Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori
Adesanya looks to shrug off the disappointment of an unsuccessful attempt to win the 205lb title against Jan Blachowicz as he defends his 185lb title in a rematch with Vettori after previously beating him by split decision in 2018.
Adesanya got the better of the striking action on that occasion, but Vettori did have some success taking him down in the later stages of the fight and has since been on a five-fight winning streak, so he’s certainly worthy of a rematch, even if he’s not faced much in the way of top-5 opposition.
Both men have improved since their first outing, but as far as the striking it was always going to be hard for Vettori to catch up to Adesanya’s elite-level stand-up skills. The champion continues to be an extremely slick, dynamic operator and of course there’s no getting around the fact that he has a 4″ height and 6″ reach advantage, which only further enhances his ability to hit and not get hit back in return.
So, as willing and tough of a pressure-fighter on the feet as Vettori is, he really has to be focused on trying to make the most of his grappling advantage in this fight as getting to the mat presents his best chance of emerging victorious – although making Adesanya wary of being taken down will also help give him more of a chance on the feet too.
Adesanya’s takedown defense has improved over time, but there are still significant question marks about how he’ll cope with someone who is just doggedly committed to taking him down for five rounds, so it will be interesting to watch that play out.
However, I do still feel that Adesanya’s range management, movement, speed and precision will enable him to repeatedly punish Vettori for his attempts to close the distance. It’s likely Vettori is hard-headed enough to survive that, but I don’t think he’s going to find enough opportunities in the grappling department to make up for Adesanya’s work on the feet, leading him to a decision victory this time around.
Pick: Israel Adesanya wins by decision.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno
Moreno forced this title rematch by battling to a majority draw verdict against the champion late last year, despite being a significant underdog, although it should be noted that Figueiredo missed out on winning by decision due to the fact that he’d been deducted a point in the third round due to an accidental groin strike.
Still, Moreno rightly won plaudits for his sheer guts and determination, but of course he deserves praise for his well-rounded skills too and the pace and pressure that he maintains throughout his fights.
However, what we saw last time out was that Figueiredo did an admirable job of keeping up with Moreno’s tempo, and though Moreno was matching him blow-for-blow, it was evident that the champion had a significant advantage in terms of the firepower he had at his disposal.
Moreno had his moments on the mat, but Figueiredo is capable of handling himself there, and on the feet it’s quite possible that he could find a finish, given that he’s as heavy a hitter as we’ve seen in this weight class.
As a mark of respect for Moreno’s durability I’ll say he lasts the distance again this time out, but I feel Figueiredo will emerge with a more clear-cut victory this time around.
Pick: Deiveson Figueiredo wins by decision.
Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz
An accidental eye-poke against Belal Muhammad led to a no-contest ruling for Edwards back in March after a lengthy layoff, but he had been winning the fight up until that point and now lays claim to having been undefeated in his last nine Octagon outings.
As for Diaz, he’s returning after another extended hiatus, with his last fight being a loss to Jorge Masvidal in their one-off ‘BMF’ title fight in November of 2019.
Despite this only being the third fight on the card, it holds the unique distinction of still being given five-round status, and typically that’s something Diaz would relish given that cardio is one of his strengths, but so far Edwards has proven to be a well-conditioned athlete too.
Diaz tends to be the more active fighter offensively though, utilizing his high-volume boxing orientated striking and will look to make the most of his 2″ reach advantage, while also being as tough as they come.
Edwards is very good kickboxer though, who will make good use of kicks from range here, and though he’s pretty economical with his striking output he does have good power and technique.
A significant part of Edwards success in the UFC has been due to the fact that in addition to being a good striker, he’s also developed a stifling wrestling game to go alongside it, and he’s shown a willingness to embrace the grind and dominate fights from top position to win by decision.
It’s a strategy that could pay dividends here as Diaz has been outwrestled in the past and at 170lbs against Edwards size and athleticism there’s more chance that he’ll find it difficult to utilize his crafty submission skills.
Overall it just feels like Edwards should be able to do well here whether the fight is on the feet or on the mat and I think a mix of some striking and a lot of wrestling will lead him to a solid decision victory.
Pick: Leon Edwards to win by decision.
Demian Maia vs. Belal Muhammad
At 43-years-old and with his UFC contract coming to an end, it’s possible that this might be Maia’s last fight for retirement, and it’s to his credit that he’s still ranked No.9 at 170lbs heading into this fight against Muhammad, who is currently placed at No.12.
Of course Maia is best known for his phenomenal Jiu-Jitsu, but what’s stopped him from having even more success in his MMA career has been difficulties in getting some fighters to the mat in the first place in order to display his submission prowess.
That could well be a problem here as Muhammad has very good wrestling, and while he’ll not be in a hurry to utilze that to take Maia down, he will very much be looking to use it defensively to keep this fight standing.
Maia’s not completely out of his depth on the feet – he has developed some decent fundamentals over the years, but he’s never really had the speed or power to be much of a threat, and his age doesn’t help matters.
Meanwhile, Muhammad is a solid striker who press the action and be considerably more active than Maia, while also hitting harder. We have seen Muhammad hurt at times in fights, but Maia is unlikely to be the man to capitalize on that on the feet.
So, I think this will be a somewhat familiar story where Maia depletes his cardio trying in vain to get the fight to the mat, and that will enable Muhammad to outstrike him and either get a late stoppage or win on the scorecards.
Pick: Belal Muhammad wins by decision.
Paul Craig vs. Jamahal Hill
Hill is so far undefeated in his nine-fight career to date, including three bouts in the UFC, and appears to be living up to his full potential, but he has to be wary here against a potentially tricky opponent in Craig.
Everyone knows at this stage that Craig’s biggest weapon is his BJJ, and in particular his ability to finish fights by way of triangle choke even in the dying stages of a fight, and yet he still somehow manages to pull it off more often than you’d expect.
That aside he’s not the most well-rounded fighter though. His striking has improved to extent and he mixes in solid kicks alongside his punches, but he’s not much of an athlete and is somewhat plodding in his approach.
On the other hand, Hill is everything that Paul is not on the feet, being fast, technical, accurate and powerful with his long-range striking, and he’ll have a 3″ advantage here to play with.
With Hill’s takedown defense also being solid it seems like he should be able to force Craig to stand and trade with him, which should lead him to a TKO stoppage victory inside of ten minutes.
Pick: Jamahal Hill wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Drew Dober vs. Brad Riddell
Eryk Anders vs. Darren Stewart
Joanne Calderwood vs. Lauren Murphy
Hakeem Dawodu vs. Movsar Evloev
Pannie Kianzad vs. Alexis Davis
Frank Camacho vs. Matt Frevola
Luigi Vendramini vs. Fares Ziam
Chase Hooper vs. Steven Peterson
Jake Collier vs. Carlos Felipe