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Guide to UFC 267: Blachowicz vs. Teixeira

Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC 267.

UFC 267

Date: October 30, 2021

Location: Etihad Arena in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

Main Card

Start Time: 2:00 p.m. ET, 11:00 a.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN+

UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: Jan Blachowicz (c) vs. Glover Teixeira

Overall Records: Blachowicz 28-8, Teixeira 32-7

UFC Records: Blachowicz 11-5, Teixeira 15-5

Last Fight: Blachowicz def. Adesanya (title fight)–UDec–UFC 259 (3/6/21), Teixeira def. Santos–R3 SUB–UFC On ESPN 17 (11/7/20)

Last Five Fights: Blachowicz 5-0, Teixeira 5-0

Rankings: Blachowicz C, Teixeira #1

Betting Odds: Blachowicz -300, Teixeira +240

Background: The year is 2017. Someone is asking you who will be fighting for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in four years. If you would’ve said it would be a battle between Blachowicz and Teixeira, you could’ve made a lot of money. The division has changed so much since Jon Jones vacated the title that we now have a clash of battle-tested veterans to see who reigns supreme at 205 lbs. when Blachowicz defends the title for the second time. The last time Blachowicz was in Abu Dhabi was the highlight of his career, winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship when he finished Dominick Reyes. He’s since made a defense against Israel Adesanya in March. Teixeira comes into this fight on a five-fight win streak, but he hasn’t fought in almost a year since his submission win over Thiago Santos last November.

How they match up: Pretty evenly, to be honest. Blachowicz has a slight two-inch reach advantage. They land roughly the same amount of punches, are pretty evenly accurate, though Teixeira tends to get hit more. Teixeira is the better pure boxer, but Blachowicz may be the better overall striker and has the power edge. Teixeira is the better ground fighter and has the better takedown game of the two, but Blachowicz has made huge strides in his wrestling. Teixeira does have incredible toughness and durability. I could see this being a slow-paced affair where both are careful with their attacks and don’t take any huge chances.

What’s at stake: For Blachowicz, it’s the chance to firmly establish himself as the guy at light heavyweight. His win over Reyes was looked at as an upset, and he did have the size difference over Adesanya. He’s the betting favorite in this one, but this fight feels much closer than the odds suggest. For Teixeira, it’s his last shot at winning UFC gold, and it could close out a great birthday week for him, as he turned 42 on Thursday. He’s bounced back from being a gatekeeper, much like Blachowicz, and, like the champ, a win here would signify you can’t count these veterans out. There is a huge challenge waiting in the wings for the winner in the form of Jiri Prochazka, who may very well dismantle whomever the champion coming out of this is. The winner of this fight may feel like an unlikely champion in 2021 given both of their careers, but it just goes to show that anything can happen in a fight.

Pick: Teixeira

UFC Interim-Bantamweight Championship: Petr Yan vs. Cory Sandhagen

Overall Records: Yan 15-2, Sandhagen 14-3

UFC Records: Yan 7-1, Sandhagen 7-2

Last Fight: Sterling def. Yan (title fight)–R4 DQ–UFC 259 (3/7/21), Dillashaw def. Sandhagen–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 27 (7/24/21)

Last Five Fights: Yan 4-1, Sandhagen 3-2

Rankings: Yan #1, Sandhagen #3

Betting Odds: Yan -250, Sandhagen +200

Background: Yan returns to the site where he first captured UFC gold in Abu Dhabi looking to reclaim a title around his waist. He defeated Jose Aldo in July 2020 to become the UFC Bantamweight Champion. However, he lost the title in his first defense when a lapse of judgment led to him landing an illegal knee on Aljamain Sterling, who was unable to continue in the fight, and Yan became the first fighter to ever lose a UFC title via disqualification. He and Sterling were supposed to rematch on this card, but long-term neck issues led to surgery for Sterling, and he hadn’t recovered enough to be cleared for this bout. With the promotion needing two title fights for this card, Yan was put in an interim title fight, and Sandhagen stepped up. He is coming off a close split decision loss to TJ Dillashaw in July, but it is a fight that many thought he’s won. Plus, if you look at the level of competition he’s fought since June 2020, Sandhagen has had the toughest slate, and he’s one of the best bantamweights in the world.

