UFC 274 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):

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155 lbs.: UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje – The main-event of comes in the Lightweight division, as the Champion Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira makes his second title defense against Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje. Signing with the promotion in 2010, Oliveira over time, seemed like a fighter destined to be a UFC record holder more than a Champion. Always wilting in big fights, something clicked for the Brazilian once the calendar flipped to 2018. A winner of ten straight, which includes a win over Michael Chandler to capture the Lightweight strap and a title defense victory against Dustin Poirier, Oliveira now finds himself building upon a legacy as one of the division’s best of all-time. Meanwhile, the former Interim Lightweight Champion Gaethje comes into this fight a winner of four of the last five. Having most recently defeated Michael Chandler in a blood and guts battle, Gaethje steps into his third title fight looking to finally become the undisputed UFC Lightweight Champion.

As for a prediction, I have Oliveira winning. While this fight can go in any direction, Oliveira has proven time and time again that he isn’t the same fighter he was before 2018. No long shelling up when the tough gets going, Oliveira has found himself overcoming adversity and getting the job done. With evolved striking to go with the most dangerous grappling abilities in the UFC, Oliveira has plethora of ways to win. Obviously, avoiding prolonged striking may be advised in this fight. Especially given Gaethje is one of the division’s very best in that aspect. However, I believe Oliveira can hold his own.

Where the fight is won or less though, is if Gaethje can avoid being taken down or simply fending off any grappling attempts made by Oliveira. As we saw in the Poirier fight, Oliveira doesn’t necessarily need a take down. He just needs a small opening in positioning to take advantage. Gaethje being the striker he is, needs to be alert if he is anywhere near the cage. Using pressure and his usual high activity, he should be the one backing Oliveira up. While I can envision a scenario where Gaethje lands something that folds Oliveira, I’m in firm belief that Champ can survive any initial onslaught. And if Gaethje smells blood and follows Oliveira to the ground at any point, the threat of the submission only increases. So with that said, I predict that Oliveira retains via submission.

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115 lbs.: UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza – The co-main event comes in the Women’s Strawweight division, as the Champion “Thug” Rose Namajunas makes her second title defense against an old foe in Carla “The Cookie Monster” Esparza. A rematch over seven years in the making, Namajunas will seek to exact revenge on Esparza. A neophyte during the first fight, with only three professional fights, Namajunas has since evolved herself into arguably the best Strawweight ever. A winner of three straight and six of the last seven, Namajunas comes into this rematch arguably in her prime. Meanwhile, Esparza has scratched and clawed her way back to a title shot. Once regarded as the best Strawweight, Esparza finds herself a win away from reclaiming her throne. With five straight wins, the Cookie Monster is coming into this fight with excellent momentum.

As for a prediction, I have Namajunas winning. While this one of the tougher fights to call, especially considering how effective of a wrestler Esparza is, I believe Namajunas’ grappling acumen is going to give Esparza fits. Not necessarily with submission attempts, but how quickly Namajunas can escape positions and get back to her feet. In the first fight between the two, Esparza controlled Namajunas for five of the twenty-five minutes. Since that fight, Namajunas has been controlled for only a combined 9:14 in eleven fights. A striker, with excellent technique and timing, Namajunas has proven over and over that she is the standard in the division. Esparza being a wrestler, is a quality striker who more or less effectively uses it to set-up her takedowns. The concern for her, is if Namajunas can continually get back to the feet. The exertion of wrestling combined with a clear disadvantage on the feet, would put Esparza in a dangerous position in the later rounds. A scenario which I foresee playing out. So with that said, I predict Namajunas retains her title via TKO.

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155 lbs.: Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson – We have a pivotal fight in the Lightweight division, as “Iron” Michael Chandler takes on Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson. Coming off an absolute war with Justin Gaethje, Chandler returns to the octagon for the first time in 2022. Looking to put a halt to a two-fight skid, Chandler will need to start focusing on winning instead if he ever wants to get another crack at UFC gold. Meanwhile, Ferguson returns to the octagon after nearly a year layoff. Once regarded as one of the best Lightweight’s opposite Khabib Nurmagomedov, Ferguson has fallen on hard times. A loser of three straight, with each fight being fairly dominated, Ferguson’s career may hang in the balance here. A shame, considering he deserved better for the win streak he was on.

