Over the last 24 hours, UFC President Dana White has been faced with an almost unprecedented amount of backlash from the MMA community following the announcement that a flyweight title contest between Valentina Shevchenko and Sijara Eubanks would be the main event for UFC 230 in New York.
It has now been confirmed that Nate Diaz (20-11-0), after two years out of MMA competition, returns this year at UFC 230 to fight against Dustin “The Diamond” Poirer (24–5–0, 1 NC) at the prestigious Madison Square Garden Arena, New York.
The UFC rolled into Calgary on Saturday night looking to make amends for the somewhat infamous UFC 149, an event considered by many to be among the worst PPV events the UFC ever held. With three fights on the main card which could easily have headlined a FOX card on their own, nobody could accuse Dana White of not trying to make amends with the good people of Calgary.
Saturday, July 28th 2018 – Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
In the main event, former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez meets fellow lightweight contender Dustin Poirier in an eagerly awaited rematch. The two first clashed at UFC 211 in May 2017, but the fight ended in a no-contest courtesy of an illegal knee from Alvarez.
With UFC Calgary upon us, it is time to stake your pre-fight flutter before sitting back to enjoy the fights. This is a card that can return a lot of bang for your buck if you have a keen eye for underdogs so I’ve broken down my picks for a 3-fight money maker below.
Dustin Ortiz vs. Matheus Nicolau
Dustin Ortiz vs. Matheus Nicolau is in the depths of the prelims, but make no mistake, this should be a competitive and entertaining fight.
Ortiz is coming in on a two-fight win streak against high level competition. He convincingly dismantled Hector Sandoval via decision in August 2017 and subsequently smashed Alexandre Pantoja within 15 seconds in January.
Spirits are high in the Ortiz camp, but many will ask if he has the talent and technique to break down a dangerous Matheus Nicolau come fight night. With scalps such as John Moraga and Louis Smolka on his resume, Nicolau is considered a rising talent in the division with only one loss to his professional record.
However, the grit and durability, coupled with dynamic wrestling pedigree should be the winning factor for Ortiz. He never tires and is relentless at pushing the pace. If he can keep the forward pressure and avoid the counter from Matheus Nicolau, we could have an underdog payday.
Pick 1: Dustin Ortiz @ 6/4
John Makdessi vs. Ross Pearson
In the UFC’s stacked lightweight division, two veteran strikers will clash to see who comes out on top. Both fighters are 33-years-of-age and need to continue winning to stay relevant in the UFC itself, let alone the division.
Always fighting out of a traditional sideways stance, John Makdessi is a skilled kickboxer. He throws lots of feints to keep his opponents guessing and has some good leg kicks too. Having traded wins and losses in recent years, Makdessi hopes to gain some momentum under famed striking coach, Duke Roufus following his recent camp switch.
In previous bouts, Makdessi was unfortunate to be on the losing end of the scorecards against Hawaiian Yancy Medeiros after three good rounds. However, in his most recent performance, he was able to comprehensively outstrike the heavy-handed Abel Trujillo to take the much needed “W”.
Standing across the cage will be English native Ross Pearson. Ross has also struggled to string together wins in his UFC career lately, coming off a terrible losing streak (albeit against good competition). To halt that skid, Pearson was able to win his last fight against Japanese striker, Mizuno Hirota, and looked rejuvenated. We saw Pearson showcase his trademark slips and accurate punches to secure a decision victory. This has lacked in his previous bouts, but the groove seemed to have returned.
While Pearson doesn’t have the diverse offensive arsenal of Makdessi, his boxing-centric style is certainly effective and crisp. Against highly-touted lightweight contender, Dan Hooker, Pearson won the first round before eventually being caught by a knee from hell in the second. This was the same story when “The Real Deal” clashed with an aggressive kickboxer in Paul Felder. Many thought Pearson would be dismantled, however, Pearson’s boxing fundamentals and slips were perfectly utilised proving he can definitely show up when the odds are against him.
Although both fighters are the same age, Pearson has the more significant mileage on his body (and chin). That being said, his grit, work rate and athleticism should be enough to catch Makdessi out and stop him before the buzzer.
Pick 2: Pearson @ 13/8
Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
In a highly anticipated rematch, Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez throw down for a chance at a lightweight title shot.
In their first outing back in May 2017, Poirier demonstrated he was the more technical striker, clearly outlanding Alvarez in the first round. After being rocked badly in the second round, Alvarez showcased his trademark Philadelphia iron-will and came back with a vengeance. In my opinion, Poirier looked to have been in desperate trouble before the fight was called off due to an illegal knee.
Another outing confirmed Alvarez is insanely resolute, while Poirier is an excellent technical striker that is very much hitting his stride. What was also obvious is that whilst both fighters have a solid wrestling base, I think we’re likely to see another standup brawl until one drops to the canvass.
In summary, you can never count Eddie Alvarez out of a fight – especially one that will predominantly be fought standing toe to toe. He is known for pushing the pace unless you detach him from his consciousness.
Whilst Poirier is arguably the better technical brawler, I feel unless he gets Eddie out of there in the opening round, he will struggle with manoeuvring out of reach of Alvarez for the full fight. That means it is a matter of time before he is caught, and with his occasionally questionable chin, it could be a tough night.
Pick 3: Alvarez @ 6/4
Treble @ 16/1 (£10 returns £164.10)
Surging lightweight contender Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier will run back his controversial “No Contest” with former division kingpin Eddie Alvarez this July, as a rematch between the exciting pair has been made official for UFC on Fox 30 in Calgary.
Lafayette favorite Poirier has cemented his spot among the elite at 155lbs in his continued winning streak, impressively stopping one time gold holder Anthony Pettis and just last April, picked up a late knockout victory over the rugged Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje to extend his undefeated run to four.
