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X-Factor! Some UFC on ESPN 8 main card predictions

UFC 242 Barboza v Felder Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

This Saturday (May 16, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remains in Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., for UFC on ESPN 8. The third event in eight days promises to maintain a high-level of action, as there are numerous brawlers filling up the card prior to the Heavyweight showdown of Alistair Overeem vs. Walt Harris. Let’s dig into these main card match ups!

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

Featherweight: Dan Ige vs. Edson Barboza

Best Win for Ige? Mirsad Bektic For Barboza? Anthony Pettis
Current Streak: Ige rides an excellent five-fight win streak, while Barboza has lost two straight
X-Factor: Barboza’s jump knee
How these two match up: Fireworks!

Ige has found most of his success as a brutally punishing top control fighter, where he’s equally likely to pound opponents into dust or lock up a submission. However, his pressure kickboxing has looked quite strong in recent wins, proving the 28-year-old Hawaiian a well-rounded contender

Is there any fighter whose strengths and weaknesses are as well established as Edson Barboza? The Brazilian kicks with destructive force and historically is tough to take down ... until his foe’s pressure adds up, at which point things tend to fall apart.

Look, counting out Barboza is a fool’s errand. He’s also a single kick or knee away from walking off with a huge knockout win, and he arguably deserved the nod over the highly-ranked Paul Felder last time out. Barboza is still extremely dangerous, and Ige tends to take shots even in victory.

I ain’t pickin’ him though.

This move to Featherweight is a bad idea though. Barboza hit plenty hard at Lightweight and stuffed the majority of the takedowns that came his way. He was a top contender at 155 pounds! Dropping another 10 lbs. for no particular reason at the age of 34 seems like the opposite of a solution, as now he’ll be dealing with even quicker forward pressure.

Add in the fact that Ige already has the offensive style to frustrate Barboza, and I expect we’ll see “Junior” back at Lightweight next time out ... if he even makes weight this time.

Prediction: Ige via technical knockout

Middleweight: Eryk Anders vs. Krzysztof Jotko

Best Win for Anders? Gerald Meerschaert For Jotko? Thales Leites
Current Streak: Both men have won two straight bouts
X-Factor: Jotko’s general inconsistency
How these two match up: Contrary to the fight above, there’s a real chance this one is a stinker.

Heading into 2017, Jotko was on a major win streak, mixing up dangerous kickboxing and smothering wrestling to climb into the top 10. He subsequently lost three straight, and though he’s recovered with a pair of wins, he doesn’t seem all that effective anymore.

Anders can relate to ups-and-downs, as he rose quickly before hitting a 1-4 skid. Like Jotko, he’s since recovered, but Anders continues to struggle to match his excellent athleticism with a consistently effective form of offense.

For all of Anders’ struggles, he’s remained extremely difficult to take down. A few years ago, I would’ve favored Jotko’s range kicking against Anders’ somewhat predictable rushes, but Jotko just seems to have lost confidence in his stand up. In his bout with Marc-Andre Barriault, Jotko seemed desperate for the clinch, but he’s not going to out-muscle Anders in close.

The bout might feature a lot of slow clinch work, but Anders’ left hand does enough damage that he earns the nod.

Prediction: Anders via decision

Featherweight: Song Yadong vs. Marlon Vera

Best Win for Yadong? Alejandro Perez For Vera? Frankie Saenz
Current Streak: Yadong enters following a draw and four previous wins, whereas Vera has won five straight
X-Factor: Vera’s ability to turn it up late
How these two match up: Fireworks ... part two!

Song Yadong is a hugely impressive athlete, and he’s shown the skills to match in his short UFC career. The 22-year-old hits pretty damn hard, can snatch up the neck, and hold his own in a wrestling match. Before Weili Zhang appeared out of nowhere to snatch the crown, Yadong appeared China’s best hope at a strap.

Vera is a pretty dynamic finisher himself. It often takes him a round to warm up, but when Vera is firing on all cylinders, he’s a definite knockout and submission threat.

This is likely to be a scrap, but there’s a couple reasons I lean towards Yadong. For one, he hits hard enough to shut out the lights, and Vera is a notoriously slow starter who’s quite hittable early. In addition, Vera struggled badly against John Lineker and Douglas Silva de Andrade when those two stepped to him and imposed their physicality.

Yadong has the strength and power to impose a similar game plan, though Vera will remain dangerous until the final bell.

Prediction: Yadong via decision

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 8: “Overeem vs. Harris” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 8 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2020: 10-5

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