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X-Factor! Some UFC Fight Night 169 main card predictions

UFC Fight Night Weigh-in Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This Saturday (Feb. 29, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Va., for UFC Fight Night 169. It’s a really good thing that the main event features an excellent Flyweight title fight between two very exciting fighters — Joseph Benavidez vs. Deiveson Figueiredo — because the rest of the ESPN+ card is a mess. There is just a single other fight where both fighters have Wikipedia pages! All the same, let’s dig into these main card fights and hope for the best.

Remember: Later in the week, Jesse Holland will be back to preview and predict the biggest fights of the night.

Light Heavyweight: Ion Cutelaba vs. Magomed Ankalaev

Best Win for Cutelaba? Khalil Rountree Jr. For Ankalaev? Dalcha Lungiambula
Current Streak: Cutelaba enters the bout following a single victory, while Ankalaev has won three straight
X-Factor: Cutelaba’s early blitz
How these two match up: This is the aforementioned fight in which both men have Wikipedia pages, and it’s very clearly the second best bout of the night.

The last time I wrote about Cutelaba, I described him as “a psychopath in the best way,” and I stand by that description. Cutelaba is just an angry, aggressive fighter, one who yells at weigh-ins and generally acts a fool. It’s consistent with his fighting style, however, as the Moldovan wrestler does his best to obliterate foes in the opening five minutes.

Meanwhile, Ankalaev is Dagestan’s Light Heavyweight representative. A talented wrestler with a Sambo background, the 27-year-old has proven a very dangerous range kicker who’s fairly comfortable in all areas.

There are two potential outcomes here which seem similarly likely. In the first, Cutelaba is able to defend the early takedown and swarm Ankalaev with power punches, ending his foe’s night early. Alternatively, Ankalaev is able to outlast that rush — or simply score a takedown right off the bat — and dominate his opponent from there.

It’s a tough call, because Cutelaba does seem the far more natural puncher and has faced a higher level of competition. However, Ankalaev has a more decorated background, and one has to assume he’s faced several aggressive-wrestle-boxer type fighters on the Russian circuit.

All in all, it seems to add up to Ankalaev surviving an early scare before flattening out his foe from the back mount to pick up a finish.

Prediction: Ankalaev via technical knockout

Women’s Featherweight: Megan Anderson vs. Norma Dumont

Best Win for Anderson? Zarah Fairn Dos Santos Jr. For Dumont? Mariana Morais
Current Streak: Anderson won her last bout, while Dumont makes her UFC debut at 4-0
X-Factor: Dumont’s inexperience
How these two match up: It’s a match up between two of the four women employed solely at 145 pounds, and it appears to be a striker vs. grappler battle.

Anderson did use her long frame to secure a slick triangle choke last time out, but there’s no doubt that the Aussie wants this bout on her feet. She’s a powerful striker with seriously rangy kicks, and five of her victories ended via knockout.

Dumont has a background in both Sanda and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but her best bet is to gain top position and land her third rear naked choke victory. Dumont can throw hard strikes, but her kickboxing as a whole still needs a good bit of work.

Truthfully, Anderson’s grappling defense still appears weak enough that it’s hard to ever feel that confident in her denying takedowns and landing big strikes. However, Dumont seems precisely the level of opponent Anderson ran roughshod over as the Invicta FC Featherweight queen.

Powerful punches and smashing kicks lead Anderson to her third UFC win.

Prediction: Anderson via knockout

Bantamweight: Gabriel Silva vs. Kyler Phillips

Best Win for Silva? Kamil Łebkowski For Phillips? Emeka Ifekandu
Current Streak: Silva came up short last time in his UFC debut, whereas Phillips makes his own debut following a single LFA win
X-Factor: Potential UFC jitters for Phillips
How these two match up: It’s likely to be a close, back-and-forth battle.

Silva drew a tough debut opponent in Ray Borg, who handed the Brazilian his first professional loss. Opposite a more reasonable level of competition, Silva is a solid grappler known for his aggressive power punching.

Phillips is a product of The MMA Lab — always a plus — and has competed on both “Contender Series” and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). Though he failed to join the roster via either of those shows, a head kick knockout in Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) earned him this short-notice call up.

Phillips has a solid background in Judo, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu.

This is definitely a tough one. Between the two, Silva has defeated better opponents, but Phillips seems the better prospect and more likely to have long term success. It could be a case of too much, too soon as in Phillips’ unsuccessful run on TUF, or “Matrix” could really prove himself ready for this level of competition.

Ultimately, it appears to be something of a coin flip, so I’ll side with the slightly younger fighter with a more proven wrestling background.

Prediction: Phillips via decision

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 169 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 169: “Benavidez vs. Figueroa” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2020: 7-5

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