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Guide to UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington 2

Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC 268.

UFC 268

Date: November 6, 2021

Location: Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York

Main Card

Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN+ pay-per-view

UFC Welterweight Championship: Kamaru Usman(c) vs. Colby Covington

Overall Records: Usman 19-1, Covington 16-2

UFC Records: Usman 14-0, Covington 11-2

Last fight: Usman def. Masvidal (title fight)–R2 KO–UFC 261 (4/24/21), Covington def. Woodley–R5 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20)

Last five fights: Usman 5-0, Covington 4-1

Rankings: Usman C, Covington #1

Betting odds: Usman -350, Covington +260

Background: The main event is a rematch of one of the best fights that took place in 2019, which saw Usman and Covington have a battle to prove who was truly the best. It was split going into the final round, which would’ve decided it all, but it was Usman who ended up finishing Covington with just under a minute left, breaking Covington’s jaw in the process, as he retained the UFC Welterweight Championship. Since then, Usman has defended the title three times, scoring a decision win over Jorge Masvidal, a third-round TKO of Gilbert Burns, and then a brutal second-round knockout of Masvidal in a rematch. On the other hand, Covington has fought just once in the 23 months since their first fight, beating a washed-up Tyron Woodley in September 2020, and he’s been sitting out while waiting for a rematch. He didn’t necessarily deserve one over other options, but Usman wants to end this once-and-for-all.

How they match up: Even though it’s been just 23 months since their first fight, a lot has changed for both. Usman now works with Trevor Wittman as his head coach, and the advancements in his striking have been very, very noticeable. Covington is now with the MMA Masters camp in Florida and seems to be fully fleshed out there. Both men are great wrestlers, but neither one even attempted a takedown in the first bout. Covington is all about constant pressure and throwing, but Usman out-struck him in the first fight. Usman has really excelled in working the jab under Wittman, and that was already a strong point in the first fight between them. Covington’s only fight being against Woodley actually hurts him, as Woodley has been beaten by everyone and not looked good. The adjustments and improvements made by Usman coming into this are far better, and is a big reason why he’s a bigger favorite in this fight.

What’s at stake: Usman is currently the number one pound-for-pound fighter in UFC’s rankings. He’s also gunning to be the best welterweight of all-time. A win here keeps him in that top spot and keeps his legacy in tact going forward as he tries to match all of Georges St. Pierre’s welterweight records. A win by Covington almost assuredly guarantees a trilogy bout would be immediately set up next. A loss by Covington almost assuredly guarantees he won’t get another crack at winning the title while Usman is champion. It’s a big fight for both of them, and there’s plenty of challenges waiting in the wings, including the likes of Leon Edwards, Vicente Luque, potentially Jorge Masvidal, and, in the future, Khamzat Chimaev. This will definitely determine the best welterweight in the world.

Pick: Usman

UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship: Rose Namajunas(c) vs. Zhang Weili

Overall Records: Namajunas 10-4, Weili 21-2

UFC Records: Namajunas 8-3, Weili 5-1

Last fight: Namajunas def. Weili (title fight)–R1 KO–UFC 261 (4/24/21)

Last five fights: Namajunas 4-1, Weili 4-1

Rankings: Namajunas C, Weili #1

Betting odds: Namajunas +100, Weili -120

Background: We have an immediate title rematch here in the co-main event as Namajunas makes the first defense of her second title reign against the woman she defeated for the title in Weili. The first fight, which took place in April at UFC 261, didn’t last long and had a definitive winner, as Namajunas knocked Weili out with a head kick. It was interesting that they went right back to the rematch immediately, but Weili being in a prominent position is important for UFC business in China. Namajunas’ win over Weili ended Weili’s 21-fight win streak dating back to 2013, while it was Namajunas’ fifth win over her past six fights.

How they match up: It’s only be slightly over six months since their first fight, and it’s hard to believe much will have changed, at least on the Namajunas front. Weili did move her training camp to the United States, working with the Fight Ready team in Arizona alongside the likes of Henry Cejudo and Deiveson Figueiredo. That specific camp move tells me Weili might be looking to bring a wrestling approach to this fight. She’s not going to win a battle on the feet. Namajunas is a precision striker with lots of good footwork, and she knows how to pressure and be patient at the same time. She comes forward a lot, but also fights backwards at times. Weili is going to have to get this one to the ground, but Namajunas is slick on the mat. I see this fight playing out to all of Namajunas’ strengths, as she just has a style that Weili can’t quite beat.

