UFC 277 Predictions

The UFC returns to Dallas, Texas for the first time in four years to put on another stacked pay-per-view event. The TUF 30 coaches bout is finally here between Juliana Pena and Amanda Nunes. It’ll bring a very important dynamic to the future of UFC women’s divisions. A flyweight interim belt is also on the line between of the most exciting fighters in the division. Of course, the prelims are filled out with entertaining fights as well. Undefeated Michael Morales is a fighter to keep an eye on in the future and he squares against Adam Fugitt. Drakkar Klose and Rafa Garcias should be scattered with highlights. Drew Dober and Rafael Aves is a great fight between two long-time veterans with the promotion. Hamdy Abdelwahab should have a fun debut against Don’Tale Mayes too. The opening fights on the early prelims should be packed with action as well. Nonetheless, let’s break down the main card.

Previous prediction record: 45-29

MAGOMED ANKALAEV VS. ANTHONY SMITH

Magomed Ankalaev has slowly crept up in the ever-changing light heavyweight division. He burst onto the scene with a main event win over Thiago Santos that really demonstrated his dominance as a potential future division champion. Ankalaev is just entering his prime as he turned 30 last month. His combination of power and accuracy gives him some of the best striking in the division. He’s even added some offensive and defensive wrestling to switch up the fight when need be. He gets a big step up against Anthony Smith who has revitalized his career since his 2020 loss to Aleksander Rakic. Smith has been on a three-fight win streak including key wins over Jimmy Crute and Ryan Spann. Lionheart brings a massive advantage when it comes to experience as he’s had multiple title opportunities including a loss against Jon Jones in 2019. But his overall ability had definitely faded as he went up in age. It’s hard to see a formula to win against someone who has been so perfect to start his career with the promotion. Ankalaev will likely be considered in the title shot conversation with this statement win.

Official Prediction: Ankalaev by KO/TKO

ALEXANDRE PANTOJA VS. ALEX PEREZ

Alexandre Pantoja has been one of the most underrated contenders in the flyweight division considering there have already been three fights between Brandon Morano and Deiveson Figueiredo and potentially a fourth. But his back-to-back wins over Manel Kape and Brandon Royval have shown he’s more than capable to compete with the best of the best even as he waits for his shot. His well-roundedness makes him a threat in standup and on the mat. He faces a well-talented Alex Perez who is coming off of a title fight loss against Figueiredo back in November of 2020. Perez has had multiple fight cancellations due to injury and missed weight. It’s hard to imagine ring rust not being a factor for him. Perez still has a lot of size and length that gives him crafty striking. His BJJ is also at a high level, having seven submissions to his name. I see Pantoja’s versatility causing a lot of problems for Perez to be able to implement his game plan. Pantoja should be looking at a potential title shot with this win.

Official Prediction: Pantoja by Submission

DERRICK LEWIS VS. SERGEI PAVLOVICH

Another underrated Russian fighter earns his pay-per-view debut with his own incredible run through the heavyweight division. Sergei Pavlovich has won four of his last five fights. All of the wins came within the first round including a recent finish of Shamil Abdurakhimov in March that really titled him as a legitimate contender. His power is unbelievable for the division, filled with knock-out power fighters. Derrick Lewis, on the other hand, is the knockout leader in the promotion and brings a ton of veteran experience in every new fight he steps in. He let his last bout slip away against Tai Tuivasa because he was unable to keep up with his speed and was eventually finished. It’s hard to see what Derrick Lewis could do to realistically improve his game if he is at the stage where he going to gatekeep against up-and-coming heavyweights. The bout against Tuivasa exposed a lot of his weaknesses against more dynamic and quicker strikers. Pavlovich will no doubt overwhelm Lewis with patterns of strikes, one of which will likely lead to a knockout.

Official Prediction: Pavlovich by KO/TKO

BRANDON MORENO VS. KAI KARA-FRANCE

After a trilogy series with champion Deiveson Figueiredo, Brandon Moreno returns for another championship opportunity to win the interim flyweight title. It’s unclear why an interim belt is being offered, whether it is injury or the possibility that Figueiredo plans to move up to bantamweight. Nonetheless, Moreno could already be seen as the champion in the division with all the chaos that has happened between the first three fights with Figueiredo. Moreno brings an extra level of grit that has carried him to multiple wins even when he wasn’t considered the more skilled fighter. Nonetheless, he does bring an impressive BJJ game that can be lethal at any point during the fight. Kai-Kara France has gained some excitement of his own after two first-round knockouts against Rogerio Bontorin and Cody Garbrandt. This was immediately followed up by an impressive decision win over Askar Askarov. Kara-France packs a lot of power in his hands despite his size, already recording 11 finishes. Giving Moreno his first-ever defeat by finish will be his only path to victory. But championship experience will certainly have its edge and Brandon Moreno will be square up for a fourth fight against the God of War.

