UFC 278 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ PPV:

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170 lbs.: UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 2 – The main event comes in the Welterweight division, as Champion Kamaru Usman looks to successfully defend his title for the sixth time against challenger Leon Edwards. A winner of nineteen straight, with fifteen coming inside the octagon, Usman has established himself as arguably the pound-for-pound king in mixed martial arts. Having taken out several formidable challengers, including Colby Covington twice, Usman is closing in on records and legacy status of being denoted as the greatest of all-time. Meanwhile, Edwards comes into this fight unbeaten in his last ten fights. The last loss Edwards suffered was against no other than Usman, when they first encountered each other back in 2015. Evolving since then into an elite Welterweight, Edwards has gone above and beyond to garner this well earned title shot.

Excited to see how this chess match plays out, I’m siding with Usman. Having been a believer in the Nigerian Nightmare since early in his career, I was certain he would become a Champion. While I did notably pick against the welterweight kingpin against Tyron Woodley and in the first Colby Covington fight, Usman clearly has even exceeded my expectations. A well rounded fighter, who’s wrestling can only be matched by Covington, Usman has more or less elected to strike lately. With a lightning quick jab, precision and power, Usman has turned himself into one of the most feared strikers. In other words, he’s the complete package. As of Edwards, he too is well rounded. Boasting a technical striking game, which is built off precision, Edwards looks to piece up opponents on the feet. An opportune wrestler too, Edwards has landed a takedown in eight of his last ten fights – with one of the fights he didn’t land a takedown being in a shortened fight due to an accidental eye poke against Belal Muhammad.

As for why I have Usman winning, he is simply better everywhere. With exceptional wrestling and having never been taken down, Usman neutralizes a part of Edwards game. On the feet, Usman carries more power, is more active and his jab alone can cause havoc. Obviously a nightmare matchup for anyone, it’s hard to see a challenger other than Colby Covington that can defeat Usman. That’s no knock on Edwards, who is exceptionally talent, but the reality of the situation in my opinion. With that said, I believe Usman will eventually find the mark at some point in the fight and finish Edwards via TKO.

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185 lbs.: Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold – The co-main of the event comes in the Middleweight division, as Paulo Costa takes on the former Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold. After back-to-back losses, and Dana White stating that Costa would never fight at Middleweight again due to weight cutting issues, somehow the former title challenger will be given yet another crack. With an opportunity to prove he can make the weight, Costa will also have a chance to knock off a former Champion and re-position himself at 185 pounds. Meanwhile, Rockhold returns to the octagon after a three-year hiatus. Having mulled retirement and battled injuries during this time away, Rockhold will look to shed the rust and re-emerge his presence in this division. At 37 years old and with back-to-back stoppage defeats, this may be Rockhold’s final dance.

A fight bound to end inside the distance. Costa is the smarter play. Boasting high output, power, pressure, durability and accuracy, there is little reason not to side with the Brazilian. However, I am. Obviously between Rockhold’s lengthy layoff and durability concerns, there are certainly red flags to be cautious about. Yet, I can’t help but to wonder how much Costa is draining himself to get down to Middleweight. I mean, a little over nine months ago, Costa couldn’t make the weight and the fight got changed to a Light Heavyweight bout. Not to say the Brazilian won’t make weight this time around, but at what cost.

Rockhold may have gone through a gauntlet of injuries over his career and while he’s clearly nearing an end road, I believe the former Middleweight Champion has a little left in the tank. Needing to keep range and effectively use his kicks, which could be a major weapon given Costa was nearly stopped by Marvin Vettori via a body kick, Rockhold could very well stun the Brazilian on the feet. However, the best part of Rockhold’s game is his grappling. Neglecting it often, perhaps the losing streak and being knocked out several times has Rockhold thinking otherwise. For prediction sake, I hope so. Knowing that he’s one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet in top control, give me Rockhold to fight to his strength and put a halt to this bout via TKO.

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135 lbs.: Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili – We have a pivotal fight in the Bantamweight division, as the former Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo takes on Merab Dvalishvili. Entering this fight on a three-fight win streak, Aldo finds himself closing in on another title shot. With one of the wins coming over Marlon Vera, who just knocked out Dominick Cruz, it’s plausible to believe that a victory here could be all he needs to earn that shot. Meanwhile, Dvalishvili has been on a collision course to a title shot. Rattling off seven straight wins, the Georgian has had little resistance in carving out his spot among the division’s best. With an opportunity to knock off a legend and the third ranked Bantamweight, it would be hard deny Dvalishvili is unworthy of earning a title shot.

In a stacked Bantamweight division, this fight is yet another puzzle piece to figuring out the complete picture. One that I believe Aldo will be apart of, as I have the former Champion winning. At 35 years old and with eighteen years in the game, it’s a testament that Aldo is still competing at the highest level – in a lower weight class no less. The reason I believe Aldo gets it done though, is that while Dvalishvili has been dominate during this stretch, he has fought no one near the level of Aldo. In fact, during this seven-fight winning streak, four of the fighters are no longer in the UFC and arguably one of them in Marlon Moraes, who was regressing, is the Georgian’s best victory to date. In that fight against Moraes too, at one point, Dvalishvili got rocked and was on skates. Against Aldo, who’s takedown defense is among the all-time best, I have a feeling that Dvalishvili won’t be able to assert his wrestling dominance on the former Champion. A strategy in which has led Dvalishvili to glory in seven straight fights.

The other remark I’ll make about why I favor Aldo, is that while Dvalishvili is an excellent wrestler, he isn’t someone who maintains control. Often fighters are able to get back up, but usually are then re-taken down. Something in which I don’t foresee happening to Aldo. Lastly, Dvalishvili clearly brings forth more output than Aldo on the feet and can hold is own. However, Dvalishvili is clearly more vulnerable on the feet and between Aldo’s boxing and power, I expect that to show. With that said, I predict that Aldo will win via TKO.

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135 lbs.: Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova – We have an intriguing fight in the Women’s Bantamweight division, as Lucie Pudilova takes on Wu Yanan. Returning to the UFC after being cut back in 2020, Pudilova will hope for better fortunes in her second stint. Going 5-1 (with 1 amateur loss too) since being released, with two straight wins, the fire seems to be back in the Czech. Meanwhile, Yanan has had a tough UFC tenure thus far. Going 1-4 in five fights with the promotion, and currently on a three fight losing streak, Yanan urgently needs to win. Otherwise, her time with the UFC is most likely over.

An under the radar fight, expect both strikers to put on a show. While Pudilova looked to be a future talent in the UFC, she hit a wall against tougher competition. With renewed confidence and more experience, perhaps Pudilova has a better stint this time around. However, I’m siding with Yanan in this fight. Obviously Yanan is in a tailspin, but with her back against the wall, I believe she puts forth her best performance to date. Backed by excellent cardio and durability, Yanan is never one to relent over the course of fifteen minutes. With solid volume on the feet and the ability to mix in a takedown, I believe she has what it takes to end this skid. In the end, I expect this fight to be close, but Yanan coming out the victor via decision.

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205 lbs.: Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker – A fight likely not to see the scorecards comes in the Light Heavyweight division, as Tyson Pedro takes on Harry Hunsucker. Coming in as the biggest favorite on the card, Pedro will look to make it 2-0 in 2022. Having successfully returned to the octagon with a first round stoppage victory over Ike Villanueva after an over three year layoff, Pedro enters this fight with a little less rust to shake off. Meanwhile, Hunsucker comes into this fight seeking his first UFC victory. Hoping the third time is the charm, Hunsucker is going to need to find it within him to come out on top. Otherwise, his tenure in the UFC could at an end.

A fight bound to end early, I’m going with Pedro. While no shock, considering his staggering odds, this fight seems as set-up for the Australian to win as his return fight against Ike Villanueva was. The cherry on top in this whole scenario would be if Pedro were to face Chase Sherman next. Nevertheless, and as it pertains to this fight, Hunsucker is a wild card. Having never seen round two, yet alone the four minute mark in round one in twelve professional fights, the American clearly isn’t looking for a long night at the office. Spending only two minutes and forty-three seconds in two fights inside the octagon, as well as absorbing 6.99 significant strikes per minute, Hunsucker simply lacks the durability needed at this level. With that said, I predict that Pedro wins this fight via TKO.

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UFC 278 ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ Preliminary Card:

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265 lbs.: Marcin Tybura vs. Alexandr Romanov – We have a pivotal fight in the Heavyweight division, as Marcin Tybura takes on Alexandr Romanov. Seeing a five-fight win streak come to an end in a recent defeat to Alexander Volkov, Tybura returns to the octagon looking to bounce back. Ranked eleventh in the Heavyweight division, Tybura is still well positioned to make a run. With a victory, he should find himself among the top ten. Meanwhile, Romanov will look to continue his accession up the Heavyweight division. Undefeated and having stopped four of his five UFC foes, Romanov will finally dip his toes in this ranked matchup.

Despite Romanov being undefeated and the odds indicating he should walk all over Tybura, I’m not as certain that will be the case. Romanov is definitely an exceptional talent, but this is by far his toughest test since joining the UFC in 2020. In fact, Romanov’s five opponents have combined for an 15-24 UFC record. Even worse, the last two opponents in Chase Sherman and Jared Vanderaa are a combined 5-14 in the UFC. Again though, Romanov is very skilled and is bound to be a contender. I just believe that Tybura is a live dog. With excellent takedown defense and evolving wrestling to go along with his already potent striking abilities, Tybura is on paper a tall task for Romanov. A fighter who, while well rounded, has mainly resorted to taking foes down and battering them via ground-and-pound. Considering Tybura hasn’t been taken down in his past eight fights, and has only has succumbed to a takedown in three of his fourteen UFC fights, I’d say Romanov is going to either struggle to get this fight to the mat or wear himself out over the course of the fight doing such. In the end, Romanov may win alone on control time against the cage. However, I’m willing to go on a whim and predict that Tybura wins via decision by creating separation and landing the more impactful strikes throughout the fight.

