The next couple of months will be an enjoyable stretch for battle fans. The UFC has a pay-per-view in Anaheim (UFC 298 on ESPN+) this month and Battle Night cards in Las Vegas and Mexico City. Plus, the clash of PFL and Bellator champs is set to decrease in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 24. Bellator, One Champion and UFC all have pay-per-view cards with titles up for grabs in March, and the UFC’s turning point 300th pay-per-view– with a crammed card– will take spotlight in April.
However concerns are plentiful with such a stacked schedule. Which champs are most at danger of dropping their belt? What battles in the next couple of months provide the most intrigue? What does Kayla Harrison’s shift from PFL to UFC imply moving forward?
We tapped Jeff Wagenheim, Marc Raimondi and Brett Okamoto to supply insight and analysis on these concerns and more, in addition to a strong forecast on what’s to come on the planet of mixed martial arts.
Which present UFC champ (with a reserved title battle) is more than likely to lose next?
Jeff Wagenheim: Sean O’Malley I’m not anticipating him to lose to Marlon Vera, truthfully, since “Suga Sean” will be called in when he deals with the only male who owns a success over him. However I will point towards O’Malley here since, taking a look at the 3 title battles on the UFC books, I would be surprised to see either Alexander Volkanovski or Zhang Weili dismissed. “Alexander the Great” is 35 years of ages and coming off a knockout loss, and his opposition, Ilia Topuria, is unbeaten. However Volkanovski is simply too damn great, with more than two times as lots of title defenses as any other UFC champ. When it comes to Zhang, she’s No. 1 pound-for-pound, and it’s not even close. And let me include that while I recommend the BMF belt as a sideshow ornament, I’m not taking it seriously as a champion, so I’m setting that battle aside for this conversation. So that leaves O’Malley as the least invulnerable champ.
Marc Raimondi: Alexander Volkanovski. No fighter in the history of the UFC at light-weight or under has actually won a title battle after they turned 35 years of ages. Volkanovski is 35 now. I do not believe mixed martial arts is always a stats sort of sport. However this is more than a little sample size. It’s a genuine pattern and the very best indicator yet of when fighters’ primes are. Volkanovski isn’t simply fighting Ilia Topuria at UFC 298; he’s fighting Dad Time. And time is unbeaten. That’s not to state he’s going to lose– Volkanovski is an all-time fantastic. However this specific stat is illuminating.
Brett Okamoto: Volkanovski. One year earlier, he practically beat Islam Makhachev And now he appears more than likely to lose his belt? Topuria is great, and Volkanovski, despite the fact that I think he’s done whatever right, is still coming off the very first knockout loss of his UFC profession. Oddsmakers have actually noted Volkanovski as the tiniest wagering preferred he’s ever been throughout his champion reign.
Which PFL vs. Bellator champs combat intrigues you most?
Okamoto: I’ll opt for the middleweight battle in between Impa Kasanganay and Johnny Eblen Eblen, the Bellator champ, looks as great as any middleweight in the world. The previous college wrestler might hold his own versus any leading middleweight in the UFC. Kasanganay, the 2023 PFL light heavyweight champ, had a quick run in the UFC 3 years earlier and could not remain after going 2-2. He discovered his groove in in 2015’s PFL season format, and, evaluating by the eye test, he’s enhanced considerably in the last few years. I have an interest in seeing how Kasanganay does versus a top-tier challenger in his natural weight class. And if Eblen wins, it will be a quality win.
Wagenheim: I’m going to believe outside package and note just how much more fascinated I am by an ex-champ-vs.- ex-champ clash that night in between Bruno Cappelozza and Vadim Nemkov The latter just recently abandoned the Bellator light heavyweight title to carry his 12-fight unbeaten streak approximately heavyweight. He will not precisely be relieving into his brand-new weight class. Cappelozza was the 2021 PFL heavyweight champ, and while his 2 seasons ever since were scuttled by injury (2022) and a stopped working PED test (2023 ), he’s had a string of knockouts and simply one loss in his last 7 bouts. Though he’s not a huge heavyweight– making him similar to Nemkov’s coach, Fedor Emelianenko— Cappelozza represents a significant entryway examination to the department for Nemkov.
Raimondi: AJ McKee vs. Clay Collard has an opportunity to be the very best scrap on the card. Collard is instantaneous action and an interesting fighter on the feet, with a legitimate ability in pugilism. McKee has a few of the most unbelievable submission triumphes of the last couple of years. Both males will attempt to enforce their will– Collard on the feet and McKee on the ground– in what ought to be an interesting stylistic match. McKee’s standup should not be slept on, either, since he can put challengers to sleep. And Collard has actually been battling because before he even began boxing.
