Which UFC mixed martial artists will be victorious following UFC 299? Here’s our main card predictions!

MMA: UFC Fight Night-San Antonio - Vera vs Sandhagen
Aaron Meullion-USA TODAY Sports

Following the conclusion of every holiday break, the UFC kicks off the New Year with a handful of stacked events decorated with must-see matchups. From UFC 297 to then UFC 298, MMA fans have already been able to soak in some legendary battles over the first two months of the year, with more set to come on March 9 in UFC 299.

Though UFC 299 comes with a deep variety of special matchups that extend well into the prelims and early prelims of the event, the main card is where the best and most anticipated action will transpire with five electrifying showdowns on deck, including a big rematch for the men’s bantamweight belt.

However, with so much on the line for all ten of these mixed martial artists, which five stand the best chance to walk away from UFC 299 victorious? Here’s a look at our predictions and why we think these five mixed martial artists will win their respective bouts.

Petr Yan (4) vs Song Yadong (7) – Winner: Yan

Yadong has been a rising star within the bantamweight division for quite some time, defeating the likes of Marlon Vera by unanimous decision in 2020 and Marlon Moraes by TKO in 2022. But at the age of 26, Yadong still has quite a bit of growth to establish, and particularly within the Top 10.

Following a doctor’s stoppage loss to Cory Sandhagen in 2022, Yadong bounced back with a knockout win over 15th ranked Ricky Simon last April and produced a statement making unanimous decision win over Chris Gutierrez last December, who’s currently unranked.

On the other hand, Yan, who’s currently riding a three-fight losing streak, has a lot more on the line and much more experience than Yadong, which will prove to be the influential factors that will lead him to victory. Following two split decision losses, one of which (against Sean O’Malley) should have resulted in a win, Yan was dealt a brutal onslaught of 49 takedown attempts by Merab Dvalishvili en route to a dominant unanimous decision loss.

With a Top 5 ranking spot to protect and a losing streak to break, this matchup will bring out the best of Yan’s game and allow him to come away with the win. Though Yadong possesses a complete portfolio of skills, including knockout power, sharp boxing, and savviness on the mat, Yan’s far more polished Muay Thai striking game, elite speed, and pure toughness will lead him to win this matchup and solidify his spot in the Top 3 of the bantamweight division.

Gilbert Burns (4) vs Jack Della Maddalena (11) – Winner: Burns

In the welterweight division, 27-year-old Jack Della Maddalena is currently riding an undefeated 7-fight streak in the UFC since appearing on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021. In fact, since Maddalena’s first two losses to start his MMA career in 2016, he’s won his last 16 bouts leading up to his next matchup with Gilbert Burns.

But considering this impressive run Maddalena has been able to sustain, Burns will bring it to an end come UFC 299. What’s concerning with Maddalena comes down to the fact that over his last two fights, he squeaked by with split decision wins against two opponents that, on paper, he should have dominated, including 13th-ranked Kevin Holland.

If Maddalena found it difficult to secure wins against Bassil Hafez and Holland, what makes you think it will be any easier for him to go up against Burns, who’s continued to season himself by fighting some of the best welterweights in the division since 2021? Although Burns is 37 years old, the man is still as dangerous as any welterweight, possessing one of the most complete mixed martial packages in the Top 10 to go along with an insane work ethic.

Though Maddalena can hold his own on his feet with deafening knockout power, Burns is a third-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and will pose a major problem for Maddalena should he land the takedowns he’s after. Maddalena has come a long way and does have a chance to sneak a knockout shot. But Burns will make it difficult for him to achieve that, especially if he’s putting him on his back on the mat.

Kevin Holland (13) vs Michael Page – Winner: Page

At 31-years-old, Holland is one of the most seasoned mixed martial artists in the UFC due to how active and experienced he is (fought seven times in the last two years). To add to it, he also comes with a well-rounded base of skills.

At the forefront of his skill set is that of his second-degree black belt in Kung Fu and his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But what makes Holland still as dangerous as he is, comes down to his unpredictable striking and lethal combos. Though his boxing usually comes into play the most, Holland’s spontaneous knack for surprising his opponents with mean leg kicks, maybe a flying knee or a nasty elbow, makes him a constant threat at all times.

