We had a fantastic Fight Night event last weekend, with some stunning performances.
The UFC will be wrapping up their loaded March lineup with the second Pay-Per-View of the month. It is a card that you simply cannot miss with two titles on the line.
In our main event, Heavyweight GOAT Stipe Miocic will defend his title against the fearsome Francis Ngannou in a rematch, while Alexander Volkanovski will make his second defense against Brian Ortega down at 145 pounds. The rest of the card is stacked as well, with former champion Tyron Woodley and rising star Sean O’Malley adorning the undercard.
Stipe Miocic vs. Francis N’Gannou 2 (HW)
Following a knockout defeat to DC, Stipe Miocic (20-3, 14-3 UFC) proved his championship mettle by making the requisite adjustments to earn the knockout victory over DC to reclaim his title, and defended it against DC once again. Miocic has incredible wrestling and boxing, but is seriously dangerous with his power, especially in the first round. He uses a high striking pace in combination with amazing footwork, making it easy if it goes to the judges based on his volume. With Stipe’s power, it often doesn’t. Of course, he has a fantastic wrestling base to back him up, averaging nearly two takedowns per UFC fight. Though he is getting up there at 38 years of age, he has proven he still has all his weapons working as well as ever, with the technical striking, wrestling, and stamina to succeed.
Francis N’Gannou (15-3, 10-2 UFC) is a scary, scary man. Following two straight defeats, he has rebounded with four straight KO finishes, all inside the first round, most recently demolishing Jairzinho Rozenstruik in just twenty seconds. Apart from having the hardest recorded punch in human history, Ngannou is a prolific finisher with all wins coming by stoppage, as well as holding an underrated grappling game with five submissions on his record. While he doesn’t like to take it to the ground, he is surprisingly capable there. However, the main forte of “The Predator” is his violent power and ability to stop a fight at any second. In fact, each of his Octagon fights has been getting shorter and shorter. Ngannou is a finishing machine and his only losses are when a fight goes the distance. A five rounder with two heavy hitters makes me find it highly unlikely this goes there.
Whenever I come to predicting an Ngannou fight, I find myself thinking of Joe Rogan saying, “It’s like he has a bazooka and you just have a pistol.” It’s the perfect way to describe his freakish power, as the four wins in Ngannou’s recent run came to a combined two minutes and 42 seconds of fight time. With that being said, their last bout was a complete masterclass by Miocic, who dominated Ngannou with wrestling and superior boxing technique to a one-sided decision. Ngannou’s recent bouts have shown little improvement from that fight. While the string of sub-minute KOs is certainly daunting, he has shown little departure from the wild hooks and headhunting that earn him those finishes, doing little to resolve the cardio or grappling issues that plagued him in the first Miocic match. While Ngannou is a knockout threat from bell to bell, resulting in him being a slight favorite at time of writing, I am unconvinced he has made the requisite changes to beat Stipe this time around. Miocic uses quick footwork, better technique, and intermittent wrestling to earn another lopsided decision.
Take the Shot: Stipe Miocic via Decision
Tyron Woodley vs. Vicente Luque (WW)
Tyron Woodley (19-6-1, 9-5-1 UFC) now finds himself on the first losing streak of his career after two one-sided defeats to Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns followed by a fifth-round stoppage to Colby Covington. Woodley is a supreme wrestler with a hammer of a right hand and the counterpunching to aid it. He finished off Darren Till in his last successful title defense in brutal fashion, dropping him with that right. His skill on the mat is rivaled by few and although many doubt his focus on the sport of MMA, he remains one of the most highly talented individuals in the stacked Welterweight division. Nowadays, his chief concern is one of complacency that sees him stuck looking for one big shot without enough offense to provide those counters.
Long seen as the dark horse of the Welterweight division, Vicente Luque (19-7-1, 12-2 UFC) now has a chance to make his mark with a strong win over a former champion. With eighteen stoppages, Luque is as well-rounded as they come with aggressive yet technical Muay Thai and expert jiu-jitsu, where he has seven subs in various forms of arm chokes. Luque is a powerful striker when pressing forward but prefers to pick up his guard and take a few shots while looking for a heavy counter when he is on the back foot. He fights behind his jab and mixes up his shots well with leg kicks and body shots, mixing in his grappling when the opportunity presents itself. Luque has shown time and time again that he has the chin and power to out brawl his opponents, but also has the technique and grappling to make him an all-out threat.
Tyron Woodley has his back against the wall in this matchup with three disappointing performances that saw him trounced in both output and effectivity with his UFC career potentially on the line in this bout. Luque is no walk in the park for any fighter, but with Woodley’s recent struggles, it appears he is in for a long night. Luque uses aggression and forward pressure partnered with genuine one-punch knockout power and slick grappling skills to succeed in any avenue the fight goes. The lack of output and headhunting that has plagued Woodley in recent bouts allows him little room for error against the hard hitting and voluminous attack of Luque. Though the Brazilian’s hard-charging style does give Woodley a puncher’s chance with his powerful counters, I expect a violent beating on the feet en route to a late knockout.
Take the Shot: Vicente Luque via Knockout
Thomas Almeida vs. Sean O’Malley (BW)
Thomas Almeida (22-4, 5-4 UFC) returned to the Octagon after three years away, but dropped a decision to Jonathan Martinez. After opening up his UFC career with four straight wins, “Thominhas” has gone 1-4 with two stoppage losses. Almeida is a knockout artist and Muay Thai specialist, holding seventeen knockout victories over his pro career, never shying away from flying knees or brutal step-in elbows. Although he has four submissions on his resume, Almeida’s typical strategy for his ground game is to simply not engage in it, which he has done quite well in his UFC tenure. His struggle up to this point has been his striking defense and ability to get clipped in a brawl when he is chasing the finish.
