UFC Fight Pass Prelims (6:15 PM/ET):
Zabit Magomedsharipov (14-1) vs. Kyle Bochniak (8-2): The Featherweight division kicks off the night with a great fight. This will be a second fight for Bochniak in 2018 coming off a win over Brandon Davis. If Kyle wants to win this fight he will need to use his stand-up and close the distance and push the pressure. Kyle is a good fighter but he could be out performed by the incredible talent of Zabit. Zabit is someone to watch in this division as he has impressed me greatly since he entered the UFC as he has picked up 2 wins in as many fights with 2 submissions which were performance of the night winners. Zabit is a Wushu-Sanda fighter which is basically Chinese Kungfu. His incredible wrestling is well-known but isn’t his only skill set as he has just as many submission finishes as he does KO finishes and could do well in a standup fight. I got Zabit winning this fight in the 2nd round via submission after he lands a takedown.
Devin Clark (8-2) vs. Mike Rodriguez (9-2): This LHW fight could be a great fight but at the same time it could be slow paced and lack the excitement the rest of the card contains. I really like Mike Rodriguez’s fight skills as a Muay Thai fighter and the ability he has to KO an opponent or pick up a win by submission if needed. He hasn’t once in his career let a fight he has won go to decision and I believe he could be the aggressor in this one and if he is he will win this fight. His opponent Devin Clark missed out on an opportunity to make a big name for himself in his last fight in which he was submitted by Jan Blachowicz. Devin brings a lot of speed in his hands along with some impressive power when paired with his speed. If he can avoid the big shots from Mike and use his speed and power as a counter striking option, then he could win this fight and get himself a ranked fighter again. I am not really sure who will pull off the win in this one, but I feel the Muay-Thai skills of Rodriguez will be the difference and get a 3rd round KO.
Bec Rawlings (7-7) vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (5-3): This fight in the flyweight division will be pretty interesting but should be the least exciting fight of the night just because of how stacked this card is. Ashlee is coming in on a 2-fight losing streak and will need to snap it and if she wants to do so she will need to be the aggressor and use her phenomenal ground and pound. If she can control the pace of this fight she will turn her bad luck of late around and grab a needed win. Now her opponent Bec Rawlings is probably fighting for her job in the UFC as she is coming in on a 3-fight losing streak and if she loses will have a losing record overall. Bec is an aggressive fighter but she has a good few holes in her fight skills and will need to have really worked and fixed them if she wants to remain in the UFC. Hopefully the weight-class change will help her and make her a better overall fighter. This fight will be interesting to see who turns around their bad luck though I take Ashlee Evans-Smith to win this one by way of unanimous decision.
Alex Caceres (13-11, 1NC) vs. Aretm Lobov (14-14-1, 1NC): The main event of the fight pass prelims should be a very exciting fight in the featherweight division, as all fights are with Alex Caceres in them. Lobov is Conor McGregor’s best buddy and that is arguably the only reason he is still in the UFC because he doesn’t really have UFC talent but has been kept on the roster. He is an aggressive striker who to his credit is extremely tough and hard to stop inside the cage. Lobov could be in trouble unless he worked with Gunnar Nelson on takedown defense because in his fight with Fili he was taken down 5 times. If he is taken down more than once in this one, he will be in danger of being submitted. His opponent Alex Caceres is going to have an 8-inch reach advantage in this one and will use it well. He is a slick fighter with crazy moves which are very unorthodox and completely unpredictable. I love watching Alex fight and never fail to be entertained during them. Lobov regardless of seeming a little lost in the UFC does put on great fights that are worth watching. I think this fight will go into the 3rd round but end there when Caceres will lock in a submission finish in a bloody battle.
FS1 Prelims (8 PM/ET):
#15 (14) Evan Dunham (18-6-1) vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-2): We start the televised prelims off with a bang in the lightweight division. Olivier is riding a 3-fight win streak and looking to get a number next to his name if he can pick up his 4th straight in arguably the most stacked division in the UFC. He is a durable fighter with the ability to take shots unfortunately for him his standup hasn’t proven to be a positive for him. His known strengths are his wrestling and grappling which he excels at. His opponent Evan Dunham is a BJJ black belt with no quit in him if he gets in trouble, he will never stop pushing for the wins. Evan does have some decent striking as he has picked up 3 KO’s in his professional career and has been working hard at becoming a complete fighter. I think this fight will go the distance and we could see a newly ranked fighter come Monday as I believe Olivier Aubin-Mercier wins by unanimous decision.
Joe Lauzon (27-15) vs. Chris Gruetzemacher (13-3): The king of performance of the night bonuses will be in this lightweight bout, Joe Lauzon. Lauzon hates letting the fights go to decision and he will most likely be the same ol Lauzon in this one pushing the pace looking for his takedown shots. If Joe can get Chris to the mat it most likely will be over shortly as he has finished 17 of his 27 professional wins by way of submission. He has 6 Submission of the night bonuses just to show you how great his submissions are. Joe is coming off 2 straight loses and looks to turn it around and maybe pick up another performance of the night bonus like only he can. His opponent Chris Gruetzemacher will be looking to stop this from happening. Chris was a collegian wrestler and is now a jiu-jitsu fighter though his last two fights he lost by way of submission. If this fight goes to the mat I think he will be overwhelmed and out-classed as he will want to keep this one standing at all costs and look for a KO. This fight could be great or over quick. I think Lauzon gets a takedown though in round 1 and lands a RNC submission in the first round.
