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UFC 244 preview

Ben Knape

One of the biggest fight cards of 2019 will take place this weekend at Madison Square Garden. The UFC will be unveiling the new ‘BMF’ (baddest motherf*cker) belt and it will be up for grabs in the main event, Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal. Along with the excitement surrounding this new belt, the card holds a number of exciting matchups featuring big name fighters and such fan favorites as Darren Till, Kelvin Gastelum, Stephen Thompson, Derrick Lewis, Kevin Lee, and Johnny Walker.

That we have the awesome matchup of Johnny Walker and Corey Anderson during the prelims is an indicator of how good this card is. These two would, in most circumstances, fight on the main card, but due to the number of amazing fights booked for UFC 244, we’ll see them close out the prelims. This fight will take place in the light heavyweight division, which is in desperate need of a rising star. That star just might be the number eleven ranked contender, Johnny Walker.

Walker is full of whacky combos and unique striking. He has won all three of his last fights in the first round, combining for only 2 minutes and 50 seconds. Walker finished Misha Cirkunov with a flying knee, finished Justin Ledet via spinning backfist, and took out Khalil Rountree with a nasty elbow. He faces off against the number 7 contender in the division, Corey Anderson. Anderson is currently on a 3 fight win streak, winning his last three by decision. He hopes to continue climbing the light heavyweight ranks this weekend at UFC 244.

My prediction for the fight is a first or second round KO/TKO for Johnny Walker. I don’t think Anderson will be able to manage the explosiveness of Walker’s striking. We’ve seen in the past that Anderson can be knocked out, and I believe Johnny Walker will get it done.

Now we get into the main event, which will be kicked off by a lightweight matchup between the number-10 ranked contender, Kevin Lee, and the undefeated 11th-ranked ranked contender, Gregor Gillespie. Kevin Lee has fought the best of them in the UFC lightweight division, but hasn’t seen much success as of late. He‘s lost three of his last four, but the losses were at the hands of elite members of the division; Al Iaquinta, Tony Ferguson, and Rafael dos Anjos. Lee has nice ground game, and has racked up eight submission wins in his career. He’s also got some pretty clean boxing making him a well rounded threat. Gregor Gillespie isn’t a newcomer to the UFC either, making his debut back in 2016. But Gillespie hasn’t been tested by someone with the skills like Kevin Lee thus far. Gregor does have some nice finishing skills; he’s gone undefeated through his 13 professional fights, but only two have gone to the judges. Lee will have to be careful of the arm triangle choke, as Gillespie has successfully submitted four opponents that way.

My prediction for this fight is a decision win for Kevin Lee. He’s proved himself as a great fighter in the past, and is coming off two tough losses to really big names in the division. If he wants to stay in the conversation of lightweight title contention, then he desperately needs to win this weekend.

Next up is a heavyweight bout between Derrick Lewis and Blagoy Ivanov. Currently the UFC’s heavyweight division is fairly shallow, there are the huge names like Daniel Cormier, Stipe Miocic, and Francis Ngannou, but it doesn’t go much further than that. That being said, this fight could have some title implications down the line. Ivanov is looking to break into the top 5, which he could with a win over Lewis. Meanwhile, Lewis is trying to make his way back to another title shot (losing his first title shot to Daniel Cormier last November).

I’m taking Lewis in this fight purely because he has insane knockout power, finishing 18 of his 21 wins by KO/TKO. He’s beat really good guys in the past, and Ivanov has failed to do so when given the chance, takings losses to Junior dos Santos and Alexander Volkov.

Right in the middle of the main card is a really exciting welterweight matchup between one of the nicest guys in the UFC Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, and rising star Vicente Luque. Luque us currently on a nice six fight win streak, getting wins over some great fighters like Niko Price, Jalin Turner, and Mike Perry. Wonderboy has lost his last two, falling to Anthony Pettis and Darren Till. However, before those two he did beat Jorge Masvidal, who is fighting in the main event on Saturday. Wonderboy is undefeated as a kickboxer and he’s got some really phenomenal standup game. Luque is also impressive on his feet, winning 9 of his 17 via TKO/KO, but his ground game shouldn’t be underestimated either as he has won 6 by submission.

I’m going with Wonderboy on this one because he’s just so nice! It’s hard not to love the guy, and add on the fact that he is one of the best kickboxers in the UFC. That being said this is a really good matchup and it could go either way, but Stephen is the man. So if you don’t know who to root for, he’s your guy.

The co-main event of the night is a really intriguing matchup between Kelvin Gastelum and Darren Till. Till will be moving up from welterweight to make his middleweight debut against a durable opponent in Gastelum. Last time we saw Gastelum was in the interim middleweight title fight against Israel Adesanya. Gastelum didn’t come away with a win, but it’s believed by many to be the best fight of the year. Gastelum took shot after shot from Adesanya, and continued to push forward and exchange blows for five rounds. Considering Israel Adesanya knocked out Robert Whittaker in just two rounds, it’s really impressive that Kelvin held in there for five. But when you’re fighting Darren Till, you need to have a great ability to take a hit. Darren Till was an absolute force in the welterweight division, but hasn’t found success in his last two against Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal. Moving to middleweight seems as if it will be good for Till though. He’s looking really big lately, and the extra 15 pounds he can put on fighting in middleweight will definitely be to his advantage.

This fight is really challenging to predict for me. I will predict that it will win the fight of the night just because I know these two are ready to go to war. If I had to choose a winner I would say that Kelvin comes out with a decision win, but I could also see Till beating him down and getting a third round knockout. No matter what happens this is not a fight you want to miss.

Finally we get to our main event, the battle for the title of ‘baddest motherf*cker in the game’ and the ‘BMF’ belt. The fight will take place in the welterweight division between Nate Diaz and Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal. These two truly do have a right to be fighting for this title. Last time we saw Masvidal he got the fastest knockout in UFC history on Ben Askren, putting him to sleep with a flying knee is just five seconds. Masvidal has been fighting for almost two decades, getting his start in ‘Kimbo’s backyard’ which was an underground fighting organization in south Florida run by fighting legend Kimbo Slice. Since then he’s claimed victories against UFC greats like Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, and Darren Till. Nate Diaz is also a very dangerous man, with wins over Conor McGregor, Michael Johnson, Anthony Pettis, and many others. Nate’s clean boxing and excellent Jiu-Jitsu make him a dangerous force on the feet and the ground. He’s won by submission an impressive 11 times, and has a nice 5 wins by KO/TKO. What makes him an even scarier opponent is it’s nearly impossible to submit him or knock him out. Nate has 31 professional fights and has only been knocked out once, and submitted once. If you wanna beat Diaz you’re probably going to have to impress the judges.

I’m going with Diaz all the way on this one. I love Nate’s determination and attitude during a fight, he thrives when he’s getting the crap kicked out of him. His boxing is beautiful to watch and when he’s able to work his Jiu-Jitsu magic it’s hard to escape him. I think he’ll put too much pressure on Jorge and if they get on the ground he’ll be able to get a finish. Masvidal is also an incredible fighter and he’s got great credentials, but there’s only one baddest motherf*cker in the game and it’s Nate Diaz.

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