Today's UFC Fight Night card has been criticized for lacking big names, but I'm here to tell you why the main card is worth watching. With some fast finishers, heated rivalries, and ranking spots at stake, let's look at what we can expect.
This main card opener has fireworks written all over it. Everyone is now familiar with Terrance McKinney's work in the octagon as a heavy-handed bulldozer with a wrestling pedigree. The Spokane native has gone 3-2 in the UFC, coming off a loss to Ismael Bonfim in his last outing. While McKinney has shown a devastating ability as the hammer, he has often struggled as the nail in his fights. With most of his fights ending in the first round, McKinney has a penchant for finding the knockout blow but has struggled to shift his game plan in some of his past performances when the fight wasn't going his way. McKinney has been training with Jamahal Hill and Kevin Holland to improve his striking, and his well-rounded game will serve him well in future matchups.
Nazim Sadykhov is a 29-year-old striker out of Azerbaijan who currently trains at Long And Weidman MMA in New York. Sadykhov loves a standup battle and has only seen the scorecards once in his career. Sadykhov employs a sprawl-and-brawl mindset in his fights, as he looks to walk you down and overwhelm you with punches for the entire fight. While he won his UFC debut against Evan Elder his last time out, the fight was stopped in the third round due to a cut that Sadykhov caused to Elder. Many fans would dispute that the "Black Wolf" may not have come out with the victory if it weren't for this cut. Still, Sadykhov comes from a great camp and has not lost a fight since his professional debut in 2018. I'm taking T-Wrecks in this one, but Sadykhov will show enough toughness to get out of the first round.
No love was lost between these two fighters at the UFC face-offs, where both women were seen getting in each other's faces, yelling expletives in their respective languages, and flipping each other off. They'll settle it tonight in a fight at women's featherweight. Norma Dumont is the only fighter on the roster who regularly fights at women's 145, going 4-2 at the weight class. She landed in the 13th spot in the women's bantamweight rankings, despite only competing at that weight class once in her entire UFC run. Regardless of these confusing logistics, Dumont brings a well-rounded game that combines striking with takedowns, grappling, and clinches. Dumont typically grinds her opponents out, going to a decision in all of her UFC wins. Her octagon experience makes her the favorite, but it's interesting to see what becomes of the women's featherweight division and if Dumont could proceed at bantamweight if the UFC were to scrap it altogether.
Chelsea Chandler is the Diaz sister that nobody knows about. The Stockton, California product comes from the same camp as the incomparable brother duo and has a very similar fight style and swagger when it comes to scrapping. Chandler loves to impose her ground game and isn't afraid of jumping in the guard of experienced jiu-jitsu players due to her confidence in her own skills. With good ground-and-pound submissions, Chandler has multiple avenues of victory when the fight goes to the ground. Chandler isn't as comfortable on the feet but has a strong chin and power in her hands. Like Dumont, she has a bantamweight ranking spot, but Chandler also has yet to fight at 135 in the UFC. It's clear that both of these ladies are their best selves at a higher division, but the UFC needs to buy in and invest in developing the weight class if they want these two to keep fighting at 145. I'll take Chelsea Chandler by decision in this closely contested bout.
While these two fighters are a few of the less physically imposing middleweights in the UFC, both of these guys are highly skilled as mixed martial artists. Albert Duraev is a Russian wrestler who entered the UFC through Dana White's Contender Series after going on an 8-fight win streak and winning a belt in Russia's ACB promotion. The ground specialist prefers position to submission, but you can't be caught lagging against this guy, as he showed in his contender series win, where he scored a neck crank in the first round. Duraev is built like a brick house and recently won a split decision against the heavy-handed Chidi Njokuani to rebound from a loss to Joaquin Buckley. He's still looking for his first official UFC finish, and at 34, he's looking to make a run.
Jun Yong Park has quietly built a respectable 6-2 record in the UFC, with his only losses coming against solid competition in Anthony Hernandez and Gregory Rodrigues. The Korean prospect started his career at welterweight, even facing Shavkat Rakhmonov on the regional scene and scoring a first-round submission against former PFL champion Ray Cooper on his way to the big show. He finally made his octagon debut in 2019 and has recently hit his stride with his first two finishes in the UFC. Park's style mirrors Duraev's propensity to take the fight to the ground, but Park favors a slightly more optimistic grappling style. Because this guy is so soft-spoken and amicable, you don't hear a lot of hype behind his name, but make no mistake; he's one to watch in that weight class. I'm taking Jun Yong Park by decision.