#3 (3) Ray Borg (11-3) vs. #6 (7) Brandon Moreno (14-4): One of the fights on the prelims that is so good it could be a main card fight in the flyweight division. Moreno is coming off a disappointing loss to Sergio Pettis and is looking to get back on track and throw his name back into the list of names next for Demetrious Johnson. Moreno is a jiu-jitsu beast with 10 submission finishes and has won 12 of his last 13 fights. He is only 24 years of age and if he can improve on his standup he would possibly be a real threat to Demetrious, he just needs to round out his game. Moreno will have the biggest test of his career here though in form of Ray Borg. Borg is a ground game specialist as well and his loss to Demetrious was a tough one to swallow but his toughness to try and hang on was crazy and showed how incredibly tough and durable this young kid is. I believe Borg and Moreno are pretty close to similar fighters, they have phenomenal ground games with a need to work some on their standup. Borg might have the better standup though as he showed some small moments of brilliance against Demetrious and I believe if Demetrious can lose to anyone in the world it would be a more developed Ray Borg more than anyone else. He just like his opponent is only 24 years of age and this is a battle of two future stars in this division. I think Borg wins this one by way of 2nd round submission in a grappling showdown.
#3 (4) Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2) vs. #6 (8) Felice Herrig (14-6): The main event of the televised prelims is going to be a great fight between two people who are championship fight bound with a win soon in the women’s strawweight division. Felice Herrig is riding a 4-fight win streak and I personally love what she brings to the UFC. She brings a fun, loving, positive attitude, of who loves her fans. She is a great fighter who sets up a fast pace and uses her great stamina to keep that pace tiring her opponents. Her nickname Lil’ Bulldog is appropriate because she is a feisty fighter who never backs down no matter how deep into trouble she is. She is a very well-rounded fighter with good striking and great wrestling. Now her opponent has been a title contender already and will be back there again some-day. Karolina is a very good fighter who is versatile enough to be able to handle a fight standing or on the mat. Karolina is a great fighter for the first two rounds, but she tends to slow a little towards the end of a fight and if this fight goes into the third she will find that her opponent doesn’t slow at all. This fight will really be a great one for the fans and a true test to both to see who is most ready for a title shot or a shot at Andrade for the title shot. I think Herrig wins this one in the 3rd round via submission.
UFC 223 Main Card (10 PM/ET):
#11 (11) Al Iaquinta (13-3-1) vs. #13 (NR) Paul Felder (15-3): The first fight on the main card will take place in the lightweight division. Paul Felder, one of my favorite UFC commentators, is a beast in the octagon. Paul is a pressure fighter which means he loves to put pressure on his opponent and never let them set up their own pace and keeps them off-balance. Felder is a great standup fighter as he rides a 3-fight KO/TKO streak. Paul is a 2nd degree blackbelt in taekwondo and his kicking abilities have really shown in the UFC and will probably be on display in this one. Those kicks though have been the cause of a few takedowns landed against him and could get him in trouble as he is still improving his ground game defensively. His opponent Al Iaquinta is another one of these phenomenal lightweight fighters who I believe would be a title contender soon if he has fought more often but he has a real estate career. Al is on a 5-fight win streak 4 of which have come by way of KO/TKO which would suggest this fight will be a great stand-up brawl. Iaquinta has a wrestling background but he has only landed one takedown in his last 5 fights as he has really improved his striking skills and hasn’t had to rely on his wrestling to be successful. Now in this fight Al might have the advantage on the mat and we could see him go back to his wrestling abilities to get this one to the ground and keep it there which would limit Felder’s effectiveness. I am going to take Felder in this one by way of a KO/TKO in round 2 to continue his winning ways and move his way into the UFC rankings and up more in ours.
#9 (9) Michael Chiesa (14-3) vs. #12 (12) Anthony Pettis (20-7): Another lightweight fight takes place here between a future contender and a former champ. Pettis, the later, has really struggled since he lost his belt going 2-4 since his title reign ended. Pettis is a creative fighter who can land shots out of nowhere and if he can bring back his aggression and stop sitting back and counter striking he would return to title form. His skills when he pushes the pace are insanely fun to watch and he becomes a world class fighter I just hope he brings back that aggression. One thing about Pettis I really enjoy is that if his stand-up isn’t working he can take a fight to the mat and be in a great position to still win a fight. He has shown his versatile skills by stopping 10 fights by KO and 6 by way of submission only leaving 4 of his wins to the judges as he is truly a finisher who lives up to his nickname “Showtime”. Now his opponent is somehow not a well-known fighter yet to the average fan, Michael Chiesa. Chiesa hasn’t fought since his very controversial loss to Kevin Lee after a ridiculously early stoppage and looks to harness that anger and get back into the win column here. Chiesa will be looking to take this fight to the mat because he is a submission expert stopping 10 of his 14 professional wins by way of submission. His stand-up game is strong but it might be a little outmatched by Pettis’ standup and would be best to strike quick and shoot when he opens the opportunity. I really like this matchup stylistically and think we could see the end of Pettis’ title hopes as I believe Chiesa wins this one in the 3rd round by way of submission.
#12 (11) Renato Moicano (11-1-1) vs. #14 (13) Calvin Kattar (18-2): The last fight before we get to the two title fights and it is a great fight between two ranked featherweights. Kattar is 2-0 since joining the UFC and has really made a great impression on us fight fans and shown he can improve just between his first and second fight in the UFC. Kattar is on a 10-fight win streak riding a hot hand as his striking skill set is really incredible. His ground game could use some work and his blue belt in BJJ will be really tested in this fight. He does have two submissions in his career, but I can also say with confidence he hasn’t fought an opponent as skilled on the mat as Moicano. Now Moicano hasn’t fought since his first career loss which came to Brian Ortega in a fight of the night showdown where he was submitted in round 3. Moicano is a BJJ genius and a Muay-Thai fighter, he actually teaches Muay-Thai in his gym. Moicano will be outmatched if this fight stays standing long and will be overwhelmed so he should find a way to get it to the ground quick and change the pace of the fight. Moicano hasn’t ever stopped a fight by way of KO/TKO and is facing one good striker who can cause him problems on the feet. I think this fight is really interesting for the bantamweight division and I see Kattar coming out the other side with his hand raised by way of 2nd round KO.
Champ: Rose Namajunas (8-3) vs. #1 (1) Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1): The Co-Main event of the evening has been a fight we have been waiting for since the original fight between the two ended. This is going to be the first time in her career that Joanna is coming into a fight off a loss and she is doing it to try and recapture her old title against the one person who dethroned her. It was a shock to many including Joanna, but it wasn’t to me because if you watch Rose she doesn’t waiver she doesn’t break she handles the pressure. Joanna needs to ignore the pressure, the fact that she can’t get into Rose’s head, the fans, and her own doubts if she has any. Joanna to win this fight will need to avoid the mat and use her Muay-Thai skills. If she can use her legs and power/fast hands she will be the champ again. She has to be the one to put the pressure on Rose and keep backing Rose down, the best Joanna is an aggressive Joanna. Now her opponent Rose is one of the most loveable human beings in the world of MMA. She is calm, patient yet aggressive, intelligent, a great heart inside and outside the octagon, should be a fan favorite because of the way she is and her fight skills alone. Rose is an aggressive fighter who’s striking skills have become so much better than they were when she originally entered the UFC. Now her ground game is the best in my eyes of all women in the UFC as she can submit people in her sleep, I’ve even seen her submit her boyfriend Pat Berry who has easily 100lbs on her in a training session before. If Rose can apply the pressure like she did in their previous fight and keep Joanna from setting up her striking she will walk out the champ still because then she can control the fight entirely. I think this fight could be one for the record books, but we will see the championship remain where it is and Joanna go up to flyweight following this fight. I have Rose winnings this one in the 4th round by way of a guillotine choke.
#2 (2) Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0) vs. (FW Champ) Max Holloway (19-3): THE MAIN EVENT OF THE EVENING!!!! This fight was scheduled for the 4th time to be Khabib vs Tony Ferguson for the Lightweight title. Due to a freak injury to Tony Ferguson who tripped on the set of a UFC obligation and tore his LCL which could require surgery. 6 days before the fight on April 1st Max Holloway accepted this fight which shows the balls on him to take a fight against Khabib on less than a weeks’ notice. Max is in my eyes a top 4 P4P fighter in the world behind only DJ, Askren (who the UFC refuses to sign), and Cormier. If he wins this fight though Max would be the best in the world and possibly the greatest of all time. I say that because he would be the first true two weight champion. I know Conor was considered to hold that achievement, but in my eyes, you aren’t a two-weight champion if you didn’t defend either belt one time. Max has already defended his featherweight belt and has said he would defend both belts no problem. For those who don’t know how Max fights, he has a very high-pressure pace in which gasses his opponent as he lands a lot and exhausts his opponents and then dominates them. The only reason Khabib has been so dominant is his ground game is incredible as he will lay on you and punch you in the face for pretty much a whole fight, but Max hasn’t been taken down by anyone in 4 years. Max also hasn’t lost in 12 straight going back 5 years and is one of the most compete fighters the UFC has and is a future HOF fighter. His opponent though should scare him, and I believe Max needs a full camp to be able to be prepared enough for Khabib. Khabib is a swarm you, take you down, and punch you until you can’t get up again fighter. His weight and ability to prevent anyone from transitioning when on the mat exhausts his opponent almost exactly like what Max does on his feet. This fight is going to be so intriguing. I had Khabib beating Tony before it changed, and this fight is even tougher for me to predict. I am going to take a risk here and pick the underdog. I have Holloway shocking the world and winning by way of a round 3 TKO.
- Matt Koontz