Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 44.
UFC On ESPN+ 44
Date: February 27, 2021
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+
Heavyweights: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Ciryl Gane
Overall Records: Rozenstruik 11-1, Gane 7-0
UFC Records: Rozenstruik 5-1, Gane 4-0
Last Fight: Rozenstruik def. Dos Santos, R2 TKO, UFC 252 (8/15/20), Gane def. Dos Santos, R2 TKO, UFC 256 (12/12/20)
Last Five Fights: Rozenstruik 4-1, Gane 5-0
Rankings: Rozenstruik #4, Gane #7
Betting Odds: Rozenstruik +215, Gane -275
Preview: The third heavyweight main event in the month of February promises to be an explosive one, as knockout artists Rozenstruik and Gane look to get themselves into the talk of future title challengers. Both men are coming off knockout wins over former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos, as Rozenstruik beat him in August and Gane beat him in December. After Gane won in December, literally everyone was calling for this fight to be made, and it came together rather quickly as Gane has been eager to fight more after having many fights fall apart and being the most-ducked heavyweight on the rise. Rozenstruik knows how that feels, as he was in a similar spot, but being a top-five heavyweight means everyone is now after you, and that includes Gane.
Both men have kickboxing experience, with Rozenstruik having far more experience in both kickboxing and MMA, but Gane has accomplished something Rozenstruik hasn’t—he has yet to taste defeat in combat sports. Rozenstruik is looking to become the first man to defeat Gane, but in order to do so, he’s going to have to overcome the length and reach edge that Gane has. Both are knockout artists, but Gane has shown a more well-rounded game in MMA. Rozenstruik has ten of his eleven wins by knockout, while Gane has scored three wins each by knockout and submission.
Gane lands more on the feet and tends to get hit less, with a 73% striking defense while Rozenstruik’s striking defense is just at 36%. Rozenstruik does get hit often, but he’s generally finishing opponents before they have a chance to land a lot of volume. Gane will likely be looking to mix in the takedowns. He shouldn’t have to worry about Rozenstruik taking it to the mat- Rozenstruik has never attempted a takedown in MMA, but he has shown some good defense. Gane has never been taken down in competition. Gane is a big betting favorite in this fight, and there is money to be made on Rozenstruik as Gane has yet to fight someone who has the raw power that Rozenstruik has.
This is a very interesting fight. Gane has more paths to victory and is more well-rounded, but we haven’t seen him tested by someone who can hit him, which means we don’t know how he would react if Rozenstruik ends up landing shots. Rozenstruik has been knocked out before, so Gane could finish him that way. No matter what happens, though, it likely should have a big finish and live up to the bit of hype it’s getting. I like Gane in this one.
Light Heavyweights: Nikita Krylov vs. Magomed Ankalaev
Overall Records: Krylov 26-7, Ankalaev 15-1
UFC Records: Krylov 8-5, Ankalaev 5-1
Last Fight: Krylov def. Walker, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 28 (3/14/20), Ankalaev def. Cutelaba, R1 KO, UFC 254 (10/24/20)
Last Five Fights: Krylov 3-2, Ankalaev 5-0
Rankings: Krylov #8, Ankalaev #11
Betting Odds: Krylov +270, Ankalaev -360
Preview: Krylov and Ankalaev meet in the co-main event in a fight that sees two light heavyweights vying to break into the title picture. Krylov returns to action for the first time in almost a year, and he’s looking to make it two straight following the biggest win of his career, a decision over Johnny Walker in March. That decision win was the first time Krylov had ever won by decision, as his previous 25 wins all came by stoppage. He’s ranked inside the top ten, but he’s looking to gather some consistency, as he’s rotated wins-and-losses since making his return to UFC. Meanwhile, Ankalaev enters this fight riding a five-fight win streak, and he’s finally gotten past the year-long feud with Ion Cutelaba to where he can move on to other opponents. His UFC run has been impressive, as he’s won four of his five UFC fights by knockout, and if it weren’t for a literal last-second submission loss to Paul Craig in his debut, we’d be talking about an undefeated fighter.
