UFC 303

UFC 303: Main Card Predictions

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Return of the Mac? Not so much. UFC 303 has been a roller coaster ride of uncertainty regarding the main event between Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler. The promotion has been scrambling for a new headliner since rumors began of McGregor-Chandler being in jeopardy. In attempts to bring hope amidst this chaos, the UFC has salvaged the card with two new replacement fights that will headline the event.

Alex Pereira returns to save the UFC once again in the main event as he takes on Jiří Procházka in a rematch for the Light Heavyweight Championship. Much like our original main event, the injury bug has struck in the co-main as Jamahal Hill will step down to nurse his injuries, similar to McGregor. The new co-headliner will now feature an electrifying fan favorite matchup between Brian Ortega and Diego Lopes. With the full card finally set in stone, who do ya got?

UFC Light Heavyweight Championship

Alex Pereira (C) vs. Jiří Procházka (1)

Lee: This fight features two of the bigger light heavyweights in the division. Pereira will look to show that his first victory over Procházka was not a fluke. This fight, like all his other fights, Pereira will want to keep the fight standing being that he has zero ground game. Although Procházka brings an unusual orthodox fighting style, can he threaten the champ with some takedowns? The only chance I give Procházka winning this fight is if he can get Pereira into the championship rounds and test his cardio.

Official Prediction: Alex Pereira via 3rd-Round KO/TKO

Evan: First off, both men deserve a ton of credit for stepping in on short notice to save this card. The way UFC handled Conor McGregor’s injury, and delaying the news of it was extremely bush league. Pereira’s willingness as a champion to take this fight specifically, saved the promotion from a major debacle. If chaotic stoicism was a thing, these two embody it more than any other fighters. Given the last minute nature of how this one came together, I think this is a coin flip matchup. As Lee mentioned, it really comes down to whether Jiri can force Alex into frequent grappling exchanges. However, his willingness to take damage might be his downfall here again. According to UFC Stats, Prochazka absorbs an absurd 5.43 strikes per minute in his bouts. That doesn’t bode well for him going up against a lethal striker with killer instincts like Pereira.

Official Prediction: Alex Pereira via 3rd or 4th-Round KO/TKO

Marcos: The key for Jiri will be to utilize his full MMA arsenal and avoid a pure kickboxing affair. The issue with Pereira is not if he will catch you, but when. Jiri will do his best to mix wrestling and unorthodox strikes, but I’m afraid the punching power and leg kicks of the champion will be far too much for Procházka once again. Jiri already executed a similar game plan in fight one, and we still saw what happened, so I expect a similar result in another competitive fight.

Official Prediction: Alex Pereira via 4th-Round TKO

Mishal: After their first fight, a rematch felt inevitable. Jiri needs this one to go longer, sloppier, and more chaotic. He needs to unleash the full scale of insanity that is his fighting style… In contrast, the champion in Pereira needs to capitalize on his openings brought about by the admittedly sloppy defense of Jiri. Even against less threatening strikers like Alexander Rakic, Jiri wasn’t exactly always in control. He presented more than a few openings for him to get wobbled around the octagon. The difference between that fight and this one is one shot from Pereira and it’s lights out.

Official Prediction: Alex Pereira via 3rd-Round KO/TKO

Anik: In my opinion, this fight’s buildup for UFC 295 was one of the best in history. Two warriors proud of their spirits while sharing the utmost respect for each other. Both hold nasty power and have to escape tough situations, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see either win. However, Procházka left so many openings throwing his chin up in the air and disrespecting Rakic’s power when they fought at UFC 300. One mistake and Pereira will put him to sleep. Because the margin of error is so small for Procházka, I’ll have to go with the same result as last time.

Official Prediction: Alex Pereira via 3rd-Round KO/TKO

Featherweight Bout

Brian Ortega (3) vs. Diego Lopes (14)

Lee: Diego Lopes is getting a step up in competition while also riding a 3-fight win/KO streak. Brian Ortega is coming off a 3rd-round submission win over Yair Rodriguez. When breaking down the stats, this fight looks like the classic striker vs. grappler matchup. Ortega was dropped in his last fight by Rodriguez, but can he survive if dropped by Lopes?

Official Prediction: Diego Lopes via 2nd-Round KO/TKO

Evan: This seems like the clear front runner for FOTN and a great opportunity for Lopes to punch his ticket into the top 5 of the division. Stylistically, I think he’s a pretty terrible matchup for Ortega. Diego’s got the grappling acumen to hang with Brian on the mat, and is probably the better technical striker of the two. He’s also got superior finishing instincts. I’m going to roll with Ortega though, in a slight upset. I believe he has matured as a fighter more than he gets credit for. I see him slightly edging out the wrestling exchanges, winning the scrambles against Lopes, and landing enough big shots on the feet to earn Diego’s respect. Give me T-City in a barn burner… Although, if he chooses to brawl like he’s done in the past, Lopes might make short work of him.