How they match up: Sandhagen is long and unconventional. Yan is more technical. That’s not good for Yan, and he’s giving up some height and reach to Sandhagen, which, with his technical boxing, may not be a good thing for him. Sandhagen does land slightly more and mixes everything up more on the feet, and he throws some crazy stuff to where you don’t know what is coming. Yan has the better takedown game of the two, but Sandhagen can do some crazy stuff on the mat and is a good submission artist. Overall, Yan needs to be on the inside of the pocket so he can unload punches. Sandhagen needs to keep it on the outside so his unorthodox attacks can work. They match up very well.

What’s at stake: In no offense to the current champion, Sterling, and the next logical contender, Dillashaw, this feels like the real UFC Bantamweight Championship bout. These two may very well be the best at 135 lbs. in the world. The winner is going to fight Sterling next, and both have losses to him. The rest of the division is stacked, with Dillashaw just waiting to recover from injuries and get his title shot. There’s also Jose Aldo, Rob Font, Merab Dvalishvili, Dominick Cruz, Sean O’Malley and others chomping at the bit to move up into contention. The division is deep at the moment, and the winner here has a very strong case of being the leader of the overall pack, even if they’re just walking away with an interim title. This is a high-stakes fight.

Pick: Yan

Lightweights: Islam Makhachev vs. Dan Hooker

Overall Records: Makhachev 20-1, Hooker 21-10

UFC Records: Makhachev 9-1, Hooker 11-6

Last Fight: Makhachev def. Moises–R4 SUB–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21), Hooker def. Haqparast–UDec–UFC 266 (9/25/21)

Last Five Fights: Makhachev 5-0, Hooker 3-2

Rankings: Makhachev #5, Hooker #6

Betting Odds: Makhachev -650, Hooker +450

Background: It’s the man no one in the division wants to fight, and for very good reason. Makhachev comes into this fight as one of the hottest fighters on UFC’s roster, with eight straight wins. He’s been turned down by a lot of potential opponents, but one has always been willing to fight him, and that has been former champion Rafael Dos Anjos. Unfortunately, Dos Anjos had knee surgery and was forced out. In steps an unexpected opponent who is showing he has a huge set of stones on him, as Hooker takes this fight just a month after he last fought. Hooker fought at UFC 266 in September, getting back in the win column, then decided against going back to New Zealand and decided to take this fight for a massive payday. He’s been without his team since he took the fight, but Hooker is as tough as it comes and has shown he’s not afraid of anyone in the lightweight division.

How they match up: Makhachev is absolutely outstanding in wrestling and submissions. Hooker showed a strong wrestling acumen in his win last month against Nasrat Haqparast, but Makhachev is on his own level. Hooker throws some crazy stuff on the feet, like step-in and flying knees, and he has a good left hook. Makhachev’s striking has gotten better, but his lone loss also saw him be knocked out. Hooker is going to need to avoid fighting against the fence, where Makhachev will look for the takedown. Makhachev does excel at smothering strikers, but Hooker is his best opponent to date. On the ground, Hooker is good, but likely has no chance avoiding being smothered by Makhachev. The short notice also won’t be the best of help for Hooker, and he would have a realistic shot if he had a full camp.

What’s at stake: Makhachev should get a title shot with a win. That would be nine straight. It’s crowded at the top with Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler squaring off next week, so an impressive win would go a long way. Hooker has nothing to lose in taking this fight. He’s become very beloved, and taking this fight gives him tons of future favors. He’s not supposed to win this one, but an upset would put him right back in the mix. There’s definitely more at stake for Makhachev in this one, but Hooker also doesn’t want to be someone who has lost three of his past four.