The hype train of Sean O’Malley (12-1, 4-1 UFC) took a hit following a ground and pound stoppage in his last bout opposite Marlon Vera. “Sugar” quickly became a hot prospect after a round one KO on the Contender Series, followed up by two incredibly entertaining decision victories only to be put on the back burner with a USADA suspension. He came back better than ever, finishing Jose Quinonez in the first round at UFC 248 before continuing his journey to stardom with a walk off KO over Eddie Wineland. O’Malley is a rangy striker with surprising power for his skinny frame, only boosted by his spinning attacks and high amplitude shots. He has some nice submission skills off his back, but the ground game is definitely his weakest spot and prefers to pick apart his opponent with accuracy. He has shown difficulty dealing with leg kicks, suffering leg injuries in both the Soukhamthath and Vera bouts.
Examining this bout on paper, there are few ways that this bout is not an incredible firefight for as long as it lasts. Both fighters have knockout power and largely do their work on the feet, but with contrasting styles. O’Malley prefers to keep the fight at a distance with his range while Almeida seeks to bring the fight into boxing range with forward pressure. I can see both fighters finding success here, but O’Malley seems much more primed for this style of fight. He does best moving around the outside while gauging range with his jabs and kicks before loading up on bombs. For all of his offensive threat (including leg kicks), Almeida tends to chase his opponent and will walk straight into counters for the sake of throwing one back in return. That’s a dangerous game to play opposite O’Malley and I see him turning out the Brazilian’s lights so long as he can avoid the leg kicks and pocket brawls that Almeida thrives upon.
Take the Shot: Sean O’Malley via Knockout
Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick (FLW)
Gillian Robertson (9-5, 6-3 UFC) dropped a decision to Taila Santos in her last outing, resulting in a 2-1 2020 showing. Robertson has seven finishes on her resume and likes to have her fights on the mat, taking six of her wins in submission. “The Savage” has the wrestling to get it there, and is even willing to pull guard to make the fight a grappling match. That said, her striking is somewhat low-output and she takes a lot more punches than she can dish out, especially when she can’t get her pressure off. Robertson fights are fairly binary: if she can get her dominant top control flowing, it’s a long night for her opponent.
Miranda Maverick (8-2, 1-0 UFC) made her way to the UFC after winning the Invicta Phoenix Rising tournament and capturing their Flyweight title shortly thereafter. Her UFC debut proved fruitful, as she battered Liana Jojua for her first TKO stoppage victory. “Fear the” Maverick is primarily a grappler with five submission finishes, as well as skilled wrestling to get the fight to the mat. Her striking is composed and she manages distance expertly, holding a high striking defense percentage. She fights with a high volume and has ample cardio, making her pace a dangerous weapon. Her weakness to this point has been when she is secured on her back, but her wrestling base and quick footwork make that a daunting task.
This is a fun clash of grapplers, who both find success through their aggressive top control. Maverick sticks out to me as the more well-rounded fighter with a heavy striking volume along with a persistent takedown threat. Robertson is typically quite accepting of takedown entries, hoping to make every fight a grappling match, and I see Maverick translating that to long stints of top control. While Robertson has nasty submission skills and quick scrambling, Maverick is also capable in those avenues and I see her superior wrestling keeping Gillian from getting her own top control going. So long as Maverick stays composed and avoids Gillian’s submissions from guard, I see her mixing up takedowns and striking volume for her second UFC win.
Take the Shot: Miranda Maverick via Decision
Jamie Mullarkey vs. Khama Worthy (LW)
Though still winless in his UFC career, Jamie Mullarkey (12-4, 0-2 UFC) has shown himself to be an all-action fighter. His debut against Brad Riddell showed that, as the two battled it out to a Fight of the Night decision. All but one of his pro wins have come inside the distance with eight knockouts. He is a well-rounded brawler with some good wrestling and nice submissions to pad his resume, but certainly does his best work on the feet. He leans upon a Muay Thai base with sneaky power and a dangerous top game on the mat.
A late replacement bout worked wonders for Khama Worthy (16-7, 2-1 UFC), who unleashed a brutal first round KO over Devonte Smith, despite coming in as a massive underdog. He followed that up with a third-round guillotine against Luis Pena, but was knocked out in his last outing by Ottman Azaitar. Worthy prefers to live or die by the sword in his fights, with nine of his victories and six of losses coming by form of knockout. Worthy does not have much of a ground game, preferring to war out his fights on the feet. He puts out a nice striking output as well as 44% accuracy, although he shown concerns of being countered against higher level opposition.
I am quite excited that this got bumped up to the main card, as we can expect both fighters to enter with a brawl in mind. Both find success brawling on the feet but can also mx it up well, Mullarkey with his top control and Worthy with his dangerous submissions. I do give Worthy the edge here, particularly on the feet. Worthy absorbs far less punishment and Mullarkey’s reliance upon his toughness is a dangerous game to play against the power of Worthy. While Mullarkey has the skills to find success by repeating grounding “The Deathstar”, I expect Worthy to parry his takedown attempts with submissions and power counters for a late knockout.
Take the Shot: Khama Worthy via Knockout
The main card kicks off at 10 PM EST, with Miocic and Ngannou taking center stage around 1 AM.
There are six prelim bouts preceding the main card, including a Light Heavyweight barn burner between Alonzo Menifield and William Knight that I have my eye on. Be sure to check out the prelims predictions, coming soon!
Categories: UFC Predictions