Well, Dana White broke his promise and is delivering a PPV without a title fight attached.
Not to worry, my friends, because not only do we have a killer main event between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz for the “Bad Motherfucker” Belt, but every fight on this card is jacked with prospects and future title contenders!
Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz (WW)
Jorge Masvidal (34-13, 11-6 UFC) has quickly become one of the biggest names in the sport because of his 2019 adventure, taking two KOs and securing the record for fastest knockout ever. “Gamebred” has looked revitalized in his recent fights, surging forward from opening bell until the fight ends. He obviously has real KO power, as well as an underrated jiu-jitsu game not often acknowledged because of only two submissions on his record. Masvidal has acknowledged that his weakest area is when fights go to decision so he has been doing everything in his power not to let fights go there.
It’s tough to find a finish against Nate Diaz (20-11, 15-9 UFC), though. The Gracie black belt is terrifyingly skillful off of his back. That is a problem only made worse by his unrelenting cardio and pressure as well as talented jab he uses to dictate range. The problem for Diaz has been going against larger fighters, especially those with a wrestling background who are capable of controlling him on the mat. Diaz has only been finished twice in his pro career, by knockout in 2013 and sub in 2006.
We are in for a scrap, through and through. Both fighters love to brawl and put on a show for the fans. The five-round element of this match certainly favors Diaz as this goes later, with his superior volume and triathlon cardio. However, the power and blitz that Masvidal has been bringing in as of late make this a scary factor for Diaz.
The nice thing for Nate is that is almost every match he has in recent years. Conor McGregor, Anthony Pettis, and Michael Johnson are all fighters who bring in very real power threats, yet have been unable to stop Nate. I attribute this to his pressure and stalking of his opponent on the feet, something sure to hold off on those powerful surges Masvidal requires for his knockouts. In addition to that, he has a real advantage on the mat, even if that does present itself in pulling guard.
Take the Shot: Nate Diaz via Unanimous Decision
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Darren Till (MW)
Fresh off his loss to now-champ Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum (15-4, 10-4 UFC) will have the opportunity to spoil the Middleweight debut for another former Welterweight. Gastelum is certainly small for the division, but it hasn’t been a problem. His striking and next-level head movement have provided numerous struggles, in addition to his power. He was able to drop Adesanya and last to decision (although barely) against one of the most highly decorated strikers in the UFC.
Darren Till (17-2-1, 5-2-1 UFC) is coming off two defeats but is looking for a fresh start in a new division. This is a move long anticipated as Till goes through awful weight cutting down from his walking weight of 210 pounds. Till is a power-puncher through and through. He doesn’t have the best volume and he has some decent counter-wrestling, but he makes his money in pressuring his opponent and closing the show.
This a tough match and one where I feel the lines are pretty spot on, though I will try to take advantage of them a bit. I have no doubt Gastelum will take this in a decision. He has the superior output and footwork to get the edge in numbers. The problem for him is lasting to a decision. Till has at the very least dropped his opponents in nearly every match and I only expect that power to be increased at the higher weight class. On top of that, Gastelum’s most dangerous spots are whenever he puts on the pressure, but that is the name of Till’s game.
Take the Shot: Darren Till via Round 2 Knockout
Stephen Thompson vs. Vicente Luque (WW)
Stephen Thompson (14-4-1, 8-4-1 UFC) is coming off the back burner after not competing since his March loss, his first KO loss, to Anthony Pettis. Wonderboy holds a lone win in his last five bouts, but still remains a fan favorite because of his attitude and love for the game. Wonderboy is a karate specialist who chooses to keep it on the feet, but does not usually offer super high amounts of volume, instead relying on his defense to limit his opponent’s output and get him to the gold.
There are few fighters like Vicente Luque (17-6, 10-2 UFC). He has ridiculous one-punch power, but also the submission chops to wrap anyone up on the ground. He usually relies on his striking and will head to the mat only when his opponent is damaged, although few can beat him in that arena. “The Silent Assassin” has the volume, power, and jiu-jitsu to make it a quick night at the office for anyone.
This is a bad match for Thompson. While he has the technique and chin to withstand Luque’s striking, he is going without his usual reach advantage. Instead, he is left to opt for being able to push Luque away with his kicks and hold him back slowly. I find it unlikely that Luque won’t be able to close the distance and we have seen repeatedly he has the one shot power to change a fight in a second, as well as his ground game.
Take the Shot: Vicente Luque via Round 2 Submission
Corey Anderson vs. Johnny Walker (LHW)
Corey Anderson (12-4, 9-4 UFC) is an interesting breed at LHW. He is one of the few fighters at the division without any notorious finishing skill and works instead as a generalist. He only has four finishes, all by knockout, and instead relies on the decision and outpointing his opponent. Anderson’s biggest struggle has been his chin, as all but one of his defeats have come by knockout.
When you’re across the cage from Johnny Walker (17-3, 3-0 UFC), you need to be scared. The Contender Series alum has spent 2 minutes and 50 seconds total inside the Octagon with each fight ending by KO, each one more devastating than the last. He has the second hardest punching power in the UFC according to the Performance Institute and his heavy feinting style and precision make that even more deadly. That combined with Corey’s chin issues makes this another quick show for the Brazilian bomber.
Take the Shot: Johnny Walker via Round 1 Knockout
Brad Tavares vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (MW)
This is almost a reskin of the above matchup.
Brad Tavares (17-5, 12-5 UFC) will be making his first appearance in over a year after his decision loss to current champion Israel Adesanya. Tavares is primarily a decision fighter who uses volume striking mixed in with some wrestling. His striking is incredibly technical and his head movement is next level to avoid the power shots of his opponents and although he doesn’t pack in the most finishing ability, he has the crisp combinations available to get a knockout if it presents itself.
Edmen Shahbazyan (10-0, 3-0 UFC) cinched up his first ever submission back in July over power puncher Jack Marshman after rocking him. Shahbazyan came in off the Contender Series with high expectations after gathering every single victory in the first round. He used his wrestling to control Derron Stewart in his debut to decision, but has since rattled off two more first round finishes. Eight of his wins have come by knockout.
If it wasn’t more the Stewart fight, I would think Tavares had a good chance here. The issue is that even if Tavares can avoid the high power of Shahbazyan, he is still in for a long fight. Edmen has incredible cardio and the wrestling to cripple all of Tavares’ advantages. Not to mention that it’s a big ‘if’ to avoid that power shot.
Take the Shot: Edmen Shahbazyan via Round 1 Knockout
Make sure to get in on all of these before the prelims go live at 5 PM this Saturday, straight from Madison Square Garden!
Until next time, Freaks!