The UFC touches down in Austin, Texas at The Moody Center with a blockbuster line-up. Let's discect this amazing main card!!
Julian Marquez (+165) vs. Gregory Rodrigues (-200)
The first fight of the main card takes place in the middleweight division. Julian "The Cuban Missle Crisis" Marquez collides with Gregory "Robocop" Rodrigues. Marquez is a powerful finisher with really heavy hands and a killer instinct. Rodrigues is a very well-rounded fighter with good striking and excellent takedowns and top pressure.
Both fighters are completely content with standing and trading. I believe Rodrigues is more polished on the feet, but Marquez has the power to end it with one shot if they start trading in the pocket. Rodrigues will also have an advantage if this hits the ground, especially if he gains top position. Marquez will have more to think about with the takedown threat from Rodrigues.
Both fighters have paths to victory. Marquez needs to make Rodriguez pay if he's able to stuff takedowns. He also needs to keep the forward pressure and try to make things dirty in the clinch. Rodrigues has more tools at his disposal and will likely mix up his strikes to disguise his takedowns, trying to secure top position and look for submission openings. The versatility of Rodrigues gets it done in my opinion. Pick: Rodrigues via DEC
Damir Ismagulov (-170) vs. Guram Kutateladze (+145)
The second scrap of the evening is between two hungry lightweights. Damir Ismagulov takes on Guram "Georgian Viking" Kutateladze in a battle between two very well-rounded fighters. Ismagulov is a polished striker with great grappling and a piston of a right hand. Kutateladze is also a great striker with very swift kicks and a dangerous guard.
Ismagulov is on a rampage with an 18-fight win streak with 10 finishes. Kutateladze is also on a terror with a 9-fight win streak with 5 finishes. The red flag in this matchup is the recent inactivity of Kutateladze. This will be his first fight in almost 2 years. And in his last outing he did not look very dominant, barely securing an arguable split decision against Mateusz Gamrot.
Although Kutateladze is extremely lethal in certain positions, Ismagulov has a wider variety of weapons and blends them together more effectively. I think the pace and unpredictability of Ismagulov will prove to be too much for Kutateladze. I expect a close fight but anticipate Ismagulov to be busier throughout and securing the edge. Pick: Ismagulov via DEC
Joaquin Buckley (+170) vs. Albert Duraev (-200)
The next clash of the night is between middleweights. Joaquin "New Mansa" Buckley goes for broke against Albert "Machete" Duraev. Buckley is an absolute powerhouse, with explosive strikes that secured him one of the best knockouts in UFC history. Duraev is an absolute "wet blanket" of a grappler with great chain wrestling and submissions.
A classic striker vs. grappler matchup, the intention of each combatant is clear. Buckley needs to keep his distance and avoid giving up easy takedowns. His tendency to throw risky strikes is something he will have to keep in check. Buckley has solid sprawls and has shown good scrambles to get back to his feet. Duraev will try to corral Buckley up against the fence to work his chain wrestling and secure top position. He needs to avoid taking predictable shots and disguise his entries.
Both fighters hold an advantage in their discipline, but the pure athleticism of Buckley is notable. All 3 of Duraev's losses have come by way of knockout. If Buckley is able to touch him early, I expect Duraev to panic and start taking desperate shots. I'm counting on Buckley to make him pay for that. Pick: Buckley via KO
Tim Means (+195) vs. Kevin Holland (-240)
We head to the welterweight division for the 4th fight on the main card. The grizzled vet Tim "Dirty Bird" Means tries to fend off the always entertaining Kevin "Trailblazer" Holland. Means is as crafty as they come, with great dirty boxing, submissions and durability. Holland is a creative striker with knockout power and really good BJJ.
Although Holland has a good BJJ game, he has a frustrating tendency to get too comfortable on the bottom. He is adamant that he has been improving his takedown defense and that will serve him well against a tricky fighter like Means. Means is very dangerous in the phone booth, and the uglier he can make this fight the better chance he will have.
This is tough pick to make personally. I love everything about The Dirty Bird, and he is absolutely a live dog in this fight. The youth and especially the length of Holland gives me worry though. A six-inch reach deficit is not something Means has had to deal with, and he does get hit. As much as it hurts, I don't see the 38-year-old Means being able to control Holland enough to play his game. Youth and speed will be the difference. Pick: Holland via KO
Donald Cerrone (-165) vs. Joe Lauzon (+145)
In the co-main event, we see two absolute legends showcase what they have left to give in the lightweight division. Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone draws a line in the sand against Joe "J-Lau" Lauzon in which is likely to be the last fight of both of their respected careers. Cerrone is a complete striker with a really good submission game. Lauzon is a slick submission artist with the good clinches and short punches.
I would have really loved to see this fight a decade ago. Unfortunately, we will witness 2 well over the hill fighters try to relive their glory days. This fight will come down to who has just a little bit more gas in the tank to cross the finish line. I expect the majority of this fight to take place on the feet and don't see it being very pretty. Entertaining? Maybe, but definitely not pretty.
The only indicator of how this will go is in the inactivity of Lauzon. This will be his first time making the walk since 2019. Even though Cowboy has not looked great since 2019 himself, he has been competing and I expect his conditioning and decision making to be superior. I just hope both of these legends leave without taking too much damage. Cowboy rides off into the sunset with a finish. Pick: Cerrone via TKO
Calvin Kattar (-240) vs. Josh Emmett (+195)
In the main event we see 2 very exciting featherweights take center stage. Calvin "The Boston Finisher" Kattar plays the matador against the surging Josh Emmett. Kattar is a crisp puncher with an iron chin and sick cardio. Emmett is ball of muscle with knockout power and solid wrestling.
Kattar is one of the best pure boxers in the UFC. He has a stinging jab that he builds great combinations off of. He also has some nasty elbows that he sneaks in when disengaging from the clinch. Emmett has the patented "Team Alpha Male" style, powerful hooks and overhands with a great double leg takedown.
For Emmett to be in this fight he is going to have to implement some wrestling. He can't try to box at range with Kattar. He is going to have to keep Kattar on his back foot and do damage early. The longer this fight goes the worse it gets for Emmett. Kattar has gone 5 rounds multiple times and has shown outstanding pace throughout. If he can keep Emmett at the end of his punches, it's going to be a long, painful night for the bull.
I don't see Emmett implementing enough wrestling to keep Kattar guessing. I think Emmett blows his wad early in the fight. The conditioning and precision of Kattar will be too overwhelming as this fight enters the later rounds. Emmett is going to be a bloody mess by the end of this thing. Kattar either gets him out of there late or it's a lopsided 25 minutes. Pick: Kattar via TKO
For a more detailed breakdown of this card and how to pick em, check out @pickinwinnerskeith and @pickinfightstom on Youtube below!!