With almost 7 weeks passing by since live sport was showcased, we now get our first glimpse of action. With Dana White doing everything within his power to showcase a UFC event, the time has finally come, with the city of Jacksonville hosting 3 stacked cards in the space of a week.
Answers await the sceptical viewers who believe that the fighters are exposing themselves to the virus known as Covid-19, but the President of the UFC has ensured that the health of all involved with the upcoming events are made a priority.
Ferguson vs Gaethje
With that being said, we have a blockbuster of a main card that awaits us on Sunday morning, as Tony Ferguson faces Justin Gaethje in the main event for the lightweight interim title. Even fighters within the sport have found it hard to predict the outcome of this fight, as both men possess a fearless attitude. For me, Ferguson comes out on top, but only just. The number 1 contender who was originally scheduled to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov has had to switch his game plan on its head, with Gaethje being an aggressive striker within the octagon, compared to the dominant wrestling style of Khabib’s, Ferguson will now have to be wary of a vicious right hook that is in Gaethje’s arsenal. The Californian fighter however, produces strikes from awkward angles and makes it hard for his opponents to scramble, once he corners off the octagon. Questions of fatigue have lingered around Gaethje, as the fighter from Colorado hasn’t gone the distance in any of his fights since 2014, so coming up against a fighter like Ferguson, this factor is surely going to be tested. Ferguson to win by KO/TKO can be found just short of evens with most bookies.
Cejudo vs Cruz
Henry “The Messenger” Cejudo defends his Bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz. The 2010 ‘fighter of the year’ has a lot of work to do to get back to the level that saw him win the accolade a decade ago. His most recent fight came in the loss against Cody Garbrandt, back in 2016, creating doubt around the title contender due to his inactivity within the Octagon. Cejudo is a fighter who likes to mix up his game on all levels, switching from an aggressive wrestling style one moment, to producing quick combinations that target both the body and head the next. With this in mind, I don’t see Cruz being able to fend off the relentless pressure that Cejudo will provide. An early finish in round 1 for the champion is what I’m backing, and at a decent 7/1 this is perhaps a market that could pay off in small-staked double.
Ngannou vs Rozenstruik
Francis Ngannou takes on Jairzinho Rozenstruik in a heavyweight clash that will surely produce fireworks. The French fighter is looking leaner than ever, during UFC’s vlog series “embedded.” This may help combat the fatigue which was clearly on display during his fights against Derrick Lewis and Stipe Miocic, making it no surprise that most of Ngannou’s wins have come in the first round. Jairzinho isn’t going to lie down easily, as the Surinamese fighter possesses a devastating record of his own. “Bigi Boy” has a 10-0 record, with 9 of them being stoppages, making it difficult for me to see this matchup going the distance. I’m backing Ngannou to edge it by the narrowest of margins, but do not be surprised if this fight goes the other way.
Stephens vs Kattar
The featherweight clash between Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar is one not to be missed. With the fighters having similar styles, this will be a question of who can out-strike the other. What makes this fight even harder to call, is the fact that the 2 Americans will be hoping to bounce back from recent losses, especially Stephens, who hasn’t been on the winning side of a fight since 2018. Kattar however, has won 2 of his last 3 via TKO/KO, with one of his victories coming against Ricardo Lamas, who’s been consistently at the top of the featherweight division. With another win on Sunday morning, Kattar could put himself in the picture for a contender bout within the 145lb division. It’s astonishing however to find out that Stephens is only 33 when you consider his resume consists of 45 professional fights, this experience might help him come out on top of the fight that will be conducted without the presence of fans. Despite the Iowa native’s attitude to fight whoever and whenever, I believe Kattar takes the win in Florida and comes in at a huge favourite of 2/5 with Bet365. A questionable selection in my mind though, if you’re thinking of putting an accumulator on.
Hardy vs De Castro
Greg Hardy and Yorgan De Castro kick-off the main card, in an exciting bout that sees two upcoming fighters square off. Undefeated De Castro hopes to make it 7-0 against the former NFL player, who is also hoping to bounce back from a loss from veteran Alexander Volkov. Both men have defeated promising contenders of the division, where Justin Tafa and Juan Adams fell down the pecking order, after featuring in devastating losses to the hands of Hardy and De Castro. Hardy, who put on a poor display in his first outing with the UFC, by getting disqualified in the second round of the fight, will be back in the win column in my eyes. The lack of fans will surely relieve the pressure off of the former defensive end, resulting in an impressive stoppage for Hardy. Being a 7/4 underdog however, a large punt on the man from Cape Verde shouldn’t be disregarded so easily. With 5 of his 6 wins coming via KO/TKO, I wouldn’t be surprised if Yorgan was to remain undefeated and put the whole of the heavyweight division on terms.