The “Baddest Man on the Planet” will be decided inside Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., this Saturday (Jan. 22, 2022) when titlists Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane duke it out for Heavyweight supremacy. UFC 270 also features a third clash between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo alongside a pivotal Bantamweight battle that sees veteran Cody Stamann welcome rising prospect Said Nurmagomedov back to the cage after more than one year away.
ESPN hosts the last four “Prelims” undercard bouts (check out the ESPN+ batch here), which we’ve broken down for you below. Let’s dig in ...
185 lbs.: Rodolfo Vieira vs. Wellington Turman
Rodolfo Vierira’s (8-1) flawless mixed martial arts (MMA) record earned its first blemish in Feb. 2021 when a massive cardio failure allowed Anthony Hernandez to finish him with a guillotine. “The Black Belt Hunter” got back on track five months later, however, submitting Dustin Stoltzfus for his first UFC post-fight bonus.
Seven of his eight pro finishes have come by submission.
Wellington Turman (17-5) didn’t have quite the UFC start he wanted, as he dropped three of his first four Octagon bouts. Undaunted, he returned to the win column in Aug. 2021 with a narrow decision over Sam Alvey.
“The Prodigy” gives up an inch of reach to his fellow Brazilian.
With all due respect to Turman, this is definitely an extension of Vieira’s rehab tour rather than a return to contention. Turman relies largely on his physical abilities and grappling chops, both of which pale in comparison to Vieira’s. Even if he does have a slight edge on the feet, it’s hard to envision him keeping it there for long before Vieira bulldozes him to the ground and does what he does best.
I can understand Vieira and UFC brass wanting to take it slow after the Hernandez debacle, but fighting a guy who barely escaped from Sam Alvey seems overly conservative. Vieira taps him in one.
Prediction: Vieira via first-round submission
135 lbs.: Raoni Barcelos vs. Victor Henry
Might as well use what I already had in December ...
Raoni Barcelos (16-2) entered UFC as RFA’s Featherweight champion, and he lived up to his credentials by winning his first five in the Octagon. This set up a clash with Timur Valiev, who survived a near-knockout to narrowly edge Barcelos via majority decision.
He’s knocked out eight professional foes and submitted two others.
Victor Henry (21-5) — an acolyte of the great Josh Barnett — largely made his name with impressive success on the Japanese circuit. Said success includes his current 8-1 run, which most recently saw him return to the States to choke out Albert Morales in an LXF title fight.
“La Mangosta” originally stepped in for Trevin Jones on less than two weeks’ notice last month before withdrawing because of COVID.
Even with a relatively recent loss to Denis Lavrentyev marring his record, it’s hard to argue that Henry hasn’t earned his place in the Octagon. That said, he’s screwed here. I don’t like to use the phrase “better everywhere,” but that really seems to be the case; Henry’s been touched up by lesser strikers than Barcelos, taken down by lesser wrestlers, and outmaneuvered by lesser ground artists.
The bigger question for me is whether the 34-year-old Henry will finally suffer his first stoppage loss in 11 years as a professional. Considering how many weapons the Brazilian brings to bear, it would certainly be an achievement in its own right if he managed to last the full 15 minutes. Sadly, I see Barcelos either icing him with a perfectly timed counter or pounding him out from the top.
Prediction: Barcelos via second round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Ilia Topuria vs. Charles Jourdain
Georgia’s Ilia Topuria (11-0) failed to claim the Cage Warriors Bantamweight title because of a scale fail, but nonetheless punched his ticket to the Octagon after a pair of wins in Brave CF. He now sits at 3-0 in the world’s largest MMA promotion, most recently flattening Ryan Hall in July 2021.
His 10 professional finishes include seven by submission.
“Air” Charles Jourdain (12-4-1) capped off his run in the TKO promotion by claiming both its Featherweight and Lightweight titles with impressive finishes. He’s gone 3-3-1 since, notably stopping Doo Ho Choi and Marcelo Rojo along the way.
He steps in for Movsar Evloev, who ran afoul of COVID, on little more than one week’s notice.
I — like every other red-blooded face-punching enthusiast — am a huge fan of Charles Jourdain. I love watching him fight and respect the hell out of him for facing a monster like Topuria on short notice. That doesn’t change the fact that this will end very poorly for him. Topuria has not just the wrestling to exploit Jourdain’s historically shaky takedown defense, but also the submission skills to ruin his day afterward. Even if Topuria does give Jourdain the slugfest he craves, the former’s sheer power and improving boxing craft make it somewhere around 50/50.
Outside of one of his signature flying knees landing flush, Jourdain’s avenues to victory are worryingly limited. In the end, Topuria finds his neck early.
Prediction: Topuria via first-round submission
170 lbs.: Jack Della Maddalena vs. Pete Rodriguez
Jack Della Maddalena (10-2) went from starting his career 0-2 to winning eight straight, winning and defending the Eternal MMA Welterweight title and avenging his first-ever defeat in the process. He made his first trip to the judges on Contender Series, where he overpowered Ange Loosa to secure a UFC contract.
He’s ended nine fights in less than two rounds apiece, eight of them by knockout.
Pete Rodriguez (4-0) ended his three-year amateur career with a 7-2 record, ultimately jumping to the pro ranks in 2020. He’s thus far spent his time in Jorge Masvidal’s iKon Fighting Federation, where he’s knocked out four opponents in less than five minutes combined.
He replaces Warlley Alves on eight days’ notice.
What little footage Rodriguez has given us shows genuine power and functional boxing, but nothing that could prepare him for a bruiser of Della Maddalena’s caliber. The Aussie is crisper, exponentially more proven, and has experience going into deep waters. While “untested” doesn’t necessarily mean “incapable,” Rodriguez’s brief career just doesn’t offer anything to put faith in.
All Rodriguez has going for him is a puncher’s chance, which will diminish with worrying quickness once Della Maddalena gets his body attack going. In short, the Contender Series grad breaks Rodriguez down before the midpoint.
Prediction: Della Maddalena via second-round technical knockout
Ad-hoc though UFC 270’s card may be, the main- and co-main event alone look to be worth your money. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2022: 1-2
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 270 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 ESPN/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 270: “Ngannou vs. Gane” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.