UFC 269 Main Card Predictions: Part 2

dustin poirier, ufc

Following an action-packed year filled with tenacious battles and epic showdowns, the UFC is wrapping up 2021 with yet another special main card. Taking place on December 11th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, UFC 269 has everything in the makings of being one of the most thrilling events of the year.

At the forefront of the main card are two championship matchups highlighted by the two best mixed martial artists that train out of American Top Team.

With her legacy and title reign on the line, ATT’s Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes will take on one of the division’s fiercest in number three ranked Julianna Peña. While in the men’s lightweight division, ATT’s very own number one contender in Dustin Poirier will take on the elite and newly appointed Lightweight Champion in Charles Oliveira.

Prior to these two title clashes, ATT welterweight Jorge Masvidal was supposed to take on number three ranked Leon Edwards in what was going to be a definitive title qualifying matchup. But due to a rib injury Masvidal suffered during training camp, the fight was scrapped off the card, and the welterweight showdown between Geoff Neal and Santiago Ponzinibbio was bumped up from the prelims instead.

Though this fight won’t have championship aspirations connected to it, both welterweights are very much looking to propel themselves into the Top 10 of the division, making for an exciting showdown to add to the main card.

Without further ado, here are the three mixed martial artists that have the best chance to walk away with a victory from UFC 269.

3. Geoff Neal vs Santiago Ponzinibbio

Geoff “Handz Of Steel” Neal:

Ever since he stepped into the octagon, Geoff Neal has proven just how dangerous of a threat he can be towards this welterweight division. Coming off back-to-back wins in 2018 to kick off his UFC career, Neal followed that up with three straight victories in 2019, taking down the likes of Belal Muhammad by unanimous decision as well as Niko Price and Mike Perry by KO/TKO.

Bringing a versatile array of skills to the table, Neal can hold his own against just about anyone in this division, whether the brunt of the fight takes place on the mat or remains standing. With one-punch knockout power and lethal leg kicks at his disposal, Neal can also deal plenty of damage on the ground and in the clinch, often incorporating a slew of biting elbow strikes to get the job done.

Though he’s coming off two straight losses, both were against Top 10 contenders in Stephen Thompson and Neil Magny, with each bout going to unanimous decision. Despite coming up short in his last two matchups, Neal has everything he needs to get the job done on Saturday.

Santiago “Argentine Dagger” Ponzinibbio:

At age 35, Santiago Ponzinibbio is still a force to be reckoned with. Setting foot in the UFC in 2013, Ponzinibbio has made the most of his eight-year tenure and has illustrated all too often just how tenacious he can be.

Since he stepped into the UFC, Ponzinibbio has gone 10-3 and took out some tough welterweights in the process. After his knockout loss to Lorenz Larkin in 2015, Ponzinibbio won his next seven straight fights, a streak that was topped off by his highlight-worthy, fourth-round knockout against Neil Magny back in 2018.

However, following that fight three years ago, Ponzinibbio has been pretty inactive, and his touch for the talent level of this division hasn’t been as sharp as it once was. After a two-year hiatus over 2019 and 2020, Ponzinibbio made his return to the octagon against Li Jingliang earlier this year only to be viciously knocked out in the first round by the Chinese native.

Though he was able to bounce back from that loss with a big unanimous decision victory against Miguel Baeza this summer, Ponzinibbio will need to bring his best performance if he aims to secure a second straight victory against a far more challenging opponent in Geoff Neal.

Winner: Geoff Neal

Entering this exciting clash, Neal is the 12th ranked welterweight in the world while Ponzinibbio is 14th. But despite the difference, this showdown will be a lot closer than it seems. The unique balance in talent, skillsets, and experience from both mixed martial artists debatably grants each a stark, even 50/50 chance to takedown the other in this much-anticipated welterweight fight.

However, since a draw is rather unlikely to occur between these two, the edge is in favor of Neal and for two big reasons. The first comes down to his versatility. Though Ponzinibbio is a great striker and matches up well with Neal on that front, Neal is better on the mat and has a takedown defense of 92% to Ponzinibbio’s 60%.

Secondly, Neal has come off two straight influential learning experiences through his losses against two elite Top 10 welterweights. On the other hand, Ponzinibbio got mauled by the 13th ranked welterweight in his first fight back to the octagon in two years. Though it could come down to a decision ruling, expect Neal to come out on top with a big bounce-back victory on Saturday night.

2. Amanda Nunes vs Julianna Peña

Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes:

If there’s any living definition of what it means to be the greatest women’s mixed martial artist of all time, it’s embodied within the one and only, Amanda Nunes. Listed as the number one pound-for-pound women’s mixed martial artist in the UFC, Nunes is currently the only women’s champion in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously and has strung together nine straight title victories over the last five years.

With the women’s featherweight division largely inactive at this point in time, Nunes has just two successful featherweight title defenses to her name but has already collected a total of five title defenses at 135.

At age 33, Nunes is still going strong and has evolved into an unstoppable force that has been impossible to crack. On one hand, Nunes brings an unparalleled level of strength and quickness on the mat that is supported by her black belt in jiu-jitsu and brown belt in judo. But on the other hand, Nunes is a deadly striker that has developed a level of power that can put her opponents to sleep with one blow.

There’s simply nothing Nunes can’t do, and she will look to put that on full display once more on Saturday.

Julianna “The Venezuelan Vixen” Peña:

Julianna Peña has ascended into one of the toughest competitors in this women’s bantamweight division. Though her strengths and expertise tend to fall more towards the grappling side of mixed martial arts, Peña’s incredible athleticism has allowed her to really come into her own as a striker as well.

While Peña doesn’t possess one-punch power, her significant striking accuracy stands at an impressive 67.82%, which allows her to pick a part her opponents with lethal precision. Along with that, Peña brings an unrelenting, rapid-firestorm level of volume with her blows that can be very difficult to fend off on the ground or up against the cage.