Official Prediction: Morano by Unanimous Decision

JULIANNA PENA VS. AMANDA NUNES

The TUF 30 coaches finally square off after a very tense season that will be completed on August 6th. But this rematch between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena will have a completely different dynamic compared to the first fight. It starts with Amanda’s approach. She clearly didn’t look right in the first fight, whether it was a tough weight cut or a poor replenishment. She completely failed to establish her game plan. For Juliana, she can’t just hard charge as she did in the first fight. She continuously stepped forward and continued striking because of Amanda’s disadvantage from the start. Julianna has to expect a much more prepared and healthier Nunes on Saturday because she’ll have to contain a lot more threats. For Amanda, she has to get more creative to get past Julianna, which he should be well prepared for already. Nunes is one of the most well-rounded women’s fighters on the planet. I think it’s more than fair to assume Nunes had an off night the first fight and she is still well in her prime and more talented than anyone in this promotion. She’ll completely overwhelm Julianna and likely earn a finish in some capacity. What’s next could be a very interesting path because Valentina Schevchenko has had her eye on a rematch with Nunes for a while.

Official Prediction: Nunes by Submission

The Winners and Losers of the 2022 NBA Draft

The 2022 NBA Draft has passed and while many questions were answered, plenty of important ones weren’t. While some teams capitalized heavily on improving their rosters, other instead chose to defer their futures despite the plethora of veterans available for trade. Here are some of the biggest winners and losers of the 2022 NBA Draft. 

Winners: Detroit Pistons

There’s no question that the biggest winner of the draft is the Detroit Pistons after their stellar moves. While it was likely that Jaden Ivey was going to fall into their lap because of the lack of fit and interest for Ivey with the Kings, this is still an A+ pick for the franchise. 

Cade Cunningham has demonstrated a lot of point-forward skill and tendencies, making him more of a positionless franchise player for the Pistons rather than someone who is an automatic lock for the starting backcourt. Due to his size, Cunningham could easily fit offensively in a lineup as the power forward with consistent shooters around him. He could also be the point guard surrounded by athletic wings because of his playmaking ability. 

Jaden Ivey solidifies himself as one part of the backcourt and a perfect franchise partner with Cunningham. As another uber-athletic guard, Ivey brings a ton of swagger and identity to the Pistons that have lacked a household name like that since Grant Hill due to their poor development of top draft selections. Additionally, Ivey’s ball handling could ease the burden of third-year guard Killian Hayes, who has struggled thus far in his young career.

But the Pistons’ draft success didn’t stop there. They were also able to cash in on a favorable three-team trade with the Hornets and the Knicks and bring in one of the best big men in the entire draft in Jalen Duren. He’s another athletic center that should form a successful pick and roll duo with Ivey and Cunningham. His inside offensive game could use some development but what he brings defensively will make him an instant impact player for the Pistons. They also got a great development prospect in Ismael Kamagateout of France. He’ll likely be a draft stash for a few seasons but his size and frame give him a ton of upside if he can develop in the Summer League and overseas. 

Winners: San Antonio Spurs

While the Spurs now look like they’re entirely blowing things up after trading their only all-star in Dejounte Murray, they still had a successful draft this offseason. It starts with Jeremy Sochan out of Baylor University. Despite only starting in one college game, Sochan’s size and swiss army knife kind of ability make him a perfect prospect for the Spurs to select. He brings a ton of versatility to find his role with the future of the Spurs while they now go through a full rebuild. He also needs a lot of improvement, especially his shooting splits. But because of the rebuild, Sochan will have a few seasons of leniency for growth without much expectation.

The same can be said for Malaki Branham, a freshman out of Ohio State. Branham is a three-level scorer who puts up great percentages and can be a perfect complementary player with a lot of upside if he’s able to develop and improve his isolation game. 

Lastly, the Spurs snagged Blake Wesley out of Notre Dame with their last first-round pick. A point guard also with a lot of upside, Blake Wesley’s athleticism highlights his overall game. He’s no doubt a developmental prospect after shooting low percentages his only season at Notre Dame. 

With some development, which they have a phenomenal history of doing for decades, the Spurs have a great chance to continue to set themselves up for success in the future. 

Losers: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland has had its history of poor draft selections. Of course, going back to 2007 when they selected Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant is the most notable of misses. But it’s much more extensive than just that. It starts going back as far as 1996 when they selected Jermaine O’Neal, a six-time all-star but only averaging four points with the franchise before being given away to the Pacers. Martell Webster at sixth overall in 2005 was another bust for the franchise. Zach Collins in 2017 and Meyers Leonard in 2011 never panned out either. Portland also failed to hit on any of their later selections excluding Zach Randolph at 19th overall in 2001. Yes, they hit on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and a draft night trade for LaMarcus Aldridge. They also have a steal in the making with Anfernee Simons.

But there’s a trend with the picks that Portland hits on. They’re way more NBA-ready prospects when coming to the league. Lillard instantly impacted the Blazers, and McCollum carved out a role within two and a half years. It’s going to be hard for the Trail Blazers to justify picking the project labeled draft prospect when they have failed to develop most project players for the last 20 years. Sharpe certainly brings a lot of size and skill to the team. However, not playing any college or post-high school basketball is going to be detrimental to his development if Portland cannot add any support. Time will only tell, but Dyson Daniels from the G-League would have been a much safer selection for a team that is in dire need of high upside prospects to build a new core with. 