What’s at stake: Aside from the strawweight title being on the line, it’s a really pivotal fight for both women. Weili wants to prove she wasn’t a one-hit wonder as champion, as she lost the title as quickly as she won it. Her continuing to be successful is also a big deal to UFC’s growth in China, so that adds pressure to her. Namajunas is trying to carve out a legacy as being one of the best female fighters of all-time, and I’m sure she’d like to move on to new challenges after fighting the same three opponents over the past four years. The winner here, much like the main event, is definitely the best strawweight in the world.

Pick: Namajunas

Bantamweights: Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera

Overall Records: Edgar 24-9-1, Vera 17-7-1

UFC Records: Edgar 18-9-1, Vera 11-6

Last fight: Sandhagen def. Edgar–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 42 (2/6/21), Vera def. Grant–UDec–UFC On ESPN 25 (6/19/21)

Last five fights: Edgar 2-3, Vera 3-2

Rankings: Edgar #8, Vera #13

Betting odds: Edgar +125, Vera -150

Background: A former champion and future UFC Hall Of Famer looks to get back on track at Madison Square Garden, while an exciting bantamweight looks to get back into the rankings in this battle. Edgar looks to get back into the win column in this one, as it wasn’t a pretty sight when he last stepped inside the Octagon in February. He was on the receiving end of a brutal flying knee knockout from Cory Sandhagen, going to sleep in the process. It was Edgar’s fourth loss in his last six fights, but a return to MSG may be the key to getting him set back on a winning path. Vera is looking for his second straight win after a decision win over Davey Grant in June. He’s 2–2 in his last four after winning five straight and being ranked, so he’s looking to get a new win streak going.

How they match up: Edgar’s biggest key to victory is something that has always been his strong suit, and that is the wrestling game. Vera makes it hard, as he defends 69% of takedowns attempted on him, but he can be taken down. Vera will want to keep this on the feet, where it will be a little more even. Edgar has always had strong footwork and excellent combinations, but he has slowed down a tad as he’s gotten older. He’s still very effective at striking. Edgar doesn’t defend leg kicks that great, but Vera does tend to overextend his strikes, which would leave himself vulnerable for the takedown. Vera is good off his back, but Edgar knows how to dominate from the top. This is a very solid match-up and a great booking of a fight.

What’s at stake: Edgar has no plans of retirement any time soon, and a win would stall any talks of that being in his looming future. He’s had the goal of wanting to fight for a title in a third different weight class, and a win here is imperative to that. He’s already had the hall of fame career, but he wants to keep adding to his legacy. This feels like Vera’s last chance to break into that title picture. He’s been close to contention before, and he’s still young at just 28, but a loss would make him 2–3 over his last five, with losses to ranked opposition. If he has plans to become a UFC champion, this is a must-win for Vera.

Pick: Edgar

Featherweights: Shane Burgos vs. Billy Quarantillo

Overall Records: Burgos 13-3, Quarantillo 16-3

UFC Records: Burgos 6-3, Quarantillo 4-1

Last fight: Barboza def. Burgos–R3 KO–UFC 262 (5/15/21), Quarantillo def. Benitez–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21)

Last five fights: Burgos 3-2, Quarantillo 4-1

Rankings: Burgos #14

Betting odds: Burgos -200, Quarantillo +165

Background: A featherweight bout that has potential fireworks involved with it gets the main card treatment here. Burgos is holding on as the 14th-ranked featherweight in UFC’s rankings, but he’s looking to end a two-fight losing skid in this one. He’s coming off losses to Josh Emmett and Edson Barboza, both in extremely entertaining fights. Quarantillo comes into this bout looking to score his second straight win after finishing Gabriel Benitez in July. He’s 4–1 since joining UFC, and has won nine of his last ten fights overall. Both men have great finishing rates, as Burgos is at a 77% finish rate and Quarantillo at 75%.

How they match up: Burgos only knows how to have action-packed fights, and this should be no different. Both are high-volume strikers, and both are aggressive and physical. Burgos has the power edge of the two, is more diverse on the feet, has the better boxing, and is durable. Quarantillo is better at mixing in his kicks, and he has a stronger wrestling base, but Burgos is tough to take down. Quarantillo is going to need to be the more aggressive one of the two, as if he allows Burgos to get into a rhythm, it could be a long night for him.