Entering this matchup, Peña will need to deliver a near-flawless performance if she stands a chance at taking out the champion. But from her endurance to her grit to her versatility, Peña has the means to deliver a major upset and can definitely go the distance with Nunes. And if the window of opportunity presents itself, be prepared for Peña to take full advantage and do everything she possibly can to steal the belt from the champion.

Winner: Amanda Nunes

What makes this championship bout so fascinating is that Nunes and Peña have never faced each other before. However, the greatest question mark for Peña has been her recent track record when tested by top-tier talent.

Following a remarkable three-fight win streak from 2015 to 2016 in which she took out both Jessica Eye and Cat Zingano, Peña came up short in a non-title fight a year later via submission against the future Women’s Flyweight Champion in Valentina Shevchenko. After coming off a two-and-a-half-year break from the octagon in 2019, Peña did manage to come out on top with a win against Nicco Montano. But just a year later, she came up short once again by submission, this time at the hands of Germaine de Randamie.

Though Peña was able to bounce back from her loss against de Randamie with a big win against Sarah McMann earlier this year, Nunes still carries a significant edge coming into this fight.

The reality of the matter is that Nunes has beaten both fighters that Peña has lost to, not just once but twice. To add to it, Nunes not only brings much better striking but is extremely talented on the ground and posts a strong takedown defense of 84%. Meanwhile, Peña is not much of a match for Nunes at the striking level and has a takedown defense of just 23%.

Either way you look at it, expect Nunes to walk out of the octagon with the belt on her shoulder come Saturday night.

1. Charles Oliveira vs Dustin Poirier

Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira:

Charles Oliveira is a marvel. Making his debut well over eleven years ago in 2010, Oliveira has just about seen it all, yet at age 32, has just scratched the surface of the greatness he possesses.

Truly one of the greatest grapplers this sport has ever seen, Oliveira has the most submissions in UFC history (14), and 19 out of his 31 MMA wins have come by submission as well.

When he gets you on the ground, Oliveira’s strength, grip, and fluidity becomes like that of a monstrous python, effortlessly maneuvering his way to secure air-tight choke-holds on his opponents until they tap out. No matter how hard you try to wriggle free or work yourself into a different position, Oliveira finds a way to use your success against you, even when he’s flat on his back.

But an influential component of Oliveira’s grappling success is directly tied to his striking ability. It’s weird to think of it that way. But believe it or not, Oliveira uses his striking hand-in-hand with his grappling, often to stun his opponents before leaping upon them with an inescapable hold around their necks.

Though he cut his title showdown with Michael Chandler awfully close, Oliveira is the lightweight champion for good reason and will look to show the world why that is once again.

Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier:

Entering this championship showdown, Dustin Poirier is actually listed as the favorite, and deservedly so. Over his 11-year tenure in the UFC, Poirier has continued to evolve into a much stronger mixed martial artist and has taken out a handful of the greatest lightweights this division has seen in recent years.

After an 11-fight stint in the featherweight division that ended with a knockout loss to Conor McGregor, Poirier jumped into the lightweight division and never looked back. Since 2017, Poirier took out Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, and Eddie Alvarez before claiming the interim lightweight title in a five-round slugfest with featherweight legend Max Holloway.

Aside from losing to the former undefeated lightweight champion in Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019, Poirier has won seven of his last eight fights, defeating Dan Hooker in 2020 and McGregor twice this year.

To top it off, Poirier is the best striker in the lightweight division right now. And as he’s refined that skill, it’s only grown in effectiveness and power. With 15 knockout victories to his name, Poirier has become a striking specialist and will look to put that on display come Saturday night.

Winner: Dustin Poirier

This championship clash has everything it needs to be one of the greatest UFC lightweight main events we’ve seen over this past decade. With Oliveira and Poirier in their respective primes, this fight could not only go five rounds but could even come down to a close decision ruling between the three judges.

Though Poirier is the favorite, the one area of concern for him remains to be how he can fare on the ground against Oliveira. As we saw with Nurmagomedov, Poirier had little to show for when he found himself pinned on the mat and his endurance burnt out rather quickly as Khabib continuously burdened him with all of his weight and muscle.

But the fact of the matter is that Poirier does have a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has a solid takedown defense of 61% to go along with that. Though he hasn’t won a bout by submission since 2012, Poirier can hold his own on the ground if need be and is very crafty with his counters in the clinch.

In addition, Oliveira is not Khabib and doesn’t possess the same strength as the former undefeated champion. Moreover, Oliveira has never fought four or even five full rounds before, which could really test his resiliency should the showdown push into the championship rounds.

On the other hand, Poirier has fought in two five-round bouts and managed to walk away with unanimous decision wins in each of them. Considering his unique set of experiences, his unmatched striking talent, and the heart and dedication he pours into his craft, expect Poirier to walk out of the octagon on Saturday as the new UFC Lightweight Champion of the world.

UFC 269 Main Card Predictions: Part 1

Sean O'Malley

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.

Raulian Paiva:

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.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 Tomorrow!

Joey Beltran looking to make a statement at BKFC NY

I had the privilege of chopping it up with MMA – and now bare-knuckle boxing – legend, Joey ‘The Mexicutioner’ Beltran this week ahead of BKFC’s New York event this Saturday.

From the get-go, it was clear to me that the UFC veteran and two-time defending BKFC heavyweight champion truly felt like he finally has found his niche in the new promotion. Beltran explained to me that when he initially saw the rule set for BKFC, he knew he’d be right at home as it played right into his strengths as a ‘dirty boxer’. Well, the results are undeniable as he is the only man to ever even defend the heavyweight strap once.

“When I learned intitially about BKFC’s ruleset, I said, ‘Oh my god. What is this? The Joey Beltran fight league?” — Joey ‘The Mexicutioner’ Beltran to Chuck Vitolo on YouTube

(Watch Chuck Vitolo’s interview with Joey ‘The Mexicutioner’ Beltran on Youtube, HERE!)

