After years of bad blood, former American Top Team teammates, Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal, will settle the score in the Octagon this Saturday (March 5, 2022) atop UFC 272’s pay-per-view (PPV) event. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, will also host a five-round co-main between Rafael Fiziev and Rafael dos Anjos, as well as a Featherweight crossroads battle pitting Edson Barboza against undefeated Bryce Mitchell.
UFC 272 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around thanks to Jessica Eye’s late-notice exit, four of which are on ESPN+/Fight Pass. Let’s have a look ...
145 lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs. Umar Nurmagomedov
Brian Kelleher (24-12) went from dropping three of five to winning five of his last seven, those defeats coming against division standouts Cody Stamann and Ricky Simon. His current two-fight streak features dominant decisions over Domingo Pilarte and Kevin Croom, the latter less than two months back.
“Boom” has earned five post-fight bonuses in the Octagon and 18 professional stoppages overall.
Umar Nurmagomedov (13-0) cut his teeth in top promotions like Fight Nights Global and PFL en route to signing with the world’s largest fight promotion in 2020. Various issues have held him to just one fight in the last two years, a Jan. 2021 submission of Sergey Morozov.
He’ll have two inches of height and four inches of reach on Kelleher.
This is the most lopsided fight on the card in the eyes of the bookies, and while I don’t necessarily disagree that Nurmagomedov will dominate, it’s a fight with some landmines in it. Kelleher has two key weapons that could give Nurmagomedov issues: relentless pressure and a solid guillotine, both of which are potential counters to Nurmagomedov’s blend of high-volume kicking and lethal wrestling.
“Potential” is doing a lot of work, though. Kelleher has consistently struggled to walk down high-level strikers or land that choke against more powerful wrestlers. So long as Nurmagomedov stays sharp and doesn’t make any sloppy level changes, he should piece up Kelleher at range and put him on his back any time he gets some momentum going.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Tim Elliott vs. Tagir Ulanbekov
The Octagon return of Tim Elliott (17-12-1) failed to produce immediate success, dropping five of his first seven in his second run. He rebounded with wins over Ryan Benoit and Jordan Espinosa, only to fall just short against Matheus Nicolau in his most recent effort.
He faces a four-inch reach disadvantage.
Tagir Ulanbekov (13-1) powered through some gnarly leg kicks to defeat Bruno Silva in his UFC debut, only for assorted misfortunes to keep him out of action for the next year. He returned to action in Oct. 2021, narrowly edging out Allan Nascimento in an excellent back-and-forth grappling war.
All seven of his professional finishes have come by submission.
This figures to go a lot like Ulanbekov’s fight with Nascimento. As the stronger, more technically sound wrestler, he’ll be the one dictating whether the fight takes place on the feet or the mat. While Elliott’s no slouch in that department, he’s proven unable to consistently overpower higher-level takedown artists.
The question, then, is whether Elliott can finish Ulanbekov off his back, sweep with any regularity, or do what Nascimento nearly did and outwork the oft-passive Ulanbekov. The last one seems feasible, but the near-disaster against Nascimento should prompt Ulanbekov to be a bit busier. Between his strong wrestling, crisp striking and ironclad submission defense, expect Ulanbekov to cruise to victory.
Prediction: Ulanbekov via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Devonte Smith vs. Ludovit Klein
Devonte Smith (11-3) followed his dominant Contender Series victory with first-round knockouts of Julian Erosa and Dong Hyun Ma, the latter of which earned Smith “Performance of the Night.” He has since dropped two of three, a (technical) knockout of Justin Jaynes sandwiched between stoppage losses to Khama Worthy and Jamie Mullarkey.
His 11 professional finishes include 10 by form of knockout.
Ludovit Klein (17-4) entered the Octagon on the heels of two consecutive knockout wins, then made it three straight by smashing Shane Young in his promotional debut. Then came a controversial decision loss to Mike Trizano, followed be a decidedly non-controversial submission defeat at the hands of Nate Landwehr.
He steps in for the injured Erick Gonzalez on a week’s notice.
Smith vs. Gonzalez was my favorite sort of match up to predict, namely one I didn’t have to think too hard about. Smith would have annihilated “Ghost Pepper” within a few minutes, while Klein figures to give him a legitimate challenge. Smith isn’t the sort of furious pressure fighter that’s vexed Klein in recent years, while Klein doesn’t figure to suffocate Smith’s offense the way Mullarkey did.
As enormously high as I was on Klein when he first entered the Octagon, I like Smith’s chances here. His size and long-range punching should give Klein issues, especially if he can keep the Slovakian on the back foot. I’ll be pulling for Klein, as I really want to see him succeed, but his complete inability to keep the very limited Landwehr off of him doesn’t give me hope. In short, Smith clips him sometime in the first.
Prediction: Smith via first round knockout
205 lbs.: Dustin Jacoby vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
More than eight years after leaving the Octagon on a loss to Chris Camozzi, Dustin Jacoby (16-5-1) claimed his first victory in the promotion by beating down Justin Ledet in a half-round. He’s unbeaten since, winning three and forcing a draw with Ion Cutelaba along the way.
He’ll enjoy three inches of height and two inches of reach over Michal Oleksiejczuk (16-4).
Oleksiejczuk saw his early UFC momentum blunted by a pair of submission losses to Ovince Saint Preux and Jimmy Crute. Though he was fortunate to get the judges’ nod against Modestas Bukauskas, there was no questioning his uppercut knockout of Shamil Gamzatov seven months later.
He’s ended 11 professional fights inside the distance, 10 via (technical) knockout.
Even putting aside the instinct to automatically pick Jacoby in a pure striking battle, this looks plenty winnable for him. Powerful as he is, Oleksiejczuk is just too damn one-note with his pressure-heavy offense, especially since he lacks the cage-cutting skills to make it work against more seasoned strikers. He’ll have all sorts of trouble corralling Jacoby, who will be tearing up his legs and plunking him with counters the whole time.
The fact that Jacoby threw more than 300 strikes against another come-forward bruiser in John Allan suggests that Oleksiejczuk can’t expect him to fade late, either. “The Hanyak” tears up Oleksieczjuk off the back foot for either a wide decision or accumulation finish.
Prediction: Jacoby via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 272 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a clash of Top 10-ranked Strawweights and another potential banger at Lightweight. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 272 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.
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