Main Card (PPV)
Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
It’s hard to predict how the ‘concussion-like symptoms’ that forced Holloway out during fight week the last time these two were scheduled to meet will affect him this time out because even the best doctor’s around haven’t been able to figure out exactly what was wrong with him.
So if they don’t know it’s really impossible for anyone to say how the weight-cut will affect him in this final few days before fight night and what affect it will have on his performance on Saturday night, other than to acknowledge that it is a real cause for concern.
However, in terms of his fighting ability, there’s no question that Holloway is elite. That’s largely due to his top-flight striking talents, being both dangerous offensively and rock-solid defensively thanks to his terrific footwork, angles, sense of distance and pinpoint accurate combinations.
Ortega deserves praise too for his rapidly developing stand-up game, but even though its quite likely this will be the best version of him yet, he’s got a lot of ground to cover to catch up to ‘Blessed’ in that regard. He’s aggressive and has proven he has power, but he’s not as refined and technical as the champ, is easier to hit, and in general his style is more to finish fights rather than to win rounds, and that could be a real problem against the Hawaiian, who can do both.
Of course it’s Ortega’s grappling skills that are his real calling card and that could be his key to victory here. Holloway’s takedown defense is excellent, but Ortega is unusual in that he’ll suddenly pounce on submission attempts from the feet, making him a daunting fighter in the clinch.
If Ortega does manage to catch Holloway in a submission then his vice-like grip means it could well be game over, but ‘Blessed’ is hard to track down in the first place, operates well in the clinch and will likely be outlanding the challenger by a significant margin on the feet.
As such, though there are big concerns about Holloway’s health and Ortega’s grappling, he still remains a tremendous fighter and I think he’ll put on a striking clinic to emerge with a decision victory here.
Prediciton: Max Holloway to win by decision – BET NOW
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valentina Shevchenko
While this is their first meeting in MMA, these two have clashed no less than three times in the past as muay thai fighters, and crucially it was Shevchenko who emerged victorious on each occasion.
Of course since then Jedrzejczyk has gone on to be a runaway success in MMA competing at strawweight, but it’s still her excellent striking skills coupled with strong takedown defense that have been the hallmarks of her game.
Meanwhile, Shevchenko has also enjoyed success in MMA and after competing at bantamweight she’s now even more in her element after dropping down to flyweight.
Shevchenko has the natural size and power advantage here, which could be an important factor, while she’s also proved in the past she can outstrike her rival and is a strong grappler into the bargain.
Jedrzejczyk is the quicker of the two and throws with more volume, but I feel Shevchenko is perfectly suited to this weight class and her striking and clinch work will enable her to get the better of this fight to claim a title-winning decision victory.
Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko to win by decision – BET NOW
Alex Oliveira vs. Gunnar Nelson
It’s been 17 months since Nelson last set foot in the Octagon and suffered a KO loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio, so this is an important fight for him to serve a reminder that he’s still a threat at 170lbs.
That being said, Oliveira is in fine form, having only lost once in his last eight Octagon outings, so he’ll be feeling confident heading into this match-up.
Physically, Oliveira is very strong and can rely on that at times to overwhelm opponents, but it’s going to be tricky to do against Nelson as he’s far superior from a technical standpoint on the mat.
Nelson’s karate based stand-up can be somewhat passive and is only occasionally effective, so Oliveira might find some success upright, but I don’t think Gunnar will be looking to take risks in this fight and instead will seek to get the fight to the mat as quickly as possible and will use his grappling talents to deliver a first round submission finish.
Prediction: Gunnar Nelson to win by decision – BET NOW
Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak
A former long-time WSOF fighter, Dawodu hasn’t yet made his mark the way some had believed he could, but there’s still time and Bochniak provides a decent test to get a read on what course his UFC career is going to take.
Bochniak’s UFC record of just 2-3 is underwhelming, but he’s a decent all-rounder and his aggression and forward pressure will make Dawodu work for it if he wants to emerge victorious.
If he is able to keep it standing for the most part then Dawodu is the more dangerous, hard-hitting kickboxer of the two and while it’s a potential banana skin, I think this could be the fight that gives him a chance to show what he can do and return to the promising form he displayed in WSOF.
Prediction: Hakeen Dawodu to win by TKO in Rd2 – BET NOW
Jimi Manuwa vs. Thiago Santos
This should be a fun one with both these fighters having the firepower to knock out their opponent.
Manuwa has extremely heavy hands and opponents can soon wilt when he’s on the warpath, but at 38 he’s no longer in his prime and neither is his chin, which has let him down at times in the past, leaving him with somewhat of a ‘kill or be killed’ style.
Santos has only recently stepped up from middleweight, but the indications so far are that he is just as capable of violent finishes in his new weight class as before, and he’ll be the more versatile on his feet, particularly with kicks compared to the more boxing orientated Manuwa.
With two proven finishers like this anything could happen and it should be an exciting back-and-forth fight on the feet, but Santos is a little better defensively and will land more strikes too on his way to a second round TKO victory.
Prediction: Thiago Santos to win by TKO in Rd2 – BET NOW
(Predicted winners in bold)
Claudia Gadelha vs. Nina Ansaroff
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye
Eryk Anders vs. Elias Theodorou
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
Devin Clark vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Brad Katona vs. Matthew Lopez
Chad Laprise vs. Dhiego Lima
Jesse Ronson vs. Diego Ferreira