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155 lbs.: Leonardo Santos vs. Jared Gordon – An exciting battle takes place in the Lightweight division, as Jared Gordon takes on Leonardo Santos. Coming off a submission defeat to Grant Dawson, which halted a three-fight win streak, Gordon will look to rebound. With wins in four of the last six, with one of the losses being to the current Champion Charles Oliveira, Gordon heads into this bout with a chance to re-position himself among the top Lightweights. Meanwhile, Santos returns to the octagon for the first time in 2022. Hoping to end a two-fight losing streak, the Brazilian heads into this fight with his back against the wall. At 42 years old, this fight could decide Santos’ career moving forward.

Once unbeaten in his first eight fights, which spanned over seven years due to injuries, Santos finds himself in a rare losing streak. With father time having caught up, the Brazilian has seen his skills regress. No longer a threat over the course of the fight, Santos has about a round of cardio before running on fumes. Having been stopped in back-to-back fights, it’s become hard to trust the Brazilian. Which is why I’m siding with Gordon. A well rounded fighter, Gordon can be best described as a workhorse. Known for his excellent cardio and heavy pace, Gordon looks to wear down foes over the course of fifteen minutes. Against Santos, Gordon has the upper-hand should this fight go past the opening round. A big if though, and legitimate concern, as Gordon has been stopped twice in his five losses (all via stoppage) in round one. Also, Gordon’s takedown defense is not great. However, I trust Gordon at this stage to survive round one, than Santos have the cardio to fight past a round. With that said, I predict that Gordon will in via TKO.

145 lbs.: Luis Saldana vs. Sean Woodson – We have a scrap in the Featherweight division, as Sean Woodson takes on Luis Saldana. Since dropping his first professional fight back in 2020, Woodson has rattled off two-straight. The most recent fight being impressive, as Woodson took care of Collin Anglin via strikes in round one. The victory would be Woodson’s third inside the octagon. Meanwhile, Saldana comes into this fight off a victory over Bruno Souza. The victory was Saldana’s second in the UFC, and sixth in the last seven.

Bound to be an exciting clash, I’m going to side with the sizable dog in Saldana. While I believe that Woodson is a special talent on the feet, especially considering his output and enormous 6’2 frame at Featherweight, styles make fights. Saldana is mainly a striker, who is dynamic and has made strides in his output and cardio. The strength of Saldana though on the feet, and it’s why I like him in this fight, is his arsenal of leg kicks. Averaging a tick over 18 significant leg strikes a fight, Saldana does an excellent job mixing up the location of his attacks. Against a tall, but skinny framed Woodson, I could see Saldana land some debilitating shots to the body and legs over the course of the fight. Showing some evolution with his wrestling too, perhaps a takedown or two could be in store. All in all, I believe this is a much closer fight than the odds indicate and I believe Saldana has the skills to defeat Woodson via decision.

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125 lbs.: Miranda Maverick vs. Shanna Young – The spotlight is on the lone Women’s Flyweight fight on the card, as Miranda Maverick takes on Shanna Young in a rematch. Coming off an impressive submission victory over Sabina Mazo, Maverick ended a two-fight skid. Looking to re-ascend in the Flyweight totem, Maverick must first get by a young upstart. Meanwhile, Young comes into this fight off her first UFC victory. An excellent one at that, as Young stopped Gina Mazany via strikes. Previous to the win, Young had dropped two straight.

If anything is certain, the UFC hasn’t done Young any favors since she joined the promotion in 2020. Coming off her first UFC victory, she is tasked with fighting a former top fifteen ranked fighter in Maverick. A fighter whom she clashed with in Invicta FC’s one-night tournament back in 2019. While the fight was deemed an exhibition due to the commission only allowing a strict allotment of rounds for a fighter due to the nature of the tournament, Maverick wound up needing less than a round to put away Young via submission. Obviously this is a great opportunity for Young to get one back and catapult herself up the division. However, given Young, outside of Gina Mazany, has struggled against wrestlers, I can’t see how she is going to keep this fight upright long enough to sway the judges. Especially considering Young has been taken down in all three of her UFC fights, and Maverick has landed eight takedowns at 61% accuracy over the past four fights. With that said, I predict that Maverick will win once again via submission.