Ankalaev definitely has the tools to be fighting for a title in the near future, and Krylov represents his toughest test to date inside the Octagon. This is a very interesting match-up as it pits two fighters who like to finish against each other. As noted, Krylov has 25 finishes in his career, with ten by knockout and 15 by submission. Ankalaev has nine wins by knockout, but has also gone the distance in his other six wins. In Krylov’s seven losses, six have seen him be finished. Krylov never even went the full distance until his past two fights. The odds of this one going the distance are low. Both are high-volume strikers, and Krylov tends to land more, but Ankalaev does a better job at avoiding being hit.
Krylov really excels on the mat, as he is good at takedowns, but really good when he goes hunting for submissions. Ankalaev has great takedown defense, but is not much of an offensive wrestler, as he prefers to trade. A fight on the feet favors Ankalaev more, while a ground fight edges it towards Krylov. This is a super interesting fight that could end up being great. It’s also a tough fight to pick. I lean towards Ankalaev, but Krylov definitely has the style to beat him. It should be fun either way.
Women’s Flyweights: Montana De La Rosa vs. Mayra Bueno Silva
Overall Records: De La Rosa 11-6, Silva 7-1
UFC Records: De La Rosa 4-2, Silva 2-1
Last Fight: Araujo def. De La Rosa, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 34 (9/5/20), Silva def. Borella, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20)
Last Five Fights: De La Rosa, 3-2, Silva 4-1
Betting Odds: De La Rosa +115, Silva -145
Preview: De La Rosa and Silva meet in a flyweight fight that sees both trying to work their way up the division to get inside the top ten and into title contention. De La Rosa is looking to erase the sting of a loss in her last fight, as she came up short in a decision against Viviane Araujo. She has traded wins-and-losses over her last four fights, so the odds say she’s due for a win. Silva is looking to make it two consecutive wins, as she rebounded nicely from her first career loss to get a first-round submission win over Mara Romero Borella in her last outing. Despite being younger, De La Rosa has the experience edge in this one, and it feels like she’s been around in UFC for a while, but she just turned 26, so she likely hasn’t even hit her prime when it comes to fighting.
Both women are strong submission fighters, as De La Rosa has scored eight of her eleven wins by submission, while five of Silva’s seven wins have come by submission. This one will be interesting to see how it goes. Silva is better on the feet, but she also tends to get hit a lot. De La Rosa is a good pressure fighter, but isn’t a very accurate striker, and she likes to work in the clinch against the fence and on the mat. She is a strong wrestler, but Silva does have good takedown defense. Despite Silva having the two UFC wins by submission, she has never attempted a takedown inside the Octagon, as both of her submissions were as a result of her being taken down and then finding an opening to get armbars locked in.
It’s very possible she’s been more lucky than good, and De La Rosa is good enough on the mat to stay away from it. It is a close fight on paper, but I tend to favor De La Rosa in this one due to the experience. I’m not expecting an amazing fight, but this should be a good test for both.
Bantamweights: Pedro Munhoz vs. Jimmie Rivera
Overall Records: Munhoz 18-5 1 NC, Rivera 23-4
UFC Records: Munhoz 8-5 1 NC, Rivera 7-3
Last Fight: Edgar def. Munhoz, SpDec, UFC On ESPN 15 (8/22/20), Rivera def. Stamann, UDec, UFC On ESPN 13 (7/15/20)
Last Five Fights: Munhoz 3-2, Rivera 2-3
Rankings: Munhoz #8, Rivera #9
Betting Odds: Munhoz +115, Rivera -145
Preview: After having this fight pushed back a few times, including from two weeks ago due to COVID-19, Munhoz and Rivera finally will square off in a rematch of a November 2015 bout that Rivera won by a close split decision. The fortunes of both have been very mixed in the five-plus years since that fight, as both have been close to breaking into the title picture only to have some mishaps that have kept them barely hanging onto top-ten ranking spots as the bantamweight division has started to thrive. Since that fight, Munhoz has gone 7-3 and Rivera has gone 5-3, so Munhoz has been the slightly more active fighter. Rivera is coming into this fight off a win, while Munhoz has dropped his last two, so Munhoz is really in more of a must-win situation coming into this one.
