Madison Square Garden. Saturday. Jorge Masvidal. Nate Diaz. Need I say more?
I do, actually, seeing as it’s my job and all. In addition to the BMF title fight, UFC 244’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card also features a terrific Middleweight clash between Darren Till and Kelvin Gastelum, as well as the return of Stephen Thompson against fast-rising Vicente Luque.
Before all that, though, we’ve got seven “Prelims” undercard bouts — split 4:3 between ESPN 2 and Fight Pass/ESPN+ — to preview and predict. Let’s start with the latter:
125 lbs.: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia
Katlyn Chookagian (12-2) won two of three as a UFC Bantamweight before dropping to 125 pounds, where she’s gotten the win in three of four appearances. Six months after a split decision loss to Jessica Eye cost her a possible title shot, she faced The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Joanne Calderwood in May, taking home a competitive decision.
She is five inches taller than Jennifer Maia (17-5-1) and will have a four-inch reach advantage.
Jennifer Maia (17-5-1) enjoyed a strong run as Invicta Flyweight champion prior to her Octagon run, including successful defenses against Roxanne Modafferi and Agnieszka Niedzwiedz. While she fell to Liz Carmouche in her Octagon debut, she’s gotten back on track with decisions over Alexis Davis and the aforementioned Modafferi.
She has knocked out and submitted four professional foes apiece.
Chookagian fights are never fun to pick — her combination of high volume and zero stopping power mean that her chances at victory often come down to judges’ preferences. This looks to be another instance of that, as Maia is the harder hitter but has a bad habit of starting slow.
I do think Maia will earn a victory because she’ll definitely land the more eye-catching shots and can keep up with Chookagian’s output. The question is whether she’ll receive the commensurate credit. I’ll err on the side of optimism and say she does.
Prediction: Maia via split decision
170 lbs.: Lyman Good vs. Chance Rencountre
Lyman Good (20-5) — Bellator MMA’s first-ever Welterweight champion — kicked off his Octagon debut by smashing Andrew Craig, extending his unbeaten streak to six in the process. A run-in with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) resulted in a two-year suspension, since which “Cyborg” has gone 1-2.
The Tiger Schulmann-trained product has scored 10 (technical) knockouts as a professional.
Chance Rencountre (14-3) debuted on short notice last year against Belal Muhammad, who out-struck and outwrestled “Black Eagle” en route to a unanimous decision win. He got back on track this past January with a submission of Kyle Stewart, then out-brawled top prospect Ismail Naurdiev in July.
He’ll have two inches of height and an inch of reach on Good.
This may be some recency bias at play, but I really like Rencountre here. He showed a ridiculous chin against Naurdiev and repeatedly took him down when Michel Prazeres, a grinder par excellence, struggled to do the same. While Good’s a physical beast and a far better striker, I’m not sure he can keep Rencountre off of him all night considering the latter’s toughness and gas tank.
As long as this fight stays at range, Good has a massive edge. Rencountre won’t let him keep it there for long, though, and should be able to grind his way to a gritty decision.
Prediction: Rencountre via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Julio Arce vs. Hakeem Dawodu
Julio Arce (16-3) — a former Ring of Combat champion at Bantamweight and Featherweight — followed up his bonus-winning performance on “Contender Series” with wins over Dan Ige and Daniel Teymur in his first two Octagon appearances. Sheymon Moraes ended his win streak via split decision in Nov. 2018, from which he bounced back by knocking out Julian Erosa with a head kick.
He’ll give up one inch of height and 3.5 inches of reach to Hakeem Dawodu (10-1-1).
“Mean” Hakeem entered the UFC with some hype thanks to a strong World Series of Fighting run, only to suffer a shock submission loss to Danny Henry in his Octagon debut. He’s gone on to win three straight, including a bonus-winning thrashing of Yoshinori Horie in July.
Seven of his professional victories have come via (technical) knockout.
This is a sleeper Fight of the Night candidate between highly skilled strikers, both of whom boast considerable potential. I’ve got to give the edge to Dawodu, though; he’s the harder hitter by a fair margin, has the aforementioned reach advantage, and looks to be the more versatile striker overall.
Both men have been dropped in their Octagon careers, adding a nice layer of unpredictability, but I’m still confident in my pick. Dawodu’s superior stopping power and larger Muay Thai arsenal earn him an entertaining win.
Prediction: Dawodu via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 244 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict tomorrow, including several top-notch finishers and the return of Johnny Walker. Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 244 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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