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UFC Jacksonville preview: ‘Emmett vs Topuria’ predictions

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) continues its nationwide tour this weekend with the UFC Jacksonville: “Emmett vs. Topuria” mixed martial arts (MMA) event, scheduled for this Sat. night (June 24, 2023) inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Also known as UFC on ABC 5, the UFC Jacksonville event airs on ABC, ESPN and ESPN+ and will be headlined by the featherweight showdown between hard-hitting bruisers Josh Emmett and Ilia Topuria with “The Fighting Falmer” risking his spot in the division Top 5.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 80 On ESPN+

NEW SCHOOL VS. OLD SCHOOL LIGHTWEIGHT SHOWDOWN! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX on Sat., Oct. 7, 2023, with surging 155-pound contender, Grant Dawson, taking on inimitable Octagon veteran, Bobby Green, in the ESPN+-streamed main event. In UFC Vegas 80’s co-main event, Joe Pyfer looks to continue his meteoric Middleweight rise at the expense of Abdul Razak Alhassan’s expense.

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

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the flyweight showdown between Dana White’s “Contender Series” standout Maycee Barber and battle-tested Brazilian bruiser Amanda Ribas, check out Patrick Stumberg’s preliminary card breakdowns — which he wrote instead of watching the subpar CGI in The Flash movie — by clicking here and here. In addition, budding free soloist Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Jacksonville main card right here.

For the latest “Emmett vs. Topuria” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.

Let’s get to work.

145 lbs.: Josh Emmett vs. Ilia Topuria

Josh “The Fighting Falmer” Emmett

Record: 18-3 | Age: 38 | Betting line: +260
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 10 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’6“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.17 | Striking accuracy: 37%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.43 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 1.07 (37% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 58%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Submission loss to Yair Rodriguez

Ilia “El Matador” Topuria

Record: 13-0 | Age: 26 | Betting line: -350
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’7“ | Reach: 69” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.32 | Striking accuracy: 49%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.75 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 2.45 (46% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 92%
Current Ranking: No. 9 | Last fight: Submission victory over Bryce Mitchell

Josh Emmett has been competing inside the Octagon for more than seven years, first as a rather forgettable lightweight who was searching for finishes like those dim-witted Lagina brothers were searching for Oak Island gold. Then “The Fighting Falmer” dropped down to 145 pounds and seemed to melt everything he touched, beating the brakes off Felipe Arantes in a lopsided decision that included four violent knockdowns. From there, Emmett kept the violence train cruising down the tracks by winning three of his next four, all by way of thunderous knockout. But since he toe-tagged Mirsad Bektic at UFC Sacramento, Emmett seemed to lose some of his mojo, or maybe he just started fighting better competition. Three straight decision wins — one that could have been scored in his opponent’s favor at UFC Austin — led to a submission loss against Yair Rodriguez. Nearly every fighter loses at some point, but Emmett looked completely outclassed by “El Pantera.” More concerning was the fact that it came in the biggest fight of his career, with the interim title and a guaranteed shot at Alex Volkanovski as the reward. Did Emmett have a bad day at the office, or does he fold in the big spot? I think tomorrow night’s contest will go a long way in answering that question.

Ilia Topuria made his Octagon debut on super short notice for a “Fight Island” bout against Youssef Zalal, capturing a unanimous decision victory and securing his spot on the featherweight roster. “El Matador” would go on to defeat — and finish — his next four opponents though it’s worth pointing out he nearly found himself in la-la land at UFC London but managed to battle back and score the knockout in the second stanza. Haters (and Paddy Pimblett) like to use that performance against Jai Herbert to claim Topuria got exposed, kind of like how Nate Diaz fans claimed victory over Leon Edwards because “Rocky” was on Queer Street in the waning moments of their UFC 263 showdown. That should give you an idea of the I.Q. of Diaz fans, who are still making memes about that fight while Edwards is across the pond polishing his gold. Anyway, I look at the Herbert fight a little differently, since it showed me that “El Matador” can take a big punch, battle back from adversity, and score his own finish when the chips are down. That’s the sign of a future champion, though he’ll need those skills if he maintains his usual fast and aggressive pace against Emmett. Since their Jacksonville dance is a five-round fight, there’s no question Topuria is going to take damage. Can he weather the storm and return fire?