Losers: New York Knicks

Jalen Bruson is a great basketball player just entering his prime at 25 years old. But what the Knicks are doing to guarantee he signs with the team is questionable for their future. For starters, they’re paying and playing him like a number one option, something that he has yet to prove in his four years. His 2022 playoff run has been his peak, but that came playing alongside Luka Doncic, who draws the opposing team’s best defenders. How will that work with Brunson as the best scoring option for the Knicks? We’ll have to see, but it’s certainly a risk worth considering.

The Knicks also cut some of their depth by trading away role players in Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel to clear cap space for the signing. Credit does need to be given for shedding Kemba Walker’s contract; that was a necessary move. 

But, the big miss for the Knicks came when they passed on two quality prospects for questionable future assets. They first traded the 11th overall pick to the Thunder for the following draft picks: 2023 first-round pick via Detroit (protected 1-18 until 2024, protected 1-13 in 2025, protected 1-11 in 2026, protected 1-9 in 2027). 2023 first-round pick via Washington (protected 1-14 in 2023, protected 1-12 in 2024, protected 1-10 in 2025, protected 1-8 in 2026). 2023 first-round pick via Denver (protected 1-14 until 2025). A lot of protections that likely won’t hit until the selections fall to the 20s in future years. 

At 11, the Thunder selected Ousmane Dieng, a versatile point forward from France who brings unorthodox size and skill, a clear pattern for the team as they select another potential “unicorn” kind of player. The Knicks also passed up on Jalen Duren when shedding Walker’s contract, giving up four future second-round picks in the process. Instead, they continue to roll with Mitchell Robinson, carrying a lot of risk with his injury-prone history and lack of offensive game. These moves aren’t ones that move the needle for the Knicks, and there could have been better alternatives to bolster their roster in order to make another push for a playoff run. 

Draft Profile: Jaden Ivey

Name: Jaden Ivey

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 195

Age: 20

Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard 

College/Organization: Purdue

NBA Comparison: Donovan Mitchell/Ja Morant

Strengths: One of the most explosive guards in this class with elite-level athleticism. He plays with a very high motor from the beginning to the end of the game. Ivey is an excellent finisher around the rim, highlighted with some of the best dunks in all of college basketball last season. His ability and speed in the open court are also very lethal. Ivey is great at creating contact at the rim to earn free throw opportunities. Ivey is also effective in the pick and roll. He’s also an above-average rebounder for his position and will be a nightly triple-double threat in his prime. 

Weaknesses: While his three-point shot did improve a ton from his freshman to his sophomore season, it is still below the preferred mark for players that play his position. His playmaking abilities could definitely improve, as he only averaged around three assists with more than two turnovers per game. While he’s great at getting to the rim and earning trips to the line, there’s plenty of room for improvement with his free throw shooting, holding a 73 percent average at Purdue. His shot selection and decision-making could also use a tune-up. Not the smartest player defensively and will often gamble and pick up unnecessary fouls. 

Outlook: One of the best guards in the draft, Ivey will likely be selected within the top five because of his elite athleticism and energy. While he does have a high ceiling with plenty of room to improve, his offensive capabilities make him an instant impact for any of the teams selecting in the top five. The biggest question is can he elevate his game offensively? It’s almost impossible to last in the NBA without a legitimate shot from three. When will the development for Ivey come to elevate his game to a potential top 50 player or even higher?

Draft Profile: Jabari Smith Jr.

Name: Jabari Smith
Height: 6’10”

Weight: 220

Age: 19

Position: Small Forward/Power Forward

College/Organization: Auburn

NBA Comparison: Rashard Lewis

Strengths: Filled with a ton of length and physical capabilities, Jabari Smith comes in as one of the most well-rounded prospects with the most upside. He’s an effective scorer from all three levels including a 42 percent three-point percentage. Smith is an effective free throw shooter as well, holding a percentage around 80%. He limits turning the ball over, averaging less than two turnovers per game. His balance of athleticism and finesse is on an elite level. He’s great with and without the ball in terms of off-ball movement. Overall, Smith has a high-quality IQ for the offensive game. At the same time, he’s not the most elite defender, but Smith’s physical capabilities allow him to be versatile while not being forced to take a ton of risks to put himself into foul trouble. He’s able to guard 1-5 despite a thinner frame for his height, averaging 1.5 steals and a block per game.

Weaknesses: Adding more muscle could unlock so much more for his style of play. NBA physicality could be an issue if he doesn’t add any muscle to his frame. While he is an excellent three-level scorer, his mid-range is easily the weakest of the three. His rebounding numbers are also a bit underwhelming for his frame. He’s not the most gifted passer either. His ball-handling could also always use improvement for more elite defenders. 

