UFC Paris Main Card On ESPN+ (3 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
265 lbs.: Ciryl Gane vs. Tai Tuivasa – The main event comes in the Heavyweight division, as the former Interim Heavyweight Champion Ciryl Gane takes on Tai Tuivasa. Coming off a defeat to Champion Francis Ngannou in the title unification bout, Gane will look to get back on track. Given the fight was extremely close and his lack of abilities off his back cost him, another title shot could come with only one or two more victories. Meanwhile, Tuivasa comes into this fight on fire. Stringing together fight straight wins, all via knockout, Tuivasa has positioned himself in an opportunity that could catapult him into a title shot. Given he was “cut” before this winning streak, I’d say the Aussie has done an excellent job rebuilding himself.
This fight seems almost simple. In the first scenario, Gane is going to masterclass Tuivasa on the feet. Known for his Muay-Thai abilities, athleticism, speed and output, Gane has tremendous edges over Tuivasa. In scenario two, Tuivasa’s power shines through. Gifted with exceptional power, Tuivasa has an ace up his sleeve as long as he is standing. Which in his last five fights, has been very apparent. The problem however with this scenario, is that not only is Gane excellent at maintaining distance, he has proven to have excellent durability. While most of his fight against Ngannou took place on the mat, he did eat some shots that would of taken out other foes. Given that, and the fact that Gane does have some sneaky offensive grappling, the Frenchman is more than a one trick pony like Tuivasa. And for that, it’s scenario number one in which I envision happening. So with that said, I predict that Gane, on home soil, ignites the crowd with a TKO stoppage over Tuivasa.Embed from Getty Images
185 lbs.: Robert Whittaker vs. Marvin Vettori – The co-main event comes in the Middleweight division, as the former Champion Robert Whittaker takes on Marvin Vettori. Coming off a close defeat to Champion Israel Adesanya, Whittaker will begin to rebuild once again. While this past fight was close enough to potentially warrant a third crack in the future, Whittaker realistically is going to need Adesanya to lose or to knock off contender after contender until he’s the last man standing. At only 31 years of age and as talented as Whittaker is, neither option aren’t out of the realm of possibility. Meanwhile, Vettori will look to knock off a former Champion and stake his case for a third crack at Adesanya (pending he wins of course). Coming off a win over Paulo Costa, up a weight class due to the Brazilians weight cut shenanigans, Vettori proved that he is truly an exceptional fighter. The victory was his sixth in the past seven fights.
Undoubtedly a pivotal fight in not only the division, but within both men’s career, I expect this fight to be an entertaining chess match. A polished striker, with good grappling and excellent takedown defense, Whittaker is one of the toughest fighters to prepare for in the Middleweight division. Willing to brawl, but at the same time effectively staying at range, Whittaker does good job never letting his opponents be comfortable. Extremely durable, and having spent 50 minutes in the cage with Yoel Romero, it’s almost a shock to see the Aussie get finished. Looking to change that notion is Vettori. Well rounded and having fought in four straight five round fights, Vettori is battle tested and has proven that is cardio is exceptional. With power and volume on the feet, as well as good wrestling abilities, Vettori is one of the toughest outs at 185 pounds.
As for a prediction, I’m going with the underdog Vettori. While I do believe that Whittaker is the overall better fighter, styles make fights. Known to press forward and land with volume, I could see Vettori visually look like the aggressor in the striking exchanges. I could also see Whittaker, who is one of the best strikers going backwards, frustrate the Italian by backpedaling and landing counter blows. However, despite both men boasting excellent cardio, I feel that if Vettori constantly presses forward and cuts off the cage, that he could present himself as the fresher fighter in the later rounds. Which in what I believe to be a close fight regardless, will be key. With that said, give me the aggressor Vettori to edge out Whittaker via decision.
185 lbs.: Alessio Di Chirico vs. Roman Kopylov – We have a potential pink slip fight in the Middleweight division, as Alessio Di Chirico takes on Roman Kopylov. A loser of four of the past five fights, Di Chirico is in danger of seeing his UFC tenure come to an end. With an impressive knockout over Joaquin Buckley standing as the lone win, Di Chirico has shown that he has the ability to be much better than this skid indicates. Meanwhile, Kopylov comes into this fight still seeking his first UFC victory. Having signed with the promotion in 2019, the once prospect has seen injuries and lack of success put him in danger of being axed.