Fill out the blank: Kayla Harrison‘s arrival into the UFC is ______________.
Raimondi: An essential shot in the arm for the ladies’s bantamweight department. Raquel Pennington winning the title at UFC 297 last month was a great minute for long time fans of the sport, who viewed her start green on “The Ultimate Fighter” more than a years earlier and keep trucking along through ups and downs, consisting of extreme injuries. However her battle versus Mayra Bueno Silva was not a great one, and the department has a large hole with the retirement of Amanda Nunes, the long time previous champ and finest ladies’s fighter ever. Harrison, who is extremely experienced and has star capacity, ought to consider that weight class the fresh admit it requires.
Wagenheim: Puzzling. For as long as she has actually remained in mixed martial arts, Harrison has actually been chasing after a battle with Cris Cyborg And when it continuously did not occur, Kayla ended up being sharp in her criticism of the Bellator champ, calling her a “bad b–” to name a few things. Then, when the PFL’s purchase of Bellator lastly put the Cyborg battle within reach, Harrison immediately left for the UFC. Cyborg aside, Kayla likewise left Larissa Pacheco, the only female to beat her. Now, I have no issue with Harrison or any prizefighter chasing after the greatest payday and chance. However while I have no concept how the PFL and UFC financial deals accumulated, I am left questioning how Harrison might picture her finest opportunity to be at bantamweight, a department 20 pounds under the weight she’s been completing in. If it’s simply organization, it’s danger.
Okamoto: Precisely what required to occur. Look, breaks up do not need to be unpleasant. The PFL had a face of the promo in Kayla Harrison, and gained from her bring its torch for 5 years. And Harrison took advantage of the chances PFL offered her.
The PFL basically developed a 155-pound weight class that did not exist (and had) for her to complete in. And the promo paid her exceptionally well for her looks. Completion of the relationship got a bit dicey, however much of that just related to the absence of alternatives left for Harrison in the PFL. Larissa Pacheco? Yeah, they might have run that for the 4th time, however it felt unneeded. And Cris Cyborg coming by from Bellator? Even with the 2 ladies under the very same umbrella, I questioned whether the battle would really occur. Harrison has a brand-new story entering into 2023, and PFL is losing a property, however one it had actually tired all alternatives with.
Who would you like to see in the primary occasion of UFC 300?
Raimondi: Something including Israel Adesanya Supplied he’s healthy, psychologically and physically, and prepared to go.
Wagenheim: Islam Makhachev. He wishes to do what champs before him have actually done and challenge the titleholder in the weight class above his, in this case welterweight champ Leon Edwards However Makhachev states the UFC has actually decreased to make that defend 300. So who do I wish to see battle under the UFC 300 spotlight? I desire the No. 1 fighter on the planet. Find out how to get your finest fighter on your greatest phase, UFC.
One strong forecast looking ahead into 2024?
Wagenheim: UFC 300 is the turning point occasion drawing all the attention, however it will not beat UFC 299 While 300 does not even have a centerpiece reserved yet, 299 will be headlined by Sean O’Malley, who is on a trajectory to ending up being the business’s greatest star because Conor McGregor The co-main is a five-rounder including Dustin Poirier Enough stated. Unless 300 can assemble Jon Jones vs. Tom Aspinall, it will not have a heavyweight battle on the level of 299’s Curtis Blaydes vs. Jailton Almeida Michael “Venom” Page will make his expected UFC launching, and will not even be the night’s flashiest striker, not with Michel Pereira likewise on the costs. And both Petr Yan vs. Tune Yadong and Katlyn Chookagian vs. Maycee Barber appear like crossroads battles in between fluctuating competitors at males’s bantamweight and ladies’s flyweight, respectively. The UFC will put its finest foot forward on March 9 in Miami, and it will be a difficult act to follow.
Okamoto: This was my strong forecast for 2023, so I’m duplicating myself a bit, however I’m prepared to double down on it. Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon “Chito” Vera 2 for the bantamweight champion at UFC 299 will be the 2023 battle of the year It’s currently established completely in regards to a story arc, provided what took place the very first time they battled, which story is just going to get much better as the battle gets closer and they begin doing media. Miami is the best host for this battle. And the battle needs to be competitive. We’ll see momentum swings, drama, fireworks and perhaps some in-fight psychological video games and teasing. It’s tough to anticipate something like battle of the year, however I’m putting my cash on this centerpiece.
Raimondi: Dana White and Co. will have something else up their sleeve for UFC 300, maybe even a brand-new finalizing Simply put, another relatively substantial battle will get contributed to the UFC 300 lineup that is not the primary occasion.