This Saturday in Seneca, NY, Joey Beltran (19-10 MMA, 4-1 BKFC) will be aiming to right the only wrong of his BKFC career. At 39-years-old, Beltran is surely here for a good time, not a long time, and he has been fighting as such. The fast-paced, brutal nature of the BKFC has lent itself well to ‘The Mexicutioner’ as he has been able to hone in on his boxing skills and not have to worry about dozens of things every time he steps into the ring.

According to Beltran, the wear-and-tear hasn’t been as rough as some (including myself) might have imagined it would be, and training camps have been easier on his body, overall. When I asked how difficult it was for him not to throw any non-punching strikes, like elbows, he laughed, noting that he surely sees the chances but has had no problem restraining himself.

‘The Mexicutioner’ even found himself a wife within the promotion. Britain Hart (Beltran’s partner) made major waves earlier this year when she was able to cruise to a victory over former UFC star Paige Van Zant. Together, they make up two of the promotion’s biggest stars and are redefining what it means to be a power couple. Beltran explained that this sort of thing is uncharted territory for him, but he’s enjoying it nonetheless.

When I was coming up at Alliance MMA, with a whole bunch of killers in the gym: If a dude brought his girl to the gym…it was green light on that fool! — Joey ‘The Mexicutioner’ Beltran to Chuck Vitolo on Youtube

Beltran will be facing off against Arnold Adams (7-10 MMA, 5-1 BKFC)  in a highly-anticipated bout as the main event of BKFC NY this weekend. With their first bout ending in a doctor’s stoppage early on in the fourth round, Beltran believes things will go much differently this time. Maybe all he needed was the right partner, outside of the ring, to propel him to the heights many believed he was always destined for.

UFC 268 Main Card Predictions: Part 2

Right now, FightOnline.AG lists the odds for Saturday’s matchup at a -115, pick-em. In other words, we should be in store for a back-and-forth, barn-barner.

I definitely know who Arnold Adams is, now. — Joey ‘ The Mexicutoner’ Beltran to Chuck Vitolo on Youtube

 

With BKFC recently making a monster splash in the combat sports world with the addition UFC veteran, Mike Perry, now is the perfect time for Beltran to launch himself back into the eyes of the mainstream combat sports fan. As the former UFC and Bellator (fighting the likes of Stipe Miocic and Rampage Jackson) veteran explained, many average regular sports fans simply do not jive with MMA  every time a fight hits the mat: that is never to be worried about in BKFC.

Additionally, with the fighters only wearing wrist/top hand wraps, fans get to enjoy the positive part of boxing – it being easy on the eyes of the casual observer – while getting to see unparalleled action and violence due to it being the closest possible thing to a street boxing match.

If you’ve been looking to expand your horizons in the combat sports world, this Saturday would be a great time to do so. You can catch the fights here on Home | Bare Knuckle TV. 

(Subscribe to Chuck’s YouTube page here)

UFC 268 Main Card Predictions: Part 2

MMA, UFC, michael chandler

Though there have been a lot of special main cards this year, UFC 268 has the potential to be the best one yet. Taking place on November 6th in Madison Square Garden, this main card is flat out stacked with talent, history, and legacy as two champions seek to defend their belts while others look to stake their claims for a potential title shot.

Characterizing this event is the well-known UFC coach Trevor Wittman. Following Wittman’s commitment to running ONX Sports in 2016 (a company that sells training equipment personally made by Wittman), he still decided to dedicate his invaluable knowledge and experience towards three of the finest mixed martial artists in the UFC.

Kamaru Usman, Rose Namajunas, and Justin Gaethje highlight the top three fights of the main card and will each illustrate the influence and insight Wittman has bestowed upon them in preparation for their matchups.

But what makes this card that much more special is which mixed martial artist each Wittman disciple will take on in this highly-coveted event. Usman will fight his toughest challenger once again in Colby Covington; Namajunas will rematch the former Strawweight Champion in Zhang Weili; while Gaethje is up against an explosive Top 5 lightweight title contender in Michael Chandler.

However, from these three intense showdowns on Saturday, only three mixed martial artists will come away with a victory, belt in hand or not. Without further ado, here are the three fighters that stand to have the best chance at walking away with a win following UFC 268.

3. Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler

Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje:

Justin Gaethje is one of the UFC’s premier knockout specialists. In fact, ever since he stepped into the octagon in 2017, all of Gaethje’s five wins have come by KO/TKO. His incredible striking package of raw power, volume, and precision have led him to demolish most of his opponents ruthlessly, leaving no room for the judges to jeopardize his performances.

Following his four-fight KO/TKO win streak that went from August of 2018 to May of 2020, Gaethje’s streak came to an end at the hands of the undefeated former lightweight champion in Khabib Nurmagomedov last October. Losing by submission, Gaethje hasn’t fought anyone since and is certainly looking to get back into the win column following a year of rest and recovery.

“Iron” Michael Chandler:

Michael Chandler is still relatively new to the UFC. At age 35, the Missouri native really established his credentials in mixed martials over his decade-long tenure in Bellator. During his time there, the three-time Bellator lightweight champion took out top-tier talents in the likes of Benson Henderson, Eddie Alvarez, and Patricky Freire.

Stepping into the UFC this year in January, Chandler really put himself on the map with a tremendous clip-shot KO/TKO against lightweight Dan Hooker who’s currently ranked 6th overall in the division. His knockout was so impressive that it landed him an instant title shot against seasoned veteran Charles Oliveira a few months later. Though he ended up losing that showdown in the second round, Chandler nearly pulled off a technical knockout just as the first round came to a close.

From his one-punch knockout power to his wrestling strength on the mat, Chandler has all the tools he needs to succeed. And in just two fights, has proven why he belongs in the Top 5 of this division.

Winner: Justin Gaethje

Despite the fact that Chandler just started his UFC career this year, he brings a lot of heart and upside. Whether he chooses to keep the fight standing or takes it to the mat, Chandler can pull off the upset, but a lot of key components will need to fall in place for that to happen.

