The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Octagon returns to Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., this Saturday (Nov. 6, 2021) for its second numbered event in as many weeks, bringing with it a pair of title rematches and a pivotal Lightweight grudge match.
UFC 268’s pay-per-view (PPV)-streamed main event will see Kamaru Usman look to defend his Welterweight title against long-time rival Colby Covington, while Strawweight queenpin Rose Namajunas attempts to prove her dramatic knockout win over Zhang Weili (watch it) wasn’t a fluke. Also on tap is the long-awaited clash between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler, as well as guaranteed fireworks between Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo.
Four of UFC 268’s nine “Prelims” undercard bouts will stream on ESPN+/Fight Pass; therefore, let’s see what that increasingly vestigial subscription will get you.
265 lbs.: Gian Villante vs. Chris Barnett
A 2-4 skid — capped off by a knockout loss to MIchal Oleksieczjuk — led long-time Light Heavyweight Gian Villante (17-13) to try his hand at Heavyweight. The move hasn’t quite panned out, as he’s fallen to Maurice Greene and Jake Collier.
He stands six inches taller than “Beast Boy” at 6’3,” though he’l have only a one-inch reach advantage.
More than a decade into his professional career, Chris Barnett (21-7) finally got an Octagon opportunity by stepping up on short notice to face Ben Rothwell in May 2021. Though he kept it competitive, he ultimately succumbed to Rothwell’s signature “Gogo Choke” midway through the second round.
He has ended 16 professional fights via knockout.
It’s been almost five years since Villante last finished an opponent and he’s won just twice in that span, one of those a highly questionable decision over an aging Ed Herman. In his last two fights, he’s gassed to death against the painfully mediocre Greene and been out-classed on the feet by a former Middleweight in Collier.
I’m not saying Barnett is the cream of the crop, but he’s a genuinely skilled striker going up against an underachieving, out-of-shape Light Heavyweight. Villante lacks the wrestling to punish Barnett’s shaky takedown defense or the sheer size to walk him down like Rothwell did; therefore, odds are, Barnett’s speed and variety prevail over VIllante’s one-note slugging and secure a first- or second-round finish.
Prediction: Barnett via second round technical knockout
205 lbs.: Dustin Jacoby vs. John Allan
Less than three months after finally earning himself another shot in the Octagon, Dustin Jacoby (15-5-1) secured his first UFC victory by battering Justin Ledet with low kicks. He’s undefeated (2-0-1) since, including a standing technical knockout of Darren Stewart in Aug. 2021.
He steps in for Aleksa Camur on just four days’ notice.
John Allan (13-6) saw a four-fight win streak come to an end on “Contender Series” thanks to Vinicius Moreira, who caught him in a triangle choke late in the second round. He’s still chasing his first UFC victory, as a failed drug test overturned his late-notice debut win over Mike Rodriguez and Roman Dolidze rode regular takedowns to a split decision win.
He faces a two-inch height disadvantage and a three-inch reach disadvantage.
I actually picked Allan to beat Camur, who’s consistently underwhelmed during his time in the Octagon. Jacoby figures to be a far tougher out, boasting superior overall kickboxing technique alongside noteworthy advantages in height and reach. Allan will get the standup battle he craves, but not one he’s likely to win.
Though Jacoby’s coming in on short notice and has faded before, his ability to keep pace with Ion Cutelaba suggests he has the gas tank to fight for 15 competitive minutes. Expect Allan to keep it reasonably close but ultimately fall short against a more complete striker.
Prediction: Jacoby via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Bruno Souza
Though he had to make his first trip to the judges, Melsik Baghdasaryan (6-1) impressed enough in his “Contender Series” win over Dennis Buzukja to earn himself a contract. He returned to his finishing ways in his Octagon debut, a vicious second-round knockout of the durable Collin Anglin.
Four of his five knockout victories have come in less than one minute.
Bruno Souza (10-1) — a protege of mixed martial arts (MMA) legend Lyoto Machida — is unbeaten since a decision loss in his 2016 MMA debut. A perfect (4-0) run in LFA carried him to a title shot, which he made the most of by beating Javier Garcia for the vacant Featherweight belt.
He replaces T.J. Laramie on one week’s notice.
Truth be told, I thought Baghdasaryan would have all sorts of trouble with Laramie, who’s far and away the best grappler “The Gun” has ever faced. Souza, on the other hand, will give him a stand up fight “The Tiger” isn’t equipped to win. Sharp as Souza is with his karate, he’s far from impossible to hit, making Baghdasaryan’s huge edge in firepower a deciding factor.
Souza’s definitely skilled enough to find success late — especially if Baghdasaryan’s cardio fails him again — but he’ll have to survive Baghdasaryan’s brutal power to do so. Considering how he’s been hurt before, I don’t see it happening. Baghdasaryan cracks him for a quick finish.
Prediction: Baghdasaryan via first round technical knockout
125 lbs.: C.J. Vergara vs. Ode Osbourne
C.J. Vergara (9-2-1) bounced back from a 2018 loss to Devin Miller by knocking out his next four opponents, including two-time “Contender Series” veteran Jacob SIlva to earn the Fury FC Flyweight title. This set up a bout with Bruno Korea on “Contender Series,” which Vergara won with a nasty knee to the body just 41 seconds into the first round.
He gives up one inch of height and 2.5 inches of reach to “The Jamaican Sensation.”
Ode Osbourne (9-4-1) lived up to his nickname on the Contender Series by tapping the favored Armando VIllareal for both a contract and his fourth consecutive first-round finish. His Octagon run has been more mixed, as his knockout of Jerome Rivera is sandwiched between stoppage losses to Brian Kelleher and Manel Kape.
Eight of his professional wins, including his last five, have come inside the distance.
Osbourne has yet to see a second round in the Octagon, a factoid I don’t expect to change this Saturday. His customary approach, combined with Vergara’s mix of heavy offense and nonexistent defense, seemingly guarantees another early finish. We’ve seen stranger things, of course, but odds are that Osbourne comes out on top inside five minutes.
Though prone to self-sabotage, Osborne boasts the speed and power to crack Vergara’s oft-exposed chin, plus some solid wrestling to lean on if things start getting hairy. Plan B shouldn’t be necessary.
Prediction: Osbourne via first round technical knockout
Five more UFC 268 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict tomorrow, including an undefeated Cage Warriors champion, the latest from Edmen Shahbazyan, and and the UFC debut of former GLORY champion Alex Pereira. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 268 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPNEWS/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 268: “Usman vs. Covington 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.