We are now past the halfway stage of UFC Fight Island and are fast approaching UFC Fight Island 2, with the main event crowning a new flyweight champion between Deiveson Figueiredo vs Joseph Benavidez. However, the main card is full of intriguing fights and ranked fighters so let’s get into my thoughts and predictions of all the main card fights.
#4 Alexandre Pantoja vs #7 Askar Askarov – Flyweight Bout
The flyweights kick the main card off as the #4 ranked flyweight contender takes on the #7 ranked flyweight contender. Alexandre Pantoja has been extremely impressive in his UFC career since 2017, only losing 2 fights and one of those is against Figueiredo, who is now challenging for the title. Pantoja is a very well-rounded fighter, who enjoyed some quality KO/TKO wins early in his career and found more success with a submission and ground game in the UFC. He’s ranked 4th in this division for a reason and he looks to put his name as the number 1 contender to the title with a win here.
Askar Askarov comes into this fight with a lot of hype surrounding him, he’s currently undefeated as a fighter, winning all 11 of his fights and winning his last UFC fight against Tim Elliott via decision. Askarov’s a very technical fighter, with 7 submission wins to his name and will look to utilize that in this fight, which may take Pantoja by surprise.
Both of these guys are in the top 10 flyweights in the UFC for a reason, however, I’m siding with Pantoja for this one, mainly because he’s more accomplished on the feet and has a pretty similar ground game to Askarov.
Ariane Lipski vs Luana Carolina – Women’s Flyweight Bout
The first, and only, womens fight on the card finds its way on the main card and its between Ariane Lipski and Luana Carolina. Lipski made a big name for herself outside of the UFC in her early career, and after losses against top contenders like Molly McCann and Joanne Calderwood, the hype surrounding her quickly died down. She won her last fight against Isabela de Padua and she will need an impressive win tonight to get the fans behind her once again. She’s a woman who never backs down from a fight.
Luana Carolina made her UFC debut last May with a successful decision win over Priscila Cachoeira, which was after impressing on Dana White’s Contender Series Brazil. Carolina is fairly inexperienced as a fighter but has won 6 and lost only once in her career. She’s a jack of all trades type or grinds out decision wins over her opponent and it’ll be interesting to see if any of her skills stand out in this fight.
For me, I can’t truly get behind Carolina this early on, I haven’t seen much that truly stands out in her tape and I think Lipski is the better fighter overall, both on the feet and on the ground so I’m backing Lipski for the win.
Marc Diakiese vs Rafael Fiziev – Lightweight Bout
Lightweights are whats on the menu next, as Marc Diakiese looks to get a win against Rafael Fiziev. Diakiese is one of my favorite unranked fighters in the UFC, coming from England, seeing him win is close to my heart and he’s had a mixed UFC career so far. He’s currently on a two-fight win streak, after beating Joe Duffy at UFC London, before my eyes, and most recently he beat Lando Vannata in September of last year. Diakiese is a guy who’s made his name by grinding out wins via decision, but there’s a lot of technique to his game that many haven’t realized, and this is the perfect time to showcase those skills.
Rafael Fiziev made his UFC debut as an undefeated fighter back in April of last year, however, he quickly lost that undefeated streak when Magomed Mustafaev spectacularly knocked him out in the first round. He bounced back in his second fight against Alex White and showcased why he was signed to the UFC so early on. Fiziev has some real highlight knockouts during his time with other promotions and will love the chance to add his first UFC KO win here.
I’m backing my guy Diakiese for the win, and yes this probably goes down due to favoritism but there are reasons to like Diakiese more. He’s highly experienced compared to his counterpart and has showcased some technical moves, but has put that aside to do what needs to be done to win the fight.
#6 Jack Hermansson vs #7 Kelvin Gastelum – Middleweight Bout
In the co-main event of the evening, ranked middleweights are set to do battle as Jack Hermansson faces Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum has been in the UFC for pretty much his entire career, getting wins over guys like Michael Bisping, Uriah Hall, Johny Hendricks, and Ronaldo Souza. He’s been there or thereabouts his entire career but hasn’t truly captured stardom throughout the years, mainly because he’s undersized for his weight class. He’s currently on a 2 loss win streak coming into the fight and will be looking to bounce back and stick his name into title contention once again.
Jack Hermansson enjoyed a huge rise in fame and rankings between 2018-2019 but finished his 2019 off with a loss against Jared Cannonier. Hermansson is a very dangerous striker who can easily put you to sleep within one or two strikes, however, he’s shown some good ground game through his career, with 5 submission wins in his career. He’ll be wanting to get Gastelum out of there as soon as he can, and he may have the skills to do so.
This is a tough fight to call, Gastelum is the type to be overlooked given his physical size and yet he always seems to grind out the win, whilst Hermansson has been one of the biggest risers in the division in recent times. I think Hermansson takes the nod for me, given his scary striking game and I think he can put Gastelum out within the 3 rounds.
#1 Deiveson Figueiredo vs #2 Joseph Benavidez – Flyweight Title Bout
The main event is a fight that’s been talked about for quite some time in the MMA community. The flyweight division has been without a champion for quite some time and we finally get one at the end of Saturday’s card. Figueiredo, if he wins this fight, will go down as one of the best flyweights in history, with an 18-1 record and a win over Benavidez in their last fight, he has every tool to win the belt. Figueiredo is a monster on the feet and has some serious knockout power, but don’t get comfortable on the ground with him as he’ll submit you just as easily.
Joseph Benavidez has been a staple name in the UFC’s flyweight division since it first started and has fought some of the very best to ever do it. He’s fought former champions like Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo, the latter he beat, and has even faced Dominick Cruz twice outside of the UFC. Benavidez knows how to grind out a decision win, but he also has some powerful strikes and a great submission game if you give him a dominant position and time to work his angles. Benavidez is looking for revenge in this fight, and it would be sweet revenge if he was to beat Figueiredo and win the belt at the same time.
Both of these guys are exceptional talents and would have been champions at least once in the UFC careers, had they not come through at the same time as the greatest flyweight of all time Demetrious Johnson. Figueiredo won this fight last time out, and there’s a lot of personal hatred in this fight because of it. Figueiredo has had a weird week, after testing positive for COVID-19 and then getting a flight to Yas Island only days ago, but I don’t think that affects him to the state that he loses the fight. Either way, as fans, we are lucky to be able to watch these two legends go at it.
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports