just a few weeks before Dana White said that Bellator’s top guys were nowhere near the UFC’s upper echelon of talent. But with Chandler stepping straight into that position, it seems that White may have big plans for the 34 year old.

Should the title fight at UFC 254 fall apart, Chandler would surely be the underdog against either opponent. Khabib is seen as the greatest lightweight of all-time and with his aggressive wrestling style Chandler would almost certainly struggle to string together his best performance. He’d have more chance against Gaethje who’s preference is just straight up chaos, but even then I’d back the ‘The Highlight’. Gaethje hits so hard, is so durable and has elite wrestling to fall back on if he ever felt the need to.

In an ideal world that title fight stays together and Chandler doesn’t get in the octagon on Fight Island. So who should welcome him to the lightweight division in the biggest and best MMA company on planet Earth?

The obvious step down from a potential immediate title shot would be the No.2 contender – Dustin Poirier. ‘Diamond’ was supposed to be on the card at UFC 254 for a fight against No.3 Tony Ferguson but the parties couldn’t agree on financial terms and the fight fell apart. Poirier has been open about wanting to fight for the belt and he sees a fight with Ferguson as the quickest route back to a title shot. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported that the UFC did in fact offer Poirier a fight with Chandler, but he declined the fight as he felt he owed Tony Ferguson some loyalty after the latter went to bat for him publicly to earn more money for their showdown.

With that fight seemingly inevitable as next up for both, that means Chandler needs to drop down slightly lower. Next down in those rankings is Conor McGregor but it is highly unlikely that the Notorious one would come out from his ‘retirement’ to fight Chandler, although the UFC did reveal that they are working on ‘something fun’ for a potential return in early 2021.

That leaves the next man down, who’s also conveniently without a fight scheduled right now, Dan Hooker. The Australian was on a tear through the division after moving up from featherweight, with big wins over Al Iaquinta, James Vick and Paul Felder. His last bout came against Dustin Poirier though and in a five round war he was pipped by the better boxer in one of the best fights of the year.

‘Hangman’ has publicly called for the fight with Chandler, claiming that he would send him ‘back to the B Leagues’ if they were to fight. Chandler hasn’t publicly responded to the challenge but the fight would make sense for all parties. A win for Chandler would put him in the title conversation, likely needing just one more win to get there while a win for Hooker shows that he really does belong with the elites at 155lbs and keeps him in the conversation too.

Chandler is arguably the best, most decorated fighter to jump ship from Bellator to UFC at his peak so the chance to see him compete against the best the UFC has to offer is something that all fans want to see.