In the first fight, Rivera outlanded Munhoz 96-66, which ended up being the key difference. Munhoz has improved since that fight while Rivera seems to be much of the same type of fighter since then. When you look at their records since, in the seven wins Munhoz has gotten, five have come by stoppage. In the five wins by Rivera, all have been by decision, and, in fact, all but one of his fights since have gone the distance, with the lone fight not going 15 minutes being a 33-second loss to Marlon Moraes. Munhoz holds the distinction of having never been finished in his career. Munhoz is a more polished striker, but he also tends to get hit more than he lands.
Seeing as he’s never been finished, he’s not afraid to take some shots. Rivera isn’t as heavy of an output fighter as he was in the first Munhoz fight, so he’ll need to ramp up the volume in this one. Rivera likes to go for takedowns, even when he’s not successful, but Munhoz is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, so he’ll be able to defend. Both are good at defending takedowns. This is still a close fight on paper, but Munhoz has improved more in the five years since the first fight. It will likely go the distance and be a close fight again, but I see Munhoz pulling this one out to even the score and set up a potential third fight years down the line.
Women’s Strawweights: Angela Hill vs. Ashley Yoder
Overall Records: Hill 12-9, Yoder 8-6
UFC Records: Hill 7-9, Yoder 3-5
Last Fight: Waterson def. Hill, SpDec, UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20), Yoder def. Granger, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 40 (11/14/20)
Last Five Fights: Hill 3-2, Yoder 3-2
Rankings: Hill #12
Betting Odds: Hill -315, Yoder +245
Preview: Hill and Yoder get a short-notice bout here in a rematch of a July 2017 bout that Hill won by unanimous decision. To paint a picture on how quickly this fight was put together- both were called this past Saturday, February 20, to ask if they wanted to fight in a week, and the fight was announced later that night on the broadcast of last week’s show. Hill has been particularly eager to get back to action, as she hasn’t fought since September, and five months off for her is like two years off for most. She did have to deal with a bout of COVID-19 during that time off, so hopefully she’s fully recovered. Yoder has been wanting to stay active as well, as she feels she is building momentum and getting better with each fight, and she has shown some great improvement. After losing her first three UFC fights, Yoder has won three of her last five, and a strong case could be made that she’s won four of those.
As for Hill, she was on a great three-fight win streak, but has lost two straight, though both were split decisions that could’ve gone in her favor. She badly wants to get back into the win column. Hill is a striker first and foremost, and she lands a lot during fights. Not only does she land a lot, but she has good striking defense as well, even though she does get hit quite often. Yoder’s gameplan is always wrestling-based, as she has good takedowns and can keep opponents on the mat. In their first fight, Yoder took Hill down three times, but Hill was much better on the feet, which was the difference. Both have improved since then, leaving this to be a much more intriguing fight, but on short notice, you tend to go with the fighter who has more experience in these types of situations, and that is Hill. I like her to get the win in this one.
Featherweights: Alex Caceres vs. Kevin Croom
Overall Records: Caceres 17-12 1 NC, Croom 21-12 1 NC
UFC Records: Caceres 12-10 1 NC, Croom 0-0 1 NC
Last Fight: Caceres def. Springer, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 33 (8/29/20), Croom NC Roberts, UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20)
Last Five Fights: Caceres 4-1, Croom 3-1 1 NC
Betting Odds: Caceres -210, Croom +170
Preview: Caceres and Croom open the main card in a featherweight fight that could bring some fireworks. Caceres is looking to score his fourth straight win in this one, which would be a great streak for him as he struggled for a few years to put together some consistency. He got a submission win in his last fight, his first submission win in over six years, showing that he still has a strong ground game. Croom makes his second appearance inside the Octagon. His first fight was a success, as he submitted Roosevelt Roberts in just 31 seconds, but it was later changed to a no contest after Croom failed a drug test for marijuana. Luckily for Croom, UFC still treats it as a win and gives him a quality match-up for his second fight that could lead to some fun on Saturday night. Croom is a veteran of the sport, as this will be his thirty-fifth professional fight, and he’s fought the likes of Justin Gaethje, Charles Bennett and Darrick Minner in his career.