That said, since his back-to-back losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier nearly four years ago, Gaethje has grown into his potential as a mixed martial artist. Outside of Poirier, his striking is unmatched in this division right now, delivering combos that are overwhelming and very damaging. Even if Chandler does decide to push it to the mat, Gaethje has an established wrestling background and is quite versatile on the ground. When all is said and done, Gaethje’s number two overall in this division for good reason. And expect him to come out on top with an authoritative victory on Saturday.

2. Rose Namajunas vs Zhang Weili

“Thug” Rose Namajunas:

Rose Namajunas has made a name for herself. Not only within the women’s strawweight division but in Women’s UFC history period. At only age 29, Namajunas has already managed to capture the strawweight belt twice, seizing it for the second time back in April of this year against none other than former champion Zhang Weili.

What makes Namajunas so talented is the lethal precision of her striking combined with her quickness and strength on the ground. Though Namajunas is recognized more for her impressive KO/TKO’s against Weili and Joanna Jędrzejczyk, she has notable submission wins against the likes of Michelle Waterson, Paige Van Zant, and Angela Hill.

“Magnum” Zhang Weili:

Ever since China native Zhang Weili set foot into the octagon back in 2018, she’s been a force to contend with and imposingly so. Following three straight victories against Danielle Taylor, Jessica Aguilar, and Tecia Torres, Weili overthrew Andrade for the belt with her first UFC KO/TKO before brutally crushing Jędrzejczyk for her first title defense in what was viewed as one of the greatest women’s MMA fights to date.

But up until the knockout she received against Namajunas, Weili never suffered a loss in the UFC. And bouncing back from that kind of adversity, particularly against the same opponent that delivered that first loss, is a really big obstacle to surmount. Though she has the endurance, grit, and remarkable striking power to take down anyone in this division, Weili will have to deliver her best yet if she has any hopes of beating Namajunas.

Winner: Rose Namajunas

At age 32, Weili is in her prime and brings a diverse skillset that has proven to be lethal. To add to it, her striking power is arguably the best in the division. And considering her significant striking accuracy is 49.74%, the damage she inflicts with each shot she lands is simply brutal. The former strawweight champion has everything at her disposal to take the belt back and has the toughness to go the long haul.

However, Namajunas has only suffered one loss in her last six fights, which consisted of a body slam knockout she received at the hands of Jessica Andrade (who’s now a women’s flyweight contender). But since that tough setback, she’s transformed into a new, dangerous version of herself that has become awfully difficult to slow down, defeating Andrade in a rematch before rocking Weili with a mean leg-kick knockout back in April.

Though this has the makings of a close fight, Namajunas is poised to come out on top once again. Carrying a significant edge with her experience in the UFC, Namajunas just so happens to be really good in rematch fights, defeating Jędrzejczyk by unanimous decision in their second matchup and Andrade via split decision in their second clash. Expect “Thug” Rose to do the same against Weili when they meet once again on Saturday.

1. Kamaru Usman vs Colby Covington

Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman:

The best men’s pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the UFC right now, is Kamaru Usman and deservedly so. From his consistent fight appearances to the level of competition he’s defeated within his division, Usman has certainly made a fair case for establishing himself as one of the greatest UFC talents this sport has ever seen and has yet to suffer a loss since stepping into the octagon in 2015.

What makes Usman so special starts with his unparalleled, all-encompassing level of athleticism. In sports as a whole, this kind of high-octane athleticism can significantly elevate an individual’s rise in success and potential. To provide some current-day examples outside of the UFC, we’ve seen this with LeBron James and Giannis Antetokoumpo in the NBA to players like Derrick Henry and Aaron Donald in the NFL.

Usman has that same level of athleticism that influences his success in so many different ways, be it with his talent on the ground or with his striking. As a result, he’s become extremely difficult to defeat and breakthrough, taking down Top 10 contenders one after the other over the last two years.

Colby “Chaos” Covington:

If you put aside the drama, the trash-talking, and the political controversy he brings to the table, and you just evaluate him as a mixed martial artist, Colby Covington has developed into a special talent in the welterweight division and takes his work very seriously.

Over his seasoned MMA career, Covington has managed to go 16-2 and won seven fights in a row prior to his loss to Usman in 2019. When it comes to the toughest and most versatile opponent Usman has faced in his career, the fighter that comes to mind right away is Covington. From his piercing jabs to his elusive agility to his astute vision, Covington is truly one tough striker to matchup against and has all the tools at his disposal to succeed on the ground as well.

However, the concern with Covington entering this matchup is twofold. First, it’s important to take a look at the opponents Covington has faced over his UFC career. Though he has beaten prominent welterweight names like Demian Maia, Max Griffin, Rafael Dos Anjos, Robbie Lawler, and most recently Tyron Woodley, none of these fighters are currently in the Top 15 and some of them (Maia, Lawler, and Woodley), he fought well after their respective prime years. In fact, Covington hasn’t fought any of the Top 15 fighters in the current welterweight division outside of Usman.

Secondly, Covington hasn’t been as proactive as he used to and only logged in one fight in nearly two years. Although it might not seem to be much, being away for that long could throw off his ability to find the success and rhythm he needs against a foe who’s been far more active and is more in tune with the talent level of this division.

Winner: Usman

A key part of becoming great in this sport starts with work ethic and preparation. Covington has that down pat and works his tail off to refine his skills and train for his fights. But the second vital part to being one of the best in the UFC is by putting your skills as well as all of your hard work and training to the test consistently against some of the strongest your division has to offer in order to grow and improve.

Usman has completed both parts. Not only does he put so much dedication, effort, and energy into beating on his craft. But at the same time, he’s stepped up to the occasion and consistently tested his greatness against some of the best this welterweight division has, taking down Jorge Masvidal twice and Gilbert Burns earlier this year.