With a spot on the main card despite both men’s woes, I expect them to put their best foot forward in doing whatever it takes to win. While this fight is essentially a coin flip, I’m going to side with Kopylov. The reason behind backing Kopylov is more so due to Di Chirico. While I believe the Italian is the more well rounded of the two, he has been dropped in two of the last three fights and finished in the most recent fight in seventeen seconds. With that in mind, and given Kopylov has excellent takedown defense, I believe this fight will take place mainly on the feet. A dangerous striker, Kopylov features quick hands and excellent combination. Known to explode on a dime, it’s no secret that Kopylov is a threat on the feet. Which is evident by the fact that all eight of his wins have come via knockout. Make it nine, as I have the Russian notching UFC victory number one by knockout.
155 lbs.: Nasrat Haqparast vs. John Makdessi – We have a clash in the Lightweight division, as Nasrat Haqparast takes on John Makdessi. A loser of two straight, Haqparast comes into this fight looking to rebound. Having been with the promotion since 2017, Haqparast has gone through periods of good and bad. With a 5-4 record though inside the octagon, it would be wise for Haqparast to start kicking it into gear. Meanwhile, Makdessi makes his first appearance of 2022. A winner of four of his last five fights, Makdessi should be garnering a bigger fight. However, inactivity has been a buzzkill, as those five fights have come within nearly a five year span.
While both men are going in opposite directions, this is a solid matchup that should result in an entertaining standup battle. One in which I believe Haqparast will win. The reason I believe that, is Haqparast has the volume and striking defense to match Makdessi. However, Haqparast has a clear power edge and unlike Makdessi, isn’t necessarily known to start slow. Throw in the fact that Makdessi wears the damage, and I could see Haqparast doing a number on the Canadian’s face. So much so that, the damage will hard to ignore in the judges scorecards. So with that said, I predict that Haqparast will win via decision.
145 lbs.: Jarno Errens vs. William Gomis – A pair of promotional newcomers clash in the Featherweight division, as William Gomis takes on Jarno Errens. A winner of nine straight, Gomis comes into his debut with some momentum. Receiving this fight though on short notice due to several cancellations on the card, Gomis doesn’t need to travel too far as a native of France. Meanwhile, Errens comes into this fight 5-1-1 over his past seven fights. Fighting for several promotions, most notably Ares FC, Errens will get an opportunity to prove that he is ready for the octagon.
A fight put together rather quickly, it’s interesting to see which man will be ready to rock on Saturday. However, knowing that both have an opportunity they might not of gotten just yet, I expect both to come out prepared. As for whom I’m siding with, it’s a coin flip. Currently on a tear, Gomis is a solid striker. With good distance management and leg kicks that come in barrages, if you give Gomis space, he will tear you up. While the ground seems to be a gray area within his game, I’m not certain that Errens, who too is a striker necessary has the wrestling to cause issues. If anything is certain though, Errens has some nice judo tosses and can quickly snatch up a submission if presented with one. While I do favor Gomis on the feet, Errens has shown to pressure foes and be at his best when he’s not defending takedowns. Given Gomis needs space to get off his offense, I could see Errens limit the Frenchman’s attacks and take home a close decision victory.Embed from Getty Images
145 lbs.: Charles Jourdain vs. Nathaniel Wood – A banger in the Featherweight division kicks off the main card, as Charles Jourdain takes on Nathaniel Wood. Coming off a defeat against Shane Burgos, which could of gone Jourdain’s way, the Canadian returns less than five weeks later to rebound in short order. Previous to the loss, Jourdain had won two straight. Meanwhile, Wood returns to the octagon less than a month since defeating Charles Rosa in his Featherweight debut. Looking for a second straight win in short order, Wood will attempt to rise up the totem in quick fashion.
One of the better fights on the card, I expect these two to put on an entertaining scrap. Jourdain may be coming off a majority decision defeat, but many of the media members and fans saw him defeating Shane Burgos. If there is anything certain, round three, Jourdain looked exceptional and will look to carry that into this fight. A striker, Jourdain is technical, yet not afraid to sling it. With a solid arsenal on the feet, you can expect Jourdain to blend his strikes well with his kicking attacks. Not known for knockout power, Jourdain’s output has usually led to finishes later in the fight. Looking to avoid that is Wood, who is a well rounded fighter with an exceptional motor. Known to rack up the strikes, Wood has averaged 121.3 significant strikes in the past three fights. While up a weight class, Wood’s wrestling and grappling still looked adequate, as he landed one takedown and shrugged off seven of Rosa’s nine takedown attempts.