NBA Outlook: Smith comes into the draft with the combination of a high ceiling but also a skill set that makes him a ready now prospect that can impact any team immediately. Being the first overall pick is certainly not out of the question for Smith’s skill set. Smith can easily be a number one option offensively for a rebuilding team. The Magic, Rockets, and Thunder could all use someone like Smith who comes into the league as potentially the next Kevin Durant but with a high floor of a dynamic scorer. 

International Fight Week: UFC 276 Predictions

The UFC prepares for International Fight Week with its biggest card of the year taking place in the city of Las Vegas. UFC  276 is highlighted by one of the most exciting fighters on the planet, this card is far from disappointing, and is filled with a ton of exciting prospects, along with a stellar main card. The prelims, which will air on ABC, could easily fill the main card of a UFC Fight Night. Dricus Du Plessis is one of the more exciting prospects in the middleweight division and his fight against Brad Tavares is an exciting start to the prelims. Ian Garry has already been deemed the next Conor McGregor, and a win against Gabe Green would be a huge boost to his resume. Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller are both legends far beyond the promotion. Finally, Brad Riddell and Jalen Turner is an excellent prelims headliner, with both fighters looking to crack the UFC rankings. Not to mention, well-known fighters, Uriah Hall and Andre Muniz headline the early prelims as well . Nonetheless, let’s break down the main card predictions.

Previous Prediction Record: 43-27

PEDRO MUNHOZ VS. SEAN O’MALLEY

Sean O’Malley brings a new wave of entertainment to the entire promotion with the crazy hair colors and an unorthodox fighting style. The “Unranked Champ” has completely slashed through every opponent since his injury loss to Marlon Vera. His length has given him a massive advantage in both boxing and kickboxing. Not to mention that he has a very underrated jujitsu game that he has yet to utilize because of his dominant striking. He faces Pedro Munhoz, an experienced veteran holding a ranked spot for multiple years now. However, Munhoz is 1-4 in his last five fights, only with a win over Jimmie Rivera who isn’t with the promotion anymore. This could be seen as a fight for a spot bout for Munhoz. But it’s hard to see him winning without some dominant jujitsu. O’Malley will likely overwhelm him with his striking and hopefully, can be taken as a serious fighter in one of the most stacked divisions in the UFC.

Official Prediction: O’Malley by KO/TKO

ROBBIE LAWLER VS. BRYAN BARBERENA

Two of the best scrappers in the welterweight division, the Robbie Lawler vs. Bryan Barberena match should be an all-out brawl. Lawler, a former contender, has continued to fight the best of the best in the division. He is recently coming off of a weird win against Nick Diaz that might have added a little heat to his name. But nonetheless, Lawler is a brawler in this game and goes the depths with anyone he’s asked to fight. The same can go for Barberena, who is coming off of back-to-back wins against Matt Brown and Darian Weeks. He has the nickname “Bam Bam” for a reason. He is willing to walk through heaven and hell to earn a victory. His striking defense is also a bit crisper than Lawler’s, which could be vital. Barberena looks to be more on a roll, plus his age definitely plays as an advantage for him in a style of fight where both guys are going to be taking a lot of punches. Realistically, I imagine him coming out of this fight victorious.

Official Prediction: Barberena by KO/TKO

SEAN STRICKLAND VS. ALEX PEREIRA

Since moving up to the middleweight division, Sean Strickland, has been on an absolute tear and will put himself on the map as a legitimate title contender if he’s able to win this fight. His domination against Uriah Hall and Krzysztof Jotko showed his ceiling, while the brawl he went through against Jack Harmanson showed the lengths he’s willing to go to for a win. Strickland now faces his toughest opponent yet in Alex Pereira, who has otherworldly kickboxing skills. Known for beating Adesanya twice in another promotion, Pereira comes in with a ton of hype as the guy who could possibly dethrone The Last Stylebender at 185 pounds division. But as always, it’s important to focus on the fight in front of him. Pereira lacks a legitimate wrestling game and it showed early in recent bouts, but he was still able to earn wins with his striking. This becomes a more complicated situation with Strickland, who has a decent enough wrestling game to win the fight. He’ll have to take the fight to the ground, even though he hasn’t shown a lot of it in his fights at middleweight. If Strickland is able to keep Pereira’s kickboxing at bay, and use some of his wrestling techniques, this should be a steady decision win for Tarzan.

Official Prediction: Strickland by Unanimous Decision

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI VS. MAX HOLLOWAY

Despite Alexander Volkanovski winning the first two fights against Max Holloway, a trilogy became almost inevitable when Holloway showed dominance against Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez over the last year and a half. Now after dealing with injuries, the time has finally come for Holloway to earn his revenge. But in all honesty, he shouldn’t have to. Halloway won the second fight and I believe that poor judging changed the course of his division. Holloway was able to knock him down twice and stay consistent for the remainder of the fight, while Volkanovski became impatient and desperate for hits. Holloway definitely needs to improve on his wrestling defense if he wants any chance of earning the belt back, because Volkanovski has only displayed improved wrestling in his recent defenses. On the other hand, Volkanovski is one of the most complete fighters in the division. His brilliant game plan against Brian Ortega turned heads, and many believe that he’s destined to be the champion. Volkanovski followed that up with a steamroll against the Korean Zombie. At 30 years old, I believe Holloway has yet to show us his true prime despite the run he had years ago in the division. Some may see another robbery at hand, but I see Holloway narrowly winning the trilogy and potentially solidifying himself as the best featherweight of all time.