That being said, Holland’s had a tough go when trying to break through Top 10 talent. And though Page is brand new to the UFC, he was one of the most dominant mixed martial artists in Bellator, which only saw him sustain two losses over his ten-plus-year career. Possessing a very similar stance and style to that of Stephen Thompson, who Holland lost against in 2022, Page keeps his arms low and to the side, but in a blink of an eye, can fire a knockout strike or flurry of combos that can flatten one on their back.

If Holland is able to take Page to the mat, he does stand a chance to come away with a win. But as long as he keeps it standing, Page will only grow stronger and more confident with each strike he lands, which is why he will walk away victorious.

Dustin Poirier (3) vs Benoît Saint Denis (12) – Winner: Poirier

One of the newest hype trains the UFC is home to includes that of 28-year-old Frenchman Benoît Saint Denis. Ever since he lost his UFC debut in 2021, Saint Denis has been unstoppable, currently riding a five-fight win streak that includes three knockouts and two submissions (i.e., all finishes that took place in under three rounds).

Though most of his UFC opponents have been unranked, aside from Matt Frevola (who was 14th at the time), Saint Denis is a rising talent that comes with a complete set of skills at his disposal. Despite his knockouts standing out amongst his five UFC wins, Saint Denis’ strength is actually his ground game, with a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a black belt in Judo to his name to go along with a 9-0 submission record over his career.

However, with all due respect to Saint Denis, he’s never laid a finger on a Top 10 candidate in the lightweight division, while on the other hand, Dustin Poirier has stacked his resume with Top 10 opponents for the last six years. In fact, Poirier has won 8 of his last 11 bouts dating back to November 2017, coming up short three times to three of the best lightweights to ever do it: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Charles Oliveira, and Justin Gaethje.

In all fairness, Poirier will have to be prepared to use his ground game against Saint Denis, and if he makes any mistakes, he could come up short. But if he remains strong with his takedown defense and fends off the pressure with his striking game, this fight is Poirier’s to win. Keep in mind that Poirier did secure his last win by submission over Michael Chandler. Even at 35 years old, Poirier is still after greatness and will show why he deserves to be in the title conversation.

Sean O’Malley (C) vs Marlon Vera (5) – Winner: Vera

This bantamweight rematch is as enticing as it gets. Though there are many reasons why that is, the biggest comes down to the fact that both mixed martial artists are in their prime and have a lot at stake heading into this bout. At 31 years old, Vera has been on the climb since 2020, winning six of his last nine matchups, which included three knockouts.

What makes Vera such a marvel, though, comes down to two key factors: his complete skill set and transformation. Though Vera is known for producing some of the coldest knockouts this division has seen in recent years, people also forget how strong he is on the mat. With a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Vera also boasts a 10-0 submission record and a takedown defense success rate of 70%.

In addition, a big part of Vera’s growth is that he’s challenged himself with the best the division’s had to offer, and in the process, has continuously improved his craft, and it’s shown. Knockouts such as the ones he had against Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz aren’t coincidences; it takes pinpoint accuracy and detonating power to inflict those results, and let’s not forget that Vera has yet to be knocked out in his MMA career.

On the other hand, O’Malley has taken steps with his growth but hasn’t tested himself against as many Top 10 opponents than Vera has over the last four plus years. Following a no contest result against Pedro Munhoz in 2022, O’Malley scraped by with a split decision win against Petr Yan, and then delivered an emphatic knockout against Aljamain Sterling last year.

One simply cannot deny that O’Malley is a gifted striker, currently posting a significant striking accuracy rate of 61%. From his knockout on Sterling to his several others against Raulian Paiva, Kris Moutinho, Thomas Almeida, and more, O’Malley has tremendous power to go along with excellent vision and witty creativity. However, the one weak spot that Vera could exploit is his ground game. Aside from having strong takedown defense (63%), O’Malley has not much to show for on the mat, with his sole submission dating back to 2015.

From his experience to his versatility, Vera has all the tools to win this title bout. Unless O’Malley can find a way to secure his knockout blow, Vera will come away victorious and become the new bantamweight champion.

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