What’s at stake: Burgos wants to remain in the top-fifteen in UFC’s rankings, while Quarantillo is trying to break into it. Burgos might have more of a future at 155 lbs. than he does at 145 lbs., but he’s still plenty capable of competing with the elite of the featherweight division. Quarantillo wants to show he’s ready to compete with the elite of the division. It’s a big stakes fight for both men, and they also would love to end the night with the best fight bonus, which they are capable of doing.

Pick: Burgos

Lightweights: Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler

Overall Records: Gaethje 22-3, Chandler 22-6

UFC Records: Gaethje 5-3, Chandler 1-1

Last fight: Nurmagomedov def. Gaethje (title fight)–R2 SUB–UFC 254 (10/24/20), Oliveira def. Chandler (title fight)–R2 TKO–UFC 262 (5/15/21)

Last five fights: Gaethje 4-1, Chandler 3-2

Rankings: Gaethje #2, Chandler #4

Betting odds: Gaethje -225, Chandler +175

Background: The lightweight bout we’ve been anticipating pretty much ever since Chandler was signed is going down here to open the main card. Gaethje is returning to action for the first time in over a year. He hasn’t fought since losing the UFC Lightweight Championship unification bout to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2020. He’s been biding his time and has been waiting to return, but it’s just taken longer than anticipated. Chandler has fought twice since signing his UFC deal last year, and twice since Gaethje last fought. He knocked out Dan Hooker in his debut, but was finished by Charles Oliveira in his chance to become the UFC Lightweight Champion in May. He wants another shot at the title, and the journey begins here.

How they match up: Both of these guys like to stand and throw the right hand, and both are looking for the knockout. He’s also less of a pure brawler than he once was, and his defense has gotten better over recent times. When it comes to power, Chandler is the harder pure hitter of the two. Gaethje is the more durable fighter of the two. Chandler has a wide stance on his feet, often leaving himself vulnerable to the calf kick, which is something Gaethje is very good at landing. Chandler could look to take the fight down, as he’s probably the better MMA wrestler at this stage, though Gaethje is a great wrestler as well. As powerful and unique as Gaethje is on the feet, Charles Oliveira had the blueprint to beating Chandler, and he and Trevor Wittman would be dumb to not look back at it.

What’s at stake: A potential shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship is at stake in this one. It’s never a guarantee when it comes to title shots, but Gaethje appears to be the clear next in line with a win. He’s also probably the second-biggest star in the division behind Dustin Poirier at the moment, so that helps his case. With Chandler, the path isn’t as clear. If he wants a title shot, he needs a win, likely a finish, and has to hope Poirier beats Oliveira when they fight in December. A loss for Chandler would put him further down the ladder than a loss for Gaethje would him, but it’s a high-stakes affair all around. They also want to produce that instant classic everyone seems to be anticipating.

Pick: Gaethje

Preliminary Card

Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN News & ESPN+

Middleweights: Alex Pereira vs. Andreas Michailidis

Overall Records: Pereira 3-1, Michailidis 13-4

UFC Records: Pereira 0-0, Michailidis 1-1

Last fight: Pereira def. Powell–R1 KO–LFA 95 (11/20/20), Michailidis def. Bhullar–UDec–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21)

Last five fights: Pereira 3-1, Michailidis 4-1

Betting odds: Pereira -275, Michailidis +210

Background: Pereira is making his UFC debut in this one, and for those who don’t know him, expect some exciting times. He is a former two-division Glory World Champion in kickboxing. He holds two wins over Israel Adesanya in kickboxing, including being the only man to ever knock Adesanya out. He’s making the full-time transition to MMA, where he has a 3–1 record, but with three straight wins, and a brutal knockout win in his last MMA bout. Michailidis is making his third UFC appearance, and is coming off a win over KB Bhullar in his last fight in May. He’s won four of his last five fights overall.

How they match up: Pereira is a massive middleweight, and he hits very, very, very hard. His striking is going to be much stronger than just about anyone in the division, and he certainly outclasses Michailidis on the feet. He doesn’t have lots of MMA experience, and his wrestling and grappling will show that. He’s been training with Glover Teixeira to transition to the sport better, and that’s a solid teammate. Michailidis is a more well-rounded fighter, as he should be, but he likes to fight on the feet, and that is going to cost him dearly in this one. He’s also giving up some height and reach to Pereira. This fight just favors Pereira too much standing.

