This weekend (Sat., Sept. 3, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will travel to Accor Arena in Paris, France, for UFC Paris. UFC’s first venture to France features an appropriately elevated fight card, above and beyond the usual UFC Apex fare. Notably, top French talent Ciryl Gane looks to return to the win column opposite Tai Tuivasa in the main event, while Robert Whittaker vs. Marvin Vettori in the co-main could easily be a five-round match up as well. There’s a good amount of French talent on the undercard, too, but strangely, the main card leans more in the French-Canadian direction.
That’s the same thing, right?!?
Regardless, let’s take a closer look at these main card match ups:
Middleweight: Alessio Di Chirico vs. Roman Kopylov
Best Win for Di Chirico? Joaquin Buckley For Kopylov? Abusupyan Alikhanov
Current Streak: Di Chirico has lost four of his last five, whereas Kopylov has lost both of his previous UFC appearances
X-Factor: Kopylov has yet to live up to expectations
How these two match up: This is a must-win fight for each man.
Di Chirico has yet to find consistent success inside the Octagon. He seems to fall into the category of Jack Of All Trades and has subsequently been outhustled by more specialized fighters on more than one occasion. However, the Italian has also scored a few big moments and wins that prove his overall talent.
Kopylov, meanwhile, joined the roster as a Fight Nights Global (FNG) champ. The level of competition in FNG is pretty damn serious, so there was actually a bit of hype surrounding the Russian striker. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t found much success inside the Octagon yet.
Perhaps that changes this weekend.
This fight really reads like a match up that should demonstrate Kopylov’s skill set. Di Chirico is a technical and measured striker, but he’s not as powerful nor as fast as Kopylov. Di Chirico is likely the better wrestler/grappler than his opponent, but not to the degree that he’ll be able to dominate on the canvas. Lastly, Di Chirico doesn’t usually push a pace high enough to really exhaust the Russian.
A classic sprawl-and-brawl game plan should serve Kopylov well.
Prediction: Kopylov via decision
Lightweight: John Makdessi vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Best Win for Makdessi? Daron Cruickshank For Haqparast? Joaquim Silva
Current Streak: Makdessi returned to the win column last time out, whereas Haqparast has lost two in a row
X-Factor: These two have likely trained together at least a bit at Tristar MMA in Montreal
How these two match up: Strikers collide!
Makdessi has a deep background in traditional striking arts, as seen by some funky kicks in the cage and a spinning backfist knockout early in his UFC career. However, his best weapon is likely the jab, which Makdessi uses very well to control range and mitigate his opponent’s offense.
Haqparast has struggled lately, but the Southpaw had some hype for a reason. The German striker has seriously fast hands and major knockout power, which fits well alongside his well-schooled boxing game.
I’ll admit to never being a huge believer in Makdessi. He’s a very solid boxer, but he’s not a particularly big or physical Lightweight, nor does he bring much more to the table. Haqparast’s recent losses have proven his own game a bit limited, but he’s still consistently shown more potential and raw physical ability.
Being an entire decade younger helps also.
Finally, Haqparast is a Southpaw, and he knows well how to smother his opponent’s lead hand before covering distance with his own cross — that’s almost his entire game! If Makdessi is unable to get his jab going, it’s really difficult to see how he navigates a striking match vs. a younger, faster, and more powerful opponent.
Prediction: Haqparast via knockout
Featherweight: Charles Jourdain vs. Nathaniel Wood
Best Win for Jourdain? Lando Vannata For Wood? Jose Alberto Quinonez
Current Streak: Jourdain lost a close one last time out, whereas Wood returned to the win column in dominant fashion
X-Factor: Both men fought recently, but Jourdain’s bout vs. Shane Burgos was way more damaging
How these two match up: This is a great fight and excellent last-minute addition to the card.
Jourdain hasn’t broken into the Top 15 just yet, but he came close opposite Burgos and has more than established himself as one of the most exciting young athletes on the roster. Jourdain just doesn’t have an off-switch; he picks up momentum as rounds wear on and refuses to stop whipping damaging strikes in the direction of his opponent.
He’s the taller man in this match up by three inches.
Wood is a former Bantamweight, and though he’s quite fun himself, “The Prospect” is a bit more strategic. He’s very well-rounded and manages range very carefully, though Wood remains willing to jump into a firefight if necessary.
There’s a lot of unknowns here. How will Jourdain’s body react to a second weight cut just six weeks after a brawl with Shane Burgos? Is Wood a true Featherweight simply because he beat up Charles Rosa? Can the English athlete take bombs from an actual 145 pounder, because Jourdain opponents always get touched up at least a bit?
Despite more of the unknowns being on the side of “The Prospect,” I really like the style match up for the slight underdog. He’s quite skilled with his distance management and range kickboxing, an advantage likely compounded by a small edge in quickness. If Jourdain is getting his calf damaged, he’s only going to be more motivated to close distance — that’s not ideal for the lankier man.
Jourdain isn’t impossible to take down, and lately, he’s been really leaning on the late rally to decide fights. If Wood is careful on his feet and opportunistic in his wrestling, he can likely lead the dance without fatiguing, preventing any such third-round wildness.
Prediction: Wood via decision
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2022: 34-24
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Paris fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Paris: “Gane vs. Tuivasa” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.