As for a prediction, I have Ferguson winning. While he may be one of the biggest underdogs on the card, I believe this time off and matchup will do better for him. Obviously Chandler being a wrestler, presents issues. Especially if we are reflecting on the fact that Ferguson was taken down and dominated on the mat in the last two fights. However, Chandler is also an entertainer. Making it clear that he’s not here for a long time, but a good time – we could very well see Chandler hunting for a knockout. With solid striking and power, Chandler has turned the lights out on 10 opponents. The one problem though, he’s been stopped in four of his losses. I wouldn’t call Chandler “chinny”, especially after that war with Gaethje, but he’s been clipped more than a handful of times to be slightly concerned. If he brings out his wrestling shoes, I believe he should win this fight with relative ease. Something though tells me that he won’t and will pay for it. So with that said, I predict Ferguson to win via TKO.

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205 lbs.: Mauricio Rua vs. Ovince Saint Preux – We have a rematch in the Light Heavyweight division, as “OSP” Ovince St. Preux takes on the legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Having bounced around the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight division, OSP has found both equally challenging. A loser of two straight and three of the last four, OSP steps into this rematch needing a jolt. Meanwhile, Rua returns to the octagon for the first time since being defeated by Paul Craig in November of 2020. Closing in on the end to a brilliant career, Rua will look to redeem himself for him main event falter against OSP back in 2014.

As for a prediction, I have OSP winning. While OSP has looked like a shell of himself, I just can’t get behind Rua at this stage in his career. Which is odd, considering he is 5-2-1 in his last eight fights. However, those eight fights spanned over seven and a half years. At 40 years old and with 40 professional fights, Rua has lost the speed that made him dangerous. Not that OSP hasn’t slowed down either, but he’s still the better athlete. Something which aided him back in 2014 and I believe will do such again in 2022. Throw in a sharp jab and his willingness to throw leg kicks, and I eventually foresee something that puts Rua down and out. So with that said, I predict that OSP will close the chapter on Rua via KO.

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155 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon – We have a couple of pioneers locking horns in the Lightweight division, as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone takes on Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon. Looking to halt a brutal 0-5-1 skid, Cerrone returns to the octagon for the first time in 2022 with his career potentially on the line. Fortunately for Cowboy, he’s not facing a contender, but a fellow veteran. Meanwhile, Lauzon returns to the octagon for the first time since defeating Jonathan Pearce via TKO in 2019. Having purposely opted out of fighting during the pandemic, Lauzon allowed himself to heal and comeback to a fight that makes sense at this stage of his career.

As for a prediction, I have Cerrone winning. While durability concerns weigh heavy for both men, as they each have been stopped nine times in their career, I favor Cerrone to get the job done. Obviously on a horrid losing streak, Cerrone has had his difficulties. However, during this losing streak, Cerrone has fought the likes of Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson. All guys whom were ranked in the top five of the division. Obviously being recently stopped by Alex Morono, which was the fourth time he’s been finished during the streak isn’t something to look positively back on. But, there is more to the origins of this losing streak is all. Anyways, I believe Cerrone has a clear edge on the feet. He’s dynamic, has solid cardio and is the more active of the two. Lauzon being a boxer, isn’t an overly defensive one. In fact, opponents are landing 5.39 significant strikes per minute on him. Where he excels is on the ground, where he’s won 17 fights alone via submission. The one problem on the ground, is I believe Cerrone has the abilities to hold his own and get the fight back to the feet. Having fought 54 times, with only one submission defeat back in 2010 to Benson Henderson, bodes a confidence that Cerrone can withstand Lauzon’s grappling. So with that said, I predict that Cerrone wins via TKO.

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UFC 274 PPV Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):

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170 lbs.: Randy Brown vs. Khaos Williams – We have a scrap in the Welterweight division, as Randy “Rude” Brown takes on Khaos “The Oxfighter” Williams. A winner of two straight and four of the last five, Brown is starting to peak. As a “Looking for a Fight” signee back in 2015, the growth and evolution of Brown has molded him into a true threat in the Welterweight division. Meanwhile, Williams has won two straight and ten of the last eleven. With four of those wins coming in the UFC since signing with the promotion in 2020, Williams is certainly starting to gain steam. Especially considering he has already defeated names like Alex Morono and Miguel Baeza via knockout.

As for a prediction, I have Brown winning. While Williams is a buzzsaw on the feet, and not an ideal matchup for any striker, I believe Brown will fall on his wrestling and grappling in this matchup. Brown, being a dynamic and technical striker isn’t one to shy away from being on the feet. However, Williams is a brawler with legitimate knockout power. One to set a high pace and let power shots loose, it would be wise of Brown to not partake in his only potential downfall in the fight. Williams notably was taken down twice by Michel Perieira in his only defeat in the UFC. While Perieira didn’t maintain top control, notably due to Williams ability to power himself back on the feet, I liken Brown’s grappling to give Williams caution when doing such. Obviously anything can happen and Williams is one to disrupt a fight with one punch, but I believe if Brown goes about this smart, he can eek this fight out via decision.

