UFC Lightweight Championship: Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) (28-0) vs. Justin Gaethje (ic) (22-2)
Luke Irwin: Any doubts about Gaethje’s pedigree and status should have absolutely been erased after that Rembrandt of a performance he put on against Tony Ferguson. But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry when it comes to Khabib, much in the same vain plans disappeared against Georges St. Pierre. Even if Gaethje is getting the better of Khabib on the feet, which isn’t a given, based on Nurma’s last couple bouts and his vastly improved standup game, Gaethje is looking at the lights. It’s overly simple to just say “KHABIB TAKEDOWN” as a matter of analysis, but until someone finds the key to stopping it, much like GSP, it’s hard not to lean into it. Nurmagomedov via UD.
Middleweight Bout: Jared Cannonier (13-4) vs. Robert Whittaker (21-5)
Luke: Whittaker’s last two bouts were a starching at the hands of Israel Adesanya, and a back-and-forth tactical bout with Darren Till that could have gone either way. Cannonier, meanwhile, has been a revelation at middleweight and hasn’t seen a fight reach the first minute of the second round since moving down to 185. This could really go either way, but I wonder if Whittaker’s wars are finally catching up with him. Cannonier via R3 TKO.
Heavyweight Bout: Alexander Volkov (31-8) vs. Walt Harris (13-8)
Luke: After a heartbreaking loss that even Alistair Overeem felt bad about winning, Harris has to drag himself off the canvas and face the 6’7″ Drago of Alexander Volkov. Volkov doesn’t have the stopping power of Overeem, and ideally Harris doesn’t let Volkov off the hook the way he did Overeem. If Harris can keep his head in it and keep his pressure constant and his gas tank full, he can finish Volkov the way he nearly finished Overeem. Harris via R2 TKO.
Middleweight Bout: Jacob Malkoun (4-0) vs. Phil Hawes (8-2)
Luke: Hawes is a super fun fighter with a lot of tools to finish someone. Malkoun is making his UFC debut on the main card of a Pay-Per-View in Abu Dhabi. Too much too soon. Hawes via R1 Submission.
Women’s Flyweight Bout: Lauren Murphy (13-4) vs. Liliya Shakirova (8-1)
Luke: Murphy is on a three-fight winning streak and was supposed to face Cynthia Calvillo until the latter tested positive for COVID on October 15. So, Shakirova is making her UFC debut on nine short days’ notice. Murphy via UD.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Ion Cuțelaba (15-5) vs. Magomed Ankalaev (14-1)
Luke: These two met in February and their bout lasted only 38 seconds before it got stopped far too early after Ankalaev landed a heavy head kick on Cutelaba, and this is the third time they’ve tried to make the rematch happen. What gets overlooked that while the fight was stopped too early, that kick still did land, and land hard, and it looked like Cutelaba was about to be in some serious trouble. Cutelaba can be hit and can be finished, and there’s no reason for Ankalaev to change anything about his gameplan from their first offering. Ankalaev via R1 KO.
2020 Picks Record: 130-68