UFC 223 takes place this Saturday Night from the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. There are 13 fights scheduled for Saturday Night and this is expected to be one of the top cards of the year. Let’s jump on in and breakdown the fights from UFC 223.
UFC Lightweight Championship – Max Holloway (19-3) vs. #1 Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0)
This is the main event on Saturday Night is Max Holloway vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov. This fight is for the UFC Lightweight Title but it didn’t come without some drama. The original plan was for Khabib Nurmagomedov to face Tony Ferguson but a late injury has forced Ferguson to pull out and without any reservation, Holloway has stepped up in weight and will now fill in as the late replacement. This is a styles matchup where you will have a supreme striker in Holloway taking on one of the best wrestlers in the UFC.
Nurmagomedov has never really faced someone with as much length as Holloway and he will have to deal with someone as well balanced as Holloway. You could compare Holloway to Edson Barboza, who Khabib beat in his last fight, but that fight went to a decision and Nurmagomedov wasn’t as dominant as we’ve seen in the past. Holloway is a BIG underdog in this fight ranging anywhere between +385 all the way up to +420. Those are some of the craziest numbers we’ve seen in recent history and I think some of the best value available on this card.
Handicapping Selection: Max Holloway WINS via Unanimous Decision
UFC Strawweight Championship – Rose Namajunas (8-3) vs. #1 Joanna Jędrzejczyk (14-1)
The rematch for the UFC Women’s Strawweight Title will take place on Saturday Night as Champion Rose Namajunas will look to make her first title defense when she takes on Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The only blemish on Jedrzejczyk’s resume is the loss to “Thug Rose” in her last fight. It’s very tough to beat Joanna one time, nearly impossible to beat her twice! Joanna is the favorite in this fight but only at -120. For her talents and skill set, that is a great value play!
Handicapping Selection: Joanna Jedrzejczyk WINS via 3rd Rd TKO
#11 Renato Moicano (11-1-1) vs. #13 Calvin Kattar (18-2)
Two of the top 145’ers in the UFC will face each other with the winner most likely moving up inside the top 10 in the division. Kattar is the slight favorite in the fight at -135, with Moicano returning +105. Kattar is coming in off a 3rd round KO of one of the top prospects in the UFC, Shane Burgos. The Brazilian Moicano is coming in off a 3rd round submission at the hands of #1 contender Brian Ortega. Kattar has a much better overall striking game and should squeeze out a close decision victory.
Handicapping Selection: Calvin Kattar WINS via Unanimous Decision
#9 Michael Chiesa (14-3) vs. #12 Anthony Pettis (20-7)
Both of these lightweights are coming in off a loss and looking to redeem themselves in this fight. Chiesa lost his last fight against Kevin Lee and he complained about not tapping out but he was caught in a choke and the referee felt that he couldn’t get out and stopped the fight. He will now face Anthony Pettis who was stopped in his last fight by Dustin Poirier in the 3rd round. This will be a great fight, with the loser riding a 2 lose streak! The best value in this fight is probably on the total going over 2.5 rounds.
Handicapping Selection: Anthony Pettis WINS via Unanimous Decision
#11 Al Iaquinta (13-3-1) vs. Paul Felder (15-3)
My pick for Fight of the Night is in the Lightweight Division between Al Iaquinta and Paul Felder. Both of these guys are going to want to keep this fight on the feet but both have a training background of strong jiu jitsu. Iaquinta trains with Matt Serra and Felder was trained for many by Daniel Gracie. I look for this fight to stay on the feet and the better striker coming away with the win.
Handicapping Selection: Paul Felder WINS via 3rd Rd TKO
#4 Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2) vs. #8 Felice Herrig (14-6)
These two ladies will take center stage for the headliner on FS1 Prelims. Kowalkiewicz is predominantly a striker while Herrig is comfortable striking and on the ground. Kowalkiewicz sort of came into the UFC with a lot of hype and after going 3-0 she was given a title shot. She lost that fight, as well as her next fight against Claudia Gadelha. She is now 11-2 and looking to get back to a title shot. She does have a win over the current champion Rose Namajunas but her boring style of fighting makes her participate in plenty of decision outcomes. Herrig is a dangerous opponent and if this fight hits the ground, her grappling is drastically underrated.
