UFC 244 takes place tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden in New York and we’ve got the full fight card for you below.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz
This is a fun fight for a headliner, but also a well matched one that should provide a closely fought battle between the two fan favorites.
Boxing is at the heart of both fighter’s stand-up game, with Diaz enjoying the height and reach advantage and looking to utilize his normal high-volume approach to punching, making up for what he lacks in raw power with accumulative damage and stopping his opponents from settling into their own rhythm.
Masvidal is a slick operator however and is unlikely to be overwhelmed with his technical style, good defense and strong counter-punching. At times in the past he’s been too willing to sit back and just try to outbox opponents, but he’s developed a much more potent offensive mindset more recently that’s unlocked his true potential.
‘Gamebred’ will have the power advantage and is more dynamic, but both men have excellent chins and have the cardio for five rounds, so it would be impressive if either manages to find a finish on the feet.
On the mat Diaz certainly has the advantage with his crafty submission skills, but Masvidal is actually a solid grappler in his own right and may well have the defensive chops to survive and get back to his feet unscathed.
Overall I lean towards Masvidal here. He’s been fighting regularly, seems more confident than ever and has made marked improvements offensively, and if he keeps that mentality on Saturday night and doesn’t let Diaz just outwork him then I think he can get the better of Diaz and win on the scorecards.
Jorge Masvidal wins by decision.
Darren Till vs. Kelvin Gastelum
There’s a lot of uncertainty about Till heading into this fight. For a fighter whose usually so full of confidence, coming off two losses in a row, including a brutal KO against Jorge Masvidal last time out, has got to take it’s toll and may affect the way he fights.
To add to that, he’s had a somewhat turbulent spell on the sidelines regrouping, including running into trouble with the police while on holiday, and now he’s finally returning, but making a somewhat risky decision to step up a weight class and immediately fight a tough opponent.
Adding to his troubles, Till had Visa issues earlier this week that’s meant he arrived in New York late, so there’s going to be a lot of pressure on his shoulders coming into this fight.
Till may take heart in the fact that even though he’s moving up in weight, he’s actually fighting another former welterweight in Gastelum who is actually undersized for the weight class, so the Brit will enjoy a height and reach advantage. Till has the striking ability to make that work for him with punches and kicks from range, though he does prefer to apply forward pressure and outgun his opponents.
Despite his stocky build, Gastelum has proven he’s got what it takes to be competitive in the upper reaches of the 185lb division though and his power, hand speed and durability make him a real handful, while he has a significant wrestling advantage here, which he’d do well to utilize in order to mix things up and help win rounds.
Till is still a talented fighter, but it’s hard to pick him right now when there’s been so much turmoil inside and outside of the cage. Gastelum is not an easy fighter to try and get back on the saddle against and I think he’ll emerge with a TKO victory here in the second round.
Kelvin Gastelum wins by TKO in Rd2.
Stephen Thompson vs. Vicente Luque
Thompson’s recent record looks worse than it really is as many of the fights were close, although suffering the first KO loss of his career to Anthony Pettis last time out certainly will be a test of character for ‘Wonderboy’.
However, even that was a single punch out-of-the-blue in a fight that he’d otherwise been winning, so Thompson remains a very talented striker, and one who is a threat offensively, but also has good striking defense too due to his footwork and distance management, so he’s not the kind of fighter who I’d expect to suddenly start being KO’d regularly.
The in-form Luque will certainly be trying to find a finish though and he’s certainly proven himself to be a dangerous striker, but I think he’ll struggle to make a big impact against an opponent as technical as Thompson, who will give him few opportunities to shine and will carefully pick his moment to strike and cautiously steer his way back to winning ways on the scorecards.
Stephen Thompson wins by decision.
Derrick Lewis vs. Blagoi Ivanov
Lewis has done remarkably well in the UFC given his limited skill-set, cardio issues and nagging injury woes thanks to his never-say-die attitude and ability to turn a fight on it’s head with a single punch.
Lewis will have a big height and reach advantage over Ivanov, but that’s nothing new to the stocky Bulgarian, who it’s worth noting has never been stopped by strikes in his 20-fight career.
‘The Black Beast’ moves surprisingly quickly for a man of his size though and that’s something Ivanov will have to be wary of.
Ivanov can strike here if required, but he would be best to use his very good grappling skills to exploit Lewis’ underdeveloped ground game and wear him down. Lewis’ gas tank has always been poor and as long as Ivanov is mindful that he’ll still be a threat right until the final bell sounds I think he should be able to secure a decision victory here.
Blagoi Ivanov wins by decision.
Gregor Gillespie vs. Kevin Lee
So far Gillespie has been unstoppable, going a perfect 13-0 in his career, including six wins in the Octagon, but he’s now presented with his toughest test to date in Lee.
No one has been able to cope with Gillespie’s dominant wrestling and aggression so far, but Lee is also a talented grappler in his own right and a big lightweight, so that will make this a tougher challenge than anyone he’s faced yet.
Nevertheless, I still feel like Gillespie will have the wrestling advantage and with Lee being known to have gas tank issues, I suspect that his opponent’s relentless work rate and pressure will be a key factor in helping him to a decision victory.
Gregor Gillespie wins by decision.
Johnny Walker vs. Corey Anderson
Shane Burgos vs. Makwan Amirkhani
Brad Tavares vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
Andrei Arlovski vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Jennifer Maia vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Lyman Good vs. Chance Rencountre
Julio Arce vs. Hakeem Dawodu