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9 Things to Watch For at UFC 249

UFC Octogon. Photo by Jamison Hiner. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

UFC 249 will be the first real live professional sporting event in over a month. Dana White has three fights lined up in a one week span. Fights are scheduled to take place without any spectators on May 9th at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The announced fight card will be hard to disappoint. From the first fight to the twelfth fight, there are going to be many interesting aspects. I broke down nine things to keep an eye out for:

#9 – Mitchell vs. Rosa could be the fight of the night

This entire fight is going to be intriguing. Both guys are heavily acclaimed grapplers. Charles Rosa is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitzu black belt with only three losses in his professional career. Meanwhile, Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell is professionally undefeated. He is also coming off of just the second Body Twister submission victory in UFC history against Matt Sayles. Mitchell has two official UFC fights and has gone home to Alabama with a Fight of the Night and a Performance of the Night award. It is conclusive that this fight will take place on the canvas at some point. Betting odds show Mitchell to be a slight favorite. Rosa will be a great challenge for the rising star Mitchell. I suggest viewers turn on the early prelims on ESPN+ and catch this must see bout as there is a chance it is the best bout of the night.

#8 – Will Price pay the price?

Vicente Luque is taking on Niko Price. Luque was on a hot streak and showed real toughness in a decision loss against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Luque has already beaten Price via submission in 2017. Niko Price is coming off of a knockout victory against James Vick. This is a real opportunity for Price to climb the ranks and get on a winning streak. I have a feeling that the winner of this matchup will go on to be a possible contender. Both fighters are reaching their prime and this fight could shift momentum one way or another.

#7- 59th professional win for Oleinik?

Aleksei Oleinik is 42 years old. He has 72 matches under his belt. While Oleinik seems to be a bit away from a shot at the belt, he is a dangerous contender. He last fought under the Cowboy vs. McGregor card and showcased his dominating submission capabilities against Maurice Greene. Oleinik is facing off against former champion Fabrício Werdum. Werdum is also 42 years old and has been a lot less active. This will be his first fight in over two years. He will make his return to the octagon following a loss to Alexander Volkov. However, he is just as skilled as Oleinik on the ground. While both will almost certainly attempt to submit one another, this fight could go the distance. With that being said, both guys do have knockout capabilities. I expect this fight to be a contender for Fight of the Night.

#6 – Redemption for Cowboy or Pettis?

The prelim headliner is a matchup of recent tough luck. Both are very skilled and established fighters. Cowboy is coming off of losses against Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje, and Conor McGregor. These are not easy fights to say the least. As for Pettis, he is coming off of losses against Nate Diaz and Carlos Diego Ferreira. These two are warriors to say the least. The fight will be a big momentum swing for the victor. I think both guys need this win to say the least. Pettis is younger and can put his stock on the rise with a victory. Cowboy has been the standard for years. He’s a legend and nothing of an easy obstacle. Pettis will have to bring his best on May 9th.

#5 – Hardy vs. De Castro

This is a showdown between two powerhouses. Greg Hardy has been fighting everyone he can. He is coming off of an unfortunate past couple fights. He had beaten Ben Sosoli but the result was modified to a No Contest because of Hardy’s use of an inhaler. Two weeks later, Hardy fought Alexander Volkov and lost by decision. Yorgan De Castro is on a five fight win streak and won his last fight by TKO. These two weigh over 250 pounds and I expect wild punches to be thrown. It could be a battle of conditioning but nonetheless it will be an entertaining fight to start the PPV card.

#4 – Must win for Stephens

The second fight on the PPV main event card is Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar. Kattar is coming off of a very challenging fight against Zabit Magomedsharipov, which he lost. This was a Fight of the Night and I expect Kattar to be strong and refreshed. He has had a very great stretch since coming to the UFC. Jeremy Stephens is coming off of a decision loss against Yair Rodriguez. Stephens also lost to Zabit in March 2019. Both guys lost via three round decision to Zabit. This fight, to me, is crucial for Stephens. He has not won in over two years. A win against Kattar would gain him more momentum.

#3 – Challenge for Rosenstruik

Another heavy hitter matchup is scheduled between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Francis Ngannou. Ngannou is a real contender and I believe he has improved greatly over recent fights. He is on a three fight win streak. During that streak, he has beaten Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, and Junior Dos Santos. Rosenstruik is undefeated with ten professional wins. He fought four times in 2019. His last fight was less impressive. Against Alistair Overeem he seemed to have been beaten but broke through with a last second knockout. With that said, both fighters are familiar with five round marathon fights. I expect them both to swing big and leave it all out there. Anything can happen.

#2 – Cruz Comeback

I was surprised, but also delighted to see Dominick Cruz get a shot at Henry Cejudo for the Bantamweight belt. This is much more exciting than a Jose Aldo fight. It won’t be easy but I think there is always a real chance for Cruz. He has had only one loss since 2008. If he is 100% healthy, he is dangerous. Henry Cejudo is healed up and on a five fight win streak. He has won championships in two different weight classes. Cejudo will have to pick up right where he left off. He is a steady favorite and has proven himself to be one of the best fighters in the UFC. This fight is quite a co-main event to say the least.

#1 – Ferguson vs. Gaethje

This is no doubt a contender for a Fight of the Year award. This fight is big in so many aspects. With the Khabib vs. Tony possibility potentially depending on this fight, there is a lot to look forward to. Gaethje and Ferguson have had big fights recently against Cowboy Cerrone. Both guys won by TKO. Gaethje has made it clear he is going for the knockout. His last three fights have not gone past the first round. Ferguson, is an All-American wrestler and has been training with famous Jiu-Jitsu master Eddie Bravo. He is surely going to take the fight to the ground at some point. These are some of the most durable and interesting fighters. The winner is the UFC Interim Lightweight Champion that will likely go on to face Khabib Nurmagomedov. The loser has some interesting possible connections to Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.

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