Pick: Makhachev

Heavyweights: Alexander Volkov vs. Marcin Tybura

Overall Records: Volkov 33-9, Tybura 22-6

UFC Records: Volkov 7-3, Tybura 9-5

Last Fight: Gane def. Volkov–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 48 (6/26/21), Tybura def. Harris–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 47 (6/5/21)

Last Five Fights: Volkov 3-2, Tybura 5-0

Rankings: Volkov #5, Tybura #8

Betting Odds: Volkov -300, Tybura +250

Background: After a loss to Ciryl Gane in his last fight, Volkov is barely hanging on to his top-five ranking in the heavyweight division, but that might not last for long in this one. He’s in need of a win if he’s ever going to fight for UFC gold, as he’s lost to three of the four guys ahead of him. Volkov has scored finishes in four of his last five wins. Tybura’s UFC career has been a roller coaster, but he’s at the top of his game right now. It will be up to him whether he keeps going up after this fight, or if he starts going down. He’s got five straight wins after losing four of his previous five, and a win would put him inside the top five at heavyweight. Volkov is the best opponent Tybura has fought during his current stretch.

How they match up: Volkov is a high-volume and rangy kickboxer. Tybura is well-rounded and not quite the striker that Volkov is, though he has some pop in his hands. Volkov is very accurate on his feet, and he tends to not get hit all that much. Volkov has been aggressive in his most recent fights, and Tybura struggles against aggression. Tybura has the better wrestling and ground game. Volkov lands front and leg kicks well, and Tybura should look to match the volume. Volkov looks to be better on the feet with Tybura being the better on the ground should it go there.

What’s at stake: This is an important fight for both men. Volkov’s goal since signing his UFC contract has been to fight for a title. He’s been on the cusp a couple of times, but a loss has dropped him out. A loss here would kill any chance he has to fight for the title. Tybura wants to keep going higher-and-higher and to fight for the title. Five straight wins is hard to come by, especially at heavyweight, and a sixth would be title-shot worthy. Both men have a lot to gain from a win, and a lot to lose with a loss.

Pick: Volkov

Welterweights: Li Jingliang vs. Khamzat Chimaev

Overall Records: Jingliang 18-6, Chimaev 9-0

UFC Records: Jingliang 10-4, Chimaev 3-0

Last Fight: Jingliang def. Ponzinibbio–R1 KO–UFC On ABC 1 (1/16/21), Chimaev def. Meerschaert–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20)

Last Five Fights: Jingliang 4-1, Chimaev 5-0

Rankings: Jingliang #11

Betting Odds: Jingliang +425, Chimaev -600

Background: Jingliang has been a UFC roster mainstay for several years, but he’s in the midst of his best run thus far. He’s ranked eleventh, is 8–2 in his last ten fights, and is coming off a first-round knockout of Santiago Ponzinibbio in January. Chimaev was the most-talked about fighter in 2020, debuting with two wins over the span of ten days while in Abu Dhabi last July. He then traveled to Las Vegas, where he knocked out Gerald Meerschaert in just 17 seconds two months later, and the hype train was off. He was looked at as the breakout fighter of the year and was placed in his first main event. However, he contracted a very serious case of COVID-19, and he’s been out of action since his last fight to recover and regain himself coming into his return to the Octagon.

How they match up: Jingliang likes to pressure opponents and utilize the calf kick, and he also has knockout power in his hands. Chimaev likes to stalk down his opponents and is a heavy-pressure guy, and he has shown he has one-punch knockout power in his right hand. Chimaev’s wrestling is on another level, and Jingliang has struggled against grappling-heavy opponents. Chimaev has the wrestling and top game to turn this into a long night for Jingliang, as chain wrestling wears him down easily. Jingliang is also the toughest fight to date for Chimaev and a huge leap in competition, and coupled with his return from the illness, it makes the fight a real interesting one.

What’s at stake: On September 20, 2020, many thought Chimaev might become a UFC champion before the end of 2021. Due to the COVID-19 bout, he hasn’t fought since then, so this fight is his chance to show that he still has the hype and potential he showed, but against the highest level of competition he’s gone against. Jingliang is here looking to pull the upset, derail the hype train and show that maybe Chimaev wasn’t as good as everyone thought he was, at least right now. Jingliang should have a chip on his shoulder, as he’s the second-biggest underdog on the card as well. A win for Chimaev puts him right back to where he’s ready for a main event, but a loss slows his rise quite a bit.