Caceres has long been known for his ground and submission game, but he is a very underrated striker and has improved tremendously on his feet. His strike differential is very good, and his footwork helps keep him from getting hit. Croom is a blitzing fighter who is not afraid to engage, and he has 16 wins by finish in his career. He isn’t nicknamed “The Hard Hitting Hillbilly” for nothing. He also has been finished a lot in his career, as eight of his twelve losses have been by stoppage. Caceres has been submitted a lot in his career, so Croom needs to be aware of that. This has the makings of an exciting fight, and really one that could end in a lot of different ways. I like Caceres in this one, but Croom has plenty of upset potential.
Start Time: 5:00 p.m. ET, 2:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+
Lightweights: Alexander Hernandez vs. Thiago Moises
Overall Records: Hernandez 12-3, Moises 14-4
UFC Records: Hernandez 4-2, Moises 3-2
Last Fight: Hernandez def. Gruetzemacher, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 39 (10/31/20), Moises def. Green, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 39 (10/31/20)
Last Five Fights: Hernandez 3-2, Moises 3-2
Betting Odds: Hernandez -200, Moises +160
Preview: Hernandez and Moises meet in a featured prelim in a battle of two lightweights who are looking to break into the rankings at 155 lbs. Hernandez has been ranked before, as he got off to a hot start to his UFC career, knocking out Beneil Dariush in his debut and scoring a decision over Olivier Aubin-Mercier. He was then thrown into the deep end with veterans, and it hasn’t been smooth sailing since, as he’s gone just 2–2 over his last four. He got back into the win column with a knockout win in less than two minutes over Chris Gruetzemacher in October. Moises comes into this one on the heels of two wins in 2020 over long-time veterans, as he submitted Michael Johnson and got a decision over Bobby Green. He had mixed results prior to this win streak, and a third straight win here would establish himself as a viable contender in a tough lightweight division. Moises is a submission specialist, with a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and he has six wins by submission. He’s also never been finished in his career, as his four losses have all been via a decision.
Hernandez is a power striker with good wrestling, and his striking should show even more improvement as he continues to work with the Factory X camp in Colorado. He has been knocked out twice in his career, so his chin can be a question, so he’ll try to use pressure and control to keep Moises from hitting him. Hernandez is the better fighter on the feet, but he may try to avoid playing a ground fight with Moises. Moises does get hit more than he lands, but if you go to the mat with him, he’ll be hunting for submissions constantly. With all of the talk of Hernandez being a young prospect, Moises is actually just under three years younger. Both have bright futures ahead of them, but I like Hernandez to get the job done on Saturday as he continues to hit his stride.
Welterweights: Alex Oliveira vs. Ramazan Kuramagomedov
Overall Records: Oliveira 22-8-1 2 NC, Kuramagomedov 8-0
UFC Records: Oliveira 11-7 1 NC, Kuramagomedov 0-0
Last Fight: Rakhmonov def. Oliveira, R1 SUB, UFC 254 (10/24/20), Kuramagomedov def. Ollison, R2 SUB, CFFC 85 (9/18/20)
Last Five Fights: Oliveira 2-3, Kuramagomedov 5-0
Preview: Oliveira gets a late replacement opponent in this bout as he will welcome Kuramagomedov to UFC in this one. Kuramagomedov took this fight on Tuesday after Oliveira’s original opponent, Randy Brown, was forced out due to injury. Kuramagomedov is one of the best signings UFC has made in some time, regardless of whether it was on short notice or not. He comes in with a perfect 8–0 record, and he brings in a good amount of hype. He’s got four wins by submission and one by knockout, but takedowns are his game. Oliveira is a hard-nosed veteran, but he’s struggled as of late, dropping four of his last six fights. That run followed a run where he won four of five and looked to be a serious threat to contend, but now he’s just a guy trying to hang onto his spot on UFC’s roster. He’s had a lot of exciting fights in his career, with twelve wins by knockout and five by submission, but he’s also been finished six times in his career.