Official Prediction: Brian Ortega via Split Decision

Marcos: Brian Ortega is a tremendous submission specialist with some ability in his hands, though he is lacking a bit defensively with his striking. The more experienced Ortega has proven to be able to withstand the most dangerous of storms in a UFC octagon. Diego Lopes fights quite similarly to Ortega, with a lethal BJJ approach and a well-rounded style. These are two grapplers of the highest order, who are willing to slug it out in the center of the cage if needed. There is no advantage for either man here, as they both step in on short notice. I favor Ortega’s superior takedown ability in this very even matchup.

Official Prediction:  Brian Ortega via Unanimous Decision

Mishal: Respect to Hill and Rountree, but this is the superior co-main by a country mile. What is sure to be a balls-to-the-wall explosion between two BJJ masters with solid stand-up games has substantially increased my excitement for this card. While we can’t count out the veteran experience of Ortega, Lopes might have the keys to cancel out the advantages the former title challenger usually brings. Ortega leans into his ground game to threaten his opponents… Which might not be an issue considering Lopes possesses similar abilities to potentially negate Ortega’s ground threat. Where this fight will get interesting is the heart of Brian Ortega. The man seems incapable of being finished. He will give the future star in Lopes a true test on the grandest stage of his career.

Official Prediction: Diego Lopes via Unanimous Decision

Anik: Brian Ortega is an absolute dog, but rarely takes short notice fights due to his brutal weight cut to 145 pounds. With him mentioning he’d like to move up to lightweight at UFC 306, it’s concerning that there isn’t as much on the line for him in this fight. His durable chin might be compromised given the huge weight cut, and while both can neutralize each other on the ground, Lopes’ massive power can stand out.

Official Prediction: Diego Lopes via 2nd-Round KO/TKO

Light Heavyweight Bout

Anthony Smith (10) vs. Roman Dolidze

Lee: Smith left UFC 301 with a surprising victory over Vitor Petrino and looks to stay in title contention. Dolidze will move up in weight on eight days notice to replace Carlos Ulberg. Smith should look to keep this fight standing and press the action. Although on a 2 fight losing streak, Dolidze did go 3-0 in 2022 with three stoppages. Can Dolidze rediscover his winning ways?

Official Prediction: Anthony Smith via Unanimous Decision

Evan: To be candid with you, I couldn’t care less about this fight. Due to a slew of injuries, it went from Jamahal Hill-Khalil Rountree to Hill-Carlos Ulberg, to Ulberg-Anthony Smith, and now this one. I really respect the way Smith puts fighters and their egos in place with comments he makes in the media. But, this fight just doesn’t do much for me. Either Roman lands a big shot early or Anthony outclasses him. I don’t see it going many other ways… Give me the veteran to take the W on Saturday night.

Official Prediction: Anthony Smith via Unanimous Decision 

Marcos: Anthony Smith is known to be a good striker, but he is certainly no pushover on the ground. Is he on Dolidze’s level there? No, but certainly good enough to get back to his feet and put Roman in danger. On the flip side, Dolidze can definitely knock people out and may be able to hold his own in a standup battle with Smith. As long as Roman can stick to a solid game plan, I believe he will edge out Anthony, whose best days are perhaps starting to be behind him.

Official Prediction: Roman Dolidze via Split Decision

Mishal: Massive credit should be given to both men for stepping up, even though this fight does feel insignificant. Smith, in particular, is trending downward despite a recent win at UFC 301. He’s now going against a middleweight on a 2-fight skid looking for redemption. Dolidze’s ground game and power will be a problem for the older veteran who isn’t taking shots like he used to. Nor is he as slick as he once was… Smith brings a toolbox of tricks that could grind him to a decision. But, his speed and fire have dwindled, and so will his chances here against a hungry rookie looking to make a statement.

Official Prediction: Roman Dolidze via Unanimous Decision

Anik: This matchup is a grappler’s delight. Anthony Smith is responsible for many submission victories and is as good as it gets on the ground. Across the octagon will be a specialist in Dolidze, who can pull off the slickest submissions. If their grappling cancels each other out, Smith can take a shot on the feet and pump the jab. To me, he has way more paths to victory.

Official Prediction: Anthony Smith via Unanimous Decision

Women’s Bantamweight Bout

Mayra Bueno Silva (3) vs. Macy Chiasson (7)

Lee: Bueno Silva has a different, but effective orthodox fighting stance. She has shown great accuracy in landing significant strikes. Chiasson, with a 6-inch reach advantage, will need to fight behind her jab forcing Bueno to take chances to close the distance. This is a hard fight to pick…

Official Prediction: Mayra Bueno Silva via Split Decision

Evan: Macy Chiasson is a fighter I don’t think has quite lived up to her potential yet. But she appears to be starting to put it all together. Her dynamic striking, improved grappling skills, and fight IQ have begun to shine through. As Lee pointed out too, her reach advantage should pose some problems to Bueno Silva. If Mayra puts her up against the cage, in the clinch, and score takedowns, Macy will find herself getting submitted early. But I think behind her length, jab, kicks, and sound defensive wrestling, Chiasson is able to stifle MBS. Plus, I feel Mayra’s cardio will wane the longer the fight goes.

