UFC returns to the familiar city of Las Vegas to settle some bad blood between two former American Top Team teammates in Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. The two combatants will get to settle their hatred for each other in a five-round main event. While this is the first pay-per-view card that doesn’t feature a belt or Conor McGregor in a very long time, this is not a card to overlook.
A lot of quality prospects will have their chance to raise their stock to hopefully get a crack at the rankings. Mariya Agapova, Umar Nurmagovedov, Devonta Smith, Nicolae Negumereanu, Kennedy Nzechukwu, and Jalin Turner are some of the more recognizable names scattered across the prelims.
Let’s dive right into the predictions of what should be another exciting main card.
Previous Prediction Record: 32-20
SERGEY SPIVAK VS. GREG HARDY
Former NFL star, Greg Hardy, was once poised to be a top prospect in the heavyweight division. But after being knocked out in his last two fights against Marcin Tybura and Tai Tuivasa while becoming the first fighter to ever miss the heavyweight weight limit, Hardy has lost some of his spotlight. His opponent, Sergey Spivak, is coming off of a loss to Tom Aspinall, but has ripped off key wins against Alexey Oleynik, Jared Vanderaa, and Carlos Felipe. His mixture of strong wrestling and power striking has given him a myriad of finishes throughout his career. Unless Hardy shows great improvement in his overall wrestling defense, I expect that to be his Spivak’s primary formula to secure the win and have him back on track moving up the heavyweight rankings.
Official Prediction: Spivak by Submission
KEVIN HOLLAND VS. ALEX OLIVEIRA
After going 5-0 in 2020, Kevin Holland’s wrestling defensive flaws were exposed by dropping his last two main event bouts to Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori in 2021. Holland followed those fights with a no-contest against Kyle Daukaus after an accidental clash of heads. A new year comes with a new change for Holland as he finally moves down weight classes to 170 pounds after teasing the idea for months. His 170 pound debut comes against veteran Alex Oliveira, an experienced wrestler who is currently on a three-fight losing streak. Holland’s frame and length proved to be a massive advantage at middleweight and that should only be a bigger advantage at a lighter weight class. Assuming he’s improved his take-down defense during training sessions leading up to the bout, Kevin Holland should have a pretty convincing win and put the rest of the class on notice.
Official Prediction: Holland by KO/TKO
EDSON BARBOZA VS. BRYCE MITCHELL
Season 27 winner of The Ultimate Fighter, Bryce Mitchell, returns after a 17-month layoff to square off against veteran Edson Barboza. A slick submission specialist, Mitchell AKA “Thug Nasty,” is riding a five-fight winning streak including four decision wins, proving his durability and cardio to endure multiple rounds. Approximately 45 percent of his time inside of the octagon has been spent on the ground, a level that only fighters such as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev have met. His formula to win is ground and pound with an eventual submission. But his main concern should be Barboza’s hands as he is the clear favorite in the striking department. Barboza also hasn’t been submitted since 2015 by Tony Ferguson, so Mitchell has a tall mountain to climb. I think it will be a tough task considering the layoff too. I expect Barboza to bank another win against a young up-and-comer and hold his ranking.
Official Prediction: Barboza by Unanimous Decision
RAFAEL DOS ANJOS VS. RENATO MOICANO
After Rafael Fizev had to pull out due to a positive COVID-19 test, Renato Moicano joined the card on 10 days notice and the fight has been moved up to 160 lb catchweight. Moicano is coming off a submission win against Alexander Hernandez in February at UFC 271. He now faces former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, who is fighting his second bout since moving back down from 170. He showcased a dominant win against Paul Felder, but that was 16 months ago and injuries have delayed his return to the octagon. Grappling will take center stage in this matchup as both fighters combine for 19 submission finishes. I do think Moicano’s best strategy is to avoid groundwork as he did not have a full camp coming into this fight. Moicano has a chance to win in the stand-up, but I think it’s a tough task to pull off an upset against a former champ who is back in his natural weight class and hungry to get back to fighting.
Official Prediction: dos Anjos by Unanimous Decision
COLBY COVINGTON VS. JORGE MASVIDAL
Entering his 51st professional bout, Jorge Masvidal, is known as the guy who can pull off sneaky victories where he isn’t favored. His flying knee knockout of Ben Askren will go down as one of the best finishes of all time. Wins over Darren Till and Nate Diaz show his grit and toughness in situations where he’s labeled as the underdog. Covington has to make this a wrestling match to have any chance of winning. Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is a huge challenge stand-up-wise because of his dynamic style with a lot of kick and knee movement. Recent back-to-back losses against Kamaru Usman have to spark some fire for Masvidal to improve his wrestling defense. I think if the bad blood is real between the two, the big brother effect will play at large too. As Masvidal has stated that he provided a lot for Covington upon entering the MMA scene. I think Gamebred shows off for the fans and adds another exciting finish to his resume of knockouts.
Official Prediction: Masvidal by KO/TKO