Pick: Chimaev

Light Heavyweights: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Volkan Oezdemir

Overall Records: Ankalaev 16-1, Oezdemir 17-5

UFC Records: Ankalaev 6-1, Oezdemir 5-4

Last Fight: Ankalaev def. Krylov–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 44 (2/27/21), Prochazka def. Oezdemir–R2 KO–UFC 251 (7/11/20)

Last Five Fights: Ankalev 5-0, Oezdemir 3-2

Rankings: Ankalaev #7, Oezdemir #8

Betting Odds: Ankalaev -350, Oezdemir +260

Background: Ankalaev comes into this fight with the longest active win streak in the light heavyweight division, as he’s won his past six fights. It’s gotten him on the cusp of the top-five in the 205 lbs. rankings and near a title shot. He’s won four of those fights by knockout, and is coming off a decision win over Nikita Krylov in February. Oezdemir has been waiting on the sidelines for an overseas UFC event, as visa issues will be keeping him out of the United States for a bit. It’s been nine months since the last non-US event, and he’s on the card looking to rebound from a loss to Jiri Prochazka in his last fight at UFC 251 in July 2020. He’s a former title challenger, but is just 2–4 in his last six fights.

How they match up: Oezdemir is a power striker who lands over five significant strikes per minute, the second-best rate among current UFC light heavyweights. His chin is also suspect, as he’s been finished by punches in two of his last four fights. Ankalaev absorbs less than two significant strikes a minute, the best at light heavyweight among active fighters. He’s also the more accurate of the two, and has just better defense on the feet. Ankalaev can mix it up and go for the takedown and has a solid top game. Both don’t complete on a lot of their takedown attempts, but both have good takedown defense. Ankalaev is just the more complete fighter right now.

What’s at stake: These two are on completely different trajectories at the moment. Ankalaev is on the rise up while Oezdemir is on the downside. That could completely change in this one, but that would require Oezdemir pulling the upset. Ankalaev would likely be in a title eliminator style fight with a win here, and a loss probably wouldn’t hurt as much, though it would take a few fights to get back to where he is now. Oezdemir is in full gatekeeper status at the moment, but a win could put him back in the mix, while a loss firmly establishes him right where he is. There is also the chance he could get cut with a loss, so this is a big fight for him with some high stakes.

Pick: Ankalaev

Preliminary Card

Start Time: 10:30 a.m. ET, 7:30 a.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN+

Women’s Strawweights: Amanda Ribas vs. Virna Jandiroba

Overall Records: Ribas 10-2, Jandiroba 17-2

UFC Records: Ribas 4-1, Jandiroba 3-2

Last Fight: Rodriguez def. Ribas–R2 TKO–UFC 257 (1/23/21), Jandiroba def. Murata–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 25 (6/19/21)

Last Five Fights: Ribas 4-1, Jandiroba 3-2

Rankings: Ribas #10, Jandiroba #12

Betting Odds: Ribas -175, Jandiroba +140

Background: Ribas won her first four Octagon appearances, including an impressive win over Mackenzie Dern. She suffered a tough loss in her last fight when she was finished by Marina Rodriguez in January. After suffering bouts with COVID-19, she’s ready to return after having a couple of fights cancelled. Jandiroba has won three of her last four fights and is coming off a win over Kanako Murata in June. She’s only lost to Carla Esparza and Mackenzie Dern during her UFC tenure, and has 14 stoppage wins, with 13 coming by submission.

How they match up: Ribas is the better athlete of the two. She has the better striking, landing over four significant strikes per minute, and her defense on the feet is very good. Jandiroba has gotten better on the feet but lacks the upside of Ribas. Ribas is a strong wrestler and grappler, good in the clinch, with a solid top game. Jandiroba is just as good with the grappling and has a heavy submission attack, but her pure wrestling looks to be a slight step behind Ribas. Ribas does have the better defensive wrestling. This is one of the closer match-ups on the card.

