A well-publicized beef finally turns into violence this Saturday (March 5, 2022) when Colby Covington battles Jorge Masvidal in UFC 272’s long-overdue pay-per-view (PPV) main event. The ESPN+-streamed card, which will take place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, will also see Renato Moicano step up on late notice to face Rafael Dos Anjos in a Catchweight five-rounder (details here), while Kevin Holland attempts to reinvent himself at Welterweight at Alex Oliveira’s expense and Sergey Spivak meets the free-falling Greg Hardy.
155 lbs.: Jalin Turner vs. Jamie Mullarkey
Misfortune for Jalin Turner (11-5) didn’t end with Contender Series foe Max Mustaki breaking his foot, as he subsequently dropped two of his first three in the Octagon. “The Tarantula” has since found his footing with three destructive finishes, among them a four-minute submission of unbeaten prospect Uros Medic.
All of his professional wins have come inside the distance, eight of them via knockout.
Jamie Mullarkey (14-4) — the former Superfight MMA champion — followed his “Fight of the Night” debut war against Brad Riddell with a controversial decision loss to Fares Ziam. He took the judges out of the equation in later efforts by violently knocking out heavy hitters Khama Worthy and Devonte Smith.
He gives up three inches of height and reach to Turner.
This will be the third time in a row that Mullarkey’s had to face a tall, rangy power-puncher. This might be some favoritism on my part, but I see this one going more poorly than the first two. Though there’s every possibility that Mullarkey leans on his concrete chin to just bully his way inside and clip “The Tarantula,” his shaky defense will subject him to possibly the heaviest shots he’s yet faced. Turner’s also shown significant improvement in his ground game, so Mullarkey can’t necessarily lean on his wrestling to neutralize him.
I just don’t see Turner folding the way Smith did, and if he lands those same sorts of punches, Mullarkey’s in trouble. In the end, a long-range onslaught carries Turner to his first decision victory.
Prediction: Turner via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Marina Rodriguez vs. Yan Xiaonan
Marina Rodriguez’s (15-1-2) knockout on Contender Series: Brazil earned her a spot in the Octagon, where she went unbeaten in four fights before falling to Carla Esparza by split decision. Her subsequent three-fight win streak includes a bonus-winning knockout of Amanda Ribas and an upset decision over Mackenzie Dern in her second UFC main event.
She has knocked out six professional foes and submitted one other.
Team Alpha Male’s Yan Xiaonan (13-2) brawled her way to a perfect (6-0) UFC start, which included decisions over Randa Markos and Claudia Gadelha. Then came the aforementioned Esparza, who put away “Nine”with ground-and-pound midway through the second round.
She stands one inch shorter than Rodriguez and gives up two inches of reach.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded this being the Featured “Prelims” bout. This is a clash of two skilled, aggressive, high-output strikers who won’t have to worry about defending takedowns for once. Hell, I’d argue this deserved main card status over Spivak vs. Hardy.
Nevertheless, as dangerous as Yan is, there just seems to be so much more to Rodriguez’s game. More power, more variety at range, more skills in the clinch. Yan’s speed and resilience do pose a threat, but Rodriguez is plenty quick herself and can match her output. In short, she out-skills a game Yan for a competitive but decisive victory.
Prediction: Rodriguez via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
Two years after an unsuccessful UFC debut against Sergey Spivak, Nicolae Negumereanu (11-1) returned to action with an upset decision over Contender Series graduate, Aleksei Camur. He was even more successful against Ike Villanueva, knocking “Hurricane” out just 78 seconds into the first round.
Six of his 10 finishes have come in the first round.
Kennedy Nzechukwu (9-2) put a UFC debut loss to Paul Craig behind him to win three straight, including bonus-winning knockouts of Carlos Ulberg and Danilo Marques. The momentum wasn’t to last, as he suffered a knockout loss of his own to Da Un Jung in Nov. 2021.
He steps in for Contender Series veteran, Ihor Poteria, on around one month’s notice.
This fight really just boils down to whether the Jung fight irreparably damaged Nzechukwu’s chin. If he’s at 100 percent, there’s no reason he should lose this — he’s miles better than Negumereanu in terms of technical striking and has the cardio to match or exceed the Romanian’s output from bell to bell. He has to survive his customary slow start, though, and that’s not as much of a given as it was a few months ago.
Negumereanu’s raw aggression and persistence with his takedowns make both an early finish and a grinding decision possible, but it just seems far more likely that Nzechukwu makes the most of his height and reach advantage to potshot his way to victory. In short, “African Savage” leans on volume to dig his way out of an early deficit and claim the win.
Prediction: Nzechukwu via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Maryna Moroz vs. Mariya Agapova
Maryna Moroz (10-3) started her UFC career at Strawweight, winning three of four before suffering consecutive decision losses. This prompted a move to 125 pounds, where she’s scored impressive upset victories over Sabina Mazo and Mayra Bueno Silva.
This marks her first appearance in nearly two years, as she withdrew from four separate bouts in that span.
Mariya Agapova (10-2) went though one of the Octagon’s fastest rises and falls in recent memory, following a one-sided debut finish of Hannah Cifers with a disastrous upset loss to Shana Dobson. She looked better than ever in her 2021 return, however, as she battered the aforementioned Mazo en route to a third-round club-and-sub.
Her eight finishes are split 3/5 between knockouts and submissions.
The Agapova that ran over Mazo is a huge problem for most of the division. She looked composed, patient, powerful and remarkably technical in dismantling a very skilled striker. If she puts forth that sort of effort here, it’s her fight to lose. Indeed, Moroz is on the wrong end of power and volume discrepancies on the feet, and that’s not even taking the rust into account.
She has to keep her emotions in check, however, and that might be easier said than done. The back-and-forth between these two went way over the line. Moroz is skilled enough to punish an overzealous Agapova with either grappling or boxing, especially if the latter burns through her cardio again. That Mazo win was impressive enough to earn my confidence, but don’t be surprised if things go off the rails.
Prediction: Agapova via second round technical knockout
Even without the Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling rematch, UFC 272 is well worth watching. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2022: 28-9
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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 272: “Covington vs. Masvidal” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.