UFC 300 main card predictions


UFC 300 is upon us!!!

OK, that intro might be a tad too dramatic, given we haven’t exactly been blessed with an earth-shattering main event this Saturday. But 300 is still a hefty number for the UFC to have reached, and you can’t argue with the lineup. Is it the best, most hyped card in combat sports? Maybe not.

But you best believe it’s the deepest.

We don’t need to go over every champion, former champion, contender, and fan favorite on this card. But if you can’t find at least four or five fights to love, then that’s a you problem. Knockout king Alex Pereira taking on the unflinchingly confident Jamahal Hill? Zhang Weili, the best female fighter in the world, facing fellow Chinese star Yan Xiaonan? Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway meeting in a dream match to determine just who is officially the baddest m***********? It’s all spectacular.

That’s not even mentioning former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira having to hold off young juggernaut Arman Tsarukyan, and can’t-miss prospect Bo Nickal opening one of the most highly anticipated pay-per-views ever.

What are you waiting for? Let’s dive into the main card picks.

What: UFC 300

Where: T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas

When: Saturday, April 13. The card begins with a four-fight early prelims portion on ESPN and ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET, with continuing coverage of the four-fight prelim card also on ESPN and ESPN+ beginning at 8 p.m. ET. The five-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET and is available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view.


(Numbers in parentheses indicate standing in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings and Pound-for-Pound Rankings)

Alex Pereira (1, P4P-4) vs. Jamahal Hill (4)

It’s not Conor McGregor vs. whoever, like some people wanted, but Alex Pereira vs. Jamahal Hill is one hell of a scrap to close out a card of this magnitude. You’ve got the “champ-champ” vs. the champ that didn’t lose his belt in the cage, a high likelihood of someone getting slept, and plenty of bad blood dating back to Hill retiring Pereira’s master, so to speak. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Well, you could ask for a 100 percent healthy Hill. Coming off of an Achilles’ tear, Hill has said all the right things about being fully recovered from the injury. He’s young and in fantastic shape, so it’s entirely possible that with the best medical attention, he’s ready to be at his best come fight night. But once he eats a couple of leg kicks from Pereira, we’re all going to be wondering if he made a mistake not pushing back a return to action.

Even if Hill is at his best, this is a coin toss. Hill showed in the Glover Teixeira fight that he can fight a smart five rounds, and consulting Israel Adesanya on how to deal with the power-punching “Poatan” can only help him. He can do a reasonable impression of what Adesanya did in his first UFC title fight against Pereira, and that might be enough for Hill to win it.

It’s that one-pop stopping ability that makes it so difficult to pick against Pereira, even knowing Hill has just as much potential to end this one early. I see Hill having success early, taking advantage of a slow start from Pereira, before the champion catches him with a trademark flurry for the knockout win.

Pick: Pereira

Zhang Weili (1, P4P-1) vs. Yan Xiaonan (3, P4P-10)

Zhang Weili and Yan Xiaonan, two Chinese UFC fighters competing for a title, should be competing for the strawweight belt in their home country. But we have to settle for T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Alas.

It’s a shame, because I’m not sure how jazzed up the crowd will be to see Zhang win a lopsided fight over Yan, which comes after a brutal “BMF” battle and precedes the final fight of the night. As fun as Zhang is to watch, she’s still under-appreciated by much of the fanbase, and that lack of recognition could rear its ugly head here.

Too bad, because the champ is about to put in work. On the feet, Zhang could face some risky moments, as Yan has some of the best standup in any of the UFC’s three women’s divisions. Yan has found a smart balance between being aggressive and finding the timing to land her stiff right hand. If there’s to be an upset, it will be Yan outworking Zhang on the feet for five rounds.

Zhang’s wrestling is what tilts the odds considerably in her favor. We saw what Carla Esparza did to Yan and, frankly, if Mackenzie Dern had one reliable takedown entry, she probably would have beat Yan, too. If Zhang gets Yan to the mat, she’s either punishing her en route to a 10-8, or finding a finish. Yan is tough, and she’ll hang in there as long as she can, but this doesn’t go past the third.

