UFC Featherweight Championship: Alexander Volkanovski (c) (22-1) vs. Brian Ortega (15-1)
Luke Irwin: We’re going to see if the Ortega who showed up like a house of fire against the Korean Zombie will be there when he takes the cage against the champion. Volkanovski is almost certainly going to bully the challenger against the cage or keep him at bay with his reach, but Ortega’s grappling and counters are heavy tools in his arsenal. The problem with judging Ortega as new and improved is who his opponent was in his last outing. Chan Sung Jung is a hell of a fighter and exciting as all hell to watch, but he doesn’t exactly keep things close to the vest. He’s in it for the firefight. He puts everything on the table in the center of the cage. If you can avoid getting dragged in to the barnstorm and apply some technical prowess, you can beat him, which Ortega did soundly. Volkanovsky is a much harder puzzle to figure out. Remember, he outstruck Max Holloway in both contests. And Ortega isn’t Holloway in the striking department. It should be close, and some folks might be happy, but Alex will outstrike Ortega en route to a successful defense. Volkanovski via UD.
UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship: Valentina Shevchenko (c) (21-3) vs. Lauren Murphy (15-4)
Luke: I know it’s hard finding challengers at 125lbs, and Murphy is a legit contender, but there’s such a gulf between the champion and the challengers at women’s flyweight. Murphy has never been finished, but she’s not faced a striker like the Bullet, and over five rounds, I can see Valentina landing a killshot. Shevchenko via R4 KO.
Middleweight Bout: Nick Diaz (26-9) vs. Robbie Lawler (28-15)
Luke: Between Diaz’s weight, shape, and general apathy about this fight, going so far as to claim he didn’t event want to fight, he won’t get in serious trouble against Lawler, due to Lawler really not having the firepower to really hurt anyone, but I will see him getting outpointed enough over fifteen minutes. Lawler via UD.
Heavyweight Bout: Curtis Blaydes (14-3) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2)
Luke: We saw firsthand Blaydes’s achilles heel last outing, where he shot in and got absolutely melted by Derrick Lewis. That can certainly happen, but I don’t think Rozenstruik has the defensive chops to stop Blaydes’s relentless wrestling game, and hasn’t had the experience battling wrestlers in his pro career. Get ready to start counting those lights. Blaydes via UD.
Women’s Flyweight Bout: Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1) vs. Jessica Andrade (21-9)
Luke: This is going to determine whether Calvillo’s ceiling is gatekeeper, or whether she can actually step up into title contention. I think Andrade is simply too much physically for most fighters in that division except for the very top. Calvillo is a tough out, but I think Andrade just has more horses. Andrade via UD.
2021 Picks Record: 93-57 (62.0%)