As for a prediction, I have Jourdain winning. While Wood looked good at Featherweight and his speed, as well as excellent volume translated, Jourdain is the type of fighter that could Wood fits. Obviously lacking takedown defense and given Wood’s wrestling acumen, I could see issues there for the Featherweight. However, as a natural Featherweight, his strength could neutralize Wood. On the feet, both gentlemen are solid in there own right, but it’s the pressure and volume of Jourdain that I see aiding him to victory. So with that said, I predict that Jourdain wins an entertaining fight via decision.
UFC Paris Preliminary Card On ESPN+ (12 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
185 lbs.: Abusupiyan Magomedov vs. Dustin Stoltzfus – We have a scrap in the Middleweight division, as Dustin Stoltzfus takes on debutant Abusupiyan Magomedov. Halting a three-fight losing streak and extending his UFC tenure, Stoltzfus returns to the octagon looking to make it two-straight. In short order no less, as Stoltzfus last fought less than two months ago. Meanwhile, Magomedov will finally make his long awaited debut. Signing with the promotion in 2021, Magomedov has seen two withdrawals as the culprit for the delay. Nearly two years since his last fight now, it should be interesting to see if the layoff impacts Magomedov.
An intriguing fight and tough one to call, as Stoltzfus comes into this fight with renewed confidence and Magomedov has been on the shelf for some time. Since signing with the promotion in 2020, Stoltzfus has been fed to the wolves. Fighting three talented grapplers, Stoltzfus found himself outmatched. However, given a fourth crack to make things right, Stoltzfus prevailed. With durability, grappling and submission abilities, Stoltzfus can be problematic against those who aren’t adept on the ground. On the feet, Stoltzfus lacks the power and quite frankly has been less than elusive. Which gives an edge to Magomedov, who unlike those whom he shares a name with, is a striker and not particularly a grappler. Speaking about the namesake, last year, a Reddit contributor named CheeseAndMoney pointed out that every fighter in the UFC with Magomed in their name, has a 84% win percentage inside the octagon. A truly remarkable feat, even with the contribution from Khabib Nurmagomedov.
As for a prediction, it’s hard to go against statistics. It’s even harder to go against the fact that Magomedov is the better and more dangerous striker. However, given the layoff and the appearance of a potential crack in his chin, I’m going on a whim and siding with Stoltzfus. Who may be at a disadvantage and isn’t known for power, but he showed that he’s willing to let it rip inside the pocket with Grant. Given his durability and ground game to fall back on, I don’t see Stoltzfus as being as big of a underdog as he is. So with that said, I predict that Stoltzfus wins via TKO.
155 lbs.: Michal Figlak vs. Fares Ziam – We have a showdown in the Lightweight division, as Fares Ziam takes on newcomer Michal Figlak. Returning to France for the first time since 2016, Ziam will to look to move past a recent defeat. One in which ended a two-fight win streak and halted his accession up a stacked Lightweight division. Meanwhile, Figlak enters his UFC debut undefeated. Fighting less than a month ago, the Cage Warriors prospect gets his opportunity to fight under the bright lights. With little time to prepare and fighting on enemy territory, it should be interesting to see if the young upstart has what it takes.
Since joining the UFC in 2019, Ziam hasn’t particularly lit up the octagon. Going to 2-2 in four UFC appearances, the former K1 European Champion has met resistance in the form of wrestling and grappling. This fight I expect no different, as Figlak has proven to be well rounded. With a knack for putting together combinations along with volume, Figlak can overwhelm opponents on the feet. Targeting the body often, Figlak does a good job wearing down opponents. However, it’s likely we will see him utilize his wrestling, which can be best described as relentless. Then again, Ziam hasn’t looked all that special on the feet. Which given his background, you’d assume he would be landing more than 2.06 significant strikes at a 40% accuracy. Regardless, wherever this fight goes, I’m more confident in Figlak’s ability to get the job done. So with that said, I predict that Figlak remains undefeated, winning via submission.Embed from Getty Images
185 lbs.: Joaquin Buckley vs. Nassourdine Imavov – We have a pivotal fight in the Middleweight division, as the twelfth ranked Nassourdine Imavov takes on Joaquin Buckley. Returning to the octagon for the first time in 2022, Imavov will look to build off a two-fight win streak. Having not fought on home soil since 2016, Imavov enters his biggest fight with France in his corner. Meanwhile, Buckley will attempt to play spoiler. A winner of three-straight, Buckley has earned an opportunity to knock off a ranked foe and finally crack the divisions top fifteen.