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UFC 278 Fight Pass/ESPN/ESPN+ Early Preliminary Card:

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170 lbs.: A.J. Fletcher vs. Ange Loosa – We have a intriguing battle in the Welterweight division, as AJ Fletcher takes on Ange Loosa. Coming off his first professional loss in his UFC debut, Fletcher will attempt to rebound in short order. The debut itself wasn’t all that bad though, as Fletcher looked sharp early. However, as the fight waned, Fletcher found himself fighting from his back in the last two rounds. Meanwhile, Loosa too is coming off a defeat in his octagon debut. Competitive, but unable to match opponent Mounir Lazzez’s output, Loosa fell defeat via decision. The loss was Loosa’s third in the past five fights.

The good aspect of this fight, is that someone is likely to capture their first UFC victory. In my opinion, that man will be Loosa. Carrying a seven-inch reach advantage, I believe Loosa will be able to keep range of Fletcher’s heavy hands and good kicks. With excellent output and power at his disposal, as well as an iron chin, Loosa is problematic for anyone on the feet. The only concern is Fletcher’s wrestling, which has proven to be effective against virtually everyone he has faced. However, Loosa too has some wrestling chops and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him being in top control at some point. Backed by solid cardio, I believe Loosa should be fresher man in the later rounds. Which could be key in what I believe will be a competitive fight. With that said, I predict Loosa will win via decision.

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125 lbs.: Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo – We have a showdown in the Flyweight division, as Amir Albazi takes on Francisco Figueiredo. Returning to the octagon after an eighteen month layoff, Albazi will look to build off a three-fight win streak. Still ranked eleventh, with a victory, Albazi could very well find himself inside the top ten. Meanwhile, Figueiredo comes into this fight off an impressive kneebar submission over Daniel da Silva. The victory was his second inside the octagon, and first via stoppage. With an opportunity against a ranked opponent, Figueiredo would join his brother among the top fifteen in the division.

As impressive as Figueiredo was in his recent fight, I’m not yet on board with the Brazilian. While his grappling and submission abilities are excellent, his striking and cardio are less to be desired. Against a well rounded fighter, who is solid on the mat too, I don’t believe Figueiredo can strike lightning in this match-up. Instead, I expect Albazi to thwart off Figueiredo’s would-be attempts to get this fight to the ground. In doing such, a tired Figueiredo will be more susceptible to getting tagged and eventually finished. With that said, I predict Albazi to make a triumphant return to the octagon, winning via TKO.

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135 lbs.: Aoriqileng vs. Jay Perrin – We have an exciting scrap in the Bantamweight division, as Aoriqileng takes on Jay Perrin. Coming off a sensational performance over Cameron Else, in which snapped a two-fight skid, Aoriqileng looks to make it two straight. Returning to Bantamweight, a division in which he is 13-6 in, Aoriqileng has an opportunity to generate some buzz with another victory. Meanwhile, Perrin returns to the octagon after an unsuccessful UFC debut. Admirable in the fight, especially considering he jumped in on short notice, we should see the best version of Perrin on Saturday.

Despite the odds leaning towards Aoriqileng, I’m going with the underdog in Perrin. As impressive as Aoriqileng looked in his recent victory, he’s had issues with wrestlers. In the defeat against Cody Durden, Aoriqileng was taken down five times and controlled for over five and a half minutes. Perrin, a wrestler with solid cardio, will look to follow that blueprint. Having a full training camp this time around too, I expect Perrin to be fresh throughout the fight. While Aoriqileng certainly has the edge on the feet, Perrin’s takedowns and feints will force Aoriqileng to drop his hands and allow the American to land some clean shots on the feet. I don’t foresee anything impactful, but useful shots to sway the judges. In what could be a close fight, give me Perrin’s wrestling to help him score UFC victory number one via decision.

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125 lbs.: Victor Altamirano vs. Daniel da Silva – The curtain jerker comes in the Flyweight division, as Victor Altamirano takes on Daniel da Silva. Coming off an unsuccessful UFC debut, Altamirano will look for better results in his second appearance. A former LFA Champion, Altamirano had won four straight prior to the defeat. Meanwhile, da Silva will hope that the third time’s the charm. Losing back-to-back UFC fights, both of which came inside the distance, da Silva has had a rough time finding his footing inside the octagon. With another opportunity to prove he belongs, da Silva needs to find a way to score a victory.

When da Silva first touched down in the UFC, I was pretty hyped for him. Between his karate based arsenal, which included spinning and flying attacks and his dangerous guard, there was a buzz about the Brazilian. However, that buzz, has died down. With two straight defeats, both coming via stoppage within two rounds, it’s hard to trust a fighter who’s less impactful as the fight wanes. Which leads me to siding with Altamirano. A well rounded fighter, who has fought tough competition throughout his career, Altamirano is the more trustworthy of the two. Also, the Mexican has excellent cardio and should the fight go deep, he has a clear edge. With that said, I predict Altamirano to win via submission.

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