Despite fulfilling part one, Covington has come up short with part two. Though Woodley was the former welterweight champion, fighting him in 2020 when he’s 38 years old and well past his prime wasn’t enough to prepare Covington for what he’s going to be up against in his rematch with Usman. In each of his last three fights, Usman has only gotten better. Though this fight has everything to go the distance, expect Usman to secure a major title defense victory over Covington once again.

UFC 268 Main Card Predictions: Part 1

mma

UFC 268 has an epic main card to show for. From start to finish, each and every matchup has the potential to set the crowd at Madison Square Garden into a wild frenzy of excitement and exhilaration.

Though some of these mixed martial artists are pursuing championship glory, others are simply trying to maintain a level of relevance and legitimacy in divisions that have grown increasingly more competitive.

Kicking off the main card will be the clash between 40-year-old veteran Frankie Edgar and rising talent Marlon Vera, two bantamweight striking experts that have plenty left to prove in this division.

With the Sean Strickland and Luke Rockhold showdown scrapped from the main card, strikers Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo’s much-anticipated featherweight matchup was bumped up from the prelims to the main card.

Though neither of these two matchups are title-oriented, expect each showdown to fire up this main card with a bang. On that note, here are the predictions for the first two fights on the main card of UFC 268.

5. Marlon Vera vs Frankie Edgar

Marlon “Chito” Vera:

At only 28-years old, Marlon Vera has become one of the most underrated bantamweight fighters in the UFC. Ranked 13th overall in a division that’s jam-packed with talent, Vera has fallen a little under the radar but has been brewing a storm since he set foot in the octagon back in 2014.

Following a unanimous decision loss back in February of 2018, Vera has won seven of his last nine fights since, which included five straight victories from 2018 to 2019. Bringing rapid quick jabs, sharp leg kicks, and biting elbow shots, Vera has all the striking tools to deal a lot of damage and possesses the shifty elusiveness to stay out of harm’s way. Just to give you an idea, Vera has yet to lose by knockout since he started his MMA career in 2012.

Frankie “The Answer” Edgar:

Frankie Edgar has seen better days over his 14-year career. Since 2018, Edgar has managed to come away with just two wins in six fights, suffering four losses to some of the best featherweight and bantamweight fighters in the UFC. From the brutal KO/TKO he sustained against Brian Ortega in 2018 to the crushing defeat he suffered against Max Holloway in 2019 to the devastating first-round KO/TKO he endured against Chan Sung Jung a few months later, 2021 hasn’t been any better for Edgar so far.

Earlier this year, Edgar found himself once again at the receiving end of another brutal KO/TKO finish, this time against bantamweight title contender Corey Sandhagen who delivered a flying-knee knockout blow that is currently up for Knockout of the Year. Moreover, both of Edgar’s wins went to decision, with his most recent against Pedro Munhoz coming down to a close split-decision call.

Winner: Marlon Vera

Though this is the same Frankie Edgar that won and defended the lightweight belt a decade ago, that same strength and menacing authority he demonstrated then has not been there for him over these last three years. With a string of bad defeats and a gradual drop in prominence, Edgar is up against a tall task in Vera, who’s coming off a strong win against Davey Grant.  

What makes this matchup so exciting boils down to how tough these two mixed martial artists are and just how much it will take for each to defeat the other. However, considering how well versed Vera is on the ground and in the clinch, expect him to come out on top with a big win.

4. Shane Burgos vs Billy Quarantillo

“Hurricane” Shane Burgos:

Over the course of his five-year tenure in the UFC, Shane Burgos has proven to be one impressive mixed martial artist. Prior to taking on both Josh Emmett and Edson Barboza, Burgos was actually a Top 10 fighter within the featherweight division and displayed promising potential. Following a rough KO/TKO from Calvin Kattar back in 2018, Burgos went on to win his next three straight fights, taking out opponents like Cub Swanson and Makwan Amirkhani.

However, Burgos’s last two matchups exposed a major concern with his striking approach that cost him a tough unanimous decision loss to Emmett and a brutal KO/TKO to Barboza earlier this year. Though his vision and elusiveness are quite pristine, Burgos tends to keep his hands down and often leaves his head exposed to nasty striking shots. This enabled Emmett to clip him with a hefty left hook that knocked him down in the third round and granted Barboza the chance to land a vicious right hook that sent him stumbling to the mat before getting pummeled for a KO/TKO.

After going from 10th, to 9th, to now 14th overall in the featherweight rankings, Burgos will look to come out with a big win on Saturday.

Billy Quarantillo:

Ever since Billy Quarantillo jumped onto the scene on Dana White’s contender series back in 2019, he’s been flat-out dominant in every UFC Fight Night match he’s been granted, most recently taking out Gabriel Benitez by KO/TKO earlier this year in July. His striking speed and nimble footwork allow him to pick apart his opponents and deal heavy damage.

But the one blemish Quarantillo has suffered since his UFC career began was his unanimous decision loss against Gavin Tucker. Though Tucker is a talented mixed martial artist, he’s currently unranked and was dealt a devastating knockout loss at the hands of the number nine ranked featherweight in Dan Ige. Though Burgos is no Ige, the fact that Quarantillo lost unanimously to Tucker doesn’t bode well for him, considering that Burgos is significantly better than Tucker.

In other words, Quarantillo has yet to prove that he can stand with Top 15 featherweight contenders, and his fight against Burgos will be his toughest test yet. Though he brings a strong variety of skills both with his striking and jiu-jitsu, Quarantillo will need to deliver his best performance if he intends to come out on top.

Winner: Shane Burgos

Quarantillo is on the rise and hasn’t slowed down. With a significant striking accuracy that is at 71%, Quarantillo doesn’t miss much and makes sure that he delivers the precision needed to break his opponents. Toss in his strong presence on the ground, and Quarantillo has everything he needs to snag a win from Burgos if he finds the opportunity to do so.

