The UFC is back this week with a consistent Fight Night card in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I’m here to provide my official Verdict predictions. With matchups across eight different weight classes, this card promises to bring several fighters closer to their future goals. Let’s get started!
While Lisboa’s 5-2 MMA record won’t sound off the sirens, a deeper dive into her career would excite fans for this women’s bantamweight debut. “Thai Partner” is a two-time former Muay Thai world champion and even went to a decision against Valentina Shevchenko back in the day. She attempted a transition to MMA in 2016 but lost via first-round submission to current UFC veteran Norma Dumont. After three years away from MMA, she returned to score a third-round TKO win via corner stoppage. Despite Lisboa’s pedigree, she has accumulated two submission finishes, with three on the feet. At 32 years old, she still has time to make a run in a division sorely in need of contenders.
Jessica-Rose Clark looks to return to the win column after suffering two consecutive first-round submission losses. The Australian native prefers a standup affair and likes to chain her power punches with knees to keep the opponent guessing. Clark is dangerously close to losing her spot in the promotion with another loss, and at 35 years old, she could soon be looking to call it a career. While Clark has shown an apparent ground deficiency, she could avoid this danger in a matchup with Lisboa. This fight could play out in an exciting striking affair, and the result will genuinely depend on how motivated Clark feels coming into the cage. Lisboa showed pre-fight jitters in her debut loss to Dumont, so it’s possible that she could also let nerves take over in her UFC debut. While Lisboa’s wins have all come by finish, Clark has never been finished on the feet. Regardless, Lisboa’s Muay Thai experience should carry her gas tank through the fight as long as she stuffs Clark’s takedowns. I’m taking Lisboa by decision in this matchup.
Next, we have a short-notice welterweight bout between 2-2 Gabe Green and 3-1 Bryan Battle. The Verdict community may remember Battle from his win on TUF 29, where he finished current middleweight contender Andre Petroski by submission. Battle went on to earn a highlight-reel finish against Takashi Sato, earning a head-kick KO in less than a minute. Unfortunately, his momentum recently took a hit against the terrifying Rinat Fakhretdinov after he was dropped in the first round and then ridden out to a decision. While Battle prefers to keep the fight at a distance, Gabe Green likes to get on the inside to land his power punches. Green is formidable on the ground and loves to work towards taking the back to lock in one of his patented rear-naked chokes.
Bryan Battle has a considerable size advantage in this matchup, which should give him the striking edge. Battle lost a substantial amount of weight heading into his fighting career, and at 6’1” with a 77-inch reach, he still retains some of that big-boy size that he used to carry. The question that Battle needs to answer in this fight will be how well he could take a punch after getting violently dropped by Fakhretdinov in the first round of his last fight. Green can put the lights out, so Battle must approach cautiously. I’ll take Bryan Battle by decision, but Green can threaten from anywhere.
This crossroads fight features two grizzled UFC veterans with plenty of experience against the UFC’s best. The UFC had high hopes for Cody Stamann, who started his UFC career with a 5-1-1 record, with his sole loss coming to champion Aljamain Sterling. Unfortunately, he hit a wall in 2020, going on a three-fight skid against ranked competition in Jimmie Rivera, Merab Dvalishvili, and Said Nurmagomedov. However, he has rebuilt himself with two consecutive wins, giving him one last shot at reaching a ranking spot in the stacked 135 division. “D’Silva” has had a different experience in the UFC, exchanging wins and losses frequently but showing flashes of brilliance in his victories. He holds a win against bantamweight contender Marlon Vera, but he approaches the end of his career at 37 years old. After scoring two finishes, he most recently lost by decision to Said Nurmagomedov to end his run.
D’Silva is one of the trickier veterans in the UFC, but Cody Stamann should take a victory with his wrestling background, a solid chin, and boxing fundamentals. Andrade’s best chance is to threaten his jiu-jitsu off his back, looking for opportunities to score a submission. Stamann has been working to hold onto his win streak, and we have to believe that this fight means much more to him than it does for D’Silva at this stage. Therefore, I’ll take Stamann by decision.
Wrestling standout Karl Williams looks to continue his winning ways against UFC veteran Chase Sherman in this matchup between heavyweights. Williams made his way to the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series, dominating a wrestler at his own game and cruising to a decision win. He did the same in his UFC debut against Łukasz Brzeski and will likely look to smash Chase Sherman as well. Sherman has fought everyone under the sun in his 4-10 UFC run but poses a legitimate threat on the feet with his 6’4” frame. This fight is a bad matchup for Sherman, who has struggled more with grapplers than any other type of fighter. Williams is undoubtedly looking to find his first finish under the UFC banner, as his performances have lacked entertainment value up until now. He has probably been working on his grappling, so we may see him attempt more submissions from the ground if he gets it there. Sherman will look to catch Williams as he attempts a takedown and should look to keep the fight in the center of the octagon. If Williams doesn’t finish Sherman, it’s hard to envision him being able to finish any other UFC competition, so I’m going to take Williams by second-round submission.