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170 lbs.: Danny Roberts vs. Francisco Trinaldo – We have an intriguing fight in the Welterweight division, as Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo takes on Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts. Refusing to let father time tap him on the shoulder, the 43-year old Trinaldo steps inside the octagon for the twenty-fourth time. Impressively, Trinaldo has won seventeen of those twenty-four fights and currently has won four of his last five. Meanwhile, Roberts comes into this fight a winner of two-straight. Something in which has eluded him since 2018. With injuries behind Roberts and given the current momentum, the time is now for Hot Chocolate to ascend up the Welterweight division.

As for a prediction, I have Trinaldo winning. You’d think that one of these days, his age is going to catch him. However, with wins in four of the last five, including one over Bobby Green, that day isn’t here yet. A physically imposing figure, Trinaldo has varied his approach depending on opponent. While he would prefer to take them down, and utilize his grappling strengths, he isn’t afraid to strike. With legitimate power, Trinaldo makes up for his lack of volume and technique often with a heavy blow. He’s also got this presence and ability to slow down fights to his pace, which remarkable has kept his cardio in good standings over fifteen minutes. The reason why I see Trinaldo coming away with the victory, is that while Roberts is the better technical striker and boast power too, his durability is questionable. In fact, he has been finished in all five of losses. Another area where I can see Trinaldo excelling is getting the fight to the mat, as Roberts sports a mediocre 56% takedown defense. Credit Roberts though, the five stuffed takedowns on seven attempts last fight against Ramazan Emeev was a sign of improvement. Regardless though, I predict that Trinaldo wins via decision.

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145 lbs.: Macy Chiasson vs. Norma Dumont – We got ourselves rare fight in the Women’s Featherweight division, as Macy Chiasson takes on Norma “The Immortal” Dumont. The Ultimate Fighter 28 Featherweight winner Chiasson will look to bounce back from a submission defeat to Raquel Pennington. Having mainly fought in the Bantamweight division for the UFC, Chiasson has returned to the Featherweight division looking to establish herself as a legitimate title contender. Meanwhile, Dumont has won three-straight since dropping her UFC debut to Megan Anderson. The most recent fight was a main event spot against Aspen Ladd. A fight here Dumont didn’t look her best, but did enough to win. As the clear cut number one contender in the Featherweight division, Dumont will have to fend off Chiasson before eventually getting a crack at Amanda Nunes for the Featherweight title.

As for a prediction, I have Dumont winning. At one time, I saw Chiasson as an eventual title contender in the Bantamweight division. With excellent size and striking, she had the look of someone who could give Amanda Nunes a run for her money. And while she still can, even in the Featherweight division, I’m going to need to see more from her. Especially in the wrestling department, where her 23% takedown accuracy and 64% takedown defense needs obvious work. On the other hand, in four UFC fights, Dumont has landed at least one takedown every fight and stuffed all eight takedown attempts against her. Which is pretty surprising, considering she is primarily a striker. One who has excellent footwork, is accurate and is hard to hit. Other than her knockout loss to Megan Anderson, she has only absorbed 122 significant strikes in 55 minutes of action. With all that said, I believe Dumont wins this fight via decision.

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125 lbs.: Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell – We have a pivotal fight in the Flyweight division, as Brandon “Raw Dawg” Royval takes on Matt “Danger” Schnell. Coming off a split decision victory over Rogerio Bontorin, in which snapped a two-fight skid, Royval will look to get his name back in the title mix. Still ranked 6th, Royval with a victory could see himself not only back in the top five, but in a title eliminator fight next. Meanwhile, Schnell is presented a big opportunity here. A loser of two of his last three fights, but still ranked 9th, Schnell has an opportunity to close in on the top five with a victory. Seemingly, his recent woes can be all undone with a victory against Royval.