What’s at stake: Ribas wants to hold onto her top-ten ranking and start working her way back up into title contention. A loss here would be a huge detriment for her as she has huge potential to be a solid star for the promotion. Jandiroba wants to get another win streak going and keep showing improvement. A win would likely move her into the top-ten at strawweight and get her a big fight next.

Pick: Ribas

Featherweights: Ricardo Ramos vs. Zubaira Tukhugov

Overall Records: Ramos 15-3, Tukhugov 19-5-1

UFC Records: Ramos 6-2, Tukhugov 4-2-1

Last Fight: Ramos def. Algeo–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 46 (5/22/21), Dawodu def. Tukhugov–SpDec–UFC 253 (9/26/21)

Last Five Fights: Ramos 3-2, Tukhugov 2-2-1

Betting Odds: Ramos +145, Tukhugov -175

Background: Ramos has been solid during his UFC career, compiling a 6–2 record inside the Octagon. He’s won three of his past four, including two of three since moving to 145 lbs., and is coming off a decision win over Bill Algeo in May, and has scored ten of his 15 wins by stoppage. Tukhugov is from the Khabib learning tree and is fighting for the first time in over a year. He has just one win over his past four fights, and is coming off a fight where he missed weight by a decent amount. His UFC run has been weird; he’s either going to finish you or it’s going to be a close fight.

How they match up: Ramos is the better striker of the two, though Tukhugov has some power in his hands. Tukhugov is more inconsistent but he has the stronger wrestling of the two. He knows how to control fights, but he can give up a lot if he doesn’t get in the groove. Ramos will have the cardio edge and should look to push the fight into the third round. Ramos does like to push the pace more, and there are questions about the durability of Tukhugov. Ramos will have the four-inch reach advantage.

What’s at stake: It’s pretty much a make-or-break fight for both. A win for Ramos would put him on the cusp of challenging near-ranked opposition. A loss for Tukhugov would mean just one win in his past five fights, a far cry of when he was touted as a dangerous prospect. Expect a solid match-up next for the winner, but neither are near title contention.

Pick: Tukhugov

Middleweights: Albert Duraev vs. Roman Kopylov

Overall Records: Duraev 14-3, Kopylov 8-1

UFC Records: Duraev 0-0, Kopylov 0-1

Last Fight: Duraev def. Bittencourt–R1 SUB–Dana White’s Contender Series 39 (9/14/21), Roberson def. Kopylov–R3 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 21 (11/9/19)

Last Five Fights: Duraev 5-0, Kopylov 4-1

Betting Odds: Duraev -375, Kopylov +280

Background: Duraev is making his UFC debut after being signed off of Dana White’s Contender Series just over a month ago. He scored an impressive first-round submission of Caio Bittencourt, which was his first fight in three years. He’s won nine straight fights overall, and has scored 12 of his 14 wins by finish. Kopylov is taking this fight on short notice, replacing Alessio Di Chirico. It’s his first fight in nearly two years. He is coming off a submission loss to Karl Roberson in November 2019, his only professional loss, and he’s had three fights cancelled over the past two years due to the pandemic and visa issues. Seven of his eight wins have come by knockout.

How they match up: Kopylov is a bit sharper on the feet, but he doesn’t have the powerhouse frame that Duraev has. Duraev likes to pressure and look for takedowns, and he’s relentless on the mat. He’s also relentless on the feet, which makes him tough to take out. Duraev has tons of power in his hands, though Kopylov is the quicker striker of the two. Kopylov doesn’t look to have much of a chance if and when the fight goes to the mat, as he looked under-prepared there against Roberson, and Duraev is way better on the ground. This one won’t last long if it gets to the mat.

What’s at stake: Duraev has a legitimate shot at becoming a middleweight contender in the future. He’s a former two-division ACB champion with a strong resumé, and is one of the better additions to the roster from this season of the Contender Series. Kopylov has some decent potential, but a second loss here wouldn’t be good and would signal that maybe he’s not ready for the level of competition he’s getting from the UFC roster.