These two fighters collectively have 49 UFC fights between each other and will live on in history as a few of the best welterweights to come off of The Ultimate Fighter. At 38 years old, Court McGee has always proven hard to finish, going to a decision in all but two of his last 18 UFC fights. Last June, Jeremiah Wells became only the second fighter to find his off-switch, showing us that his better years are likely behind him. McGee does his best work on the ground, mixing his controlling wrestling style with submission attempts. He’s trained in almost every significant martial art, making him an extremely well-rounded fighter. Fan favorite Matt “The Immortal” Brown continues to turn in exciting performances, despite being one of the oldest current fighters in the promotion at 42. He went to war last year with an in-his-prime Bryan Barberena, and while it’s questionable whether he still possesses that one-punch knockout power, he is probably delighted to be fighting someone around his age. Brown chains his striking and kicking to generate unpredictable combos and danger from kickboxing range. He puts it all on the line in his fights, often resulting in a finish on either side. Of course, it doesn’t always fall in his favor, but Brown comes into the brawl every time he steps into the octagon.
Because of their age, both fighters will come into the bout on Saturday night with the same overarching question: how far have their skills depleted from their prime? McGee is coming off of a gruesome knockout, so his concern will veer further toward his chin. On the other hand, Brown should be more concerned about the quickness of his volume striking, along with his gas tank. The longer this fight goes, the more it will favor McGee, but Brown is always dangerous on the feet. I’ll take Court McGee by decision, but it could just as quickly be a first-round knockout for The Immortal.
##Tim Means vs Alex Morono
If you thought we were done with the exciting welterweight veterans, you were wrong. 39-year-old Tim “Dirty Bird” Means has 26 UFC fights under his belt, turning in one of the most underrated careers in the promotion’s history. Unfortunately, after collecting two wins in his UFC debut, he would take two consecutive losses and get kicked out of the UFC. However, he would return on short notice less than a year later, having accumulated two first-round finishes on the regional scene. The high school wrestling coach has a strong ground game, but he’s been caught by submissions and loves to bang in the center of the octagon. Alex Morono is the perfect opponent for Means, as he is just as ready for a firefight. Morono has never shied away from a short-notice opportunity, but seeing the man get a full camp is ideal. Morono doesn’t have one-punch knockout power, but he’s an intelligent fighter who only takes risks when necessary. While Morono is seven years younger than Means, he has plenty of cage experience to help win the fight, logging 30 fights so far. Both fighters will look to rebound from losses, and while Morono was violently KO’d last time out by Santiago Ponzinibbio, he made an excellent account for himself beforehand. I love Means’ fight style, but I’m taking Morono by decision in a matchup that can go either way.
“Duelist” Ihor Potieria drew the ire of many MMA fans in his first-round knockout win against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua after he seemingly celebrated Rua’s retirement fight. Potieria clarified that he changed his celebration (one that he does in every one of his wins) as a sign of respect to Rua, but despite his best efforts, he remains hated by many UFC onlookers. Potieria faces the best-looking man in the promotion in a pivotal light heavyweight matchup against Carlos Ulberg. Ulberg is riding a three-fight win streak, including a first-round knockout against Nicolae Negumereanu his last time out, who finished Potieria in his UFC debut. If we were to follow MMA math, we would consider this an easy win for Ulberg, but we all know this sport doesn’t work like that. Ulberg comes from a kickboxing background and has been working to improve his grappling skills since entering the UFC. Still, Ulberg’s preferred type of fight would be keeping it on the feet and denying any incoming takedowns. Potieria has legitimate grappling skills, with seven submissions on his record, but he has also never faced a striker of the same caliber as Ulberg.
At just 26 years old, it’s pretty impressive that Potieria has already accumulated a 19-3 record. However, most of those wins have come against lesser competition. In addition, Potieria tends to overextend himself on the feet, which could get him into early trouble against a fighter like Ulberg. His best hope is to drain Ulberg’s energy on the ground, as Ulberg showed in his UFC debut that he’s capable of gassing out. While Potieria is likely the more well-rounded fighter, I believe Ulberg can keep the fight in his wheelhouse, partially due to his takedown defense and partially due to Potieria’s love for striking. The winner of this fight will either earn a spot in the rankings or earn a fight that gets them into the rankings, so there is plenty on the line for these two warriors. I’ll take Ulberg by knockout in either the first or second round.
