For UFC 274 we are heading to the ever-growing city of Phoenix, Arizona where last minute changes have led to a vacant title fight against two of the best in the lightweight division. The co-main event is just as electric, and a possible rematch for the ages as a fellow champion looks to establish her legacy as one of the new belt-holders.
UFC 274 is filled with a lot of MMA legends competing in likely the final matches of their career. Of course, the undercard always fills out as well. Randy Brown vs. Khaos Williams should be a thrilling bout between two of the best prospects at welterweight. Andre Fialho will have another chance to build hype to his name against Cameron VanCamp. The flyweight division will look to add another legitimate contender from the winner of Brandon Royval and Matt Schnell. Danny Roberts vs. Francisco Trinaldo is another rousing clash between two welterweight prospects. Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marco Rogerio de Lima and Macy Chiasson vs. Norma Dumont are also two compelling bouts that could easily bring flashing finishes.
As always, let’s break down predictions for the main card.
Previous Prediction Record: 38-24
JOE LAUZON VS. DONALD CERRONE
While Donald Cerrone will very likely be a UFC Hall of Famer when his career finally concludes, he has yet to win a fight since 2019. He’s been a stand-up guy by taking on the best of the best and never turning down a match, but it is clear that the end is near and it would be best for him to end on a high note. At 37, the same can be said for Joe Lauzon. After a first-round knockout against Jonathan Pearce in 2019, he hasn’t fought since. Cerrone has been knocked out three times in his last five fights, all within the first round as well. With Lauzon taking almost three years off could be an advantage for him, considering Cerrone fights multiple times a year and continues to take damage. Cerrone’s submission game has been the hallmark of his career, but it’ll be the hands that showcase once again as Lauzon will earn back-to-back finishes despite the time off.
Official Prediction: Lauzon by KO/TKO
MAURICIO RUA VS. OVINCE SAINT PREUX
Two more legends face off in UFC 274, as Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, returns after a two-year layoff to continue his lustrous career against Ovince Saint Preux. Shogun, a masterclass fighter during his time with PRIDE, was once one of the best heavyweights on the planet. Even at 40-years-old, he hasn’t completely lost his step. In July of 2020, he earned a convincing win in a rematch against Rogerio Nogueira. But a brutal loss against Paul Craig is where stands now. Saint Preux, on the other hand, has been a bit more active during his time with the promotion, but has back-to-back losses against Jamahal Hill and Tanner Boser. OSP brings a significant reach advantage to this matchup, partnering that with his great striking could prove problamatic for Shogun. If Shogun can keep the fight on the ground with his proven wrestling skills, this could lead to a very easy win. Although, I’d imagine the match ending differently, in favor of OSP and tallying another finish to the Haitian legend.
Official Prediction: Saint Pruex by KO/TKO
TONY FERGUSON VS. MICHAEL CHANDLER
Since his interim title fight loss to Justin Gaethje in spring 2020, Tony Ferguson, has struggled to retain his footing since his 12-fight win streak. Ferguson was utterly dominated by Charles Oliveira and Beniel Dariush, and has yet to notch a single win in his last 11 rounds of MMA. Chandler is a former champion with the Bellator MMA promotion, and was quick to earn a title shot after knocking out Dan Hooker in his debut. Chandler came in as a credentialed wrestler with a lot of power in his hands, yet he was unable to achieve gold, and lost a scrapper against Justin Gaethje. Without knowing where Ferguson physically is at this point in his career, it’s easy to assume Chandler should win this fight. It’ll be tough for Ferguson to pull out the victory, but is best bet is to keep his distance and use length to his advantage, and avoid Chandler’s power.
Official Prediction: Chandler by Unanimous Decision
ROSE NAMAJUNAS VS. CARLA ESPARZA
Nearly eight years ago, Carla Esparza, put up an incredible performance to win The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 Finale against Rose Namajunas. Now, they face-off again in much different positions, as much different fighters. Namajunas recently completed a phenomenal two-fight performance against Zhang Weili, proving that the first wasn’t a lucky finish and that she can compete with and beat the best of the best. Namajunas’ striking is considered to be some of the best in women’s MMA, and her submissions are where she’s earned some of her best finishes to date. On the other hand, Esparza has been on an absolute tear for the last four years. Her cardio has proved tremendous as four of her last five wins have been via decision. To top it off, she finished Yan Xiaonan in May. She’s as well-rounded as one could be. This is easily one of the closest matchups on the entire card, but I think it’s the champion that prevails in the end. Her mindset in rematches is unbeatable, as she could go 4-0 with a win against Esparza. Namajunas will cement her legacy as an established champion with only more to come in the future.
Official Prediction: Namajunas by Unanimous Decision
CHARLES OLIVEIRA VS. JUSTIN GAETHJE
Now with a vacant title on the line after Charles Oliveira missed the UFC 274 championship weight by half a pound, the landscape of this fight completely changes. Oliveira finished his last two title fights in dramatic fashion, his next against Justin Gaethje could almost certainly be as well. But Gaethje is no joke, outside of his fight against now UFC Hall of Famer, Khabib Nurmagomedov, he’s been almost perfect since late 2018. Four of his last five wins have been knockouts with three coming in the first round. He’s earned 19 knockouts to his 23 MMA wins. His wrestling has only improved which could prove vital in this fight. His weakness has been against grapplers, as it looked almost effortless for Nurmagomedov to submit Gaethje in the second round . Oliveira has his weaknesses as well. He’s been very vulnerable to elite strikers in the past, almost getting finished against Chandler and Dustin Poirier. But his magic has worked before and I would expect the same here. Oliveira’s grappling could be overwhelming for Gaethje. But with Oliveira’s mindset now in a completely different place, and Gaethje being coached by one of the best in Trevor Wittman, it becomes Gaethje’s belt to lose at this point. Heavy hands should prove to be too much for Oliveira to keep the title vacant. I’m expecting the landscape for the division to look different after Gaethje becomes champion.
Official Prediction: Gaethje by KO/TKO