What’s at stake: Pereira’s goal is clear and he’s already laid it out. He wants Adesanya and he wants the UFC Middleweight Championship. Given their history, he might get rushed there sooner rather than later, but I still think he’ll need at least five wins, and at least two of them over ranked opposition. The journey begins here. For Michailidis, he wants to pull off the upset and show he won’t be used as a stepping stone for a major new signing. He has the skills to pull the upset, so now it’s just a matter of doing so.

Pick: Pereira

Lightweights: Al Iaquinta vs. Bobby Green

Overall Records: Iaquinta 14-6-1, Green 27-12-1

UFC Records: Iaquinta 9-5, Green 8-7-1

Last fight: Hooker def. Iaquinta–UDec–UFC 243 (10/5/19), Fiziev def. Green–UDec–UFC 265 (8/7/21)

Last five fights: Iaquinta 2-3, Green 3-2

Betting odds: Iaquinta +150, Green -185

Background: This is about two long-time veterans who have been around for so long you would’ve thought they had already fought before this one. Iaquinta is returning from a two-year layoff, looking to end a skid that’s seen him drop two straight and three of his last four. He last fought in October 2019, losing a decision to Dan Hooker. Green has fought six times since Iaquinta last fought, going 3–3 in the time span. He’s lost two straight after winning three straight, but he’s been competitive in his losses, and both of them came to opponents who have been recently or are currently ranked.

How they match up: Green is a volume and pressure fighter on the feet. He is always going to come forward and look to attack, and has often shown he doesn’t mind getting hit, keeping his hands low often. He has a counter-heavy style, which may hurt him in this one as Iaquinta is more of a patient striker who bides his time well. He is technically sound but plodding on his feet, and is a wrestler at his core. Green does have good takedown defense and actually scores more takedowns than Iaquinta, though his pure wrestling isn’t as good. Ring rust could play a factor for Iaquinta here. This fight is almost a toss-up, and one that could really go either way.

What’s at stake: This is an interesting one in that we don’t know exactly what could be next for either, regardless of how the fight turns out. Iaquinta could win, or lose, and just disappear again for a while. Green has often contemplated whether he would fight again after every time he fights, but he’s been more active of late as compared to years past. Who knows what will happen to either man after the fight, but neither wants to be on a three-fight losing streak.

Pick: Iaquinta

Middleweights: Phil Hawes vs. Chris Curtis

Overall Records: Hawes 11-2, Curtis 26-8

UFC Records: Hawes 3-0, Curtis 0-0

Last fight: Hawes def. Daukaus–UDec–UFC On ESPN 24 (5/8/21), Curtis def. Robertson–UDec–XMMA 2 (7/30/21)

Last five fights: Hawes 5-0, Curtis 5-0

Betting odds: Hawes -300, Curtis +250

Background: A fight that almost took place a few weeks ago gets a re-booking here. Hawes was supposed to fight Deron Winn on the 10/9 card, but Winn had to pull out near the last minute, and Curtis was going to step in on about 24-hours’ notice, and even made weight. Hawes decided he didn’t want to fight an opponent on that short notice, but didn’t mind fighting him a month later. Hawes is on a seven-fight win streak, with the last three coming since he joined UFC’s roster. Curtis makes his UFC debut in his 35th career fight, and he’s on a five-fight win streak, with wins over UFC veterans Kenny Robertson and Kyle Stewart during that streak.

How they match up: Hawes made the right choice in turning down fighting Curtis on a day’s notice. Curtis is a heavy-handed and technical boxer, something Hawes wasn’t preparing for last month, and the little break gives him better shots at getting ready. Hawes should look to control and pressure Curtis early, as Curtis struggles against opponents who control him early. Hawes will probably utilize the right hand to set up the takedown, and while Curtis has stout takedown defense, Hawes is the best wrestler he’s ever fought. Hawes also tends to start strong and his conditioning fades late, while Curtis is used to going 15 minutes. Hawes is the more talented fighter of the two, and he does have championship potential.