Pick: Duraev

Welterweights: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Benoit Saint-Denis

Overall Records: Zaleski dos Santos 22-7, Saint-Denis 8-0 1 NC

UFC Records: Zaleski dos Santos 8-3, Saint-Denis 0-0

Last Fight: Salikhov def. Zaleski dos Santos–SpDec–UFC 251 (7/11/20), Saint-Denis def. Ramos–R1 SUB–Brave CF 52 (8/1/21)

Last Five Fights: Zaleski dos Santos 3-2, Saint-Denis 4-0 1 NC

Betting Odds: Zaleski dos Santos -225, Saint-Denis +190

Background: Zaleski started his UFC run with a loss, but then scored seven straight wins, including a knockout of Sean Strickland. However, he’s dropped two of his last three, though many thought he won his last fight, which was a close split decision loss to Muslim Salikhov. That came in Abu Dhabi 15 months ago in July 2020, and now Zaleski returns there looking to get back in the win column. Saint-Denis is making his UFC debut, coming into the promotion as an unbeaten fighter in nine professional fights. He’s won eight of those (with a no-contest) and has gotten finishes in all eight of those bouts, with seven by submission.

How they match up: Zaleski is a violent fighter, with high-level striking and he looks to take you out from the opening bell to the final horn. Saint-Denis is a grappler who is easy to hit on the feet. He won’t be able to match Zaleski standing, and Zaleski mixes everything so well and smoothly. He’s also not that bad of a grappler, even if he gives up a little bit in this one. He should be able to neutralize the weapons of Saint-Denis, and his versatility on the feet and powerful shots should overwhelm Saint-Denis.

What’s at stake: This is a tall order for Saint-Denis for his UFC debut. This feels like a bounce back fight for Zaleski as very rarely does a fighter with an 8–3 UFC record meet someone in their debut. Zaleski is exciting and can breed some fun match-ups at welterweight, and Saint-Denis shouldn’t be discouraged if things don’t go his way in this one.

Pick: Zaleski dos Santos

Light Heavyweights: Shamil Gamzatov vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk

Overall Records: Gamzatov 14-0, Oleksiejczuk 15-4 1 NC

UFC Records: Gamzatov 1-0, Oleksiejczuk 3-2 1 NC

Last Fight: Gamzatov def. Abreu–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 21 (11/9/19), Oleksiejczuk def. Bukauskas–SpDec–UFC 260 (3/27/21)

Last Five Fights: Gamzatov 5-0, Oleksiejczuk 3-2

Betting Odds: Gamzatov -125, Oleksiejczuk +105

Background: Gamzatov is coming into this fight undefeated, with a perfect 14–0 record. He’s making his second walk to the Octagon, but his first in nearly two years. He scored a decision over Klidson Abreu in his promotional debut in November 2019, but travel restrictions and visa issues during the pandemic has kept him out of action. Oleksiejczuk, despite being a UFC roster member since late 2017, is still just 26-years-old, showing there’s room to grow still. He’s coming off a win over Modestas Bukauskas in March, which ended a two-fight losing skid. Of his 15 wins, eleven have come by stoppage, with ten by knockout.

How they match up: This could be one of the more exciting fights on the card. Both are high-volume strikers who don’t mind getting into a firefight. Oleksiejczuk has better defense on the feet and is just a little more accurate with his strikes. While Oleksiejczuk is a high-paced pressure striker, he is still a little small for the 205 lbs. division, though Gamzatov has fought in the past at middleweight, so there might be similar size between the two. Gamzatov is more of a flat-footed fighter, and he does tend to gas rather quickly. Oleksiejczuk is the better wrestler of the two, which should help him with some hard shots in the clinch.

What’s at stake: Both men want to break into the light heavyweight rankings. Gamzatov surely doesn’t want to suffer his first loss, so this is a big fight for him on that front. Oleksiejczuk wants to get a new win streak going, as he won his first three UFC bouts before suffering two losses prior to his most recent win.

