UFC 223 - Brooklyn Breakdown
Max Holloway vs Khabib Nurmagomedov
This is not an April Fools joke. Tony Ferguson has had to withdraw from the headlining title fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov making this the fourth time that this bout has been scrapped.
However, the main event has been saved by the current featherweight champion, Max Holloway. An absolute warrior, he steps up on just six days’ notice to take on the beast with exciting consequences. The winner will claim the lightweight title, setting up one of the biggest fights in MMA history with Conor McGregor.
Interestingly, there are a lot of similarities with how Ferguson and Holloway shape up against the Dagestani demon. They have a similar frame, record and style with an extremely high and contrasting skill-set. The Hawaiian is incredibly dangerous on the feet and although more orthodox – he is unpredictable like Ferguson. He is inventive, aggressive and relentlessly inflicts damage at the end of his range.
This has been a key contributor of his success at featherweight against smaller fighters but as he won’t enjoy that familiar reach and size advantage, his movement will have to be on point.
That said, we have come to learn that good movement and distance control usually counts for nothing against Nurmagomedov. His grappling borderlines on the inhumane; he ragdolls opponents utilising subtle techniques to enforce brutal ground and pound where he has accumulated the majority of his striking stats, wreaking havoc on his opponents.
With the talents of Holloway, we can still assume he will dictate the stand-up battle for as long as it remains on the feet. He is prone to taking damage (with 3.9 significant strikes absorbed per minute) so will have to be wary of the wild, aggressive strikes of Nurmagomedov.
Holloway will back his chin and strong jab to set up his own offence but one mistake and he will be on his back which will be the last place he wants to be. Nobody has provided an answer for Nurmagomedov’s elite grappling so far but Holloway possesses the tools to cause the upset.
He comes into this fight on the back of two titanic TKO wins over one of the best fighters of all time in Jose Aldo and will also be encouraged by Michael Johnson’s fight with Nurmagomedov where he exposed his vulnerability on the feet.
So, Holloway knows there is a route to victory and that is delivering the killer blows before the takedown. It is usually hard to bet against Holloway but as the Russian’s game plan won’t change, you have to back the weeks of preparation for Ferguson and mutant strength to enable him to get his hands on Holloway at some point. Five rounds may be too much time to endure so a finish from Nurmagomedov is likely. If you want to bet on an upset – go for a Holloway TKO.
Winner: Nurmagomedov via Submission
Rose Namajunas vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk
One of the biggest rematches in women’s MMA history is aptly slotted on to the stacked card in Brooklyn, New York for UFC 223. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is desperate to avenge her sole career loss and shock defeat to Rose Namajunas.
They met back in November 2017 and like all of Jedrzejczyk’s fights, she went in as the favourite, expected to defuse any grappling, dictate the fight on the feet and pick Namajunas apart with her elite striking.
However, Namajunas had other ideas – floating through the pre-fight build up with an ice-cold demeanour. Undeterred by Jedrzejczyk’s usual antics, she went on to knock her out in the first round. This wasn’t a lucky punch either; she stunned the ex-champ early and went on to finish with a beautifully composed left hook and follow-up strikes.
The key factor going into this bout has got to be the result of their last fight. Jedrzejczyk is in completely foreign territory – and on the back of her first knockout and loss, she is taking on someone with the confidence of beating her at her own game.
The new champ is also at that stage of a career where she evolves from every fight into a better, more well-rounded fighter and she could easily show off new skills to surprise again. That said, Jedrzejczyk has all the credentials to outclass any fighter in the division and with a new appetite to prove herself, she is expected to return to the cage better than ever.
This all raises the skill levels and anticipation for this rematch. Jedrzejczyk cannot afford to be complacent with the striking of Namajunas but too much respect will make her susceptible to the takedown which will be hostile territory.
A confident Namajunas could easily affirm her status as the new queen of the division as long as she evolves further. In her own words; “you can’t paint the Mona Lisa twice”, so she along with Greg Jackson will need to prepare more tools for Jedrzejcyk. But with a galvanized motivation to prove her ‘champion’ identity, we could see a masterclass in counter-striking to edge past ‘Thug’ Rose and even set up a rubber match.
Winner: Jedrzejczyk via Decision
Renato Moicano vs Calvin Kattar
Two rising stars are looking to throw their hats into the featherweight title ring at UFC 223. Renato Moicano and Calvin Kattar have amassed an incredible combined 29-3 record and with another win in Brooklyn, they will propel themselves towards the top of the rankings.
Moicano suffered his first career loss back in July 2017 which was to Brian Ortega who has steamrolled his way to a title of shot of his own. Already testing himself against the best of the division in Ortega and Jeremy Stephens who he beat, the young Brazilian faces another stern test in attempts to bounce back against one of the most in-form fighters in the division.
Kattar is enjoying the ride of a 10-fight win streak with two UFC wins over Shane Burgos and Andre Fili to boost his stock.
A decision would be a safe bet if it wasn’t for Kattar’s brutal knockout finish of Burgos in his last fight. He lived up to his nickname of the ‘Boston Finisher’ with his first finish in nine fights. Although Moicano is coming off a loss, this will be a closely contested battle with skill levels worthy of a place on this stacked main card.
The output of these guys will lay out the route to victory which are both their strengths with an incredibly high number of strikes thrown per minute. They will both look to break each other down with a constant debilitating flow of strikes which is likely to last until the bell. Cardio will play a huge factor.
Winner: Kattar via Decision
Michael Chiesa vs Calvin Kattar
There was a time where it was hard to think of any fighter that had more potential than Anthony Pettis. Although he earned the lightweight title, he has never quite lived up to that potential which is a shame considering some of the electrifying performances he has put on.
Despite losing five of his last seven, Pettis is desperate to display his pedigree and now he has moved back up to lightweight and his training camp is going a lot smoother than his last fight against Dustin Poirier, there is a good chance we’ll get to see him light up the Barclays Center in vintage Pettis fashion.
However, he has a legitimate contender in front of him. Michael Chiesa is a tricky fighter; he has an obvious strength which is his grappling and only has two losses to his name, the second of which came in his last fight against Kevin Lee.
These are two grappling wizards with slick submission games and lightening quick transitions so it will be a real treat to see them battle it out on the mat which is where Chiesa will hope the fight stays.
Pettis, however, is a threat everywhere and is just as slick on the feet. It is hard to bet against Chiesa, especially if the fight is fought at a close distance but if the Pettis of old turns up, a stunning finish could be on the cards.
Winner: Pettis via KO/TKO
Al Iaquinta vs Paul Felder
This could easily be the ‘Fight of the Night’, which is a big claim considering the talent on this card. These two natural fighters are as skilled as they are exciting and they tend to put on electrifying shows which have made them thorough fan-favourites.
They also arrive to New York in good form. Although Felder is now showing off his talents on the mic – calling UFC fights, we can’t forget his talents inside the cage coming off three devastating knockout wins against stellar competition.
The brash and entertaining Iaquinta is coming off five straight wins of his own, finishing all but one via knockout. He has only fought once in nearly three years but it was like he had never been away when he made Diego Sanchez his seventh knockout back in April 2017.
This is going to be an intense battle with both fighters possessing frightening finishing ability. Neither of them ever give an inch or back down from violence – they are stubborn in hunting the finish which makes a decision unlikely. They are both decent grapplers but we should expect a technical war on the feet in which Felder’s size and power advantage may just enable that killer blow.
Winner: Felder via KO/TKO