What’s at stake: Hawes is quickly cruising up the rankings of UFC’s middleweight division, and a win here would keep that climb going. He’s been very impressive thus far, and, given the betting odds, many expect him to keep his win streak going. For Curtis, this is his chance on the big stage and he’d love to pull the upset. He’s retired from the sport before, only to come back, and never thought he would get that UFC call. He bided his time, got it, and now he wants to make the most of it.

Pick: Hawes

Middleweights: Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Nassourdine Imavov

Overall Records: Shahbazyan 11-2, Imavov 10-3

UFC Records: Shahbazyan 4-2, Imavov 2-1

Last fight: Hermansson def. Shahbazyan–UDec–UFC On ESPN+46 (5/22/21), Imavov def. Heinisch–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 27 (7/24/21)

Last five fights: Shahbazyan 3-2, Imavov 4-1

Rankings: Shahbazyan #11

Betting odds: Shahbazyan -105, Imavov -115

Background: Shahbazyan was one of the rising stars in the middleweight division, and one of the young guns in UFC, debuting just after he turned 21-years-old. He started his career 11–0, and with four straight wins under his first UFC deal, looking every bit of the future champion he’d been touted as. It was time for the leap up in competition, but that turned out not good for him, as he’s dropped his last two. Now, Shahbazyan returns to the site of his last win, after training with a new camp, and looks to get back on track. Imavov makes his fourth walk to the Octagon and has won two of his first three UFC bouts. He’s coming off a second-round finish of Ian Heinisch, the eighth stoppage win of his career. This will be his first UFC bout in front of a full arena of fans.

How they match up: First of all, Imavov is far from a bounce back opponent. This is going to be a tough test for Shahbazyan. Both men are rangy strikers who like to back it up with their wrestling. Shahbazyan spending time training at AKA and training his wrestling with Daniel Cormier will add a new dimension to his wrestling game. He should be better, but Imavov is still the more-skilled grappler. Shahbazyan is a strong starter in the opening round, but if he’s unable to finish early, his conditioning has been a bit of a question mark and has hurt him in the past. Imavov is very durable, and this is pretty evenly matched. There’s a very good reason why it’s as close on the betting odds as it is, as it’s a genuine toss-up as to who will win.

What’s at stake: Shahbazyan wants to prove that he still has all of the tools to be a future UFC champion, and a win here is exactly what is needed right now. He got the desired fight against a non-ranked opponent. A loss here would be three straight and leave even more questions about whether he’s a future champ or just a quick flame out. Imavov is finishing up his first UFC contract with this bout, and would love to go into a new one with a 3–1 record and a victory over a ranked opponent. Even though he’s a slight betting favorite, it would still be an upset win for Imavov, and he wants to show he is the actual future title contender of the two.

Pick: Shahbazyan

Early Preliminary Card

Start Time: 6:00 p.m. ET, 3:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN+

Welterweights: Ian Garry vs. Jordan Williams

Overall Records: Garry 7-0, Williams 9-5 1 NC

UFC Records: Garry 0-0, Williams 0-2

Last fight: Garry def. Grant–UDec–Cage Warriors 125 (6/26/21), Gall def. Williams–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN 27 (7/24/21)

Last five fights: Garry 5-0, Williams 2-3

Betting odds: Garry -375, Williams +280

Background: Yet another Cage Warriors champion debuts in the Octagon, as welterweight champion Garry makes his UFC debut. He comes in with a lot of hype and has quickly amassed a 7–0 record despite just making his professional debut in February 2019. The quick UFC call shows he has tons of talent, and he’s won five of his seven fights via a finish. Williams is in his search of his first UFC win after dropping his first two to Nassourdine Imavov and Mickey Gall. He’s lost three of his last four overall, but he got some recognition over the summer after stopping a thief from stealing his car in a carjacking that went viral.

How they match up: Garry is an impressive welterweight. He’s a powerful six-foot-three fighter, very muscular and with an outstanding gas tank. He has great striking and wrestling, and he hasn’t even hit his physical prime yet. He uses his frame well, and is a skilled finisher both on the feet and on the mat. Williams is a long-range striker, but also a hard-hitting brawler with a good wrestling game to back him up. He was durable during his pre-UFC tenure, but that hasn’t translated well inside the Octagon. Garry isn’t going to make this an easy fight for him, and it’s a pretty safe fight for Garry to be taking.