As for a prediction, I have Royval winning. While Schnell has largely improved over the last five years, he has yet to establish himself among the best of the division. Not entirely due to a lack of skillset, but more or less because he lacks the necessary durability. In nine UFC fights, Schnell has lost four times. Of those four losses, he has been stopped three times. If you throw in his run in The Ultimate Fighter, Tim Elliott also finished Schnell. Royval, being the Tasmanian Devil, is going to all over Schnell from the jump. With an open invitation to being taken down, Royval is excellent off his back and is guaranteed to throw up a litany of submission attempts. On the feet, he is a tad reckless. Something I’d normally critic. However, against an an opponent who’s had durability issues, I could see it being effective. In the end, I believe the pace and non-stop attempts at finishing the fight by Royval will render the scorecards useless. So with that said, I predict Royval to win via submission.

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UFC 274 PPV Early Prelims Card On ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):

265 lbs.: Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima – We have a showdown in the Heavyweight division, as Blagoy “Baga” Ivanov takes on Marcos Rogerio “Pezao” de Lima. Looking to halt a two-fight skid, Ivanov may need to avoid the scorecards – seeing that he has been on the wrong side of back-to-back split decisions. Still ranked 15th, Ivanov is positioned to still garner big fights. Meanwhile, de Lima comes into this fight on the heels of back-to-back wins. The most recent fight being a career highlight, as de Lima stopped the durable Ben Rothwell in 32 seconds via strikes. Something which hasn’t been done to Rothwell since Cain Velasquez stopped him via strikes 12 years ago.

As for a prediction, I have Ivanov winning. While de Lima is certainly coming into this fight on a high, he’s still the same fighter. A powerful striker, who has some wrestling abilities and about a round’s worth of cardio. With thirteen of his nineteen wins coming in the first round alone, de Lima can be a nightmare to be in the cage with early. However, Ivanov presents some legitimate issues. Having fought some heavy handed strikers throughout his twenty-two fight career, not once has Ivanov been stopped via strikes. In five UFC fights, which include fighting the likes of Junior Dos Santos, Tai Tuivasa, Ben Rothwell and Derrick Lewis, not once has Ivanov even been dropped. A sambo fighter who is comfortable wherever the fight goes, Ivanov isn’t one to shy away from grinding a foe against the cage and looking for the takedown. Considering de Lima sports a 47% takedown defense, that could be worrisome, especially if the fight goes past the first round. In the end though, I see Ivanov weathering any initial danger and eventually winning via submission.

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155 lbs.: Andre Fialho vs. Cameron VanCamp – We have a scrap in the Welterweight division, as Andre Fialho takes on newcomer Cameron “The Invader” VanCamp. Looking to keep the momentum going, Fialho returns less than a month since impressively defeating Miguel Baeza via stoppage. Having yet to look phased against tough opponents, Fialho may be a player at Welterweight in due time. Meanwhile, VanCamp is set to finally make the walk. After seeing an injury scrap his UFC debut in September of 2021, eight month’s late, Van Camp will look to show off his skills inside the octagon.

As for a prediction, I have Fialho winning. While I’ve been sleeping on Fialho, it’s time to wake up. Having fought a competitive debut against Michel Pereira to then starching Miguel Baeza in his second appearance, Fialho is going to be a problem at Welterweight. Oddly enough, after two fights in the UFC, Fialho is getting a step down in competition. That’s no disrespect to VanCamp, but the truth. Fialho is a dangerous counter striker, who has power and a killer instinct. Coming into the UFC, Fialho was known to be a bit reckless and lacking of fifteen minute cardio. However, after two fights in the UFC, I’d say Fialho has improved upon both. Not to entirely count VanCamp out, but if he can’t implement his wrestling, he’s going to be in for a long night. Unfortunately for him, a scenario I see playing out. So with that said, I predict that Fialho will win via TKO.

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125 lbs.: Tracy Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto – A couple of rising Flyweight’s square off, as Tracy Cortez takes on Melissa Gatto. Currently on a nine-fight win streak and undefeated in the UFC, Cortez will look to continue her climb up the division. Currently unranked, that will likely change if Cortez can notch another win here. Meanwhile, Gatto returns to the octagon for her third fight in less than a year. Undefeated and coming off back-to-back stoppage victories in the UFC, Gatto is starting to establish herself as a fighter to watch in the Women’s Flyweight division.

As for a prediction, I have Gatto winning. While Cortez has been on some run, and has yet to taste defeat in the UFC, this is stylistically her toughest fight. As someone who isn’t a striker and has been reliant on wrestling to win fights, Cortez is going to have her hands full fending off the grappling and submission abilities of Gatto. Not exactly sharp on the feet, Gatto has been evolving in her standup. She still lacks the necessary technique, but makes up for it with aggression and a willingness to brawl. To be the first to stop Sijara Eubanks with that perfectly executed body kick up the middle is truly a sign of improvement. So with all that said, I predict that Gatto will win this fight via submission.