If we see him make the necessary adjustments to avoid his opponent’s danger zone, sort of like he did against Ryan Hall, I could easily see Topuria battering Emmett across five rounds. I also won’t rule out a reckless start that gets his head taken off by “The Fighting Falmer,” who seems to throw every punch like his life depends on it. The more probable scenario is that Topuria uses his speed and accuracy to keep Emmett at bay, who is likely to grow frustrated and spend the second half of the fight locked in a game of cat-and-mouse, winging wild punches and hitting mostly air.

Prediction: Topuria def. Emmett by unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Maycee Barber vs. Amanda Ribas

Maycee “The Future” Barber

Record: 12-2 | Age: 25 | Betting line: +170
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’5“ | Reach: 65” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.27 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.63 | Striking Defense: 54%
Takedown Average: 1.23 (37% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 47%
Current Ranking: No. 11 | Last fight: Split decision victory over Andrea Lee

Amanda Ribas

Record: 11-3 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -200
Wins: 2 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’3“ | Reach: 66” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.80 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.65 | Striking Defense: 69%
Takedown Average: 2.16 (52% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 88%
Current Ranking: No. 9 | Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Viviane Araujo

Maycee Barber got nicknamed “The Future” because she was very clearly a future star, racking up a 4-0 record for Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) before securing a UFC contract on Dana White’s “Contender Series.” That performance, a third-round destruction of Jamie Colleen Miller, was one of four straight knockout wins for the now 25 year-old flyweight. It may have been detrimental to her career, which sounds crazy, but her ego went through the roof and her aura of invincibility likely cost her consecutive decision losses to Roxanne Modafferi and Alex Grasso, the former of which resulted in a torn ACL. Barber was able to eventually right the ship, but gone are the days of “The Future” smashing her opponents. It’s hard to knock a fighter who wins four straight, I just can’t help but wonder how she went from flyweight wrecking ball to decision monster, with two of those contests ending in a split on the judges’ scorecards. Like I mentioned when breaking down Josh Emmett in the UFC Jacksonville headliner, it may just be a matter of stiffer competition. Either way, Barber will need a big performance in “The Sunshine State” if she hopes to crack the division Top 10.

That’s a spot Amanda Ribas has enjoyed for the past several years, thanks to a 6-2 record under the UFC banner. Ribas booted Paige VanZant from the promotion with a first-round submission and was the first fighter to defeat grappling wunderkind Mackenzie Dern inside the Octagon. Her most recent loss came by way of split decision against the rough-and-tumble Katlyn Chookagian at UFC Vegas 54, but that bout won “Fight of the Night” for its wall-to-wall action. In terms of her offense, Ribas has outwrestled her opponents 13-2 in takedowns. No doubt she will look to keep that streak alive against Barber, a solid wrestler in her own right, but it’s worth noting “The Future” was outwrestled by Andrea Lee when they went to war at UFC San Antonio last March. Stylistically speaking, I think Ribas and Barber are pretty evenly matched. Whoever controls the wrestling is likely going to win the fight. The odds are leaning heavily toward Ribas, and rightly so if you judge this fight on paper, I just can’t help but question the durably of the Brazilian’s chin. She was knocked out cold by Polyana Viana in Jungle Fight then got sliced and diced by Herb Dean Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257. I think Barber, who at 25 continues to improve with each fight, finds a way to slip through and leaves Ribas looking up at the lights.

Prediction: Barber def. Ribas by knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC Jacksonville main card predictions are RIGHT HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Jacksonville fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 12 p.m. ET, followed by the ABC/ESPN+ main card start time 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 archives here, here, and here. For the updated and finalized “Emmett vs. Topuria” fight card and ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ lineup click here.

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