What’s at stake: Garry has the skills to be a future welterweight title challenger, and his journey starts here. There’s a reason he’s nicknamed ‘The Future’. He’d love to remain undefeated, and he has the whole world in front of him at just 23-years-old. This is his first test. Williams wants to get that first UFC win, as starting 0–3 likely means a cut from the roster. He’s fighting for his UFC future here, and, also, pulling an upset over a highly-touted prospect would be icing on the cake.

Pick: Garry

Heavyweights: Gian Villante vs. Chris Barnett

Overall Records: Villante 17-13, Barnett 21-7

UFC Records: Villante 7-10, Barnett 0-1

Last fight: Collier def. Villante–UDec–UFC On ESPN 19 (12/5/20), Rothwell def. Barnett–R2 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 46 (5/22/21)

Last five fights: Villante 1-4, Barnett 4-1

Betting odds: Villante -135, Barnett +110

Background: It’s a battle of heavyweights that have strong hardcore fan bases, but also a match-up that could make for a non-pleasing fight. Villante is somehow still a UFC roster member after losing three straight and being just 2–6 over his last eight fights. He’s still got personality and this fight is in his home of New York, and there are reasons he’s getting one more shot. Barnett is making his second UFC appearance, but this will be his first one with a full training camp and time to prepare. He debuted on short notice against Ben Rothwell in May, but ended up being submitted in the second round. The man known as both ‘Beastboy’ and ‘Huggy Bear’ has 16 knockout wins in his career, and had won six straight before the loss to Rothwell.

How they match up: When you look at his recent performances, it already looks like Villante has checked out. He moved up to heavyweight and immediately looked out of shape in the division. Barnett’s physique isn’t going to catch the eyes of many, but he has lots of athleticism. He does tend to get tired. Villante at light heavyweight was always seen as durable, but at heavyweight, he also tends to fade and get tired rather early and easily. If Villante fights as slow as he did in his last two fights, Barnett is going to make him pay, and Barnett has some solid power in his hands, to go along with speed and precision. Villante is the more talented fighter of the two, but he just seems so mentally done while Barnett is just getting started.

What’s at stake: Villante has already announced that this will be the final fight of his career. The outcome doesn’t matter overall in the long run, but he would love to go into retirement on a win, especially in his home area and inside Madison Square Garden. Barnett wants to have a UFC future, and a win assures that. A loss would move him to 0–2, which wouldn’t necessarily mean he’d be cut from the roster, but a win secures his future a little easier. A win wouldn’t make him the good guy in this situation, but it’s also more valuable for him considering both of their futures.

Pick: Barnett

Light Heavyweights: Dustin Jacoby vs. John Allan

Overall Records: Jacoby 15-5-1, Allan 13-6 1 NC

UFC Records: Jacoby 3-2-1, Allan 0-1 1 NC

Last fight: Jacoby def. Stewart–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 30 (8/28/21), Dolidze def. Allan–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 19 (12/5/20)

Last five fights: Jacoby 4-0-1, Allan 2-2 1 NC

Betting odds: Jacoby -400, Allan +300

Background: This wasn’t even a fight that was on the card until Monday. Allan was supposed to fight Aleksa Camur, but a late injury to Camur left Allan needing an opponent. In steps Jacoby on just five days’ notice, but Jacoby is also a guy that stays ready to fight. It’s a big change for Allan, as Camur had lost two straight, while Jacoby is undefeated since returning full-time to MMA in 2019, with five wins and a draw. Allan is winless on his official record in his first two UFC appearances. He did debut with a decision win over Mike Rodriguez, but failed a drug test and had a USADA suspension afterwards. He returned with a loss to Roman Dolidze, and hasn’t fought in nearly a year. Jacoby is coming off a first-round finish of Darren Stewart in August.

How they match up: Allan is going to be no match for Jacoby on the feet. Allan likes a standup battle, but the superior kickboxing that Jacoby has, along with Jacoby’s height and reach edge, does not bode well for him. Allan is hard to finish, so Jacoby may look to mix it to the body and land some calf kicks to dominate on the feet. Allan may look to wrestle, but Jacoby has some solid takedown defense. Jacoby is just too talented on the feet, mixing everything well, while Allan tends to come forward with his hands down too often, and a talented striker such as Jacoby is going to make him pay for doing that.