With that said, Burgos has the upper hand in this matchup, and for good reason. For starters, Burgos is a seasoned veteran in the UFC and has never lost more than two straight fights in a row. In addition, Burgos brings tremendous power with his striking and is currently posting a takedown defense percentage of 94. Not only will he be extremely tough to take down to the ground, but he can put away Quarantillo with one blow. At only age 30, the New York native has still so much to show for in the UFC and will look to climb his way back up the rankings with a big victory on Saturday.

RELATED ARTICLE: UFC 268 Main Card Predictions Part 2

Sean O’Malley Has Proven How Special Of A Fighter He Is; But Is It Time For Him To Take On A Top Ten Ranked Fight?

Sean O'Malley

Over the last three years, the UFC has produced some phenomenal young talent, men and women alike. Living up to their potential at a very young age, these starlets have the ability to shape the UFC’s next generation of greatness and have already shown how dominant they can be. This has been demonstrated in the likes of Jimmy Crute, Miranda Maverick, Song Yadong, and Umar Nurmagomedov, to name a few. But looming largely at the forefront of this talented group of youngsters has been no one but the bright, rainbow-haired, striking wonder boy in Sean O’Malley.

Rising to fame through Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2017, O’Malley has been a sensation ever since he’s stepped foot in the octagon and has illustrated how deadly his striking can be (ESPN). After proving his knockout power and legitimacy against Eddie Wineland last June, O’Malley suffered a terrible foot drop injury against his opponent Marlon Vera later that summer, which resulted in his first UFC loss and sidelined him for several months (ESPN). Despite suffering such a crippling injury, O’Malley made his return to the octagon a little over six months later for UFC 260 on March 27th, emphatically reasserting his presence in the Bantamweight division by delivering a brutal TKO against Thomas Almeida (ESPN). Looking healthy and comfortable, O’Malley pressured and tormented Almeida with a flurry of big punches and leg kicks, showcasing once again just what kind of striking talent he brings to this stacked Bantamweight division.

But after turning 26 last fall and virtually dominating every fight he’s been in, O’Malley has proven just how gifted he is and needs to be granted his first real test at 135. Though Wineland, Vera, and Almeida all made for fair opponents, O’Malley’s actions in the octagon have spoken loud and clear, and it is time for him to match up with a Top Ten ranked opponent for his next fight.  Moreover, O’Malley is entering his prime, and as a young fighter, he still has so much to prove but won’t be able to do so if he keeps on getting matchups that won’t test his overall skill set as a mixed martial artist. And as a result, it’s time for Dana White to explore bigger fights for him to take on.

However, with that said, who makes for the best matchup against the Suga Show? Prior to fighting Vera several months ago, O’Malley already felt he deserved a Top Five fight (ESPN). Moreover, he recently reinforced this bold claim by taunting a potential challenge from the number one contender in the division, in Petr Yan (ESPN). Though he does have a fair point to shoot for the stars considering what he’s accomplished, O’Malley still has a handful of ranked fighters in front of him that not only have been waiting and working toward a title shot as well but as a whole, could also really give him a run for his money. And if there’s anything left for O’Malley to prove before he gets a title shot, it’s that whether he can stand with the best of them and take down at least one of the Top Ten fighters in his division. So without further ado, here are the top three opponents O’Malley should fight next:

3. Dominick Cruz: This matchup would be outstanding for a variety of different reasons and could potentially come to fruition this year. Though he hasn’t called out anyone since his victory against Casey Kenny, Cruz has stated that he is open to fighting O’Malley and is certainly looking to get in another fight by the end of this year, according to a recent interview he had on the Ariel Helwani Show (ESPN). But despite that, there’s a bunch of significant other reasons why this matchup is as good as it is. For starters, Cruz has an incredible set of credentials on his resume and has put together an impressive record of 23 wins with only 3 losses over his career (ESPN). Not only is Cruz a two-time Bantamweight Champion, taking out some of the best fighters we’ve seen in the division’s history. But on top of that, his style and approach toward mixed martial arts is very unorthodox with his constant, differentiating movements and feints, which would present O’Malley with an unfamiliar challenge and a new level of adversity he hasn’t been exposed to yet. In short, considering how special and unique of a fighter Cruz has been and still is at 135, O’Malley should relish the opportunity to take on this fight. And if O’Malley were to win, his goal of taking on a Top 5 fight would become guaranteed.

2. Pedro Munhoz: Though he might be fading out of his prime a bit, losing two of his last three fights against both Aljamain Sterling and Frankie Edgar, Munhoz actually makes for a very good matchup for O’Malley, and here’s why. First and foremost, one of the most impressive facts about Munhoz’s career in mixed martial arts is that all five of his losses have either been decided by split or unanimous decisions (ESPN). In other words, Munhoz is one of the toughest fighters in the division and has never been knocked out by anyone in his career, which in itself is a big challenge for O’Malley, who depends on his knockout power to win his fights. On top of that, Munhoz has proven how versatile he can be on the ground and could test O’Malley on his grappling skills as well, something we haven’t seen a whole lot of from O’Malley. When all is said and done, it’s important that O’Malley gets a chance to test his skills against one of the best in this division, someone who can not only can stand and go the distance with him but who can also challenge him in a variety of different ways. And after a big bounce-back victory against Jimmie Rivera earlier this year, Munhoz has shown that he still has what it takes to win in this competitive division. So if O’Malley really wants that Top 5 fight he’s been craving for, taking on Munhoz would certainly bring him one step closer.

1. Marlon Moraes: Since his bout with the former Bantamweight champ Henry Cejudo nearly two years ago, Moraes has really struggled with regaining the menacing and elite fighter status he used to have (ESPN). Losing back-to-back fights against both Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font last year, Moraes has progressively slipped his way down the rankings, and another loss could perpetuate his downfall even further (ESPN). So why does he deserve a fight with O’Malley? Well, there are a few reasons to factor in here. To begin with, both losses Moraes sustained were against the number two and number three ranked fighters in the division in Sandhagen and Font, two fighters that are debatably in their respective primes and have been steadily climbing up the rankings (ESPN). In addition, Moraes will not want to suffer a third loss in a row, and as a result, he’s going to do everything he can to ensure he gets a victory in his next bout. For O’Malley, this makes for a top fight because he not only gets to test his skill against a very well-versed and technically gifted mixed martial artist, but he also would be going up against Moraes’s best work. Though he might appear to be the easiest challenger on this list, it’s important to keep in mind that Moraes did knockout both Rivera and Sterling prior to coming for the belt against Cejudo, demonstrating he can stand with some of the best (ESPN). So if anything, a matchup with Moraes would be perfect for O’Malley and would grant him the opportunity to prove why he deserves a Top 5 fight.

