UFC 286 was one of the best events of the year 2023. The primary and co-main events were bangers, with so many high-level combats.
Leon Edwards defended his strap against Kamaru Usman despite fence grabbing and a point deduction in the third. The first-ever Jamaican-born champion outworked “The Nigerian Nightmare” after five grand rounds for a majority decision win.
The co-main event of the evening brought the combat between Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje and Rafael “Ataman” Fiziev. The Azerbaijani fighter ended the battle with a bloody face and tons of bruises, but Gaethje also took a severe beating. Gaethje won after 15 minutes of bloody and battered war via a majority decision, but Dana White was very impressed, and both fighters banked an extra 50k for the Fight of the Night award.
Jake Hadley rocked Malcolm Gordon with a liver shot, followed up with a flurry of punches on the ground to finish the fight, and won the Performance of the Night award. The second POTN was given to Gunnar Nelson, who dragged Bryan Barbarena to the ground, mounted him, and finished the fight via armbar in the dying seconds of the first round.
After a superb event in the capital of England, the promotion travels across the Atlantic Ocean and returns to the USA for the UFC on ESPN 43 event in San Antonio, Texas. The main event will bring the high-level five-rounder between the technical fighter Cory Sandhagen and the all-time greatest mixed martial artist from Ecuador, Marlon “Chito” Vera.
Photo: @UFCBrasil Twitter
Cory is a master of long wars, transitions, and angle changes. His counter-strikes are on point, plus he’s known for some of the greatest cardio in the game. Cory took part in many five-round battles with the greatest 135ers throughout his career, so he should get the advantage if the bout advances into the championship rounds.
Marlon Vera holds notable victories over many great names, including Rob Font and the current division number one fighter, “Suga” Sean O’Malley. Vera’s BJJ is amazing, his bottom game and sweeps rock, plus his Muay Thai skills turned him into one of the fighters who create the greatest level of damage from the top.
Vera rarely delivers fists and cracks his opponents open with nasty elbows. In the match against Rob Font, Rob’s face looked like a bloody mess after the street fight, while Vera’s face had zero damage! His razor-sharp elbows are always ready to cut the opponent’s eyelids or forehead!
Prediction: Cory Sandhagen to win
The co-main event of the evening brings the bantamweight clash between the former division queen Holly Holm and very tough Murmansk-born fighter Yana Santos. It used to be Yana Kunitskaya, but she changed her name after marrying the Brazilian 205-pound striker Thiago Santos.
Holm is known for an excellent left high kick, lovely boxing, and great clinch wrestling. Holly is known for a very technical, patient approach and a great takedown defense too. On the other hand, Santos is an all-around fighter, equally good everywhere, but she returns after a long layoff so her fitness level is a bit questionable. One way or another, this could go all the way.
Prediction: over 2.5 rounds
Please take a look at the UFC on ESPN 43 full fight card below, and take a look at the tapology link because there is a possibility of last-minute changes.
Main Card (ESPN, UFC on Fight Pass, 7 PM ET, 1 AM CET)
Bantamweight (135 pounds): Marlon Vera (22-7-1) vs. Cory Sandhagen (15-4-0)
Bantamweight (135 pounds): Holly Holm (14-6-0) vs. Yana Santos (14-6-0)
Featherweight (145 pounds): Nate Landwehr (16-4-0) vs. Austin Lingo (9-1-0)
Flyweight (125 pounds): Andrea Lee (13-6-0) vs. Maycee Barber (11-2-0)
Flyweight (125 pounds): Alex Perez (24-7-0) vs. Manel Kape (18-6-0)
Middleweight (185 pounds): Chidi Njokuani (22-8-0) vs. Albert Duraev (15-4-0)
Main Card (ESPN+, UFC on Fight Pass, 4 PM ET, 10 PM CET)
Featherweight (145 pounds): Daniel Pineda (27-14-0) vs. Tucker Lutz (12-2-0)
Featherweight (145 pounds): Steven Peterson (19-10-0) vs. Lucas Alexander (7-3-0)
Welterweight (170 pounds): Trevin Giles (15-4-0) vs. Preston Parsons (10-3-0)
Flyweight (125 pounds): CJ Vergara (10-4-1) vs. Daniel da Silva (11-4-0)
Lightweight (155 pounds): Manuel Torres (13-2-0) vs. Trey Ogden (16-5-0)
Flyweight (125 pounds): Vinicius Salvador (14-4-0) vs. Victor Altamirano (11-2-0)
Bantamweight (135 pounds): Tamires Vidal (7-1-0) vs. Hailey Cowan (7-2-0)
Check my picks and predictions for the upcoming UFC on ESPN 43 fight card below.
The upcoming UFC on ESPN 43 fight card is stacked with newbies and young fighters. Also, it is a nice mixture, as co-main and main events bring technical combats between the high-level, experienced fighters. The event gets underway on Saturday at 4 PM ET, please don’t miss it!