Official Prediction: Holloway by Split Decision

ISRAEL ADESANYA VS. JARED CANNONIER

One of the best pound-for-pound fighters currently part of the promotion, Israel Adesanya, comes in as a heavyweight for his fifth title fight against Jared Cannonier. Adesanya is coming off of a stellar performance against Robert Whittaker, where some of his best skills were on display. Adesanya demonstrated accurate striking and his ability to hide his kicks and punches is spectacular. I could see this fight following a similar direction as his technique has proved more than successful to this point. Only Jan Blachowicz in a different weight class has been able to exploit his flaws. He’s only separated himself from the rest of the contenders in this division with his recent title defenses. Cannonier does pack a lot of power in his hands, as he displayed that in his win against Derek Brunson. That could be one aspect that leads to a new champion. Cannonier even showed some wrestlingskill, but I can’t imagine that’ll be a factor in this bout. His best chance may be by luck with a knockdown or two to catch Adesany off guard. But The Last Stylebender has been all too perfect with his defense in recent fights, and I don’t see this fight being very close at all. It may be time for the UFC to start exploring bigger fights outside of the division for Adesanya, because Robert Whittaker has been the only challenger to give Adesanya even a little bit of trouble during his title reign.

Official Prediction: Adesanya by KO/TKO

UFC 275 Predictions

The UFC takes their first overseas event as they kick off the summer months with a pay-per-view event in Kallang, Singapore headlined by two title fights and a highly anticipated rematch between two of the most competitive women’s strawweight fighters. As always, the prelims are filled with a ton of exciting prospects. SeungWoo Choi and Josh Culibo are two of the better prospects in the featherweight division. Brandon Allen is an exciting veteran who always brings finishes to his matches. Andre Fialho is fighting his fourth fight with the promotion in the year. The matchup between Maheshate Maheshate and Steve Garcia should also bring a ton of action. As always, let’s break down the main card predictions.

Previous Prediction Record: 40-26

JACK DELLA MADDALENA VS. RAMAZAN EMEEV

After an exciting debut with the promotion in January, where he knocked out Pete Rodriguez, Jack Della Maddalena puts his name on the map for the welterweight division. He’s been on an 11fight win streak since losing his first two professional bouts in 2016. Della Maddalena packs a ton of power in his hands, as all but two of his wins have come by KO/TKO. But he faces a big challenge against Ramazan Emeev, who is mainly known for his wrestling and jujitsu. Emeev currently holds seven submissions to his name but hasn’t achieved one since 2016 with the M-1 Challenge promotion. In fact, every fight since then has gone to some form of a decision. But Emeev is coming off of a close loss against Danny Roberts, where Emeev struggles to earn takedowns and was forced to stay on his feet. As long as Della Maddalena can do the same,I imagine he earns another finish to his name with his elite striking.

Official Prediction: Della Maddalena by KO/TKO

ROGERIO BONTORIN VS. MANEL KAPE

Two of the better flyweight prospects the promotion has to offer, the winner between Manel Kape and Rogerio Bontorin could be set up for a title contention next. After coming into the UFC in 2019 after domination in Rizin FF, Manel Kape had a ton of hype but failed to turn it into winning production. He would lose his first two fights against Alexandre Pantoja and Matheus Nicolau and all seemed confused for Kape. But back-to-back first-round knockouts have set Kape back on the track he originally started and now has a chance to put himself in the title picture. His well-roundness has made him difficult for opponents to control. He’s always been a submission threat but the power is legit. On the other hand, Bontorin has some slickness of his own, having 11 submissions to his name. But he has been on a slump, having three losses and a draw in his last four fights. He is most recently coming off of a split decision loss to Brandon Royval. I can’t imagine Bontorin having the capability to stop the hype of Kape right now. This should be a clean finishing victory for Kape.

Official Prediction: Kape by KO/TKO

ZHANG WEILI VS. JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK

After one of the most exciting fights from 2020, the rematch between Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk is finally here. While Zhang had a two-match duel with Rose Namajunis, Jedrzejczyk had not fought since the first fight. After being knocked out in her first matchup against Namajunis, Zhang ended up losing a close split decision in the rematch. But her preparation and game plan could have certainly won her the fight. Jedrzejczyk on the other hand has openly expressed her interest elsewhere in MMA. Similar to the McGregor approach, the former strawweight champion doesn’t seem to have the same interest in fighting as opposed to fighting big matchups for money. Her inactivity could also prove to be an issue in the octagon. Nonetheless, this should be an exciting fight with a ton of activity, but I believe the odds are closer than they should be.