What’s at stake: Jacoby wants to keep his streak going of not having lost since returning full-time to MMA. He went the kickboxing route for several years, and didn’t fight in MMA between January 2015 and June 2019, but it looks like his kickboxing time improved his MMA game, seeing as he’s unbeaten in his six fights since returning. A loss for Allan would mean he’s still officially winless under the UFC banner, and that wouldn’t be good for his future. This is more of a must-win fight for him, and beating Jacoby would be a solid upset.

Pick: Jacoby

Featherweights: Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Bruno Souza

Overall Records: Baghdasaryan 6-1, Souza 10-1

UFC Records: Baghdasaryan 1-0, Souza 0-0

Last fight: Baghdasaryan def. Anglin–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 28 (7/31/21), Souza def. Garcia–UDec–LFA 114 (8/27/21)

Last five fights: Baghdasaryan 5-0, Souza 5-0

Betting odds: Baghdasaryan -350, Souza +275

Background: This is a fight that was put together on just around a week’s notice as Souza makes his UFC debut. Baghdasaryan was originally slated to fight TJ Laramie, but a serious staph infection knocked Laramie out. In steps LFA champion Souza, who comes in on a ten-fight win streak. Baghdasaryan lost his MMA debut in April 2014, then took time off to compete in kickboxing and pro boxing, but he returned to the MMA world in March 2019. All he’s done since then is win, as he has six straight wins, with five coming by knockout, and four coming in 32 seconds or less. Souza is a fighter who goes the distance, as six of his ten wins have gone the distance.

How they match up: When Baghdasaryan was preparing for Laramie, the focus was on battling a talented wrestler. With Souza, the focus now shifts to fighting a mediocre striker, something that should greatly benefit Baghdasaryan. Baghdasaryan knows how to finish fights early, so Souza should be looking to drag the fight past the five-minute mark. Baghdasaryan does have a reputation of being a fighter whose cardio fails him. Souza does leave himself open to getting hit early-and-often, so look for Baghdasaryan to take advantage of that. This one likely plays out on the feet.

What’s at stake: Both are solid prospects at 145 lbs., and the winner moves up the ladder just a little bit. Baghdasaryan has tons of potential and is looked at as someone who could challenge for the title one day. Souza got the late-notice call, and while he always seemed destined for UFC at some point, it came without having to go through other means that he likely would’ve had to go through. It’s an important fighter for two men young in their careers.

Pick: Baghdasaryan

Flyweights: CJ Vergara vs. Ode Osbourne

Overall Records: Vergara 9-2-1, Osbourne 9-4

UFC Records: Vergara 0-0, Osbourne 1-2

Last fight: Vergara def. Korea–R1 TKO–Dana White’s Contender Series 38 (9/7/21), Kape def. Osbourne–R1 KO–UFC 265 (8/7/21)

Last five fights: Vergara 5-0, Osbourne 3-2

Betting odds: Vergara +150, Osbourne -185

Background: Vergara is coming off the most recent edition of Dana White’s Contender Series, as he earned a contract after finishing Bruno Korea with a brutal knee to the body in just 41 seconds. It was his fifth straight win, and his sixth knockout win overall. Osbourne is another Contender Series alumni, and he makes his fourth appearance inside the Octagon. He’s dropped two of his three bouts, and is looking to get back in the win column after being finished by Manel Kape in August. Regardless of his wins-or-losses, Osbourne has seen his fights end in the first round in his last eight fights, and in ten of his fights overall. Eight of his nine wins have come via a finish.

How they match up: These two are pretty evenly matched coming into this one. Osbourne is going to have a little bit of a size advantage, as well as a five-inch reach advantage. Both have a heavy mix of aggressive offense and non-existent defense on the feet, so it’ll come down to who has the speed and power edge. That traditionally would be Osbourne, but he may have some confidence issues after his last fight. Vergara should have plenty of confidence coming into his debut given his quick finish in September, but he does leave his chin exposed often. Osbourne also has the back-up in that his wrestling is far superior to Vergara. I don’t see this going the distance.

What’s at stake: This is a far more important fight for Osbourne. A loss would move him to 1–3 since joining UFC’s roster, and he could be looking at a release from his deal or a non-renewal. Vergara is making his debut and we aren’t quite sure how this season’s group from the Contender Series will match up. Both want to quickly get on the radar in the flyweight division, and a win here would go a long way for both.

Pick: Osbourne

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