On Saturday night, Madison Square Garden will showcase one of the fan-friendliest cards ever. The main event is a five-round, non-title bout between welterweight contenders Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal and Nate Diaz, an event that will culminate with an honorary “Baddest Motherf-cker” title presented by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The entire card is full of exciting match-ups, so let’s get straight into predictions.
Main Card: Saturday at 10 p.m.
#10 Kevin Lee (17-5) vs. #11 Gregor Gillepsie (13-0)
Kevin Lee is 1-3 in his last four fights and no longer the promising up-and-comer of the lightweight division. It’s crazy to think that just two years ago, Lee was on a five-fight win streak and fighting for the title. A loss here would possibly add several fights before his next shot and even end his future as a title contender. On top of all this pressure, he is facing elite undefeated prospect Gregor Gillepsie. In all of his recent losses, Lee has shown a tendency to fade in the later rounds — something that Gillepsie will certainly exploit.
Prediction: Gillespie by submission in the second round
#5 Derrick Lewis (21-7) vs. #8 Blagoy Ivanov (18-2)
Stats and observations tend to be useless when it comes to heavyweight fights. You’d have an easier time predicting the future than the winner of a fight between two giants with hammers for hands. Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis is a 6-foot-3, 265-pound hulk who prefers to administer instant death through one punch over technique. However, he’s currently on a two-fight losing streak and his lack of finesse can put him in danger of getting knocked out by a more technical striker.
There’s just not much that can be said about Blagoy Ivanov. Weighing in at 251 pounds, he is also huge and his last win over Tai Tuivasa showed solid wrestling and ability to point fight. However, Ivanov doesn’t have the power that defines a heavyweight fight. Even if Ivanov can win rounds, Lewis will probably just default to throwing big shots in the hopes of ending the fight.
Prediction: Lewis by third-round-TKO
#9 Stephen Thompson (14-4-1) vs. #14 Vicente Luque (17-6-1)
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is one of the most technical strikers in the welterweight division, if not the entire UFC. His long, sideways karate stance allows him to use his length and deliver his fluid yet powerful kicks at lightning speed. He definitely isn’t a volume fighter and his accuracy allows him to be defensive and wait for an opportunity to counter.
In the other corner though, Vicente Luque is a pure warrior — every strike he throws comes with devastating power. I’d hate to see Thompson lose, but Luque’s strength is a force to be reckoned with.
Prediction: Luque by 2nd Round TKO
#4 Kelvin Gastelum (16-4) vs. #10 WW Darren Till (17-2-1)
This is a bad fight for Darren Till. I appreciate his gameness, but at this stage of his career, the man needs a tune-up fight. Perhaps that was supposed to be Masvidal, but it most definitely isn’t middleweight title contender Kelvin Gastelum. However, Till’s move up to 185 pounds from 170 pounds could be the spark he needs. It’s just a shame that he is now up against one of the best middleweights in the world. Don’t let the fact that Gastelum is built like a fridge distract you from the fact that he was the only middleweight to give current champion Israel Adesanya trouble in the UFC.
Prediction: Gastelum by second-round TKO
#3 Jorge Masvidal (34-13) vs. #7 Nate Diaz (20-11)
Long before his 2016 upset over Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz was already a fan favorite. A volume puncher with a zombie-like chin, Diaz looked exceptional in his return bout against Anthony Pettis in August despite coming off of a three-year hiatus.The game plan for Nate should be no different on Saturday night. He’ll utilize his dirty boxing up close and use his reach advantage all while maintaining the trademark Diaz brothers’ pressure.
Prior to 2019, Masvidal was a 9-6 journeyman in the UFC and known for losing in uneventful split decisions. Now, he’s a narrow -175 favorite over perennial UFC contender and fellow MMA veteran Diaz — a testament to Masvidal’s meteoric success. He is more than capable of handling size disadvantages and has also showcased some strong submission defense and counter wrestling. In his last two matches, which both ended in knockouts, Masvidal showed a new sense of urgency and will be looking for the finish Saturday night.
Prediction: Masvidal by fourth-round TKO
Email Bin Cho at [email protected]