(C) Charles Oliveira (31-8) v. (#1) Dustin Poirier (28-6)
In what might be the most highly anticipated Lightweight title fight since UFC 229, newly crowned Champion Charles Oliveira, riding a nine-fight winning streak, takes on Louisiana’s Dustin Poirier, winner of seven of his last eight. The winner of this fight not only takes home the strap but also is likely the frontrunner for Fighter of the Year. While Poirier’s resume is second to none in the UFC, Oliveira should be the favorite in this matchup in my estimation. Oliveira is a finisher and has always been elite on the ground, but improvements in his striking over the last few years has allowed for his monumental run to the top. Oliveira has more ways to win than Poirier and the gap between their striking skills is much smaller than the gap between the two on the ground.
Prediction: Charles Oliveira def. Dustin Poirier via R4 SUB
(CC) Amanda Nunes (21-4) v. (#3) Julianna Pena (10-4)
Per Bovada, Amanda Nunes is the -950 favorite in this matchup and it’s awfully hard to disagree. Never say never, but it’s difficult to see Pena knocking off Nunes from her 12-fight winning streak. When Nunes fights it’s rarely a question of if she will win, but rather how she will win. There isn’t much else to add to this preview other than everyone stands a puncher’s chance. The stats don’t look half bad for Pena, winner of two of her last four, but in my mind, this would probably be a bigger upset than when Holly Holm knocked out Ronda Rousey back at UFC 193.
Prediction: Amanda Nunes def. Julianna Pena via R2 TKO
(#12) Geoff Neal (13-4) v. Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-4)
UFC matchmaking and card placement is generally very deliberate and this fight being in the featured main card slot was no accident. A clear Fight of the Night contender, Geoff Neal looks to break a two-fight losing streak against the surging, once-forgotten Argentinean Santiago Ponzinibbio. Ponzinibbio is fresh off a war in June against Miguel Baeza where he showed great striking and toughness. It’s easy to forget that he was the Boogeyman of the Welterweight division just three years ago when he capped off a seven-fight winning streak with a knockout of Neil Magny in his home country. He seems to finally be healthy, and I think we have seen limitations in Neal’s game over his last two fights.
Prediction: Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Geoff Neal via DEC
(#5-FLY) Kai Kara-France (22-9) v. (#7-BW) Cody Garbrandt (12-4)
Former Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt finally makes his much-anticipated Flyweight debut against New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France. The Flyweight division is remarkably shallow waters and with Kara-France already being in the top-five, it’s not unrealistic to think the winner of the fight, especially if it is Garbrandt, would be next in line for the title after Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo concluded their trilogy at UFC 270. Kara-France is a live dog, but Garbrandt’s speed and power should allow for the potential for him to make a quick statement Saturday night.
Prediction: Cody Garbrandt def. Kara-France via R1 TKO
Sean O’Malley (14-1) v. Raulian Paiva (21-3)
O’Malley draws another unranked challenge, this time in the form of the Brazilian Raulian Paiva. While Paiva is clearly the B-side in this matchup, he does represent a fair roadblock for “The Suga Show”. That being said his defense could use some work and he gets hit more often than he lands. O’Malley is an insanely active fighter who is calm, picks his shots, and doesn’t force anything in the Octagon. For O’Malley, it’ll be another pay-per-view, another win, and another signature knockout.
Prediction: Sean O’Malley def. Raulian Paiva via R3 TKO
(#6) Josh Emmett (16-2) v. (#9) Dan Ige (15-4)
This fight is one that is really flying under the radar, but seeing that it occupies the prelim headliner, I can see this fight stealing some of the headlines on Sunday morning. Emmett, 36, returns to the Octagon for the first time in a year and a half and in my estimation desperately needs a win to stay active and winning in a growing division and at an advanced age. Ige is a fan-favorite who always brings maximum effort, a well-rounded game, and hands of stone, essentially a direct parallel of Emmett in many ways. The stats are also pretty identical, so I’ll side with Ige, who has been far more active than his opponent.