Official Prediction: Zhang by KO/TKO

VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO VS. TAILA SANTOS

Valentina Shevchenko has been one of the most dominant champions in the promotion across the board. She hardly ever lets up any room for her opponents to implement their game plan against her. Her well-roundedness as a fighter makes her almost impossible to handle because of her ability to bring the heat from every aspect of her game. Her win against Jessica Andrade was filled with wrestling and ground and pound before leading to a finish. But her win against Lauren Murphy involved a lot of stand-up and technical striking. Taila Santos on the other side may be her toughest challenge since Amanda Nunes. Santos is coming off of a submission win against Joanne Wood and a four-fight win streak. Her power is immaculate and could easily bring a finish if she lands a combination. But even if Santos is one of the best in the division, Shevchenko is still miles ahead of her, I don’t imagine this fight gets close without some luck from the Santos corner.

Official Prediction: Shevchenko by Unanimous Decision

GLOVER TEIXEIRA VS. JIRI PROCHAZKA

This is easily one of the toughest title fights to predict this year. The challenger, Jiri Prochazka, has only fought twice in the UFC but has been absolutely devastating. He holds 25 knockouts to his 28 wins, including two against Volken Oezdimir and a ridiculous backward spinning elbow against Dominick Reyes. He’s about as reckless as can be, but he’s been perfect in his fights thus far. He has the highest significant strikes landed per minute amongst all active in the division. He’s been completely overwhelming for anyone who crosses his path. But Glover Teixeira has been one of the best comeback stories in the entire promotion. Since his loss to Corey Anderson in 2018, Teixeira has been undefeated. He recently won the belt with a submission victory to become the oldest fighter to earn a belt in promotion history. He’s never been one to count out despite his age and older fighting style. While Prochazka is the big bad wolf who can run the division for years to come, I think it’s not his time to do so. Glover has always been one to pull something out of his sleeve, especially in the wrestling department. If he can avoid Prochazka’s pressure and force him to bite, it could be over from there. While it’ll be extremely close, I think Teixeirawill continue his championship run and earn another defense against an up-and-coming light heavyweight.

Official Prediction: Teixeira by Submission

UFC 274 Predictions

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

UFC 273 Predictions

The UFC returns with another stacked pay-per-view card down in Jacksonville, Florida at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Stadium, the same stadium where nearly a year ago the promotion held its first event with fans since the start of the pandemic. The card for UFC 273 is headlined by two exciting title fights and an additional bout including one of the most exciting prospects in the entire promotion against a former title challenger coming off of a dominant win. As always, the undercard is filled with talented prospects looking to raise their rankings in hopes of cracking the top 15 in their respective divisions. The prelims kick off with a stellar welterweight bout between Mickey Gall and Mike Malott. Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Marcin Tybura should bring the heat in their heavyweight bout that should produce another top contender. Ian Garry, deemed the next Conor McGregor, gets his second UFC bout against Darian Weeks. As always, let’s break down the main card predictions.

Previous Prediction Record: 35-22

VINC PICHEL VS. MARK O. MADSEN

Mark O. Madsen has used his decorated wrestling credentials to pound through his first three fights in the UFC. The Olympic silver medalist came off a close split decision win against the legendary Clay Guida in August. Guida was able to eliminate Madsen’s wrestling threat but was unable to control the lethal body strikes that carried Madsen to victory. Vinc Pichel on the other hand is a much more decorated striker than Madsen. Pichel is looking to be more active after winning three straight fights in the last three years. He’s handled wrestlers like Austin Hubbard with ease and even has a decent offensive wrestling game himself. If Pichel is able to keep Madsen at distance and use his length to his advantage, I would imagine a tough evening for Madsen as he fights to keep his undefeated streak alive.

Official Prediction: Pichel by KO/TKO

MACKENZIE DERN VS. TECIA TORRES

Mackenzie Dern was on a ridiculous tear through the strawweight division before meeting Maria Rodriguez and was unable to implement her own game plan. Despite that, Dern’s run says a lot about what she can do to the rest of the women in her division when on point. She finished three of her four last wins with first-round submissions. Her striking lacks greatly but her jujitsu has made up for it. She’s matched up with another striker in Tecia Torres. However, the big difference between her former opponent, Maria Rodriguez, and Tecia Torres is power, by a significant margin. Torres only has only TKO to her name compared to Rodriguez’s six. Torres does have some solid volume numbers to her name but I can’t imagine this would be much of a concern for Dern once she’s able to get the fight to the ground where she’ll likely dominate.

