UFC 223: Khabib vs. Iaquinta Predictions & Betting Tips

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Max Holloway vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta

UPDATE: Khabib now fights Al Iaquinta after Max Holloway was forced to abandon the weight cut on doctor’s orders.

We think Khabib gets the job done a bit earlier against Iaquinta and will take Khabib to win by TKO in Rd3 @ $10.50 – BET NOW

The MMA world was caught off-guard on April Fool’s Day when it turned out that the news that Tony Ferguson had been forced out of his lightweight title fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov due to an ACL injury wasn’t a prank.

The show must go on though and so the UFC somehow managed to convince featherweight champion Max Holloway that it would be a good idea to move up to lightweight to fight the undefeated Nurmagomedov on just six days notice.

Fighting Nurmagomedov with a full training camp under his belt would be a massive challenge for ‘Blessed,’ but six days gives him no time to prepare for the nightmarish brand of relentless takedowns and brutal ground and pound that ‘The Eagle’ dishes out.

Worse still, Holloway’s nutritional expert George Lockhart has revealed that the Hawaiian star’s weight cut will be equal to the most he’s ever overseen, while let’s not forget that Holloway has been nursing an ankle injury that was supposed to have kept him out of action for at least another few weeks.

It shows just how good Holloway is that even with all those obstacles in his way he still has a real chance to win.  He is undoubtedly the better striker here and its worth remembering that in some of his recent fights Nurmagomedov has shown that he’s not immune to in trouble on the feet.

Holloway has clinical accuracy and uses his range very well, while he has made tremendous improvements to his takedown defence since the days when Conor McGregor was repeatedly able to bring him to the mat after suffering a knee injury.

That being said, there are levels to this game and it is exceptionally difficult to stop an elite wrestler like Nurmagomedov from taking you down if he wants to, and he is utterly dominant once he gets on top.

As such, as terrifically talented as Holloway is, there’s just too much going against him her to pick against Nurmagomedov emerging victorious, though it would be a truly spectacular moment if ‘Blessed’ can somehow deliver the upset and become a two-division champion.

Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov wins by TKO in Rd4

Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk

As good a fighter as she is, its fair to say that the manner in which Namjunas was able to defeat Jedrzejczyk in their first encounter to win the strawweight title was surprising.

No one was caught off-guard by this more than Jedrzejczky herself, and though she has shown herself to be more than capable of adjusting her strategy in the midst of fights in the past, she simply didn’t have enough time to adjust to ‘Thug’s’ punching accuracy and effective use of range before the TKO finish came just three minutes into the fight.

It’s hard to imagine that Jedrzejczyk won’t prepared this time around to deal with Namajunas’ offense, although it remains to be seen if it’s simply the case that ‘Thug’ Rose has her number or not.

Namajunas has already proved that her maturing stand-up game can trouble Jedrzejczyk, but she hasn’t had a chance to show off her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills against her yet, so it’ll be interesting to see if that will play a factor this time around.

JJ does have excellent takedown defense though, so I do still expect the fight to take place on the feet, and though there are questions to be asked about Jedrzejczyk’s ability to withstand heavy leather, my feeling is that she remains a more complete striker than Namajunas overall at this moment and time.

As such, though it’s by no means a confident pick given that we’ve never seen Jedrzejczyk having to bounce back like this, I do believe she has the depth of experience and skill to make the adjustments necessary to withstand the early heat from the champion this time around and go on to earn a closely fought decision victory.

Prediction: Joanna Jedrzejczyk wins by decision @ $2.88 – BET NOW

Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis

UPDATE: This fight was scratched from the card due to Michael Chiesa’s injuries from the Conor McGregor bus rampage.

Anthony Pettis continues to struggle to find the form that led to him becoming lightweight champion a few years ago, and Chiesa isn’t exactly an easy opponent to get back to winning ways against.

In many ways these are two complete opposite kinds of fighters.  Pettis has an abundance of natural talent, but hasn’t necessarily been able to harness that to it’s fullest potential, while Chiesa lacks his opponent’s athleticism and has much more of a workmanlike skill-set, but has shown tremendous heart and determination to get the most out of the tools at his disposal.

That could take Chiesa a long way in this fight as his big gas tank and forward pressure will pose problems for Pettis, thrives when he has space to work and is far less effective on the back foot.

On the mat is where he could have the most success as though Pettis is no slouch off his back, Chiesa can be hard to peel off once he’s grounded his opponents and his rear-naked choke is a constant threat.

Clearly Pettis has a big advantage on the feet though and his speed, versatility and power present a daunting challenge for Chiesa if the former champion is allowed to get into his groove.

Both men have a clear route to victory here and Pettis could make his opponent look foolish on the feet, but Chiesa has more reliably been able to make his gameplan work for him over the past few years and given that some of Pettis’ weaknesses play to his strengths, I think he can be the latest fighter to hand ‘Showtime’ a disappointing loss.

Prediction: Michael Chiesa wins by decision.

Calvin Kattar vs. Renato Moicano

Two rising featherweights talents are on show here as they look to edge closer to the top 10 at 145lbs with a win on Saturday night.

Both fighters are capable, active strikers, with Moicano operating well at range, though Kattar is the better boxer and puts together a higher volume of strikes and has more pop in his punches.

Kattar will be happy to keep the fight standing at all times, but Moicano is more versatile, keeping his opponents guessing with occasional takedowns and he poses a threat with submissions too.

This one could go either way, but I think it will largely be contested on the feet and with that in mind I think Kattar will be able to edge out his opponent and claim a narrow decision victory.

Prediction: Calvin Kattar wins by decision @ $2.88 – BET NOW

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder

UPDATE: This fight is off after Al Iaquinta stepped up to the main event to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov.

This is an intriguing and closely matched clash of two high-level strikers in the UFC’s ultra-competitive lightweight division.

Iaquinta is a very good boxer who carries power in his punches, but doesn’t just rely on one big hit to get the job done and stays busy with good combinations, while also being relatively sound defensively.

The biggest problem for Iaquinta is a lack of cage-time as a falling out with the UFC over his contract has led to him fighting only a small handful of times over the past three years.

On the other hand, Felder has been a consistent campaigner in the octagon, racking up 9 fights in the same space of time that Iaquinta has recorded 3.

’The Irish Dragon’ has also hit a rich vein of form lately, with all three victories in his current winning streak having come by way of strikes, a testament to his sharp, seasoned striking.

There’s really not much to choose between these two, so it’s not easy to pick between them.  If Iaquinta had been fighting more frequently in recent times I may well have been tempted to pick him, but instead I’ll lean towards Felder, who has been more active and will utilize his more methodical approach to striking and kicking advantage to edge out a close decision victory.

Prediction: Paul Felder to win by decision.


(Predicted winners in bold)

Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Felice Herrig
Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno
Joe Lauzon vs. Chris Gruetzemacher
Evan Dunham vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier

UFC Fight Pass Prelims

(Predicted winners in bold)

Alex Caceres vs. Artem Lobov
Devin Clark vs. Mike Rodriguez
Bec Rawlings vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Kyle Bochniak



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