Ireland’s next big thing, Ian Machado Garry, will face off against hard-hitting bruiser Daniel Rodriguez, with a potential fight against a ranked opponent set for the winner. Garry has been perfect in the UFC thus far, scoring four consecutive wins and two finishes. He did give fans some pause in his last matchup after getting rocked by a fighter that he probably should have walked through, but I would argue that this was also his most impressive performance since he was able to recover and find a finish in the third round. Garry has some of the prettiest combination striking in the UFC, chaining his punches, kicks, and movement together with power, carrying the same momentum throughout the entire fight. “D-Rod” was riding significant momentum after starting his UFC career out with a 7-1 run, but he recently fell short against ranked Neil Magny, who finished him by submission in the third round. Nevertheless, D-Rod excels through his standup, with crisp boxing and legitimate knockout power.
This fight will likely play out on the feet, where they both prefer to keep it. However, both fighters approach the striking game differently; D-Rod picks his shots and approaches cautiously, while Garry throws caution to the wind with constant volume and pressure. Garry has a more adaptable skillset, possessing more tools that he can utilize depending on what his opponent offers. Garry’s superior movement should be handy as he circles the cage and peppers D-Rod with shots, but he will always risk getting caught. D-Rod likely has a slight edge on the ground but rarely takes the fight there of his own volition. This one should be close, but I’m taking the undefeated Ian Machado Garry (who is also 11 years younger) by decision.
Which fighter on this card has the most fights on their record? Is it Matt Brown, with 42 fights to his name? Nope. Is it Tim Means, with 47 fights? Close, but no cigar. The winner is Anthony “Lionheart” Smith, who, at 34 years old, has compiled a ridiculous record of 36-17, amounting to 53 total fights. Smith is coming off of a second-round loss to Magomed Ankalaev, which was marred by an injury he received in the fight. Before that loss, Smith was riding an underrated three-fight win streak, earning first-round finishes in all those fights. Smith has struggled against 205’s elite but gets a winnable matchup against seventh-ranked Johnny Walker. Walker has been on his own run since losing in devastating fashion to current champion Jamahal Hill, scoring two consecutive first-round finishes himself. Walker has tremendous physical capabilities, wielding top-level athleticism and power. However, Walker has proven somewhat of a glass cannon in his career, showing a compromised chin and inferior cardio. Walker has plenty of highlight reel finishes but has been on the receiving end of almost just as many.
While Walker has the size advantage, standing at 6’6” with an 82” reach, I’m favoring Anthony Smith, who approaches the fight game with much more discipline. It’s tough to see this fight come out of the first round, but the longer it goes, the more it favors Anthony Smith. Walker has a chance in a matchup against almost anyone in the division simply due to his game-breaking power, but against a calculated fighter like Smith, it will be harder to land his big punches. Walker has frequently hopped around between fight camps but has seemingly found a home in SBG Ireland, fighting for John Kavanagh. Coaching Johnny Walker is such a delicate process because he certainly needs to fight more disciplined than he usually does, but he also needs to maintain the unpredictable striking style that has garnered him so much success. We’ve seen Walker opt to take an overly disciplined route when he fought Thiago Santos in 2021 and got outpointed. However, we’ve also seen him rush in too much and get cracked. Finding that delicate medium is the secret to success for Johnny Walker, but I’m still favoring Smith in this one. Therefore, I’ll take Anthony Smith by first-round submission.
While Jairzinho Rozenstruik sits at the ninth spot in the UFC heavyweight rankings, it’s 12th-ranked Jailton Almeida who comes in as the heavy favorite. Bettors see what we all see; Almeida is the next great prospect at heavyweight. “Malhadinho” has torn through his opponents in his one-year stint with the promotion, scoring four quick finishes (three in the first round). On the other hand, we have quickly forgotten that Rozenstruik was a very similar prospect early on in his UFC career, scoring four finishes in his first four fights in the promotion. It’s just something about Almeida that makes him seem like such a boogeyman. Almeida does his best work on the ground but also possesses knockout power. Not many heavyweights can hang with his high-level grappling, but he comes in undersized compared to Rozenstruik. Because Almeida fights both at heavyweight and light heavyweight, it’s clear that Rozenstruik will look to use his bulk and power advantage to attempt to find Almeida’s chin. However, Malhadinho has barely been hit in his first few UFC fights and showed in his last fight against Shamil Abdurakhimov that he has no problem mauling the bigger guys at heavyweight.
Rozenstruik’s kickboxing is deadly, with tremendous accuracy and pop in his punches. I would personally love to see who scores higher on a punching machine between “Bigi Boy”, Derrick Lewis, Sergei Pavlovich, and Tai Tuivasa. A boy can dream. Rozenstruik returned to his winning ways with a quick first-round KO against Chris Daukaus but was 2-4 in his last 6 UFC fights before that. At 35, this will probably be his last run in the promotion, but he could make a massive statement if he could find a knockout against the heavyweight Khamzat. I’m taking Almeida, though, by second-round submission.