The welterweight title fight might be one of the most anticipated rematches of 2021. Yes, Usman scored a late knockout, which happened at 4:10 of the fifth round, but the fight was very close until that point. The scorecards were 39-37, 38-38 and 37-39, heading into the final stanza. With that, it was anyone’s fight heading into the last five minutes.
I think the rematch will look different. I believe Usman will get a knockout in the rematch, but I think it will happen sooner than it did in the first fight.
Usman has improved his overall game since the first meeting. Covington, at best, has remained at the same level. I think the Usman fight was Covington’s best career performance. I don’t think we have seen Usman’s best performance. That could happen at UFC 268.
Pick: Usman via knockout at 1.33 via Bet 99.
To beat Colby Covington
The strawweight title rematch
Zhang was the favourite in the first meeting between these two, but an early head kick ended that fight in under two minutes. Namajunas is the favourite in the rematch. I am going with the underdog in this one.
I think Zhang was too emotionally invested in the first fight. I believe she will be more focused on the task at hand and that she will use her power, pressure and output to keep Namajunas on the defensive throughout the bout.
The numbers that stand out for me in this contest are the 408 significant strikes Zhang attempted in her five-round win over former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and the 6.36 significant strikes Zhang lands on average per minute, which puts her just outside the top-10 in that stat among active UFC fighters
Of the three fights at the top of the card, this is the one that is the hardest pick, but I see Zhang taking the title back by decision.
Pick: Zhang via decision 2.05 via Powerplay.
To beat Rose Namajunas
Two former champs meet at lightweight
Before he joined the UFC in 2017, Gaethje had a lengthy run as the World Series of Fighting lightweight champion. Chandler, who first fought for the UFC in 2021, held the Bellator lightweight crown three times.
Both of these veteran fighters are extremely talented and extremely motivated to win the undisputed UFC lightweight title. When Gaethje captured interim UFC gold in 2020, he threw the title on the mat and said he’d wait for the real belt. He fell short of getting that title when Khabib Nurmagomedov beat him in October 2020. Chandler is also coming off a loss in a title fight. Charles Oliveira defeated him for the vacant crown in May.
I expect a spirited striking battle between these two, but I think Gaethje, who has been a more patient and selective striker in his past few outings has more power and a better chin and that he will get a knockout win over Chandler in a matchup that has “Fight of the Night” written all over it.
Pick: Gaethje via knockout 1.54 via Bet99.
To beat Michael Chandler
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