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125 lbs.: Kleydson Rodrigues vs. C.J. Vergara – We have an action packed fight in the Flyweight division, as newcomer Kleydson “KR” Rodrigues takes on C.J. Vergara. Earning a contract after winning his sixth straight fight on Dana White’s Contender Series, Rodrigues gets his shot to fight under the brightest lights. Having fought opponents in the last five fights with a combined record of 23-8, Rodrigues seems to be ready for this step-up in competition. Meanwhile, Vergara will look to shake off an unsuccessful UFC debut back in November of 2021. Prior to the defeat, Vergara had rattled off five straight wins – all coming via knockout.

As for a prediction, I have Rodrigues winning. From the tape I’ve seen on Rodrigues, he looks to be the complete package. A composed, yet dynamic striker, Rodrigues will fire off an arsenal that including spinning back kicks, flying knees and a heavy dose of leg kicks. While Rodrigues’ takedown defense needs work, his grappling abilities allow him to reverse position or get back on to the feet quickly. Also, his cardio looks to be excellent, as he maintains a hard pace for fifteen minutes. Something in which he will need against Vergara, who proved in his debut that he has excellent cardio and can turn it on in round three. With excellent movement and striking, Vergara looks to swarm opponents with a blend of volume and power. A formula that has produced six of his nine victories coming via knockout. However, I’m pretty high on Rodrigues and I believe the UFC found a diamond in the rough here. In the end, I expect this fight to be an absolute battle, but one that Rodrigues wins via submission.

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115 lbs.: Ariane Carnelossi vs. Loopy Godinez – We have an intriguing fight in the Women’s Strawweight division, as Lupita “Loopy” Godinez takes on Ariane “Sorriso” Carnelossi. Coming off a victory over Loma Lookboonmee, Godinez will look to snap a trend that has saw her trade wins and losses for the past five fights. Not one to stay on the shelf, Godinez took a much needed five month break following a stretch that saw her fight three times in a six-week span. Meanwhile, Carnelossi comes into this fight a winner of two straight. Having put an unsuccessful UFC debut in the past, Carnelossi has used back-to-back stoppage victories to elevate herself in a good position. With a victory another victory, Carnelossi could be staring at a number next to her name.

As for a prediction, I have Godinez winning. While Carnelossi has proven herself inside the octagon, this is stylistically a tough fight for her. Known to be a pressure striker, with good cardio and volume, Carnelossi looks to break opponents down over the course of the fight. With good offensive wrestling and solid grappling abilities, Carnelossi has several options to gain the upper hand. However, Carnelossi has shown that her takedown defense and striking abilities against technical strikers may be her downfall. Godinez being technical on the feet and notably excelling in taking foes down (4.57 takedowns per minute), would appear to be a problematic foe for Carnelossi. So with that said, I predict that Godinez wins via decision.

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135 lbs.: Journey Newson vs. Fernie Garcia – We have a scrap in the Bantamweight division, as Journey Newson takes on newcomer Fernie Garcia. Out since September of 2020, Newson returns to the octagon looking to turn things around. In three appearances, Newson has lost two and saw a 38-second knockout victory overturned due to a failed drug test. Lo and behold, even with the layoff and poor success, Newson has been gifted another opportunity to prove he’s UFC caliber. Meanwhile, Garcia is coming off an impressive knockout victory on Dana White’s Contender Series. One in which earned Garcia a contract and extended his win-streak to five.

As for a prediction, I have Garcia winning. I’m not entirely certain about this one, but Newson’s concerns far outweigh his positives. For starters, Newson has been out of action for more than a year and a half and has been knocked out in two of his three losses. Throw in the fact that in three UFC fights, Newson sports a 32% striking accuracy, zero percent takedown defense and is only landing a mere 2.76 significant strikes per minute, and it’s hard to side with him. Now, from the tape I’ve seen on Garcia, he looks to have good striking, offensive wrestling and grappling. On the feet, Garcia looks to walk down foes and throw sharp combinations. Not afraid of a brawl, Garcia will stay inside the pocket and be composed. If he see’s a weakness in his opponent’s wrestling, Garcia will get the fight to the mat – where he is a patient, yet effective grappler. The only problem I’ve seen with Garcia is his takedown defense. However, credit to Garcia, he has often found a way to pop right back up. So with all that said, I predict that Garcia will win via TKO.

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