This weekend (Sat., Oct. 17, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will continue its stay at “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with UFC Fight Island 6. Though the undercard largely leaves something to be desired, Saturday’s event is rather excellent from prime time forward. Fortunately, that’s precisely the section of the night I get to focus on, which this time around features a former champion debuting at a new weight class.
Let’s take a closer look at some main card fights:
Women’s Flyweight: Jessica Andrade vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Best Win for Andrade? Rose Namajunas For Chookagian? Jennifer Maia
Current Streak: Andrade has lost two straight, whereas Chookagian rebounded last time out
X-Factor: Will Andrade use her wrestling?
How these two match up: This is likely to be the most fun women’s Flyweight contender match up yet.
Regardless of weight class, Andrade is a powerhouse with an endless gas tank. She throws punches-in-bunches, swinging lots of wide hooks to the head and body. Plus, “Bate Estaca” has a penchant for high-amplitude throws, as her physical strength allows her to routinely hurl opponents through the air.
The former champion is still just 29 years of age.
As for Chookagian, she’s largely established herself as the second-best Flyweight ... though still several rungs below the division’s roost-ruler. Chookagian moves her feet well, strikes from long distance, and maintains a high volume. More than anything else, “Blonde Fighter” fights smart and follows the gameplan.
This is a really tricky fight to predict. On one hand, Andrade would seem to have the wrestling to throw her opponent around, at which point fancy footwork matters little. However, Andrade bizarrely abandoned her wrestling in the Namajunas rematch ... despite destroying “Thug Rose” with a slam in the first fight. Oh, and her focus on moving her head constantly in a predictable pattern did not seem a positive move.
If Andrade does nothing but swing hooks, she’s going to catch a lot of air. Chookagian moves too well to be hit without setup, and if Andrade is not presenting to the threat of the takedown, she’s likely to get picked apart.
I genuinely don’t know about this one. Andrade is better if she performs at her best, but it’s hurt to trust her to do so at a new weight class. Chookagian is comparably less spectacular, but she’s nothing if not consistent.
Prediction: Chookagian via decision
Light Heavyweight: Jimmy Crute vs. Modestas Bukauskas
Best Win for Crute? Michel Oleksiejczuk For Bukauskas? Andreas Michailidis
Current Streak: Crute enters following a single victory, whereas Bukauskas recently won his UFC debut to make it seven straight victories
X-Factor: Bukauskas’ elbows along the fence
How these two match up: Light Heavyweight prospects collide!
One of the best young fighters out of Australia, Crute has shown a remarkably well-rounded game at 24 years of age. “The Brute” can box cleanly with power behind his punches, is a very physical wrestler, and on the mat, he’s a formidable enough submission threat to tap Paul Craig.
If you’re like me and did not immediately recognize the name Bukauskas upon reading it — sorry y’all, there are a lot of fights and new fighters right now — he’s the guy who landed Travis Browne-esque elbows in his debut that sent his opponent falling out of the open cage door. The Lithuanian fighter has finished every opponent since his professional debut, and a majority of those stoppages came via strikes.
Bukauskas showed off some solid kickboxing and opportunistic elbows in his debut, but there was nothing there that made me think he could handle Crute, who has already fought a pair of ranked opponents (dominating one and nearly finishing the other in a loss). Crute seems ready for the division’s best, and Bukauskas isn’t there yet.
Crute takes down his foe — without getting elbowed to death — and submits him eventually.
Prediction: Crute via submission
Bantamweight: Thomas Almeida vs. Jonathan Martinez
Best Win for Almeida? Brad Pickett For Martinez? Frankie Saenz
Current Streak: Almeida returns from consecutive defeats and a nearly three year layoff, while Martinez has won his last bout (but probably should be riding a four-fight win streak if not for strange judges)
X-Factor: How will Almeida look upon his return?
How these two match up: It’s time for Muay Thai violence.
Before running into Cody Garbrandt and getting walloped, Almeida was undefeated at 20-0 and on the fast track to a title shot. His hype train has since come to a crashing halt, but the 29-year-old striker is still capable of great offensive combinations and killer liver shots. Perhaps the time away has helped with his defense as well ...
As for Martinez, the former Flyweight is really coming into his own. The 26-year-old Texan is growing more and more confident as his defensive wrestling has improved, allowing him to push a harder pace and do more damage. The Southpaw has one of the best left kicks in the division, and he’s learning to throw it constantly — always a good sign!
While it’s generally impossible to know what Almeida will look like on Saturday night, one has to assume that he’s unlikely to change dramatically 24 professional fights into his career. He’s likely to still be an offensive force, but Almeida has repeatedly proven himself there to be hit, and now his fellow Bantamweights are aware of it.
Martinez may not be quite the knockout artist as his Chute Boxe foe, but “The Dragon” throws clean punches and kicks absurdly hard. Both men will get the Muay Thai fight they prefer, but at this point, it’s hard not to side with the man who has the momentum on his corner over the considerable risk of ring rust.
Prediction: Martinez via decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 6 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance at 7 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Island 6: “Ortega vs. Korean Zombie” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.