Handicapping Selection: Felice Herrig WINS via 2nd Rd Submission
#3 Ray Borg (11-3) vs. #7 Brandon Moreno (14-4)
Ray Borg is coming into this fight off a title shot loss against current Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson. Borg was submitted in the 5th round of his 5 round title fight at UFC 216. He will now face a very dangerous opponent in Brandon Moreno, who is also coming in off a loss against Sergio Pettis. Both of these guys are elite flyweights and the winner should be able to put himself in line for a top 5 opponent. Moreno is a hot underdog that is returning +235 and is capable of winning this fight at anytime with his slick submission game.
Handicapping Selection: Brandon Moreno WINS via 3rd Rd Submission
Joe Lauzon (27-15) vs. Chris Gruetzemacher (13-3)
Joe Lauzon is a UFC veteran that is coming into the fight off losing 3 of his last 4 fights. He is at a point in his career where he is approaching must win situation to retain his job in the UFC. Going back deeper, he has lost 5 of the last 8 fights. He now gets a game opponent in Chris Gruetzemacher who has gone 1-2 since his time on the Ultimate Fighter Season 22. Lauzon’s experience and cage IQ will be too much for Gruetzemacher.
Handicapping Selection: Joe Lauzon WINS via Unanimous Decision
#14 Evan Dunham (18-6-1) vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-2)
Dunham was originally slated to take on Russian Mairbek Taisumov however he was forced to pull out due to VISA issues. Olivier Aubin-Mercier has taken the fight on short notice and and should pose plenty of problems for Dunham. Dunham spent several weeks planning for a striker, who has KO power in both hands and now, will completely change the opponent style and now prepare for a submission expert. It remains to be seen if the change in opponent style will play a role in this fight.
Handicapping Selection: Olivier Aubin-Mercier WINS via 3rd Rd Submission
Alex Caceres (13-11) vs. Artem Lobov (14-14-1)
How either of these guys are still in the UFC is beyond me. Well, now that I think about it, Lobov is best friends with Conor McGregor so that makes sense on his side but how Caceres has held onto his job is beyond me? He has lost 3 of his last 4 fights and one more loss could and should result in him getting a pink slip with his fight check. Lobov is a perfect style fighter for Caceres to get back on track because he will come forward and simply look to KO Caceres.
Handicapping Selection: Alex Caceres WINS via 2nd Rd Submission
Bec Rawlings (7-7) vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (5-3)
Bec Rawlings has lost 3 straight fights and she is another fighter on this card that could be receiving her walking papers with a loss. She is 7-7 in her career and is a strong striker that likes to stand and bang with her opponent. She will get that chance when she stands across the cage from Ashlee Evans-Smith. Evans-Smith has dropped two in a row but her level of competition has been a tad bit stronger than that of Rawlings. Should be a really good fight with Evans-Smith being a 2/1 favorite. Look for her to take the fight to the ground if she gets the chance but most likely this one will go the distance.
Handicapping Selection: Ashlee Evans-Smith WINS via Split Decision
Devin Clark (8-2) vs. Michael Rodriguez (9-2)
Mike Rodriguez was signed to the UFC off of Dana White’s Contender Series after getting the 1st round KO over Jamelle Jones. He is a big 6’04 fighter that will have a 4 inch height advantage over Clark. Clark hasn’t really been impressive in his short UFC career getting submitted by Jan Blachowicz and getting KO’d by Alex Nicholson. His two wins come against Jake Collier and Josh Stansbury, neither of which have been very impressive in their respective UFC careers.
Handicapping Selection: Michael Rodriguez WINS via 1st Rd KO
Zabit Magomedsharipov (14-1) vs. Kyle Bochniak (8-2)
Zabit is legitimately one of the top prospects in all of MMA. He is the largest favorite on the card at -900 and you wouldn’t catch me betting on him if my life depended on it but if there was ever a sure thing, this might be it! He is on the verge of making a name for himself and is facing the ideal opponent who has a decent resume but not many respectable wins. Bochniak is 2-2 in the UFC but after Saturday, he will be 2-3!
Handicapping Selection: Zabit Magomedsharipov WINS via 1st Rd TKO