Dana White and the UFC are returning to the legendary Fight Island in Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates where fights like the McGregor vs. Poirier 2 and Usman vs. Masvidal 1 took place. The same is expected this weekend in terms of talent and hype with a bit of a twist. While this card is going to be broadcasted ESPN+, there will be no PPV for the card despite being built like a typical PPV card. Popular prospects like Andre Petroski, Lerone Murphy Jr., Shamil Gamzatov, Ricardo Ramos, and others fill out a stacked undercard with a ton of fun fights. The main card is filled with even more talent so let’s break it down. A reminder that the Prelims begin at 7:30 am pst and the Main Card begins at 11 am pst.
Previous Record: 16-10
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Volkan Oezdmir
Magomed Ankalaev is one of the most underrated fighters not just in the Light Heavyweight Division but across the entire promotion roster. He hasn’t lost since his UFC debut against Paul Craig and has knocked out three of his last four opponents. His constant forward pressure and elite striking make him a problem for anyone in this division. On the other hand, Volkan Oezdmir has struggled to get the ball rolling again. He’s coming off of a dominant loss to Jiri Prochazka over a year ago and has lost 3 of his last 5 fights. I think this is a major crossroads fight for both of these fighters. But it’ll ultimately be Ankalaev advancing his career forward.
Prediction: Ankalaev by KO/TKO
Li Jingliang vs. Khamzat Chimaev
The return of Khamzat Chimaev is huge for the Welterweight Divison. His terror during the summer of 2020 was out of his world. At one point, fought only 10 days apart on Fight Island and earned finishes in both fights. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has delayed his return for almost 13 months now. His hype as a future contender still rides high. However, his opponent is no pushover. Li Jingliang is a solid newly ranked contender who has been with the promotion since 2014. He’s won four of his last five fights including a first-round finish of Santiago Ponzinibbo in his most recent fight. But I think the Chimaev hype is extremely real and I would expect him to earn the biggest win of his young MMA career with power punching and high-level wrestling. The biggest question is will Chimaev be able to keep his cardio up.
Prediction: Chimaev by Unanimous Decision
Alexander Volkov vs. Marcin Tybura
After being only one win away from a possible Interim title fight against Derrick Lewis, Alexander Volkov now finds himself in another top 10 fight with Marcin Tybura. On a five-fight winning streak, Tybura has given the absolute beat down to his opponents, knocking out the last two in under three rounds. His wrestling has also set up some critical wins including against Maxim Grishin where he finished with over eight minutes of control time. That’ll be what’s key. Volkov’s 6’7″ frame and thundering power could prove vital if used properly. If Volkov is able to show improved takedown defense, he should be on an easy path of earning his 23rd knockout.
Prediction: Volkov by KO/TKO
Islam Makhachev vs. Dan Hooker
Fan favorite, Dan Hooker, is stepping for another short-handed fight after Islam Makhachev was originally supposed to fight Rafael dos Anjos. Islam is bound to be a future champ, his wrestling, and grappling skill is out of this world and he has the best support team as he’s coached by one of the greatest MMA fighters and an even better coach, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dan Hooker is his toughest matchup to date though. His tough chin makes him a threat no matter the prior damage beforehand. His knockout power also gives him solid opportunities for a major upset. However, Islam has been too perfect for his career for that to change now. A title fight could be on the horizon for Makhachev.
Prediction: Makhachev by Unanimous Decision
Petr Yan vs. Cory Sandhagen
Aljamain Sterling continues to stall one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC right now. But nonetheless, we are still treated with a banger interim title fight between the true champion, Petr Yan, and a highly talented contender in Cory Sandhagen. Cory is coming off a split decision loss to T.J. Dillashaw but still holds one of the most exciting knockouts this year against Frankie Edgar. His height and reach advantage has given opponents problems for everyone at 135 lbs. Sandhagen’s fluid striking and slick grappling will also be a handful to handle. Petr Yan is a very dangerous man, and even more dangerous now that he’s out for what is rightfully his. He’s one of the most complete fighters on the roster and is still only 28 years old. I expect Sandhagan to have too much to handle over five rounds unless he can pull off a fantastic finish. We’ll only have to wait longer for the rematch between Yan and Sterling.
Prediction: Yan by Split Decision
Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixiera
Jan Blachowicz turned a lot of heads after his impressive victory against Israel Adesanya, who was attempting to become the promotion’s fifth double champion. Blachowicz’s wrestling proved to be the later rounds that punched his ticket for a huge victory. His story is incredible, at one point being on the edge of cut from the UFC after going 2-4. Glover Texeira has had an impressive story of his own. At 42, Texeira has managed to steamroll some of the toughest fighters in this division including Tiago Santos, Anthony Smith, and Nikita Krylov. That’s thanks to his dynamic wrestling and slick submissions. His striking is also elite, racking up 18 knockouts in 32 wins. He hasn’t lost in three years despite father time knocking on the door. Both of these guys have shown an immense amount of respect for each other, the NMF belt you could say. However, I think the legendary Polish Power will end on top. His striking and wrestling have continued to show improvement as each fight prolongs. Don’t count out Glover though, this will be a very close fight.
Prediction: Blachowicz by Unanimous Decision