Ottman Azaitar looked like a world-beater before the pandemic, scoring two quick first-round knockouts to start his UFC career. That hype halted last November against Matt Frevola, who took him out in the first round. Azaitar has gone to only one decision in his entire career and hasn't left the first round since 2017. With a Muay Thai background, his striking is undoubtedly where he does his best work, and he will try to keep the fight standing to open the door for his powerful punches. Azaitar has left the good graces of many UFC fans after picking up his first loss, especially after the precarious bag situation at UFC 257, but he can change that with a big performance tonight.
Coming in with almost the same record, Francisco Prado is 11-1, getting his first loss in his UFC debut this past February against Jamie Mullarkey. That fight was not only his first loss but also his first time seeing a decision in his professional MMA career. Prado is built like a truck at 5'11" with a 76' reach and bulky build and likes to go for significant strikes and explosive movements. Prado's knees up the middle are lethal, but he could improve his energy expenditure throughout his fights. At just 21 years old, Prado has an entire career in front of him to make an impression in the UFC, and with skills both on the feet and on the ground, he has a great foundation to continue building. Prado's best chance against Azaitar is to take the fight to the ground and grind him out before going for the kill. While he can have a better UFC career, I'm giving Ottman Azaitar a slight edge in this fight to find a KO.
Jack Della Maddalena was going to make the walk in the octagon this month, no matter what. Della Maddalena was slated to fight last week against Sean Brady, but the matchup was scrapped after Brady got an infection. He then got a short-notice replacement fight against Josiah Harrell, but Harrell also had to pull out last-minute. This weekend, we finally got a fight for the rising star from Western Australia as he takes on debuting prospect Bassil Hafez. Della Maddalena was initially known as a powerful striker, but he added a new wrinkle to his game in his last fight after he submitted Randy Brown in the first round. It's hard to find a weakness in his game, with four first-round finishes to start his UFC career. Della Maddalena practically willed himself into the UFC welterweight rankings. While this fight won't get him any farther up the rankings, a 26-year-old fighter like him must keep building experience on big stages like co-main events. Like many of the fighters we've already discussed, Della Maddalena has only seen the scorecards once, so expect a quick fight from this guy.
Bassil Hafez deserves his chance in the UFC with a solid 8-3-1 record. His lone draw came against surging welterweight contender Jeremiah Wells, showing that he can compete with some of the better fighters in the division. Unfortunately, his first chance in the UFC will come against an unfavorable opponent, with little time to prepare. Hafez prefers to do his best work on the ground and will look to make the fight a grappling affair to avoid running into Della Maddalena's crushing power. Hafez had a brutal weight cut after being the last fighter to weigh in and initially coming in a half-pound overweight. His preparation for this fight likely primarily focused on just making the weight, meaning he likely didn't adequately prepare a solid game plan. While stepping up on short notice is admirable, I must go with Jack Della Maddalena finding another quick finish to continue his streak.
In tonight's main event, the former UFC women's bantamweight champion will look to keep her spot at the top of the division when she faces Mayra Bueno Silva, the Brazilian submission artist out of Sao Paulo. Bueno Silva has quietly become a UFC veteran in front of our eyes, building a 5-2-1 record in the promotion. After losing to flyweight contender Manon Fiorot in 2021, Bueno Silva moved up to women's bantamweight and has been perfect in the division with three wins. Despite being undersized, Bueno Silva is tenacious in her grappling exchanges and willing to get the fight to the ground. This will come in handy against Holly Holm, who will look to keep the fight on the feet with her excellent takedown defense.
As a former credentialed professional boxer, Holm commands a clear striking advantage against Bueno Silva. However, at 41 years old, Holly Holm is the oldest female fighter on the UFC roster, putting her best times in the rearview mirror. Regardless, Holm has adapted her fight style well to the regression of her skills, opting for a safer, point-fighting style as she reaches the end of her journey. Despite her age, Holm sits at the top of the division at a time when Amanda Nunes has vacated the belt, giving her a clear path toward reclaiming her title. If Holm wins tonight, she will join Juliana Peña and Raquel Pennington as potential candidates to fight for that title. The first step is to win tonight, which will be a tough ask against Bueno Silva, especially with her current momentum. I lean toward Holm by decision but am tempted by Bueno Silva by submission. Let's see what happens!