Paige VanZant open to fight Bec Rawlings in BKFC on one condition

Will a Paige VanZant-Bec Rawlings rematch happen in BKFC?

Back in December, Rawlings floated her interest to fight VanZant in BKFC.

“With Bare-Knuckle signing Paige, it’s definitely garnered a lot of interest in people wondering if I’m going to fight her,” Rawlings told mmafighting.com. “I would love that fight. [I’m] sure we could probably try to work something out with Bellator and Bare Knuckle, doing a cross-promotion thing. I don’t know, I’d be down for that. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

But when asked for her reaction, VanZant isn’t as excited as Rawlings about the prospect of a rematch.

“Of course, she wants to fight me again. I knocked her out with a head kick the last time we fought. [I’m] really interested in fighting people who I haven’t fight yet or haven’t beaten. So if she wants to come back to BKFC, that’s totally fine, and if the matchup makes sense, but I’m in Bare Knuckle Boxing working my way in the division for a title. And I just don’t want to fight people because they want to call me out,” VanZant told Empire Sports Media in an exclusive interview last Tuesday ahead of her BKFC debut against Britain Hart.

Aching for Payback

VanZant will headline BKFC’s Knucklemania tonight, and if she emerges victorious, a Rawlings rematch could be in the pipeline.

Rawlings has a perfect 3-0 record in BKFC, including a split decision against Hart, before she returned to MMA via Bellator.

The Australian brawler wants to exact revenge for her 2016 loss to VanZant in UFC. VanZant won the fight via a second-round TKO with a stunning switch kick.

The loss to VanZant started the fall of Rawlings in the UFC. She never recovered as she also lost her next three fights and was subsequently released.

Rawlings revamped her career with BKFC.

Crossover Star

But unlike Rawlings, VanZant left UFC on her terms. While she lost her last UFC fight against Amanda Ribas, VanZant left the MMA octagon with a solid 8-5 record. She successfully became a crossover star and one of the most recognizable MMA fighters after reaching the finals of the Dancing With Stars in 2016.

While VanZant maintained her focus is on BKFC for now, she’s keeping her options open. She revealed that her BKFC contract has a clause that will allow her to fight in the octagon again.

“The fortunate thing about Bare Knuckle, I could take an MMA fight, boxing fight during my contract with them. I definitely haven’t closed the door on MMA at all or straight boxing. I think I’m just excited about this opportunity. I think it opens up the doors for me to continue to compete and be a more well-rounded martial artist,” VanZant said.

But first things first, the 26-year old VanZant needs to take care of business tonight against Hart.

She’s confident that she’ll shock the world after her six-month training with American Top Team.

How to watch VanZant-Hart fight:

The VanZant-Hart fight will be available Live on Pay-Per-View including DISH, DIRECTV, IN DEMAND, ROGERS, SASKTEL, SHAW, and VUBIQUITY, and via the digital app FITE, as well as the BKFC website www.bareknuckle.tv/orderppv.

KnuckleMania starts on PPV at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PM and will be distributed by Multi Vision Media.

Two Free Preliminary Fights will be broadcast on the BKFC YouTube Channel and Facebook pages starting at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Inside PFL’s rise as no.2 global market leader in MMA

While the UFC continues to reign over the landscape of mixed martial arts worldwide, the Professional Fighters League (PFL) has exploded into the scene and now finds itself right behind the industry leader after just three years.

In an interview with CombatPress.com, PFL founder Donn Davis said that the league had established itself as the number-two MMA company globally on multiple factors, including fighter roster, worldwide audience, distribution, and growth.

“So I think what you’re seeing now, by all metrics, is the PFL is the number-two MMA company worldwide. In terms of fighter roster, PFL is number two. For a worldwide audience, PFL is number two. In terms of worldwide distribution, PFL is number two, and in terms of growth, PFL is number two,” Davis said.

Top MMA Promotions - PFL

Season format

But what pushed the PFL out into the front of the pack, alongside the UFC?

Founded in 2017, the league has already been able to put on two massively-successful seasons. Now, they are gearing up for the third season, which kicks off in April.

Notice how the PFL’s year is called a season?

That’s because the league follows a tournament-style format, which is unique in the world of MMA.

The league uses a regular season, playoffs, and finals format, which means the fighters will need to win to advance. At the end of the season, a world champion will be crowned for each weight division, and the winners are awarded one million dollars.

Stacked roster

Making that tournament format all the more exciting for the fans to watch is the stacked roster of fighters that the PFL boasts.

Each of the league’s six weight divisions features veterans and up-and-coming talent from across the globe. The PFL is home to many of the MMA world’s top stars, including PFL Women’s Lightweight Champion Kayla Harrison, two-time PFL Featherweight Champion Lance Palmer, two-time PFL Lightweight Champion Natan Schulte, and many others.

In 2021, the league will have an influx of world championship talent led by Fabricio Werdum, Anthony Pettis, Rory MacDonald, and three-division boxing world champion Claressa Shields, who will be making her mixed martial arts debut.

Top-notch management

While the PFL indeed features an all-star roster of fighters, they also have the number one executive team in sports.

Founder Donn Davis, who was also behind Revolution LLC, has brought together some of the top minds in media, sports, and digital to lead the league to the top.

Leading the charge is PFL CEO Peter Murray, who helped sign some of the biggest names in sports during his time with Under Armour. Executive Producer George Greenberg has over 40 years of experience and is coming off as an Executive Vice President for Fox Sports. President Ray Sefo was the founder of the World Series of Fighting and is a combat sports legend.

