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X-Factor! Check out some UFC Kansas City main card predictions

UFC Fight Night: Thompson v Holland Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

This weekend (Sat., April 15, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo., for UFC Kansas City. Often, a “Fight Night” event immediately following a pay-per-view (PPV) card is not the most desirable lineup of fights, but I’m very pleased to report that’s not the case this time. Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen is a tremendous main event (a former champion vs. excellent rising contender) and it deserves the full live audience experience. Before that pivotal Featherweight clash, there are some great scraps between proven fun veterans on the docket, so it seems like a pretty guaranteed night of action.

Let’s dig in and take a closer look at the match ups that lead up the to main event:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 74 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES FLYWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., June 3, 2023, with No. 3-seeded contender, Kai Kara-France, face rising No. 7-ranked Amir Albazi. In UFC Vegas 74’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, an exciting Featherweight bout sees No. 15-ranked contender, Alex Caceres, lock horns with all-action Daniel Pineda.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Light Heavyweight: Dustin Jacoby vs. Azamat Murzakanov

Best Win for Jacoby? Michal Oleksiejczuk For Murzakanov? Devin Clark
Current Streak: Jacoby came up short last time out, whereas Murzakanov is 12-0 with two UFC wins
X-Factor: Will Murzakanov mix wrestling into his attack?
How these two match up: Two knockout artists will go to war.

Jacoby underwhelmed in his first UFC stint a decade ago, but a cross over into professional kickboxing really seemed to help define his overall game. Since his 2020 return to the roster, Jacoby has been a consistently hard out, a powerful kickboxer able to keep a solid pace for 15 full minutes.

Murzakanov might just be a great prospect. He certainly has the record! However, his debut was a bit concerning, as Murzakanov found himself down two rounds opposite the unheralded Tafon Nchukwi until a jump knee salvaged the win. He looked far better last time out when he beat up Clark, but it’s still hard to truly get a bead on the ceiling of “The Professional.”

Maybe Murzakanov is yet another “ov” destined to make a clean run to the title, but he hasn’t really looked the part just yet. Against Jacoby, he faces significant disadvantages in height, reach, and experience. Jacoby has faced plenty of big hitters, but thus far, his chin has held up remarkably well, and he’s skilled at remaining composed in the face of heavy shots.

Likely, Murzakanov finds some success early. As the fight wears on, however, Jacoby’s more consistent distance game of jabs and kicks should start to dictate the range and put him in the driver’s seat.

Prediction: Jacoby via decision

Light Heavyweight: Ion Cutelaba vs. Tanner Boser

Best Win for Cutelaba? Khalil Rountree Jr For Boser? Ovince Saint Preux
Current Streak: Cutelaba has lost three in a row, whereas Boser came up short in his last bout
X-Factor: This is Boser’s first cut to 205 pounds.
How these two match up: Though both men are well-rounded enough, this likely plays out as wrestler vs. striker battle.

Cutelaba is a fairly infuriating fighter. For literal years now, I’ve written about how Cutelaba has the athleticism, punching power, and wrestling skill to actually pick up decent wins at 205 lbs. His complete lack of defense and ability to maintain a pace, however, routinely offset those gifts.

We’ve been waiting for the 29 year old to turn a corner for how long now?

Boser made his name by being a small Heavyweight and capitalizing on speed and conditioning against fatter, sloppier opposition. That works a lot better against Raphael Pessoa than Ciryl Gane, and since hitting a wall in his last four bouts, Boser has decided to try his hand at Light Heavyweight. Based on Instagram, he looks to be in tremendous shape for the occasion, which is a very positive sign.

Still, this entire fight feels like an X-Factor. Boser’s takedown defense was never great at Heavyweight, and there are arguments for it being better or worse at Light Heavyweight. After all, Boser will face less of a size advantage, but Cutelaba is actually good at wrestling unlike most Heavyweights.

If Cutelaba gains top position, and he probably will early on, he’s prone to unleashing hell with his ground strikes. Simultaneously, his gas tank remains horrid, and Boser’s strikes should be even more impactful down a weight class.

It all sounds like a massive coin flip, but I’ve been burned too many times expecting competence in winnable fights from Cutelaba. Prediction aside, here’s my real advice: don’t bet on this silly fight, just enjoy the chaos.

Prediction: Boser via knockout

Bantamweight: Pedro Munhoz vs. Chris Gutierrez

Best Win for Munhoz? Cody Garbrandt For Gutierrez? Frankie Edgar
Current Streak: Munhoz enters off two losses and a “No Contest,” while Gutierrez is unbeaten in his last eight fights
X-Factor: Munhoz is no longer “The Young Punisher” at 36 years of age
How these two match up: This is a classic veteran vs. up-and-comer booking.

Munhoz has been in the cage with most of the best Bantamweights of the last decade. He still has one of the best chins in the business, a remarkably nasty calf kick, and an instant-death guillotine choke. Historically, his lack of speed is his greatest flaw, but Munhoz is almost always a really tough out in victory or defeat.

The Brazilian can be counted on to make it a scrap.

Gutierrez has an argument as the best low kicker in MMA. He’s so damn good at dissecting his opponent’s lead leg, and unlike most strong calf kickers, he can easily switch stances and kick just as hard from the outside side. It’s a common occurrence for him to debilitate his opponent’s lead leg, then switch stances and brutalize the other calf when they switch to preserve their wounded leg!

I find myself very conflicted in this bout as well. Munhoz is the more well-rounded fighter with better experience and several potential avenues towards victory. A couple years ago, I have little doubt that Munhoz would’ve successfully made it a brawl and found an opportunity to make use of his grappling advantage.

Now, I’m far less confident. Bantamweight is a young man’s division, and Gutierrez’s speed advantage will be significant. Munhoz looked sharp against O’Malley prior to the eye poke, but it’s still hard to ignore he’s been losing far more often than winning in recent years, regardless of the level of competition.

This feels like a changing of the guard moment.

Prediction: Gutierrez via decision

Lightweight: Clay Guida vs. Rafa Garcia

Best Win for Guida? Anthony Pettis For Garcia? Jesse Ronson
Current Streak: Both men bounced back in their last bout
X-Factor: Guida is 41 years old!
How these two match up: Expect a classically chaotic “Carpenter” fight.

Inside the cage, Guida outright refuses to slow down. It’s frankly remarkable that he’s still able to fight so hard for 15 full minutes, and his offense has not deteriorated. Between takedowns, overhands, and calf kicks, Guida still presents his opponents with multiple threats at a high pace, making him a difficult opponent even this late in his career.

Garcia is a pretty straightforward wrestle-boxer. He can put together decent combinations, push a solid pace, and time his double leg well. I don’t know that anything about his game is particularly standout, but it’s still a recipe for success.

I’ll admit to not being particularly high on Garcia, as it wasn’t all that long ago that Chris Gruetzemacher out-hustled Garcia to a clear decision win. Really, Garcia hasn’t yet picked up a win inside the Octagon against an opponent he wasn’t able to clearly outwrestle. He’s not a bad fighter by any means, but in the last couple years alone, Guida has defeated men like Scott Holtzmann and Michael Johnson — more accomplished Lightweights than any victory on Garcia’s resume.

Likely, the two end up in a full-on wrestling match. It’ll probably be very even early on, but I expect Guida’s pace and experience to earn him the win down the stretch.

Prediction: Guida via decision

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 7-5-1

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Las Vegas fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 8:30 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Kansas City: “Holloway vs. Allen” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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