The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to action Saturday with its second fight night card of the year, headlined by top-ranked middleweights Jack Hermansson (22-6) and Sean Strickland (24-3).
Norway’s Hermansson last fought in May 2021, where he battled back from a slow start on the feet to smother and smash Edmen Shahbazyan (11-3) on the ground en route to a unanimous decision win.
Strickland carries a five-fight winning streak into his second-straight event as a headliner. The Xtreme Couture product battered Uriah Hall (17-10) for five rounds in July as part of a convincing unanimous decision victory.
Sitting as numbers six and seven respectively in the UFC middleweight rankings, Hermansson and Strickland each have a golden opportunity to make their case as legitimate title challengers in a busy top seven. However, only a truly spectacular performance would be enough for either man to leapfrog ahead of the winner to a de facto title eliminator between Jared Cannonier (14-5) and Derek Brunson (23-7), which is set for UFC 271 on Feb. 12th.
How Hermansson can win:
Hermansson is a talented grappler and Greco-Roman style wrestler. A clever submission artist, Hermansson is dangerous from any position on the ground and can throw up a full range of attacks at any moment. The owner of 11 career knockouts, Hermansson also is more than capable of ending a fight via strikes. Hermansson will have his hands full with Strickland’s standup pressure, as well as his 82% takedown defense and subsequent wrestling prowess. A wildcard submission attack might be “The Joker’s” best bet to snuff out the streaking Strickland.
How Strickland can win:
Strickland has been nothing short of dominant since returning to middleweight in 2020. He has posted four victories in four fights, with each serving as a showcase for “Tarzan’s” ferocious striking output. The skilled Strickland is just as impressive on the ground, owning an excellent wrestling game to pair with his striking. Strickland’s ability of overwhelming his opponents with crisp boxing and wrestling is fueled by a battle-tested gas tank, allowing him to maintain his runaway train fighting style for 25 minutes, if needed.
Peter’s prediction: Strickland via decision
Charlie’s prediction: Hermansson via decision
UFC 270: Moreno vs. Figueiredo co-main event recap
Two weeks ago at UFC 270, the flyweight championship changed hands after another thrilling chapter in the rivalry between now two-time UFC champion Deiveson Figueiredo (21-2-1) and Brandon Moreno (19-6-2).
Moreno claimed his UFC gold after submitting Figueiredo at UFC 263 in June via a rear naked choke. This fight — a rematch to their five-round war at UFC 256 in December 2020 that ended in a draw — looked much different to their first meeting. Moreno dominated the fight from the first bell where he outstruck then-champion Figueiredo, holding a significant advantage in grappling exchanges.
Moreno’s suddenly commanding performance was mostly owed to Figueiredo’s battle with the scale. Admitting himself that the cut was to blame, Figueiredo transformed his entire training camp heading into the trilogy fight. Changes included bringing former two-division champion, Henry Cejudo, into his corner and the use of a hyperbaric chamber to help ease himself down to championship weight.
The third installment of their suddenly fiery rivalry looked much more like the first — a back-and-forth barnburner. Figueiredo began chopping at Moreno’s lead leg early with some kicks powerful enough to sweep the champ off of his feet entirely. Moreno was a busy striker in return, and clearly bothered Figueiredo with his power multiple times throughout the bout.
Figueiredo would claim the biggest moments on the feet, however. With a healthy weight cut, “Deus da Guerra’s” menacing power returned in full force to help score him three knockdowns. Figueiredo was also able to reimplement his ground game, but Moreno’s slick scrambling neutralized his submission threat.
Just as in their first scrap, when the final horn sounded, it was anyone’s guess how the judges could separate the two. In the end, all three saw it the same, and with the usual thunderous “and new” from Bruce Buffer, Figueiredo had the belt on his shoulder once more. Surrounded by his newly minted team, Figueiredo made it clear in his Octagon interview that a historic fourth fight with his rival was certainly on the table.
Be sure to follow @TheRedCornerDFP on Twitter for card predictions, live fight results and breaking news.