Pick: Zhang

Justin Gaethje (3, P4P-T14) vs. Max Holloway (FW-3, P4P-T18)

How you view Max Holloway’s 2019 rematch with Dustin Poirier will tell you a lot about what you should expect to see when he returns to lightweight against Justin Gaethje.

Positives: Holloway has the kind of striking output that has foiled Gaethje in the past. The key to putting Gaethje down (assuming you’re not just Khabib Nurmagomedov) is to bother him from a variety of angles to open up his defenses and press the advantage late. Holloway landed a ton of strikes in his classic five-rounder with Poirier, and if he can replicate that against Gaethje, the door is open for a late finish or a decision win.

Negatives: Holloway gets hit a lot! This has been true throughout his career, which is unavoidable when you’re regularly trading punches with the likes of Alexander Volkanovski, Jose Aldo, and Frankie Edgar. But he’s frequently been able to power through those situations. He relies a lot on his unassailable chin, which isn’t a sustainable strategy against Gaethje. I’m skeptical that Holloway’s defense is solid enough to avoid Gaethje’s heaviest punches and leg kicks.

Expect yet another classic to be added to both men’s catalogues, with Gaethje’s size and power being the difference on the scorecards.

Pick: Gaethje

Charles Oliveira (2, P4P-6) vs. Arman Tsarukyan (4)

Arman Tsarukyan is so close to getting his chance to prove that he’s the man to lead the next generation of lightweights. He’s just not going through Charles Oliveira to do it.

“Do Bronx” has been the best lightweight in the world not named Khabib or Islam in the past few years, so there’s no shame in Tsarukyan losing to him. This is a classic lightweight banger on paper, and Oliveira just doesn’t lose those. You want to outsmart him, you want to out-technique him? Fine. You want to go in there and go straight at him to make a name for yourself? Bad move, hotshot.

Tsarukyan is a so far above the second tier of lightweights that it’s easy to see why he’ll be champion someday. But Oliveira is a considerable step above anyone that he’s beaten in the past. He hasn’t had anyone put the heat on him like Oliveira can. I’m fascinated to see how this one plays out, because despite my confidence in Oliveira, Tsarukyan making the leap wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. Both these guys rule, I’m torn!

Sigh. Oliveira by submission.

Pick: Oliveira

Bo Nickal vs. Cody Brundage

All signs point to a Bo Nickal showcase performance.

You can’t completely discount the possibility of a Cody Brundage upset, however. This is combat sports. Brundage has the makings of a proper underdog, too. You get the sense he isn’t shaken one bit by the position he’s been put in, and he has a knack for pulling finishes out of nowhere. If Nickal were the type to take his opponents lightly, I’d be worried.

But one thing Nickal has shown in his brief MMA career is respect for the craft, so you can bet he’s taking Brundage as seriously as any of the elite wrestlers he faced in college. It just so happens that Brundage’s base is wrestling, but if he attempts to shoot on Nickal, he’s getting suplexed. That means that at worst, Nickal will be forced to stand, a scenario he’s been more than comfortable with so far.

Nickal’s explosiveness is going to be too much for Brundage, who has a habit of letting his opponents set the tone. That plays exactly into Nickal’s hands, as he’ll happily set a pace that leaves Brundage in the dust well before the end of Round 1.

Pick: Nickal

Preliminaries (check out full preliminary predictions here)

Jiri Prochazka def. Aleksandar Rakic

Calvin Kattar def. Aljamain Sterling

Holly Holm def. Kayla Harrison

Diego Lopes def. Sodiq Yusuff

Renato Moicano def. Jalin Turner

Marina Rodriguez def. Jessica Andrade

Bobby Green def. Jim Miller

Deiveson Figueiredo def. Cody Garbrandt

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