Prediction: Dan Ige def. Josh Emmett via DEC
(#9) Pedro Munhoz (19-6) v. (#11) Dominick Cruz (23-3)
We have another excellent matchup here this time in the stacked Bantamweight division. It’s a shame this isn’t a Fight Night main event because I think this fight would be far more compelling over five rounds. That being said this is still a fun fight between two second-tier title contenders. Cruz looks to be finally healthy and has such a unique style and I think that will present problems for a fairly traditional fighter like Munhoz.
Prediction: Dominick Cruz def. Pedro Munhoz via DEC
(#12) Augusto Sakai (15-3-1) v. (#14) Tai Tuivasa (13-3)
We have two fighters trending in opposite directions here. Sakai is on a two-fight losing streak being finished in both outings while Tuivasa is making the most of his second tenure in the UFC, winning his last three all via first-round knockout. Something seems different about “Shoeyvasa” this time around and while I think Sakai is a durable fighter, Western Sydney will be standing up Saturday night.
Prediction: Tai Tuivasa def. Augusto Sakai via R2 KO
Bruno Silva (21-6) v. Jordan Wright (12-1)
The Brazilian Bruno Silva has made the most of his first two UFC appearances, finishing fellow countryman Wellington Turman and kicking Andrew Sanchez out of the promotion. Wright, 30, has also made short work in his two wins. Wright is active and a good Karate-style striker who will give Silva his toughest test thus far, but the significant strike differential per minute for Silva is north of 3, which will spell doom for “The Beverly Hills Ninja”.
Prediction: Bruno Silva def. Jordan Wright via DEC
Andre Muniz (21-4) v. Eryk Anders (14-5)
Muniz, 31, is riding a seven-fight winning streak and is fresh off of a sickening arm-breaking win over the legendary Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Anders is 4-5, 1 NC in his last ten fights but has always proven to be a tough battle for any opponent. Muniz will have to be mindful of the sheer power of Anders but short of a knockout, I don’t know how Anders, a former University of Alabama linebacker, will win this fight.
Prediction: Andre Muniz def. Eryk Anders via R1 SUB
Erin Blanchfield (7-1) v. (#14) Miranda Maverick (9-3)
Blanchfield and Maverick are both incredibly young, 22 and 24, respectively. Both fighters represent the future of this sport and this is a fight that we very easily could be rebooking a few years down the line. Blanchfield is a very highly touted Invicta product who won her UFC debut just shy of three months ago. Maverick is far more proven and clearly won her last fight against Maycee Barber despite the judges scoring a highly controversial split decision against her. Maverick will be too much for the younger fighter to handle anywhere the fight takes place and is a future title challenger.
Prediction: Miranda Maverick def. Erin Blanchfield via DEC
Ryan Hall (8-2) v. Darrick Minner (26-12)
Ryan Hall is a one-trick pony in MMA and at 36 I don’t think that’ll change much (although the one-trick is as good as it gets). That being said, he is going up against veteran of the sport and fellow ground specialist Darrick Minner. This fight is tailormade for Hall to get back on track with a win. Despite how bullish I am on his future in the sport, Hall gets the job done against the dangerous Nebraskan.
Prediction: Ryan Hall def. Darrick Minner in R2 via SUB
Randy Costa (6-2) v. Tony Kelley (7-2)
Here we have a matchup of two relatively inexperienced, scrappy strikers. Randy Costa has had to grow up in the UFC and has suffered some growing pains, going 2-2 in his last four. Kelley righted the ship 14 months ago against Ali AlQaisi following his unsuccessful debut a few months prior. Costa is long, lanky, and has great power for a Bantamweight and I like “The Zohan” to put away Kelley.
Prediction: Randy Costa def. Tony Kelley in R1 via TKO
Priscilla Cachoeira (10-3) v. Gillian Robertson (9-6)
I didn’t expect Cachoeira to be here. After getting historically dominated in a wild debut against Valentina Shevchenko back in 2018, she dropped her next two and I figured she would get her pink slip. Since then, she has put together two finish victories over Shana Dobson and Gina Mazany and carved out a spot in the UFC. Robertson is a frustratingly talented fighter with some clear shortcomings in her striking and recently in her ground game which is her strongest attribute. It might be wishful thinking given the direction both fighters are trending, but I think talent wins out here and Ontario’s Robertson sinks another submission win.
Prediction: Gillian Robertson def. Priscilla Cachoeira in R3 via SUB