The latest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) offering hits T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Sept. 10, 2022), bringing with it a clash between the unstoppable Khamzat Chimaev and the unflappable Nate Diaz. Also in store are Tony Ferguson’s return to Welterweight against Li Jingliang and a potentially pivotal Bantamweight bout between The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner, Macy Chiasson, and the returning Irene Aldana.
145 lbs.: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Julian Erosa
After dropping his UFC debut in a shock upset against Danny Henry, Hakeem Dawodu (13-2-1) battled his way to five consecutive Octagon victories. Though he fell short against Movsar Evloev in Glendale, “Mean” returned to the win column by out-striking Mike Trizano eight months later.
He stands five inches shorter than Julian Erosa (27-9) and gives up one inch of reach.
“Juicy J’s” return to the Octagon after two years away resulted in three consecutive defeats and another ignominious exit from the world’s largest fight promotion. Undaunted, he now sits at 4-1 in his last five UFC bouts, three of those wins inside the distance.
His 23 professional finishes are split 12/11 between submissions and knockouts.
Erosa has become surprisingly adept at scoring comeback finishes lately, and he’s going to need one here. Dawodu has the Muay Thai chops to eat “Juicy J” alive on the feet and sufficiently strong takedown defense to keep Erosa’s submission skills completely out of the equation. He doesn’t slow down, either, so Erosa can’t bank on steadily overwhelming him with volume.
All signs point to Hakeem performing a clinical dissection, taking advantage of Erosa’s historically poor defense to tear apart his head, body and legs. A club-and-sub from Erosa isn’t totally out of the question, as we saw in Dawodu’s debut, but it’s likelier that Dawodu chops him down for a mid- or late-round finish.
Prediction: Dawodu via third round technical knockout
220 lbs.: Anton Turkalj vs. Jailton Almeida
Sweden’s Anton Turkalj (8-0) racked up three first round finishes under the Brave CF banner en route to Contender Series, one of them via 13-second spinning back fist. “Pleasure Man” was unable to do the same to Acacio dos Santos, but still walked away with his first professional decision win.
He replaces Shamil Abdurakhimov — who ran into visa issues — on less than 10 days’ notice.
Unbeaten since a 5-2 pro start, Jailton Almeida (16-2) secured a UFC contract with a dominant submission of Nasrudin Nasrudinov on Contender Series. After smashing Danilo Marques in his promotional debut, he moved up to Heavyweight to choke out Parker Porter three months later.
All of his wins have come by stoppage, 10 of those via submission.
While I’m sold on Almeida’s overall abilities, I’m not totally sold on this Heavyweight campaign. I feel like he’s going to have a much harder time getting his smothering grappling going against larger men, or at least larger men who, unlike Porter, have actual wrestling chops.
He’s still way too much for Turkalj, though. Even if he doesn’t immediately decide to take things to the ground, Turkalj’s lack of head movement means Almeida can hold his own on the feet. This lasts as long as Almeida wants it to and, once he’s had his fun and decides to take down Turkalj, he’ll find the latter’s neck in a hurry.
Prediction: Almeida via first round submission
185 lbs.: Denis Tiuliulin vs. Jamie Pickett
Denis Tiuliulin (10-6) rode a 4-1 run into his UFC debut, which saw him step up on short notice to meet Contender Series graduate, Aliaskhab Khizriev. His efforts couldn’t match his ambitions, succumbing to a rear-naked choke midway through the second round.
Eight of his 10 professional wins have come by form of knockout.
Three-time Contender Series veteran, Jamie Pickett, evened up his UFC record at 2-2 with consecutive decisions over Laureano Staropoli and Joseph Holmes. This set up a clash with fellow DWCS graduate Kyle Daukaus, who put away “The Nightwolf” with a buzzer-beating d’arce choke.
He is the taller man by one inch and boasts a five-inch reach advantage.
After five UFC bouts, I’m still not entirely sure what Pickett does well. He’s rangy, durable and a functional wrestler, I suppose, but he hasn’t done anything memorable since blowing up Jhonoven Pati on Contender Series.
Still, “rangy, durable and a functional wrestler” may be enough to carry him past Tiuliulin, a one-dimensional striker with awful takedown defense. If Pickett can stay busy and mix in the occasional takedown without getting drawn into a slugfest, he’s got the tools to neutralize Tiuliulin and get back to .500 in the Octagon. However, just don’t expect it to be pretty.
Prediction: Pickett via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Jake Collier vs. Chris Barnett
Jake Collier (13-7) has alternated losses and wins for the entirety of his nearly seven-year Octagon career, starting with a head kick knockout loss to Vitor Miranda. His 2022 efforts have seen him choke out Chase Sherman and lose a hugely controversial split decision to Andrei Arlovski, his second split defeat in three fights.
“The Prototype” stands six inches taller than “Huggy Bear” and will enjoy a 3.5-inch reach advantage.
Chris Barnett (22-8) bounced back from an unsuccessful UFC debut by smashing Gian Villante with a bonus-winning wheel kick at UFC 268. Next came a clash with Contender Series graduate, Martin Buday, who walked away with a technical decision win after an illegal strike in the third round.
All 17 of his finishes have come by knockout.
You’ve gotta feel for Collier because he was plenty competitive against Felipe and there wasn’t a single media outlet who scored the Andrei Arlovski fight against him. Luckily, there shouldn’t be too much controversy here. Though Barnett always has the potential to score an out-of-nowhere finish, Collier’s striking fundamentals far outstrip “Huggy Bear’s,” and he knows how to use his height and reach advantages.
There just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot that Barnett can threaten Collier with outside of low-percentage kills hots. Whether striking at range or using the wrestling skills he’s shown of late, Collier out-classes Barnett for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Collier via unanimous decision
I mean, at least we can guarantee someone’s going to get hurt, right? See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 279 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+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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