Official Prediction: Macy Chiasson via Unanimous Decision

Marcos: Mayra Bueno Silva is a decent striker with good power and kicking ability who likes to march forward. Macy Chiasson uses her height and reach very well as she works the jab and Muay Thai striking. Mayra seems to be the superior fighter, given her power and grappling advantage. Although Macy’s range and newfound wrestling approach can cause problems, Mayra’s familiarity with fighting the very best at bantamweight could be her edge in this one.

Official Prediction: Mayra Bueno Silva via Split Decision

Mishal: This fight is probably better on the prelims. But, we take what we get at this point. Mayra Bueno Silva was exposed in her last fight against Raquel Pennington. She’s a top-tier grappler no doubt… But one who isn’t at the level of a 5-round fighter yet. She dissipates the longer a fight goes on. Macy Chiasson is able to find openings as long as her shot selection and distance management are used wisely. However, her chances of stopping Silva’s grappling and wrestling cast doubt in my mind that this reaches the scorecards.

Official Prediction: Mayra Bueno Silva via 2nd-Round Submission

Anik: Macy Chiasson’s toughest opponent has been her weight cut. But due to working with the great Peña Performance Team, it seems like she has that under control. Bueno Silva proved she was a one trick pony that could grapple and had no cardio in her title fight at UFC 297. I believe Chiasson will use her size and range to keep it standing and pick apart Bueno Silva from the outside.

Official Prediction: Macy Chiasson via Unanimous Decision

Welterweight Bout

Ian Machado Garry (7) vs. Michael Page (14)

Lee: Personally, I feel this fight should be higher on the card. Garry had his sights set on Colby Covington, who publicly rejected the fight. He has said he is going to show why he is levels above MVP. Page is coming off a lopsided win over Kevin Holland in his UFC debut. But he will look to add another known name to his resume. Garry has said that since he couldn’t get the fight he wanted, Page is the best of the bad options. Page hopes that his unusual fighting style, coupled with his 5-inch reach advantage, will frustrate “The Future”. Garry thinks Page has bitten off more than he can chew…

Official Prediction: Ian Garry via 3rd-Round KO/TKO

Evan: While this card has been decimated by injuries, I’m glad we’re still getting this matchup. It’s the fight I’m probably most intrigued by personally. Ian Garry is a polarizing figure, fans and pundits alike seem to think he’s vastly overrated or a really intriguing contender on the rise. I could easily see the brash Irishman coming out victorious here. His kicking game and feints may be enough to stunt Page’s elusiveness. However, I think he’s underestimating MVP. It might turn into a tactical, staring contest for a majority of its duration. But, I’m rolling with MVP to take this. I see him frustrating Garry with his unorthodox movement, timing, and counter punching to eke out a decision victory.

Official Prediction: Michael Page via Split Decision

Marcos: I expect both gentlemen to stay within range and not commit to any risky activity, constantly looking to counter one another in a tactical chess match. The fact that this fight will stay standing should favor the younger, sharper Ian Garry. However, what makes this matchup interesting is MVP’s unorthodox style, which can be extremely unpredictable. Garry’s speed and accuracy will be just enough to outgun the veteran in what should be his toughest challenge to date.

Official Prediction: Ian Garry via Unanimous Decision 

Mishal: This is a fight that I expect to be much more tactical than people are painting it to be on paper. Ian Garry and MVP are highly entertaining, depending on their style of opponent. Both have looked stellar against brawlers and boxers, but the pace of the fight might not be what we hope for. I’d argue Garry is the more patient of the two. MVP on the other hand is wild and always looking to get into your head to allow for openings. Both fighters are going to look for their openings, but it’s MVP’s showboating and in-cage antics that will bring the entertainment value. I won’t pretend this is going to be some all-out war, because neither fighter is about that. But, it will be a highly competitive striking clinic that couldn’t be closer in my eyes.

Official Prediction: Ian Garry via Split Decision

Anik: There is a reason this fight is a main card opener and not the co-main event. While this is a mouth watering matchup of two exquisite strikers, this is more likely to be a chess match between two specialists. MVP has the power advantage while Garry has the volume advantage. The toughest part about fighting Garry… He doesn’t get hit and he doesn’t fight silly. He knows not to hang with MVP, and we are yet to see how good of a wrestler he is. Since he has trained a ton on the ground with the likes of Gilbert Burns, Shavkat Rakhmonov, and Charles Oliveira, he’s probably a great grappler. That is his clear path to victory.

Official Prediction: Ian Garry via Unanimous Decision

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