Pick: Oleksiejczuk

Featherweights: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Lerone Murphy

Overall Records: Amirkhani 16-6, Murphy 10-0-1

UFC Records: Amirkhani 6-4, Murphy 2-0-1

Last Fight: Kirk def. Amirkhani–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 47 (6/5/21), Murphy def. Silva de Andrade–UDec–UFC On ESPN 20 (1/20/21)

Last Five Fights: Amirkhani 2-3, Murphy 4-0-1

Betting Odds: Amirkhani +250, Murphy -300

Background: “Mr. Finland” is back in action here as Amirkhani looks to bounce back from a tough loss to Kamuela Kirk in June. He’s actually dropped two straight and three of his last four, but the loss to Kirk was a bad loss, as the other two came to Edson Barboza and Shane Burgos. His other UFC loss is to Arnold Allen, so, outside of the Kirk loss, he’s only lost to currently ranked opponents, and is better than his 6–4 UFC record suggests. He was preparing for Tristan Connelly, but he pulled out, and in steps Murphy. Murphy makes his fourth walk to the Octagon, and is looking to remain undefeated in his career. He debuted with an 8-0 record, but fought Zubaira Tukhugov to a draw in his debut. He’s since won two straight over Ricardo Ramos and Douglas Silva de Andrade.

How they match up: Amirkhani is going to look to take Murphy down, and his wrestling is top-notch. Amirkhani has taken down nine of his ten UFC opponents. The only one he didn’t take down was Andy Ogle, who he beat in eight seconds. Amirkhani’s boxing has gotten better, but he should look to focus more on his grappling in this one. Murphy only defends 47% of takedowns attempted on him, but he is also good at scrambling up from the bottom. Murphy has some good striking and power, but his wrestling is by far the weakest part of his skillset. The path to victory is clear for Amirkhani, but he has to focus on it and work with a great gameplan.

What’s at stake: Amirkhani’s UFC future will be more clear after this one. His first three losses were against tough competition, but losing to a debuting fighter on short-notice like Kirk was not good. A loss here would move him to 1–4 over his past five, leaving matchmakers with a tough decision. Murphy doesn’t want to suffer his first loss, and he’s looked real solid in his UFC career thus far. This is his shot to prove he’s ready to take that leap up in competition.

Pick: Amirkhani

Middleweights: Hu Yaozong vs. Andre Petroski

Overall Records: Yaozong 3-2, Petroski 6-1

UFC Records: Yaozong 0-2, Petroski 1-0

Last Fight: Coulter def. Yaozong–UDec–UFC Fight Night 141 (11/24/18), Petroski def. Gillmore–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN 30 (8/28/21)

Last Five Fights: Yaozong 3-2, Petroski 4-1

Betting Odds: Yaozong +195, Petroski -250

Background: Yaozong is still in search of his first UFC win despite being on the roster since 2017. He’s only fought twice, and this will be his first fight since a November 2018 loss to Rashad Coulter. Both of his UFC losses have come to guys who quickly washed out of the UFC, and Yaozong gets a short-notice and talented opponent here in Petroski. Petroski fought on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter, and is on the roster after being selected to fight on the finale show, where he scored a win over Michael Gillmore. He took this bout on short notice after Alen Amedovski pulled out, and he’s looking to improve on a career that has seen him win six of his first seven fights.

How they match up: This is the weakest fight on the card, by far, and they don’t really match up all that well. Yaozong is not a good fighter at all. He was taken down multiple times by Cyril Asker, who is far from a good wrestler. This is also his first middleweight fight, and Petroski has solid size at 185 lbs.. Both have wrestling backgrounds, and Petroski is the more raw fighter and the better athlete. Both tend to get tired, and this could really turn ugly as both are novice strikers.

What’s at stake: If Yaozong loses and moves to 0–3, I think he’s gone from the promotion. This is a must-win for him, though he’ll still be on a short leash with a win. Petroski has not much to lose taking this on short-notice, but a loss would be bad as Yaozong might be one of the worst male fighters on UFC’s roster.