Although a surprise to see this fight on the preliminary card, these two Middleweight’s could gift us with an early contender for ‘Fight of the Night’. Buckley, a striker by trade, has won eleven of his fifteen wins via knockout. Of recent though, Buckley has shown a new wrinkle in his game. Landing five takedowns against Abdul Razak Alhassan, Buckley has been attempting to round out his game. However, against Imavov, I’m not certain Buckley’s wrestling is good enough to neutralize the Frenchman. On the feet, Buckley has the obvious power edge, but he’s not nearly as accurate nor active as Imavov. In fact, Imavov’s significant strike accuracy is 24% higher than Buckley. A staggering difference, which has me leaning towards Imavov in this fight. So with that said, I predict that Imavov wins via TKO.
155 lbs.: Benoit Saint-Denis vs. Gabriel Miranda – We have a scrap in the Lightweight division, as Benoit Saint-Denis takes on newcomer Gabriel Miranda. Returning to the octagon three months after tasting UFC victory for the first time, Saint-Denis will look to make it two straight. On home soil, for only the second time in his career, Saint-Denis will have the crowds energy to feed off. Meanwhile, Miranda comes into his UFC debut on a three-fight win streak. Having fought for Pancrase and Brave FC, it will be interesting to see to how the 32 year old debutant does on the biggest stage.
When watching film on Miranda, he certainly looks to be an excellent grappler and dangerous submission artist. As evident by fifteen of his sixteen wins coming via submission. However, he has faced low level competition for much of his career and has yet to defeat anyone with double-digit wins. Knowing that and given this will be Saint-Denis’ third UFC appearance, I’m not certain Miranda is truly ready to take on this caliber of an opponent. The only aspect working in his favor though, is the fact that Saint-Denis also happens to be a grappler with excellent submissions. While Miranda could catch Saint-Denis, I’m in the belief that his grappling has been more effective on lesser foes. With that said, I predict Saint-Denis to feed off the crowd and win via submission.
135 lbs.: Khalid Taha vs. Cristian Quinonez – We have an intriguing battle in the Bantamweight division, as Khalid Taha takes on promotional newcomer Cristian Quinonez. Coming into this fight off back-to-back losses and with only one win in five fights inside the octagon, Taha urgently needs a victory. Otherwise, his four-year UFC tenure could come to an end. Meanwhile, Quinonez comes into his UFC debut on a four-fight win streak. Having been out of action for nearly a year after earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series due to Visa issues, Quinonez is undoubtedly chomping at the bit to debut under the bright lights.
When analyzing this fight, it’s hard not to notice that Taha has failed to fight twice in a calendar year since 2019. At 29 years old, time is on his side, but his prime is arguably wasting away. Regardless, Taha returns to the octagon for the first time in 2022. Known for his striking, Taha certainly packs a punch. Where he lacks though is within his activity and precision, as he is landing a mere 2.69 significant strikes per minute at a 33% accuracy. Also lacking with his defensive wrestling, Taha has been taken down sixteen times in five fights. Given Quinonez is well rounded, I see problems for Taha. With solid leg kicks on the feet and a knack for taking the fight to the ground, Quinonez should see his grappling and ground-and-pound shine. While I will credit Taha for never accepting bottom position, he still has ended up there too often and with only one win in five fights, the proof is in the pudding. So with that said, I predict Quinonez to win via decision.
145 lbs.: Ailin Perez vs. Stephanie Egger – The curtain jerker comes in the Women’s Featherweight division, as newcomer Ailin Perez takes on Stephanie Egger. Turning professional in November of 2018, Perez has rattled off seven wins in eight fights. Currently on a two-fight win streak, Perez has impressively earned a shot in the UFC in less than four years in the sport. Meanwhile, Egger returns to the octagon in less than a month since a controversial tap saw her stopped in the opening round against Mayra Bueno Silva. Looking to rebound in short order, Egger will attempt to win her third fight in the past four.
After watching the majority of Perez’s fights, it’s clear that she has talent. Often trying to find her way inside, Perez will seek out the body lock. From there, she is a master at getting the fight to the ground. With good grappling, Perez does a good job at advancing and setting up her submissions or vicious ground-and-pound. The concern though I have for Perez and it’s part of why I’m not picking her, she has yet to face anyone worthwhile. Also, Egger is a Judo gold medalist in the 2010 U23 European Championships. If Perez looks to get inside, Egger will send her for a ride. With solid grappling and good submission abilities, Egger has proven that even her guard is a dangerous position to be in. Although, I see her controlling the majority of the fight in top control, Perez could reverse some positions. In the end though, this is a step-up in competition for Perez that I don’t see her getting by. So with that said, I predict that Egger wins via submission.