Those big names are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the PFL’s executive management roster.

Overwhelming support

The PFL is also backed by a world-class team of investors, including Swan & Legend Venture Partners and Matterhorn Private Equity, and Ted Leonsis, David Blitzer, Mark Lerner, Kevin Hart, Mark Burnett, and Tony Robbins. The league has also managed to secure sponsorships with AB InBev, Socios.com, The Marines, and many others.

The PFL can be seen in the United States via ESPN and in an additional 160 more countries worldwide via various platforms and sports networks.

With all these considered, it’s no surprise that the PFL is already at the top of the MMA mountain, alongside the UFC. With another big year in store in 2021, there’s no telling the heights that the fastest growing sports league in the world can reach.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC: Kevin Holland vs Jack Hermansson preview

Kevin Holland

On December 5th, UFC fans will be in for a treat when Kevin Holland takes on Jack Hermansson. For Holland, 2020 has been a storybook year, and he looks to cap it off in emphatic fashion. Coming off a dominant win over Charlie Ontiveros — in which the fight was ended via verbal submission — Holland looks to make it 5-0 in 2020 with a win over Hermansson. In my previous UFC article on Holland, I believed his last fight would earn him a spot in the T15. While he is still unranked for this matchup with ‘The Joker,’ this is the type of fight I was expecting he would be given. It is clear that Holland is currently the front runner for “fighter of the year,” along with UFC star-boy Khamzat Chimaev.

This fight is going to be a good one for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, Hermansson is one of the best middleweights in the division, and the little #5 next to his name isn’t just for show. Despite a tough loss to Cannonier back at UFC Fight Night 160, he’s one of the most feared and well-rounded fighters in the division. Coming off a win via submission (Heel hook) over Kevin Gastellum in his most recent fight back in July, Hermansson looks to keep the momentum rolling. Aside from his defeat to Cannonier, his previous five fights have all been victories. He is able to spread out his attacks and fight a very technical and poised fight.

As for Holland, there is no debating his drive in his chase for greatness. Having fought four times this year already, he’s clearly one of the most in-form fighters right now. Following his victory in his last fight, Holland had some choice words for Israel Adesanya. It appears as if him calling out Izzy paid off for him. While he didn’t get that fight, his activity and mentality to fight anyone and everyone got him this fight. Darren Till’s injury is unfortunate for UFC fans, as there will be no raw dogging in this one, but it opened the door for Kevin Holland. Assuming Holland can pull off this upset, and Khamzat beats Leon Edwards, that could set up a very enticing matchup between The Wolf and The Trailblazer.

The middleweight division is one that is as murky as any. With Adesanya and Blachowicz being more and more likely as the days go on, the middleweight belt could be up for the taking in the foreseeable future. While Whittaker is the favorite, and Costa still wants blood, December is an exciting month for potential challengers to make themselves heard. Kevin Holland has had little hesitation in taking fights on short notice or stepping in when needed, but he’s never had a test like Hermansson. Even someone as tough as Darren Till would likely have been the underdog had they fought, and that should speak bounds about Jack Hermansson’s abilities.

Kevin Holland is one of the rising stars in the UFC right now, and if you didn’t know, now you do. If Holland is to win this upcoming fight, there’s no telling what his future holds. To me, in that exciting land of hypotheticals, assuming Khamzat wins, there shouldn’t be any hesitation in setting up that fight. Think about it, Khamzat v Holland in February… ah, the possibilities.

UFC: Kevin Holland to jump into T15?

Kevin Holland

This upcoming Saturday on a UFC Fight Night Halloween treat, us fans are fortunate enough to watch Anderson Silva’s final fight — potentially. The middleweight bout with Uriah Hall is everyone’s “if only a few years ago” dream match, but for Hall, this is master versus apprentice and one step closer in his pursuit of the belt. However, another showdown that everyone should be looking out for is that between Kevin Holland (19-5) and Charlie Ontiveros (11-6). Initially scheduled to fight Makhmud Muradov, Holland prepares to fight Ontiveros in his UFC debut.

Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland is one that everyone should already have their eye on by now. Having already won three fights this year, and proven himself worthy of a ranked opponent, Holland is quietly putting together a very solid case. With barking contests between himself and UFC poster child, Khamzat Chimaev, Kevin Holland has made sure that Dana White knows he is always wanting a fight. As of a few weeks ago, Holland wasn’t entirely sure what his next move was going to be. Essentially trying to fight everyone and anyone, a few names tossed around were the previously mentioned Chimaev, Drucis Du Plessis, and Holland himself challenging T10 fighters.

There should already be a strong following behind Holland, as he has gained even more recognition over the past few weeks. Joaquin Buckley’s likely KO of the year on Impa Kasanganay at UFC Fight Island 5 went viral within moments, and shocked everyone watching. Buckley’s knockout got everyone searching his name, and everyone came to find out that none other than Kevin Holland knocked him out back in August with a straight right. The scary thing about Holland is that when he fights, there is no real sense of fear or being overmatched. With him, its all about the element of control and making sure he is the aggressor — and is able to make the first move, and dictate the fight.

While in Holland’s last fight against Darren Stewart, he got the win via decision, he didn’t feel good about it. In his post fight interview, he said he’d be happy to run it back with him and that the win didn’t feel convincing. The possibility of a Stewart fight could be on the table going forward, especially if Holland ends up taking care of business Saturday. With that, there’s also a very real chance Holland will finally get bumped into the T15 rankings assuming he comes out on top. Having already notched three wins in 2020 — KO over Hernandez (05/16), KO over Buckley (08/08), DEC over Stewart (09/19), he looks to extend it to an impressive four wins this year. IF he is to fight again, the chances at having FIVE wins in a calendar year may sound too sweet to pass up for Holland.

Look for Holland to make a statement and throw his name in the running for a top fight next, after his bout with Ontiveros.