The UFC returns in a quick fashion after an electric PPV to kick off 2022 in January. They to return to the popular destination of Houston, Texas where another exciting rematch will be put on display and a hopeful hometown legend looking to give his city the performance they truly deserve. Nonetheless, the prelims are filled with a ton of exciting matchups. Casey O’Neill is a soring prospect in the women’s Flyweight division and a win over Roxanne Modafferi, who has 45 professional bouts coming in, could make her one of the best prospects in the UFC right now. William Knight also looks to raise his stock against veteran Maxim Grishin. Finally, future hall of fame Andre Arlovski returns for his 53rd professional bout and his 36th in the UFC. Carl Ulberg and Fabio Cherant are two of the better prospects at Light Heavyweight and that should be an exciting fight to kick off the prelims. Nonetheless, let’s dive into a very exciting main card and my picks for the event.
Previous Prediction Record: 30-17
BOBBY GREEN VS. NASRAT HAQPARAST
To kick off the main card, Nasrat Haqparast returns, after a loss to Dan Hooker at UFC 266, to hopefully realign himself as a talented prospect in one of the more stacked divisions in the promotion. He faces against Bobby Green who is 2-2 in his last four but coming off of a first-round finish against Al Iaquinta in November of 2021. But when facing elite prospects such as Rafael Fiziev and Tiago Moises, Green has been shown to struggle with technical skill and more of a reckless style of fighting. While this may be much more entertaining for casual fans, it isn’t entirely a winning formula unless your name is Conor McGregor. With a lot more motivation from Haqparast, I expect him to put on one of his better performances with powerful striking and great mechanics.
Official Prediction: Haqparast by Unanimous Decision
ALEXANDER HERNANDEZ VS. RENATO MOICANO
With some movement on the card, Alexander Hernandez and Renato Moicano are now expected to square off on the main card in a closely contested matchup between two fighters who have had their fair share in the promotion. Hernandez has failed to have a winning streak of more than two since 2018 when he first joined the UFC. But he has earned his fair share of finishes including Chris Gruetzemacher and his most recent one against Mike Breeden. On the other hand, Moicano is a slick submission specialist who is currently coming off of a win in June against Jai Herbert. The American Top Team prospect has yet to show legitimacy in the striking department, as he’s been knocked out three times. That could prove trouble against Hernandez who specializes in putting faces to the canvas. Unless he can miraculously avoid big shots from Hernandez, I expect Alexander the Great to earn another finish to his resume.
Official Prediction: Hernandez by KO/TKO
JARED CANNONIER VS. DEREK BRUNSON
Likely a number one contender fight at middleweight, Derek Brunson vs. Jared Cannonier brings an interesting battle of wrestling vs. striking. Derek Brunson, a 20-fight UFC veteran, has shown massive improvement in his timing and technique that has helped him on a five-fight winning streak including wins over Kevin Holland and Darren Till. On the other hand, Jared Cannonier has shown only improvement since moving down from heavyweight. His volume and awareness have been hard to handle for anyone in the division. He showed phenomenal takedown defense against Kelvin Gastelum, defending all eight attempts. The biggest question is how’ll that carry over against Brunson who is has made the improvements? I think Cannonier has the ability to force this fight to stay standing with defense being a known focus in his training camp. I expect him to earn a title unless Whittaker is able to force a trilogy.
Official Prediction: Cannonier by KO/TKO
DERRICK LEWIS VS. TAI TUIVASA
Tai Tuivasa has been one of the fasting rising stars in the UFC with his booming finishes topped off by a shoey on the fence of the octagon after every victory. He’s on a four-fight knockout streak with all but one coming in the first round. He’s earned his spot at the co-main event and the No. 11 beside his name. At only 28 years old, he’ll be around as a ranked fighter for a long time in the heavyweight division. However, He is taking a massive leap challenging the Black Beast who stands as the second-ranked fighter in the division. Derrick Lewis is an absolute wrecking ball and has been doing the kind of damage Tuivasa has done for much longer. He’s ruined fighters with just one punch and his right hand is one of the strongest. Even after his loss to Ciryl Gane, Lewis proved he never lost a step when he finished Chris Daukaus in another first-round finish. Not to mention this fight is in Houston, and Lewis knows he owes the fans a much better performance after a lackluster one at UFC 265. Expect a barnburner for Lewis to remain a top contender at heavyweight.
Official Prediction: Lewis by KO/TKO
ISRAEL ADESANYA VS. ROBERT WHITTAKER
Israel Adesanya has been the king in the middleweight division since winning the belt against Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 and has raised to high to being one of the faces of the promotion along with Kamaru Usman and Conor McGregor. He has put on flawless performances in his title defenses including a phenomenal striking performance against Paulo Costa, walking away basically untouched after picking him apart the entire fight. He’s also shown a ton of improvement with his defensive wrestling, defending 10 takedowns against Marvin Vettori in his most recent fight. But Robert Whittaker has also put on flawless performances of his own since the loss to Adesanya. He’s done it against some of the divisions best, handling Darren Till, Kelvin Gastelum, and Jared Cannonier all with ease. Whittaker claims that a winning formula for Adesanya was shown when Izzy fought Jan Blachowicz. But I think Adesanya has far improved in the wrestling department. I wouldn’t be surprised this fight stays standing and The Last Stylebender earns another title defense with his beautiful precision striking.
Official Prediction: Adesanya by Unanimous Decision