It. Is. TIME! UFC 269 is finally taking place this Saturday and has a main card that’s stacked to the brim with bright talent, unreal explosiveness, and plenty of championship ambition.
Though title legacies are at stake for some, others are merely looking to secure a much-needed victory to put them one step closer to being within reach of that dream.
To kick off the main card, UFC starlet Sean O’Malley will be taking on debatably his toughest opponent to date in the much-improved Raulian Paiva. With each bantamweight still on the outside looking in, both will do everything they can to come away victorious.
Following this battle, the fans will get to witness the flyweight debut of Cody Garbrandt as he takes on one of the most dangerous Top 10 contenders in the division in Kai Kara-France.
From excitement to exhilaration to thrill, these first two fights alone have the means to ignite the event with a roar and send this crowd into a frenzy. On that note, here are the predictions for the first two main card bouts of UFC 269.
5. Sean O’Malley vs Raulian Paiva
“Sugar” Sean O’Malley:
Sean O’Malley is the real deal. At only age 27, O’Malley has transformed into one elite striker and has decorated his young UFC career with already four vicious knockouts.
After logging in three fights in 2020 that consisted of a nasty walk-off knockout on Eddie Wineland, O’Malley has made the most of 2021 as well, brutally knocking out both Thomas Almeida and Kris Moutinho prior to setting up his third matchup of the year against Paiva on Saturday.
What makes O’Malley so challenging to go up against is the vision, agility, and creativity he implements with his striking. Bringing a pristine sense of awareness and bouncy touch with his feet that allows him to evade punches and counters with ease, O’Malley frequently incorporates clever feints and movements to throw off his opponents and expose openings he can take advantage of.
Coming off of two ruthless KO/TKO victories this year, O’Malley will aim to get his third on Saturday night and place himself within the Top 15 rankings of one stacked bantamweight division.
Though Raulian Paiva began his UFC career just about three and a half years ago, the 26-year-old Brazilian has been professionally active in mixed martial arts for well over eight years and has transformed into a bright talent.
Since O’Malley’s sole loss to Marlon Vera last year, Paiva could very well be the most challenging opponent he’s faced so far. From his nasty leg kicks to his lulling hand motions to his persistent pressure, Paiva matches up a lot better with O’Malley than people might give him credit for and could cause a handful of problems.
Initially starting his UFC career as a Flyweight where he logged in four fights, Paiva just recently moved up to 135 and took down Kyler Phillips in a very close majority decision ruling in his bantamweight debut this past July.
Although O’Malley is easily one of the toughest opponents he’s ever faced, Paiva has everything he needs to deal a lot of damage on Saturday and is well-equipped with a wide range of skills that can lead him to victory.
Winner: Sean O’Malley
In all fairness to Paiva’s skillset (which includes a black belt in BJJ), he will need to execute a near-flawless performance if he has any hopes of walking out of the octagon with a win. Even in his last showdown against Phillips, Paiva left himself exposed all too often, getting knocked down and beaten up throughout the course of the fight.
O’Malley, on the other hand, has proven to be extremely difficult to defeat, with three out of his last four opponents suffering crushing knockouts. From the time he set foot into the UFC, none of O’Malley’s opponents have been able to deal much damage against him. In fact, if it wasn’t for the drop foot injury he suffered against Vera, O’Malley could very well be still undefeated.
Though this fight has everything to last all three rounds, expect O’Malley to leave UFC 269 victorious.
4. Kai Kara-France vs Cody Garbrandt
Kai “Don’t Blink” Kara-France:
At the age of 28, Kai Kara-France has developed into one exceptional talent in this men’s flyweight division. Logging in his first UFC fight just over three years ago, Kara-France came in with a bang, defeating his first three opponents by decision, which included the likes of Raulian Paiva and Mark De La Rosa.
That said, Kara-France has come across his share of shortcomings these last two years. In his third fight of 2019, Kara-France suffered his first UFC loss by unanimous decision against the current Flyweight Champion Brandon Moreno before enduring his second loss at the hands of Brandon Royval via submission nearly a year later.
However, Kara-France has bounced back since his second loss and delivered an incredible comeback knockout against Rogerio Bontorin earlier this year. Despite grappling for his life as Bontorin was gradually closing in on a submission hold, Kara-France was able to break out, get back onto his feet, and deliver three mighty blows that sent Bontorin stumbling down to the mat for the KO/TKO win.
Whether he’s coming off a win or a loss, the New Zealand native is a constant threat and brings a calculated approach to his striking game. Even on the mat, Kara-France is as slithery as can be and is very difficult to contain. Though Garbrandt is the favorite coming into this fight, Kara-France has everything he needs to secure a victory in this much-anticipated showdown.
Cody “No Love” Garbrandt:
Cody Garbrandt is a seasoned UFC veteran with a whole lot left to show for. Coming onto the scene in 2015, Garbrandt won his first five fights, four of which consisted of knockout finishes.
This incredible winning streak landed him a title shot against Dominick Cruz, who was the bantamweight champion at the time. In his first five-round bout of his mixed martial arts career, Garbrandt managed to pull off a unanimous decision upset to become the new Bantamweight champion of the world.
However, since his sole title victory against Cruz in December of 2016, Garbrandt’s career took a stark turn for the worse. After losing the belt via knockout to his arch-rival T.J. Dillashaw a year later in 2017, Garbrandt lost the immediate title rematch in 2018 by knockout once again. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, Garbrandt suffered yet another KO/TKO in March of 2019, this time at the hands of Pedro Munhoz.
Although Garbrandt was able to collect one epic highlight-worthy knockout against Raphael Assuncao in 2020, he lost again earlier this year to Rob Font. Despite mustering three takedowns in under two rounds, Garbrandt struggled to keep Font on the ground and was thoroughly picked apart with nasty jabs and pounding strikes over the course of the fight.
After losing four of his last five matchups at 135, Garbrandt decided to switch over to the flyweight division and will start his journey there with a tough clash against Kara-France. But even at 125, Garbrandt possesses mighty power. And if he finds even the smallest opening, Garbrandt can end this showdown in a blink of an eye.
Winner: Kai Kara-France
What makes this clash so exciting is that it has the makings of a real slugfest. From Garbrandt’s volume and power to Kara-France’s precision and combos, both of these mixed martial artists have grown into elite strikers over time and have demonstrated just how dangerous they can be.
However, whether it goes the distance or not, expect Kara-France to come away with the victory, and for good reason. With his deceptive touch to set up nasty strikes and his astute sense awareness that allows him to niftily avoid hefty shots, Kara-France counterbalances Garbrandt’s striking tenacity quite well and just so happens to be one of the best kickboxers in the division.
On the other hand, Garbrandt does bring undeniable power but has struggled with connecting the knockout blows he’s been notorious for over his career. To add to it, Garbrandt has a tendency to be overly aggressive with his attacking sprees that, at times, not only lands him in hot water but also eats at his energy in the long run. Despite looking sharp against Font this past spring, Garbrandt had no answer to the striking volume and ferocity Font put forth and could face a similar result with Kara-France.
With all due respect to Garbrandt, he does have a chance at landing a knockout punch and is listed as the favorite after all. But considering how smart and tough Kara-France really is, he has the better chance of winning this matchup and will seek to take Garbrandt into deep waters come Saturday.