After narrowly failing to conquer a second weight class, Featherweight kingpin, Alexander Volkanovski, returns to 145 pounds this Saturday (July 8, 2023) to face interim titlist, Yair Rodriguez, inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Also on tap is a third meeting between Flyweight champion, Brandon Moreno, and top contender, Alexandre Pantoja, as well as the latest from Bo Nickal against super short-notice replacement, Val Woodburn.
Let’s have a look at UFC 290’s four remaining “Prelims” undercard bouts on ESPN+/ABC that will set the pay-per-view (PPV) stage (check out the ESPN+/Fight Pass portion here):
170 lbs.: Robbie Lawler vs. Niko Price
Robbie Lawler (29-16) established himself as a Welterweight great by beating Johny Hendricks for the UFC title in 2014 and subsequently defending it in back-to-back barnburners. Now 41 years old, “Ruthless” enters the cage 1-5 in his last six, the sole victory coming over fellow veteran Nick Diaz in 2021.
Unsurprisingly, 21 of his 22 professional stoppage wins have come by knockout.
After joining UFC with a perfect professional record (8-0), Niko Price (15-6) rumbled his way to a 5-3 (1 NC) Octagon start, winning four post-fight bonuses along the way. He’s 1-3 (1 NC) since, most recently suffering a comeback knockout loss to Phil Rowe in Dec. 2022.
He’ll enjoy one inch of height and two inches of reach on Lawler.
Lawler’s fundamental weakness is that he can’t handle volume. Unless he’s in full-on murder mode, overly willing to wait his turn rather than punch with his opponent. If you just never let him have his turn, as Rafael Dos Anjos, Colby Covington, and Bryan Barberena did, you can bury him with little resistance.
While not what I’d call a swarmer, Price is a high-output power puncher. Even though his striking technique pales in comparison to Lawler’s, his standard approach is one that the modern Lawler seemingly can’t handle. He outworks and beats down Lawler for a mid-round finish.
Prediction: Price via second round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Jack Della Maddalena vs. Josiah Harrell
He had to make his first trip to the judges to do it, but Jack Della Maddalena (14-2) secured a UFC contract by overpowering Ange Loosa on Contender Series. He quickly returned to his finishing ways in the Octagon, racking up four consecutive first-round finishes and scoring three post-fight bonuses along the way.
His professional stoppage wins are split 11:2 between knockouts and submissions.
Josiah Harrell (7-0) went 6-0-1 in the amateurs before turning professional in 2020. He’s yet to see the judges in the paid ranks, dispatching four via knockout and three by submission.
It’s not as grotesque a mismatch as last week’s Joanderson Brito vs. Westin Wilson debacle, but it’s hard to see this being competitive. Harrell is four inches shorter than Della Maddalena, gives up six inches of reach, weighed in at 162 pounds last time out, is massively out-gunned in both technique and power, and isn’t a sufficiently strong wrestler to take Della Maddalena out of his wheelhouse.
That’s really the long and short of it. Indeed, Harrell is a decent prospect going up against a proven contender with the style to eat him alive. In the end, Della Maddalena clips him with a counter and puts him away in the opening minutes.
Prediction: Della Maddalena via first round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Yazmin Jauregui vs. Denise Gomes
Yazmin Jauregui (10-0) cut her teeth in Combate, ultimately winning a one-night, three-fight tournament in 2021 to earn a spot in the Octagon. Though she spent a year on the sidelines, she made up for lost time with a pair of entertaining victories over Iasmin Lucindo and Istela Nunes.
She’s knocked out seven opponents as a professional.
Less than one month after beating Rayanne dos Santos on Contender Series, Denise Gomes (7-2) made her UFC debut against Loma Lookboonmee, struggling with her foe’s striking and grappling en route to her first loss since her 2017 pro debut. She was quite a bit more successful against fellow DWCS vet Bruna Brasil, whom she smashed into submission midway through the second round.
She is the shorter woman at 5’2” and gives up one inch of reach.
While Jauregui’s ridiculous aggression will always leave her vulnerable even against ostensibly “lesser” strikers, I like her chances here. Gomes is every bit as willing to knuckle down and trade heat, but is noticeably slower than Jauregui and every bit as defensively porous. Milana Dudieva dropped her twice with counters, which strikes me as a bigger red flag than Jauregui getting clipped by the much more dangerous Istela Nunes.
There’s a potential X-factor in Gomes’ wrestling, but considering how poorly it held up against Lookboonmee, it shouldn’t pose a threat to Jauregui. Jauregui clips her in a firefight for her second UFC victory over young Brazilian finishers.
Prediction: Jauregui via first round technical knockout
205 lbs.: Jimmy Crute vs. Alonzo Menifield
Jimmy Crute (12-3-1) looked poised to enter title contention after a 4-1 UFC start saw him claim four finishes and two post-fight bonuses. He’s winless since, suffering consecutive stoppage losses to Anthony Smith and Jamahal Hill before a destructive draw with Menifield.
“The Brute” faces a two–inch reach disadvantage despite being the taller of the two.
An explosive pair of UFC knockouts for Alonzo Menifield (13-3-1) gave way to momentum-halting losses to Devin Clark and Ovince Saint Preux. He now sits at 4-1-1 in his last six, the sole loss a controversial one to William Knight.
He’s ended all but one of his pro fights inside the distance, nine of them via knockout.
For my money, Menifield needs fewer adjustments than Crute to emerge victorious. He knows that he can hurt Crute and shut down his grappling while he’s fresh; victory is his if he can just pace himself. Crute, on the other hand, needs to fix the serious defensive issues baked into his striking style. He failed to do so after falling to Jamahal Hill and I doubt he’ll do so here.
I do think Crute has an outside chance of wearing down Menifield with his wrestling, but that seems less probable than Menifield finding his chin again and sealing the deal this time. In the end, Menifield uses his speed and power to once again clip Crute early and pour it on for the finish.
Prediction: Menifield via first round technical knockout
Save for losing Jack Della Maddalena vs. Sean Brady, there’s not a lot to complain about here. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 85-59-1 (2 NC)
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 290 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+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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