It is rare to see the UFC put on back-to-back championship cards, especially cards with multiple title fights on each. But nonetheless, it brings incredible excitement to the sport as the promotion now returns to the United States to put on another incredible card at one of the greatest venues on the planet, Madison Square Garden. Highlighted by two title fights, the prelims on this card are absolutely stacked. The debut of Ian Garry will be an exciting one. But names like Chris Barnett, Melsik Baghdasaryan, Edmen Shahbazyan, Phil Hawes, Bobby Green, Al Iaquinta, and many more round out a loaded undercard. Let’s break down the predictions for this main card.
Previous Record: 21-11
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler
An absolute barn-burner to start off the main card, Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler are bound to set off fireworks against each other. Both are the two most recent losers in lightweight title fights but the winner seems bound to be the new number one contender in the division. While Chandler hasn’t entirely proven himself as a true contender with only one win in the UFC, his credentials at Bellator still make this a competitive fight. But I was never a fan of Chandler earning a title shot after only one UFC appearance in which he didn’t pull much of a massive upset. However, Gaethje having a chip on his shoulder and his motor create key advantages for Gaethje to escape with another finish to his already long and credentialed list.
Prediction: Gaethje by KO/TKO
Shane Burgos vs. Billy Quarantillo
Once expected to bring new life into the slow-moving Featherweight Division, Shane Burgos is now coming off back-to-back losses against middle-ranked contenders in Josh Emmett and Edson Barbosa. He also hasn’t been the most active fighter as of late with only four fights in the last three years. But Billy Quarantillo isn’t exactly the most exciting prospect making a speeding race to the top. He had his first loss in the UFC against Gavin Tucker but came back to beat Gabriel Benitez a few months later. He’s a legitimate and talented fighter but doesn’t give me much of a reason to believe he can top Burgos. I think Shane Burgos will return to his once extremely violent form mixed with a strong grapple and striking resume.
Prediction: Burgos by Submission
Frankie Edgar vs. Marlon Vera
New York legend Frankie Edgar makes his return to Madison Square Garden against an up-and-comer Marlon Vera who is no slouch of a fighter. Vera recently pulled off an impressive victory against Dwight Grant earlier this year. He also has a finish against fan-favorite Sean O’Malley. Vera has shown throughout his career that he is one of the most durable fighters in the Bantamweight division. Frankie Edgar on the other side is coming off as the victim of a flying knee against Cory Sandhagen. Also at 40 years, it is hard to bank on Edgar’s engine to pull off three dominant rounds against Vera who is still only 28 years old. Unless Edgar pulls some Glover Teixeira kind of comeback, I expect Vera to have a smooth victory.
Prediction: Vera by Unanimous Decision
Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili
One of the most exciting women’s fights in recent time, the rematch between Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili is expected to be as close as it could get for a championship bout. While Thug Rose won the first fight, many could make the argument that she got lucky with the head kick and didn’t show much that she truly dominated her opponent. But I would much rather say that good coaching by Trevor Whittman picked up the space in Zhang’s guard that led to the finish. However, I cannot assume the same thing will happen, making this a much harder fight to call. But I think something that is being extremely overlooked is mindset. Rose has publicly claimed that she is much more confident since winning the belt after her first go around as champion. That could prove to be big in the championship rounds. Rose has also proven herself as a much better and more efficient wrestler in her recent bouts. It’ll be close, but it’ll be Thug Rose escaping with her first title defense.
Prediction: Namajunas by Split Decision
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
Despite this rematch being exciting from the bad blood between these two that has stemmed for years, I was never on board with Colby Covington being the next title contender for the Welterweight belt. After the loss to Usman the first time, Covington only had one fight, a win against Tyron Woodley who was on the backend of his career. Since then, Covington has basically waited until he got the opportunity to talk his way into a title fight. It’s hard to say that Covington has massively improved to say his game has improved. The opposite can be said about Usman, who has shown massive improvement against Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal, absolutely destroying them. Unless Covington absolutely blows my mind, Usman should add another convincing win to his resume and continue to solidify himself as the pound-for-pound king.
Prediction: Usman by KO/TKO