UFC On ESPN 44 Predictions

UFC On ESPN 44 takes place tomorrow in Kansas City and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.

Main Card

Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen

After losing to reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski for the third time in his last fight, Holloway will now attempt to defend his No.2 contender spot against Allen, who is pushing hard towards title contention after going unbeaten in his 10 UFC bouts so far.

The 31-year-old Holloway is no longer the kingpin at 145lbs, but he has still defeated almost everyone else other than Volkanovski in the division, including current interim champion Yair Rodriguez in late 2021.

His striking abilities are still top-notch with precise, high-paced boxing combinations, smart use of angles and distance-management, while he has never been stopped by strikes and has excellent takedown defense.

Allen is a very good striker too, though he’s not as quick or shrewd as Holloway, but he is technically solid, working well on the outside, while against Dan Hooker last year he adopted a more aggressive approach that paid off big for him and showed how dangerous he can be on the feet.

Allen is also well-rounded with underrated wrestling and good cardio too. However, Holloway’s strong takedown defense may force this into being a striking battle, and as good as Allen is I still feel that Holloway’s tried-and-tested striking ability against the best of the best over the years will continue to win the day here via decision.

Pick: Max Holloway wins by decision.

Edson Barboza vs. Billy Quarantillo

The 37-year-old Barboza will be hoping to bounce back from two consecutive losses when he squares up to the 34-year-old Quarantillo, who stopped Alexander Hernandez via TKO in his last fight.

Barboza has been a top-flight stand-up technician throughout his UFC career and has delivered some stunning knockouts thanks to his powerful, dynamic kicks and hard-hitting boxing as well as having sturdy takedown defense. However, he is getting up there in years and has been in a lot of battles that do seem to be slowly but surely taking it’s toll on his speed, stamina and durability.

Quarantillo is an interesting match-up for him as he may not be as skilled or hard-hitting as Barboza, but he will set a hard pace with high-volume attacks and decent power, while he is also very tough and has good offensive wrestling.

If this was Barboza in his prime then I would feel more confident picking him here, but at this stage of his career I think Quarantillo’s pressure and wrestling threat will eat into his energy reserves as the fight goes on, paving the way for a decision victory.

Pick: Billy Quarantillo to win by decision.

Dustin Jacoby vs. Azamat Murzakanov

Jacoby saw a seven-fight unbeaten streak in the UFC snapped by a split-decision defeat against Khalil Rountree Jr last time out and and now he’s going up against the undefeated Murzakanov, who has won both of his UFC fights via strikes.

The 35-year-old Jacoby has 5″ in both height and reach over Murzakanov and is the more versatile striker of the two with good kicks to go along with his punches and he wields significant finishing power, with 11 of his 18 career wins coming by way of strikes.

Murzakanov, 36, is less imposing physically and won’t be as busy offensively as Jacoby, but he is a composed striker who has leaned on his boxing prowess and punching power  to very good effect, compiling a 12-0 record along the way that contains numerous KO and TKO stoppages.

I think this is a fight that suits Jacoby though, with his size allowing him to keep Murzakanov at bay and chop away with leg kicks while he also has a good chin and the power to trouble him from beginning to end on his way to ending his opponent’s unbeaten run on the scorecards.

Pick: Dustin Jacoby to win by decision.

Tanner Boser vs. Ion Cutelaba

Both fighters are in dire need of a win here, with Boser having won only once in his last four fights, while Cutelaba has a dismal record of just one win and a draw from his last seven UFC outings.

Boser has spent most of his career at heavyweight, but has now trimmed down to make a fresh start at 205lbs. The 31-year-old wasn’t a large heavyweight and as such tended to have an edge in speed and endurance over his more sluggish opponents in that division, but it remains to be seen if he can maintain that down at light-heavyweight.  He’s mainly a striker and does well from range with boxing basics and low kicks, while it’s worth noting he’s shown good durability over the years against the heavy-hitters in his former division with only 1 loss via strikes on his record.

Cutelaba’s all-or-nothing style has being delivering more of the latter than the former, but the 29-years-old doesn’t seem to be trying to change things up too much. Instead the physically strong fighter continues to try to end his fights early, whether by wild aggression on the feet or takedowns and vicious ground-and-pound on the mat.

Unfortunately for Cutelaba, his ability to find that early finish has faded, with his opponents instead often finding ways to counter his reckless style and stop him instead by strikes or submission, while if his fights go past the first round he tends to become much less potent.

It’s a fight that could go either way, but I’ll take Boser to fight more smartly and cautiously from range to survive the early waves of offense coming his way and and then take control of the action more as the rounds go on to earn a decision win.

Pick: Tanner Boser wins by decision.

Pedro Munhoz vs. Chris Gutierrez

Gutierrez has been on a tear in the UFC, going undefeated in his last eight bouts and now faces a tough veteran in Munhoz, who has consistently faced some of the best fighters the division has to offer, which helps explain why he’s only managed a win and a no-contest in his last six appearances.

Despite that underwhelming form the 36-year-old Munhoz is a well-rounded fighter who will press the action and look to overwhelm his opponents with powerful hooks and good leg kicks, while he also has a knack for locking in guillotine choke submissions.  On top of that, while Munhoz is a bit too hittable he’s actually proven to be very hard to finish – having never lost by strikes or submission despite the level of competition he has faced.

Gutierrez is the younger man with a 3″ height and 2″ reach advantage who also holds a technical striking advantage over Munhoz. He outdoes even his opponent when it comes to leg kicks, which has led to several finishes, while he’s faster and more accurate than his opponent and he also has better defense.

Gutierrez could get into trouble if the fight hits the mat, but Munhoz isn’t much of a takedown specialist and so Think this one stays standing and Gutierrez outpoints him with his sharper striking and more sound defense.

Pick: Chris Gutierrez wins by decision.

Clay Guida vs. Rafa Garcia

Garcia is a former Combate Americas champion who has struggled to make the same kind of impact in the UFC, delivering a 3-3 record so far. He now faces Guida, who is still managing to stay competitive at 41-years-old and is coming off a split-decision win over Scott Holtzman.

Guida is known for his relentless cardio and that’s still something he can draw on, while these days he is more willing to utilize his wrestling ability.  That’s a good thing as he’s most effective when he’s wearing down opponents on the mat, rather than on the feet, where he tends be active, but not particularly impactful.

Garcia is a younger, fresher fighter who can do a bit of everything, but he hasn’t shown that he can really step up to the next level consistently against more experienced and tougher fighters in the UFC, and I think that’ll prove to be the case again here with Guida still having enough in the tank to outwrestle him to victory here.

Pick: Clay Guida wins by decision.

Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)

Bill Algeo vs. T.J. Brown
Zak Cummings vs. Ed Herman
Gillian Robertson vs. Piera Rodriguez
Brandon Royval vs. Matheus Nicolau
Bruna Brasil vs. Denise Gomes
Aaron Phillips vs. Gaston Bolanos
Lando Vannata vs. Daniel Zellhuber
Joselyne Edwards vs. Lucie Pudilova

Ross launched MMA Insight (previously FightOfTheNight.com) in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.