Official Prediction: Dern by Submission

GILBERT BURNS VS. KHAMZAT CHIMAEV

Khamzat Chimaev has been one of the UFC’s most exciting prospects since McGregor was on his rise. Even after dealing with what was described as a nasty battle with COVID-19, Chimaev still looked perfect in his last fight against Li Jingliang, which ended in a first-round submission. In fact, Chimaev has been almost perfect in all of his bouts in the UFC. He’s had more UFC fights than significant strikes taken, which is absolutely wild to wrap your head around. All of his fights have ended with finishes in the first two rounds, including a 17-second knockout of Gerald Meerschaert. While Gilbert Burns still looks to be in his prime as a fighter, I think Chimaev is too much of an all-around combatant for Burns to manage. Even though I do believe that the odds for this fight are disrespectful towards Burns. He’ll have to improvise outside of his standard gameplay to pull off a sneaky submission if he stands a chance to win. However, Chimaev’s style of offensive wrestling may simply be too much for Burns to have opportunities. Chimaev will likely be fighting for the belt after this expected win.

Official Prediction: Chimaev by Unanimous Decision

ALJAMAIN STERLING VS. PETR YAN

It took thirteen months for the highly anticipated rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan has come to fruition. While Sterling was recovering from neck surgery, Yan claimed the interim belt against Cory Sandhagen in an all-out brawl that showed Yan has a massive chip on his shoulder to earn back what’s his. Especially considering that Yan was winning the first fight and had all the momentum, all the pressure is on him to perform on Saturday’s UFC 273. Even when Sterling was throwing awkward kicks and hooks, Yan barely bit and technically picked Sterling apart once his tank ran out. I can’t expect much to change unless Sterling can pull something out of his back pocket and pull off a quick submission. Sterling stands little chance to be able to outpace Yan so he’ll have to find a finish if he wants any chance to pull the upset. It’s hard to see Sterling winning this fight and a potential finish would only be the cherry on top for Yan’s continued dominant run in the UFC.

Official Prediction: Yan by KO/TKO

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI VS. CHAN SUNG JUNG

Aspiring to become more of a consistent fighter, Alexander Volkanovski looks to defend his title for the second time within a year. While Max Holloway was originally scheduled to earn his belt back, the popular Chan Sung Jung, AKA “Korean Zombie”, stepped in for one last title shot. Coming off a dominant victory against Dan Ige, Korean Zombie has a high mountain to climb after Volkanovski’s last title defense. Volkanovski was forced to the trenches against Brian Ortega, even describing how he saw the lights dim in a nasty choke. But his resilience carried his way to another victory. I don’t see him facing any problems against KZ with his elite-level striking and phenomenal wrestling skills. KZ’s best chance is to pull a historic upset is to bring some surprise submissions that may catch Volkanovski by surprise. But even in Ortega’s best efforts to do the same, “The Great” still prevailed. I expect the trilogy between Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski to be booked for early fall when they can finally settle the controversy from the second fight.

Official Prediction: Volkanovski by Unanimous Decision

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 24

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!

Guards

Jose Alvarado, PG, New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans have done a phenomenal job with developing talent including Herbert Jones as a second-round pick. But Jose Alvarado has been just as impressive recently. He’s provided a big spark off the bench for the Pelicans. In his last 10 games, Alvarado has averaged 10 points, three rebounds, five assists, and 1.8 steals per game. He could improve on his outside shooting but it’s not a major concern considering his role with the team. He’s a great option to roll within the fantasy championships as he rides with the momentum. 

Alec Burks, PG/SG, New York Knicks

Even with all the issues the New York Knicks have had to deal with this season, Alec Burks never fails to still catch fire and go on decent scoring runs. He’s now back in the starting lineup and continues to be a strong scoring option for NYK. In his last 10 games, Burks has averaged 14 points, six rebounds, four assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s also shot a fine 41 percent from beyond the arc. If the Knicks choose to shift some players around, Burks could be one to end up with a contender in the offseason. 

Payton Prichard, PG, Boston Celtics

After an incredible career at the University of Oregon, Payton Prichard unleashed scoring and deep threes have carried over to the NBA. He’s been on a hot streak, earning consistent minutes off the bench. IN his last 10 games, Prichard has been averaging 10 points, two assists, and nearly a steal per game. He’s also shot an absurd 56 percent on over four attempts a game from three. He’s averaging all this in about only 17 minutes per game. Improvement like this could see Prichard earning more minutes for the rest of this season and beyond. 

Forwards

Drew Eubanks, PF, Portland Trail Blazers

Now on his 4th 10-day contract, Drew Eubanks is looking like another young player Portland can add to their mix as they now look to the rebuilding phase. In his last 10 games, Eubanks has averaged 15 points, nine rebounds, and has shot over 60 percent from the field. It would be foolish for the front office not to sign him to a long term deal. Injuries have also given him the opportunity for more averages like for the rest of the season. He’s a perfect player to add for the fantasy championships. 

Marvin Bagley III, PF, Detroit Pistons

After never developing into the superstar he was supposed to be with the Sacramento Kings, Marvin Bagley III has seemed to realign his path with the Detroit Pistons. In his last 10 games. Bagley has averaged 16 points, seven rebounds, and nearly a steal per game. He’s also shot an impressive 56 percent from the field. He could improve on his three-point shooting. But Bagley looks to have finally found a new home where he could develop into a quality player for the Piston’s future. 