Oliveira will be looking to lean on his Octagon experience to guide him to a win here, but his trouble has been defending submissions. He has good takedown defense, but Kuramagomedov should be able to get him down with his high-level wrestling, and Oliveira can be submitted. Kuramagomedov has loads of potential, and despite his career being short so far, he’s a dangerous guy and this looks to be a bad style match-up for Oliveira, and is definitely a different challenge than the one Oliveira was preparing for in Brown. This could be a sneaky good fight, and I really like Kuramagomedov to impress in this one.
Women’s Bantamweights: Alexis Davis vs. Sabina Mazo
Overall Records: Davis 19-10, Mazo 9-1
UFC Records: Davis 6-5, Mazo 3-1
Last Fight: Araujo def. Davis, UDec, UFC 240 (7/27/19), Mazo def. Kish, R3 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20)
Last Five Fights: Davis 2-3, Mazo 4-1
Rankings: Davis #11 WFLY
Betting Odds: Davis +170, Mazo -210
Preview: A common theme of late with UFC matchmaking has been pitting veterans against young prospects, and that is the case in this fight between Davis and Mazo. Both are moving up to 135 lbs. for this one, as Davis looks to extend her career as she returns to the division where she once fought for the title, while Mazo fights at bantamweight for the first time. Davis hasn’t fought since July 2019, and she enters this bout having lost her last three overall, and she is just 2–4 since returning from giving birth. Mazo has shown a lot of promise in her young career. She came to UFC undefeated, but lost her first UFC bout to Maryna Moroz, but has rebounded with three straight wins, including her first career submission win in her last fight against Justine Kish. Mazo is young at just 23-years-old, and she hadn’t even started fighting yet when Davis challenged Ronda Rousey for UFC gold in 2014.
Mazo is a very high-volume striker, landing over seven significant strikes per minute, and she has shown an improving ground game. Davis likes to get in brawls on the feet, though she has been knocked out three times, but her latest losses have all been by decision. Davis hasn’t shown great takedowns or takedown defense, and her grappling needs to be at a high level against Mazo, as Mazo will likely light her up standing. Davis is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and has eight submission wins in her career, but only one in a UFC career that spans nearly eight years. Davis will be a test for Mazo, but this fight is designed to get Mazo a signature win over a tough veteran. Mazo is a big favorite, as she should be, and Davis has every bit of a chance to get the upset, but Mazo should win this pretty decisively.
Light Heavyweights: William Knight vs. Alonzo Menifield
Overall Records: Knight 9-1, Menifield 9-2
UFC Records: Knight 1-0, Menifield 2-2
Last Fight: Knight def. Camur, UDec, UFC 253 (9/26/20), Saint Preux def. Menifield, R2 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 34 (9/5/20)
Last Five Fights: Knight 4-1, Menifield 3-2
Betting Odds: Knight -115, Menifield -115
Preview: A pair of hungry light heavyweights who have a penchant for finishing opponents square off here as Knight and Menifield both look for their tenth career win. Knight makes his second appearance in UFC, as he comes into this fight off a decision win over Aleksa Camur in September. That was actually the first time that Knight had gone the distance in his career, so he proved that he can be a 15-minute fighter if needed. Menifield started his career 9–0, but he has since dropped two straight, though the losses have come to veterans Devin Clark and Ovince Saint Preux. Menifield finds himself in what is a must-win situation, but he is fighting someone who may be a mirror image of himself. Menifield is a proven finisher, as all nine of his wins have come by a stoppage, with eight wins by knockout. He has some serious power in his fists, but so does Knight. Knight is an extremely accurate striker, and he does land more than Menifield, but Knight also hasn’t shown the best striking defense.