Pick: Petroski

Lightweights: Magomed Mustafaev vs. Damir Ismagulov

Overall Records: Mustafaev 15-3, Ismagulov 23-1

UFC Records: Mustafaev 3-2, Ismagulov 4-0

Last Fight: Riddell def. Mustafaev–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 26 (2/22/20), Ismagulov def. Alves–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 46 (5/22/21)

Last Five Fights: Mustafaev 3-2, Ismagulov 5-0

Betting Odds: Mustafaev +230, Ismagulov -300

Background: One of the better fights on the card goes on early. Mustafaev is fighting for the first time since February 2020 as he looks to get back in the win column. He lost a close split decision to Brad Riddell in that bout, moving him to 3–2 during his UFC career. The other loss came to Kevin Lee, so he’s lost to quality opposition, and he’s also the only man to ever beat Rafael Fiziev, who he finished in the first round. Ismagulov has a tremendous record, as he comes into this fight 23–1 and riding an 18-fight win streak. He’s looking for his fifth straight win since joining the UFC, but is also in search of his first finish inside the Octagon.

How they match up: Ismagulov can do everything, but his style has kept him relegated to the early prelims. He’s a well-rounded striker with good defense, with power in his hands and an effective wrestling game. Mustafaev is wild and powerful on his feet, and also has some good wrestling to go along with that. He also has a small gas tank, and if he can’t get a finish in the first, he fades rather quickly. Ismagulov can easily go the distance, as he knows how to remain patient and pick his shots. This feels like a match-up with the hope of Mustafaev using his power striking to finish Ismagulov, but that is a tough order, which makes this fight intriguing.

What’s at stake: Ismagulov should be higher on the card considering his record, especially if he wins. That being said, he needs a finish, as grappling-heavy, non-exciting fighters like him haven’t be highly-featured on UFC cards lately, unless they have a name, which he doesn’t. Mustafaev is very skilled and wants to be active, so hopefully this is a start of him fighting regularly, not just once a year.

Pick: Ismagulov

Flyweights: Tagir Ulanbekov vs. Allan Nascimento

Overall Records: Ulanbekov 12-1, Nascimento 18-5

UFC Records: Ulanbekov 1-0, Nascimento 0-0

Last Fight: Ulanbekov def. Silva–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 37 (10/10/20), Nascimento def. Lima–R1 SUB–Punho de Aco 6 (7/23/21)

Last Five Fights: Ulanbekov 4-1, Nascimento 3-2

Rankings: Ulanbekov #15

Betting Odds: Ulanbekov -400, Nascimento +300

Background: A flyweight battle opens the card. Ulanbekov is fighting for the second time since joining the roster. He won in his debut last October against Bruno Silva, moving his win streak to four straight. He’s had three different fights cancelled during his year-long layoff, but a return to Abu Dhabi sees a return for him. Nascimento makes his promotional debut as a bit of a questionable signing. He’s only 4–3 in his last seven, has split his last four fights, and has fought just once in the last three years. He joins the roster after a submission win over Elivaldo Lima in July.

How they match up: This one doesn’t look pretty for Nascimento. Ulanbekov is a teammate of Khabib Nurmagomedov and is what you expect from that crew. He’s got decent striking and a controlling wrestling game. He isn’t the athlete many from that team are, but he’s still better everywhere than Nascimento. Nascimento has a tall frame that could pose some challenges for Ulanbekov, but he’s lost to worse wrestlers during his career. He does have some good scrambles. Ulanbekov is in for a fight here, but he still matches up well against Nascimento.

What’s at stake: Ulanbekov is looking to quickly rise the flyweight rankings. He’s already ranked despite just one UFC win, which shows that there’s some depth lacking in the division, but also that a lot of the lower-level fighters in the division lose. A win here would move him near the top-ten and arguably against a top-ten opponent for his next fight. Nascimento is looking to score the upset, and a win here would be impressive given no one is really expecting him to win.

Pick: Ulanbekov

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