Saturday will mark the UFC’s third PPV of the year, with the offerings of two great title fights for fans of sanctioned violence. Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will face off against Cuban powerhouse Yoel Romero, and China’s Weili Zhang will make her first strawweight title defense against Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Other bouts of interest include Li Jingliang vs. Neil Magny, and Sean O’Malley will be back after a two-year layoff against José Alberto Quiñónez.
It’s a largely top-heavy affair with the prelims not offering much in the way of bouts with real title contention implications, but they still have the potential for plenty of entertainment value. As always, I’ve selected four bouts I think have the best likelihood of ending in an upset. Let’s take a look at the particulars on those.
Set your lineups here: MMA $200K Throwdown [$50K to 1st]
Jamall Emmers $8,500 va. Giga Chikadze $7,700Jamall Emmers is a talented prospect who holds wins over both Alexander Hernandez (2013) and Cory Sandhagen (2017). He’s got solid standup and serviceable wrestling – basically a jack of all trades but master of none. I wouldn’t say he has any single skill that stands out, but he has managed to get to the big leagues despite his limitations.
Chikadze is a former kickboxer with excellent standup and surprisingly good submission defense for a very green, inexperienced grappler. There’s no doubt that Emmers will be his toughest test to date, but I believe Giga’s standup will be the difference-maker in this contest.
Giga Chikadze via (T)KO
Alex Oliveira $8,400 vs. Max Griffin $7,800Alex Oliveira is a brawler with decent power and a very good ground game. He depends on his size to bully his opponents around but has largely been figured out. His fight with Nicholas Dalby was absolutely awful and brought the stark realization to many that he’d likely hit his ceiling.
Max Griffin has made some progress in his skill set, particularly with his technical striking, but he has a tendency to take periods of time off during rounds and lacks a sense of urgency, which has swayed judges to cast their score for his opposition. To his credit, he should have won the fight with Thiago Alves. If he can crank up the volume and crowd Oliveira, keeping a steady pace with forward movement and pressure, he should be able to get the W here.
Both Alex Oilveira and Max Griffin are in dire need of a win. This fight will likely determine their UFC future, so expect an all-out barnburner.
Max Griffin via Decision
Beneil Dariush $8,700 vs. Drakkar Klose $7,500Beniel Dariush is an exceptional grappler with a very touchy chin. Three of his four losses have been via (T)KO and the fourth was a submission at the hands of Michael Chiesa. He’s got capable standup, but the real magic is when he gets his opponents to the ground. He’s crafty and has beaten some of the best names in the sport. Klose will definitely have a monumental task ahead of him.
Drakkar Klose is a grinder. His fights are not pretty, but his wall-and-stall style is very effective. He does have flashes of power, but his last (T)KO was in 2015 on the regional circuit. This is a very well-matched fight, but I’ve chosen Klose because he’s a tough, gritty, durable fighter with an extraordinary gas tank and the ability to pressure and win rounds based on not letting his foe get a moment’s rest, peppering constantly with punches and knees that are just effective enough to score points.
I know it’s a risky choice considering Dariush’s submission chops, but like the Black Eyed Peas sang, “I got a feeling.”
Drakkar Klose via Decision
Weili Zhang $8,900 vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk $7,300Weili Zhang is a powerhouse on an incredible 20-fight win streak. She’s fast, aggressive and powerful. For such a tiny human, she generates insane power, sparking out Jessica Andrade in 42 seconds and making it look easy. She trains like a madwoman and looks like she’s prepared for this fight all her life.
So, why do I think Joanna Violence has a chance against her? A multitude of reasons beginning with toughness and grit. Joanna never stops trying to win the fight, even when she’s outclassed (see Shevchenko fight). She is an exceptional volume striker who knows how to manage distance and range well, making the most of her reach and length. She has incredible takedown defense, and to use the old cliché, she’s also very explosive, able to propel herself out of sticky situations. She also has excellent cardio, shining in the latter rounds of her fights. Joanna won’t be like Andrade, rushing in with reckless abandon, just begging to get starched. She’ll work those amazing teep kicks and that long, stiff jab, smothering with volume.
It’s a risky pick, but Jędrzejczyk might just have the remedy for Zhang’s power hand.
Joanna Jędrzejczyk via Decision
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