The problem there, though, is that he doesn’t tend to get hit all that much. Menifield will definitely look to exploit that with his reach advantage. Knight is also a strong wrestler, and while Menifield has shown some good takedown defense, he has yet to show any offensive wrestling. Knight might know that pushing the fight into the third round will slow Menifield down and could be his best path to winning. Both are physically imposing 205-pounders with vicious power. It would not be a surprise to see someone knocked out in this one. The betting odds are basically even, and this really could go either way. I think Knight has more paths to a win, but this is a tough fight to pick. Either way, there is plenty reason to think this will produce some fireworks and be fun.
Bantamweights: Vince Cachero vs. Ronnie Lawrence
Overall Records: Cachero 7-3, Lawrence 6-1
UFC Records: Cachero 0-1, Lawrence 0-0
Last Fight: Emmers def. Cachero, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 31 (8/1/20), Lawrence def. Johnson, UDec, Dana White’s Contender Series 31 (9/1/20)
Last Five Fights: Cachero 2-3, Lawrence 4-1
Betting Odds: Cachero +130, Lawrence -160
Preview: Lawrence makes his UFC debut in this fight in his eighth professional fight, and Cachero appears inside the Octagon for the second time as young bantamweights battle. Cachero is in a must-win fight, as despite this being just his second UFC bout, he’s lost three of his last four overall, and a loss here could signal a release from his contract. Lawrence got his contract on the heels of a dominant showing on the Contender Series, and he comes to UFC riding a three-fight win streak.
Lawrence was extremely impressive during his Contender Series fight, scoring twelve takedowns over the course of his fifteen minute fight. That might be troubling for Cachero, who was taken down five times in his debut fight against Jamall Emmers in August. Cachero is definitely the better striker of the two, but he also gets hit more than he lands. Lawrence is comfortable going the distance, and his wrestling is a big reason why. They both have the conditioning to go at a fast pace, but I expect Lawrence to wear Cachero down with constant pressure and takedowns. Lawrence should win this one.
Light Heavyweights: Dustin Jacoby vs. Maxim Grishin
Overall Records: Jacoby 13-5, Grishin 31-8-2
UFC Records: Jacoby 1-2, Grishin 1-1
Last Fight: Jacoby def. Ledet, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 39 (10/31/20), Grishin def. Antigulov, R2 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 38 (10/17/20)
Last Five Fights: Jacoby 3-2, Grishin 3-1-1
Betting Odds: Jacoby -185, Grishin +150
Preview: A very solid light heavyweight bout opens the card, and, really, this fight should be higher on the card as Jacoby and Grishin battle in a high-level fight. Jacoby is in his second stint with UFC, as he was with the promotion from 2011–2012. After he was released, and following mixed success, he dabbled in kickboxing, fighting for GLORY. He came back to MMA in 2019, and he’s gone 3–0 since returning, including a successful UFC return in October. Grishin is coming off his first UFC win, knocking out Gadzhimurad Antigulov in October, which came on a full training camp, unlike his UFC debut. Both men have the skills to become ranked fighters and potential contenders, and this will be the biggest test for both to date.
With his kickboxing experience, Jacoby should be, hypothetically, the better fighter on the feet, and he has scored nine of his thirteen wins by knockout. However, Grishin has shown to be a solid striker in his career, and more than half of his 30 career wins have been by knockout. Grishin is a little more methodical with his striking, while Jacoby will come right at you on the offensive and force you to engage. Both have some decent wrestling, and they are both 100% on their takedown attempts, while also having good takedown defense. I’m expecting this fight to be more contested on the feet, and Jacoby mixes everything well while having good striking defense. Grishin just has tons of experience, and it is hard to pick against him. I feel this one could go either way, and it should be a real fun opener.