UFC 223 tips: Best bets for Khabib v Iaquinta
We make our pick for the lightweight title fight in New York, plus the rest of the bouts on the main card.
Khabib Nurmagomedov v Anthony Pettis
First it was Tony Ferguson, then it was Max Holloway, and now Iaquinta will step in to face Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title on Saturday night.
It’s not the fight the fans wanted, and it’s probably not going to be much of a fight at all, given Khabib has an unblemished 25-fight record and Iaquinta has only fought once in three years.
The American is dangerous standing up, but Khabib showed against Edson Barboza in December that he can take an elite striker down to the mat at will and batter him.
Beating the Russian has proven impossible to date for fighters who have had full camps, so Iaquinta has little to no chance on just a day’s notice.
The Eagle will dominate this fight, land a takedown and use his relentless ground game to secure an easy win by stoppage.
Rose Namajunas v Joanna Jedrzejczyk
This fight has the potential to be an absolute cracker, and it needs to be in order to save the card after Holloway’s withdrawal.
After pulling off a major upset by taking the women’s strawweight belt from long-time champion Jedrzejczyk last November, Namajunas has to do it all over again on Saturday night.
Few expected the American to spoil Jedrzejczyk’s unblemished 14-fight record, never mind stop her in the first round, but she was clearly the sharper, more powerful striker on the night.
The Pole has revealed how much she struggled during a difficult weight cut last time, though, and looks to be in much better shape now.
Jedrzejczyk probably took Namajunas lightly at UFC 217, and will likely fight a much more tactical fight this time around.
When the 30-year-old is at her best she’s arguably the best striker in the entire UFC. If she fights on the outside and uses her strong clinch game, she’ll win.
Renato Moicano v Calvin Kattar
Moicano lost his unbeaten 12-fight record with a submission defeat to Brian Ortega last July, and the Brazilian now faces another tricky opponent in Kattar.
The American has won 10 fights in a row and is 2-0 in the UFC, having beaten Andre Fili by decision on debut last July and stopped Shane Burgos in January.
Kattar could earn a shot at a top-five opponent with another win like his last and, although Moicano is a good all-round fighter, the 30-year-old’s slight striking edge should be enough to earn him the victory.
Kattar’s an excellent boxer who makes up for his lack of power with movement and hand speed, and a decision win for the Massachusetts resident looks the likeliest outcome on Saturday.
Al Iaquinta v Paul Felder
This lightweight clash has gone under the radar, but it could be the fight of the night between two men who like to go toe-to-toe.
Iaquinta is on a five-fight winning streak but has only fought once in three years, while Felder has won three in a row, the last of which was a TKO over Charles Oliveira in December.
Ragin’ Al is the more polished fighter of the two, and also has the more impressive CV with victories over Jorge Masvidal, Joe Lauzon and Kevin Lee since February 2014.
He’s a step up in competition for Felder, who excels at using elbows up close but might struggle to get inside against a clean striker like Iaquinta.
It’s a shame that much of Iaquinta’s prime has been wasted by contract disputes with the UFC, but Saturday night is a chance for him to remind everyone just how good he is.
In a close bout, the 30-year-old’s class should come through and earn him the win.