Having cemented himself as the best Featherweight on the planet, Alexander Volkanovski looks to add “two-division champion” to his accolades this Saturday (Feb. 11, 2023) when he battles newly-crowned Lightweight kingpin, Islam Makhachev, in UFC 284’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event. RAC Arena in Perth, Australia, will also host an interim Featherweight title clash between Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett, as well as Jack Della Maddalena’s battle with Randy Brown and a Light Heavyweight tussle pitting Jimmy Crute and Alonzo Menifield.
Four UFC 284 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), but that’s something we can rectify. Read on ...
205 lbs.: Tyson Pedro vs. Modestas Bukauskas
A red-hot undefeated (2-0) UFC start gave way to a 1-3 skid for Tyson Pedro (9-3). Then, a 3.5-year layoff followed, since which he’s bounced back with quick knockouts of Ike Villanueva and Harry Hunsucker.
All of his wins have come inside the distance, five of them via submission.
After a successful UFC debut against Andreas Michailidis, Modestas Bukauskas (13-5) exited the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion on a three-fight losing streak. He then returned to Cage Warriors, once again claiming the promotion’s Light Heavyweight title by knocking out Chuck Campbell in Dec. 2022.
He steps in for the injured Zhang Mingyang on around 2.5 weeks’ notice.
I’m glad to see Bukauskas get a second chance, especially after that wonky decision against Michal Oleksiejczuk. Fingers crossed they keep him on the roster after this fight goes south.
I’m well aware that Pedro’s current hot streak is smoke and mirrors — Villanueva and Hunsucker were some of the worst UFC Light Heavyweights in recent memory. He still looks to have way too much horsepower for the undersized Bukauskas, and though Pedro can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like few others, I expect another early knockout as he swarms Bukauskas before the latter can get warmed up.
Prediction: Pedro via first round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Joshua Culibao vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan
Joshua Culibao (10-1) struggled out of the UFC gate with a knockout loss to Jalin Turner and a competitive draw against Charles Jourdain. Subsequent efforts have proven more fruitful, and “Kuya” enters the cage this Saturday on the heels of consecutive wins over Shayilan Nuerdanbieke and Seung Woo Choi.
He’ll enjoy an inch of height and three inches of reach on Baghdasaryan.
Melsik Baghdasaryan (7-1) made his first trip to the judges on Contender Series, where he cruised past Dennis Buzukja to secure a UFC contract. His two UFC appearances have seen him put away fellow Contender Series veteran, Collin Anglin, with a head kick and outlast LFA champion Bruno Souza for a unanimous decision.
All but one of his five knockouts have come inside the first minute.
The oddsmakers have this a dead heat at time of writing, and it’s not hard to see why. Culibao is a marvelous fighter when all his gears are meshing, but has had his share of issues putting everything together, while Baghdasaryan remains largely untested. It’s an extremely volatile matchup that could be either an excellent back-and-forth striking battle or a weirdly underwhelming grind.
I’ve got Culibao by a hair, largely thanks to his willingness to grapple if necessary. Again, this is the sort of fight that could take any number of bizarre turns, but “Kuya” should be able to keep pace with Baghdasaryan at a distance and muddy it up enough to pull away when both start to gas.
Prediction: Culibao via split decision
125 lbs.: Shannon Ross vs. Kleydson Rodrigues
Shannon Ross (12-6) claimed the Eternal MMA Flyweight title with a third-round knockout of Paul Loga, but came up short in his inaugural defense against Steve Erceg. After rebounding with a decision over Contender Series veteran, Donavon Frelow, he made his own Contender Series bid against Vinicius Salvador, who knocked him out to cap off a two-round fire-fight.
He’s the taller man by one inch, but gives up that amount of reach.
Kleydson Rodrigues (7-2) went from choking out Eduardo Henrique for the Jungle Fight Flyweight title to dominating Santo Curatolo on Contender Series. This led to a UFC debut against CJ Vergara, who took home a hugely controversial split decision win in Phoenix.
“K.R.” has ended five of his seven wins inside the distance, three of them via knockout.
Admirably game though he may be, the myriad knockdowns Ross suffered against Salvador weren’t an anomaly. The man gets dropped with worrying regularity, which is a pretty bad problem to have against a younger and more versatile striker in Rodrigues. It seems inevitable that Ross will get clipped at some point, especially since he can’t overpower Rodrigues’ wrestling to get it to the mat if things get hairy.
Ross is very difficult to put down for good, but Rodrigues has enough tools in his arsenal to get the job done. Either a big flurry or a club-and-sub will end things by the end of the second.
Prediction: Rodrigues via second round submission
155 lbs.: Jamie Mullarkey vs. Francisco Prado
Jamie Mullarkey’s (15-5) UFC run got off on the wrong foot, as he dropped consecutive decisions to Brad Riddell and Fares Ziam. He’s 3-1 since, including violent knockouts of Khama Worthy and Devonte Smith.
He sports a three-inch reach advantage to go with his two-inch height advantage.
Francisco Prado (11-0) left his homeland of Argentina to join the Brazilian scene in his fifth pro fight, ultimately settling in the Samurai Fight House promotion. He claimed its Lightweight title in Oct. 2022, then defended it with a 77-second finish just two months later.
All of his wins have come by stoppage, eight of them in the first round.
I respect the hell out of Prado for taking the challenge and firmly believe he’s got what it takes to be a quality UFC fighter. I just don’t see this going well for him; Mullarkey offers a similar mix of high-octane slugging and smothering grappling, with the difference that he’s made it work against much higher-level opposition.
Prado is young, dynamic and aggressive enough to give Mullarkey hell in the early going. Considering Mullarkey’s legendary toughness, though, odds are that he weathers Prado’s best shots and slowly takes over for a late finish.
Prediction: Mullarkey via third round technical knockout
It’s always nice to see someone strive for greatness, regardless of outcome. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 15-6
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 284 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 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 284: “Islam vs. Volkanovski” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.