Deni Avdija, SF, Washington Wizards

After a slow start to his rookie year, Deni Avdija still looks to be a ways away from the star that many projected him to be coming into the 2020 NBA Draft. With Kyle Kuzma dealing with an injury, Avdija has been given more minutes to show his improvement. In his last 10 games, Avdija has averaged 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists per game. He could use some improvement on his efficiency and shooting percentages. But he still has some solid potential heading into what’ll be his second off-season as a professional. 

Trey Lyles, PF, Sacramento Kings

With Domantas Sabonis expected to miss some games with a knee injury, Trey Lyles has seen an uptick in minutes as a power forward for the Kings. He was also a member of the trade that sent Bagley to the Pistons. In his last 10 games, Lyles has averaged 12 points and eight rebounds while shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 50 percent from the field. Lyles seems to fit well with Alvin Gentry’s system and should be a great option for the rest of the season while Sabonis remains out. 

Centers

Nic Claxton, C/PF, Brooklyn Nets

Nic Claxton has been a great young player for the Brooklyn Nets through his development. He’s been a complementary player to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant as an interior defender and rim runner. In his last 10 games, Claxton has averaged 10 points, six rebounds, and around 1.4 blocks per game in only about 20 minutes a game. He’s also shot an efficient 75 percent form the field in those same games. If Andre Drummond ends up signing with a new team next season, Claxton should be looked at as a legitimate sleeper in drafts next season. 

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 23

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!

Guards

Immanuel Quickley, PG, New York Knicks
Immanuel Quickley has been a key prospect in the Knicks’ development system because they’ve lacked a legitimate starting point guard for the last few seasons now. He’s been on a better run in his young career as of late. In his last 10 games, Quickley has averaged 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, and a steal per game. He’s done a great job at improving his three-point shot, hitting around 43 percent. He’s still has a long way to go before becoming a polished player, but he continues to show consistent improvement. 

Bones Hyland, PG, Denver Nuggets
Popular because of his nickname, Bones Hyland has become a solid guard for the Nuggets since Jamal Murraymay end up missing the entire season. Like Quickley, Hyland has had spurts of more productive play. In his last 10 games, Hyland has averaged 14 points, three rebounds, four assists, and a steal per game. He’s been lights out with his three-point shooting, hitting around 49 percent on over five attempts a game. He looks to have a bright future in the league but is a great player off waivers currently to ride the hot hand with. 

Davion Mitchell, PG, Sacramento Kings
Once Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliberaton were traded to the Indiana Pacers, Davion Mitchell was looked at as a potential target to see more minutes for the King’s backcourt. Mitchell has slowly seen that increase come for fortune. In his last 10 games, Mitchell has averaged 12 points, three assists, and a steal per game. Mitchell has also shown slow improvement with his three-point shooting, hitting around 35 percent in those same games. Mitchell is another raw prospect off waivers that are continuing to put in solid work as the regular season comes to a close. 

Forwards

Lauri Markkanen, PF/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Once a very confusing signing in the offseason, Lauri Markkanen has proved to be key in the success of the Cavaliers this season. In his last 10 games, Markkanen has averaged 15 points, six rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. His switch to more of a small forward position has been great defensively for the Cavaliers, giving them a new identity with some other key interior defenders such as Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. He’s been a consistent starter in the lineup and that will likely not change as the fantasy playoffs continue to tread through. 

Torrey Craig, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns
While not known for much outside of a versatile defender, Torrey Craig has surprisingly been filling out the stat sheet more recently. In his last five games, Craig has averaged 12 points, eight rebounds, around a steal and a block per game. Compared to his 32 percent average on the season, Craig has hit 60 percent of his threes on around three attempts per game. Despite a consistent role, this run likely won’t last forever. So Craig is worth adding temporarily for the fantasy playoffs. 

De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks
As the fourth overall selection in the 2019 draft, De’Andre Hunter had a ton of expectations coming into the league. He’s yet to hit a lot of those due to consistent injuries but he has shown some promise as a versatile forward. Over his last 10 games, Hunter has averaged 17 points, two rebounds, and around a steal per game. He’s done a great job stretching the floor for Trae Young and company, hitting around 43 percent of his threes. He still has some question marks for his health, but when on the court, Hunter is a proven quality player. 

Centers

Damian Jones, C, Sacramento Kings
With Richan Holmes out for the rest of the season and Domantas Sabonis now expected to miss the upcoming road trip, Damian Jones is now expected to receive a lot of minutes at the center position for the Kings. He had a quality outing against the Suns where in only 22 minutes, he finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, and two steals. He’s far from the most talented player on this column, but his current opportunity could lead to having great stat lines over the next few games. 

Alperen Sengun, C, Houston Rockets
One of the many young prospects on the Rockets roster, Alperen Sengun is one who shows a lot of “unicorn” potential as he’s a very versatile player at 6’9″. In his last 10 games. Sengun has averaged 10 points, six rebounds, and a steal and a block per game. His percentages lack him being an efficient scorer, as he only hits around 44 percent from the field. But his raw ability makes a great candidate to watch for the remainder of the regular season and for future seasons.