Jimi Manuwa vs Thiago Santos: I think Manuwa has more experience with top-level fighters and with a 3.5″ reach advantage I believe he lands the bigger shots. I predit a slugfest and while either man can KO the other, I see Jimi Manuwa landing the decisive blow. Prediction: Jimi Manuwa by second round KO.
Hakeem Dawodu vs Kyle Bochniak: I think Bochniak showed his toughness and resiliency in his loss against Zabit Magomedsharipov. Zabit is as high-level as you are going to see in MMA and Bochniak had his metal tested there. Whereas Dawodu has quickness and power, I see Bochnia weathering some early big shots and coming on strong later. Prediction: Kyle Bochniak wins a unanimous decision.
Alex Oliveira vs Gunnar Nelson: This is a matchup that could produce some interesting scrambles. I think Cowboy Oliveira will have the speed and significant reach advantage and be able to score on Gunnar Nelson on the feet. If the fight goes to the ground Gunnar Nelson will have the distinct grappling advantage. So, where does this fight play out? If Oliveira is able to keep the fight standing, he wins a unanimous decision, if Nelson can get the fight on the ground, he wins by a submission. Prediction: Gunnar Nelson by third round submission.
Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk: To me, this is the easiest fight on the card to breakdown. Both fighters are elite strikers and two of the best in all of MMA. As has been reported on extensively, Valentina Shevchenko has bested Joanna Jedrzejczyk three times in Muay Tai competition, so there is an established rivalry between them. While both fighters have elite striking, Shevchenko has the edge here. She has the power advantage and if the fight goes to the ground, Bullet has proven submission skills. I see a dominant performance for Shevchenko here. Prediction: Unanimous decision for Valentina Shevchenko.
Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega: First, let me start off by saying, what a fight! This is a featherweight matchup for the ages. The tested and battle-proven champion, versus the undefeated contender. When looking at the style matchup here, one can’t help but to get excited: a relentless, aggressive, and dynamic striker––with serious finishing skills and a well-rounded grappling game––versus a world-class grappler with well-rounded striking and proven finishing ability. The big question on everyone’s mind seems to be: Is Max ok? Since nobody seems to have that answer, not to mention, that nobody seems to know what was even wrong with Max that caused him to have to pull out of his last few fights, there are unanswered questions hanging over this fight that make predictions cloudy at best. I’ll give it a shot.
Because of the questions about Max Holloway’s state of health and potential ring rust, this fight is a tougher one to call. If Max hadn’t had the stumbles that lead to pulling out of his last few fights, I’d give the decided edge to him. However, with those questions still unanswered, it would be easy to pick Brian Ortega to come away with the win––likely creating a scramble that leads to a submission. With all this considered though, above all else, Max Holloway is a fighter, and this is a fight. Prediction: Max Holloway wins a hard-fought decision over Brian Ortega.
*See my full breakdown of this fight here