The two upper echelon challengers initially clashed back at UFC 221, in for the most part before the controversial stoppage, a brutally even sharpshooter contest. Poirier hurt Eddie badly in a wild exchange before “The Underground King” kept his cool and wobbled the former featherweight, sending him reeling back to the Octagon fence, allowing Eddie to secure a double leg. As Poirier looked to walk the fence to get back to his feet, Alvarez landed three knees (two of which were illegal as Poirier was a grounded opponent) with Herb Dean immediately calling a halt to the dramatic match up. A “No Contest” was declared in Texas as both men were rumored to run it back in the future.
MMA pioneer Alvarez subsequently got back to winning ways after his UFC 205 defeat to Conor McGregor in an absolute barn burner with the game, aforementioned Gaethje. Both men traded huge shots throughout the five round affair with Alvarez ripping to the body on multiple occasions, before a knee in the clinch slumped Justin to the canvas before the fifth round buzzer.
In brief contention to replace the injured Tony Ferguson at UFC 222, Alvarez was eventually overlooked ahead of Al Iaquinta who lost a decision to the undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Expect fireworks yet again in this one, but let’s hope the score is settled this time.
UFC on Fox 29 is in the books and it certainly did not disappoint. With a main event which delivered exactly the kind of war fans expected and some fantastic scraps throughout the card, UFC fans in Glendale were treated to an entertaining night of action.
Let’s take a look at what could be next for Dustin Poirier and the other main card winners in Glendale, Arizona.
Dustin Poirier (23-5-0, 1 n/c)
In a main event which truly lived up to expectations, Dustin Poirier ultimately won the stand up battle against Justin Gathje on his way to earning a fourth round stoppage victory. Poirier is now undefeated in his last 4 outings, with wins over Jim Miller and Anthony Pettis either side of a controversial no contest against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 211. With just one loss in his last nine fights, The Diamond is firmly entrenched in the top five of the lightweight division and can only be one fight away from getting his shot at the gold.
Considering the uncertainty at the top of the UFC lightweight division, it came as no surprise that Poirier took the opportunity to call out current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in his octagon interview. With Tony Ferguson sidelined following knee surgery and Conor McGregor facing an uncertain future, the only other realistic challenger for the belt is Eddie Alvarez (29-5-0, 1 n/c). Poirier and Alvarez have unfinished business following UFC 211 and a second fight between the two warriors would make perfect sense. The winner would be all but guaranteed to move on to face Khabib for the title later this year.
Alex Oliveira (18-5-1, 2 n/c)
Alex Oliveira stepped in as a late replacement after Matt Brown pulled out of his planned match up with Carlos Condit in Glendale and he certainly made the most of the opportunity. With a little over three minutes gone in the second round, Oliveira secured a guillotine choke which ended the fight and delivered Cowboy the biggest win of his career to date.
With a win over number 12 ranked UFC legend Condit under his belt, Oliveira will likely be eyeing another ranked opponent when he returns to the octagon later this year. The welterweight division has been a busy one over the past few weeks, with almost all of the top 15 being booked to fight in the coming months. One fighter who remains unattached is Dong Hyun Kim (22-4-1, 1 n/c). Kim is a 10 year UFC veteran who is currently ranked at number 15 and hasn’t fought since dropping a decision loss to Colby Covington in July 2017. In an ideal world, Oliveira would be looking at fighting someone a little higher up the rankings but as a fighter who likes to stay busy, I expect he would be happy to take a fight with Kim rather than wait around for someone else to become available.
Israel Adesanya (13-0-0)
He may not have been happy with his performance but Israel Adesanya got the job done against Marvin Vettori. The charismatic 28-year-old extends his record to 13 fights without defeat and had this been a more emphatic performance would be almost certain to move on to face a ranked opponent in his next appearance. Prior to facing Vettori, Adesanya had won all 12 of his professional fights by KO/TKO and there was certainly a sense of disappointment in his post fight interview. The reality is, while the performance may have been less flashy than we have been accustomed too, there will be valuable lessons learned by Adesanya in his first fight to ever go the distance. In the long run, this will serve him well.
There are two paths available for the UFC when looking at what could be next for Adesanya. They could look to further build his stock by matching him against someone they feel he will be able to showcase his full array of skills against. Former champion Johny Hendricks is a fading former star who the UFC seem to have no problem with matching up against streaking young stars. They could alternatively choose to match Adesanya with someone who will provide him a sterner test. The UFC are rarely slow to build up exciting fighters and I expect they will take the latter approach. A match up with UFC veteran C.B. Dollaway (17-8-0) would certainly provide Adesanya with an opportunity to prove he is the real deal. Should be emerge victorious, there would be little to stand in the way of him moving on to face a ranked opponent in his next fight.
Michelle Waterson (15-6-0)
Michelle Waterson ground out a split decision win with a gritty display against Cortney Casey. Waterson, a natural atomweight, was visibly smaller than her opponent at 115lbs and while she had enough to emerge with the victory on this occasion, it is hard not to think of what she could achieve if the UFC provided her with the opportunity to fight at her natural weight.
The Karate Hottie has an impressive record against the majority of the division but has twice fallen short when stepping up a level against both Tecia Torres and reigning champion Rose Namajunas. None the less, Waterson is back in the mix at the top end of the division and is likely to take another step up in opponent in her next fight. Carla Esparza (13-4-0) and Claudia Gadelha (15-3-0) are set to meet at UFC 225 in what is likely to be a title eliminator. With the winner likely to face Namajunas for the strawweight belt, who ever loses that fight would make an ideal next opponent for Waterson. A win against either Esparza or Gadelha would prove that the 32-year-old is ready for the next level of competition and put her on track for a shot at the strawweight gold.