Despite a thorough lashing from COVID-19, UFC 260 limps onto the ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV) airwaves this Saturday (March 27, 2021) with a rematch between UFC Heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic, and destructive power puncher, Francis Ngannou. Viewers will also enjoy a Welterweight showdown pitting Tyron Woodley against Vicente Luque and what could be an absolute Lightweight war between Jamie Mullarkey and Khama Worthy.
170 lbs.: Jared Gooden vs. Abubakar Nurmagomedov
Jared Gooden (17-5) fell short against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Mike Graves in a 2019 bid for Titan FC gold, then suffered a sub-minute knockout loss to future “Contender Series” hopeful Bruno Oliveira two fights later. “Nite Train” got back on track with three subsequent finishes, but failed to run down Alan Jouban in his UFC debut.
He has knocked out and submitted seven professional foes apiece.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov (15-3-1) — cousin of former UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov — won his first five bouts under the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) / Professional Fighters League (PFL) banner before running afoul of Pavel Kusch in 2018. He’s 1-1-1 since, drawing with Bojan Velickovic and subsequently suffering a major upset submission loss to David Zawada in his last two efforts.
This marks his first appearance since Sept. 2019.
The last time Gooden had to deal with a top-notch wrestler, his takedown defense fell apart down the stretch as Graves refused to give him room to breathe. Though he has the advantage of three rounds instead of five here, it’s a problem that figures to rear its head again come Saturday. Underwhelming as he is compared to his cousin, Nurmagomedov’s excellent grappling fundamentals should be more than sufficient to ground Gooden early and often, and he’s more than willing to rack up long stretches of top control without overextending and putting himself in danger.
Gooden is certainly the more dangerous of the two on the feet and tends to be busy off of his back, so things could very easily go south for the Dagestani if the layoff hurts his cardio. Still, he should be able to grind out a decision without too much issue.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Alonzo Menifield vs. William Knight
This was supposed to happen a few weeks ago and I already had it written up, so here you go ...
Alonzo Menifield (9-2) needed just eight seconds to finish Dashawn Boatwright on “Contender Series” and earn himself a UFC contract on his second try. Though he started his UFC career strong with brutal knockouts of Vinicius Moreira and Paul Craig, the latter of which earned him a “Performance of the Night” bonus, he subsequently came up short in upset losses to Devin Clark and Ovince St. Preux.
None of his nine victories have lasted longer than 5:32.
The upset knockout for William Knight over Herdem Alacabek (9-1) in 2019 earned him a developmental contract, and though he lost to Tafon Nchukwi two fights later, an impressive finish of Cody Brundage in his return to “Contender Series” led to a UFC debut just three weeks later. There, he used effective top control to beat fellow series alum Aleksa Camur by unanimous decision in his first professional trip to the judges.
He gives up two inches of height and three inches of reach to Menifield.
There is a right way and a wrong way to fight Knight, and to my eternal frustration, everyone seems dead-set on going about it the wrong way. He’s actually quite limited on the feet and not much of an offensive wrestler, but opponents insist on trying to initiate the grappling with him, allowing him to reverse and unleash his genuinely scary ground-and-pound. All you have to do to beat this guy is ignore how jacked he is, avoid the leg kicks, and beat him up with punches the way Nchukwi did.
On paper, Menifield has the tools to do all that — the way he blew up two takedown-focused fighters in Moreira and Craig should give him plenty of confidence. At the same time, he struggled badly to deal with the fairly fragile Clark’s clinch aggression and seemed utterly flummoxed by St. Preux’s length, so he might not have the wherewithal to actually keep Knight off of him and fight smart. I say Knight wears him down against the fence before polishing him off late.
Prediction: Knight via third-round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Jessica Penne vs. Hannah Goldy
Jessica Penne (12-5) — the former Invicta Atomweight champion — reached TUF 20 semifinals before running afoul of Carla Esparza, then edged out Randa Markos for a split decision victory in her debut. Three consecutive losses followed, after which United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) issues led to a nearly four-year layoff.
She’s ended eight professional fights by submission and will have a six-inch reach advantage.
A debut victory over Gillian Robertson kicked off a four-fight win streak for Hannah Goldy (5-1), who made it five with a one-sided decision over Kali Robbins on “Contender Series.” Number six proved elusive, as Miranda Granger defeated her in a striking battle upon “Queen of Sparta’s” arrival in the Octagon.
She fights for the first time since Aug. 2019.
In all honestly, Penne has one of the more forgivable 1-3 UFC records you’re likely to see. Two of those losses came to monsters in Joanna Jedrzecjzyk and Jessica Andrade, and the third was a bogus decision against Danielle Taylor. Still, it’s hard to have faith in her after so much time away, even considering how underwhelming Goldy looked in her debut.
If Penne executes well, threatening with her wrestling and keeping Goldy at the end of her considerable reach advantage, she’s more than capable of finally getting back on track. Between the rust and her poor luck with the judges, though, expect Goldy to land the heavier blows and eke out a decision.
Prediction: Goldy via split decision
COVID-19 has torn this card to pieces, but there’s still violence to be found. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 260 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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