This weekend (Sat., June 24, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., for UFC Jacksonville. A live crowd and bump from ESPN+ to ABC makes this week’s offering of fights a bit better than usual. The main event promises a Featherweight banger, certainly, but there’s actually some gold on the undercard, too. Indeed, top-to-bottom, it’s a strong free event, which is a lovely change of pace.
Let’s dig in and take a closer look at the main card matches that lead up to the co-main event:
Heavyweight: Austen Lane vs. Justin Tafa
Best Win for Lane? Juan Adams For Tafa? Parker Porter
Current Streak: Lane has won six straight ahead of his UFC debut, while Tafa has won his last two bouts
X-Factor: Lane is a former Jacksonville Jaguar!
How these two match up: Big ol’ power punchers are going to do their best to ensure we don’t see a second round.
Lane is about what you would expect of a former NFL player-turned MMA fighter. He’s absolutely massive, and he definitely has plus attributes in terms of speed and power. His technical game and defense are still rough around the edges, but then, that’s pretty standard for Heavyweight, is it not?
Tafa has a rugby background rather than football, but these two share some similarities in terms of strengths and weaknesses. The difference is that Tafa has been a martial artist, specifically a striker, for quite some time longer and thus has more offensive tools at his disposal than pure power.
This is a classic Heavyweight banger that could end in either man hitting the canvas face-first inside a couple minutes. Neither man has shown the skills to switch it up and take things to the canvas, so it really feels like a kickboxing match.
Seeing as both men can crack, I’ll side with the more fluid striker in Tafa. Lane has been stopped in all three of his losses, and it’s not unreasonable to call Tafa the most technical striker he’s faced. That’s not saying a lot, but if we’re betting on who finds the other’s chin first, I’m guessing that Tafa has a trick or two up his sleeve and lands first.
Prediction: Tafa via knockout
Featherweight: David Onama vs. Gabiel Santos
Best Win for Onama? Gabriel Benitez For Santos? Jose Delano
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: Santos will have a full camp for this bout
How these two match up: These may not be well-known names, but this should be a great 145-pound scrap.
Onama has some incredible physical gifts. Standing 5’11” with a 74-inch reach, “The Silent Assassin” also happens to have dynamite in his hands. Good luck avoiding those long punches. He tends to hurt everyone he fights, but the more technical aspects of his MMA game are a work in progress, which seems to be a theme thus far.
Santos is an exception. At 26 years of age, the former LFA champion already looks like a very complete product with a dangerous, three-pronged attack. In his short-notice debut, he gave the highly-regarded Lerone Murphy all the English fighter could handle, impressing even in a split-decision defeat.
Santos looks to have the wrestling and grappling necessary to overwhelm Onama on the canvas, which is very likely to be the focal point of his game plan here. The problem is that Onama is so wildly dangerous that every exchange carries a very real threat of Santos getting put on his butt.
It’s far from a sure thing, but Santos appears to be the better fighter by a significant enough margin that he can survive a scare or two. Plus, everyone hits a bit less hard after a frustrating round of getting pinned to the floor.
Prediction: Santos via decision
Middleweight: Brendan Allen vs. Bruno Silva
Best Win for Allen? Andre Muniz For Silva? Brad Tavares
Current Streak: Allen has won four straight, while Silva rebounded last time out
X-Factor: Will Allen play to his strengths and wrestle?
How these two match up: This is a sure-fire action fight.
Allen is a really skilled Middleweight. His kickboxing offense is quite nice, featuring. multi-level combinations of punches and kicks. He’s a very strong wrestler with excellent transitional jiu-jitsu too. Add in good cardio and size, and it seems like Allen would be an easy Top 10 contender ... were it not for his habit of getting clipped!
Silva has a habit of clipping people: the Brazilian brawler has stopped TWENTY — that’s a 2 followed by a 0 — opponents via knockout. He’s durable enough to take Alex Pereira bombs and fire right back, and he’s really dang good at turning a small moment into a savage finish.
These two are essentially nightmare match ups for one another. On one hand, Allen has the wrestling to plant Silva on his back and easily win large swaths of the fight, if not finish him outright. Conversely, Silva’s nasty punching power and excellent eye for finding his mark makes Allen’s shaky striking defense a massive liability.
This feels as close to gambling as the Heavyweight fight, because the paths to victory for each man are just so obvious. Ultimately, it’s hard to ignore Silva’s fight with Andrew Sanchez, which saw him taken down seven times and forced to rely on a third round rally. That late stoppage only really happened because Sanchez slowed down a bit and failed to do much damage from top position.
Allen has the conditioning and top control to maintain a pace and break Sanchez down ... assuming he doesn’t hang around too long on the feet.
Prediction: Allen via decision
‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 19-15-1 (1)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Jacksonville fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ABC (also on ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Jacksonville news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.