What a week for combat sports. Boxing continues its hot streak in 2023 with a blockbuster matchup this weekend, the second bout with pound-for-pound significance this week. It’s not the boxing that we are focusing on today, of course, but instead, the latest UFC PPV offering UFC 291 in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the main event, we have Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje competing in a rematch for the BMF title. The co-main event features the Light Heavyweight debut of former Middleweight champion Alex Pereira as he takes on former Light Heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. The card is stacked with some further star power added by former Lightweight interim champion Tony Ferguson who’s looking to get back into the win column in a tough matchup against Bobby Green. Here I am gonna ask 5 questions and do my best to answer them.
1. How will Justin Gaethje’s change of style fare against Dustin Poirier?
When Justin and Dustin last met inside the octagon Justin was still very much employing the old tactics that made him famous worldwide as the ‘The Highlight’ a style that guaranteed action and fan-friendly fights but a style that was not always the best to ensure victory or longevity in the sport, a style that seen him pick up two consecutive stoppage losses including his 2018 defeat to Dustin. It was after the Poirier defeat that Gaethje started employing a more tactical approach in the octagon and delivering on what he calls “controlled chaos” The results of this change in fight style speak for themselves as he’s won six of his last eight fights. I’ve taken all this into consideration and I do believe this change of style will lead to different results, Im picking Justin to get the win in convincing fashion.
2. Will Jan Blachowicz spoil another Middleweight’s Light Heavyweight debut?
Jan Blachowicz welcomes another former Middleweight into the Light Heavyweight division. That is something he’s no stranger to, having welcomed the likes of Jacare Souza, Luke Rockhold and the current Middleweight king Israel Adesanya where he impressively managed a victory in all 3 bouts and finds himself as the slight betting favourite heading into this highly anticipated Light Heavyweight bout which has title implications. I’ve found this one tough to call, factoring in Jan’s success against people stepping up in weight and Poatan’s lethal striking ability I’ve gone back and forth but ultimately believe Pereira will catch Jan with his famous left hook and render him unconscious, which I will discuss further in the next question.
3. Has Alex Pereira recovered from UFC 287?
The last time we saw the absolutely terrifying Alex Pereira grace the octagon he suffered a loss via knockout, this was only three months ago and it begs the question has he recovered and has his chin recovered in the small time between bouts? The knockout loss he suffered in April at the hands of Israel Adesanya is the only time in his professional career that the Brazilian has been knocked out cold. I’m gonna guess that he will be more or less fully recovered and the lack of a weight cut as intense as usual will help the chin absorb shots also. Not to say the legendary Polish power can’t shut his lights out, a fight I can’t wait to see all it takes is one punch. I’m still backing Pereira ever so slightly to get the job done.
4. Can Tony Ferguson bounce back with a win against Bobby Green?
Can Tony Ferguson finally pick up a win? This would’ve seemed like a crazy question only a few short years ago when Tony was on a 12-fight winning streak from 2012 to 2020 and running through all challengers at Lightweight, however, now the reality is he’s on a 5-fight losing skid after getting submitted by Nate Diaz in September last year and desperately needs to pick up a win. The man standing opposite him this time inside the octagon is Bobby Green, who is Tony’s first unranked opponent since 2016. I’m hoping this means we see a far more competitive Tony who takes less damage than we’ve seen him take of late. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it happening, although Bobby is winless in his last 3 bouts I think he will get the job done against Tony. One of them strange cases where a fighter seemingly got old overnight, I think Tony will have to seriously consider his future in the sport providing he suffers another defeat at UFC 291.
5. Who will pick up the cash bonuses at UFC 291?
I’m gonna start with my pick for fight of the night, it involves one of the two fighters pictured above and that man is Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. I’m picking him and the always exciting and unpredictable Michel Pereira to pick up fight on the night honours. My next pick is for knockout of the night and the man I’m predicting to receive this bonus is the other man pictured above, Kevin Holland. I’ve got a feeling he’s gonna catch Michael Chiesa with something clean and put him out cold. My final pick is the performance of the night bonus, I believe Justin Gaethje will pick up this bonus for a impressive victory by stoppage against Dustin Poirier in one of the earlier rounds, which is why this fight wasn’t my pick for fight of the night.