It’s a terrific UFC 223 card from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night headlined by a lightweight title fight – just not one of the combatants who was expected.
The five-fight main card is expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. Here’s a look at those bouts and their Sports Interaction MMA odds.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Max Holloway
Records: Nurmagomedov (25-0), Holloway (19-3)
UFC Odds: Nurmagomedov -440, Holloway +305
Prediction: Nurmagomedov by decision
The official lightweight champion is Conor McGregor, but no one knows if/when he will return to MMA fighting and he’s expected to be stripped of his belt ahead of this bout because it has been so long since he has defended it. Khabib (not about to keep spelling that last name), the No. 2 ranked lightweight by the UFC, was set to fight interim champion Tony Ferguson at UFC 223, but Ferguson had to pull out with a knee injury. The fates clearly don’t want those two to get into the Octagon because it’s the fourth time overall a fight between them has fallen through.
Holloway, the featherweight champion, took the bout on less than a week’s notice. The challenge for Holloway will be making weight. Yes, the featherweight limit is 145 pounds and lightweight 155, but Holloway hasn’t been training and fighters gain a ton of weight as soon as a bout is over (often they do right after the weigh-in) and when not training. The odds are longer than they would be due to the short notice. Holloway could join McGregor as a rare two-division champion in the UFC (McGregor was also featherweight/lightweight). Holloway, an American, has won his past 12 fights since a loss to McGregor in 2013; the past two wins were by TKO against arguably the greatest featherweight in history (at least before those losses), Jose Aldo. Khabib is from Russia and some believe that McGregor has been ducking him. In his UFC career, Nurmagomedov has landed 5.85 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time. That’s the best rate among ranked lightweights. If Holloway can keep this fight standing, he has a shot.
Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Records: Namajunas (8-3), Jedrzejczyk (14-1)
UFC Odds: Jedrzejczyk -120, Namajunas -110
Prediction: Jedrzejczyk by decision
The American Namajunas puts her strawweight title on the line in a rematch against the No. 1 contender in the Pole Jedrzejczyk. Last November, Jedrzejczyk held the belt and was a better than -800 favourite against Namajunas, who pulled off arguably the UFC upset of the year with a first-round TKO. Namajunas put Jedrzejczyk on the canvas with a left hook and finished her with punches on the ground. It was the first knockout of Namajunas’ career, while Jedrzejczyk had defended the title five consecutive times, one shy of Ronda Rousey’s record for any female. Jedrzejczyk claimed afterward she had suffered through a bad weight cut.
Renato Moicano vs. Calvin Kattar
Records: Moicano (11-1-1), Kattar (18-2)
UFC Odds: Kattar -135, Moicano +105
Prediction: Kattar by decision
Moicano, a Brazilian ranked 11th in the division, comes off his first loss, a guillotine-choke submission at the hands of Brian Ortega (ranked the No. 1 featherweight behind the champion Holloway) in the third round at UFC 214 last July. Perhaps sharp bettors saw the loss coming as Moicano was fortunate to win his two previous fights, against Jeremy Stephens and Zubaira Tukhugov, by split decision. Kattar, ranked 13th and from the USA, is on a 10-fight winning streak but just two of those have come in the UFC. He came over from CES MMA. Kattar last fought in January and beat Shane Burgos by third-round TKO. Kattar’s previous seven wins were all by decision.
Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis
Records: Chiesa (14-3), Pettis (20-7)
UFC Odds: Chiesa -135, Pettis +110
Prediction: Pettis by KO/TKO
Matchup of Americans, with Chiesa ranked ninth in the division and Pettis 12th. The latter was once considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport and is a former UFC and WEC lightweight champion. Since “Showtime” lost the belt to Rafael dos Anjos in May 2015, his career has gone downhill. Pettis (who briefly went to featherweight) has just two wins in his past seven fights overall and comes off a submission loss to Dustin Poirier in November. Should he lose here, his relevance in the division is likely over at age 31. Chiesa hasn’t fought near the competition level Pettis has and comes off a submission loss last June to Kevin Lee. Chiesa has been finished in all three career defeats.
Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder
Records: Iaquinta (13-3-1), Felder (15-3)
UFC Odds: Iaquinta -115, Felder -115
Prediction: Felder by submission
Iaquinta, an American, is ranked 11th in the division. His only loss in the past nine was by technical submission to Mitch Clarke in May 2014. Four of Iaquinta’s past five victories have come by KO or TKO, including his most recent fight in April 2017 against Diego Sanchez (first-round KO on punches). All three of Iaquinta’s losses are by submission. Felder is an unranked American who comes off perhaps the best victory of his career, a second-round TKO (elbows) of Charles Oliveira in December. At 5-foot-10, Felder is one of the bigger fighters in the division. Iaquinta and Felder were scheduled to fight at UFC 218, but Iaquinta pulled out due to injury – Oliveira stepped in on short notice.